Littell's Living Age/Volume 131/Issue 1693/The Marquis of Lossie - Part IV
THE MARQUIS OF LOSSIE.
BY GEORGE MACDONALD, AUTHOR OF "MALCOLM," ETC.
That night Florimel had her thoughts as well as Malcolm. Already life was not what it had been to her, and the feeling of a difference is often what sets one a-thinking first. While her father lived, and the sureness of his love overarched her consciousness with a heaven of safety, the physical harmony of her nature had supplied her with a more than sufficing sense of well-being. Since his death, too, there had been times when she even fancied an enlargement of life in the sense of freedom and power which came with the consciousness of being a great lady, possessed of the rare privilege of an ancient title, with an inheritance which seemed to her a yet greater wealth than it was. But she had soon found that as to freedom she had less of that than before — less of the feeling of it within her: not much freedom of any sort is to be had without fighting for it, and she had yet to discover that the only freedom worth the name — that of heart and soul and mind — is not to be gained except through the hardest of battles. She was very lonely too. Lady Bellair had never assumed with her any authority, and had always been kind, even to petting, but there was nothing about her to make a home for the girl's heart. She felt in her no superiority, and for a spiritual home that is essential. As she learned to know her better, this sense of loneliness went on deepening, for she felt more and more that her guardian was not one in whom she could place genuine confidence, while yet her power over her was greater than she knew. The innocent nature of the girl had begun to recoil from what she saw in the woman of the world, and yet she had in herself worldliness enough to render her freely susceptible of her influences.
Notwithstanding her fine health and natural spirits, Florimel had begun to know what it is to wake suddenly of a morning between three and four, and lie for a long, weary time sleepless. In youth, bodily fatigue ensures falling asleep, but as soon as the body is tolerably rested, if there be unrest in the mind, that wakes it, and consciousness returns in the shape of a dull misgiving, like the far echo of the approaching trump of the archangel. Indeed, those hours are as a vestibule to the great hall of judgment, and to such as, without rendering it absolute obedience, yet care to keep on some sort of terms with their conscience, it is a time of anything but comfort. Nor does the court those hours sitting concern itself only with heavy questions of right and wrong, but whoever loves himself and cares for his appearance before the eyes of men finds himself accused of paltry follies, stupidities and indiscretions, and punished with paltry mortifications, chagrins and anxieties. From such arraignment no man is free but him who walks in the perfect law of liberty — that is, the will of the Perfect — which alone is peace.
On the morning after she had thus taken Malcolm into her service Florimel had one of these experiences — a foretaste of the valley of the shadow: she awoke in the hour when judgment sits upon the hearts of men. Or is it not rather the hour for which a legion of gracious spirits are on the watch — when, fresh raised from the death of sleep, cleansed a little from the past and its evils by the gift of God, the heart and brain are most capable of their influences? — the hour when, besides, there is no refuge of external things wherein man may shelter himself from the truths they would so gladly send conquering into the citadel of his nature, no world of the senses to rampart the soul from thought, when the eye and the ear are as if they were not, and the soul lies naked before the infinite of reality. This live hour of the morning is the most real hour of the day, the hour of the motions of a prisoned and persecuted life, of its effort to break through and breathe. A good man then finds his refuge in the heart of the purifying fire: the bad man curses the swarms of Beelzebub that settle upon every sore spot in his conscious being.
But it was not the general sense of unfitness in the conditions of her life — neither was it dissatisfaction with Lady Bellair for the want of the pressure of authority upon her unstable being; it was not the sense of loneliness and unshelteredness in the sterile waste of fashionable life, neither was it weariness with the same and its shows, or all these things together, that could have waked the youth of Florimel and kept it awake at this hour of the night, for night that hour is, however near the morning.
