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   Chapter 5 THE SCHOOL.

Warlock o' Glenwarlock By George MacDonald Characters: 12778

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

The next morning, by the steep farm road, and the parish road, which ran along the border of the river and followed it downward, Cosmo, on his way to school, with his books in a green baize bag, hung by the strings over his shoulder, came out from among the hills upon a comparative plain. But there were hills on all sides round him yet-not very high-few of them more than a couple of thousand feet-but bleak and bare, even under the glow of the summer sun, for the time of heather was not yet, when they would show warm and rich to the eye of poet and painter. Most of the farmers there, however, would have felt a little insulted by being asked to admire them at any time: whatever their colour or shape or product, they were incapable of yielding crops and money! In truth many a man who now admires, would be unable to do so, if, like those farmers, he had to struggle with nature for little more than a bare living. The struggle there, what with early, long-lasting, and bitter winters, and the barrenness of the soil in many parts, was a severe one.

Leaving the river, the road ascended a little, and joined the highway, which kept along a level, consisting mostly of land lately redeemed from the peat-moss. It went straight for two miles, fenced from the fields in many parts by low stone walls without mortar, abhorrent to the eye of Cosmo; in other parts by walls of earth, called dykes, which delighted his very soul. These were covered with grass for the vagrant cow, sprinkled with loveliest little wild flowers for the poet-peasant, burrowed in by wild bees for the adventurous delight of the honey-drawn school-boy. Glad I am they had not quite vanished from Scotland before I was sent thither, but remained to help me get ready for the kingdom of heaven: those dykes must still be dear to my brothers who have gone up before me. Some of the fields had only a small ditch between them and the road, and some of them had no kind of fence at all. It was a dreary road even in summer, though not therefore without its loveable features-amongst which the dykes; and wherever there is anything to love, there is beauty in some form.

A short way past the second milestone, he came to the first straggling houses of the village. It was called Muir of Warlock, after the moor on which it stood, as the moor was called after the river that ran through it, and that named after the glen, which took its name from the family-so that the Warlocks had scattered their cognomen all around them. A somewhat dismal-looking village it was-except to those that knew its people: to some of such it was beautiful-as the plainest face is beautiful to him who knows a sweet soul inside it. The highway ran through it-a broad fine road, fit for the richest country under the sun; but the causeway along its edges, making of it for the space a street, was of the poorest and narrowest. Some of the cottages stood immediately upon the path, some of them receded a little. They were almost all of one story, built of stone, and rough-cast-harled, they called it there, with roofs of thick thatch, in which a half smothered pane of glass might hint at some sort of room beneath. As Cosmo walked along, he saw all the trades at work; from blacksmith to tailor, everybody was busy. Now and then he was met by a strong scent, as of burning leather, from the oak-bark which some of the housewives used for fuel, after its essence had been exhausted in the tan-pit, but mostly the air was filled with the odour of burning peat. Cosmo knew almost everybody, and was kindly greeted as he went along-none the less that some of them, hearing from their children that he had not been to school the day before, had remarked that his birthday hardly brought him enough to keep it with. The vulgarity belonging to the worship of Mammon, is by no means confined to the rich; many of these, having next to nothing, yet thought profession the one thing, money, houses, lands the only inheritances. It is a marvel that even world-loving people should never see with what a load they oppress the lives of the children to whom, instead of bringing them up to earn their own living, and thus enjoy at least THE GAME of life, they leave a fortune enough to sink a devil yet deeper in hell. Was it nothing to Cosmo to inherit a long line of ancestors whose story he knew-their virtues, their faults, their wickedness, their humiliation?-to inherit the nobility of a father such as his? the graciousness of a mother such as that father caused him to remember her? Was there no occasion for the laird to rejoice in the birth of a boy whom he believed to have inherited all the virtues of his race, and left all their vices behind? But none of the villagers forgot, however they might regard the holiday, that Cosmo was the "yoong laird" notwithstanding the poverty of his house; and they all knew that in old time the birthday of the heir had been a holiday to the school as well as to himself, and remembered the introduction of the change by the present master. Indeed, throughout the village, although there were not a few landed proprietors in the neighbourhood whose lands came nearer, all of whom of course were lairds, and although the village itself had ceased to belong to the family, Glenwarlock was always called the laird; and the better part in the hearts of even the money-loving and money-trusting among its inhabitants, honoured him as the best man in the country, "thof he hed sae little skeel at haudin' his ain nest thegither;" and though, besides, there is scarce a money-making man who does not believe poverty the cousin, if not the child of fault; and the more unscrupulous, within the law, a man has been in making his money, the more he regards the man who seems to have lost the race he has won, as somehow or other to blame: "People with naught are naughty." Nor is this judgment confined to the morally unscrupulous. Few who are themselves permitted to be successful, care to conjecture that it may be the will of the power, that in part through their affairs, rules men, that some should be, in that way, unsuccessful: better can be made of them by preventing the so-called success. Some men rise with the treatment under which others would sink. But of the inhabitants of Muir of Warlock, only a rather larger proportion than of the inhabitants of Mayfair would have taken interest in suc

h a theory of results.

