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´╗┐Title: Malcolm
Author: MacDonald, George
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Malcolm" ***

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MALCOLM
by George MacDonald



CHAPTER I: MISS HORN


"Na, na; I hae nae feelin's, I'm thankfu' to say. I never kent ony
guid come o' them. They're a terrible sicht i' the gait."

"Naebody ever thoucht o' layin' 't to yer chairge, mem."

"'Deed, I aye had eneuch adu to du the thing I had to du, no to
say the thing 'at naebody wad du but mysel'. I hae had nae leisur'
for feelin's an' that," insisted Miss Horn.

But here a heavy step descending the stair just outside the
room attracted her attention, and checking the flow of her speech
perforce, with three ungainly strides she reached the landing.

"Watty Witherspail! Watty!" she called after the footsteps down
the stair.

"Yes, mem," answered a gruff voice from below.

"Watty, whan ye fess the bit boxie, jist pit a hemmer an' a puckle
nails i' your pooch to men' the hen hoose door. The tane maun be
atten't till as weel's the tither."

"The bit boxie" was the coffin of her third cousin Griselda Campbell,
whose body lay on the room on her left hand as she called down the
stair. Into that on her right Miss Horn now re-entered, to rejoin
Mrs Mellis, the wife of the principal draper in the town, who had
called ostensibly to condole with her, but really to see the corpse.

"Aih! she was taen yoong!" sighed the visitor, with long drawn
tones and a shake of the head, implying that therein lay ground of
complaint, at which poor mortals dared but hint.

"No that yoong," returned Miss Horn. "She was upo' the edge o'
aucht an' thirty."

"Weel, she had a sair time o' 't."

"No that sair, sae far as I see--an' wha sud ken better? She's
had a bien doon sittin' (sheltered quarters), and sud hae had as
lang's I was to the fore. Na, na; it was nowther sae young nor yet
sae sair."

"Aih! but she was a patient cratur wi' a' flesh," persisted Mrs
Mellis, as if she would not willingly be foiled in the attempt to
extort for the dead some syllable of acknowledgment from the lips
of her late companion.

"'Deed she was that!--a wheen ower patient wi' some. But that
cam' o' haein mair hert nor brains. She had feelin's gien ye like--
and to spare. But I never took ower ony o' the stock. It's a pity
she hadna the jeedgment to match, for she never misdoobted onybody
eneuch. But I wat it disna maitter noo, for she's gane whaur it's
less wantit. For ane 'at has the hairmlessness o' the doo 'n this
ill wulled warl', there's a feck o' ten 'at has the wisdom o' the
serpent. An' the serpents mak sair wark wi' the doos--lat alane
them 'at flees into the verra mouws o' them."

"Weel, ye're jist richt there," said Mrs Mellis. "An' as ye say,
she was aye some easy to perswaud. I hae nae doubt she believed to
the ver' last he wad come back and mairry her."

"Come back and mairry her! Wha or what div ye mean? I jist tell ye
Mistress Mellis--an' it's weel ye're named--gien ye daur to
hint at ae word o' sic clavers, it's this side o' this door o' mine
ye's be less acquant wi'."

As she spoke, the hawk eyes of Miss Horn glowed on each side of
her hawk nose, which grew more and more hooked as she glared, while
her neck went craning forward as if she were on the point of making
a swoop on the offender. Mrs Mellis's voice trembled with something
like fear as she replied:

"Gude guide 's, Miss Horn! What hae I said to gar ye look at me
sae by ordinar 's that?"

"Said!" repeated Miss Horn, in a tone that revealed both annoyance
with herself and contempt for her visitor. "There's no a claver in
a' the countryside but ye maun fess 't hame aneth yer oxter, as
gin 't were the prodigal afore he repentit. Ye's get sma thanks for
sic like here. An' her lyin' there as she'll lie till the jeedgment
day, puir thing!"

"I'm sure I meant no offence, Miss Horn," said her visitor. "I
thocht a' body kent 'at she was ill about him."

"Aboot wha, i' the name o' the father o' lees?"

"Ow, aboot that lang leggit doctor 'at set oat for the Ingies, an'
dee'd afore he wan across the equautor. Only fouk said he was nae
mair deid nor a halvert worm, an' wad be hame whan she was merried."

"It's a' lees frae heid to fiit, an' frae bert to skin."

"Weel, it was plain to see she dwyned awa efter he gaed, an' never
was hersel' again--ye dinna deny that?"

"It's a' havers," persisted Miss Horn, but in accents considerably
softened. "She cared na mair aboot the chield nor I did mysel'.
She dwyned, I grant ye, an' he gaed awa, I grant ye; but the win'
blaws an' the water rins, an the tane has little to du wi' the
tither."

"Weel, weel; I'm sorry I said onything to offen' ye, an' I canna
say mair. Wi' yer leave, Miss Horn, I'll jist gang an' tak' a last
leuk at her, puir thing!"

"'Deed, ye s' du naething o' the kin'! I s' lat nobody glower at her
'at wad gang an spairge sic havers about her, Mistress Mellis. To
say 'at sic a doo as my Grizel, puir, saft hertit, winsome thing,
wad hae lookit twice at ony sic a serpent as him! Na, na, mem! Gang
yer wa's hame, an' come back straucht frae yer prayers the morn's
mornin'. By that time she'll be quaiet in her coffin, an' I'll be
quaiet i' my temper. Syne I'll lat ye see her--maybe.--I wiss
I was weel rid o' the sicht o' her, for I canna bide it. Lord, I
canna bide it."

These last words were uttered in a murmured aside, inaudible to
Mrs Mellis, to whom, however, they did not apply, but to the dead
body. She rose notwithstanding in considerable displeasure, and with
a formal farewell walked from the room, casting a curious glance
as she left it in the direction of that where the body lay, and
descended the stairs as slowly as if on every step she deliberated
whether the next would bear her weight. Miss Horn, who had followed
her to the head of the stair, watched her out of sight below the
landing, when she turned and walked back once more into the parlour,
but with a lingering look towards the opposite room, as if she saw
through the closed door what lay white on the white bed.

"It's a God's mercy I hae no feelin's," she said to herself. "To
even (equal) my bonny Grizel to sic a lang kyte clung chiel as
yon! Aih, puir Grizel! She's gane frae me like a knotless threid."



CHAPTER II: BARBARA CATANACH


Miss Horn was interrupted by the sound of the latch of the street
door, and sprung from her chair in anger.

"Canna they lat her sleep for five meenutes?" she cried aloud,
forgetting that there was no fear of rousing her any more.--"It'll
be Jean come in frae the pump," she reflected, after a moment's
pause; but, hearing no footstep along the passage to the kitchen,
concluded--"It's no her, for she gangs aboot the hoose like the
fore half o' a new shod cowt;" and went down the stair to see who
might have thus presumed to enter unbidden.

In the kitchen, the floor of which was as white as scrubbing could
make it, and sprinkled with sea sand--under the gaily painted
Dutch clock, which went on ticking as loud as ever, though just
below the dead--sat a woman about sixty years of age, whose plump
face to the first glance looked kindly, to the second, cunning,
and to the third, evil. To the last look the plumpness appeared
unhealthy, suggesting a doughy indentation to the finger, and its
colour also was pasty. Her deep set, black bright eyes, glowing
from under the darkest of eyebrows, which met over her nose, had
something of a fascinating influence--so much of it that at a
first interview one was not likely for a time to notice any other
of her features. She rose as Miss Horn entered, buried a fat fist
in a soft side, and stood silent.

"Weel?" said Miss Horn interrogatively, and was silent also.

"I thocht ye micht want a cast o' my callin'," said the woman.

"Na, na; there's no a han' 'at s' lay finger upo' the bairn but
mine ain," said Miss Horn. "I had it a' ower, my lee lane, afore the
skreigh o' day. She's lyin' quaiet noo--verra quaiet--waitin'
upo' Watty Witherspail. Whan he fesses hame her bit boxie, we s'
hae her laid canny intill 't, an' hae dune wi' 't."

"Weel, mem, for a leddy born, like yersel', I maun say, ye tak it
unco composed!"

"I'm no awaur, Mistress Catanach, o' ony necessity laid upo' ye
to say yer min' i' this hoose. It's no expeckit. But what for sud
I no tak' it wi' composur'? We'll hae to tak' oor ain turn er lang,
as composed as we hae the skiel o', and gang oot like a lang nibbit
can'le--ay, an lea' jist sic a memory ahin' some o' 's, Bawby."

"I kenna gien ye mean me, Miss Horn," said the woman; "but it's no
that muckle o' a memory I expec' to lea' ahin' me."

"The less the better," muttered Miss Horn; but her unwelcome visitor
went on:

"Them 'at 's maist i' my debt kens least aboot it; and then mithers
canna be said to hae muckle to be thankfu' for. It's God's trowth,
I ken waur nor ever I did mem. A body in my trade canna help fa'in'
amo' ill company whiles, for we're a' born in sin, an' brocht furth
in ineequity, as the Buik. says; in fac', it's a' sin thegither: we
come o' sin an' we gang for sin; but ye ken the likes o' me maunna
clype (tell tales). A' the same, gien ye dinna tak the help o' my
han', ye winna refuse me the sicht o' my een, puir thing!"

"There's nane sall luik upon her deid 'at wasna a pleesur' till
her livin'; an' ye ken weel eneuch, Bawby, she cudna thole (bear)
the sicht o' you."

"An' guid rizzon had she for that, gien a' 'at gangs throu' my
heid er I fa' asleep i' the lang mirk nichts be a hair better nor
ane o' the auld wives' fables 'at fowk says the holy buik maks sae
licht o'."

"What mean ye?" demanded Miss Horn, sternly and curtly.

"I ken what I mean mysel', an' ane that's no content wi' that,
bude (behaved) ill be a howdie (midwife). I wad fain hae gotten a
fancy oot o' my heid that's been there this mony a lang day; but
please yersel', mem, gien ye winna be neebourly."

"Ye s' no gang near her--no to save ye frae a' the ill dreams
that ever gethered aboot a sin stappit (stuffed) bowster!" cried
Miss Horn, and drew down her long upper lip in a strong arch.

"Ca cannie! ca cannie! (drive gently)," said Bawby. "Dinna anger
me ower sair, for I am but mortal. Fowk tak a heap frae you, Miss
Horn, 'at they'll tak frae nane ither, for your temper's weel kent,
an' little made o'; but it's an ill faured thing to anger the howdie
--sae muckle lies upo' her; an, I'm no i' the tune to put up wi'
muckle the nicht. I wonner at ye bein' sae oonneebourlike--at
sic a time tu, wi' a corp i' the hoose!"

"Gang awa--gan oot o't: it's my hoose," said Miss Horn, in a low,
hoarse voice, restrained from rising to tempest pitch only by the
consciousness of what lay on the other side of the ceiling above
her head. "I wad as sune lat a cat intill the deid chaumer to gang
loupin' ower the corp, or may be waur, as I wad lat yersel' intill
't Bawby Catanach; an' there's till ye!"

At this moment the opportune entrance of Jean afforded fitting
occasion to her mistress for leaving the room without encountering
the dilemma of either turning the woman out--a proceeding which
the latter, from the way in which she set her short, stout figure
square on the floor, appeared ready to resist--or of herself
abandoning the field in discomfiture: she turned and marched from
the kitchen with her head in the air, and the gait of one who had
been insulted on her own premises.

She was sitting in the parlour, still red faced and wrathful, when
Jean entered, and, closing the door behind her, drew near to her
mistress, bearing a narrative, commenced at the door, of all she
had seen, heard, and done, while "oot an' aboot i' the toon." But
Miss Horn interrupted her the moment she began to speak.

"Is that wuman furth the hoose, Jean?" she asked, in the tone
of one who waited her answer in the affirmative as a preliminary
condition of all further conversation.

"She's gane, mem," answered Jean--adding to herself in a wordless
thought, "I'm no sayin' whaur."

"She's a wuman I wadna hae ye throng wi', Jean."

"I ken no ill o' her, mem," returned Jean.

"She's eneuch to corrup' a kirkyaird!" said her mistress, with more
force than fitness.

Jean, however, was on the shady side of fifty, more likely to have
already yielded than to be liable to a first assault of corruption;
and little did Miss Horn think how useless was her warning, or
where Barbara Catanach was at that very moment Trusting to Jean's
cunning, as well she might; she was in the dead chamber, and
standing over the dead. She had folded back the sheet--not from
the face, but from the feet--and raised the night dress of fine
linen in which the love of her cousin had robed the dead for the
repose of the tomb.

"It wad hae been tellin' her," she muttered, "to hae spoken Bawby
fair! I'm no used to be fa'en foul o' that gait. I 's be even
wi' her yet, I'm thinkin'--the auld speldin'! Losh! and Praise
be thankit! there it's! It's there!--a wee darker, but the same
--jist whaur I could ha' laid the pint o' my finger upo't i' the
mirk!--Noo lat the worms eat it," she concluded, as she folded
down the linen of shroud and sheet--"an' no mortal ken o' 't but
mysel' an' him 'at bude till hae seen 't, gien he was a hair better
nor Glenkindie's man i' the auld ballant!"

The instant she had rearranged the garments of the dead, she
turned and made for the door with a softness of step that strangely
contrasted with the ponderousness of her figure, and indicated great
muscular strength, opened it with noiseless circumspection to the
width of an inch, peeped out from the crack, and seeing the opposite
door still shut, stepped out with a swift, noiseless swing of
person and door simultaneously, closed the door behind her, stole
down the stairs, and left the house. Not a board creaked, not a
latch clicked as she went. She stepped into the street as sedately
as if she had come from paying to the dead the last offices of
her composite calling, the projected front of her person appearing
itself aware of its dignity as the visible sign and symbol of a
good conscience and kindly heart.



CHAPTER III: THE MAD LAIRD


When Mistress Catanach arrived at the opening of a street which
was just opposite her own door, and led steep toward the sea town,
she stood, and shading her eyes with her hooded hand, although the
sun was far behind her, looked out to sea. It was the forenoon of
a day of early summer. The larks were many and loud in the skies
above her--for, although she stood in a street, she was only a
few yards from the green fields--but she could hardly have heard
them, for their music was not for her. To the northward, whither
her gaze--if gaze it could be called--was directed, all but
cloudless blue heavens stretched over an all but shadowless blue
sea; two bold, jagged promontories, one on each side of her, formed
a wide bay; between that on the west and the sea town at her feet,
lay a great curve of yellow sand, upon which the long breakers,
born of last night's wind, were still roaring from the northeast,
although the gale had now sunk to a breeze--cold and of doubtful
influence. From the chimneys of the fishermen's houses below,
ascended a yellowish smoke, which, against the blue of the sea,
assumed a dull green colour as it drifted vanishing towards the
southwest. But Mrs Catanach was looking neither at nor for anything:
she had no fisherman husband, or any other relative at sea; she
was but revolving something in her unwholesome mind, and this was
her mode of concealing an operation which naturally would have been
performed with down bent head and eyes on the ground.

While she thus stood a strange figure drew near, approaching her
with step almost as noiseless as that with which she had herself
made her escape from Miss Horn's house. At a few yards' distance
from her it stood, and gazed up at her countenance as intently as
she seemed to be gazing on the sea. It was a man of dwarfish height
and uncertain age, with a huge hump upon his back, features of great
refinement, a long thin beard, and a forehead unnaturally large,
over eyes which, although of a pale blue, mingled with a certain
mottled milky gleam, had a pathetic, dog-like expression. Decently
dressed in black, he stood with his hands in the pockets of his
trowsers, gazing immovably in Mrs Catanach's face.

Becoming suddenly aware of his presence, she glanced downward, gave
a great start and a half scream, and exclaimed in no gentle tones:

"Preserve 's! Whaur come ye frae?"

It was neither that she did not know the man, nor that she meant
any offence: her words were the mere embodiment of the annoyance
of startled surprise; but their effect was peculiar.

Without a single other motion he turned abruptly on one heel, gazed
seaward with quick flushed cheeks and glowing eyes, but, apparently
too polite to refuse an answer to the evidently unpleasant question,
replied in low, almost sullen tones:

"I dinna ken whaur I come frae. Ye ken 'at I dinna ken whaur I come
frae. I dinna ken whaur ye come frae. I dinna ken whaur onybody
comes frae."

"Hoot, laird! nae offence!" returned Mrs Catanach. "It was yer ain
wyte (blame). What gart ye stan' glowerin' at a body that gait,
ohn telled (without telling) them 'at ye was there?"

"I thocht ye was luikin' whaur ye cam frae," returned the man in
tones apologetic and hesitating.

"'Deed I fash wi' nae sic freits," said Mrs Catanach.

"Sae lang's ye ken whaur ye're gaein' till," suggested the man

"Toots! I fash as little wi' that either, and ken jist as muckle
about the tane as the tither," she answered with a low oily guttural
laugh of contemptuous pity.

"I ken mair nor that mysel', but no muckle," said the man. "I dinna
ken whaur I cam frae, and I dinna ken whaur I'm gaun till; but I
ken 'at I'm gaun whaur I cam frae. That stan's to rizzon, ye see;
but they telled me 'at ye kenned a' about whaur we a' cam frae."

"Deil a bit o' 't!" persisted Mrs Catanach, in tones of repudiation.
"What care I whaur I cam frae, sae lang's--"

"Sae lang's what, gien ye please?" pleaded the man, with a childlike
entreaty in his voice.

"Weel--gien ye wull hae't--sae lang's I cam frae my mither,"
said the woman, looking down on the inquirer with a vulgar laugh.

The hunchback uttered a shriek of dismay, and turned and fled; and
as he turned, long, thin, white hands flashed out of his pockets,
pressed against his ears, and intertwined their fingers at the back
of his neck. With a marvellous swiftness he shot down the steep
descent towards the shore.

"The deil's in't 'at I bude to anger him!" said the woman, and
walked away, with a short laugh of small satisfaction.

The style she had given the hunchback was no nickname. Stephen Stewart
was laird of the small property and ancient house of Kirkbyres, of
which his mother managed the affairs--hardly for her son, seeing
that, beyond his clothes, and five pounds a year of pocket money,
he derived no personal advantage from his possessions. He never
went near his own house, for, from some unknown reason, plentifully
aimed at in the dark by the neighbours, he had such a dislike to
his mother that he could not bear to hear the name of mother, or
even the slightest allusion to the relationship.

Some said he was a fool; others a madman; some both; none, however,
said he was a rogue; and all would have been willing to allow that
whatever it might be that caused the difference between him and
other men, throughout the disturbing element blew ever and anon
the air of a sweet humanity.

Along the shore, in the direction of the great rocky promontory
that closed in the bay on the west, with his hands still clasped
over his ears, as if the awful word were following him, he flew
rather than fled. It was nearly low water, and the wet sand afforded
an easy road to his flying feet. Betwixt sea and shore, a sail in
the offing the sole other moving thing in the solitary landscape,
like a hunted creature he sped, his footsteps melting and vanishing
behind him in the half quicksand.

Where the curve of the water line turned northward at the root of
the promontory, six or eight fishing boats were drawn up on the
beach in various stages of existence. One was little more than
half built, the fresh wood shining against the background of dark
rock. Another was newly tarred; its sides glistened with the rich
shadowy brown, and filled the air with a comfortable odour. Another
wore age long neglect on every plank and seam; half its props
had sunk or decayed, and the huge hollow leaned low on one side,
disclosing the squalid desolation of its lean ribbed and naked
interior, producing all the phantasmic effect of a great swampy
desert; old pools of water overgrown with a green scum, lay in
the hollows between its rotting timbers, and the upper planks were
baking and cracking in the sun. Near where they lay a steep path
ascended the cliff, whence through grass and ploughed land, it led
across the promontory to the fishing village of Scaurnose, which
lay on the other side of it. There the mad laird, or Mad Humpy, as
he was called by the baser sort, often received shelter, chiefly
from the family of a certain Joseph Mair, one of the most respectable
inhabitants of the place.

But the way he now pursued lay close under the cliffs of the
headland, and was rocky and difficult. He passed the boats, going
between them and the cliffs, at a footpace, with his eyes on the
ground, and not even a glance at the two men who were at work on
the unfinished boat. One of them was his friend, Joseph Mair. They
ceased their work for a moment to look after him.

"That's the puir laird again," said Joseph, the instant he was
beyond hearing. "Something's wrang wi' him. I wonder what's come
ower him!"

"I haena seen him for a while noo," returned the other. "They tell
me 'at his mither made him ower to the deil afore he cam to the
light; and sae, aye as his birthday comes roun', Sawtan gets the
pooer ower him. Eh, but he's a fearsome sicht whan he's ta'en that
gait!" continued the speaker. "I met him ance i' the gloamin',
jist ower by the toon, wi' his een glowerin' like uily lamps, an'
the slaver rinnin' doon his lang baird. I jist laup as gien I had
seen the muckle Sawtan himsel'."

"Ye nott na (needed not) hae dune that," was the reply. "He's jist
as hairmless, e'en at the warst, as ony lamb. He's but a puir cratur
wha's tribble's ower strang for him--that's a'. Sawtan has as
little to du wi' him as wi' ony man I ken."



CHAPTER IV: PHEMY MAIR


With eyes that stared as if they and not her ears were the organs
of hearing, this talk was heard by a child of about ten years of
age, who sat in the bottom of the ruined boat, like a pearl in a
decaying oyster shell, one hand arrested in the act of dabbling in
a green pool, the other on its way to her lips with a mouthful of
the seaweed called dulse. She was the daughter of Joseph Mair just
mentioned--a fisherman who had been to sea in a man of war (in
consequence of which his to-name or nickname was Blue Peter), where
having been found capable, he was employed as carpenter's mate,
and came to be very handy with his tools: having saved a little
money by serving in another man's boat, he was now building one
for himself.

He was a dark complexioned, foreign looking man, with gold rings in
his ears, which he said enabled him to look through the wind "ohn
his een watered." Unlike most of his fellows, he was a sober and
indeed thoughtful man, ready to listen to the voice of reason from
any quarter; they were, in general, men of hardihood and courage,
encountering as a mere matter of course such perilous weather as
the fishers on a great part of our coasts would have declined to
meet, and during the fishing season were diligent in their calling,
and made a good deal of money; but when the weather was such that
they could not go to sea, when their nets were in order, and nothing
special requiring to be done, they would have bouts of hard drinking,
and spend a great portion of what ought to have been their provision
for the winter.

Their women were in general coarse in manners and rude in speech;
often of great strength and courage, and of strongly marked
character. They were almost invariably the daughters of fishermen,
for a wife taken from among the rural population would have been
all but useless in regard of the peculiar duties required of her.
If these were less dangerous than those of their husbands, they
were quite as laborious, and less interesting. The most severe
consisted in carrying the fish into the country for sale, in
a huge creel or basket, which when full was sometimes more than a
man could lift to place on the woman's back. With this burden, kept
in its place by a band across her chest, she would walk as many as
twenty miles, arriving at some inland town early in the forenoon,
in time to dispose of her fish for the requirements of the day. I
may add that, although her eldest child was probably born within a
few weeks after her marriage, infidelity was almost unknown amongst
them.

In some respects, although in none of its good qualities, Mrs. Mair
was an exception from her class. Her mother had been the daughter
of a small farmer, and she had well to do relations in an inland
parish; but how much these facts were concerned in the result it
would be hard to say: certainly she was one of those elect whom
Nature sends into the world for the softening and elevation of her
other children. She was still slight and graceful, with a clear
complexion, and the prettiest teeth possible; the former two at
least of which advantages she must have lost long before, had it
not been that, while her husband's prudence had rendered hard work
less imperative, he had a singular care over her good looks; and
that a rough, honest, elder sister of his lived with them, whom it
would have been no kindness to keep from the hardest work, seeing
it was only through such that she could have found a sufficiency
of healthy interest in life. While Janet Mair carried the creel,
Annie only assisted in making the nets, and in cleaning and drying
the fish, of which they cured considerable quantities; these, with
her household and maternal duties, afforded her ample occupation.
Their children were well trained, and being of necessity, from the
narrowness of their house accommodation, a great deal with their
parents, heard enough to make them think after their faculty.

The mad laird was, as I have said, a visitor at their house oftener
than anywhere else. On such occasions he slept in a garret accessible
by a ladder from the ground floor, which consisted only of a kitchen
and a closet. Little Phemy Mair was therefore familiar with his
appearance, his ways, and his speech; and she was a favourite with
him, although hitherto his shyness had been sufficient to prevent
any approach to intimacy with even a child of ten.

When the poor fellow had got some little distance beyond the
boats, he stopped and withdrew his hands from his ears: in rushed
the sound of the sea, the louder that the caverns of his brain had
been so long closed to its entrance. With a moan of dismay he once
more pressed his palms against them, and thus deafened, shouted
with a voice of agony into the noise of the rising tide: "I dinna
ken whaur I come frae!" after which cry, wrung from the grief of
human ignorance, he once more took to his heels, though with far
less swiftness than before, and fled stumbling and scrambling over
the rocks.

Scarcely had he vanished from view of the boats, when Phemy scrambled
out of her big mussell shell. Its upheaved side being toward the
boat at which her father was at work, she escaped unperceived, and
so ran along the base of the promontory, where the rough way was
perhaps easier to the feet of a child content to take smaller steps
and climb or descend by the help of more insignificant inequalities.
She came within sight of the laird just as he turned into the mouth
of a well known cave and vanished.

Phemy was one of those rare and blessed natures which have endless
courage because they have no distrust, and she ran straight into
the cave after him, without even first stopping to look in.

It was not a very interesting cave to look into. The strata of
which it was composed, upheaved almost to the perpendicular, shaped
an opening like the half of a Gothic arch divided vertically and
leaning over a little to one side, which opening rose to the full
height of the cave, and seemed to lay bare every corner of it to
a single glance. In length it was only about four or five times
its width. The floor was smooth and dry, consisting of hard rock.
The walls and roof were jagged with projections and shadowed with
recesses, but there was little to rouse any frightful fancies.

When Phemy entered, the laird was nowhere to be seen. But she went
straight to the back of the cave, to its farthest visible point.
There she rounded a projection and began an ascent which only
familiarity with rocky ways could have enabled such a child to
accomplish. At the top she passed through another opening, and by
a longer and more gently sloping descent reached the floor of a
second cave, as level and nearly as smooth as a table. On her left
hand, what light managed to creep through the tortuous entrance was
caught and reflected in a dull glimmer from the undefined surface
of a well of fresh water which lay in a sort of basin in the rock:
on a bedded stone beside it sat the laird, with his head in his
hands, his elbows on his knees, and his hump upheaved above his
head, like Mount Sinai over the head of Christian in the Pilgrim's
Progress.

As his hands were still pressed on his ears, he heard nothing of
Phemy's approach, and she stood for a while staring at him in the
vague glimmer, apparently with no anxiety as to what was to come
next.

Weary at length--for the forlorn man continued movelessly sunk
in his own thoughts, or what he had for such--the eyes of the
child began to wander about the darkness, to which they had already
got so far accustomed as to make the most of the scanty light.
Presently she fancied she saw something glitter, away in the
darkness--two things: they must be eyes!--the eyes of an otter
or of a polecat, in which creatures the caves along the shore
abounded. Seized with sudden fright, she ran to the laird and laid
her hand on his shoulder, crying,

"Leuk, laird, leuk!"

He started to his feet and gazed bewildered at the child, rubbing
his eyes once and again. She stood between the well and the entrance,
so that all the light there was, gathered upon her pale face.

"Whaur do ye come frae?" he cried.

"I cam frae the auld boat," she answered.

"What do ye want wi' me?"

"Naething, sir; I only cam to see hoo ye was gettin' on. I wadna
hae disturbit ye, sir, but I saw the twa een o' a wullcat, or sic
like, glowerin' awa yonner i' the mirk, an' they fleyt me 'at I
grippit ye."

"Weel, weel; sit ye doon, bairnie," said the mad laird in a soothing
voice; "the wullcat sanna touch ye. Ye're no fleyt at me, are ye?"

"Na!" answered the child. "What for sud I be fleyt at you, sir?
I'm Phemy Mair."

"Eh, bairnie! it's you, is't?" he returned in tones of satisfaction,
for he had not hitherto recognised her. "Sit ye doon, sit ye doon,
an' we'll see about it a'."

Phemy obeyed, and seated herself on the nearest projection.

The laird placed himself beside her, and once more buried his face,
but not his ears, in his hands. Nothing entered them, however, but
the sound of the rising tide, for Phemy sat by him in the faintly
glimmering dusk, as without fear felt, so without word spoken.

The evening crept on, and the night came down, but all the effect
of the growing darkness was that the child drew gradually nearer
to her uncouth companion, until at length her hand stole into his,
her head sank upon his shoulder, his arm went round her to hold
her safe, and thus she fell fast asleep. After a while, the laird
gently roused her and took her home, on their way warning her,
in strange yet to her comprehensible utterance, to say nothing of
where she had found him, for if she exposed his place of refuge,
wicked people would take him, and he should never see her again.



CHAPTER V: LADY FLORIMEL


All the coast to the east of the little harbour was rock, bold and
high, of a grey and brown hard stone, which after a mighty sweep,
shot out northward, and closed in the bay on that side with a
second great promontory. The long curved strip of sand on the west,
reaching to the promontory of Scaurnose, was the only open portion
of the coast for miles. Here the coasting vessel gliding past gained a
pleasant peep of open fields, belts of wood and farm houses, with
now and then a glimpse of a great house amidst its trees. In the
distance one or two bare solitary hills, imposing in aspect only
from their desolation, for their form gave no effect to their
altitude, rose to the height of over a thousand feet.

On this comparatively level part of the shore, parallel with its
line, and at some distance beyond the usual high water mark, the
waves of ten thousand northern storms had cast up a long dune or
bank of sand, terminating towards the west within a few yards of
a huge solitary rock of the ugly kind called conglomerate, which
must have been separated from the roots of the promontory by the
rush of waters at unusually high tides, for in winter they still
sometimes rounded the rock, and running down behind the dune,
turned it into a long island. The sand on the inland side of the
dune, covered with short sweet grass, browsed on by sheep, and with
the largest and reddest of daisies, was thus occasionally swept by
wild salt waves, and at times, when the northern wind blew straight
as an arrow and keen as a sword from the regions of endless snow,
lay under a sheet of gleaming ice.

The sun had been up for some time in a cloudless sky. The wind had
changed to the south, and wafted soft country odours to the shore,
in place of sweeping to inland farms the scents of seaweed and broken
salt waters, mingled with a suspicion of icebergs. From what was
called the Seaton, or seatown, of Portlossie, a crowd of cottages
occupied entirely by fisherfolk, a solitary figure was walking
westward along this grass at the back of the dune, singing. On his
left hand the ground rose to the high road; on his right was the
dune, interlaced and bound together by the long clasping roots of
the coarse bent, without which its sands would have been but the
sport of every wind that blew. It shut out from him all sight of
the sea, but the moan and rush of the rising tide sounded close
behind it. At his back rose the town of Portlossie, high above the
harbour and the Seaton, with its houses of grey and brown stone,
roofed with blue slates and red tiles. It was no highland town
--scarce one within it could speak the highland tongue, yet down
from its high streets on the fitful air of the morning now floated
intermittently the sound of bagpipes--borne winding from street
to street, and loud blown to wake the sleeping inhabitants and let
them know that it was now six of the clock.

He was a youth of about twenty, with a long, swinging, heavy footed
stride, which took in the ground rapidly--a movement unlike that
of the other men of the place, who always walked slowly, and never
but on dire compulsion ran. He was rather tall, and large limbed.
His dress was like that of a fisherman, consisting of blue serge
trowsers, a shirt striped blue and white, and a Guernsey frock,
which he carried flung across his shoulder. On his head he wore a
round blue bonnet, with a tuft of scarlet in the centre.

His face was more than handsome--with large features, not finely
cut, and a look of mingled nobility and ingenuousness--the latter
amounting to simplicity, or even innocence; while the clear outlook
from his full and well opened hazel eyes indicated both courage
and promptitude. His dark brown hair came in large curling masses
from under his bonnet. It was such a form and face as would have
drawn every eye in a crowded thoroughfare.

About the middle of the long sandhill, a sort of wide embrasure was
cut in its top, in which stood an old fashioned brass swivel gun:
when the lad reached the place, he sprang up the sloping side of
the dune, seated himself on the gun, drew from his trowsers a large
silver watch, regarded it steadily for a few minutes, replaced it,
and took from his pocket a flint and steel, wherewith he kindled
a bit of touch paper, which, rising, he applied to the vent of the
swivel. Followed a great roar.

It echoes had nearly died away, when a startled little cry reached
his keen ear, and looking along the shore to discover whence it
came, he spied a woman on a low rock that ran a little way out into
the water. She had half risen from a sitting posture, and apparently
her cry was the result of the discovery that the rising tide
had overreached and surrounded her. There was no danger whatever,
but the girl might well shrink from plunging into the clear beryl
depth in which swayed the seaweed clothing the slippery slopes of
the rock. He rushed from the sandhill, crying, as he approached
her, "Dinna be in a hurry, mem; bide till I come to ye," and running
straight into the water struggled through the deepening tide, the
distance being short and the depth almost too shallow for swimming.
In a moment he was by her side, scarcely saw the bare feet she had
been bathing in the water, heeded as little the motion of the hand
which waved him back, caught her in his arms like a baby, and had
her safe on the shore ere she could utter a word; nor did he stop
until he had carried her to the slope of the sandhill, where he
set her gently down, and without a suspicion of the liberty he was
taking, and filled only with a passion of service, was proceeding
to dry her feet with the frock which he had dropped there as he
ran to her assistance.

"Let me alone, pray," cried the girl with a half amused indignation,
drawing back her feet and throwing down a book she carried that she
might the better hide them with her skirt. But although she shrank
from his devotion, she could neither mistake it nor help being pleased
with his kindness. Probably she had never before been immediately
indebted to such an ill clad individual of the human race, but even
in such a costume she could not fail to see he was a fine fellow.
Nor was the impression disturbed when he opened his mouth and spoke
in the broad dialect of the country, for she had no associations
to cause her to misinterpret its homeliness as vulgarity.

"Whaur's yer stockin's, mem?" he said.

"You gave me no time to bring them away, you caught me up so--
rudely," answered the girl half querulously, but in such lovely
speech as had never before greeted his Scotish ears.

Before the words were well beyond her lips he was already on his way
back to the rock, running, as he walked, with great, heavy footed
strides. The abandoned shoes and stockings were in imminent danger
of being floated off by the rising water, but he dashed in, swam a
few strokes, caught them up, waded back to the shore, and, leaving
a wet track all the way behind him but carrying the rescued clothing
at arm's length before him, rejoined their owner. Spreading his
frock out before her, he laid the shoes and stockings upon it,
and, observing that she continued to keep her feet hidden under
the skirts of her dress, turned his back and stood.

"Why don't you go away?" said the girl, venturing one set of toes
from under their tent, but hesitating to proceed further in the
business.

Without word or turn of head he walked away.

Either flattered by his absolute obedience, and persuaded that he
was a true squire, or unwilling to forego what amusement she might
gain from him, she drew in her half issuing foot, and, certainly
urged in part by an inherent disposition to tease, spoke again.

"You're not going away without thanking me?" she said.

"What for, mem?" he returned simply, standing stock still again
with his back towards her.

"You needn't stand so. You don't think I would go on dressing while
you remained in sight?"

"I was as guid's awa', mem," he said, and turning a glowing face,
looked at her for a moment, then cast his eyes on the ground.

"Tell me what you mean by not thanking me," she insisted.

"They wad be dull thanks, mem, that war thankit afore I kenned what
for."

"For allowing you to carry me ashore, of course."

"Be thankit, mem, wi' a' my hert. Will I gang doon o' my knees?"

"No. Why should you go on your knees?"

"'Cause ye're 'maist ower bonny to luik at stan'in', mem, an' I'm
feared for angerin' ye."

"Don't say ma'am to me."

"What am I to say, than, mem?--I ask yer pardon, mem."

"Say my lady. That's how people speak to me."

"I thocht ye bude (behoved) to be somebody by ordinar', my leddy!
That'll be hoo ye're so terrible bonny," he returned, with some
tremulousness in his tone. "But ye maun put on yer hose, my leddy,
or ye'll get yer feet cauld, and that's no guid for the likes o'
you."

The form of address she prescribed, conveyed to him no definite
idea of rank. It but added intensity to the notion of her being a
lady, as distinguished from one of the women of his own condition
in life.

"And pray what is to become of you," she returned, "with your
clothes as wet as water can make them?"

"The saut water kens me ower weel to do me ony ill," returned the
lad. "I gang weet to the skin mony a day frae mornin' till nicht,
and mony a nicht frae nicht till mornin'--at the heerin' fishin',
ye ken, my leddy."

One might well be inclined to ask what could have tempted her to
talk in such a familiar way to a creature like him--human indeed,
but separated from her by a gulf more impassable far than that
which divided her from the thrones, principalities, and powers of
the upper regions? And how is the fact to be accounted for, that here
she put out a dainty foot, and reaching for one of her stockings,
began to draw it gently over the said foot? Either her sense of his
inferiority was such that she regarded his presence no more than
that of a dog, or, possibly, she was tempted to put his behaviour
to the test. He, on his part, stood quietly regarding the operation,
either that, with the instinct of an inborn refinement, he was
aware he ought not to manifest more shamefacedness than the lady
herself, or that he was hardly more accustomed to the sight of
gleaming fish than the bare feet of maidens.

"I'm thinkin', my leddy," he went on, in absolute simplicity, "that
sma' fut o' yer ain has danced mony a braw dance on mony a braw
flure."

"How old do you take me for then?" she rejoined, and went on drawing
the garment over her foot by the shortest possible stages.

"Ye'll no be muckle ower twenty," he said.

"I'm only sixteen," she returned, laughing merrily.

"What will ye be or ye behaud!" he exclaimed, after a brief pause
of astonishment.

"Do you ever dance in this part of the country?" she asked, heedless
of his surprise.

"No that muckle, at least amo' the fisherfowks, excep' it be at a
weddin'. I was at ane last nicht."

"And did you dance?"

"'Deed did I, my leddy. I danced the maist o' the lasses clean aff
o' their legs."

"What made you so cruel?"

"Weel, ye see, mem,--I mean my leddy,--fowk said I was ill
aboot the bride; an' sae I bude to dance 't oot o' their heids."

"And how much truth was there in what they said?" she asked, with
a sly glance up in the handsome, now glowing face.

"Gien there was ony, there was unco little," he replied. "The
chield's walcome till her for me. But she was the bonniest lassie
we had.--It was what we ca' a penny weddin'," he went on, as if
willing to change the side of the subject.

"And what's a penny wedding?"

"It's a' kin' o' a custom amo' the fishers. There's some gey puir
fowk amon' 's, ye see, an' when a twa o' them merries, the lave o'
's wants to gie them a bit o' a start like. Sae we a' gang to the
weddin' an' eats an' drinks plenty, an' pays for a' 'at we hae;
and they mak' a guid profit out o' 't, for the things doesna cost
them nearhan' sae muckle as we pay. So they hae a guid han'fu' ower
for the plenishin'."

"And what do they give you to eat and drink?" asked the girl, making
talk.

"Ow, skate an' mustard to eat, an' whusky to drink," answered the
lad, laughing. "But it's mair for the fun. I dinna care muckle
about whusky an' that kin' o' thing mysel'. It's the fiddles an
the dancin' 'at I like."

"You have music, then?"

"Ay; jist the fiddles an' the pipes."

"The bagpipes, do you mean?"

"Ay; my gran'father plays them."

"But you're not in the Highlands here: how come you to have bagpipes?"

"It's a stray bag, an' no more. But the fowk here likes the cry
o' 't well eneuch, an' hae 't to wauk them ilka mornin'. Yon was
my gran'father ye heard afore I fired the gun. Yon was his pipes
waukin' them, honest fowk."

"And what made you fire the gun in that reckless way? Don't you
know it is very dangerous?"

"Dangerous mem--my leddy, I mean! There was naething intill 't
but a pennyworth o' blastin' pooder. It wadna blaw the froth aff
o' the tap o' a jaw (billow)."

"It nearly blew me out of my small wits, though."

"I'm verra sorry it frichtit ye. But, gien I had seen ye, I bude
to fire the gun."

"I don't understand you quite; but I suppose you mean it was your
business to fire the gun."

"Jist that, my leddy."

"Why?"

"'Cause it's been decreet i' the toon cooncil that at sax o' the
clock ilka mornin' that gun's to be fired--at least sae lang's
my lord, the marquis, is at Portlossie Hoose. Ye see it's a royal
brugh, this, an' it costs but aboot a penny, an' it's gran' like
to hae a sma' cannon to fire. An' gien I was to neglec' it, my
gran'father wad gang on skirlin'--what's the English for skirlin',
my leddy--skirlin' o' the pipes?"

"I don't know. But from the sound of the word I should suppose it
stands for screaming."

"Aye, that's it; only screamin's no sae guid as skirlin'.
My gran'father's an auld man, as I was gaein' on to say, an' has
hardly breath eneuch to fill the bag; but he wad be efter dirkin'
onybody 'at said sic a thing, and till he heard that gun he wad
gang on blawin' though he sud burst himsel.' There's naebody kens
the smeddum in an auld hielan' man!"

By the time the conversation had reached this point, the lady had
got her shoes on, had taken up her book from the sand, and was now
sitting with it in her lap. No sound reached them but that of the
tide, for the scream of the bagpipes had ceased the moment the
swivel was fired. The sun was growing hot, and the sea, although so
far in the cold north, was gorgeous in purple and green, suffused
as with the overpowering pomp of a peacock's plumage in the sun.
Away to the left the solid promontory trembled against the horizon,
as if ready to dissolve and vanish between the bright air and the
lucid sea that fringed its base with white. The glow of a young
summer morning pervaded earth and sea and sky, and swelled the
heart of the youth as he stood in unconscious bewilderment before
the self possession of the girl. She was younger than he, and knew
far less that was worth knowing, yet had a world of advantage over
him--not merely from the effect of her presence on one who had
never seen anything half so beautiful, but from a certain readiness
of surface thought, combined with the sweet polish of her speech,
and an assurance of superiority which appeared to them both to lift
her, like one of the old immortals, far above the level of the man
whom she favoured with her passing converse. What in her words,
as here presented only to the eye, may seem brusqueness or even
forwardness, was so tempered, so toned, so fashioned by the naivete
with which she spoke, that it sounded in his ears as the utterance
of absolute condescension. As to her personal appearance, the lad
might well have taken her for twenty, for she looked more of a
woman than, tall and strongly built as he was, he looked of a man.
She was rather tall, rather slender, finely formed, with small hands
and feet, and full throat. Her hair was of a dark brown; her eyes
of such a blue that no one could have suggested grey; her complexion
fair--a little freckled, which gave it the warmest tint it had;
her nose nearly straight, her mouth rather large but well formed;
and her forehead, as much of it as was to be seen under a garden
hat, rose with promise above a pair of dark and finely pencilled
eyebrows.

The description I have here given may be regarded as occupying the
space of a brief silence, during which the lad stood motionless,
like one awaiting further command.

"Why don't you go?" said the lady. "I want to read my book."

He gave a great sigh, as if waking from a pleasant dream, took
off his bonnet with a clumsy movement which yet had in it a grace
worthy of a Stuart court, and descending the dune walked away along
the sands towards the sea town.

When he had gone about a couple of hundred yards, he looked back
involuntarily. The lady had vanished. He concluded that she had
crossed to the other side of the dune; but when he had gone so far
on his way to the village as to clear the eastern end of the sandhill,
and there turned and looked up its southern slope, she was still
nowhere to be seen. The old highland stories of his grandfather
came crowding to mind, and, altogether human as she had appeared,
he almost doubted whether the sea, from which he had thought he
rescued her, were not her native element. The book, however, not
to mention the shoes and stockings, was against the supposition.
Anyhow, he had seen a vision of some order or other, as certainly
as if an angel from heaven had appeared to him, for the waters of
his mind had been troubled with a new sense of grace and beauty,
giving an altogether fresh glory to existence.

Of course no one would dream of falling in love with an unearthly
creature, even an angel; at least, something homely must mingle
with the glory ere that become possible; and as to this girl, the
youth could scarcely have regarded her with a greater sense of
far offness had he known her for the daughter of a king of the sea
--one whose very element was essentially death to him as life to
her. Still he walked home as if the heavy boots he wore were wings
at his heels, like those of the little Eurus or Boreas that stood
blowing his trumpet for ever in the round open temple which from
the top of a grassy hill in the park overlooked the Seaton.

"Sic een!" he kept saying to himself; "an' sic sma' white han's!
an' sic a bonny flit! Eh hoo she wad glitter throu' the water in
a bag net! Faith! gien she war to sing 'come doon' to me, I wad
gang. Wad that be to lowse baith sowl an' body, I wonner? I'll see
what Maister Graham says to that. It's a fine question to put till
'im: 'Gien a body was to gang wi' a mermaid, wha they say has nae
sowl to be saved, wad that be the loss o' his sowl, as weel's o'
the bodily life o' 'im?"'



CHAPTER VI: DUNCAN MACPHAIL


The sea town of Portlossie was as irregular a gathering of small
cottages as could be found on the surface of the globe. They faced
every way, turned their backs and gables every way--only of the
roofs could you predict the position; were divided from each other
by every sort of small, irregular space and passage, and looked
like a national assembly debating a constitution. Close behind the
Seaton, as it was called, ran a highway, climbing far above the
chimneys of the village to the level of the town above. Behind this
road, and separated from it by a high wall of stone, lay a succession
of heights and hollows covered with grass. In front of the cottages
lay sand and sea. The place was cleaner than most fishing villages,
but so closely built, so thickly inhabited, and so pervaded with
"a very ancient and fishlike smell," that but for the besom of the
salt north wind it must have been unhealthy. Eastward the houses
could extend no further for the harbour, and westward no further for
a small river that crossed the sands to find the sea--discursively
and merrily at low water, but with sullen, submissive mingling when
banked back by the tide.

Avoiding the many nets extended long and wide on the grassy sands,
the youth walked through the tide swollen mouth of the river, and
passed along the front of the village until he arrived at a house,
the small window in the seaward gable of which was filled with a
curious collection of things for sale--dusty looking sweets in
a glass bottle; gingerbread cakes in the shape of large hearts,
thickly studded with sugar plums of rainbow colours, invitingly
poisonous; strings of tin covers for tobacco pipes, overlapping each
other like fish scales; toys, and tapes, and needles, and twenty
other kinds of things, all huddled together.

Turning the corner of this house, he went down the narrow passage
between it and the next, and in at its open door. But the moment
it was entered it lost all appearance of a shop, and the room with
the tempting window showed itself only as a poor kitchen with an
earthen floor.

"Weel, hoo did the pipes behave themsels the day, daddy?" said the
youth as he strode in.

"Och, she'll pe peing a coot poy today," returned the tremulous
voice of a grey headed old man, who was leaning over a small peat
fire on the hearth, sifting oatmeal through the fingers of his left
hand into a pot, while he stirred the boiling mess with a short
stick held in his right.

It had grown to be understood between them that the pulmonary
conditions of the old piper should be attributed not to his internal,
but his external lungs--namely, the bag of his pipes. Both sets
had of late years manifested strong symptoms of decay, and decided
measures had had to be again and again resorted to in the case of
the latter to put off its evil day, and keep within it the breath
of its musical existence. The youth's question, then, as to
the behaviour of the pipes, was in reality an inquiry after the
condition of his grandfather's lungs, which, for their part, grew
yearly more and more asthmatic: notwithstanding which Duncan MacPhail
would not hear of resigning the dignity of town piper.

"That's fine, daddy," returned the youth. "Wull I mak oot the
parritch? I'm thinkin ye've had eneuch o' hingin' ower the fire
this het mornin'."

"No, sir," answered Duncan. "She'll pe perfectly able to make ta
parritch herself, my poy Malcolm. Ta tay will tawn when her poy
must make his own parritch, an' she'll be wantin' no more parritch,
but haf to trink ta rainwater, and no trop of ta uisgebeatha to
put into it, my poy Malcolm."

His grandson was quite accustomed to the old man's heathenish
mode of regarding his immediate existence after death as a long
confinement in the grave, and generally had a word or two ready
wherewith to combat the frightful notion; but, as he spoke, Duncan
lifted the pot from the fire, and set it on its three legs on the
deal table in the middle of the room, adding:

"Tere, my man--tere's ta parritch! And was it ta putter, or ta
traicle, or ta pottle o' peer, she would be havin' for kitchie tis
fine mornin'?"

This point settled, the two sat down to eat their breakfast; and
no one would have discovered, from the manner in which the old
man helped himself, nor yet from the look of his eyes, that he was
stone blind. It came neither of old age nor disease--he had been
born blind. His eyes, although large and wide, looked like those
of a sleep walker--open with shut sense; the shine in them was
all reflected light--glitter, no glow; and their colour was so
pale that they suggested some horrible sight as having driven from
them hue and vision together.

"Haf you eated enough, my son?" he said, when he heard Malcolm lay
down his spoon.

"Ay, plenty, thank ye, daddy, and they were richt weel made,"
replied the lad, whose mode of speech was entirely different from
his grandfather's: the latter had learned English as a foreign
language, but could not speak Scotch, his mother tongue being
Gaelic.

As they rose from the table, a small girl, with hair wildly
suggestive of insurrection and conflagration, entered, and said,
in a loud screetch--"Maister MacPhail, my mither wants a pot o'
bleckin', an' ye're to be sure an' gie her't gweed, she says."

"Fery coot, my chilt, Jeannie; but young Malcolm and old Tuncan
hasn't made teir prayers yet, and you know fery well tat she won't
sell pefore she's made her prayers. Tell your mother tat she'll pe
bringin' ta blackin' when she comes to look to ta lamp."

The child ran off without response. Malcolm lifted the pot from
the table and set it on the hearth; put the plates together and the
spoons, and set them on a chair, for there was no dresser; tilted
the table, and wiped it hearthward--then from a shelf took down
and laid upon it a bible, before which he seated himself with an air
of reverence. The old man sat down on a low chair by the chimney
corner, took off his bonnet, closed his eyes and murmured some
almost inaudible words; then repeated in Gaelic the first line of
the hundred and third psalm--

O m' anam, beannuich thus' a nis

--and raised a tune of marvellous wail. Arrived at the end of the
line, he repeated the process with the next, and so went on, giving
every line first in the voice of speech and then in the voice
of song, through three stanzas of eight lines each. And no less
strange was the singing than the tune--wild and wailful as the
wind of his native desolations, or as the sound of his own pipes
borne thereon; and apparently all but lawless, for the multitude
of so called grace notes, hovering and fluttering endlessly around
the centre tone like the comments on a text, rendered it nearly
impossible to unravel from them the air even of a known tune.
It had in its kind the same liquid uncertainty of confluent sound
which had hitherto rendered it impossible for Malcolm to learn more
than a few of the common phrases of his grandfather's mother tongue.

The psalm over, during which the sightless eyeballs of the singer
had been turned up towards the rafters of the cottage--a sign
surely that the germ of light, "the sunny seed," as Henry Vaughan
calls it, must be in him, else why should he lift his eyes when
he thought upward?--Malcolm read a chapter of the Bible, plainly
the next in an ordered succession, for it could never have been
chosen or culled; after which they kneeled together, and the old
man poured out a prayer, beginning in a low, scarcely audible voice,
which rose at length to a loud, modulated chant. Not a sentence,
hardly a phrase, of the utterance, did his grandson lay hold
of; but there were a few inhabitants of the place who could have
interpreted it, and it was commonly believed that one part of his
devotions was invariably a prolonged petition for vengeance on
Campbell of Glenlyon, the main instrument in the massacre of Glenco.

He could have prayed in English, and then his grandson might have
joined in his petitions, but the thought of such a thing would
never have presented itself to him. Nay, although, understanding
both languages, he used that which was unintelligible to the lad,
he yet regarded himself as the party who had the right to resent
the consequent schism. Such a conversation as now followed was no
new thing after prayers.

"I could fery well wish, Malcolm, my son," said the old man, "tat
you would be learnin' to speak your own lancuach. It is all fery
well for ta Sassenach (Saxon, i.e., non-Celtic) podies to read ta
Piple in English, for it will be pleasing ta Maker not to make tem
cawpable of ta Gaelic, no more tan monkeys; but for all tat it's
not ta vord of God. Ta Gaelic is ta lancuach of ta carden of Aiden,
and no doubt but it pe ta lancuach in which ta Shepherd calls his
sheep on ta everlastin' hills. You see, Malcolm, it must be so,
for how can a mortal man speak to his God in anything put Gaelic?
When Mr Craham--no, not Mr Craham, ta coot man; it was ta new
Minister--he speak an' say to her: 'Mr MacPhail, you ought to
make your prayers in Enclish,' I was fery wrathful, and I answered
and said: 'Mr Downey, do you tare to suppose tat God doesn't prefer ta
Gaelic to ta Sassenach tongue!'--'Mr MacPhail,' says he, 'it'll
pe for your poy I mean it How's ta lad to learn ta way of salvation
if you speak to your God in his presence in a strange tongue? So I
was opedient to his vord, and ta next efening I tid kneel town in
Sassenach and I tid make begin. But, ochone! she wouldn't go; her
tongue would be cleafing to ta roof of her mouth; ta claymore would
be sticking rusty in ta scappard; for her heart she was ashamed to
speak to ta Hielan'man's Maker in ta Sassenach tongue. You must pe
learning ta Gaelic, or you'll not pe peing worthy to pe her nain
son, Malcolm."

"But daddy, wha's to learn me?" asked his grandson, gayly.

"Learn you, Malcolm! Ta Gaelic is ta lancuach of Nature, and wants
no learning. I nefer did pe learning it, yat I nefer haf to say to
myself 'What is it she would be saying?' when I speak ta Gaelic;
put she always has to set ta tead men--that is ta vords--on
their feet, and put tem in pattle array, when she would pe speaking
ta dull mechanic English. When she opens her mouth to it, ta Gaelic
comes like a spring of pure water, Malcolm. Ta plenty of it must
run out. Try it now, Malcolm. Shust oppen your mouth in ta Gaelic
shape, and see if ta Gaelic will not pe falling from it."

Seized with a merry fit, Malcolm did open his mouth in the Gaelic
shape, and sent from it a strange gabble, imitative of the most
frequently recurring sounds of his grandfather's speech.

"Hoo will that du, daddy?" he asked, after jabbering gibberish for
the space of a minute.

"It will not be paad for a peginning, Malcolm. She cannot say
it shust pe vorts, or tat tere pe much of ta sense in it; but it
pe fery like what ta pabes will say pefore tey pekin to speak it
properly. So it's all fery well, and if you will only pe putting
your mouth in ta Gaelic shape often enough, ta sounds will soon
pe taking ta shape of it, and ta vorts will be coming trough ta
mists, and pefore you know, you'll pe peing a creat credit to your
cranfather, my boy, Malcolm."

A silence followed, for Malcolm's attempt had not had the result
he anticipated: he had thought only to make his grandfather laugh.
Presently the old man resumed, in the kindest voice:

"And tere's another thing, Malcolm, tat's much wanting to you: you'll
never pe a man--not to speak of a pard like your cranfather--
if you'll not pe learning to play on ta bagpipes."

Malcolm, who had been leaning against the chimney lug while his
grandfather spoke, moved gently round behind his chair, reached
out for the pipes where they lay in a corner at the old man's side,
and catching them up softly, put the mouthpiece to his lips. With
a few vigorous blasts he filled the bag, and out burst the double
droning bass, while the youth's fingers, clutching the chanter
as by the throat, at once compelled its screeches into shape far
better, at least, than his lips had been able to give to the crude
material of Gaelic. He played the only reel he knew, but that with
vigour and effect.

