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   Chapter 21 THE WATCMAKER

Warlock o' Glenwarlock By George MacDonald Characters: 24525

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

When he came down to breakfast, his father told him, to his delight, that he was going to Muir of Warlock, and would like him to go with him. He ran like a hare up the waterside to let Mr. Simon know, and was back by the time his father was ready.

It was a lovely day. There would be plenty of cold and rough weather yet, but the winter was over and gone, and even to that late region of the north, the time of the singing of birds was come. The air was soft, with streaks of cold in it. The fields lay about all wet, but there was the sun above them, whose business it was to dry them. There were no leaves yet on the few trees and hedges, but preparations had long been made, and the sap was now rising in their many stems, like the mercury in all the thermometers. Up also rose the larks, joy fluttering their wings, and quivering their throats. They always know when the time to praise God is come, for it is when they begin to feel happy: more cannot be expected of them. And are they not therein already on the level of most of us Christians who in this mood and that praise God? And indeed are not the birds and the rest of the creatures Christians in the same way as the vast mass of those that call themselves such? Do they not belong to the creation groaning after a redemption they do not know? Men and women groan in misery from not being yet the sons and daughters of God, who regard nothing else as redemption, but the getting of their own way, which the devil only would care to give them.

As they went, the laird told Cosmo what was taking him to the village, and the boy walked by his father's side as in a fairy tale; for had they not with them a strange thing that might prove the talismanic opener of many doors to treasure-caves?

They went straight to the shop, if shop it could be called, of Jeames Merson, the watchmaker of the village. There all its little ornamental business was done-a silver spoon might be engraved, a new pin put to a brooch, a wedding ring of sterling gold purchased, or a pair of earings of lovely glass, representing amethyst or topaz. There a second-hand watch might be had, with choice amongst a score, taken in exchange from ploughmen or craftsmen. Jeames was poor, for there was not much trade in his line, and so was never able to have much of a stock; but he was an excellent watchmaker-none better in the great city-so at least his town-folk believed, and in a village it soon appears whether a watchmaker has got it in him.

He was a thin, pale man, with a mixed look of rabbit and ferret, a high narrow forehead, and keen gray eyes. His work-shop and show-room was the kitchen, partly for the sake of his wife's company, partly because there was the largest window the cottage could boast. In this window was hung almost his whole stock, and a table before it was covered with his work and tools. He was stooping over it, his lens in his eye, busy with a watch, of which several portions lay beside him protected from the dust by footless wine-glasses, when the laird and Cosmo entered. He put down pinion and file, pushed back his chair, and rose to receive them.

"A fine mornin', Jeames!" said the laird. "I houp ye're weel, and duin' weel."

"Muckle the same as usual, laird, an' I thank ye," answered Jeames, with a large smile. "I'm no jist upo' the ro'd to be what they ca' a millionaire, an' I'm no jist upon the perris-something atween the twa, I'm thinkin'."

"I doobt there's mair o' ane's in like condition, Jeames," responded the laird, "or we wad na be comin' to tax yer skeel at this present."

"Use yer freedom, laird; I'm yer heumble servan'. It wadna be a watch for the yoong laird? I kenna-"

He stopped, and cast an anxious eye towards the window.

"Na, na," interrupted the laird, sorry to have raised even so much of a vain hope in the mind of the man, "I'm as farfrae a watch as ye are frae the bank. But I hae here i' my pooch a bit silly playock,'at's been i' the hoose this mony a lang; an' jist this last nicht it was pitten intil my heid there micht be some guid intl the chattel, seein' i' the tradition o' the faimily it's aye been hauden for siller. For my ain pairt I hae my doobts; but gien onybody here aboot can tell the trowth on't, yersel' maun be the man; an' sae I hae brought it, to ken what ye wad say til 't."

"I'll du my best to lowse yer doobt, laird," returned Jeames.

"Lat's hae a luik at the article."

The laird took the horse from his pocket, and handed it to him. Jeames regarded it for some time with interest, and examined it with care.

