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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWarlock O' Glenwarlock: A Homely Romance - Chapter 26. Lost And Found
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Warlock O' Glenwarlock: A Homely Romance - Chapter 26. Lost And Found Post by :AdrianMansilla Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :1385

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Warlock O' Glenwarlock: A Homely Romance - Chapter 26. Lost And Found

CHAPTER XXVI. LOST AND FOUND

When Cosmo came to himself, he had not a notion where he was, hardly indeed knew what he was. His chief consciousness was of an emptiness and a weight combined, that seemed to paralyze him. He would have turned on his side, but felt as if a ponderous heap of bed-clothes prevented him from even raising an arm--and yet he was cold. He tried to think back, to find what he knew of himself last, but could for a long time recall only a confused dream of multitudinous discomfort and painful effort. At last, however, came the garden, the spade-work, and the old man's talk; and then it seemed as if the cracked complaining voice had never left his ears.

"I've been ill!" he said to himself. "Perhaps I dropped down. I hope they haven't buried me!"

With a straining agony of will he got in motion an arm, which was lying like that of another man outside the coverlid, and felt feebly about him. His hand struck against something solid, and what seemed a handful of earth fell with a hollow rumble. Alas, this seemed ominous! Where could he be but in his coffin? The thought was not a pleasant one, certainly, but he was too weak, and had been wandering too long in the miserable limbo of vain fancies, to be much dismayed. He said to himself he would not have to suffer long--he must soon go to sleep, and so die.

Fatigued with that one movement, he lay for some time motionless. His eyes were open, though he did not know it, and by and by he became aware of light. Thin, dim, darkly gray, a particle at a time, it grew about him. For some minutes his eyes seemed of themselves, without any commission from him, to make inquiry of his surroundings. They discovered that, if he was in a coffin, or even in a sepulchre without a coffin, it was a large one: there was a wall--miles away! The light grew, and with it the conviction that he was in no sepulchre. But there the consolation ceased, for the still growing light revealed no sign of ministration or comfort. Above him was a bare, dirty, stained ceiling, with a hole in it, through which stuck skeleton ribs of lath; around him were bare, dirty-white walls, that seemed to grow out of the gray light of a wet morning as the natural deposit from such a solution. Two slender poles, meant to support curtains, but without a rag of drapery upon them, rose at his feet, like the masts of a Charon's boat. Was he indeed in the workhouse he had pre--ferred to Cairncarque? It could hardly be, for there was the plaster fallen in great patches from the walls as well as the ceiling, and surely no workhouse would be allowed to get into such a disrepair! He tried again, and this time succeeded in turning on his side, discovering in the process how hard the bed was, and how sharp his bones. A wooden chair stood a little beyond his reach, and upon it a bottle and teacup. Not another article could he discover. Right under the hole in the ceiling a board was partly rotted away in the floor, and a cold, damp air, smelling of earth, and decaying wood, seemed to come steaming up through it. A few minutes more, he said to himself, and he would get up, and out of the hideous place, but he must lie a little longer first, just to come to himself!--Now he would try!--What had become of his strength? Was it gone utterly? Could one night's illness have reduced him thus?

He seemed to himself unable to think, yet the profoundest thought went on as if thinking itself in him. Where had his strength lain before he lost it? Could that ever have been HIS which he could not keep? If a thing were ours, nothing could ever take it from us! Was his strength ever his then? Yes, for God had given it him. Then he could not have lost it! He had it still! The branches of it were gone, but the root remained, hid in God. All was well. If God chose that his child should lie there, for this day, and to-morrow, or till the next year, or if it pleased him that he should never rise again with the same body, was that a thing to trouble him? He turned his back on the ugly room, and was presently fast asleep again.

