The Man From Glengarry by Ralph Connor
Chapter XVI. And the Glory
The first communion in the new church was marked by very great solemnity. There were few new members, but among the older men who had hitherto kept "back from the table" there was a manifest anxiety, and among the younger people a very great seriousness. The "coming forward" of Macdonald Dubh was an event so remarkable as to make a great impression not only upon all the Macdonald men who had been associated with him so many years in the lumbering, but also upon the whole congregation, to whom his record and reputation were well known. His change of attitude to the church and all its interests, as well as his change of disposition and temperament, were so striking as to leave in no one's mind any doubt as to the genuineness of his "change of heart," and every week made this more apparent. A solemn sense of responsibility and an intensity of earnestness seemed to possess him, while his humility and gentleness were touching to see.
On the evening of Monday, the day of thanksgiving in the Sacrament Week, a great congregation assembled for the closing meeting of the Communion Season. During the progress of the meeting, Mr. Murray and the ministers assisting him became aware that they were in the presence of some remarkable and mysterious phenomenon. The people listened to the Word with an intensity, response, and eagerness that gave token of a state of mind and heart wholly unusual. Here and there, while the psalms were being sung or prayers being offered, women and men would break down in audible weeping; and in the preaching the speaker was conscious of a power possessing him that he could not explain.
At length the last psalm was given out, and the congregation, contrary to their usual custom, by the minister's direction, rose to sing. As John "Aleck" led the people in that great volume of praise, the ministers held a hasty consultation in the pulpit. The professor had never seen anything so marvelous; Mr. Murray was reminded of the days of W. C. Burns. The question was, What was to be done? Should the meetings be continued, or should they close tonight? They had a great fear of religious excitement. They had seen something of the dreadful reaction following a state of exalted religious feeling. It was the beginning of harvest, too. Would it be advisable to call the people from their hard work in the fields to nightly meetings?
At length, as the congregation were nearing the close of the psalm, the professor spoke. "Brethren," he said, "this is not our work. Let us leave it to the Lord to decide. Put the question to the people and abide by their decision."
After the psalm was sung, the minister motioned the congregation to their seats, and without comment or suggestion, put before them the question that had been discussed in the pulpit. Was it their desire that the meetings should be continued or not? A deep, solemn silence lay upon the crowded church, and for some time no one moved. Then the congregation were startled to see Macdonald Dubh rise slowly from his place in the middle of the church.
"Mr. Murray," he said, in a voice that vibrated strangely, "you will pardon me for letting my voice be heard in this place. It is the voice of a great sinner."
"Speak, Mr. Macdonald," said the minister, "and I thank God for the sound of your voice in His house."
"It is not for me to make any speeches here. I will only make bold to give my word that the meetings be continued. It may be that the Lord, who has done such great things for me, will do great things for others also." And with that he sat down.
"I will take that for a motion," said the minister. "Will any one second it?"
Kenny Crubach at once rose and said: "We are always slow at following the Lord. Let us go forward."
The minister waited for some moments after Kenny had spoken, and then said, in a voice grave and with a feeling of responsibility in it: "You have heard these brethren, my people. I wait for the expression of your desire."
Like one man the great congregation rose to their feet. It was a scene profoundly impressive, and with these serious-minded, sober people, one that indicated overwhelming emotion.
And thus the great revival began.
For eighteen months, night after night, every night in the week except Saturday, the people gathered in such numbers as to fill the new church to the door. Throughout all the busy harvest season, in spite of the autumn rains that filled the swamps and made the roads almost impassable, in the face of the driving snows of winter, through the melting ice of the spring, and again through the following summer and autumn, the great revival held on. No fictitious means were employed to stir the emotions of the people or to kindle excitement among them. There were neither special sermons nor revival hymns. The old doctrines were proclaimed, but proclaimed with a fullness and power unknown at other times. The old psalms were sung, but sung perhaps as they had never been before. For when John "Aleck's" mighty voice rolled forth in its full power, and when his band of trained singers followed, lifting onward with them the great congregation--for every man, woman, and child sang with full heart and open throat--the effect was something altogether wonderful and worth hearing. Each night there was a sermon by the minister, who, for six months, till his health broke down, had sole charge of the work. Then the sermon was followed by short addresses or prayers by the elders, and after that the minister would take the men, and his wife the women, for closer and more personal dealing.