"It's a bonny bit o' carved work," he said; "-a bairnly kin' o' a thing for shape-mair like a timmer horsie; but whan ye come to the ornamentation o' the same, it's o' anither character frae the roon' spots o' reid paint-an' sae's the sma' rubies an' stanes intil 't. This has taen a heap o' time, an' painsfu' labour-a deal mair nor some o' 's wad think it worth, I doobt! It's the w'y o' the haithens wi' their graven eemages, but what for a horsie like this, I dinna ken. Hooever, that's naither here nor there: ye didna come to me to speir hoo or what for it was made; it's what is 't made o' 's the question. It's some yallow-like for siller; an' it's unco black, which is mair like it-but that may be wi' dirt.-An' dirt I'm thinkin' it maun be, barkit intil the gravin'," he went on, taking a tool and running the point of it along one of the fine lines. "Troth ohn testit, I wadna like to say what it was. But it's an unco weicht!-I doobt-na, I mair nor doobt it canna be siller."

So saying he carried it to his table, put it down, and went to a corner-cupboard. Thence he brought a small stoppered phial. He gave it a little shake, and took out the stopper. It was followed by a dense white fume. With the stopper he touched the horse underneath, and looked closely at the spot. He then replaced the stopper and the bottle, and stood by the cupboard, gazing at nothing for a moment. Then turning to the laird, he said, with a peculiar look and a hesitating expression:

"Na, laird, it's no siller. Aquafortis winna bite up' 't. I wad mix 't wi' muriatic, an' try that, but I hae nane handy, an' forby it wad tak time to tell. Ken ye whaur it cam frae?-Ae thing I'm sure o'-it's no siller!"

"I'm sorry to hear it," rejoined the laird, with a faint smile and a little sigh.-"Well, we're no worse off than we were, Cosmo!-But poor Grizzie! she'll be dreadfully disappointed.-Gie me the bit horsie, Jeames; we'll e'en tak' him hame again. It's no his fau't, puir thing,'at he 's no better nor he was made!"

"Wad ye no tell me whaur the bit thing cam frae, or is supposit to hae come frae, sir; H'ard ye it ever said, for enstance,'at the auld captain they tell o' had broucht it?"

"That's what I hae h'ard said," answered the laird.

"Weel, sir," returned Jeames, "gien ye had nae objection, I wad fain mak' oot what the thing is made o'."

"It matters little," said the laird, "seein' we ken what it 's no made o'; but tak' yer wull o' 't, Jeames."

"Sit ye doon than, laird, gien ye hae naething mair pressin', an' see what I mak' o' 't," said the watchmaker, setting him a chair.

"Wullin'ly," replied the laird, "-but I dinna like takin' up yer time."

"Ow, my time's no sae dooms precious! I can aye win throu' wi' my work ohn swatten," said Jeames, with a smile in which mingled a half comical sadness. "An' it wad set me to waur't (PUZZLE ME TO SPEND IT) better to my ain min' nor servin' yersel', i' the sma'est, sir."

The laird thanked him, and sat down. Cosmo placed himself on a stool beside him.

"I hae naething upo' han' the day," Jeames Merson went on, "but a watch o' Jeames Gracie's, up at the Know-ane o' yer ain fowk, laird. He tells me it was your gran'father, sir, gied it til his gran'father. It's a queer auld-fashiont kin' o' a thing-some complicat; an'whiles it's 'maist ower muckle for me. Ye see auld age is aboot the warst disease horses an' watches can be ta'en wi': there's sae little left to come an' gang upo'!"

While the homely assayer thus spoke, he was making his preparations.

"What for no men as weel's horses an' watches?" suggested the laird.

"I wadna meddle wi' men. I lea' them to the doctors an' the ministers," replied Jeames, with another wide, silent laugh.

By this time he had got a pair of scales carefully adjusted, a small tin vessel in one of them, and balancing weights in the other. Then he went to the rack over the dresser, and mildly lamenting his wife's absence and his own inability to lay his hand on the precise vessels he wanted, brought thence a dish and a basin. The dish he placed on the table with the basin in it and filled the latter with water to the very brim. He then took the horse, placed it gently in the basin, which was large enough to receive it entirely, and set basin and horse aside. Taking then the'dish into which the water had overflowed, he poured its contents into the tin vessel in the one scale, and added weights to the opposite until they balanced each other, upon which he made a note with a piece of chalk on the table. Next, he removed everything from the scales, took the horse, wiped it in his apron, and weighed it carefully. That done, he sat down, and leaning back in his chair, seemed to his visitors to be making a calculation, only the conjecture did not quite fit the strange, inscrutable expression of his countenance. The laird began to think he must be one of those who delight to plaster knowledge with mystery.

