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- Warlock o' Glenwarlock - 6/98 -
Grizzie to her mistress. "It's the yoong laird's birthday, ye see, an' they aye haud a colloguin' thegither upo' that same, an' I kenna whaur to gang to cry them till their denner."
"Run an' ring the great bell," said the grandmother, mindful of old glories.
"'Deed, Is' du naething o' the kin'," said Grizzie to herself; "it's eneuch to raise a regiment--gien it camna doon upo' my heid."
But she had her suspicion, and finding the great door open, ascended the stair.
The two were sitting at a table, with the genealogical tree of the family spread out before them, the father telling tale after tale, the son listening in delight. I must confess, however--let it tell against the laird's honesty as it may--that, his design being neither to glorify his family, nor to teach records, but to impress all he could find of ancestral nobility upon his boy, he made a choice, and both communicated and withheld. So absorbed were they, that Grizzie's knock startled them both a good deal.
"Yer denners is ready, laird," she said, standing erect in the doorway.
"Verra weel, Grizzie, I thank ye," returned the laird.--"Cosmo, we'll take a walk together this evening, and then I'll tell you more about that brother of my grandfather's. Come along to dinner now.--I houp ye hae something in honour o' the occasion, Grizzie," he added in a whisper when he reached the door, where the old woman waited to follow them.
"I teuk it upo' me, laird," answered Grizzie in the same tone, while Cosmo was going down the stair, "to put a cock an' a leek thegither, an' they'll be nane the waur that ye hae keepit them i' the pot a whilie langer.--Cosmo," she went on when they had descended, and overtaken the boy, who was waiting for them at the foot, "the Lord bless ye upo' this bonnie day! An' may ye be aye a comfort to them 'at awes ye, as ye hae been up to this present."
"I houp sae, Grizzie," responded Cosmo humbly; and all went together to the kitchen.
There the table was covered with a clean cloth of the finest of homespun, and everything set out with the same nicety as if the meal had been spread in the dining-room. The old lady, who had sought to please her son by putting on her best cap for the occasion, but who had in truth forgot what day it was until reminded by Grizzie, sat already at the head of the table, waiting their arrival. She made a kind speech to the boy, hoping he would be master of the place for many years after his father and she had left him. Then the meal commenced. It did not last long. They had the soup first, and then the fowl that had been boiled in it, with a small second dish of potatoes--the year's baby Kidneys, besides those Grizzie had pared. Delicate pancakes followed--and dinner was over--except for the laird, who had a little toddy after. But as yet Cosmo had never even tasted strong drink--and of course he never desired it. Leaving the table, he wandered out, pondering some of the things his father had been telling him.
AN AFTERNOON SLEEP.
Presently, without having thought whither he meant to go, he found himself out of sight of the house--in a favourite haunt, but one in which he always had a peculiar feeling of strangeness and even expatriation. He had descended the stream that rushed past the end of the house, till it joined the valley river, and followed the latter up, to where it took a sudden sharp turn, and a little farther. Then he crossed it, and was in a lonely nook of the glen, with steep braes about him on all sides, some of them covered with grass, others rugged and unproductive. He threw himself down in the clover, a short distance from the stream, and straightway felt as if he were miles from home. No shadow of life was to be seen. Cottage-chimney nor any smoke was visible--no human being, no work of human hands, no sign of cultivation except the grass and clover.
Now whether it was that in childhood he had learned that here he was beyond his father's land, or that some early sense of loneliness in the place had been developed by a brooding fancy into a fixed feeling, I cannot well say; but certainly, as often as he came--and he liked to visit the spot, and would sometimes spend hours in it--he felt like a hermit of the wilderness cut off from human society, and was haunted with a vague sense of neighbouring hostility. Probably it came of an historical fancy that the nook ought to be theirs, combined with the sense that it was not. But there had been no injury done ab extra: the family had suffered from the inherent moral lack of certain of its individuals.
This sense of away-from-homeness, however, was not strong enough to keep Cosmo from falling into such a dreamful reverie as by degrees naturally terminated in slumber. Seldom is sleep far from one who lies on his back in the grass, with the sound of waters in his ears. And indeed a sleep in the open air was almost an essential ingredient of a holiday such as Cosmo had been accustomed to make of his birthday: constantly active as his mind was, perhaps in part because of that activity, he was ready to fall asleep any moment when warm and supine.
