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   Chapter 25 THE GARDENER.

Warlock o' Glenwarlock By George MacDonald Characters: 22066

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

There was a garden indeed, but a garden whose ragged, ugly, degraded desolation looked as if the devil had taken to gardening in it. Rather than a grief, it was a pain and disgust to see. Fruit-trees there were on the wall, but run wild with endless shoots, which stuck like a hog's mane over the top of it, and out in every direction from the face of it with a look of impertinent daring. All the fastenings were broken away, and only the old branches, from habit, kept their places against it. Everything all about seemed striving back to a dear disorder and salvage liberty. The walks were covered with weeds, and almost impassable with unpruned branches, while here lay a heap of rubbish, there a smashed flower-pot, here a crushed water-pot, there a broken dinner-plate. Following a path that led away from the wall, he came upon a fountain without any water, in a cracked basin dry as a lizard-haunted wall, a sundial without a gnomon, leaning wearily away from the sun, a marble statue without a nose, and streaked about with green: like an army of desolation in single file, they revealed to Cosmo the age-long neglect of the place. Next appeared a wing built out from the back of the inner court of the castle-in a dilapidated, almost dangerous condition. Then he came to a great hedge of yew, very lofty, but very thin, like a fence of old wire that had caught cart-loads of withered rubbish in its meshes. Here he heard the sound of a spade, and by the accompanying sounds judged the implement was handled by an old man. He peeped through the hedge, and caught sight of him. Old he was-bent with years, but tough, wiry, and sound, and it seemed to Cosmo that the sighs and groans, or rather grunts, which he uttered, were more of impatience and discontent than oppression or weakness. As he stood regarding him for a moment, anxious to discover with what sort of man he had to deal, he began to mutter. Presently he ceased digging, drew himself up as straight as he could, and, leaning on his spade, went on, as if addressing his congregation of cabbages over the book-board of a pulpit. And now his muttering took, to the ears of Cosmo, an indistinct shape like this:

"Wha cares for an auld man like me? I kenna what for there sud be auld men made! The banes o' me micht melt i' the inside o' me, an' never a sowl alive du mair for me nor berry me to get rid o' the stink! No 'at I'm that dooms auld i' mysel' them 'at wad hae my place wad hae me!"

Here was a chance for him, Cosmo thought; for at least here was a fellow-countryman. He went along the hedge therefore until he found a place where he could get through, and approached the man, who had by this time resumed his work, though after a listless fashion, turning over spadeful after spadeful, as if neither he nor the cabbages cared much, and all would be in good time if done by the end of the world. As he came nearer, Cosmo read peevishness and ill-temper in every line of his countryman's countenance, yet he approached him with confidence, for Scotchmen out of their own country are of good report for hospitality to each other.

"Hoo's a' wi' ye?" he cried, sending his mother-tongue as a pursuivant in advance.

"Wha's speirin? an' what richt hae ye to speir?" returned the old man in an angry voice, and lifting himself quickly, though with an aching sigh, looked at him with hard blue eyes.

"A countryman o' yer ain," answered Cosmo.

"Mony ane's that 'at's naething the better nor the walcomer. Gie an accoont o' yersel', or the doags'll be lowsed upo' ye here in a jiffey. Haith, this is no the place for lan'loupers!"

"Hae ye been lang aboot the place?" asked Cosmo.

"Langer nor ye're like to be, I'm thinkin', gien ye keep na the ceeviler tongue i' yer heid, my man-Whaur come ye frae?"

The old man had dropt his spade; Cosmo took it up, and began to dig.

"Lay doon that spaud," cried its owner, and would have taken it from him, but Cosmo delayed rendition.

"Hoot, man!" he said, "I wad but lat ye see I'm nae lan'louper, an' can weel han'le a spaud. Stan' ye by a bit, an' rist yer banes, till I caw throuw a trifle o' yer wark."

"An' what du ye expec' to come o' that? Ye're efter something, as sure's the deevil at the back yelt, though ye're nae freely sae sure to win at it."

"What I expec,' it wad be ill to say; but what I dinna expec' is to be traitit like a vaggabon. Come, I'll gie ye a guid hoor's wark for a place to wash mysel', an' put on a clean sark."

"Hae ye the sark?"

"I HAE't here i' my bag."

