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   Chapter 41 THE SCHOOLMASTER.

Warlock o' Glenwarlock By George MacDonald Characters: 14266

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


It is time I told my readers something about Joan. But it is not much I have to tell. Cosmo received from her an answer to his letter concerning the ring within a week; and this is what she wrote:

"MY DEAR COSMO, of course I cannot understand why you went away as you did. It makes me very unhappy, lest I should be somehow to blame. But I trust you ENTIRELY. I too hope for the day when it will be impossible to hide anything. I always find myself when I wake in the morning, trying to understand why you went away so, and one reason after another comes, but I have not got the real one yet-at least I think not. I will pay Dr. Jermyn the money with all my heart. I cannot pay him just yet, because the same day you left he was called to London upon medical business, and has not yet returned. Give my love to your father. I hope you are safe and happy with him by this time. I wish I were with you! Will that day ever come again? I cannot tell you how I miss you. It is not wonderful, if you will only think of it. I hope, dear Cosmo, it was not my fault that you went away. I know my behaviour was such as to most people would have seemed very strange, but you are not most people, and I did and do think you understood it, and made all the allowance for me that could be made. I had almost forgot to thank you for the money. I do thank you, Cosmo, but I should have been much more grateful had you kept it. It is all so stupid-and next to no use without you or your father! And to know I have such a large sum in the house that my brother knows nothing about, quite frightens me sometimes. I wish you had left me the horse to hide it in. I feel very much like a thief, and I am sure my brother would think of me as one if he knew. I feel sometimes as if there were an evil imp in the drawer where it lies. Mind you do not make the slightest allusion to it in any of your letters, and ask your father not to do so either. It has just one comfort in it-that I could now, if driven to it, run away. My love to your father. Your loving cousin, JOAN."

Long before this letter arrived, Cosmo had told his father everything; and he, although he could not believe there was anything between Joan and the doctor, quite approved of his conduct.

"Wait upon the Lord," he said, after listening with the excitement of a young heart, the ache of an old one, and the hope of a strong one, to his son's narrative; "wait patiently on him, and he will give thee thy heart's desire."

They waited, and patiently.

What was there now that Cosmo could do to make a little money? With Mr. Simon he held many an anxious conference on the matter, but nothing could either think of except the heart-wearing endeavour after favour with one or other of the magazines-involving an outlay of much time, a sick deferment of hope, and great discouragement; for how small were the chances of his work proving acceptable to this or that man who, with the best intentions for the SUCCESS of the magazine in his charge, and a keen enough perception of the unworthy in literature, had most likely no special love for the truth, or care to teach it, and was besides under the incapacitating influence, the deadening, debilitating, stupefying effect of having continually to judge-not to mention the enervating hopelessness that at length falls, I presume, upon every editor of a popular magazine, of finding one pearl among the cartloads of oysters sent him by unknown divers in the gulf of literature-filling him with amazement that there should be so many to write so well, and so few to write better. Mr. Simon nevertheless encouraged Cosmo to make the attempt, seeing that to one who had nothing else to do, it involved no loss, and would be certain gain to both head and heart, with just the possibility as well of a little return in money. So he set to work, and wrote, and wrote, and sent, and-sent, but heard nothing and nothing.

The weeks came and went, and the frosts came and went, and then came and staid: and the snow fell and melted, and then fell and lay; and winter settled down with moveless rigour upon Castle Warlock. Nor had it lasted long, before it became evident that the natural powers of the laird had begun to fail more rapidly. But sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof, and that in the matter of death as well as of life; if we are not to forestall the difficulties of living, surely we are not to forestall the sorrows of dying. There was one thing, however, that did trouble him: the good old man's appetite had begun to fail, and how was he to get for him what might tempt him to eat? He was always contented, nor ever expressed a desire for anything not in the house; but this was what sent Cosmo on his knees oftenest of all-oftener even than his own spiritual necessities.

Never surely did household, even in Scotland, live upon less! Cosmo had to watch Grizzie to know that she ate at all, and once came nearly to the conclusion that she ate only dry meal.

He would have had his father take his grandmother's room now she was gone, but he would not leave the one he had last occupied with his wife. From that he would go, he said, as she had gone. So Cosmo took his grandmother's, and there wrote and read-and when his father could not, in the very cold weather, leave his bed, was within the call of the slightest knock upon his floor. But every now and then, when the cold would abate a little, the laird would revive, and hope grow strong in the mind of his son: his father was by no means an old man yet, he would persuade himself, and might be intended to live many years; and thereupon he would set to work with fresh vigour. But it is hard to labour without encouragement, or apparent prospect of result.

Many a time did the Gracies go without milk that they might send for the laird the little their cow gave; but, though Cosmo never refused their kindness, as indeed he had no right, it went to his heart that the two old people should go without what was as needful for them as for his father. Mr. Simon too would every now and then send something from his house or from the village-oftener than Cosmo knew, for he had taken Grizzie into his confidence, and she was discreet. But now at length fell a heavenly crumb to keep the human sparrows picking.

The schoolmaster at the Muir, he who had behaved so insolently to the Warlocks, father and son, had returned to his duties at the end of the HAIRST-PLAY, but had been getting worse for some time, and was at length unable to go on. He must therefore provide a substitute, and Cosmo heard that he was on the outlook for one.

Now Cosmo knew that, if he had desired to be made parish-schoolmaster, the influence of Lord Lick-my-loof would have been too strong against him, but it seemed possible that his old master might have so far forgotten by-gones as to be willing to employ him. He went to him therefore the same hour, and being shown into the room where he sat wrapt in blankets, laid before him his petition.

