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chimney. The one candle at the other end
could not illuminate its darkness, and I sat un-
seen, a few steps from the bottom of the stair,
listening with all my ears, and staring with all
all my eyes. The stranger's huge cloak hung
drying before the fire, and he was drinking
something out of a tumbler. The light fell full
upon his face. It was a curious, and certainly not
to me an attractive face. The forehead was
very projecting, and the eyes were very small,
deep set, and sparkling. The mouth — I had
almost said muzzle — was very projecting like-



THE PENDULUM. 47

wise, and the lower jaw shot in front of the up-
per. When the man smiled the light was re-
flected from what seemed to my eyes an inor-
dinate multitude of white teeth. His ears were
narrow and long, and set very high upon
his head. The hand which he every now and
then displayed in the exigencies of his persua-
sion, was white, but very large, and the thumb
was exceedingly long. I had weighty reasons
for both suspecting and fearing the man ; and,
leaving my prejudices out of the question, there
was in the conversation itself enough besides
to make me take note of dangerous points in
his appearance. I never could lay much claim
to physical courage, and I attribute my behav-
iour on this occasion rather to the fascination of
terror than to any impulse of self-preservation :
I sat there in utter silence, listening like an ear-
trumpet. The first words I could distinguish
were to this effect : —

u You do not mean," said the enemy, il to tell
me, Mr. Cumbermede, that you intend to bring
up the young fellow in absolute ignorance of
the decrees of fate ?"

" I pledge myself to nothing in the matter,"



48 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

returned my uncle, calmly, but with something
in his tone which was new to me.

" Good heavens I" exclaimed the other. " Ex-
cuse me, sir, but what right can you have to in-
terfere after such a serious fashion with the
young gentleman's future ?"

" It seems to me," said my uncle, " that you
wish to interfere with it after a much more
serious fashion. There are things in which
ignorance may be preferable to knowledge."

"But what harm could the knowledge of
such a fact do him V

" Upset all his notions, render him incapable
of thinking about anything of importance, oc-
casion an utter "

" But can anything be more important ?" in-
terrupted the visitor.

My uncle went on without heeding him.

" Plunge him over head and ears in "

"Hot water, I grant you," again interrupted
the enemy, to my horror ; " but it wouldn't be
for long. Only give me your sanction, and I
promise you to have the case as tight as a
drum before I ask you to move a step in
it."



THE PENDULUM. 49

" But why should you take so much interest
in what is purely our affair V 9 asked my uncle.

" Why, of course you would have to pay the
piper," said the man.

This was too much! Pay the man that
played upon me after I was made into bagpipes !
The idea was too frightful.

"I must look out for business, you know ; and,
by Jove ! I shall never have such a chance, if I
live to the age of Methuselah."

" Well, you shall not have it from me."

" Then," said the man, rising, " you are more
of a fool than I took you for."

" Sir !" said my uncle.

" No offence ; no offence, I assure you. But
it is provoking to find people so blind — so wil-
fully blind — to their own interest. You may
say I have nothing to lose. Give me the boy,
and I'll bring him up like my own son ; send
him to school and college, too — all on the
chance of being repaid twice over by "

I knew this was all a trick to get hold of my
skin. The man said it on his way to the door,
his ape-face shining dim as he turned it a little
back in the direction of my uncle, who followed

VOL. I. E



50 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

with the candle. I lost the last part of the
sentence in the terror which sent me bounding
up the stair in my usual four-footed fashion. I
leaped into my bed, shaking with cold and
agony combined. But I had the satisfaction
presently of hearing the thud of the horse's
hoofs upon the sward, dying away in the direc-
tion whence they had come. After that I
soon fell asleep.

I need hardly say that I never set the pendu-
lum swinging again. Many years after, I
came upon it when searching for a key, and the
thrill which vibrated through my whole frame
announced a strange and unwelcome presence
long before my memory could recall its origin.

It must not be supposed that I pretend to
remember all the conversation I have just set
down. The words are but the forms in which,
enlightened by facts which have since come to
my knowledge, I clothe certain vague memories
and impressions of such an interview as cer-
tainly took place.

In the morning, at breakfast, my aunt asked
my uncle who it was that paid such an untime-
ly visit the preceding night.



