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   Chapter 46 THE FINAL CONFLICT.

Warlock o' Glenwarlock By George MacDonald Characters: 14598

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


As there was no more weekly pay for teaching, and no extra hands were longer wanted for farm-labour, Cosmo, hearing there was a press of work and a scarcity of workmen in the building-line, offered his services, at what wages he should upon trial judge them worth, to Sandy Shand, the mason, then erecting a house in the village for a certain Mr. Pennycuik-a native of the same, who, having left it long ago, and returned from India laden with riches, now desired, if not to end, yet to spend his days amid the associations of his youth. Upon this house, his offer accepted, Cosmo laboured, now doing the work of a mason, now of a carpenter, and receiving fair wages, until such time when the weather put a stop to all but in-door work of the kind. But the strange thing was, that, instead of reaping golden opinions for his readiness to turn his hand to anything honest by which he could earn a shilling, Cosmo became in consequence the object of endless blame-that a young man of his abilities, with a college-education, should spend his time-WASTE it, people said-at home, pottering about at work that was a disgrace to a gentleman, instead of going away and devoting himself to some HONOURABLE CALLING. "Look at Mr. Pennycuik!" they said. "See how he has raised himself in the social scale, and that without one of the young laird's advantages! There he stands, a rich man and employer of labour, while the poor-spirited gentleman is one of his hired labourers!" Such is the mean idea most men have of the self-raising that is the duty of a man! They speak after their kind, putting ambition in the place of aspiration. Not knowing the spirit they were of, these would have had Cosmo say to his father, KORBAN. They knew nothing of, and were incapable of taking into the account certain moral refinements and delicate difficulties entailed upon him by that father, such as might indeed bring him to beggary, but could never allow him to gather riches like those of Mr. Pennycuik. Like his father he had a holy weakness for the purity that gives arms of the things within us. If there is one thing a Christian soul recoils from, it is meanness-of action, of thought, of judgment. What a heaven some must think to be saved into! At the same time Cosmo would not have left his father to make a fortune the most honourable.

Through stress of weather, Cosmo was therefore thrown back once more upon his writing. But still, whether it was that there was too little of Grizzie or too much of himself in these later stories, his work seemed to have lost either the power or the peculiarity that had recommended it. Things therefore did not look promising. But they had a fair stock of oatmeal laid in, and that was the staff of life, also a tolerable supply of fuel, which neighbours had lent them horses to bring from the peat-moss.

With the cold weather the laird began again to fail, and Cosmo to fear that this would be the last of the good man's winters. As the best protection from the cold he betook himself to bed, and Cosmo spent his life almost in the room, reading aloud when the old man was able to listen, and reading to himself or writing when he was not. The other three of the household were mostly in the kitchen, saving fuel, and keeping each other company. And thus the little garrison awaited the closer siege of the slow-beleaguering winter, most of them in their hearts making themselves strong to resist the more terrible enemies which all winter-armies bring flying on their flanks-the haggard fiends of doubt and dismay-which creep through the strongest walls. To trust in spite of the look of being forgotten; to keep crying out into the vast whence comes no voice, and where seems no hearing; to struggle after light, where is no glimmer to guide; at every turn to find a door-less wall, yet ever seek a door; to see the machinery of the world pauseless grinding on as if self-moved, caring for no life, nor shifting a hair's-breadth for all entreaty, and yet believe that God is awake and utterly loving; to desire nothing but what comes meant for us from his hand; to wait patiently, willing to die of hunger, fearing only lest faith should fail-such is the victory that overcometh the world, such is faith indeed. After such victory Cosmo had to strive and pray hard, sometimes deep sunk in the wave while his father floated calm on its crest: the old man's discipline had been longer; a continuous communion had for many years been growing closer between him and the heart whence he came.

"As I lie here, warm and free of pain," he said once to his son, "expecting the redemption of my body, I cannot tell you how happy I am. I cannot think how ever in my life I feared anything. God knows it was my obligation to others that oppressed me, but now, in my utter incapacity, I am able to trust him with my honour, and my duty, as well as my sin."

