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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesA Rough Shaking - Chapter 15. Their First Host
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A Rough Shaking - Chapter 15. Their First Host Post by :glolo Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :3437

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A Rough Shaking - Chapter 15. Their First Host

Chapter XV. Their first host

As the evening drew on, and began to settle down into night, a new care arose in the mind of the elder boy. Where were they to pass the darkness?--how find shelter for sleep? It was a question that gave Tommy no anxiety. He had been on the tramp often, now with one party, now with another of his granny's lodgers, and had frequently slept in the open air, or under the rudest covert. Tommy had not much imagination to trouble him, and in his present moral condition was possibly better without it; but to inexperienced Clare there was something fearful in having the night come so close to him. Sleep out of doors he had never thought of. To lie down with the stars looking at him, nothing but the blue wind between him and them, was like being naked to the very soul. Doubtless there would be creatures about, to share the night with him, and protect him from its awful bareness; but they would be few for the size of the room, and he might see none of them! It was the sense of emptiness, the lack of present life that dismayed him. He had never seen any creatures to shrink from. He disliked no one of the things that creep or walk or fly. Before long he did come to know and dislike at least one sort; and the sea held creatures that in after years made him shudder; but as yet, not even rats, so terrible to many, were a terror to Clare. It was Nothing that he feared.

My reader may say, "But had no one taught him about God?" Yes, he had heard about God, and about Jesus Christ; had heard a great deal about them. But they always seemed persons a long way off. He knew, or thought he knew, that God was everywhere, but he had never felt his presence a reality. He seemed in no place where Clare's eyes ever fell. He never thought, "God is here." Perhaps the sparrows knew more about God than he did then. When he looked out into the night it always seemed vacant, therefore horrid, and he took it for as empty as it looked. And if there had been no God there, it would have been reasonable indeed to be afraid; for the most frightful of notions is _Nothing-at-all_.

It grew dark, and they were falling asleep on their walking legs, when they came to a barn-yard. Very glad were they to creep into it, and search for the warmest place. It was a quiet part of the country, and for years nothing had been stolen from anybody, so that the people were not so watchful as in many places.

They went prowling about, but even Tommy with innocent intent, eager only after a little warmth, and as much sleep as they could find, and came at length to an open window, through which they crawled into what, by the smell and the noises, they knew to be a stable. It was very dark, but Clare was at home, and felt his way about; while Tommy, who was afraid of the horses, held close to him. Clare's hand fell upon the hind-quarters of a large well-fed horse. The huge animal was asleep standing, but at the touch of the small hand he gave a low whinny. Tommy shuddered at the sound.

"He's pleased," said Clare, and crept up on his near side into the stall. There he had soon made such friends with him, that he did not hesitate to get in among the hay the horse had for his supper.

"Here, Tommy!" he cried in a whisper; "there's room for us both in the manger."

But Tommy stood shaking. He fancied the darkness full of horses' heads, and would not stir. Clare had to get out again, and search for a place to suit his fancy, which he found in an untenanted loose-box, with remains of litter. There Tommy coiled himself up, and was soon fast asleep.

Clare returned to the hospitality of the big horse. The great nostrils snuffed him over and over as he lay, and the boy knew the horse made him welcome. He dropped asleep stroking the muzzle of his chamber-fellow, and slept all the night, kept warm by the horse's breath, and the near furnace of his great body.

In the morning the boys found they had slept too long, for they were discovered. But though they were promptly ejected as vagabonds, and not without a few kicks and cuffs, these were not administered without the restraint of some mercy, for their appearance tended to move pity rather than indignation.

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