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- Warlock o' Glenwarlock - 5/98 -
before. The aspect of it affected him like a withered wall-flower.
It was a well-furnished room. A lady with taste must at one time at least have presided in it--but then withering does so much for beauty--and that not of stuffs and THINGS only! The furniture of it was very modern compared with the house, but not much of it was younger than the last James, or Queen Anne, and it had all a stately old-maidish look. Such venerable rooms have been described, and painted, and put on the stage, and dreamed about, tens of thousands of times, yet they always draw me afresh as if they were as young as the new children who keep the world from growing old. They haunt me, and if I miss them in heaven, I shall have one given me. On the floor was an old, old carpet, wondrously darned and skilfully patched, with all its colours faded into a sweet faint ghost-like harmony. Several spider-legged, inlaid tables stood about the room, but most of the chairs were of a sturdier make, one or two of rich carved work of India, no doubt a great rarity when first brought to Glenwarlock. The walls had once had colour, but it was so retiring and indistinct in the little light that came through the one small deep-set window whose shutter had been opened, that you could not have said what it was. There were three or four cabinets--one of them old Japanese; and on a table a case of gorgeous humming birds. The scarlet cloth that covered the table was faded to a dirty orange, but the birds were almost as bright as when they darted like live jewels through the tropical sunlight. Exquisite as they were however, they had not for the boy half the interest of a faded old fire-screen, lovelily worked in silks, by hands to him unknown, long ago returned to the earth of which they were fashioned. A variety of nick-nacks and ornaments, not a few of which would have been of value in the eyes of a connoisseur, crowded the chimney-piece--which stood over an iron grate with bulging bars, and a tall brass fender. How still and solemn-quiet it all was in the middle of the great triumphant sunny day--like some far-down hollow in a rock, the matrix of a gem! It looked as if it had done with life--as much done with life as if it were a room in Egyptian rock, yet was it full of the memories of keenest life, and Cosmo knew there was treasure upon treasure of wonder and curiosity hid in those cabinets, some of which he had seen, and more he would like to see. But it was not to show him any of these that his father had now brought him to the room.
Not once yielding the right hand of the boy which was clasped to and in his own, the laird closed the door of the room, and advancing the whole length of it, stopped at a sofa covered with a rich brocade, and seating himself thereon, slowly, and with a kind of care, drew him between his thin knees, and began to talk to him. Now there was this difference between the relation of these two and that of most fathers and sons, that, thus taken into solemn solitude by his old father, the boy felt no dismay, no sense of fault to be found, no troubled expectation of admonition. Reverence and love held about equal sway in his feeling towards his father. And while the grandmother looked down on Cosmo as the son of his mother, for that very reason his father in a strange lovely way reverenced his boy: the reaction was utter devotion.
Cosmo stood and looked in his father's eyes--their eyes were of the same colour.--that bright sweet soft Norwegian blue--his right hand still clasped in his father's left, and his left hand leaning gently on his father's knee. Then, as I say, the old man began to talk to the young one. A silent man ordinarily, it was from no lack of the power of speech, for he had a Celtic gift of simple eloquence.
"This is your birthday, my son."
"You are now fourteen."
"You are growing quite a man."
"I don't know, papa."
"So much of a man, at least, my Cosmo, that I am going to treat you like a man this day, and tell you some things that I have never talked about to any one since your mother's death.--You remember your mother, Cosmo?"
This question he was scarcely ever alone with the boy without asking--not from forgetfulness, but from the desire to keep the boy's remembrance of her fresh, and for the pure pleasure of talking of her to the only one with whom it did not seem profane to converse concerning his worshipped wife.
"Yes, papa, I do."
The laird always spoke Scotch to his mother, and to Grizzie also, who would have thought him seriously offended had he addressed her in book-English; but to his Marion's son he always spoke in the best English he had, and Cosmo did his best in the same way in return.
"Tell me what you remember about her," said the old man.
He had heard the same thing again and again from the boy, yet every time it was as if he hoped and watched for some fresh revelation from the lips of the lad--as if, truth being one, memory might go on recalling, as imagination goes on foreseeing.
"I remember," said the boy, "a tall beautiful woman, with long hair, which she brushed before a big, big looking-glass."
