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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Elect Lady - Chapter 10. Andrew Ingram
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The Elect Lady - Chapter 10. Andrew Ingram Post by :bjmays Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :985

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The Elect Lady - Chapter 10. Andrew Ingram

CHAPTER X. ANDREW INGRAM

Of the persons in my narrative, Andrew Ingram is the simplest, therefore the hardest to be understood by an ordinary reader. I must take up his history from a certain point in his childhood.

One summer evening, he and his brother Sandy were playing together on a knoll in one of their father's fields. Andrew was ten years old, and Sandy a year younger. The two quarreled, and the spirit of ancestral borderers waking in them, they fell to blows. The younger was the stronger for his years, and they were punching each other with relentless vigor, when suddenly they heard a voice, and stopping their fight, saw before them an humble-looking man with a pack on his back. He was a peddler known in the neighborhood, and noted for his honesty and his silence, but the boys had never seen him. They stood abashed before him, dazed with the blows they had received, and not a little ashamed; for they were well brought up, their mother being an honest disciplinarian, and their father never interfering with what she judged right. The sun was near the setting, and shone with level rays full on the peddler; but when they thought of him afterward, they seemed to remember more light in his face than that of the sun. Their conscience bore him witness, and his look awed them. Involuntarily they turned from him, seeking refuge with each other: his eyes shone so! they said; but immediately they turned to him again.

Sandy knew the pictures in the "Pilgrim's Progress," and Andrew had read it through more than once: when they saw the man had a book in his hand, open, and heard him, standing there in the sun, begin to read from it, they thought it must be Christian, waiting for Evangelist to come to him. It is impossible to say how much is fact and how much imagination in what children recollect; the one must almost always supplement the other; but they were quite sure that the words he read were these: "And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world!" The next thing they remembered was their walking slowly down the hill in the red light, and all at once waking up to the fact that the man was gone, they did not know when or where. But their arms were round each other's necks, and they were full of a strange awe. Then Andrew saw something red on Sandy's face.

"Eh, Sandy!" he cried, "it's bluid!" and burst into tears.

It was his own blood, not Sandy's!--the discovery of which fact relieved Andrew, and did not so greatly discompose Sandy, who was less sensitive.

They began at length to speculate on what had happened. One thing was clear: it was because they were fighting that the man had come; but it was not so clear who the man was. He could not be Christian, because Christian went over the river! Andrew suggested it might have been Evangelist, for he seemed to be always about. Sandy added, as his contribution to the idea, that he might have picked up Christian's bundle and been carrying it home to his wife. They came, however, to the conclusion, by no ratiocination, I think, but by a conviction which the idea itself brought with it, that the stranger was the Lord himself, and that the pack on His back was their sins, which He was carrying away to throw out of the world.

"Eh, wasna it fearfu' He should come by jist when we was fechtin'!" said Sandy.

"Eh, na! it was a fine thing that! We micht hae been at it yet! But we winna noo!--will we ever, Sandy?"

"Na, that we winna!"

"For," continued Andrew, "He said 'Lo, I am with you always!' And suppose He werena, we daurna be that ahint His back we would na be afore His face!"

"Do you railly think it _was Him, Andrew?"

"Weel," replied Andrew, "gien the deevil be goin' aboot like a roarin' lion, seekin' whom he may devoor, as father says, it's no likely _He would na be goin' aboot as weel, seekin' to haud him aff o' 's!"

"Ay!" said Sandy.

"And noo," said the elder, "what are we to do?"

For Andrew, whom both father and mother judged the dreamiest of mortals, was in reality the most practical being in the whole parish--so practical that by and by people mocked him for a poet and a heretic, because he did the things which they said they believed. Most unpractical must every man appear who genuinely believes in the things that are unseen. The man called practical by the men of this world is he who busies himself building his house on the sand, while he does not even bespeak a lodging in the inevitable beyond.

