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   Chapter 35 PULL HIS TAIL.

Warlock o' Glenwarlock By George MacDonald Characters: 13642

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

About noon, when both the doctors happened to be out, Joan came to see him, and was more like her former self than she had been for many days. Hardly was she seated when he took the stick, and said,

"Did you ever see that before, Joan?"

"Do you remember showing me a horse just like that one, only larger?" she returned. "It was in the drawing-room."

"Quite well," he answered.

"It made me think of this," she continued, "which I had often seen in that same closet where I suppose you found it yesterday."

Cosmo unscrewed the joints and showed her the different boxes.

"There's nothing in them," he said; "but I suspect there is something about this stick more than we can tell. Do you remember the silly Scotch rime I repeated the other day, when you told me I had been talking poetry in my sleep?"

"Yes, very well," she answered.

"Those are words an uncle of my father, whom you may have heard of as the old captain, used to repeat very often."-At this Joan's face turned pale, but her back was to the light, and he did not see it.-"I will say them presently in English, that you may know what sense there may be in the foolishness of them. Now I must tell you that I am all but certain this stick once belonged to that same great uncle of mine-how it came into your father's possession I cannot say-and last night, as I was looking at it, I saw something that made me nearly sure this is the horse, insignificant as it looks, that was in my uncle's head when he repeated the rime. But Iwould do nothing without you."

"How kind of you, Cosmo!"

"Not kind; I had no right; the stick is yours."

"How can that be, if it belonged to your great uncle?" said Joan, casting down her eyes.

"Because it was more than fifty years in your father's possession, and he left it to you. Besides, I cannot be absolutely certain it is the same."

"Then I give it to you, Cosmo."

"I will not accept it, Joan-at least before you know what it is you want to give me.-And now for this foolish rime-in English!"

"Catch your horse and pull his tail;

In his hind heel drive a nail;

Pull his ears from one another:

Stand up and call the king your brother!"

"What's to come of it, I know no more than you do, Joan," continued Cosmo; "but if you will allow me, I will do with this horse what the rime says, and if they belong to each other, we shall soon see."

"Do whatever you please, Cosmo," returned Joan, with a tremble in her voice.

Cosmo began to screw off the top of the stick. Joan left her chair, drew nearer to the bed, and presently sat down on the edge of it, gazing with great wide eyes. She was more moved than Cosmo; there was a shadow of horror in her look; she dreaded some frightful revelation. Her father's habit of muttering his thoughts aloud, had given her many things to hear, although not many to understand. When the horse was free in Cosmo's hand, he set the stick aside, looked up, and said,

"The first direction the rime gives, is to pull his tail." With that he pulled the horse's tail-of silver, apparently, like the rest of him-pulled it hard; but it seemed of a piece with his body, and there was no visible result. The first shadow of approaching disappointment came creeping over him, but he looked up at Joan, and smiled as he said,

"He doesn't seem to mind that! We'll try the next thing-which is, to drive a nail in his hind heel.-Now look here, Joan! Here, in one of his hind shoes, is a hole that looks as if one of the nails had come out! That is what struck me, and brought the rime into my head! But how drive a nail into such a hole as that?"

"Perhaps a tack would go in," said Joan, rising. "I shall pull one out of the carpet."

"A tack would be much too large, I think," said Cosmo. "Perhaps a brad out of the gimp of that chair would do.-Or, stay, I know! Have you got a hair-pin you could give me?"

Joan sat down again on the bed, took off her bonnet, and searching in her thick hair soon found one. Cosmo took it eagerly, and applied it to the hole in the shoe. Nothing the least larger would have gone in. He pushed it gently, then a little harder-felt as if something yielded a little, returning his pressure, and pushed a little harder still. Something gave way, and a low noise followed, as of a watch running down. The two faces looked at each other, one red, and one pale. The sound ceased. They waited a little, in almost breathless silence. Nothing followed.

"Now," said Cosmo, "for the last thing!"

"Not quite the last," returned Joan, with what was nearly an hysterical laugh, trying to shake off the fear that grew upon her; "the last thing is to stand up and call the king your brother."

"That much, as non-essential, I daresay we shall omit," replied

Cosmo.-"The next then is, to pull his ears from each other."

He took hold of one of the tiny ears betwixt the finger and thumb of each hand, and pulled. The body of the horse came asunder, divided down the back, and showed inside of it a piece of paper. Cosmo took it out. It was crushed, rather than folded, round something soft. He handed it to Joan.

"It is your turn now, Joan," he said; "you open it. I have done my part."

Cosmo's eyes were now fixed on the movements of Joan's fingers undoing the little parcel, as hers had been on his while he was finding it. Within the paper was a piece of cotton wool. Joan dropped the paper, and unfolded the wool. Bedded in the middle of that were two rings. The eyes of Cosmo fixed themselves on one of them-the eyes of Joan upon the other. In the one Cosmo recognized a large diamond; in the other Joan saw a dark stone engraved with the Mergwain arms.

"This is a very valuable diamond," said Cosmo, looking closely at it.

"Then that shall be your share, Cosmo," returned Joan. "I will keep this if you don't mind."

"What have you got?" asked Cosmo.

"My father's signet-ring, I believe," she answered. "I have often heard him-bemoan the loss of it."

Lord Mergwain's ring in the old captain's stick! Things began to put themselves together in Cosmo's mind. He lay thinking.

The old captain had won these rings from the young lord and put them for safety in the horse; Borland suspected, probably charged him with false play; they fought, and his lordship carried away the stick to recover his own; but had failed to find the rings, taking the boxes in the bamboo for all there was of stowage in it.

It was by degrees, however, that this theory formed itself in his mind; now he saw only a glimmer of it here and there.

