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a friend in London, but I never saw it in my
grandmother's hands. Her reading was mostly
in the Spectator, or in one of De Foe's works. I
have seen her reading Pope.

The sword was in my bones, and as I judged
that only from grannie could I get any infor-
mation respecting it, I found myself beginning



72 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

to inquire why I was afraid to go to her. I was
unable to account for it, still less to justify it.
As 1 reflected, the kindness of her words and
expressions dawned upon me, and I even got
so far as to believe that I had been guilty of
neglect in not visiting her often er and doing
something for her. True, I recalled likewise
that my uncle had desired me not to visit her
except with him or my aunt, but that was ages
ago, when I was a very little boy and might
have been troublesome. I could even read to
her now if she wished it. In short, I felt my-
self perfectly capable of entering into social re-
lations with her generally. But if there was
any flow of affection towards her, it was the
sword that had broken the seal of its fountain.

One morning at breakfast I had been sitting
gazing at the sword on the wall opposite me.
My aunt had observed the steadiness of my
look.

" What are you staring at, Willie ?" she said.
" Your eyes are fixed in your head. Are you
choking ?"

The words offended me. I got up and walked
out of the room. As I went round the table I



THE SWORD ON THE WALL. 73

saw that my uncle and aunt were staring at
each other very much as I had been staring at
the sword. I soon felt ashamed of myself, and
returned, hoping that my behaviour might be
attributed to some passing indisposition. Me-
chanically I raised my eyes to the wall. Could
I believe them ! The sword was gone — abso-
lutely gone ! My heart seemed to swell up into
my throat ; I felt my cheeks burning. The
passion grew within me, and might have broken
out in some form or other, had I not felt that
would at once betray my secret. I sat still with
a fierce effort, consoling and strengthening my-
self with the resolution that I would hesitate no
longer, but take the first chance of a private
interview with grannie. I tried hard to look as
if nothing had happened, and when breakfast
was over, went to my own room. It was there
I carried on my pasting operations. There also
at this time I drank deep in the "Pilgrim's
Progress :" there were swords, and armour, and
giants, and demons there ; but I had no inclina-
tion for either employment now.

My uncle left for the farm as usual, and to
my delight I soon discovered that my aunt had



74 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

gone with him. The ways of the house were as
regular as those of a bee-hive. Sitting in my own
room I knew precisely where anyone must be
at any given moment ; for although the only
clock we had was often er standing than going,
a perfect instinct of time was common to the
household, Nannie included. At that moment
she was sweeping up the hearth and putting on
the kettle. In half an hour she would have
tidied up the kitchen, and would have gone to
prepare the vegetables for cooking : I must
wait. But the sudden fear struck me that my
aunt might have taken the sword with her —
might be going to make away with it alto-
gether. I started up, and rushed about the
room in an agony. What could I do? At
length I heard Nannie's pattens clatter out of
the kitchen to a small outhouse where she pared
the potatoes. I instantly descended, crossed
the kitchen, and went up the winding stone
stair. I opened grannie's door, and went in.

She was seated in her usual place. Never
till now had I felt how old she was. She look-
up when I entered, for although she had grown
very deaf, she could feel the floor shake. I saw



THE SWORD OX THE WALL. 75

by her eyes, which looked higher than my head,
that she had expected a taller figure to follow
me. When I turned from shutting the door, I
saw her arms extended with an eager look,
and could see her hands trembling ere she fold-
ed them about me, and pressed my head to her
bosom.

"0 Lord!" she said, "I thank thee. I will
try to be good now. Lord, I have waited
and thou hast heard me. I will believe in thee
again !"

From that moment I loved my grannie, and
felt I owed her something as well as my uncle.
1 had never had this feeling about my aunt.

" Grannie !" I said, trembling from a conflict
of emotions ; but before I could utter my com-
plaint, I had burst out crying.

" What have they been doing to you, child ?"
she asked, almost fiercely, and sat up straight
in her chair. Her voice, although feeble and
quavering, was determined in tone. She push-
ed me back from her and sought the face I was
ashamed to show. " What have they done to
you, my boy ?" she repeated, ere I could con-
quer my sobs sufficiently to speak.



76 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

" They have taken away the sword that — "

" What sword !" she asked quickly. " Not
the sword that your great-grandfather wore
when he followed Sir Marmaduke ?"

