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Littell's Living Age/Volume 131/Issue 1688/The Marquis of Lossie - Part I

THE MARQUIS OF LOSSIE.

BY GEORGE MACDONALD, AUTHOR OF "MALCOLM," ETC.

CHAPTER I.

THE STABLE-YARD.

It was one of those exquisite days that come in every winter, in which it seems no longer the dead body, but the lovely ghost of summer. Such a day bears to its sister of the happier time something of the relation the marble statue bears to the living form: the sense it awakes of beauty is more abstract, more ethereal; it lifts the soul into a higher region than will summer day of lordliest splendor. It is like the love that loss has purified.

Such, however, were not the thoughts that at the moment occupied the mind of Malcolm Colonsay. Indeed, the loveliness of the morning was but partially visible from the spot where he stood, the stable-yard of Lossie House, ancient and roughly paved. It was a hundred years since the stones had been last relaid and levelled: none of the horses of the late marquis minded it but one — her whom the young man in Highland dress was now grooming — and she would have fidgeted had it been an oak floor. The yard was a long and wide space, with two-storied buildings on all sides of it. In the centre of one of them rose the clock, and the morning sun shone red upon its tarnished gold. It was an ancient clock, but still capable of keeping good time — good enough, at least, for all the requirements of the house even when the family was at home, seeing it never stopped, and the church-clock was always ordered by it. It not only set the time, but also seemed to set the fashion to the place, for the whole aspect of it was one of wholesome, weather-beaten, timeworn existence. One of the good things that accompany good blood is that its possessor does not much mind a shabby coat. Tarnish and lichens and water-wearing, a wavy house-ridge, and a few families of worms in the wainscot do not annoy the marquis as they do the city man who has just bought a little place in the country. When an old family ceases to go lovingly with nature, I see no reason why it should go any longer. An old tree is venerable, and an old picture precious to the soul, but an old house, on which has been laid none but loving and respectful hands, is dear to the very heart. Even an old barn-door, with the carved initials of hinds and maidens of vanished centuries, has a place of honor in the cabinet of the poet's brain. It was centuries since Lossie House had begun to grow shabby and beautiful, and he to whom it now belonged was not one to discard the reverend for the neat, or let the vanity of possession interfere with the grandeur of inheritance.

Beneath the tarnished gold of the clock, flushed with the red winter sun, he was at this moment grooming the coat of a powerful black mare. That he had not been brought up a groom was pretty evident from the fact that he was not hissing, but that he was Marquis of Lossie there was nothing about him to show. The mare looked dangerous. Every now and then she cast back a white glance of the one visible eye. But the youth was on his guard, and as wary as fearless in his handling of her. When at length he had finished the toilette which her restlessness — for her four feet were never all still at once upon the stones — had considerably protracted, he took from his pocket a lump of sugar and held it for her to bite at with her angry-looking teeth.

It was a keen frost, but in the sun the icicles had begun to drop. The roofs in the shadow were covered with hoarfrost: wherever there was shadow there was whiteness. But, for all the cold, there was keen life in the air, and yet keener life in the two animals, biped and quadruped.

As they thus stood, the one trying to sweeten the other's relation to himself, if he could not hope much for her general temper, a man who looked half farmer, half lawyer, appeared on the opposite side of the court in the shadow.

"You are spoiling that mare, MacPhail," he cried.

"I canna weel du that, sir: she canna be muckle waur," said the youth.

"It's whip and spur she wants, not sugar."

"She has had and sail hae baith, time aboot (in turn); and I houp they'll du something for her in time, sir."

"Her time shall be short here, anyhow. She's not worth the sugar you give her."

"Eh, sir! luik at her!" said Malcolm in a tone of expostulation, as he stepped back a few paces and regarded her with admiring eye. "Saw ye ever sic legs? an' sic a neck? an' sic a heid? an' sic fore an' hin' quarters? She's a' bonny but the temper o' her, an' that she canna help, like the like o' you an' me."

"She'll be the death of somebody some day. The sooner we get rid of her the better. Just look at that!" he added as the mare laid back her ears and made a vicious snap at nothing in particular.

"She was a favourite o' my — maister, the marquis," returned the youth, "an' I wad ill like to pairt wi' her."

"I'll take any offer in reason for her," said the factor. "You'll just ride her to Forres market next week, and see what you can get for her. I do think she's quieter since you took her in hand."

