MoboReader > Literature > Warlock o' Glenwarlock

   Chapter 9 THE STUDENT.

Warlock o' Glenwarlock By George MacDonald Characters: 17854

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


The twilight had not yet reached the depth of its mysteriousness, when Cosmo, returning home from casting a large loop of wandering over several hills, walked up to James Gracie's cottage, thinking whether they would not all be in bed.

But as he passed the window, he saw a little light, and went on to the door and knocked: had it been the daytime, he would have gone straight in. Agnes came, and opened cautiously, for there were occasionally such beings as tramps about.

"Eh! it's you?" she cried with a glad voice, when she saw the shape of Cosmo in the dimness. "There's naething wrang I houp," she added, changing her tone.

"Na, naething," answered Cosmo. "I only wantit to lat ye ken 'at I wasna gaein' back to the schuil ony mair."

"Weel, I dinna won'er at that!" returned Agnes with a little sigh. "Efter the w'y the maister behaved til ye, the laird cud ill lat ye gang there again. But what's he gaein' to du wi' ye, Maister Cosmo, gien a body micht speir 'at has nae richt to be keerious?"

"He's sen'in' me to maister Simon," answered Cosmo.

"I wuss I was gaein' tu," sighed Aggie. "I'm jist feart 'at I come to hate the maister efter ye're no to be seen there, Cosmo. An' we maunna hate, for that, ye ken,'s the hin 'er en' o' a' thing. But it wad be a heap easier no to hate him, gien I had naething tu du wi' him."

"That maun be confest," answered Cosmo.-"But," he added, "the hairst-play 'ill be here sune, an' syne the hairst itsel'; an' whan ye gang back ye'll hae won ower't."

"Na, I doobt no," Cosmo; for, ye sae, as I hae h'ard my father say, the Gracies are a' terrible for min'in'. Na, there's no forgettin' o' naething. What for sud onything be forgotten? It's a cooardly kin' o' a' w'y, to forget."

"Some things, I doobt, hae to be forgotten," returned Cosmo, thoughtfully. "Gien ye forgie a body for enstance, ye maun forget tu-no sae muckle, I'm thinkin', for the sake o' them 'at did ye the wrang, for wha wad tak up again a fool (foul) thing ance it was drappit?-but for yer ain sake; for what ye hae dune richt, my father says, maun be forgotten oot 'o sight for fear o' corruption, for naething comes to stink waur nor a guid deed hung up i' the munelicht o' the memory.

"Eh!" exclaimed Aggie, "but ye're unco wice for a lad o' yer 'ears."

"I wad be an nuco gowk," remarked Cosmo, "gien I kent naething, wi' sic a father as yon o' mine. What wad ye think o' yersel' gien the dochter o' Jeames Gracie war nae mair wice-like nor Meg Scroggie?"

Agnes laughed, but made no reply, for the voice of her mother came out of the dark:

"Wha's that, Aggie, ye're haudin' sic a confab wi' in the middle o' the night? Ye tellt me ye had to sit up to yer lessons!"

"I was busy at them, mither, whan Maister Cosmo chappit at the door."

"Weel, what for lat ye him stan' there? Ye may hae yer crack wi'

HIM as lang's ye like-in rizzon, that is. Gar him come in."

"Na, na, mistress Gracie," answered Cosmo; "I maun awa' hame; I hae had a gey long walk. It's no 'at I'm tired, but I'm gey and sleepy. Only I was sae pleased 'at I was gaein' to learn my lessons wi' Maister Simon,'at I bude to tell Aggie. She micht ha' been won'erin', an' thinkin' I wasna better, gien she hadna seen me at the schuil the morn."

"Is' warran' her ohn gane to the schuil ohn speirt in at the Castle the first thing i' the mornin', an' seein' gien the laird had ony eeran' to the toon. Little cares she for the maister, gien onybody at the Hoose be in want o' her!"

"Is there naething I cud help ye wi', Aggie, afore I gang?" asked

Cosmo. "Somebody tellt me ye was tryin' yer han' at algebra."