At the first sound of its notes the old man sprung to his feet and
began capering to the reel--partly in delight with the music, but
far more in delight with the musician, while, ever and anon, with
feeble yell, he uttered the unspellable Hoogh of the Highlander, and
jumped, as he thought, high in the air, though his failing limbs,
alas! lifted his feet scarce an inch from the floor.

"Aigh! aigh!" he sighed at length, yielding the contest between
his legs and the lungs of the lad--"aigh! aigh! she'll die happy!
she'll die happy! Hear till her poy, how he makes ta pipes speak
ta true Gaelic! Ta pest o' Gaelic, tat! Old Tuncan's pipes 'll not
know how to be talking Sassenach. See to it! see to it! He had put
to blow in at ta one end, and out came ta reel at the other. Hoogh!
hoogh! Play us ta Righil Thulachan, Malcolm, my chief!"

"I kenna reel, strathspey, nor lilt, but jist that burd alane,
daddy."

"Give tem to me, my poy!" cried the old piper, reaching out a hand
as eager to clutch the uncouth instrument as the miser's to finger
his gold; "hear well to me as I play, and you'll soon be able to
play pibroch or coronach with the best piper between Cape Wrath
and ta Mull o' Cantyre."

He played tune after tune until his breath failed him, and an exhausted
grunt of the drone--in the middle of a coronach, followed by an
abrupt pause, revealed the emptiness of both lungs and bag. Then
first he remembered his object, forgotten the moment he had filled
his bag.

"Now, Malcolm," he said, offering the pipes to his grandson; "you
play tat after."

He had himself of course, learned all by the ear, but could hardly
have been serious in requesting Malcolm to follow him through such
a succession of tortuous mazes.

"I haena a memory up to that, daddy; but I s' get a hand o' Mr
Graham's flute music, and maybe that'll help me a bit.--Wadna ye
be takin' hame Meg Partan's blackin' 'at ye promised her?"

"Surely, my son. She should always be keeping her promises." He
rose, and getting a small stone bottle and his stick from the corner
between the projecting inglecheek and the window, left the house,
to walk with unerring steps through the labyrinth of the village,
threading his way from passage to passage, and avoiding pools and
projecting stones, not to say houses, and human beings. His eyes,
or indeed perhaps rather his whole face, appeared to possess an
ethereal sense as of touch, for, without the slightest contact in
the ordinary sense of the word, he was aware of the neighbourhood
of material objects, as if through the pulsations of some medium
to others imperceptible. He could, with perfect accuracy, tell the
height of any wall or fence within a few feet of him; could perceive
at once whether it was high or low or half tide, and that merely
by going out in front of the houses and turning his face with its
sightless eyeballs towards the sea; knew whether a woman who spoke
to him had a child in her arms or not; and, indeed, was believed
to know sooner than ordinary mortals that one was about to become
a mother.

He was a strange figure to look upon in that lowland village,
for he invariably wore the highland dress: in truth, he had never
had a pair of trowsers on his legs, and was far from pleased that
his grandson clothed himself in such contemptible garments. But,
contrasted with the showy style of his costume, there was something
most pathetic in the blended pallor of hue into which the originally
gorgeous colours of his kilt had faded--noticeable chiefly on
weekdays, when he wore no sporran; for the kilt, encountering, from
its loose construction, comparatively little strain or friction,
may reach an antiquity unknown to the garments of the low country,
and, while perfectly decent, yet look ancient exceedingly. On
Sundays, however, he made the best of himself, and came out like
a belated and aged butterfly--with his father's sporran, or
tasselled goatskin purse, in front of him, his grandfather's dirk
at his side, his great grandfather's skene dhu, or little black
hafted knife, stuck in the stocking of his right leg, and a huge
round brooch of brass--nearly half a foot in diameter, and, Mr
Graham said, as old as the battle of Harlaw--on his left shoulder.
In these adornments he would walk proudly to church, leaning on
the arm of his grandson.

"The piper's gey (considerably) brokken-like the day," said one of
the fishermen's wives to a neighbour as he passed them--the fact
being that he had not yet recovered from his second revel in the
pipes so soon after the exhaustion of his morning's duty, and was,
in consequence, more asthmatic than usual.

"I doobt he'll be slippin' awa some cauld nicht," said the other:
"his leevin' breath's ill to get."

"Ay; he has to warstle for't, puir man! Weel, he'll be missed, the
blin' body! It's exterordinor hoo he's managed to live, and bring
up sic a fine lad as that Malcolm o' his."

"Weel, ye see, Providence has been kin' till him as weel 's ither
blin' craturs. The toon's pipin' 's no to be despised; an' there's
the cryin', an' the chop, an' the lamps. 'Deed he's been an eident
(diligent) cratur--an' for a blin' man, as ye say, it's jist
exterordinar."

"Div ye min' whan first he cam' to the toon, lass?"

"Ay; what wad hinner me min'in' that? It's nae sae lang."

"Ma'colm 'at's sic a fine laad noo, they tell me wasna muckle bigger
nor a gey haddie (tolerable haddock)."

"But the auld man was an auld man than, though nae doobt he's unco'
failed sin syne."

"A dochter's bairn, they say, the laad."

"Ay, they say, but wha kens? Duncan could never be gotten to open
his mou' as to the father or mither o' 'im, an' sae it weel may be
as they say. It's nigh twenty year noo, I'm thinkin' sin he made's
appearance. Ye wasna come frae Scaurnose er' than."

"Some fowk says the auld man's name's no MacPhail, an' he maun
hae come here in hidin' for some rouch job or ither 'at he's been
mixed up wi'.

"I s' believe nae ill o' sic a puir, hairmless body. Fowk 'at maks
their ain livin', wantin' the een to guide them, canna be that far
aff the straucht. Guid guide 's! we hae eneuch to answer for, oor
ainsels, ohn passed (without passing) jeedgment upo ane anither."

"I was but tellin' ye what fowk telled me," returned the younger
woman.

"Ay, ay, lass; I ken that, for I ken there was fowk to tell ye."



CHAPTER VII: ALEXANDER GRAHAM


As soon as his grandfather left the house, Malcolm went out also,
closing the door behind him, and turning the key, but leaving it
in the lock. He ascended to the upper town, only, however, to pass
through its main street, at the top of which he turned and looked
back for a few moments, apparently in contemplation. The descent to
the shore was so sudden that he could see nothing of the harbour
or of the village he had left--nothing but the blue bay and
the filmy mountains of Sutherlandshire, molten by distance into
cloudy questions, and looking, betwixt blue sea and blue sky, less
substantial than either. After gazing for a moment, he turned again,
and held on his way, through fields which no fence parted from the
road. The morning was still glorious, the larks right jubilant,
and the air filled with the sweet scents of cottage flowers. Across
the fields came the occasional low of an ox, and the distant sounds
of children at play. But Malcolm saw without noting, and heard
without seeding, for his mind was full of speculation concerning
the lovely girl, whose vision appeared already far off:--who might
she be? whence had she come? whither could she have vanished? That
she did not belong to the neighbourhood was certain, he thought; but
there was a farm house near the sea town where they let lodgings;
and, although it was early in the season, she might belong to some
family which had come to spend a few of the summer weeks there;
possibly his appearance had prevented her from having her bath
that morning. If he should have the good fortune to see her again,
he would show her a place far fitter for the purpose--a perfect
arbour of rocks, utterly secluded, with a floor of deep sand, and
without a hole for crab or lobster.

His road led him in the direction of a few cottages lying in
a hollow. Beside them rose a vision of trees, bordered by an ivy
grown wall, from amidst whose summits shot the spire of the church;
and from beyond the spire, through the trees, came golden glimmers
as of vane and crescent and pinnacled ball, that hinted at some
shadowy abode of enchantment within; but as he descended the slope
towards the cottages the trees gradually rose and shut in everything.

These cottages were far more ancient than the houses of the town,
were covered with green thatch, were buried in ivy, and would
soon be radiant with roses and honeysuckles. They were gathered
irregularly about a gate of curious old ironwork, opening on the
churchyard, but more like an entrance to the grounds behind the
church, for it told of ancient state, bearing on each of its pillars
a great stone heron with a fish in its beak.

This was the quarter whence had come the noises of children, but
they had now ceased, or rather sunk into a gentle murmur, which
oozed, like the sound of bees from a straw covered beehive, out
of a cottage rather larger than the rest, which stood close by the
churchyard gate. It was the parish school, and these cottages were
all that remained of the old town of Portlossie, which had at one
time stretched in a long irregular street almost to the shore.
The town cross yet stood, but away solitary on a green hill that
overlooked the sands.

During the summer the long walk from the new town to the school
and to the church was anything but a hardship: in winter it was
otherwise, for then there were days in which few would venture the
single mile that separated them.

The door of the school, bisected longitudinally, had one of its
halves open, and by it outflowed the gentle hum of the honeybees
of learning. Malcolm walked in, and had the whole of the busy scene
at once before him. The place was like a barn, open from wall to
wall, and from floor to rafters and thatch, browned with the peat
smoke of vanished winters. Two thirds of the space were filled
with long desks and forms; the other had only the master's desk,
and thus afforded room for standing classes. At the present moment
it was vacant, for the prayer was but just over, and the Bible class
had not been called up: there Alexander Graham, the schoolmaster,
descending from his desk, met and welcomed Malcolm with a kind
shake of the hand. He was a man of middle height, but very thin;
and about five and forty years of age, but looked older, because
of his thin grey hair and a stoop in the shoulders. He was dressed
in a shabby black tailcoat, and clean white neckcloth; the rest of
his clothes were of parson grey, noticeably shabby also. The quiet
sweetness of his smile, and a composed look of submission were
suggestive of the purification of sorrow, but were attributed by the
townsfolk to disappointment; for he was still but a schoolmaster,
whose aim they thought must be a pulpit and a parish. But Mr Graham
had been early released from such an ambition, if it had ever
possessed him, and had for many years been more than content to
give himself to the hopefuller work of training children for the
true ends of life: he lived the quietest of studious lives, with
an old housekeeper.

Malcolm had been a favourite pupil, and the relation of master
and scholar did not cease when the latter saw that he ought to do
something to lighten the burden of his grandfather, and so left
the school and betook himself to the life of a fisherman--with
the slow leave of Duncan, who had set his heart on making a scholar
of him, and would never, indeed, had Gaelic been amongst his studies,
have been won by the most laboursome petition. He asserted himself
perfectly able to provide for both for ten years to come at least,
in proof of which he roused the inhabitants of Portlossie, during
the space of a whole month, a full hour earlier than usual, with
the most terrific blasts of the bagpipes, and this notwithstanding
complaint and expostulation on all sides, so that at length the
provost had to interfere; after which outburst of defiance to time,
however, his energy had begun to decay so visibly that Malcolm gave
himself to the pipes in secret, that he might be ready, in case
of sudden emergency, to take his grandfather's place; for Duncan
lived in constant dread of the hour when his office might be taken
from him and conferred on a mere drummer, or, still worse, on a
certain ne'er do weel cousin of the provost, so devoid of music as
to be capable only of ringing a bell.

"I've had an invitation to Miss Campbell's funeral--Miss Horn's
cousin, you know," said Mr Graham, in a hesitating and subdued
voice: "could you manage to take the school for me, Malcolm?"

"Yes, sir. There's naething to hinner me. What day is 't upo'?"

"Saturday."

"Verra weel, sir. I s' be here in guid time."

This matter settled, the business of the school, in which, as he
did often, Malcolm had come to assist, began. Only a pupil of his
own could have worked with Mr Graham, for his mode was very peculiar.
But the strangest fact in it would have been the last to reveal
itself to an ordinary observer. This was, that he rarely contradicted
anything: he would call up the opposing truth, set it face to face
with the error, and leave the two to fight it out. The human mind
and conscience were, he said, the plains of Armageddon, where the
battle of good and evil was for ever raging; and the one business
of a teacher was to rouse and urge this battle by leading fresh
forces of the truth into the field--forces composed as little
as might be of the hireling troops of the intellect, and as much
as possible of the native energies of the heart, imagination, and
conscience. In a word, he would oppose error only by teaching the
truth.

In early life he had come under the influence of the writings of
William Law, which he read as one who pondered every doctrine in
that light which only obedience to the truth can open upon it. With
a keen eye for the discovery of universal law in the individual
fact, he read even the marvels of the New Testament practically.
Hence, in training his soldiers, every lesson he gave them was a
missile; every admonishment of youth or maiden was as the mounting
of an armed champion, and the launching of him with a Godspeed into
the thick of the fight.

He now called up the Bible class, and Malcolm sat beside and
listened. That morning they had to read one of the chapters in the
history of Jacob.

"Was Jacob a good man?" he asked, as soon as the reading, each of
the scholars in turn taking a verse, was over.

An apparently universal expression of assent followed; halting its
wake, however, came the voice of a boy near the bottom of the class:

"Wasna he some dooble, sir?"

"You are right, Sheltie," said the master; "he was double. I must,
I find, put the question in another shape:--Was Jacob a bad man?"

Again came such a burst of yesses that it might have been taken
for a general hiss. But limping in the rear came again the half
dissentient voice of Jamie Joss, whom the master had just addressed
as Sheltie:

"Pairtly, sir."

"You think, then, Sheltie, that a man may be both bad and good?"

"I dinna ken, sir. I think he may be whiles ane an' whiles the
ither, an' whiles maybe it wad be ill to say whilk. Oor collie's
whiles in twa min's whether he'll du what he's telled or no."

"That's the battle of Armageddon, Sheltie, my man. It's aye ragin',
ohn gun roared or bayonet clashed. Ye maun up an' do yer best in't,
my man. Gien ye dee fechtin' like a man, ye'll flee up wi' a quaiet
face an' wide open een; an' there's a great Ane 'at 'll say to ye,
'Weel dune, laddie!' But gien ye gie in to the enemy, he'll turn ye
intill a creepin' thing 'at eats dirt; an' there 'll no be a hole
in a' the crystal wa' o' the New Jerusalem near eneuch to the grun'
to lat ye creep throu'."

As soon as ever Alexander Graham, the polished thinker and sweet
mannered gentleman, opened his mouth concerning the things he
loved best, that moment the most poetic forms came pouring out in
the most rugged speech.

"I reckon, sir," said Sheltie, "Jacob hadna fouchten oot his battle."

"That's jist it, my boy. And because he wouldna get up and fecht
manfully, God had to tak him in han'. Ye've heard tell o' generals,
when their troops war rinnin' awa', haein' to cut this man doon,
shute that ane, and lick anither, till he turned them a' richt face
aboot and drave them on to the foe like a spate! And the trouble
God took wi' Jacob wasna lost upon him at last."

"An' what cam o' Esau, sir?" asked a pale faced maiden with blue
eyes. "He wasna an ill kin' o' a chield--was he, sir?"

"No, Mappy," answered the master; "he was a fine chield, as you
say; but he nott (needed) mair time and gentler treatment to mak
onything o' him. Ye see he had a guid hert, but was a duller kin'
o' cratur a'thegither, and cared for naething he could na see or
hanle. He never thoucht muckle aboot God at a'. Jacob was anither
sort--a poet kin' o' a man, but a sneck drawin' cratur for a'
that. It was easier, hooever, to get the slyness oot o' Jacob, than
the dulness oot o' Esau. Punishment tellt upo' Jacob like upon a
thin skinned horse, whauras Esau was mair like the minister's powny,
that can hardly be made to unnerstan' that ye want him to gang on.
But o' the ither han', dullness is a thing that can be borne wi':
there's nay hurry aboot that; but the deceitfu' tricks o' Jacob war
na to be endured, and sae the tawse (leather strap) cam doon upo'
him."

"An' what for didna God mak Esau as clever as Jacob?" asked a
wizened faced boy near the top of the class.

"Ah, my Peery!" said Mr Graham, "I canna tell ye that. A' that I can
tell is, that God hadna dune makin' at him, an' some kin' o' fowk
tak langer to mak oot than ithers. An' ye canna tell what they're
to be till they're made oot. But whether what I tell ye be richt
or no, God maun hae the verra best o' rizzons for 't, ower guid
maybe for us to unnerstan'---the best o' rizzons for Esau himsel', I
mean, for the Creator luiks efter his cratur first ava' (of all).
--And now," concluded Mr Graham, resuming his English, "go to your
lessons; and be diligent, that God may think it worth while to get
on faster with the making of you."

In a moment the class was dispersed and all were seated. In another,
the sound of scuffling arose, and fists were seen storming across
a desk.

"Andrew Jamieson and Poochy, come up here," said the master in a
loud voice.

"He hittit me first," cried Andrew, the moment they were within a
respectful distance of the master, whereupon Mr Graham turned to
the other with inquiry in his eyes.

"He had nae business to ca' me Poochy."

"No more he had; but you had just as little right to punish him
for it. The offence was against me: he had no right to use my name
for you, and the quarrel was mine. For the present you are Poochy
no more: go to your place, William Wilson."

The boy burst out sobbing, and crept back to his seat with his
knuckles in his eyes.

"Andrew Jamieson," the master went on, "I had almost got a name
for you, but you have sent it away. You are not ready for it yet,
I see. Go to your place."

With downcast looks Andrew followed William, and the watchful eyes
of the master saw that, instead of quarrelling any more during
the day, they seemed to catch at every opportunity of showing each
other a kindness.

Mr Graham never used bodily punishment: he ruled chiefly by the
aid of a system of individual titles, of the mingled characters of
pet name and nickname. As soon as the individuality of a boy had
attained to signs of blossoming--that is, had become such that
he could predict not only an upright but a characteristic behaviour
in given circumstances, he would take him aside and whisper in his
ear that henceforth, so long as he deserved it, he would call him
by a certain name--one generally derived from some object in the
animal or vegetable world, and pointing to a resemblance which was
not often patent to any eye but the master's own. He had given the
name of Peachy, for instance to William Wilson, because, like the
kangaroo, he sought his object in a succession of awkward, yet not
the less availing leaps--gulping his knowledge and pocketing his
conquered marble after a like fashion. Mappy, the name which thus
belonged to a certain flaxen haired, soft eyed girl, corresponds
to the English bunny. Sheltie is the small Scotch mountain pony,
active and strong. Peery means pegtop. But not above a quarter of
the children had pet names. To gain one was to reach the highest
honour of the school; the withdrawal of it was the severest of
punishments, and the restoring of it the sign of perfect reconciliation.
The master permitted no one else to use it, and was seldom known
to forget himself so far as to utter it while its owner was in
disgrace. The hope of gaining such a name, or the fear of losing
it, was in the pupil the strongest ally of the master, the most
powerful enforcement of his influences. It was a scheme of government
by aspiration. But it owed all its operative power to the character
of the man who had adopted rather than invented it--for the scheme
had been suggested by a certain passage in the book of the Revelation.

Without having read a word of Swedenborg, he was a believer in the
absolute correspondence of the inward and outward; and, thus long
before the younger Darwin arose, had suspected a close relationship
--remote identity, indeed, in nature and history, between the
animal and human worlds. But photographs from a good many different
points would be necessary to afford anything like a complete notion
of the character of this country schoolmaster.

Towards noon, while he was busy with an astronomical class,
explaining, by means partly of the blackboard, partly of two boys
representing the relation of the earth and the moon, how it comes
that we see but one half of the latter, the door gently opened
and the troubled face of the mad laird peeped slowly in. His body
followed as gently, and at last--sad symbol of his weight of care
--his hump appeared, with a slow half revolution as he turned to
shut the door behind him. Taking off his hat, he walked up to Mr
Graham, who, busy with his astronomy, had not perceived his entrance,
touched him on the arm, and, standing on tiptoe, whispered softly
in his ear, as if it were a painful secret that must be respected,
"I dinna ken whaur I cam frae. I want to come to the school."

Mr Graham turned and shook hands with him, respectfully addressing
him as Mr Stewart, and got down for him the armchair which stood
behind his desk. But, with the politest bow, the laird declined
it, and mournfully repeating the words, "I dinna ken whaur I cam
frae," took a place readily yielded him in the astronomical circle
surrounding the symbolic boys.

This was not by any means his first appearance there; for every
now and then he was seized with a desire to go to school, plainly
with the object of finding out where he came from. This always
fell in his quieter times, and for days together he would attend
regularly; in one instance he was not absent an hour for a whole
month. He spoke so little, however, that it was impossible to tell
how much he understood, although he seemed to enjoy all that went
on. He was so quiet, so sadly gentle, that he gave no trouble of
any sort, and after the first few minutes of a fresh appearance,
the attention of the scholars was rarely distracted by his presence.

The way in which the master treated him awoke like respect in his
pupils. Boys and girls were equally ready t. make room for him on
their forms, and any one of the latter who had by some kind attention
awakened the watery glint of a smile on the melancholy features of
the troubled man, would boast of her success. Hence it came that
the neighbourhood of Portlossie was the one spot in the county
where a person of weak intellect or peculiar appearance might go
about free of insult.

The peculiar sentence the laird so often uttered was the only one
he invariably spoke with definite clearness. In every other attempt
at speech he was liable to be assailed by an often recurring
impediment, during the continuance of which he could compass
but a word here and there, often betaking himself in the agony of
suppressed utterance, to the most extravagant gestures, with which
he would sometimes succeed in so supplementing his words as to
render his meaning intelligible.

The two boys representing the earth and the moon, had returned
to their places in the class, and Mr Graham had gone on to give
a description of the moon, in which he had necessarily mentioned
the enormous height of her mountains as compared with those of
the earth. But in the course of asking some questions, he found a
need of further explanation, and therefore once more required the
services of the boy sun and boy moon. The moment the latter, however,
began to describe his circle around the former, Mr Stewart stepped
gravely up to him, and, laying hold of his hand, led him back to
his station in the class: then, turning first one shoulder, then
the other to the company, so as to attract attention to his hump,
uttered the single word Mountain, and took on himself the part of
the moon, proceeding to revolve in the circle which represented her
orbit. Several of the boys and girls smiled, but no one laughed,
for Mr Graham's gravity maintained theirs. Without remark, he used
the mad laird for a moon to the end of his explanation.

Mr Stewart remained in the school all the morning, stood up with
every class Mr Graham taught, and in the intervals sat, with book
or slate before him, still as a Brahmin on the fancied verge of
his re-absorption, save that he murmured to himself now and then,

"I dinna ken whaur I cam frae."

When his pupils dispersed for dinner, Mr Graham invited him to go
to his house and share his homely meal, but with polished gesture
and broken speech, Mr Stewart declined, walked away towards the
town, and was seen no more that afternoon.



CHAPTER VIII: THE SWIVEL


Mrs Courthope, the housekeeper at Lossie House, was a good woman,
who did not stand upon her dignities, as small rulers are apt to
do, but cultivated friendly relations with the people of the Sea
Town. Some of the rougher of the women despised the sweet outlandish
speech she had brought with her from her native England, and accused
her of mim mou'dness, or an affected modesty in the use of words;
but not the less was she in their eyes a great lady,--whence
indeed came the special pleasure in finding flaws in her--for to
them she was the representative of the noble family on whose skirts
they and their ancestors had been settled for ages, the last marquis
not having visited the place for many years, and the present having
but lately succeeded.

Duncan MacPhail was a favourite with her; for the English woman
will generally prefer the highland to the lowland Scotsman; and
she seldom visited the Seaton without looking in upon him so that
when Malcolm returned from the Alton, or Old Town, where the school
was, it did not in the least surprise him to find her seated with
his grandfather.

Apparently, however, there had been some dissension between them;
for the old man sat in his corner strangely wrathful, his face in
a glow, his head thrown back, his nostrils distended, and his eyelids
working, as if his eyes were "poor dumb mouths," like Caesar's
wounds, trying to speak.

"We are told in the New Testament to forgive our enemies, you know,"
said Mrs Courthope, heedless of his entrance, but in a voice that
seemed rather to plead than oppose.

"Inteet she will not be false to her shief and her clan," retorted
Duncan persistently. "She will not forgife Cawmil of Glenlyon."

"But he's dead long since, and we may at least hope he repented
and was forgiven."

"She'll be hoping nothing of the kind, Mistress Kertope," replied
Duncan. "But if, as you say, God will be forgifing him, which I do
not belief;--let that pe enough for ta greedy blackguard. Sure,
it matters but small whether poor Tuncan MacPhail will be forgifing
him or not. Anyhow, he must do without it, for he shall not haf
it. He is a tamn fillain and scounrel, and so she says, with her
respecs to you, Mistress Kertope."

His sightless eyes flashed with indignation; and perceiving it was
time to change the subject, the housekeeper turned to Malcolm.

"Could you bring me a nice mackerel or whiting for my lord's
breakfast tomorrow morning, Malcolm?" she said.

"Certaintly, mem. I 's be wi ye in guid time wi' the best the sea
'll gie me," he answered.

"If I have the fish by nine o'clock, that will be early enough,"
she returned.

"I wad na like to wait sae lang for my brakfast," remarked Malcolm.

"You wouldn't mind it much, if you waited asleep," said Mrs Courthope.

"Can onybody sleep till sic a time o' day as that?" exclaimed the
youth.

"You must remember my lord doesn't go to bed for hours after you,
Malcolm."

"An' what can keep him up a' that time? It's no as gien he war
efter the herrin', an' had the win' an' the watter an' the netfu's
o' waumlin craturs to baud him waukin'."

"Oh! he reads and writes, and sometimes goes walking about the
grounds after everybody else is in bed," said Mrs Courthope, "he
and his dog."

"Well, I wad rather be up ear'," said Malcolm; "a heap raither. I
like fine to be oot i' the quaiet o' the mornin' afore the sun's
up to set the din gaun; whan it's a' clear but no bricht--like
the back o' a bonny sawmon; an' air an' watter an' a' luiks as
gien they war waitin' for something--quaiet, verra quaiet, but
no content."

Malcolm uttered this long speech, and went on with more like it,
in the hope of affording time for the stormy waters of Duncan's
spirit to assuage. Nor was he disappointed; for, if there was a
sound on the earth Duncan loved to hear, it was the voice of his
boy; and by degrees the tempest sank to repose, the gathered glooms
melted from his countenance, and the sunlight of a smile broke out.

"Hear to him!" he cried. "Her poy will be a creat pard some tay,
and sing pefore ta Stuart kings, when they come pack to Holyrood!"

Mrs Courthope had enough of poetry in her to be pleased with
Malcolm's quiet enthusiasm, and spoke a kind word of sympathy with
the old man's delight as she rose to take her leave. Duncan rose
also, and followed her to the door, making her a courtly bow, and
that just as she turned away.

"It 'll pe a coot 'oman, Mistress Kertope," he said as he came back;
"and it 'll no pe to plame her for forgifing Glenlyon, for he did
not kill her creat crandmother. Put it'll pe fery paad preeding to
request her nainsel, Tuncan MacPhail, to be forgifing ta rascal.
Only she'll pe put a voman, and it'll not pe knowing no petter to
her.--You'll be minding you'll be firing ta cun at six o'clock
exackly, Malcolm, for all she says; for my lord peing put shust
come home to his property, it might be a fex to him if tere was
any mistake so soon. Put inteed, I yonder he hasn't been sending
for old Tuncan to be gifing him a song or two on ta peeps; for he'll
pe hafing ta oceans of fery coot highland plood in his own feins;
and his friend, ta Prince of Wales, who has no more rights to it
than a maackerel fish, will pe wearing ta kilts at Holyrood. So
mind you pe firing ta cun at sax, my son."

For some years, young as he was, Malcolm had hired himself to one
or other of the boat proprietors of the Seaton or of Scaurnose, for
the herring fishing--only, however, in the immediate neighbourhood,
refusing to go to the western islands, or any station whence
he could not return to sleep at his grandfather's cottage. He had
thus on every occasion earned enough to provide for the following
winter, so that his grandfather's little income as piper, and other
small returns, were accumulating in various concealments about the
cottage; for, in his care for the future, Duncan dreaded lest Malcolm
should buy things for him, without which, in his own sightless
judgment, he could do well enough.

Until the herring season should arrive, however, Malcolm made a little
money by line fishing; for he had bargained, the year before, with
the captain of a schooner for an old ship's boat, and had patched
and caulked it into a sufficiently serviceable condition. He sold
his fish in the town and immediate neighbourhood, where a good many
housekeepers favoured the handsome and cheery young fisherman.

He would now be often out in the bay long before it was time to call
his grandfather, in his turn to rouse the sleepers of Portlossie.
But the old man had as yet always waked about the right time, and
the inhabitants had never had any ground of complaint--a few
minutes one way or the other being of little consequence. He was
the cock which woke the whole yard: morning after morning his pipes
went crowing through the streets of the upper region, his music
ending always with his round. But after the institution of the
gun signal, his custom was to go on playing where he stood until
he heard it, or to stop short in the midst of his round and his
liveliest reveille the moment it reached his ear. Loath as he might
be to give over, that sense of good manners which was supreme in
every highlander of the old time, interdicted the fingering of a
note after the marquis's gun had called aloud.

When Malcolm meant to go fishing, he always loaded the swivel the
night before, and about sunset the same evening he set out for that
purpose. Not a creature was visible on the border of the curving
bay except a few boys far off on the gleaming sands whence the tide
had just receded: they were digging for sand eels--lovely little
silvery fishes--which, as every now and then the spade turned one
or two up, they threw into a tin pail for bait. But on the summit
of the long sandhill, the lonely figure of a man was walking to
and fro in the level light of the rosy west; and as Malcolm climbed
the near end of the dune, it was turning far off at the other:
halfway between them was the embrasure with the brass swivel, and
there they met. Although he had never seen him before, Malcolm
perceived at once it must be Lord Lossie, and lifted his bonnet.
The marquis nodded and passed on, but the next moment, hearing the
noise of Malcolm's proceedings with the swivel, turned and said--
"What are you about there with that gun, my lad?"

"I'm jist ga'in' to dicht her oot an' lod her, my lord," answered
Malcolm.

"And what next? You're not going to fire the thing?"

"Ay--the morn's mornin', my lord."

"What will that be for?"

"Ow, jist to wauk yer lordship."

"Hm!" said his lordship, with more expression than articulation.

"Will I no lod her?" asked Malcolm, throwing down the ramrod, and
approaching the swivel, as if to turn the muzzle of it again into
the embrasure.

"Oh, yes! load her by all means. I don't want to interfere with
any of your customs. But if that is your object, the means, I fear,
are inadequate."

"It's a comfort to hear that, my lord; for I canna aye be sure o'
my auld watch, an' may weel be oot a five minutes or twa whiles.
Sae, in future, seem' it's o' sic sma' consequence to yer lordship,
I s' jist let her aff whan it's convenient. A feow minutes winna
maitter muckle to the bailie bodies."

There was something in Malcolm's address that pleased Lord Lossie
--the mingling of respect and humour, probably--the frankness
and composure, perhaps. He was not self conscious enough to be shy,
and was so free from design of any sort that he doubted the good
will of no one.

"What's your name?" asked the marquis abruptly.

"Malcolm MacPhail, my lord."

"MacPhail? I heard the name this very day! Let me see."

"My gran'father's the blin' piper, my lord."

"Yes, yes. Tell him I shall want him at the House. I left my own
piper at Ceanglas."

"I'll fess him wi' me the morn, gien ye like, my lord, for I'll
be ower wi' some fine troot or ither, gien I haena the waur luck,
the morn's mornin': Mistress Courthope says she'll be aye ready for
ane to fry to yer lordship's brakfast. But I'm thinkin' that'll be
ower ear' for ye to see him."

"I'll send for him when I want him. Go on with your brazen serpent
there, only mind you don't give her too much supper."

"Jist look at her ribs, my lord! she winna rive!" was the youth's
response; and the marquis was moving off with a smile, when Malcolm
called after him.

"Gien yer lordship likes to see yer ain ferlies, I ken whaur some
o' them lie," he said.

"What do you mean by ferlies?" asked the marquis.

"Ow! keeriosities, ye ken. For enstance, there's some queer
caves alang the cost--twa or three o' them afore ye come to the
Scaurnose. They say the water bude till ha' howkit them ance upon
a time, an' they maun hae been fu' o' partans, an' lobsters, an'
their frien's an' neebours; but they're heigh an' dreigh noo, as the
fule said o' his minister, an' naething intill them but foumarts,
an' otters, an' sic like."

"Well, well, my lad, we'll see," said his lordship kindly and
turning once more, he resumed his walk.

"At yer lordship's will," answered Malcolm in a low voice as he
lifted his bonnet and again bent to the swivel.

The next morning, he was rowing slowly along in the bay, when he
was startled by the sound of his grandfather's pipes, wafted clear
and shrill on a breath of southern wind, from the top of the town.
He looked at his watch: it was not yet five o'clock. The expectation
of a summons to play at Lossie House, had so excited the old man's
brain that he had waked long before his usual time, and Portlossie
must wake also. The worst of it was, that he had already, as Malcolm
knew from the direction of the sound, almost reached the end of
his beat, and must even now be expecting the report of the swivel,
until he heard which he would not cease playing, so long as there
was a breath in his body. Pulling, therefore, with all his might,
Malcolm soon ran his boat ashore, and in another instant the sharp
yell of the swivel rang among the rocks of the promontory. He was
still standing, lapped in a light reverie as he watched the smoke
flying seaward, when a voice, already well known to him said,
close at his side:

"What are you about with that horrid cannon?"

Malcolm started.

"Ye garred me loup, my leddy!" he returned with a smile and an
obeisance.

"You told me," the girl went on emphatically, and as she spoke she
disengaged her watch from her girdle, "that you fired it at six
o'clock. It is not nearly six."

"Didna ye hear the pipes, my leddy?" he rejoined.

"Yes, well enough; but a whole regiment of pipes can't make it six
o'clock when my watch says ten minutes past five."

"Eh, sic a braw watch!" exclaimed Malcolm. "What's a' thae bonny
white k-nots about the face o' 't?"

"Pearls," she answered, in a tone that implied pity of his ignorance.

"Jist look at it aside mine!" he exclaimed in admiration, pulling
out his great old turnip.

"There!" cried the girl; "your own watch says only a quarter past
five."

"Ow, ay! my leddy; I set it by the toon clock 'at hings i' the window
o' the Lossie Airms last nicht. But I maun awa' an' luik efter my
lines, or atween the deil an' the dogfish my lord'll fare ill."

"You haven't told me why you fired the gun," she persisted.

Thus compelled, Malcolm had to explain that the motive lay in his
anxiety lest his grandfather should over exert himself, seeing he
was subject to severe attacks of asthma.

"He could stop when he was tired," she objected.

"Ay, gien his pride wad lat him," answered Malcolm, and turned away
again, eager to draw his line.

"Have you a boat of your own?" asked the lady.

"Ay; yon's her, doon on the shore yonner. Wad ye like a row? She's
fine an' quaiet."

"Who? The boat?"

"The sea, my leddy."

"Is your boat clean?"

"O' a' thing but fish. But na, it's no fit for sic a bonny goon as
that. I winna lat ye gang the day, my leddy; but gien ye like to
be here the morn's mornin', I s' be here at this same hoor, an'
hae my boat as clean's a Sunday sark."

"You think more of my gown than of myself," she returned.

"There's no fear o' yersel', my leddy. Ye're ower weel made to bland
(spoil). But wae's me for the goon or (before) it had been an hoor
i' the boat the day!--no to mention the fish comin' walopin' ower
the gunnel ane efter the ither. But 'deed I maun say good mornin',
mem!"

"By all means. I don't want to keep you a moment from your precious
fish."

Feeling rebuked, without well knowing why, Malcolm accepted the
dismissal, and ran to his boat. By the time he had taken his oars,
the girl had vanished.

His line was a short one; but twice the number of fish he wanted
were already hanging from the hooks. It was still very early when
he reached the harbour. At home he found his grandfather waiting
for him, and his breakfast ready.

It was hard to convince Duncan that he had waked the royal burgh
a whole hour too soon. He insisted that, as he had never made such
a blunder before, he could not have made it now.

"It's ta watch 'at 'll pe telling ta lies, Malcolm, my poy," he said
thoughtfully. "She was once pefore."

"But the sun says the same 's the watch, daddy," persisted Malcolm.

Duncan understood the position of the sun and what it signified,
as well as the clearest eyed man in Port Lossie, but he could not
afford to yield.

"It was peing some conspeeracy of ta cursit Cawmills, to make her
loss her poor pension," he said. "Put never you mind, Malcolm;
I'll pe making up for ta plunder ta morrow mornin'. Ta coot peoples
shall haf teir sleeps a whole hour after tey ought to be at teir
works."



CHAPTER IX: THE SALMON TROUT


Malcolm walked up through the town with his fish, hoping to part
with some of the less desirable of them, and so lighten his basket,
before entering the grounds of Lossie House. But he had met with
little success, and was now approaching the town gate, as they called
it, which closed a short street at right angles to the principal
one, when he came upon Mrs Catanach--on her knees, cleaning her
doorstep.

"Weel, Malcolm, what fish hae ye?" she said, without looking up.

"Hoo kent ye it was me, Mistress Catanach?" asked the lad.

"Kent it was you!" she repeated. "Gien there be but twa feet at
ance in ony street o' Portlossie, I'll tell ye whase heid's abune
them, an' my een steekit (closed)."

"Hoot! ye're a witch, Mistress Catanach!" said Malcolm merrily.

"That's as may be," she returned, rising, and nodding mysteriously;
"I hae tauld ye nae mair nor the trowth. But what garred ye whup's
a' oot o' oor nakit beds by five o'clock i' the mornin', this
mornin', man! That's no what ye're paid for."

"Deed, mem, it was jist a mistak' o' my puir daddy's. He had been
feart o' sleepin' ower lang, ye see, an' sae had waukit ower sune.
I was oot efter the fish mysel."

"But ye fired the gun 'gen the chap (before the stroke) o' five."

"Ow, ay! I fired the gun. The puir man wod hae bursten himsel' gien
I hadna."

"Deil gien he had bursten himsel'--the auld heelan' sholt!"
exclaimed Mrs Catanach spitefully.

"Ye sanna even sic words to my gran'father, Mrs Catanach," said
Malcolm with rebuke.

She laughed a strange laugh.

"Sanna!" she repeated contemptuously. "An' wha's your gran'father,
that I sud tak tent (heed) hoo I wag my tongue ower his richtousness?"

Then, with a sudden change of her tone to one of would be friendliness
--"But what'll ye be seekin' for that bit sawmon trooty, man?"
she said.

As she spoke she approached his basket, and would have taken the
fish in her hands, but Malcolm involuntarily drew back.

"It's gauin' to the Hoose to my lord's brakfast," he said.

"Hoots! ye'll jist lea' the troot wi' me.--Ye'll be seekin' a
saxpence for 't, I reckon," she persisted, again approaching the
basket.

"I tell ye, Mistress Catanach," said Malcolm, drawing back now
in the fear that if she once had it she would not yield it again,
"it's gauin' up to the Hoose!"

"Hoots! there's naebody there seen 't yet. It's new oot o' the
watter."

"But Mistress Courthope was doon last nicht, an' wantit the best
I cud heuk."

"Mistress Courthope! Wha cares for her? A mim, cantin' auld body!
Gie me the trootie, Ma'colm. Ye're a bonny laad, an 'it s' be the
better for ye."

"Deed I cudna du 't, Mistress Catanach--though I'm sorry to
disobleege ye. It's bespoken, ye see. But there's a fine haddie,
an' a bonny sma' coddie, an' a goukmey (gray gurnard)."

"Gae 'wa' wi' yer haddies, an' yer goukmeys! Ye sanna gowk me wi'
them."

"Weel, I wadna wonner," said Malcolm, "gien Mrs Courthope wad like
the haddie tu, an' maybe the lave o' them as weel. Hers is a muckle
faimily to haud eatin.' I'll jist gang to the Hoose first afore I
mak ony mair offers frae my creel."

"Ye'll lea' the troot wi' me," said Mrs Catanach imperiously.

"Na; I canna du that. Ye maun see yersel' 'at I canna."

The woman's face grew dark with anger. "It s' be the waur for ye,"
she cried.

"I'm no gauin' to be fleyt (frightened) at ye. Ye're no sic a witch
as that comes till, though ye div ken a body's fit upo' the flags!
My blin' luckie deddy can du mair nor that!" said Malcolm, irritated
by her persistency, threats and evil looks.

"Daur ye me?"' she returned, her pasty cheeks now red as fire, and
her wicked eyes flashing as she shook her clenched fist at him.

"What for no?" he answered coolly, turning his head back over his
shoulder, for he was already on his way to the gate.

"Ye s' ken that, ye misbegotten funlin'!" shrieked the woman, and
waddled hastily into the house.

"What ails her?" said Malcolm to himself. "She micht ha' seen 'at
I bude to gie Mrs Courthope the first offer."

By a winding carriage drive, through trees whose growth was stunted
by the sea winds, which had cut off their tops as with a keen razor,
Malcolm made a slow descent, yet was soon shadowed by timber of
a more prosperous growth, rising as from a lake of the loveliest
green, spangled with starry daisies. The air was full of sweet
odours uplifted with the ascending dew, and trembled with a hundred
songs at once, for here was a very paradise for birds. At length
he came in sight of a long low wing of the house, and went to the
door that led to the kitchen. There a maid informed him that Mrs
Courthope was in the hall, and he had better take his basket there,
for she wanted to see him. He obeyed, and sought the main entrance.

The house was an ancient pile, mainly of two sides at right angles,
but with many gables, mostly having corbel steps--a genuine old
Scottish dwelling, small windowed and gray, with steep slated roofs,
and many turrets, each with a conical top. Some of these turrets
rose from the ground, encasing spiral stone stairs; others were
but bartizans, their interiors forming recesses in rooms. They gave
the house something of the air of a French chateau, only it looked
stronger and far grimmer. Carved around some of the windows,
in ancient characters, were Scripture texts and antique proverbs.
Two time worn specimens of heraldic zoology, in a state of fearful
and everlasting excitement, stood rampant and gaping, one on each
side of the hall door, contrasting strangely with the repose of
the ancient house, which looked very like what the oldest part of
it was said to have been--a monastery. It had at the same time,
however, a somewhat warlike expression, wherein consisting it would
have been difficult to say; nor could it ever have been capable of
much defence, although its position in that regard was splendid. In
front was a great gravel space, in the centre of which lay a huge
block of serpentine, from a quarry on the estate, filling the office
of goal, being the pivot, as it were, around which all carriages
turned.

On one side of the house was a great stone bridge, of lofty span,
stretching across a little glen, in which ran a brown stream spotted
with foam--the same that entered the frith beside the Seaton; not
muddy, however, for though dark it was clear--its brown being a
rich transparent hue, almost red, gathered from the peat bogs of
the great moorland hill behind. Only a very narrow terrace walk,
with battlemented parapet, lay between the back of the house, and
a precipitous descent of a hundred feet to this rivulet. Up its
banks, lovely with flowers and rich with shrubs and trees below,
you might ascend until by slow gradations you left the woods and
all culture behind, and found yourself, though still within the
precincts of Lossie House, on the lonely side of the waste hill,
a thousand feet above the sea.

The hall door stood open, and just within hovered Mrs Courthope,
dusting certain precious things not to be handled by a housemaid.
This portion of the building was so narrow that the hall occupied
its entire width, and on the opposite side of it another door,
standing also open, gave a glimpse of the glen.

"Good morning, Malcolm," said Mrs Courthope, when she turned and
saw whose shadow fell on the marble floor. "What have you brought
me?"

"A fine salmon troot, mem. But gien ye had hard boo Mistress
Catanach flytit (scolded) at me 'cause I wadna gie't to her! You
wad hae thocht, mem, she was something no canny--the w'y 'at she
first beggit, an' syne fleecht (flattered), an syne a' but banned
an' swore."

"She's a peculiar person, that, Malcolm. Those are nice whitings.
I don't care about the trout. Just take it to her as you go back."

"I doobt gien she'll take it, mem. She's an awfu' vengefu' cratur,
fowk says."

"You remind me, Malcolm," returned Mrs Courthope, "that I'm not at
ease about your grandfather. He is not in a Christian frame of mind
at all--and he is an old man too. If we don't forgive our enemies,
you know, the Bible plainly tells us we shall not be forgiven
ourselves."

"I'm thinkin' it was a greater nor the Bible said that, mem,"
returned Malcolm, who was an apt pupil of Mr Graham. "But ye'll be
meanin' Cawmill o' Glenlyon," he went on with a smile. "It canna
maitter muckle to him whether my gran'father forgie him or no,
seein' he's been deid this hunner year."

"It's not Campbell of Glenlyon, it's your grandfather I am anxious
about," said Mrs Courthope. "Nor is it only Campbell of Glenlyon
he's so fierce against, but all his posterity as well."

"They dinna exist, mem. There's no sic a bein' o' the face o' the
yearth, as a descendant o' that Glenlyon."

"It makes little difference, I fear," said Mrs Courthope, who was
no bad logician. "The question isn't whether or not there's anybody
to forgive, but whether Duncan MacPhail is willing to forgive."

"That I do believe he is, mem; though he wad be as sair astonished
to hear 't as ye are yersel'."

"I don't know what you mean by that, Malcolm."

"I mean, mem, 'at a blin' man, like my gran'father, canna ken himsel'
richt, seein' he canna ken ither fowk richt. It's by kennin' ither
fowk 'at ye come to ken yersel, mem--isna't noo?"

"Blindness surely doesn't prevent a man from knowing other people.
He hears them, and he feels them, and indeed has generally more
kindness from them because of his affliction."

"Frae some o' them, mem; but it's little kin'ness my gran'father
has expairienced frae Cawmill o' Glenlyon, mem."

"And just as little injury, I should suppose," said Mrs Courthope.

"Ye're wrang there, mem: a murdered mither maun be an unco skaith
to oye's oye (grandson's grandson). But supposin' ye to be richt,
what I say's to the pint for a' that I maun jist explain a wee.--
When I was a laddie at the schule, I was ance tell't that ane o'
the loons was i' the wye o' mockin' my gran'father. Whan I hard it,
I thocht I cud jist rive the hert o' 'im, an' set my teeth in't,
as the Dutch sodger did to the Spainiard. But whan I got a grip o'
'im, an' the rascal turned up a frichtit kin' o' a dog-like face
to me, I jist could not drive my steikit neive (clenched fist)
intil't. Mem, a face is an awfu' thing! There's aye something luikin'
oot o' 't 'at ye canna do as ye like wi'. But my gran'father never
saw a face in's life--lat alane Glenlyon's 'at's been dirt for
sae mony a year. Gien he war luikin' intil the face o' that Glenlyon
even, I do believe he wad no more drive his durk intill him."

"Drive his dirk into him!" echoed Mrs Courthope, in horror at the
very disclaimer.

"No, I'm sure he wad not," persisted Malcolm, innocently. "He micht
not tak him oot o' a pot (hole in a riverbed), but he wad neither
durk him nor fling him in. I'm no that sure he wadna even ran
(reach) him a han'. Ae thing I am certain o',--that by the time
he meets Glenlyon in haven, he'll be no that far frae lattin'
byganes be byganes."

"Meets Glenlyon in heaven!" again echoed Mrs Courthope, who knew
enough of the story to be startled at the taken for granted way
in which Malcolm spoke. "Is it probable that a wretch such as your
legends describe him should ever get there?"

"Ye dinna think God's forgien him, than, mem?"

"I have no right to judge Glenlyon, or any other man; but, as you
ask me, I must say I see no likelihood of it."

"Hoo can ye compleen o' my puir blin' grandfather for no forgiein'
him, than?--I hae ye there, mem!"

"He may have repented, you know," said Mrs Courthope feebly, finding
herself in less room than was comfortable.

"In sic case," returned Malcolm, "the auld man 'ill hear a' aboot
it the meenit he wins there; an' I mak nae doobt he'll du his best
to perswaud himsel'."

"But what if he shouldn't get there?" persisted Mrs Courthope, in
pure benevolence.

"Hoot toot, mem! I wonner to hear ye! A Cawmill latten in, and my
gran'father hauden oot! That wad be jist yallow faced Willie ower
again!*--Na, na; things gang anither gait up there. My gran'father's
a rale guid man, for a' 'at he has a wye o' luikin' at things 'at's
mair efter the law nor the gospel."

*[Lord Stair, the prime mover in the Massacre of Glenco.]

Apparently Mrs Courthope had come at length to the conclusion that
Malcolm was as much of a heathen as his grandfather, for in silence
she chose her fish, in silence paid him his price, and then with
only a sad Good day, turned and left him.

He would have gone back by the river side to the sea gate, but
Mrs Courthope having waived her right to the fish in favour of Mrs
Catanach, he felt bound to give her another chance, and so returned
the way he had come.

"Here's yer troot, Mistress Cat'nach," he called aloud at her door,
which generally stood a little ajar. "Ye s' hae't for the saxpence
--an' a guid bargain tu, for ane o' sic dimensions!"

As he spoke, he held the fish in at the door, but his eyes were
turned to the main street, whence the factor's gig was at the moment
rounding the corner into that in which he stood; when suddenly the
salmon trout was snatched from his hand, and flung so violently in
his face, that he staggered back into the road: the factor had to
pull sharply up to avoid driving over him. His rout rather than
retreat was followed by a burst of insulting laughter, and at the
same moment, out of the house rushed a large vile looking mongrel,
with hair like an ill used doormat and an abbreviated nose, fresh
from the ashpit, caught up the trout, and rushed with it towards
the gate.

"That's richt, my bairn!" shouted Mrs Catanach to the brute as he
ran: "tak it to Mrs Courthope. Tak it back wi' my compliments."

Amidst a burst of malign laughter she slammed her door, and from
a window sideways watched the young fisherman.

As he stood looking after the dog in wrath and bewilderment, the
factor, having recovered from the fit of merriment into which the
sudden explosion of events had cast him, and succeeded in quieting
his scared horse, said, slackening his reins to move on,

"You sell your fish too cheap, Malcolm."

"The deil's i' the tyke," rejoined Malcolm, and, seized at last
by a sense of the ludicrousness of the whole affair, burst
out laughing, and turned for the High Street. .

"Na, na, laddie; the deil's no awa' in sic a hurry: he bed (remained),"
said a voice behind him.

Malcolm turned again and lifted his bonnet. It was Miss Horn, who
had come up from the Seaton.

"Did ye see yon, mem?" he asked.

"Ay, weel that, as I cam up the brae. Dinna stan' there, laddie.
The jaud 'll be watchin' ye like a cat watchin' a mouse. I ken her!
She's a cat wuman, an' I canna bide her. She's no mowse (safe to
touch). She's in secrets mair nor guid, I s' wad (wager). Come awa'
wi' me; I want a bit fish. I can ill eat an' her lyin' deid I' the
hoose--it winna gang ower; but I maun get some strength pitten
intil me afore the berial. It's a God's mercy I wasna made wi'
feelin's, or what wad hae come o' me! Whaur's the gude o' greetin?
It's no worth the saut i' the watter o' 't, Ma'colm. It's an ill
wardle, an micht be a bonny ane--gien't warna for ill men."

"'Deed, mem! I'm thinkin' mair aboot ill women, at this prasent,"
said Malcolm. "Maybe there's no sic a thing, but yon's unco like ane.
As bonny a sawmon troot 's ever ye saw, mem! It's a' I'm cawpable
o' to haud ohn cursed that foul tyke o' hers."

"Hoot, laddie! haud yer tongue."

"Ay will I. I'm na gaun to du 't, ye ken. But sic a fine troot 's
that--the verra ane ye wad hae likit, mem!"

"Never ye min' the troot. There's mair whaur that cam frae. What
anger't her at ye?"

"Naething mair nor that I bude to gie Mistress Courthope the first
wale (choice) o' my fish."

"The wuman's no worth yer notice, 'cep to haud oot o' her gait,
laddie; an' that ye had better luik till, for she's no canny. Dinna
ye anger her again gien ye can help it. She has an ill luik, an' I
canna bide her.--Hae, there's yer siller. Jean, tak in this fish."

During the latter part of the conversation they had been standing
at the door, while Miss Horn ferreted the needful pence from a
pocket under her gown. She now entered, but as Malcolm waited for
Jean to take the fish, she turned on the threshold, and said:

"Wad ye no like to see her, Ma'colm?--A guid frien' she was to
you, sae lang's she was here," she added after a short pause.

The youth hesitated.

"I never saw a corp i' my life, mem, an' I'm jist some feared," he
said, after another brief silence.

"Hoot, laddie!" returned Miss Horn, in a somewhat offended tone.
--"That'll be what comes o' haein' feelin's. A bonny corp 's the
bonniest thing in creation,--an' that quaiet!--Eh! sic a heap
o' them as there has been sin' Awbel," she went on--"an ilk ane
them luikin, as gien there never had been anither but itsel'! Ye
oucht to see a corp, Ma'colm. Ye'll hae't to du afore ye're ane
yersel', an' ye'll never see a bonnier nor my Grizel."

"Be 't to yer wull, mem," said Malcolm resignedly.

At once she led the way, and he followed her in silence up the
stair and into the dead chamber.

There on the white bed lay the long, black, misshapen thing she had
called "the bit boxie:" and with a strange sinking at the heart,
Malcolm approached it.

Miss Horn's hand came from behind him, and withdrew a covering;
there lay a vision lovely indeed to behold!--a fixed evanescence
--a listening stillness,--awful, yet with a look of entreaty,
at once resigned and unyielding, that strangely drew the heart
of Malcolm. He saw a low white forehead, large eyeballs upheaving
closed lids, finely modelled features of which the tightened skin
showed all the delicacy, and a mouth of suffering whereon the
vanishing Psyche had left the shadow of the smile with which she
awoke. The tears gathered in his eyes, and Miss Horn saw them.

"Ye maun lay yer han' upo' her, Ma'colm," she said. "Ye ma' aye
touch the deid, to hand ye ohn dreamed aboot them."

"I wad be laith," answered Malcolm; "she wad be ower bonny a dream
to miss.--Are they a' like that?" he added, speaking under his
breath.

"Na, 'deed no!" replied Miss Horn, with mild indignation. "Wad ye
expec' Bawby Cat'nach to luik like that, no?--I beg yer pardon for
mentionin' the wuman, my dear," she added with sudden divergence,
bending towards the still face, and speaking in a tenderly apologetic
tone; "I ken weel ye canna bide the verra name o' her; but it s' be
the last time ye s' hear 't to a' eternity, my doo." Then turning
again to Malcolm.--"Lay yer han' upon her broo, I tell ye," she
said.

"I daurna," replied the youth, still under his breath; "my han's
are no clean. I wadna for the warl' touch her wi' fishy han's."

The same moment, moved by a sudden impulse, whose irresistibleness
was veiled in his unconsciousness, he bent down, and put his lips
to the forehead.

As suddenly he started back erect with dismay on every feature.

"Eh, mem!" he cried in an agonised whisper, "she's dooms cauld!"

"What sud she be?" retorted Miss Horn. "Wad ye hae her beeried
warm?"

He followed her from the room in silence, with the sense of a faint
sting on his lips. She led him into her parlour, and gave him a
glass of wine.

"Ye'll come to the beerial upo' Setterday?" she asked, half inviting,
half enquiring.

"I'm sorry to say, mem, 'at I canna," he answered. "I promised
Maister Graham to tak the schule for him, an' lat him gang."

"Weel, weel! Mr Graham's obleeged to ye, nae doobt, an' we canna
help it. Gie my compliments to yer gran'father."

"I'll du that, mem. He'll be sair pleased, for he's unco gratefu'
for ony sic attention," said Malcolm, and with the words took his
leave.



CHAPTER X: THE FUNERAL


That night the weather changed, and grew cloudy and cold. Saturday
morning broke drizzly and dismal. A northeast wind tore off the
tops of the drearily tossing billows. All was gray--enduring,
hopeless gray. Along the coast the waves kept roaring on the sands,
persistent and fateful; the Scaurnose was one mass of foaming white:
and in the caves still haunted by the tide, the bellowing was like
that of thunder.