"I'm sure she is — but it winna laist a day. The moment I lea' her, she'll be as ill's ever," said the youth. "She has a kin' a likin' to me, 'cause I gi'e her sugar, an' she canna cast me; but she's no a bit better i' the hert o' her yet. She's an oonsanctifeed brute. I cudna think o' sellin' her like this."

"Lat them 'at buys tak' tent (beware)," said the factor.

"Ow ay! lat them; I dinna objec'; gien only they ken what she's like afore they buy her," rejoined Malcolm.

The factor burst out laughing. To his judgment the youth had spoken like an idiot.

"We'll not send you to sell," he said. "Stoat shall go with you, and you shall have nothing to do but hold the mare and your own tongue."

"Sir," said Malcolm, seriously, "ye dinna mean what ye say? Ye said yersel' she wad be the deith o' somebody, an' to sell her ohn tellt what she's like wad be to caw the saxt comman'ment clean to shivers."

"That may be good doctrine in the kirk, my lad, but it's pure heresy in the horse market. No, no! You buy a horse as you take a wife — for better for worse, as the case may be. A woman's not bound to tell her faults when a man wants to marry her. If she keeps off the worst of them afterwards, it's all he has a right to look for."

"Hoot, sir! there's no a pair o' parallel lines in a' the compairison," returned Malcolm. "Mistress Kelpie here 's e'en ower ready to confess her fauts, an' that by giein' a taste o' them — she winna bide to be speired; but for haudin' aff o' them efter the bargain's made — ye ken she's no even responsible for the bargain. An' gien ye expec' me to haud my tongue aboot them — faith, Maister Crathie, I wad as sune think o' sellin' a rotten boat to Blue Peter. Gien the man 'at has her to see tilt dinna ken to luik oot for a storm o' iron shune or lang teeth ony moment, his wife may be a widow that same market-nicht. An' forbye, it's again' the aucht comman'ment as weel's the saxt. There's nae exception there in regaird o' horse flesh. We maun be honest i' that as weel's i' corn or herrin', or onything ither 'at 's coft an' sell't atween man an' his neibor."

"There's one commandment, my lad," said Mr Crathie, with the dignity of intended rebuke, "you seem to find hard to learn, and that is, to mind your own business."

"Gien ye mean catchin' the herrin', maybe ye're richt," said the youth. "I ken muir about that nor the horse-coupin', and it's full cleaner."

"None of your impudence!" returned the factor. "The marquis is not here to uphold you in your follies. That they amused him is no reason why I should put up with them. So keep your tongue between your teeth, or you'll find it the worse for you." The youth smiled a little oddly, and held his peace. "You're here to do what I tell you, and make no remarks," added the factor.

"I'm awaur o' that, sir — within certain leemits," returned Malcolm.

"What do you mean by that?"

"I mean within the leemits o' duin' by yer neibor as ye wad hae yer neibor du by you — that's what I mean, sir."

"I've told you already that doesn't apply in horse-dealing. Every man has to take care of himself in the horse market. That's understood. If you had been brought up amongst horses instead of herring, you would have known that as well as any other man."

"I doobt I'll hae to gang back to the herrin' than, sir, for they're like to pruv' the honester o' the twa. But there's nae hypocrisy in Kelpie, an' she maun hae her day's denner, come o' the morn's what may."

At the word hypocrisy, Mr Crathie's face grew red as the sun in a fog. He was an elder of the kirk, and had family worship every night as regularly as his toddy: the word was as offensive and insolent as it was foolish and inapplicable. He would have turned Malcolm adrift on the spot, but that he remembered — not the favour of the late marquis for the lad — that was nothing to the factor now: his lord under the mould was to him as if he had never been above it — but the favour of the present marchioness, for all in the house knew that she was interested in him. Choking down therefore his rage and indignation, he said sternly, "Malcolm, you have two enemies — a long tongue, and a strong conceit. You have little enough to be proud of, my man, and the less said the better. I advise you to mind what you're about, and show suitable respect to your superiors, or as sure as judgment you'll go back to your fish-guts."

While he spoke Malcolm had been smoothing Kelpie all over with his palms: the moment the factor ceased talking he ceased stroking, and with one arm thrown over the mare's back looked him full in the face. "Gien ye imaigine, Maister Crathie," he said, "at I coont it ony rise i' the warl' 'at brings me un'er the orders o' a man less honest than, he micht be, ye're mista'en. I dinna think it's pride this time: I wad ile Blue Peter's lang butes till him, but I winna lee for ony factor atween this an' Davy Jones."