"An' what du ye want to put on a clean sark for? What'll ye du whan ye hae't on?"

"Gie ye anither hoor's wark for the heel o' a loaf an' a drink o' watter."

"Ye'll be wantin' to be taen on, I s' wad (WAGER) ye a worm!"

"Gien ye cud gie me a day's wark, or maybe twa,-" began Cosmo, thinking how much rather he would fall in with Lady Joan about the garden than go up to the house.

"I weel thoucht there sud be mair intil't nor appeart! Ye wad fain hae the auld man's shune, an' mak sur o' them afore he kickit them frae him! Ay! It's jist like the likes o' ye! Mine's a place the like o' you's keen set efter! Ye think it's a' ait an' play! Gang awa' wi' ye, an' latna me see the face o' ye again, or I s' ca' to them 'at 'll tak accoont o' ye."

"Hoot, man!" returned Cosmo, and went on turning the ground over, "ye're unco hard upon a neebor!"

"Neebor! ye're no neebor o' mine! Gang awa' wi' ye, I tell ye!"

"Did naebody never gie' YOU a helpin' han','at ye're sae dooms hard upo' ane 'at needs ane?"

"Gien onybody ever did, it wasna you."

"But dinna ye think ye're a kin' o' b'un' to du the like again?"

"Ay, to him 'at did it-but I tell ye ye're no the man; sae gang aboot yer business."

"Someday ye may want somebody ance mair to du ye a guid turn!"

"I hae dune a heap to gie me a claim on consideration. I hae grown auld upo' the place. What hae YE dune, my man?"

"I wadna hae muckle chance o' duin' onything, gien a' body was like you. But did ye never hear tell o' ane 'at said:'Ye wad du naething for nane o' mine, sae ye refeesed mysel'?"

"Deed, an' I wull refeese yersel'," returned the old man. "Sic a chield for jaw an'cheek-saw I never nane-as the auld sang says! Whaur on this earth cam ye frae?"

As he spoke, he gave Cosmo a round punch on the shoulder next him that made him look from his work, and then began eying him up and down in the most supercilious manner. He was a small, withered, bowed man, with a thin wizened face, crowned by a much worn fur cap. His mouth had been so long drawn down at each corner as by weights of discontent, that it formed nearly a half-circle. His eyebrows were lifted as far as they would go above his red-lidded blue eyes, and there was a succession of ripply wrinkles over each of them, which met in the middle of his forehead, so that he was all over arches. Under his cap stuck out enormous ears, much too large for his face. Huge veiny hands hung trembling by his sides, but they trembled more from anger than from age.

"I tellt ye a'ready," answered Cosmo; "I come frae the auld country."

"Deil tak the auld country! What care I for the auld country! It's a braid place, an' langer nor it's braid, an' there's mony ane intil't an' oot on't 'at's no warth the parritch his mither pat intil 'im. Eh, the fowth o' fushionless beggars I hae seen come to me like yersel'!-Ow ay! it was aye wark they wad hae!-an' cudna du mair nor a flee amo' triacle!-What coonty are ye frae, wi' the lang legs an' the lang back-bane o' ye?"

Cosmo told him. The hands of the old man rose from his sides, and made right angles of his elbows.

"Weel," he said slowly, "that's no an ill coonty to come frae. I may say THAT, for I belang til't my-sel'. But what pairt o' 't ran ye frae whan ye cam awa'?"

"I ran frae nae pairt, but I cam frae hame i' the north pairt o' that same," answered Cosmo, and bent again to his work.

The man came a step nearer, and Cosmo, without looking up, was aware he was regarding him intently.

"Ay! ay!" he said at last, in a tone of reflection mingled with dawning interest, "I ance kent a terrible rascal cam frae owerby that gait: what ca' they the perris ye're frae?"

Cosmo told him.

"Lord bless me!" cried the old man, and came close up to him.-"But na!" he resumed, and stepped a pace back, "somebody's been tellin ye!"

Cosmo gave him no answer. He stood a moment expecting one, then broke out in a rage.

"What for mak ye nae answer whan a body speirs ye a queston? That wasna mainners whan I was a bairn. Lord! ye micht as weel be ceevil! Isna it easy eneuch to lee?"

"I would answer no man who was not prepared to believe me," said

Cosmo quietly.

