Littell's Living Age/Volume 131/Issue 1692/The Marquis of Lossie - Part III
THE MARQUIS OF LOSSIE.
BY GEORGE MACDONALD, AUTHOR OF "MALCOLM," ETC.
The play was begun, and the stage was the centre of light. Thither Malcolm's eyes were drawn the instant he entered. He was all but unaware of the multitude of faces about him, and his attention was at once fascinated by the lovely show revealed in soft radiance. But surely he had seen the vision before. One long moment its effect upon him was as real as if he had been actually deceived as to its nature: was it not the shore between Scaurnose and Portlossie, betwixt the Boar's Tail and the sea? and was not that the marquis, his father, in his dressing-gown, pacing to and fro upon the sands? He abandoned himself to illusion, yielded himself to the wonderful, and looked only for what would come next.
A lovely lady entered: to his excited fancy it was Florimel. A moment more, and she spoke: —
If by your art, my dearest father, you have
Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them.
Then first he understood that before him rose in wondrous realization the play of Shakespeare he knew best, the first he had ever read, "The Tempest" — hitherto a lovely phantom for the mind's eye, now embodied to the enraptured sense. During the whole of the first act he never thought either of Miranda or Florimel apart. At the same time, so taken was he with the princely carriage and utterance of Ferdinand that, though with a sigh, he consented he should have his sister.
The drop-scene had fallen for a minute or two before he began to look around him. A moment more and he had commenced a systematic search for his sister amongst the ladies in the boxes. But when at length he found her, he dared not fix his eyes upon her lest his gaze should make her look at him and she should recognize him. Alas! her eyes might have rested on him twenty times without his face once rousing in her mind the thought of the fisher-lad of Portlossie. All that had passed between them in the days already old was virtually forgotten.
By degrees he gathered courage, and soon began to feel that there was small chance indeed of her eyes alighting upon him for the briefest of moments. Then he looked more closely, and felt through rather than saw with his eyes that some sort of change had already passed upon her. It was Florimel, yet not the very Florimel he had known. Already something had begun to supplant the girl-freedom that had formerly in every look and motion asserted itself. She was more beautiful, but not so lovely in his eyes: much of what had charmed him had vanished. She was more stately, but the stateliness had a little hardness mingled with it; and could it be that the first of a cloud had already gathered on her forehead? Surely she was not so happy as she had been at Lossie House. She was dressed in black, with, a white flower in her hair. Beside her sat the bold-faced countess, and behind them her nephew, Lord Meikleham that was — now Lord Liftore.
A fierce indignation seized the heart of Malcolm at the sight. Behind the form of the earl his mind's eye saw that of Lizzy out in the wind on the Boar's Tail, her old shawl wrapped about herself and the child of the man who sat there so composed and comfortable. His features were fine and clear-cut, his shoulders broad, and his head well set: he had much improved since Malcolm offered to fight him with one hand in the dining-room of Lossie House. Every now and then he leaned forward between his aunt and Florimel, and spoke to the latter. To Malcolm's eyes she seemed to listen with some haughtiness. Now and then she cast him an indifferent glance. Malcolm was pleased: Lord Liftore was anything but the Ferdinand to whom he could consent to yield his Miranda. They would make a fine couple certainly, but for any other fitness, knowing what he did, Malcolm was glad to perceive none. The more annoyed was he when once or twice he fancied he caught a look between them that indicated more than acquaintanceship — some sort of intimacy at least. But he reflected that in the relation in which they stood to Lady Bellair it could hardly be otherwise.
The play was tolerably well put upon the stage, and free of the absurdities attendant upon too ambitious an endeavor to represent to the sense things which Shakespeare and the dramatists of his period freely committed to their best and most powerful ally, the willing imagination of the spectators. The opening of the last scene, where Ferdinand and Miranda are discovered at chess, was none the less effective for its simplicity, and Malcolm was turning from a delighted gaze on its loveliness to glance at his sister and her companions when his eyes fell on a face near him in the pit which had fixed an absorbed regard in the same direction. It was that of a young man a few years older than himself, with irregular features, but a fine mouth, large chin and great forehead. Under the peculiarly prominent eyebrows shone dark eyes of wondrous brilliancy and seeming penetration. Malcolm could not but suspect that his gaze was upon his sister, but as they were a long way from the boxes he could not be certain. Once he thought he saw her look at him, but of that also he could be in no wise certain.
