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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesA Rough Shaking - Chapter 13. Clare The Vagabond
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A Rough Shaking - Chapter 13. Clare The Vagabond Post by :glolo Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :1297

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A Rough Shaking - Chapter 13. Clare The Vagabond

Chapter XIII. Clare the vagabond

The next morning Clare happened to do something not altogether to the farmer's mind. It was a matter of no consequence--only cleaning that side of one of the cow-houses first which was usually cleaned last. He gave him a box on the ear that made him stagger, and then stand bewildered.

"What do you mean by staring that way?" cried the farmer, annoyed with himself and seeking justification in his own eyes. "Am I not to box your ears when I choose?" And with that he gave him another blow.

Then first it dawned on Clare that he was not wanted, that he was no good to anybody. He threw down his scraper, and ran from the cow-house; ran straight from the farm to the lane, and from the lane to the high road. Buffets from the hand of his only friend, and the sudden sense of loneliness they caused, for the moment bereft Clare of purpose. It was as if his legs had run away with him, and he had unconsciously submitted to their abduction.

At the mouth of the lane, where it opened on the high road, he ran against Tommy turning the corner, eager to find him. The eyes of the small human monkey were swollen with weeping; his nose was bleeding, and in size and shape scarce recognizable as a nose. At the sight, the consciousness of his protectorate awoke in Clare, and he stopped, unable to speak, but not unable to listen. Tommy blubbered out a confused, half-inarticulate something about "granny and the other devil," who between them had all but killed him.

"What can I do?" said Clare, his heart sinking with the sense of having no help in him.

Tommy was ready to answer the question. He had been hatching vengeance all the way. Eagerly came his proposition--that they should, in their turn, lie in ambush for Simpson, and knock his crutch from under him. That done, Clare should belabour him with it, while he ran like the wind and set his grandmother's house on fire.

"She'll be drunk in bed, an' she'll be burned to death!" cried Tommy. "Then we'll mizzle!"

"But it would hurt them both very badly, Tommy!" said Clare, as if unfolding the reality of the thing to a foolish child.

"Well! all right! the worse the better! 'Ain't they hurt us?" rejoined Tommy.

"That's how we know it's not nice!" answered Clare. "If they set it a going, we ain't to keep it a going!"

"Then they'll be at it for ever," cried Tommy, "an' I'm sick of it! I'll _kill granny! I swear I will, if I'm hanged for it! She's said a hundred times she'd pull my legs when I was hanged; but _she won't be at the hanging!"

"Why shouldn't you run for it first?" said Clare. "Then they wouldn't want to hang you!"

"Then I shouldn't have nobody!" replied Tommy, whimpering.

"I should have thought Nobody was as good as granny!" said Clare.

"A big bilin' better!" answered Tommy bitterly. "I wasn't meanin' granny--nor yet stumpin' Simpson."

"I don't know what you're driving at," said Clare. Tommy burst into tears.

"Ain't you the only one I got, up or down?" he cried.

Tommy had a little bit of heart--not much, but enough to have a chance of growing. If ever creature had less than that, he was not human. I do not think he could even be an ape.

Some of the people about the parson used to think Clare had no heart, and Mrs. Goodenough was sure of it. He had not a spark of gratitude, she said. But the cause of this opinion was that Clare's affection took the shape of deeds far more than of words. Never were judges of their neighbours more mistaken. The chief difference between Clare's history and that of most others was, that his began at the unusual end. Clare began with loving everybody; and most people take a long time to grow to that. Hence, those whom, from being brought nearest to them, he loved specially, he loved without that outbreak of show which is often found in persons who love but a few, and whose love is defiled with partisanship. He loved quietly and constantly, in a fashion as active as undemonstrative. He was always glad to be near those he specially loved; beyond that, the signs of his love were practical--it came out in ministration, in doing things for them. There are those who, without loving, desire to be loved, because they love themselves; for those that are worth least are most precious to themselves. But Clare never thought of the love of others to him--from no heartlessness, but that he did not think about himself--had never done so, at least, until the moment when he fled from the farm with the new agony in his heart that nobody wanted him, that everybody would be happier without him. Happy is he that does not think of himself before the hour when he becomes conscious of the bliss of being loved. For it must be and ought to be a happy moment when one learns that another human creature loves him; and not to be grateful for love is to be deeply selfish. Clare had always loved, but had not thought of any one as loving him, or of himself as being loved by any one.

"Well," rejoined Clare, struggling with his misery, "ain't I going myself?"

"You going!--That's chaff!"

"'Tain't chaff. I'm on my way."

"What! Going to hook it? Oh golly! what a lark! Won't Farmer Goodenough look blue!"

"He'll think himself well rid of me," returned Clare with a sigh. "But there's no time to talk. If you're going, Tommy, come along."

He turned to go.

"Where to?" asked Tommy, following.

"I don't know. Anywhere away," answered Clare, quickening his pace.

In spite of his swollen visage, Tommy's eyes grew wider.

"You 'ain't cribbed nothing?" he said.

"I don't know what you mean."

"You 'ain't stole something?" interpreted Tommy.

Clare stopped, and for the first time on his own part, lifted his hand to strike. It dropped immediately by his side.

"No, you poor Tommy," he said. "I don't steal."

"Thought you didn't! What are you running away for then?"

"Because they don't want me."

"Lord! what will you do?"

"Work."

Tommy held his tongue: he knew a better way than that! If work was the only road to eating, things would go badly with _him_! But he thought he knew a thing or two, and would take his chance! There were degrees of hunger that were not so bad as the thrashings he got, for in his granny's hands the rope might fall where it would; while all cripple Simpson cared for was to make him squeal satisfactorily. But work was worse than all! He would go with Clare, but not to work! Not he!

Clare kept on in silence, never turning his head--out into the untried, unknown, mysterious world, which lay around the one spot he knew as the darkness lies about the flame of the candle. They walked more than a mile before either spoke.

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