It was too much. Mr. Crathie's feelings overcame him, and he was a wrathful man to see as he strode up to the youth with clenched fist.

"Haud frae the mere, for God's sake, Maister Crathie!" cried Malcolm.

But even as he spoke two reversed Moorish arches of gleaming iron opened on the terror-quickened imagination of the factor a threatened descent from which his most potent instinct, that of self-preservation, shrank in horror. He started back, white with dismay, having by a bare inch of space and a bare moment of time escaped what he called eternity. Dazed with fear, he turned and had staggered half-way across the yard, as if going home, before he recovered himself. Then he turned again, and, with what dignity he could scrape together, said, "MacPhail, you go about your business."

In his foolish heart he believed Malcolm had made the brute strike out.

"I canna weel gang till Stoat comes hame," answered Malcolm.

"If I see you about the place after sunset I'll horsewhip you," said the factor, and walked away, showing the crown of his hat.

Malcolm again smiled oddly, but made no reply. He undid the mare's halter and led her into the stable. There he fed her, standing by her all the time she ate, and not once taking his eye off her. His father, the late marquis, had bought her at the sale of the stud of a neighboring laird, whose whole being had been devoted to horses till the pale one came to fetch himself: the men about the stable had drugged her, and taken with the splendid lines of the animal, nor seeing cause to doubt her temper as she quietly obeyed the halter, he had bid for her, and, as he thought, had her a great bargain. The accident that finally caused his death followed soon after, and while he was ill no one cared to vex him by saying what she had turned out. But Malcolm had even then taken her in hand in the hope of taming her a little before his master, who often spoke of his latest purchase, should see her again. In this he had very partially succeeded, but, if only for the sake of him whom he now knew for his father, nothing would have made him part with the animal. Besides, he had been compelled to use her with so much severity at times that he had grown attached to her from the reaction of pity, as well as from admiration of her physical qualities and the habitude of ministering to her wants and comforts. The factor, who knew Malcolm only as a servant, had afterward allowed her to remain in his charge, merely in the hope, through his treatment, of by-and-by selling her, as she had been bought, for a faultless animal, but at a far better price.


Chapter II.

THE LIBRARY.

When she had finished her oats Malcolm left her busy with her hay, for she was a huge eater, and went into the house, passing through the kitchen and ascending a spiral stone stair to the library, the only room not now dismantled. As he went along the narrow passage on the second floor leading to it from the head of the stair, the housekeeper, Mrs. Courthope, peeped after him from one of the many bedrooms opening upon it, and watched him as he went, nodding her head two or three times with decision: he reminded her so strongly, not of his father, the late marquis, but the brother who had preceded him, that she felt all but certain, whoever might be his mother, he had as much of the Colonsay blood in his veins as any marquis of them all. It was in consideration of this likeness that Mr. Crathie had permitted the youth, when his services were not required, to read in the library.

Malcolm went straight to a certain corner, and from amongst a dingy set of old classics took down a small Greek book in a large type. It was the manual of that slave among slaves, that noble among the free — Epictetus. He was no great Greek scholar, but, with the help of the Latin translation and the gloss of his own rathe experience, he could lay hold of the mind of that slave of a slave, whose very slavery was his slave to carry him to the heights of freedom. It was not Greek he cared for, but Epictetus. It was but little he read, however, for the occurrence of the morning demanded, compelled, thought. Mr. Crathie's behavior caused him neither anger nor uneasiness, but rendered necessary some decision with regard to the ordering of his future.

I can hardly say he recalled how on his deathbed the late marquis, about three months before, having, with all needful observances, acknowledged him his son, had committed to his trust the welfare of his sister, for the memory of this charge was never absent from his feeling, even when not immediately present to his thought. But, although a charge which he would have taken upon him all the same had his father not committed it to him, it was none the less the source of a perplexity upon which as yet all his thinking had let in but little light. For to appear as Marquis of Lossie was not merely to take from his sister the title she supposed her own, but to declare her illegitimate, seeing that, unknown to the marquis, the youth's mother, his first wife, was still alive when Florimel was born. How to act so that as little evil as possible might befall the favorite of his father, and one whom he had himself loved with the devotion almost of a dog before he knew she was his sister, was the main problem.