Through the drizzle shot wind and the fog blown in shreds from the
sea, a large number of the most respectable of the male population
of the burgh, clothed in Sunday gloom deepened by the crape on
their hats, made their way to Miss Horn's, for, despite her rough
manners, she was held in high repute. It was only such as had reason
to dread the secret communication between closet and housetop that
feared her tongue; if she spoke loud, she never spoke false, or
backbit in the dark. What chiefly conduced however to the respect
in which she was held, was that she was one of their own people,
her father having died minister of the parish some twenty years
before.

Comparatively little was known of her deceased cousin, who had been
much of an invalid, and had mostly kept to the house, but all had
understood that Miss Horn was greatly attached to her; and it was
for the sake of the living mainly that the dead was thus honoured.

As the prayer drew to a close, the sounds of trampling and scuffling
feet bore witness that Watty Witherspail and his assistants were
carrying the coffin down the stair. Soon the company rose to follow
it, and trooping out, arranged themselves behind the hearse, which,
horrid with nodding plumes and gold and black panelling, drew away
from the door to make room for them.

Just as they were about to move off, to the amazement of the company
and the few onlookers who, notwithstanding the weather, stood
around to represent the commonalty, Miss Horn herself, solitary,
in a long black cloak and somewhat awful bonnet, issued, and made
her way through the mourners until she stood immediately behind
the hearse, by the side of Mr Cairns, the parish minister. The next
moment, Watty Witherspail, who had his station at the further side
of the hearse, arriving somehow at a knowledge of the apparition,
came round by the horses' heads, and with a look of positive alarm
at the glaring infringement of time honoured customs, addressed
her in half whispered tones expostulatory:

"Ye'll never be thinkin' o' gauin' yersel', mem!" he said.

"What for no, Watty, I wad like to ken," growled Miss Horn from
the vaulted depths of her bonnet.

"The like was never hard tell o'!" returned Watty, with the dismay
of an orthodox undertaker, righteously jealous of all innovation.

"It'll be to tell o' hencefurth," rejoined Miss Horn, who in her
risen anger spoke aloud, caring nothing who heard her. "Daur ye
preshume, Watty Witherspaill," she went on, "for no rizzon but that
I ga'e you the job, an' unnertook to pay ye for't--an' that far
abune its market value,--daur ye preshume, I say, to dictate to
me what I'm to du an' what I'm no to du anent the maitter in han'?
Think ye I hae been a mither to the puir yoong thing for sae mony
a year to lat her gang awa' her lane at the last wi' the likes o'
you for company!"

"Hoot, mem! there's the minister at yer elbuck."

"I tell ye, ye're but a wheen rouch men fowk! There's no a wuman
amon' ye to haud things dacent, 'cep I gang mysel'. I'm no beggin'
the minister's pardon ather. I'll gang. I maun see my puir Grizel
till her last bed."

"I dread it may be too much for your feelings, Miss Horn," said
the minister, who being an ambitious young man of lowly origin, and
very shy of the ridiculous, did not in the least wish her company.

"Feelin's!" exclaimed Miss Horn, in a tone of indignant repudiation;
"I'm gauin' to du what's richt. I s' gang, and gien ye dinna like
my company, Mr Cairns, ye can gang hame, an' I s' gang withoot ye.
Gien she sud happen to be luikin doon, she sanna see me wantin'
at the last o' her. But I s' mak' no wark aboot it. I s' no putt
mysel' ower forret."

And. ere the minister could utter another syllable, she had left
her place to go to the rear. The same instant the procession began
to move, corpse marshalled, towards the grave; and stepping aside,
she stood erect, sternly eyeing the irregular ranks of two and
three and four as they passed her, intending to bring up the rear
alone. But already there was one in that solitary position: with
bowed head, Alexander Graham walked last and single. The moment he
caught sight of Miss Horn, he perceived her design, and, lifting
his hat, offered his arm. She took it almost eagerly, and together
they followed in silence, through the gusty wind and monotonous
drizzle.

The school house was close to the churchyard. An instant hush fell
upon the scholars when the hearse darkened the windows, lasting
while the horrible thing slowly turned to enter the iron gates,--
a deep hush, as if a wave of the eternal silence which rounds all
our noises had broken across its barriers. The mad laird, who had
been present all the morning, trembled from head to foot; yet rose
and went to the door with a look of strange, subdued eagerness. When
Miss Horn and Mr Graham had passed into the churchyard, he followed.

With the bending of uncovered heads, in a final gaze of leave
taking, over the coffin at rest in the bottom of the grave, all
that belonged to the ceremony of burial was fulfilled; but the two
facts that no one left the churchyard, although the wind blew and
the rain fell, until the mound of sheltering earth was heaped high
over the dead, and that the hands of many friends assisted with
spade and shovel, did much to compensate for the lack of a service.

As soon as this labour was ended, Mr Graham again offered his arm
to Miss Horn, who had stood in perfect calmness watching the whole
with her eagle's eyes. But although she accepted his offer, instead
of moving towards the gate, she kept her position in the attitude
of a hostess who will follow her friends. They were the last to go
from the churchyard. When they reached the schoolhouse she would
have had Mr Graham leave her, but he insisted on seeing her home.
Contrary to her habit she yielded, and they slowly followed the
retiring company.

"Safe at last!" half sighed Miss Horn, as they entered the town--
her sole remark on the way.

Rounding a corner, they came upon Mrs Catanach standing at a
neighbour's door, gazing out upon nothing, as was her wont at times,
but talking to some one in the house behind her. Miss Horn turned
her head aside as she passed. A look of low, malicious, half triumphant
cunning lightened across the puffy face of the howdy. She cocked
one bushy eyebrow, setting one eye wide open, drew down the other
eyebrow, nearly closing the eye under it, and stood looking after
them until they were out of sight. Then turning her head over her
shoulder, she burst into a laugh, softly husky with the general
flabbiness of her corporeal conditions.

"What ails ye, Mistress Catanach?" cried a voice from within.

"Sic a couple 's yon twasum wad mak!" she replied, again bursting
into gelatinous laughter.

"Wha, than? I canna lea' my milk parritch to come an' luik."

"Ow! jist Meg Horn, the auld kail runt, an' Sanny Graham, the
stickit minister. I wad like weel to be at the beddin' o' them.
Eh! the twa heids o' them upon ae bowster!"

And chuckling a low chuckle, Mrs Catanach moved for her own door.

As soon as the churchyard was clear of the funeral train, the mad
laird peeped from behind a tall stone, gazed cautiously around him,
and then with slow steps came and stood over the new made grave,
where the sexton was now laying the turf, "to mak a' snod (trim)
for the Sawbath."

"Whaur is she gane till?" he murmured to himself--He could generally
speak better when merely uttering his thoughts without attempt at
communication.--"I dinna ken whaur I cam frae, an' I dinna ken
whaur she's gane till; but whan I gang mysel', maybe I'll ken baith.
--I dinna ken, I dinna ken, I dinna ken whaur I cam frae."

Thus muttering, so lost in the thoughts that originated them
that he spoke the words mechanically, he left the churchyard and
returned to the school, where, under the superintendence of Malcolm,
everything had been going on in the usual Saturday fashion--the
work of the day which closed the week's labours, being to repeat a
certain number of questions of the Shorter Catechism (which term,
alas! included the answers), and next to buttress them with a number
of suffering caryatids, as it were--texts of Scripture, I mean,
first petrified and then dragged into the service. Before Mr
Graham returned, every one had done his part except Sheltie, who,
excellent at asking questions for himself, had a very poor memory
for the answers to those of other people, and was in consequence
often a keepie in. He did not generally heed it much, however, for
the master was not angry with him on such occasions, and they gave
him an opportunity of asking in his turn a multitude of questions
of his own.

When he entered, he found Malcolm reading The Tempest and Sheltie
sitting in the middle of the waste schoolroom, with his elbows on
the desk before him, and his head and the Shorter Catechism between
them; while in the farthest corner sat Mr Stewart, with his eyes
fixed on the ground, murmuring his answerless questions to himself.

"Come up, Sheltie," said Mr Graham, anxious to let the boy go.
"Which of the questions did you break down in today?"

"Please, sir, I cudna rest i' my grave till the resurrection,"
answered Sheltie, with but a dim sense of the humour involved in
the reply.

"'What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?'" said
Mr Graham, putting the question with a smile.

"'The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness,
and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still
united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection,'"
replied Sheltie, now with perfect accuracy; whereupon the master,
fearing the outbreak of a torrent of counter questions, made haste
to dismiss him.

"That'll do, Sheltie," he said. "Run home to your dinner."

Sheltie shot from the room like a shell from a mortar.

He had barely vanished when Mr Stewart rose and came slowly from
his corner, his legs appearing to tremble under the weight of his
hump, which moved fitfully up and down in his futile attempts to
utter the word resurrection. As he advanced, he kept heaving one
shoulder forward, as if he would fain bring his huge burden to
the front, and hold it out in mute appeal to his instructor; but
before reaching him he suddenly stopped, lay down on the floor on
his back, and commenced rolling from side to side, with moans and
complaints. Mr Graham interpreted the action into the question--
How was such a body as his to rest in its grave till the resurrection
--perched thus on its own back in the coffin? All the answer he
could think of was to lay hold of his hand, lift him, and point
upwards. The poor fellow shook his head, glanced over his shoulder
at his hump, and murmured "Heavy, heavy!" seeming to imply that it
would be hard for him to rise and ascend at the last day.

He had doubtless a dim notion that all his trouble had to do with
his hump.



CHAPTER XI: THE OLD CHURCH


The next day, the day of the Resurrection, rose glorious from its
sepulchre of sea fog and drizzle. It had poured all night long,
but at sunrise the clouds had broken and scattered, and the air was
the purer for the cleansing rain, while the earth shone with that
peculiar lustre which follows the weeping which has endured its
appointed night. The larks were at it again, singing as if their
hearts would break for joy as they hovered in brooding exultation
over the song of the future; for their nests beneath hoarded a wealth
of larks for summers to come. Especially about the old church--
half buried in the ancient trees of Lossie House, the birds that
day were jubilant; their throats seemed too narrow to let out the
joyful air that filled all their hollow bones and quills: they sang
as if they must sing, or choke with too much gladness. Beyond the
short spire and its shining cock, rose the balls and stars and
arrowy vanes of the House, glittering in gold and sunshine.

The inward hush of the Resurrection, broken only by the prophetic
birds, the poets of the groaning and travailing creation, held time
and space as in a trance; and the centre from which radiated both
the hush and the carolling expectation seemed to Alexander Graham
to be the churchyard in which he was now walking in the cool of the
morning. It was more carefully kept than most Scottish churchyards,
and yet was not too trim. Nature had a word in the affair--
was allowed her part of mourning, in long grass and moss and the
crumbling away of stone. The wholesomeness of decay, which both
in nature and humanity is but the miry road back to life, was not
unrecognized here; there was nothing of the hideous attempt to hide
death in the garments of life. The master walked about gently, now
stopping to read some well known inscription and ponder for a moment
over the words; and now wandering across the stoneless mounds,
content to be forgotten by all but those who loved the departed. At
length he seated himself on a slab by the side of the mound that
rose but yesterday: it was sculptured with symbols of decay--
needless surely where the originals lay about the mouth of every
newly opened grave, and as surely ill befitting the precincts of
a church whose indwelling gospel is of life victorious over death!

"What are these stones," he said to himself, "but monuments to
oblivion? They are not memorials of the dead, but memorials of the
forgetfulness of the living. How vain it is to send a poor forsaken
name, like the title page of a lost book, down the careless stream
of time! Let me serve my generation, and let God remember me!"

The morning wore on; the sun rose higher and higher. He drew from
his pocket the Nosce Teipsum. of Sir John Davies, and was still
reading, in quiet enjoyment of the fine logic of the lawyer poet,
when he heard the church key, in the trembling hand of Jonathan Auld,
the sexton, jar feebly battling with the reluctant lock. Soon the
people began to gather, mostly in groups and couples. At length
came solitary Miss Horn, whom the neighbours, from respect to her
sorrow, had left to walk alone. But Mr Graham went to meet her,
and accompanied her into the church.

It was a cruciform building, as old as the vanished monastery, and
the burial place of generations of noble blood; the dust of royalty
even lay under its floor. A knight of stone reclined cross legged
in a niche with an arched Norman canopy in one of the walls, the
rest of which was nearly encased in large tablets of white marble,
for at his foot lay the ashes of barons and earls whose title was
extinct, and whose lands had been inherited by the family of Lossie.
Inside as well as outside of the church the ground had risen with
the dust of generations, so that the walls were low; and heavy
galleries having been erected in parts, the place was filled with
shadowy recesses and haunted with glooms. From a window in the
square pew where he sat, so small and low that he had to bend his
head to look out of it, the schoolmaster could see a rivulet of
sunshine, streaming through between two upright gravestones, and
glorifying the long grass of a neglected mound that lay close to
the wall under the wintry drip from the eaves: when he raised his
head, the church looked very dark. The best way there to preach
the Resurrection, he thought, would be to contrast the sepulchral
gloom of the church, its dreary psalms and drearier sermons, with
the sunlight on the graves, the lark filled sky, and the wind blowing
where it listed. But although the minister was a young man of the
commonest order, educated to the church that he might eat bread,
hence a mere willing slave to the beck of his lord and master, the
patron, and but a parrot in the pulpit, the schoolmaster not only
endeavoured to pour his feelings and desires into the mould of his
prayers, but listened to the sermon with a countenance that revealed
no distaste for the weak and unsavoury broth ladled out him to
nourish his soul withal. When however the service--though whose
purposes the affair could be supposed to serve except those of Mr
Cairns himself, would have been a curious question--was over,
he did breathe a sigh of relief; and when he stepped out into the
sun and wind which had been shining and blowing all the time of
the dreary ceremony, he wondered whether the larks might not have
had the best of it in the God praising that had been going on for
two slow paced hours. Yet, having been so long used to the sort of
thing, he did not mind it half so much as his friend Malcolm, who
found the Sunday observances an unspeakable weariness to both flesh
and spirit.

On the present occasion, however, Malcolm did not find the said
observances dreary, for he observed nothing but the vision which
radiated from the dusk of the small gallery forming Lossie pew,
directly opposite the Norman canopy and stone crusader. Unconventional,
careless girl as Lady Florimel had hitherto shown herself to him,
he saw her sit that morning like the proudest of her race, alone,
and, to all appearance, unaware of a single other person's being
in the church besides herself. She manifested no interest in what
was going on, nor indeed felt any--how could she? never parted
her lips to sing; sat during the prayer; and throughout the
sermon seemed to Malcolm not once to move her eyes from the carved
crusader. When all was over, she still sat motionless--sat until
the last old woman had hobbled out. Then she rose, walked slowly from
the gloom of the church, flashed into the glow of the churchyard,
gleamed across it to a private door in the wall, which a servant
held for her, and vanished. If a moment after, the notes of a merry
song invaded the ears of those who yet lingered, who could dare
suspect that proudly sedate damsel thus suddenly breaking the ice
of her public behaviour?

For a mere school girl she had certainly done the lady's part well.
What she wore I do not exactly know; nor would it perhaps be well
to describe what might seem grotesque to such prejudiced readers
as have no judgment beyond the fashions of the day. But I will not
let pass the opportunity of reminding them how sadly old fashioned
we of the present hour also look in the eyes of those equally
infallible judges who have been in dread procession towards us ever
since we began to be--our posterity--judges who perhaps will
doubt with a smile whether we even knew what love was, or ever had
a dream of the grandeur they are on the point of grasping. But at
least bethink yourselves, dear posterity: we have not ceased because
you have begun.

Out of the church the blind Duncan strode with long, confident
strides. He had no staff to aid him, for he never carried one when
in his best clothes; but he leaned proudly on Malcolm's arm, if
one who walked so erect could be said to lean. He had adorned his
bonnet the autumn before with a sprig of the large purple heather,
but every bell had fallen from it, leaving only the naked spray,
pitiful analogue of the whole withered exterior of which it formed
part. His sporran, however, hid the stained front of his kilt,
and his Sunday coat had been new within ten years--the gift of
certain ladies of Portlossie, some of whom, to whose lowland eyes
the kilt was obnoxious, would have added a pair of trowsers, had
not Miss Horn stoutly opposed them, confident that Duncan would
regard the present as an insult. And she was right; for rather than
wear anything instead of the philibeg, Duncan would have plaited
himself one with his own blind fingers out of an old sack. Indeed,
although the trews were never at any time unknown in the Highlands,
Duncan had always regarded them as effeminate, and especially in
his lowland exile would have looked upon the wearing of them as a
disgrace to his highland birth.

"Tat wass a fery coot sairmon today, Malcolm," he said, as they
stepped from the churchyard upon the road.

Malcolm, knowing well whither conversation on the subject would
lead, made no reply. His grandfather, finding him silent, iterated
his remark, with the addition--"Put how could it pe a paad one,
you'll pe thinking, my poy, when he'd pe hafing such a text to keep
him straight."

Malcolm continued silent, for a good many people were within hearing,
whom he did not wish to see amused with the remarks certain to follow
any he could make. But Mr Graham, who happened to be walking near
the old man on the other side, out of pure politeness made a partial
response.

"Yes, Mr MacPhail," he said, "it was a grand text."

"Yes, and it wass'll pe a cran' sairmon," persisted Duncan.
"'Fenchence is mine--I will repay.' Ta Lord loves fenchence.
It's a fine thing, fenchence. To make ta wicked know tat tey'll pe
peing put men! Yes; ta Lord will slay ta wicked. Ta Lord will gif
ta honest man fenchence upon his enemies. It wass a cran' sairmon!"

"Don't you think vengeance a very dreadful thing, Mr MacPhail?"
said the schoolmaster.

"Yes, for ta von tat'll pe in ta wrong--I wish ta fenchence was
mine!" he added with a loud sigh.

"But the Lord doesn't think any of us fit to be trusted with it,
and so keeps it to himself, you see."

"Yes, and tat'll pe pecause it 'll pe too coot to be gifing to
another. And some people would be waik of heart, and be letting
teir enemies co."

"I suspect it's for the opposite reason, Mr MacPhail:--we would
go much too far, making no allowances, causing the innocent to
suffer along with the guilty, neither giving fair play nor avoiding
cruelty,--and indeed"

"No fear!" interrupted Duncan eagerly,--"no fear, when ta wrong
wass as larch as Morven!"

In the sermon there had not been one word as to St Paul's design
in quoting the text. It had been but a theatrical setting forth
of the vengeance of God upon sin, illustrated with several common
tales of the discovery of murder by strange means--a sermon
after Duncan's own heart; and nothing but the way in which he now
snuffed the wind with head thrown back and nostrils dilated, could
have given an adequate idea of how much he enjoyed the recollection
of it.

Mr Graham had for many years believed that he must have some
personal wrongs to brood over,--wrongs, probably, to which were
to be attributed his loneliness and exile; but of such Duncan had
never spoken, uttering no maledictions except against the real or
imagined foes of his family.*

*[What added to the likelihood of Mr Graham's conjecture was the
fact, well enough known to him, though to few lowlanders besides,
that revenge is not a characteristic of the Gael. Whatever instances
of it may have appeared, and however strikingly they may have been
worked up in fiction, such belong to the individual and not to
the race. A remarkable proof of this occurs in the history of the
family of Glenco itself. What remained of it after the massacre in
1689, rose in 1745, and joined the forces of Prince Charles Edward.
Arriving in the neighbourhood of the residence of Lord Stair, whose
grandfather had been one of the chief instigators of the massacre,
the prince took special precautions lest the people of Glenco should
wreak inherited vengeance on the earl. But they were so indignant
at being supposed capable of visiting on the innocent the guilt
of their ancestors, that it was with much difficulty they were
prevented from forsaking the standard of the prince, and returning
at once to their homes. Perhaps a yet stronger proof is the fact,
fully asserted by one Gaelic scholar at least, that their literature
contains nothing to foster feelings of revenge.]

The master placed so little value on any possible results of
mere argument, and had indeed so little faith in any words except
such as came hot from the heart, that he said no more, but, with
an invitation to Malcolm to visit him in the evening, wished them
good day, and turned in at his own door.

The two went slowly on towards the sea town. The road was speckled
with home goers, single and in groups, holding a quiet Sunday pace
to their dinners. Suddenly Duncan grasped Malcolm's arm with the
energy of perturbation, almost of fright, and said in a loud whisper:

"Tere'll be something efil not far from her, Malcolm, my son! Look
apout, look apout, and take care how you'll pe leading her."

Malcolm looked about, and replied, pressing Duncan's arm, and
speaking in a low voice, far less audible than his whisper,

"There's naebody near, daddy--naebody but the howdie wife."

"What howdie wife do you mean, Malcolm?"

"Hoot! Mistress Catanach, ye ken. Dinna lat her hear ye."

"I had a feeshion, Malcolm--one moment, and no more; ta darkness
closed arount it: I saw a ped, Malcolm, and--"

"Wheesht, wheesht; daddy!" pleaded Malcolm importunately. "She hears
ilka word ye're sayin'. She's awfu' gleg, and she's as poozhonous
as an edder. Haud yer tongue, daddy; for guid sake haud yer tongue."

The old man yielded, grasping Malcolm's arm, and quickening his
pace, though his breath came hard, as through the gathering folds
of asthma. Mrs. Catanach also quickened her pace, and came gliding
along the grass by the side of the road, noiseless as the adder
to which Malcolm had likened her, and going much faster than she
seemed. Her great round body looked a persistent type of her calling,
and her arms seemed to rest in front of her as upon a ledge. In one
hand she carried a small bible, round which was folded her pocket
handkerchief, and in the other a bunch of southernwood and rosemary.
She wore a black silk gown, a white shawl, and a great straw bonnet
with yellow ribbons in huge bows, and looked the very pattern of
Sunday respectability; but her black eyebrows gloomed ominous, and
an evil smile shadowed about the corners of her mouth as she passed
without turning her head or taking the least notice of them. Duncan
shuddered, and breathed yet harder, but seemed to recover as she
increased the distance between them. They walked the rest of the
way in silence, however; and even after they reached home, Duncan
made no allusion to his late discomposure.

"What was't ye thocht ye saw, as we cam frae the kirk, daddy?" asked
Malcolm when they were seated at their dinner of broiled mackerel
and boiled potatoes.

"In other times she'll pe hafing such feeshions often, Malcolm,
my son," he returned, avoiding an answer. "Like other pards of her
race she would pe seeing--in the speerit, where old Tuncan can
see. And she'll pe telling you, Malcolm--peware of tat voman;
for ta voman was thinking pad thoughts; and tat will pe what make
her shutter and shake, my son, as she'll pe coing py."



CHAPTER XII: THE CHURCHYARD


On Sundays, Malcolm was always more or less annoyed by the obtrusive
presence of his arms and legs, accompanied by a vague feeling that,
at any moment, and no warning given, they might, with some insane
and irrepressible flourish, break the Sabbath on their own account,
and degrade him in the eyes of his fellow townsmen, who seemed all
silently watching how he bore the restraints of the holy day. It
must be conceded, however, that the discomfort had quite as much
to do with his Sunday clothes as with the Sabbath day, and that
it interfered but little with an altogether peculiar calm which
appeared to him to belong in its own right to the Sunday, whether
its light flowed in the sunny cataracts of June, or oozed through
the spongy clouds of November. As he walked again to the Alton,
or Old Town in the evening, the filmy floats of white in the lofty
blue, the droop of the long dark grass by the side of the short
brown corn, the shadows pointing like all lengthening shadows
towards the quarter of hope, the yellow glory filling the air and
paling the green below, the unseen larks hanging aloft--like
air pitcher plants that overflowed in song--like electric jars
emptying themselves of the sweet thunder of bliss in the flashing
of wings and the trembling of melodious throats; these were indeed
of the summer but the cup of rest had been poured out upon them;
the Sabbath brooded like an embodied peace over the earth, and
under its wings they grew sevenfold peaceful--with a peace that
might be felt, like the hand of a mother pressed upon the half
sleeping child. The rusted iron cross on the eastern gable of the
old church stood glowing lustreless in the westering sun; while the
gilded vane, whose business was the wind, creaked radiantly this
way and that, in the flaws from the region of the sunset: its shadow
flickered soft on the new grave, where the grass of the wounded
sod was drooping. Again seated on a neighbour stone, Malcolm found
his friend.

"See," said the schoolmaster as the fisherman sat down beside him,
"how the shadow from one grave stretches like an arm to embrace
another! In this light the churchyard seems the very birthplace of
shadows: see them flowing out of the tombs as from fountains, to
overflow the world! Does the morning or the evening light suit such
a place best, Malcolm?"

The pupil thought for a while.

"The evenin' licht, sir," he answered at length; "for ye see the
sun's deem' like, an' deith's like a fa'in asleep, an' the grave's
the bed, an' the sod's the bedclaes, an' there's a lang nicht to
the fore."

"Are ye sure o' that, Malcolm?"

"It's the wye folk thinks an' says aboot it, sir."

"Or maybe doesna think, an' only says?"

"Maybe, sir; I dinna ken."

"Come here, Malcolm," said Mr Graham, and took him by the arm, and
led him towards the east end of the church, where a few tombstones
were crowded against the wall, as if they would press close to a
place they might not enter.

"Read that," he said, pointing to a flat stone, where every hollow
letter was shown in high relief by the growth in it of a lovely
moss. The rest of the stone was rich in gray and green and brown
lichens, but only in the letters grew the bright moss; the inscription
stood as it were in the hand of nature herself--"He is not here;
he is risen."

While Malcolm gazed, trying to think what his master would have
him think, the latter resumed.

"If he is risen--if the sun is up, Malcolm--then the morning and
not the evening is the season for the place of tombs; the morning
when the shadows are shortening and separating, not the evening
when they are growing all into one. I used to love the churchyard
best in the evening, when the past was more to me than the future;
now I visit it almost every bright summer morning, and only
occasionally at night."

"But, sir, isna deith a dreidfu' thing?" said Malcolm.

"That depends on whether a man regards it as his fate, or as the
will of a perfect God. Its obscurity is its dread; but if God be
light, then death itself must be full of splendour--a splendour
probably too keen for our eyes to receive."

"But there's the deein' itsel': isna that fearsome? It's that I
wad be fleyed at."

"I don't see why it should be. It's the want of a God that makes
it dreadful, and you will be greatly to blame, Malcolm, if you
haven't found your God by the time you have to die."

They were startled by a gruff voice near them. The speaker was.
hidden by a corner of the church.

"Ay, she's weel happit (covered)," it said. "But a grave never
luiks richt wantin' a stane, an' her auld cousin wad hear o' nane
bein' laid ower her. I said it micht be set up at her heid, whaur
she wad never fin' the weicht o' 't; but na, na! nane o' 't for
her! She's ane 'at maun tak her ain gait, say the ither thing wha
likes."

It was Wattie Witherspail who spoke--a thin shaving of a man,
with a deep, harsh, indeed startling voice.

"An' what ailed her at a stane?" returned the voice of Jonathan
Auldbuird, the sexton. "--Nae doobt it wad be the expense?"

"Amna I tellin' ye what it was? Deil a bit o' the expense cam intil
the calcalation! The auld maiden's nane sae close as fowk 'at disna
ken her wad mak her oot. I ken her weel. She wadna hae a stane
laid upon her as gien she wanted to hand her doon, puir thing! She
said, says she, 'The yerd's eneuch upo' the tap o' her, wantin'
that!'"

"It micht be some sair, she wad be thinkin' doobtless, for sic a
waik worn cratur to lift whan the trump was blawn," said the sexton,
with the feeble laugh of one who doubts the reception of his wit.

"Weel, I div whiles think," responded Wattie,--but it was impossible
from his tone to tell whether or not he spoke in earnest,--"'at
maybe my boxies is a wheen ower weel made for the use they're
pitten till. They sudna be that ill to rive--gien a' be true 'at
the minister says. Ye see, we dinna ken whan that day may come,
an' there may na be time for the wat an' the worm to ca (drive)
the boords apairt."

"Hoots, man! it's no your lang nails nor yet yer heidit screws 'll
haud doon the redeemt, gien the jeedgement war the morn's mornin',"
said the sexton; "an' for the lave, they wad be glaid eneuch to
bide whaur they are; but they'll a' be howkit oot,--fear na ye
that."

"The Lord grant a blessed uprisin' to you an' me, Jonathan, at that
day!" said Wattie, in the tone of one who felt himself uttering a
more than ordinarily religious sentiment and on the word followed
the sound of their retreating footsteps.

"How closely together may come the solemn and the grotesque! the
ludicrous and the majestic!" said the schoolmaster. "Here, to us
lingering in awe about the doors beyond which lie the gulfs of the
unknown--to our very side come the wright and the grave digger
with their talk of the strength of coffins and the judgment of the
living God!"

"I hae whiles thoucht mysel', sir," said Malcolm, "it was gey strange
like to hae a wuman o' the mak o' Mistress Catanach sittin' at the
receipt o' bairns, like the gatekeeper o' the ither wan', wi' the
hasp o' 't in her han': it doesna promise ower weel for them 'at
she lats in. An' noo ye hae pitten't intil my heid that there's
Wattie Witherspail an' Jonathan Auldbuird for the porters to open
an' lat a' that's left o' 's oot again! Think o' sic like haein'
sic a han' in sic solemn maitters!"

"Indeed some of us have strange porters," said Mr Graham, with a
smile, "both to open to us and to close behind us! yet even in them
lies the human nature, which, itself the embodiment of the unknown,
wanders out through the gates of mystery, to wander back, it may
be, in a manner not altogether unlike that by which it came."

In contemplative moods, the schoolmaster spoke in a calm and
loftily sustained style of book English--quite another language
from that he used when he sought to rouse the consciences of his
pupils, and strangely contrasted with that in which Malcolm kept
up his side of the dialogue.

"I houp, sir," said the latter, "it'll be nae sort o' a celestial
Mistress Catanach 'at 'll be waiting for me o' the ither side; nor
yet for my puir daddy, wha cud ill bide bein' wamled aboot upo'
her knee."

Mr Graham laughed outright.

"If there be one to act the nurse," he answered, "I presume there
will be one to take the mother's part too."

"But speakin' o' the grave, sir," pursued Malcolm, "I wiss ye cud
drop a word 'at micht be o' some comfort to my daddy. It's plain to
me, frae words he lats fa' noo an' than, that, instead o' lea'in'
the warl' ahint him whan he dees, he thinks to lie smorin' an'
smocherin' i' the mools, clammy an' weet, but a' there, an' trimlin'
at the thocht o' the suddent awfu' roar an' din o' the brazen
trumpet o' the archangel. I wiss ye wad luik in an' say something
till him some nicht. It's nae guid mentionin' 't to the minister;
he wad only gie a lauch an' gang awa'. An' gien ye cud jist slide
in a word aboot forgiein' his enemies, sir! I made licht o' the
maitter to Mistress Courthope, 'cause she only maks him waur. She
does weel wi' what the minister pits intill her, but she has little
o' her ain to mix't up wi', an' sae has but sma' weicht wi' the
likes o' my gran'father. Only ye winna lat him think ye called on
purpose."

They walked about the churchyard until the sun went down in what Mr
Graham called the grave of his endless resurrection--the clouds
on the one side bearing all the pomp of his funeral, the clouds on
the other all the glory of his uprising; and when now the twilight
trembled filmy on the borders of the dark, the master once more
seated himself beside the new grave, and motioned to Malcolm to
take his place beside him: there they talked and dreamed together
of the life to come, with many wanderings and returns; and little
as the boy knew of the ocean depths of sorrowful experience in the
bosom of his companion whence floated up the breaking bubbles of
rainbow hued thought, his words fell upon his heart--not to be
provender for the birds of flitting fancy and airy speculation,
but the seed--it might be decades ere it ripened--of a coming
harvest of hope. At length the master rose and said, "Malcolm, I'm
going in: I should like you to stay here half an hour alone, and
then go straight home to bed."

For the master believed in solitude and silence. Say rather, he
believed in God. What the youth might think, feel, or judge, he
could not tell; but he believed that when the Human is still, the
Divine speaks to it, because it is its own.

Malcolm consented willingly. The darkness had deepened, the graves
all but vanished; an old setting moon appeared, boatlike over
a great cloudy chasm, into which it slowly sank; blocks of cloud,
with stars between, possessed the sky; all nature seemed thinking
about death; a listless wind began to blow, and Malcolm began to
feel as if he were awake too long, and ought to be asleep--as
if he were out in a dream--a dead man that had risen too soon or
lingered too late--so lonely, so forsaken! The wind, soft as it
was, seemed to blow through his very soul. Yet something held him,
and his half hour was long over when he left the churchyard.

As he walked home, the words of a German poem, a version of which
Mr Graham had often repeated to him, and once more that same night,
kept ringing in his heart:

Uplifted is the stone,
And all mankind arisen!
We men remain thine own,
And vanished is our prison!
What bitterest grief can stay
Before thy golden cup,
When earth and life give way,
And with our Lord we sup.

To the marriage Death doth call.
The maidens are not slack;
The lamps are burning all--
Of oil there is no lack.
Afar I hear the walking
Of thy great marriage throng
And hark! the stars are talking
With human tone and tongue!

Courage! for life is hasting
To endless life away;
The inner fire, unwasting,
Transfigures our dull clay
See the stars melting, sinking,
In life wine, golden bright
We, of the splendour drinking,
Shall grow to stars of light.

Lost, lost are all our losses;
Love set for ever free;
The full life heaves and tosses
Like an eternal sea!
One endless living story!
One poem spread abroad!
And the sun of all our glory
Is the countenance of God.



CHAPTER XIII: THE MARQUIS OF LOSSIE


The next morning rose as lovely as if the mantle of the departing
Resurrection day had fallen upon it. Malcolm rose with it, hastened
to his boat, and pulled out into the bay for an hour or two's
fishing. Nearly opposite the great conglomerate rock at the western
end of the dune, called the Bored Craig (Perforated Crag) because
of a large hole that went right through it, he began to draw in his
line. Glancing shoreward as he leaned over the gunwale, he spied
at the foot .of the rock, near the opening, a figure in white,
seated, with bowed head. It was of course the mysterious lady,
whom he had twice before seen thereabout at this unlikely if not
untimely hour; but with yesterday fresh in his mind, how could
he fail to see in her an angel of the resurrection waiting at the
sepulchre to tell the glad news that the Lord was risen?

Many were the glances he cast shoreward as he rebaited his line,
and, having thrown it again into the water, sat waiting until it
should be time to fire the swivel. Still the lady sat on, in her
whiteness a creature of the dawn, without even lifting her head.
At length, having added a few more fishes to the little heap in
the bottom of his boat, and finding his watch bear witness that
the hour was at hand, he seated himself on his thwart, and rowed
lustily to the shore, his bosom filled with the hope of yet another
sight of the lovely face, and another hearing of the sweet English
voice and speech. But the very first time he turned his head to
look, he saw but the sloping foot of the rock sink bare into the
shore. No white robed angel sat at the gate of the resurrection; no
moving thing was visible on the far vacant sands. When he reached
the top of the dune, there was no living creature beyond but a few
sheep feeding on the thin grass. He fired the gun, rowed back to
the Seaton, ate his breakfast, and set out to carry the best of
his fish to the House.

The moment he turned the corner of her street, he saw Mrs Catanach
standing on her threshold with her arms akimbo; although she was
always tidy, and her house spotlessly trim, she yet seemed forever
about the door, on the outlook at least, if not on the watch.

"What hae ye in yer bit basket the day, Ma'colm?" she said, with
a peculiar smile, which was not sweet enough to restore vanished
confidence.

"Naething guid for dogs," answered Malcolm, and was walking past.

But she made a step forward, and, with a laugh meant to indicate
friendly amusement, said,

"Let's see what's intill't, ony gait (anyhow).--The doggie's awa
on 's traivels the day."

"'Deed, Mistress Catanach," persisted Malcolm, "I canna say I like
to hae my ain fish flung i' my face, nor yet to see ill-faured
tykes rin awa' wi' 't afore my verra een."

After the warning given him by Miss Horn, and the strange influence
her presence had had on his grandfather, Malcolm preferred keeping
up a negative quarrel with the woman.

"Dinna ca' ill names," she returned: "my dog wad tak it waur to be
ca'd an ill faured tyke, nor to hae fish flung in his face.  Lat's
see what's i' yer basket, I say."

As she spoke, she laid her hand on the basket, but Malcolm drew
back, and turned away towards the gate.

"Lord safe us!" she cried, with a yelling laugh; "ye're no feared
at an auld wife like me?"

"I dinna ken; maybe ay an' maybe no--I wadna say. But I dinna
want to hae onything to du wi' ye, mem."

"Ma'colm MacPhail," said Mrs Catanach, lowering her voice to
a hoarse whisper, while every trace of laughter vanished from her
countenance, "ye hae had mair to du wi' me nor ye ken, an' aiblins
ye'll hae mair yet nor ye can weel help. Sae caw canny, my man."

"Ye may hae the layin' o' me oot," said Malcolm, "but it sanna be
wi' my wull; an' gien I hae ony life left i' me, I s' gie ye a fleg
(fright)."

"Ye may get a war yersel': I hae frichtit the deid afore noo. Sae
gang yer wa's to Mistress Coorthoup, wi' a flech (flea) i' yer lug
(ear). I wuss ye luck--sic luck as I wad wuss ye I--"

Her last words sounded so like a curse, that to overcome a cold
creep, Malcolm had to force a laugh.

The cook at the House bought all his fish, for they had had none
for the last few days, because of the storm; and he was turning
to go home by the river side, when he heard a tap on a window, and
saw Mrs Courthope beckoning him to another door.

"His lordship desired me to send you to him, Malcolm, the next time
you called," she said.

"Weel, mem, here I am," answered the youth.

"You'll find him in the flower garden," she said. "He's up early
today for a wonder."

He left his basket at the top of the stairs that led down the rock
to the level of the burn, and walked up the valley of the stream.

The garden was a curious old fashioned place, with high hedges, and
close alleys of trees, where two might have wandered long without
meeting, and it was some time before he found any hint of the
presence of the marquis. At length, however, he heard voices, and
following the sound, walked along one of the alleys till he came
to a little arbour, where he discovered the marquis seated, and,
to his surprise, the white robed lady of the sands beside him. A
great deer hound at his master's feet was bristling his mane, and
baring his eye teeth with a growl, but the girl had a hold of his
collar.

"Who are you?" asked the marquis rather gruffly, as if he had never
seen him before.

"I beg yer lordship's pardon," said Malcolm, "but they telled me
yer lordship wantit to see me, and sent me to the flooer garden.
Will I gang, or will I bide?"

The marquis looked at him for a moment, frowningly, and made
no reply. But the frown gradually relaxed before Malcolm's modest
but unflinching gaze, and the shadow of a smile slowly usurped its
place. He still kept silent, however.

"Am I to gang or bide, my lord?" repeated Malcolm.

"Can't you wait for an answer?"

"As lang's yer lordship likes--Will I gang an' walk aboot, mem
--my leddy, till his lordship's made up his min'? Wad that please
him, duv ye think?" he said, in the tone of one who seeks advice.

But the girl only smiled, and the marquis said, "Go to the devil."

"I maun luik to yer lordship for the necessar' directions," rejoined
Malcolm.

"Your tongue's long enough to inquire as you go," said the marquis.

A reply in the same strain rushed to Malcolm's lips, but he checked
himself in time, and stood silent, with his bonnet in his band,
fronting the two. The marquis sat gazing as if he had nothing to say
to him, but after a few moments the lady spoke--not to Malcolm,
however.

"Is there any danger in boating here, papa?" she said.

"Not more, I daresay, than there ought to be," replied the marquis
listlessly. "Why do you ask?"

"Because I should so like a row! I want to see how the shore looks
to the mermaids."

"Well, I will take you some day, if we can find a proper boat."

"Is yours a proper boat?" she asked, turning to Malcolm with a
sparkle of fun in her eyes.

"That depen's on my lord's definition o' proper."

"Definition!" repeated the marquis.

"Is 't ower lang a word, my lord?" asked Malcolm.

The marquis only smiled.


"I ken what ye mean. It's a strange word in a fisher lad's mou',
ye think. But what for should na a fisher lad hae a smatterin' o'
loagic, my lord? For Greek or Laitin there's but sma' opportunity
o' exerceese in oor pairts; but for loagic, a fisher body may aye
haud his ban' in i' that. He can aye be tryin' 't upo' 's wife, or
's guid mother, or upo' 's boat, or upo' the fish whan they winna
tak. Loagic wad save a heap o' cursin' an' ill words--amo' the
fisher fowk, I mean, my lord."

"Have you been to college?"

"Na, my lord--the mair's the pity! But I've been to the school
sin' ever I can min'."

"Do they teach logic there?"

"A kin' o' 't. Mr Graham sets us to try oor ban' whiles--jist to
mak 's a bit gleg (quick and keen), ye ken."

"You don't mean you go to school still?"

"I dinna gang reg'lar; but I gang as aften as Mr Graham wants me
to help him, an' I aye gether something."

"So it's schoolmaster you are as well as fisherman? Two strings to
your bow!--Who pays you for teaching?"

"Ow! naebody. Wha wad pay me for that?"

"Why, the schoolmaster."

"Na, but that wad be an affront, my lord!"

"How can you afford the time for nothing?"

"The time comes to little, compairt wi' what Mr Graham gies me i'
the lang forenichts--i' the winter time, ye ken, my lord, whan
the sea's whiles ower contumahcious to be meddlet muckle wi'."

"But you have to support your grandfather."

"My gran'father wad be ill pleased to hear ye say 't, my lord.
He's terrible independent; an' what wi' his pipes, an' his lamps,
an' his shop, he could keep's baith. It's no muckle the likes o'
us wants. He winna lat me gang far to the fishin', so that I hae
the mair time to read an' gang to Mr Graham."

As the youth spoke, the marquis eyed him with apparently growing
interest.

"But you haven't told me whether your boat is a proper one," said
the lady.

"Proper eneuch, mem, for what's required o' her. She taks guid
fish."

"But is it a proper boat for me to have a row in?"

"No wi' that goon on, mem, as I telled ye afore."

"The water won't get in, will it?"

"No more than's easy gotten oot again."

"Do you ever put up a sail?"

"Whiles--a wee bit o' a lug sail."



"Nonsense, Flow!" said the marquis. "I'll see about it."


Then turning to Malcolm,--"You may go," he said. "When I want
you I will send for you."

Malcolm thought with himself that he had sent for him this time
before he wanted him; but he made his bow, and departed--not
without disappointment, for he had expected the marquis to say
something about his grandfather going to the House with his pipes,
a request he would fain have carried to the old man to gladden his
heart withal.

Lord Lossie had been one of the boon companions of the Prince of
Wales--considerably higher in type, it is true, yet low enough
to accept usage for law, and measure his obligation by the custom
of his peers: duty merely amounted to what was expected of him, and
honour, the flitting shadow of the garment of truth, was his sole
divinity. Still he had a heart, and it would speak,--so long at
least, as the object affecting it was present. But, alas! it had no
memory. Like the unjust judge, he might redress a wrong that cried
to him, but out of sight and hearing it had for him no existence.
To a man he would not have told a deliberate lie--except, indeed,
a woman was in the case; but to women he had lied enough to sink the
whole ship of fools. Nevertheless, had the accusing angel himself
called him a liar, he would have instantly offered him his choice
of weapons.

There was in him by nature, however, a certain generosity which
all the vice he had shared in had not quenched. Overbearing, he
was not yet too overbearing to appreciate a manly carriage, and had
been pleased with what some would have considered the boorishness
of Malcolm's behaviour--such not perceiving that it had the
same source as the true aristocratic bearing--namely, a certain
unselfish confidence which is the mother of dignity.

He had, of course, been a spendthrift--and so much the better,
being otherwise what he was; for a cautious and frugal voluptuary
is about the lowest style of man. Hence he had never been out of
difficulties, and when, a year or so agone, he succeeded to his
brother's marquisate, he was, notwithstanding his enlarged income,
far too much involved to hope any immediate rescue from them. His
new property, however, would afford him a refuge from troublesome
creditors; there he might also avoid expenditure for a season, and
perhaps rally the forces of a dissolute life; the place was not
new to him, having, some twenty years before, spent nearly twelve
months there, of which time the recollections were not altogether
unpleasant: weighing all these things he had made up his mind, and
here he was at Lossie House.

The marquis was about fifty years of age, more worn than his years
would account for, yet younger than his years in expression, for
his conscience had never bitten him very deep. He was middle sized,
broad shouldered but rather thin, with fine features of the aquiline
Greek type, light blue hazy eyes, and fair hair, slightly curling
and streaked with gray. His manners were those of one polite for
his own sake. To his remote inferiors he was kind--would even
encourage them to liberties, but might in turn take greater with
them than they might find agreeable. He was fond of animals--
would sit for an hour stroking the head of Demon, his great Irish
deerhound; but at other times would tease him to a wrath which
touched the verge of dangerous. He was fond of practical jokes,
and would not hesitate to indulge himself even in such as were
incompatible with any genuine refinement: the sort had been in vogue
in his merrier days, and Lord Lossie had ever been one of the most
fertile in inventing, and loudest in enjoying them. For the rest,
if he was easily enraged, he was readily appeased; could drink a
great deal, but was no drunkard; and held as his creed that a God
had probably made the world and set it going, but that he did not
care a brass farthing, as he phrased it, how it went on, or what
such an insignificant being as a man did or left undone in it.
Perhaps he might amuse himself with it, he said, but he doubted
it. As to men, he believed every man loved himself supremely, and
therefore was in natural warfare with every other man. Concerning
women he professed himself unable to give a definite utterance of
any sort--and yet, he would add, he had had opportunities.

The mother of Florimel had died when she was a mere child, and from
that time she had been at school until her father brought her away
to share his fresh honours. She knew little, that little was not
correct, and had it been, would have yet been of small value. At
school she had been under many laws, and had felt their slavery:
she was now in the third heaven of delight with her liberty. But
the worst of foolish laws is, that when the insurgent spirit casts
them off, it is but too ready to cast away with them the genial
self-restraint which these fretting trammels have smothered beneath
them.

Her father regarded her as a child, of whom it was enough to require
that she should keep out of mischief. He said to himself now and
then that he must find a governess for her; but as yet he had not
begun to look for one. Meantime he neither exercised the needful
authority over her, nor treated her as a companion. His was a
shallow nature, never very pleasantly conscious of itself except in
the whirl of excitement, and the glitter of crossing lights: with
a lovely daughter by his side, he neither sought to search into
her being, nor to aid its unfolding, but sat brooding over past
pleasures, or fancying others yet in store for him--lost in
the dull flow of life along the lazy reach to whose mire its once
tumultuous torrent had now descended. But, indeed, what could such
a man have done for the education of a young girl? How many of the
qualities he understood and enjoyed in women could he desire to
see developed in his daughter? There was yet enough of the father
in him to expect those qualities in her to which in other women he
had been an insidious foe; but had he not done what in him lay to
destroy his right of claiming such from her?

So Lady Florimel was running wild, and enjoying it. As long as she
made her appearance at meals, and looked happy, her father would
give himself no trouble about her. How he himself managed to live
in those first days without company--what he thought about or
speculated upon, it were hard to say. All he could be said to do
was to ride here and there over the estate with his steward, Mr
Crathie, knowing little and caring less about farming, or crops,
or cattle. He had by this time, however, invited a few friends to
visit him, and expected their arrival before long.

"How do you like this dull life, Flory?" he said, as they walked
up the garden to breakfast.

"Dull, papa!" she returned. "You never were at a girls' school, or
you wouldn't call this dull. It is the merriest life in the world.
To go where you like, and have miles of room! And such room! It's
the loveliest place in the world, papa!"

He smiled a small, satisfied smile, and stooping stroked his Demon.



CHAPTER XIV: MEG PARTAN'S LAMP


Malcolm went down the riverside, not over pleased with the marquis;
for, although unconscious of it as such, he had a strong feeling
of personal dignity.

As he threaded the tortuous ways of the Seaton towards his own
door, he met sounds of mingled abuse and apology. Such were not
infrequent in that quarter, for one of the women who lived there
was a termagant, and the door of her cottage was generally open. She
was known as Meg Partan. Her husband's real name was of as little
consequence in life as it is in my history, for almost everybody
in the fishing villages of that coast was and is known by his
to-name, or nickname, a device for distinction rendered absolutely
necessary by the paucity of surnames occasioned by the persistent
intermarriage of the fisher folk. Partan is the Scotch for crab,
but the immediate recipient of the name was one of the gentlest
creatures in the place, and hence it had been surmised by some that,
the grey mare being the better horse, the man was thus designated
from the crabbedness of his wife; but the probability is he brought
the agnomen with him from school, where many such apparently
misfitting names are unaccountably generated.

In the present case, however, the apologies were not issuing as
usual from the mouth of Davy Partan, but from that of the blind
piper. Malcolm stood for a moment at the door to understand the
matter of contention, and prepare him to interfere judiciously.

"Gien ye suppose, piper, 'at ye're peyed to drive fowk oot o' their
beds at sic hoors as yon, it's time the toon cooncil was informed
o' yer mistak," said Meg Partan, with emphasis on the last syllable.

"Ta coot peoples up in ta town are not half so hart upon her as you,
Mistress Partan," insinuated poor Duncan, who, knowing himself in
fault, was humble; "and it's tere tat she's paid," he added, with
a bridling motion, "and not town here pelow."

"Dinna ye glorifee yersel' to suppose there's a fisher, lat alane
a fisher's wife, in a' the haill Seaton 'at wad lippen (trust) till
an auld haiveril like you to hae them up i' the mornin'! Haith! I
was oot o' my bed hoors or I hard the skirlin' o' your pipes. Troth
I ken weel hoo muckle ower ear' ye was! But what fowk taks in han',
fowk sud put oot o' han' in a proper mainner, and no misguggle 't
a'thegither like yon. An' for what they say i' the toon, there's
Mistress Catanach--"

"Mistress Catanach is a paad 'oman," said Duncan.

"I wad advise you, piper, to haud a quaiet sough about her. She's
no to be meddlet wi', Mistress Catanach, I can tell ye. Gien ye
anger her, it'll be the waur for ye. The neist time ye hae a lyin'
in, she'll be raxin' (reaching) ye a hairless pup, or, deed, maybe
a stan' o' bagpipes, as the produck."

"Her nain sel' will not pe requiring her sairvices, Mistress Partan;
she'll pe leafing tat to you, if you'll excuse me," said Duncan.

"Deed, ye're richt there! An auld speldin' (dried haddock) like
you! Ha! ha! ha!"

Malcolm judged it time to interfere, and stepped into the cottage.
Duncan was seated in the darkest corner of the room, with an apron
over his knees, occupied with a tin lamp. He had taken out the wick
and laid its flat tube on the hearth, had emptied the oil into a
saucer, and was now rubbing the lamp vigorously: cleanliness rather
than brightness must have been what he sought to produce.

Malcolm's instinct taught him to side so far with the dame concerning
Mrs Catanach, and thereby turn the torrent away from his grandfather.

"'Deed ye're richt there, Mistress Findlay!" he said. "She's no to
be meddlet wi'. She's no mowse (safe)."

Malcolm was a favourite with Meg, as with all the women of the
place; hence she did not even start in resentment at his sudden
appearance, but, turning to Duncan, exclaimed victoriously,--
"Hear till her ain oye! He's a laad o' sense!"

"Ay, hear to him!" rejoined the old man with pride. "My Malcolm
will always pe speaking tat which will pe worth ta hearing with
ta ears. Poth of you and me will be knowing ta Mistress Catanach
pretty well--eh, Malcolm, my son? We'll not be trusting her fery
too much--will we, my son?"

"No a hair, daddy," returned Malcolm.

"She's a dooms clever wife, though; an' ane 'at ye may lippen
till i' the w'y o' her ain callin'," said Meg Partan, whose temper
had improved a little under the influence of the handsome youth's
presence and cheery speech.

"She'll not pe toubting it," responded Duncan; "put, ach! ta voman
'll be hafing a crim feesage and a fearsome eye!"

Like all the blind, he spoke as if he saw perfectly.

"Weel, I hae hard fowk say 'at ye bude (behoved) to hae the second
sicht," said Mrs Findlay, laughing rudely; "but wow! it stan's ye
in sma' service gien that be a' it comes till. She's a guid natur'd,
sonsy luikin' wife as ye wad see; an' for her een, they're jist
sic likes mine ain.--Haena ye near dune wi' that lamp yet?"

"The week of it 'll pe shust a lettle out of orter," answered the
old man. "Ta pairns has been' pulling it up with a peen from ta
top, and not putting it in at ta hole for ta purpose. And she'll pe
thinking you'll be cleaning off ta purnt part with a peen yourself,
rna'am, and not with ta pair of scissors she tolt you of, Mistress
Partan."

"Gae 'wa' wi' yer nonsense!" cried Meg. "Daur ye say 1 dinna ken
hoo to trim an uilyie lamp wi' the best blin' piper that ever cam
frae the bare leggit Heelans?"

"A choke's a choke, ma'am," said Duncan, rising with dignity; "put
for a laty to make a choke of a man's pare leks is not ta propriety!"

"Oot o' my hoose wi' ye!" screamed the she Partan. "Wad ye threep
(insist) upo' me onything I said was less nor proaper. 'At I sud
say what wadna stan' the licht as weels the bare houghs o' ony
heelan' rascal 'at ever lap a lawlan' dyke!"

"Hoot toot, Mistress Findlay," interposed Malcolm, as his grandfather
strode from the door; "ye maunna forget 'at he's auld an' blin';
an' a' heelan' fowk's some kittle (touchy) about their legs."

"Deil shochle them!" exclaimed the Partaness; "what care I for 's
legs!"

Duncan had brought the germ of this ministry of light from his
native Highlands, where he had practised it in his own house, no
one but himself being permitted to clean, or fill, or, indeed, trim
the lamp. How first this came about, I do not believe the old man
himself knew. But he must have had some feeling of a call to the
work; for he had not been a month in Portlossie, before he had
installed himself in several families as the genius of their lamps,
and he gradually extended the relation until it comprehended almost
all the houses in the village.

It was strange and touching to see the sightless man thus busy about
light for others. A marvellous symbol of faith he was--not only
believing in sight, but in the mysterious, and to him altogether
unintelligible means by which others saw! In thus lending his aid
to a faculty in which he had no share, he himself followed the trail
of the garments of Light, stooping ever and anon to lift and bear
her skirts. He haunted the steps of the unknown Power, and flitted
about the walls of her temple as we mortals haunt the borders of
the immortal land, knowing nothing of what lies behind the unseen
veil, yet believing in an unrevealed grandeur. Or shall we say he
stood like the forsaken merman, who, having no soul to be saved,
yet lingered and listened outside the prayer echoing church? Only
old Duncan had got farther: though he saw not a glimmer of the
glory, he yet asserted his part and lot in it, by the aiding of his
fellows to that of which he lacked the very conception himself. He
was a doorkeeper in the house, yea, by faith the blind man became
even a priest in the temple of Light.

Even when his grandchild was the merest baby, he would never allow
the gloaming to deepen into night without kindling for his behoof
the brightest and cleanest of train oil lamps. The women who at
first looked in to offer their services, would marvel at the trio
of blind man, babe, and burning lamp, and some would expostulate
with him on the needless waste. But neither would he listen to
their words, nor accept their offered assistance in dressing or
undressing the child. The sole manner in which he would consent to
avail himself of their willingness to help him, was to leave the
baby in charge of this or that neighbour while he went his rounds
with the bagpipes: when he went lamp cleaning he always took him
along with him.

