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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesA Rough Shaking - Chapter 23. Treasure Trove
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A Rough Shaking - Chapter 23. Treasure Trove Post by :glolo Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :1475

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A Rough Shaking - Chapter 23. Treasure Trove

Chapter XXIII. Treasure trove

In a few moments they were safe in the thicket at the foot of what had been their enemy and was now their friend--the garden-wall. How many things and persons there are whose other sides are altogether friendly! These are their true selves, and we must be true to get at them.

Tommy again took the lead, though with a fresh sinking of the heart because of that other place with the moon in it. Through the tangled thicket they made or found their way--and there stood the house, with the moon looking down on its roof, and the drunkard's thunder troubling her still pale light--her _moon-thinking_. But for the noise and the haste, Clare would have been frightened at them. There seemed some secret between the house and the moon which they were determined no one else should share. They were of one mind to terrify man or boy who should attempt to cross the threshold! There was no time, however, to heed such fancies. "If we could only get in without spoiling anything!" thought Clare. Once in, they would hurt nothing, take but the shelter and rest lying there of no good to anybody, and leave them there all the same when they had done with them!

While they stood looking at the house, the thundering at the door of the smithy ceased. Presently they heard voices in altercation. One voice was that of the smith, quieter than when last they heard it, but ill-tempered and growling as at first. The other seemed that of a woman. She had been able so far to quiet him, probably, that he remembered he had the key in his pocket; for they thought they heard the door of the smithy open. Then all was silent, and the outcasts pursued their quest of an entrance to the house.

Clare went ferreting as Tommy had done. He also tried to get a peep through the window with the swinging shutter, but had no better success than Tommy. Then he started to go round the corner next the blacksmith's yard.

"Look out!" cried Tommy in a loud whisper, when he saw where he was going.

"Why?" asked Clare.

"Because there's a horrible hole there, full of water," answered Tommy.

"I'll keep a look out," returned Clare, and went.

When he was about half-way along the end of the house, he heard a noise he did not understand, and stopped to listen. Some one seemed moving somewhere.

Then came a kind of scrambling sound, and presently the noise of a great watery splash. Clare shivered from head to foot.

"Something has fallen into the hole Tommy mentioned!" he said to himself, and ran on to see. A few steps brought him to what Tommy had taken for a great hole. It was nothing but a pool of rain-water: the splash could not have come from that!

Then it occurred to him that the water-but could not be far off. He forced his way through shrubs of various kinds, and reaching the wall, went back along it until he came to the but. A ray of moonlight showed him that the side of it was wet, as if the water had lately come over the edge. He looked about for some means of getting a peep into the huge thing. It stood on a brick stand, of which it left a narrow edge clear, but on this edge the bulge of the but would not permit him to mount. With the help of a small tree, however, he got on the wall, which was better.

Spying into the but, he could see nothing at first, for a chimney was now between it and the moon. A moment more, however, and he descried something white in the dull iron gleam of the water. It was under the water, but floating near the surface. He lay down on the wall, plunged his arm into the but, laid hold of it, and drew it out. It was a little heavy for the size, for what should it be but a tiny baby, in a flannel night-gown, which, as he drew it out, sent back little noisy streams into the but! It lay perfectly still in his arms, he did not know whether dead or alive, but he thought it could hardly be drowned so soon after the splash. It had been drugged, and the antagonism of the two means employed to kill it was probably the saving of its life.

Clare stood in stony bewilderment. What was he to do? Certainly not to go after the mother! The first thing was to get it down from the wall. That he could easily have done on the other side, by the heap; but that was the side whence it must have been thrown, and they would be but in worse difficulty there! He must get the baby down inside the wall! With at least one arm occupied, the tree-way was impracticable. There was only one other way, and that full of danger! But where there is only one way, that way must be taken, and Clare did not hesitate. He started along the top of the wall, with the poor unconscious germ of humanity in his arms. He had lifted it from its watery coffin, out of the cold arms of death, up into the clear air of life! True, that air was cold, and filled only with moonshine; but there was the house whose seal might be broken! and the moon saw the sun making warm the under world! Along the narrow way, through the still, keen glimmer, unseen, probably, by any eye in the sleeping town, he bore his burden, speeding as fast as he dared, for he must not set a foot down amiss!

