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- Warlock o' Glenwarlock - 80/98 -
together in a ruined heap over the tomb of the sun. And the stars came thinking out of the heavens, and the things of earth withdrew into the great nest of the dark. And so he found himself at the door of the cottage, where lay one of the heirs of all things, waiting to receive his inheritance.
But the news he heard was that the master was better; and the old woman showed him at once to his room, saying she knew he would be glad to see him. When he entered the study, in which, because of his long illness and need of air, Mr. Simon lay, the room seemed to grow radiant, filled with the smile that greeted him from the pillow. The sufferer held out his hand almost eagerly.
"Come, come!" he said; "I want to tell you something--a little experience I have just had--an event of my illness. Outwardly it is nothing, but to you it will not be nothing.--It was blowing a great wind last night."
"So my father tells me," answered Cosmo, "but for my part I slept too sound to hear it."
"It grew calm with the morning. As the light came the wind fell. Indeed I think it lasted only about three hours altogether.
"I have of late been suffering a good deal with my breathing, and it has always been worst when the wind was high. Last night I lay awake in the middle of the night, very weary, and longing for the sleep which seemed as if it would never come. I thought of Sir Philip Sidney, how, as he lay dying, he was troubled, because, for all his praying, God would not let him sleep: it was not the want of the sleep that troubled him, but that God would not give it him; and I was trying hard to make myself strong to trust in God whatever came to me, sleep or waking weariness or slow death, when all at once up got the wind with a great roar, as if the prince of the power of the air were mocking at my prayers. And I thought with myself,'It is then the will of God that I shall neither sleep nor lie at peace this night!' and I said,'Thy will be done!' and laid myself out to be quiet, expecting, as on former occasions, my breathing would begin to grow thick and hard, and by and by I should have to struggle for every lungsful. So I lay waiting. But still as I waited, I kept breathing softly. No iron band ringed itself about my chest; no sand filled up the passages of my lungs!
"The cottage is not very tight, and I felt the wind blowing all about me as I lay. But instead of beginning to cough and wheeze, I began to breathe better than before. Soon I fell fast asleep, and when I woke I seemed a new man almost, so much better did I feel. It was a wind of God, and had been blowing all about me as I slept, renewing me! It was so strange, and so delightful! Where I dreaded evil, there had come good! So, perchance, it will be when the time which the flesh dreads is drawing nigh: we shall see the pale damps of the grave approaching, but they will never reach us; we shall hear ghastly winds issuing from the mouth of the tomb, but when they blow upon us they shall be sweet--the waving of the wings of the angels that sit in the antechamber of the hall of life, once the sepulchre of our Lord. And when we die, instead of finding we are dead, we shall have waked better!"
It was an experience that would have been nothing to most men beyond its relief, but to Peter Simon it was a word from the eternal heart, which, in every true and quiet mood, speaks into the hearts of men. When we cease listening to the cries of self-seeking and self-care, then the voice that was there all the time enters into our ears. It is the voice of the Father speaking to his child, never known for what it is until the child begins to obey it. To him who has not ears to hear God will not reveal himself: it would be to slay him with terror.
Cosmo sat a long time talking with his friend, for now there seemed no danger of hurting him, so much better was he. It was late therefore when he rose to return.
Aggie was in the kitchen when he entered. She was making the porridge.
"What's come o' Grizzie?" asked Cosmo.
"Ye dinna like my parritch sae weel as hers!" returned Agnes.
"Jist as weel, Aggie," answered Cosmo.
"Dinna ye tell Grizzie that."
"What for no?"
"She wad be angert first, an' syne her hert wad be like to brak."
"There's nae occasion to say't," conceded Cosmo. "But what's come o' her the nicht?" he went on. "It's some dark, an' I doobt she'll--"
"The ro'd atween this an' the Muir's no easy to lowse," said Aggie.