The dignity of his English had far more effect on the man than the friendliness of their mother-tongue.

"Maybe ye wadna objec' to mak mention by name o' the toon nearest to ye whan ye was at hame?" said the old man, and from his altered manner and tone Cosmo felt he might reply.

"It was ca'd Muir o' Warlock," he answered.

"Lord, man! come into the hoose. Ye maun be sair in need o' something to put intil ye! A' the gait frae Muir o' Warlock! A toonsman o' my ain! Scot-lan' 's a muckle place-but Muir o' Warlock! Guid guide's! Come in, man; come in!"

So saying he took the spade from Cosmo's hands, threw it down with a contemptuous cast, and led the way towards the house.

The old man had a heart after all! Strange the power of that comparatively poor thing, local association, to bring to light the eternal love at the root of the being! Wonderful sign also of the presence of God wherever a child may open eyes! This man's heart was not yet big enough to love a Scotsman, but it was big enough to love a Muir-o'-Warlock-man; and was not that a precious beginning? -a beginning as good as any? It matters nothing where or how one begins, if only one does begin! There are many, doubtless, who have not yet got farther in love than their own family; but there are others who have learned that for the true heart there is neither Frenchman nor Englishman, neither Jew nor Greek, neither white nor black-only the sons and daughters of God, only the brothers and sisters of the one elder brother. There may be some who have learned to love all the people of their own planet, but have not yet learned to look with patience upon those of Saturn or Mercury; while others there must be, who, wherever there is a creature of God's making, love each in its capacity for love-from the arch-angel before God's throne, to the creeping thing he may be compelled to destroy-from the man of this earth to the man of some system of worlds which no human telescope has yet brought within the ken of heaven-poring sage. And to that it must come with every one of us, for not until then are we true men, true women-the children, that is, of him in whose image we are made.

Cosmo followed very willingly, longing for water and a clothes-brush rather than for food. The cold and d

amp, fatigue and exposure of the night were telling upon him more than he knew, and all the time he was at work, he had been cramped by hitherto unknown pains in his limbs.

The gardener brought him to the half-ruinous wing already mentioned, to a small kitchen, opening under a great sloping buttress, and presented him to his wife, an English woman, some ten years younger than himself. She received him with a dignified retraction of the feelers, but the moment she understood his needs, ministered to them, and had some breakfast ready for him by the time he had made his toilet. He sat down by her little fire, and drank some tea, but felt shivery, and could not eat. In dread lest, if he yielded a moment to the invading sickness, it should at once overpower him, he made haste to get out again into the sun, and rejoined the old man, who had gone back to his cabbage-ground. There he pulled off his coat, and once more seized the spade, for work seemed the only way of meeting his enemy hand to hand. But the moment he began, he was too hot, and the moment he took breath he was ready to shiver. As long as he could stand, however, he would not give in.

"How many years have you been gardener here?" he asked, forcing himself to talk.

"Five an' forty year, an' I'm nearhan' tired o' 't."

"The present lord is a young man, is he not?"

"Ay; he canna be muckle ayont five an' thirty."

"What sort of a man is he?"

"Weel, it's hard to say. He's ane o' them 'at naebody says weel o', an' naebody's begud to say ill o'-yet."

"There can't be much amiss with him then, surely!"'

"Weel, I wadna gang freely sae far as say that, You 'at's a man o' sense, maun weel un'erstan', gien it was only frae yer carritchis (catechism), 'at there's baith sins o' o-mission, an' sins o' co-mission. Noo, what sins o' co-mission may lie at my lord's door, I dinna ken, an' feow can ken, an' we're no to jeedge; but for the o-mission, ye hae but to see hoo he neglects that bonny sister o' his, to be far eneuch frae thinkin' a sant o' 'im."

Silence followed. Cosmo would go no farther in that direction: it would be fair neither to Lady Joan nor the gardener, who spoke as to one who knew nothing of the family.