For himself, he had had a rough education, and had enjoyed it: his thoughts were not troubled about his own prospects. Mysteriously committed to the care of a poor blind Highland piper, a stranger from inland regions settled amongst a fishing-people, he had, as he grew up, naturally fallen into their ways of life and labor, and but lately abandoned the calling of a fisherman to take charge of the marquis's yacht, whence by degrees he had, in his helpfulness, become indispensable to him and his daughter, and had come to live in the house of Lossie as a privileged servant. His book-education, which he owed mainly to the friendship of the parish schoolmaster, although nothing marvellous, or in Scotland very peculiar, had opened for him in all directions doors of thought and inquiry. But the outlook after knowledge was in his case, again through the influences of Mr. Graham, subservient to an almost restless yearning after the truth of things — a passion so rare that the ordinary mind can hardly grasp even the fact of its existence. The Marchioness of Lossie, as she was now called — for the family was one of the two or three in Scotland in which the title descends to an heiress — had left Lossie House almost immediately upon her father's death, under the guardianship of a certain dowager countess. Lady Bellair had taken her first to Edinburgh, and then to London. Tidings of her Malcolm occasionally received through Mr. Soutar of Duff Harbor, the lawyer the marquis had employed to draw up the papers substantiating the youth's claim. The last amounted to this — that, as rapidly as the proprieties of mourning would permit, she was circling the vortex of the London season. As to her brother, he feared himself, and Malcolm was now almost in despair of ever being of the least service to her as a brother to whom as a servant he had seemed at one time of daily necessity. If he might but once more be her skipper, her groom, her attendant, he might then at least learn how to discover to her the bond between them without breaking it in the very act, and so ruining the hope of service to follow.


Chapter III.

MISS HORN.

The door opened, and in walked a tall, gaunt, hard-featured woman, in a huge bonnet trimmed with black ribbons, and a long black net veil, worked over with sprigs, coming down almost to her waist. She looked stern, determined, almost fierce, shook hands with a sort of loose dissatisfaction, and dropped into one of the easy-chairs with which the library abounded. With the act the question seemed shot from her, "Duv ye ca' yersel' an honest man, no, Ma'colm?"

"I ca' mysel' naething," answered the youth, "but I wad fain be what ye say, Miss Horn."

"Ow! I dinna doobt ye wadna steal, nor yet tell lees about a horse: I hae jist come frae a sair waggin' o' tongues aboot ye. Mistress Crathie tells me her man's in a sair vex 'at ye winna tell a wordless lee about the black mere: that's what I ca't — no her. But lee it wad be, an' dinna ye aither wag or haud a leein' tongue. A gentleman maunna lee, no even by sayin' naething — na, no gien 't war to win intill the kingdom. But, Guid be thankit! that's whaur leears never come. Maybe ye're thinkin' I hae sma' occasion to say sic-like to yersel'. An' yet what's yer life but a lee, Ma'colm? You 'at's the honest Marquis o' Lossie to waur yer time, an' the stren'th o' yer boady, an' the micht o' yer sowl tyauvin' (wrestling) wi' a deeyil o' a she-horse, whan there's that half-sister o' yer ain gaein' to the verra deevil o' perdition himsel' amang the godless gentry o' Lon'on!"

"What wad ye hae me un'erstan' by that, Miss Horn?" returned Malcolm. "I hear no ill o' her. I daur say she's no jist a sa'nt yet, but that's no to be luikit for in ane o' the breed: they maun a' try the warl' first, ony gait. There's a heap o' fowk — an' no aye the warst, maybe," continued Malcolm, thinking of his father — "'at wull hae their bite o' the aipple afore they spit it oot. But for my leddy sister, she's ower prood ever to disgrace hersel'."

"Weel, maybe, gien she be na misguided by them she's wi'. But I'm no sae muckle concernt aboot her. Only it's plain 'at ye hae no richt to lead her intill temptation."

"Hoo am I temptin' at her, mem?"

"That's plain to half an e'e. Are ye no lattin' her live believin' a lee? Ir ye no allooin' her to gang on as gien she was somebody mair nor mortal, whan ye ken she's nae mair Marchioness o' Lossie nor ye're the son o' auld Duncan MacPhail? Faith, ye hae lost trowth, gien ye hae gaint the warl', i' the cheenge o' forbeirs!"