When he woke from what seemed a dreamless sleep, his half roused senses were the same moment called upon to render him account of something very extraordinary which they could not themselves immediately lay hold of. Though the sun was yet some distance above the horizon, it was to him behind one of the hills, as he lay with his head low in the grass; and what could the strange thing be which he saw on the crest of the height before him, on the other side of the water? Was it a fire in a grate, thinned away by the sunlight? How could there be a grate where there was neither house nor wall? Even in heraldry the combination he beheld would have been a strange one. There stood in fact a frightful-looking creature half consumed in light--yet a pale light, seemingly not strong enough to burn. It could not be a phoenix, for he saw no wings, and thought he saw four legs. Suddenly he burst out laughing, and laughed that the hills echoed. His sleep-blinded eyes had at length found their focus and clarity.
"I see!" he said, "I see what it is! It's Jeames Grade's coo 'at's been loupin' ower the mune, an's stucken upo' 't!"
In very truth there was the moon between the legs of the cow! She did not remain there long however, but was soon on the cow's back, as she crept up and up in the face of the sun. He bethought him of a couplet that Grizzie had taught him when he was a child:
Whan the coo loups ower the mune, The reid gowd rains intil men's shune.
And in after-life he thought not unfrequently of this odd vision he had had. Often, when, having imagined he had solved some difficulty of faith or action, presently the same would return in a new shape, as if it had but taken the time necessary to change its garment, he would say to himself with a sigh, "The coo's no ower the mune yet!" and set himself afresh to the task of shaping a handle on the infinite small enough for a finite to lay hold of. Grizzie, who was out looking for him, heard the roar of his laughter, and, guided by the sound, spied him where he lay. He heard her footsteps, but never stirred till he saw her looking down upon him like a benevolent gnome that had found a friendless mortal asleep on ground of danger.
"Eh, Cosmo, laddie, ye'll get yer deid o' caul'!" she cried. "An' preserve's a'! what set ye lauchin' in sic a fearsome fashion as yon? Ye're surely no fey!"
"Na, I'm no fey, Grizzle! Ye wad hae lauchen yersel' to see Jeames Gracie's coo wi' the mune atween the hin' an' the fore legs o' her. It was terrible funny."
"Hoots! I see naething to lauch at i' that. The puir coo cudna help whaur the mune wad gang. The haivenly boadies is no to be restricket."
Again Cosmo burst into a great laugh, and this time Grizzie, seriously alarmed lest he should be in reality fey, grew angry, and seizing hold of him by the arm, pulled lustily.
"Get up, I tell ye!" she cried. "Here's the laird speirin' what's come o' ye,'at ye come na hame to yer tay."
But Cosmo instead of rising only laughed the more, and went on until at length Grizzie made use of a terrible threat.
"As sure's sowens!" she said, "gien ye dinna haud yer tongue wi' that menseless-like lauchin', I'll no tell ye anither auld-warld tale afore Marti'mas."
"Will ye tell me ane the nicht gien I haud my tongue an' gang hame wi' ye?"
"Ay, that wull I--that's gien I can min' upo' ane."
He rose at once, and laughed no more. They walked home together in the utmost peace.
After tea, his father went out with him for a stroll, and to call on Jeames Gracie, the owner of the cow whose inconstellation had so much amused him. He was an old man, with an elderly wife, and a granddaughter--a weaver to trade, whose father and grandfather before him had for many a decade done the weaving work, both in linen and wool, required by "them at the castle." He had been on the land, in the person of his ancestors, from time almost immemorial, though he had only a small cottage, and a little bit of land, barely enough to feed the translunar cow. But poor little place as Jeames's was, if the laird would have sold it the price would have gone a good way towards clearing the rest of his property of its encumbrances. For the situation of the little spot was such as to make it specially desirable in the eyes of the next proprietor, on the border of whose land it lay. He was a lord of session, and had taken his title from the place, which he inherited from his father; who, although a laird, had been so little of a gentleman, that the lordship had not been enough to make one of his son. He was yet another of those trim, orderly men, who will sacrifice anything--not to beauty--of that they have in general no sense--but to tidiness: tidiness in law, in divinity, in morals, in estate, in garden, in house, in person--tidiness is in their eyes the first thing--seemingly because it is the highest creative energy of which they are capable. Naturally the dwelling of James
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