Malcolm knew the play so well that he rose just in time to reach the pit-door ere exit should be impeded by the outcomers, and thence with some difficulty he found his way to the foot of the stair up which those he watched had gone. He had stood but a little while when he saw in front of him, almost within reach of an outstretched hand, the man I have just described waiting also. After what seemed a long time, his sister and her two companions came slowly down the stair in the descending crowd. Her eyes seemed searching amongst the multitude that filled the lobby. Presently, an indubitable glance of still recognition passed between them, and by a slight movement the young man placed himself so that she must pass next him in the crowd. Malcolm got one place nearer in the change, and thought they grasped hands. She turned her head slightly back and seemed to put a question — with her lips only. He replied in the same manner. A light rushed into her face and vanished. But not a feature moved and not a word had been spoken. Neither of her companions had seen the young man, and he stood where he was till they had left the house. Malcolm stood also, much inclined to follow him when he went, but, his attention having been for a moment attracted in another direction, when he looked again he had disappeared. He sought him where he fancied he saw the movement of his vanishing, but was soon convinced of the uselessness of the attempt, and walked home. Before he reached his lodging he had resolved on making trial of a plan which had more than once occurred to him, but had as often been rejected as too full of the risk of repulse.
DEMON AND THE PIPES.
His plan was to watch the house until he saw some entertainment going on: then present himself as if he had but just arrived from her ladyship's country-seat. At such a time no one would acquaint her with his appearance, and he would, as if it were but a matter of course, at once take his share in waiting on the guests. By this means he might perhaps get her a little accustomed to his presence before she could be at leisure to challenge it.
When he had put Kelpie in her stall the last time for the season, and run into the house to get his plaid for Lizzy, who was waiting him near the tunnel, he bethought himself that he had better take with him also what other of his personal requirements he could carry. He looked about, therefore, and finding a large carpet-bag in one of the garret-rooms, hurried into it some of his clothes — amongst them the Highland dress he had worn as henchman to the marquis, and added the great Lossie pipes his father had given to old Duncan, but which the piper had not taken with him when he left Lossie House. The said Highland dress he now resolved to put on, as that in which latterly Florimel had been most used to see him: in it he would watch his opportunity of gaining admission to the house.
The next morning Blue Peter came to him early. They went out together, spent the day in sightseeing, and, on Malcolm's part chiefly, in learning the topography of London. In Hyde Park, Malcolm told his friend that he had sent for Kelpie. "She'll be the deid o' ye i' thae streets, as fu' o' wheels as the sea o' fish: twize I've been maist gr'un' to poother o' my ro'd here," said Peter.
"Ay, but ye see, oot here amo' the gentry it's no freely sae ill, an' the ro'ds are no a' stane; an' here, ye see, 's the place whaur they come, leddies an' a', to hae their rides thegither. What I'm fleyt for is 'at she'll be braekin' legs wi' her deevilich kickin'."
"Haud her upo' dry strae an' watter for a whilie, till her banes begin to cry oot for something to hap them frae the cauld: that'll quaiet her a bit," said Peter.
"It's a' ye ken!" returned Malcolm. "She's aye the waur-natur'd the less she has to ate. Na, na: she maun be weel lined. The deevil in her maun lie warm, or she'll be neither to haud no bin'. There's nae doobt she's waur to haud in whan she's in guid condeetion; but she's nane sae like to tak a body by the sma' o' the back an' shak the inside oot o' 'im, as she 'maist did ae day to the herd laddie at the ferm, only he had an auld girth aboot the mids o' 'im for a belt, an' he tuik the less scaith."
