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- Warlock o' Glenwarlock - 40/98 -
age is aboot the warst disease horses an' watches can be ta'en wi': there's sae little left to come an' gang upo'!"
While the homely assayer thus spoke, he was making his preparations.
"What for no men as weel's horses an' watches?" suggested the laird.
"I wadna meddle wi' men. I lea' them to the doctors an' the ministers," replied Jeames, with another wide, silent laugh.
By this time he had got a pair of scales carefully adjusted, a small tin vessel in one of them, and balancing weights in the other. Then he went to the rack over the dresser, and mildly lamenting his wife's absence and his own inability to lay his hand on the precise vessels he wanted, brought thence a dish and a basin. The dish he placed on the table with the basin in it and filled the latter with water to the very brim. He then took the horse, placed it gently in the basin, which was large enough to receive it entirely, and set basin and horse aside. Taking then the'dish into which the water had overflowed, he poured its contents into the tin vessel in the one scale, and added weights to the opposite until they balanced each other, upon which he made a note with a piece of chalk on the table. Next, he removed everything from the scales, took the horse, wiped it in his apron, and weighed it carefully. That done, he sat down, and leaning back in his chair, seemed to his visitors to be making a calculation, only the conjecture did not quite fit the strange, inscrutable expression of his countenance. The laird began to think he must be one of those who delight to plaster knowledge with mystery.
"Weel, laird," said Jeames at length, "the weicbt o' what ye hae laid upo' me, maks me doobtfu' whaur nae doobt sud be. But I'mb'un' to say, ootside the risk o' some mistak, o' the gr'un's o' which I can ken naething, for else I wadna hae made it,'at this bit horsie o' yours, by a' 'at my knowledge or skeel, which is naither o' them muckle, can tell me--this bit horsie--an' gien it binna as I say, I canNOT see what for it sudna be sae--only, ye see, laird, whan we think we ken a'thing, there's a heap ahint oor A'THING; an' feow ken better, at least feow hae a richt to ken better, nor I du mysel', what a puir cratur is man, an hoo liable to mak mistaks, e'en whan he's duin' his best to be i' the richt; an for oucht 'at I ken, there may hae been grit discoveries made, ohn ever come to my hearin','at upsets a'thing I ever was gien to tak, an' haud by for true; an' yet I daurna withhaud the conclusion I'm driven til, for maybe whiles the hert o' man may gang the wrang. gait by bein' ower wise in its ain conceit o' expeckin' ower little, jist as weel's in expeckin' ower muckle, an' sae I'm b'un' to tell ye, laird,'at yer expectations frae this knot o'metal,--for metal we maun alloo it to be, whatever else it be or bena--yer expectations, I say, are a'thegither wrang, for it's no more siller nor my wife's kitchie-poker."
"Weel, man!" said the laird, with a laugh that had in it just a touch of scorn, "gien the thing be sae plain, what gars ye gang that gait aboot the buss to say't? Du ye tak me and Cosmo here for bairns 'at wad fa' a greetin' gien ye tellt them their ba-lamb wasna a leevin' ane-naething but a fussock o' cotton-'oo', rowed roon' a bit stick? We're naither o' 's complimentit.--Come, Cosmo. --I'm nane the less obleeged to ye, Jeames," he added as he rose, "though I cud weel wuss yer opingon had been sic as wad hae pitten't 'i my pooer to offer ye a fee for't."
"The less said aboot that the better, laird.'" replied Jeames with imperturbability, and his large, silent smile; "the trowth's the trowth, whether it's paid for or no. But afore ye gang it's but fair to tell ye--only I wadna like to be hauden ower strickly accoontable for the opingon, seein' its no my profession, as they ca' 't, but I hae dune my best, an gien I be i' the wrang, I naither hae nor had ony ill design intil' 't.--"
"Bless my soul!" cried the laird, with more impatience than Cosmo had ever seen him show, "is the man mad, or does he take me for a fool?"
"There's some things, laird," resumed Jeames, "that hae to be approcht oontil, wi' circumspection an' a proaper regaird to the impression they may mak. Noo, disclaimin' ony desire to luik like an ill-bred scoon'rel, whilk I wad raither luik to onybody nor to yersel', laird, I ventur to jaloose 'at maybe the maitter o' a feow poun's micht be o' some consequence to ye,-"
"Ilka fule i' the country kens that 'at kens Glenwarlock," interrupted the laird, and turned hastily. "Come, Cosmo."
Cosmo went to open the door, troubled to see his father annoyed with the unintelligibility of the man.
"Weel, gien ye WELL gang," said Jeames, "I maun jist tak my life i' my ban', an'--"
"Hoot, man! tak yer tongue i' yer teeth; it'll be mair to the purpose," cried the laird laughing, for he had got over his ill humour already. "My life i' my han', quo' he!-Man, I haena carriet a dirk this mony a day! I laid it aff wi' the kilt."