"*Mint at naething again' the deid, mem. My father's gane till 's accoont; an' it's weel for him he has his Father, an' no his sister, to pronoonce upo' him."

"'Deed ye're richt there, laddie!" assented Miss Horn in a subdued tone.

"He's made it up wi' my mither afore noo, I'm thinkin': an', ony gait, he confessed her his wife, an' me her son, afore he dee'd; an' what mair had he time to du?"

"It's fac'," returned Miss Horn. "An' noo luik at yersel'. What yer father confesst wi' the very deid-thraw o' a laborin' speerit — to the whilk naething cud hae broucht him but the deid-thraws {death struggles) o' the bodily natur' an' the fear o' hell — that same confession ye row up again i' the clout o' secrecy, in place o' dightin' wi' 't the blot frae the memory o' ane whae I believe I lo'ed mair as my third cousin nor ye du as yer ain mither."

"There's no blot upo' her memory, mem," returned the youth, "or I wad be markis the morn. There's never a sowl kens she was mither but kens she was wife; ay, an' whase wife tu."

Miss Horn had neither wish nor power to reply, and changed her front. "An' sae, Ma'colm Colonsay," she said, "ye hae no less nor made up yer min' to pass yer days in yer ain stable, neither better nor waur than an ostler at the Lossie Airms; an' that efter a' I hae borne an' dune to mak a gentleman o' ye, bairdin' yer father here like a verra lion in 's den, an' garrin' him confess the thing again' ilka hair upo' the stiff neck o' 'im? Losh, laddie! it was a pictur' to see him stan'in' wi' 's back to the door like a camstairy (obstinate) bullock!"

"Haud yer tongue, mem, gien ye please. I canna bide to hear my father spoken o' like that. For, ye see, I lo'ed him afore I kenned he was ony drap's blude to me."

"Weel, that's verra weel; but father an' mither's man an' wife, an' ye cam' na o' a father alane."

"That's true, mem; an' it canna be I sud ever forget yon face ye shawed me i' the coffin — the bonniest, sairest sicht I ever saw," returned Malcolm with a quaver in his voice.

"But what for cairry yer thouchts to the deid face o' her? Ye kenned the leevin' ane weel," objected Miss Horn.

"That's true, mem, but the deid face maist blotit the leevin' oot o' my brain."

"I'm sorry for that. Eh, laddie, but she was bonny to see!"

"I aye thoucht her the bonniest leddy I ever set e'e upo'. An' dinna think, mem, I'm gauin to forget the deid 'cause I'm mair concernt aboot the leevin'. I tell ye I jist dinna ken what to do. What wi' my father's deein' words, committin' her to my chairge, an' the more than regaird I hae to Leddy Florimel hersel', I'm jist whiles driven to ane mair. Hoo can I tak the verra sunsheen oot o' her life 'at I lo'ed afore I kenned she was my ain sister, an' jist thoucht lang to win near eneuch till to do her ony guid turn worth duin'? An' here I am, her ain half-brither, wi' naething i' my pooer but to scaud the hert o' her, or else lee! Supposin' even she was weel merried first, hoo wad she stan' wi' her man whan he cam to ken 'at she was nae marchioness — hed no lawfu' richt to ony name but her mither's? An' afore that, what richt cud I hae to alloo ony man to merry her ohn kenned the trowth aboot her? Faith! it wad be a fine chance, though, for fin'in' oot whether or no the fallow was fit for her. But we canna mak a playock o' her hert. Puir thing! she luiks doon upo' me frae the tap o' her bonny neck as frae a h'avenly heicht, but I s' lat her ken yet, gien only I can get at the gait o' 't, that I haena come nigh her for naething." He gave a sigh with the words, and a pause followed.

"The trowth's the trowth," resumed Miss Horn, "neither mair nor less."

"Ay," responded Malcolm, "but there's a richt an' a wrang time for the tellin' o' 't. It's no as gien I had had han' or tongue in ony forgane lee. It was naething o' my duin', as ye ken, mem. To mysel' I was never onything but a fisherman born. I confess, whiles, whan we wad be lyin' i' the lee o' the nets, tethered to them like, wi' the win' blawin' strong an' steady, I hae thoucht wi' mysel' hoo 'at I kennt naething aboot my father, an' what gien it sud turn oot 'at I was the son o' somebody — what wad I du wi' my siller?"