"Cudna we gang an' see the maister the day," said Blue Peter, changing the subject.
He meant Mr. Graham, the late schoolmaster of Portlossie, whom the charge of heretical teaching had driven from the place.
"We canna weel du that till we hear whaur he is. The last time Miss Horn h'ard frae him he was changin' his lodgin's; an' ye see the kin' o' a place this Lon'on is," answered Malcolm.
As soon as Peter was gone to return to the boat, Malcolm dressed himself in his kilt and its belongings, and when it was fairly dusk took his pipes under his arm and set out for Portland Place. He had the better hope of speedy success to his plan that he fancied he had read on his sister's lips, in the silent communication that passed between her and her friend in the crowd, the words come and to-morrow. It might have been the merest imagination, yet it was something: how often have we not to be grateful for shadows!
Up and down the street he walked a long time without seeing a sign of life about the house. But at length the hall was lighted. Then the door opened and a servant rolled out a carpet over the wide pavement, which the snow had left wet and miry — a signal for the street-children, ever on the outlook for sights, to gather. Before the first carriage arrived there was already a little crowd of humble watchers and waiters about the gutter and curbstone. But they were not destined to much amusement that evening, the visitors amounting only to a small dinner-party. Still, they had the pleasure of seeing a few grand ladies issue from their carriages, cross the stage of their epiphany, the pavement, and vanish in the paradise of the shining hall, with its ascent of gorgeous stairs — no broken steps, no missing balusters there. And they had the show all for nothing. It is one of the perquisites of street-service. What one would give to see the shapes glide over the field of those cameræ obscuræ, the hearts of the street-Arabs! — once to gaze on the jeweled beauties through the eyes of those shock-haired girls! I fancy they do not often begrudge them what they possess, except perhaps when feature or hair or motion chances to remind them of some one of their own people, and they feel wronged and indignant that she should flaunt in such splendor "when our Sally would set off the grand clothes so much better." It is neither the wealth nor the general consequence it confers that they envy, but, as I imagine, the power of making a show — of living in the eyes and knowledge of neighbors for a few radiant moments: nothing is so pleasant to ordinary human nature as to know itself by its reflection from others. When it turns from these warped and broken mirrors to seek its reflection in the divine thought, then is it redeemed, then it beholds itself in the perfect law of liberty. Before he became himself an object of curious interest to the crowds he was watching, Malcolm had come to the same conclusion with many a philosopher and observer of humanity before him — that on the whole the rags are inhabited by the easier hearts; and he would have arrived at the conclusion with more certainty but for the high training that cuts of£ intercourse between heart and face.
When some time had elapsed, and no more carriages appeared, Malcolm, judging the dinner must now be in full vortex, rang the bell of the front door. It was opened by a huge footman, whose head was so small in proportion that his body seemed to have absorbed it. Malcolm would have stepped in at once and told what of his tale he chose at his leisure, but the servant, who had never seen the dress Malcolm wore except on street-beggars, with the instinct his class shares with watch-dogs quickly closed the door. Ere it reached the post, however, it found Malcolm's foot between.
"Go along, Scotchy: you're not wanted here," said the man, pushing the door hard. "Police is round the corner."
Now, one of the weaknesses Malcolm owed his Celtic blood was an utter impatience of rudeness. In his own nature entirely courteous, he was wrathful even to absurdity at the slightest suspicion of insult. But that in part, through the influence of Mr. Graham the schoolmaster, he had learned to keep a firm hold on the reins of action, this foolish feeling would not unfrequently have hurried him into undignified conduct. On the present occasion I fear the main part of his answer, but for the shield of the door, would have been a blow to fell a bigger man than the one that now glared at him through the shoe-broad opening. As it was, its words were fierce with suppressed wrath. "Open the door an' lat me in," was, however, all he said.
"What's your business?" asked the man, on whom his tone had its effect.
"My business is with my Lady Lossie," said Malcolm, recovering his English, which was one step toward mastering, if not recovering, his temper.
"You can't see her: she's at dinner."
"Let me in, and I'll wait. I come from Lossie House."