Some few weeks agone she had accompanied to the study of a certain painter a friend who was then sitting for her portrait. The moment she entered, the appearance of the man and his surroundings laid hold of her imagination. Although on the very verge of popularity, he was young — not more than five-and-twenty. His face, far from what is called handsome, had a certain almost grandeur in it, owed mainly to the dominant forehead and the regnant life in the eyes. To this the rest of the countenance was submissive. The mouth was sweet yet strong, seeming to derive its strength from the will that towered above and overhung it, throned on the crags of those eyebrows. The nose was rather short, not unpleasantly so, and had mass enough. In figure he was scarcely above the usual height, but well formed. To a first glance, even, the careless yet graceful freedom of his movements was remarkable, while his address was manly and altogether devoid of self-recommendation. Confident modesty and unobtrusive ease distinguished his demeanor.
His father, Arnold Lenorme, descended from an old Norman family, had given him the Christian name of Raoul, which, although outlandish, tolerably fitted the surname, notwithstanding the contiguous l's, so objectionable to the fastidious ear of their owner. The earlier and more important part of his education — the beginnings, namely, of everything he afterward further followed — his mother herself gave him, partly because she was both poor and capable, and partly because she was more anxious than most mothers for his best welfare. The poverty they had crept through, as those that strive after better things always will, one way or another, with immeasurable advantage, and before the time came when he must leave home her influence had armed him in adamant — a service which, alas! few mothers seem capable of rendering the knights whom they send out into the battle-field of the world. Most of them give their children the best they have, but how shall a foolish woman be a wise mother? The result in his case was that reverence for her as the type of womanhood, working along with a natural instinct for refinement, a keen feeling of the incompatibility with art of anything in itself low or unclean, and a healthful and successful activity of mind, had rendered him so far upright and honorable that he had never yet done that in one mood upon which in another he had looked back with loathing. As yet, he had withstood the temptations belonging to his youth and his profession — in a great measure also the temptations belonging to success: he had not yet been tried with disappointment or sorrow or failure.
As to the environment in which Florimel found him, it was to her a region of confused and broken color and form — a kind of chaos out of which beauty was ever ready to start. Pictures stood on easels, leaned against chair-backs, glowed from the wall, each contributing to the atmosphere of solved rainbow that seemed to fill the space. Lenorme was seated — not at his easel, but at a grand piano, which stood away, half hidden in a corner, as if it knew itself there on sufferance, with pictures all about the legs of it. For they had walked straight in without giving his servant time to announce them. A bar of a song, in a fine tenor voice, broke as they opened the door; and the painter came to meet them from the farther end of the study. He shook hands with Florimel's friend, and turned with a bow to her. At the first glance the eyes of both fell. Raised the same instant, they encountered each other point-blank, and then the eloquent blood had its turn at betrayal. What the moment meant Florimel did not know, but it seemed as if Raoul and she had met somewhere long ago — were presumed not to know it, but could not help remembering it, and agreeing to recognize it as a fact. A strange pleasure filled her heart. While Mrs. Barnardiston sat she flitted about the room like a butterfly, looking at one thing after another, and asking now the most ignorant, now the most penetrative question, disturbing not a little the work, but sweetening the temper of the painter as he went on with his study of the mask and helmet into which the gorgon stare of the unideal had petrified the face and head of his sitter. He found the situation trying, nevertheless. It was as if Cupid had been set by Jupiter to take a portrait of Io in her stall, while evermore he heard his Psyche fluttering about among the peacocks in the yard. For the girl had bewitched him at first sight. He thought it was only as an artist, though, to be sure, a certain throb, almost a pain, in the region of the heart, when first his eyes fell before hers, might have warned, and perhaps did in vain warn, him otherwise. Sooner than usual he professed himself content with the sitting, and then proceeded to show the ladies some of his sketches and pictures. As he did so, Florimel happened to ask to see one standing as in disgrace with its front to the wall. He put it, half reluctantly, on an easel, and said it was meant for the unveiling of Isis, as presented in a mahrchen of Novalis, called "Die Lehrlinge zu Sais" in which the goddess of nature reveals to the eager and anxious gaze of the beholder the person of his Rosenblüthchen, whom he had left behind him when he set out to visit the temple of the divinity. But on the great pedestal where should have sat the goddess there was no gracious form visible. That part of the picture was a blank. The youth stood below, gazing enraptured, with parted lips and outstretched arms, as if he had already begun to suspect what had begun to dawn through the slowly-thinning veil; but to the eye of the beholder he gazed as yet only on vacancy, and the picture had not reached an attempt at self-explanation. Florimel asked why he had left it so long unfinished, for the dust was thick on the back of the canvas.