"An' what thoucht ye ye wad du, laddie?" asked Miss Horn gently.

"What but bigg a harbor at Scaurnose for the puir fisher-fowk 'at was like my ain flesh an' blude?"

"Weel," rejoined Miss Horn eagerly, "div ye no luik upo' that as 'a voo to the Almichty — a voo 'at ye're bun' to pay — noo 'at ye hae yer wuss? An' it's no merely 'at ye hae the means, but there's no anither that has the richt; for they're yer ain fowk, 'at ye gaither rent frae, an' 'at 's been for mony a generation sattlet upo' yer lan' — though for the maitter o' the lan' they hae had little mair o' that than the birds o' the rock hae ohn feued — an' them honest fowk wi' wives an' sowls o' their ain! Hoo upo' airth are ye to du yer duty by them, an' render yer accoont at the last, gien ye dinna tak till ye yer pooer an' reign? Ilk man 'at 's in ony sense a king o' men, he's bun' to reign ower them in that sense. I ken little aboot things mysel', an' I hae no feelin's to guide me, but I hae a wheen cowmon sense, an' that maun jist stan' for the lave."

A silence followed.

"What for speak na ye, Malcolm?" said Miss Horn at length.

"I was jist tryin'," he answered, "to min' upon a twa lines 'at I cam' upo' the ither day in a buik 'at Maister Graham gied me afore he gaed awa', 'cause I reckon he kent them a' by hert. They say jist siclike's ye been sayin', mem, gien I cud but min' upo' them. They're aboot a man 'at aye does the richt gait — made by ane they ca' Wordsworth."

"I ken naething aboot him," said Miss Horn with emphasized indifference.

"An' I ken but little: I s' ken mair or lang, though. This is hoo the piece begins: —

Who is the happy warrior? Who is he
That every man in arms should wish to be?
It is the generous spirit, who, when brought
Among the tasks of real life, hath wrought
Upon the plan that pleased his childish thought.

There! that's what ye wad hae o' me, mem."

"Hear till him!" cried Miss Horn. "The man's i' the richt, though naebody never h'ard o' 'im. Haud ye by that, Ma'colm, an' dinna ye rist till ye hae biggit a herbor to the men an' women o' Scaurnose. Wha kens hoo mony may gang to the boddom afore it be dune, jist for the want o' 't?"

"The fundation maun be laid in richteousness, though, mem, else what gien 't war to save lives better lost?"

"That belangs to the Michty," said Miss Horn.

"Ay, but the layin' o' the fundation belangs to me, an' I'll no du 't till I can du 't ohn ruint my sister."

"Weel, there's ae thing clear: ye'll never ken what to du sae lang's ye hing on aboot a stable fu' o' fower-fitted animals wantin' sense, an' some twa-fittit 'at has less."

"I doobt ye're richt there, mem; an' den I cud but tak puir Kelpie awa' wi' me ——"

"Hoots! I'm affrontit wi' ye. Kelpie, quo he! Preserve 's a'! The laad 'll lat his ain sister gang an' bide at hame wi' a mere!"

Malcolm held his peace. "Ay, I'm thinkin' I maun gang," he said at last.

"Whaur till, than?" asked Miss Horn.

"Ow! to Lon'on — whaur ither?"

"An' what'll your lordship du there?"

"Dinna say lordship to me, mem, or I'll think ye're jeerin' at me. What wad the caterpillar say," he added with a laugh, "gien ye ca'd her my leddy Psyche?" Malcolm of course pronounced the Greek word in Scotch fashion.

"I ken naething aboot yer Suchies or yer Sukies," rejoined Miss Horn. "I ken 'at ye're bun' to be a lord, an' no a stable-man, an' I s' no lat ye rist till ye up an' say, What neist?"

"It's what I hae been sayin' for the last three month," said Malcolm.

"Ay, I daur say! but ye hae been sayin' 't upo' the braid o' yer back, an' I wad hae ye up an' sayin' 't."

"Gien I but kent what to du!" said Malcolm for the thousandth time.

"Ye can at least gang whaur ye hae a chance o' learnin'," returned his friend. "Come an' tak yer supper wi' me the nicht — a rizzart haddie an' an egg — an' I'll tell ye mair aboot yer mither."

But Malcolm avoided a promise, lest it should interfere with what he might find best to do.