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   Chapter 48 HELP.

Warlock o' Glenwarlock By George MacDonald Characters: 16703

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


He had come to the resolve to carry his petition first to the farmer in whose fields he had laboured the harvest before the last. The distance was rather great, but he flattered himself he would be able to walk home every night. In the present state of his strength, however, he found it a long trudge indeed; and before the house came in sight, was very weary. But he bore up and held on.

"I was almost as ill-off," he said to himself, "when I came here for work the first time, yet here I am-alive, and likely to work again! It's just like going on and on in a dream, wondering what we are coming to next."

He was shown into the parlour, and had not waited long when the farmer came. He scarcely welcomed him, but by degrees his manner grew more cordial. Still the coldness with which he had been received caused Cosmo to hesitate, and a pause ensued. The farmer broke it.

"Ye didna gie's the fawvour o' yer company last hairst!" he said. "I wad hae thought ye micht hae f'un' yersel' fully mair at hame wi' the like o' us nor wi' that ill-tongued vratch, Lord Lick-my-loof! Nane o' 's tuik it ower weel 'at ye gied na's the chance o' yer guid company."

This explained his reception, and Cosmo made haste in his turn to explain his conduct.

"Ye may be sure," he answered, "it gaed some agen the grain to seek wark frae HIM, an' I had no rizzon upon earth for no comin' to you first but that I didna want to be sae far, at nicht especially, frae my father. He's no the man he was."

"Verra nait'ral!" responded the farmer heartily, and wondered in himself whether any of his sons would have considered him so much. "Weel," he went on, "I'm jist relieved to un'erstan' the thing; for the lasses wad hae perswaudit me I hed gien ye some offence wi' my free-spoken w'y, whan I'm sure naething cud hae been far'er frae the thoucht o' my hert."

"Indeed," said Cosmo, half rising in his eagerness, "I assure you, Mr. Henderson, there is not a man from whom I should be less ready to imagine offence than yourself. I do not know how to express my feeling of the kindness with which you always treated me. Nor could I have given you a better proof that I mean what I say than by coming to you first, the moment I was able for the walk, with the request I have now to make. Will you engage me for the coming harvest, and pay me a part of the fee in advance? I know it is a strange request, and if you refuse it, I doubt if there is another to whom I shall venture to make it. I confess also that I have been very ill, but I am now fairly on the mend, and there is a long time to recover my strength in before the harvest. To tell you the truth, we are much in want of a little money at the castle. We are not greatly in debt now, but we have lost all our land; and a house, however good, won't grow corn. Something in my mind tells me that my father, unlikely as it may seem, will yet pay everything; and anyhow we want to hold on as long as we can. I am sure, if you were in our place, you would not be willing to part with the house a moment before you were absolutely compelled."

"But, laird," said the farmer, who had listened with the utmost attention, "hoo can the thing be,'at amo' a' the great fowk ye hae kent, there sud be nane to say,'Help yersel'? I canna un'erstan' hoo the last o' sic an auld faimily sud na hae a han' held oot to help them!"

"It is not so very hard to explain," replied Cosmo. "Almost all my father's OLD friends are dead or gone, and a man like him, especially in straitened circumstances, does not readily make new friends. Almost the only person he has been intimate with of late years is Mr. Simon, whom I daresay you know. Then he has what many people count peculiar notions-so peculiar, indeed, that I have heard of some calling him a fool behind his back because he paid themselves certain moneys his father owed them. I believe if he had rich friends they would say it was no use trying to help such a man."

"Weel!" exclaimed the farmer, "it jist blecks me to ken hoo there can be ony trowth i' the Bible, whan a man like that comes sae near to beggin' his breid!"

"He is very near it, certainly," assented Cosmo, "but why not he as well as another?"

"'Cause they tell me the Bible says the richteous man sall never come to beg his breid."