In the meantime he was not a little disappointed. Was this all the great mystery of the berimed horse? It was as if a supposed opal had burst, and proved but a soap-bubble!

Joan sat silent, looking at the signet-ring, and the tears came slowly in

her eyes.

"I MAY keep this ring, may I not, Cosmo?" she said.

"My dear Joan!" exclaimed Cosmo, "the ring is not mine to give anybody, but if you will give me the stick, I shall be greatly obliged to you."

"I will give it you on one condition, Cosmo," answered Joan, "-that you take the ring as well. I do not care about rings."

"I do," answered Cosmo; "but sooner than take this from you, Joan,

I would part with the hope of ever seeing you again. Why, dear

Joan, you don't know what this diamond is worth!-and you have no


"Neither have you," retorted Joan. "-What is the thing worth?"

"I do not like to say lest I should be wrong. If I could weigh it,

I should be better able to tell you. But its worth must anyhow be,

I think-somewhere towards two hundred pounds."

"Then take it, Cosmo. Or if you won't have it, give it to your father, with my dear love."

"My father would say to me-'How could you bring it, Cosmo!' But I will not forget to give him the message. That he will be delighted to have."

"But, Cosmo! it is of no use to me. How could I get the money you speak of for it? If I were to make an attempt of the kind, my brother would be sure to hear of it. It would be better to give it him at once."

"That difficulty is easily got over," answered Cosmo. "When I go, I will take it with me; I know where to get a fair price for it-not always easy for anything; I will send you the money, and you will be quite rich for a little while."

"My brother opens all my letters," replied Joan. "I don't think he cares to read them, but he sees who they are from."

"Do you have many letters, Joan?"

"Not many. Perhaps about one a month, or so."

"I could send it to Dr. Jermyn."

Joan hesitated a moment, but did not object. The next instant they heard the doctor's step at the door, and his hand on the lock. Joan rose hastily, caught up her bonnet, and sat down a little way off. Cosmo drew the ring and the pieces of the horse under the bed-clothes.

Jermyn cast a keen glance on the two as he entered, took for confusion the remains of excitement, and said to himself he must make haste. He felt Cosmo's pulse, and pronounced him feverish, then, turning to Joan, said he must not talk, for he had not got over yesterday; it might be awkward if he had a relapse. Joan rose at once, and took her leave, saying she would come and see him the next morning. Jermyn went down with her, and sent Cosmo a draught.

When he had taken it, he felt inclined to sleep, and turned himself from the light. But the stick, which was leaning against the head of the bed, slipped, and fell on a part of the floor where there was no carpet; the noise startled and roused him, and the thought came that he had better first of all secure the ring-for which purpose undoubtedly there could be no better place than the horse! There, however, the piece of cotton wool would again be necessary, for without it the ring would rattle. He put the ring in the heart of it, replaced both in the horse, and set about discovering how to close it again.

This puzzled him not a little. Spring nor notch, nor any other means of attachment between the two halves of the animal, could he find. But at length he noted that the tail had slipped a little way out, and was loose; and experimenting with it, by and by discovered that by holding the parts together, and winding the tail round and round, the horse-how, he could not tell-was restored to its former apparent solidity.

And now where would the horse be safest? Clearly in its own place on the stick. He got out of bed therefore to pick the stick up, and in so doing saw on the carpet the piece of paper which had been round the cotton. This he picked up also, and getting again into bed, had begun to replace the handle of the bamboo, when his eyes fell again on the piece of paper, and he caught sight of crossing lines on it, which looked like part of a diagram of some sort. He smoothed it out, and saw indeed a drawing, but one quite unintelligible to him. It must be a sketch or lineation of something-but of what? or of what kind of thing? It might be of the fields constituting a property; it might be of the stones in a wall; it might be of an irregular mosaic; or perhaps it might be only a school-boy's exercise in trigonometry for land-measuring. It must mean something; but it could hardly mean anything of consequence to anybody! Still it had been the old captain's probably-or perhaps the old lord's: he would replace it also where he had found it. Once more he unscrewed the horse from the stick, opened it with Joan's hair-pin, placed the paper in it, closed all up again, and lay down, glad that Joan had got such a ring, but thinking the old captain had made a good deal of fuss about a small matter. He fell fast asleep, slept soundly, and woke much better.

In the evening came the doctor, and spent the whole of it with him, interesting and pleasing him more than ever, and displaying one after another traits of character which Cosmo, more than prejudiced in his favour already, took for additional proofs of an altogether exceptional greatness of character and aim. Nor am I capable of determining how much or how little Jermyn may have deceived himself in regard of the same.

Now that Joan had this ring, and his personal attachment to the doctor had so greatly increased, Cosmo found himself able to revert to the offer Jermyn once made of lending him a little money, which he had then declined. He would take the ring to Mr. Burns on his way home, and then ask Joan to repay Dr. Jermyn out of what he sent her for it. He told Jermyn therefore, as he sat by his bed-side, that he found himself obliged after all to accept the said generous proposal, but would return the money before he got quite home.

The doctor smiled, with reasons for satisfaction more than Cosmo knew, and taking out his pocket-book, said, as he opened it,

"I have just cashed a cheque, fortunately, so you had better have the money at once.-Don't bother yourself about it," he added, as he handed him the notes; "there is no hurry. I know it is safe."

"This is too much," said Cosmo.

"Never mind; it is better to have too much than too little; it will be just as easy to repay."

Cosmo thanked him, and put the money under his pillow. The doctor bade him good night, and left him.

The moment he was alone, a longing greater than he had ever yet felt, arose in his heart to see his father. The first hour he was able to travel, he would set out for home! His camera obscura haunted with flashing water and speedwells and daisies and horse-gowans, he fell fast asleep, and dreamed that his father and he were defending the castle from a great company of pirates, with the old captain at the head of them.

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