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As soon as the baby was asleep, Maggie went back to the kitchen where her father still sat at work.
"Ye're late the night, father!" she said.
"I am that, lassie; but ye see I canna luik for muckle help frae you for some time: ye'll hae eneuch to dee wi' that bairn o' yours; and we hae him to fen for noo as weel's oorsels! No 'at I hae the least concern aboot the bonny white raven, only we maun consider him like the lave!" "It's little he'll want for a whilie, father!" answered Maggie. "—But noo," she went on, in a tone of seriousness that was almost awe, "lat me hear what ye're thinkin:—what kin' o' a mither could she be that left her bairn theroot i' the wide, eerie nicht? and what for could she hae dene 't?"
"She maun hae been some puir lassie that hadna learnt to think first o' His wull! She had believt the man whan he promised to merry her, no kennin he was a leear, and no heedin the v'ice inside her that said ye maunna; and sae she loot him dee what he likit wi' her, and mak himsel the father o' a bairnie that wasna meant for him. Sic leeberties as he took wi' her, and she ouchtna to hae permittit, made a mither o' her afore ever she was merried. Sic fules hae an awfu' time o' 't; for fowk hardly ever forgies them, and aye luiks doon upo' them. Doobtless the rascal ran awa and left her to fen for hersel; naebody would help her; and she had to beg the breid for hersel, and the drap milk for the bairnie; sae that at last she lost hert and left it, jist as Hagar left hers aneath the buss i' the wilderness afore God shawed her the bonny wall o' watter."
"I kenna whilk o' them was the warst—father or mither!" cried Maggie.
"Nae mair do I!" said the soutar; "but I doobt the ane that lee'd to the ither, maun hae to be coontit the warst!"
"There canna be mony sic men!" said Maggie.
"'Deed there's a heap o' them no a hair better!" rejoined her father; "but wae's me for the puir lassie that believes them!"
"She kenned what was richt a' the time, father!"
"That's true, my dauty; but to ken is no aye to un'erstan'; and even to un'erstan' is no aye to see richt intil't! No wuman's safe that hasna the love o' God, the great Love, in her hert a' the time! What's best in her, whan the vera best's awa, may turn to be her greatest danger. And the higher ye rise ye come into the waur danger, till ance ye're fairly intil the ae safe place, the hert o' the Father. There, and there only, ye're safe!—safe frae earth, frae hell, and frae yer ain hert! A' the temptations, even sic as ance made the haivenly hosts themsels fa' frae haiven to hell, canna touch ye there! But whan man or wuman repents and heumbles himsel, there is He to lift them up, and that higher than ever they stede afore!"
"Syne they're no to be despised that fa'!"
"Nane despises them, lassie, but them that haena yet learnt the danger they're in o' that same fa' themsels. Mony ane, I'm thinking, is keepit frae fa'in, jist because she's no far eneuch on to get the guid o' the shame, but would jist sink farther and farther!"
"But Eppie tells me that maist o' them 'at trips gangs on fa'in, and never wins up again."
"Ou, ay; that's true as far as we, short-lived and short-sichtit craturs, see o' them! but this warl's but the beginnin; and the glory o' Christ, wha's the vera Love o' the Father, spreads a heap further nor that. It's no for naething we're tellt hoo the sinner-women cam til him frae a' sides! They needit him sair, and cam. Never ane o' them was ower black to be latten gang close up til him; and some o' sic women un'erstede things he said 'at mony a respectable wuman cudna get a glimp o'! There's aye rain eneuch, as Maister Shaksper says, i' the sweet haivens to wash the vera han' o' murder as white as snow. The creatin hert is fu' o' sic rain. Loe him, lassie, and ye'll never glaur the bonny goon ye broucht white frae his hert!"
The soutar's face was solemn and white, and tears were running down the furrows of his cheeks. Maggie too was weeping. At length she said—
Supposin the mither o' my bairnie a wuman like that, can ye think it fair that her disgrace should stick til him?"
"It sticks til him only in sic minds as never saw the lovely greatness o'
"But sic bairns come na intil the warl as God wad hae them come!"
"But your bairnie is come, and that he couldna withoot the creatin wull o' the Father! Doobtless sic bairnies hae to suffer frae the prood jeedgment o' their fellow-men and women, but they may get muckle guid and little ill frae that—a guid naebody can reive them o'. It's no a mere veesitin o' the sins o' the fathers upo' the bairns, but a provision to haud the bairns aff o' the like, and to shame the fathers o' them. Eh, but sic maun be sair affrontit wi' themsels, that disgrace at ance the wife that should hae been and the bairn that shouldna! Eh, the puir bairnie that has sic a father! But he has anither as weel—a richt gran' father to rin til!—The ae thing," the soutar went on, "that you and me, Maggie, has to do, is never to lat the bairn ken the miss o' father or mother, and sae lead him to the ae Father, the only real and true ane.—There he's wailin, the bonny wee man!"
Maggie ran to quiet her little one, but soon returned, and sitting down again beside her father, asked him for a piece of work.
All this time, through his own cowardly indifference, the would-be-grand preacher, James Blatherwick, knew nothing of the fact that, somewhere in the world, without father or mother, lived a silent witness against him.
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