"Naebody had ony business to tell ye ony sic a thing," returned Aggie, rather angrily. "It's no at the schuil I wad think o' sic a ploy. They wad a' lauch fine! But I WAD fain ken what's intil the thing. I canNOT un'erstan' hoo fowk can coont wi' letters an' crosses an' strokes in place o' figgers. I hae been at it a haillook noo-by mysel', ye ken-an' I'm nane nearer til 't yet. I can add an' subtrac', accordin' to the rules gien, but that's no un'erstan'in', an' un'erstan' I canna."

"I'm thinkin' it's something as gien x was a horse, an' y was a coo, an' z was a cairt, or onything ither ye micht hae to ca' 't; an' ye bargain awa' aboot the x an' the y and the z, an' ley the horse i' the stable, the coo i' the byre, an' the cairt i' the shed, till ye hae sattlet a'."

"But ye ken aboot algebra"-she pronounced the word with the accent on the second syllable-"divna ye, maister Cosmo?"

"Na, no the haif, nor the hun'ert pairt. I only ken eneuch to haud me gaein' on to mair. A body maun hae learnt a heap o' onything afore the licht breaks oot o' 't. Ye maun win throuw the wa' first. I doobt gien onybody un'erstan's a thing oot an' oot, sae lang's he's no ready at a moment's notice to gar anither see intil the hert o' 't; an' I canna gar ye see what's intil 't the minute ye speir't at me!"

"I'm thinkin', hooever, Cosmo, a body maun be nearhan' seein' o' himsel' afore anither can lat him see onything."

"Ye may be richt there," yielded Cosmo."-But jist lat me see whaur ye are," he went on. "I may be able to help ye, though I canna lat ye see a' at once. It wad be an ill job for them 'at needs help, gien naebody could help them but them 'at kent a' aboot a thing."

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Without a word, Aggie turned and led the way to the "but-end." An iron lamp, burning the coarsest of train oil, hung against the wall, and under that she had placed the one movable table in the kitchen, which was white as scouring could make it. Upon it lay a slate and a book of algebra.

"My cousin Willie lent me the buik," said Aggie.

"What for didna ye come to me to len'ye ane? I could hae gien ye a better nor that," expostulated Cosmo.

Aggie hesitated, but, open as the day, she did not hesitate long.

She turned her face from him, and answered,

"I wantit to gie ye a surprise, Maister Cosmo. Divna ye min' tellin' me ance 'at ye saw no rizzon hoo a lassie sudna un'erstan' jist as weel's a laddie. I wantit to see whether ye was richt or wrang; an' as algebra luiket the maist oonlikly thing, I thoucht I wad taikle that, an' sae sattle the queston at ance. But, eh me! I'm sair feart ye was i' the wrang, Cosmo!"

"I maun du my best to pruv mysel' i' the richt," returned Cosmo. "I never said onybody cud learn a' o' themsel's, wantin' help, ye ken. There's nae mony laddies cud du that, an' feower still wad try."

They sat down together at the table, and in half an hour or so, Aggie had begun to see the faint light of at least the false dawn, as they call it, through the thickets of algebra. It was nearly midnight when Cosmo rose, and then Aggie would not let him go alone, but insisted on accompanying him to the gate of the court.

It was a curious relation between the two. While Agnes looked up to Cosmo, about two years her junior, as immeasurably her superior in all that pertained to the intellect and its range, she assumed over him a sort of general human superiority, something like that a mother will assert over the most gifted of sons. One has seen, with a kind of sacred amusement, the high priest of many literary and artistic circles, set down with rebuke by his mother, as if he had been still a boy! And I have heard the children of this world speak with like superiority of the child of light whom they loved-allowing him wondrous good, but regarding him as a kind of God's chicken: nothing is so mysterious to the children of this world as the ways of the children of light, though to themselves they seem simple enough. That Agnes never treated Cosmo with this degree of protective condescension, arose from the fact that she was very nearly as much a child of light as he; only, being a woman, she was keener of perception, and being older, felt the more of the mother that every woman feels, and made the most of it. It was to her therefore a merely natural thing to act his protector. Indeed with respect to the Warlock family in general, she counted herself possessed of the right to serve any one of them to the last drop of her blood. From infancy she had heard the laird spoken of-without definite distinction between the present and the last-as the noblest, best, and kindest of men, as the power which had been for generations over the family of the Gracies, for their help and healing; and hence it was impressed upon her deepest consciousness, that one of the main reasons of her existence was her relation to the family of Glenwarlock.