" I don't know, grannie."

" Don't know, boy ? The only thing your

father took when he . Not the sword with

the broken sheath ? Never ! They daren't do
it ! I will go down myself. I must see about
it at once."

" Oh, grannie, don't !" I cried in terror, as she
rose from her chair. " They'll not let me ever
come near you again, if you do."

She sat down again. After seeming to pon-
der for a while in silence, she said : —

" Well, Willie, my dear, you're more to me
than the old sword. But I wouldn't have had
it handled with disrespect for all that the place
is worth. However, I don't suppose they

can . What made them do it, child?

The} 7 've not taken it down from the wall ?"

" Yes, grannie. I think it was because I was
staring at it too much, grannie. Perhaps they
were afraid I would take it down and hurt my-
self with it. But I was only going to ask you



THE SWORD OX THE WALL. 77

about it. Tell me a story about it, grannie."

All my notion was some story, I did not
think whether true or false, like one of Nan-
nie's stories.

''That I will, my child— all about it— all
about it. Let me see."

Her eyes went wandering a little, and she
looked perplexed.

" And they took it from you, did they, then !
Poor child ! Poor child !"

" They didn't take it from me, grannie. I
never had it in my hands."

" Wouldn't give it you then ? Oh dear ! Oh
dear !"

I began to feel uncomfortable — grannie looked
so strange and lost. The old feeling that she
ought to be buried because she was dead returned
upon me ; but I overcame it so far as to be able
to say :

" Won't you tell me about it then, grannie ?
I want so much to hear about the battle."

" W 7 hat battle, child ? Oh yes ! I'll tell you
all about it some day, but I've forgot now, I've
forgot it all now."

She pressed her hand to her forehead, and



78 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

sat thus for some time, while I grew very fright-
ened. I would gladly have left the room and
crept down stairs, but I stood fascinated, gazing
at the withered face half-hidden by the withered
hand. I longed to be anywhere else, but my
will had deserted me, and there I must remain.
At length grannie took her hand from her eyes,
and seeing me, started.

" Ah, my dear !" she said, " I had forgotten
you. You wanted me to do something for you :
what was it?"

" I wanted you to tell me about the sword,
grannie."

" Oh yes, the sword I" she returned, putting
her hand again to her forehead. " They took it
away from you, did they? Well, never mind.
I will give you something else — though I don't
say it's as good as the sword."

She rose, and taking an ivory-headed stick
which leaned against the side of the chimney-
piece, walked with tottering steps towards the
bureau. There she took from her pocket a
small bunch of keys, and having, with some
difficulty from the trembling of her hands,
chosen one, and unlocked the sloping cover, she



THE SWORD ON THE WALL. 79

opened a little drawer inside, and took out a
gold watch with a bunch of seals hanging from
it. Never shall I forget the thrill that went
through my frame. Did she mean to let me
hold it in my own hand? Might I have it as
often as I came to see her 1 Imagine my
ecstasy when she put it carefully in the two
hands I held up to receive it, and said :

" There, my dear ! You must take good care
of it, and never give it away for love or money.
Don't you open it — there's a good boy, till
you're a man like your father. He was a man !
He gave it to me the day we were married, for
he had nothing else, he said, to offer me. But
I would not take it, my dear. I liked better to
see him with it than have it myself. And when
he left me, I kept it for you. But you must
take care of it, you know."

" Oh, thank you, grannie !" I cried, in an
agony of pleasure. " I will take care of it — in-
deed I will. Is it a real watch, grannie — as real
as uncle's ?"

" It's worth ten of your uncle's, my dear. Don't
you show it him though. He might take that
away too. Your uncle's a very good man, my



80 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

dear, but you mustn't mind everything he says
to you. He forgets things. I never forget
anything. I have plenty of time to think about
things. I never forget."

" Will it go, grannie ?" I asked, for my uncle
was a much less interesting subject than the
watch.

" It won't go without being wound up ; but
you might break it. Besides, it may want
cleaning. It's several years since it was cleaned
last. Where will you put it now?"

" Oh ! I know where to hide it safe enough,
grannie," I exclaimed. "I'll take care of it.
You needn't be afraid, grannie."

