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Warlock o' Glenwarlock By George MacDonald Characters: 12244

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

When Cosmo the second time opened his eyes, he was afresh bewildered. Which was the dream-that vision of wretchedness, or this of luxury? If it was not a dream, how had they moved him without once disturbing his sleep? It was as marvellous as anything in the Arabian Nights! Could it be the same chamber? Not a thing seemed the same, yet in him was a doubtful denial of transportance. Yes, the ceiling was the same! The power of the good fairy had not reached to the transformation of that! But the walls! Instead of the great hole in the plaster close by the bed, his eyes fell on a piece of rich old tapestry! Curtains of silk damask, all bespotted with quaintest flowers, each like a page of Chaucer's poetry, hung round his bed, quite other than fit sails for the Stygian boat. They had made the bed as different as the vine in summer from the vine in winter. A quilt of red satin lay in the place of the patchwork coverlid. Everything had been changed. He thought the mattress felt soft under him-but that was only a fancy, for he saw before the fire the feather-bed intended to lie between him and it. He felt like a tended child, in absolute peace and bliss-or like one just dead, while yet weary with the struggle to break free. He seemed to recall the content, of which some few vaguest filaments, a glance and no more, still float in the summer-air of many a memory, wherein the child lies, but just awaked to consciousness and the mere bliss of being, before wrong has begun to cloud its pure atmosphere. For Cosmo had nothing on his conscience to trouble it; his mind was stored with lovely images and was fruitful in fancies, because in temperament, faith, and use, he was a poet; the evil vapours of fever had just lifted from his brain, and were floating away, in the light of the sun of life; he felt the pressure of no duty-was like a bird of the air lying under its mother's wing, and dreaming of flight; his childhood's most cherished dream had grown fact: there was the sylph, the oriad, the naiad of all his dreams, a living lady before his eyes-nor the less a creature of his imagination's heart; from her, as the centre of power, had all the marvellous transformation proceeded; and the lovely strength had kissed him on the forehead! The soul of Cosmo floated in rapturous quiet, like the evening star in a rosy cloud.

But I return to the earthly shore that bordered this heavenly sea. The old-fashioned, out-swelling grate, loose and awry in its setting, had a keen little fire burning in it, of which, summer as it was, the mustiness of the atmosphere, and the damp of the walls, more than merely admitted. The hole in the floor had vanished under a richly faded Turkey carpet; and a luxurious sofa, in blue damask, faded almost to yellow, stood before the fire, to receive him the moment he should cease to be a chrysalis. And there in an easy chair by the corner of the hearth, wonder of all loveliest wonders, sat the fairy-godmother herself, as if she had but just waved her wand, and everything had come to her will!-the fact being, however, that the poor fairy was not a little tired in legs and arms and feet and hands and head, and preferred contemplating what she had already done, to doing anything more for the immediate present.

Cosmo lay watching her. He dared not move a hand, lest she should move; for, though it might be to rise and come to him, would it not be to change what he saw?-and what he saw was so much enough, that he would see it forever, and desired nothing else. She turned her eyes, and seeing the large orbs of the youth fixed upon her, smiled as she had not smiled before, for a great weight was off her heart now that the room gave him a little welcome. True, it was after all but a hypocrite of a room,-a hypocrite, however, whose meaning was better than its looks!

He put out his hand, and she rose and came and laid hers in it.

Suddenly he let it go.

"I beg your pardon," he said. "I don't know when my hands were washed! The last I remember is digging in the garden. I wish I might wash my face and hands!"

"You mustn't think of it! you can't sit up yet," said Lady Joan. "But never mind: some people are always clean. You should see my brother's hands sometimes! I will, if you like, bring you a towel with a wet corner. I dare say that will do you good."

She poured water into a basin from a kettle on the hob, and dipping the corner of a towel in it, brought it to him. He tried to use it, but his hands obeyed him so ill that she took it from him, and herself wiped with it his face and hands, and then dried them-so gently, so softly, he thought that must be how his mother did with him when he was a baby. All the time, he lay looking up at her with a grateful smile. She then set about preparing him some tea and toast, during which he watched her every motion. When he had had the tea, he fell asleep, and when he woke next he was alone.

An hour or so later, the gardener's wife brought him a basin of soup, and when he had taken it, told him she would then leave him for the night: if he wanted anything, as there was no bell, he must pull the string she tied to the bed-post. He was very weary, but so comfortable, and so happy, his brain so full of bright yet soft-coloured things, that he felt as if he would not mind being left ages alone. He was but two and twenty, with a pure conscience, and an endless hope-so might he not well lie quiet in his bed?