"Take away your foot and I'll go and see," said the man.
"No: you open the door," returned Malcolm.
The man's answer was an attempt to kick his foot out of the doorway. If he were to let in a tramp, what would the butler say?
But thereupon Malcolm set his portvent to his mouth,, rapidly filled his bag, while the man stared as if it were a petard with which he was about to blow the door to shivers, and then sent from the instrument such a shriek, as it galloped off into the "Lossie Gathering," that, involuntarily, his adversary pressed both hands to his ears. With a sudden application of his knee Malcolm sent the door wide, and entered the hall with his pipes in full cry. The house resounded with their yell, but only for one moment. For down the stair, like bolt from catapult, came Demon, Florimel's huge Irish staghound, and springing upon Malcolm put an instant end to the music.
The footman laughed with exultation, expecting to see him torn to pieces. But when he saw instead the fierce animal, with a foot on each of his shoulders, licking Malcolm's face with long fiery tongue, he began to doubt "The dog knows you," he said sulkily.
"So shall you before long," returned Malcolm. "Was it my fault that I made the mistake of looking for civility from you? One word from me to the dog and he has you by the throat."
"I'll go and fetch Wallis," said the man, and, closing the door, left the hall. Now, this Wallis had been a fellow-servant of Malcolm's at Lossie House, but he did not know that he had gone with Lady Bellair when she took Florimel away: almost every one had left at the same time. He was now glad indeed to learn that there was one amongst the servants who knew him.
Wallis presently made his appearance with a dish in his hands, on his way to the dining-room, from which came the confused noises of the feast
"You'll be come up to wait on Lady Lossie?" he said. "I haven't a moment to speak to you now, for we're at dinner and there's a party."
"Never mind me. Give me that dish. I'll take it in; you can go for another," said Malcolm, laying his pipes in a safe spot.
"You can't go into the dining-room that figure," said Wallis, who was in the Bellair livery.
"This is how I waited on my lord," returned Malcolm, "and this is how I'll wait on my lady."
Wallis hesitated. But there was that about the fisher-fellow was too much for him. As he spoke Malcolm took the dish from his hands, and with it walked into the dining-room. There one reconnoitring glance was sufficient The butler was at the sideboard opening a champagne bottle. He had cut wire and strings, and had his hand on the cork as Malcolm walked up to him, It was a critical moment, yet he stopped in the very article, and stared at the apparition.
"I'm Lady Lossie's man, from Lossie House. I'll help you to wait," said Malcolm.
To the eyes of the butler he looked a savage. But there he was in the room, with a dish in his hands, and speaking at least intelligibly. The cork of the champagne bottle was pushing hard against his palm, and he had no time to question. He peeped into Malcolm's dish. "Take it round, then," he said.
So Malcolm settled into the business of the hour.
It was some time after he knew where she was before he ventured to look at his sister: he would have her already familiarized with his presence before their eyes met. That crisis did not arrive during dinner.
Lord Liftore was one of the company, and so — to Malcolm's pleasure, for he felt in him an ally against the earl — was Florimel's mysterious friend.
A NEW LIVERY.
Scarcely had the ladies gone to the drawing-room when Florimel's maid, who knew Malcolm, came in quest of him. Lady Lossie desired to see him.
"What is the meaning of this, MacPhail?" she said, when he entered the room where she sat alone. "I did not send for you. Indeed, I thought you had been dismissed with the rest of the servants."
How differently she spoke! And she used to call him Malcolm! The girl Florimel was gone, and there sat — the marchioness was it, or some phase of riper womanhood only? It mattered little to Malcolm. He was no curious student of man or woman. He loved his kind too well to study it. But one thing seemed plain: she had forgotten the half friend-ship and whole service that had had place betwixt them, and it made him feel as if the soul of man no less than his life was but as a vapor that appeareth for a little and then vanisheth away.
But Florimel had not so entirely forgotten the past as Malcolm thought — not so entirely, at least, but that his appearance, and certain difficulties in which she had begun to find herself, brought something of it again to her mind.