THE PENDULUM. 51

" A fellow from Minstercombe," (the county
town), "an attorney — -what did he say his
name was? Yes, I remember. It was the
same as the steward's over the way. Coning-
ham, it was."

" Mr. Coningham has a son there — an at-
torney too, I think," said my aunt.

My uncle seemed struck by the reminder,
and became meditative.

" That explains his choosing such a night to
come in. His father is getting an old man
now. Yes, it must be the same."

" He's a sharp one, folk say," said my aunt,
with a pointedness in the remark which showed
some anxiety.

44 That he cannot conceal, sharp as he is," said
my uncle, and there the conversation stopped.

The very next evening my uncle began to
teach me. I had a vague notion that this had
something to do with my protection against
the machinations of the man Coningham, the
idea of whom was inextricably associated in my
mind with that of the Prince of the Power of
the Air, darting from the midst of the churning
trees, on a horse whose streaming mane and



E !^on -



52 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

flashing eyes indicated no true equine origin.
I gave myself with diligence to the work my
uncle set me.



53



CHAPTER V.

I HAVE LESSONS.

TT is a simple fact that up to this time I did
■*■ not know my letters. It was, I believe, part
of my uncle's theory of education that as little
paiu as possible should be associated with mere-
ly intellectual effort : he would not allow me,
therefore, to commence my studies until the
task of learning should be an easy one. Hence-
forth, every evening, after tea, he took me to
his own room, the walls of which were nearly
covered with books, and there taught me.

One peculiar instance of his mode I will give,
and let it stand rather as a pledge for the rest
of his system than an index to it. It was only
the other day it came back to me. Like Jean
Paul, he would utter the name of God to a
child only at grand moments ; but there was a



54 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

great difference in the moments the two men
would have chosen. Jean Paul would choose a
thunder-storm, for instance ; the following will
show the kind of my uncle's choice. One Sun-
day evening he took me for a longer walk than
usual. We had climbed a little hill : 1 believe it
was the first time I ever had a wide view of the
earth. The horses were all loose in the fields ;
the cattle were gathering their supper as the
sun went down ; there was an indescribable
hush in the air, as if Nature herself knew the
seventh day ; there was no sound even of
water, for here the water crept slowly to the
far-off sea, and the slant sunlight shone back
from just one bend of a canal-like river ; the
haystacks and ricks of the last year gleamed
golden in the farmyards ; great fields of wheat
stood up stately around us, the glow in their
yellow brought out by the red poppies that-
sheltered in the forest of their stems ; the odour
of the grass and clover came in pulses ; and the
soft blue sky was flecked with white clouds
tinged with pink, which deepened until it gath-
ered into a flaming rose in the west, where the
sun was welling out oceans of liquid red.



1 HAVE LESSONS. 55

I looked up in my uncle's face. It shone in a
calm glow, like an answering rosy moon. The
eyes of my mind were opened : I saw that he
felt something, and then I felt it too. His
soul, with the glory for an interpreter, kindled
mine.

He, in turn, caught the sight of my face, and
his soul broke forth in one word : —

" God ! Willie ; God !" was all he said ; and
surely it was enough.

It was only then in moments of strong re-
pose that my uncle spoke to me of God.

Although he never petted me, that is, never
showed me any animal affection, my uncle was
like a father to me in this, that he was about
and above me, a pure benevolence. It is no
wonder that I should learn rapidly under his
teaching, for I was quick enough, and possessed
the more energy that it had not been wasted on
unpleasant tasks.

Whether from indifference or intent I cannot
tell, but he never forbade me to touch any of
his books. Upon more occasions than one he
found me on the floor with a folio between my
knees ; but he only smiled and said —



56 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

"Ah, Willie ! mind you don't crumple the
leaves."

About this time also I had a new experience
of another kind, which impressed me almost
with the force of a revelation.

I had not yet explored the boundaries of the
prairie-like level on which I found myself. As
soon as I got about a certain distance from
home, I always turned and ran back. Fear is
sometimes the first recognition of freedom.
Delighting in liberty, I yet shrunk from the
unknown spaces around me, and rushed back
to the shelter of the home-walls. But as I
grew older 1 became more adveuturous ; and
one evening, although the shadows were be-
ginning to lengthen, I went on and on until
I made a discovery. I found a half-spherical
hollow in the grassy surface. I rushed into its
depth as if it had been a mine of marvels, threw
myself on the ground, and gazed into the sky
as if I had now for the first time discovered its
true relation to the earth. The earth was a
cup, and the sky its cover.