The old lady turned, and with difficulty tot-
tered to her seat. I remained where I was,
fixed in contemplation of my treasure. She
called me. I went and stood by her knee.

" My child, there is something I want very
much to tell you, but you know old people for-
get things "

" But you said just now that you never for-
got anything, grannie."

" No more I do, my dear ; only I can't always
lay my hands upon a thing when I want it."



THE SWORD OX THE WALL. 81

" It was about the sword, grannie," I said,
thinking to refresh her memory.

" No, my dear ; I don't think it was about the
sword exactly — though that had something to
do with it. I shall remember it all by-and-by.
It will come again. And so must you, my
dear. Don't leave your old mother so long
alone. It's weary, weary work, waiting."

" Indeed I won't, grannie," I said. " I will
come the very first time I can. Only I mustn't
let auntie see me, you know. — You don't want
to be buried now, do you, grannie?" I added;
for I had begun to love her, and the love had
cast out the fear, and I did not want her to wish
to be buried.

" I am very, very old ; much too old to live,
my dear. But I must do you justice before I
can go to my grave. Now I know what I
wanted to say. It's gone again. Oh dear !
Oh dear! If I had you in the middle of the
night, when everything comes back as if it had
been only yesterday, I could tell you all about
it from beginning to end, with all the ins and
outs of it. But I can't now — I can't now."

She moaned and rocked herself to and fro.
VOL. I. G



82 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

" Never mind, grannie," I said cheerfully, for
I was nappy enough for all eternity with my
gold watch ; " I will come and see you again
as soon as ever I can." And I kissed her on
the white cheek.

" Thank you, my dear. I think you had
better go now. They may miss you, and then
I should never see you again — to talk to, I
mean."

" Why won't they let me come and see you,
grannie ?" I asked.

" That's what I wanted to tell you, if I could
only see a little better," she answered, once
more putting her hand to her forehead. " Per-
haps I shall be able to tell you next time. Go
now, my dear."

I left the room, nothing loth, for I longed to
be alone with my treasure. I could not get
enough of it in grannie's presence even. Noise-
less as a bat I crept down the stair. When I
reached the door at the foot I stood and listen-
ed. The kitchen was quite silent. I stepped
out. There was no one there. I scudded
across and up the other stair to my own room,
carefully shutting the door behind me. Then I



THE SWORD ON THE WALL. 83

sat down on the floor on the other side of the
bed, so that it was between me and the door,
and I could run into the closet with my treasure
before any one entering should see me.

The watch was a very thick round one. The
back of it was crowded with raised figures in
the kind of work called repoussee. I pored over
these for a long time, and then turned to the
face. It was set all round with shining stones
— diamonds, though I knew nothing of diamonds
then. The enamel was cracked, and I followed
every crack as well as every figure of the hours.
Then I began to wonder what I could do with
it next. I was not satisfied. Possession I
found was not bliss : it had not rendered me
content. But it was as yet imperfect : I had
no£ seen the inside. Grannie had told me not
to open it : I began to think it hard that I
should be denied thorough possession of what
had been given to me. I believed I should be
quite satisfied if I once saw what made it go.
I turned it over and over, thinking I might at
least find how it was opened. I have little
doubt if I had discovered the secret of it, my
virtue would have failed me. All I did find,

G2



84 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

however, was the head of a curious animal en-
graved on the handle. This was something. I
examined it as carefully as the rest, and then
finding I had for the time exhausted the plea-
sures of the watch, I turned to the seals. On
one of them was engraved what looked like
letters, but I could not read them. I did not
know that they were turned the wrong way.
One of them was like a W. On the other seal
— there were but two and a curiously-contrived
key — I found the same head as was engraved
on the handle — turned the other way of course.
Wearied at length, I took the precious thing
into the dark closet, and laid it in a little box
which formed one of my few possessions. I
then wandered out into the field, and went
straying about until dinner-time, during which I
believe I never once lifted my eyes to the
place where the sword had hung, lest even that
action should betray the watch.