"I thought," said Malcolm, assuming his best English, "your ladyship might not choose to part with an old servant at the will of a factor, and so took upon me to appeal to your ladyship to decide the question."
"But how is that? Did you not return to your fishing when the household was broken up?"
"No, my lady. Mr. Crathie kept me to help Stoat and do odd jobs about the place."
"And now he wants to discharge you?"
Then Malcolm told her the whole story, in which he gave such a description of Kelpie that her owner, as she imagined herself, expressed a strong wish to see her, for Florimel was almost passionately fond of horses.
"You may soon do that, my lady," said Malcolm. "Mr. Soutar, not being of the same mind as Mr. Crathie, is going to send her up. It will be but the cost of the passage from Aberdeen, and she will fetch a better price here if your ladyship should resolve to part with her. She won't fetch the third of her value anywhere, though, on account of her bad temper and ugly tricks."
"But as to yourself, MacPhail — what are you going to do?" said Florimel. "I don't like to part with you, but if I keep you I don't know what to do with you. No doubt you could serve in the house, but that is not at all suitable to your education and previous life."
"A body wad tak' ye for a granny grown," said Malcolm to himself. But to Florimel he replied, "If your ladyship should wish to keep Kelpie, you will have to keep me too, for not a creature else will she let near her."
"And, pray, tell me what use, then, can I make of such an animal?" said Florimel.
"Your ladyship, I should imagine, will want a groom to attend you when you are out on horseback, and the groom will want a horse; and here am I and Kelpie," answered Malcolm.
Florimel laughed. "I see," she said. "You contrive I shall have a horse nobody can manage but yourself." She rather liked the idea of a groom so mounted, and had too much well-justified faith in Malcolm to anticipate dangerous results.
"My lady," said Malcolm, appealing to her knowledge of his character to secure credit, for he was about to use his last means of persuasion — and as he spoke in his eagerness he relapsed into his mother-tongue — "My lady, did I ever tell ye a lee?"
"Certainly not, Malcolm, so far as I know. Indeed, I am certain you never did," answered Florimel, looking up at him in a dominant yet kindly way.
"Then," continued Malcolm, "I'll tell your ladyship something that you may find hard to believe, and yet is as true as that I loved your ladyship's father. Your ladyship knows he had a kindness for me?"
"I do know it," answered Florimel gently, moved by the tone of Malcolm's voice and the expression of his countenance.
"Then I make bold to tell your ladyship that on his death-bed your father desired me to do my best for you — took my word that I would be your ladyship's true servant."
"Is it so, indeed, Malcolm?" returned Florimel with a serious wonder in her tone, and looked him in the face with an earnest gaze. She had loved her father, and it sounded in her ears almost like a message from the tomb.
"It's as true as I stan' here, my leddy," said Malcolm.
Florimel was silent for a moment. Then she said, "How is it that only now you come to tell me?"
"Your father never desired me to tell you, my lady; only he never imagined you would want to part with me, I suppose. But when you did not care to keep me, and never said a word to me when you went away, I could not tell how to do as I had promised him. It wasn't that one hour I forgot his wish, but that I feared to presume; for if I should displease your ladyship my chance was gone. So I kept about Lossie House as long as I could, hoping to see my way to some plan or other. But when at length Mr. Craithie turned me away, what was I to do but come to your ladyship? And if your ladyship will let things be as before — in the way of service I mean — I canna doobt, my leddy, but it 'll be pleesant i' the sicht o' yer father whanever he may come to ken o' 't, my lady."
Florimel gave him a strange, half-startled look. Hardly more than once since her father's funeral had she heard him alluded to, and now this fisher-lad spoke of him as if he were still at Lossie House.
Malcolm understood the look. "Ye mean, my leddy — I ken what ye mean," he said. "I canna help it. For to lo'e onything is to ken 't immortal. He's livin' to me, my lady."
Florimel continued staring, and still said nothing.
