MoboReader > Literature > Warlock o' Glenwarlock

   Chapter 7 DREAMS.

Warlock o' Glenwarlock By George MacDonald Characters: 25581

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

The gloamin' came down much sooner in Grannie's cottage than on the sides of the eastward hills, but the old woman made up her little fire, and it glowed a bright heart to the shadowy place. Though the room was always dusky, it was never at this season quite dark any time of the night. It was not absolutely needful, except for the little cooking required by the invalid-for as such, in her pride of being his nurse, Grannie regarded him-but she welcomed the excuse for a little extra warmth to her old limbs during the night watches. Then she sat down in her great chair, and all was still.

"What for arena ye spinnin', Grannie?" said Cosmo. "I like fine to hear the wheel singin' like a muckle flee upo' the winnock. It spins i' my heid lang lingles o' thouchts, an' dreams, an' wad-be's. Neist to hearin' yersel' tell a tale, I like to hear yer wheel gauin'. It has a w'y o' 'ts ain wi' me!"

"I was feart it micht vex ye wi' the soomin' o' 't," answered Grannie, and as she spoke she rose, and lighted her little lamp, though she scarcely needed light for her spinning, and sat down to her wheel.

For a long unweary time Cosmo lay and listened, an aerial Amphion, building castles in the air to its music, which was so monotonous that, like the drone of the bag-pipes, he could use it for accompaniment to any dream-time of his own.

When a man comes to trust in God thoroughly, he shrinks from castle-building, lest his faintest fancy should run counter to that loveliest Will; but a boy's dreams are nevertheless a part of his education. And the true heart will not leave the blessed conscience out, even in its dreams.

Those of Cosmo were mostly of a lovely woman, much older than himself, who was kind to him, and whom he obeyed and was ready to serve like a slave. These came, of course, first of all, from the heart that needed and delighted in the thought of a mother, but they were bodied out from the memory, faint, far-off, and dim, of his own mother, and the imaginations of her roused by his father's many talks with him concerning her. He dreamed now of one, now of another beneficent power, of the fire, the air, the earth, or the water-each of them a gracious woman, who favoured, helped, and protected him, through dangers and trials innumerable. Such imaginings may be-nay must be unhealthy for those who will not attempt the right in the face of loss and pain and shame; but to those who labour in the direction of their own ideal, dreams will do no hurt, but foster rather the ideal.

When at length the spinning-wheel ceased with its hum, the silence was to Cosmo like the silence after a song, and his thoughts refused to do their humming alone. The same moment he fell-from a wondrous region where he dwelt with sylphs in a great palace, built on the tree-tops of a forest ages old; where the buxom air bathed every limb, and was to his ethereal body as water-sensible as a liquid; whose every room rocked like the baby's cradle of the nursery rime, but equilibrium was the merest motion of the will; where the birds nested in its cellars, and the squirrels ran up and down its stairs, and the woodpeckers pulled themselves along its columns and rails by their beaks; where the winds swung the whole city with a rhythmic roll, and the sway as of tempest waves, music-ruled to ordered cadences; where, far below, lower than the cellars, the deer, and the mice, and the dormice, and the foxes, and all the wild things of the forest, ran in its caves-from this high city of the sylphs, watched and loved and taught by the most gracious and graceful and tenderly ethereal and powerful of beings, he fell supine into Grannie's box-bed, with the departed hum of her wheel spinning out its last thread of sound in his disappointed brain.

In after years when he remembered the enchanting dreams of his boyhood, instead of sighing after them as something gone for ever, he would say to himself, "what matter they are gone? In the heavenly kingdom my own mother is waiting me, fairer and stronger and real. I imagined the elves; God imagined my mother."

The unconscious magician of the whole mystery, who had seemed to the boy to be spinning his very brain into dreams, rose, and, drawing near the bed, as if to finish the ruthless destruction, and with her long witch-broom sweep down the very cobwebs of his airy phantasy, said,

"Is ye waukin', Cosmo my bairn?"