"Well, NEAR is not THERE. But I fancy there must be a mistake. The writer of one of the psalms-I do not know whether David or another, says he never saw the righteous forsaken or his seed begging bread; but though he may not have seen it, another may."

"Weel, I fancy gien he hed, he wadna hae been lang in puttin' a stop til 't! Laird, gien a sma' maitter o' fifty poun' or sae wad tide ye ower the trible-weel, ye cud pay me whan ye likit."

It was a moment or two before Cosmo could speak. A long conversation followed, rising almost to fierceness, certainly to oaths, on the part of the farmer, because of Cosmo's refusal to accept the offered loan.

"I do see my way," persisted Cosmo, "to paying for my wages with my work, but I see it to nothing more. Lend me two pounds, Mr. Henderson, on the understanding that I am to work it out in the harvest, and I shall be debtor to your kindness to all eternity; but more I cannot and will not accept."

Grumbling heavily, the farmer at length handed him the two pounds, but obstinately refused any written acknowledgment or agreement.

Neither of them knew that, all the time the friendly altercation proceeded, there was Elsie listening at the door, her colour coming and going like the shadows in a day of sun and wind. Entering at its close she asked Cosmo to stop and take tea with them, and the farmer following it up, he accepted the invitation, and indeed was glad to make a good meal. Elsie was sorely disappointed that her father had not succeeded in making him his debtor to a larger extent, but the meal passed with pleasure to all, for the relief of having two pounds in his pocket, and those granted with such genuine kindness, put Cosmo in great spirits, and made him more than usually agreeable. The old farmer wondered admiringly at the spirit of the youth who in such hardship could yet afford to be merry. But I cannot help thinking that a perfect faith would work at last thorough good spirits, as well as everything else that is good.

Cosmo sat with his kind neighbours till the gloaming began to fall. When he rose to go, they all rose with him, and accompanied him fully half-way home. When they took their leave of him, and he was again alone, his heart grew so glad that, weak as he yet was, and the mists rising along his path, he never felt the slightest chill, but trudged cheerily on, praying and singing and MAKING all the way, until at length he was surprised to find how short it had been.

For a great part of it, after his friends left him, he had glimpses now and then of some one before him that looked like Aggie, but the distance between them gradually lengthened, and before he reached home he had lost sight of her. When he entered the kitchen, Aggie was there.

"Was yon you upo' the ro'd afore me, Aggie?" he said.

"Ay, was't."

"What for didna ye bide?"

"Ye had yer company the first half o' the ro'd, an' yer sangs the last, an' I didna think ye wantit me."

So saying she went up the stair.

As Cosmo followed, he turned and put his hand into the meal-chest. It was empty! There was not enough to make their supper. He smiled in his heart, and said to himself,

"The links of the story hold yet! When one breaks, the world will drift."

Going up to his father, he had to pass the door of his own room, now occupied by James Gracie. As he drew near it, he heard the voice of Aggie speaking to her grandfather. What she said he did not know, but he heard the answer.

"Lassie," said the old man, "ye can never see by (PAST) the Lord to ken whaur he's takin' ye. Ye may jist as weel close yer e'en. His garment spreads ower a' the ro'd, an' what we hae to du is to haud a guid grip o' 't-no to try an' see ayont it."

Cosmo hastened up, and told his father what he had overheard.

"There's naething like faith for makin' o' poets, Cosmo!" said the laird. "Jeames never appeart to me to hae mair o' what's ca'd intellec' nor an ord'nar' share; but ye see the man 'at has faith he's aye growin', an' sae may come

to something even i' this warl'. An' whan ye think o' the ages to come, truly it wad seem to maitter little what intellec' a man may start wi'. I kenned mysel' ane 'at in ord'nar' affairs was coontit little better nor an idiot,'maist turn a prophet whan he gaed doon upo' his knees. Ay! fowk may lauch at what they haena a glimp o', but it'll be lang or their political economy du sae muckle for sic a man! The economist wad wuss his neck had been thrawn whan he was born."

