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- Warlock o' Glenwarlock - 60/98 -


When he had taken it, he felt inclined to sleep, and turned himself from the light. But the stick, which was leaning against the head of the bed, slipped, and fell on a part of the floor where there was no carpet; the noise startled and roused him, and the thought came that he had better first of all secure the ring--for which purpose undoubtedly there could be no better place than the horse! There, however, the piece of cotton wool would again be necessary, for without it the ring would rattle. He put the ring in the heart of it, replaced both in the horse, and set about discovering how to close it again.

This puzzled him not a little. Spring nor notch, nor any other means of attachment between the two halves of the animal, could he find. But at length he noted that the tail had slipped a little way out, and was loose; and experimenting with it, by and by discovered that by holding the parts together, and winding the tail round and round, the horse--how, he could not tell--was restored to its former apparent solidity.

And now where would the horse be safest? Clearly in its own place on the stick. He got out of bed therefore to pick the stick up, and in so doing saw on the carpet the piece of paper which had been round the cotton. This he picked up also, and getting again into bed, had begun to replace the handle of the bamboo, when his eyes fell again on the piece of paper, and he caught sight of crossing lines on it, which looked like part of a diagram of some sort. He smoothed it out, and saw indeed a drawing, but one quite unintelligible to him. It must be a sketch or lineation of something--but of what? or of what kind of thing? It might be of the fields constituting a property; it might be of the stones in a wall; it might be of an irregular mosaic; or perhaps it might be only a school-boy's exercise in trigonometry for land-measuring. It must mean something; but it could hardly mean anything of consequence to anybody! Still it had been the old captain's probably--or perhaps the old lord's: he would replace it also where he had found it. Once more he unscrewed the horse from the stick, opened it with Joan's hair-pin, placed the paper in it, closed all up again, and lay down, glad that Joan had got such a ring, but thinking the old captain had made a good deal of fuss about a small matter. He fell fast asleep, slept soundly, and woke much better.

In the evening came the doctor, and spent the whole of it with him, interesting and pleasing him more than ever, and displaying one after another traits of character which Cosmo, more than prejudiced in his favour already, took for additional proofs of an altogether exceptional greatness of character and aim. Nor am I capable of determining how much or how little Jermyn may have deceived himself in regard of the same.

Now that Joan had this ring, and his personal attachment to the doctor had so greatly increased, Cosmo found himself able to revert to the offer Jermyn once made of lending him a little money, which he had then declined. He would take the ring to Mr. Burns on his way home, and then ask Joan to repay Dr. Jermyn out of what he sent her for it. He told Jermyn therefore, as he sat by his bed-side, that he found himself obliged after all to accept the said generous proposal, but would return the money before he got quite home.

The doctor smiled, with reasons for satisfaction more than Cosmo knew, and taking out his pocket--book, said, as he opened it,

"I have just cashed a cheque, fortunately, so you had better have the money at once.--Don't bother yourself about it," he added, as he handed him the notes; "there is no hurry. I know it is safe."

"This is too much," said Cosmo.

"Never mind; it is better to have too much than too little; it will be just as easy to repay."

Cosmo thanked him, and put the money under his pillow. The doctor bade him good night, and left him.

The moment he was alone, a longing greater than he had ever yet felt, arose in his heart to see his father. The first hour he was able to travel, he would set out for home! His camera obscura haunted with flashing water and speedwells and daisies and horse-gowans, he fell fast asleep, and dreamed that his father and he were defending the castle from a great company of pirates, with the old captain at the head of them.

CHAPTER XXXVI.

THE THICK DARKNESS.

The next day he was still better, and could not think why the doctor would not let him get up. As the day went on, he wondered yet more why Joan did not come to see him. Not once did the thought cross him that it was the doctor's doing. If it had, he would but have taken it for a precaution--as indeed it was, for the doctor's sake, not his. Jermyn would have as little intercourse between them as might be, till he should have sprung his spiritual mine. But he did all he could to prevent him from missing her, and the same night opened all his heart to Cosmo--that is, all the show-part of it.

[Illustration: THE NEXT DAY HE WAS STILL BETTER.]