"Look here, Cosmo," he said another time; "I had temptations such as you would hardly think, to better my worldly condition, and redeem the land of my ancestors, and the world would have commended, not blamed me, had I yielded. But my God was with me all the time, and I am dying a poorer man than my father left me, leaving you a poorer man still, but, praised be God, an honest one. Be very sure, my son, God is the only adviser to be trusted, and you must do what he tells you, even if it lead you to a stake, to be burned by the slow fire of poverty.-O my Father!" cried the old man, breaking out suddenly in prayer, "my soul is a flickering flame of which thou art the eternal, inextinguishable fire. I am blessed because thou art. Because thou art life, I live. Nothing can hurt me, because nothing can hurt thee. To thy care I leave my son, for thou lovest him as thou hast loved me. Deal with him as thou hast dealt with me. I ask for nothing, care for nothing but thy will. Strength is gone from me, but my life is hid in thee. I am a feeble old man, but I am dying into the eternal day of thy strength."

Cosmo stood and listened with holy awe and growing faith. For what can help our faith like the faith of the one we most love, when, sorely tried, it is yet sound and strong!

But there was still one earthy clod clinging to the heart of Cosmo. There was no essential evil in it. yet not the less it held him back from the freedom of the man who, having parted with everything, possesses all things. The place, the things, the immediate world in which he was born and had grown up, crowded with the memories and associations of childhood and youth, amongst them the shadowy loveliness of Lady Joan, had a hold of his heart that savoured of idolatry. The love was born in him, had come down into him through generation after generation of ancestors, had a power over him for whose existence he was not accountable, but for whose continuance, as soon as he became aware of its existence, he would know himself accountable. For Cosmo was not one of those weaklings who, finding in themselves certain tendencies with whose existence they had nothing to do, and therefore in whose presence they have no blame, say to themselves, "I cannot help it," and at once create evil, and make it their own, by obeying the inborn impulse. Inheritors of a lovely estate, with a dragon in a den, which they have to k

ill that the brood may perish, they make friends with the dragon, and so think to save themselves trouble.

But I would not be misunderstood: I do not think Cosmo loved his home too much; I only think he did not love it enough in God. To love a thing divinely, is to be ready to yield it without a pang when God wills it; but to Cosmo, the thought of parting with the house of his fathers and the rag of land that yet remained to it, was torture. This hero of mine, instead of sleeping the perfect sleep of faith, would lie open-eyed through half the night, hatching scheme after scheme-not for the redemption of the property-even to him that seemed hopeless, but for the retention of the house. Might it not at least go to ruin under eyes that loved it, and with the ministration of tender hands that yet could not fast enough close the slow-yawning chasms of decay? His dream haunted him, and he felt that, if it came true, he would rather live in the dungeon wine-cellar of the mouldering mammoth-tooth, than forsake the old stones to live elsewhere in a palace. The love of his soul for Castle Warlock was like the love of the Psalmist for Jerusalem: when he looked on a stone of its walls, it was dear to him. But the love of Jerusalem became an idolatry, for the Jews no longer loved it because the living God dwelt therein, but because it was theirs, and then it was doomed, for it was an idol. The thing was somewhat different with Cosmo: the house was almost a part of himself-an extension of his own body, as much his as the shell of a snail is his. But because into this shell were not continued those nerves of life which give the consciousness of the body, and there was therefore no reaction from it of those feelings of weakness and need which, to such a man as Cosmo, soon reveal the fact that he is not lord of his body, that he cannot add to it one cubit, or make one hair white or black, and must therefore leave the care of it to him who made it, he had to learn in other ways that his castle of stone was God's also. His truth and humility and love had not yet reached to the quickening of the idea of the old house with the feeling that God was in it with him, giving it to him. Not yet possessing therefore the soul of the house, its greatest bliss, which nothing could take from him, he naturally could not be content to part with it. It seemed an impossibility that it should be taken from him-a wrong to things, to men, to nature, that a man like Lick-my-loof should obtain the lordship over it. As he lay in the night, in the heart of the old pile, and heard the wind roaring about its stone-mailed roofs, the thought of losing it would sting him almost to madness,-hurling him from his bed to the floor, to pace up and down the room, burning, in the coldest midnight of winter, like one of the children in the fiery furnace, only the furnace was of worse fire, being the wrath which worketh not the righteousness of God.

