Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 131.djvu/789

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THE MARQUIS OF LOSSIE.

783

THE MARQUIS OF LOSSIE.

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

CHAPTER XXI.

MR. GRAHAM.

When Malcolm at length reached his lodging, he found there a letter from Miss Horn, containing the much-desired information as to where the schoolmaster was to be found in the London wilderness. It was now getting rather late, and the dusk of a spring night had begun to gather, but little more than the breadth of the Regent's Park lay between him and his best friend — his only one in London — and he set out immediately for Camden Town.

The relation between him and his late schoolmaster was indeed of the strongest and closest. Long before Malcolm was born, and ever since, had Alexander Graham loved Malcolm's mother, but not until within the last few months had he learned that Malcolm was the son of Griselda Campbell. The discovery was to the schoolmaster like the bursting out of a known flower on an unknown plant. He knew then, not why he had loved the boy — for he loved every one of his pupils more or less — but why he had loved him with such a peculiar tone of affection.

It was a lovely evening. There had been rain in the afternoon as Malcolm walked home from the Pool, but before the sun set it had cleared up, and as he went through the park toward the dingy suburb the first heralds of the returning youth of the year met him from all sides in the guise of odors — not yet those of flowers, but the more ethereal if less sweet scents of buds and grass and ever pure earth moistened with the waters of heaven. And, to his surprise, he found that his sojourn in a great city, although as yet so brief, had already made the open earth with its corn and grass more dear to him and wonderful. But when he left the park, and crossed the Hampstead road into a dreary region of dwellings crowded and commonplace as the thoughts of a worshiper of Mammon, houses upon houses, here and there shepherded by a tall spire, it was hard to believe that the spring was indeed coming slowly up this way.

After not a few inquiries he found himself at a stationer's shop, a poor little place, and learned that Mr. Graham lodged over it, and was then at home. He was shown up into a shabby room, with an iron bedstead, a chest of drawers daubed with sickly paint, a table with a stained red cover, a few bookshelves in a recess over the washstand, and two chairs seated with haircloth. On one of these, by the side of a small fire in a neglected grate, sat the schoolmaster reading his Plato. On the table beside him lay his Greek New Testament and an old edition of George Herbert. He looked up as the door opened, and, notwithstanding his strange dress, recognizing at once his friend and pupil, rose hastily, and welcomed him with hand and eyes and countenance, but without word spoken. For a few moments the two stood silent, holding each the other's hand and gazing each in the other's eyes, then sat down, still speechless, one on each side of the fire.

They looked at each other and smiled, and again a minute passed. Then the schoolmaster rose, rang the bell, and when it was answered by a rather careworn young woman, requested her to bring tea. "I'm sorry I cannot give you cakes or fresh butter, my lord," he said with a smile; and they were the first words spoken." The former is not to be had, and the latter is beyond my means. But what I have will content one who is able to count that abundance which many would count privation."

He spoke in the choice word-measured phrase and stately speech which Wordsworth says "grave livers do in Scotland use," but under it all rang a tone of humor, as if he knew the form of his utterance too important for the subject-matter of it, and would gently amuse with it both his visitor and himself.

He was a man of middle height, but so thin that notwithstanding a slight stoop in the shoulders he looked rather tall — much on the young side of fifty, but apparently a good way on the other, partly from the little hair he had being grey. He had sandy-colored whiskers and a shaven chin. Except his large, sweetly-closed mouth and rather long upper lip, there was nothing very notable in his features. At ordinary moments, indeed, there was nothing in his appearance other than insignificant to the ordinary observer. His eyes were of a pale quiet blue, but when he smiled they sparkled and throbbed with light. He wore the same old black tail-coat he had worn last in his school at Portlossie, but the white neckcloth he had always been seen in there had given place to a black one: that was the sole change in the aspect of the man.

About Portlossie he had been greatly respected, notwithstanding the rumor that he was a "stickit minister" — that is, one