"What are we to do?" said Andrew. "If the Lord is going about like that, looking after us, we've surely got something to do looking after _Him!_"

There was no help in Sandy; and it was well that, with the reticence of children, neither thought of laying the case before their parents; the traditions of the elders would have ill agreed with the doctrine they were now under! Suddenly it came into Andrew's mind that the book they read at _worship to which he had never listened, told all about Jesus.

He began at the beginning, and grew so interested in the stories that he forgot why he had begun to read it One day, however, as he was telling Sandy about Jacob--"What a shame!" said Sandy; and Andrew's mind suddenly opened to the fact that he had got nothing yet out of the book. He threw it from him, echoing Sandy's words, "What's a shame!"--not of Jacob's behavior, but of the Bible's, which had all this time told them nothing about the man that was going up and down the world, gathering up their sins, and carrying them away in His pack! But it dawned upon him that it was the New Testament that told about Jesus Christ, and they turned to that. Here also I say it was well they asked no advice, for they would probably have been directed to the Epistle to the Romans, with explanations yet more foreign to the heart of Paul than false to his Greek. They began to read the story of Jesus as told by his friend Matthew, and when they had ended it, went on to the gospel according to Mark. But they had not read far when Sandy cried out:

"Eh, Andrew, it's a' the same thing ower again!"

"No a'thegither," answered Andrew. "We'll gang on, and see!"

Andrew came to the conclusion that it was so far the same that he would rather go back and read the other again, for the sake of some particular things he wanted to make sure about So the second time they read St. Matthew, and came to these words:

"If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven."

"There's twa o' 's here!" cried Andrew, laying down the book. "Lat's try 't!"

"Try what?" said Sandy.

His brother read the passage again.

"Lat the twa o' 's speir Him for something!" concluded Andrew. "What wull't be?"

"I won'er if it means only ance, or may be three times, like 'The Three Wishes!'" suggested Sandy, who, like most Christians, would rather have a talk about it than do what he was told.

"We _might ask for what would not be good for us!" returned Andrew.

"And make fools of ourselves!" assented Sandy, with "The Three Wishes" in his mind.

"Do you think He would give it us then?"

"I don't know."

"But," pursued Andrew, "if we were so foolish as that old man and woman, it would be better to find it out, and begin to grow wise!--I'll tell you what we'll do: we'll make it our first wish to know what's best to ask for; and then we can go on asking!"

"Yes, yes; let us!"

"I fancy we'll have as many wishes as we like! Doon upo' yer knees, Sandy!"

They knelt together.

I fear there are not a few to say, "How ill-instructed the poor children were!--actually mingling the gospel and the fairy tales!" "Happy children," say I, "who could blunder into the very heart of the will of God concerning them, and _do the thing at once that the Lord taught them, using the common sense which God had given and the fairy tale nourished!" The Lord of the promise is the Lord of all true parables and all good fairy tales.

Andrew prayed:

"Oh, Lord, tell Sandy and me what to ask for. We're unanimous."

They got up from their knees. They had said what they had to say: why say more!

They felt rather dull. Nothing came to them. The prayer was prayed, and they could not make the answer! There was no use in reading more! They put the Bible away in a rough box where they kept it among rose-leaves--ignorant priests of the lovely mystery of Him who was with them always--and without a word went each his own way, not happy, for were they not leaving Him under the elder-tree, lonely and shadowy, where it was their custom to meet! Alas for those who must go to church to find Him, or who can not pray unless in their closet!

They wandered about disconsolate, at school and at home, the rest of the day--at least Andrew did; Sandy had Andrew to lean upon! Andrew had Him who was with them always, but He seemed at the other end of the world. They had prayed, and there was no more of it!

In the evening, while yet it was light, Andrew went alone to the elder-tree, took the Bible from its humble shrine, and began turning over its leaves.

"And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" He read, and sunk deep in thought.

