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   Chapter 44 GRIZZIE'S RIGHTS.

Warlock o' Glenwarlock By George MacDonald Characters: 21265

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


In those days Mistress Gracie fell sick, and though for a while neither husband nor grand-daughter thought seriously of her ailment, it proved more than her age, worn with labour, could endure, and she began to sink. Then Grizzie must go and help nurse her, for, Cosmo being at home all day long, the laird could well enough spare her.

Father and son were now seldom out of each other's sight. When Cosmo was writing, the laird would be reading in the same room; and when, after their dinner, the laird slept, Cosmo would generally read his New-testament beside him, and as often as he woke fresh from his nap, the two would talk about what the one had been reading, and Cosmo would impart what fresh light the Greek had given him. The capacity of the old man for taking in what was new, was wonderful, and yet not to be wondered at, seeing it was the natural result of the constant practice of what he learned-for all truth understood becomes duty. To him that obeys well, the truth comes easy; to him who does not obey, it comes not, or comes in forms of fear and dismay. The true, that is the obedient man, cannot help seeing the truth, for it is the very business of his being-the natural concern, the correlate of his soul. The religion of these two was obedience and prayer; their theories only the print of their spiritual feet as they walked homeward.

The road which Lord Lick-my-loof had broken up, went nearly straight from Castle Warlock to the cottage of the Gracies, where it joined the road that passed his lodge. And now came Grizzie's call to action! The moment she found her services required for Mistress Gracie, she climbed the gate of the close, from the top of it stepped upon the new wall, thence let herself down on the disfeatured road, and set out to follow its track, turn for turn, through the ploughed land. In the evening she came back the same way, scrambled over the wall and the gate, and said never a word, nor was asked a question. To visit his tenants the laird himself went a mile about, but most likely he was not prepared to strain his authority with Grizzie, and therefore was as one who knew nothing.

Before the week was out, her steps, and hers alone, had worn a visible and very practicable footpath across the enemy's field; and whether Lord Lick-my-loof was from home, or that he willed the trespass to assume its most defined form and yield personal detection ere he moved in the matter, the week went by without notice taken.

On the Sunday morning however, as Grizzie was on her way to the cottage, she suddenly spied, over the edge of a hollow through which her path ran, the head of Lord Lick-my-loof: he was following the track she had made, and would presently meet her. Wide spread her nostrils, like those of the war-horse, for she too smelt the battle from afar.

"Here's auld Belzebub at last!'gaein to an' fro i' the earth, an' walkin' up an' doon intil 't!" she said to herself. "Noo's for me to priv the trowth 'o Scriptur! Whether he'll flee or no, we'll see: I s' resist him. It's no me 'at'll rin, ony gait!"

His lordship had been standing by his lodge on the outlook, and when he saw Grizzie approaching, had started to encounter her. As she drew near he stopped, and stood in the path motionless. On she came till within a single pace of him. He did not move. She stopped.

"I doobt, my lord," she said, "I'll hae to mak the ro'd a bit wider. There's hardly room for yer lordship an' anither. But I'm gettin' on fine!"

"Is the woman an idiot!" exclaimed his lordship.

"Muckle siclike 's yersel', my lord!" answered Grizzie;-"no that muckle wit but I might hae mair, to guide my steps throuw the wilderness ye wad mak o' no an ill warl'."

"Are you aware, woman, that you have made yourself liable to a heavy fine for trespass? This field is mine!"

"An' this fitpath's mine, my lord-made wi' my ain feet, an' I coonsel ye to stan' aside, an' lat me by."

"Woman, you are insolent."

"Troth, I needna yer lordship to tell me that! Nane the less ae auld wife may say 'at she likes til anither."

"I tell you there is no thoroughfare here."

