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- What's Mine's Mine V3 - 10/30 -
fail to hurt her.
"Well," she resumed, as he did not reply, "there are fathers, I daresay, who would not count that a hard condition!"
"Of course your father will not like the idea of your marrying so poor a man!"
"If he should insist on your having something with me, you will not refuse, will you? Why should you mind it?"
Alister was silent. The thing had already begun to grow dreadful! How could he tell her his reasons! Was it necessary to tell her? If he had to explain, it must be to her father, not to her! How, until absolutely compelled, reveal the horrible fact that her father was despised by her lover! She might believe it her part to refuse such love! He trembled lest she should urge him. But Mercy, thinking she had been very bold already, also held her peace.
They tried to talk about other things, but with little success, and when they parted, it was with a sense on both sides that something had got between them. The night through Mercy hardly slept for trying to discover what his aversion to her dowry might mean. No princedom was worth contrasting with poverty and her farmer-chief, but why should not his love be able to carry her few thousands? It was impossible his great soul should grudge his wife's superiority in the one poor trifle of money! Was not the whole family superior to money! Had she, alas, been too confident in their greatness? Must she be brought to confess that their grand ways had their little heart of pride? Did they not regard themselves as the ancient aristocracy of the country! Yes, it must be! The chief despised the origin of her father's riches!
But, although so far in the direction of the fact, she had no suspicion of anything more than landed pride looking down upon manufacture and trade. She suspected no moral root of even a share in the chief's difficulty. Naturally, she was offended. How differently Christina would have met the least hint of a CONDITION, she thought. She had been too ready to show and confess her love! Had she stood off a little, she might have escaped this humiliation! But would that have been honest? Must she not first of all be true? Was the chief, whatever his pride, capable of being ungenerous? Questions like these kept coming and going throughout the night. Hither and thither went her thoughts, refusing to be controlled. The morning came, the sun rose, and she could not find rest. She had come to see how ideally delightful it was just to wait God's will of love, yet, in this her first trouble, she actually forgot to think of God, never asked him to look after the thing for her, never said, "Thy will be done!" And when at length weariness overpowered her, fell asleep like a heathen, without a word from her heart to the heart.
Alister missed Ian sorely. He prayed to God, but was too troubled to feel him near. Trouble imagined may seem easy to meet; trouble actual is quite another thing! His mother, perhaps, was to have her desire; Mercy, perhaps, would not marry a man who disapproved of her family! Between them already was what could not be talked about! He could not set free his heart to her!
When Mercy woke, the old love was awake also; let Alister's reason be what it might, it was not for her to resent it! The life he led was so much grander than a life spent in making money, that he must feel himself superior! Throned in the hearts, and influencing the characters of men, was he not in a far nobler position than money could give him? From her night of doubt and bitterness Mercy issued more loving and humble. What should she be now, she said to herself, if Alister had not taught her? He had been good to her as never father or brother! She would trust him! She would believe him right! Had he hurt her pride? It was well her pride should be hurt! Her mind was at rest.
But Alister must continue in pain and dread until he had spoken to her father. Knowing then the worst, he might use argument with Mercy; the moment for that was not yet come! If he consented that his daughter should leave him undowered, an explanation with Mercy might be postponed. When the honour of her husband was more to her than the false credit of her family, when she had had time to understand principles which, born and brought up as she had been, she might not yet be able to see into, then it would be time to explain! One with him, she would see things as he saw them! Till her father came, he would avoid the subject!
All the morning he was busy in the cornyard--with his hands in preparing new stances for ricks, with his heart in try ing to content himself beforehand with whatever fate the Lord might intend for him. As yet he was more of a Christian philosopher than a philosophical Christian. The thing most disappointing to him he would treat as the will of God for him, and try to make up his mind to it, persuading himself it was the right and best thing--as if he knew it the will of God. He was thus working in the region of supposition, and not of revealed duty; in his own imagination, and not in the will of God. If this should not prove the will of God concerning him, then he was spending his strength for nought. There is something in the very presence and actuality of a thing to make one able to bear it; but a man may weaken himself for bearing what God intends him to bear, by trying to bear what God does not intend him to bear. The chief was forestalling the morrow like an unbeliever--not without some moral advantage, I dare say, but with spiritual loss. We have no right to school ourselves to an imaginary duty. When we do not know, then what he lays upon us is NOT TO KNOW, and to be content not to know. The philosopher is he who lives in the thought of things, the Christian is he who lives in the things themselves. The philosopher occupies himself with Grod's decree, the Christian with God's will; the philosopher with what God may intend, the Christian with what God wants HIM TO DO.
The laird looked up and there were the young ladies! It was the first time Christina had come nigh the cottage since Ian's departure.
"Can you tell me, Macruadh," she said, "what makes Mrs. Conal so spiteful always? When we bade her good morning a few minutes ago, she overwhelmed us with a torrent of abuse!"
"How did you know it was abuse?"
"We understand enough of Gaelic to know it was not exactly blessing us she was. It is not necessary to know cat-language to distinguish between purring and spitting! What harm have we done? Her voice was fierce, and her eyes were like two live peats flaming at us! Do speak to her."
"It would be of no use!"
"Where's the good of being chief then? I don't ask you to make the old woman civil, but I think you might keep her from insulting your friends! I begin to think your chiefdom a sham!"
"I doubt indeed if it reaches to the tongues of the clan! But let us go and tell my mother. She may be able to do something with her!"
Christina went into the cottage; the chief drew Mercy back.
"What do you think the first duty of married people, Mercy--to each other, I mean," he said.
"To be always what they look," answered Mercy.
"Yes, but I mean actively. What is it their first duty to do towards each other?"
"I can't answer that without thinking."
"Is it not each to help the other to do the will of God?"
"I would say YES if I were sure I really meant it."
"You will mean it one day."
"Are you sure God will teach me?"
"I think he cares more to do that than anything else."
"More than to save us?"
"What is saving but taking us out of the dark into the light? There is no salvation but to know God and grow like him."
A GENEROUS DOWRY.
The only hope of the chief's mother was in what the girl's father might say to her son's proposal. Would not his pride revolt against giving his daughter to a man who would not receive his blessing in money?
Mr. Peregrine Palmer arrived, and the next day Alister called upon him.
Not unprepared for the proposal of the chief, Mercy's father had nothing to urge against it. Her suitor's name was almost an historical one, for it stood high in the home-annals of Scotland. And the new laird, who had always a vague sense of injury in the lack of an illustrious pedigree of his own to send forward, was not un willing that a man more justly treated than himself should supply the SOLATIUM to his daughter's children. He received the Macruadh, therefore, if a little pompously, yet with kindness. And the moment they were seated Alister laid his request before him.
"Mr. Palmer," he said, "I come to ask the hand of your daughter Mercy. I have not much beyond myself to offer her, but I can tell you precisely what there is."
Mr. Peregrine Palmer sat for a moment looking important. He seemed to see much to ponder in the proposal.
"Well, Macruadh," he said at length, hesitating with hum and with haw, "the thing is--well, to speak the truth, you take me a good deal by surprise! I do not know how the thing may appear to Mrs. Palmer. And then the girl herself, you will allow, ought, in a free
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