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- Warlock o' Glenwarlock - 4/98 -
some home-made stuff: all the coarser cloth they wore, and they wore little else, was shorn from their own sheep, and spun, woven, and made at home; an old blue dress coat with bright buttons; a drab waistcoat which had once been yellow; and to crown all, a red woollen nightcap, hanging down on one side with a tassel.
"Weel, Grizzie!" he said, in a gentle, rather sad voice, as if the days of his mourning were not yet ended, "I'm ower sune the day!"
He never passed Grizzie without greeting her, and Grizzie's devotion to him was like that of slave and sister mingled.
"Na, laird," she answered, "ye can never be ower sune for yer ain fowk, though ye may be for yer ain stamack. The taties winna be lang bilin' the day. They're some sma'."
"That's because you pare them so much, Grizzie," said the grandmother.
Grizzie vouchsafed no reply.
The moment young Cosmo saw whose shadow darkened the doorway, he rose in haste, and standing with his hand upon the arm of the chair, waited for his father to seat himself in it. The laird acknowledged his attention with a smile, sat down, and looked like the last sitter grown suddenly old. He put out his hand to the boy across the low arm of the chair, and the boy laid his hand in his father's, and so they remained, neither saying a word. The laird leaned back, and sat resting. All were silent.
Notwithstanding the oddity of his dress, no one who had any knowledge of humanity could have failed to see in Cosmo Warlock, the elder, a high bred gentleman. His face was small, and the skin of it was puckered into wrinkles innumerable; his mouth was sweet, but he had lost his teeth, and the lips had fallen in; his chin, however, was large and strong; while his blue eyes looked out from under his narrow high forehead with a softly piercing glance of great gentleness and benignity. A little gray hair clustered about his temples and the back of his head--the red nightcap hid the rest. There was three days' growth of gray beard on his chin, for NOW THAT HE HAD NOBODY, he would say, he had not the heart to shave every morning.
For some time he sat looking straight before him, smiling to his mother's hands as they knitted, she casting on him now and then a look that seemed to express the consciousness of blame for not having made a better job of him, or for having given him too much to do in the care of himself. For neither did his mother believe in him farther than that he had the best possible intentions in what he did, or did not do. At the same time she never doubted he was more of a man than ever his son would be, seeing they had such different mothers.
"Grizzie," said the laird, "hae ye a drappy o' soor milk? I'm some dry."
"Ay, that hae I, sir!" answered Grizzie with alacrity, and rising went into the darker region behind the kitchen, whence presently she emerged with a white basin full of rich milk--half cream, it was indeed. Without explanation or apology she handed it to her master, who received and drank it off.
"Hoots, woman!" he said, "ye wad hae me a shargar (A SKIN-AND-BONE CALF)! That's no soor milk!"
"I'm vexed it's no to yer taste, laird!" returned Grizzie coolly, "but I hae nane better."
"Ye tellt me ye had soor milk," said the laird--without a particle of offence, rather in the tone of apology for having by mistake made away with something too good for him.
"Weel, laird," replied Grizzie, "it's naething but the guidman's milk; an' gien ye dinna ken what's guid for ye at your time o' life, it's weel there sud be anither 'at does. What has a man o' your 'ears to du drinkin' soor milk--eneuch to turn a' soor thegither i' the inside o' ye! It's true I win' ye weel a sma' bairn i' my leddy's airms--
"Ye may weel du that!" interrupted her mistress.
"I wasna weel intil my teens, though, my leddy!" returned Grizzie. "An' I'm sure," she added, in revenge for the insinuation as to her age, "it wad ill become ony wuman to grudge a man o' the laird's stan'in a drap o' the best milk in's ain cellar!"
"Who spoke of refusing it to him?" said his mother.
"Ye spak yersel' sic an' siclike," answered Grizzie.
"Hoots, Grizzie! haud yer tongue, my wuman," said the laird, in the gentlest tone, yet with reproof in it. "Ye ken weel it's no my mother wad grudge me the milk ye wad gie me. It was but my'sel' 'at didna think mysel' worthy o' that same, seein' it's no a week yet sin' bonny Hawkie dee'd!"
"An' wad ye hae the Lord's anintit depen' upo' Hawkie?" cried Grizzie with indignation.
The contest went no farther, and Grizzie had had the best of it, as none knew better than she. In a minute or two the laird rose and went out, and Cosmo went with him.