"Weel, laird," said Jeames at length, "the weicbt o' what ye hae laid upo' me, maks me doobtfu' whaur nae doobt sud be. But I'mb'un' to say, ootside the risk o' some mistak, o' the gr'un's o' which I can ken naething, for else I wadna hae made it,'at this bit horsie o' yours, by a' 'at my knowledge or skeel, which is naither o' them muckle, can tell me-this bit horsie-an' gien it binna as I say, I canNOT see what for it sudna be sae-only, ye see, laird, whan we think we ken a'thing, there's a heap ahint oor A'THING; an' feow ken better, at least feow hae a richt to ken better, nor I du mysel', what a puir cratur is man, an hoo liable to mak mistaks, e'en whan he's duin' his best to be i' the richt; an for oucht 'at I ken, there may hae been grit discoveries made, ohn ever come to my hearin','at upsets a'thing I ever was gien to tak, an' haud by for true; an' yet I daurna withhaud the conclusion I'm driven til, for maybe whiles the hert o' man may gang the wrang. gait by bein' ower wise in its ain conceit o' expeckin' ower little, jist as weel's in expeckin' ower muckle, an' sae I'm b'un' to tell ye, laird,'at yer expectations frae this knot o'metal,-for metal we maun alloo it to be, whatever else it be or bena-yer expectations, I say, are a'thegither wrang, for it's no more siller nor my wife's kitchie-poker."

"Weel, man!" said the laird, with a laugh that had in it just a touch of scorn, "gien the thing be sae plain, what gars ye gang that gait aboot the buss to say't? Du ye tak me and Cosmo here for bairns 'at wad fa' a greetin' gien ye tellt them their ba-lamb wasna a leevin' ane-naething but a fussock o' cotton-'oo', rowed roon' a bit stick? We're naither o' 's complimentit.-Come, Cosmo. -I'm nane the less obleeged to ye, Jeames," he added as he rose, "though I cud weel wuss yer opingon had been sic as wad hae pitten't 'i my pooer to offer ye a fee for't."

"The less said aboot that the better, laird.'" replied Jeames with imperturbability, and his large, silent smile; "the trowth's the trowth, whether it's paid for or no. But afore ye gang it's but fair to tell ye-only I wadna like to be hauden ower strickly accoontable for the opingon, seein' its no my profession, as they ca' 't, but I hae dune my best, an gien I be i' the wrang, I naither hae nor had ony ill design intil' 't.-"

"Bless my soul!" cried the laird, with more impatience than Cosmo had ever seen him show, "is the man mad, or does he take me for a fool?"

"There's some things, laird," resumed Jeames, "that hae to be approcht oontil, wi' circumspection an' a proaper regaird to the impression they may mak. Noo, disclaimin' ony desire to luik like an ill-bred scoon'rel, whilk I wad raither luik to

onybody nor to yersel', laird, I ventur to jaloose 'at maybe the maitter o' a feow poun's micht be o' some consequence to ye,-"

"Ilka fule i' the country kens that 'at kens Glenwarlock," interrupted the laird, and turned hastily. "Come, Cosmo."

Cosmo went to open the door, troubled to see his father annoyed with the unintelligibility of the man.

"Weel, gien ye WELL gang," said Jeames, "I maun jist tak my life i' my ban', an'-"

"Hoot, man! tak yer tongue i' yer teeth; it'll be mair to the purpose," cried the laird laughing, for he had got over his ill humour already. "My life i' my han', quo' he!-Man, I haena carriet a dirk this mony a day! I laid it aff wi' the kilt."

"Weel, it micht be the better 'at ye hadna, gien ye binna gaein hame afore nicht, for I saw some cairds o' the ro'd the day.-Ance mair, gien ye wad but hearken til ane 'at confesses he oucht to ken, even sud he be i' the wrang, I tell ye that horsie is NOT siller-na, nor naething like it."

"Plague take the man!-what is it, then?" cried the laird.

"What for didna ye speir that at me afore?" rejoined Jeames. "It wad hae gien me leeberty to tell ye-to the best o' my abeelity that is. Whan I'm no cocksure-an' its ower muckle a thing to be cocksure aboot-I wadna volunteer onything. I wadna say naething till I was adjured like an evil speerit."

"Weel," quoth the laird, entering now into the humour of the thing, "herewith I adjure thee, thou contrairy and inarticulate speerit, that thou tell me whereof and of what substance this same toy-horse is composed, manufactured, or made up."