By this change of guardians Malcolm was a great gainer, for thus
he came to be surreptitiously nursed by a baker's dozen of mothers,
who had a fund of not very wicked amusement in the lamentations of
the old man over his baby's refusal of nourishment, and his fears
that he was pining away. But while they honestly declared that
a healthier child had never been seen in Portlossie, they were
compelled to conceal the too satisfactory reasons of the child's
fastidiousness; for they were persuaded that the truth would only
make Duncan terribly jealous, and set him on contriving how at once
to play his pipes and carry his baby.

He had certain days for visiting certain houses, and cleaning the
lamps in them. The housewives had at first granted him as a privilege
the indulgence of his whim, and as such alone had Duncan regarded
it; but by and by, when they found their lamps burn so much better
from being properly attended to, they began to make him some small
return; and at length it became the custom with every housewife
who accepted his services, to pay him a halfpenny a week during
the winter months for cleaning her lamp. He never asked for it;
if payment was omitted, never even hinted at it; received what was
given him thankfully; and was regarded with kindness, and, indeed,
respect, by all. Even Mrs Partan, as he alone called her, was his
true friend: no intensity of friendship could have kept her from
scolding. I believe if we could thoroughly dissect the natures
of scolding women, we should find them in general not at all so
unfriendly as they are unpleasant.

A small trade in oil arose from his connection with the lamps, and
was added to the list of his general dealings. The fisher folk made
their own oil, but sometimes it would run short, and then recourse
was had to Duncan's little store, prepared by himself of the best;
chiefly, now, from the livers of fish caught by his grandson. With
so many sources of income, no one wondered at his getting on. Indeed
no one would have been surprised to hear, long before Malcolm had
begun to earn anything, that the old man had already laid by a
trifle.



CHAPTER XV: THE SLOPE OF THE DUNE


Looking at Malcolm's life from the point of his own consciousness,
and not from that of the so called world, it was surely pleasant
enough. Innocence, devotion to another, health, pleasant labour
with an occasional shadow of danger to arouse the energies, leisure,
love of reading, a lofty minded friend, and, above all, a supreme
presence, visible to his heart in the meeting of vaulted sky and
outspread sea, and felt at moments in any waking wind that cooled
his glowing cheek and breathed into him anew of the breath of life,
--lapped in such conditions, bathed in such influences, the youth's
heart was swelling like a rosebud ready to burst into blossom.

But he had never yet felt the immediate presence of woman in any
of her closer relations. He had never known mother or sister; and,
although his voice always assumed a different tone and his manner
grew more gentle in the presence, of a woman, old or young, he
had found little individually attractive amongst the fisher girls.
There was not much in their circumstances to bring out the finer
influences of womankind in them: they had rough usage, hard work
at the curing and carrying of fish and the drying of nets, little
education, and but poor religious instruction. At the same time
any failure in what has come to be specially called virtue, was
all but unknown amongst them; and the profound faith in women, and
corresponding worship of everything essential to womanhood which
essentially belonged to a nature touched to fine issues, had as yet
met with no check. It had never come into Malcolm's thoughts that
there were live women capable of impurity. Mrs. Catanach was the
only woman he had ever looked upon with dislike--and that dislike
had generated no more than the vaguest suspicion. Let a woman's
faults be all that he had ever known in woman; he yet could look
on her with reverence--and the very heart of reverence is love,
whence it may be plainly seen that Malcolm's nature was at once
prepared for much delight, and exposed to much suffering. It followed
that all the women of his class loved and trusted him; and hence
in part it came that, absolutely free of arrogance, he was yet
confident in the presence of women. The tradesmen's daughters in
the upper town took pains to show him how high above him they were,
and women of better position spoke to him with a kind condescension
that made him feel the gulf that separated them; but to one and
all he spoke with the frankness of manly freedom.

But he had now arrived at that season when, in the order of things,
a man is compelled to have at least a glimmer of the life which
consists in sharing life with another. When once, through the thousand
unknown paths of creation, the human being is so far divided from
God that his individuality is secured, it has become yet more
needful that the crust gathered around him in the process should be
broken; and the love between man and woman arising from a difference
deep in the heart of God, and essential to the very being of each
--for by no words can I express my scorn of the evil fancy that
the distinction between them is solely or even primarily physical
--is one of his most powerful forces for blasting the wall of
separation, and first step towards the universal harmony of twain
making one. That love should be capable of ending in such vermiculate
results as too often appear, is no more against the loveliness of
the divine idea, than that the forms of man and woman, the spirit
gone from them, should degenerate to such things as may not be
looked upon. There is no plainer sign of the need of a God, than
the possible fate of love. The celestial Cupido may soar aloft on
seraph wings that assert his origin, or fall down on the belly of
a snake and creep to hell.

But Malcolm was not of the stuff of which coxcombs are made, and had
not begun to think even of the abyss that separated Lady Florimel
and himself--an abyss like that between star and star, across
which stretches no mediating air--a blank and blind space. He
felt her presence only as that of a being to be worshipped, to be
heard with rapture, and yet addressed without fear.

Though not greatly prejudiced in favour of books, Lady Florimel
had burrowed a little in the old library at Lossie House, and had
chanced on the Faerie Queene. She had often come upon the name of
the author in books of extracts, and now, turning over its leaves,
she found her own. Indeed, where else could her mother have found
the name Florimel? Her curiosity was roused, and she resolved--
no light undertaking--to read the poem through, and see who and
what the lady, Florimel, was. Notwithstanding the difficulty she met
with at first, she had persevered, and by this time it had become
easy enough. The copy she had found was in small volumes, of which
she now carried one about with her wherever she wandered; and
making her first acquaintance with the sea and the poem together,
she soon came to fancy that she could not fix her attention on the
book without the sound of the waves for an accompaniment to the
verse--although the gentler noise of an ever flowing stream would
have better suited the nature of Spenser's rhythm; for indeed,
he had composed the greater part of the poem with such a sound
in his ears, and there are indications in the poem itself that he
consciously took the river as his chosen analogue after which to
model the flow of his verse.

It was a sultry afternoon, and Florimel lay on the seaward side
of the dune, buried in her book. The sky was foggy with heat, and
the sea lay dull, as if oppressed by the superincumbent air, and
leaden in hue, as if its colour had been destroyed by the sun. The
tide was rising slowly, with a muffled and sleepy murmur on the
sand; for here were no pebbles to impart a hiss to the wave as it
rushed up the bank, or to go softly hurtling down the slope with
it as it sank. As she read, Malcolm was walking towards her along
the top of the dune, but not until he came almost above where she
lay, did she hear his step in the soft quenching sand.

She nodded kindly, and he descended approaching her.

"Did ye want me, my leddy?" he asked.

"No," she answered.

"I wasna sure whether ye noddit 'cause ye wantit me or no," said
Malcolm, and turned to reascend the dune.

"Where are you going now?" she asked.

"Ow! nae gait in particlar. I jist cam oot to see hoo things war
luikin."

"What things?"

"Ow! jist the lift (sky), an' the sea, an' sic generals."

That Malcolm's delight in the presences of Nature--I say presences,
as distinguished from forms and colours and all analyzed sources
of her influences--should have already become a conscious thing
to himself requires to account for it the fact that his master,
Graham, was already under the influences of Wordsworth, whom he had
hailed as a Crabbe that had burst his shell and spread the wings
of an eagle the virtue passed from him to his pupil.

"I won't detain you from such important business," said Lady
Florimel, and dropped her eyes on her book.

"Gien ye want my company, my leddy, I can luik aboot me jist as
weel here as ony ither gait," said Malcolm.

And as he spoke, he gently stretched himself on the dune, about
three yards aside and lower down. Florimel looked half amused and
half annoyed, but she had brought it on herself, and would punish
him only by dropping her eyes again on her book, and keeping silent.
She had come to the Florimel of snow.

Malcolm lay and looked at her for a few moments pondering; then
fancying he had found the cause of her offence, rose, and, passing
to the other side of her, again lay down, but at a still more
respectful distance.

"Why do you move?" she asked, without looking up.

"'Cause there's jist a possible air o' win' frae the nor'east."

"And you want me to shelter you from it?" said Lady Florimel.

"Na, na, my leddy," returned Malcolm, laughing; "for as bonny's ye
are, ye wad be but sma' scoug (shelter)."

"Why did you move, then?" persisted the girl, who understood what
he said just about half.

"Weel, my leddy, ye see it's het, an' I'm aye amang the fish mair
or less, an' I didna ken 'at I was to hae the honour o' sittin'
doon aside ye; sae I thocht ye was maybe smellin' the fish. It's
healthy eneuch, but some fowk disna like it; an' for a' that I ken,
you gran' fowk's senses may be mair ready to scunner (take offence)
than oors. 'Deed, my leddy, we wadna need to be particlar, whiles,
or it wad be the waur for 's."

Simple as it was, the explanation served to restore her equanimity,
disturbed by what had seemed his presumption in lying down in her
presence: she saw that she had mistaken the action. The fact was,
that, concluding from her behaviour she had something to say to him,
but was not yet at leisure for him, he had lain down, as a loving
dog might, to await her time. It was devotion, not coolness. To remain
standing before her would have seemed a demand on her attention; to
lie down was to withdraw and wait. But Florimel, although pleased,
was only the more inclined to torment--a peculiarity of disposition
which she inherited from her father: she bowed her face once more
over her book, and read though three whole stanzas, without however
understanding a single phrase in them, before she spoke. Then
looking up, and regarding for a moment the youth who lay watching
her with the eyes of the servants in the psalm, she said,--"Well?
What are you waiting for?"

"I thocht ye wantit me, my leddy! I beg yer pardon," answered
Malcolm, springing to his feet, and turning to go.

"Do you ever read?" she asked.

"Aften that," replied Malcolm, turning again, and standing stock
still. "An' I like best to read jist as yer leddyship's readin'
the noo, lyin' o' the san' hill, wi' the haill sea afore me, an
naething atween me an' the icebergs but the watter an' the stars
an' a wheen islands. It's like readin' wi' fower een, that!"

"And what do you read on such occasions?" carelessly drawled his
persecutor.

"Whiles ae thing an' whiles anither--whiles onything I can lay my
han's upo'. I like traivels an' sic like weel eneuch; an' history,
gien it be na ower dry like. I div not like sermons, an' there's
mair o' them in Portlossie than onything ither. Mr Graham--that's
the schoolmaister--has a gran' libbrary, but it's maist Laitin an'
Greek, an' though I like the Laitin weel, it's no what I wad read
i' the face o' the sea. When ye're in dreid o' wantin' a dictionar',
that spiles a'."

"Can you read Latin then?"

"Ay: what for no, my leddy? I can read Virgil middlin'; an' Horace's
Ars Poetica, the whilk Mr Graham says is no its richt name ava, but
jist Epistola ad Pisones; for gien they bude to gie 't anither it
sud ha' been Ars Dramatica. But leddies dinna care aboot sic things."

"You gentlemen give us no chance. You won't teach us."

"Noo, my leddy, dinna begin to mak' ghem o' me, like my lord. I
cud ill bide it frae him, an' gien ye tak till 't as weel, 1 maun
jist haud oot o' yer gait. I'm nae gentleman, an' hae ower muckle
respeck for what becomes a gentleman to be pleased at bein' ca'd
ane. But as for the Laitin, I'll be prood to instruck yer leddyship
whan ye please."

"I'm afraid I've no great wish to learn," said Florimel.

"I daur say no," said Malcolm quietly, and again addressed himself
to go.

"Do you like novels?" asked the girl.

"I never saw a novelle. There's no ane amo' a' Mr Graham's buiks,
an' I s' warran' there's full twa hunner o' them. I dinna believe
there's a single novelle in a' Portlossie."

"Don't be too sure: there are a good many in our library."

"I hadna the presumption, my leddy, to coont the Hoose in Portlossie
--Ye'll hae a sicht o' buiks up there, no?"

"Have you never been in the library?"

"I never set fut i' the hoose--'cep' i' the kitchie, an' ance
or twise steppin' across the ha' frae the ae door to the tither.
I wad fain see what kin' o' a place great fowk like you bides in,
an' what kin' o' things, buiks an' a', ye hae aboot ye. It's no
easy for the like o' huz 'at has but a but an' a ben (outer and
inner room), to unnerstan' hoo ye fill sic a muckle place as yon.
I wad be aye i' the libbrary, I think. But," he went on, glancing
involuntarily at the dainty little foot that peered from under her
dress, "yer leddyship's sae licht fittit, ye'll be ower the haill
dwallin', like a wee bird in a muckle cage. Whan I want room, I
like it wantin' wa's."

Once more he was on the point of going, but once more a word detained
him.

"Do you ever read poetry?"

"Ay, sometimes--whan it's auld."

"One would think you were talking about wine! Does age improve
poetry as well?"

"I ken naething aboot wine, my leddy. Miss Horn gae me a glaiss the
ither day, an' it tastit weel, but whether it was merum or mixtum,
I couldna tell mair nor a haddick. Doobtless age does gar poetry
smack a wee better; but I said auld only 'cause there's sae little
new poetry that I care aboot comes my gait. Mr Graham's unco ta'en
wi' Maister Wordsworth--no an ill name for a poet; do ye ken
onything aboot him, my leddy?"

"I never heard of him."

"I wadna gie an auld Scots ballant for a barrowfu' o' his. There's
gran' bits here an' there, nae doobt, but it 's ower mim mou'ed
for me."

"What do you mean by that?"

"It's ower saft an' sliddery like i' yer mou', my leddy."

"What sort do you like then?"

"I like Milton weel. Ye get a fine mou'fu' o' him. I dinna like
the verse 'at ye can murle (crumble) oot atween yer lips an' yer
teeth. I like the verse 'at ye maun open yer mou' weel to lat gang.
Syne it's worth yer while, whether ye unnerstan' 't or no."

"I don't see how you can say that."

"Jist hear, my leddy! Here's a bit I cam upo' last nicht:

His volant touch,
Instinct through all proportions, low and high,
Fled and pursued transverse the resonant fugue.

Hear till 't! It's gran'--even though ye dinna ken what it means
a bit."

"I do know what it means," said Florimel. "Let me see: volant means
--what does volant mean?"

"It means fleein', I suppose."

"Well, he means some musician or other."

"Of coorse: it maun be Jubal--I ken a' the words but fugue; though
I canna tell what business instinct an' proportions hae there."

"It's describing how the man's fingers, playing a fugue--on the
organ, I suppose,--"

"A fugue 'll be some kin' o' a tune, than? That casts a heap o'
licht on't, my leddy--I never saw an organ: what is 't like?"

"Something like a pianoforte."

"But I never saw ane o' them either. It's ill makin' things
a'thegither oot o' yer ain heid."

"Well, it's played with the fingers--like this," said Florimel.
"And the fugue is a kind of piece where one part pursues the other,
--"

"An' syne," cried Malcolm eagerly, "that ane turns roon' an' rins
efter the first;--that 'll be 'fled and pursued transverse.'
I hae't! I hae't! See, my leddy, what it is to hae sic schoolin',
wi' music an' a'! The proportions--that's the relation o' the
notes to ane anither; an' fugue--that comes frae fugere to flee
--'fled and pursued transverse the resonant fugue '--the tane
rinnin' efter the tither, roon' an' roon'. Ay, I hae't noo!--
Resonant--that's echoing or resounding. But what's instinct my
leddy? It maun be an adjective, I'm thinkin'."

Although the modesty of Malcolm had led him to conclude the girl
immeasurably his superior in learning because she could tell him
what a fugue was, he soon found she could help him no further, for
she understood scarcely anything about grammar, and her vocabulary
was limited enough. Not a doubt interfered, however, with her
acceptance of the imputed superiority; for it is as easy for some
to assume as it is for others to yield.

"I hae't! It is an adjective," cried Malcolm, after a short pause
of thought. "It's the touch that's instinct. But I fancy there sud
be a comma efter instinct.--His fingers were sae used till 't
that they could 'maist do the thing o' themsel's--Isna 't lucky,
my leddy, that I thocht o' sayin' 't ower to you! I'll read the buik
frae the beginnin',--it's the neist to the last, I think,--jist
to come upo' the twa lines i' their ain place, ohn their expeckin'
me like, an' see hoo gran' they soon' whan a body unnerstan's them.
Thank ye, my leddy."

"I suppose you read Milton to your grandfather?"

"Ay, sometimes--i' the lang forenights."

"What do you mean by the forenights?"

"I mean efter it's dark an' afore ye gang to yer bed.--He likes
the battles o' the angels best. As sune 's it comes to ony fechtin',
up he gets, an' gangs stridin' aboot the flure; an' whiles he maks
a claucht at 's claymore; an' faith! ance he maist cawed aff my
heid wi' 't, for he had made a mistak aboot whaur I was sittin'."

"What's a claymore?"

"A muckle heelan' braidswoord, my leddy. Clay frae gladius verra
likly; an' more 's the Gaelic for great: claymore, great sword.
Blin' as my gran'father is, ye wad sweer he had fochten in 's day,
gien ye hard hoo he'll gar't whurr an' whustle aboot 's heid as
gien 't war a bit lath o' wud."

"But that's very dangerous," said Florimel, something aghast at
the recital.

"Ow, ay!" assented Malcolm, indifferently,--"Gien ye wad luik
in, my leddy, I wad lat ye see his claymore, an' his dirk, an' his
skene dhu, an' a'."

"I don't think I could venture. He's too dreadful! I should be
terrified at him."

"Dreidfu' my leddy? He's the quaietest, kin'liest auld man I that
is, providit ye say naething for a Cawmill, or agen ony ither
hielanman. Ye see he comes o' Glenco, an' the Cawmills are jist a
hate till him--specially Cawmill o' Glenlyon, wha was the warst
o' them a'. Ye sud hear him tell the story till 's pipes, my leddy!
It's gran' to hear him! An' the poetry a' his ain!"



CHAPTER XVI: THE STORM


There came a blinding flash, and a roar through the leaden air,
followed by heavy drops mixed with huge hailstones. At the flash,
Florimel gave a cry and half rose to her feet, but at the thunder,
fell as if stunned by the noise, on the sand. As if with a bound,
Malcolm was by her side, but when she perceived his terror, she
smiled, and laying hold of his hand, sprung to her feet.

"Come, come," she cried; and still holding his hand, hurried up the
dune, and down the other side of it. Malcolm accompanied her step
for step, strongly tempted, however, to snatch her up, and run for
the bored craig: he could not think why she made for the road--
high on an unscalable embankment, with the park wall on the other
side. But she ran straight for a door in the embankment itself,
dark between two buttresses, which, never having seen it open, he
had not thought of. For a moment she stood panting before it, while
with trembling hand she put a key in the lock; the next she pushed
open the creaking door and entered. As she turned to take out the
key, she saw Malcolm yards away in the middle of the road and in
a cataract of rain, which seemed to have with difficulty suspended
itself only until the lady should be under cover. He stood with
his bonnet in his hand, watching for a farewell glance.

"Why don't you come in?" she said impatiently.

He was beside her in a moment.

"I didna ken ye wad lat me in," he said.

"I wouldn't have you drowned," she returned, shutting the door.

"Droont!" he repeated, "It wad tak a hantle (great deal) to droon
me. I stack to the boddom o' a whumled boat a haill nicht whan I
was but fifeteen."

They stood in a tunnel which passed under the road, affording
immediate communication between the park and the shore. The further
end of it was dark with trees. The upper half of the door by which
they had entered was a wooden grating, for the admission of light,
and through it they were now gazing, though they could see little
but the straight lines of almost perpendicular rain that scratched
out the colours of the landscape. The sea was troubled, although no
wind blew; it heaved as with an inward unrest. But suddenly there
was a great broken sound somewhere in the air; and the next moment
a storm came tearing over the face of the sea, covering it with
blackness innumerably rent into spots of white. Presently it struck
the shore, and a great rude blast came roaring through the grating,
carrying with it a sheet of rain, and, catching Florimel's hair,
sent it streaming wildly out behind her.

"Dinna ye think, my leddy," said Malcolm, "ye had better mak for the
hoose? What wi' the win' an' the weet thegither, ye'll be gettin'
yer deith o' cauld. I s' gang wi' ye sae far, gien ye'll alloo me,
jist to baud it ohn blawn ye awa'."

The wind suddenly fell, and his last words echoed loud in the
vaulted sky. For a moment it grew darker in the silence, and then
a great flash carried the world away with it, and left nothing but
blackness behind. A roar of thunder followed, and even while it yet
bellowed, a white face flitted athwart the grating, and a voice of
agony shrieked aloud:

"I dinna ken whaur it comes frae!"

Florimel grasped Malcolm's arm: the face had passed close to hers
--only the grating between, and the cry cut through the thunder
like a knife.

Instinctively, almost unconsciously, he threw his arm around her,
to shield her from her own terror.

"Dinna be fleyt, my leddy," he said. "It's naething but the mad
laird. He's a quaiet cratur eneuch, only he disna ken whaur he comes
frae--he disna ken whaur onything comes frae--an' he canna bide
it. But he wadna hurt leevin' cratur, the laird."

"What a dreadful face!" said the girl, shuddering.

"It's no an ill faured face," said Malcolm, "only the storm's
frichtit him by ord'nar, an' it's unco ghaistly the noo."

"Is there nothing to be done for him?" she said compassionately.

"No upo' this side the grave, I doobt, my leddy," answered Malcolm.

Here coming to herself the girl became aware of her support, and
laid her hand on Malcolm's to remove his arm. He obeyed instantly,
and she said nothing.

"There was some speech," he went on hurriedly, with a quaver in
his voice, "o' pittin' him intill the asylum at Aberdeen, an' no
lattin' him scoor the queentry this gait, they said; but it wad
hae been sheer cruelty, for the cratur likes naething sac weel
as rinnin' aboot, an' does no' mainner o' hurt. A verra bairn can
guide him. An' he has jist as guid a richt to the leeberty God gies
him as ony man alive, an' mair nor a hantle (more than many)."

"Is nothing known about him?"

"A' thing's known aboot him, my leddy, 'at 's known aboot the lave
(rest) o' 's. His father was the laird o' Gersefell--an' for
that maitter he's laird himsel' noo. But they say he's taen sic a
scunner (disgust) at his mither, that he canna bide the verra word
o' mither; he jist cries oot whan he hears 't."

"It seems clearing," said Florimel.

"I doobt it's only haudin' up for a wee," returned Malcolm, after
surveying as much of the sky as was visible through the bars; "but
I do think ye had better run for the hoose, my leddy. I s' jist
follow ye, a feow yairds ahin', till I see ye safe. Dinna ye be
feared--I s' tak guid care: I wadna hae ye seen i' the company
o' a fisher lad like me."

There was no doubting the perfect simplicity with which this was
said, and the girl took no exception. They left the tunnel, and
skirting the bottom of the little hill on which stood the temple
of the winds, were presently in the midst of a young wood, through
which a gravelled path led towards the House. But they had not gone
far ere a blast of wind, more violent than any that had preceded
it, smote the wood, and the trees, young larches and birches and
sycamores, bent streaming before it. Lady Florimel turned to see
where Malcolm was, and her hair went from her like a Maenad's,
while her garments flew fluttering and straining, as if struggling
to carry her off. She had never in her life before been out in a
storm, and she found the battle joyously exciting. The roaring of
the wind in the trees was grand; and what seemed their terrified
struggles while they bowed and writhed and rose but to bow again,
as in mad effort to unfix their earthbound roots and escape, took
such sympathetic hold of her imagination, that she flung out her
arms, and began to dance and whirl as if herself the genius of the
storm. Malcolm, who had been some thirty paces behind, was with
her in a moment.

"Isn't it splendid?" she cried.

"It blaws weel--verra near as weel 's my daddy," said Malcolm,
enjoying it quite as much as the girl.

"How dare you make game of such a grand uproar?" said Florimel with
superiority.

"Mak ghem o' a blast o' win' by comparin' 't to my gran'father!"
exclaimed Malcolm. "Hoot, my leddy! its a coamplement to the biggest
blast 'at ever blew to be compairt till an auld man like him. I'm
ower used to them to min' them muckle mysel', 'cep' to fecht wi'
them. But whan I watch the seagoos dartin' like arrowheids throu'
the win', I sometimes think it maun be gran' for the angels to caw
aboot great flags o' wings in a mortal warstle wi' sic a hurricane
as this."

"I don't understand you one bit," said Lady Florimel petulantly.

As she spoke, she went on, but, the blast having abated, Malcolm
lingered, to place a proper distance between them.

"You needn't keep so far behind," said Florimel, looking back.

"As yer leddyship pleases," answered Malcolm, and was at once by
her side. "I'll gang till ye tell me to stan'.--Eh, sae different
's ye look frae the ither mornin'!"

"What morning?"

"Whan ye was sittin' at the fut o' the bored craig."

"Bored craig? What's that?"

"The rock wi' a hole throu' 'it. Ye ken the rock weel eneuch, my
leddy. Ye was sittin' at the fut o' 't, readin' yer buik, as white
's gien ye had been made o' snaw. It cam to me that the rock was
the sepulchre, the hole the open door o' 't, an' yersel' ane o' the
angels that had faulded his wings an' was waitin' for somebody to
tell the guid news till, that he was up an awa'."

"And what do I look like today?" she asked.

"Ow! the day, ye luik like some cratur o' the storm; or the storm
itsel' takin' a leevin' shape, an' the bonniest it could; or maybe,
like Ahriel, gaein' afore the win', wi' the blast in 's feathers,
rufflin' them 'a gaits at ance."

"Who's Ahriel?"

"Ow, the fleein' cratur i' the Tempest! But in your bonny southern
speech, I daursay ye wad ca' him--or her, I dinna ken whilk the
cratur was--ye wad ca' 't Ayriel?"

"I don't know anything about him or her or it," said Lady Florimel.

"Ye'll hae a' aboot him up i' the libbrary there though," said
Malcolm. "The Tempest's the only ane o' Shakspere's plays 'at I hae
read, but it's a gran' ane, as Maister Graham has empooered me to
see."

"Oh, dear!" exclaimed Florimel, "I've lost my book!"

"I'll gang back an' luik for 't this meenute, my leddy," said Malcolm.
"I ken ilka fit o' the road we've come, an' it's no possible but
I fa' in wi' 't.--Ye'll sune be hame noo, an' it'll hardly be on
again afore ye win in," he added, looking up at the clouds.

"But how am I to get it? I want it very much."

"I'll jest fess 't up to the Hoose, an' say 'at I fan' 't whaur I
will fin' 't. But I wiss ye wad len' me yer pocket nepkin to row
't in, for I'm feared for blaudin' 't afore I get it back to ye."

Florimel gave him her handkerchief, and Malcolm took his leave,
saying.--"I'll be up i' the coorse o' a half hoor at farthest."

The humble devotion and absolute service of the youth, resembling
that of a noble dog, however unlikely to move admiration in Lady
Florimel's heart, could not fail to give her a quiet and welcome
pleasure. He was an inferior who could be depended upon, and
his worship was acceptable. Not a fear of his attentions becoming
troublesome ever crossed her mind. The wider and more impassable the
distinctions of rank, the more possible they make it for artificial
minds to enter into simply human relations; the easier for the oneness
of the race to assert itself, in the offering and acceptance of a
devoted service. There is more of the genuine human in the relationship
between some men and their servants, than between those men and
their own sons.

With eyes intent, and keen as those of a gazehound, Malcolm retraced
every step, up to the grated door. But no volume was to be seen.
Turning from the door of the tunnel, for which he had no Sesame,
he climbed to the foot of the wall that crossed it above, and with
a bound, a clutch at the top, a pull and a scramble, was in the
high road in a moment. From the road to the links was an easy drop,
where, starting from the grated door, he retraced their path from
the dune. Lady Florimel had dropped the book when she rose, and
Malcolm found it lying on the sand, little the worse. He wrapped
it in its owner's handkerchief, and set out for the gate at the
mouth of the river.

As he came up to it, the keeper, an ill conditioned snarling fellow,
who, in the phrase of the Seaton folk, "rade on the riggin (ridge)
o' 's authority," rushed out of the lodge, and just as Malcolm was
entering, shoved the gate in his face.

"Ye comena in wi'oot the leave o' me," he cried, with a vengeful
expression.

"What's that for?" said Malcolm, who had already interposed his
great boot, so that the spring bolt could not reach its catch.

"There s' nae lan' loupin' rascals come in here," said Bykes,
setting his shoulder to the gate.

That instant he went staggering back to the wall of the lodge, with
the gate after him.

"Stick to the wa' there," said Malcolm, as he strode in.

The keeper pursued him with frantic abuse, but he never turned his
head. Arrived at the House, he committed the volume to the cook,
with a brief account of where he had picked it up, begging her to
inquire whether it belonged to the House. The cook sent a maid with
it to Lady Florimel, and Malcolm waited until she returned--with
thanks and a half crown. He took the money, and returned by the
upper gate through the town.



CHAPTER XVII: THE ACCUSATION


The next morning, soon after their early breakfast, the gate keeper
stood in the door of Duncan MacPhail's cottage, with a verbal
summons for Malcolm to appear before his lordship.

"An' I'm no to lowse sicht o' ye till ye hae put in yer appearance,"
he added; "sae gien ye dinna come peaceable, I maun gar ye."

"Whaur's yer warrant?" asked Malcolm coolly.

"Ye wad hae the impidence to deman' my warrant, ye young sorner!"
cried Bykes indignantly. "Come yer wa's, my man, or I s' gar ye
smairt for 't"

"Haud a quaiet sough, an' gang hame for yer warrant," said Malcolm.
"It's lyin' there, doobtless, or ye wadna hae daured to shaw yer
face on sic an eeran'."

Duncan, who was dozing in his chair, awoke at the sound of high
words. His jealous affection perceived at once that Malcolm was
being insulted. He sprang to his feet, stepped swiftly to the wall,
caught down his broadsword, and rushed to the door, making the huge
weapon quiver and whir about his head as if it had been a slip of
tin plate.

"Where is ta rascal?" he shouted. "She'll cut him town! Show her ta
lowlan' thief! She'll cut him town! Who'll be insulting her Malcolm?"

But Bykes, at first sight of the weapon, had vanished in dismay.

"Hoot toot, daddy," said Malcolm, taking him by the arm; "there's
naebody here. The puir cratur couldna bide the sough o' the
claymore. He fled like the autumn wind over the stubble. There's
Ossian for't."

"Ta Lord pe praised!" cried Duncan. "She'll be confounded her foes.
But what would ta rascal pe wanting, my son?"

Leading him back to his chair, Malcolm told him as much as he knew
of the matter.

"Ton't you co for a warrant," said Duncan. "If my lort marquis
will pe senting for you as one chentleman sends for another, then
you co."

Within an hour Bykes reappeared, accompanied by one of the gamekeepers
--an Englishman. The moment he heard the door open, Duncan caught
again at his broadsword.

"We want you, my young man," said the gamekeeper, standing on the
threshold, with Bykes peeping over his shoulder, in an attitude
indicating one foot already lifted to run.

"What for?"

"That's as may appear."

"Whaur's yer warrant?"

"There."

"Lay 't doon o' the table, an' gang back to the door, till I get
a sklent at it," said Malcolm. "Ye're an honest man, Wull--but I
wadna lippen a snuff mull 'at had mair nor ae pinch intill 't wi'
yon cooard cratur ahin' ye."

He was afraid of the possible consequences of his grandfather's
indignation.

The gamekeeper did at once as he was requested, evidently both amused
with the bearing of the two men and admiring it. Having glanced at
the paper, Malcolm put it in his pocket, and whispering a word to
his grandfather, walked away with his captors.

As they went to the House, Bykes was full of threats of which he
sought to enhance the awfulness by the indefiniteness; but Will
told Malcolm as much as he knew of the matter--namely, that the
head gamekeeper, having lost some dozen of his sitting pheasants,
had enjoined a strict watch; and that Bykes having caught sight
of Malcolm in the very act of getting over the wall, had gone and
given information against him.

No one about the premises except Bykes would have been capable of
harbouring suspicion of Malcolm; and the head gamekeeper had not
the slightest; but, knowing that his lordship found little enough
to amuse him, and anticipating some laughter from the confronting
of two such opposite characters, he had gone to the marquis with
Byke's report,--and this was the result. His lordship was not a
magistrate, and the so called warrant was merely a somewhat sternly
worded expression of his desire that Malcolm should appear and
answer to the charge.

The accused was led into a vaulted chamber opening from the hall
--a genuine portion, to judge from its deep low arched recesses,
the emergence of truncated portions of two or three groins, and
the thickness of its walls, of the old monastery. Close by the door
ascended a right angled modern staircase.

Lord Lossie entered, and took his seat in a great chair in one of
the recesses.

"So, you young jackanapes!" he said, half angry, and half amused,
"you decline to come, when I send for you, without a magistrate's
warrant, forsooth! It looks bad to begin with, I must say!"

"Yer lordship wad never hae had me come at sic a summons as that
cankert ted (toad) Johnny Bykes broucht me. Gien ye had but hard
him! He spak as gien he had been sent to fess me to yer lordship
by the scruff o' the neck, an' I didna believe yer lordship wad
do sic a thing. Ony gait, I wasna gauin' to stan' that. Ye wad hae
thocht him a cornel at the sma'est, an' me a wheen heerin' guts.
But it wad hae garred ye lauch, my lord, to see hoo the body ran
whan my blin' gran'father--he canna bide onybody interferin' wi'
me--made at him wi' his braid swoord!"

"Ye leein' rascal!" cried Bykes; "--me feared at an auld spidder,
'at hasna breath eneuch to fill the bag o' 's pipes!"

"Caw canny, Johnny Bykes. Gien ye say an ill word o' my gran'father,
I s' gie your neck a thraw--an' that the meenute we 're oot o'
's lordship's presence."

"Threits! my lord," said the gatekeeper, appealing.

"And well merited," returned his lordship. "--Well, then," he went
on, again addressing Malcolm, "What have you to say for yourself
in regard of stealing my brood pheasants?"

"Maister MacPherson," said Malcolm, with an inclination of his head
towards the gamekeeper, "micht ha' fun' a fitter neuk to fling that
dirt intill. 'Deed, my lord, it's sae ridic'lous, it hardly angers
me. A man 'at can hae a' the fish i' the haill ocean for the takin'
o' them, to be sic a sneck drawin' contemptible wratch as tak yer
lordship's bonny hen craturs frae their chuckies--no to mention
the sin o't!--it's past an honest man's denyin', my lord. An'
Maister MacPherson kens better, for luik at him lauchin' in 's ain
sleeve."

"Well, we've no proof of it," said the marquis; "but what do you
say to the charge of trespass?"

"The policies hae aye been open to honest fowk, my lord."

"Then where was the necessity for getting in over the wall!"

"I beg yer pardon, my lord: ye hae nae proof agen me o' that aither."

"Daur ye tell me," cried Bykes, recovering himself, "'at I didna
see ye wi' my twa een, loup the dyke aneth the temple--ay, an
something flutterin' unco like bird wings i' yer han'?"

"Oot or in, Johnny Bykes?"

"Ow! oot."

"I did loup the dyke my lord; but it was oot, no in."

"How did you get in then?" asked the marquis.

"I gat in, my lord," began Malcolm, and ceased.

"How did you get in?" repeated the marquis.

"Ow! there's mony w'ys o' winnin' in, my lord. The last time I cam
in but ane, it was 'maist ower the carcass o' Johnny there, wha wad
fain hae hauden me oot, only he hadna my blin' daddy ahint him to
ile 's jints."

"An' dinna ye ca' that brakin' in?" said Bykes.

"Na; there was naething to brak, 'cep it had been your banes, Johnny;
an' that wad hae been a peety--they're sae guid for rinnin wi'."

"You had no right to enter against the will of my gatekeeper," said
his lordship. "What is a gatekeeper for?"

"I had a richt, my lord, sae lang 's I was upo' my leddy's business."

"And what was my lady's business, pray?" questioned the marquis.

"I faun' a buik upo' the links, my lord, which was like to be
hers, wi' the twa beasts 'at stans at yer lordship's door inside
the brod (board) o' 't. An' sae it turned oot to be whan I took it
up to the Hoose. There's the half croon she gae me."

Little did Malcolm think where the daintiest of pearly ears
were listening, and the brightest of blue eyes looking down, half
in merriment, a quarter in anxiety, and the remaining quarter in
interest! On a landing half way up the stair, stood Lady Florimel,
peeping over the balusters, afraid to fix her eyes upon him lest
she should make him look up.

"Yes, yes, I daresay!" acquiesced the marquis; "but," he persisted,
"what I want to know is, how you got in that time. You seem to have
some reluctance to answer the question."

"Weel, I hey, my lord."

"Then I must insist on your doing so."

"Weel, I jist winna, my lord. It was a' straucht foret an' fair;
an' gien yer lordship war i' my place, ye wadna say mair yersel'."

"He's been after one of the girls about the place," whispered the
marquis to the gamekeeper.

"Speir at him, my lord, gien 't please yer lordship, what it was
he hed in 's han' whan he lap the park wa'," said Bykes.

"Gien 't be a' ane till 's lordship," said Malcolm, without looking
at Bykes, "it wad be better no to speir, for it gangs sair agen me
to refeese him."

"I should like to know," said the marquis.

"Ye maun trust me, my lord, that I was efter no ill. I gie ye my
word for that, my lord."

"But how am I to know what your word is worth?" returned Lord
Lossie, well pleased with the dignity of the youth's behaviour.

"To ken what a body's word 's worth ye maun trust him first, my lord.
It's no muckle trust I want o' ye: it comes but to this--that I
hae rizzons, guid to me, an' no ill to you gien ye kent them, for
not answerin' yer lordship's questions. I'm no denyin' a word 'at
Johnny Bykes says. I never hard the cratur ca'd a leear. He's but
a cantankerous argle barglous body--no fit to be a gatekeeper
'cep it was up upo' the Binn side, whaur 'maist naebody gangs oot
or in. He wad maybe be safter hertit till a fellow cratur syne."

"Would you have him let in all the tramps in the country?" said
the marquis.

"De'il ane o' them, my Lord; but I wad hae him no trouble the likes
o' me 'at fesses the fish to your lordship's brakwast: sic 's no
like to be efter mischeef."

"There is some glimmer of sense in what you say," returned his
lordship. "But you know it won't do to let anybody that pleases
get over the park walls. Why didn't you go out at the gate?"

"The burn was atween me an' hit, an' it's a lang road roon'."

"Well, I must lay some penalty upon you, to deter others," said
the marquis.

"Verra well, my lord. Sae lang 's it's fair, I s' bide it ohn
grutten (without weeping)."

"It shan't be too hard. It's just this--to give John Bykes the
thrashing he deserves, as soon as you're out of sight of the House."

"Na, na, my lord; I canna do that," said Malcolm.

"So you're afraid of him, after all!"

"Feared at Johnnie Bykes, my lord! Ha! ha!"

"You threatened him a minute ago, and now, when I give you leave
to thrash him, you decline the honour!"

"The disgrace, my lord. He's an aulder man, an' no abune half the
size. But fegs! gien he says anither word agen my gran'father, I
will gin 's neck a bit thaw"

"Well, well, be off with you both," said the marquis rising.

No one heard the rustle of Lady Florimel's dress as she sped up the
stair, thinking with herself how very odd it was to have a secret
with a fisherman; for a secret it was, seeing the reticence of
Malcolm had been a relief to her; when she shrunk from what seemed
the imminent mention of her name in the affair before the servants.
She had even felt a touch of mingled admiration and gratitude when
she found what a faithful squire he was--capable of an absolute
obstinacy indeed, where she was concerned. For her own sake as well
as his she was glad that he had got off so well, for otherwise she
would have felt bound to tell her father the whole story, and she
was not at all so sure as Malcolm that he would have been satisfied
with his reasons, and would not have been indignant with the fellow
for presuming even to be silent concerning his daughter. Indeed
Lady Florimel herself felt somewhat irritated with him, as having
brought her into the awkward situation of sharing a secret with a
youth of his position.



CHAPTER XVIII: THE QUARREL


For a few days the weather was dull and unsettled, with cold flaws,
and an occasional sprinkle of rain. But after came a still gray
morning, warm and hopeful, and ere noon the sun broke out, the
mists vanished, and the day was glorious in blue and gold. Malcolm
had been to Scaurnose, to see his friend Joseph Mair, and was
descending the steep path down the side of the promontory, on his
way home, when his keen eye caught sight of a form on the slope of
the dune which could hardly be other than that of Lady Florimel.
She did not lift her eyes until he came quite near, and then only
to drop them again with no more recognition than if he had been
any other of the fishermen. Already more than half inclined to pick
a quarrel with him, she fancied that, presuming upon their very
commonplace adventure and its resulting secret, he approached her
with an assurance he had never manifested before, and her head was
bent motionless over her book when he stood and addressed her.

"My leddy," he began, with his bonnet by his knee.

"Well?" she returned, without even lifting her eyes, for, with
the inherited privilege of her rank, she could be insolent with
coolness, and call it to mind without remorse.

"I houp the bit buikie wasna muckle the waur, my leddy," he said.

"'Tis of no consequence," she replied.

"Gien it war mine, I wadna think sae," he returned, eyeing her
anxiously. "--Here's yer leddyship's pocket nepkin," he went on.
"I hae keepit it ready rowed up, ever sin' my daddy washed it oot.
It's no ill dune for a blin' man, as ye'll see, an' I ironed it
mysel' as weel's I cud."

As he spoke he unfolded a piece of brown paper, disclosing a little
parcel in a cover of immaculate post, which he humbly offered her.

Taking it slowly from his hand, she laid it on the ground beside
her with a stiff "thank you," and a second dropping of her eyes
that seemed meant to close the interview.

"I doobt my company's no welcome the day, my leddy," said Malcolm
with trembling voice; "but there's ae thing I maun refar till. Whan
I took hame yer leddyship's buik the ither day, ye sent me half a
croon by the han' o' yer servan' lass. Afore her I wasna gaein' to
disalloo onything ye pleased wi' regaird to me; an' I thocht wi'
mysel' it was maybe necessar' for yer leddyship's dignity an' the
luik o' things--"

"How dare you hint at any understanding between you and me?"
exclaimed the girl in cold anger.

"Lord, mem! what hey I said to fess sic a fire flaucht oot o' yer
bonny een? I thocht ye only did it 'cause ye wad' na like to luik
shabby afore the lass--no giein' onything to the lad 'at brocht
ye yer ain--an' lippened to me to unnerstan' 'at ye did it but
for the luik o' the thing, as I say."

He had taken the coin from his pocket, and had been busy while he
spoke rubbing it in a handful of sand, so that it was bright as
new when he now offered it.

"You are quite mistaken," she rejoined, ungraciously. "You insult
me by supposing I meant you to return it."

"Div ye think I cud bide to be paid for a turn till a neebor, lat
alane the liftin' o' a buik till a leddy?" said Malcolm with keen
mortification. "That wad be to despise mysel' frae keel to truck.
I like to be paid for my wark, an' I like to be paid weel: but no
a plack by siclike (beyond such) sall stick to my loof (palm). It
can be no offence to gie ye back yer half croon, my leddy."

And again he offered the coin.

"I don't in the least see why, on your own principles, you shouldn't
take the money," said the girl, with more than the coldness of an
uninterested umpire. "You worked for it, I'm sure--first accompanying
me home in such a storm, and then finding the book and bringing it
back all the way to the house!"

"'Deed, my leddy, sic a doctrine wad tak a' grace oot o' the earth!
What wad this life be worth gien a' was to be peyed for? I wad cut
my throat afore I wad bide in sic a warl'.--Tak yer half croon,
my leddy," he concluded, in a tone of entreaty.

But the energetic outburst was sufficing, in such her mood, only
to the disgust of Lady Florimel.

"Do anything with the money you please; only go away, and don't
plague me about it," she said freezingly.

"What can I du wi' what I wadna pass throu' my fingers?" said
Malcolm with the patience of deep disappointment.

"Give it to some poor creature: you know some one who would be glad
of it, I daresay."

"I ken mony ane, my leddy, wham it wad weel become yer am bonny han'
to gie 't till; but I'm no gaein' to tak' credit fer a leeberality
that wad ill become me."

"You can tell how you earned it."

"And profess mysel' disgraced by takin' a reward frae a born leddy
for what I wad hae dune for ony beggar wife i' the lan'. Na, na,
my leddy."

"Your services are certainly flattering, when you put me on a level
with any beggar in the country!"

"In regaird o' sic service, my leddy: ye ken weel eneuch what I
mean. Obleege me by takin' back yer siller."

"How dare you ask me to take back what I once gave?"

"Ye cudna hae kent what ye was doin' whan ye gae 't, my leddy. Tak
it back, an tak a hunnerweicht aff o' my hert."

He actually mentioned his heart!--was it to be borne by a girl
in Lady Florimel's mood?

"I beg you will not annoy me," she said, muffling her anger in
folds of distance, and again sought her book.

Malcolm looked at her for a moment, then turned his face towards
the sea, and for another moment stood silent. Lady Florimel glanced
up, but Malcolm was unaware of her movement. He lifted his hand,
and looked at the half crown gleaming on his palm; then, with a
sudden poise of his body, and a sudden fierce action of his arm,
he sent the coin, swift with his heart's repudiation, across the
sands into the tide. Ere it struck the water he had turned, and,
with long stride but low bent head, walked away. A pang shot to
Lady Florimel's heart. "Malcolm!" she cried.

He turned instantly, came slowly back, and stood erect and silent
before her.

She must say something. Her eye fell on the little parcel beside
her, and she spoke the first thought that came.

"Will you take this?" she said, and offered him the handkerchief.

In a dazed way he put out his hand and took it, staring at it as
if he did not know what it was.

"It's some sair!" he said at length, with a motion of his hands as
if to grasp his head between them. "Ye winna tak even the washin'
o' a pocket nepkin frae me, an' ye wad gar me tak a haill half
croon frae yersel'! Mem, ye're a gran' leddy an' a bonny; an ye
hae turns aboot ye, gien 'twar but the set o' yer heid, 'at micht
gar an angel lat fa' what he was carryin', but afore I wad affront
ane that wantit naething o' me but gude will, I wad--I wad--
raither be the fisher lad that I am."

A weak kneed peroration, truly; but Malcolm was over burdened at
last. He laid the little parcel on the sand at her feet, almost
reverentially, and again turned. But Lady Florimel spoke again.

"It is you who are affronting me now," she said gently. "When a lady
gives her handkerchief to a gentleman, it is commonly received as
a very great favour indeed."

"Gien I hae made a mistak, my leddy, I micht weel mak it, no bein' a
gentleman, and no bein' used to the traitment o' ane. But I doobt
gien a gentleman wad ha' surmised what ye was efter wi' yer nepkin',
gien ye had offert him half a croon first."

"Oh, yes, he would--perfectly!" said Florimel with an air of
offence.

"Then, my leddy, for the first time i' my life, I wish I had been
born a gentleman."

"Then I certainly wouldn't have given it you," said Florimel with
perversity.

"What for no, my leddy? I dinna unnerstan' ye again. There maun be
an unco differ atween 's!"

"Because a gentleman would have presumed on such a favour."

"I'm glaidder nor ever 'at I wasna born ane," said Malcolm, and,
slowly stooping, he lifted the handkerchief; "an' I was aye glaid
o' that, my leddy, 'cause gien I had been, I wad hae been luikin'
doon upo' workin' men like mysel' as gien they warna freely o' the
same flesh an' blude. But I beg yer leddyship's pardon for takin'
ye up amiss. An' sae lang's I live, I'll regaird this as ane o'
her fedders 'at the angel moutit as she sat by the bored craig.
An' whan I'm deid, I'll hae 't laid upo' my face, an' syne, maybe,
I may get a sicht o' ye as I pass. Guid day my leddy."

"Good day," she returned kindly. "I wish my father would let me
have a row in your boat."

"It's at yer service whan ye please, my leddy," said Malcolm.

One who had caught a glimpse of the shining yet solemn eyes of the
youth, as he walked home, would wonder no longer that he should talk
as he did--so sedately, yet so poetically--so long windedly,
if you like, yet so sensibly--even wisely.

Lady Florimel lay on the sand, and sought again to read the "Faerie
Queene." But for the last day or two she had been getting tired of
it, and now the forms that entered by her eyes dropped half their
substance and all their sense in the porch, and thronged her brain
with the mere phantoms of things, with words that came and went
and were nothing. Abandoning the harvest of chaff, her eyes rose
and looked out upon the sea. Never, even from tropical shore, was
richer hued ocean beheld. Gorgeous in purple and green, in shadowy
blue and flashing gold, it seemed to Malcolm, as if at any moment
the ever newborn Anadyomene might lift her shining head from the
wandering floor, and float away in her pearly lustre to gladden the
regions where the glaciers glide seawards in irresistible silence,
there to give birth to the icebergs in tumult and thunderous uproar.
But Lady Florimel felt merely the loneliness. One deserted boat
lay on the long sand, like the bereft and useless half of a double
shell. Without show of life the moveless cliffs lengthened far
into a sea where neither white sail deepened the purple and gold,
nor red one enriched it with a colour it could not itself produce.
Neither hope nor aspiration awoke in her heart at the sight. Was
she beginning to be tired of her companionless liberty? Had the
long stanzas, bound by so many interwoven links of rhyme, ending in
long Alexandrines, the long cantos, the lingering sweetness long
drawn out through so many unended books, begun to weary her at
last? Had even a quarrel with a fisher lad been a little pastime
to her? and did she now wish she had detained him a little longer?
Could she take any interest in him beyond such as she took in Demon,
her father's dog, or Brazenose, his favourite horse?

Whatever might be her thoughts or feelings at this moment, it
remained a fact, that Florimel Colonsay, the daughter of a marquis,
and Malcolm, the grandson of a blind piper, were woman and man--
and the man the finer of the two this time.

As Malcolm passed on his way one of the three or four solitary rocks
which rose from the sand, the skeleton remnants of larger masses
worn down by wind, wave, and weather, he heard his own name uttered
by an unpleasant voice, and followed by a more unpleasant laugh.

He knew both the voice and the laugh, and, turning, saw Mrs
Catanach, seated, apparently busy with her knitting, in the shade
of the rock.

"Weel?" he said curtly.

"Weel!--Set ye up!--Wha's yon ye was play actin' wi' oot yonner?"

"Wha telled ye to speir, Mistress Catanach?"

"Ay, ay, laad! Ye'll be abune speykin' till an auld wife efter
colloguin' wi' a yoong ane, an' sic a ane! Isna she bonny, Malkie?
Isna hers a winsome shape an' a lauchin' ee? Didna she draw ye on,
an' luik i' the hawk's een o' ye, an' lay herself oot afore ye,
an' ?"

"She did naething o' the sort, ye ill tongued wuman!" said Malcolm
in anger.

"Ho! ho!" trumpeted Mrs Catanach. "Ill tongued, am I? An' what
neist?"

"Ill deedit," returned Malcolm, "--whan ye flang my bonny salmon
troot till yer oogly deevil o' a dog."

"Ho! ho! ho! Ill deedit, am I? I s' no forget thae bonny names!
Maybe yer lordship wad alloo me the leeberty o' speirin' anither
question at ye, Ma'colm MacPhail."

"Ye may speir 'at ye like, sae lang 's ye canna gar me stan' to
hearken. Guid day to ye, Mistress Catanach. Yer company was nane
o' my seekin': I may lea' 't whan I like."

"Dinna ye be ower sure o' that," she called after him venomously.

But Malcolm turned his head no more.

As soon as he was out of sight, Mrs Catanach rose, ascended the
dune, and propelled her rotundity along the yielding top of it.
When she arrived within speaking distance of Lady Florimel, who
lay lost in her dreary regard of sand and sea, she paused for a
moment, as if contemplating her.

Suddenly, almost by Lady Florimel's side, as if he had risen from
the sand, stood the form of the mad laird.

"I dinna ken whaur I come frae," he said.

Lady Florimel started, half rose, and seeing the dwarf so near,
and on the other side of her a repulsive looking woman staring at
her, sprung to her feet and fled. The same instant the mad laird,
catching sight of Mrs Catanach, gave a cry of misery, thrust his
fingers in his ears, darted down the other side of the dune and
sped along the shore. Mrs. Catanach shook with laughter.

"I hae skailled (dispersed) the bonny doos!" she said. Then she
called aloud after the flying girl,--"My leddy! My bonny leddy!"

Florimel paid no heed, but ran straight for the door of the
tunnel, and vanished. Thence leisurely climbing to the temple of
the winds, she looked down from a height of safety upon the shore
and the retreating figure of Mrs. Catanach. Seating herself by
the pedestal of the trumpet blowing Wind, she assayed her reading
again, but was again startled--this time by a rough salute
from Demon. Presently her father appeared, and Lady Florimel felt
something like a pang of relief at being found there, and not on
the farther side of the dune making it up with Malcolm.



CHAPTER XIX: DUNCAN'S PIPES


A few days after the events last narrated, a footman in the marquis's
livery entered the Seaton, snuffing with emphasized discomposure the
air of the village, all ignorant of the risk he ran in thus openly
manifesting his feelings; for the women at least were good enough
citizens to resent any indignity offered their town. As vengeance
would have it, Meg Partan was the first of whom, with supercilious
airs and "clippit" tongue, he requested to know where a certain
blind man, who played on an instrument called the bagpipes, lived.

"Spit i' yer loof an' caw (search) for him," she answered--a
reply of which he understood the tone and one disagreeable word.

With reddening cheek he informed her that he came on his lord's
business.

"I dinna doobt it," she retorted; "ye luik siclike as rins ither
fowk's eeran's."

"I should be obliged if you would inform me where the man lives,"
returned the lackey--with polite words in supercilious tones.

"What d' ye want wi' him, honest man?" grimly questioned the
Partaness, the epithet referring to Duncan, and not the questioner.

"That 1 shall have the honour of informing himself," he replied.

"Weel, ye can hae the honour o' informin' yersel' whaur he bides,"
she rejoined, and turned away from her open door.

All were not so rude as she, however, for he found at length a
little girl willing to show him the way.

The style in which his message was delivered was probably modified
by the fact that he found Malcolm seated with his grandfather
at their evening meal of water brose and butter; for he had been
present when Malcolm was brought before the marquis by Bykes, and
had in some measure comprehended the nature of the youth: it was
in politest phrase, and therefore entirely to Duncan's satisfaction
in regard of the manner as well as matter of the message, that he
requested Mr Duncan MacPhail's attendance on the marquis the following
evening at six o'clock, to give his lordship and some distinguished
visitors the pleasure of hearing him play on the bagpipes during
dessert. To this summons the old man returned stately and courteous
reply, couched in the best English he could command; which, although
considerably distorted by Gaelic pronunciation and idioms, was yet
sufficiently intelligible to the messenger, who carried home the
substance for the satisfaction of his master, and what he could of
the form for the amusement of his fellow servants.

Duncan, although he received it with perfect calmness, was yet
overjoyed at the invitation. He had performed once or twice before
the late marquis, and having ever since assumed the style of Piper
to the Marquis of Lossie, now regarded the summons as confirmation
in the office. The moment the sound of the messenger's departing
footsteps died away, he caught up his pipes from the corner, where,
like a pet cat, they lay on a bit of carpet, the only piece in
the cottage, spread for them between his chair and the wall, and,
though cautiously mindful of its age and proved infirmity, filled
the bag full, and burst into such a triumphant onset of battle,
that all the children of the Seaton were in a few minutes crowded
about the door. He had not played above five minutes, however, when
the love of finery natural to the Gael, the Gaul, the Galatian,
triumphed over his love of music, and he stopped with an abrupt
groan of the instrument to request Malcolm to get him new streamers.
Whatever his notions of its nature might be, he could not come of
the Celtic race without having in him somewhere a strong faculty
for colour, and no doubt his fancy regarding it was of something
as glorious as his knowledge of it must have been vague. At all
events he not only knew the names of the colours in ordinary use,
but could describe many of the clan tartans with perfect accuracy;
and he now gave Malcolm complete instructions as to the hues
of the ribbons he was to purchase. As soon as he had started on
the important mission, the old man laid aside his instrument, and
taking his broadsword from the wall, proceeded with the aid of
brick dust and lamp oil, to furbish hilt and blade with the utmost
care, searching out spot after spot of rust, to the smallest, with
the delicate points of his great bony fingers. Satisfied at length
of its brightness, he requested Malcolm, who had returned long
before the operation was over, to bring him the sheath, which, for
fear of its coming to pieces, so old and crumbling was the leather,
he kept laid up in the drawer with his sporran and his Sunday coat.
His next business, for he would not commit it to Malcolm, was to
adorn the pipes with the new streamers. Asking the colour of each,
and going by some principle of arrangement known only to himself
he affixed them, one after the other, as he judged right, shaking
and drawing out each to its full length with as much pride as if
it had been a tone instead of a ribbon.  This done, he resumed his
playing, and continued it, notwithstanding the remonstrances of
his grandson, until bedtime.