Before Cosmo's mother died, old Mrs. Warlock would have been indignant at the idea of sitting in the kitchen, but things had combined to bring her to it. She found herself very lonely seated in state in the drawing-room, where, as there was no longer a daughter-in-law to go and come, she learned little or nothing of what was doing about the place, and where few that called cared to seek her out, for she had never been a favourite with the humbler neighbours. Also, as time went on, and the sight of money grew rarer and rarer, it became more desirable to economize light in the winter. They had not come to that with firing, for, as long as there were horses and intervals of less labour on the farm, peats were always to be had--though at the same time, the drawing-room could not be made so warm as the kitchen. But for light, even for train-oil to be burned in the simplest of lamps, money had to be paid--and money was of all ordinary things the seldomest seen at Castle Warlock. From these operative causes it came by degrees, that one winter, for the sake of company, of warmth, of economy, Mistress Warlock had her chair carried to the kitchen; and the thing once done, it easily and naturally grew to a custom, and extended itself to the summer as well; for she who had ceased to stand on ceremony in the winter, could hardly without additional loss of dignity reascend her pedestal only because it was summer again. To the laird it was a matter of no consequence where he sat, ate, or slept. When his wife was alive, wherever she was, that was the place for him; when she was gone, all places were the same to him. There was, besides, that in the disposition of the man which tended to the homely:--any one who imagines that in the least synonymous with the coarse, or discourteous, or unrefined, has yet to understand the essentials of good breeding. Hence it came that the other rooms of the house were by degrees almost neglected. Both the dining-room and drawing-room grew very cold, cold as with the coldness of what is dead; and though he slept in the same part of the house by choice, not often did the young laird enter either. But he had concerning them, the latter in particular, a notion of vastness and grandeur; and along with that, a vague sense of sanctity, which it is not quite easy to define or account for. It seems however to have the same root with all veneration for place--for if there were not a natural inclination to venerate place, would any external reason make men capable of it? I think we shall come at length to feel all places, as all times and all spaces, venerable, because they are the outcome of the eternal nature and the eternal thought. When we have God, all is holy, and we are at home.
As soon as they were out of the kitchen-door, the boy pushed his hand into his father's; the father grasped it, and without a word spoken, they walked on together. They would often be half a day together without a word passing between them. To be near, each to the other, seemed enough for each.
Cosmo had thought his father was going somewhere about the farm, to see how things were getting on; but, instead of crossing to the other side of the court, where lay the sheds and stables, etc., or leaving it by the gate, the laird turned to the left, and led the way to the next block of building, where he stopped at a door at the farther end of the front of it. It was a heavy oak door, studded with great broad iron knobs, arranged in angular patterns. It was set deep in the thick wall, but there were signs of there having been a second, doubtless still stronger, flush with the external surface, for the great hooks of the hinges remained, with the deep hole in the stone on the opposite side for the bolt. The key was in the lock, for, except to open the windows, and do other necessary pieces of occasional tendance, it was seldom anybody entered the place, and Grizzie generally turned the key, and left it in the lock. She would have been indignant at the assertion, but I am positive it was not ALWAYS taken out at night. In this part of the castle were the dining and drawing rooms, and immediately over the latter, a state bedroom in which nobody had slept for many years.
It was into a narrow passage, no wider than itself, the door led. From this passage a good-sized hall opened to the left--very barely furnished, but with a huge fireplace, and a great old table, that often had feasted jubilant companies. The walls were only plastered, and were stained with damp. Against them were fixed a few mouldering heads of wild animals--the stag and the fox and the otter--one ancient wolf's-head also, wherever that had been killed. But it was not into this room the laird led his son. The passage ended in a stone stair that went up between containing walls. It was much worn, and had so little head-room that the laird could not ascend without stooping. Cosmo was short enough as yet to go erect, but it gave him always a feeling of imprisonment and choking, a brief agony of the imagination, to pass through the narrow curve, though he did so at least twice every day. It was the oldest-looking thing about the place--that staircase.
At the top of it, the laird turned to the right, and lifted the latch--all the doors were latched--of a dark-looking door. It screaked dismally as it opened. He entered and undid a shutter, letting an abiding flash of the ever young light of the summer day into the ancient room. It was long since Cosmo had been in it
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