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Warlock o' Glenwarlock By George MacDonald Characters: 7933

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

Presently, without having thought whither he meant to go, he found himself out of sight of the house-in a favourite haunt, but one in which he always had a peculiar feeling of strangeness and even expatriation. He had descended the stream that rushed past the end of the house, till it joined the valley river, and followed the latter up, to where it took a sudden sharp turn, and a little farther. Then he crossed it, and was in a lonely nook of the glen, with steep braes about him on all sides, some of them covered with grass, others rugged and unproductive. He threw himself down in the clover, a short distance from the stream, and straightway felt as if he were miles from home. No shadow of life was to be seen. Cottage-chimney nor any smoke was visible-no human being, no work of human hands, no sign of cultivation except the grass and clover.

Now whether it was that in childhood he had learned that here he was beyond his father's land, or that some early sense of loneliness in the place had been developed by a brooding fancy into a fixed feeling, I cannot well say; but certainly, as often as he came-and he liked to visit the spot, and would sometimes spend hours in it-he felt like a hermit of the wilderness cut off from human society, and was haunted with a vague sense of neighbouring hostility. Probably it came of an historical fancy that the nook ought to be theirs, combined with the sense that it was not. But there had been no injury done ab extra: the family had suffered from the inherent moral lack of certain of its individuals.

This sense of away-from-homeness, however, was not strong enough to keep Cosmo from falling into such a dreamful reverie as by degrees naturally terminated in slumber. Seldom is sleep far from one who lies on his back in the grass, with the sound of waters in his ears. And indeed a sleep in the open air was almost an essential ingredient of a holiday such as Cosmo had been accustomed to make of his birthday: constantly active as his mind was, perhaps in part because of that activity, he was ready to fall asleep any moment when warm and supine.

When he woke from what seemed a dreamless sleep, his half roused senses were the same moment called upon to render him account of something very extraordinary which they could not themselves immediately lay hold of. Though the sun was yet some distance above the horizon, it was to him behind one of the hills, as he lay with his head low in the grass; and what could the strange thing be which he saw on the crest of the height before him, on the other side of the water? Was it a fire in a grate, thinned away by the sunlight? How could there be a grate where there was neither house nor wall? Even in heraldry the combination he beheld would have been a strange one. There stood in fact a frightful-looking creature half consumed in light-yet a pale light, seemingly not strong enough to burn. It could not be a phoenix, for he saw no wings, and thought he saw four legs. Suddenly he burst out laughing, and laughed that the hills echoed. His sleep-blinded eyes had at length found their focus and clarity.

"I see!" he said, "I see what it is! It's Jeames Grade's coo 'at's been loupin' ower the mune, an's stucken upo' 't!"

In very truth there was the moon between the legs of the cow! She did not remain there long however, but was soon on the cow's back, as she crept up and up in the face of the sun. He bethought him of a couplet that Grizzie had taught him when he was a child:

Whan the coo loups ower the mune, The reid gowd rains intil men's shune.

And in after-life he thought not unfrequently of this odd vision he had had. Often, when, having imagined he had solved some difficulty of faith or action, presently the same would return in a new shape, as if it had but taken the time necessary to change its garment, he would say to himself with a sigh, "The coo's no ower the mune yet!" and set himself afresh to the task o

f shaping a handle on the infinite small enough for a finite to lay hold of. Grizzie, who was out looking for him, heard the roar of his laughter, and, guided by the sound, spied him where he lay. He heard her footsteps, but never stirred till he saw her looking down upon him like a benevolent gnome that had found a friendless mortal asleep on ground of danger.

"Eh, Cosmo, laddie, ye'll get yer deid o' caul'!" she cried. "An' preserve's a'! what set ye lauchin' in sic a fearsome fashion as yon? Ye're surely no fey!"

"Na, I'm no fey, Grizzie! Ye wad hae lauchen yersel' to see Jeames

Gracie's coo wi' the mune atween the hin' an' the fore legs o' her.

It was terrible funny."

"Hoots! I see naething to lauch at i' that. The puir coo cudna help whaur the mune wad gang. The haivenly boadies is no to be restricket."

Again Cosmo burst into a great laugh, and this time Grizzie, seriously alarmed lest he should be in reality fey, grew angry, and seizing hold of him by the arm, pulled lustily.

"Get up, I tell ye!" she cried. "Here's the laird speirin' what's come o' ye,'at ye come na hame to yer tay."

But Cosmo instead of rising only laughed the more, and went on until at length Grizzie made use of a terrible threat.

"As sure's sowens!" she said, "gien ye dinna haud yer tongue wi' that menseless-like lauchin', I'll no tell ye anither auld-warld tale afore Marti'mas."

"Will ye tell me ane the nicht gien I haud my tongue an' gang hame wi' ye?"

"Ay, that wull I-that's gien I can min' upo' ane."

He rose at once, and laughed no more. They walked home together in the utmost peace.

After tea, his father went out with him for a stroll, and to call on Jeames Gracie, the owner of the cow whose inconstellation had so much amused him. He was an old man, with an elderly wife, and a grand-daughter-a weaver to trade, whose father and grandfather before him had for many a decade done the weaving work, both in linen and wool, required by "them at the castle." He had been on the land, in the person of his ancestors, from time almost immemorial, though he had only a small cottage, and a little bit of land, barely enough to feed the translunar cow. But poor little place as Jeames's was, if the laird would have sold it the price would have gone a good way towards clearing the rest of his property of its encumbrances. For the situation of the little spot was such as to make it specially desirable in the eyes of the next proprietor, on the border of whose land it lay. He was a lord of session, and had taken his title from the place, which he inherited from his father; who, although a laird, had been so little of a gentleman, that the lordship had not been enough to make one of his son. He was yet another of those trim, orderly men, who will sacrifice anything-not to beauty-of that they have in general no sense-but to tidiness: tidiness in law, in divinity, in morals, in estate, in garden, in house, in person-tidiness is in their eyes the first thing-seemingly because it is the highest creative energy of which they are capable. Naturally the dwelling of James Gracie was an eyesore to this man, being visible from not a few of his windows, and from almost anywhere on the private road to his house; for decidedly it was not tidy. Neither in truth was it dirty, while to any life-loving nature it was as pleasant to know, as it was picturesque to look at. But the very appearance of poverty seems to act as a reproach on some of the rich-at least why else are they so anxious to get it out of their sight?-and Lord Lickmyloof-that was not his real title, but he was better known by it than by the name of his land: it came of a nasty habit he had, which I need not at present indicate farther-Lord Lickmyloof could not bear the sight of the cottage which no painter would have consented to omit from the landscape. It haunted him like an evil thing.

[Illustration with caption: COSMO ON HIS WAY TO SCHOOL.]

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