"Ay am I," answered Cosmo, with a faint pang, and a strange sense of loss: when should he dream its like again!

"Soon, soon, Cosmo," he might have heard, could he have interpreted the telephonic signals from the depths of his own being; "wherever the creative pneuma can enter, there it enters, and no door stands so wide to it as that of the obedient heart."

"Weel, ye maun hae yer supper, an' syne ye maun say yer prayers, an' hae dune wi' Tyseday, an' gang on til' Wudens-day."

"I'm nae wantin' ony supper, thank ye," said the boy.

"Ye maun hae something, my bonny man; for them 'at aits ower little, as weel's them 'at aits ower muckle, the night-mear rides-an' she's a fearsome horse. Ye can never win upo' the back o' her, for as guid a rider as ye're weel kent to be, my bairn. Sae wull ye hae a drappy parritch an' ream? or wad ye prefar a sup of fine gruel, sic as yer mother used to like weel frae my han', whan it sae happent I was i' the hoose?" The offer seemed to the boy to bring him a little nearer the mother whose memory he worshipped, and on the point of saying, for the sake of saving her trouble, that he would have the porridge, he chose the gruel.

He watched from his nest the whole process of its making. It took a time of its own, for one of the secrets of good gruel is a long acquaintance with the fire.-Many a time the picture of that room returned to him in far different circumstances, like a dream of quiet and self-sustained delight-though his one companion was an aged woman.

When he had taken it, he fell asleep once more, and when he woke again, it was in the middle of the night. The lamp was nearly burned out: it had a long, red, disreputable nose, that spoke of midnight hours and exhausted oil. The old lady was dozing in her chair. The clock had just struck something, for the sound of its bell was yet faintly pulsing in the air. He sat up, and looked out into the room. Something seemed upon him-he could not tell what. He felt as if something had been going on besides the striking of the clock, and were not yet over-as if something was even now being done in the room. But there the old woman slept, motionless, and apparently in perfect calm! It could not, however, have been perfect as it seemed, for presently she began to talk. At first came only broken sentences, occasionally with a long pause; and just as he had concluded she would say nothing more, she would begin again. There was something awful to the fancy of the youth in the issuing of words from the lips of one apparently unconscious of surrounding things; her voice was like the voice of one speaking from another world. Cosmo was a brave boy where duty was concerned, but conscience and imagination were each able to make him tremble. To tremble, and to turn the back, are, however, very different things: of the latter, the thing deserving to be called cowardice, Cosmo knew nothing; his hair began to rise upon his head, but that head he never hid beneath the bed-clothes. He sat and stared into the gloom, where the old woman lay in her huge chair, muttering at irregular intervals.

Presently she began to talk a little more continuously. And now also Cosmo's heart had got a little quieter, and no longer making such a noise in his ears, allowed him to hear better. After a few words seemingly unconnected, though probably with a perfect dependence of their own, she began to murmur something that sounded like verses. Cosmo soon perceived that she was saying the same thing over and over, and at length he had not only made out every word of the few lines, but was able to remember them. This was what he afterwards recalled-by that time uncertain whether the whole thing had not been a dream:

Catch yer naig an' pu' his tail: In his hin' heel ca' a nail; Rug his lugs frae ane anither-Stan' up, an' ca' the king yer brither.

When first he repeated them entire to himself, the old woman still muttering them, he could not help laughing, and the noise, though repressed, yet roused her. She woke, not, like most young people, with slow gradation of consciousness, but all at once was wide awake. She sat up in her chair.

"Was I snorin', laddie,'at ye leuch?" she asked, in a tone of slight offence.

"Eh, na!" replied Cosmo. "It was only 'at ye was sayin' something rale funny-i' yer sleep, ye ken-a queer jingle o' poetry it was."

Therewith he repeated the rime, and Grannie burst into a merry laugh-which however sobered rather suddenly.