"Because I have never seen the face or figure." the painter answered, "either in eye of mind or of body, that claimed the position."
As he spoke his eyes seemed to Florimel to lighten strangely, and as if by common consent they turned away and looked at something else. Presently, Mrs. Barnardiston, who cared more for sound than form or color, because she could herself sing a little, began to glance over some music on the piano, curious to find what the young man had been singing; whereupon Lenorme said to Florimel hurriedly, and almost in a whisper, with a sort of hesitating assurance, "If you would give me a sitting or two — I know I am presumptuous, but if you would — I — I — should send the picture to the Academy in a week."
"I will," replied Florimel, flushing like a wild poppy, and as she said it she looked up in his face and smiled. "It would have been selfish," she said to herself as they drove away, "to refuse him."
This first interview, and all the interviews that had followed, now passed through her mind as she lay awake in the darkness preceding the dawn, and she reviewed them not without self-reproach. But for some of my readers it will be hard to believe that one of the feelings that now tormented the girl was a sense of lowered dignity because of the relation in which she stood to the painter, seeing there was little or no ground for moral compunction, and the feeling had its root merely in the fact that he was a painter-fellow and she a marchioness. Her rank had already grown to seem to her so identified with herself that she was hardly any longer capable of the analysis that should show it distinct from her being. As to any duty arising from her position, she had never heard the word used except as representing something owing to, not owed by, rank. Social standing in the eyes of the superexcellent few of fashion was the Satan of unrighteousness worshipped around her. And the precepts of this worship fell upon soil prepared for it. For with all the simplicity of her nature there was in it an inborn sense of rank, of elevation in the order of the universe above most others of the children of men — greater intrinsic worth therefore in herself. How could it be otherwise with the offspring of generations of pride and falsely conscious superiority? Hence, as things were going now with the more human part of her, some commotion, if not earthquake indeed, was imminent. Nay, the commotion had already begun, as manifest in her sleeplessness and the thoughts that occupied it.
Rightly to understand the sense of shame and degradation she had not unfrequently felt of late, we must remember that in the circle in which she moved she heard, on all sides, professions, arts, and trades alluded to with the same unuttered but the more strongly implied contempt — a contempt, indeed, regarded as so much a matter of course, so thoroughly understood, so reasonable in its nature, so absolute in its degree, that to utter it would have been bad taste from very superfluity. Yet she never entered the painter's study but with trembling heart, uncertain foot, and fluttering breath, as of one stepping within the gates of an enchanted paradise, whose joy is too much for the material weight of humanity to ballast, even to the steadying of the bodily step and the outward calm of the bodily carriage. How far things had gone between them we shall be able to judge by-and-by: it will be enough at present to add that it was this relation, and the inward strife arising from it, that had not only prematurely, but over-rapidly, ripened the girl into the woman.
This my disclosure of her condition, however, has not even yet uncovered the sorest spot upon which the flies settled in the darkness of this torture-hour of the human clock. Although still the same lively, self-operative nature she had been in other circumstances, she was so far from being insensible or indifferent to the opinions of others that she had not even strength enough to keep a foreign will off the beam of her choice: the will of another, in no way directly brought to bear on hers, would yet weigh to her encouragement where her wish was doubtful, or to her restraint where impulse was strong. It would even move her toward a line of conduct whose anticipated results were distasteful to her. Ever and anon her pride would rise armed against the consciousness of slavery, but its armor was too weak either for defence or for deliverance. She knew that the heart of Lady Bellair — what of heart she had — was set upon her marriage with her nephew, Lord Liftore. Now she recoiled from the idea of marriage, and dismissed it into a future of indefinite removal. She had no special desire to please Lady Bellair from the point of gratitude, for she was perfectly aware that her relation to herself was far from being without advantage to that lady's position as well as means: a whisper or two that had reached her had been enough to enlighten her in that direction. Neither could she persuade herself that Lord Liftore was at all the sort of man she could become proud of as a husband; and yet she felt destined to be his wife. On the other hand, she had no dislike to him: he was handsome, well informed, capable — a gentleman, she thought, of good regard in the circles in which they moved, and one who would not in any manner disgrace her, although, to be sure, he was her inferior in rank, and she would rather have married a duke. At the same time, to confess all the truth, she was by no means indifferent to the advantages of having for a husband a man with money enough to restore the somewhat tarnished prestige of her own family to its pristine brilliancy. She had never said a word to encourage the scheming of Lady Bellair; neither, on the other hand, had she ever said a word to discourage her hopes or give her ground for doubting of the acceptableness of her cherished project Hence, Lady Bellair had naturally come to regard the two as almost affianced. But Florimel's aversion to the idea of marriage, and her horror at the thought of the slightest whisper of what was between her and Lenorme, increased together.
