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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWarlock O' Glenwarlock: A Homely Romance - Chapter 23. At College
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Warlock O' Glenwarlock: A Homely Romance - Chapter 23. At College Post by :AdrianMansilla Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :3254

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Warlock O' Glenwarlock: A Homely Romance - Chapter 23. At College

CHAPTER XXIII. AT COLLEGE

The summer and autumn had yet to pass before he left home for the university of the north. He spent them in steady work with Mr. Simon. But the steadier his work, and the greater his enjoyment of it, the dearer was his liberty, and the keener his delight in the world around him. He worked so well that he could afford to dream too; and his excursions and his imaginings alike took wide and wider sweeps; while for both, ever in the near or far distance, lay the harbour, the nest of his home. It drew him even when it lay behind him, and he returned to it as the goal he had set out to seek. It was as if, in every excursion or flight, he had but sought to find his home afresh, to approach it by a new path. But--the wind-fall?--nay, the God-send of the golden horse, gave him such a feeling of wealth and freedom, that he now began to dream in a fresh direction, namely, of things he would do if he were rich; and as he was of a constructive disposition, his fancies in this direction turned chiefly on the enlarging and beautifying of the castle--but always with the impossibility understood of destroying a feature of its ancient dignity and historic worth.

A portion of the early summer he spent in enlarging the garden on the south side or back of the house. One portion of the ground there seemed to him to have been neglected--the part which lay between the block in which was the kitchen, and that in which was the drawing-room. These stood at right angles to each other, their gables making two sides of a square. But he found the rock so near the surface, that he could not utilize much of it. This set him planning how the space might be used for building. In the angle, the rock came above ground entirely, and had been made the foundation of a wall connecting the two corners, to defend the court--a thick strong wall of huge stones, that seemed as solid as the rock. He grew fond of the spot, almost forsaking for it his formerly favoured stone, and in the pauses of his gardening would sit with his back against this wall, dreaming of the days to come. Here also he would bring his book, and read or write for hours, sometimes drawing plans of the changes and additions he would make, of the passages and galleries that might be contrived to connect the various portions of the house, and of the restoration of old defences. The whole thing was about as visionary as his dream of Tree-top-city, but it exercised his constructive faculty, and exercise is growth, and growth in any direction, if the heart be true, is growth in all directions.

The days glided by. The fervid Summer slid away round the shoulder of the world, and made room for her dignified matron sister; my lady Autumn swept her frayed and discoloured train out of the great hall-door of the world, and old brother Winter, who so assiduously waits upon the house, and cleans its innermost recesses, was creeping around it, biding his time, but eager to get to his work. The day drew near when Cosmo must leave the house of his fathers, the walls that framed almost all his fancies, the home where it was his unchanging dream to spend his life, until he went to his mother in heaven.

I will not follow his intellectual development. The REAL education of the youth is enough for my narrative.

His mind was too much filled with high hopes and lofty judgments, to be tempted like a common nature in the new circumstances in which he found himself. There are not a few who, believing of others as they are themselves, and teaching as they practise, represent the youth of the nation as necessarily vile; but let not the pure thence imagine there is no one pure but himself. There is life in our nation yet, and a future for her yet, none the less that the weak and cowardly and self-indulgent neither enter into the kingdom of God, nor work any salvation in the earth. Cosmo left the university at least as clean as he went to it.

He had few companions. Those whom he liked best could not give him much. They looked up to him far more than he knew, for they had avague suspicion that he was a genius; but they ministered almost only to his heart. The unworthy amongst his fellow-students scorned him with looks askance, and called him Baby Warlock--for on more than one of them he had literally turned his back when his conversation displeased him. None of them however cared to pick a quarrel with him. The devil finds it easier to persuade fools that there is dignity in the knowledge of evil, and that ignorance of it is contemptible, than to give them courage. Truly, if ignorance is the foundation of any man's goodness, it is not worth the wind that upsets it, but in its mere self, ignorance of evil is a negative good. It is those who do not love good that require to be handed over to evil. The grinders did not care about Cosmo, for neither was he of their sort. Now and then, however, one of them would be mildly startled by a request from him for assistance in some passage, which, because he did not GO IN for what they counted scholarship, they could hardly believe him interested. Cosmo regarded everything from amidst associations of which they had none. In his instinctive reach after life, he assimilated all food that came in his way. His growing life was his sole impulsive after knowledge. And already he saw a glimmer here and there in regions of mathematics from which had never fallen a ray into the corner of an eye of those grinding men. That was because he read books of poetry and philosophy of which they had never heard. For the rest, he passed his examinations creditably, and indeed, in more than one case, with unexpected as unsought distinction. I must mention, however, that he did all his set work first, and thoroughly, before giving himself what he hungered after.

Of society in the city he had no knowledge. Amongst the tradespeople he made one or two acquaintances.