"I dinna won'er I was sayin' ower thae fule words," she said, "for 'deed I was dreamin' o' the only ane I ever h'ard say them, an' that was whan I was a lass-maybe aboot thirty. Onybody nicht hae h'ard him sayin' them-ower and ower til himsel', as gien he cudna weary o' them, but naebody but mysel' seemed to hae ta'en ony notice o' the same. I used whiles to won'er whether he fully un'erstude what he was sayin'-but troth! hoo cud there be ony sense in sic havers?"

"Was there ony mair o' the ballant?" asked Cosmo.

"Gien there was mair; I h'ard na't," replied Grannie. "An' weel I wat! he was na ane to sing, the auld captain.-Did ye never hear tell o' 'im, laddie?"

"Gien ye mean the auld brither o' the laird o' that time, him 'at cam hame frae his sea-farin' to the East Indies-"

"Ay, ay; that's him! Ye hae h'ard tell o' 'im! He hed a ship o' 's ain, an' made mony a voyage afore ony o' 's was born, an' was an auld man whan at len'th hame cam he, as the sang says-ower auld to haud by the sea ony more. I'll never forget the luik o' the man whan first I saw him, nor the hurry an' the scurry, the rinnin' here, an' the routin' there,'at there was whan the face o' 'm came in at the gett! Ye see they a' thoucht he was hame wi' a walth ayont figures-stowed awa' somewhaur-naebody kent whaur. Eh, but he was no a bonny man, an' fowk said he dee'd na a fairstrae deith: hoo that may be, I dinna weel ken: there WAR unco things aboot the affair-things 'at winna weel bide speykin' o'. Ae thing's certain, an' that is,'at the place has never thriven sin syne. But, for that maitter, it hedna thriven for mony a lang afore. An' there was a fowth o' awfu' stories reengin' the country, like ghaists 'at naebody cud get a grip o'-as to hoo he had gotten the said siller, an' sic like-the siller 'at naebody ever saw; for upo' that siller, as I tell ye, naebody ever cuist an e'e. Some said he had been a pirate upo' the hie seas, an' had ta'en the siller in lumps o' gowd frae puir ships 'at hadna men eneuch to haud the grip o' 't; some said he had been a privateer; an' ither some said there was sma' differ atween the twa. An' some wad hae't he was ane o' them 'at tuik an' sauld the puir black fowk,'at cudna help bein' black, for as ootlandish as it maun luik-I never saw nane o' the nation mysel'-ony mair nor a corbie can help his feathers no bein' like a doo's; an' gien they turnt black for ony deevilry o' them 'at was their forbeirs, I kenna an' it maks naething to me or mine, -I wad fain an' far raither du them a guid turn nor tak an' sell them; for gien their parents had sinned, the mair war they to be pitied. But as I was sayin', naebody kent hoo he had gethert his siller, the mair by token 'at maybe there was nane, for naebody, as I was tellin' ye, ever had the sma'est glimp o' siller aboot 'im. For a close-loofed near kin o' man he was, gien ever ony! Aye ready was he to borrow a shillin' frae ony fule 'at wad len' him ane, an' lang had him 'at len't it forgotten to luik for 't, er' he thoucht o' peyin' the same. It was mair nor ae year or twa 'at he leeved aboot the place, an' naebody cared muckle for his company, though a' body was ower feart to lat him ken he was na welcome here or there; for wha cud tell he micht oot wi' the swoord he aye carriet, an' mak an' en' o' 'im! For 'deed he fearna God nor man, ony mair nor the jeedge i' the Scriptur'. He drank a heap-as for a' body at he ca'd upo' aye hed oot the whisky-bottle well willun' to please the man they war feart at."

The voice of the old woman went sounding in the ears of the boy, on and on in the gloom, and through it, possibly from the still confused condition of his head, he kept constantly hearing the rimes she had repeated to him. They seemed to have laid hold of him as of her, perhaps from their very foolishness, in an odd inexplicable way:-

Catch yer naig an'

pu' his tail; In his hin' heel ca' a nail; Rug his lugs frae ane anither-Stan' up, an' ca' the king yer brither.