That night he slept but little, and as the day went on grew more and
more excited. Scarcely had he swallowed his twelve o'clock dinner
of sowens and oatcake, when he wanted to go and dress himself for
his approaching visit. Malcolm persuaded him however to lie down
a while and hear him play, and succeeded, strange as it may seem
with such an instrument, in lulling him to sleep. But he had not
slept more than five minutes when he sprung from the bed, wide awake,
crying--"My poy, Malcolm! my son! you haf let her sleep in; and
ta creat peoples will be impatient for her music, and cursing her
in teir hearts!"

Nothing would quiet him but the immediate commencement of the process
of dressing, the result of which was, as I have said, even pathetic,
from its intermixture of shabbiness and finery. The dangling brass
capped tails of his sporran in front, the silver mounted dirk on
one side, with its hilt of black oak carved into an eagle's head,
and the steel basket of his broadsword gleaming at the other; his
great shoulder brooch of rudely chased brass; the pipes with their
withered bag and gaudy streamers; the faded kilt, oiled and soiled;
the stockings darned in twenty places by the hands of the termagant
Meg Partan; the brogues patched and patched until it would have
been hard to tell a spot of the original leather; the round blue
bonnet grown gray with wind and weather: the belts that looked
like old harness ready to yield at a pull; his skene dhu sticking
out grim and black beside a knee like a lean knuckle:--all combined
to form a picture ludicrous to a vulgar nature, but gently pitiful
to the lover of his kind, he looked like a half mouldered warrior,
waked from beneath an ancient cairn, to walk about in a world
other than he took it to be. Malcolm, in his commonplace Sunday
suit, served as a foil to his picturesque grandfather; to whose
oft reiterated desire that he would wear the highland dress, he had
hitherto returned no other answer than a humorous representation
of the different remarks with which the neighbours would encounter
such a solecism.

The whole Seaton turned out to see them start. Men, women, and
children lined the fronts and gables of the houses they must pass
on their way; for everybody knew where they were going, and wished
them good luck. As if he had been a great bard with a henchman of his
own, Duncan strode along in front, and Malcolm followed, carrying
the pipes, and regarding his grandfather with a mingled pride
and compassion lovely to see. But as soon as they were beyond the
village the old man took the young one's arm, not to guide him,
for that was needless, but to stay his steps a little, for when
dressed he would, as I have said, carry no staff; and thus they
entered the nearest gate of the grounds. Bykes saw them and scoffed,
but with discretion, and kept out of their way.

When they reached the house, they were taken to the servants' hall,
where refreshments were offered them. The old man ate sparingly,
saying he wanted all the room for his breath, but swallowed a glass
of whisky with readiness; for, although he never spent a farthing
on it, he had yet a highlander's respect for whisky, and seldom
refused a glass when offered him. On this occasion, besides, anxious
to do himself credit as a piper, he was well pleased to add a little
fuel to the failing fires of old age; and the summons to the dining
room being in his view long delayed, he had, before he left the
hail, taken a second glass.

They were led along endless passages, up a winding stone stair,
across a lobby, and through room after room.

"It will pe some glamour, sure, Malcolm!" said Duncan in a whisper
as they went.

Requested at length to seat themselves in an anteroom, the air of
which was filled with the sounds and odours of the neighbouring
feast, they waited again through what seemed to the impatient Duncan
an hour of slow vacuity; but at last they were conducted into the
dining room. Following their guide, Malcolm led the old man to the
place prepared for him at the upper part of the room, where the
floor was raised a step or two.

Duncan would, I fancy, even unprotected by his blindness, have
strode unabashed into the very halls of heaven. As he entered there
was a hush, for his poverty stricken age and dignity told for one
brief moment: then the buzz and laughter recommenced, an occasional
oath emphasizing itself in the confused noise of the talk, the
gurgle of wine, the ring of glass, and the chink of china.

In Malcolm's vision, dazzled and bewildered at first, things soon
began to arrange themselves. The walls of the room receded to their
proper distance, and he saw that they were covered with pictures
of ladies and gentlemen, gorgeously attired; the ceiling rose and
settled into the dim show of a sky, amongst the clouds of which
the shapes of very solid women and children disported themselves;
while about the glittering table, lighted by silver candelabra with
many branches, he distinguished the gaily dressed company, round
which, like huge ill painted butterflies, the liveried footmen
hovered. His eyes soon found the lovely face of Lady Florimel,
but after the first glance he dared hardly look again. Whether its
radiance had any smallest source in the pleasure of appearing like
a goddess in the eyes of her humble servant, I dare not say, but
more lucent she could hardly have appeared had she been the princess
in a fairy tale, about to marry her much thwarted prince. She wore
far too many jewels for one so young, for her father had given her
all that belonged to her mother, as well as some family diamonds,
and her inexperience knew no reason why she should not wear them.
The diamonds flashed and sparkled and glowed on a white rather
than fair neck, which, being very much uncollared dazzled Malcolm
far more than the jewels. Such a form of enhanced loveliness,
reflected for the first time in the pure mirror of a high toned
manhood, may well be to such a youth as that of an angel with whom
he has henceforth to wrestle in deadly agony until the final dawn;
for lofty condition and gorgeous circumstance, while combining to
raise a woman to an ideal height, ill suffice to lift her beyond
love, or shield the lowliest man from the arrows of her radiation;
they leave her human still. She was talking and laughing with a
young man of weak military aspect, whose eyes gazed unshrinking on
her beauty.

The guests were not numerous: a certain bold faced countess, the
fire in whose eyes had begun to tarnish, and the natural lines of
whose figure were vanishing in expansion; the soldier, her nephew,
a waisted elegance; a long, lean man, who dawdled with what he ate,
and drank as if his bones thirsted; an elderly, broad; red faced,
bull necked baron of the Hanoverian type; and two neighbouring
lairds and their wives, ordinary, and well pleased to be at the
marquis's table.

Although the waiting were as many as the waited upon, Malcolm, who
was keen eyed, and had a passion for service--a thing unintelligible
to the common mind,--soon spied an opportunity of making himself
useful.  Seeing one of the men, suddenly called away, set down a
dish of fruit just as the countess was expecting it, he jumped up,
almost involuntarily, and handed it to her. Once in the current of
things, Malcolm would not readily make for the shore of inactivity:
he finished the round of the table with the dish, while the men
looked indignant, and the marquis eyed him queerly.

While he was thus engaged, however, Duncan, either that his poor
stock of patience was now utterly exhausted, or that he fancied a
signal given, compressed of a sudden his full blown waiting bag,
and blasted forth such a wild howl of the pibroch, that more than
one of the ladies gave a cry and half started from their chairs. The
marquis burst out laughing, but gave orders to stop him--a thing
not to be effected in a moment, for Duncan was in full tornado, with
the avenues of hearing, both corporeal and mental, blocked by his
own darling utterance. Understanding at length, he ceased with the
air and almost the carriage of a suddenly checked horse, looking
half startled, half angry, his cheeks puffed, his nostrils expanded,
his head thrown back, the port vent still in his mouth, the blown
bag under his arm, and his fingers on the chanter, on the fret to
dash forward again with redoubled energy. But slowly the strained
muscles relaxed, he let the tube fall from his lips, and the bag
descended to his lap.

"A man forbid," he heard the ladies rise and leave the room, and
not until the gentlemen sat down again to their wine, was there
any demand for the exercise of his art.

Now whether what followed had been prearranged, and old Duncan
invited for the express purpose of carrying it out, or whether it
was conceived and executed on the spur of the moment, which seems
less likely, I cannot tell, but the turn things now took would be
hard to believe, were they dated in the present generation. Some
of my elder readers, however, will, from their own knowledge of
similar actions, grant likelihood enough to my record.

While the old man was piping, as bravely as his lingering mortification
would permit, the marquis interrupted his music to make him drink
a large glass of sherry; after which he requested him to play his
loudest, that the gentlemen might hear what his pipes could do. At
the same time he sent Malcolm with a message to the butler about
some particular wine he wanted. Malcolm went more than willingly,
but lost a good deal of time from not knowing his way through the
house. When he returned he found things frightfully changed.

As soon as he was out of the room, and while the poor old man was
blowing his hardest, in the fancy of rejoicing his hearers with
the glorious music of the highland hills, one of the company--it
was never known which, for each merrily accused the other--took
a penknife, and going softly behind him, ran the sharp blade into
the bag, and made a great slit, so that the wind at once rushed
out, and the tune ceased without sob or wail. Not a laugh betrayed
the cause of the catastrophe: in silent enjoyment the conspirators
sat watching his movements. For one moment Duncan was so astounded
that he could not think; the next he laid the instrument across
his knees, and began feeling for the cause of the sudden collapse.
Tears had gathered in the eyes that were of no use but to weep
withal, and were slowly dropping.

"She wass afrait, my lort and chentlemans," he said, with a quavering
voice, "tat her pag will pe near her latter end; put she pelieved
she would pe living peyond her nainsel, my chentlemans."

He ceased abruptly, for his fingers had found the wound, and were
prosecuting an inquiry: they ran along the smooth edges of the
cut, and detected treachery. He gave a cry like that of a wounded
animal, flung his pipes from him, and sprang to his feet, but
forgetting a step below him, staggered forward a few paces and
fell heavily. That instant Malcolm entered the room. He hurried
in consternation to his assistance. When he had helped him up and
seated him again on the steps, the old man laid his head on his
boy's bosom, threw his arms around his neck, and wept aloud.

"Malcolm, my son," he sobbed, "Tuncan is wronged in ta halls of
ta strancher; tey 'll haf stapped his pest friend to ta heart, and
och hone! och hone! she'll pe aall too plint to take fencheance.
Malcolm, son of heroes, traw ta claymore of ta pard, and fall upon
ta traitors. She'll pe singing you ta onset, for ta pibroch is no
more."

His quavering voice rose that instant in a fierce though feeble
chant, and his hand flew to the hilt of his weapon.

Malcolm, perceiving from the looks of the men that things were as
his grandfather had divined, spoke indignantly:

"Ye oucht to tak shame to ca' yersel's gentlefowk, an' play a puir
blin' man, wha was doin' his best to please ye, sic an ill faured
trick."

As he spoke they made various signs to him not to interfere, but
Malcolm paid them no heed, and turned to his grandfather, eager to
persuade him to go home. They had no intention of letting him off
yet, however. Acquainted--probably through his gamekeeper, who
laid himself out to amuse his master--with the piper's peculiar
antipathies, Lord Lossie now took up the game.

"It was too bad of you, Campbell," he said, "to play the good old
man such a dog's trick."

At the word Campbell the piper shook off his grandson, and sprang
once more to his feet, his head thrown back, and every inch of his
body trembling with rage.

"She might haf known," he screamed, half choking, "that a cursed
tog of a Cawmill was in it!"

He stood for a moment, swaying in every direction, as if the spirit
within him doubted whether to cast his old body on the earth in
contempt of its helplessness, or to fling it headlong on his foes.
For that one moment silence filled the room.

"You needn't attempt to deny it; it really was too bad of you,
Glenlyon," said the marquis.

A howl of fury burst from Duncan's labouring bosom. His broadsword
flashed from its sheath, and brokenly panting out the words:
"Clenlyon! Ta creat dufil! Haf I peen trinking with ta hellhount,
Clenlyon?"--he would have run a Malay muck through the room with
his huge weapon. But he was already struggling in the arms of his
grandson, who succeeded at length in forcing from his bony grasp the
hilt of the terrible claymore. But as Duncan yielded his weapon,
Malcolm lost his hold on him. He darted away, caught his dirk
--a blade of unusual length--from its sheath, and shot in the
direction of the last word he had heard. Malcolm dropped the sword
and sprung after him.

"Gif her ta fillain by ta troat," screamed the old man. "She 'll
stap his pag! She'll cut his chanter in two! She'll pe toing it!
Who put ta creat cranson of Inverriggen should pe cutting ta troat
of ta tog Clenlyon!"

As he spoke, he was running wildly about the room, brandishing his
weapon, knocking over chairs, and sweeping bottles and dishes from
the table. The clatter was tremendous: and the smile had faded from
the faces of the men who had provoked the disturbance. The military
youth looked scared: the Hanoverian pig cheeks were the colour of
lead; the long lean man was laughing like a skeleton: one of the
lairds had got on the sideboard, and the other was making for the
door with the bell rope in his hand; the marquis, though he retained
his coolness, was yet looking a little anxious; the butler was
peeping in at the door, with red nose and pale cheekbones, the
handle in his hand, in instant readiness to pop out again; while
Malcolm was after his grandfather, intent upon closing with him.
The old man had just made a desperate stab at nothing half across
the table, and was about to repeat it, when, spying danger to a
fine dish, Malcolm reached forward to save it. But the dish flew
in splinters, and the dirk passing through the thick of Malcolm's
hand, pinned it to the table, where Duncan, fancying he had at
length stabbed Glenlyon, left it quivering.

"Tere, Clenlyon," he said, and stood trembling in the ebb of passion,
and murmuring to himself something in Gaelic.

Meantime Malcolm had drawn the dirk from the table, and released
his hand. The blood was streaming from it, and the marquis took
his own handkerchief to bind it up; but the lad indignantly refused
the attention, and kept holding the wound tight with his left hand.
The butler, seeing Duncan stand quite still, ventured, with scared
countenance, to approach the scene of destruction.

"Dinna gang near him," cried Malcolm. "He has his skene dhu yet,
an' in grips that's warst ava."

Scarcely were the words out of his mouth when the black knife was
out of Duncan's stocking, and brandished aloft in his shaking fist.

"Daddy!" cried Malcolm, "ye wadna kill twa Glenlyons in ae day--
wad ye?"

"She would, my son Malcolm!--fifty of ta poars in one preath!
Tey are ta children of wrath, and tey haf to pe testructiont."

"For an auld man ye hae killed enew for ae nicht," said Malcolm,
and gently took the knife from his trembling hand. "Ye maun come
hame the noo."

"Is ta tog tead then?" asked Duncan eagerly.

"Ow, na; he's breathin' yet," answered Malcolm.

"She'll not can co till ta tog will pe tead. Ta tog may want more
killing."

"What a horrible savage!" said one of the lairds, a justice of the
peace. "He ought to be shut up in a madhouse."

"Gien ye set aboot shuttin' up, sir, or my lord--I kenna whilk
--ye'll hae to begin nearer hame," said Malcolm, as he stooped
to pick up the broadsword, and so complete his possession of the
weapons. "An' ye'll please to haud in min', that nane here is an
injured man but my gran'father himsel'."

"Hey!" said the marquis; "what do you make of all my dishes?"

"'Deed, my lord, ye may comfort yersel' that they warna dishes
wi barns (brains) i' them; for sic 's some scarce i' the Hoose o'
Lossie."

"You're a long tongued rascal," said the marquis.

"A lang tongue may whiles be as canny as a lang spune, my lord;
an' ye ken what that's for?"

The marquis burst into laughter.

"What do you make then of that horrible cut in your own hand?"
asked the magistrate.

"I mak my ain business o' 't," answered Malcolm.

While this colloquy passed, Duncan had been feeling about for his
pipes: having found them he clasped them to his bosom like a hurt
child.

"Come home, come home," he said; "your own pard has refenched you."

Malcolm took him by the arm and led him away. He went without a
word, still clasping his wounded bagpipes to his bosom.

"You'll hear from me in the morning, my lad," said the marquis in
a kindly tone, as they were leaving the room.

"I hae no wuss to hear onything mair o' yer lordship. Ye hae done
eneuch this nicht, my lord, to mak ye ashamed o' yersel' till yer
dyin' day--gien ye hed ony pooer o' shame left in ye."

The military youth muttered something about insolence, and made
a step towards him. Malcolm quitted his grandfather, and stepped
again into his room.

"Come on," he said.

"No, no," interposed the marquis. "Don't you see the lad is hurt?"

"Lat him come on," said Malcolm; "I hae ae soon' han'. Here, my
lord, tak the wapons, or the auld man 'll get a grip o' them again."

"I tell you no," shouted Lord Lossie. "Fred, get out--will you!"

The young gentleman turned on his heel, and Malcolm led his grandfather
from the house without further molestation. It was all he could
do, however, to get him home. The old man's strength was utterly
gone. His knees bent trembling under him, and the arm which rested
on his grandson's shook as with an ague fit. Malcolm was glad indeed
when at length he had him safe in bed, by which time his hand had
swollen to a great size, and the suffering grown severe.

Thoroughly exhausted by his late fierce emotions, Duncan soon fell
into a troubled sleep, whereupon Malcolm went to Meg Partan, and
begged her to watch beside him until he should return, informing
her of the way his grandfather had been treated, and adding that
he had gone into such a rage, that he feared he would be ill in
consequence; and if he should be unable to do his morning's duty,
it would almost break his heart.

"Eh!" said the Partaness, in a whisper, as they parted at Duncan's
door, "a baad temper 's a frichtsome thing. I'm sure the times I
hae telled him it wad be the ruin o' 'im!"

To Malcolm's gentle knock Miss Horn's door was opened by Jean.

"What d'ye wint at sic an oontimeous hoor," she said, "whan honest
fowk's a' i' their nicht caips?"

"I want to see Miss Horn, gien ye please," he answered.

"I s' warran' she'll be in her bed an' snorin'," said Jean; "but
I s' gang an' see."

Ere she went, however, Jean saw that the kitchen door was closed,
for, whether she belonged to the class "honest folk" or not, Mrs
Catanach was in Miss Horn's kitchen, and not in her nightcap.

Jean returned presently with an invitation for Malcolm to walk up
to the parlour.

"I hae gotten a sma' mishanter, Miss Horn," he said, as he entered:
"an I thocht I cudna du better than come to you, 'cause ye can haud
yer tongue, an' that's mair nor mony ane the port o' Portlossie
can, mem."

The compliment, correct in fact as well as honest in intent, was
not thrown away on Miss Horn, to whom it was the more pleasing
that she could regard it as a just tribute. Malcolm told her all
the story, rousing thereby a mighty indignation in her bosom, a
great fire in her hawk nose, and a succession of wild flashes in
her hawk eyes; but when he showed her his hand,

"Lord, Malcolm!" she cried; "it's a mercy I was made wantin'
feelin's, or I cudna hae bed the sicht. My puir bairn!"

Then she rushed to the stair and shouted,

"Jean, ye limmer! Jean! Fess some het watter, an' some linen cloots."

"I hae nane o' naither," replied Jean from the bottom of the stair.

"Mak up the fire an' put on some watter direckly.--I s' fin' some
clooties," she added, turning to Malcolm, "gien I sud rive the
tail frae my best Sunday sark."

She returned with rags enough for a small hospital, and until the
grumbling Jean brought the hot water, they sat and talked in the
glimmering light of one long beaked tallow candle.

"It's a terrible hoose, yon o' Lossie," said Miss Horn; "and there's
been terrible things dune intill't. The auld markis was an ill man.
I daurna say what he wadna hae dune, gien half the tales be true
'at they tell o' 'im; an' the last ane was little better. This
ane winna be sae ill, but it's clear 'at he's tarred wi' the same
stick."

"I dinna think he means onything muckle amiss," agreed Malcolm,
whose wrath had by this time subsided a little, through the quieting
influences of Miss Horn's sympathy. "He's mair thouchtless, I do
believe, than ill contrived--an' a' for 's fun. He spak unco kin'
like to me, efterhin, but I cudna accep' it, ye see, efter the w'y
he had saired my daddy. But wadna ye hae thoucht he was auld eneuch
to ken better by this time?"

"An auld fule 's the warst fule ava'," said Miss Horn. "But naething
o' that kin', be 't as mad an' pranksome as ever sic ploy could be,
is to be made mention o' aside the things at was mutit (muttered)
o' 's brither. I budena come ower them till a young laad like
yersel'. They war never said straucht oot, min' ye, but jist mintit
at, like, wi' a doon draw o' the broos, an' a wee side shak o' the
heid, as gien the body wad say, 'I cud tell ye gien I daur.' But
I doobt mysel' gien onything was kent, though muckle was mair nor
suspeckit. An' whaur there 's reik, there maun be fire."

As she spoke she was doing her best, with many expressions of pity,
for his hand. When she had bathed and bound it up, and laid it in
a sling, he wished her goodnight.

Arrived at home he found, to his dismay, that things had not been
going well. Indeed, while yet several houses off he had heard the
voices of the Partan's wife and his grandfather in fierce dispute.
The old man was beside himself with anxiety about Malcolm; and the
woman, instead of soothing him, was opposing everything he said,
and irritating him frightfully. The moment he entered, each opened
a torrent of accusations against the other, and it was with difficulty
that Malcolm prevailed on the woman to go home. The presence of his
boy soon calmed the old man, however, and he fell into a troubled
sleep--in which Malcolm, who sat by his bed all night, heard
him, at intervals, now lamenting over the murdered of Glenco, now
exulting in a stab that had reached the heart of Glenlyon, and now
bewailing his ruined bagpipes. At length towards morning he grew
quieter, and Malcolm fell asleep in his chair.



CHAPTER XX: ADVANCES


When he woke, Duncan still slept, and Malcolm having got ready some
tea for his grandfather's, and a little brose for his own breakfast,
sat down again by the bedside, and awaited the old man's waking. The
first sign of it that reached him was the feebly uttered question,
--"Will ta tog be tead, Malcolm?"

"As sure 's ye stabbit him," answered Malcolm.

"Then she 'll pe getting herself ready," said Duncan, making a
motion to rise.

"What for, daddy?"

"For ta hanging, my son," answered Duncan coolly.

"Time eneuch for that, daddy, whan they sen' to tell ye," returned
Malcolm, cautious of revealing the facts of the case.

"Ferry coot!" said Duncan, and fell asleep again.

In a little while he woke with a start.

"She 'll be hafing an efil tream, my son Malcolm," he said; "or it
was 'll pe more than a tream. Cawmill of Clenlyon, Cod curse him!
came to her pedside; and he'll say to her, 'MacDhonuill,' he said,
for pein' a tead man he would pe knowing my name,--'MacDhonuill,'
he said, 'what tid you'll pe meaning py turking my posterity?' And
she answered and said to him, 'I pray it had peen yourself, you
tamned Clenlyon.' And he said to me, 'It 'll pe no coot wishing tat;
it would be toing you no coot to turk me, for I'm a tead man.'--
'And a tamned man,' says herself, and would haf taken him py ta
troat, put she couldn't mofe. 'Well, I'm not so sure of tat,' says
he, 'for I 'fe pecked all teir partons.'--'And tid tey gif tem
to you, you tog?' says herself.--'Well, I'm not sure,' says he;
'anyhow, I'm not tamned fery much yet.'--'She'll pe much sorry
to hear it,' says herself. And she took care aalways to pe calling
him some paad name, so tat he shouldn't say she 'll be forgifing
him, whatever ta rest of tem might be toing. 'Put what troubles
me,' says he, 'it 'll not pe apout myself at aall.'--'Tat 'll
pe a wonter,' says her nain sel': 'and what may it pe apout, you
cuttroat?'--'It 'll pe apout yourself,' says he. 'Apout herself?'
--'Yes; apout yourself' says he. 'I'm sorry for you--for ta ting
tat's to pe tone with him tat killed a man aal pecaase he pore my
name, and he wasn't a son of mine at aall! Tere is no pot in hell
teep enough to put him in!'--'Ten tey must make haste and tig
one,' says herself; 'for she 'll pe hangt in a tay or two.'--So
she 'll wake up, and beholt it was a tream!"

"An' no sic an ill dream efter a', daddy!" said Malcolm.

"Not an efil tream, my son, when it makes her aalmost wish that
she hadn't peen quite killing ta tog! Last night she would haf made
a puoy of his skin like any other tog's skin, and totay--no, my
son, it wass a fery efil tream. And to be tolt tat ta creat tefil,
Clenlyon herself, was not fery much tamned!--it wass a fery efil
tream, my son."

"Weel, daddy--maybe ye 'll tak it for ill news, but ye killed
naebody."

"Tid she'll not trive her turk into ta tog?" cried Duncan fiercely.
"Och hone! och hone!--Then she 's ashamed of herself for efer,
when she might have tone it. And it 'll hafe to be tone yet!"

He paused a few moments, and then resumed:

"And she'll not pe coing to be hangt?--Maype tat will pe petter,
for you wouldn't hafe liket to see your olt cranfather to pe hangt,
Malcolm, my son. Not tat she would hafe minted it herself in such
a coot caause, Malcolm! Put she tidn't pe fery happy after she
tid think she had tone it, for you see he wasn't ta fery man his
ownself, and tat must pe counted. But she tid kill something: what
was it, Malcolm?"

"Ye sent a gran' dish fleein'," answered Malcolm. "I s' warran' it
cost a poun', to jeedge by the gowd upo' 't."

"She'll hear a noise of preaking; put she tid stap something soft."

"Ye stack yer durk intill my lord's mahogany table," said Malcolm.
"It nott (needed) a guid rug (pull) to haul't oot."

"Then her arm has not lost aal its strength, Malcolm! I pray ta
taple had peen ta rips of Clenlyon!"

"Ye maunna pray nae sic prayers, daddy. Min' upo' what Glenlyon said
to ye last nicht. Gien I was you I wadna hae a pot howkit express
for mysel'--doon yonner--i' yon place 'at ye dreamed aboot."

"Well, I'll forgife him a little, Malcolm--not ta one tat's
tead, but ta one tat tidn't do it, you know.--Put how will she
pe forgifing him for ripping her poor pag? Och hone! och hone!
No more musics for her tying tays, Malcolm! Och hone! och hone! I
shall co creeping to ta crafe with no loud noises to defy ta enemy.
Her pipes is tumb for efer and efer. Och hone! och hone!"

The lengthening of his days had restored bitterness to his loss.

"I'll sune set the bag richt, daddy. Or, gien I canna du that,
we'll get a new ane. Mony a pibroch 'll come skirlin' oot o' that
chanter yet er' a' be dune."

They were interrupted by the unceremonious entrance of the same
footman who had brought the invitation. He carried a magnificent
set of ebony pipes, with silver mountings.

"A present from my lord, the marquis," he said bumptiously, almost
rudely, and laid them on the table.

"Dinna lay them there; tak them frae that, or I'll fling them yer
poothered wig," said Malcolm. "--It's a stan' o' pipes," he added,
"an' that a gran' ane, daddy."

"Take tem away!" cried the old man, in a voice too feeble to support
the load of indignation it bore. "She'll pe taking no presents from
marquis or tuke tat would pe teceifing old Tuncan, and making him
trink with ta cursed Clenlyon. Tell ta marquis he 'll pe sending
her cray hairs with sorrow to ta crafe; for she 'll pe tishonoured
for efer and henceforth."

Probably pleased to be the bearer of a message fraught with so much
amusement, the man departed in silence with the pipes.

The marquis, although the joke had threatened, and indeed so far
taken a serious turn, had yet been thoroughly satisfied with its
success. The rage of the old man had been to his eyes ludicrous
in the extreme, and the anger of the young one so manly as to be
even picturesque. He had even made a resolve, half dreamy and of
altogether improbable execution, to do something for the fisher
fellow.

The pipes which he had sent as a solatium to Duncan, were a set
that belonged to the house--ancient, and in the eyes of either
connoisseur or antiquarian, exceedingly valuable; but the marquis
was neither the one nor the other, and did not in the least mind
parting with them. As little did he doubt a propitiation through
their means, was utterly unprepared for a refusal of his gift, and
was nearly as much perplexed as annoyed thereat.

For one thing, he could not understand such offence taken by one
in Duncan's lowly position; for although he had plenty of highland
blood in his own veins, he had never lived in the Highlands, and
understood nothing of the habits or feelings of the Gael. What was
noble in him, however, did feel somewhat rebuked, and he was even
a little sorry at having raised a barrier between himself and the
manly young fisherman, to whom he had taken a sort of liking from
the first.

Of the ladies in the drawing room, to whom he had recounted the
vastly amusing joke with all the graphic delineation for which he
had been admired at court, none, although they all laughed, had
appeared to enjoy the bad recital thoroughly, except the bold faced
countess. Lady Florimel regarded the affair as undignified at the
best, was sorry for the old man, who must be mad, she thought,
and was pleased only with the praises of her squire of low degree.
The wound in his hand the marquis either thought too trifling to
mention, or serious enough to have clouded the clear sky of frolic
under which he desired the whole transaction to be viewed.

They were seated at their late breakfast when the lackey passed
the window on his return from his unsuccessful mission, and the
marquis happened to see him, carrying the rejected pipes. He sent
for him, and heard his report, then with a quick nod dismissed him
--his way when angry, and sat silent.

"Wasn't it spirited--in such poor people too?" said Lady Florimel,
the colour rising in her face, and her eyes sparkling.

"It was damned impudent," said the marquis.

"I think it was damned dignified," said Lady Florimel.

The marquis stared. The visitors, after a momentary silence, burst
into a great laugh.

"I wanted to see," said Lady Florimel calmly, "whether I couldn't
swear if I tried. I don't think it tastes nice. I shan't take to
it, I think."

"You'd better not in my presence, my lady," said the marquis, his
eyes sparkling with fun.

"I shall certainly not do it out of your presence, my lord," she
returned. "--Now I think of it," she went on, "I know what I will
do: every time you say a bad word in my presence, I shall say it
after you. I shan't mind who's there--parson or magistrate. Now
you'll see."

"You will get into the habit of it."

"Except you get out of the habit of it first, papa," said the girl,
laughing merrily.

"You confounded little Amazon!" said her father.

"But what's to be done about those confounded pipes?" she resumed.
"You can't allow such people to serve you so! Return your presents,
indeed! Suppose I undertake the business?"

"By all means. What will you do?"

"Make them take them, of course. It would be quite horrible never
to be quits with the old lunatic."

"As you please, puss."

"Then you put yourself in my hands, papa?"

"Yes; only you must mind what you're about, you know."

"That I will, and make them mind too," she answered, and the subject
was dropped.

Lady Florimel counted upon her influence with Malcolm, and his
again with his grandfather; but careful of her dignity, she would
not make direct advances; she would wait an opportunity of speaking
to him. But, although she visited the sand hill almost every
morning, an opportunity was not afforded her. Meanwhile, the state
of Duncan's bag and of Malcolm's hand forbidding, neither pipes
were played nor gun was fired to arouse marquis or burgess. When
a fortnight had thus passed, Lady Florimel grew anxious concerning
the justification of her boast, and the more so that her father
seemed to avoid all reference to it.



CHAPTER XXI: MEDIATION


At length it was clear to Lady Florimel that if her father had not
forgotten her undertaking, but was, as she believed, expecting from
her some able stroke of diplomacy, it was high time that something
should be done to save her credit. Nor did she forget that the
unpiped silence of the royal burgh was the memento of a practical
joke of her father, so cruel that a piper would not accept the
handsome propitiation offered on its account by a marquis.

On a lovely evening, therefore, the sunlight lying slant on waters
that heaved and sunk in a flowing tide, now catching the gold on
lifted crests, now losing it in purple hollows, Lady Florimel found
herself for the first time, walking from the lower gate towards
the Seaton. Rounding the west end of the village, she came to the
sea front, where, encountering a group of children, she requested
to be shown the blind piper's cottage. Ten of them started at once
to lead the way, and she was presently knocking at the half open
door, through which she could not help seeing the two at their
supper of dry oat cake and still drier skim milk cheese, with a
jug of cold water to wash it down. Neither, having just left the
gentlemen at their wine, could she help feeling the contrast between
the dinner just over at the House and the meal she now beheld.

At the sound of her knock, Malcolm, who was seated with his back
to the door, rose to answer the appeal;--the moment he saw her,
the blood rose from his heart to his cheek in similar response.
He opened the door wide, and in low, something tremulous tones,
invited her to enter; then caught up a chair, dusted it with his
bonnet, and placed it for her by the window, where a red ray of
the setting sun fell on a huge flowered hydrangea. Her quick eye
caught sight of his bound up hand.

"How have you hurt your hand?" she asked kindly.

Malcolm made signs that prayed for silence, and pointed to his
grandfather. But it was too late.

"Hurt your hand, Malcolm, my son," cried Duncan, with surprise
and anxiety mingled. "How will you pe toing tat?"

"Here's a bonny yoong leddy come to see ye, daddy," said Malcolm,
seeking to turn the question aside.

"She'll pe fery clad to see ta ponny young laty, and she's creatly
obleeched for ta honour: put if ta ponny young laty will pe excusing
her--what'll pe hurting your hand, Malcolm!"

"I'll tell ye efterhin, daddy. This is my Leddy Florimel, frae the
Hoose."

"Hm!" said Duncan, the pain of his insult keenly renewed by the
mere mention of the scene of it. "Put," he went on, continuing
aloud the reflections of a moment of silence, "she'll pe a laty,
and it's not to pe laid to her charch. Sit town, my laty. Ta poor
place is your own."

But Lady Florimel was already seated, and busy in her mind as
to how she could best enter on the object of her visit. The piper
sat silent, revolving a painful suspicion with regard to Malcolm's
hurt.

"So you won't forgive my father, Mr MacPhail?" said Lady Florimel.

"She would forgife any man put two men," he answered, "--Clenlyon,
and ta man, whoefer he might pe, who would put upon her ta tiscrace
of trinking in his company."

"But you're quite mistaken," said Lady Florimel, in a pleading
tone. "I don't believe my father knows the gentleman you speak of."

"Chentleman!" echoed Duncan. "He is a tog!--No, he is no tog:
togs is coot. He is a mongrel of a fox and a volf!"

"There was no Campbell at our table that evening," persisted Lady
Florimel.

"Ten who tolt Tuncan MacPhail a lie!"

"It was nothing but a joke--indeed!" said the girl, beginning to
feel humiliated.

"It wass a paad choke, and might have peen ta hanging of poor
Tuncan," said the piper.

Now Lady Florimel had heard a rumour of some one having been, hurt
in the affair of the joke, and her quick wits instantly brought
that and Malcolm's hand together.

"It might have been," she said, risking a miss for the advantage.
"It was well that you hurt nobody but your own grandson."

"Oh, my leddy!" cried Malcolm with despairing remonstrance; "--an'
me haudin' 't frae him a' this time! Ye sud ha' considert an auld
man's feelin's! He's as blin' 's a mole, my leddy!"

"His feelings!" retorted the girl angrily. "He ought to know the
mischief he does in his foolish rages."

Duncan had risen, and was now feeling his way across the room.
Having reached his grandson, he laid hold of his head and pressed
it to his bosom.

"Malcolm!" he said, in a broken and hollow voice, not to be recognized
as his, "Malcolm, my eagle of the crag! my hart of the heather!
was it yourself she stapped with her efil hand, my son? Tid she'll
pe hurting her own poy!--She'll nefer wear turk more. Och hone!
Och hone!"

He turned, and, with bowed head seeking his chair, seated himself
and wept.

Lady Florimel's anger vanished. She was by his side in a moment,
with her lovely young hand on the bony expanse of his, as it covered
his face. On the other side, Malcolm laid his lips to his ear, and
whispered with soothing expostulation,--

"It's maist as weel 's ever daddy. It's nane the waur. It was but
a bit o' a scart. It's nae worth twise thinkin' o'."

"Ta turk went trough it, Malcolm! It went into ta table! She knows
now! O Malcolm! Malcolm! would to Cod she had killed herself pefore
she hurted her poy!"

He made Malcolm sit down beside him, and taking the wounded hand
in both of his, sunk into a deep silence, utterly forgetful of the
presence of Lady Florimel, who retired to her chair, kept silence
also, and waited.

"It was not a coot choke," he murmured at length, "upon an honest
man, and might pe calling herself a chentleman. A rache is not a
choke. To put her in a rache was not coot. See to it. And it was
a ferry paad choke, too, to make a pig hole in her poor pag! Och
hone! och hone!--Put I'm clad Clenlyon was not there, for she
was too plind to kill him."

"But you will surely forgive my father, when he wants to make it
up! Those pipes have been in the family for hundreds of years,"
said Florimel.

"Her own pipes has peen in her own family for five or six chenerations
at least," said Duncan. "--And she was wondering why her poy tidn't
pe mending her pag! My poor poy! Och hone! Och hone!"

"We'll get a new bag, daddy," said Malcolm. "It's been lang past
men'in' wi' auld age."

"And then you will be able to play together," urged Lady Florimel.

Duncan's resolution was visibly shaken by the suggestion. He pondered
for a while. At last he opened his mouth solemnly, and said, with
the air of one who had found a way out of a hitherto impassable
jungle of difficulty:

"If her lord marquis will come to Tuncan's house, and say to Tuncan
it was put a choke and he is sorry for it, then Tuncan will shake
hands with ta marquis, and take ta pipes."

A smile of pleasure lighted up Malcolm's face at the proud proposal.
Lady Florimel smiled also, but with amusement.

"Will my laty take Tuncan's message to my lord, ta marquis?" asked
the old man.

Now Lady Florimel had inherited her father's joy in teasing; and the
thought of carrying him such an overture was irresistibly delightful.

"I will take it," she said. "But what if he should be angry?"

"If her lord pe angry, Tuncan is angry too," answered the piper.

Malcolm followed Lady Florimel to the door.

"Put it as saft as ye can, my leddy," he whispered. "I canna bide
to anger fowk mair than maun be."

"I shall give the message precisely as your grandfather gave it to
me," said Florimel, and walked away.

While they sat at dinner the next evening, she told her father
from the head of the table, all about her visit to the piper, and
ended with the announcement of the condition--word for word--
on which the old man would consent to a reconciliation.

Could such a proposal have come from an equal whom he had insulted,
the marquis would hardly have waited for a challenge: to have done
a wrong was nothing; to confess it would be disgrace. But here the
offended party was of such ludicrously low condition, and the proposal
therefore so ridiculous, that it struck the marquis merely as a
yet more amusing prolongation of the joke. Hence his reception of
it was with uproarious laughter, in which all his visitors joined.

"Damn the old windbag!" said the marquis.

"Damn the knife that made the mischief," said Lady Florimel.

When the merriment had somewhat subsided, Lord Meikleham, the youth
of soldierly aspect, would have proposed whipping the highland
beggar, he said, were it not for the probability the old clothes
horse would fall to pieces; whereupon Lady Florimel recommended him
to try it on the young fisherman, who might possibly hold together;
whereat the young lord looked both mortified and spiteful.

I believe some compunction, perhaps even admiration, mingled itself,
in this case, with Lord Lossie's relish of an odd and amusing
situation, and that he was inclined to compliance with the conditions
of atonement, partly for the sake of mollifying the wounded spirit
of the highlander. He turned to his daughter and said,--

"Did you fix an hour, Flory, for your poor father to make amende
honorable?"

"No, papa; I did not go so far as that."

The marquis kept a few moments' grave silence.

"Your lordship is surely not meditating such a solecism?" said Mr
Morrison, the justice laird.

"Indeed I am," said the marquis.

"It would be too great a condescension," said Mr Cavins; "and your
lordship will permit me to doubt the wisdom of it. These fishermen
form a class by themselves; they are a rough set of men, and only
too ready to despise authority. You will not only injure the prestige
of your rank, my lord, but expose yourself to endless imposition."

"The spirit moves me, and we are commanded not to quench the
spirit," rejoined the marquis with a merry laugh, little thinking
that he was actually describing what was going on in him-that the
spirit of good concerning which he jested, was indeed not working
in him, but gaining on him, in his resolution of that moment.

"Come, Flory," said the marquis, to whom it gave a distinct pleasure
to fly in the face of advice, "we'll go at once, and have it over."

So they set out together for the Seaton, followed by the bagpipes,
carried by the same servant as before, and were received by the
overjoyed Malcolm, and ushered into his grandfather's presence.

Whatever may have been the projected attitude of the marquis, the
moment he stood on the piper's floor, the generous, that is the
gentleman, in him, got the upper hand, and his behaviour to the
old man was not polite merely, but respectful. At no period in the
last twenty years had he been so nigh the kingdom of heaven as he
was now when making his peace with the blind piper.

When Duncan heard his voice, he rose with dignity and made a
stride or two towards the door, stretching forth his long arm to
its full length, and spreading wide his great hand with the brown
palm upwards:

"Her nainsel will pe proud to see my lord ta marquis under her
roof;" he said.

The visit itself had already sufficed to banish all resentment from
his soul.

The marquis took the proffered hand kindly:

"I have come to apologise," he said.

"Not one vord more, my lort, I peg," interrupted Duncan. "My lort
is come, out of his cootness, to pring her a creat kift; for he'll
pe hearing of ta sad accident which pefell her poor pipes one
efening lately. Tey was ferry old, my lort, and easily hurt."

"I am sorry--" said the marquis--but again Duncan interrupted
him.

"I am clad, my lort," he said, "for it prings me ta creat choy.
If my lady and your lordship will honour her poor house py sitting
town, she will haf ta pleasure of pe offering tem a little music."

His hospitality would give them of the best he had; but ere the
entertainment was over, the marquis judged himself more than fairly
punished by the pipes for all the wrong he had done the piper.

They sat down, and, at a sign from his lordship, the servant placed
his charge in Duncan's hands, and retired. The piper received the
instrument with a proud gesture of gratification, felt it all over,
screwed at this and that for a moment, then filled the great bag
gloriously full. The next instant a scream invaded the astonished
air fit to rival the skirl produced by the towzie tyke of Kirk
Alloway; another instant, and the piper was on his legs, as full
of pleasure and pride as his bag of wind, strutting up and down
the narrow chamber like a turkey cock before his hens, and turning
ever, after precisely so many strides, with a grand gesture and
mighty sweep, as if he too had a glorious tail to mind, and was
bound to keep it ceaselessly quivering to the tremor of the reed
in the throat of his chanter.

Malcolm, erect behind their visitors, gazed with admiring eyes
at every motion of his grandfather. To one who had from earliest
infancy looked up to him with reverence, there was nothing
ridiculous in the display, in the strut, in all that to other eyes
too evidently revealed the vanity of the piper: Malcolm regarded
it all only as making up the orthodox mode of playing the pipes.
It was indeed well that he could not see the expression upon the
faces of those behind whose chairs he stood, while for moments that
must have seemed minutes, they succumbed to the wild uproar which
issued from those splendid pipes. On an opposite hillside, with a
valley between, it would have sounded poetic; in a charging regiment,
none could have wished for more inspiriting battle strains; even in
a great hall, inspiring and guiding the merry reel, it might have
been in place and welcome; but in a room of ten feet by twelve,
with a wooden ceiling, acting like a drumhead, at the height of
seven feet and a half!--It was little below torture to the marquis
and Lady Florimel. Simultaneously they rose to make their escape.

"My lord an' my leddy maun be gauin', daddy," cried Malcolm.

Absorbed in the sound which his lungs created and his fingers
modulated, the piper had forgotten all about his visitors; but the
moment his grandson's voice reached him, the tumult ceased; he took
the port vent from his lips, and with sightless eyes turned full
on Lord Lossie, said in a low earnest voice,--

"My lort, she 'll pe ta craandest staand o' pipes she efer blew,
and proud and thankful she'll pe to her lort marquis, and to ta Lort
of lorts, for ta kift. Ta pipes shall co town from cheneration to
cheneration to ta ent of time; yes, my lort, until ta loud cry of
tem pe trownt in ta roar of ta trump of ta creat archanchel, when
he'll pe setting one foot on ta laand and ta other foot upon ta
sea, and Clenlyon shall pe cast into ta lake of fire."

He ended with a low bow. They shook hands with him, thanked him for
his music, wished him goodnight, and, with a kind nod to Malcolm,
left the cottage.

Duncan resumed his playing the moment they were out of the house,
and Malcolm, satisfied of his well being for a couple of hours at
least--he had been music starved so long, went also out, in quest
of a little solitude.



CHAPTER XXII: WHENCE AND WHITHER?


He wandered along the shore on the land side of the mound, with a
favourite old book of Scottish ballads in his hand, every now and
then stooping to gather a sea anemone--a white flower something
like a wild geranium, with a faint sweet smell, or a small, short
stalked harebell, or a red daisy, as large as a small primrose; for
along the coast there, on cliff or in sand, on rock or in field,
the daisies are remarkable for size, and often not merely tipped,
but dyed throughout with a deep red.

He had gathered a bunch of the finest, and had thrown himself down
on the side of the dune, whence, as he lay, only the high road, the
park wall, the temple of the winds, and the blue sky were visible.
The vast sea, for all the eye could tell, was nowhere--not a
ripple of it was to be seen, but the ear was filled with the night
gush and flow of it. A sweet wind was blowing, hardly blowing,
rather gliding, like a slumbering river, from the west. The sun
had vanished, leaving a ruin of gold and rose behind him, gradually
fading into dull orange and lead and blue sky and stars. There was
light enough to read by, but he never opened his book. He was thinking
over something Mr Graham had said to him a few days before, namely,
that all impatience of monotony, all weariness of best things even,
are but signs of the eternity of our nature--the broken human
fashions of the divine everlastingness.

"I dinna ken whaur it comes frae," said a voice above him.

He looked up. On the ridge of the mound, the whole of his dwarfed
form relieved against the sky and looking large in the twilight,
stood the mad laird, reaching out his forehead towards the west
with his arms expanded as if to meet the ever coming wind.

"Naebody kens whaur the win' comes frae, or whaur it gangs till,"
said Malcolm. "Ye're no a hair waur aff nor ither fowk, there,
laird."

"Does't come frae a guid place, or frae an ill?" said the laird,
doubtingly.

"It's saft an' kin'ly i' the fin' o' 't," returned Malcolm suggestively,
rising and joining the laird on the top of the dune, and like him
spreading himself out to the western air.

The twilight had deepened, merging into such night as the summer
in that region knows--a sweet pale memory of the past day. The
sky was full of sparkles of pale gold in a fathomless blue; there
was no moon; the darker sea lay quiet below, with only a murmur
about its lip, and fitfully reflected the stars. The soft wind kept
softly blowing. Behind them shone a light at the harbour's mouth,
and a twinkling was here and there visible in the town above; but
all was as still as if there were no life save in the wind and the
sea and the stars. The whole feeling was as if something had been
finished in heaven, and the outmost ripples of the following rest
had overflowed and were now pulsing faintly and dreamily across
the bosom of the labouring earth, with feeblest suggestion of the
mighty peace beyond. Alas, words can do so little! even such a
night is infinite.

"Ay," answered the laird; "but it maks me dowfart (melancholy)
like, i' the inside."

"Some o' the best things does that," said Malcolm. "I think a kiss
frae my mither wad gar me greet."

He knew the laird's peculiarities well; but in the thought of his
mother had forgotten the antipathy of his companion to the word.
Stewart gave a moaning cry, put his fingers in his ears, and glided
down the slope of the dune seawards.

Malcolm was greatly distressed. He had a regard for the laird far
beyond pity, and could not bear the thought of having inadvertently
caused him pain. But he dared not follow him, for that would be but
to heighten the anguish of the tortured mind and the suffering of
the sickly frame; for, when pursued, he would accomplish a short
distance at an incredible speed, then drop suddenly and lie like one
dead. Malcolm, therefore, threw off his heavy boots, and starting
at full speed along the other side of the dune, made for the bored
craig; his object being to outrun the laird without being seen by
him, and so, doubling the rock, return with leisurely steps, and
meet him. Sweetly the west wind whistled about his head as he ran.
In a few moments he had rounded the rock, towards which the laird
was still running, but now more slowly. The tide was high and came
near its foot, leaving but a few yards of passage between, in which
space they approached each other, Malcolm with sauntering step
as if strolling homewards. Lifting his bonnet, a token of respect
he never omitted when he met the mad laird, he stood aside in the
narrow way. Mr Stewart stopped abruptly, took his fingers from his
ears, and stared in perplexity.

"It's a richt bonny nicht, laird," said Malcolm.

The poor fellow looked hurriedly behind him, then stared again,
then made gestures backward, and next pointed at Malcolm with rapid
pokes of his forefinger. Bewilderment had brought on the impediment
in his speech, and all Malcolm could distinguish in the babbling
efforts at utterance which followed, were the words,--"Twa o'
them! Twa o' them! Twa o' them!" often and hurriedly repeated.

"It's a fine, saft sleekit win,' laird," said Malcolm, as if they
were meeting for the first time that night. "I think it maun come
frae the blue there, ayont the stars. There's a heap o' wonnerfu'
things there, they tell me; an' whiles a strokin win' an' whiles
a rosy smell, an' whiles a bricht licht, an' whiles, they say, an
auld yearnin' sang, 'ill brak oot, an' wanner awa doon, an' gang
flittin' an' fleein' amang the sair herts o' the men an' women fowk
'at canna get things putten richt."

"I think there are two fools of them!" said the marquis, referring
to the words of the laird.

He was seated with Lady Florimel on the town side of the rock,
hidden from them by one sharp corner. They had seen the mad laird
coming, and had recognised Malcolm's voice.

"I dinna ken whaur I come frae," burst from the laird, the word
whaur drawn out and emphasized almost to a howl; and as he spoke he
moved on again, but gently now, towards the rocks of the Scaurnose.
Anxious to get him thoroughly soothed before they parted, Malcolm
accompanied him. They walked a little way side by side in silence,
the laird every now and then heaving his head like a fretted horse
towards the sky, as if he sought to shake the heavy burden from his
back, straighten out his poor twisted spine, and stand erect like
his companion:

"Ay!" Malcolm began again, as if he had in the meantime been thinking
over the question, and was now assured upon it, "--the win' maun
come frae yont the stars; for dinna ye min', laird? Ye was at the
kirk last Sunday--wasna ye?"

The laird nodded an affirmative, and Malcolm went on.

"An' didna ye hear the minister read frae the buik 'at hoo ilka
guid an' ilka perfit gift was frae abune, an' cam frae the Father
o' lichts?"

"Father o' lichts!" repeated the laird, and looked up at the stars.
"I dinna ken whaur I cam frae. I hae nae father. I hae only a ...
I hae only a wuman."

The moment he had said the word, he began to move his head from
side to side like a scared animal seeking where to conceal itself.

"The Father o' lichts is your father an' mine--The Father o' a'
o' 's," said Malcolm.

"O' a' guid fowk, I daursay," said the laird, with a deep and
quivering sigh.

"Mr Graham says--o' a'body," returned Malcolm, "guid an' ill;
--o' the guid to haud them guid an' mak them better--o' the ill
to mak them guid."

"Eh! gien that war true!" said the laird.

They walked on in silence for a minute. All at once the laird threw
up his hands, and fell flat on his face on the sand, his poor hump
rising skywards above his head. Malcolm thought he had been seized
with one of the fits to which he was subject, and knelt down beside
him, to see if he could do anything for him. Then he found he was
praying: he heard him--he could but just hear him--murmuring over
and over, all but inaudibly, "Father o' lichts! Father o' lichts!
Father o' lichts!" It seemed as if no other word dared mingle itself
with that cry. Maniac or not--the mood of the man was supremely
sane, and altogether too sacred to disturb. Malcolm retreated
a little way, sat down in the sand and watched beside him. It was
a solemn time--the full tide lapping up on the long yellow sand
from the wide sea darkening out to the dim horizon: the gentle
wind blowing through the molten darkness; overhead, the great vault
without arch or keystone, of dim liquid blue, and sown with worlds
so far removed they could only shine; and, on the shore, the centre
of all the cosmic order, a misshapen heap of man, a tumulus in which
lay buried a live and lovely soul! The one pillar of its chapter
house had given way, and the downrushing ruin had so crushed
and distorted it, that thenceforth until some resurrection should
arrive, disorder and misshape must appear to it the law of the
universe, and loveliness but the passing dream of a brain glad to
deceive its own misery, and so to fancy it had received from above
what it had itself generated of its own poverty from below. To
the mind's eye of Malcolm, the little hump on the sand was heaved
to the stars, higher than ever Roman tomb or Egyptian pyramid,
in silent appeal to the sweet heavens, a dumb prayer for pity, a
visible groan for the resurrection of the body. For a few minutes
he sat as still as the prostrate laird.

But bethinking himself that his grandfather would not go to bed until
he went back, also that the laird was in no danger, as the tide
was now receding, he resolved to go and get the old man to bed,
and then return. For somehow he felt in his heart that he ought
not to leave him alone. He could not enter into his strife to aid
him, or come near him in any closer way than watching by his side
until his morning dawned, or at least the waters of his flood
assuaged, yet what he could he must: he would wake with him in his
conflict.

He rose and ran for the bored craig, through which lay the straight
line to his abandoned boots.

As he approached the rock, he heard the voices of Lord Lossie
and Lady Florimel, who, although the one had not yet verified her
being, the other had almost ruined his, were nevertheless enjoying
the same thing, the sweetness of the night, together. Not hearing
Malcolm's approach, they went on talking, and as he was passing
swiftly through the bore, he heard these words from the marquis,
--"The world's an ill baked cake, Flory, and all that a woman, at
least, can do, is to cut as large a piece of it as possible, for
immediate use."

The remark being a general one, Malcolm cannot be much blamed if
he stood with one foot lifted to hear Florimel's reply.

"If it 's an ill baked one, papa," she returned, "I think it would
be better to cut as small a piece of it as will serve for immediate
use."

Malcolm was delighted with her answer, never thinking whether it
came from her head or her heart, for the two were at one in himself.

As soon as he appeared on the other side of the rock, the marquis
challenged him: "Who goes there?" he said.

"Malcolm MacPhail, my lord."

"You rascal!" said his lordship, good humouredly; "you've been
listening!"

"No muckle, my lord. I heard but a word apiece. An' I maun say my
leddy had the best o' the loagic."

"My lady generally has, I suspect," laughed the marquis. "How long
have you been in the rock there?"

"No ae meenute, my lord. I flang aff my butes to rin efter a
freen', an' that's hoo ye didna hear me come up. I'm gaein' efter
them noo, to gang hame i' them. Guid nicht, my lord. Guid nicht,
my leddy."

He turned and pursued his way; but Florimel's face, glimmering
through the night, went with him as he ran.

He told his grandfather how he had left the mad laird lying on his
face, on the sands between the bored craig and the rocks of the
promontory, and said he would like to go back to him.

"He'll be hafing a fit, poor man," said Duncan. "Yes, my son, you
must co to him and to your pest for him. After such an honour as
we 'fe had this day, we mustn't pe forgetting our poor neighpours.
Will you pe taking to him a trop of uisgebeatha?"

"He taks naething o' that kin'," said Malcolm.

He could not tell him that the madman, as men called him, lay
wrestling in prayer with the Father of lights. The old highlander
was not irreverent, but the thing would have been unintelligible
to him. He could readily have believed that the supposed lunatic
might be favoured beyond ordinary mortals; that at that very moment,
lost in his fit, he might be rapt in a vision of the future--a
wave of time, far off as yet from the souls of other men, even now
rolling over his; but that a soul should seek after vital content by
contact with its maker, was an idea belonging to a region which,
in the highlander's being, lay as yet an unwatered desert, an
undiscovered land, whence even no faintest odour had been wafted
across the still air of surprised contemplation.

About the time when Malcolm once more sped through the bored craig,
the marquis and Lady Florimel were walking through the tunnel on
their way home, chatting about a great ball they were going to give
the tenants.