Here Cosmo heard Grizzie come in, and went down to her. She was sitting in his father's chair by the fire, and did not turn her face when he spoke. She was either tired or vexed, he thought. Aggie was also now in the kitchen again.

"Here, Grizzie!" said Cosmo, "here's twa poun'; an' ye'll need to gar't gang far'er nor it can, I'm thinkin', for I dinna ken whaur we're to get the neist."

"Ken ye whaur ye got the last?" muttered Grizzie, and made haste to cover the words:

"Whaur got ye that, Cosmo?" she said.

"What gien I dinna tell ye, Grizzie?" he returned, willing to rouse her with a little teazing.

"That's as ye see proper, sir," she answered. "Naebody has a richt to say til anither 'Whaur got ye that?' 'cep' they doobt ye hae been stealin'."

It was a somewhat strange answer, but there was no end to the strange things Grizzie would say: it was one of her charms! Cosmo told her at once where and how he had got the money; for with such true comrades, although not yet did he know how true, he felt almost that a secret would be a sin.

But the moment Grizzie heard where Cosmo had engaged himself, and from whom on the pledge of that engagement he had borrowed money, she started from her chair, and cried, with clenched and outstretched hand,

"Glenwarlock, yoong sir, ken ye what ye're duin'?-The Lord preserve's! he's an innocent!" she added, turning with an expression of despair to Aggie, who regarded the two with a strange look.

"Grizzie!" cried Cosmo, in no little astonishment, "what on earth gars ye luik like that at the mention o' ane wha has this moment helpit us oot o' the warst strait ever we war in!"

"Gien there had been naebody nearer hame to help ye oot o' waur straits, it's waur straits ye wad be in. An' it's waur ye'll be in yet, gien that man gets his wull o' ye!"

"He's a fine, honest chiel'! An' for waur straits, Grizzie-are na ye at the verra last wi' yer meal?"

As he spoke he turned, and, in bodily reference to fact, went to the chest into which he had looked but a few minutes before. To his astonishment, there was enough in it for a good many meals! He turned again, and stared at Grizzie. But she had once more seated herself in his father's chair, with her back to him, and before he could speak she went on thus:

"Shame fa' him, say I,'at made his siller as a flesher i' the wast wyn' o' Howglen, to ettle at a gentleman o' a thoosan' year for ane o' his queans! But, please the Lord, we's haud clear o' 'im yet!"

"Hootoot, Grizzie! ye canna surely think ony sic man wad regaird the like o' me as worth luikin' efter for a son-in-law! He wadna be sic a gowk!"

"Gowk here, gowk there! he kens what ye are an' what ye're worth-weel that! Hasna he seen ye at the scythe? Disna he ken there's ten times mair to be made o' ae gentleman like you, wi'siller at his back, nor ten common men sic as he's like to get for his dothers? Weel kens he it's nae faut o' you or yours 'at ye're no freely sae weel aff as some 'at oucht an' wull be waur, gien it be the Lord's wull, or a' be dune! Disna he ken 'at Castle Warlock itsel' wad be a warl's honour to ony leddy-no to say a lass broucht up ower a slauchter-hoose? Shame upo' him an' his!"

"Weel, Grizzie," rejoined Cosmo, "ye may say 'at ye like, but I dinna believe he wad hae dune what he has dune"

"Cha!" interrupted Grizzie; "what has he dune? Disna he ken the word o' a Warlock's as guid as gowd? Disna he ken your wark, what wi' yer pride an' what wi' yer ill-placed graititude,'ill be worth til 'im that o' twa men? The man's nae coof! He kens what he's aboot! Haith, ye needna waur (spend) muckle graititude upo' sic benefactions!"

"To show you, Grizzie, that you are unfair to him, I feel bound to tell you that he pressed on me the loan of fifty pounds."

"I tell ye sae!" screamed Grizzie, starting again to her feet. "God forbid ye took 'im at his offer!"