There were times, too, when she asked herself in anxious discomfort whether she was not possibly a transgressor against a deeper and simpler law than that of station — whether she was altogether maidenly in the encouragement she had given and was giving to the painter. It must not be imagined that she had once visited him without a companion, though that companion was, indeed, sometimes only her maid — her real object being covered by the true pretext of sitting for her portrait, which Lady Bellair pleased herself with imagining would one day be presented to Lord Liftore. But she could not, upon such occasions of morning judgment as this, fail to doubt sorely whether the visits she paid him, and the liberties which upon fortunate occasions she allowed him, were such as could be justified on any ground other than that she was prepared to give him all. All, however, she was by no means prepared to give him: that involved consequences far too terrible to be contemplated even as possibilities.
With such causes for disquiet in her young heart and brain, it is not, then, wonderful that she should sometimes be unable to slip across this troubled region of the night in the boat of her dreams, but should suffer shipwreck on the waking coast, and have to encounter the staring and questioning eyes of more than one importunate truth. Nor is it any wonder either that, to such an inexperienced and so troubled a heart, the assurance of one absolutely devoted friend should come with healing and hope, even if that friend should be but a groom, altogether incapable of understanding her position, or perceiving the phantoms that crowded about her, threatening to embody themselves in her ruin. A clumsy, ridiculous fellow! she said to herself, from whose person she could never dissociate the smell of fish, who talked a horrible jargon called Scotch, and who could not be prevented from uttering unpalatable truths at uncomfortable moments; yet whose thoughts were as chivalrous as his person was powerful, and whose countenance was pleasing, if only for the triumph of honesty therein: she actually felt stronger and safer to know he was near and at her beck and call.
Mr. Crathie, seeing nothing more of Malcolm, believed himself at last well rid of him, but it was days before his wrath ceased to flame, and then it went on smouldering. Nothing occurred to take him to the Seaton, and no business brought any of the fisher-people to his office during that time. Hence, for some time he heard nothing of the mode of Malcolm's departure. When at length, in the course of ordinary undulatory propagation, the news reached him that Malcolm had taken the yacht with him, he was enraged beyond measure at the impudence of the theft, as he called it, and rushed to the Seaton in a fury. He had this consolation, however: the man who accused him of dishonesty and hypocrisy had proved but a thief.
He found the boathouse indeed empty, and went storming from cottage to cottage, but came upon no one from whom his anger could draw nourishment, not to say gain satisfaction. At length he reached the Partan's, found him at home, and commenced, at haphazard, abusing him as an aider and abettor of the felony. But Meg Parton was at home also, as Mr. Crathie soon learned to his cost, for, hearing him usurp her unique privilege of falling out upon her husband, she stole from the ben-end, and having stood for a moment silent in the doorway, listening for comprehension, rushed out in a storm of tongue. "An' what for sudna my man," she cried at full height of her screeching voice, "lay tu his han' wi' ither honest fowk to du for the boat what him 'at was weel kent for the captain o' her sin' ever she was a boat wantit dune? Wad ye tak the comman' o' the boat, sir, as weel's o' a' thing ither aboot the place?"
"Hold your tongue, woman," said the factor: "I have nothing to say to you."
"Aigh, sirs! but it's a peety ye wasna foreordeent to be markis yersel'! It maun be a sair vex to ye 'at ye're naething but the factor."