He found the laird where he had left him, and thought at first he
must now surely be asleep; but once more bending over him, he could
hear him still murmuring at intervals, "Father o' lichts! Father
o' lichts!"

Not less compassionate, and more sympathetic than Eliphaz or Bildad
or Zophar, Malcolm again took his place near him, and sat watching
by him until the gray dawn began in the east. Then all at once the
laird rose to his feet, and without a look on either side walked
steadily away towards the promontory. Malcolm rose also, and gazed
after him until he vanished amongst the rocks, no motion of his
distorted frame witnessing other than calmness of spirit. So his
watcher returned in peace through the cool morning air to the side
of his slumbering grandfather.

No one in the Seaton of Portlossie ever dreamed of locking door or
window at night.



CHAPTER XXIII: ARMAGEDDON


The home season of the herring fishery was to commence a few days
after the occurrences last recorded. The boats had all returned
from other stations, and the little harbour was one crowd of stumpy
masts, each with its halliard, the sole cordage visible, rove
through the top of it, for the hoisting of a lug sail, tanned to
a rich red brown. From this underwood towered aloft the masts of
a coasting schooner, discharging its load of coal at the little
quay. Other boats lay drawn up on the beach in front of the Seaton,
and beyond it on the other side of the burn. Men and women were
busy with the brown nets, laying them out on the short grass of
the shore, mending them with netting needles like small shuttles,
carrying huge burdens of them on their shoulders in the hot sunlight;
others were mending, calking, or tarring their boats, and looking
to their various fittings. All was preparation for the new venture
in their own waters, and everything went merrily and hopefully.
Wives who had not accompanied their husbands now had them home
again, and their anxieties would henceforth endure but for a night
--joy would come with the red sails in the morning, lovers were
once more together, the one great dread broken into a hundred
little questioning fears; mothers had their sons again, to watch
with loving eyes as they swung their slow limbs at their labour, or
in the evenings sauntered about, hands in pockets, pipe in mouth,
and blue bonnet cast carelessly on the head: it was almost a single
family, bound together by a network of intermarriages, so intricate
as to render it impossible for any one who did not belong to the
community to follow the threads or read the design of the social
tracery.

And while the Seaton swarmed with "the goings on of life," the town
of Portlossie lay above it still as a country hamlet, with more
odours than people about: of people it was seldom indeed that three
were to be spied at once in the wide street, while of odours you
would always encounter a smell of leather from the saddler's shop,
and a mingled message of bacon and cheese from the very general
dealer's--in whose window hung what seemed three hams, and only
he who looked twice would discover that the middle object was
no ham, but a violin--while at every corner lurked a scent of
gillyflowers and southernwood. Idly supreme, Portlossie the upper
looked down in condescension, that is in half concealed contempt,
on the ant heap below it.

The evening arrived on which the greater part of the boats was to
put off for the first assay. Malcolm would have made one in the
little fleet, for he belonged to his friend Joseph Mair's crew,
had it not been found impossible to get the new boat ready before
the following evening; whence, for this one more, he was still his
own master, with one more chance of a pleasure for which he had
been on the watch ever since Lady Florimel had spoken of having a
row in his boat. True, it was not often she appeared on the shore
in the evening; nevertheless he kept watching the dune with his
keen eyes, for he had hinted to Mrs Courthope that perhaps her
young lady would like to see the boats go out.

Although it was the fiftieth time his eyes had swept the links in
vague hope, he could hardly believe their testimony when now at
length he spied a form, which could only be hers, looking seaward
from the slope, as still as a sphinx on Egyptian sands.

He sauntered slowly towards her by the landward side of the dune,
gathering on his way a handful of the reddest daisies he could
find; then, ascending the sandhill, approached her along the top.

"Saw ye ever sic gowans in yer life, my leddy?" he said, holding
out his posy.

"Is that what you call them?" she returned.

"Ow ay, my leddy--daisies ye ca' them. I dinna ken but yours is
the bonnier name o' the twa--gien it be what Mr Graham tells me
the auld poet Chaucer maks o' 't."

"What is that?"

"Ow, jist the een o' the day.--the day's eyes, ye ken. They're
sma' een for sic a great face, but syne there's a lot o' them to
mak up for that. They've begun to close a'ready, but the mair they
close the bonnier they luik, wi' their bits o' screwed up mooies
(little mouths). But saw ye ever sic reid anes, or ony sic a size,
my leddy?"

"I don't think I ever did. What is the reason they are so large
and red?"

"I dinna ken. There canna be muckle nourishment in sic a thin soil,
but there maun be something that agrees wi' them. It's the same a'
roon' aboot here."

Lady Florimel sat looking at the daisies, and Malcolm stood a few
yards off watching for the first of the red sails, which must soon
show themselves, creeping out on the ebb tide. Nor had he waited
long before a boat appeared, then another and another--six huge
oars, ponderous to toil withal, urging each from the shelter of
the harbour out into the wide weltering plain. The fishing boat of
that time was not decked as now, and each, with every lift of its
bows, revealed to their eyes a gaping hollow, ready, if a towering
billow should break above it, to be filled with sudden death.
One by one the whole fleet crept out, and ever as they gained the
breeze, up went the red sails, and filled: aside leaned every boat
from the wind, and went dancing away over the frolicking billows
towards the sunset, its sails, deep dyed in oak bark, shining redder
and redder in the growing redness of the sinking sun.

Nor did Portlossie alone send out her boats, like huge seabirds
warring on the live treasures of the deep; from beyond the headlands
east and west, out they glided on slow red wing,--from Scaurnose,
from Sandend, from Clamrock, from the villages all along the coast,
--spreading as they came, each to its work apart through all the
laborious night, to rejoin its fellows only as home drew them back
in the clear gray morning, laden and slow with the harvest of the
stars. But the night lay between, into which they were sailing
over waters of heaving green that for ever kept tossing up roses
--a night whose curtain was a horizon built up of steady blue, but
gorgeous with passing purple and crimson, and flashing with molten
gold.

Malcolm was not one of those to whom the sea is but a pond for fish,
and the sky a storehouse of wind and rain, sunshine and snow: he
stood for a moment gazing, lost in pleasure. Then he turned to Lady
Florimel: she had thrown her daisies on the sand, appeared to be
deep in her book, and certainly caught nothing of the splendour
before her beyond the red light on her page.

"Saw ye ever a bonnier sicht, my leddy?" said Malcolm.

She looked up, and saw, and gazed in silence. Her nature was full
of poetic possibilities; and now a formless thought foreshadowed
itself in a feeling she did not understand: why should such a
sight as this make her feel sad? The vital connection between joy
and effort had begun from afar to reveal itself with the question
she now uttered.

"What is it all for?" she asked dreamily, her eyes gazing out on
the calm ecstasy of colour, which seemed to have broken the bonds
of law, and ushered in a new chaos, fit matrix of new heavens and
new earth.

"To catch herrin'," answered Malcolm, ignorant of the mood that
prompted the question, and hence mistaking its purport.

But a falling doubt had troubled the waters of her soul, and through
the ripple she could descry it settling into form. She was silent
for a moment.

"I want to know," she resumed, "why it looks as if some great thing
were going on. Why is all this pomp and show? Something ought to
be at hand. All I see is the catching of a few miserable fish! If
it were the eve of a glorious battle now, I could understand it
--if those were the little English boats rushing to attack the
Spanish Armada, for instance. But they are only gone to catch fish.
Or if they were setting out to discover the Isles of the West, the
country beyond the sunset!--but this jars."

"I canna answer ye a' at ance, my leddy," said Malcolm; "I maun
tak time to think aboot it. But I ken brawly what ye mean." Even
as he spoke he withdrew, and, descending the mound, walked away
beyond the bored craig, regardless now of the far lessening sails
and the sinking sun. The motes of the twilight were multiplying fast
as he returned along the shore side of the dune, but Lady Florimel
had vanished from its crest. He ran to the top: thence, in the dim
of the twilight, he saw her slow retreating form, phantom-like,
almost at the grated door of the tunnel, which, like that of a
tomb, appeared ready to draw her in, and yield her no more.

"My leddy, my leddy," he cried, "winna ye bide for 't?"

He went bounding after her like a deer. She heard him call, and
stood holding the door half open.

"It's the battle o' Armageddon, my leddy," he cried, as he came
within hearing distance.

"The battle of what?" she exclaimed, bewildered. "I really can't
understand your savage Scotch."

"Hoot, my leddy! the battle o' Armageddon 's no ane o' the Scots
battles; it's the battle atween the richt and the wrang, 'at ye
read aboot i' the buik o' the Revelations."

"What on earth are you talking about?" returned Lady Florimel in
dismay, beginning to fear that her squire was losing his senses.

"It's jist what ye was sayin,' my leddy: sic a pomp as yon bude to
hing abune a gran' battle some gait or ither."

"What has the catching of fish to do with a battle in the Revelations?"
said the girl, moving a little within the door.

"Weel, my leddy, gien I took in han' to set it furth to ye, I wad
hae to tell ye a' that Mr Graham has been learnin' me sin ever I
can min.' He says 'at the whole economy o' natur is fashiont unco
like that o' the kingdom o' haven: its jist a gradation o' services,
an' the highest en' o' ony animal is to contreebute to the life o'
ane higher than itsel'; sae that it's the gran' preevilege o' the
fish we tak, to be aten by human bein's, an' uphaud what's abune
them."

"That's a poor consolation to the fish," said Lady Florimel.

"Hoo ken ye that, my leddy? Ye can tell nearhan' as little aboot
the hert o' a herrin'--sic as it has--as the herrin' can tell
aboot yer ain, whilk, I'm thinkin', maun be o' the lairgest size."

"How should you know anything about my heart, pray?" she asked,
with more amusement than offence.

"Jist by my ain," answered Malcolm.

Lady Florimel began to fear she must have allowed the fisher lad
more liberty than was proper, seeing he dared avow that he knew
the heart of a lady of her position by his own. But indeed Malcolm
was wrong, for in the scale of hearts, Lady Florimel's was far
below his. She stepped quite within the door, and was on the point
of shutting it, but something about the youth restrained her, exciting
at least her curiosity; his eyes glowed with a deep, quiet light,
and his face, even grand at the moment, had a greater influence
upon her than she knew. Instead therefore of interposing the door
between them, she only kept it poised, ready to fall to the moment
the sanity of the youth should become a hair's breadth more doubtful
than she already considered it.

"It's a' pairt o' ae thing, my leddy," Malcolm resumed. "The herrin
's like the fowk 'at cairries the mate an' the pooder an' sic like
for them 'at does the fechtin'. The hert o' the leevin' man's the
place whaur the battle's foucht, an' it's aye gaein' on an' on there
atween God an' Sawtan; an' the fish they haud fowk up till 't."

"Do you mean that the herrings help you to fight for God?" said
Lady Florimel with a superior smile.

"Aither for God or for the deevil, my leddy--that depen's upo'
the fowk themsel's. I say it hauds them up to fecht, an' the thing
maun be fouchten oot. Fowk to fecht maun live, an' the herrin'
hauds the life i' them, an' sae the catchin' o' the herrin' comes
in to be a pairt o' the battle."

"Wouldn't it be more sensible to say that the battle is between the
fishermen and the sea, for the sake of their wives and children?"
suggested Lady Florimel supremely.

"Na, my leddy, it wadna he half sae sensible, for it wadna justifee
the grandur that hings ower the fecht. The battle wi' the sea 's no
sae muckle o' an affair. An', 'deed, gien it warna that the wives
an' the verra weans hae themsel's to fecht i' the same battle o'
guid an' ill, I dinna see the muckle differ there wad be atween
them an' the fish, nor what for they sudna ate ane anither as the
craturs i' the watter du. But gien 't be the battle I say, there
can be no pomp o' sea or sky ower gran' for 't; an' it's a weel
waured (expended) gien it but haud the gude anes merry an' strong,
an' up to their work. For that, weel may the sun shine a celestial
rosy reid, an' weel may the boatie row, an' weel may the stars luik
doon, blinkin' an' luikin' again--ilk ane duin' its bonny pairt
to mak a man a richt hertit guid willed sodger!"

"And, pray, what may be your rank in this wonderful army?" asked
Lady Florimel, with the air and tone of one humouring a lunatic.

"I'm naething but a raw recruit, my leddy; but gien I hed my chice,
I wad be piper to my reg'ment."

"How do you mean?"

"I wad mak sangs. Dinna lauch at me, my leddy, for they're the best
kin' o' wapon for the wark 'at I ken. But I'm no a makar (poet),
an' maun content mysel' wi' duin' my wark."

"Then why," said Lady Florimel, with the conscious right of social
superiority to administer good counsel,--"why don't you work
harder, and get a better house, and wear better clothes?"

Malcolm's mind was so full of far other and weightier things that
the question bewildered him; but he grappled with the reference to
his clothes.

"'Deed, my leddy," he returned, "ye may weel say that, seein' ye
was never aboord a herrin' boat! but gien ye ance saw the inside
o' ane fu' o' fish, whaur a body gangs slidderin' aboot, maybe up
to the middle o' 's leg in wamlin' herrin,' an' the neist meenute,
maybe, weet to the skin wi' the splash o' a muckle jaw (wave), ye
micht think the claes guid eneuch for the wark--though ill fit,
I confess wi' shame, to come afore yer leddyship."

"I thought you only fished about close by the shore in a little
boat; I didn't know you went with the rest of the fishermen: that's
very dangerous work--isn't it?"

"No ower dangerous my leddy. There's some gangs doon ilka sizzon;
but it's a' i' the w'y o' yer wark."

"Then how is it you're not gone fishing tonight?"

"She's a new boat, an' there's anither day's wark on her afore we
win oot.--Wadna ye like a row the nicht, my leddy?"

"No, certainly; it's much too late."

"It'll be nane mirker nor 'tis; but I reckon ye're richt. I cam
ower by jist to see whether ye wadna like to gang wi' the boats a
bit; but yer leddyship set me aff thinkin' an' that pat it oot o'
my heid."

"It's too late now anyhow. Come tomorrow evening, and I'll see if
I can't go with you."

"I canna, my leddy--that's the fash o' 't! I maun gang wi' Blue
Peter the morn's nicht. It was my last chance, I'm sorry to say."

"It's not of the slightest consequence," Lady Florimel returned;
and, bidding him goodnight, she shut and locked the door.

The same instant she vanished, for the tunnel was now quite dark.
Malcolm turned with a sigh, and took his way slowly homeward along
the top of the dune. All was dim about him--dim in the heavens,
where a thin veil of gray had gathered over the blue; dim on
the ocean, where the stars swayed and swung, in faint flashes of
dissolving radiance, cast loose like ribbons of seaweed: dim all
along the shore, where the white of the breaking wavelet melted
into the yellow sand; and dim in his own heart, where the manner
and words of the lady had half hidden her starry reflex with a
chilling mist.



CHAPTER XXIV: THE FEAST


To the entertainment which the marquis and Lady Florimel had
resolved to give, all classes and conditions in the neighbourhood
now began to receive invitations--shopkeepers, there called
merchants, and all socially above them, individually, by notes, in
the name of the marquis and Lady Florimel, but in the handwriting
of Mrs Crathie and her daughters; and the rest generally, by the
sound of bagpipes, and proclamation from the lips of Duncan MacPhail.
To the satisfaction of Johnny Bykes the exclusion of improper
persons was left in the hands of the gatekeepers.

The thing had originated with the factor. The old popularity of
the lords of the land had vanished utterly during the life of the
marquis's brother, and Mr Crathie, being wise in his generation,
sought to initiate a revival of it by hinting the propriety of some
general hospitality, a suggestion which the marquis was anything but
loath to follow. For the present Lord Lossie, although as unready
as most men to part with anything he cared for, could yet cast
away magnificently, and had always greatly prized a reputation for
liberality.

For the sake of the fishermen, the first Saturday after the
commencement of the home fishing was appointed. The few serious
ones, mostly Methodists, objected on the ground of the proximity
of the Sunday; but their attitude was, if possible, of still less
consequence in the eyes of their neighbours that it was well known
they would in no case have accepted such an invitation.

The day dawned propitious. As early as five o'clock Mr Crathie was
abroad, booted and spurred--now directing the workmen who were
setting up tents and tables; now conferring with house steward,
butler, or cook; now mounting his horse and galloping off to the
home farm or the distillery, or into the town to the Lossie Arms,
where certain guests from a distance were to be accommodated, and
whose landlady had undertaken the superintendence of certain of the
victualling departments; for canny Mr Crathie would not willingly
have the meanest guest ask twice for anything he wanted--so
invaluable did he consider a good word from the humblest quarter
--and the best labours of the French cook, even had he reverenced
instead of despising Scotch dishes, would have ill sufficed for the
satisfaction of appetites critically appreciative of hotch potch,
sheep's head, haggis, and black puddings.

The neighbouring nobility and landed gentlemen, the professional
guests also, including the clergy, were to eat with the marquis
in the great hall. On the grass near the house, tents were erected
for the burgesses of the burgh, and the tenants of the marquis's
farms. I would have said on the lawn, but there was no lawn proper
about the place, the ground was so picturesquely broken--in
parts with all but precipices--and so crowded with trees. Hence
its aspect was specially unlike that of an English park and grounds.
The whole was Celtic, as distinguished in character from Saxon.
For the lake-like lawn, for the wide sweeps of airy room in which
expand the mighty boughs of solitary trees, for the filmy gray blue
distances, and the far off segments of horizon, here were the tree
crowded grass, the close windings of the long glen of the burn,
heavily overshadowed, and full of mystery and covert, but leading
at last to the widest vantage of outlook--the wild heathery hill
down which it drew its sharp furrow; while, in front of the house,
beyond hidden river, and plane of treetops, and far sunk shore with
its dune and its bored crag and its tortuous caves, lay the great
sea, a pouting under lip, met by the thin, reposeful--shall I
say sorrowful?--upper lip of the sky.

A bridge of stately span, level with the sweep in front, honourable
embodiment of the savings of a certain notable countess, one end
resting on the same rock with the house, their foundations almost
in contact, led across the burn to more and more trees, their
roots swathed in the finest grass, through which ran broad carriage
drives and narrower footways, hard and smooth with yellow gravel.
Here amongst the trees were set long tables for the fishermen,
mechanics, and farm labourers. Here also was the place appointed
for the piper.

As the hour drew near, the guests came trooping in at every entrance.
By the sea gate came the fisher folk, many of the men in the blue
jersey, the women mostly in short print gowns, of large patterns
--the married with huge, wide filled caps, and the unmarried with
their hair gathered in silken nets:--bonnets there were very
few. Each group that entered had a joke or a jibe for Johnny Bykes,
which he met in varying, but always surly fashion--in that of
utter silence in the case of Duncan and Malcolm, at which the former
was indignant, the latter merry. By the town gate came the people
of Portlossie. By the new main entrance from the high road beyond
the town, through lofty Greekish gates, came the lords and lairds,
in yellow coaches, gigs, and post chaises. By another gate, far up
the glen, came most of the country folk, some walking, some riding,
some driving, all merry, and with the best intentions of enjoying
themselves. As the common people approached the house, they were
directed to their different tables by the sexton, for he knew
everybody.

The marquis was early on the ground, going about amongst his guests,
and showing a friendly offhand courtesy which prejudiced every one
in his favour. Lady Florimel soon joined him, and a certain frank
way she inherited from her father, joined to the great beauty her
mother had given her, straightway won all hearts. She spoke to
Duncan with cordiality; the moment he heard her voice, he pulled
off his bonnet, put it under his arm, and responded with what I can
find no better phrase to describe than a profuse dignity. Malcolm
she favoured with a smile which swelled his heart with pride
and devotion. The bold faced countess next appeared; she took the
marquis's other arm, and nodded to his guests condescendingly and
often, but seemed, after every nod, to throw her head farther back
than before. Then to haunt the goings of Lady Florimel came Lord
Meikleham, receiving little encouragement, but eager after such
crumbs as he could gather. Suddenly the great bell under the highest
of the gilded vanes rang a loud peal, and the marquis having led
his chief guests to the hall, as soon as he was seated, the tables
began to be served simultaneously.

At that where Malcolm sat with Duncan, grace was grievously foiled
by the latter, for, unaware of what was going on, he burst out,
at the request of a waggish neighbour, with a tremendous blast, of
which the company took advantage to commence operations at once,
and presently the clatter of knives and forks and spoons was the
sole sound to be heard in that division of the feast: across the
valley, from the neighbourhood of the house, came now and then a
faint peal of laughter, for there they knew how to be merry while
they ate; but here, the human element was in abeyance, for people
who work hard, seldom talk while they eat. From the end of an
overhanging bough a squirrel looked at them for one brief moment,
wondering perhaps that they should not prefer cracking a nut
in private, and vanished--but the birds kept singing, and the
scents of the flowers came floating up from the garden below, and
the burn went on with its own noises and its own silences, drifting
the froth of its last passion down towards the doors of the world.

In the hall, ancient jokes soon began to flutter their moulted
wings, and musty compliments to offer themselves for the acceptance
of the ladies, and meet with a reception varied by temperament
and experience: what the bold faced countess heard with a hybrid
contortion, half sneer and half smile, would have made Lady Florimel
stare out of big refusing eyes.

Those more immediately around the marquis were soon laughing over
the story of the trick he had played the blind piper, and the
apology he had had to make in consequence; and perhaps something
better than mere curiosity had to do with the wish of several of
the guests to see the old man and his grandson. The marquis said
the piper himself would take care they should not miss him, but he
would send for the young fellow, who was equally fitted to amuse
them, being quite as much of a character in his way as the other.

He spoke to the man behind his chair, and in a few minutes Malcolm
made his appearance, following the messenger.

"Malcolm," said the marquis kindly, "I want you to keep your eyes
open, and see that no mischief is done about the place."

"I dinna think there's ane o' oor ain fowk wad dee ony mischeef,
my lord," answered Malcolm; "but whan ye keep open yett, ye canna
be sure wha wins in, specially wi' sic a gowk as Johnny Bykes at
ane o' them. No 'at he wad wrang yer lordship a hair, my lord!"

"At all events you'll be on the alert," said the marquis.

"I wull that, my Lord. There's twa or three aboot a'ready 'at I
dinna a'thegither like the leuks o'. They're no like country fowk,
an' they're no fisher fowk. It's no far aff the time o' year whan
the gipsies are i' the w'y o' payin' 's a veesit, an' they may ha'
come in at the Binn yett (gate), whaur there's nane but an auld
wife to haud them oot."

"Well, well," said the marquis, who had no fear about the behaviour
of his guests, and had only wanted a colour for his request of
Malcolm's presence. "In the meantime," he added, "we are rather
short handed here. Just give the butler a little assistance--will
you?"

"Willin'ly, my lord," answered Malcolm, forgetting altogether, in
the prospect of being useful and within sight of Lady Florimel,
that he had but half finished his own dinner. The butler, who
had already had an opportunity of admiring his aptitude, was glad
enough to have his help; and after this day used to declare that
in a single week he could make him a better servant than any of the
men who waited at table. It was indeed remarkable how, with such
a limited acquaintance with the many modes of an artificial life,
he was yet, by quickness of sympathetic insight, capable not only
of divining its requirements, but of distinguishing, amid the
multitude of appliances around, those fitted to their individual
satisfaction.

It was desirable, however, that the sitting in the hall should not
be prolonged, and after a few glasses of wine, the marquis rose, and
went to make the round of the other tables. Taking them in order,
he came last to those of the rustics, mechanics, and fisher folk.
These had advanced considerably in their potations, and the fun
was loud. His appearance was greeted with shouts, into which Duncan
struck with a paean from his pipes; but in the midst of the tumult,
one of the oldest of the fishermen stood up, and in a voice accustomed
to battle with windy uproars, called for silence. He then addressed
their host.

"Ye'll jist mak 's prood by drinkin' a tum'ler wi' 's, yer lordship,"
he said. "It's no ilka day we hae the honour o' yer lordship's
company."

"Or I of yours," returned the marquis with hearty courtesy. "I will
do it with pleasure--or at least a glass: my head's not so well
seasoned as some of yours."

"Gien your lordship's hed hed as mony blasts o' nicht win', an' as
mony jaups o' cauld sea watter aboot its lugs as oors, it wad hae
been fit to stan' as muckle o' the barley bree as the stievest o'
the lot, I s' warran'."

"I hope so," returned Lord Lossie, who, having taken a seat at
the end of the table, was now mixing a tumbler of toddy. As soon
as he had filled his glass, he rose, and drank to the fishermen
of Portlossie, their wives and their sweethearts, wishing them a
mighty conquest of herring, and plenty of children to keep up the
breed and the war on the fish. His speech was received with hearty
cheers, during which he sauntered away to rejoin his friends.

Many toasts followed, one of which, "Damnation to the dogfish,"
gave opportunity to a wag, seated near the piper, to play upon the
old man's well known foible by adding, "an' Cawmill o' Glenlyon;"
whereupon Duncan, who had by this time taken more whisky than
was good for him, rose, and made a rambling speech, in which he
returned thanks for the imprecation, adding thereto the hope that
never might one of the brood accursed go down with honour to the
grave.

The fishermen listened with respectful silence, indulging only in
nods, winks, and smiles for the interchange of amusement, until
the utterance of the wish recorded, when, apparently carried away
for a moment by his eloquence, they broke into loud applause. But,
from the midst of it, a low gurgling laugh close by him reached Duncan's
ear: excited though he was with strong drink and approbation, he
shivered, sunk into his seat, and clutched at his pipes convulsively,
as if they had been a weapon of defence.

"Malcolm! Malcolm, my son," he muttered feebly, "tere is a voman
will pe laughing! She is a paad voman: she makes me cold!"

Finding from the no response that Malcolm had left his side,
he sat motionless, drawn into himself, and struggling to suppress
the curdling shiver. Some of the women gathered about him, but he
assured them it was nothing more than a passing sickness.

Malcolm's attention had, a few minutes before, been drawn to two
men of somewhat peculiar appearance, who, applauding louder than
any, only pretended to drink, and occasionally interchanged glances
of intelligence. It was one of these peculiar looks that first
attracted his notice. He soon discovered that they had a comrade
on the other side of the table, who apparently, like themselves,
had little or no acquaintance with any one near him. He did not
like either their countenances or their behaviour, and resolved to
watch them. In order therefore to be able to follow them when they
moved, as he felt certain they would before long, without attracting
their attention, he left the table and making a circuit took up
his position behind a neighbouring tree. Hence it came that he was
not, at the moment of his need, by his grandfather's side, whither
he had returned as soon as dinner was over in the hall.

Meantime it became necessary to check the drinking by the counter
attraction of the dance. Mr Crathie gave orders that a chair should
be mounted on a table for Duncan; and the young hinds and fishermen
were soon dancing zealously with the girls of their company to his
strathspeys and reels. The other divisions of the marquis's guests
made merry to the sound of a small brass band, a harp, and two
violins.

When the rest forsook the toddy for the reel, the objects of
Malcolm's suspicion remained at the table, not to drink, but to
draw nearer to each other and confer. At length, when the dancers
began to return in quest of liquor, they rose and went away
loiteringly through the trees. As the twilight was now deepening,
Malcolm found it difficult to keep them in sight, but for the same
reason he was able the more quickly to glide after them from tree
to tree. It was almost moonrise, he said to himself, and if they
meditated mischief, now was their best time.

Presently he heard the sound of running feet, and in a moment more
spied the unmistakeable form of the mad laird, darting through the
thickening dusk of the trees, with gestures of wild horror. As he
passed the spot where Malcolm stood, he cried out in a voice like
a suppressed shriek,--"It's my mither! It's my mither! I dinna
ken whaur I come frae."

His sudden appearance and outcry so startled Malcolm that for a
moment he forgot his watch, and when he looked again the men had
vanished. Not having any clue to their intent, and knowing only
that on such a night the house was nearly defenceless, he turned at
once and made for it. As he approached the front, coming over the
bridge, he fancied he saw a figure disappear through the entrance,
and quickened his pace. Just as he reached it, he heard a door
bang, and supposing it to be that which shut off the second hall,
whence rose the principal staircase, he followed this vaguest
of hints, and bounded to the top of the stair. Entering the first
passage he came to, he found it almost dark, with a half open door
at the end, through which shone a gleam from some window beyond:
this light was plainly shut off for a moment, as if by some one
passing the window. He hurried after noiselessly, for the floor was
thickly carpeted--and came to the foot of a winding stone stair.
Afraid beyond all things of doing nothing, and driven by the
formless conviction that if he stopped to deliberate he certainly
should do nothing, he shot up the dark screw like an ascending
bubble, passed the landing of the second floor without observing
it, and arrived in the attic regions of the ancient pile, under
low, irregular ceilings, here ascending in cones, there coming down
in abrupt triangles, or sloping away to a hidden meeting with the
floor in distant corners. His only light was the cold blue glimmer
from here and there a storm window or a skylight. As the conviction
of failure grew on him, the ghostly feeling of the place began
to invade him. All was vague, forsaken, and hopeless, as a dreary
dream, with the superadded miserable sense of lonely sleepwalking.
I suspect that the feeling we call ghostly is but the sense of
abandonment in the lack of companion life; but be this as it may,
Malcolm was glad enough to catch sight of a gleam as from a candle,
at the end of a long, low passage on which he had come after mazy
wandering. Another similar passage crossed its end, somewhere in
which must be the source of the light: he crept towards it, and
laying himself flat on the floor, peeped round the corner. His
very heart stopped to listen: seven or eight yards from him, with
a small lantern in her hand, stood a short female figure, which,
the light falling for a moment on her soft evil countenance, he
recognised as Mrs Catanach. Beside her stood a tall graceful figure,
draped in black from head to foot. Mrs Catanach was speaking in
a low tone, and what Malcolm was able to catch was evidently the
close of a conversation.

"I'll do my best, ye may be sure, my leddy," she said. "There's
something no canny aboot the cratur, an' doobtless ye was an ill
used wuman, an' ye're i' the richt. But it's a some fearsome ventur,
an' may be luikit intill, ye ken. There I s' be yer scoug. Lippen
to me, an' ye s' no repent it."

As she ended speaking, she turned to the door, and drew from it a
key, evidently after a foiled attempt to unlock it therewith; for
from a bunch she carried she now made choice of another, and was
already fumbling with it in the keyhole, when Malcolm bethought
himself that, whatever her further intent, he ought not to allow
her to succeed in opening the door. He therefore rose slowly to
his feet, and stepping softly out into the passage, sent his round
blue bonnet spinning with such a certain aim, that it flew right
against her head. She gave a cry of terror, smothered by the sense
of evil secrecy, and dropped her lantern. It went out. Malcolm
pattered with his hands on the floor, and began to howl frightfully.
Her companion had already fled, and Mrs Catanach picked up her
lantern and followed. But her flight was soft footed, and gave sign
only in the sound of her garments, and a clank or two of her keys.

Gifted with a good sense of relative position, Malcolm was able to
find his way back to the hall without much difficulty, and met no
one on the way. When he stepped into the open air a round moon was
visible through the trees, and their shadows were lying across the
sward. The merriment had grown louder; for a good deal of whisky
having been drunk by men of all classes, hilarity had ousted
restraint, and the separation of classes having broken a little,
there were many stragglers from the higher to the lower divisions,
whence the area of the more boisterous fun had considerably widened.
Most of the ladies and gentlemen were dancing in the chequer of
the trees and moonlight, but, a little removed from the rest, Lady
Florimel was seated under a tree, with Lord Meikleham by her side,
probably her partner in the last dance. She was looking at the
moon, which shone upon her from between two low branches, and there
was a sparkle in her eyes and a luminousness upon her cheek which
to Malcolm did not seem to come from the moon only. He passed on,
with the first pang of jealousy in his heart, feeling now for the
first time that the space between Lady Florimel and himself was
indeed a gulf. But he cast the whole thing from him for the time
with an inward scorn of his foolishness, and hurried on from group
to group, to find the marquis.

Meeting with no trace of him, and thinking he might be in the flower
garden, which a few rays of the moon now reached, he descended
thither. But he searched it through with no better success, and at
the farthest end was on the point of turning to leave it and look
elsewhere, when he heard a moan of stifled agony on the other
side of a high wall which here bounded the garden. Climbing up an
espalier, he soon reached the top, and looking down on the other
side, to his horror and rage espied the mad laird on the ground,
and the very men of whom he had been in pursuit, standing over him
and brutally tormenting him, apparently in order to make him get
up and go along with them. One was kicking him, another pulling
his head this way and that by the hair, and the third punching and
poking his hump, which last cruelty had probably drawn from him
the cry Malcolm had heard.

Three might be too many for him: he descended swiftly, found some
stones, and a stake from a bed of sweet peas, then climbing up
again, took such effectual aim at one of the villains that he fell
without uttering a sound. Dropping at once from the wall, he rushed
at the two with stick upheaved.

"Dinna be in sic a rage, man," cried the first, avoiding his blow;
"we're aboot naething ayont the lawfu'. It's only the mad laird.
We're takin' 'im to the asylum at Ebberdeen. By the order o' 's
ain mither!"

At the word a choking scream came from the prostrate victim. Malcolm
uttered a huge imprecation, and struck at the fellow again, who
now met him in a way that showed it was noise more than wounds he
had dreaded. Instantly the other came up, and also fell upon him
with vigour. But his stick was too much for them, and at length
one of them, crying out--"It's the blin' piper's bastard--I'll
mark him yet!" took to his heels, and was followed by his companion.

More eager after rescue than punishment, Malcolm turned to the help
of the laird, whom he found in utmost need of his ministrations--
gagged, and with his hands tied mercilessly tight behind his back.
His knife quickly released him, but the poor fellow was scarcely
less helpless than before. He clung to Malcolm, and moaned piteously,
every moment glancing over his shoulder in terror of pursuit. His
mouth hung open as if the gag were still tormenting him; now and
then he would begin his usual lament and manage to say "I dinna
ken;" but when he attempted the whaur, his jaw fell and hung as
before. Malcolm sought to lead him away, but he held back, moaning
dreadfully; then Malcolm would have him sit down where they were,
but he caught his hand and pulled him away, stopping instantly,
however, as if not knowing whither to turn from the fears on every
side. At length the prostrate enemy began to move, when the laird,
who had been unaware of his presence, gave a shriek, and took to his
heels. Anxious not to lose sight of him, Malcolm left the wounded
man to take care of himself; and followed him up the steep side of
the little valley.

They had not gone many steps from the top of the ascent, however,
before the fugitive threw himself on the ground exhausted, and it
was all Malcolm could do to get him to the town, where, unable to
go a pace further, he sank down on Mrs Catanach's doorstep. A light
was burning in the cottage, but Malcolm would seek shelter for him
anywhere rather than with her, and, in terror of her quick ears,
caught him up in his arms like a child, and hurried away with him
to Miss Horn s.

"Eh sirs!" exclaimed Miss Horn, when she opened the door--for
Jean was among the merrymakers--"wha 's this 'at 's killt noo?"

"It's the laird--Mr Stewart," returned Malcolm. "He's no freely
killt, but nigh han'."

"Na! weel I wat! Come in an' set him doon till we see," said Miss
Horn, turning and leading the way up to her little parlour.

There Malcolm laid his burden on the sofa, and gave a brief account
of the rescue.

"Lord preserve 's, Ma'colm!" cried Miss Horn, as soon as he had
ended his tale, to which she had listened in silence, with fierce
eyes and threatening nose; "isna 't a mercy I wasna made like some
fowk, or I couldna ha' bidden to see the puir fallow misguidet that
gait! It's a special mercy, Ma'colm MacPhail, to be made wantin'
ony sic thing as feelin's."

She was leaving the room as she spoke--to return instantly with
brandy. The laird swallowed some with an effort, and began to
revive.

"Eh, sirs!" exclaimed Miss Horn, regarding him now more narrowly
--"but he's in an awfu' state o' dirt! I maun wash his face an'
han's, an' pit him till 's bed. Could ye help aff wi' 's claes,
Ma'colm? Though I haena ony feelin's, I 'm jist some eerie-like at
the puir body's back."

The last words were uttered in what she judged a safe aside.

As if she had been his mother, she washed his face and hands, and
dried them tenderly, the laird submitting like a child. He spoke
but one word--when she took him by the hand to lead him to the
room where her cousin used to sleep: "Father o' lichts!" he said,
and no more. Malcolm put him to bed, where he lay perfectly still,
whether awake or asleep they could not tell.

He then set out to go back to Lossie House, promising to return
after he had taken his grandfather home, and seen him also safe in
bed.



CHAPTER XXV: THE NIGHT WATCH


When Malcolm returned, Jean had retired for the night, and again
it was Miss Horn who admitted him, and led him to her parlour. It
was a low ceiled room, with lean spider legged furniture and dingy
curtains. Everything in it was suggestive of a comfort slowly
vanishing. An odour of withered rose leaves pervaded the air. A
Japanese cabinet stood in one corner, and on the mantelpiece a pair
of Chinese fans with painted figures whose faces were embossed in
silk, between which ticked an old French clock, whose supporters
were a shepherd and shepherdess in prettily painted china. Long faded
as was everything in it, the room was yet very rich in the eyes of
Malcolm, whose home was bare even in comparison with that of the
poorest of the fisher women, they had a passion for ornamenting
their chimneypieces with china ornaments, and their dressers with
the most gorgeous crockery that their money could buy--a certain
metallic orange being the prevailing hue; while in Duncan's
cottage, where woman had never initiated the taste, there was not
even a china poodle to represent the finished development of luxury
in the combination of the ugly and the useless.

Miss Horn had made a little fire in the old fashioned grate, whose
bars bellied out like a sail almost beyond the narrow chimney
shelf, and a tea kettle was singing on the hob, while a decanter,
a sugar basin, a nutmeg grater, and other needful things on a tray,
suggested negus, beyond which Miss Horn never went in the matter
of stimulants, asserting that, as she had no feelings, she never
required anything stronger. She made Malcolm sit down at the opposite
side of the fire, and mixing him a tumbler of her favourite drink,
began to question him about the day, and how things had gone.

Miss Horn had the just repute of discretion, for, gladly hearing all
the news, she had the rare virtue of not repeating things to the
prejudice of others without some good reason for so doing; Malcolm
therefore, seated thus alone with her in the dead of the night, and
bound to her by the bond of a common well doing, had no hesitation
in unfolding to her all his adventures of the evening. She sat with
her big hands in her lap, making no remark, not even an exclamation,
while he went on with the tale of the garret; but her listening
eyes grew--not larger--darker and fiercer as he spoke; the
space between her nostrils and mouth widened visibly; the muscles
knotted on the sides of her neck; and her nose curved more and more
to the shape of a beak.

"There's some deevilry there!" she said at length after he had
finished, breaking a silence of some moments, during which she had
been staring into the fire. "Whaur twa ill women come thegither,
there maun be the auld man himsel' atween them."

"I dinna doobt it," returned Malcolm. "An' ane o' them 's an ill
wuman, sure eneuch; but I ken naething aboot the tither--only
'at she maun be a leddy, by the w'y the howdy wife spak till her."

"The waur token, when a leddy collogues wi' a wuman aneth her ain
station, an' ane 'at has keppit (caught in passing) mony a secret
in her day, an' by her callin' has had mair opportunity--no to say
farther--than ither fowk o' duin' ill things! An' gien ye dinna
ken her, that's no rizzon 'at I sudna hae a groff guiss at her by
the marks ye read aff o' her. I'll jist hae to tell ye a story sic
as an auld wife like me seldom tells till a young man like yersel'."

"Yer ain bridle sail rule my tongue, mem," said Malcolm.

"I s' lippen to yer discretion," said Miss Horn, and straightway
began.--"Some years ago--an' I s' warran' it's weel ower twinty
--that same wuman, Bawby Cat'nach,--wha was nae hame born wuman,
nor had been lang aboot the toon--comin' as she did frae naebody
kent whaur, 'cep maybe it was the markis 'at than was, preshumed to
mak up to me i' the w'y o' frien'ly acquantance--sic as a maiden
leddy micht hae wi' a howdy--an' no 'at she forgot her proaper
behaviour to ane like mysel'. But I cudna hae bidden (endured)
the jaud, 'cep 'at I had rizzons for lattin' her jaw wag. She was
cunnin', the auld vratch,--no that auld--maybe aboot forty,--
but I was ower mony for her. She had the design to win at something
she thoucht I kent, an' sae, to enteece me to open my pock, she
opent hers, an' tellt me story efter story about this neebour an'
that--a' o' them things 'at ouchtna to ha' been true, an 'at she
ouchtna to ha' loot pass her lips gien they war true, seein' she
cam by the knowledge o' them so as she said she did. But she gat
naething o' me--the fat braint cat!--an' she hates me like the
verra mischeef."

Miss Horn paused and took a sip of her negus.

"Ae day, I cam upon her sittin' by the ingleneuk i' my ain kitchen,
haudin' a close an' a laich confab wi' Jean. I had Jean than, an'
hoo I hae keepit the hizzy, I hardly ken. I think it maun be that,
haein' nae feelin's o' my ain, I hae ower muckle regaird to ither
fowk's, an' sae I never likit to pit her awa' wi'oot doonricht
provocation. But dinna ye lippen to Jean, Malcolm--na, na! At
that time, my cousin, Miss Grizel Cammell--my third cousin, she
was--had come to bide wi' me--a bonny yoong thing as ye wad
see, but in sair ill health; an' maybe she had het freits (whims),
an' maybe no, but she cudna bide to see the wuman Cat'nach aboot
the place. An' in verra trowth, she was to mysel' like ane o' thae
ill faured birds, I dinna min' upo' the name them, 'at hings ower
an airmy; for wharever there was onybody nae weel, or onybody
deid, there was Bawby Cat'nach. I hae hard o' creepin' things 'at
veesits fowk 'at 's no weel--an' Bawby was, an' is, ane sic like!
Sae I was angert at seein' her colloguin' wi' Jean, an' I cried
Jean to me to the door o' the kitchie. But wi' that up jumps Bawby,
an' comin' efter her, says to me--says she, 'Eh, Miss Horn!
there's terrible news: Leddy Lossie's deid;--she 's been three
ooks deid!'--'Weel,' says I, 'what's sae terrible aboot that?'
For ye ken I never had ony feelin's, an' I cud see naething sae
awfu' aboot a body deem' i' the ord'nar' w'y o natur like. 'We'll
no miss her muckle doon here,' says I, 'for I never hard o' her
bein' at the Hoose sin' ever I can.' 'But that's no a',' says she;
'only I wad be laith to speyk aboot it i' the transe (passage).
Lat me up the stair wi' ye, an' I'll tell ye mair.' Weel, pairtly
'at I was ta'en by surprise like, an' pairtly 'at I wasna sae auld
as I am noo, an' pairtly that I was keerious to hear--ill 'at
I likit her--what neist the wuman wad say, I did as I ouchtna,
an' turned an' gaed up the stair, an' loot her follow me. Whan she
cam' in, she pat tu the door ahint her, an' turnt to me, an' said
--says she: 'An wha 's deid forbye, think ye?'--'I hae hard o'
naebody,' I answered. 'Wha but the laird o' Gersefell!' says she.
'I'm sorry to hear that, honest ma!' says I; for a'body likit Mr
Stewart. 'An' what think ye o' 't?' says she, wi' a runklin o' her
broos, an' a shak o' her heid, an' a settin o' her roon' nieves upo'
the fat hips o' her. 'Think o' 't?' says I ; 'what sud I think o'
't, but that it's the wull o' Providence?' Wi' that she leuch till
she wabblet a' ower like cauld skink, an' says she--'Weel, that's
jist what it is no, an' that lat me tell ye, Miss Horn!' I glowert
at her, maist frichtit into believin' she was the witch fowk ca'd
her. 'Wha's son 's the hump backit cratur',' says she, ''at comes
in i' the gig whiles wi' the groom lad, think ye?'--'Wha's but
the puir man's 'at 's deid?' says I. 'Deil a bit o' 't!' says she,
'an' I beg yer pardon for mentionin' o' him,' says she. An' syne
she screwt up her mou', an' cam closs up till me--for I wadna sit
doon mysel', an' less wad I bid her, an' was sorry eneuch by this
time 'at I had broucht her up the stair--an' says she, layin' her
han' upo' my airm wi' a clap, as gien her an' me was to be freen's
upo' sic a gran' foondation o' dirt as that!--says she, makin' a
laich toot moot o' 't,--'He's Lord Lossie's!' says she, an' maks
a face 'at micht hae turnt a cat sick--only by guid luck I had
nae feelin's. 'An' nae suner's my leddy deid nor her man follows
her!' says she. 'An' what do ye mak o' that?' says she. 'Ay, what
do ye mak o' that?' says I till her again. 'Ow! what ken I?' says
she, wi' anither ill leuk; an' wi' that she leuch an' turned awa,
but turned back again or she wan to the door, an' says she--'Maybe
ye didna ken 'at she was broucht to bed hersel' aboot a sax ooks
ago?'--'Puir leddy!' said I, thinkin' mair o' her evil report
nor o' the pains o' childbirth. 'Ay,' says she, wi' a deevilich
kin' o' a lauch, like in spite o' hersel', 'for the bairn's deid,
they tell me--as bonny a ladbairn as ye wad see, jist ooncoamon!
An' whaur div ye think she had her doon lying? Jist at Lossie Hoose!'
Wi' that she was oot at the door wi' a swag o' her tail, an' doon
the stair to Jean again. I was jist at ane mair wi' anger at mysel'
an' scunner at her, an' in twa min' s to gang efter her an' turn
her oot o' the hoose, her an' Jean thegither. I could hear her
snicherin' till hersel' as she gaed doon the stair. My verra stamack
turned at the poozhonous ted.

"I canna say what was true or what was fause i' the scandal o' her
tale, nor what for she tuik the trouble to cairry 't to me, but
it sune cam to be said 'at the yoong laird was but half wittet as
weel's humpit, an' 'at his mither cudna bide him. An' certain it
was 'at the puir wee chap cud as little bide his mither. Gien she
cam near him ohn luikit for, they said, he wad gie a great skriech,
and rin as fast as his wee weyver (spider) legs cud wag aneth the
wecht o' 's humpie--an' whiles her after him wi' onything she cud
lay her han' upo', they said--but I kenna. Ony gait, the widow
hersel' grew waur and waur i' the temper, an' I misdoobt me sair
was gey hard upo' the puir wee objeck--fell cruel til 'm, they
said--till at len'th, as a' body kens, he forhooit (forsook) the
hoose a'thegither. An' puttin' this an' that thegither, for I hear
a hantle said 'at I say na ower again, it seems to me 'at her first
scunner at her puir misformt bairn, wha they say was humpit whan
he was born an' maist cost her her life to get lowst o' him--
her scunner at 'im 's been growin' an' growin' till it's grown to
doonricht hate."

"It's an awfu' thing 'at ye say, mem, an' I doobt it's ower true.
But hoo can a mither hate her ain bairn?" said Malcolm.

"'Deed it's nae wonner ye sud speir, laddie! for it's weel kent 'at
maist mithers, gien there be a shargar or a nat'ral or a crookit ane
amo' their bairns, mak mair o' that ane nor o' a' the lave putten
thegither--as gien they wad mak it up till 'im, for the fair
play o' the warl. But ye see in this case, he's aiblins (perhaps)
the child o' sin--for a leear may tell an ill trowth--an' beirs
the marks o' 't, ye see; sae to her he's jist her sin rinnin' aboot
the warl incarnat; an' that canna be pleesant to luik upo'."

"But excep' she war ashamed o' 't, she wadna tak it sae muckle to
hert to be remin't o' 't."

"Mony ane's ashamed o' the consequences 'at's no ashamed o' the
deed. Mony ane cud du the sin ower again, 'at canna bide the sicht
or even the word o' 't. I hae seen a body 't wad steal a thing as
sune's luik at it gang daft wi' rage at bein' ca'd a thief. An'
maybe she wadna care gien 't warna for the oogliness o' 'im. Sae
be he was a bonny sin, I'm thinkin' she wad hide him weel eneuch.
But seein' he 's naither i' the image o' her 'at bore 'im nor him
'at got 'im, but beirs on 's back, for ever in her sicht, the sin
'at was the gettin' o' 'in, he's a' hump to her, an' her hert's
aye howkin a grave for 'im to lay 'im oot o' sicht intill she bore
'im, an' she wad beery 'im. An' I'm thinkin' she beirs the markis
--gien sae it be sae--deid an' gane as he is--a grutch yet,
for passin' sic an offspring upo' her, an' syne no merryin' her
efter an' a', an' the ro'd clear o' baith 'at stude atween them.
It was said 'at the man 'at killt 'im in a twasum fecht (duel),
sae mony a year efter, was a freen' o' hers."

"But wad fowk du sic awfu' ill things, mem--her a merried woman,
an' him a merried man?"

"There's nae sayin', laddie, what a hantle o' men and some women
wad du. I hae muckle to be thankfu' for 'at I was sic as no man
ever luikit twice at. I wasna weel faured eneuch; though I had
bonny hair, an' my mither aye said 'at her Maggy hed guid sense;
whatever else she micht or micht not hae. But gien I cud hae gotten
a guid man, siclike's is scarce, I cud hae lo'ed him weel eneuch.
But that's naither here nor there, an' has naething to du wi'
onybody ava. The pint I had to come till was this: the wuman ye saw
haudin' a toot moot (tout muet?) wi' that Cat'nach wife, was nane
ither, I do believe, than Mistress Stewart, the puir laird's mither.
An' I hae as little doobt that whan ye tuik 's pairt, ye broucht
to noucht a plot o' the twasum (two together) against him. It bodes
guid to naebody whan there's a conjunc o' twa sic wanderin' stars
o' blackness as you twa."

"His ain mither!" exclaimed Malcolm, brooding in horror over the
frightful conjecture.

The door opened, and the mad laird came in. His eyes were staring
wide, but their look and that of his troubled visage showed that
he was awake only in some frightful dream. "Father o' lichts!" he
murmured once and again, but making wild gestures, as if warding
off blows. Miss Horn took him gently by the hand. The moment he
felt her touch, his face grew calm, and he submitted at once to be
led back to bed.

"Ye may tak yer aith upo' 't, Ma'colm," she said when she returned,
"she means naething but ill by that puir cratur; but you and me--
we'll ding (defeat) her yet, gien't be his wull. She wants a grip
o' 'm for some ill rizzon or ither--to lock him up in a madhoose,
maybe, as the villains said, or 'deed, maybe, to mak awa' wi' him
a'thegither."

"But what guid wad that du her?" said Malcolm.

"It's ill to say, but she wad hae him oot o' her sicht, ony gait."

"She can hae but little sicht o' him as 'tis," objected Malcolm.

"Ay! but she aye kens he's whaur she doesna ken, puttin' her to
shame, a' aboot the country, wi' that hump o' his. Oot o' fowk's
sicht wad be to her oot a' thegither."

A brief silence followed.

"Noo," said Malcolm, "we come to the question what the twa limmers
could want wi' that door."

"Dear kens! It bude to be something wrang--that's a' 'at mortal
can say; but ye may be sure o' that--I hae hard tell," she went
on reflectingly--"o' some room or ither i' the hoose 'at there's
a fearsome story aboot, an' 'at 's never opent on no accoont. I hae
hard a' aboot it, but I canna min' upo' 't noo, for I paid little
attention till 't at the time, an' it's mony a year sin' syne. But
it wad be some deevilich ploy o' their ain they wad be efter: it's
little the likes o' them wad heed sic auld warld tales."

"Wad ye hae me tell the markis?" asked Malcolm.

"Na, I wad no; an' yet ye maun du 't. Ye hae no business to ken o'
onything wrang in a body's hoose, an' no tell them--forbye 'at he
pat ye in chairge. But it 'll du naething for the laird; for what
cares the markis for onything or onybody but himsel'?"

"He cares for 's dauchter," said Malcolm.

"Ow ay!--as sic fowk ca' carin'. There's no a bla'guard i' the
haill queentry he wadna sell her till, sae be he was o' an auld
eneuch faimily, and had rowth o' siller. Haith! noo a days the
last 'ill come first, an' a fish cadger wi' siller 'ill be coontit
a better bargain nor a lord wantin 't: only he maun hae a heap o'
't, to cower the stink o' the fish."

"Dinna scorn the fish, mem," said Malcolm: "they're innocent craturs,
an' dinna smell waur nor they can help; an' that's mair nor ye can
say for ilka lord ye come athort."

"Ay, or cadger aither," rejoined Miss Horn. "They're aft eneuch
jist sic like, the main differ lyin' in what they're defiled wi';
an' 'deed whiles there's no differ there, or maist ony gait, maybe,
but i' the set o' the shoothers, an' the wag o' the tongue."

"An' what 'll we du wi' the laird?" said Malcolm.

"We maun first see what we can du wi' him. I wad try to keep him
mysel', that is, gien he wad bide--but there's that jaud Jean!
She's aye gabbin', an' claikin', an' cognostin' wi' the enemy,
an' I canna lippen till her. I think it wad be better ye sud tak
chairge o' 'm yersel', Malcolm. I wad willin'ly beir ony expense
--for ye wadna be able to luik efter him an' du sae weel at the
fishin', ye ken."

"Gien 't had been my ain line fishin', I could aye ha' taen him i'
the boat wi' me; but I dinna ken for the herrin'. Blue Peter wadna
objeck, but it's some much work, an' for a waikly body like the
laird to be oot a' nicht some nichts, sic weather as we hae to
encoonter whiles, micht be the deid o' 'm."

They came to no conclusion beyond this, that each would think it
over, and Malcolm would call in the morning. Ere then, however,
the laird had dismissed the question for them. When Miss Horn rose,
after an all but sleepless night, she found that he had taken the
affairs again into his own feeble hands, and vanished.



CHAPTER XXVI: NOT AT CHURCH


It being well known that Joseph Mair's cottage was one of the
laird's resorts, Malcolm, as soon as he learned his flight, set
out to inquire whether they knew anything of him there.

Scaurnose was perched almost on the point of the promontory, where
the land made its final slope, ending in a precipitous descent to
the shore. Beneath lay rocks of all sizes and of fantastic forms,
some fallen from the cape in tempests perhaps, some softly separated
from it by the slow action of the winds and waves of centuries. A
few of them formed, by their broken defence seawards, the unsafe
natural harbour which was all the place enjoyed.

If ever there was a place of one colour it was this village: everything
was brown; the grass near it was covered with brown nets; at the
doors were brown heaps of oak bark, which, after dyeing the nets,
was used for fuel; the cottages were roofed with old brown thatch;
and the one street and the many closes were dark brown with the
peaty earth which, well mixed with scattered bark, scantily covered
the surface of its huge foundation rock. There was no pavement, and
it was the less needed that the ways were rarely used by wheels of
any description. The village was but a roost, like the dwellings
of the sea birds which also haunted the rocks.

It was a gray morning with a gray sky and a gray sea; all was brown
and gray, peaceful and rather sad. Brown haired, gray eyed Phemy
Mair sat in the threshold, intently rubbing in her hands a small
object like a moonstone. That she should be doing so on a Sunday
would have shocked few in Scaurnose at that time, for the fisher
folk then made but small pretensions to religion; and for his part
Joseph Mair could not believe that the Almighty would be offended
"at seein' a bairn sittin' douce wi' her playocks, though the day
was his."

"Weel, Phemy, ye're busy!" said Malcolm.

"Ay," answered the child, without looking up. The manner was not
courteous, but her voice was gentle and sweet.

"What are ye doin' there?" he asked.

"Makin' a string o' beads, to weir at aunty's merriage."

"What are ye makin' them o'?" he went on.

"Haddicks' een."

"Are they a' haddicks'?"

"Na, there's some cods' amo' them; but they're maistly haddicks'.
I pikes them out afore they're sautit, an' biles them; an' syne I
polish them i' my han's till they're rale bonny."