His father had been so much pleased with the jeweller to whom he parted with the golden horse, that he requested Cosmo to call upon him as soon as he was settled. Cosmo found him a dignified old gentleman--none the less of a gentleman, and all the more of a man, that he had in his youth worked with his own hands. He took a liking to Cosmo, and, much pleased with his ready interest in whatever he told him, for Cosmo was never tired of listening to anyone who talked of what he knew, made him acquainted with many things belonging to his trade, and communicated many of his experiences. Indifferent to the opinion of any to whom he had not first learned to look up, nobody ever listened better than Cosmo to any story of human life, however humble. Everybody seemed to him of his own family. The greater was the revulsion of his feeling when he came upon anything false in character or low in behaviour. He was then severe, even to utter breach. Incapable of excusing himself, he was incapable also of excusing others. But though gentleness towards the faults of others is an indispensable fruit of life, it is perhaps well it should be a comparatively late one: there is danger of foreign excuse reacting on home conduct. Excuse ought to be rooted in profoundest obedience, and outgoing love. To say ANYTHING is too small to matter, is of the devil; to say anything is too great to forgive, is not of God. He who would soonest die to divide evil and his fellows, will be the readiest to make for them all HONEST excuse.

Cosmo liked best to hear Mr. Burns talk about precious stones. There he was great, for he had a passion for them, and Cosmo was more than ready to be infected with it. By the hour together would he discourse of them; now on the different and comparative merits of individual stones which had at one time and another passed through his hands, and on the way they were cut, or ought to have been cut; now on the conditions of size, shape, and water, as indicating the special best way of cutting them; now on the various settings, as bringing out the qualities of different kinds and differing stones.

One day he came upon the subject of the weather in relation to stones: on such a sort of day you ought to buy this or that kind of stone; on such another you must avoid buying this or that kind, and seek rather to sell.

Up to this moment, and the mention of this last point, Cosmo had believed Mr. Burns an immaculate tradesman, but here the human gem was turned at that angle to the light which revealed the flaw in it. There are tradesmen not a few, irreproachable in regard to money, who are not so in regard to the quality of their wares in relation to the price: they take and do not give the advantage of their superior knowledge; and well can I imagine how such a one will laugh at the idea that he ought not: to him every customer is more or less of a pigeon.

"If I could but buy plenty of such sapphires," said Mr. Burns, "on a foggy afternoon like this, when the air is as yellow as a cairngorm, and sell them the first summer-like day of spring, I should make a fortune in a very few years."

"But you wouldn't do it, Mr. Burns?" Cosmo ventured to suggest, in some foreboding anxiety, caused by the tone in which the man had spoken: he would fain have an express repudiation of the advantage thus to be obtained.

"Why not?" rejoined Mr. Burns, lifting his keen gray eyes, with some wonder in them, and looking Cosmo straight in the face. His mind also was crossed by a painful doubt: was the young man a mere innocent? was he "NO A' THERE?"

"Because it is not honest," replied Cosmo.

"Not honest!" exclaimed the jeweller, in a tone loud with anger, and deep with a sense of injury--whether at the idea that he should be capable of a dishonest thing, or at the possibility of having, for honesty's sake, to yield a money-making principle, I do not know; "I present the thing as it is, and leave my customer to judge according to his knowledge. Is mine to be worth nothing to me? There is no deception in the affair. A jeweller's business is not like a horse-dealer's. The stone is as God made it, and the day is as God made it, only my knowledge enables me to use both to better purpose than my neighbour can."

"Then a man's knowledge is for himself alone--for his own behoof exclusively--not for the common advantage of himself and his neighbour?" said Cosmo.

"Mine is so far for my neighbour, that I never offer him a stone that is not all I say it is. He gets the advantage of his knowledge, let us say, in selling me wine, which he understands to fit my taste with; and I get the advantage of my knowledge in selling him the ring that pleases him. Both are satisfied. Neither asks the other what he paid for this or that. But why make any bones about it; the first acknowledged principle in business is, to buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest."

"Where does the love of your neighbour come in then?"

"That has nothing to do with business; it belongs to the relations of social life. No command must be interpreted so as to make it impossible to obey it. Business would come to a stand-still--no man could make a fortune that way."

"You think then that what we are sent here for is to make a fortune?"

"Most people do. I don't know about SENT FOR. That's what, I fancy, I find myself behind this counter for. Anyhow the world would hardly go on upon any other supposition."

"Then the world had better stop. It wasn't worth making," said Cosmo.

"Young man," rejoined Mr. Burns, "if you are going to speak blasphemy, it shall not be on my premises."

Bewildered and unhappy, Cosmo turned away, left the shop, and for years never entered it again.

Mr. Burns had been scrupulous to half a grain in giving Mr. Warlock the full value of his gold and of his stones. Nor was this because of the liking he had taken to the old gentleman. There are not a few who will be carefully honest, to a greater or less compass, with persons they like, but leave those they do not like to protect themselves. But Mr. Burns was not of their sort. His interest in the laird, and his wounded liking for Cosmo, did, however, cause him to take some real concern in the moral condition of the latter; while, at the same time, he was willing enough to think evil of him who had denounced as dishonest one of his main principles in the conduct of affairs. It but added venom to the sting of Cosmo's words that although the jeweller was scarcely yet conscious of the fact, he was more unwilling to regard as wrong the mode he had defended, than capable of justifying it to himself. That same evening he wrote to the laird that he feared his son must have taken to keeping bad company, for he had that day spoken in his shop in a manner most irreverent and indeed wicked--so as he would never, he was certain, have dared to speak in his father's hearing. But college was a terrible place for ruining the good principles learned at home. He hoped Mr. Warlock would excuse the interest he took in his son's welfare. Nothing was more sad than to see the seed of the righteous turning from the path of righteousness--and so on.