In terms extravagant, which he seemed to use because he could not repress them, he told his frozen listener that his whole nature, heart and soul, had been for years bound up in Lady Joan; that he had again and again been tempted to deliver himself by death from despair; that if he had to live without her, he would be of no use in the world, but would cease to care for anything. He begged therefore his friend Cosmo Warlock, seeing he stood so well with the lady, to speak what he honestly could in his behalf; for if she would not favour him, he could no longer endure life. His had never been over full, for he had had a hard youth, in which he had often been driven to doubt whether there was indeed a God that cared how his creatures went on. He must not say all he felt, but life, he repeated, would be no longer worth leading without at least some show of favour from Lady Joan.

At any former time, such words would have been sufficient to displace Jermyn from the pedestal on which Cosmo had set him. What! if all the ladies in the world should forsake him, was not God yet the all in all? But now as he lay shivering, the words entering his ears seemed to issue from his soul. He listened like one whom the first sting has paralyzed, but who feels the more every succeeding invasion of death. It was a silent, yet a mortal struggle. He held down his heart like a wild beast, which, if he let it up for one moment, would fly at his throat and strangle him. Nor could the practiced eye of the doctor fail to perceive what was going on in him. He only said to himself--"Better him than me! He is young and will get over it better than I should." He read nobility and self-abnegation in every shadow that crossed the youth's countenance, telling of the hail mingled with fire that swept through his universe; and said to himself that all was on his side, that he had not miscalculated a hair's-breadth. He saw at the same time Cosmo's heroic efforts to hide his sufferings, and left him to imagine himself successful. But how Cosmo longed for his departure, that he might in peace despair!--for such seemed to himself his desire for solitude.

What is it in suffering that makes man and beast long for loneliness? I think it is an unknown something, more than self, calling out of the solitude--"Come to me!--Come!" How little of the tenderness our human souls need, and after which consciously or unconsciously they hunger, do we give or receive! The cry of the hurt heart for solitude, seems to me the call of the heart of God--changed by the echo of the tiny hollows of the heart of his creature--"Come out from among them: come to me, and I will give you rest!" He alone can give us the repose of love, the peace after which our nature yearns.

Hurt by the selfishness and greed of men, to escape from which we must needs go out of the world, worse hurt by our own indignation at their wrong, and our lack of patience under it, we are his creatures and his care still. The RIGHT he claims as his affair, and he will see it done; but the wrong is by us a thousand times well suffered, if it but drive us to him, that we may learn he is indeed our very lover.

That was a terrible night for Cosmo--a night billowy with black fire. It reminded him afterwards of nothing so much as that word of the Lord--THE POWER OF DARKNESS. It was not merely darkness with no light in it, but darkness alive and operative. He had hardly dared suspect the nature, and only now knew the force, and was about to prove the strength of the love with which he loved Joan. Great things may be foreseen, but they cannot be known until they arrive. His illness had been ripening him to this possibility of loss and suffering. His heart was now in blossom: for that some hearts must break;--I may not say in FULL blossom, for what the full blossom of the human heart is, the holiest saint with the mightiest imagination cannot know--he can but see it shine from afar.

It was a severe duty that was now required of him--I do not mean the performance of the final request the doctor had made--that Cosmo had forgotten, neither could have attempted with honesty; for the emotion he could not but betray, would have pleaded for himself, and not for his friend; it was enough that he must yield the lady of his dreams, become the lady as well of his waking and hoping soul. Perhaps she did not love Jermyn--he could not tell; but Jermyn was his friend and had trusted in him, confessing that his soul was bound up in the lady; one of them must go to the torture chamber, and when the QUESTION lay between him and another, Cosmo knew for which it must be. He alone was in Cosmo's hands; his own self was all he held and had power over, all he could offer, could yield. Mr. Simon had taught him that, as a mother gives her children money to give, so God gives his children SELVES, with their wishes and choices, that they may have the true offering to lay upon the true altar; for on that altar nothing else will burn than SELVES.

"Very hard! A tyrannical theory!" says my reader? So will it forever appear to the man who has neither the courage nor the sense of law to enable him to obey. But that man shall be the eternal slave who says to Duty _I_ WILL NOT. Nor do I care to tell such a man of the "THOUSAND FOLD"--of the truth concerning that altar, that it is indeed the nest of God's heart, in which the poor, unsightly, unfledged offering shall lie, until they come to shape and loveliness, and wings grow upon them to bear them back to us divinely precious. Cosmo THOUGHT none of all this now--it had vanished from his consciousness, but was present in his life--that is, in his action: he did not feel, he DID it all--did it even when nothing seemed worth


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