"An' I tell you there IS a thoroughfare, an' ye hae but to wull the trowth to ken 'at there is. There was a ro'd here lang or yer lordship's father was merried upo' yer lordship's mither, an' the law-what o' 't yer lordship hasna the makin' o'-is deid agen ye: that I can priv. Hae me up: I can tak my aith as weel's onybody whan I'm sure."

"I will do so; but in the meantime you must get off my property."

"Weel, stan' by, an' I s' be aff o' 't in less time nor yer lordship."

"You must go back."

"Hooly an' fairly! Bide till the gloamin', an' I s' gang back-never fear. I' the mids o' the meantime I'm gaein' aff o' yer property the nearest gait-an' that's straucht efter my nose."

She tried, for the tenth time or so, to pass, but turn as she might, he confronted her. She persevered. He raised the stick he carried, perhaps involuntarily, perhaps thinking to intimidate her. Then was the air rent with such an outcry of assault as grievously shook the nerves of his lordship.

"Hold your tongue, you howling jade!" he cried-and the epithet sufficed to destroy every possible remnant of forbearance in the mind of Grizzie.

"There's them 'at tells me, my lord," she said with sudden calm, "'at that's hoo ye misca'd Annie Fyfe, puir lass, whan she cam efter ye, fifty year ago, to yer father's hoose, an' gat na a plack to haud her an' her bairn frae the roadside! Ye needna girn like that, my lord! Spare yer auld teeth for the gnashin' they'll HAE to du. -Though ye fear na God nor regaird man, yer hoor 'll come, an' yer no like to bid it walcome."

Beside himself with rage, Lord Lick-my-loof would have laid hold of her, but she uttered a louder cry than before-so loud that James Grade's deaf colley heard her, and, having a great sense of justice, more courage than teeth, and as little regard to the law of trespass as Grizzie herself, came, not bounding, but tearing over the land to her rescue, as if a fox were at one of his sheep. He made straight for his lordship.

Now this dog was one of the chief offences of the cottage, for he had the moral instinct to know and hate a bad man, and could not abide Lord Lick-my-loof. He had never attacked him, for the colley cultivated self-restraint, but he had made his lordship aware that there was no friendship in his heart towards him.

Silent almost as swift, he was nearly on the enemy before either he or Grizzie saw him. His lordship staggered from the path, and raised his stick with trembling hand.

"Boon wi' ye! doon, Covenant! doon, ye tyke!" cried Grizzie. "Haud yer teeth gien ye wad keep the feow ye hae! Deil a bite but banes is there i' the breeks o' 'im!"

The dog had obeyed, and now stood worshipping her with his tail, while with his eyes he watched the enemy and his stick.

"Hark ye, Covenant," she went on, "whan his sowl he selled him, the deevil telled him,'at never mair sud he turn a hair at cry or moanin' in highway or loanin', for greitin' or sweirin' or grane o' despair. Haud frae him, Covenant, my fine fallow, haud frae him."

Grizzie talked to the dog nor lifted her eyes. When she looked up, Lord Lick-my-loof was beyond the hollow, hurrying as if to fetch help. In a few minutes she was safe in the cottage, out of breath, but in high spirits; and even the dying woman laughed at her tale of how she had served his lordship.

"But ye ken, Grizzie," suggested Jeames, "we're no to return evil for evil, nor flytin' for flytin'!"

"Ca' ye that flytin'?" cried Grizzie. "Ye sud hear what I didna say! That was flytin'! We'll be tried by what we can do, no by what we canna! An' for returnin' evil, did I no haud the dog frae the deithshanks o' 'im?"