"Noo the father," resumed his new friend, "-puir man, he's deid an' damned this mony a day!-an' eh, but he was an ill ane!-but as to Leddy Joan, he wad hardly bide her oot o' his sicht. He cudna be jist that agreeable company to the likes o' her, puir leddy! for he was a rouch-spoken, sweirin' auld sinner as ever lived, but sic as he had he gae her, an' was said to hae been a fine gentleman in's yoong days. Some wad hae 't he cheenged a' thegither o' a suddent. An' they wad hae 't it cam o' bluid-guiltiness-for they said he had liftit the reid han' agen his neebor. An' they warnt me, lang as it was sin' I left it, no to lat 'im ken I cam frae yon pairt o' the country, or he wad be rid o' me in a jiffey, ae w'y or anither. -Ay, it was a gran' name that o' Warlock i' thae pairts! though they tell me it gangs na for sae muckle noo. I hae h'ard said,'at ever sin' the auld lord here made awa' wi' the laird o' Glen-warlock, the faimily there never had ony luck. I wad like to ken what you, as a man o' sense, think o' that same. It appears to me a' some queer kin' o' justice! No' 'at I'm daurin' or wad daur to say a word agen the w'y 'at the warl's goverrnt, but there's some things 'at naebody can un'erstan'-I defy them!-an' yon's ane o' them-what for, cause oor graceless auld lord-he was yoong than-tuik the life o' the laird o' Glenwarlock, the faimily o' Warlock sud never thrive frae that day to this!-Read me that riddle, yoong man, gien ye can."

"Maybe it was to haud them 'at cam efter frae ony mair keepin' o' sic ill company," Cosmo ventured to suggest; for, knowing what his father was, and something also of what most of those who preceded him were, he could see no such inscrutable dispensation in the fact mentioned.

"That wad be hard lines, though," insisted the gardener, unwilling to yield the unintelligibility of the ways of providence.

"But," said Cosmo, "they say doon there, it was a brither o' the laird, no the laird himsel','at the English lord killt."

"Na, na; they're a' wrang there, whaever says that. For auld Jean, wham I min' a weel faured wuman, though doobtless no sae bonny as whan he broucht her wi' 'im a yoong lass-maybe to gar her haud her tongue-auld Jean said as I say. But that was lang efter the thing was ower auld to be ta'en ony notice o' mair. Forby, you 'at's a man o' sense, gien it wasna the laird himsel' 'at he killt, hoo wad there, i' that case, be onything worthy o' remark i' their no thrivin' efter't? I' that case, the no thrivin' cud hae had naething ava to du wi' the killin'. Na, na, it was the laird himsel' 'at the maisier killt-the father o' the present laird, I'm thinkin'. What aged-man micht he be-did ye ever hear tell?"

"He's a man well on to seventy," answered Cosmo, with a pang at the thought.

"Ay; that'll be aboot it! There can be no doobt it was his father oor lord killt-an' as little 'at efter he did it he gaed doon the braid ro'd to the deevil as fest's ever he cud rin. It was jist like as wi' Judas-he maun gang till's ain. Some said he had sellt himsel' to the deevil, but I'm thinkin' that wasna necessar'. He was to get him ony gait! An' wad ye believe't, it's baith said and believt-'at he cam by's deith i' some exterordnar w'y, no accoontable for, but plainly no canny. Ae thing's sure as deith itsel', he was ta'en suddent, an' i' the verra hoose whaur, mony a lang year afore, he commitit the deed o' darkness!"

A pause followed, and then the narrator, or rather commentator, resumed.

"I'm thinkin' whan he begud to ken himsel' growin' auld, his deed cam back upon 'im fresh-like, an' that wad be hoo he cudna bide to hae my lady oot o' the sicht o' his een, or at least ayont the cry o' his tongue. Troth! he wad whiles come aboot the place efter her, whaur I wad be at my wark, as it micht be the day, cursin' an' sweirin' as gien he had sellt his sowl to a' the deevils thegither, an' sae micht tak his wull o' onything he cud get his tongue roon'! But I never heedit him that muckle, for ye see it wasna him 'at peyt me-the mair by token 'at gien it had been him 'at had the peyin' o' me, it's never a baubee wad I hae seen o' my ain siller; but the trustees peyt me, ilka plack, an' sae I was indepen'ent like, an' luit him say his say. But it was aye an oonsaitisfactory kin' o' a thing, for the trustees they caredna a bodle aboot keepin' the place dacent, an' tuik sae sma' delicht in ony pleesurin' o' the auld lord,'at they jist allooed him me, an' no a man mair nor less-to the gairden, that is. That's hoo the place comes to be in sic a disgracefu' condeetion. Gien it hadna been for rizzons o' my ain, I wad hae gane, mony's the time, for the sicht o' the ruin o' things was beyon' beirin'. But I bude to beir't; sae I bore't an' bore't till I cam by beirin' o' 't to tak it verra quaiet, an' luik upo' the thing as the wull o' a Providence 'at sudna be meddlet wi'. I broucht mysel' in fac' to that degree o' submission,'at I gae mysel' no trouble more, but jist confint my ainergies to the raisin' o' the kail an' cabbage, the ingons an' pitawtas wantit aboot the place."