From that day, my head, and as much of my
heart as might be, were filled with the watch.
And, alas ! I soon found that my bookmending
had grown distasteful to me, and for the satis-
faction of employment, possession was a poor



THE SWORD ON THE WALL. 85

substitute. As often as I made the attempt to
resume it, T got weary, and wandered almost
involuntarily to the closet to feel for my trea-
sure in the dark, handle it once more, and bring
it out into the light. Already I began to dree
the doom of riches, in the vain attempt to live
by that which was not bread. Nor was this all.
A certain weight began to gather over my
spirit — a sense almost of wrong. For although
the watch had been given me by my grand-
mother, and I never doubted either her right to
dispose of it or my right to possess it, I could
not look my uncle in the face, partly from a
vague fear lest he should read my secret in my
eyes, partly from a sense of something out of
joint between him and me. I began to fancy,
and I believe I was right, that he looked at me
sometimes with a wistfulness I had never seen
in his face before. This made me so uncom-
fortable that I began to avoid his presence as
much as possible. And although I tried to
please him with my lessons, I could not learn
them as hitherto.

One day he asked me to bring him the book
I had been repairing.



86 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

" It's not finished yet, uncle," I said.

" Will you bring it me just as it is. I want
to look for something in it."

I went and brought it with shame. He took
it, and having found the passage he wanted,
turned the volume once over in his hands, and
gave it me back without a word.

Next day I restored it to him finished and
tidy. He thanked me, looked it over again,
and put it in its place. But I fairly encoun-
tered an inquiring and somewhat anxious gaze.
I believe he had a talk with my aunt about me
that night.

The next morning, I was seated by the bed-
side, with my secret in my hand, when I thought
I heard the sound of the door-handle, and
glided at once into the closet. When I came
out in a flutter of anxiety, there was no one
there. But I had been too much startled to
return to what J had grown to feel almost a
guilty pleasure.

The next morning after breakfast, I crept
into the closet, put my hand unerringly into the
one corner of the box, found no watch, and after
an unavailing search, sat down in the dark on a



THE SWORD ON THE WALL. 87

bundle of rags, with the sensations of a ruined
man. My world was withered up and gone.
How the day passed, I cannot tell. How I got
through my meals, I cannot even imagine.
When I look back and attempt to recall the
time, I see but a cloudy waste of misery crossed
by the lightning-streaks of a sense of injury.
All that was left me now was a cat-like watch-
ing for the chance of going to my grandmother.
Into her ear I would pour the tale of my
wrong. She who had been as a haunting dis-
comfort to me, had grown to be my one conso-
lation.

My lessons went on as usual. A certain
pride enabled me to learn them tolerably for a
day or two ; but when that faded, my whole
being began to flag. For some time my ex-
istence was a kind of life in death. At length
one evening my uncle said to me, as we finished
my lessons far from satisfactorily —

" Willie, your aunt and I think it better you
should go to school. We shall be very sorry to
part with you, but it will be better. You will
then have companions of your own age. You
have not enough to amuse you at home."



88 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE

He did not allude by a single word to the
affair of the watch. Could my aunt have taken
it, and never told him ? It was not likely.

I was delighted at the idea of any change,
for my life had grown irksome to me.

" Oh, thank you, uncle !" I cried, with genuine
expression.

I think he looked a little sad ; but he uttered
no reproach.

My aunt and he had already arranged every-
thing. The next day but one, I saw, for the
first time, a carriage drive up to the door of the
house. I was waiting for it impatiently. My
new clothes had all been packed in a little box.
I had not put in a single toy : I cared for no-
thing I had now. The box was put up beside
the driver. My aunt came to the door where I
was waiting for my uncle.

" Mayn't I go and say good-bye to grannie V 1
I asked.

" She's not very well to-day," said my aunt.
" I think you had better not. You will be back
at Christmas, you know."

I was not so much grieved as I ought to have



THE SWORD ON THE WALL. 89

been. The loss of my watch had made the
thought of grannie painful again.

" Your uncle will meet you at the road," con-
tinued my aunt, seeing me still hesitate. " Good-
bye."

I received her cold embrace without emotion,
clambered into the chaise, and looking out as
the driver shut the door, wondered what my
aunt was holding her apron to her eyes for, as
she turned away into the house. My uncle met
us and got in, and away the chaise rattled,
bearing me towards an utterly new experience ;
for hardly could the strangest region in foreign
lands be more unknown to the w T andering mari-
ner than the faces and ways of even my own
kind were to me. I had never played for one
half-hour with boy or girl. I knew nothing of
their playthings or their games. I hardly knew
what boys were like, except, outwardly, from
the dim reflex of myself in the broken mirror in
my bed-room, whose lustre was more of the ice
than the pool, and, inwardly, from the partly
exceptional experiences of my own nature, with
which even I was poorly enough acquainted.