The laird and Cosmo had spent as usual a quiet and happy Sunday. It was now halfway down the gloamin' towards night, and they sat together in the drawing-room, the laird on the sofa, and Cosmo at one of the windows. The sky was a cold clear calm of thin blue and translucent green, with a certain stillness which in my mind will more or less for ever be associated with a Scotch Sunday. A long low cloud of dark purple hung like a baldachin over the yet glimmering coals on the altar of sunset, and the sky above it was like a pale molten mass of jewels that had run together with heat, and was still too bright for the stars to show. They were both looking out at the sky, and a peace as of the unbeginnings of eternity was sinking into their hearts. The laird's thoughts were with his Marion in the region beyond the dream; Cosmo's with Joan in the dream that had vanished into itself. If love be religion, what matter whether its object be in heaven or on the earth! Love itself is the only true nearness. He who thinks of his Saviour as far away can have made little progress in the need of him; and he who does not need much cannot know much, any more than he who is not forgiven much can love much. They sat silent, their souls belonging rather to the heaven over their heads than the earth under their feet, when suddenly the world of stillness was invaded with hideous discord, above which almost immediately rose the well known voice of Grizzie in fierce opposition. They rushed out. Overthe gate and obstructing wall they descried, indistinct in the dull light, several heads, and hurrying thither, found Grizzie in the grasp of Lord Lick-my-loof's bailiff, and his lordship looking on with his hands in his pockets and the smile that was his own. But it was not for her own sake Grizzie cried out: there were two more in the group-two of the dog-kind, worrying each other with all the fierceness of the devotion which renders a master's quarrel more than the dog's own. They were, however, far from equally matched, and that was the cause of Grizzie's cry; for the one was the somewhat ancient colley named Covenant, whose teeth were not what they had been, and the other a mastiff belonging to Lord Lick-my-loof, young and malevolent, loosed from the chain the first time that night for a month. It looked ill for Covenant, but he was a brave dog, incapable of turning his back on death itself when duty called him, and what more is required of dog or man! Both the dogs were well bred each in its kind; Covenant was the more human, Dander the more devilish; and the battle was fierce.

The moment Cosmo descried who the combatants were, he knew that Covenant had no fair chance, and was over the wall, and had thrown himself upon them to part them; whereupon the bailiff, knowing his master desir

ed the death of Covenant, let Grizzie go, and would have rushed upon Cosmo. But it was Grizzie's turn now, and she clung to the bailiff like an anaconda. He cursed and swore; nor were there lacking on Grizzie's body the next day certain bruises of which she said nothing except to Aggie; but she had got hold of his cravat, and did her best to throttle him. Cosmo did the same for the mastiff with less effect, and had to stun him with a blow on the head from a great stone, when he caught up Covenant in his arms, and handed him over the wall and the gate to his father. The same moment the bailiff got away from Grizzie, and made at him, calling to the mastiff. But the dog, only half recovered from the effects of Cosmo's blow, either mistaking through bewilderment, or moved by some influence ill explicable, instead of attacking Cosmo, rushed at his master. Rage recalls dislike, and it may be he remembered bygone irritations and teasings. His lordship, however, suddenly became aware of his treacherous intent, and in a moment his legs had SAVED THEMSELVES over wall, and gate, and he stood panting and shaking beside the laird, in his turn the trespasser. The dog would have been over after him, had not Cosmo, turning his back on the bailiff, who had not observed his master's danger, knocked the dog, in the act of leaping, once more to the earth, when a rush of stones that came with him, and partly fell upon him, had its share in cowing him.

"Haud him! haud him! haud the deevil, ye brute! Haud the brute, ye deevil!" cried his lordship.

"It's yer ain dog, my lord," said the bailiff, whatever consolation there might be in the assurance, as he took him by the collar.

"Am I to be worriet 'cause the dog's my ain? Haud him the sickerer.

He s' be ayont mischeef the morn!"

"He's the true dog 'at sides wi' the richt; he'll be in bliss afore his maister," said Grizzie, as she descended from the gate, and stood on her own side of the fence.

But the laird was welcoming his lordship with the heartiness of one receiving an unexpected favour in the visit.

"Weel loupen, my lord!" he said. "Come in an' rist yersel' a bit, an' I s' tak ye back on to yer ain property an easier gait nor ower a dry stane-dyke."