"If you don't mind your manners, Mistress Findlay," said Mr. Crathie in glowing indignation, "perhaps you'll find that the factor is as much as the marquis when he's all there is for one."
"Lord save 's! hear till him!" cried the Partaness. "Wha wad hae thoucht it o' 'im? There's fowk 'at it sets weel to tak upo' them! His father, honest man! wad ne'er hae spoken like that to Meg Partan; but syne he was an honest man, though he was but the heid-shepherd upo' the estate. Man, I micht hae been yer mither gien I had been auld eneugh for 's first wife, for he wad fain hae had me for 's second."
"I've a great mind to take out a warrant against you, John Findlay, otherwise called the Partan, as airt an' pairt in the stealing of the Marchioness of Lossie's pleasure-boat," said the factor. "And for you, Mistress Findlay, I would have you just please to remember that this house — as far, at least, as you are concerned — is mine, although I am but the factor, and not the marquis; and if you don't keep that unruly tongue of yours a little quieter in your head, I'll set you in the street the next quarter-day but one, as sure's ever you gutted a herring; and then you may bid good-bye to Portlossie, for there's not a house, as you very well know, in all the Seaton that belongs to another than her ladyship."
"'Deed, Mr. Crathie," returned Meg Partan, a little sobered by the threat, "ye wad hae mair sense nor rin the risk o' an uprisin' o' the fisher-fowk. They wad ill stan' to see my auld man an' me misused, no to say 'at her leddyship hersel' wad see ony o' her ain fowk turned oot o' hoose an' haudin' for naething ava."
"Her leddyship wad gie hersel' sma' concern gien the haill bilin' o' ye war whaur ye cam frae," returned the factor.
"An' for the toon here, the fowk ken the guid o' a quiet caus'ay ower weel to lament the loss o' ye."
"The deil's i' the man!" cried the Partaness in high scorn. "He wad threip upo' me 'at I'm ane o' thae lang-tongued limmers 'at make themsel's hard frae ae toon's en' to the tither! But I s' gar him priv's words yet."
"Ye see, sir," interposed the mild Partan, anxious to shove extremities aside, "we didna ken 'at there was onything intill't by ord'nar. Gien we had but kent 'at he was oot o' your guid graces ——"
"Haud yer tongue afore ye lee, man," interrupted his wife. "Ye ken weel eneuch ye wad du what Ma'colm MacPhail wad hae ye du, for ony factor in braid Scotlan'."
"You must have known," said the factor to the Partan, apparently heedless of this last outbreak of the generous evil temper, and laying a cunning trap for the information he sorely wanted, but had as yet failed in procuring, "else why was it that not a soul went with him? He could ill manage the boat alone."
"What put sic buff an' styte i' yer heid, sir," rejoined Meg, defiant of the hints her husband sought to convey to her. "There's mony ane wad hae been ready to gang, only wha sud gang but him 'at gaed wi' him an' 's lordship frae the first?"
"And who was that?" asked Mr. Crathie.
"Ow, wha but Blue Peter?" answered Meg.
"Hm!" said the factor in a tone that, for almost the first time in her life, made the woman regret that she had spoken, and therewith he rose and left the cottage.
"Eh, mither!" cried Lizzy, in her turn appearing from the ben-end with her child in her arms, "ye hae wroucht ruin i' the earth! He'll hae Peter an' Annie an' a' oot o' hoose an' ha', come midsummer."
"I daur him till't!" cried her mother in the impotence and self-despite of a mortifying blunder: "I'll raise the toon upon 'im."
"What wad that du, mither?" returned Lizzy in distress about her friends: "it wad but mak ill waur."
"An' wha are ye to oppen yer mou' sae to yer mither?" burst forth Meg Partan, glad of an object upon which the chagrin that consumed her might issue in flame. "Ye haena luikit to yer ain gait sae weel 'at ye can threip to set richt them 'at broucht ye furth. Wha are ye, I say?" she repeated in rage.