On and on went the rime, and on and on went the old woman's voice.

"Weel, there cam' a time whan an English lord begud to be seen aboot the place, an' that was nae comon sicht i' oor puir country. He was a frien' fowk said, o' the yoong Markis o' Lossie, an' that was hoo 'he cam to sicht. He gaed fleein' aboot, luikin' at this, an' luikin' at that; an' whaur or hoo he fell in wi' HIM, I dinna ken, but or lang the twa o' them was a heap thegither. They playt cairts thegither, they drank thegither, they drave oot thegither-for the auld captain never crossed beast's back-an' what made sic frien's o' them nobody could imaigine. For the tane was a rouch sailor chield, an' the tither was a yoong lad, little mair, an' a fine gentleman as weel's a bonny man. But the upshot o' 't a' was an ill ane; for, efter maybe aboot a month or sae o' sic friendship as was atween them, there cam a nicht 'at brouchtna the captain hame; for ye maun un'erstan', wi' a' his rouch w'ys, an' his drinkin', an' his cairt-playin', he was aye hame at nicht, an' safe intil's bed, whaur he sleepit i' the best chaumer i' the castle. Ay, he wad come hame, aften as drunk as man cud be, but hame he cam. Sleep intil the efternune o' the neist day he wad, but never oot o' 's nain bed-or if no aye in his ain nakit BED, for I fan' him ance mysel' lyin' snorin' upo' the flure, it was aye intil 's ain room, as I say, an' no in ony strange place drunk or sober. Sae there was some surprise at his no appearin', an' fowk spak o' 't, but no that muckle, for naebody cared i' their hert what cam o' the man. Still whan the men gaed oot to their wark, they bude to gie a luik gien there was ony sign o' 'm. It was easy to think 'at he micht hae been at last ower sair owertaen to be able to win hame. But that wasna it, though whan they cam upo' 'm lyin' on's back i' the howe yon'er 'at luiks up to my daughter's bit gerse for her coo', they thoucht he bude to hae sleepit there a' nicht. Sae he had, but it was the sleep 'at kens no waukin-at least no the kin' o' waukin' 'at comes wi' the mornin'!"

Cosmo recognized with a shudder his favourite spot, where on his birthday, as on many a day before, he had fallen asleep. But the old woman went on with her story.

"Deid was the auld captain-as deid as ever was man 'at had nane left to greit for him. But thof there was nae greitin', no but sic a hullabaloo as rase upo' the discovery! They rade an' they ran; the doctor cam', an' the minister, an' the lawyer, an' the grave-digger. But whan a man's deid, what can a' the warl' du for 'im but berry 'im? puir hin'er en' thof it be to him' at draws himsel' up, an' blaws himsel' oot! There was mony a conjectur as to hoo he cam by his deith, an' mony a doobt it wasna by fair play. Some said he dee'd by his ain han', driven on til't by the enemy; an' it was true the blade he cairriet was lyin' upo' the grass aside 'im; but ither some 'at exem't him, said the hole i' the side o' 'im was na made wi' that. But o' a' 'at cam to speir efter 'im, the English lord was nane. He hed vainished the country. The general opinyon sattled doon to this,'at they twa bude till hae fa'en oot at cairts, an' fouchten it oot, an' the auld captain, for a' his skeel an' exparience, had had the warst o' 't, an' so there they faun' 'im.-But I reckon, Cosmo, yer father 'ill hae tellt ye a' aboot the thing, mony's the time, or noo, an' I'm jist deivin' ye wi' my clavers, an haudin 'ye ohn sleepit!"

"Na, Grannie," answered Cosmo, "he never tellt me what ye hae tellt me noo. He did tell me 'at there was sic a man, an' the ill en' he cam til; an' I think he was jist gaein' on to tell me mair, whan Grizzie cam to say the denner was ready. That was only yesterday-or the day afore, I'm thinkin', by this time.-But what think ye could hae been in's heid wi' yon jingle aboot the horsie?"