"Gien it BE my property," returned his lordship, "I wad be obleeged to ye, laird, to haud yer fowk aff o' 't!"

"Grizzie, wuman," said the laird, turning to her, "ye dinna surely want to bring me to disgrace! The lan' 's his lordship's-bought and paid for, an' I hae no more richt ower 't nor Jeames Gracie's colley here, puir beast!"

"Ye may be richt aboot the lan', laird, the mair's the pity!" answered Grizzie; "but the futpath, beggin' the pardon o' baith lairdship and lordship, belangs to me as muckle as to aither o' ye. Here I stan', alane for mysel'! That ro'd 's my neebor, an' I'm bun' to see til 't, for it wad be a sair vex to mony a puir body like mysel' to louse the richt til 't."

"You'll have to prove what you say, woman," said his lordship.

"Surely, Grizzie," expostulated the laird, "his lordship maun un'erstan' affairs o' this natur', as well 's you or me!"

"As to the un'erstan'in' o' them, laird, I mak nae doobt," returned Grizzie; "an' as little 'at he's o' the wrang side o' the wa' this time."

"Na, Grizzie-for he's upo' MY side o' 't, an' walcome."

"He's jist as walcome, naither mair nor less, to the path I made wi' my ain feet throuw the rouchest pleughed lan' I ever crossed."

Therewith Grizzie, who hated compromise, turned away, and went into the kitchen.

"Come this way, my lord," said the laird.

"Take the dog home," said his lordship to the bailiff. "Have him shot the first thing to-morrow-morning. If it weren't the Sabbath, I'd have it done to-night."

"He's good watch, my lord," interceded the man.

"He may be a good watch, but he's a bad dog," replied his lordship. "I'll have neither man nor dog about me that doesn't know his master. You may poison him if you prefer it."

"Come awa', come awa', my lord!" said the laird. "This, as ye hae said,'s the Sabbath-nicht, an' the thoucht o' 't sud mak us mercifu'. I hae naething to offer ye but a cheir to rist ye in, an syne we'll tak the ro'd like neebors thegither an' I'll shaw ye the w'y hame."

His lordship yielded, for his poor thin legs were yet trembling with the successful effort they had made under the inspiration of fear, and now that spur was gone, the dyke seemed a rampart insurmountable, and he dared not attempt it.

"What are you keeping that cursed dog there for?" he said, catching sight, as he turned, of Cosmo, who held Covenant by the back of the neck.

"I am only waiting till your lordship's mastiff is out of the way," answered Cosmo.

"That you may set him at me again, as that old hag of yours did this morning!" As he spoke they had neared the kitchen-door, open as usual, and Grizzie heard what he said.

"That's as big a lee as ever your lordship h'ard tell i' the coort," she cried. "It's the natur o' dougs to tak scunners. They see far ben. Fess the beast in here, Cosmo; I s' be answerable for 'im. The puir animal canna bide my lord."

"Hoot, hoot, Grizzie," began the laird anew, with displeasure in his tone, but already the dog was in, and the kitchen-door closed.

"Leave her alone, Mr. Warlock, if you don't want to have the worst of it," said his lordship, trying to laugh. "But seriously, laird," he went on, "it is not neighbourly to treat me like this. Oblige me by giving orders to your people not to trespass on my property. I have paid my money for it, and must be allowed to do with it as I please."

"My lord," returned the laird, "I have not given, and will not give you the smallest annoyance in my own person.-I hope yet to possess the earth," he interjected, half unconsciously, to himself, but aloud. "But-"

"Hey! hey!" said his lordship, thinking the man was sending his reason after his property.

"But," continued the laird, "I cannot interfere with the rights of my neighbours. If Grizzie says she has a right of way-and I think very probably she knows what she is about-I have no business to interfere."

"Confound your cant!" cried his lordship. "You care no more for your neighbours than I do. You only want to make yourself unpleasant to me. Show me the way out, and be damned."