Not a few read the poems of a certain king brought up a shepherd lad. From Sunday to Sunday they read them. Amongst them, in their turn, they read these: "I will both lay me down in peace and sleep, for thou, Lord, only makest me to dwell in safety." Yet not only do these readers never have such a feeling in their own hearts in consequence, but they never even imagine that David really had it in his. Deeper and grander things still, uttered by this same shepherd-warrior, do they read, and yet in their wisdom will declare it preposterous that any Scotch lad should have such a feeling towards God as I have represented! "Doth God care for oxen?" says St. Paul. Doth God care for kings? I ask, or for Jew-shepherds? Or does he not care all over for all of us--oxen and kings and sparrows and Scotch lairds? According to such blind seers, less is to be expected of humanity since the son of David came, than it was capable of in his father David. Such men build stone houses, but never a spiritual nest. They cannot believe the thing possible which yet another man DOES. Nor ever may they believe it before they begin to do it. I wonder little at so many rejecting Christianity, while so many would-be champions of it hold theirs at arm's length--in their bibles, in their theories, in their church, in their clergyman, in their prayer-books, in the last devotional page they have read--a separable thing--not in their hearts on their beds in the stillness; not their comfort in the night-watches; not the strength of their days, the hope and joy of their conscious being! God is nearer to me than the air I breathe, nearer to me than the heart of wife or child, nearer to me than my own consciousness of myself, nearer to me than the words in which I speak to him, nearer than the thought roused in me by the story of his perfect son--or he is no God at all. The unbelievers might well rejoice in the loss of such a God as many Chris--tians would make of him. But if he be indeed the Father of our Lord Christ, of that Jew who lived and died doing the will of his Father, and nothing but that will, then, to all eternity, "Amen, thy will be done, O God! and nothing but thy will, in or through me!"

Cosmo had been ill a whole week--in fever and pain, and was now helpless almost as an infant. The old man had gone for his wife, and between them they had persuaded him, though all but unconscious, to exert himself sufficiently to reach the house. This effort he could recall, in the shape of an intermina--ble season during which he supported the world for Atlas, that he might get a little sleep; but it was only the aching weight of his own microcosm that he urged Atlanlean force to carry. They took him direct to the room where he now lay, for they had them--selves but one chamber, and if they took him there, what would become of the old bones to which the gardener was so fond of referring in his colloquies with himself? Also, it might be some fever he had taken, and their own lives were so much the more precious that so much of them was gone! Like most of us, they were ready to do THEIR NEXT BEST for him. They spared some of their own poor comforts to furnish the skeleton bed for him; and there he lay, like one adrift in a rotten boat on the ebbing ocean of life, while the old woman trudged away to the village to tell the doctor that there was a young Scotch gardener taken suddenly ill at their quarters in the castle.

The doctor sent his son, a man about thirty, who after travelling some years as medical attendant to a nobleman, had settled in his native village as his father's partner. He prescribed for Cosmo, and gave hope that there was nothing infectious about the case. Every day during the week he had come to see him, and the night before had been with him from dark to dawn.

The gardener's wife had informed Lady Joan that a young Scotchman who had come to her husband seeking employment, had been taken suddenly ill, and was lying in a room in the old wing; and Lady Joan had said she would speak to the housekeeper to let her have whatever she wanted for him. The doctor saw Lady Joan most every time he came to see Cosmo, and she would enquire how his patient was going on; she would also hear the housekeeper's complaints of the difficulty she had in getting wine from the butler--of which there was no lack, only he grudged it, for he was doing his best to drink up the stock the old lord had left behind him, intending to take his departure with the last bottle--but she took no farther interest in the affair. The castle was like a small deserted village, and there was no necessity for a person in one part of it knowing what was taking place in another.

But that same morning she had a letter from the laird, saying he was uneasy about his boy. He had been so inconsiderate, he informed her, as to set out to visit her without asking her leave, or even warning her of his intent; and since the letter announcing his immediate departure, received a fortnight before, he had not heard of or from him. This set Joan thinking. And the immediate result was, that she went to the gardener's wife, and questioned her concerning the appearance of her patient. In the old woman's answers she certainly could recognize no likeness to Cosmo; but he must have altered much in seven years, and she could not be satisfied without seeing the young man.

Cosmo lay fast asleep, and dreaming--but pleasant dreams now, for the fever gone, life was free to build its own castles. He thought he was dead, and floating through the air at his will, volition all that was necessary to propel him like a dragon-fly, in any direction he desired to take. He was about to go to his father, to receive his congratulations on his death, and to say to him that now the sooner he too died the better, that the creditors might have the property, everybody be paid, and they two and his mother be together for always. But first, before he set out, he must have one sight of Lady Joan, and in that hope was now hovering about the towers of the castle. He was slowly circling the two great ones of the gateway, crossing a figure of eight over the gallery where stood the machinery of the portcullis, when down he dropped, and lay bruised and heavy, unable by fiercest effort of the will to move an inch from the spot. He was making the reflection how foolish it was to begin to fly before assuring himself that he was dead, and was resolving to be quite prudent another time, when he felt as if a warm sunny cloud came over him, which made him open his eyes. They gradually cleared, and above him he saw the face of his many dreams--a little sadder than it was in them, but more beautiful.