"Ow! what wad be intil't but jist fulish nonsense? Ye ken some fowk has a queer trick o' sayin' the same thing ower an' ower again to themsel's, wi'oot ony sense intil't. There was the auld laird himsel'; he was ane o' sic. Aye an' ower again he wad be sayin' til himsel','A hun'er poun'! Ay, a hun'er poun'!' It maittered na what he wad be speikin' aboot, or wha til, in it wad come!-i' the middle o' onything, ye cudna tell whan or whaur,-'A hun'er poun'!' says he;'Ay, a hun'er poun'!' Fowk leuch at the first, but sune gat used til't, an' cam hardly to ken 'at he said it, for what has nae sense has little hearin'. An' I doobtna thae rimes wasna even a verse o' an auld ballant, but jist a cletter o' clinkin' styte (nonsense),'at he had learnt frae some blackamore bairn, maybe, an' cudna get oot o' 's heid ony ither gait, but bude to say't to hae dune wi' 't-jist like a cat whan it gangs scrattin' at the door, ye hae to get up, whether ye wull or no, an' lat the cratur oot."

Cosmo did not feel quite satisfied with the explanation, but he made no objection to it.

"I maun alloo, hooever," the old woman went on, "'at ance ye get a haud o' THEM, they tak a grip o' YOU, an' hae a queer w'y o' hauntin' ye like, as they did the man himsel', sae 'at ye canna yet rid o' them. It comes only at noos an' thans, but whan the fit's upo' me, I canna get them oot o' my heid. The verse gangs on tum'lin' ower an' ower intil 't, till I'm jist scunnert wi' 't. Awa' it wanna gang, maybe for a haill day, an' syne it mayna come again for months."

True enough, the rime was already running about in Cosmo's head like a mouse, and he fell asleep with it ringing in the ears of his mind.

Before he woke again, which was in the broad daylight, he had a curious dream.

He dreamed that he was out in the moonlight. It was a summer night-late. But there was something very strange about the night: right up in the top of it was the moon, looking down as if she knew all about it, and something was going to happen. He did not like the look of her-he had never seen her look like that before! and he went home just to get away from her. As he was going up the stairs to his chamber, something moved him-he could not tell what-to stop at the door of the drawing-room, and go in. It was flooded with moonlight, but he did not mind that, so long as he could keep out of her sight. Still it had a strange, eerie look, with its various pieces of furniture casting different shadows from those that by rights belonged to them. He gazed at this thing and that, as if he had never seen it before. The place seemed to cast a spell over him, so that he could not leave it. He seated himself on the ancient brocaded couch, and sat staring, with a sense, which by degrees grew dreadful, that he was where he would not be, and that if he did not get up and go, something would happen. But he could not rise-not that he felt any physical impediment, but that he could not make a resolve strong enough-like one in irksome company, who wants to leave, but waits in vain a fit opportunity. Delay grew to agony, but still he sat.

He became aware that he was not alone. His whole skin seemed to contract with a shuddering sense of presence. Gradually, as he gazed straight in front of him, slowly, in the chair on the opposite side of the fire-place, grew visible the form of a man, until he saw it quite plainly-that of a seafaring man, in a blue coat, with a red sash round his waist, in which were pistols, and a dagger. He too sat motionless, fixing on him the stare of fierce eyes, black, yet glowing, as if set on fire of hell. They filled him with fear, but something seemed to sustain him under it. He almost fancied, when first on waking he thought over it, that a third must have been in the room-for his protection. The face that stared at him was a brown and red and weather-beaten face, cut across with a great scar, and wearing an expression of horror trying not to look horrible. His fear threatened to turn him into clay, but he met it with scorn, strove against it, would not and did not yield. Still the figure stared, as if it would fascinate him into limpest submission. Slowly at length it rose, and with a look that seemed meant to rivet the foregone stare-a look of mingled pain and fierceness, turned, and led the way from the room, whereupon the spell was so far broken or changed, that he was able to rise and follow him: even in his dreams he was a boy of courage, and feared nothing so much as yielding to fear. The figure went on, nor ever turned its head, up the stair to the room over that they had left-the best bedroom, the guest-chamber of the house-not often visited, and there it entered. Still following, Cosmo entered also. The figure walked across the room, as if making for the bed, but in the middle of the floor suddenly turned, and went round by the foot of the bed to the other side of it, where the curtains hid it. Cosmo followed, but when he reached the other side, the shade was nowhere to be seen, and he woke, his heart beating terribly.