"Weel, it micht be the better 'at ye hadna, gien ye binna gaein hame afore nicht, for I saw some cairds o' the ro'd the day.--Ance mair, gien ye wad but hearken til ane 'at confesses he oucht to ken, even sud he be i' the wrang, I tell ye that horsie is NOT siller--na, nor naething like it."
"Plague take the man!--what is it, then?" cried the laird.
"What for didna ye speir that at me afore?" rejoined Jeames. "It wad hae gien me leeberty to tell ye--to the best o' my abeelity that is. Whan I'm no cocksure--an' its ower muckle a thing to be cocksure aboot--I wadna volunteer onything. I wadna say naething till I was adjured like an evil speerit."
"Weel," quoth the laird, entering now into the humour of the thing, "herewith I adjure thee, thou contrairy and inarticulate speerit, that thou tell me whereof and of what substance this same toy-horse is composed, manufactured, or made up."
"Toy here, toy there!" returned Jeames; "sae far as ony cawpabeelity o' mine, or ony puir skeel I hae, will alloo o' testimony--though min' ye, laird, I winna tak the consequences o' bein' i' the wrang--though I wad raither tak them, an' ower again, nor be i' the wrang,--"
The laird turned and went out, followed by Cosmo. He began to think the man must have lost his reason. But when the watchmaker saw them walking steadily along the street in the direction of home, he darted out of the cloor and ran after them.
"Gien ye wad gang, laird," he said, in an injured tone, "ye mecht hae jist latten me en' the sentence I had begun!"
"There's nae en' to ony o' yer sentences, man!" said the laird; "that's the only thing i' them 'at was forgotten,'cep' it was the sense."
"Weel, guid day to ye laird!" returned Jeames. "Only," he added, drawing a step nearer, and speaking in a subdued confidential voice, "dinna lat yer harsie rin awa' upo' the ro'd hame, for I sweir til ye, gien there be only trowth i' the laws o' natur, he's no siller, nor onything like it--"
"Hoots!" said the laird, and turning away, walked off with great strides.
"But," the watchmaker continued, almost running to keep up with him, and speaking in a low, harsh, hurried voice, as if thrusting the words into his ears, "naither mair nor less nor solid gowd--pure gowd, no a grain o' alloy!"
That said, he turned, went back at the same speed, shot himself into his cottage, and closed the door.
The father and son stopped, and looked at each other for a moment. Then the laird walked slowly on. After a minute or two, Cosmo glanced up in his face, but his father did not return the glance, and the boy saw that he was talking to another. By and by he heard him murmur to himself, "The gifts of God are without repentance."
Not a word passed between them as they went home, though all the time it seemed to both father and son that they were holding closest converse. The moment they reached the castle, the laird went to his room--to the closet where his few books lay, and got out a volume of an old cyclopaedia, where he read all he could find about gold. Thence descending to the kitchen, he rummaged out a rusty old pair of scales, and with their help arrived at the conclusion that the horse weighed about three pounds avoirdupois: it might be worth about a hundred and fifty pounds. Ready money, this was a treasure in the eyes of one whose hand had seldom indeed closed upon more than ten pounds at once. Here was large provision for the four years of his boy's college life! Nor was the margin it would leave for his creditors by any means too small for consideration! It is true the golden horse, hoofs, and skin, and hair of jewels, could do but little towards the carting away of the barrow of debt that crushed Glenwarlock; but not the less was it a heavenly messenger of good will to the laird. There are who are so pitiful over the poor man, that, finding they cannot lift him beyond the reach of the providence which intends there shall always be the poor on the earth, will do for him nothing at all.
"Where is the use?" they say. They treat their money like their children, and would not send it into a sad house. If they had themselves no joys but their permanent ones, where would the hearts of them be? Can such have a notion of the relief, the glad rebound of the heart of the poor man, the in-burst of light, the re-creation of the world, when help, however temporary, reaches him? A man like the laird of Glenwarlock, capable of a large outlook, one that reaches beyond the wide-spread skirts of his poverty, sees in it an arc of the mighty rainbow that circles the world, a well in the desert he is crossing to the pastures of red kine and woolly sheep. It is to him a foretaste of the final deliverance. While the rich giver is saying, "Poor fellow, he will be just as bad next month again!" the poor fellow is breathing the airs of paradise, reaping more joy of life in half a day than his benefactor in half a year, for help is a quick seed and of rapid growth, and bourgeons in a moment into the infinite aeons. Everything in this world is but temporary: why should temporary help be undervalued? Would you not pull out a drowning bather because he will bathe again to-morrow? The only question is--DOES IT HELP? Jonah might grumble at the withering of his gourd, but if it had not grown at all, would he ever have preached to Nineveh? It set the laird on a Pisgah-rock, whence he gazed into the promised
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