This is the way his thoughts went:

"What things? What had He been saying? Let me look and see what He says, that I may begin to do it!"

He read all the chapter, and found it full of _tellings_. When he read it before he had not thought of doing one of the things He said, for as plainly as He told him! He had not once thought He had any concern in the matter!

"I see!" he said; "we must begin at once to do what He tells us!"

He ran to find his brother.

"I've got it!" he cried: "I've got it!"

"What?"

"What we've got to do"

"And what is it?"

"Just what He tells us."

"We were doing that," said Sandy, "when we prayed Him to tell us what to pray for!"

"So we were! That's grand!"

"Then haven't we got to pray for anything more?"

"We'll soon find out; but first we must look for something to do!"

They began at once to search for things the Lord told them to do. And of all they found, the plainest and easiest was: "Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." This needed no explanation! it was as clear as the day to both of them!

The very next morning the school-master, who, though of a gentle disposition, was irritable, taking Andrew for the offender in a certain breach of discipline, gave him a smart box on the ear. Andrew, as readily as if it had been instinctively, turned to him the other cheek.

An angry man is an evil interpreter of holy things, and Mr. Fordyce took the action for one of rudest mockery, nor thought of the higher master therein mocked if it were mockery: he struck the offender a yet smarter blow. Andrew stood for a minute like one dazed; but the red on his face was not that of anger; he was perplexed as to whether he ought now to turn the former cheek again to the striker. Uncertain, he turned away, and went to his work.

Stops a reader here to say: "But do you really mean to tell us we ought to take the words literally as Andrew did?" I answer: "When you have earned the right to understand, you will not need to ask me. To explain what the Lord means to one who is not obedient, is the work of no man who knows his work."

It is but fair to say for the school-master that, when he found he had mistaken, he tried to make up to the boy for it--not by confessing himself wrong--who could expect that of only a school-master?--but by being kinder to him than before. Through this he came to like him, and would teach him things out of the usual way--such as how to make different kinds of verse.

By and by Andrew and Sandy had a quarrel. Suddenly Andrew came to himself, and cried:

"Sandy! Sandy! He says we're to agree!"

"Does He?"

"He says we're to love one another, and we canna do that if we dinna agree!"

There came a pause.

"Perhaps after all you were in the right, Sandy!" said Andrew.

"I was just going to say that; when I think about it, perhaps I wasn't so much in the right as I thought I was!"

"It can't matter much which was in the right, when we were both in the wrong!" said Andrew. "Let's ask Him to keep us from caring which is in the right, and make us both try to be in the right We don't often differ about what we are to ask for, Sandy!"

"No, we don't."

"It's me to take care of you, Sandy!"

"And me to take care of you, Andrew!"

Here was the nucleus of a church!--two stones laid on the foundation-stone.

"Luik here, Sandy!" said Andrew; "we maun hae anither, an' syne there'll be four o' 's!"

"How's that?" asked Sandy.

"I won'er 'at we never noticed it afore! Here's what He says: 'For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.' In that way, wharever He micht be walkin' aboot, we could aye get Him! He likes twa, an' His Father 'ill hear the 'greed prayer, but He likes three better--an' that stan's to rizzon, for three maun be better 'n twa! First ane maun lo'e Him; an' syne twa can lo'e Him better, because ilk ane is helpit by the ither, an' lo'es Him the mair that He lo'es the ither ane! An' syne comes the third, and there's mair an' mair throwin' o' lichts, and there's the Lord himsel' i' the mids' o' them! Three maks a better mids' than twa!"

Sandy could not follow the reasoning quite, but he had his own way of understanding.

"It's jist like the story o' Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego!" he said. "There was three o' them, an' sae He made four! Eh, jist think o' Him bein' wi' 's His verra sel'!"

Here now was a church indeed: the idea of a third was the very principle of growth! They would meet together and say: "Oh, Father of Jesus Christ, help us to be good like Jesus;" and then Jesus himself would make one of them, and worship the Father with them!