I sometimes think that the present belief in mortality is nothing but the almost universal although unsuspected unbelief in immortality grown vocal and articulate.
But Malcolm gathered courage and went on. "An' what for no, my leddy?" he said, floundering no more in English, but soaring on the clumsy wings of his mother-dialect. "Didna he turn his face to the licht afore he dee'd? an' Him 'at rase frae the deid said 'at whaever believed in Him sud never dee. Sae we maun believe 'at he's livin', for gien we dinna believe what He says, what are we to believe, my leddy?"
Florimel continued yet a moment looking him fixedly in the face. The thought did arise that perhaps he had lost his reason, but she could not look at him thus and even imagine it. She remembered how strange he had always been, and for a moment had a glimmering idea that in this young man's friendship she possessed an incorruptible treasure. The calm, truthful, believing, almost for the moment enthusiastic, expression of the young fisherman's face wrought upon her with a strangely quieting influence. It was as if one spoke to her out of a region of existence of which she had never even heard, but in whose reality she was compelled to believe because of the sound of the voice that came from it.
Malcolm seldom made the mistake of stamping into the earth any seeds of truth he might cast on it: he knew when to say no more, and for a time neither spoke. But now, for all the coolness of her upper crust, Lady Florimel's heart glowed — not, indeed, with the power of the shining truth Malcolm had uttered, but with the light of gladness in the possession of such a strong, devoted, disinterested squire. "I wish you to understand," she said at length, "that I am not at present mistress of this house, although it belongs to me. I am but the guest of Lady Bellair, who has rented it of my guardians. I cannot therefore arrange for you to be here. But you can find accommodation in the neighborhood, and come to me at one o'clock every day for orders. Let me know when your mare arrives: I shall not want you till then. You will find room for her in the stables. You had better consult the butler about your groom's livery." Malcolm was astonished at the womanly sufficiency with which she gave her orders. He left her with the gladness of one who has had his righteous desire, held consultation with the butler on the matter of the livery, and went home to his lodging. There he sat down and meditated.
A strange, new, yearning pity rose in his heart as he thought about his sister and the sad facts of her lonely condition. He feared much that her stately composure was built mainly on her imagined position in society, and was not the outcome of her character. Would it be cruelty to destroy that false foundation, hardly the more false as a foundation for composure that beneath it lay a mistake? — or was it not rather a justice which her deeper and truer self had a right to demand of him? At present, however, he need not attempt to answer the question. Communication even such as a trusted groom might have with her, and familiarity with her surroundings, would probably reveal much. Meantime, it was enough that he would now be so near her that no important change of which others might be aware could well approach her without his knowledge, or anything take place without his being able to interfere if necessary.
The next day Wallis came to see Malcolm and take him to the tailor's. They talked about the guests of the previous evening.
"There is a great change in Lord Meikleham," said Malcolm.
"There is that," said Wallis: "I consider him much improved. But, you see, he's succeeded: he's the earl now, and Lord Liftore — and a menseful broad-shouldered man to the boot of the bargain. He used to be such a windlestraw!"
In order to speak good English, Wallis now and then, like some Scotch people of better education, anglicized a word ludicrously.
"Is there no news of his marriage?" asked Malcolm; adding, "They say he has great property."
"'My love she's but a lassie yet,'" said Wallis, "though she too has changed quite as much as my lord."
"Who are you speaking of?" asked Malcolm, anxious to hear the talk of the household on the matter.
"Why, Lady Lossie, of course. Anybody with half an eye can see as much as that."
"Is it settled, then?"
"That would be hard to say. Her ladyship is too like her father: no one can tell what may be her mind the next minute. But, as I say, she's young, and ought to have her fling first — so far, that is, as we can permit it to a woman of her rank. Still, as I say, anybody with half an eye can see the end of it all: he's forever hovering about her. My lady, too, has set her mind on it; and, for my part, I can't see what better she can do. I must say I approve of the match. I can see no possible objection to it."
"We used to think he drank too much," suggested Malcolm.
"Claret," said Wallis, in a tone that seemed to imply no one could drink too much of that.
