What's Mine's Mind - vol.1

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As the ladies went up the ridge, regarded in the neighbourhood as the chief's pleasure-ground where nobody went except to call upon the chief, they must, having mounted it lower down than where they descended, pass the cottage. The grove of birch, mountain-ash, and fir which surrounded it, was planted quite irregularly, and a narrow foot-path went winding through it to the door. Against one of the firs was a rough bench turned to the west, and seated upon it they saw Ian, smoking a formless mass of much defiled sea-foam, otherwise meer-schaum. He rose, uncovered, and sat down again. But Christina, who regarded it as a praiseworthy kindness to address any one beneath her, not only returned his salutation, but stopped, and said,

"Good morning! We have been learning how they plough in Scotland, but I fear we annoyed the ploughman."

"Fergus does sometimes LOOK surly," said Ian, rising again, and going to her; "he has bad rheumatism, poor fellow! And then he can't speak a word of English, and is ashamed of it!"

"The man we saw spoke English very well. Is Fergus your brother's name?"

"No; my brother's name is Alister--that is Gaelic for Alexander."

"He was ploughing with two wild little oxen, and could hardly manage them."

"Then it must have been Alister--only, excuse me, he could manage them perfectly. Alister could break a pair of buffaloes."

"He seemed rather vexed, and I thought it might be that we made the creatures troublesome.--I do not mean he was rude--only a little rough to us."

Ian smiled, and waited for more.

"He did not like to be told he was hard on the animals. I only said the poor things did not know better!"

"Ah--I see!--He understands animals so well, he doesn't like to be meddled with in his management of them. I daresay he told you that, if they didn't know better, he had to teach them better! They are troublesome little wretches.--Yes, I confess he is a little touchy about animals!"

Somehow Christina felt herself rebuked, and did not like it. He had almost told her that, if she had quarrelled with his ploughman-brother, the fault must be hers!

"But indeed, Captain Macruadh," she said--for the people called him captain, "I am not ignorant about animals! We have horses of our own, and know all about them.--Don't we, Mercy?"

"Yes," said Mercy; "they take apples and sugar from our hands."

"And you would have the chief's bulls tamed with apples and sugar!" returned Ian, laughing. "But the horses were tamed before ever you saw them! If you had taken them wild, or even when they were foals, and taught them everything, then you would know a little about them. An acquaintance is not a friendship! My brother loves animals and understands them almost like human beings; he understands them better than some human beings, for the most cunning of the animals are yet simple. He knows what they are thinking when I cannot read a word of their faces. I remember one terrible night, winters ago--there had been a blinding drift on and off during the day, and my father and mother were getting anxious about him--how he came staggering in, and fell on the floor, and a great lump in his plaid on his back began to wallow about, and forth crept his big colley! They had been to the hills to look after a few sheep, and the poor dog was exhausted, and Alister carried him home at the risk of his life."

"A valuable animal, I don't doubt," said Christina.

"He had been, but was no more what the world calls valuable. He was an old dog almost past work--but the wisest creature! Poor fellow, he never recovered that day on the hills! A week or so after, we buried him--in the hope of a blessed resurrection," added Ian, with a smile.

The girls looked at each other as much as to say, "Good heavens!" He caught the look, but said nothing, for he saw they had "no understanding."

The brothers believed most devoutly that the God who is present at the death-bed of the sparrow does not forget the sparrow when he is dead; for they had been taught that he is an unchanging God; "and," argued Ian, "what God remembers, he thinks of, and what he thinks of, IS." But Ian knew that what misses the heart falls under the feet! A man is bound to SHARE his best, not to tumble his

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