Salted With Fire

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"Whaur are ye aff til this bonny mornin', Maggie, my doo?" said the soutar, looking up from his work, and addressing his daughter as she stood in the doorway with her shoes in her hand.

"Jist ower to Stanecross, wi' yer leave, father, to speir the mistress for a goupin or twa o' chaff: yer bed aneth ye's grown unco hungry-like."

"Hoot, the bed's weel eneuch, lassie!"

"Na, it's onything but weel eneuch! It's my pairt to luik efter my ain father, and see there be nae k-nots aither in his bed or his parritch."

"Ye're jist yer mither owre again, my lass!--Weel, I winna miss ye that sair, for the minister 'ill be in this mornin'."

"Hoo ken ye that, father?"

"We didna gree vera weel last nicht."

"I canna bide the minister--argle-barglin body!"

"Toots, bairn! I dinna like to hear ye speyk sae scornfulike o' the gude man that has the care o' oor sowls!"

"It wad be mair to the purpose ye had the care o' his!"

"Sae I hae: hasna ilkabody the care o' ilk ither's?"

"Ay; but he preshumes upo' 't--and ye dinna; there's the differ!"

"Weel, but ye see, lassie, the man has nae insicht--nane to speak o', that is; and it's pleased God to mak him a wee stoopid, and some thrawn (twisted). He has nae notion even o' the wark I put intil thae wee bit sheenie (little shoes) o' his--that I'm this moment labourin ower!"

"It's sair wastit upo' him 'at caana see the thoucht intil't!"

"Is God's wark wastit upo' you and me excep' we see intil't, and un'erstan't, Maggie?"

The girl was silent. Her father resumed.

"There's three concernt i' the matter o' the wark I may be at: first, my ain duty to the wark--that's me; syne him I'm working for--that's the minister; and syne him 'at sets me to the wark--ye ken wha that is: whilk o' the three wad ye hae me lea' oot o' the consideration?"

For another moment the girl continued silent; then she said--

"Ye maun be i' the richt, father! I believe 't, though I canna jist see 't. A body canna like a'body, and the minister's jist the ae man I canna bide."

"Ay could ye, gi'en ye lo'ed the ane as he oucht to be lo'ed, and as ye maun learn to lo'e him."

"Weel I'm no come to that wi' the minister yet!"

"It's a trowth--but a sair pity, my dautie (daughter--darling)."

"He provokes me the w'y that he speaks to ye, father--him 'at's no fit to tie the thong o' your shee!"

"The Maister would lat him tie his, and say thank ye!"

"It aye seems to me he has sic a scrimpit way o' believin'! It's no like believin' at a'! He winna trust him for naething that he hasna his ain word, or some ither body's for! Ca' ye that lippenin' til him?"

It was now the father's turn to be silent for a moment. Then he said,--

"Lea' the judgin' o' him to his ain maister, lassie. I ha'e seen him whiles sair concernt for ither fowk."

"'At they wouldna hand wi' him, and war condemnt in consequence--wasna that it?"

"I canna answer ye that, bairn."

"Weel, I ken he doesna like you--no ae wee bit. He's aye girdin at ye to ither fowk!"

"May be: the mair's the need I sud lo'e him."

"But noo can ye, father?"

"There's naething, o' late, I ha'e to be sae gratefu' for to Him as that I can. But I confess I had lang to try sair!"

"The mair I was to try, the mair I jist couldna."

"But ye could try; and He could help ye!"

"I dinna ken; I only ken that sae ye say, and I maun believe ye. Nane the mair can I see hoo it's ever to be broucht aboot."

"No more can I, though I ken it can be. But just think, my ain Maggie, hoo would onybody ken that ever ane o' 's was his disciple, gien we war aye argle-barglin aboot the holiest things--at least what the minister coonts the holiest, though may be I think I ken better? It's whan twa o' 's strive that what's ca'd a schism begins, and I jist winna, please God--and it does please him! He never said, Ye maun a' think the same gait, but he did say, Ye man a' loe are anither, and no strive!"

"Ye dinna aye gang to his kirk, father!"

"Na, for I'm jist feared sometimes lest I should stop loein him. It matters little about gaein to the kirk ilka Sunday, but it matters a heap aboot aye loein are anither; and whiles he says things aboot the mind o' God, sic that it's a' I can dee to sit still."

"Weel, father, I dinna believe that I can lo'e him ony the day; sae, wi' yer leave, I s' be awa to Stanecross afore he comes."

"Gang yer wa's, lassie, and the Lord gang wi' ye, as ance he did wi' them that gaed to Emmaus."

With her shoes in her hand, the girl was leaving the house when her father called after her--

"Hoo's folk to ken that I provide for my ain, whan my bairn gangs unshod? Tak aff yer shune gin ye like when ye're oot o' the toon."