Cosmo had so much of the childlike in him that illness made him almost a very child again, and when he saw Joan's face bending over him like a living sky, just as any child might have done, he put his arms round her neck, and drew her face down to his. Hearts get uppermost in illness, and people then behave as they would not in health. More is in it than is easily found. There is such a dumb prayer in the spirit to be _taken_!

Till he opened his eyes Lady Joan had been unable to satisfy herself whether the pale, worn, yet grand-looking youth could indeed be the lad Cosmo, and was not at all prepared for such precipitate familiarity: the moment she was released, she drew back with some feeling, if not of offence, yet of annoyance. But such a smile flooded Cosmo's face, mingled with such a pleading look of apology and excuse, which seemed to say, "How _could I help it?" that she was ashamed of herself. It was the same true face as the boy's, with its old look of devotion and gentle worship! To make all right she stooped of her own accord, and kissed his forehead.

"Thank you," murmured Cosmo, his own voice sounding to him like that of another. "Don't be vexed with me. I am but a baby, and have no mother. When I saw you, it was as if heaven had come down into hell, and I did not think to help it. How beautiful you are! How good of you to come to me!"

"Oh, Cosmo!" cried Lady Joan--and now large silent tears were running down her cheeks--"to think of the way you and your father took me and mine in, and here you have been lying ill--I don't know how long--in a place not fit for a beggar!"

"That's just what I am!" returned Cosmo with a smile, feeling already almost well. "I have such a long story to tell you, Joan! I remember all about it now."

"Why didn't you write,--?" said Joan, and checked herself, for alas! if he had written, what would she not have found herself compelled to do!--"Why didn't you send for me at once? They told me there was a young gardener lying ill, and of course I never dreamed it could be you. But I know if you had heard at Castle Warlock that a stranger was lying ill somewhere about the place, you would have gone to him at once! It was very wrong of me, and I am sorely punished!"

"Never mind," said Cosmo; "it's all right now. I have you, and it makes me well again all at once. When I see you standing there, looking just as you used, all the time between is shrivelled up to nothing, and the present joins right on to the past. But you look sad, Joan!--I MAY call you Joan still, mayn't I?"

"Surely, Cosmo. What else? I haven't too many to call me Joan!"

"But what makes you look sad?"

"Isn't it enough to think how I have treated you?"

"You didn't know it was me," said Cosmo.

"That is true. But if, as your father taught you, I had done it to HIM--"

"Well, there's one thing, Joan--you'll do differently another time."

"I can't be sure of that, for my very heart grows stupid, living here all alone."

"Anyhow, you will have trouble enough with me for awhile, fast as your eyes can heal me," said Cosmo, who began to be aware of a reaction.

Lady Joan's face flushed with pleasure, but the next moment grew pale again at the thought of how little she could do for him.

"The first thing," she said, "is to write to your father. When he knows I have got you, he won't be uneasy. I will go and do it at once."

Almost the moment she left him, Cosmo fell fast asleep again.

But now was Lady Joan, if not in perplexity, yet in no small discomfort. It made her miserable to think of Cosmo in such a place, yet she could not help saying to herself it was well he had not written, for she must then have asked him not to come: now that he was in the house, she dared not tell her brother; and were she to move him to any comfortable room in the castle, he would be sure to hear of it from the butler, for the less faith carried, the more favour curried! One thing only was in her power: she could make the room he was in comparatively comfortable. As soon, therefore, as she had written a hurried letter to the laird, she went hastily through some of the rooms nearest the part in which Cosmo lay, making choice of this and of that for her purpose: in the great, all but uninhabited place there were naturally many available pieces of stuff and of furniture. These she then proceeded, with her own hands, and the assistance of the gardener and his wife, to carry to his room; and when she found he was asleep, she put forth every energy to get the aspect of the place altered before he should wake. With noiseless steps she entered and left the room fifty times; and by making use of a door which had not been opened for perhaps a hundred years, she avoided attracting the least attention.

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