There were lovely daisies in this hollow —
not too many to spoil the grass, and they were



I HAVE LESSONS. 57

red-tipped daisies. There was besides, in the
very heart of it, one plant of the finest pimper-
nels I have ever seen, and this was my intro-
duction to the flower. Nor were these all the
treasures of the spot. A late primrose, a tiny
child, born out of due time, opened its timid
petals in the same hollow. Here then were
gathered red-tipped daisies, large pimpernels,
and one tiny primrose. I lay and looked at
them in delight — not at all inclined to pull
them, for they were where I loved to see them.
I never had much inclination to gather flowers.
1 see them as a part of a whole, and rejoice in
them in their own place without any desire to
appropriate them. I lay and looked at these
for a long time. Perhaps I fell asleep. I do
not know. I have often waked in the open
air. All at once I looked up and saw a vision.
My reader will please to remember that up to
this hour I had never seen a lady. I cannot by
any stretch call my worthy aunt a lady ; and
my grandmother was too old, and too much an
object of mysterious anxiety, to produce the
impression of a lady upon me. Suddenly I be-
came aware that a lady was looking down on



58 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

me. Over the edge of my horizon, the circle of
the hollow that touched the sky, her face shone
like a rising moon. Sweet eyes looked on me,
and a sweet month was tremulous with a smile.
1 will not attempt to describe her. To my
childish eyes she was much what a descended
angel must have been to eyes of old, in the
days when angels did descend, and there were
Arabs or Jews on the earth who could see them.
A new knowledge dawned in me. I lay motion-
less, looking up with worship in my heart. As
suddenly she vanished. I lay far into the twi-
light, and then rose and went home, half be-
wildered, with a sense of heaven about me which
settled into the fancy that my mother had come
to see me. I wondered afterwards that I had
not followed her; but I never forgot her, and,
morning, midday, or evening, whenever the fit
seized me, I would wander away and lie down
in the hollow, gazing at the spot where the
lovely face had arisen, in the fancy, hardly in
the hope, that my moon might once more arise
and bless me with her vision.

Hence I suppose came another habit of mine,
that of watching in the same hollow, and in the



I HAVE LESSONS. 59

same posture, now for the sun, now for the
moon, but generally for the sun. You might
have taken me for a fire-worshipper, so eagerly
would I rise when the desire came upon me,
so hastily in the clear grey of the morning
would I dress myself, lest the sun should be
up before me, and I fail to catch his first
lance-like rays dazzling through the forest
of grass on the edge of my hollow world.
Bare-footed I would scud like a hare through
the dew, heedless of the sweet air of the
morning, heedless of the few bird-songs about
me, heedless even of the east, whose saffron
might just be burning into gold, as I ran to
gain the green hollow whence alone I would
greet the morning. Arrived there, I shot into
its shelter, and threw myself panting on the
grass, to gaze on the spot at which I expected
the rising glory to appear. Ever when I recall
the custom, that one lark is wildly praising
over my head, for he sees the sun for which I
am waiting. He has his nest in the hollow be-
side me. I would sooner have turned my back
on the sun than disturbed the home of his high-
priest, the lark. And now the edge of my



60 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

horizon begins to burn ; the green blades glow
in their tops ; they are melted through with
light ; the flashes invade my eyes ; they
gather ; they grow, until I hide my face in my
hands. The sun is up. But on my hands and
my knees I rush after the retreating shadow,
and, like a child at play with its nurse, hide in
its curtain. Up and up comes the peering
sun ; he will find me ; I cannot hide from him ;
there is in the wide field no shelter from his
gaze. No matter then. Let him shine into the
deepest corners of my heart, and shake the
cowardice and the meanness out of it.

I thus made friends with Nature. I had no
great variety even in her, but the better did I
understand what I had. The next Summer I
began to hunt for glow-worms, and carry them
carefully to my hollow, that in the warm, soft,
moonless nights they might illumine it with a
strange light. When I had been very successful,
I would call my uncle and aunt to see. My
aunt tried me by always having something to
do first. My uncle, on the other hand, would
lay down his book at once, and follow me sub-
missively. He could not generate amusement



I HAVE LESSONS. 61

for me, but he sympathized with what I could
find for myself.