Suddenly one such night he became aware that he could not pray-that in this mood he never prayed. In every other trouble he prayed-felt it the one natural thing to pray! Why not in this? Something must be wrong-terribly wrong!

It was a stormy night; the snow-burdened wind was raving; and Cosmo would have been striding about the room but that now he was in his father's, and dreaded disturbing him. He lay still, with a stone on his heart, for he was now awake to the fact that he could not say, "Thy will be done." He tried sore to lift up his heart, but could not. Something rose ever between him and his God, and beat back his prayer. A thick fog was about him-no air wherewith to make a cry! In his heart not one prayer would come to life; it was like an old nest without bird or egg in it.

It was too terrible! Here was a schism at the very root of his being. The love of things was closer to him than the love of God. Between him and God rose the rude bulk of a castle of stone! He crept out of bed, laid himself on his face on the floor, and prayed in an agony. The wind roared and howled, but the desolation in his heart made of the storm a mere play of the elements. How few of my readers will understand even the possibility of such a state! How many of them will scorn the idea of it, as that of a man on the high road to insanity!

"God," he cried, "I thought I knew thee, and sought thy will; and I have sought thy will in greater things than this wherein I now lie ashamed before thee. I cannot even pray to thee. But hear thou the deepest will in me, which, thou knowest, must bow before thine, when once thou hast uttered it. Hear the prayer I cannot offer. Be my perfect Father to fulfil the imperfection of thy child. Be God after thy own nature, beyond my feeling, beyond my prayer-according to that will in me which now, for all my trying, refuses to awake and arise from the dead. O Christ, who knowest me better a thousand times than I know myself, whose I am, divinely beyond my notions of thee and me, hear and save me eternally, out of thy eternal might whereby thou didst make me and give thyself to me. Make me strong to yield all to thee. I have no way of confessing thee before men, but in the depth of my thought I would confess thee, yielding everything but the truth, which is thyself; and therefore, even while my heart hangs back, I force my mouth to say the words-TAKE FROM ME WHAT THOU WILT, ONLY MAKE ME CLEAN, PURE, DIVINE. To thee I yield the house and all that is in it. It is thine, not mine. Give it to whom thou wilt. I would have nothing but what thou choosest shall be mine. I have thee, and all things are mine."

Thus he prayed, thus he strove with a reluctant heart, forcing its will by the might of a deeper will, that WOULD be for God and freedom, in spite of the cleaving of his soul to the dust.

Then for a time thought ceased in exhaustion. When it returned, lo! he was in peace, in the heart of a calm unspeakable. How it came he could not tell, for he had not been aware of its approach; but the contest was over, and in a few minutes he was fast asleep-ten times his own because a thousand times another's-one with him whom all men in one could not comprehend, whom yet the heart of every true child lays hold upon and understands.

I would not have it supposed that, although the crisis was past, there was no more stormy weather.

Often it blew a gale-often a blast would come creeping in-almost always in the skirts of the hope that God would never require such a sacrifice of him. But he never again found he could not pray. Recalling the strife and the great peace, he made haste to his master, compelling the refractory slave in his heart to be free, and cry, "Do thy will, not mine." Then would the enemy withdraw, and again he breathed the air of the eternal.

When a man comes to the point that he will no longer receive anything save from the hands of him who has the right to withhold, and in whose giving alone lies the value of possession, then is he approaching the inheritance of the saints in light, of those whose strength is made perfect in weekness. But there are those who for the present it is needless to trouble any more than the chickens about the yard. Their hour will come, and in the meantime they are counted the fortunate ones of the earth.

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