The Marquis of Lossie/Chapter XIII

The Marquis of Lossie - Chapter XIII
by George MacDonald



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!"