The next thing, as a matter of course, was to look about for a third.

"Dawtie!" cried both at once.

Dawtie was the child of a cotter pair, who had an acre or two of their father's farm, and helped him with it. Her real name has not reached me; _Dawtie means _darling_, and is a common term of endearment--derived, Jamieson suggests, from the Gaelic _dalt_, signifying _a foster-child_. Dawtie was a dark-haired, laughing little darling, with shy, merry manners, and the whitest teeth, full of fun, but solemn in an instant. Her small feet were bare and black--except on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings--but full of expression, and perhaps really cleaner, from their familiarity with the sweet all-cleansing air, than such as hide the day-long in socks and shoes.

Dawtie's specialty was love of the creatures. She had an undoubting conviction that every one of them with which she came in contact understood and loved her. She was the champion of the oppressed, without knowing it. Every individual necessity stood on its own merits, and came to her fresh and sole, as if she had forgotten all that went before it. Like some boys she had her pockets as well as her hands at the service of live things; but unlike any boy, she had in her love no admixture of natural history; it was not interest in animals with her, but an individual love to the individual animal, whatever it might be, that presented itself to the love-power in her.

It may seem strange that there should be three such children together. But their fathers and mothers had for generations been poor--which was a great advantage, as may be seen in the world by him who has eyes to see, and heard in the parable of the rich man by him who has ears to hear. Also they were God-fearing, which was a far greater advantage, and made them honorable; for they would have scorned things that most Christians will do. Dawtie's father had a rarely keen instinct for what is mean, and that not in the way of abhorrence in others, but of avoidance in himself. To shades and _nuances of selfishness, which men of high repute and comfortable conscience would neither be surprised to find in their neighbors nor annoyed to find in themselves, he would give no quarter. Along with Andrew's father, he had, in childhood and youth, been under the influence of a simple-hearted pastor, whom the wise and prudent laughed at as one who could not take care of himself, incapable of seeing that, like his master, he laid down his life that he might take it again. He left God to look after him, that he might be free to look after God.

Little Dawtie had learned her catechism, but, thank God, had never thought about it or attempted to understand it--good negative preparation for becoming, in a few years more, able to understand the New Testament with the heart of a babe.

The brothers had not long to search before they came upon her, where she sat on the ground at the door of the turf-built cottage, feeding a chicken with oatmeal paste.

"What are you doin', Dawtie?" they asked.

"I'm tryin'," she answered, without looking up, "to haud the life i' the chuckie."

"What's the matter wi' 't?"

"Naething but the want o' a mither."

"Is the mither o' 't deid?"

"Na, she's alive eneuch, but she has ower mony bairns to hap them a'; her wings winna cower them, and she drives this ane awa', and winna lat it come near her."

"Sic a cruel mither!"

"Na, she's no' cruel. She only wants to gar't come to me! She kenned I would tak it. Na, na; Flappy's a guid mither! I ken her weel; she's ane o' our ain! She kens me, or she would hae keepit the puir thing, and done her best wi' her."

"I ken somebody," said Andrew, "that would fain spread oot wings, like a great big hen, ower a' the bairns, you an' me an' a', Dawtie!"

"That's my mither!" cried Dawtie, looking up, and showing her white teeth.

"Na, it's a man," said Sandy.

"It's my father, than!"

"Na, it's no. Would ye like to see Him?"

"Na, I'm no carin'."

"Sandy and me's gaein' to see Him some day."

"I'll gang wi' ye. But I maun tak' my chuckie!"

She looked down where she had set the little bird on the ground; it had hobbled away and she could not see it!

"Eh," she cried, starting up, "ye made me forget my chuckie wi' yer questions! It's mither 'ill peck it!"

She darted off, and forsook the tale of the Son of Man to look after her chicken. But presently she returned with it in her hands.

"Tell awa'," she said, resuming her seat "What do they ca' Him?"

