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   Chapter 34 CATCH YOUR HORSE.

Warlock o' Glenwarlock By George MacDonald Characters: 5432

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

When Cosmo was left alone in his room, with orders from the doctor to put himself to bed, he sank wearily on a chair that stood with its back to the light; then first his eye fell upon the stick he carried. Joan had brought him his stick when he was ready to go into the garden, but this was not that stick. He must have caught it up somewhere instead of his own! Where could it have been? He had no recollection either of laying down his own, or of thinking he took it again. After a time he recalled this much, that, in the horrible room they had last left, at the moment when Joan cried out because of the sound of her brother's approach, he was walking to the closet to look at something in it that had attracted his attention-seeming in the dusk, from its dull shine, the hilt of a sword. The handle of the walking stick he now held must be that very thing! But he could not tell whether he had caught it up with any idea of defence, or simply in the dark his hand had come into contact with it and instinctively closed upon it, he could not even conjecture. But why should he have troubled his head so about a stick? Because this was a notably peculiar one: the handle of that stick was in form a repetition of the golden horse that had carried him to the university! Their common shape was so peculiar, that not only was there no mistaking it, but no one who saw the two could have avoided the conviction that they had a common origin, and if any significance, then a common one. There was an important difference however: even if in substance this were the same as the other, it could yet be of small value: the stick thus capped was a bamboo, rather thick, but handle and all, very light.

Proceeding to examine it, Cosmo found that every joint was double-mounted and could be unscrewed. Of joints there were three, each forming a small box. In the top one were a few grains of snuff, in the middle one a little of something that looked like gold dust, and the third smelt of opium. The top of the cane had a cap of silver, with a screw that went into the lower part of the horse, which thus made a sort of crutch-handle to the stick. He had screwed off, and was proceeding to replace this handle, when his eye was arrested, his heart seemed to stand still, and the old captain's foolish rime came rushing into his head. He started from his chair, took the thing to the window, and there stood regarding it fixedly. Beyond a doubt this was his great grand-uncle's, the auld captain's, stick, the only thing missed when his body was found! but whence such an assured conviction? and why did the old captain's rime, whose application to the golden horse his father and he had rejected, return at sight of th

is one, so much its inferior? In a word, whence the eagerness of curiosity that now possessed Cosmo?

In turning the handle upside down, he saw that from one of the horse's delicately finished shoes, a nail was missing, and its hole left empty. It was a hind shoe too!

"Caitch yer naig, an' pu' his tail;

In his bin' heel caw a nail!"

"I do believe," he said to himself, "this is the horse that was in the old villain's head every time he uttered the absurd rime!"

There must then be in the cane a secret, through which possibly the old man had overreached himself! Had that secret, whatever it was, been discovered, or did it remain for him now to discover?

A passion of curiosity seized him, but something held him back. What was it? The stick was not his property; any discovery concerning or by means of it, ought to be made with the consent and in the presence of the owner of it-her to whom the old lord had left his personal property!

And now Cosmo had to go through an experience as strange as it was new, for, in general of a quietly expectant disposition, he had now such a burning desire to conquer the secret of the stick, as appeared to him to savour of POSSESSION. It was so unlike himself, that he was both angry and ashamed. He set it aside and went to bed. But the haunting eagerness would not let him rest; it kept him tossing from side to side, and was mingled with strangest fears lest the stick should vanish as mysteriously as it had come-lest when he woke he should find it had been carried away. He got out of bed, unscrewed the horse, and placed it under his pillow. But there it tormented him like an aching spot. It went on drawing him, tempting him, mocking him. He could not keep his hands from it. A hundred times he resolved he would not touch it again, and of course kept his resolution so long as he thought of it; but the moment he forgot it, which he did repeatedly in wondering why Joan did not come, the horse would be in his hand. Every time he woke from a moment's sleep, he found it in his hand.

On his return from accompanying Lady Joan, Jermyn came to him, found him feverish, and prescribed for him. Disappointed that Joan was gone without seeing him, his curiosity so entirely left him that he could not recall what it was like, and never imagined its possible return. Nor did it reappear so long as he was awake, but all through his dreams the old captain kept reminding him that the stick was his own. "Do it; do it; don't put off," he kept saying; but as often as Cosmo asked him what, he could never hear his reply, and would wake yet again with the horse in his hand. In the morning he screwed it on the stick again, and set it by his bed-side.

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