The love of the son, kept alive by the love of the husband, glorifying through the mists of his memory the earthly appearance of the mother, gave to her the form in which he would see her again, rather than that in which he had actually beheld her. And indeed the father saw her after the same fashion in the memory of his love. Tall to the boy of five, she was little above the middle height, yet the husband saw her stately in his dreams; there was nothing remarkable in her face except the expression, which after her marriage had continually gathered tenderness and grace, but the husband as well as the children called her absolutely beautiful.
"What colour were her eyes, Cosmo?"
"I don't know; I never saw the colour of them; but I remember they looked at me as if I should run into them."
"She would have died for you, my boy. We must be very good that we may see her again some day."
"I will try. I do try, papa."
"You see, Cosmo, when a woman like that condescends to be wife to one of us and mother to the other, the least we can do, when she is taken from us, is to give her the same love and the same obedience after she is gone as when she was with us. She is with her own kind up in heaven now, but she may be looking down and watching us. It may be God lets her do that, that she may see of the travail of her soul and be satisfied--who can tell? She can't be very anxious about me now, for I am getting old, and my warfare is nearly over; but she may be getting things ready to rest me a bit. She knows I have for a long time now been trying to keep the straight path, as far as I could see it, though sometimes the grass and heather has got the better of it, so that it was hard to find. But YOU must remember, Cosmo, that it is not enough to be a good boy, as I shall tell her you have always been: you've got to be a good man, and that is a rather different and sometimes a harder thing. For, as soon as a man has to do with other men, he finds they expect him to do things they ought to be ashamed of doing themselves; and then he has got to stand on his own honest legs, and not move an inch for all their pushing and pulling; and especially where a man loves his fellow man and likes to be on good terms with him, that is not easy. The thing is just this, Cosmo--when you are a full-grown man, you must be a good boy still--that's the difficulty. For a man to be a boy, and a good boy still, he must be a thorough man. The man that's not manly can never be a good boy to his mother. And you can't keep true to your mother, except you remember Him who is father and mother both to all of us. I wish my Marion were here to teach you as she taught me. She taught me to pray, Cosmo, as I have tried to teach you--when I was in any trouble, just to go into my closet, and shut to the door, and pray to my Father who is in secret--the same Father who loved you so much as to give you my Marion for a mother. But I am getting old and tired, and shall soon go where I hope to learn faster. Oh, my boy! hear your father who loves you, and never do the thing you would be ashamed for your mother or me to know. Remember, nothing drops out; everything hid shall be revealed. But of all things, if ever you should fail or fall, don't lie still because you are down: get up again--for God's sake, for your mother's sake, for my sake--get up and try again.
"And now it is time you should know a little about the family of which you come. I don't doubt there have been some in it who would count me a foolish man for bringing you up as I have done, but those of them who are up there don't. They see that the business of life is not to get as much as you can, but to do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with your God--with your mother's God, my son. They may say I have made a poor thing of it, but I shall not hang my head before the public of that country, because I've let the land slip from me that I couldn't keep any more than this weary old carcase that's now crumbling away from about me. Some would tell me I ought to shudder at the thought of leaving you to such poverty, but I am too anxious about yourself, my boy, to think much about the hardships that may be waiting you. I should be far more afraid about you if I were leaving you rich. I have seen rich people do things I never knew a poor gentleman do. I don't mean to say anything against the rich--there's good and bad of all sorts; but I just can't be so very sorry that I am leaving you to poverty, though, if I might have had my way, it wouldn't have been so bad. But he knows best who loves best. I have struggled hard to keep the old place for you; but there's hardly an acre outside the garden and close but was mortgaged before I came into the property. I've been all my life trying to pay off, but have made little progress. The house is free, however, and the garden; and don't you part with the old place, my boy, except you see you OUGHT. But rather than anything not out and out honest, anything the least doubtful, sell every stone. Let all go, if you should have to beg your way home to us. Come clean, my son, as my Marion bore you."
Here Cosmo interrupted his father to ask what MORTGAGED meant. This led to an attempt on the part of the laird to instruct him in the whole state of the affairs of the property. He showed him where all the papers were kept, and directed him to whom to go for any requisite legal advise. Weary then of business, of which he had all his life had more than enough, he turned to pleasanter matters, and began to tell him anecdotes of the family.
"What in mercy can hae come o' the laird, think ye, my leddy?" said
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