"Can ye tell me onything about the mad laird, Phemy?" asked Malcolm,
in his anxiety too abruptly.

"Ye can gang an' speir at my father: he's oot aboot," she answered,
with a sort of marked coolness, which, added to the fact that
she had never looked him in the face, made him more than suspect
something behind.

"Div ye ken onything aboot him?" he therefore insisted.

"Maybe I div, an' maybe I divna," answered the child, with an
expression of determined mystery.

"Ye'll tell me whaur ye think he is, Phemy?"

"Na, I winna."

"What for no?"

"Ow, jist for fear ye sud ken."

"But I'm a freen' till him."

"Ye may think ay, an' the laird may think no."

"Does he think you a freen', Phemy?" asked Malcolm, in the hope of
coming at something by widening the sweep of the conversation.

"Ay, he kens I'm a freen'," she replied.

"An' do ye aye ken whaur he is?"

"Na, no aye. He gangs here an' he gangs there--jist as he likes.
It's whan naebody kens whaur he is, that I ken, an' gang till him."

"Is he i' the hoose?"

"Na, he's no i' the hoose."

"Whaur is he than, Phemy?" said Malcolm coaxingly. "There's ill
fowk aboot 'at's efter deein' him an ill turn."

"The mair need no to tell!" retorted Phemy.

"But I want to tak care 'o 'im. Tell me whaur he is, like a guid
lassie, Phemy."

"I'm no sure. I may say I dinna ken."

"Ye say ye ken whan ither fowk disna: noo naebody kens."

"Hoo ken ye that?"

"'Cause he's run awa."

"Wha frae? His mither?"

"Na, na; frae Miss Horn."

"I ken naething aboot her; but gien naebody kens, I ken whaur he
is weel eneuch."

"Whaur than? Ye'll be duin' him a guid turn to tell me."

"Whaur I winna tell, an' whaur you nor nae ither body s' get him.
An' ye needna speir, for it wadna be richt to tell; an' gien ye
gang on speirin', you an' me winna be lang freen's."

As she spoke, the child looked straight up into his face with wide
opened blue eyes, as truthful as the heavens, and Malcolm dared
not press her, for it would have been to press her to do wrong.

"Ye wad tell yer father, wadna ye?" he said kindly.

"My father wadna speir. My father's a guid man."

"Weel, Phemy, though ye winna trust me--supposin' I was to trust
you?"

"Ye can du that gien ye like."

"An' ye winna tell?"

"I s' mak nae promises. It's no trustin', to gar me promise."

"Weel, I wull trust ye.--Tell the laird to haud weel oot o' sicht
for a while."

"He'll du that," said Phemy.

"An' tell him gien onything befa' him, to sen' to Miss Horn, for
Ma'colm MacPhail may be oot wi' the boats.--Ye winna forget that?"

"I'm no lickly to forget it," answered Phemy, apparently absorbed
in boring a hole in a haddock's eye with a pin so bent as to act
like a brace and bit.

"Ye'll no get yer string o' beads in time for the weddin', Phemy,"
remarked Malcolm, going on to talk from a desire to give the child
a feeling of his friendliness.

"Ay will I--fine that," she rejoined.

"Whan is 't to be?"

"Ow, neist Setterday. Ye'll be comin' ower?"

"I haena gotten a call."

"Ye 'll be gettin ane.

"Div ye think they'll gie me ane?"

"As sune 's onybody.--Maybe by that time I'll be able to gie ye
some news o' the laird."

"There's a guid lassie!"

"Na, na; I'm makin' nae promises," said Phemy.

Malcolm left her and went to find her father, who, although it
was Sunday, was already "oot aboot," as she had said. He found him
strolling in meditation along the cliffs. They had a little talk
together, but Joseph knew nothing of the laird.

Malcolm took Lossie House on his way back, for he had not yet seen
the marquis, to whom he must report his adventures of the night
before. The signs of past revelling were plentifully visible as he
approached the house. The marquis was not yet up, but Mrs Courthope
undertaking to send him word as soon as his lordship was to be
seen, he threw himself on the grass and waited--his mind occupied
with strange questions, started by the Sunday coming after such a
Saturday--among the rest, how God could permit a creature to be
born so distorted and helpless as the laird, and then permit him
to be so abused in consequence of his helplessness. The problems
of life were beginning to bite. Everywhere things appeared uneven.
He was not one to complain of mere external inequalities: if he was
inclined to envy Lord Meikleham, it was not because of his social
position: he was even now philosopher enough to know that the life
of a fisherman was preferable to that of such a marquis as Lord
Lossie--that the desirableness of a life is to be measured by
the amount of interest and not by the amount of ease in it, for the
more ease the more unrest; neither was he inclined to complain of
the gulf that yawned so wide between him and Lady Florimel; the
difficulty lay deeper: such a gulf existing, by a social law only
less inexorable than a natural one, why should he feel the rent
invading his individual being? in a word, though Malcolm put it in
no such definite shape: Why should a fisher lad find himself in
danger of falling in love with the daughter of a marquis? Why should
such a thing, seeing the very constitution of things rendered it
an absurdity, be yet a possibility?

The church bell began, rang on, and ceased. The sound of the psalms
came, softly mellowed, and sweetly harmonized, across the churchyard
through the gray Sabbath air, and he found himself, for the first
time, a stray sheep from the fold. The service must have been half
through before a lackey, to whom Mrs Courthope had committed the
matter when she went to church, brought him the message that the
marquis would see him.

"Well, MacPhail, what do you want with me?" said his lordship as
he entered.

"It's my duty to acquaint yer lordship wi' certain proceedin's 'at
took place last night," answered Malcolm.

"Go on," said the marquis.

Thereupon Malcolm began at the beginning, and told of the men he
had watched, and how, in the fancy of following them, he had found
himself in the garret, and what he saw and did there.

"Did you recognize either of the women?" asked Lord Lossie.

"Ane o' them, my lord," answered Malcolm. "It was Mistress Catanach,
the howdie."

"What sort of a woman is she?"

"Some fowk canna bide her, my lord. I ken no ill to lay till her
chairge, but I winna lippen till her. My gran'father--an' he's
blin', ye ken--jist trimles whan she comes near him."

The marquis smiled.

"What do you suppose she was about?" he asked.

"I ken nae mair than the bonnet I flang in her face, my lord; but
it could hardly be guid she was efter. At ony rate, seein' yer
lordship pat me in a mainner in chairge, I bude to haud her oot
o' a closed room--an' her gaein' creepin' aboot yer lordship's
hoose like a worm."

"Quite right. Will you pull the bell there for me?"

He told the man to send Mrs Courthope; but he said she had not yet
come home from church.

"Could you take me to the room, MacPhail?" asked his lordship.

"I'll try, my lord," answered Malcolm. As far as the proper quarter
of the attics, he went straight as a pigeon; in that labyrinth he
had to retrace his steps once or twice, but at length he stopped,
and said confidently--"This is the door, my lord."

"Are you sure?"

"As sure's death, my lord."

The marquis tried the door and found it immovable. "You say she
had the key?"

"No, my lord: I said she had keys, but whether she had the key, I
doobt if she kent hersel'. It may ha' been ane o' the bundle yet
to try."

"You're a sharp fellow," said the marquis. "I wish I had such a
servant about me."

"I wad mak a some rouch ane, I doobt," returned Malcolm, laughing.

His lordship was of another mind, but pursued the subject no farther.

"I have a vague recollection," he said, "of some room in the house
having an old story or legend connected with it. I must find out.
I daresay Mrs Courthope knows. Meantime you hold your tongue. We
may get some amusement out of this."

"I wull, my lord, like a deid man an' beeryt."

"You can--can you?"

"I can, my lord."

"You're a rare one!" said the marquis.

Malcolm thought he was making game of him as heretofore, and held
his peace.

"You can go home now," said his lordship. "I will see to this
affair."

"But jist be canny middlin' wi' Mistress Catanach, my lord: she's
no mowse."

"What! you're not afraid of an old woman?"

"Deil a bit, my lord!--that is, I'm no feart at a dogfish or a
rottan, but I wud tak tent an' grip them the richt gait, for they
hae teeth. Some fowk think Mistress Catanach has mair teeth nor
she shaws."

"Well, if she's too much for me, I'll send for you," said the
marquis good humouredly.

"Ye canna get me sae easy, my lord: we're efter the herrin' noo."

"Well, well, we'll see."

"But I wantit to tell ye anither thing my lord," said Malcolm, as
he followed the marquis down the stairs.

"What is that?"

"I cam upo' anither plot--a mair serious ane, bein' against a man
'at can ill haud aff o' himsel', an' cud waur bide onything than
yer lordship--the puir mad laird."

"Who's he?"

"Ilka body kens him, my lord! He's son to the leddy o' Kirkbyres."

"I remember her--an old flame of my brother's."

"I ken naething aboot that, my lord; but he's her son."

"What about him, then?"

They had now reached the hall, and, seeing the marquis impatient,
Malcolm confined himself to the principal facts.

"I don't think you had any business to interfere, MacPhail," said
his lordship, seriously. "His mother must know best."

"I'm no sae sure o' that, my lord! To say naething o' the ill
guideship, which micht hae 'garred a minister sweer, it wud be
a cruelty naething short o' deev'lich to lock up a puir hairmless
cratur like that, as innocent as he 's ill shapit."

"He's as God made him," said the marquis.

"He 's no as God wull mak him," returned Malcolm.

"What do you mean by that?" asked the marquis.

"It stan's to rizzon, my lord," answered Malcolm, "that what's ill
made maun be made ower again. There's a day comin' whan a' 'at's
wrang 'll be set richt, ye ken."

"And the crooked made straight," suggested the marquis laughing.

"Doobtless, my lord. He'll be strauchtit oot bonny that day," said
Malcolm with absolute seriousness.

"Bah! You don't think God cares about a misshapen lump of flesh
like that!" exclaimed his lordship with contempt.

"As muckle's aboot yersel', or my leddy," said Malcolm. "Gien he
didna, he wadna be nae God ava' (at all)."

The marquis laughed again: he heard the words with his ears,
but his heart was deaf to the thought they clothed; hence he took
Malcolm's earnestness for irreverence, and it amused him.

"You've not got to set things right, anyhow," he said. "You mind
your own business."

"I'll try, my lord: it's the business o' ilka man, whaur he can,
to lowse the weichty birns, an' lat the forfouchten gang free. Guid
day to ye, my lord."

So saying the young fisherman turned, and left the marquis laughing
in the hall.



CHAPTER XXVII: LORD GERNON


When his housekeeper returned from church, Lord Lossie sent for
her.

"Sit down, Mrs Courthope," he said; "I want to ask you about a
story I have a vague recollection of hearing when I spent a summer
at this house some twenty years ago. It had to do with a room in
the house that was never opened."

"There is such a story, my lord," answered the housekeeper. "The
late marquis, I remember well, used to laugh at it, and threaten
now and then to dare the prophecy; but old Eppie persuaded him not
--or at least fancied she did."

"Who is old Eppie?"

"She's gone now, my lord. She was over a hundred then. She was born
and brought up in the house, lived all her days in it, and died in
it; so she knew more about the place than any one else."

"Is ever likely to know," said the marquis, superadding a close to
her sentence. "And why wouldn't she have the room opened?" he asked.

"Because of the ancient prophecy, my lord."

"I can't recall a single point of the story."

"I wish old Eppie were alive to tell it," said Mrs Courthope.

"Don't you know it then?"

"Yes, pretty well; but my English tongue can't tell it properly.
It doesn't sound right out of my mouth. I've heard it a good many
times too, for I had often to take a visitor to her room to hear
it, and the old woman liked nothing better than telling it. But
I couldn't help remarking that it had grown a good bit even in my
time. The story was like a tree: it got bigger every year."

"That's the way with a good many stories," said the marquis. "But
tell me the prophecy at least."

"That is the only part I can give just as she gave it. It's in
rhyme. I hardly understand it, but I'm sure of the words."

"Let us have them then, if you please."

Mrs Courthope reflected for a moment, and then repeated the following
lines:

"The lord quha wad sup on 3 thowmes o' cauld airn,
The ayr quha wad kythe a bastard and carena,
The mayd quha wad tyne her man and her bairn,
Lift the neck, and enter, and fearna."

"That's it, my lord," she said, in conclusion. "And there's one
thing to be observed," she added, "--that that door is the only
one in all the passage that has a sneck, as they call it."

"What is a sneck?" asked his lordship, who was not much of a scholar
in his country's tongue.

"What we call a latch in England, my lord. I took pains to learn
the Scotch correctly, and I've repeated it to your lordship, word
for word."

"I don't doubt it," returned Lord Lossie, "but for the sense, I can
make nothing of it.--And you think my brother believed the story?"

"He always laughed at it, my lord, but pretended at least to give
in to old Eppie's entreaties."

"You mean that he was more near believing it than he liked to
confess?"

"That's not what I mean, my lord."

"Why do you say pretended then?"

"Because when the news of his death came, some people about the
place would have it that he must have opened the door some time or
other."

"How did they make that out?"

"From the first line of the prophecy."

"Repeat it again."

"The lord quha wad sup on 3 thowmes o' cauld airn," said Mrs
Courthope with emphasis, adding, "The three she always said was a
figure 3."

"That implies it was written somewhere!"

"She said it was legible on the door in her day--as if burnt with
a red hot iron."

"And what does the line mean?"

"Eppie said it meant that the lord of the place who opened that
door, would die by a sword wound. Three inches of cold iron, it
means, my lord."

The marquis grew thoughtful; his brother had died in a sword duel.
For a few moments he was silent.

"Tell me the whole story," he said at length.

Mrs Courthope again reflected, and began. I will tell the story,
however, in my own words, reminding my reader that if he regards
it as an unwelcome interruption, he can easily enough avoid this
bend of the river of my narrative by taking a short cut across to
the next chapter.

In an ancient time there was a lord of Lossie who practised unholy
works. Although he had other estates, he lived almost entirely at
the House of Lossie--that is, after his return from the East,
where he had spent his youth and early manhood. But he paid no
attention to his affairs: a steward managed everything for him,
and Lord Gernon (for that was the outlandish name he brought from
England, where he was born while his father was prisoner to Edward
Longshanks) trusted him for a great while without making the least
inquiry into his accounts, apparently contented with receiving
money enough to carry on the various vile experiments which seemed
his sole pleasure in life. There was no doubt in the minds of the
people of the town--the old town that is, which was then much
larger, and clustered about the gates of the House--that he had
dealings with Satan, from whom he had gained authority over the
powers of nature; that he was able to rouse and lay the winds, to
bring down rain, to call forth the lightnings and set the thunders
roaring over town and sea; nay, that he could even draw vessels
ashore on the rocks, with the certainty that not one on board would
be left alive to betray the pillage of the wreck: this and many
other deeds of dire note were laid to his charge in secret. The
town cowered at the foot of the House in terror of what its lord
might bring down upon it--as a brood of chickens might cower if
they had been hatched by a kite, and saw, instead of the matronly
head and beak of the hen of their instinct, those of the bird of
prey projected over them. Scarce one of them dared even look from the
door when the thunder was rolling over their heads, the lightnings
flashing about the roofs and turrets of the House, the wind raving
in fits between as if it would rave its last, and the rain falling
in sheets--not so much from fear of the elements, as for horror
of the far more terrible things that might be spied careering in the
storm. And indeed Lord Gernon himself was avoided in like fashion,
although rarely had any one the evil chance of seeing him, so seldom
did he go out of doors. There was but one in the whole community
--and that was a young girl, the daughter of his steward--who
declared she had no fear of him: she went so far as to uphold that
Lord Gernon meant harm to nobody, and was in consequence regarded
by the neighbours as unrighteously bold.

He worked in a certain lofty apartment on the ground floor--with
cellars underneath, reserved, it was believed, for frightfullest
conjurations and interviews; where, although no one was permitted
to enter, they knew from the smoke that he had a furnace, and
from the evil smells which wandered out, that he dealt with things
altogether devilish in their natures and powers. They said he always
washed there--in water medicated with distilments to prolong life
and produce invulnerability; but of this they could of course know
nothing. Strange to say, however, he always slept in the garret,
as far removed from his laboratory as the limits of the house would
permit; whence people said he dared not sleep in the neighbourhood
of his deeds, but sought shelter for his unconscious hours in the
spiritual shadow of the chapel, which was in the same wing as his
chamber. His household saw nearly as little of him as his retainers:
when his tread was heard, beating dull on the stone turnpike, or
thundering along the upper corridors in the neighbourhood of his
chamber or of the library--the only other part of the house he
visited, man or maid would dart aside into the next way of escape
--all believing that the nearer he came to finding himself the sole
inhabitant of his house, the better he was pleased. Nor would he
allow man or woman to enter his chamber any more than his laboratory.
When they found sheets or garments outside his door, they removed
them with fear and trembling, and put others in their place.

At length, by means of his enchantments, he discovered that the
man whom he had trusted had been robbing him for many years: all
the time he had been searching for the philosopher's stone, the
gold already his had been tumbling into the bags of his steward.
But what enraged him far more was, that the fellow had constantly
pretended difficulty in providing the means necessary for the
prosecution of his idolized studies: even if the feudal lord could
have accepted the loss and forgiven the crime, here was a mockery
which the man of science could not pardon. He summoned his steward
to his presence, and accused him of his dishonesty. The man denied
it energetically, but a few mysterious waftures of the hand of his
lord, set him trembling, and after a few more, his lips, moving by
a secret compulsion, and finding no power in their owner to check
their utterance, confessed all the truth, whereupon his master
ordered him to go and bring his accounts. He departed all but
bereft of his senses, and staggered home as if in a dream. There he
begged his daughter to go and plead for him with his lord, hoping
she might be able to move him to mercy; for she was a lovely girl,
and supposed by the neighbours, judging from what they considered
her foolhardiness, to have received from him tokens of something
at least less than aversion.

She obeyed, and from that hour disappeared. The people of the house
averred afterwards that the next day, and for days following, they
heard, at intervals, moans and cries from the wizard's chamber, or
some where in its neighbourhood--certainly not from the laboratory;
but as they had seen no one visit their master, they had paid them
little attention, classing them with the other and hellish noises
they were but too much accustomed to hear.

The steward's love for his daughter, though it could not embolden
him to seek her in the tyrant's den, drove him, at length, to
appeal to the justice of his country for what redress might yet
be possible: he sought the court of the great Bruce, and laid his
complaint before him. That righteous monarch immediately despatched
a few of his trustiest men-at-arms, under the protection of a monk
whom he believed a match for any wizard under the sun, to arrest
Lord Gernon and release the girl. When they arrived at Lossie House,
they found it silent as the grave. The domestics had vanished; but
by following the minute directions of the steward, whom no persuasion
could bring to set foot across the threshold, they succeeded in
finding their way to the parts of the house indicated by him. Having
forced the laboratory and found it forsaken, they ascended, in the
gathering dusk of a winter afternoon, to the upper regions of the
house. Before they reached the top of the stair that led to the
wizard's chamber, they began to hear inexplicable sounds, which
grew plainer, though not much louder, as they drew nearer to the
door. They were mostly like the grunting of some small animal of the
hog kind, with an occasional one like the yelling roar of a distant
lion; but with these were now and then mingled cries of suffering,
so fell and strange that their souls recoiled as if they would
break loose from their bodies to get out of hearing of them. The
monk himself started back when first they invaded his ear, and it
was no wonder then that the men-at-arms should hesitate to approach
the room; and as they stood irresolute, they saw a faint light
go flickering across the upper part of the door, which naturally
strengthened their disinclination to go nearer.

"If it weren't for the girl," said one of them in a scared whisper
to his neighbour, "I would leave the wizard to the devil and his
dam."

Scarcely had the words left his mouth, when the door opened, and
out came a form--whether phantom or living woman none could tell.
Pale, forlorn, lost, and purposeless, it came straight towards them,
with wide unseeing eyes. They parted in terror from its path. It
went on, looking to neither hand, and sank down the stair. The moment
it was beyond their sight, they came to themselves and rushed after
it; but although they searched the whole house, they could find
no creature in it, except a cat of questionable appearance and
behaviour, which they wisely let alone. Returning, they took up a
position whence they could watch the door of the chamber day and
night.

For three weeks they watched it, but neither cry nor other sound
reached them. For three weeks more they watched it, and then
an evil odour began to assail them, which grew and grew, until at
length they were satisfied that the wizard was dead. They returned
therefore to the king and made their report, whereupon Lord Gernon
was decreed dead, and his heir was enfeoffed. But for many years
he was said to be still alive; and indeed whether he had ever died
in the ordinary sense of the word, was to old Eppie doubtful; for
at various times there had arisen whispers of peculiar sounds, even
strange cries, having been heard issue from that room--whispers
which had revived in the house in Mrs Courthope's own time. No one
had slept in that part of the roof within the memory of old Eppie:
no one, she believed, had ever slept there since the events of her
tale; certainly no one had in Mrs Courthope's time. It was said
also, that, invariably, sooner or later after such cries were
heard, some evil befell either the Lord of Lossie, or some one of
his family.

"Show me the room, Mrs Courthope," said the marquis, rising, as
soon as she had ended.

The housekeeper looked at him with some dismay.

"What!" said his lordship, "you an Englishwoman and superstitious!"

"I am cautious, my lord, though not a Scotchwoman," returned Mrs
Courthope. "All I would presume to say is--Don't do it without
first taking time to think over it."

"I will not. But I want to know which room it is."

Mrs Courthope led the way, and his lordship followed her to the
very door, as he had expected, with which Malcolm had spied Mrs
Catanach tampering. He examined it well, and on the upper part of
it found what might be the remnants of a sunk inscription, so far
obliterated as to convey no assurance of what it was. He professed
himself satisfied, and they went down the stairs together again.



CHAPTER XXVIII: A FISHER WEDDING


When the next Saturday came, all the friends of the bride or
bridegroom who had "gotten a call" to the wedding of Annie Mair
and Charley Wilson, assembled respectively at the houses of their
parents. Malcolm had received an invitation from both, and had
accepted that of the bride.

Whisky and oatcake having been handed round, the bride, a short
but comely young woman, set out with her father for the church,
followed by her friends in couples. At the door of the church, which
stood on the highest point in the parish, a centre of assault for
all the winds that blew, they met the bridegroom and his party: the
bride and he entered the church together, and the rest followed.
After a brief and somewhat bare ceremony, they issued--the bride
walking between her brother and the groomsman, each taking an
arm of the bride, and the company following mainly in trios. Thus
arranged they walked eastward along the highroad, to meet the
bride's firstfoot.

They had gone about halfway to Portlossie, when a gentleman
appeared, sauntering carelessly towards them, with a cigar in his
mouth. It was Lord Meikleham. Malcolm was not the only one who knew
him: Lizzy Findlay, only daughter of the Partan, and the prettiest
girl in the company, blushed crimson: she had danced with him
at Lossie House, and he had said things to her, by way of polite
attention, which he would never have said had she been of his own
rank. He would have lounged past, with a careless glance, but the
procession halted by one consent, and the bride, taking a bottle
and glass which her brother carried, proceeded to pour out a bumper
of whisky, while the groomsman addressed Lord Meikleham.

"Ye 're the bride's first fut, sir," he said.

"What do you mean by that?" asked Lord Meikleham.

"Here's the bride, sir: she'll tell ye."

Lord Meikleham lifted his hat.

"Allow me to congratulate you," he said.

"Ye 're my first fut," returned the bride eagerly yet modestly, as
she held out to him the glass of whisky.

"This is to console me for not being in the bridegroom's place,
I presume; but notwithstanding my jealousy, I drink to the health
of both," said the young nobleman, and tossed off the liquor.--
"Would you mind explaining to me what you mean by this ceremony?"
he added, to cover a slight choking caused by the strength of the
dram.

"It's for luck, sir," answered Joseph Mair. "A first fut wha wadna
bring ill luck upon a new merried couple, maun aye du as ye hae
dune this meenute--tak a dram frae the bride."

"Is that the sole privilege connected with my good fortune?" said
Lord Meikleham. "If I take the bride's dram, I must join the bride's
regiment--My good fellow," he went on, approaching Malcolm, "you
have more than your share of the best things of this world."

For Malcolm had two partners, and the one on the side next Lord
Meikleham, who, as he spoke, offered her his arm, was Lizzy Findlay.

"No as shares gang, my lord," returned Malcolm, tightening his arm
on Lizzie's hand. "Ye mauna gang wi' ane o' oor customs to gang
agane anither. Fisher fowk 's ready eneuch to pairt wi' their
whusky, but no wi' their lasses!--Na, haith!"

Lord Meikleham's face flushed, and Lizzy looked down, very evidently
disappointed; but the bride's father, a wrinkled and brown little
man, with a more gentle bearing than most of them, interfered.

"Ye see, my lord--gien it be sae I maun ca' ye, an' Ma'colm seems
to ken--we're like by oorsel's for the present, an' we're but a
rouch set o' fowk for such like 's yer lordship to haud word o' mou'
wi'; but gien it wad please ye to come ower the gait ony time i'
the evenin', an' tak yer share o' what's gauin', ye sud be walcome,
an' we wad coont it a great honour frae sic 's yer lordship."

"I shall be most happy," answered Lord Meikleham; and taking off
his hat he went his way.

The party returned to the home of the bride's parents. Her mother
stood at the door with a white handkerchief in one hand, and a quarter
of oatcake in the other. When the bride reached the threshold she
stood, and her mother, first laying the handkerchief on her head,
broke the oatcake into pieces upon it. These were distributed among
the company, to be carried home and laid under their pillows.

The bridegroom's party betook themselves to his father's house,
where, as well as at old Mair's, a substantial meal of tea, bread
and butter, cake, and cheese, was provided. Then followed another
walk, to allow of both houses being made tidy for the evening's
amusements.

About seven, Lord Meikleham made his appearance, and had a hearty
welcome. He had bought a showy brooch for the bride, which she
accepted with the pleasure of a child. In their games, which had
already commenced, he joined heartily, gaining high favour with
both men and women. When the great clothesbasket full of sweeties,
the result of a subscription among the young men, was carried round
by two of them, he helped himself liberally with the rest; and at
the inevitable game of forfeits met his awards with unflinching
obedience; contriving ever through it all that Lizzy Findlay should
feel herself his favourite. In the general hilarity, neither the
heightened colour of her cheek, nor the vivid sparkle in her eyes
attracted notice. Doubtless some of the girls observed the frequency
of his attentions, but it woke nothing in their minds beyond a
little envy of her passing good fortune.

Meikleham was handsome and a lord; Lizzy was pretty though a
fisherman's daughter: a sort of Darwinian selection had apparently
found place between them; but as the same entertainment was going
on in two houses at once, and there was naturally a good deal of
passing and repassing between them, no one took the least notice
of several short absences from the company on the part of the pair.

Supper followed, at which his lordship sat next to Lizzy, and partook
of dried skate and mustard, bread and cheese, and beer. Every man
helped himself. Lord Meikleham and a few others were accommodated
with knives and forks, but the most were independent of such
artificial aids. Whisky came next, and Lord Meikleham being already,
like many of the young men of his time, somewhat fond of strong
drink, was not content with such sipping as Lizzy honoured his
glass withal.

At length it was time, according to age long custom, to undress the
bride and bridegroom and put them to bed--the bride's stocking,
last ceremony of all, being thrown amongst the company, as by its
first contact prophetic of the person to be next married. Neither
Lizzy nor Lord Meikleham, however, had any chance of being thus
distinguished, for they were absent and unmissed.

As soon as all was over, Malcolm set out to return home. As he
passed Joseph Mair's cottage, he found Phemy waiting for him at
the door, still in the mild splendour of her pearl-like necklace.

"I tellt the laird what ye tellt me to tell him, Malcolm," she
said.

"An' what did he say, Phemy?" asked Malcolm.

"He said he kent ye was a freen'."

"Was that a'?"

"Ay; that was a'."

"Weel, ye're a guid lassie."

"Ow! middlin'," answered the little maiden.

Malcolm took his way along the top of the cliffs, pausing now and
then to look around him. The crescent moon had gone down, leaving
a starlit night, in which the sea lay softly moaning at the foot of
the broken crags. The sense of infinitude which comes to the soul
when it is in harmony with the peace of nature, arose and spread
itself abroad in Malcolm's being, and he felt with the Galilaeans
of old, when they forsook their nets and followed him who called
them, that catching fish was not the end of his being, although it
was the work his hands had found to do. The stillness was all the
sweeter for its contrast with the merriment he had left behind
him, and a single breath of wind, like the waft from a passing
wind, kissed his forehead tenderly, as if to seal the truth of his
meditations.



CHAPTER XXIX: FLORIMEL AND DUNCAN


In the course of a fortnight, Lord Meikleham and his aunt, the bold
faced countess, had gone, and the marquis, probably finding it a
little duller in consequence, began to pay visits in the neighbourhood.
Now and then he would be absent for a week or two--at Bog o'
Gight, or Huntly Lodge, or Frendraught, or Balvenie, and although
Lady Florimel had not much of his society, she missed him at meals,
and felt the place grown dreary from his being nowhere within its
bounds.

On his return from one of his longer absences, he began to talk to
her about a governess; but, though in a playful way, she rebelled
utterly at the first mention of such an incubus. She had plenty of
material for study, she said, in the library, and plenty of amusement
in wandering about with the sullen Demon, who was her constant
companion during his absences; and if he did force a governess upon
her, she would certainly murder the woman, if only for the sake of
bringing him into trouble. Her easygoing father was amused, laughed,
and said nothing more on the subject at the time.

Lady Florimel did not confess that she had begun to feel her life
monotonous, or mention that she had for some time been cultivating
the acquaintance of a few of her poor neighbours, and finding
their odd ways of life and thought and speech interesting. She had
especially taken a liking to Duncan MacPhail, in which, strange to
say, Demon, who had hitherto absolutely detested the appearance of
any one not attired as a lady or gentleman, heartily shared. She
found the old man so unlike anything she had ever heard or read
of--so full of grand notions in such contrast with his poor
conditions; so proud yet so overflowing with service--dusting
a chair for her with his bonnet, yet drawing himself up like an
offended hidalgo if she declined to sit in it--more than content
to play the pipes while others dined, yet requiring a personal
apology from the marquis himself for a practical joke! so full
of kindness and yet of revenges--lamenting over Demon when he
hurt his foot, yet cursing, as she overheard him once, in fancied
solitude, with an absolute fervour of imprecation, a continuous
blast of poetic hate which made her shiver; and the next moment
sighing out a most wailful coronach on his old pipes. It was all
so odd, so funny, so interesting! It nearly made her aware of human
nature as an object of study. But lady Florimel had never studied
anything yet, had never even perceived that anything wanted studying,
that is, demanded to be understood. What appeared to her most odd,
most inconsistent, and was indeed of all his peculiarities alone
distasteful to her, was his delight in what she regarded only as
the menial and dirty occupation of cleaning lamps and candlesticks;
the poetic side of it, rendered tenfold poetic by his blindness,
she never saw.

Then he had such tales to tell her--of mountain, stream, and
lake; of love and revenge; of beings less and more than natural
--brownie and Boneless, kelpie and fairy; such wild legends also,
haunting the dim emergent peaks of mist swathed Celtic history; such
songs--come down, he said, from Ossian himself--that sometimes
she would sit and listen to him for hours together.

It was no wonder then that she should win the heart of the simple
old man speedily and utterly; for what can bard desire beyond a
true listener--a mind into which his own may, in verse or tale or
rhapsody, in pibroch or coronach, overflow? But when, one evening,
in girlish merriment, she took up his pipes, blew the bag full,
and began to let a highland air burst fitfully from the chanter,
the jubilation of the old man broke all the bounds of reason. He
jumped from his seat and capered about the room, calling her all
the tenderest and most poetic names his English vocabulary would
afford him; then abandoning the speech of the Sassenach, as if
in despair of ever uttering himself through its narrow and rugged
channels, overwhelmed her with a cataract of soft flowing Gaelic,
returning to English only as his excitement passed over into
exhaustion--but in neither case aware of the transition.

Her visits were the greater comfort to Duncan, that Malcolm was now
absent almost every night, and most days a good many hours asleep;
had it been otherwise, Florimel, invisible for very width as was
the gulf between them, could hardly have made them so frequent.
Before the fishing season was over, the piper had been twenty times
on the verge of disclosing every secret in his life to the high
born maiden.

"It's a pity you haven't a wife to take care of you, Mr MacPhail,"
she said one evening. "You must be so lonely without a woman to
look after you!"

A dark cloud came over Duncan's face, out of which his sightless
eyes gleamed.

"She'll haf her poy, and she'll pe wanting no wife," he said
sullenly. "Wifes is paad."

"Ah!" said Florimel, the teasing spirit of her father uppermost
for the moment, "that accounts for your swearing so shockingly the
other day?"

"Swearing was she? Tat will pe wrong. And who was she'll pe swearing
at?"

"That's what I want you to tell me, Mr MacPhail."

"Tid you'll hear me, my laty?" he asked in a tone of reflection,
as if trying to recall the circumstance.

"Indeed I did. You frightened me so that I didn't dare come in."

"Ten she'll pe punished enough. Put it wass no harm to curse ta
wicket Cawmill."

"It was not Glenlyon--it wasn't a man at all; it was a woman you
were in such a rage with."

"Was it ta rascal's wife, ten, my laty?" he asked, as if he were
willing to be guided to the truth that he might satisfy her, but
so much in the habit of swearing, that he could not well recollect
the particular object at a given time.

"Is his wife as bad as himself then?"

"Wifes is aalways worser."

"But what is it makes you hate him so dreadfully? Is he a bad man?"

"A fery pad man, my tear laty! He is tead more than a hundert
years."

"Then why do you hate him so?"

"Och hone! Ton't you'll never hear why?"

"He can't have done you any harm."

"Not done old Tuncan any harm! Tidn't you'll know what ta tog would pe
toing to her aancestors of Glenco? Och hone! Och hone! Gif her ta
tog's heart of him in her teeth, and she'll pe tearing it--tearing
it--tearing it!" cried the piper in a growl of hate, and with
the look of a maddened tiger, the skin of his face drawn so tight
over the bones that they seemed to show their whiteness through
it.

"You quite terrify me," said Florimel, really shocked. "If you
talk like that, I must go away. Such words are not fit for a lady
to hear."

The old man heard her rise: he fell on his knees, and held out his
arms in entreaty.

"She's pegging your pardons, my laty. Sit town once more, anchel
from hefen, and she'll not say it no more. Put she'll pe telling
you ta story, and then you'll pe knowing tat what 'll not pe fit
for laties to hear, as coot laties had to pear!"

He caught up the Lossie pipes, threw them down again, searched in
a frenzy till he found his own, blew up the bag with short thick
pants, forced from them a low wail, which ended in a scream--then
broke into a kind of chant, the words of which were something like
what follows: he had sense enough to remember that for his listener
they must be English. Doubtless he was translating as he went on.
His chanter all the time kept up a low pitiful accompaniment, his
voice only giving expression to the hate and execration of the
song.

Black rise the hills round the vale of Glenco;
Hard rise its rocks up the sides of the sky;
Cold fall the streams from the snow on their summits;
Bitter are the winds that search for the wanderer;
False are the vapours that trail o'er the correi
Blacker than caverns that hollow the mountain,
Harder than crystals in the rock's bosom
Colder than ice borne down in the torrents,
More bitter than hail windswept o'er the correi,
Falser than vapours that hide the dark precipice,
Is the heart of the Campbell, the hell hound Glenlyon.

Is it blood that is streaming down into the valley?
Ha! 'tis the red coated blood hounds of Orange.

To hunt the red deer, is this a fit season?
Glenlyon, said Ian, the son of the chieftain:
What seek ye with guns and with gillies so many?

Friends, a warm fire, good cheer, and a drink,
Said the liar of hell, with the death in his heart.

Come home to my house--it is poor, but your own.

Cheese of the goat, and flesh of black cattle,
And dew of the mountain to make their hearts joyful,
They gave them in plenty, they gave them with welcome;
And they slept on the heather, and skins of the red deer.

Och hone for the chief! God's curse on the traitors!
Och hone for the chief--the father of his people!
He is struck through the brain, and not in the battle!

Och hone for his lady! the teeth of the badgers
Have torn the bright rings from her slender fingers!
They have stripped her and shamed her in sight of her clansmen!
They have sent out her ghost to cry after her husband.

Nine men did Glenlyon slay, nine of the true hearts!
His own host he slew, the laird of Inverriggen.

Fifty they slew--the rest fled to the mountains.
In the deep snow the women and children
Fell down and slept, nor awoke in the morning.

The bard of the glen, alone among strangers,
Allister, bard of the glen and the mountain,
Sings peace to the ghost of his father's father,
Slain by the curse of Glenco, Glenlyon.

Curse on Glenlyon! His wife's fair bosom
Dry up with weeping the fates of her children!
Curse on Glenlyon! Each drop of his heart's blood
Turn to red fire and hum through his arteries!
The pale murdered faces haunt him to madness!
The shrieks of the ghosts from the mists of Glenco
Ring in his ears through the caves of perdition!
Man, woman, and child, to the last born Campbell,
Rush howling to hell, and fall cursing Glenlyon--
The liar who drank with his host and then slew him!

While he chanted, the whole being of the bard seemed to pour itself
out in the feeble and quavering tones that issued from his withered
throat. His voice grew in energy for a while as he proceeded, but
at last gave way utterly under the fervour of imprecation, and ceased.
Then, as if in an agony of foiled hate, he sent from chanter and
drone a perfect screech of execration, with which the instrument
dropped from his hands, and he fell back in his chair, speechless.

Lady Florimel started to her feet, and stood trembling for a moment,
hesitating whether to run from the cottage and call for help, or
do what she might for the old man herself. But the next moment he
came to himself, saying, in a tone of assumed composure:

"You'll pe knowing now, my laty, why she'll pe hating ta very name
of Clenlyon."

"But it was not your grandfather that Glenlyon killed, Mr MacPhail
--was it?"

"And whose grandfather would it pe then, my lady?" returned Duncan,
drawing himself up.

"The Glenco people weren't MacPhails. I've read the story of the
massacre, and know all about that."

"He might haf been her mother's father, my laty."

"But you said father's father, in your song."

"She said Allister's father's father, my laty, she pelieves."

"I can't quite understand you, Mr MacPhail."

"Well, you see, my laty, her father was out in the forty-five,
and fought ta redcoats at Culloden. Tat's his claymore on ta wall
there--a coot plade--though she's not an Andrew Ferrara. She
wass forched in Clenco, py a cousin of her own, Angus py name, and
she's a fery coot plade: she 'll can well whistle ta pibroch of
Ian Loin apout ta ears of ta Sassenach. Her crandfather wass with
his uncle in ta pattle of Killiecrankie after Tundee--a creat
man, my laty, and he died there; and so tid her cranduncle, for a
fillain of a Mackay, from Lord Reay's cursed country--where they
aalways wass repels, my laty--chust as her uncle was pe cutting
town ta wicket Cheneral Mackay, turned him round, without gifing
no warnings, and killed ta poor man at won plow."

"But what has it all to do with your name? I declare I don't know
what to call you."

"Call her your own pard, old Tuncan MacPhail, my sweet laty, and
haf ta patience with her, and she'll pe telling you aall apout
eferyting, only you must gif her olt prams time to tumple temselfs
apout. Her head grows fery stupid.--Yes, as she was saying, after
ta ploody massacre at Culloden, her father had to hide himself away
out of sight, and to forge himself--I mean to put upon himself a
name tat tidn't mean himself at aal. And my poor mother, who pored
me--pig old Tuncan--ta fery tay of ta pattle, would not be
hearing won wort of him for tree months tat he was away; and when
he would pe creep pack like a fox to see her one fine night when
ta moon was not pe up, they'll make up an acreement to co away
together for a time, and to call temselfs MacPhails. But py and py
tey took their own nems again."

"And why haven't you your own name now? I'm sure it's a much prettier
name."

"Pecause she'll pe taking the other, my tear laty."

"And why?"

"Pecause--pecause ... She will tell you another time. She'll pe
tired to talk more apout ta cursed Cawmills this fery tay."

"Then Malcolm's name is not MacPhail either?"

"No, it is not, my lady."

"Is he your son's son, or your daughter's son."

"Perhaps not, my laty."

"I want to know what his real name is. Is it the same as yours? It
doesn't seem respectable not to have your own names."

"Oh yes, my laty, fery respectable. Many coot men has to porrow nems
of teir neighpours. We've all cot our fery own names, only in pad
tays, my laty, we ton't aalways know which tey are exactly; but we
aal know which we are each other, and we get on fery coot without
the names. We lay tem py with our Sappath clothes for a few tays,
and they come out ta fresher and ta sweeter for keeping ta Sappath
so long, my laty. And now she'll pe playing you ta coronach of
Clenco, which she was make herself for her own pipes."

"I want to know first what Malcolm's real name is," persisted Lady
Florimel.

"Well, you see, my laty," returned Duncan, "some people has names
and does not know them; and some people hasn't names, and will pe
supposing they haf."

"You are talking riddles, Mr MacPhail, and I don't like riddles,"
said Lady Florimel, with an offence which was not altogether
pretended.

"Yes surely--oh, yes! Call her Tuncan MacPhail, and neither more
or less, my laty--not yet," he returned, most evasively.

"I see you won't trust me," said the girl, and rising quickly, she
bade him goodnight, and left the cottage.

Duncan sat silent for a few minutes, as if in distress: then slowly
his hand went out feeling for his pipes, wherewithal he consoled
himself till bedtime.

Having plumed herself upon her influence with the old man, believing
she could do anything with him she pleased, Lady Florimel was
annoyed at failing to get from him any amplification of a hint in
itself sufficient to cast a glow of romance about the youth who
had already interested her so much. Duncan also was displeased,
but with himself; for disappointing one he loved so much. With
the passion for confidence which love generates, he had been for
some time desirous of opening his mind to her upon the matter in
question, and had indeed, on this very occasion, intended to lead
up to a certain disclosure; but just at the last he clung to his
secret, and could not let it go.

Compelled thereto against the natural impulse of the Celtic nature,
which is open and confiding, therefore in the reaction cunning and
suspicious, he had practised reticence so long, that he now recoiled
from a breach of the habit which had become a second, false nature.
He felt like one who, having caught a bird, holds it in his hand
with the full intention of letting it go, but cannot make up his
mind to do it just yet, knowing that, the moment he opens his hand,
nothing can make that bird his again.

A whole week passed, during which Lady Florimel did not come near
him, and the old man was miserable. At length one evening, for she
chose her time when Malcolm must be in some vague spot between the
shore and the horizon, she once more entered the piper's cottage.
He knew her step the moment she turned the corner from the shore,
and she had scarcely set her foot across the threshold before he
broke out:

"Ach, my tear laty! and tid you'll think old Tuncan such a stoopit
old man as not to 'll pe trusting ta light of her plind eyes? Put
her laty must forgif her, for it is a long tale, not like anything
you 'll pe in ta way of peliefing; and aalso, it'll pe put ta
tassel to another long tale which tears ta pag of her heart, and
makes her feel a purning tevil in ta pocket of her posom. Put she'll
tell you ta won half of it that pelongs to her poy Malcolm. He 's
a pig poy now, put he wasn't aalways. No. He was once a fery little
smaal chylt, in her old plind aarms. Put tey wasn't old ten. Why
must young peoples crow old, my laty? Put she'll pe clad of it
herself; for she'll can hate ta petter."

Lady Florimel, incapable either of setting forth the advantages of
growing old, or of enforcing the duty, which is the necessity, of
forgiveness, answered with some commonplace; and as, to fortify
his powers of narration, a sailor would cut himself a quid, and
a gentleman fill his glass, or light a fresh cigar, Duncan slowly
filled his bag. After a few strange notes as of a spirit wandering
in pain, he began his story. But I will tell the tale for him, lest
the printed oddities of his pronunciation should prove wearisome.
I must mention first, however, that he did not commence until he had
secured a promise from Lady Florimel that she would not communicate
his revelations to Malcolm, having, he said, very good reasons for
desiring to make them himself so soon as a fitting time should have
arrived.

Avoiding all mention of his reasons either for assuming another
name or for leaving his native glen, he told how, having wandered
forth with no companion but his bagpipes, and nothing he could call
his own beyond the garments and weapons which he wore, he traversed
the shires of Inverness and Nairn and Moray, offering at every house
on his road, to play the pipes, or clean the lamps and candlesticks,
and receiving sufficient return, mostly in the shape of food and
shelter, but partly in money, to bring him all the way from Glenco
to Portlossie: somewhere near the latter was a cave in which his
father, after his flight from Culloden, had lain in hiding for six
months, in hunger and cold, and in constant peril of discovery and
death, all in that region being rebels--for as such Duncan of
course regarded the adherents of the houses of Orange and Hanover;
and having occasion, for reasons, as I have said, unexplained, in
his turn to seek, like a hunted stag, a place far from his beloved
glen, wherein to hide his head, he had set out to find the cave,
which the memory of his father would render far more of a home to
him now than any other place left him on earth.

On his arrival at Portlossie, he put up at a small public house
in the Seaton, from which he started the next morning to find the
cave--a somewhat hopeless as well as perilous proceeding; but his
father's description of its situation and character had generated
such a vivid imagination of it in the mind of the old man, that he
believed himself able to walk straight into the mouth of it; nor
was the peril so great as must at first appear, to one who had been
blind all his life. But he searched the whole of the east side of
the promontory of Scaurnose, where it must lie, without finding
such a cave as his father had depicted. Again and again he fancied
he had come upon it, but was speedily convinced of his mistake.
Even in one who had his eyesight, however, such a failure would
not surprise those who understand how rapidly as well as constantly
the whole faces of some cliffs are changing by the fall of portions
--destroying the very existence of some caves, and utterly changing
the mouths of others.

From a desire of secrecy, occasioned by the haunting dread of its
approaching necessity, day and night being otherwise much alike to
him, Duncan generally chose the night for his wanderings amongst
the rocks, and probings of their hollows. One night, or rather
morning, for he believed it was considerably past twelve o'clock,
he sat weary in a large open cave, listening to the sound of the
rising tide, and fell fast asleep, his bagpipes, without which
he never went abroad, across his knees. He came to himself with a
violent start, for the bag seemed to be moving, and its last faint
sound of wail was issuing. Heavens! there was a baby lying upon it.
--For a time he sat perfectly bewildered, but at length concluded
that some wandering gipsy had made him a too ready gift of the
child she did not prize. Some one must be near. He called aloud, but
there was no answer. The child began to cry. He sought to soothe
it, and its lamentation ceased. The moment that its welcome silence
responded to his blandishments, the still small "Here I am" of the
Eternal Love whispered its presence in the heart of the lonely man:
something lay in his arms so helpless that to it, poor and blind
and forsaken of man and woman as he was, he was yet a tower of
strength. He clasped the child to his bosom, and rising forthwith
set out, but with warier steps than heretofore, over the rocks for
the Seaton.

Already he would have much preferred concealing him lest he should
be claimed--a thing, in view of all the circumstances, not very
likely--but for the child's sake, he must carry him to The Salmon,
where he had free entrance at any hour--not even the public house
locking its doors at night.

Thither then he bore his prize, shielding him from the night air
as well as he could, with the bag of his pipes. But he waked none
of the inmates; lately fed, the infant slept for several hours,
and then did his best both to rouse and astonish the neighbourhood.

Closely questioned, Duncan told the truth, but cunningly, in such
manner that some disbelieved him altogether, while others, who had
remarked his haunting of the rocks ever since his arrival, concluded
that he had brought the child with him and had kept him hidden
until now. The popular conviction at length settled to this, that
the child was the piper's grandson--but base born, whom therefore
he was ashamed to acknowledge, although heartily willing to minister
to and bring up as a foundling. The latter part of this conclusion,
however, was not alluded to by Duncan in his narrative: it was enough
to add that he took care to leave the former part of it undisturbed.

The very next day, he found himself attacked by a low fever; but as
he had hitherto paid for everything he had at the inn, they never
thought of turning him out when his money was exhausted; and as he
had already by his discreet behaviour, and the pleasure his bagpipes
afforded, made himself not a few friends amongst the simple hearted
people of the Seaton, some of the benevolent inhabitants of the
upper town, Miss Horn in particular, were soon interested in his
favour, who supplied him with everything he required until his
recovery. As to the baby, he was gloriously provided for; he had
at least a dozen foster mothers at once--no woman in the Seaton
who could enter a claim founded on the possession of the special
faculty required, failing to enter that claim--with the result
of an amount of jealousy almost incredible.

Meantime the town drummer fell sick and died, and Miss Horn made
a party in favour of Duncan. But for the baby, I doubt if he would
have had a chance, for he was a stranger and interloper; the women,
however, with the baby in their forefront, carried the day. Then
his opponents retreated behind the instrument, and strove hard to
get the drum recognised as an essential of the office. When Duncan
recoiled from the drum with indignation, but without losing the
support of his party, the opposition had the effrontery to propose
a bell: that he rejected with a vehemence of scorn that had nearly
ruined his cause; and, assuming straightway the position of chief
party in the proposed contract, declared that no noise of his making
should be other than the noise of bagpipes; that he would rather
starve than beat drum or ring bell; if he served in the case, it must
be after his own fashion--and so on. Hence it was no wonder, some
of the bailies being not only small men and therefore conceited, but
powerful whigs, who despised everything highland, and the bagpipes
especially, if the affair did for awhile seem hopeless. But the
more noble minded of the authorities approved of the piper none the
less for his independence, a generosity partly rooted, it must be
confessed, in the amusement which the annoyance of their weaker
brethren afforded them--whom at last they were happily successful
in outvoting, so that the bagpipes superseded the drum for a season.

It may be asked whence it arose that Duncan should now be willing
to quit his claim to any paternal property in Malcolm, confessing
that he was none of his blood.

One source of the change was doubtless the desire of confidences
between himself and Lady Florimel, another, the growing conviction,
generated it may be by the admiration which is born of love, that
the youth had gentle blood in his veins; and a third, that Duncan
had now so thoroughly proved the heart of Malcolm as to have no
fear of any change of fortune ever alienating his affections, or
causing him to behave otherwise than as his dutiful grandson.

It is not surprising that such a tale should have a considerable
influence on Lady Florimel's imagination: out of the scanty facts
which formed but a second volume, she began at once to construct
both a first and a third. She dreamed of the young fisherman
that night, and reflecting in the morning on her intercourse with
him, recalled sufficient indications in him of superiority to
his circumstances, noted by her now, however, for the first time,
to justify her dream: he might indeed well be the last scion of a
noble family.

I do not intend the least hint that she began to fall in love with
him. To balance his good looks, and the nobility, to keener eyes
yet more evident than to hers, in both his moral and physical
carriage, the equally undeniable clownishness of his dialect and
tone had huge weight, while the peculiar straightforwardness of
his behaviour and address not unfrequently savoured in her eyes
of rudeness; besides which objectionable things, there was the
persistent odour of fish about his garments--in itself sufficient
to prevent such a catastrophe. The sole result of her meditations
was the resolve to get some amusement out of him by means of
a knowledge of his history superior to his own.



CHAPTER XXX: THE REVIVAL


Before the close of the herring fishing, one of those movements of
the spiritual waters, which in different forms, and under different
names, manifest themselves at various intervals of space and of
time, was in full vortex. It was supposed by the folk of Portlossie
to have begun in the village of Scaurnose, but by the time it was
recognized as existent, no one could tell whence it had come, any
more than he could predict whither it was going. Of its spiritual
origin it may be also predicated with confidence that its roots lay
deeper than human insight could reach, and were far more interwoven
than human analysis could disentangle.

One notable fact bearing on its nature was, that it arose amongst
the people themselves, without the intervention or immediate
operation of the clergy, who indeed to a man were set against it.
Hence the flood was at first free from the results of one influence
most prolific of the pseudo spiritual, namely, the convulsive efforts
of men with faith in a certain evil system of theology, to rouse a
galvanic life by working on the higher feelings through the electric
sympathies of large assemblages, and the excitement of late hours,
prolonged prayers and exhortations, and sometimes even direct
appeal to individuals in public presence. The end of these things
is death, for the reaction is towards spiritual hardness and a
more confirmed unbelief: when the excitement has died away, those
at least in whom the spiritual faculty is for the time exhausted,
presume that they have tasted and seen, and found that nothing is
there. The whole thing is closely allied to the absurdity of those
who would throw down or who would accept the challenge to test the
reality of answer to prayer by applying the force of a multitudinous
petition to the will of the supposed divinity--I say supposed
divinity, because a being whose will could be thus moved like a
water wheel could not be in any sense divine. If there might be a
religious person so foolish and irreverent as to agree to such a
test--crucial indeed, but in a far other sense than that imagined
--I would put it to him whether the very sense of experiment would
not destroy in his mind all faculty of prayer, placing him in the
position, no more of a son of God, but of one who, tempting the
Lord his God, may read his rebuke where it stands recorded for the
ages.

But where such a movement has originated amongst the people, the
very facts adduced to argue its falsehood from its vulgarity, are to
me so many indications on the other side; for I could ill believe
in a divine influence which did not take the person such as he
was; did not, while giving him power from beyond him, leave his
individuality uninjured, yea intensify it, subjecting the very
means of its purification, the spread of the new leaven, to the
laws of time and growth. To look at the thing from the other side,
the genuineness of the man's reception of it will be manifest in
the meeting of his present conditions with the new thing--in the
show of results natural to one of his degree of development. To
hear a rude man utter his experience in the forms of cultivation,
would be at once to suspect the mere glitter of a reflex, and to
doubt an illumination from within. I repeat, the genuine influence
shows itself such in showing that it has laid hold of the very man,
at the very stage of growth he had reached. The dancing of David
before the ark, the glow of St. Stephen's face, and the wild gestures
and rude songs of miners and fishers and negroes, may all be signs
of the presence of the same spirit in temples various. Children
will rush and shout and hollo for the same joy which sends others
of the family to weep apart.

Of course the one infallible test as to whether any such movement
is of man without God, or of God within the man, is the following
life; only a large space for fluctuation must be allowed where a
whole world of passions and habits has to be subjected to the will
of God through the vice regency of a human will hardly or only just
awakened, and as yet unconscious of itself.

The nearest Joseph Mair could come to the origin of the present
movement was the influence of a certain Stornoway fisherman, whom
they had brought back with them on their return from the coasts
of Lewis--a man of Celtic fervour and faith, who had agreed to
accompany them probably in the hope of serving a set of the bravest
and hardest working men in the world, who yet spent a large part
of their ease in drinking up the earnings of fierce and perilous
labour. There were a few amongst them, he found, already prepared
to receive the word, and to each of these he spoke in private. They
spoke to one another, then each to his friend outside the little
circle. Next a few met to pray. These drew others in, and at length
it was delivered from mouth to mouth that on the following Sunday,
at a certain early hour in the morning, a meeting would be held
in the Bailie's Barn, a cave large enough to receive all the grown
population of Scaurnose.

The news of this gathering of course reached the Seaton, where some
were inclined to go and see, others to go and hear; most of even
the latter class, however, being at the same time more than inclined
to mock at the idea of a popular religious assembly.

Not so Duncan MacPhail, who, notwithstanding the more than half
Pagan character of his ideas, had too much reverence to mock at
anything in the form of religion, to all the claims of which he
was even eager to assent: when the duty of forgiveness was pressed
upon him too hard, he would take his last refuge in excepting to
the authority of the messenger. He regarded the announcement of
the meeting with the greater respect that the man from Stornoway
was a MacLeod, and so of his mother's clan.

It was now the end of August, when the sky is of a paler blue in
the day time, and greener about the sunset. The air had in it a
touch of cold, which, like as a faint acid affects a sweet drink,
only rendered the warmth more pleasant. On the appointed morning,
the tide was low, and the waves died gently upon the sand, seeming
to have crept away from the shore to get nearer to the sunrise.
Duncan was walking along the hard wet sand towards the promontory,
with Mr Graham on one side of him and Malcolm on the other. There
was no gun to fire this morning; it was Sunday, and all might
repose undisturbed: the longer sleep in bed, possibly the shorter
in church.