"Ane 'at folly's made wiser maybe, mither," answered Lizzy sadly, and proceeded to take her shawl from behind the door. She would go to her friends at Scaurnose and communicate her fears for their warning. But her words smote the mother within the mother, and she turned and looked at her daughter with more of the woman and less of the Partan in her rugged countenance than had been visible there since the first week of her married life. She had been greatly injured by the gaining of too easy a conquest and resultant supremacy over her husband, and had ever after revelled in a rule too absolute for good to any concerned. As she was turning away her daughter caught a glimpse of her softened eyes, and went out of the house with more comfort in her heart than she had felt ever since first she had given her conscience cause to speak daggers to her.
The factor in his wrath ran half the way home, flung himself trembling on his horse, vouchsafing his anxious wife scarce any answer to her inquires, and galloped to Duff Harbor to Mr. Soutar. I will not occupy my tale with their interview. Suffice it to say that the lawyer succeeded at last in convincing the demented factor that it would be but prudent to delay measures for the recovery of the yacht and the arrest and punishment of its abductors until he knew what Lady Lossie would say to the affair. She had always had a-liking for the lad, Mr. Soutar said, and he would not be in the least surprised to hear that Malcolm had gone straight to her ladyship and put himself under her protection. No doubt by this time the boat was at its owner's disposal: it would be just like the fellow. He always went the nearest road anywhere; and to prosecute him for a thief would in any case but bring down the ridicule of the whole coast upon the factor, and breed him endless annoyance in the getting in of his rents, especially amongst the fishermen. The result was, that Mr. Crathie went home — not indeed a humbler or wiser man than he had gone, but a thwarted man, and therefore the more dangerous in the channels left open to the outrush of his angry power.
When Lizzy reached Scaurnose her account of the factor's behavior, to her surprise, did not take much effect on Mrs. Mair: a queer little smile broke over her countenance, and vanished. An enforced gravity succeeded, however, and she began to take counsel with Lizzy as to what they could do, or where they could go, should the worst come to the worst, and the doors not only of her own house, but of Scaurnose and Portlossie as well, be shut against them. But through it all reigned a calm regard and fearlessness of the future which to Lizzy's roused and apprehensive imagination was strangely inexplicable. Annie Mair seemed possessed of some hidden and upholding assurance that raised her above the fear of man or what he could do to her. The girl concluded it must be the knowledge of God, and prayed more earnestly that night than she had prayed since the night on which Malcolm had talked to her so earnestly before he left. I must add this much — that she was not altogether astray; God was in Malcolm giving new hope to his fisher-folk.
ST. JAMES THE APOSTLE.
When Malcolm left his sister he had a dim sense of having lapsed into Scotch, and set about buttressing and strengthening his determination to get rid of all unconscious and unintended use of the northern dialect, not only that in his attendance upon Florimel he might be neither offensive nor ridiculous, but that when the time should come in which he must appear what he was, it might be less of an annoyance to her to yield the marquisate to one who could speak like a gentleman and one of the family. But not the less did he love the tongue he had spoken from his childhood, and in which were on record so many precious ballads and songs, old and new; and he resolved that when he came out as marquis he would at Lossie House indemnify himself for the constraint of London. He would not have an English servant there except Mrs. Courthope: he would not have the natural country speech corrupted with cockneyisms and his people taught to speak like Wallis. To his old friends, the fishers and their families, he would never utter a sentence but in the old tongue, haunted with all the memories of relations that were never to be obliterated or forgotten, its very tones reminding him and them of hardships together endured, pleasures shared and help willingly given. At night, notwithstanding, he found that in talking with Blue Peter he had forgotten all about his resolve, and it vexed him with himself not a little. He now saw that if he could but get into the way of speaking English to him, the victory would be gained, for with no one else would he find any difficulty then.