" Come and see my cows," I would say to
him.

I well remember the first time I took him to
see them. When we reached the hollow, he
stood for a moment silent. Then he said,
laying his hand on my shoulder,

" Very pretty, Willie ! But why do you call
them cows I "

" You told me last night," I answered, " that
the road the angels go across the sky is called
the milky way — didn't you, uncle f"

" I never told you the angels went that way,
my boy."

" Oh ! didn't you ? I thought you did."

" No, I didn't."

" Oh ! I remember now : I thought if it was
a way, and nobody but the angels could go
in it, that must be the way the angels did
go."

" Yes, yes, I see ! But what has that to do
with the glow-worms V

" Don't you see, uncle ? If it be the milky
way, the stars must be the cows. Look at my



62 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

cows, uncle. Their milk is very pretty milk,
isn't it?"

" Very pretty, indeed, my dear — rather
green."

" Then I suppose if yon could put it in auntie's
pan, you might make another moon of it ?"

" That's being silly now," said my uncle ; and
I ceased, abashed.

"Look, look, uncle!" I exclaimed, a moment
after ; " they don't like being talked about, my
cows."

For as if a cold gust of wind had passed over
them, they all dwindled and paled. I thought
they were going out.

" Oh dear, oh dear !" I cried, and began
dancing about with dismay. The next instant
the glow returned, and the hollow was radiant.

" Oh, the dear light !" I cried again. " Look
at it, uncle ! Isn't it lovely ?"

He took me by the hand. His actions were
always so much more tender than his words !

" Do you know who is the light of the world,
Willie?"

" Yes, well enough. I saw him get out of
bed this morning."



I HAVE LESSONS. 63

My uncle led me home without a word more.
But next night he began to teach me about the
light of the world, and about walking in the
light. I do not care to repeat much of what he
taught me in this kind, for like my glow-worms
it does not like to be talked about. Somehow
it loses colour and shine when one talks.

I have now shown sufficiently how my uncle
would seize opportunities for beginning things.
He thought more of the beginning than of any
other part of a process.

" All's well that begins well," he would say.
I did not know- what his smile meant as he said
so.

I sometimes wonder how I managed to get
through the days without being weary. No
one ever thought of giving me toys. I had a
turn for using my hands ; but I was too young
to be trusted with a knife. I had never seen a
kite, except far away in the sky : I took it for a
bird. There were no rushes to make water-
wheels of, and no brooks to set them turning
in. I had neither top nor marbles. I had no
dog to play with. And yet I do not remember
once feeling weary. I knew all the creatures



64 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

that went creeping about in the grass, and al-
though I did not know the proper name for one
of them, I had names of my own for them all,
and was so familiar with their looks and their
habits, that I am confident I could in some
degree interpret some of the people 1 met after-
wards by their resemblances to these insects. I
have a man in my mind now who has exactly
the head and face, if face it can be called, of an
ant. It is not a head, but a helmet. I knew
all the butterflies — they were mostly small
ones, but of lovely varieties. A stray dragon-fly
would now and then delight me ; and there
were hunting-spiders and wood-lice, and queer-
er creatures of which I do not yet know the
names. Then there were grasshoppers, which
for some time I took to be made of green leaves,
and I thought they grew like fruit on the trees
till they were ripe, when they jumped down,
and jumped for ever after. Another child
might have caught and caged them ; for me,
I followed them about, and watched their
ways.

In the Winter, things had not hitherto gone
quite so well with me. Then I had been a good



I HAVE LESSONS. 65

deal dependent upon Nannie and her stories,
which were neither very varied nor very well
told. But now that I had begun to read, things
went better. To be sure, there were not in my
uncle's library many books such as children
have now-a-days ; but there were old histories,
and some voyages and travels, and in them I
revelled. I am perplexed sometimes when I
look into one of these books — for I have them
all about me now — to find how dry they are.
The shine seems to have gone out of them. Or
is it that the shine has gone out of the eyes that
used to read them ? If so, it will come again
some day. I do not find that the shine has
gone out of a beetle's back ; and I can read The
Pilgrims Pi^ogress still.