"Toy here, toy there!" returned Jeames; "sae far as ony cawpabeelity o' mine, or ony puir skeel I hae, will alloo o' testimony-though min' ye, laird, I winna tak the consequences o' bein' i' the wrang-though I wad raither tak them, an' ower again, nor be i' the wrang,-"

The laird turned and went out, followed by Cosmo. He began to think the man must have lost his reason. But when the watchmaker saw them walking steadily along the street in the direction of home, he darted out of the cloor and ran after them.

"Gien ye wad gang, laird," he said, in an injured tone, "ye mecht hae jist latten me en' the sentence I had begun!"

"There's nae en' to ony o' yer sentences, man!" said the laird; "that's the only thing i' them 'at was forgotten,'cep' it was the sense."

"Weel, guid day to ye laird!" returned Jeames. "Only," he added, drawing a step nearer, and speaking in a subdued confidential voice, "dinna lat yer harsie rin awa' upo' the ro'd hame, for I sweir til ye, gien there be only trowth i' the laws o' natur, he's no siller, nor onything like it-"

"Hoots!" said the laird, and turning away, walked off with great strides.

"But," the watchmaker continued, almost running to keep up with him, and speaking in a low, harsh, hurried voice, as if thrusting the words into his ears, "naither mair nor less nor solid gowd-pure gowd, no a grain o' alloy!"

That said, he turned, went back at the same speed, shot himself into his cottage, and closed the door.

The father and son stopped, and looked at each other for a moment. Then the laird walked slowly on. After a minute or two, Cosmo glanced up in his face, but his father did not return the glance, and the boy saw that he was talking to another. By and by he heard him murmur to himself, "The gifts of God are without repentance."

Not a word passed between them as they went home, though all the time it seemed to both father and son that they were holding closest converse. The moment they reached the castle, the laird went to his room-to the closet where his few books lay, and got out a volume of an old cyclopaedia, where he read all he could find about gold. Thence descending to the kitchen, he rummaged out a rusty old pair of scales, and with their help arrived at the conclusion that the horse weighed about three pounds avoirdupois: it might be worth about a hundred and fifty pounds. Ready money, this was a treasure in the eyes of one whose hand had seldom indeed closed upon more than ten pounds at once. Here was large provision for the four years of his boy's college life! Nor was the margin it would leave for his creditors by any means too small for consideration! It is true the golden horse, hoofs, and skin, and hair of jewels, could do but little towards the carting away of the barrow of debt that crushed Glenwarlock; but not the less was it a heavenly messenger of good will to the laird. There are who are so pitiful over the poor man, that, finding they cannot lift him beyond the reach of the providence which intends there shall always be the poor on the earth, will do for him nothing at all.

"Where is the use?" they say. They treat their money like their children, and would not send it into a sad house. If they had themselves no joys but their permanent ones, where would the hearts of them be? Can such have a notion of the relief, the glad rebound of the heart of the poor man, the in-burst of light, the re-creation of the world, when help, however temporary, reaches him? A man like the laird of Glenwarlock, capable of a large outlook, one that reaches beyond the wide-spread skirts of his poverty, sees in it an arc of the mighty rainbow that circles the world, a well in the desert he is crossing to the pastures of red kine and woolly sheep. It is to him a foretaste of the final deliverance. While the rich giver is saying, "Poor fellow, he will be just as bad next month again!" the poor fellow is breathing the airs of paradise, reaping more joy of life in half a day than his benefactor in half a year, for help is a quick seed and of rapid growth, and bourgeons in a moment into the infinite aeons. Everything in this world is but temporary: why should temporary help be undervalued? Would you not pull out a drowning bather because he will bathe again to-morrow? The only question is-DOES IT HELP? Jonah might grumble at the withering of his gourd, but if it had not grown at all, would he ever have preached to Nineveh? It set the laird on a Pisgah-rock, whence he gazed into the promised land.

