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- What's Mine's Mine V2 - 4/30 -
"Shall I be telling you what I heard them saying to each other this last night of all?" he asked.
"Yes, do, do!"
"It was upon Dorrachbeg; and there were two of them. They were sitting together in the moon--in the correi on the side of the hill over the village. I was lying in a bush near them, for I could not sleep, and came out, and the night was not cold. Now I would never be so bad-mannered as to listen where persons did not want me to hear."
"What were they like, Rob, dear?" interrupted the girl.
"That does not matter much," answered Rob; "but they were white, and their eyes not so white, but brighter; for so many sad things go in at their eyes when they come down to the earth, that it makes them dark."
"How could they be brighter and darker both at once?" asked the girl, very pertinently.
"I will tell you," answered Rob. "The dark things that go in at their eyes, they have to burn them in the fire of faith; and it is the fire of that burning that makes their eyes bright; it is the fire of their faith burning up the sad things they see."
"Oh, yes! I understand now!" said the girl. "And what were their clothes like, Rob?"
"When you see the angels, you don't think much about their clothes."
"And what were they saying?"
"I spoke first--the moment I saw them, for I was not sure they knew that I was there. I said, 'I am here, gentlemen.' 'Yes, we know that,' they answered. 'Are you far from home, gentlemen?' I asked. 'It is all one for that,' they answered. 'Well,' said I, 'it is true, gentlemen, for you seem as much at home here on the side of Dorrachbeg, as if it was a hill in paradise!' 'And how do you know it is not?' said they. 'Because I see people do upon it as they would not in paradise,' I answered. 'Ah!' said one of them, 'the hill may be in paradise, and the people not! But you cannot understand these things.' 'I think I do,' I said; 'but surely, if you did let them know they were on a hill in paradise, they would not do as they do!' 'It would be no use telling them,' said he; 'but, oh, how they spoil the house!' 'Are the red deer, and the hares, and the birds in paradise?' I asked. 'Certain sure!' he answered. 'Do they know it?' said I. 'No, it is not necessary for them; but they will know it one day.' 'You do not mind your little brother asking you questions?' I said. 'Ask a hundred, if you will, little brother,' he replied. 'Then tell me why you are down here to-night.' 'My friend and I came out for a walk, and we thought we would look to see when the village down there will have to be reaped.' 'What do you mean?' I said. 'You cannot see what we see,' they answered; 'but a human place is like a flower, or a field of corn, and grows ripe, or won't grow ripe, and then some of us up there have to sharpen our sickles.' 'What!' said I, for a great fear came upon me, 'they are not wicked people down there!' 'No, not very wicked, but slow and dull.' Then I could say nothing more for a while, and they did not speak either, but sat looking before them. 'Can you go and come as you please?' I asked at length. 'Yes, just as we are sent,' they answered. 'Would you not like better to go and come of yourselves, as my father and I do?' I said. 'No,' answered both of them, and something in their one voice almost frightened me; 'it is better than everything to go where we are sent. If we had to go and come at our own will, we should be miserable, for we do not love our own will.' 'Not love your own will?' 'No, not at all!' 'Why?' 'Because there is one--oh, ever so much better! When you and your father are quite good, you will not be left to go and come at your own will any more than we are.' And I cried out, and said, 'Oh, dear angel! you frighten me!' And he said, 'That is because you are only a man, and not a--' Now I am not sure of the word he said next; bat I think it was CHRISTIAN; and I do not quite know what the word meant."
"Oh, Rob, dear! everybody knows that!" exclaimed the girl.
But Rob said no more.
While he was talking, Alister had come up behind him, with Annie of the shop, and he said--
"Rob, my friend, I know what you mean, and I want to hear the rest of it: what did the angels say next?"
"They said," answered Rob, "--'Was it your will set you on this beautiful hill, with all these things to love, with such air to breathe, such a father as you've got, and such grand deer about you?' 'No,' I answered. 'Then,' said the angel, 'there must be a better will than yours, for you would never have even thought of such things!' 'How could I, when I wasn't made?' said I. 'There it is!' he returned, and said no more. I looked up, and the moon was shining, and there were no angels on the stone. But a little way off was my father, come out to see what had become of me."