"And are things no better," asked Cosmo, "since the present lord succeeded?"

"No a hair-'cep' it be 'at there's no sae mony ill words fleein' aboot the place. My lord never sets his nose intil the gairden, or speirs-no ance in a twal-month, hoo's things gangin' on. He does naething but rowt aboot in 's boaratory as he ca's 't-bore-a-whig, or bore-a-tory, it's little to me-makin' stinks there fit to scomfish a whaul, an' gar 'im stick his nose aneth the watter for a glamp o' fresh air. He's that hard-hertit 'at he never sae muckle as aits his denner alongside o' his ain sister,'cep' it be whan he has company, an' wad luik like ither fowk. Gien it gaedna ower weel wi' her i' the auld man's time, it gangs waur wi' her noo; for sae lang as he was abune the yird there was aye somebody to ken whether she was livin' or deid. To see a bonnie lass like her strayin' aboot the place nae better companied nor wi' an auld buik-it's jist eneuch to brak a man's hert, but that age kills rage."

"Do the neighbours take no notice of her?"

"Nane o' her ain dignity, like. Ye see she's naething but bonny. She HAS naething. An' though she's as guid a cratur as ever lived, the cauld grun' o' her poverty gaithers the fog o' an ill report. Troth, for her faimily, the ill's there, report or no report; but, a' the same, gien she had been rich, an' her father-I'll no say the hangman, but him 'at he last hangt, there wad be fowth (PLENTY) o' coonty-fowk wad hae her til her denner wi' them. An' I'm thinkin' maybe she's the prooder for her poverty, an' winna gang til her inferriors sae lang as her aiquals dinna invete her. She gangs whiles to the doctor's-but he's a kin' o' a freen' o' the yerl's,'cause he likes stinks-but that's the yoong doctor."

"Does her brother never go out to dinner anywhere, and take her with him?"

"Naebody cares a bodle aboot his lordship i' the haill country-side, sae far as I can learn. There's ane or twa-great men, I daursay-whiles comes doon frea Lon'on, to smell hoo he's gettin' on wi' 's stinks, but deil a neebor comes nigh the hoose. Ow, he's a great man, I mak nae doobt, awa' frae hame! He's aye writin' letters to the newspapers, an' they prent them-aboot this an' aboot that-aboot beasties i' the watter, an' lectreesity, an' I kenna what a'; an' some says 'at hoo he'll be a rich man some day, the moment he's dune fin'in' oot something or ither he's beenwarslin' at for the feck o' a ten year or sae; but the gentry never thinks naething o' a man sae lang as he's only duin' his best-or his warst, as the case may be-to lay his han' upo' the siller 'at's fleein' aboot him like a snaw-drift. Bide ye a bit, though! WHAN he's gotten't, it's doon they're a' upo' their k-nees til 'im thegither. But gien they be prood, he's prooder, an' lat him ance get his heid up, an' rid o' the trustees, an' fowk upo' their marrow-banes til 'im, haith, he'll lat them sit there, or I'm mistaen in 'im."

"Then has my lady no companions at all?"

"She gangs whiles to see the doctor's lass, an' whiles she comes here an' has her denner wi' her, themsel's twa: never anither comes near the place."

All this time, Cosmo had been turning over the cabbage-ground, working the harder that he still hoped to work off the sickness that yet kept growing upon him. The sun was hot, and his head, which had been aching more or less all day, now began to throb violently.

The spade dropt from his hands, and he fell on his face in the soft mould.

"What's this o' 't?" cried the old man, going up to him in a fright.

He caught hold of him by an arm, and turned him on his back. His face was colourless, and the life seemed to have gone out of him.

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