"They ca' Him the Father o' Jesus Christ."

"I'll gang wi' ye," she answered.

So the church was increased by a whole half, and the fraction of a chicken--type of the groaning creation, waiting for the sonship.

The three gathered to read and pray. And almost always there was some creature with them in the arms or hands of Dawtie. And if the Lord was not there, too, then are we Christians most miserable, for we see a glory beyond all that man could dream, and it is but a dream! Whose dream?

They went on at other times with the usual employments and games of children. But there was this difference between them and most grown Christians, that when anything roused thought or question they at once referred it to the word of Jesus, and having discovered His will, made haste to do it. It naturally followed that, seeing He gives the spirit to them that obey Him, they grew rapidly in the modes of their Master, learning to look at things as He looked at them, to think of them as He thought of them, to value what He valued, and despise what He despised--all in simplest order of divine development, in uttermost accord with highest reason, the whole turning on the primary and continuous effort to obey.

It was long before they came to have any regular time of meeting. Andrew always took the initiative in assembling the church. When he called they came together. Then he would read from the story, and communicate any discovery he had made concerning what Jesus would have them do. Next, they would consult and settle what they should ask for, and one of them, generally Andrew, but sometimes Sandy, would pray. They made no formal utterance, but simply asked for what they needed. Here are some specimens of their petitions:

"Oh, Lord, Sandy canna for the life o' 'im un'erstan' the rule o' three; please, Lord, help him."

"Oh, Lord, I dinna ken onything I want the day; please gi'e us what we need, an' what ye want us to hae, wi'oot our askin' it."

"Lord, help us; we're ill-natnr'd (_bad-tempered_) the day; an' ye wadna hae us that"

"Lord, Dawtie's mither has a sair heid (_headache_); mak her better, gien ye please."

When their prayers were ended Andrew would say: "Sandy, have you found anything He says?" and there-upon, if he had, Sandy would speak. Dawtie never said a word, but sat and listened with her big eyes, generally stroking some creature in her lap.

Surely the part of every superior is to help the life in the lower!

Once the question arose, in their assembly of three and a bird, whose leg Dawtie had put in splints, what became of the creatures when they died. They concluded that the sparrow that God cared for must be worth caring for; and they could not believe He had made it to last only such a little while as its life in this world. Thereupon they agreed to ask the Lord that, when they died, they might have again a certain dog, an ugly little white mongrel, of which they had been very fond. All their days thereafter they were, I believe, more or less consciously, looking forward to the fulfillment of this petition. For their hope strengthened with the growth of their ideal; and when they had to give up any belief it was to take a better in its place.

They yielded at length the notion that the peddler was Jesus Christ, but they never ceased to believe that He was God's messenger, or that the Lord was with them always. They would not insist that He was walking about on the earth, but to the end of their days they cherished the uncertain hope that they might, even without knowing it, look upon the face of the Lord in that of some stranger passing in the street, or mingling in a crowd, or seated in a church; for they knew that all the shapes of man belong to Him, and that, after He rose from the dead there were several occasions on which He did not at first look like Himself to those to whom He appeared.

The child-like, the essential, the divine notion of serving, with their every-day will and being, the will of the living One, who lived for them that they might live, as once He had died for them that they might die, ripened in them to a Christianity that saw God everywhere, saw that everything had to be done as God would have it done, and that nothing but injustice had to be forsaken to please Him. They were under no influence of what has been so well called _other-worldliness_, for they saw this world as much God's as that, saw that its work has to be done divinely, that it is the beginning of the world to come. It was to them all one world, with God in it, all in all; therefore the best work for the other world was the work of this world.

Such was the boyhood of that Andrew Ingram whom Miss Fordyce now reproved for not setting the good example of going to church.

The common sense of the children rapidly developed, for there is no teacher like obedience, and no obstruction like its postponement. When in after years their mothers came at length to understand that obedience had been so long the foundation of their life, it explained to them many things that had seemed strange, and brought them to reproach themselves that they should have seemed strange.