Had any one caught sight of him, what a commotion would not the tale have roused--of the spectre of a boy with a baby in his arms, gliding noiseless in the moon and the middle night, along the top of the high brick wall of a deserted house, where no one had lived within the memory of man!

When he reached the door-ladder, he found descent difficult but possible. It was more difficult to make his way through the tangled bushes without scratching the baby, which, after all, might, alas, be beyond hurt! He held it close to his bosom, life coaxing life to "stay a little."

Thus laden, he appeared before Tommy, who had heard the splash, and thought Clare had fallen into the deep hole, but had not had courage to go and see, partly from the fear of verifying his fear, but more from his horror of the watery abyss. He stood trembling where Clare had left him.

To save the baby was now Clare's only thought. The baby was now the one thing in the universe! If only the light that shone on it were that of the hot sun instead of the cold moon, which looked far more like killing than bringing to life! "And," thought Clare with himself, "there ain't much more heat in my body than in that shivery moon!" But the sun would wake and mount the sky, and send the moon down, and all would be different! Only, if nothing could be done in the meantime, where would baby be by then!

"Here, Tommy," he cried, "come and see what I found in the water-but."

At the word, Tommy turned to flee; but confidence in Clare, and curiosity to see what, in Clare's arms, could hardly hurt him, prevailed, and he drew near cautiously.

"Lord, it's a kid!" he cried.

"It's not a kid," said Clare, who had no slang; "it's a baby!"

"Well! ain't a baby a kid, just?"

Tommy did not know that the word stood for anything else than a child, which was indeed its meaning long before it was specially applied to the young of the goat. A _kidnapper or _kidnabber is a stealer of children. Mr. Skeat tells us that _kid meant at first just a young one.

"You can't tell me what to do with it, I'm afraid, Tommy!" said Clare.

Already it was as if from all eternity he had loved this helpless little waif of Time, with its small, thin, blue-gray, gin-drugged face; this tiny life, so hopeless, so miserable, yet so uncomplaining: the thing that was, was the thing for it to bear; it had come into the world to bear it! Ready to die, even Death would not have it; it must live where it was not wanted, where it was not welcome!

"Yes, I can!" answered Tommy with evil promptitude. "Put it in again."

"But that would drown it, you know, Tommy!" answered Clare, treating him like the child he was not. "We want it to live, Tommy!"

His tenderness for the baby made him speak with foolish gentleness.

"No, we don't!" returned Tommy. "What business has _it to live, when we can't get nothing to eat?"

Clare held faster to the baby with one arm, and with the fist of the other struck straight out at Tommy, hit him between the eyes, and knocked him flat. It was a miserable thing to have to do, and it made Clare miserable, for Tommy was not half his size, and was still suffering from his fall on the iron. But then the dying baby was not half Tommy's size, and any milder argument would have been lost on him: he was thus sent on the way to understand that the baby had rights; and that if the baby could not enforce them, there was one in the world that could and would. Never in his life did Clare show more instinctive wisdom than in that knock-down blow to the hardly blamable little devil!

Tommy got up at once. He was not much hurt, for he had a hard head though he was easily knocked over. From that moment he began to respect Clare. He had loved him before in a way; he had patronized him, and feared to offend him because he was stronger than he; but until now he had had no respect for him, believing little Tommy a much finer fellow than big Clare. There are thousands for whom a blow is a better thing than expostulation, persuasion, or any sort of kindness. They are such that nothing but a blow will set their door ajar for love to get in. That is why hardships, troubles, disappointments, and all kinds of pain and suffering, are sent to so many of us. We are so full of ourselves, and feel so grand, that we should never come to know what poor creatures we are, never begin to do better, but for the knock-down blows that the loving God gives us. We do not like them, but he does not spare us for that.

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