Now the schoolmaster, although both worldly in his judgment, and hasty in his temper, was not a heartless man. Keen

feelings are not always dissociated from brutality even. One thing will reach the heart that another will not; and much that looks like heartlessness, may be mainly stupidity. He had never ceased, after the first rush of passion, to regret he had used the word that incensed the boy; and although he had never to his own heart confessed himself wrong in knocking down the violator of the sacredness of the master's person, yet, unconsciously to himself, he had for that been sorry also. Had he been sorrier, his pride would yet have come between him and confession. When the boy, then, on whom for years he had not set his eyes, stood unexpectedly before him, a fine youth, down in the world, and come, as he anticipated the moment he saw him, to beg a favour-behold an opportunity, not only of making reparation without confession, but of induing the dignity of forgiveness! He received Cosmo, therefore, with the stiffness of a condescending inferior, it is true, but with kindness notwithstanding, and, having heard his request, accorded immediately a gracious assent, which so filled Cosmo with gratitude that he could not help showing some emotion, whereupon the heart of the schoolmaster in its turn asserted itself; and from that moment friendly relations were established between them.

Things were soon arranged. Cosmo was to be paid by the week, and should commence his work the next morning. He returned therefore in great consolation, carrying with him for his father one or two simple luxuries the village afforded. That night he hardly could sleep for joy.

He set about his new duties with zeal. Teaching itself is far from easy work to anyone anxious to make it genuine; and Cosmo had besides to leave home early in all kinds of wintry weather, and walk to it through the bitterness of BLACK FROST, the shifting toil of deep snow, or the assault of fierce storm. But he thought nothing of the labour or its accessories of discomfort; the only thing he felt hard was having to leave his father all the winter-day alone, for it was generally five o'clock before he got back to him.

And now in the heart of the laird arose a fresh gratitude for the son God had given him. His hours passed mainly in devotion and anticipation. Every time he received his son from the arms of the winter to his own, it was like the welcoming of one lost and found again.

Into the stern weather of their need had stolen a summer-day to keep hope alive. Cosmo gave up his writing, and spent all the time he had at home in waiting with mind and body upon his father. He read to him-sometimes his own poetry,-and that his father liked best of all, because therein he came nearer to his boy; now and then, when he was too weary for thought, he would play backgammon with him; and sometimes, when he was himself more tired than usual, would get Grizzie to come and tell yet again the stories she used to tell him when he was a child-some of which his father enjoyed the more that he remembered having heard them when he was himself a child. Upon one of these occasions, Grizzie brought from her treasury a tale which the laird remembered his grandmother's saying she too had heard when she was a child, and therewith it came into Cosmo's head to write it out, as nearly as he could, in Grizzie's words, and try a magazine with it. For the first time he received an answer-the most agreeable part of which was a small cheque, and the next most agreeable the request that he would send another paper of like character. Grizzie's face, when she learned in what way, and how largely, as it seemed to her, she had commenced contributing to the income of the family, was a sight worth a good deal more than a good dinner to both father and son. At first she imagined Cosmo was making game of her, and stood upon the dignity of her legends; but convinced at length of the fact of the case, she stared into nowhere for a minute, and then said,

"Eh, sirs! Oot o' the moo' o' babes an' sucklin's! The Lord be praist, whan herts is raist!"

"Amen, Grizzie!" responded the laird. "Eh, wuman? gien ever ane wana place in a faimily, her ain by foreordeenment o' the fatherly providence 'at luiks efter the faimilies o' men, Grizzie, ye're that wuman!"

Word to please Grizzie better the laird could not have found. It sunk in and in, for her pleasure could make no show, there being no room for any growth in the devotion of her ministrations.

And now Cosmo would take no more of the Gracies' milk, but got Aggie to go every day to a farm near, and buy what was required for his father, and Aggie was regular as the clock, sunshine or storm.

But there was another thing in which she was not quite so regular, but which yet she never missed when she could help it; so that, as often as three and occasionally four times in the week, Cosmo would find her waiting for him somewhere on his way home, now just outside the village, now nearer Glenwarlock, according to the hour when she had got through her work. The village talked, and Aggie knew it, but did not heed it; for she had now in her own feeling recovered her former position towards him; and it was one of the comforts of Cosmo's labour, when the dulness or contrariety of the human animal began to be too much for him, to think of the talk with Agnes he might hope was waiting him. Under Mr. Simon she had made much progress, and was now a companion fit for any thinking man. The road home was not half the length to Cosmo when Agnes walked it too. Thinking inside, and labouring outside, she was, in virtue of the necessities of her life, such a woman as not the most vaunted means of education, without the weight and seeming hindrances of struggle, can produce. One of the immortal women she was-for she had set out to grow forevermore-for whom none can predict an adequate future, save him who knows what he is making of her.

Her behaviour to Cosmo was that of a half sister, who, born in a humbler position, from which she could not rise, was none the less his sister, and none the less loved him. Whether she had anything to struggle with in order to keep this position, I am not prepared to say; but I have a suspicion that the behaviour of Elspeth, which so roused her scorn, had something to do with the restoring of the old relation between them. The most jealous of REASONABLE mothers could hardly have complained of her behaviour in Cosmo's company, however much she might have disapproved of her seeking it as she did. But it is well that God, and not even reasonable mothers, has the ordering of those things in which they consider themselves most interested, and are not unfrequently intrusive. Next to his father and Mr. Simon, Agnes Gracie was the most valued of Cosmo's friends. Mr. Burns came next. For Lady Joan, he never thought of her by the side of anybody else. If he had not learned to love her, I think he might now very well have loved Agnes. And if Cosmo had asked her now, when marriage was impossible, to marry him when he could marry, I do not know what Agnes might have answered. But he did not, and they remained the best of trusting friends.

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