"No, not claret only. I've seen the whiskey follow the claret."
"Well, he don't now — not whiskey, at least. He don't drink too much — not much too much — not more than a gentleman should. He don't look like it — does he now? A good wife, such as my Lady Lossie will make him, will soon set him all right. I think of taking a similar protection myself one of these days."
"He's not worthy of her," said Malcolm.
"Well, I confess his family won't compare with hers. There's a grandfather in it somewhere that was a banker or a brewer or a soap-boiler, or something of the sort, and she and her people have been earls and marquises ever since they walked arm-in-arm out of the ark. But, bless you! all that's been changed since I came to town. So long as there's plenty of money, and the mind to spend it, we have learned not to be exclusive. It's selfish, that. It's not Christian. Everything lies in the mind to spend it, though. Mrs. Tredger — that's our lady's-maid; only this is a secret — says it's all settled: she knows it for certain fact; only there's nothing to be said about it yet: she's so young, you know."
"Who was the man that sat nearly opposite my lady, on the other side of the table?" asked Malcolm.
"I know who you mean. Didn't look as if he'd got any business there — not like the rest of them — did he? No, they never do. Odd-and-end sort of people, like he is, never do look the right thing, let them try ever so. How can they when they ain't it? That's a fellow that's painting Lady Lossie's portrait. Why he should be asked to dinner for that, I'm sure I can't tell. He ain't paid for it in victuals, is he? I never saw such land-leapers let into Lossie House, I know. But London's an awful place. There's no such a thing as respect of persons here. Here you meet the butcher, the baker, the candlestick-maker any night in my lady's drawing-room. I declare to you, Ma'colm MacPhail, it makes me quite uncomfortable at times to think who I may have been waiting upon without knowing it. For that painter-fellow — Lenorme they call him — I could knock him on the teeth with the dish every time I hold it to him. And to see him stare at Lady Lossie as he does!"
"A painter must want to get a right good hold of the face he's got to paint," said Malcolm. "Is he here often?"
"He's been here five or six times already," answered Wallis, "and how many more times I may have to fill his glass I don't know. I always give him second-best sherry, I know. I'm sure the time that pictur' 's been on hand! He ought to be ashamed of himself. If she's been once to his studio, she's been twenty times — to give him sittings, as they call it. He's making a pretty penny of it, I'll be bound. I wonder he has the cheek to show himself when my lady treats him so haughtily. But those sort of people have no proper feelin's, you see: it's not to be expected of such."
Wallis liked the sound of his own sentences, and a great deal more talk of similar character followed before they got back from the tailor's. Malcolm was tired enough of him, and never felt the difference between man and man more strongly than when, after leaving him, he set out for a walk with Blue Peter, whom he found waiting him at his lodging. On this same Blue Peter, however, Wallis would have looked down from the height of his share of the marquisate as on one of the lower orders — ignorant, vulgar, even dirty.
They had already gazed together upon not a few of the marvels of London, but nothing had hitherto moved or drawn them so much as the ordinary flow of the currents of life through the veins of the huge city. Upon Malcolm, however, this had now begun to pall, while Peter already found it worse than irksome, and longed for Scaurnose. At the same time loyalty to Malcolm kept him from uttering a whisper of his homesickness. It was yet but the fourth day they had been in London.
"Eh, my lord," said Blue Peter, when by chance they found themselves in the lull of a little quiet court somewhere about Gray's Inn, with the roar of Holborn in their ears, "it's like a month, sin' I was at the kirk. I'm feart the din's gotten into my heid, an' I'll never get it oot again. I cud maist wuss I was a mackerel, for they tell me the fish hears naething. I ken weel noo what ye meant, my lord, whan ye said ye dreidit the din micht gar ye forget yer Macker."