"I did not," answered Cosmo; "but all the same-"

"The Lord be praised for his abundant an' great mercy!" cried Grizzie, more heartily than devoutly. "We may contrive to win ower the twa poun', even sud ye no work it oot; but fifty!-the Lord be aboot us frae ill! so sure's deith, ye wad hae had to tak the lass!-Cosmo, ye canna but ken the auld tale o' muckle-moo'd Meg?"

"Weel that," replied Cosmo. "But ye'll alloo, Grizzie, times are altert sin' the day whan the laird cud gie a ch'ice atween a wife an' the wuddie! Mr. Hen'erson canna weel hang me gien. I sud say NO."

"Say ye NO, come o' the hangin' what like," rejoined Grizzie.

"But, Grizzie," said Cosmo, "I wad fain ken whaur that meal i' the kist cam frae. There was nane intil 't an hoor ago."

With all her faults of temper and tongue, there was one evil word Grizzie could not speak. In the course of a not very brief life she had tried a good many times to tell a lie, but had never been able; and now, determined not to tell where the meal had come from, she naturally paused unprepared. It was but for a moment. Out came the following utterance.

"Some fowk says, sir,'at the age o' mirracles is ower. For mysel' I dinna preten' to ony opingon; but sae lang as the needcessity was the same, I wad be laith to think Providence wadna be consistent wi' itsel'. Ye maun min' the tale, better nor I can tell't ye, concernin' yon meal-girnel-muckle sic like, I daursay, as oor ain, though it be ca'd a barrel i' the Buik-hit 'at never wastit, ye ken, an'the uily-pig an' a'-ye'll min' weel-though what ony wuman in her senses cud want wi' sic a sicht o' ile's mair nor I ever cud faddom! Eh, but a happy wuman was she 'at had but to tak her bowl an' gang to the girnel, as I micht tak my pail an' gang to the wall! An' what for michtna the Almighty mak a meal-wall as weel's a watter-wall, I wad like to ken! What for no a wall 'at sud rin ile-or say milk, which wad be mair to the purpose? Ae thing maun be jist as easy to him as anither-jist as ae thing's as hard to us as anither! Eh, but we're helpless creturs!"

"I' your w'y, Grizzie, ye wad keep us as helpless as ever, for ye wad hae a' thing hauden to oor han', like to the bairnie in his mither's lap! It's o' the mercy o' the Lord 'at he wad mak men an' women o' 's-no haud's bairns for ever!"

"It may be as ye say, Cosmo; but whiles I cud maist wuss I was a bairn again, an' had to luik to my mither for a' thing."

"An' isna that siclike as the Lord wad hae o' 's, Grizzie? We canna aye be bairns to oor mithers-an' for me I wasna ane lang-but we can an' maun aye be bairns to the great Father o' 's."

"I hae an ill hert, I doobt, Cosmo, for I'm unco hard to content. An' I'm ower auld noo, I fear, to mak muckle better o'. But maybe some kinily body like yersel' 'ill tak me in han' whan I'm deid, an' put some sense intil me!"

"Ye hae sense eneuch, Grizzie, an' to spare, gien only ye wad-"

"Guide my tongue a wee better, ye wad say! But little ye ken the temptation o' ane 'at has but ae solitary wapon, to mak use o' that same! An' the gift ye hae ye're no to despise; ye maun turn a' til acoont."

Cosmo did not care to reason with her further, and went back to his father.

Grizzie had gained her point; which was to turn him aside from questions about the meal.

For a little while they had now wherewith to live; and if it seem to my reader that the horizon of hope was narrowing around them, it does not follow that it must have seemed so to them. For what is the extent of our merely rational horizon at any time? But for faith and imagination it would be a narrow one indeed! Even what we call experience is but a stupid kind of faith. It is a trusting in impetus instead of in love. And those days were fashioning an eternal joy to father and son, for they were loving each other a little more ere each day's close, and were thus putting time, despite of fortune, to its highest use.

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