Notwithstanding the familiarity I have shown between them-Agnes had but lately begun to put the MASTER before Cosmo's name, and as often forgot it-the girl, as they went towards the castle, although they were walking in deep dusk, and entirely alone, kept a little behind the boy-not behind his back, but on his left hand in the next rank. N

o spy most curious could have detected the least love-making between them, and their talk, in the still, dark air, sounded loud all the way as they went. Strange talk it would have been counted by many, and indeed unintelligible, for it ranged over a vast surface, and was the talk of two wise children, wise not above their own years only, but immeasurably above those of the prudent. Riches indubitably favour stupidity; poverty, where the heart is right, favours mental and moral development. They parted at the gate, and Cosmo went to bed.

But, although his father allowed him such plentiful liberty, and would fain have the boy feel the night holy as the day-so that no one ever asked where he had been, or at what hour he had come home-a question which, having no watch, he would have found it hard to answer-not an eye was closed in the house until his entering footsteps were heard. The grandmother lay angry at the unheard of liberty her son gave his son; it was neither decent nor in order; it was against all ancient rule of family life; she must speak about it! But she never did speak about it, for she was now in her turn afraid of the son who, without a particle of obstinacy in his composition, yet took what she called his own way. Grizzie kept grumbling to herself that the laddie was sure to come to "mischief;" but the main forms of "mischief" that ruled in her imagination were tramps, precipices, and spates. The laird, for his part, spent most of the time his son's absence kept him awake, in praying for him-not that he might be the restorer of the family, but that he might be able to accept the will of God as the best thing for family as for individual. If his boy might but reach the spirit-land unsoiled and noble, his prayers were ended.

In such experiences, the laird learned to understand how the catholics come to pray to their saints, and the Chinese to their parents and ancestors; for he frequently found himself, more especially as drowsiness began to steal upon his praying soul, seeming to hold council with his wife concerning their boy, and asking her help towards such strength for him as human beings may minister to each other.

But Cosmo went up to bed without a suspicion that the air around him was full of such holy messengers heavenward for his sake. He imagined none anxious about him-either with the anxiety of grandmother or of servant-friend or of great-hearted father.

As he passed the door of the spare room, immediately above which was his own, his dream, preceded by a cold shiver, came to his memory. But he scorned to quicken his pace, or to glance over his shoulder, as he ascended the second stair. Without any need of a candle, in the still faint twilight which is the ghosts' day, he threw off his clothes, and was presently buried in the grave of his bed, under the sod of the blankets, lapt in the death of sleep.

The moment he woke, he jumped out of bed: a new era in his life was at hand, the thought of which had been subjacently present in his dreams, and was operative the instant he became conscious of waking life. He hurried on his clothes without care, for this dressing was but temporary. Going down the stairs like a cataract, for not a soul slept in that part but himself, and there was no fear of waking any one, then in like manner down the hill, he reached the place where, with a final dart, the torrent shot into the quiet stream of the valley, in whose channel of rock and gravel it had hollowed a deep basin. This was Cosmo's bath-and a splendid one. His clothes were off again more quickly than he put them on, and head foremost he shot like the torrent into the boiling mass, where for a few moments he yielded himself the sport of the frothy water, and was tossed and tumbled about like a dead thing. Soon however, down in the heart of the boil, he struck out, and shooting from under the fall, rose to the surface beyond it, panting and blowing. To get out on the bank was then the work of one moment, and to plunge in again that of the next. Half a dozen times, with scarce a pause between, he thus plunged, was tossed and overwhelmed, struggled, escaped, and plunged again. Then he ran for a few moments up and down the bank to dry himself-he counted the use of a towel effeminacy, and dressing again, ran home to finish his simple toilet. If after that he read a chapter of his Bible, it was no more than was required by many a parent of many a boy who got little good of the task; but Cosmo's father had never enjoined it, on him; and when next he knelt down at his bedside, he did not merely "say his prayers." Then he took his slate, to try after something Aggie had made him know he did not understand:-for the finding of our own intellectual defects, nothing is like trying to teach another. But before long, certain sensations began, to warn him there was an invention in the world called breakfast, and laying his slate aside, he went to the kitchen, where he found Grizzie making the porridge.