The rich, so far as money-needs are concerned, live under a cloudless sky of summer-dreary rather and shallow, it seems to me, however lovely its blue light; when for the poor man a breach is made through a vaporous firmament, he sees deeper into the blue because of the framing clouds-sees up to worlds invisible in the broad glare. I know not how the born-rich, still less those who have given themselves with success to the making of money, can learn that God is the all in all of men, for this world's needs as well as for the eternal needs. I know they may learn it, for the Lord has said that God can even teach the rich, and I have known of them who seemed to know it as well as any poor man; but speaking generally, the rich have not the same opportunity of knowing God-nor the same conscious need of him-that the poor man has. And when, after a few years, all, so far as things to have and to hold are concerned, are alike poor, and all, as far as any need of them is concerned, are alike rich, the advantage will all be on the side of such as, neither having nor needing, do not desire them. In the meantime, the rich man who, without pitying his friend that he is not rich also, cheerfully helps him over a stone where he cannot carry him up the hill of his difficulty, rejoicing to do for him what God allows, is like God himself, the great lover of his children, who gives a man infinitely, though he will not take from him his suffering until strength is perfected in his weakness.

The laird called Cosmo, and they went out together for a walk in the fields, where they might commune in quiet. There they talked over the calculation the laird had made of the probable worth of the horse; and the father, unlike most prudent men, did not think it necessary to warn his son against too sure an expectation, and so prepare him for the consequence of a possible mistake; he did not imagine that disappointment, like the small-pox, requires the vaccination of apprehension-that a man, lest he should be more miserable afterwards, must make himself miserable now. In matters of hope as well as fear, he judged the morrow must look after itself; believed the God who to-day is alive in to-morrow, looks after our affairs there where we cannot be. I am far from sure that the best preparation for a disappointment is not the hope that precedes it.

Friends, let us hold by our hopes. All colours are shreds of the rainbow. There is a rainbow of the cataract, of the paddle-wheel, of the falling wave: none of them is the rainbow, yet they are all of it; and if they vanish, so does the first, the arch-rainbow, the bow set in the cloud, while that which set it there, and will set it again, vanishes never. All things here pass; yet say not they are but hopes. It is because they are not the thing hoped for that they are precious-the very opals of the soul. By our hopes are we saved. There is many a thing we could do better without than the hope of it, for our hopes ever point beyond the thing hoped for. The bow is the damask flower on the woven tear-drops of the world; hope is the shimmer on the dingy warp of trouble shot with the golden woof of God's intent. Nothing almost sees miracles but misery.

Cosmo never forgot that walk in the fields with his father. When the money was long gone after the melted horse, that hour spent chiefly amongst the great horse-gowans that adorned the thin soil of one of the few fields yet in some poor sense their own, remained with him-to be his for ever-a portion of the inheritance of the meek. The joy had brought their hearts yet closer to each other, for one of the lovelinesses of true love is that it may and must always be more. In a gravelly hollow, around which rose hillocks, heaped by far off tides in times afar, they knelt together on the thin grass, among the ox-eyes, and gave God thanks for the golden horse on which Cosmo was to ride to the temple of knowledge.

After, they sat a long time talking over the strange thing. All these years had the lump of gold been lying in the house, ready for their great need! For what was lands, or family, or ancient name, to the learning that opens doors, the hand-maiden of the understanding, which is the servant of wisdom, who reads in the heart of him who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and the fountains of water and the conscience of man! Then they began to imagine together how the thing had come to pass. It could hardly be that the old captain did not know what a thing he gave! Doubtless he had intended sometime, perhaps in the knowledge of approaching death, to say something concerning it, and in the meantime, probably, with cunning for its better safety, had treated it as a thing of value, but of value comparatively slight! How had it come into existence, they next asked each other. Either it had belonged to some wealthy prince, they concluded, or the old captain had got it made for himself, as a convenient shape in which to carry with him, if not ready money, yet available wealth. Cosmo suggested that possibly, for better concealment, it had been silvered; and the laird afterwards learned from the jeweller to whom he sold it, that such was indeed the case. I may mention also that its worth exceeded the laird's calculation, chiefly because of the tiny jewels with which it was studded.

Cosmo repeated to his father the rime he had learned from dreaming Grannie, and told him how he heard it that time he lay a night in her house, and what Grannie herself said about it, and now the laird smiled, and now he looked grave; but neither of them saw how to connect the rime with the horse of gold. For one thing, great as was the wealth it brought them, the old captain could hardly have expected it to embolden any one to the degree of arrogance specified. What man would call the king his brother on the strength of a hundred and fifty pounds?

When Grizzie learned the result of her advice, she said "Praise be thankit!" and turned away. The next moment Cosmo heard her murmuring to herself,

"Whan the coo loups ower the mune,

The reid gowd rains intil men's shune."

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