"Now did you really see and hear all that, Rob?" said Alister.
Rob smiled a beautiful smile--with something in it common people would call idiotic--stopped and turned, took the chief's hand, and carried it to his lips; but not a word more would he speak, and soon they came where the path of the two turned away over the hill.
"Will you not come and sleep at our house?" said one of the company.
But they made kindly excuse.
"The hill-side would miss us; we are expected home!" said Rob--and away they climbed to their hut, a hollow in a limestone rock, with a front wall of turf, there to sleep side by side till the morning came, or, as Rob would have said, "till the wind of the sun woke them."
Rob of the Angels made songs, and would sing one sometimes; but they were in Gaelic, and the more poetic a thing, the more inadequate at least, if not stupid is its translation.
He had all the old legends of the country in his head, and many stories of ghosts and of the second sight. These stories he would tell exactly as he had heard them, showing he believed every word of them; but with such of the legends as were plainly no other than poetic inventions, he would take what liberties he pleased--and they lost nothing by it; for he not only gave them touches of fresh interest, but sent glimmering through them hints of something higher, of which ordinary natures perceived nothing, while others were dimly aware of a loftier intent: according to his listeners was their hearing. In Rob's stories, as in all the finer work of genius, a man would find as much as, and no more than, he was capable of. Ian's opinion of Rob was even higher than Alister's.
"What do you think, Ian, of the stories Rob of the Angels tells?" asked Alister, as they walked home.
"That the Lord has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the mighty," answered Ian.
"Tut! Rob confounds nobody."
"He confounds me," returned Ian.
"Does he believe what he tells?"
"He believes all of it that is to be believed," replied Ian.
"You are as bad as he!" rejoined Alister. "There is no telling, sometimes, what you mean!"
"Tell me this, Alister: can a thing be believed that is not true?"
"I say, NO. Can you eat that which is not bread?"
"I have seen a poor fellow gnawing a stick for hunger!" answered Alister.
"Yes, gnawing! but gnawing is not eating. Did the poor fellow eat the stick? That is just it! Many a man will gnaw at a lie all his life, and perish of want. I mean LIE, of course, the real lie--a thing which is in its nature false. He may gnaw at it, he may even swallow it, but I deny that he can believe it. There is not that in it which can be believed; at most it can but be supposed to be true. Belief is another thing. Truth is alone the correlate of belief, just as air is for the lungs, just as form and colour are for the sight. A lie can no more be believed than carbonic acid can be breathed. It goes into the lungs, true, and a lie goes into the mind, but both kill; the one is not BREATHED, the other is not BELIEVED. The thing that is not true cannot find its way to the home of faith; if it could, it would be at once rejected with a loathing beyond utterance; to a pure soul, which alone can believe, nothing is so loathsome as a pretence of truth. A lie is a pretended truth. If there were no truth there could be no lie. As the devil upon God, the very being of a lie depends on that whose opposite and enemy it is. But tell me, Alister, do you believe the parables of our Lord?"
"With all my heart."
"Was there any real person in our Lord's mind when he told that one about the unjust judge?"
"I do not suppose there was; but there were doubtless many such."
"Many who would listen to a poor woman because she plagued them?"
"Well, it does not matter; what the story teaches is true, and that was what he wanted believed."
"Just so. The truth in the parables is what they mean, not what they say; and so it is, I think, with Rob of the Angels' stories. He believes all that can be believed of them. At the same time, to a mind so simple, the spirit of God must have freer entrance than to ours--perhaps even teaches the man by what we call THE MAN'S OWN WORDS. His words may go before his ideas--his higher ideas at least--his ideas follow after his words. As the half-thoughts pass through his mind--who can say how much generated by himself, how much directly suggested by the eternal thought in which his spirit lives and breathes!--he drinks and is refreshed. I am convinced that nowhere so much as in the highest knowledge of all--what the people above count knowledge--will the fulfilment of the saying of our Lord, "Many first shall be last, and the last first," cause
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