"I hae been wussin' sair mysel, this last twa days," responded Malcolm, "'at I cud get ae sicht o' the jaws clashin' upo' the Scaurnose or rowin' up upo' the edge o' the links. The din o' natur' never troubles the guid thouchts in ye. I reckon it's 'cause it's a kin' o' a harmony in 'tsel', an' a' harmony's jist, as the maister used to say, a higher kin' o' a peace. Yon organ 'at we hearkent till ae day ootside the kirk — ye min', man — it was a quaietness in 'tsel', an' cam' throu' the din like a bonny silence — like a lull i' the win' o' this warl'. It wasna a din at a', but a gran' repose, like. But this noise tumultuous o' human strife, this din o' iron shune an' iron wheels, this whurr an' whuzz o' buyin' an' sellin' an' gettin' gain — it disna help a body to their prayers."
"Eh, na, my lord. Jist think o' the preevilege — I never saw nor thoucht o' 't afore — o' haein' 'ti' yer pooer, ony nicht 'at ye're no efter the fish, to stap oot at yer ain door an' be i' the mids o' the temple. Be 't licht or dark, be 't foul or fair, the sea sleepin' or ragin', ye hae aye room, an' naething atween ye an' the throne o' the Almichty, to the whilk yer prayers ken the gait as weel's the herrin' to the shores o' Scotlan': ye hae but to lat them flee, an' they gang straucht there. But here ye hae to luik sae gleg efter yer boady, 'at, as ye say, my lord, yer sowl's like to come aff the waur, gien it binna clean forgotten.""I doobt there's something no richt aboot it, Peter," returned Malcolm.
"There maun be a heap no richt aboot it," answered Peter.
"Ay, but I'm no meanin' 't jist as ye du. I had the haill thing throu' my heid last nicht, an' I canna but think there's something wrang wi' a man gien he canna hear the word o' God as weel i' the mids o' a multitude no man can number, a' made ilk ane i' the image o' the Father — as weel, I say, as i' the hert o' win' an' watter, an' the lift an' the starns an' a'. Ye canna say 'at thae things are a' made i' the image o' God — i' the same w'y, at least, 'at ye can say 't o' the body an' face o' a man, for throu' them the God o' the whole earth revealed himsel' in Christ."
"Ow weel, I wad alloo what ye say, gien they war a' to be considered Christians."
"Ow, I grant we canna weel du that i' the full sense, but I doobt, gien they bena a' Christians 'at ca's themsel's that, there's a hep mair Christi-anity nor gets the credit o' its ain name. I min' weel hoo Maister Graham said to me ance 'at hoo there was something o' Him 'at made him luikin' oot o' the een o' ilka man 'at He had made; an' what wad ye ca' that but a scart or a straik o' Christi-anity?"
"Weel, I kenna; but, ony gait, I canna think it can be again' the trowth o' the gospel to wuss yersel' mair alane wi yer God nor ye ever can be in sic an awfu' Babylon o' a place as this."
"Na, na, Peter: I'm no sayin' that. I ken weel we're to gang intill the closet an' shut to the door. I'm only feart 'at there be something wrang in mysel' 'at taks 't ill to be amon' sae mony neibors. I'm thinkin' 'at, gien a' was richt 'ithin me, gien I lo'ed my neibor as the Lord wad hae them 'at lo'ed him lo'e ilk ane his brither, I micht be better able to pray among them — ay, i' the verra face o' the bargainin' an' leein' a' aboot me."
"An' min' ye," said Peter, pursuing the train of his own thoughts, and heedless of Malcolm's, "'at oor Lord himsel' bude whiles to win' awa', even frae his disciples, to be him-lane wi' the Father o' 'im."
"Ay ye're richt there, Peter," answered Malcolm; "but there's ae p'int in 't ye maunna forget; an' that is, 'at it was never i' the daytime, sae far's I min', 'at he did sae. The lee-lang day he was amon' 's fowk workin' his michty wark. Whan the nicht cam', in which no man could work, he gaed hame till's Father, as 'twar. Eh me! but it's weel to hae a man like the schuilmaister to put trowth intill ye. I kenna what comes o' them 'at hae drucken maisters, or sic as cares for haething but' coontin' an' Laitin, an' the likes o' that!"