"My lord," said Cosmo, "if you weren't an old man, I would show you the quickest way out! How dare you speak so to a man like my father!"

"Hold your tongue, you young fool! YOU stand up for your father! -idling about at home and eating him up! Why don't you list? With your education you could work your way up. I warn you, if you fall into my hands, I will not spare you. The country will be better to live in when such as you are scarcer."

"Cosmo," said his father, "do not answer him. Show his lordship the way out, and let him go."

As they went through the garden, Lord Lick-my-loof sought to renew the conversation, but Cosmo maintained a stern silence, and his lordship went home incensed more than ever with the contumacious paupers.

But the path in which Grizzie gloried as the work of her own feet, hardened and broadened, and that although she herself had very little FOOT in it any more. For the following week Mistress Gracie died; and the day after she was buried, the old cotter came to the laird, and begged him to yield, if he pleased, the contested point, and part with the bit of land he occupied. For all the neighbours knew his lordship greatly coveted it, though none of them were aware what a price he had offered for it.

"Ye see, sir," he said, "noo 'at SHE'S gane, it maitters naething to Aggie or me whaur we are or what comes o' 's."

"But wadna she hae said the same, gien it had been you 'at was gane, Jeames?" asked the laird.

"'Deed wad she! She was aye a' thing for ither fowk, an' naething for hersel'! The mair cause she sud be considered the noo!"

"An' ca' ye that considerin' her-to du the minute she's gane the thing wad hae grieved her by ordinar' whan she was wi' ye?"

"Whan we war thegither," returned Jeames with solemnity, "there was a heap o' things worth a hantle; noo 'at we're pairted there's jist nearhan' as mony 'at 's no worth a strae."

"Weel du I un'erstan' ye, Jeames!" returned the laird with a sigh. "But what wad come o' yersel' an' Aggie wi'oot, a place to lay yer heid? We're no to mak oorsel's a' sae ill aff as was the Maister; we maun lea' that to his wull. Ye wadna hae HER luik doon an' see ye in less comfort nor whan she was wi' ye!"

"Thereanent, sir, I had a word o' proposal to mak," rejoined Jeames. "Ye hae nae men noo aboot the place: what for sudna Aggie an' me come and bide i' the men's quarters, and be at han' to len' a han' whan it was wantit? Aggie an' me wad help to get mair oot o' the gairden; I wad hae mair time for weyvin'; an' ye wad get a heap for the bit grun' fra Lick-my loof. It wadna be an ill muv, I do believe, laird, for aither pairt. Consider o' 't, sir."

The laird saw that they might at least be better accommodated at the castle than the cottage. He would consult his son, he said. Cosmo in his turn consulted Aggie, and was satisfied. In the winter the wind blew through the cottage bitterly, she said.

As soon as it was settled, Cosmo went to call on his lordship, and was shown into his library.

His lordship guessed his errand, for his keen eye had that same morning perceived signs of change about the cottage. He received him with politeness, and begged to know wherein he could serve him. From his changed behaviour Cosmo thought he must be sorry for the way he had spoken to the laird.

"My father sent me," he said, "to inform your lordship that he is now at length in a position to treat with your lordship concerning the proposal to purchase James Gracie's croft."

"I am greatly obliged to your father," replied Lord Lick-my-loof, softly wiping one hand with the other, "for his attention, but I have no longer any desire to secure the land. It has been so long denied me, that at length I have grown indifferent to the possession of it. That is a merciful provision of the Creator, that the human mind should have the faculty of accommodating itself to circumstances, even of positive nuisance."

Cosmo rose.

"As soon as you have made up your mind," added his lordship, rising also, "to part with what remains of the property, INCLUDING THE CASTLE, I should be glad to have the refusal of that. It would make a picturesque ruin from certain points of view on the estate."

Cosmo bowed, and left his lordship grinning with pleasure.

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