By this time Grannie was snoring in her chair, or very likely, in his desire to emerge from its atmosphere, he would have told her his dream. For a while he lay looking at the dying fire, and the streak from the setting moon, that stole in at the window, and lay weary at the foot of the wall. Slowly he fell fast asleep, and slept far into the morning: long after lessons were begun in the school, and village-affairs were in the full swing of their daily routine, he slept; nor had he finished his breakfast, when his father entered.

"I'm quite well, papa," answered the boy to his gentle yet eager inquiry;-"perfectly able to go to school in the afternoon."

"I don't mean you to go again, Cosmo," replied his father gravely.

"It could not be pleasant either for yourself or for the master.

The proper relation between you is destroyed."

[Illustration: COSMO'S DREAM.]

"If you think I was wrong, papa, I will make an apology."

"If you had done it for yourself, I should unhesitatingly say you must. But as it was, I am not prepared to say so."

"What am I to do then? How am I to get ready for college?"

The laird gave a sigh, and made no answer. Alas! there were more difficulties than that in the path to college.

He turned away, and went to call on the minister, while Cosmo got up and dressed: except a little singing in his head when he stooped, he was aware of no consequences of the double blow.

Grannie was again at her wheel, and Cosmo sat down in her chair to await his father's return.

"Whaur said ye the captain sleepit whan he was at the castle?" he inquired across the buzz and whiz and hum of the wheel. Through the low window, betwixt the leaves of the many plants that shaded it, he could see the sun shining hot upon the bare street; but inside was soft gloom filled with murmurous sound.

"Whaur but i' the best bedroom?" answered Grannie. "Naething less wad hae pleased HIM, I can assure ye. For ance 'at there cam the markis to the hoose-whan things warna freely sae scant aboot the place as they hae been sin' yer father cam to the throne-there cam at his back a fearsome storm, sic as comes but seldom in a life lang as mine, an' sic 'at his lordship cudna win awa'. Thereupon yer father, that is, yer gran'father,-or it wad be yer grit-gran'father-I'm turnin' some confused amo' ye: ye aye keep comin'!-onyhoo, he gae the captain a kent like,'at he wad du weel to offer his room til's lordship. But wad he, think ye? Na, no him! He grew reid, an' syne as white's the aisse, an' luikit to be i' the awfu'est inside rage 'at mortal wessel cud weel hand. Sae yer gran'father, no 'at he was feart at 'im, for Is' be bun' he never was feart afore the face o' man, but jest no wullin' to anger his ain kin, an' maybe no willin' onybody sud say he was a respecter o' persons, heeld his tongue an' said nae mair, an' the markis hed the second best bed, for he sleepit in Glenwarlock's ain."

Cosmo then told her the dream he had had in the night, describing the person he had seen in it as closely as he could. Now all the time Grannie had been speaking, it was to the accompaniment of her wheel, but Cosmo had not got far with his narrative when she ceased spinning, and sat absorbed-listening as to a real occurrence, not the feverish dream of a boy. When he ended,

"It maun hae been the auld captain himself!" she said under her breath, and with a sigh; then shut up her mouth, and remained silent, leaving Cosmo in doubt whether it was that she would take no interest in such a foolish thing, or found in it something to set her thinking; but he could not help noting that there seemed a strangeness about her silence; nor did she break it until his father returned.

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