As the revival deepened it became the custom for others than the elders to take part, by reading a psalm or other Scripture, without comment, or by prayer. There was a shrinking from anything like a violent display of emotion, and from any unveiling of the sacred secrets of the heart, but Scripture reading or quoting was supposed to express the thoughts, the hopes, the fears, the gratitude, the devotion, that made the religious experience of the speaker. This was as far as they considered it safe or seemly to go.
One of the first, outside the ranks of the elders, to take part in this way was Macdonald Dubh; then Long John Cameron followed; then Peter McGregor and others of the men of maturer years. A distinct stage in the revival was reached when young Aleck McRae rose to read his Scripture. He was quickly followed by Don, young Findlayson, and others of that age, and from that time onward the old line that had so clearly distinguished age from youth in respect to religious duty and privilege, was obliterated forever. It had been a strange, if not very doubtful, phenomenon to see a young man "coming forward," or in any way giving indication of religious feeling. But this would never be again.
It was no small anxiety and grief to Mrs. Murray that Ranald, though he regularly attended the meetings, seemed to remain unmoved by the tide of religious feeling that was everywhere surging through the hearts of the people. The minister advised letting him alone, but Mrs. Murray was anxiously waiting for the time when Ranald would come to her. That time came, but not until long months of weary waiting on her part, and of painful struggle on his, had passed.
From the very first of the great movement his father threw himself into it with all the earnest intensity of his nature, but at the same time with a humility that gave token that the memory of the wild days of his youth and early manhood were never far away from him. He was eager to serve in the work, and was a constant source of wonder to all who had known him in his youth and early manhood. At all the different meetings he was present. Nothing could keep him away. "Night cometh," he said to his brother, who was remonstrating with him. His day's work was drawing to its close.
But Ranald would not let himself see the failing of his father's health, and when, in the harvest, the slightest work in the fields would send his father panting to the shade, Ranald would say, "It is the hot weather, father. When the cool days come you will be better. And why should you be bothering yourself with the work, anyway? Surely Yankee and I can look after that." And indeed they seemed to be quite fit to take off the harvest.
Day by day Ranald swung his cradle after Yankee with all a man's steadiness till all the grain was cut; and by the time the harvest was over, Ranald had developed a strength of muscle and a skill in the harvest work that made him equal of almost any man in the country. He was all the more eager to have the harvest work done in time, that his father might not fret over his own inability to help. For Ranald could not bear to see the look of disappointment that sometimes showed itself in his father's face when weakness drove him from the field, and it was this that made him throw himself into the work as he did. He was careful also to consult with his father in regard to all the details of the management of the farm, and to tell him all that he was planning to do as well as all that was done. His father had always been a kind of hero to Ranald, who admired him for his prowess with the gun and the ax, as well as for his great strength and courage. But ever since calamity had befallen him, the boy's heart had gone out to his father in a new tenderness, and the last months had drawn the two very close together. It was a dark day for Ranald when he was forced to face the fact that his father was growing daily weaker. It was his uncle, Macdonald Bhain, who finally made him see it.
"Your father is failing, Ranald," he said one day toward the close of harvest.
"It is the hot weather," said Ranald. "He will be better in the fall."
"Ranald, my boy," said his uncle, gravely, "your father will fade with the leaf, and the first snow will lie upon him."