But the same instant her face flushed hotter than ever fire or cooking made it; what she had said was in itself true, but what she had not said, yet meant him to understand, was not true, for Grizzie had gone nowhere near Muir o' Warlock. Aggie had never told a lie in her life, and almost before the words were out of her mouth, she felt as if the solid earth were sinking from under her feet. She left the spurtle sticking in the porridge, and dropped into the laird's chair.
"What's the maitter wi' ye, Aggie?" said Cosmo, hastening to her in alarm, for her face was now white, and her head was hanging down.
"This is no to be borne!" she cried, and started to her feet. "--Cosmo, I tellt ye a lee."
"Aggie!" cried Cosmo, dismayed, "ye never tellt me a lee i' yer life."
"Never afore," she answered; "but I hae tellt ye ane noo--no to live through! Grizzle's no gane to Muir o' Warlock."
"What care I whaur Grizzle's gane!" rejoined Cosmo. "Tell me or no tell me as ye like."
Aggie burst into tears.
"Haud yer tongue, Aggie," said Cosmo, trying to soothe her, himself troubled with her trouble, for he too was sorry she should ALMOST have told him a lie, and his heart was sore for her misery. Well he knew how she must suffer, having done a thing so foreign to her nature! "It COULD be little mair at the warst," he went on, "than a slip o' the wull, seein' ye made sic haste to set it richt again. For mysel', I s' bainish the thoucht o' the thing."
"I thank ye, Cosmo. Ye wad aye du like the Lord himsel'. But there's mair intil't. I dinna ken what to du or say. It's a sair thing to stan' 'atween twa, an' no ken what to du ohn dune mischeef--maybe wrang!--There's something it 'maist seems to me ye hae a richt to ken, but I canna be sure; an yet--"
She was interrupted by the hurried opening of the door. Grizzie came staggering in, with a face of terror.
"Tu wi' the door!" she cried, almost speechless, and sank in her turn upon a chair, gasping for breath, and dropping at her feet a canvas bag, about the size of a pillow-case.
Cosmo closed the door as she requested, and Aggie made haste to get her some water, which she drank eagerly. After a time of panting and sighing, she seemed to come to herself, and rose, saying, as if nothing had happened,
"I maun see to the supper."
Cosmo stooped and would have taken up the bag, but she pounced upon it, and carried it with her to the corner of the fire, where she placed it beyond her. In the meantime the porridge had begun to burn.
"Eh, sirs!" she cried, "the parritch'll be a' sung--no to mention the waste o' guid meal! Aggie, hoo cud ye be sae careless!"
"It was eneuch to gar onybody forget the pot to see ye come in like that, Grizzie!" said Cosmo.
"An' what'll ye say to the tale I bring ye!" rejoined Grizzie, as she turned the porridge into a dish, careful not to scrape too hard on the bottom of the pot.
"Tell's a' aboot it, Grizzie, an' bena lang aither, for I maun gang to my father."
"Gang til 'im. Here's naebody wad keep ye frae 'im!"
Cosmo was surprised at her tone, for although she took abundant liberty with the young laird, he had not since boyhood known her rude to him.
"No till I hear yer tale, Grizzie," he answered.
"An' I wad fain ken what ye'll say til't, for ye never wad alloo o' kelpies; an' there's me been followed by a sure ane, this last half-hoor--or it may be less!"
"Hoo kenned ye it was a kelpie--it's maist as dark's pick?"
"Kenned! quo' he? Didna I hear the deevil ahin' me--the tramp o' a' the fower feet o' 'im, as gien they had been fower an' twinty!"
"I won'er he didna win up wi' ye than, Grizzie!" suggested Cosmo.
"Guid kens hoo he didna; I won'er mysel'. But I trow I ran; an' I tak ye to witness I garred ye steik the door."
"But they say," objected Cosmo, who could not fail to perceive from what Aggie said that there was something going on which it behooved him to know, "that the kelpie wons aye by some watter--side."
"Weel, cam I no by the tarn o' the tap o' Stieve Know?"
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