The Marquis of Lossie/Chapter XX

The Marquis of Lossie - Chapter XX
by George MacDonald

CHAPTER XX.

BLUE PETER.

By the time he had put up Kelpie, Malcolm found that his only chance of seeing Blue Peter before he left London lay in going direct to the wharf. On his road he reflected on what had just passed, and was not altogether pleased with himself. He had nearly lost his temper with Liftore; and if he should act in any way unbefitting the position he had assumed, from the duties of which he was in no degree exonerated by the fact that he had assumed it for a purpose, it would not only be a failure in himself, but an impediment perhaps insurmountable in the path of his service. To attract attention was almost to ensure frustration. When he reached the wharf, he found they had nearly got her freight on board the smack. Blue Peter stood on the forecastle. He went to him and explained how it was that he had been unable to join him sooner.

"I didna ken ye," said Blue Peter, "in sic play-actor kin' o' claes."

"Nobody in London would look at me twice now." But you remember how we were stared at when first we came," said Malcolm.

"Ow, ay!" returned Peter with almost a groan. "There's a sair cheenge past upo' you, but I'm gauin' hame to the auld w'y o' things. The herrin' 'ill be aye to the fore, I'm thinkin'; an' gien we getna a harbor we'll get a h'aven."

Judging it better to take no notice of this pretty strong expression of distrust and disappointment, Malcolm led him aside, and putting a few sovereigns in his hand, said, "Here, Peter, that will take you home."

"It's ower muckle — a heap ower muckle. I'll tak naething frae ye but what'll pay my w'y."

"But what is such a trifle between friends?"

"There was a time, Ma'colm, whan what was mine was yours, an' what was yours was mine, but that time's gane."

"I'm sorry to hear that, Peter; but still I owe you as much as that for bare wages."

"There was no word o' wauges whan ye said, 'Peter, come to Lon'on wi' me.' Davie there — he maun hae his wauges."

"Weel," said Malcolm, thinking it better to give way, "I'm no abune bein' obleeged to ye, Peter. I maun bide my time, I see, for ye winna lippen till me. Eh, man! your faith 's sune at the wa'."

"Faith! - what faith?" returned Peter, almost fiercely. "We're tauld to put no faith in man; an' gien I bena come to that yet freely, I'm nearer till't nor ever I was afore."

"Weel, Peter, a' 'at I can say is, I ken my ain hert, an' ye dinna ken't."

"Daur ye tell me! " cried Peter. "Disna the Scriptur' itsel' say the hert o' man is deceitfu' an' despratly wickit; who can know it?"

"Peter," said Malcolm — and he spoke very gently, for he understood that love and not hate was at the root of his friend's anger and injustice — "gien ye winna lippen to me, there's naething for't but I maun lippen to you. Gang hame to yer wife an' gi'e her my compliments, an' tell her a' 'at's past atween you an' me, as near, word for word, as ye can tell the same; an' say till her I pray her to judge atween you an' me, an' to mak the best o' me to ye 'at she can, for I wad ill thole to loss yer freenship, Peter."

The same moment came the command for all but passengers to go ashore. The men grasped each other's hand, looked each other in the eyes with something of mutual reproach, and parted — Blue Peter down the river to Scaurnose and Annie, Malcolm to the yacht lying still in the Upper Pool.

He saw it taken properly in charge, and arranged for having it towed up the river and anchored in the Chelsea Reach.

When Blue Peter found himself once more safe out at sea, with twelve hundred yards of canvas spread above him in one mighty wing betwixt boom and gaff, and the wind blowing half a gale, the weather inside him began to change a little. He began to see that he had not been behaving altogether as a friend ought. It was not that he saw reason for being better satisfied with Malcolm or his conduct, but reason for being worse satisfied with himself; and the consequence was that he grew still angrier with Malcolm, and the wrong he had done him seemed more and more an unpardonable one.

When he was at length seated on the top of the coach running betwixt Aberdeen and Fochabers, which would set him down as near Scaurnose as coach could go, he began to be doubtful how Annie, formally retained on Malcolm's side by the message he had to give her, would judge in the question between them; for what did she know of theatres and such places? And the doubt strengthened as he neared home. The consequence was that he felt in no haste to execute Malcolm's commission; and hence the delights of greeting over, Annie was the first to open her bag of troubles: Mr. Crathie had given them notice to quit at midsummer.

"Jist what I micht hae expeckit!" cried Blue Peter, starting up. "Woe be to the man 'at puts his trust in princes! I luikit till him to save the fisher-fowk, an' no to the Lord, an' the tooer o' Siloam 's fa'en upo' my heid: what does he, the first thing, but turn his ain auld freens oot o' the sma' beild they had, that his father nor his gran'father, 'at was naither o' them God-fearin' men, wad never hae put their han' till! Eh, woman! but my hert's sair 'ithin me. To think o' Ma'colm MacPhail turnin' his back upo' them 'at's been freens wi' 'im sin' ever he was a wee loonie, rinnin' aboot in coaties!"

"Hoot, man! what's gotten intill yer heid?" returned his wife. "It's no Ma'colm: it's the illy-wully factor. Bide ye till he comes till 's ain, an' Maister Crathie 'ill hae to lauch o' the wrang side o' 's mou'."

But thereupon Peter began his tale of how he had fared in London, and in the excitement of keenly anticipated evil, and with his recollection of events wrapped in the mist of a displeasure which had deepened during his journey, he so clothed the facts of Malcolm's conduct in the garments of his own feelings that the mind of Annie Mair also became speedily possessed with the fancy that their friend's good-fortune had upset his moral equilibrium, and that he had not only behaved to her husband with pride and arrogance, breaking all the ancient bonds of friendship between them, but had tried to seduce him from the ways of righteousness by inveigling him into a play-house, where marvels of wickedness were going on at the very time. She wept a few bitter tears of disappointment, dried them hastily, lifted her head high, and proceeded to set her affairs in order as if death were at the door.

For indeed it was to them as a death to leave Scaurnose. True, Annie came from inland, and was not of the fisher race, but this part of the coast she had known from childhood, and in this cottage all her married years had been spent, while banishment of the sort involved banishment from every place they knew, for all the neighborhood was equally under the power of the factor. And, poor as their accommodation here was, they had plenty of open air and land-room; whereas if they should be compelled to go to any of the larger ports, it would be to circumstances greatly inferior and a neighborhood in all probability very undesirable for their children.