They all liked, and those who knew him best, loved the young laird; for if he had no lands, neither had he any pride, they said, and was as happy sitting with any old woman, and sharing her tea, as at a lord's table. Nor was he less of a favourite at school, though, being incapable of self-assertion, his inborn consciousness of essential humanity rendering it next to impossible for him to claim anything, some of the bigger boys were less than friendly with him. One point in his conduct was in particular distasteful to them: he seemed to scorn even an honest advantage. For in truth he never could bring himself, in the small matters of dealing that pass between boys at school, to make the least profit. He had a passion for fair play, which, combined with love to his neighbour, made of an advantage, though perfectly understood and recognized, almost a physical pain: he shrank from it with something like disgust. I may not, however, conceal my belief, that there was in it a rudimentary tinge of the pride of those of his ancestors who looked down upon commerce, though not upon oppression, or even on robbery. But the true man will change to nobility even the instincts derived from strains of inferior moral development in his race-as the oyster makes, they say, of the sand-grain a pearl.

Greeting the tailor through his open window, where he sat cross-legged on his table, the shoemaker on his stool, which, this lovely summer morning, he had brought to the door of his cottage, and the smith in his nimbus of sparks, through the half-door of his smithy, and receiving from each a kindly response, the boy walked steadily on till he came to the school. There, on the heels of the master, the boys and girls were already crowding in, and he entered along with them. The religious preliminaries over, consisting in a dry and apparently grudging recognition of a sovereignty that required the homage, and the reading of a chapter of the Bible in class, the SECULAR business was proceeded with; and Cosmo was sitting with his books before him, occupied with a hard passage in Caesar, when the master left his desk and came to him.

"You'll have to make up for lost time to-day, Cosmo," he said.

Now if anything was certain to make Cosmo angry, it was the appearance, however slight, or however merely implied, of disapproval of anything his father thought, or did, or sanctioned. His face flushed, and he answered quickly,

"The time wasn't lost, sir."

This reply made the master in his turn angry, but he restrained himself.

"I'm glad of that! I may then expect to find you prepared with your lessons for to-day."

"I learned my lessons for yesterday," Cosmo answered; "but my father says it's no play to learn lessons."

"Your father's not master of this school."

"He's maister o' me," returned the boy, relapsing into the mother-tongue, which, except it be spoken in good humour, always sounds rude.

The master took the youth's devotion to his father for insolence to himself.

"I shall say no more," he rejoined, still using the self-command which of all men an autocrat requires, "till I find how you do in your class. That you are the best scholar in it, is no reason why you should be allowed to idle away hours in which you might have been laying up store for the time to come."-It was a phrase much favoured by the master-in present application foolish.-"But perhaps your father does not mean to send you to college?"

"My father hasna said, an' I haena speirt," answered Cosmo, with his eyes on his book.

Still misinterpreting the boy, the conceit and ill-temper of the master now overcame him, and caused him to forget the proprieties altogether.

"Haud on that gait, laddie, an' ye'll be as great a fule as yer father himsel'," he said.

Cosmo rose from his seat, white as the wall behind him, looked in the master's eyes, caught up his Caesar, and dashed the book in his face. Most boys would then have made for the door, but that was not Cosmo's idea of bearing witness. The moment the book left his hand, he drew himself up, stood still as a statue, looked full at the master, and waited. Not by a motion would he avoid any consequence of his act.

He had not long to wait. A corner of the book had gone into the master's eye; he clapped his hand to it, and for a moment seemed lost in suffering. The next, he clenched for the boy a man's fist, and knocked him down. Cosmo fell backward over the form, struck his head hard on the foot of the next desk, and lay where he fell.

A shriek arose, and a girl about sixteen came rushing up. She was the grand-daughter of James Grade, befriended of the laird.

"Go to your seat, Agnes!" shouted the master, and turning from her, stood, with his handkerchief to one eye, looking down on the boy. So little did he know him, he suspected him of pretending to be more hurt than he was.

"Touch me gien ye daur," cried Agnes, as she stooped to remove his legs from the form.

"Leave him alone," shouted the master, and seizing her, pulled her away, and flung her from him that she almost fell.

But by this time the pain in his eye had subsided a little, and he began to doubt whether indeed the boy was pretending as he had imagined. He began also to feel not a little uneasy as to the possible consequences of his hasty act-not half so uneasy, however, as he would have felt, had the laird been as well-to-do as his neighbour, Lord Lickmyloof-who would be rather pleased than otherwise, the master thought, at any grief that might befall either Cosmo or the lass Gracie. Therefore, although he would have been ready to sink had the door then opened and the laird entered, he did not much fear any consequences to be counted serious from the unexpected failure of his self-command. He dragged the boy up by the arm, and set him on his seat, before Agnes could return; but his face was as that of one dead, and he fell forward on the desk. With a second great cry, Agnes again sprang forward. She was a strong girl, accustomed to all kinds of work, out-door and in-door. She caught Cosmo round the waist from behind, pulled him from the seat, and drew him to the door, which because of the heat stood open. The master had had enough of it, and did not attempt to hinder her. There she took him in her arms, and literally ran with him along the street.

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