The next morning he went down to the stairs at London Bridge and took a boat to the yacht. He had to cross several vessels to reach it. When at length he looked down from one of them on the deck of the little cutter, he saw Blue Peter sitting on the coamings of the companion hatchway, with his feet hanging down within, lost in the book he was reading. Curious to see, without disturbing him, what it was that so absorbed him, he dropped quietly on the tiller and thence on the deck, and approaching softly peeped over his shoulder, and saw that he was reading the Epistle of James the Apostle. From Peter's thumbed Bible Malcolm's eyes went wandering through the thicket of masts, in which moved so many busy seafarers, and then turned to the docks and wharves and huge warehouses lining the shores; and while they scanned the marvelous vision thoughts like these arose and passed through his brain: "What are ye duin' here, Jeames the just? Ye was naething but a fisherbody upon a sma' watter i' the hert o' the hills, 'at wasna even saut; an' what can the thouchts that gaed throu' your fish-catchin' brain hae to do wi' sic a sicht 's this? I won'er gien at this moment there be another man in a' Lon'on sittin' readin' that epistle o' yours but Blue Peter here? He thinks there's naething o' mair importance, 'cep' maybe some ither pairts o' the same buik; but syne he's but a puir fisher-body himsel', an' what kens he o' the wisdom an' riches an' pooer o' this michty queen o' the nations thront about 'im? Is 't possible the auld body kent something that was jist as necessar' to ilka man, the busiest in this croodit mairt, to ken an' gang by, as it was to Jeames an' the lave o' the michty apostles themsel's? For me, I dinna doobt it, but hoo it sud ever he onything but an auld-warld story to the new warld o' Lon'on, I think it wud bleck Maister Graham himsel' til imaigine."
Before this, Blue Peter had become aware that some one was near him, but, intent on the words of his brother fisher of the old time, had half-consciously put off looking up to see who was behind him. When now he did so, and saw Malcolm, he rose and touched his bonnet. "It was jist i' my heid, my lord," he said without any preamble, "sic a kin' o' a h'avenly Jacobin as this same Jacobus was! He's sic a leveler as was feow afore 'm, I doobt, wi' his gowdringt man an' his cloot-cled brither! He pat me in twa min's, my lord, whan I got up, whether I wad touch my bonnet to yer lordship or no."
Malcolm laughed with hearty appreciation. "When I am king of Lossie," he said, "be it known to all whom it may concern that it is and shall be the right of Blue Peter, and all his descendants to the end of time, to stand with bonneted heads in the presence of the lord or — no, not lady, Peter — of the house of Lossie."
"Ay, but ye see, Ma'colm," said Peter, forgetting his address, and his eye twinkling in the humor of the moment, "it's no by your leave, or ony man's leave: it's the richt o' the thing; an' that I maun think aboot, an' see whether I be at liberty to ca' ye my lord or no."
"Meantime, don't do it," said Malcolm, "lest you should have to change afterward. You might find it difficult."
"Ye're cheengt a'ready," said Blue Peter, looking up at him sharply. "I ne'er h'ard ye speyk like that afore."
"Make nothing of it," returned Malcolm. "I am only airing my English on you. I have made up my mind to learn to speak in London as London people do, and so, even to you — in the mean time only — I am going to speak as good English as I can. It's nothing between you and me, Peter, and you must not mind it," he added, seeing a slight cloud come over the fisherman's face.
Blue Peter turned away with a sigh. The sounds of English speech from the lips of Malcolm, addressed to himself, seemed vaguely to indicate the opening of a gulf between them, destined ere long to widen to the whole social width between a fisherman and a marquis, and swallow up in it not only old memories, but later friendship and confidence. A shadow of bitterness crossed the poor fellow's mind, and in it the seed of distrust began to strike root, for nothing but that a newer had been substituted for an older form of the same speech and language. Truly man's heart is a delicate piece of work, and takes gentle handling or hurt. But that the pain was not all of innocence is revealed in the strange fact afterward disclosed by the repentant Peter himself, that in the same moment what had just passed his mouth as a joke put on an important, serious look, and appeared to involve a matter of doubtful duty: was it really right of one man to say my lord to another? Thus the fisherman, and not the marquis, was the first to sin against the other because of altered fortune. Distrust awoke pride in the heart of Blue Peter, and although in action the man could never have been unfaithful, he yet erred in the lack of the charity that thinketh no evil.
But the lack and the doubt made little show as yet. The two men rowed together in their dingy down the river to the Aberdeen wharf, to make arrangements about Kelpie, whose arrival Malcolm expected the following Monday, then dined together, and after that had a long row up the river.