Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 132.djvu/478

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THE MARQUIS OF LOSSIE.

strength to its opposite, until it be found that like is not the same.

Florimel had already made considerable progress in the art, but proficiency in lying does not always develop the power of detecting it. She knew that her father had on one occasion struck Malcolm, and that he had taken it with the utmost gentleness, confessing himself in the wrong. Also, she had the impression that for a menial to lift his hand against a gentleman, even in self-defence, was a thing unheard of. The blow Malcolm had struck Liftore was for her, not himself. Therefore, while her confidence in Malcolm's courage and prowess remained unshaken, she was yet able to believe that Liftore had done as he said, and supposed that Malcolm had submitted. In her heart she pitied without despising him.

Caley herself took him the message that he would not be wanted. As she delivered it she smiled an evil smile and dropped a mocking curtsey, with her gaze well fixed on his two black eyes and the great bruise between them.

When Liftore mounted to accompany Lady Lossie, it took all the pluck that belonged to his high breed to enable him to smile and smile with twenty counsellors in different parts of his body feelingly persuading him that he was at least a liar. As they rode Florimel asked him how he came to be at the studio that morning. He told her that he had wanted very much to see her portrait before the final touches were given it. He could have made certain suggestions, he believed, that no one else could. He had indeed, he confessed — and felt absolutely virtuous in doing so, because here he spoke a fact — heard from his aunt that Florimel was to be there that morning for the last time: it was therefore his only chance; but he had expected to be there hours before she was out of bed. For the rest, he hoped he had been punished enough, seeing her rascally groom — and once more his lordship laughed peculiarly — had but just failed of breaking his arm: it was all he could do to hold the reins.


CHAPTER XXXIV.

AN OLD ENEMY.

One Sunday evening — it must have been just while Malcolm and Blue Peter stood in the Strand listening to a voluntary that filled and overflowed an otherwise empty church — a short, stout, elderly woman was walking lightly along the pavement of a street of small houses not far from a thoroughfare which, crowded like a market the night before, had now two lively borders only — of holiday-makers mingled with church-goers. The bells for evening prayers were ringing. The sun had vanished behind the smoke and steam of London; indeed, he might have set — it was hard to say without consulting the almanac — but it was not dark yet. The lamps in the street were lighted however, and also in the church she passed. She carried a small Bible in her hand, folded in a pocket handkerchief, and looked a decent woman from the country. Her quest was a place where the minister said his prayers, and did not read them out of a book: she had been brought up a Presbyterian, and had prejudices in favor of what she took for the simpler form of worship. Nor had she gone much farther before she came upon a chapel which seemed to promise all she wanted. She entered, and a sad-looking woman showed her to a seat. She sat down square, fixing her eyes at once on the pulpit, rather dimly visible over many pews, as if it were one of the mountains that surrounded her Jerusalem. The place was but scantily lighted, for the community at present could ill afford to burn daylight. When the worship commenced and the congregation rose to sing, she got up with a jerk that showed the duty as unwelcome as unexpected, but seemed by the way she settled herself in her seat for the prayer already thereby reconciled to the differences between Scotch church-customs and English chapel-customs. She went to sleep softly, and woke warily as the prayer came to a close.

While the congregation again sang the minister who had officiated hitherto left the pulpit, and another ascended to preach. When he began to read the text the woman gave a little start, and, leaning forward, peered very hard to gain a satisfactory sight of his face between the candles on each side of it, but without success: she soon gave up her attempted scrutiny, and thenceforward seemed to listen with marked attention. The sermon was a simple, earnest, at times impassioned, appeal to the hearts and consciences of the congregation. There was little attempt in it at the communication of knowledge of any kind, but the most indifferent hearer must have been aware that the speaker was earnestly straining after something. To those who understood it was as if he would force his way through every stockade of prejudice, ditch of habit, rampart of indifference, moat of