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   Chapter 42 GRANNIE AND THE STICK.

Warlock o' Glenwarlock By George MacDonald Characters: 7219

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


This winter, the wind that drops the ripened fruit not plucked before, blew hard upon old Grannie, who had now passed her hundredth year. For some time Agnes had not been able to do much for her, but another great-grandchild, herself a widow and a mother, was spending the winter with her. On his way to or from school, Cosmo every day looked in to see or enquire after her; and when he heard she had had a bad night he would always think how with her would fail the earthly knowledge of not a little of the past of his family, and upon one of these occasions resolved that he would at least find out whether she remembered the bamboo he had brought from Cairncarque.

Calling when school was over, he heard she was a little better, and the next morning brought with him the cane. In the afternoon he learned that she had had a better night, and going in found her in her chair by the fireside, and took his place by her so that the light from the window at her back should fall upon the stick.

He had not sat more than a minute, when he saw her eyes fixed upon the horse.

"What's that ye hae there, Cosmo?" she said.

"This?" returned Cosmo. "It's a cane I pickit up upo' my traivels.

What think ye o' 't?"

He held it out to her, but she did not move her hand towards it.

"Whaur got ye't?" she asked, her eyes growing larger as she looked.

"What gars ye speir, grannie?" he returned, with assumed indifference.

"I dinna believe there was anither like the ane that's like," she replied.

"In which case," rejoined Cosmo, "it maun be the same. Ken ye onything aboot it?"

"Ay; an' sae du ye, or ye hae less sense nor I wad hae mintit o' a Warlock. That stick's no a stick like ither sticks, an' I wuss I was nearer hame."

"Ye dinna mean, grannie, there's onything no canny aboot the stick?" said Cosmo.

"I wadna like to think him near me 'at aucht it." she replied.

"Wha auchit it, grannie?"

"Rive't a' to bits, laddie; there's something by ordnar aboot it. The auld captain made o' 't as gien it had been his graven image. That was his stick ye hae i' yer han', whaurever ye got it; an' it was seldom oot o' his frae mornin' till nicht. Some wad hae't hetuik it til's bed wi' him. I kenna aboot that; but gien by ony accident he set it oot frae 'atween his knees, it was never oot o' the sicht o' his e'en. I hae seen him mysel', missin' 't like, luik up o' a suddent as gien his sowl hed been requiret o' 'im, an' grip at it as gien it hed been his proadigal son come hame oonexpeckit."

Cosmo told her where he had found it.

"I tellt ye sae!" she cried. "The murderin' villian cairriet it wi' him, weel kennin what was intil 't!"

Cosmo showed her the joints and their boxes, telling her he had searched them all, but had found nothing. She shook her head.

"Ower late! ower late!" she murmured. "The rievin' English lord was aforehan' wi' the heir!"

She seemed then to fall into a kind of lethargic musing, and as Cosmo had not yet made up his mind to show her the paper he had found in the top of the cane, and ask her opinion concerning it, for the present he bade her good-night-little thinking he was not to see her again in this world. For that same night she died.

And now when his opportunity was over, and he could learn no more from her, the mind of Cosmo was exercised afresh concerning the bamboo. According to Grannie, its owner habitually showed anxiety for its safety, and had it continually under his eye. It did not seem likely that the rings had been in it long when it was taken from him, neither that at any time he would have chose

n to carry like valuables about with him in such a receptacle. It could hardly therefore be because of those or of similar precious things concealed in it, that he was always so watchful over it. It was possible, indeed, that from often using it for temporary concealment, he had come to regard it with constant anxiety; but the conjecture did not satisfy Cosmo. And as often as he turned the thing over in his mind, his speculation invariably settled on the unintelligible paper. It was true the said paper had seemed not so much there for its own safety, as by chance employment for the protection of the jewels round which it was, after all, rather squeezed than folded; but a man may crumple up his notes and thrust them in his pocket, yet care more for them than for anything else in the same place.

Thinking of the thing one night after he was in bed, it occurred to him suddenly to ask himself what he had done with the paper, for he could not remember when he had last seen it. He got up, took the stick, which being Joan's gift he always carried to his room, and opening the horse, which he could now do without his eyes, found it empty. This made him uneasy, and he lay down again to think what he could have done with it. It was dark night, and his anxiety was not so great but that sleep presented its claim upon him. He resisted it however, unwilling to yield until he had at least thought of some probability with regard to the paper. But, like a soundless tide, sleep kept creeping upon him, and he kept starting from it with successive spur-pricks of the will which had not yet consented to the nightly annihilation. Bethinking himself in one of these revivals that he might have put it in his pocket-book, he stretched his hand to the chair beside the bed on which lay his clothes. Then came a gap in his consciousness, and the next thing he knew was the pocket-book in his hand, with the memory or the dream, he could not afterwards tell which, of having searched it in vain.

He now felt so anxious that he could rest no longer, but must get up and look for the paper until he found it. He rose and lighted his candle, went down the stair to the kitchen, and out of the house-then began to doubt whether he was awake, but, like one compelled, went on to the great door, and up to the drawing-room, when first he became aware that the moon was shining, and all at once remembered a former dream, and knew it was coming to him again: there it was!-the old captain, seated in his chair, with the moon on his face, and a ghastly look! He felt his hair about to stand on end with terror, but resisted with all his might. The rugged, scarred countenance gazed fixedly at him, and he did his best to return the gaze. The appearance rose, and walked from the room, and Cosmo knew he had to follow it to the room above, which he had not once entered since his return. There, as before, it went to the other side of the bed, and disappeared. But this time the dream went a little farther. Despite his fear, Cosmo followed, and in the wall, by the head of the bed, saw an open door. He hurried up to it, but seemed to strike against the wall, and woke. He was in bed, but his heart was beating a terribly quick march. His pocket-book was in his hand: he struck a light, and searching in it, found the missing paper.

The next night, he told his dream to his father and Mr Simon, and they had a talk about dreams and apparitions; then all three pored over the paper, but far from arriving at any conclusion, seemed hardly to get a glimpse of anything that could be called light upon its meaning.

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