VOL. I.



G<o



CHAPTER VI.



I COBBLE.



A LL this has led me, after a roundabout
-*■*- fashion, to what became for some time
the chief delight of my Winters — an enployment,
moreover, which I have taken up afresh at odd
times during my life. It came about thus. My
uncle had made me a present of an old book
with pictures in it. It was called The Preceptor
— one of Dodsley's publications. There were
wonderful folding plates of all sorts in it. Those
which represented animals were of course my
favourites. But these especially were in a very
dilapidated condition, for there had been children
before me somewhere ; and I proceeded, at my
uncle's suggestion, to try to mend them by past-
ing them on another piece of paper. I made
bad work of it at first, and was so dissatisfied



I COBBLE. 67

with the results, that I set myself in earnest to
find out by what laws of paste and paper success
might be secured. Before the Winter was over,
my uncle found me grown so skilful in this mani-
pulation of broken leaves — for as yet I had not
ventured further in any of the branches of repair
— that he gave me plenty of little jobs of the sort,
for amongst his books there w r ere many old
ones. This was a source of great pleasure.
Before the following Winter was over, I came to
try my hand at repairing bindings, and my
uncle was again so much pleased with my suc-
cess that one day he brought me from the
county town some sheets of parchment with
which to attempt the fortification of certain
vellum-bound volumes which were considerably
the worse forage and use. I well remember how
troublesome the parchment was for a long
time ; but at last I conquered it, and succeeded
very fairly in my endeavours to restore to tidi-
ness the garments of ancient thought.

But there was another consequence of this
pursuit w^hich may be considered of weight in
my history. This was the discovery of a copy
of the Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia — much

F 2



68 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

in want of skilful patching, from the title-page,
with its boar smelling at the rose-bush, to the
graduated lines and the Finis. This book I
read through from boar to finis — no small un-
dertaking, and partly, no doubt, under its in-
fluences, I became about this time conscious of
a desire after honour, as yet a notion of the
vaguest. I hardly know how I escaped the
taking for granted that there were yet knights
riding about on war-horses, with couched lances
and fierce spurs, everywhere as in days of old.
They might have been roaming the world in all
directions, without my seeing one of them.
But somehow I did not fall into the mistake.
Only with the thought of my future career,
when I should be a man and go out into the
world, came always the thought of the sword
which hung on the wall. A longing to handle
it began to possess me, and my old dream re-
turned. I dared not, however, say a word to
my uncle on the subject. I felt certain that he
would slight the desire, and perhaps tell me I
should hurt myself with the weapon ; and one
whose heart glowed at the story of the battle
between him on the white horse with carnation



I COBBLE. (39

mane and tail, in his armour of blue radiated
with gold, and him on the black-spotted brown,
in his dusky armour of despair, could not ex-
pose himself to such an indignity.



70



CHAPTER VII.

THE SWORD ON THE WALL.

"IT7HERE possession was impossible, know-
' " ledge might yet be reached : could I not
learn the story of the ancient weapon 1 How
came that which had more fitly hung in the hall
of a great castle, here upon the wall of a kitchen?
My uncle, however, I felt, was not the source
whence I might hope for help. No better was
my aunt. Indeed I had the conviction that she
neither knew nor cared anything about the
useless tkiug. It was her tea-table that must
be kept bright for honour's sake. But there was
granuie !

My relations with her had continued much
the same. The old fear of her lingered, and
as yet I had had no inclination to visit her room
by myself. I saw that my uncle and aunt al-



THE SWORD ON THE WALL. 71

ways behaved to her with the greatest kindness
and much deference, but could not help observ-
ing also that she cherished some secret offence,
receiving their ministrations with a certain con-
descension which clearly enough manifested its
origin as hidden cause of complaint and not
pride. I wondered that my uncle and aunt
took no notice of it, always addressing her as
if they were on the best possible terms ; and I
knew that my uncle never went to his work
without visiting her, and never went to bed
without reading a prayer by her bedside first.
I think Nannie told me this.

She could still read a little, for her sight had
been short, and had held out better even than
usual with such. But she cared nothing for the
news of the hour. My uncle had a weekly news-
paper, though not by any means regularly, from


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