And then Ranald fairly faced the fact that before long he would be alone in the world. Without any exchange of words, he and his father came to understand each other, and they both knew that they were spending their last days on earth together. On the son's side, they were days of deepening sorrow; but with the father, every day seemed to bring him a greater peace of mind and a clearer shining of the light that never fades. To his son, Macdonald Dubh never spoke of the death that he felt to be drawing nearer, but he often spoke to him of the life he would like his son to live. His only other confidant in these matters was the minister's wife. To her Macdonald Dubh opened up his heart, and to her, more than to any one else, he owed his growing peace and light; and it was touching to see the devotion and the tenderness that he showed to her as often as she came to see him. With his brother, Macdonald Bhain, he made all the arrangements necessary for the disposal of the farm and the payment of the mortgage.
Ranald had no desire to be a farmer, and indeed, when the mortgage was paid there would not be much left.
"He will be my son," said Macdonald Bhain to his brother; "and my home will be his while I live."
So in every way there was quiet preparation for Macdonald Dubh's going, and when at last the day came, there was no haste or fear.
It was in the afternoon of a bright September day, as the sun was nearing the tops of the pine-trees in the west. His brother was supporting him in his strong arms, while Ranald knelt by the bedside. Near him sat the minister's wife, and at a little distance Kirsty.
"Lift me up, Tonal," said the dying man; "I will be wanting to see the sun again, and then I will be going. I will be going to the land where they will not need the light of the sun. Tonal, bhodaich, it is the good brother you have been to me, and many's the good day we have had together."
"Och, Hugh, man. Are you going from me?" said Macdonald Bhain, with great sorrow in his voice.
"Aye, Tonal, for a little." Then he looked for a few moments at Kirsty, who was standing at the foot of the bed.
"Come near me, Kirsty," he said; and Kirsty came to the bedside.
"You have always been kind to me and mine, and you were kind to her as well, and the reward will come to you." Then he turned to Mrs. Murray, and said, with a great light of joy in his eyes: "It is you that came to me as the angel of God with a word of salvation, and forever more I will be blessing you." And then he added, in a voice full of tenderness, "I will be telling her about you." He took Mrs. Murray's hand and tremblingly lifted it to his lips.
"It has been a great joy to me," said Mrs. Murray, with difficulty steadying her voice, "to see you come to your Saviour, Mr. Macdonald."
"Aye, I know it well," he said; and then he added, in a voice that sank almost to a whisper, "Now you will be reading the prayer." And Mrs. Murray, opening her Gaelic Bible, repeated in her clear, soft voice, the words of the Lord's Prayer. Through all the petitions he followed her, until he came to the words, "Forgive us our debts." There he paused.
"Ranald, my man," he said, raising his hand with difficulty and laying it upon the boy's head, "you will listen to me now. Some day you will find the man that brought me to this, and you will say to him that your father forgave him freely, and wished him all the blessing of God. You will promise me this, Ranald?" said Macdonald Dubh.
"Yes, father," said Ranald, lifting his head, and looking into his father's face.
"And, Ranald, you, too, will be forgiving him?" But to this there was no reply. Ranald's head was buried in the bed.
"Ah," said Macdonald Dubh, with difficulty, "you are your father's son; but you will not be laying this bitterness upon me now. You will be forgiving him, Ranald?"
"Oh, father!" cried Ranald, with a breaking voice, "how can I forgive him? How can I forgive the man who has taken you away from me?"
"It is no man," replied his father, "but the Lord himself; the Lord who has forgiven your father much. I am waiting to hear you, Ranald."
Then, with a great sob, Ranald broke forth: "Oh, father, I will forgive him," and immediately became quiet, and so continued to the end.
After some moments of silence, Macdonald Dubh looked once more toward the minister's wife, and a radiant smile spread over his face.
"You will be finishing," he said.
Her face was wet with tears, and for a few moments she could not speak. But it was no time to fail in duty, so, commanding her tears, with a clear, unwavering voice she went on to the end of the prayer--
"For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen."
"Glory!" said Macdonald Dubh after her. "Aye, the Glory. Ranald, my boy, where are you? You will be following me, lad, to the Glory. She will be asking me about you. You will be following me, lad?"