90



CHAPTER VIII.

I GO TO SCHOOL, AND GRANNIE LEAVES IT.

TT is an evil thing to break up a family before
-*- the natural period of its dissolution. In
the course of things, marriage, the necessities
of maintenance, or the energies of labour guid-
ing " to fresh woods and pastures new," are the
ordered causes of separation.

Where the home is happy, much injury is
done the children in sending them to school,
except it be a day-school, whither they go in
the morning as to the labours of the world, but
whence they return at night as to the heaven
of repose. Conflict through the day, rest at
night, is the ideal. A day-school will suffice for
the cultivation of the necessary public or national
spirit, without which the love of the family may
degenerate into a merely extended selfishness,



I GO TO SCHOOL, AND GRANNIE LEAVES IT. 9 1

but which is itself founded upon those family
affections. At the same time, it must be con-
fessed that boarding-schools are, in many cases,
an antidote to some of the evil conditions which
exist at home.

To children whose home is a happy one, the
exile to a school must be bitter. Mine, how-
ever, was an unusual experience. Leaving aside
the specially troubled state in which I was when
thus carried to the village of Aldwick, I had few
of the finer elements of the ideal home in mine.
The love of my childish heart had never been
drawn out. My grandmother had begun to do
so, but her influence had been speedily arrested.
I was, as they say of cats, more attached to the
place than the people, and no regrets whatever
interfered to quell the excitement of expectation,
wonder, and curiosity which filled me on the
journey. The motion of the vehicle, the sound
of the horses' hoofs, the travellers we passed on
the road — all seemed to partake of the exuber-
ant life -which swelled and overflowed in me.
Everything was as happy, as excited, as I was.

When we entered the village, behold it was
a region of glad tumult! Were there not three



92 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

dogs, two carts, a maid carrying pails of water,
and several groups of frolicking children in the
street — not to mention live ducks, and a glimpse
of grazing geese on the common? There were
also two mothers at their cottage-doors, each
with a baby in her arms. I knew they were
babies, although I had never seen a baby before.
And when we drove through the big wooden
gate, and stopped at the door of what had been
the manor-house but was now Mr. Elder's school,
the aspect of the building, half-covered with
ivy, bore to me a most friendly look. Still
more friendly was the face of the master's wife,
who received us in a low dark parlour, with a
thick soft carpet and rich red curtains. It was
a perfect paradise to my imagination. Nor did
the appearance of Mr. Elder at all jar with the
vision of coming happiness. His round, rosy,
spectacled face bore in it no premonitory sug-
gestion of birch or rod, and although I continued
at his school for six years, I never saw him use
either. If a boy required that kind of treat-
ment, he sent him home. When my uncle left
me, it was in more than contentment with my
lot. Nor did anything occur to alter my feel-



I GO TO SCHOOL, AND GRANNIE LEAVES IT. 93

ing with regard to it. I soon became much at-
tached to Mrs. Elder. She was just the woman
for a schoolmaster's wife — as full of maternity
as she conld hold, but childless. By the end of
the first day I thought I loved her far more
than my aunt. My aunt had done her duty to-
wards me ; but how was a child to weigh that ?
She had taken no trouble to make me love her ;
she had shown me none of the signs of affectiou,
and I could not appreciate the proofs of it
yet.

I soon perceived a great difference between
my uncle's way of teaching and that of Mr.
Elder. My uncle always appeared aware of
something behind which pressed upon, perhaps
hurried the fact he was making me understand.
He made me feel, perhaps too much, that it was
a mere step towards something beyond. Mr.
Elder, on the other hand, placed every point in
such a strong light that it seemed in itself of
primary consequence. Both were, if my judg-
ment after so many years be correct, admirable
teachers — my uncle the greater, my school-
master the more immediately efficient. As I



94 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

was a manageable boy to the very verge of
weakness, the relations between us were entire-
ly pleasant.

There were only six more pupils, all of them
sufficient^ older than myself to be ready to pet
and indulge me. No one who saw me mounted
on the back of the eldest, a lad of fifteen, and


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