"Are ye sure there's nae hypocrisy aboot sic a fause show, father?" asked Maggie, laughing, "I maun hide them better!"

As she spoke she put the shoes in the empty bag she carried for the chaff. "There's a hidin' o' what I hae--no a pretendin' to hae what I haena!--Is' be hame in guid time for yer tay, father.--I can gang a heap better withoot them!" she added, as she threw the bag over her shoulder. "I'll put them on whan I come to the heather," she concluded.

"Ay, ay; gang yer wa's, and lea' me to the wark ye haena the grace to adverteeze by weirin' o' 't."

Maggie looked in at the window as she passed it on her way, to get a last sight of her father. The sun was shining into the little bare room, and her shadow fell upon him as she passed him; but his form lingered clear in the close chamber of her mind after she had left him far. And it was not her shadow she had seen, but the shadow, rather, of a great peace that rested concentred upon him as he bowed over his last, his mind fixed indeed upon his work, but far more occupied with the affairs of quite another region. Mind and soul were each so absorbed in its accustomed labour that never did either interfere with that of the other. His shoemaking lost nothing when he was deepest sunk in some one or other of the words of his Lord, which he sought eagerly to understand--nay, I imagine his shoemaking gained thereby. In his leisure hours, not a great, he was yet an intense reader; but it was nothing in any book that now occupied him; it was the live good news, the man Jesus Christ himself. In thought, in love, in imagination, that man dwelt in him, was alive in him, and made him alive. This moment He was with him, had come to visit him--yet was never far from him--was present always with an individuality that never quenched but was continually developing his own. For the soutar absolutely believed in the Lord of Life, was always trying to do the things he said, and to keep his words abiding in him. Therefore was he what the parson called a mystic, and was the most practical man in the neighbourhood; therefore did he make the best shoes, because the Word of the Lord abode in him.

The door opened, and the minister came into the kitchen. The soutar always worked in the kitchen, to be near his daughter, whose presence never interrupted either his work or his thought, or even his prayers--which often seemed as involuntary as a vital automatic impulse.

"It's a grand day!" said the minister. "It aye seems to me that just on such a day will the Lord come, nobody expecting him, and the folk all following their various callings--as when the flood came and astonished them."

The man was but reflecting, without knowing it, what the soutar had been saying the last time they encountered; neither did he think, at the moment, that the Lord himself had said something like it first.

"And I was thinkin, this vera meenute," returned the soutar, "sic a bonny day as it was for the Lord to gang aboot amang his ain fowk. I was thinkin maybe he was come upon Maggie, and was walkin wi' her up the hill to Stanecross--nearer til her, maybe, nor she could hear or see or think!"

"Ye're a deal taen up wi' vain imaiginins, MacLear!" rejoined the minister, tartly. "What scriptur hae ye for sic a wanderin' invention, o' no practical value?"

"'Deed, sir, what scriptur hed I for takin my brakwast this mornin, or ony mornin? Yet I never luik for a judgment to fa' upon me for that! I'm thinkin we dee mair things in faith than we ken--but no eneuch! no eneuch! I was thankfu' for't, though, I min' that, and maybe that'll stan' for faith. But gien I gang on this gait, we'll be beginnin as we left aff last nicht, and maybe fa' to strife! And we hae to loe ane anither, not accordin to what the ane thinks, or what the ither thinks, but accordin as each kens the Maister loes the ither, for he loes the twa o' us thegither."

"But hoo ken ye that he's pleased wi' ye?"

"I said naething aboot that: I said he loes you and me!"

"For that, he maun be pleast wi' ye!"

"I dinna think nane aboot that; I jist tak my life i' my han', and awa' wi' 't til Him;--and he's never turned his face frae me yet.--Eh, sir! think what it would be gien ever he did!"

"But we maunna think o' him ither than he would hae us think."

"That's hoo I'm aye hingin aboot his door, luikin for him."

"Weel, I kenna what to mak o' ye! I maun jist lea' ye to him!"

"Ye couldna dee a kinder thing! I desire naething better frae man or minister than be left to Him."

"Weel, weel, see til yersel."

"I'll see to him, and try to loe my neebour--that's you, Mr. Pethrie. I'll hae yer shune ready by Setterday, sir. I trust they'll be worthy o' the feet that God made, and that hae to be shod by me. I trust and believe they'll nowise distress ye, sir, or interfere wi' yer comfort in preachin. I'll fess them hame mysel, gien the Lord wull, and that without fail."

"Na, na; dinna dee that; lat Maggie come wi' them. Ye wad only be puttin me oot o' humour for the Lord's wark wi' yer havers!"

"Weel, I'll sen' Maggie--only ye wad obleege me by no seein her, for ye micht put her oot o' humour, sir, and she michtna gie yer sermon fair play the morn!"

The minister closed the door with some sharpness.

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