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   Chapter 50 DEFIANCE.

Warlock o' Glenwarlock By George MacDonald Characters: 9804

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


Aggie was in the kitchen when he entered. She was making the porridge.

"What's come o' Grizzie?" asked Cosmo.

"Ye dinna like my parritch sae weel as hers!" returned Agnes.

"Jist as weel, Aggie," answered Cosmo.

"Dinna ye tell Grizzie that."

"What for no?"

"She wad be angert first, an' syne her hert wad be like to brak."

"There's nae occasion to say't," conceded Cosmo. "But what's come o' her the nicht?" he went on. "It's some dark, an' I doobt she'll-"

"The ro'd atween this an' the Muir's no easy to lowse," said Aggie.

But the same instant her face flushed hotter than ever fire or cooking made it; what she had said was in itself true, but what she had not said, yet meant him to understand, was not true, for Grizzie had gone nowhere near Muir o' Warlock. Aggie had never told a lie in her life, and almost before the words were out of her mouth, she felt as if the solid earth were sinking from under her feet. She left the spurtle sticking in the porridge, and dropped into the laird's chair.

"What's the maitter wi' ye, Aggie?" said Cosmo, hastening to her in alarm, for her face was now white, and her head was hanging down.

"This is no to be borne!" she cried, and started to her feet.

"-Cosmo, I tellt ye a lee."

"Aggie!" cried Cosmo, dismayed, "ye never tellt me a lee i' yer life."

"Never afore," she answered; "but I hae tellt ye ane noo-no to live through! Grizzie's no gane to Muir o' Warlock."

"What care I whaur Grizzie's gane!" rejoined Cosmo. "Tell me or no tell me as ye like."

Aggie burst into tears.

"Haud yer tongue, Aggie," said Cosmo, trying to soothe her, himself troubled with her trouble, for he too was sorry she should ALMOST have told him a lie, and his heart was sore for her misery. Well he knew how she must suffer, having done a thing so foreign to her nature! "It COULD be little mair at the warst," he went on, "than a slip o' the wull, seein' ye made sic haste to set it richt again. For mysel', I s' bainish the thoucht o' the thing."

"I thank ye, Cosmo. Ye wad aye du like the Lord himsel'. But there's mair intil't. I dinna ken what to du or say. It's a sair thing to stan' 'atween twa, an' no ken what to du ohn dune mischeef-maybe wrang!-There's something it 'maist seems to me ye hae a richt to ken, but I canna be sure; an yet-"

She was interrupted by the hurried opening of the door. Grizzie came staggering in, with a face of terror.

"Tu wi' the door!" she cried, almost speechless, and sank in her turn upon a chair, gasping for breath, and dropping at her feet a canvas bag, about the size of a pillow-case.

Cosmo closed the door as she requested, and Aggie made haste to get her some water, which she drank eagerly. After a time of panting and sighing, she seemed to come to herself, and rose, saying, as if nothing had happened,

"I maun see to the supper."

Cosmo stooped and would have taken up the bag, but she pounced upon it, and carried it with her to the corner of the fire, where she placed it beyond her. In the meantime the porridge had begun to burn.

"Eh, sirs!" she cried, "the parritch'll be a' sung-no to mention the waste o' guid meal! Aggie, hoo cud ye be sae careless!"

"It was eneuch to gar onybody forget the pot to see ye come in like that, Grizzie!" said Cosmo.

"An' what'll ye say to the tale I bring ye!" rejoined Grizzie, as she turned the porridge into a dish, careful not to scrape too hard on the bottom of the pot.

"Tell's a' aboot it, Grizzie, an' bena lang aither, for I maun gang to my father."

"Gang til 'im. Here's naebody wad keep ye frae 'im!"

Cosmo was surprised at her tone, for although she took abundant liberty with the young laird, he had not since boyhood known her rude to him.

"No till I hear yer tale, Grizzie," he answered.

"An' I wad fain ken what ye'll say til't, for ye never wad alloo o' kelpies; an' there's me been followed by a sure ane, this last half-hoor-or it may be less!"

"Hoo kenned ye it was a kelpie-it's maist as dark's pick?"

"Kenned! quo' he? Didna I hear the deevil ahin' me-the tramp o' a' the fower feet o' 'im, as gien they had been fower an' twinty!"

"I won'er he didna win up wi' ye than, Grizzie!" suggested Cosmo.

"Guid kens hoo he didna; I won'er mysel'. But I trow I ran; an' I tak ye to witness I garred ye steik the door."