It ought not to be overlooked that the whole thing was wrought in the children without directed influence of kindred or any neighbor. They imitated none. The galvanism of imitation is not the life of the spirit; the use of form where love is not is killing. And if any one is desirous of spreading the truth let him apply himself, like these children, to the doing of it; not obeying the truth, he is doubly a liar pretending to teach it; if he obeys it already, let him obey it more. It is life that awakes life. All form of persuasion is empty except in vital association with regnant obedience. Talking and not doing is dry rot.

Cottage children are sometimes more fastidious about their food than children that have a greater variety; they have a more delicate perception and discrimination in the simple dishes on which they thrive; much choice, though little refusal. Andrew had a great dislike to lumps in his porridge; and one day the mother having been less careful than usual in cooking it, he made a wry face at the first spoonful.

"Andrew," said Sandy, "take no thought for what ye eat."

It was a wrong interpretation, but a righteous use of the word. Happy the soul that mistakes the letter only to get at the spirit!

Andrew's face smoothed itself, began to clear up, and broke at last into a sunny smile. He said nothing, but eat his full share of the porridge without a frown. This was practical religion; and if any one judge it not worth telling, I count his philosophy worthless beside it. Such a doer knows more than such a reader will ever know, except he take precisely the same way to learn. The children of God do what He would have them do, and are taught of Him.

A report at length reached the pastor, now an old man, of ripe heart and true insight, that certain children in his parish "played at the Lord's Supper." He was shocked, and went to their parents. They knew nothing of the matter. The three children were sought, and the pastor had a private interview with them. From it he reappeared with a solemn, pale face, and silent tongue. They asked him the result of his inquiry. He answered that he was not prepared to interfere: as he was talking with them, the warning came that there were necks and mill-stones. The next Sunday he preached a sermon from the text, "Out of the month of babes and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise."

The fathers and mothers made inquisition, and found no desire to conceal. Wisely or not, they forbade the observance. It cost Andrew much thought whether he was justified in obeying them; but he saw that right and wrong in itself was not concerned, and that the Lord would have them obey their parents.

It was necessary to tell so much of the previous history of Andrew, lest what remains to be told should perhaps be unintelligible or seem incredible without it. A character like his can not be formed in a day; it must early begin to grow.

The bond thus bound between the children, altering in form as they grew, was never severed; nor was the lower creation ever cut off from its share in the petitions of any one of them. When they ceased to assemble as a community, they continued to act on the same live principles.

Gladly as their parents would have sent them to college, Andrew and Sandy had to leave school only to work on the farm. But they carried their studies on from the point they had reached. When they could not get further without help, they sought and found it. For a year or two they went in the winter to an evening school; but it took so much time to go and come that they found they could make more progress by working at home. What help they sought went a long way, and what they learned, they knew.

When the day's work was over, and the evening meal, they went to the room their own hands had made convenient for study as well as sleep, and there resumed the labor they had dropped the night before. Together they read Greek and mathematics, but Andrew worked mainly in literature, Sandy in mechanics. On Saturdays, Sandy generally wrought at some model, while Andrew read to him. On Sundays, they always, for an hour or two, read the Bible together.

The brothers were not a little amused with Miss Fordyce's patronage of Andrew; but they had now been too long endeavoring to bring into subjection the sense of personal importance, to take offense at it.

Dawtie had gone into service, and they seldom saw her except when she came home for a day at the term. She was a grown woman now, but the same loving child as before. She counted the brothers her superiors, just as they counted the laird and his daughter their superiors. But whereas Alexa claimed the homage, Dawtie yielded where was no thought of claiming it. The brothers regarded her as their sister. That she was poorer than they, only made them the more watchful over her, and if possible the more respectful to her. So she had a rich return for her care of the chickens and kittens and puppies.

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