"Min' ye pit saut eneuch in't the day, Grizzie," he said. "It was unco wersh yesterday."

"An' what was't like thestreen (yestere'en), Cosmo?" asked the old woman, irritated at being found fault with in a matter wherein she counted herself as near perfection as ever mortal could come.

"I had nane last nicht, ye min'," answered Cosmo, "I was oot a' the evenin'."

"An' whaur got ye yer supper?"

"Ow, I didna want nane. Hoot! I'm forgettin'! Aggie gied me a quarter o' breid as I cam by, or rather as I cam awa', efter giein' her a han' wi' her algebra."

"What ca' ye that for a lass bairn to be takin' up her time wi'! I never h'ard o' sic a thing! What's the natur' o' 't, Cosmo?"

He tried to give her some far-off idea of the sort of thing algebra was, but apparently without success, for she cried at length,

"Na, sirs! I hae h'ard o' cairts, an' bogles, an' witchcraft, an' astronomy, but sic a thing as this ye bring me noo, I never did hear tell o'! What can the warl' be comin' till!-An' dis the father o' ye, laddie, ken what ye spen' yer midnicht hoors gangin' teachin' to the lass-bairns o' the country roon'?"

She was interrupted by the entrance of the laird, and they sat down to breakfast. The grandmother within the last year had begun to take hers in her own room.

Grizzie was full of anxiety to know what the laird would say to the discovery she had just made, but she dared not hazard allusion to the CONDUCT of his son, and must therefore be content to lead the conversation in the direction of it, hoping it might naturally appear. So, about the middle of Cosmo's breakfast, that is about two minutes after he had attacked his porridge, she approached her design, if not exactly the object she desired, with the remark,

"Did ye never hear the auld saw, sir-

"Whaur's neither sun nor mune, Laich things come abune-?"

"I 'maist think I have, Grizzie," answered the laird.

"But what gars ye come ower 't noo?"

"I canna but think, sir," returned Grizzie, "as I lie i' the mirk, o' the heap o' things 'at gang to nae kirk, oot an' aboot as sharp as a gled, whan the young laird is no in his bed-oot wi' 's algibbry an' astronomy, an' a' that kin' o' thing!'Deed, sir, it wadna be canny gien they cam to ken o' 't."

"Wha come to ken o' what, Grizzie?" asked the laird with a twinkle in his eye, and a glance at Cosmo, who sat gazing curiously at the old woman.

"Them 'at the saw speyks o', sir," said Grizzie, answering the first part of the double question, as she placed two boiled eggs before her master.

The laird smiled: he was too kind to laugh. Not a few laughed at old Grizzie, but never the laird.

"Did YE never hear the auld saw, Grizzie," he said:

"Throu the heather an' how gaed the creepin' thing,

But abune was the waught o' an angel's wing-?"

"Ay, I hae h'ard it-naegait 'cep' here i' this hoose," answered

Grizzie: she would disparage the authority of the saying by a doubt

as to its genuineness. "But, sir, ye sud never temp' providence.

Wha kens what may be oot i' the nicht?"

"To HIM, Grizzie, the nicht shineth as the day."

"Weel, sir," cried Grizzie, "Ye jist pit me 'at I dinna ken mysel'! Is't poassible ye hae forgotten what's sae weel kent to a' the cuintry roon'?-the auld captain,'at canna lie still in's grave, because o'-because o' whatever the rizzon may be? Onygait he's no laid yet; an' some thinks he's doomed to haunt the hoose till the day o' jeedgment."

"I suspec' there winna be muckle o' the hoose left for him to haunt 'gen that time, Grizzie," said the laird. "But what for sud ye put sic fule things intil the bairn's heid? An' gien the ghaist haunt the hoose, isna he better oot o' 't? Wad ye hae him come hame to sic company?"

This posed Grizzie, and she held her peace for the time.

"Come, Cosmo," said the laird rising; and they set out together for

Mr. Simon's cottage.

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