The laird made reply that he was obliged to Mr. Burns for his communication and the interest he took in his boy, but could only believe there had been some mistake, for it was impossible his boy should have been guilty of anything to which his father would apply the epithets used by Mr. Burns. And so little did the thing trouble the laird, that he never troubled Cosmo with a word on the matter--only, when he came, home asked him what it meant.

But in after days Cosmo repented of having so completely dropped the old gentleman's acquaintance; he was under obligation to him; and if a man will have to do only with the perfect, he must needs cut himself first, and go out of the world. He had learned a good deal from him, but nothing of art: his settings were good, but of the commonest ideas. In the kingdom of heaven tradesmen will be teachers, but on earth it is their business to make fortunes! But a stone, its colour, light, quality, he enjoyed like a poet. Many with a child's delight in pure colours, have no feeling for the melodies of their arrangement, or the harmonies of their mingling. So are there some capable of delight in a single musical tone, who have but little reception for melody or complicate harmony. Whether a condition analogical might not be found in the moral world, and contribute to the explanation of such as Mr. Burns, I may not now enquire.

The very rainbow was lovelier to Cosmo after learning some of the secrets of precious stones. Their study served also his metaphysico-poetic nature, by rousing questions of the relations between beauty fixed and beauty evanescent; between the beauty of stones and the beauty of flowers; between the beauties of art, and the beauties of sunsets and faces. He saw that where life entered, it brought greater beauty, with evanescence and reproduction,--an endless fountain flow and fall. Many were the strange, gladsome, hopeful, corrective thoughts born in him of the gems in Mr. Burns's shop, and he owed the reform much to the man whose friendship he had cast from him. For every question is a door-handle.

Cosmo lived as simply as at home--in some respects more hardly, costing a sum for his maintenance incredibly small. Some may hint that the education was on a par with the expense; and, if education consists in the amount and accuracy of facts learned, and the worth of money in that poor country be taken into the account, the hint might be allowed to pass. But if education is the supply of material to a growing manhood, the education there provided was all a man needed who was man enough to aid his own growth; and for those who have not already reached that point, it is matter of infinite inconsequence what they or their parents find or miss. But I am writing of a period long gone by.

In his second year, willing to ease his father how--ever little, he sought engagements in teaching; and was soon so far successful that he had two hours every day occupied--one with a private pupil, and the other in a public school. The master of that school used afterwards to say that the laird of Glenwarlock had in him the elements of a real teacher. But indeed Cosmo had more teaching power than the master knew, for not in vain had he been the pupil of Peter Simon--whose perfection stood in this, that he not only taught, but taught to teach. Life is propagation. The perfect thing, from the Spirit of God downwards sends ITSELF onward, not its work only, but its life. And in the reaction Cosmo soon found that, for making a man accurate, there is nothing like having to impart what he possesses. He learned more by trying to teach what he thought he knew, than by trying to learn what he was sure he did not know.

In his third year it was yet more necessary he should gain what money he could. For the laird found that his neighbour, Lord Lick-my-loof, had been straining every means in his power to get his liabilities all into his own hands, and had in great part succeeded. The discovery sent a pang to the heart of the laird, for he could hardly doubt his lordship's desire was to foreclose every mortgage, and compel him to yield the last remnant of the possessions of his ancestors. He had refused him James Grade's cottage, and he would have his castle! But the day was not yet come; and as no one knew what was best for his boy, no one could foretell what would come to pass, or say what deliverance might not be in store for them! The clouds must break somehow, and then there was the sun! So, as a hundred times before, he gathered heart, and went on, doing his best, and trusting his hardest.

The summers at home between the sessions, were times of paradise to Cosmo. Now first he seemed to himself to begin to understand the simple greatness of his father, and appreciate the teaching of Mr. Simon. He seemed to descry the outlines of the bases on which they stood so far above him.

And now the question came up, what was Cosmo to do after he had taken his degree. It was impossible he should remain at home. There was nothing for him to do there, except the work of a farm labourer. That he would have undertaken gladly, had the property been secure, for the sake of being with his father; but the only chance of relieving the land was to take up some profession. The only one he had a leaning to was that of chemistry. This science was at the time beginning to receive so much attention in view of agricultural and manufacturing purposes, that it promised a sure source of income to the man who was borne well in front upon its rising tide. But alas, to this hope, money was yet required! A large sum must yet be spent on education in that direction, before his knowledge would be of money-value, fit for offer in the scientific market! He must go to Germany to Liebig, or to Edinburgh to Gregory! There was no money, and the plan was not, at least for the present, to be entertained. There was nothing left but go on teaching.

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