The anxious note in his voice struck Ranald to the heart.
"Oh, father, it is what I want," he replied, brokenly. "I will try."
"Aye," said Macdonald Dubh, "and you will come. I will be telling her. Now lay me down, Tonal; I will be going."
Macdonald Bhain laid him quietly back on his pillow, and for a moment he lay with his eyes closed.
Once more he opened his eyes, and with a troubled look upon his face, and in a voice of doubt and fear, he cried: "It is a sinful man, O Lord, a sinful man."
His eyes wandered till they fell on Mrs. Murray's face, and then the trouble and fear passed out of them, and in a gentler voice he said: "Forgive us our debts." Then, feeling with his hand till it rested on his son's head, Macdonald Dubh passed away, at peace with men and with God.
There was little sadness and no bitter grief at Macdonald Dubh's funeral. The tone all through was one of triumph, for they all knew his life, and how sore the fight had been, and how he had won his victory. His humility and his gentleness during the last few weeks of his life had removed all the distance that had separated him from the people, and had drawn their hearts toward him; and now in his final triumph they could not find it in their hearts to mourn.
But to Ranald the sadness was more than the triumph. Through the wild, ungoverned years of his boyhood his father had been more than a father to him. He had been a friend, sharing a common lot, and without much show of tenderness, understanding and sympathizing with him, and now that his father had gone from him, a great loneliness fell upon the lad.
The farm and its belongings were sold. Kirsty brought with her the big box of blankets and linen that had belonged to Ranald's mother. Ranald took his mother's Gaelic Bible, his father's gun and ax, and with the great deerhound, Bugle, and his colt, Lisette, left the home of his childhood behind him, and with his Aunt Kirsty, went to live with his uncle.
Throughout the autumn months he was busy helping his uncle with the plowing, the potatoes, and the fall work. Soon the air began to nip, and the night's frost to last throughout the shortening day, and then Macdonald Bhain began to prepare wood for the winter, and to make all things snug about the house and barn; and when the first fall of snow fell softly, he took down his broad-ax, and then Ranald knew that the gang would soon be off again for the shanties. That night his uncle talked long with him about his future.
"I have no son, Ranald," he said, as they sat talking; "and, for your father's sake and for your own, it is my desire that you should become a son to me, and there is no one but yourself to whom the farm would go. And glad will I be if you will stay with me. But, stay or not, all that I have will be yours, if it please the Lord to spare you."
"I would want nothing better," said Ranald, "than to stay with you and work with you, but I do not draw toward the farm."
"And what else would you do, Ranald?"
"Indeed, I know not," said Ranald, "but something else than farming. But meantime I should like to go to the shanties with you this winter."
And so, when the Macdonald gang went to the woods that winter, Ranald, taking his father's ax, went with them. And so clever did the boy prove himself that by the time they brought down their raft in the spring there was not a man in all the gang that Macdonald Bhain would sooner have at his back in a tight place than his nephew Ranald. And, indeed, those months in the woods made a man out of the long, lanky boy, so that, on the first Sabbath after the shantymen came home, not many in the church that day would have recognized the dark-faced, stalwart youth had it not been that he sat in the pew beside Macdonald Bhain. It was with no small difficulty that the minister's wife could keep her little boy quiet in the back seat, so full of pride and joy was he at the appearance of his hero; but after the service was over, Hughie could be no longer restrained. Pushing his way eagerly through the crowd, he seized upon Ranald and dragged him to his mother.
"Here he is, mother!" he exclaimed, to Ranald's great confusion, and to the amusement of all about him. "Isn't he splendid?"
And as Ranald greeted Mrs. Murray with quiet, grave courtesy, she felt that his winter in the woods and on the river had forever put behind him his boyhood, and that henceforth he would take his place among the men. And looking at his strong, composed, grave face, she felt that that place ought not to be an unworthy one.