"But they say," objected Cosmo, who could not fail to perceive from what Aggie said that there was something going on which it behooved him to know, "that the kelpie wons aye by some watter-side."

"Weel, cam I no by the tarn o' the tap o' Stieve Know?"

"What on earth was ye duin' there efter dark, Grizzie?"

"What was I duin'? I saidna I was there efter dark, but the cratur micht hae seen me pass weel eneueh. Wasna I ower the hill to my ain fowk i' the How o' Hap? An' didna I come hame by Luck's Lift? Mair by token, wadna the g

uidman o' that same hae me du what I haena dune this twae year, or maybe twenty-tak a dram? An' didna I tak it? An' was I no in need o' 't? An' didna I come hame a' the better for 't?"

"An' get a sicht o' the kelpy intil the bargain-eh, Grizzie?" suggested Cosmo.

"Hoots! gang awa up to the laird, an' lea' me to get my breath an' your supper thegither," said Grizzie, who saw to what she had exposed herself. "An' I wuss ye may see the neist kelpy yersel'! Only whatever ye du, Cosmo, dinna m'unt upo' the back o' 'im, for he'll cairry ye straucht hame til 's maister; an' we a' ken wha HE is."

"I'm no gaein'," said Cosmo, as soon as the torrent of her speech allowed him room to answer, "till I ken what ye hae i' that pock o' yours."

"Hoot!" cried Grizzie, and snatching up the bag, held it behind her back, "ye wad never mint at luikin' intil an auld wife's pock! What ken ye what she michtna hae there?"

"It luiks to me naither mair nor less nor a meal-pock," said

Cosmo.

"Meal-pock!" returned Grizzie with contempt: "what neist!"

He made another movement to seize the bag, but she caught the sprutle from the empty porridge-pot and showed fight with it, in genuine earnest beyond a doubt for the defence of her pock. Whatever the secret was, it looked as if the pock were somehow connected with it. Cosmo began to grow very uncomfortable. So strange were his nascent suspicions that he dared not for a time allow them to take shape in his brain lest they should thereby start at once into the life of fact. His mind had, for the last few days, been much occupied with the question of miracles. Why, he thought with himself, should one believing there is in very truth a live, thinking, perfect Power at the heart and head of affairs, count it impossible that, in their great and manifest need, their meal-chest should be supplied like that of the widow of Zarephath? If he could believe the thing was done then, there could be nothing absurd in hoping the thing might be done now. If it was possible once, it was possible in the same circumstances always. It was impossible, however, for him or any human being to determine concerning any circumstances whether they were or were not the same. Wherever the thing was not done, did it not follow that the circumstances could not be the same? One thing he was able to see-that, in the altered relations of man's mind to the facts of Nature, a larger faith is necessary to believe in the constantly present and ordering will of the Father of men, than in the unusual phenomenon of a miracle. In the meantime it was a fact that they had all hitherto had their daily bread.

But now this strange behaviour of Grizzie set him thinking of something very different. And why did not the jeweller make some reply to his request concerning the things he had sent him? He said to himself for the hundredth time that he must have found it impossible to do anything with them, and have delayed writing from unwillingness to cause him disappointment, but he could not help a growing soreness that his friend should take no notice of the straits he had confessed himself in. The conclusion of the whole matter was, that it must be the design of Providence to make him part with the last clog that fettered him; he was to have no ease in life until he had yielded the castle! If it were so, then the longer he delayed the greater would be the loss. To sell everything in it first would but put off the evil day, preparing for them so much the more poverty when it should come; whereas if he were to part with the house at once, and take his father where he could find work, they would be able to have some of the old things about them still, to tincture strangeness with home. The more he thought the more it seemed his duty to put a stop to the hopeless struggle by consenting in full and without reserve to the social degradation and heart-sorrow to which it seemed the will of God to bring them. Then with new courage he might commence a new endeavour, no more on the slippery slope of descent, but with the firm ground of the Valley of Humiliation under their feet. Long they could not go on as now, and he was ready to do whatever was required of him, only he wished God would make it plain. The part of discipline he liked least-a part of which doubtless we do not yet at all understand the good or necessity-was uncertainty of duty, the uncertainty of what it was God's will he should do. But on the other hand, perhaps the cause of that uncertainty was the lack of perfect readiness; perhaps all that was wanted to make duty plain was absolute will to do it.

These and other such thoughts went flowing and ebbing for hours in his mind that night, until at last he bethought himself that his immediate duty was plain enough-namely, to go to sleep. He yielded his consciousness therefore to him from whom it came, and did sleep.

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