By the middle of the night, however, the tide of returning health showed a check; there came a strong reaction, with delirium; his pulse was high, and terrible fancies tormented him, through which passed continually with persistent recurrence the figure of the old captain, always swinging a stick about his head, and crooning to himself the foolish rime,

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

At last, at the moment when once more his persecutor was commencing his childish ditty, he felt as if, from the top of a mountain a hundred miles away, a cold cloud c

ame journeying through the sky, and descended upon him. He opened his eyes: there was Joan, and the cold cloud was her soft cool hand on his forehead. The next thing he knew was that she was feeding him like a child. But he did not know that she never left him again till the morning, when, seeing him gently asleep, she stole away like a ghost in the gray dawn.

The next day he was better, but for several nights the fever returned, and always in his dreams he was haunted by variations on the theme of the auld captain; and for several days he felt as if he did not want to get better, but would lie forever a dreamer in the enchanted palace of the glamoured ruin. But that was only his weakness, and gradually he gained strength.

Every morning and every afternoon Lady Joan visited him, waited on him, and staid a longer or shorter time, now talking, now reading to him; and seldom would she be a whole evening absent-then only on the rare occasion when Lord Mergwain, having some one to dine with him of the more ordinary social stamp, desired her presence as lady of the house. Even then she would almost always have a peep at him one time or another. She did not know much about books, but would take up this or that, almost as it chanced to her hand in the library; and Cosmo cared little what she read, so long as he could hear her voice, which often beguiled him into the sweetest sleep with visions of home and his father. If the story she read was foolish, it mattered nothing; he would mingle with it his own fancies, and weave the whole into the loveliest of foolish dreams, all made up of unaccountably reasonable incongruities: the sensible look in dreams of what to the waking mind is utterly incoherent, is the most puzzling of things to him who would understand his own unreason. And the wild MR CHENHAFT lovelinesses that fashioned themselves thus in his brain, outwardly lawless, but inwardly so harmonious as to be altogether credible to the dreamer, were not lost in the fluttering limbo of foolish invention, but, in altered shape and less outlandish garments, appeared again, when, in after years, he sought vent for the all but unspeakable. During this time he would often talk verse in his sleep, such as to Lady Joan, at least, sometimes seemed lovely, though she never could get a hold of it, she said; for always, just as she seemed on the point of understanding it, he would cease, and her ears would ache with the silence.

One warm evening, when now a good deal better, and able to sit up a part of the day, Cosmo was lying on the sofa, watching her face as she read. Through the age-dusted window came the glowing beams of the setting sun, lined and dulled and blotted. They fell on her hands, and her hands reflected them, in a pale rosy gleam, upon her face.

"How beautiful you are in the red light, Joan!" said Cosmo.

"That's the light, not me," she returned.

"Yes, it IS you. The red light shows you more as you are. In the

dark even YOU do not look beautiful. Then you may say if you like,

'That is the dark, not me.' Don't you remember what Portia says in

The Merchant of Venice,"

'The crow doth sing as sweetly as the lark

When neither is attended; and I think

The nightingale, if she should sing by day

When every goose is cackling, would be thought

No better a musician than the wren.

How many things by reason reasoned are

To their right praise and true perfection!'

"You see he says, not that beautiful things owe their beauty, but the right seeing of their beauty, to circumstance. So the red light makes me SEE you more beautiful-not than you are-that could not be-but than I could see you in another light-a gray one for instance."

"You mustn't flatter me, Cosmo. You don't know what harm you may do me."

"I love you too much to flatter you," he said.

She raised the book, and began to read again.

Cosmo had gone on as he began-had never narrowed the channels that lay wide and free betwixt his soul and his father and Mr. Simon; Lady Joan had no such aqueducts to her ground, and many a bitter wind blew across its wastes; it ought not therefore to be matter of surprise that, although a little younger, Cosmo should be a good way ahead of Joan both in knowledge and understanding. Hence the conversations they now had were to Joan like water to a thirsty soul-the hope of the secret of life, where death had seemed waiting at the door. She would listen to the youth, rendered the more enthusiastic by his weakness, as to a messenger from the land of truth. In the old time she had thought Cosmo a wonderful boy, saying the strangest things like common things everybody knew: now he said more wonderful things still, she thought, but as if he knew they were strange, and did his best to make it easier to receive them. She wondered whether, if he had been a woman with a history like hers, he would have been able to keep that bright soul shining through all the dreariness, to see through the dusty windows the unchanged beauty of things, and save alive his glorious hope. She began to see that she had not begun at the beginning with anything, had let things draw her this way and that, nor put forth any effort to master circumstance by accepting its duty.

On Cosmo's side, the passion of the believer in the unseen had laid hold upon him; and as the gardener awaits the blossoming of some strange plant, of whose loveliness marvellous tales have reached his ears, so did he wait for something entrancing to issue from the sweet twilight sadnesses of her being, the gleams that died into dusk, the deep voiceless ponderings into which she would fall.

They talked now about any book they were reading, but it mattered little more what it was, for even a stupid book served as well as another to set their own fountains flowing. That afternoon Joan was reading from one partly written, partly compiled, in the beginning of the century, somewhat before its time in England. It might have been the work of an imitator at once of de la Motte Fouque, and the old British romancers. And this was what she read.

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