"I wish you had your sight but for a moment, Mr MacPhail," said
the schoolmaster. "How this sunrise would make you leap for joy."

"Ay!" said Malcolm, "it wad gar daddy grip till 's pipes in twa
hurries."

"And what should she'll pe wanting her pipes for?" asked Duncan.

"To praise God wi'," answered Malcolm.

"Ay; ay;" murmured Duncan thoughtfully. "Tey are tat."

"What are they?" asked Mr Graham gently.

"For to praise Cod," answered Duncan solemnly.

"I almost envy you," returned Mr Graham, "when I think how you will
praise God one day. What a glorious waking you will have!"

"Ten it 'll pe your opinion, Mr Craham, tat she'll pe sleeping her
sound sleep, and not pe lying wite awake in her coffin all ta time?"

"A good deal better than that, Mr MacPhail!" returned the schoolmaster
cheerily. "It's my opinion that you are, as it were, asleep now,
and that the moment you die, you will feel as if you had just woke
up, and for the first time in your life. For one thing, you will
see far better then than any of us do now."

But poor Duncan could not catch the idea; his mind was filled with
a preventing fancy.

"Yes; I know; at ta tay of chutchment," he said. "Put what 'll pe
ta use of ketting her eyes open pefore she 'll pe up? How should
she pe seeing with all ta earth apove her--and ta cravestone
too tat I know my poy Malcolm will pe laying on ta top of his old
cranfather to keep him waarm, and let peoples pe know tat ta plind
piper will be lying town pelow wite awake and fery uncomfortable?"

"Excuse me, Mr MacPhail, but that's all a mistake," said Mr Graham
positively. "The body is but a sort of shell that we cast off when
we die, as the corn casts off its husk when it begins to grow. The
life of the seed comes up out of the earth in a new body, as St
Paul says,"

"Ten," interrupted .Duncan, "she'll pe crowing up out of her crave
like a seed crowing up to pe a corn or a parley?"

The schoolmaster began to despair of ever conveying to the piper
the idea that the living man is the seed sown, and that when the
body of this seed dies, then the new body, with the man in it,
springs alive out of the old one--that the death of the one is
the birth of the other. Far more enlightened people than Duncan
never imagine, and would find it hard to believe, that the sowing
of the seed spoken of might mean something else than the burying
of the body; not perceiving what yet surely is plain enough, that
that would be the sowing of a seed already dead, and incapable of
giving birth to anything whatever.

"No, no," he said, almost impatiently, "you will never be in the
grave: it is only your body that will go there, with nothing like
life about it except the smile the glad soul has left on it. The
poor body when thus forsaken is so dead that it can't even stop
smiling. Get Malcolm to read to you out of the book of the Revelation
how there were multitudes even then standing before the throne.
They had died in this world, yet there they were, well and happy."

"Oh, yes!" said Duncan, with no small touch of spitefulness in his
tone, "--twang twanging at teir fine colden herps! She'll not be
thinking much of ta herp for a music maker! And peoples tells her
she'll not pe hafing her pipes tere! Och hone! Och hone!--She'll
chust pe lying still and not pe ketting up, and when ta work is ofer,
and eferypody cone away, she'll chust pe ketting up, and taking a
look apout her, to see if she'll pe finding a stand o' pipes that
some coot highlandman has peen left pehint him when he tied lately."

"You'll find it rather lonely--won't you?"

"Yes; no toubt, for they'll aal be cone up. Well, she'll haf her
pipes; and she could not co where ta pipes was looked town upon by
all ta creat people--and all ta smaal ones too."

They had now reached the foot of the promontory, and turned
northwards, each of his companions taking an arm of the piper to
help him over the rocks that lay between them and the mouth of the
cave, which soon yawned before them like a section of the mouth of
a great fish. Its floor of smooth rock had been swept out clean,
and sprinkled with dry sea sand. There were many hollows and
projections along its sides rudely fit for serving as seats, to
which had been added a number of forms extemporized of planks and
thwarts. No one had yet arrived when they entered, and they went at
once to the further end of the cave, that Duncan, who was a little
hard of hearing, might be close to the speakers. There his companions
turned and looked behind them: an exclamation, followed by a full
glance at each other, broke from each.

The sun, just clearing the end of the opposite promontory, shone
right into the mouth of the cave, from the midst of a tumult of gold,
in which all the other colours of his approach had been swallowed
up. The triumph strode splendent over sea and shore, subduing waves
and rocks to a path for its mighty entrance into that dark cave
on the human coast. With his back to the light stood Duncan in the
bottom of the cave, his white hair gleaming argentine, as if his
poor blind head were the very goal of the heavenly progress. He
turned round.

"Will it pe a fire? She feels something warm on her head," he
said, rolling his sightless orbs, upon which the splendour broke
waveless, casting a grim shadow of him on the jagged rock behind.

"No," answered Mr Graham; "it is the sun you feel. He's just out
of his grave."

The old man gave a grunt.

"I often think," said the schoolmaster to Malcolm, "that possibly
the reason why we are told so little about the world we are going
to, is, that no description of it would enter our minds any more
than a description of that sunrise would carry a notion of its
reality into the mind of your grandfather."

"She's obleeched to you, Mr Craham!" said the piper with offence.
"You take her fery stupid. You're so proud of your eyes, you think
a plind man cannot see at aall! Chm!"

But the folk began to assemble. By twos and threes, now from the
one side, now from the other, they came dropping in as if out of the
rush of the blinding sunshine, till the seats were nearly filled,
while a goodly company gathered about the mouth of the cave, there
to await the arrival of those who had called the meeting. Presently
MacLeod, a small thin man, with iron gray hair, keen, shrewd
features, large head, and brown complexion, appeared, and made his
way to the further end of the cave, followed by three or four of
the men of Scaurnose, amongst whom walked a pale faced, consumptive
lad, with bowed shoulders and eyes on the ground: he it was who,
feebly clambering on a ledge of rock, proceeded to conduct the worship
of the assembly. His parents were fisher people of Scaurnose, who
to make a minister of him had been half starving the rest of their
family; but he had broken down at length under the hardships of
endless work and wretched food. From the close of the session in
March, he had been teaching in Aberdeen until a few days before,
when he came home, aware that he was dying, and full of a fervour
betraying anxiety concerning himself rather than indicating the
possession of good news for others. The sun had now so far changed
his position, that, although he still shone into the cave, the preacher
stood in the shadow, out of which gleamed his wasted countenance,
pallid and sombre and solemn, as first he poured forth an abject
prayer for mercy, conceived in the spirit of a slave supplicating
the indulgence of a hard master, and couched in words and tones that
bore not a trace of the filial; then read the chapter containing
the curses of Mount Ebal, and gave the congregation one of Duncan's
favourite psalms to sing; and at length began a sermon on what he
called the divine justice. Not one word was there in it, however,
concerning God's love of fair dealing, either as betwixt himself
and man, or as betwixt man and his fellow; the preacher's whole
notion of justice was the punishment of sin; and that punishment
was hell, and hell only; so that the whole sermon was about hell
from beginning to end--hell appalling, lurid, hopeless. And the
eyes of all were fixed upon him with that glow from within which
manifests the listening spirit. Some of the women were as pale as
himself from sympathetic horror, doubtless also from a vague stirring
of the conscience, which, without accusing them of crime, yet told
them that all was not right between them and their God; while the
working of the faces of some of the men betrayed a mind not at all
at ease concerning their prospects. It was an eloquent and powerful
utterance, and might doubtless claim its place in the economy of
human education; but it was at best a pagan embodiment of truths
such as a righteous pagan might have discovered, and breathed
nothing of the spirit of Christianity, being as unjust towards God
as it represented him to be towards men: the God of the preacher
was utterly unlike the father of Jesus. Urging his hearers to flee
from the wrath to come, he drew such a picture of an angry Deity
as in nothing resembled the revelation in the Son.

"Fellow sinners," he said in conclusion, "haste ye and flee from
the wrath to come. Now is God waiting to be gracious--but only
so long as his Son holds back the indignation ready to burst forth
and devour you. He sprinkles its flames with the scarlet wool and
the hyssop of atonement; he stands between you and justice, and
pleads with his incensed Father for his rebellious creatures. Well
for you that he so stands and so pleads! Yet even he could not
prevail for ever against such righteous anger; and it is but for a
season he will thus entreat; the day will come when he will stand
aside and let the fiery furnace break forth and slay you. Then,
with howling and anguish, with weeping and wailing and gnashing of
teeth, ye shall know that God is a God of justice, that his wrath
is one with his omnipotence, and his hate everlasting as the fires
of hell. But do as ye will, ye cannot thwart his decrees, for to
whom he will he showeth mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth."

Scarcely had he ceased, when a loud cry, clear and keen, rang through
every corner of the cave. Well might the preacher start and gaze
around him! for the cry was articulate, sharply modelled into the
three words--"Father o' lichts!" Some of the men gave a scared
groan, and some of the women shrieked. None could tell whence the
cry had come, and Malcolm alone could guess who must have uttered
it.

"Yes," said the preacher, recovering himself, and replying to the
voice, "he is the Father of lights, but only to them that are in
Christ Jesus;--he is no father, but an avenging deity, to them
over whom the robe of his imputed righteousness is not cast. Jesus
Christ himself will not be gracious for ever. Kiss ye the Son,
lest even he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath
is kindled but a little."

"Father o' lichts!" rang the cry again, and louder than before.

To Malcolm it seemed close behind him, but he had the self possession
not to turn his head. The preacher took no farther notice. MacLeod
stood up, and having, in a few simple remarks, attempted to smooth
some of the asperities of the youth's address, announced another
meeting in the evening, and dismissed the assembly with a prayer.

Malcolm went home with his grandfather. He was certain it was the
laird's voice he had heard, but he would attempt no search after his
refuge that day, for dread of leading to its discovery by others.

That evening most of the boats of the Seaton set out for the fishing
ground as usual, but not many went from Scaurnose. Blue Peter would
go no more of a Sunday, hence Malcolm was free for the night, and
again with his grandfather walked along the sands in the evening
towards the cave.

The sun was going down on the other side of the promontory before
them, and the sky was gorgeous in rose and blue, in peach and
violet, in purple and green, barred and fretted, heaped and broken,
scattered and massed--every colour edged and tinged and harmonized
with a glory as of gold, molten with heat, and glowing with fire.
The thought that his grandfather could not see, and had never
seen such splendour, made Malcolm sad, and very little was spoken
between them as they went.

When they arrived, the service had already commenced, but room was
made for them to pass, and a seat was found for Duncan where he
could hear. Just as they entered, Malcolm spied, amongst those who
preferred the open air at the mouth of the cavern, a face which he
was all but certain was that of one of the three men from whom he
had rescued the laird.

MacLeod was to address them. He took for his text the words of the
Saviour, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and
I will give you rest," and founded upon them a simple, gracious,
and all but eloquent discourse, very different in tone and influence
from that of the young student. It must be confessed that the
Christ he presented was very far off, and wrapped in a hazy nimbus
of abstraction; that the toil of his revelation was forgotten, the
life he lived being only alluded to, and that not for the sake of
showing what he was, and hence what God is, but to illustrate the
conclusions of men concerning him; and yet there was that heart of
reality in the whole thing which no moral vulgarity of theory, no
injustice towards God, no tyranny of stupid logic over childlike
intuitions, could so obscure as to render it inoperative. From the
form of the Son of Man, thus beheld from afar, came a warmth like
the warmth from the first approach of the far off sun in spring,
sufficing to rouse the earth from the sleep of winter--in which
all the time the same sun has been its warmth and has kept it from
sleeping unto death.

MacLeod was a thinker--aware of the movements of his own heart,
and able to reflect on others the movements of their hearts; hence,
although in the main he treated the weariness and oppression from
which Jesus offered to set them free, as arising from a sense of
guilt and the fear of coming misery, he could not help alluding to
more ordinary troubles, and depicting other phases of the heart's
restlessness with such truth and sympathy that many listened with
a vague feeling of exposure to a supernatural insight. The sermon
soon began to show its influence; for a sense of the need of help
is so present to every simple mind, that, of all messages, the offer
of help is of easiest reception; some of the women were sobbing,
and the silent tears were flowing down the faces of others; while
of the men many were looking grave and thoughtful, and kept their
eyes fixed on the speaker. At length, towards the close, MacLeod
judged it needful to give a word of warning.

"But, my friends," he said, and his voice grew low and solemn, "I
dare not make an end without reminding you that, if you stop your
ears against the gracious call, a day will come when not even the
merits of the Son of God will avail you, but the wrath of the--"

"Father o' Lichts!" once more burst ringing out, like the sudden
cry of a trumpet in the night.

MacLeod took no notice of it, but brought his sermon at once to a
close, and specified the night of the following Saturday for next
meeting. They sung a psalm, and after a slow, solemn, thoughtful
prayer, the congregation dispersed.

But Malcolm, who, anxious because of the face he had seen as he
entered, had been laying his plans, after begging his grandfather
in a whisper to go home without him for a reason he would afterwards
explain, withdrew into a recess whence he could watch the cave,
without being readily discovered.

Scarcely had the last voices of the retreating congregation died
away, when the same ill favoured face peeped round the corner of the
entrance, gave a quick glance about, and the man came in. Like a
snuffing terrier, he went peering in the dimness into every hollow,
and behind every projection, until he suddenly caught sight of
Malcolm, probably by a glimmering of his eyes.

"Hillo, Humpy!" he cried in a tone of exultation, and sprang up
the rough ascent of a step or two to where he sat.

Malcolm half rose, and met him with a well delivered blow between
the eyes. He fell, and lay for a moment stunned. Malcolm sat down
again and watched him. When he came to himself, he crept out,
muttering imprecations. He knew it was not Humpy who dealt that
blow.

As soon as he was gone, Malcolm in his turn began searching.
He thought he knew every hole and corner of the cave, and there
was but one where the laird, who, for as near him as he heard his
voice the first time, certainly had not formed one of the visible
congregation, might have concealed himself: if that was his covert,
there he must be still, for he had assuredly not issued from it.

Immediately behind where he had sat in the morning, was a projection
of rock, with a narrow cleft between it and the wall of the cavern,
visible only from the very back of the cave, where the roof came
down low. But when he thought of it, he saw that even here he could
not have been hidden in the full light of the morning from the eyes
of some urchins who had seated themselves as far back as the roof
would allow them, and they had never looked as if they saw anything
more than other people. Still, if he was to search at all, here he
must begin. The cleft had scarcely more width than sufficed to admit
his body, and his hands told him at once that there was no laird
there. Could there be any opening further? If there was, it could
only be somewhere above. Was advance in that direction possible?

He felt about, and finding two or three footholds, began to climb
in the dark, and had reached the height of six feet or so, when he
came to a horizontal projection, which, for a moment only, barred
his further progress. Having literally surmounted this, that is,
got on the top of it, he found there a narrow vertical opening:
was it but a shallow recess, or did it lead into the heart of the
rock?

Carefully feeling his way both with hands and feet, he advanced a
step or two, and came to a place where the passage widened a little,
and then took a sharp turn and became so narrow that it was with
difficulty he forced himself through. It was, however, but one close
pinch, and he found himself, as his feet told him, at the top of
a steep descent. He stood for a moment hesitating, for prudence
demanded a light. The sound of the sea was behind him, but all
in front was still as the darkness of the grave. Suddenly up from
unknown depths of gloom, came the tones of a sweet childish voice,
singing The Lord's my Shepherd.

Malcolm waited until the psalm was finished, and then called out:

"Mr Stewart! I'm here--Malcolm MacPhail. I want to see ye. Tell
him it's me, Phemy."

A brief pause followed; then Phemy's voice answered:

"Come awa' doon. He says ye s' be welcome."

"Canna ye shaw a licht than; for I dinna ken a fit o' the ro'd,"
said Malcolm.

The next moment a light appeared at some little distance below,
and presently began to ascend, borne by Phemy, towards the place
where he stood. She took him by the hand without a word, and led
him down a slope, apparently formed of material fallen from the
roof, to the cave already described. The moment he entered it, he
marked the water in its side, the smooth floor, the walls hollowed
into a thousand fantastic cavities, and knew he had come upon the
cave in which his great grandfather had found refuge so many years
before. Changes in its mouth had rendered entrance difficult, and
it had slipped by degrees from the knowledge of men.

At the bottom of the slope, by the side of the well, sat the laird.
Phemy set the little lantern she carried on its edge. The laird
rose and shook hands with Malcolm and asked him to be seated.

"I'm sorry to say they're efter ye again, laird," said Malcolm
after a little ordinary chat.

Mr Stewart was on his feet instantly.

"I maun awa'. Tak care o' Phemy," he said hurriedly.

"Na, na, sir," said Malcolm, laying his hand on his arm; "there's
nae sic hurry. As lang's I'm here ye may sit still; an', as far's
I ken, naebody's fun' the w'y in but mysel', an' that was yer am
wyte (blame), laird. But ye hae garred mair fowk nor me luik, an'
that's the pity o' 't."

"I tauld ye, sir, ye sudna cry oot," said Phemy.

"I couldna help it," said Stewart apologetically.

"Weel, ye sudna ha' gane near them again," persisted the little
woman.

"Wha kent but they kent whaur I cam frae?" persisted the laird.

"Sit ye doon, sir, an' lat's hae a word aboot it," said Malcolm
cheerily.

The laird cast a doubting look at Phemy.

"Ay, sit doon," said Phemy.

Mr Stewart yielded, but nervous starts and sudden twitches of the
muscles betrayed his uneasiness: it looked as if his body would
jump up and run without his mind's consent.

"Hae ye ony w'y o' winnin' oot o' this, forbye (besides) the mou'
o' the cave there?" asked Malcolm.

"Nane 'at I ken o'," answered Phemy. "But there's heaps o' hidy
holes i' the inside o' 't."

"That's a' very weel; but gien they keppit the mou' an' took their
time till 't, they bude to grip ye."

"There may be, though," resumed Phemy. "It gangs back a lang road.
I hae never been in sicht o' the cud o' 't. It comes doon verra
laich in some places, and gangs up heich again in ithers, but nae
sign o' an en' till 't."

"Is there ony soon' o' watter intill 't?" asked Malcolm.

"Na, nane at ever I hard. But I'll tell ye what I hae hard: I hae
hard the flails gaein' thud, thud, abune my heid."

"Hoot toot, Phemy!" said Malcolm; "we're a guid mile an' a half frae
the nearest ferm toon, an' that I reckon, 'll be the Hoose ferm."

"I canna help that," persisted Phemy. "Gien 't wasna the flails,
whiles ane, an' whiles twa, I dinna ken what it cud hae been. Hoo
far it was I canna say, for it's ill measurin' i' the dark, or wi'
naething but a bowat (lantern) i' yer han'; but gien ye ca'd it
mair, I wadna won'er."

"It's a michty howkin!" said Malcolm; "but for a' that it wadna
haud ye frae the grip o' thae scoonrels: wharever ye ran they cud
rin efter ye."

"I think we cud sort them," said Phemy. "There's ae place, a guid
bit farrer in, whaur the rufe comes doon to the flure, leavin' jist
ae sma' hole to creep throu': it wad be fine to hae a gey muckle
stane handy, jist to row (roll) athort it, an' gar't luik as gien
't was the en' o' a'thing. But the hole's sae sma' at the laird
has ill gettin' his puir hack throu' 't."

"I couldna help won'erin' hoo he wan throu' at the tap there," said
Malcolm.

At this the laird laughed almost merrily, and rising, took Malcolm
by the hand and led him to the spot, where he made him feel a rough
groove in the wall of the rocky strait: into this hollow he laid
his hump, and so slid sideways through.

Malcolm squeezed himself through after him, saying,--

"Noo ye're oot, laird, hadna ye better come wi' me hame to Miss
Horn's, whaur ye wad be as safe's gien ye war in h'aven itsel'?"

"Na, I canna gang to Miss Horn's," he replied.

"What for no, laird?"

Pulling Malcolm down towards him, the laird whispered in his ear,

"'Cause she's fleyt at my back."

A moment or two passed ere Malcolm could think of a reply both true
and fitting. When at length he spoke again there was no answer,
and he knew that he was alone.

He left the cave and set out for the Seaton; but, unable to feel
at peace about his friends, resolved, on the way, to return after
seeing his grandfather, and spend the night in the outer cave.



CHAPTER XXXI: WANDERING STARS


He had not been gone many minutes, when the laird passed once more
through the strait, and stood a moment waiting for Phemy; she had
persuaded him to go home to her father's for the night.

But the next instant he darted back, with trembling hands, caught
hold of Phemy, who was following him with the lantern, and stammered
in her ear,--

"There's somebody there! I dinna ken whaur they come frae."

Phemy went to the front of the passage and listened, but could hear
nothing, and returned.

"Bide ye whaur ye are, laird," she said; "I'll gang doon, an' gien
I hear or see naething, I'll come back for ye."

With careful descent, placing her feet on the well known points
unerringly, she reached the bottom, and peeped into the outer cave.
The place was quite dark. Through its jaws the sea glimmered faint
in the low light that skirted the northern horizon; and the slow
pulse of the tide upon the rocks, was the sole sound to be heard.
No: another in the cave close beside her!--one small solitary
noise, as of shingle yielding under the pressure of a standing
foot! She held her breath and listened, her heart beating so loud
that she feared it would deafen her to what would come next. A good
many minutes, half an hour it seemed to her, passed, during which
she heard nothing more; but as she peeped out for the twentieth
time, a figure glided into the field of vision bounded by the
cave's mouth. It was that of a dumpy woman. She entered the cave,
tumbled over one of the forms, and gave a cry coupled with an
imprecation.

"The deevil roast them 'at laid me sic a trap!" she said. "I hae
broken the shins the auld markis laudit!"

"Hold your wicked tongue!" hissed a voice in return, almost in
Phemy's very ear.

"Ow! ye 're there, are ye, mem!" rejoined the other, in a voice that
held internal communication with her wounded shins.

"Coupit ye the crans like me?"

The question, Englished, was, "Did you fall heels over head like
me?" but was capable of a metaphorical interpretation as well.

"Hold your tongue, I say, woman! Who knows but some of the saints
may be at their prayers within hearing?"

"Na, na, mem, there's nae risk o' that; this is no ane o' yer
creepy caves whaur otters an wullcats hae their habitations; it's
a muckle open mou'd place, like them 'at prays intill 't--as toom
an' clear sidit as a tongueless bell. But what for ye wad hae 's
come here to oor cracks (conversation), I canna faddom. A body wad
think ye had an ill thoucht i' yer heid--eh, mem?"

The suggestion was followed by a low, almost sneering laugh. As she
spoke, the sounds of her voice and step had been advancing, with
cautious intermittent approach.

"I hae ye noo," she said, as she seated herself at length beside
the other. "The gowk, Geordie Bray!" she went on, "--to tak it
intill's oogly heid 'at the cratur wad be hurklin' here! It's no the
place for ane 'at has to hide 's heid for verra shame o' slippin'
aff the likes o' himsel' upo' sic a braw mither! Could he get nae
ither door to win in at, haith!"

"Woman, you 'll drive me mad!" said the other.

"Weel, hinney," returned the former, suddenly changing her tone, "I'm
mair an' mair convenced 'at yon's the verra laad for yer purpose.
For ae thing, ye see, naebody kens whaur he cam frae, as the
laird, bonny laad, wad say, an' naebody can contradick a word--
the auld man less than onybody, for I can tell him what he kens to
be trowth. Only I winna muv till I ken whaur he comes frae."

"Wouldn't you prefer not knowing for certain? You could swear with
the better grace."

"Deil a bit! It maitters na to me whilk side o' my teeth I chow wi'.
But I winna sweir till I ken the trowth--'at I may haud off o'
't. He's the man, though, gien we can get a grip o' 'im! He luiks
the richt thing, ye see, mem. He has a glisk (slight look) o' the
markis tu--divna ye think, mem?"

"Insolent wretch!"

"Caw canny, mem--'thing maun be considered. It wad but gar the
thing luik, the mair likly. Fowk gangs the len'th o' sayin' 'at
Humpy himsel' 's no the sin (son) o' the auld laird, honest man.

"It's a wicked lie," burst with indignation from the other.

"There may be waur things nor a bit lee. Ony gait, ae thing's easy
priven: ye lay verra dowie (poorly) for a month or sax ooks ance
upon a time at Lossie Hoose, an' that was a feow years, we needna
speir hoo mony, efter ye was lichtened o' the tither. Whan they
hear that at that time ye gae birth till a lad bairn, the whilk was
stown awa', an' never hard tell o' till noo--'It may weel be,'
fowk'll say: 'them 'at has drunk wad drink again!' It wad affoord
rizzons, ye see, an' guid anes, for the bairn bein' putten oot a'
sicht, and wad mak the haul story mair nor likly i' the jeedgment
o' a' 'at hard it."

"You scandalous woman! That would be to confess to all the world
that he was not the son of my late husband!"

"They say that o' him 'at is, an' hoo muckle the waur are ye? Lat
them say 'at they like, sae lang 's we can shaw 'at he cam o' your
body, an' was born i' wedlock? Ye hae yer Ian's ance mair, for ye
hae a sin 'at can guide them--and ye can guide him. He's a bonny
lad--bonny eneuch to be yer leddyship's--and his lordship's:
an' sae, as I was remarkin', i' the jeedgment a' ill thouchtit
fowk, the mair likly to be heir to auld Stewart o' Kirkbyres!"

She laughed huskily.

"But I maun hae a scart a' yer pen, mem, afore I wag tongue aboot
it," she went on. "I ken brawly hoo to set it gauin'! I sanna be the
first to ring the bell. Na, na; I s' set Miss Horn's Jean jawin',
an' it 'll be a' ower the toon in a jiffy--at first in a kin o'
a sough 'at naebody 'ill unnerstan': but it 'll grow looder an'
plainer. At the lang last it 'll come to yer leddyship's hearin:
an' syne ye hae me taen up an' questoned afore a justice o' the
peace, that there may be no luik o' ony compack atween the twa o'
's. But, as I said afore, I'll no muv till I ken a' aboot the lad
first, an' syne get a scart o' yer pen, mem."

"You must be the devil himself!" said the other, in a tone that
was not of displeasure.

"I hae been tellt that afore, an' wi' less rizzon," was the reply
--given also in a tone that was not of displeasure.

"But what if we should be found out?"

"Ye can lay 't a' upo' me."

"And what will you do with it?"

"Tak it wi' me," was the answer, accompanied by another husky laugh.

"Where to?"

"Speir nae questons, an' ye'll be tellt nae lees. Ony gait, I
s' lea' nae track ahin' me. An' for that same sake, I maun hae my
pairt i' my han' the meenute the thing's been sworn till. Gien ye
fail me, ye'll sune see me get mair licht upo' the subjec', an'
confess till a great mistak. By the Michty, but I'll sweir the verra
contrar the neist time I'm hed up! Ay, an' ilka body 'ill believe
me. An' whaur'll ye be than, my leddy? For though I micht mistak,
ye cudna! Faith! they'll hae ye ta'en up for perjury."

"You're a dangerous accomplice," said the lady.

"I'm a tule ye maun tak by the han'le, or ye'll rue the edge,"
returned the other quietly.

"As soon then as I get a hold of that misbegotten elf--"

"Mean ye the yoong laird, or the yoong markis, mem?"

"You forget, Mrs Catanach, that you are speaking to a lady!"

"Ye maun hae been unco like ane ae nicht, ony gait, mem. But I'm
dune wi' my jokin'."

"As soon, I say, as I get my poor boy into proper hands, I shall
be ready to take the next step."

"What for sod ye pit it aff till than? He canna du muckle ae w'y
or ither."

"I will tell you. His uncle, Sir Joseph, prides himself on being
an honest man, and if some busybody were to tell him that poor
Stephen, as I am told people are saying, was no worse than harsh
treatment had made him--for you know his father could not bear
the sight of him till the day of his death--he would be the more
determined to assert his guardianship, and keep things out of my
hands. But if I once had the poor fellow in an asylum, or in my
own keeping--you see--"

"Weel, mem, gien I be potty, ye're panny!" exclaimed the midwife with
her gelatinous laugh. "Losh, mem!" she burst out after a moment's
pause, "sen you an' me was to fa' oot, there wad be a stramash!
He! he! he!"

They rose and left the cave together, talking as they went; and
Phemy, trembling all over, rejoined the laird.

She could understand little of what she had heard, and yet, enabled
by her affection, retained in her mind a good deal of it. After
events brought more of it to her recollection, and what I have
here given is an attempted restoration of the broken mosaic. She
rightly judged it better to repeat nothing of what she had overheard
to the laird, to whom it would only redouble terror; and when
he questioned her in his own way concerning it, she had little
difficulty, so entirely did he trust her, in satisfying him with a
very small amount of information. When they reached her home, she
told all she could to her father; whose opinion it was, that the
best, indeed the only-thing they could do, was to keep, if possible,
a yet more vigilant guard over the laird and his liberty.

Soon after they were gone, Malcolm returned, and little thinking
that there was no one left to guard, chose a sheltered spot in the
cave, carried thither a quantity of dry sand, and lay down to sleep,
covered with his tarpaulin coat. He found it something chilly,
however, and did not rest so well but that he woke with the first
break of day.

The morning, as it drew slowly on, was a strange contrast, in its
gray and saffron, to the gorgeous sunset of the night before.

The sea crept up on the land as if it were weary, and did not care
much to flow any more. Not a breath of wind was in motion, and yet
the air even on the shore seemed full of the presence of decaying
leaves and damp earth. He sat down in the mouth of the cave, and
looked out on the still, half waking world of ocean and sky before
him--a leaden ocean, and a dull misty sky; and as he gazed, a
sadness came stealing over him, and a sense of the endlessness of
labour--labour ever returning on itself and making no progress.
The mad laird was always lamenting his ignorance of his origin:
Malcolm thought he knew whence he came--and yet what was the
much good of life? Where was the end to it all? People so seldom
got what they desired! To be sure his life was a happy one, or had
been--but there was the poor laird! Why should he be happier than
the laird? Why should the laird have a hump and he have none? If
all the world were happy but one man, that one's misery would be
as a cairn on which the countless multitudes of the blessed must
heap the stones of endless questions and enduring perplexities.

It is one thing to know from whom we come, and another to know from
Whom we come.

Then his thoughts turned to Lady Florimel. All the splendours of
existence radiated from her, but to the glory he could never draw
nearer; the celestial fires of the rainbow fountain of her life
could never warm him; she cared about nothing he cared about; if
they had a common humanity they could not share it; to her he was
hardly human. If he were to unfold before her the deepest layers of
his thought, she would look at them curiously, as she might watch
the doings of an ant or a spider. Had he no right to look for more?
He did not know, and sat brooding with bowed head.

Unseen from where he sat, the sun drew nearer the horizon, the
light grew; the tide began to ripple up more diligently; a glimmer
of dawn touched even the brown rock in the farthest end of the
cave.

Where there was light there was work, and where there was work for
any one, there was at least justification of his existence. That
work must be done, if it should return and return in a never broken
circle. Its theory could wait. For indeed the only hope of finding
the theory of all theories, the divine idea, lay in the going on
of things.

In the meantime, while God took care of the sparrows by himself, he
allowed Malcolm a share in the protection of a human heart capable
of the keenest suffering--that of the mad laird.



CHAPTER XXXII: THE SKIPPER'S CHAMBER


One day towards the close of the fishing season, the marquis called
upon Duncan; and was received with a cordial unembarrassed welcome.

"I want you, Mr MacPhail," said his lordship, "to come and live
in that little cottage, on the banks of the burn, which one of the
under gamekeepers, they tell me, used to occupy.. I 'll have it
put in order for you, and you shall live rent free as my piper."

"I thank your lortship's crace," said Duncan, "and she would pe
proud of ta honour, put it 'll pe too far away from ta shore for
her poy's fishing."

"I have a design upon him too," returned the marquis. "They 're
building a little yacht for me--a pleasure boat, you understand
--at Aberdeen, and I want Malcolm to be skipper. But he is such a
useful fellow, and so thoroughly to be depended upon, that I should
prefer his having a room in the house. I should like to know he
was within call any moment I might want him."

Duncan did not clutch at the proposal. He was silent so long that
the marquis spoke again.

"You do not quite seem to like the plan, Mr MacPhail," he said.

"If aal wass here as it used to wass in ta Highlants, my lort,"
said Duncan, "when every clansman wass son or prother or father to
his chief tat would pe tifferent; put my poy must not co and eat
with serfants who haf nothing put teir waches to make tem love
and opey your lortship. If her poy serfs another man, it must pe
pecause he loves him, and looks upon him as his chief, who will
shake haands with him and take ta father's care of him; and her
poy must tie for him when ta time comes."

Even a feudal lord cannot be expected to have sympathized with
such grand patriarchal ideas; they were much too like those of the
kingdom of heaven; and feudalism itself had by this time crumbled
away--not indeed into monthly, but into half yearly wages. The
marquis, notwithstanding, was touched by the old man's words, matter
of fact as his reply must sound after them.

"I would make any arrangements you or he might wish," he said.
"He should take his meals with Mrs Courthope, have a bedroom to
himself and be required only to look after the yacht, and now and
then do some bit of business I could n't trust any one else with."

The highlander's pride was nearly satisfied.

"So," he said, "it 'll pe his own henchman my lort will pe making
of her poy?"

"Something like that. We 'll see how it goes. If he does n't like
it, he can drop it. It 's more that I want to have him about me
than anything else. I want to do something for him when I have a
chance. I like him."

"My lort will pe toing ta laad a creat honour," said Duncan. "Put,"
he added, with a sigh, "she 'll pe lonely, her nainsel!"

"He can come and see you twenty times a day--and stop all night
when you particularly want him. We 'll see about some respectable
woman to look after the house for you."

"She 'll haf no womans to look after her," said Duncan fiercely.

"Oh, very well!--of course not, if you don't wish it," returned
the marquis, laughing.

But Duncan did not even smile in return. He sat thoughtful and
silent for a moment, then said:

"And what 'll pecome of her lamps and her shop?"

"You shall have all the lamps and candlesticks in the house to
attend to and take charge of," said the marquis, who had heard of
the old man's whim from Lady Florimel; "and for the shop, you won't
want that when you're piper to the Marquis of Lossie."

He did not venture to allude to wages more definitely.

"Well, she'll pe talking to her poy apout it," said Duncan, and
the marquis saw that he had better press the matter no further for
the time.

To Malcolm the proposal was full of attraction. True, Lord Lossie
had once and again spoken so as to offend him, but the confidence
he had shown in him had gone far to atone for that. And to be near
Lady Florimel!--to have to wait on her in the yacht and sometimes
in the house!--to be allowed books from the library perhaps!--
to have a nice room, and those lovely grounds all about him!--It
was tempting!

The old man also, the more he reflected, liked the idea the more.
The only thing he murmured at was, being parted from his grandson
at night. In vain Malcolm reminded him that during the fishing
season he had to spend most nights alone; Duncan answered that
he had but to go to the door, and look out to sea, and there was
nothing between him and his boy; but now he could not tell how
many stone walls might be standing up to divide them. He was quite
willing to make the trial, however, and see if he could bear it.
So Malcolm went to speak to the marquis.

He did not altogether trust the marquis, but he had always taken
a delight in doing anything for anybody--a delight rooted in a
natural tendency to ministration, unusually strong, and specially
developed by the instructions of Alexander Graham conjoined with the
necessities of his blind grandfather; while there was an alluring
something, it must be confessed, in the marquis's high position
--which let no one set down to Malcolm's discredit: whether the
subordination of class shall go to the development of reverence or
of servility, depends mainly on the individual nature subordinated.
Calvinism itself has produced as loving children as abject slaves,
with a good many between partaking of the character of both kinds.
Still, as he pondered over the matter on his way, he shrunk a
good deal from placing himself at the beck and call of another; it
threatened to interfere with that sense of personal freedom which
is yet dearer perhaps to the poor than to the rich. But he argued
with himself that he had found no infringement of it under Blue
Peter; and that, if the marquis were really as friendly as he
professed to be, it was not likely to turn out otherwise with him.

Lady Florimel anticipated pleasure in Malcolm's probable consent
to her father's plan; but certainly he would not have been greatly
uplifted by a knowledge of the sort of pleasure she expected. For
some time the girl had been suffering from too much liberty. Perhaps
there is no life more filled with a sense of oppression and lack
of freedom than that of those under no external control, in whom
Duty has not yet gathered sufficient strength to assume the reins
of government and subject them to the highest law. Their condition
is like that of a creature under an exhausted receiver--oppressed
from within outwards for want of the counteracting external weight.
It was amusement she hoped for from Malcolm's becoming in a sense
one of the family at the House--to which she believed her knowledge of
the extremely bare outlines of his history would largely contribute.

He was shown at once into the presence of his lordship, whom he
found at breakfast with his daughter.

"Well, MacPhail," said the marquis, "have you made up your mind to
be my skipper?"

"Willin'ly, my lord," answered Malcolm.

"Do you know how to manage a sailboat?"

"I wad need, my lord."

"Shall you want any help?"

"That depen's upo' saiveral things--her am size, the wull o' the
win', an' whether or no yer lordship or my leddy can tak the tiller."

"We can't settle about that then till she comes. I hear she 'll soon
be on her way now. But I cannot have you dressed like a farmer!"
said his lordship, looking sharply at the Sunday clothes which
Malcolm had donned for the visit.

"What was I to du, my lord?" returned Malcolm apologetically. "The
only ither claes I hae, are verra fishy, an' neither yersel' nor
my leddy cud bide them i' the room aside ye."

"Certainly not," responded the marquis, as in a leisurely manner
he devoured his omelette: "I was thinking of your future position
as skipper of my boat. What would you say to a kilt now?"

"Na, na, my lord," rejoined Malcolm; "a kilt's no seafarin' claes.
A kilt wadna du ava', my lord."

"You cannot surely object to the dress of your own people," said
the marquis.

"The kilt 's weel eneuch upon a hillside," said Malcolm, "I dinna
doobt; but faith! seafarin', my lord, ye wad want the trews as
weel."

"Well, go to the best tailor in the town, and order a naval suit
--white ducks and a blue jacket--two suits you 'll want."

"We s' gar ae shuit sair s' (satisfy us) to begin wi', my lord.
I 'll jist gang to Jamie Sangster, wha maks a' my claes--no 'at
their mony!--an' get him to mizzur me. He'll mak them weel eneuch
for me. You 're aye sure o' the worth o' yer siller frae him."

"I tell you to go to the best tailor in the town, and order two
suits."

"Na, na, my lord; there 's nae need. I canna affoord it forbye. We
're no a' made o' siller like yer lordship."

"You booby! do you suppose I would tell you to order clothes I did
not mean to pay for?"

Lady Florimel found her expectation of amusement not likely to be
disappointed.

"Hoots, my lord!" returned Malcolm, "that wad never du. I maun pey
for my ain claes. I wad be in a constant terror o blaudin' (spoiling)
o' them gien I didna, an' that wad be eneuch to mak a body meeserable.
It wad be a' the same, forbye, not an' oot, as weirin' a leevry!"

"Well, well! please your pride, and be damned to you!" said the
marquis.

"Yes, let him please his pride, and be damned to him!" assented
Lady Florimel with perfect gravity.

Malcolm started and stared. Lady Florimel kept an absolute composure.
The marquis burst into a loud laugh. Malcolm stood bewildered for
a moment.

"I'm thinkin' I 'm gaein' daft (delirious)!" he said at length,
putting his hand to his head. "It's time I gaed. Guid mornin', my
lord."

He turned and left the room, followed by a fresh peal from his
lordship, mingling with which his ear plainly detected the silvery
veins of Lady Florimel's equally merry laughter.

When he came to himself and was able to reflect, he saw there must
have been some joke involved: the behaviour of both indicated as
much; and with this conclusion he heartened his dismay.

The next morning Duncan called on Mrs Partan, and begged her
acceptance of his stock in trade, as, having been his lordship's
piper for some time, he was now at length about to occupy his proper
quarters within the policies. Mrs Findlay acquiesced, with an air
better suited to the granting of slow leave to laboursome petition,
than the accepting of such a generous gift; but she made some amends
by graciously expressing a hope that Duncan would not forget his
old friends now that he was going amongst lords and ladies, to which
Duncan returned as courteous answer as if he had been addressing
Lady Florimel herself.

Before the end of the week, his few household goods were borne in
a cart through the sea gate dragonised by Bykes, to whom Malcolm
dropped a humorous "Weel Johnny!" as he passed, receiving a
nondescript kind of grin in return. The rest of the forenoon was
spent in getting the place in order, and in the afternoon, arrayed
in his new garments, Malcolm reported himself at the House. Admitted
to his lordship's presence, he had a question to ask and a request
to prefer.

"Hae ye dune onything my lord," he said, "aboot Mistress Catanach?"

"What do you mean?"

"Anent yon cat prowl aboot the hoose, my lord."

"No. You have n't discovered anything more--have you?"

"Na, my lord; I haena had a chance. But ye may be sure she had nae
guid design in 't."

"I don't suspect her of any."

"Weel, my lord, hae ye ony objection to lat me sleep up yonner?"

"None at all--only you'd better see what Mrs Courthope has to
say to it. Perhaps you won't be so ready after you hear her story."

"But I hae yer lordship's leave to tak ony room I like?"

"Certainly. Go to Mrs Courthope, and tell her I wish you to choose
your own quarters."

Having straightway delivered his lordship's message, Mrs Courthope,
wondering a little thereat, proceeded to show him those portions
of the house set apart for the servants. He followed her from floor
to floor--last to the upper regions, and through all the confused
rambling roofs of the old pile, now descending a sudden steep
yawning stair, now ascending another where none could have been
supposed to exist--oppressed all the time with a sense of the
multitudinous and intricate, such as he had never before experienced, and
such as perhaps only the works of man can produce, the intricacy
and variety of those of nature being ever veiled in the grand
simplicity which springs from primal unity of purpose.

I find no part of an ancient house so full of interest as the
garret region. It has all the mystery of the dungeon cellars with
a far more striking variety of form, and a bewildering curiosity
of adaptation, the peculiarities of roof shapes and the consequent
complexities of their relations and junctures being so much greater
than those of foundation plans. Then the sense of lofty loneliness
in the deeps of air, and at the same time of proximity to things
aerial--doves and martins, vanes and gilded balls and lightning
conductors, the waves of the sea of wind, breaking on the chimneys
for rocks, and the crashing roll of the thunder--is in harmony
with the highest spiritual instincts; while the clouds and the stars
look, if not nearer, yet more germane, and the moon gazes down on
the lonely dweller in uplifted places, as if she had secrets with
such. The cellars are the metaphysics, the garrets the poetry of
the house.

Mrs Courthope was more than kind, for she was greatly pleased
at having Malcolm for an inmate. She led him from room to room,
suggesting now and then a choice, and listening amusedly to his
remarks of liking or disliking, and his marvel at strangeness or
extent. At last he found himself following her along the passage
in which was the mysterious door, but she never stayed her step,
or seemed to intend showing one of the many rooms opening upon it.

"Sic a bee's byke o' rooms!" said Malcolm, making a halt "Wha sleeps
here?"

"Nobody has slept in one of these rooms for I dare not say how many
years," replied Mrs Courthope, without stopping; and as she spoke
she passed the fearful door.

"I wad like to see intil this room," said Malcolm.

"That door is never opened," answered Mrs Courthope, who had now
reached the end of the passage, and turned, lingering as in act
while she spoke to move on.

"And what for that?" asked Malcolm, continuing to stand before it.

"I would rather not answer you just here. Come along. This is not
a part of the house where you would like to be, I am sure."

"Hoo ken ye that, mem? An' hoo can I say mysel' afore ye hae shawn
me what the room 's like? It may be the verra place to tak my fancy.
Jist open the door, mem, gien ye please, an lat's hae a keek intill
't."

"I daren't open it. It's never opened, I tell you. It's against the
rules of the house. Come to my room, and I'll tell you the story
about it."

"Weel, ye 'll lat me see intil the neist--winna ye? There's nae
law agane openin' hit--is there?" said Malcolm, approaching the
door next to the one in dispute.

"Certainly not; but I'm pretty sure, once you've heard the story I
have to tell, you won't choose to sleep in this part of the house."

"Lat's luik, ony gait."

So saying, Malcolm took upon himself to try the handle of the
door. It was not locked: he peeped in, then entered. It was a small
room, low ceiled, with a deep dormer window in the high pediment of
a roof, and a turret recess on each side of the window. It seemed
very light after the passage, and looked down upon the burn. It
was comfortably furnished, and the curtains of its tent bed were
chequered in squares of blue and white.

"This is the verra place for me, mem," said Malcolm, reissuing;--
"that is," he added, "gien ye dinna think it's ower gran' for the
likes o' me 'at 's no been used to onything half sae guid."

"You're quite welcome to it," said Mrs Courthope, all but confident he
would not care to occupy it after hearing the tale of Lord Gernon.

She had not moved from the end of the passage while Malcolm was in
the room--somewhat hurriedly she now led the way to her own. It
seemed half a mile off to the wondering Malcolm, as he followed her
down winding stairs, along endless passages, and round innumerable
corners. Arrived at last, she made him sit down, and gave him
a glass of home made wine to drink, while she told him the story
much as she had already told it to the marquis, adding a hope to
the effect that, if ever the marquis should express a wish to pry
into the secret of the chamber, Malcolm would not encourage him in
a fancy, the indulgence of which was certainly useless, and might
be dangerous.

"Me!" exclaimed Malcolm with surprise. "--As gien he wad heed a
word I said!"

"Very little sometimes will turn a man either in one direction or
the other," said Mrs Courthope.

"But surely, mem, ye dinna believe in sic fule auld warld stories
as that! It's weel eneuch for a tale, but to think o' a body turnin'
'ae fit oot o' 's gait for 't, blecks (nonplusses) me."

"I don't say I believe it," returned Mrs Courthope, a little
pettishly; "but there's no good in mere foolhardiness."

"Ye dinna surely think, mem, 'at God wad lat onything depen' upo'
whether a man opent a door in 's ain hoose or no! It's agane a'
rizzon!" persisted Malcolm.

"There might be reasons we couldn't understand," she replied. "To
do what we are warned against from any quarter, without good reason,
must be foolhardy at best."

"Weel, mem, I maun hae the room neist the auld warlock's, ony gait,
for in that I'm gauin' to sleep, an' in nae ither in a' this muckle
hoose."

Mrs Courthope rose, full of uneasiness, and walked up and down the
room.

"I'm takin' upo' me naething ayont his lordship's ain word," urged
Malcolm.

"If you're to go by the very word," rejoined Mrs Courthope, stopping
and looking him full in the face, "you might insist on sleeping in
Lord Gernon's chamber itself."

"Weal, an' sae I micht," returned Malcolm.

The hinted possibility of having to change bad for so much worse,
appeared to quench further objection.

"I must get it ready myself then," she said resignedly, "for the
maids won't even go up that stair. And as to going into any of
those rooms!"

"'Deed no, mem! ye sanna du that," cried Malcolm. "Sayna a word to
ane o' them. I s' wadger I'm as guid's the auld warlock himsel' at
makin' a bed. Jist gie me the sheets an' the blankets, an' I'll du
't as trim 's ony lass i' the hoose."

"But the bed will want airing," objected the housekeeper.

"By a' accoonts, that's the last thing it's likly to want--lyin'
neist door to yon chaumer. But I hae sleepit mony 's the time er'
noo upo' the tap o' a boat load o' herrin', an' gien that never did
me ony ill, it's no likly a guid bed 'll kill me gien it sud be a
wee mochy (rather full of moths)."

Mrs Courthope yielded and gave him all that was needful, and before
night Malcolm had made his new quarters quite comfortable. He did
not retire to them, however, until he had seen his grandfather laid
down to sleep in his lonely cottage.

About. noon the next day the old man made his appearance in the
kitchen. How he had found his way to it, neither he nor any one
else could tell. There happened to be no one there when he entered,
and the cook when she returned stood for a moment in the door,
watching him as he felt flitting about with huge bony hands whose
touch was yet light as the poise of a butterfly. Not knowing the
old man, she fancied at first he was feeling after something in the
shape of food, but presently his hands fell upon a brass candlestick.
He clutched it, and commenced fingering it all over. Alas! it was
clean, and with a look of disappointment he replaced it. Wondering
yet more what his quest could be, she watched on. The next instant
he had laid hold of a silver candlestick not yet passed through
the hands of the scullery maid; and for a moment she fancied him a
thief, for he had rejected the brass and now took the silver; but
he went no farther with it than the fireplace, where he sat down
on the end of the large fender, and, having spread his pocket
handkerchief over his kilted knees, drew a similar rag from somewhere,
and commenced cleaning it.

By this time one of the maids who knew him had joined the cook,
and also stood watching him with amusement. But when she saw the
old knife drawn from his stocking, and about to be applied to the
nozzle, to free it from adhering wax, it seemed more than time to
break the silence.

"Eh! that's a siller can'lestick, Maister MacPhail," she cried,
"an' ye maunna tak a knife till 't, or ye'll scrat it a' dreidfu'."

An angry flush glowed in the withered cheeks of the piper, as,
without the least start at the suddenness of her interference, he
turned his face in the direction of the speaker.

"You take old Tuncan's finkers for persons of no etchucation, mem!
As if tey couldn't know ta silfer from ta prass! If tey wass so
stupid, her nose would pe telling tem so. Efen old Tuncan's knife
'll pe knowing petter than to scratch ta silfer--or ta prass
either; old Tuncan's knife would pe scratching nothing petter tan
ta skin of a Cawmill."

Now the candlestick had no business in the kitchen, and if it
were scratched, the butler would be indignant; but the girl was
a Campbell, and Duncan's words so frightened her that she did not
dare interfere. She soon saw, however, that the piper had not over
vaunted his skill: the skene left not a mark upon the metal; in a
few minutes he had melted away the wax he could not otherwise reach,
and had rubbed the candlestick perfectly bright, leaving behind
him no trace except an unpleasant odour of train oil from the rag.
From that hour he was cleaner of lamps and candlesticks, as well
as blower of bagpipes, to the House of Lossie; and had everything
provided necessary to the performance of his duties with comfort
and success.

Before many weeks were over, he had proved the possession of
such a talent for arrangement and general management, at least in
everything connected with illumination, that the entire charge of
the lighting of the house was left in his hands,--even to that
of its stores of wax and tallow and oil; and great was the pleasure
he derived, not only from the trust reposed in him, but from other
more occult sources connected with the duties of his office.



CHAPTER XXXIII: THE LIBRARY


Malcolm's first night was rather troubled,--not primarily from
the fact that but a thin partition separated him from the wizard's
chamber, but from the deadness of the silence around him; for
he had been all his life accustomed to the near noise of the sea,
and its absence had upon him the rousing effect of an unaccustomed
sound. He kept hearing the dead silence--was constantly dropping,
as it were into its gulf; and it was no wonder that a succession
of sleepless fits, strung together rather than divided by as many
dozes little better than startled rousings, should at length have
so shaken his mental frame as to lay it open to the assaults of
nightly terrors, the position itself being sufficient to seduce
his imagination, and carry it over to the interests of the enemy.

But Malcolm had early learned that a man's will must, like a true
monarch, rule down every rebellious movement of its subjects, and
he was far from yielding to such inroads as now assailed him: still
it was long before he fell asleep, and then only to dream without
quite losing consciousness of his peculiar surroundings. He seemed
to know that he lay in his own bed, and yet to be somehow aware
of the presence of a pale woman in a white garment, who sat on the
side of the bed in the next room, still and silent, with her hands
in her lap, and her eyes on the ground. He thought he had seen
her before, and knew, notwithstanding her silence, that she was
lamenting over a child she had lost. He knew also where her child
was,--that it lay crying in a cave down by the seashore; but he
could neither rise to go to her, nor open his mouth to call. The
vision kept coming and coming, like the same tune played over and
over on a barrel organ, and when he woke seemed to fill all the
time he had slept.

About ten o'clock he was summoned to the marquis's presence, and
found him at breakfast with Lady Florimel.

"Where did you sleep last night?" asked the marquis.

"Neist door to the auld warlock," answered Malcolm.

Lady Florimel looked up with a glance of bright interest: her father
had just been telling her the story.

"You did!" said the marquis. "Then Mrs Courthope--did she tell
you the legend about him?"

"Ay did she, my lord."

"Well, how did you sleep?"

"Middlin' only."

"How was that?"

"I dinna ken, 'cep it was 'at I was fule eneuch to fin' the place
gey eerie like."

"Aha!" said the marquis. "You've had enough of it! You won't try
it again!"

"What 's that ye say, my lord?" rejoined Malcolm. "Wad ye hae a
man turn 's back at the first fleg? Na, na, my lord; that wad never
du!"

"Oh! then, you did have a fright?"

"Na, I canna say that aither. Naething waur cam near me nor a dream
'at plaguit me--an' it wasna sic an ill ane efter a'."

"What was it?"

"I thocht there was a bonny leddy sittin' o' the bed i' the neist
room, in her nichtgoon like, an' she was greitin' sair in her
heirt, though she never loot a tear fa' doon. She was greitin' about
a bairnie she had lost, an' I kent weel whaur the bairnie was--
doon in a cave upo' the shore, I thoucht--an' was jist yirnin'
to gang till her an' tell her, an' stop the greitin' o' her hert,
but I cudna muv han' nor fit, naither cud I open my mou' to cry
till her. An' I gaed dreamin' on at the same thing ower an' ower,
a' the time I was asleep. But there was naething sae frichtsome
aboot that, my lord."

"No, indeed," said his lordship.

"Only it garred me greit tu, my lord, 'cause I cudna win at her to
help her."

His lordship laughed, but oddly, and changed the subject.

"There's no word of that boat yet," he said. "I must write again."

"May I show Malcolm the library, papa?" asked Lady Florimel.

"I wad fain see the buiks," adjected Malcolm.

"You don't know what a scholar he is, papa!"

"Little eneuch o' that!" said Malcolm.

"Oh yes! I do," said the marquis, answering his daughter. "But he
must keep the skipper from my books and the scholar from my boat."

"Ye mean a scholar wha wad skip yer buiks, my lord! Haith! sic
wad be a skipper wha wad ill scull yer boat!" said Malcolm, with
a laugh at the poor attempt.

"Bravo!" said the marquis, who certainly was not over critical.
"Can you write a good hand?"

"No ill, my lord."

"So much the better! I see you 'll be worth your wages."

"That depen's on the wages," returned Malcolm.

"And that reminds me you 've said nothing about them yet."

"Naither has yer lordship."

"Well, what are they to be?"

"Whatever ye think proper, my lord. Only dinna gar me gang to
Maister Crathie for them."

The marquis had sent away the man who was waiting when Malcolm
entered, and during this conversation Malcolm had of his own accord
been doing his best to supply his place. The meal ended, Lady
Florimel desired him to wait a moment in the hall.

"He 's so amusing, papa!" she said. "I want to see him stare at
the books. He thinks the schoolmaster's hundred volumes a grand
library! He 's such a goose! It 's the greatest fun in the world
watching him."

"No such goose!" said the marquis; but he recognized himself in
his child, and laughed.

Florimel ran off merrily, as bent on a joke, and joined Malcolm.

"Now, I 'm going to show you the library," she said.

"Thank ye, my leddy; that will be gran'!" replied Malcolm.

He followed her up two staircases, and through more than one long
narrow passage: all the ducts of the house were long and narrow,
causing him a sense of imprisonment--vanishing ever into freedom
at the opening of some door into a great room. But never had be had
a dream of such a room as that at which they now arrived. He started
with a sort of marvelling dismay when she threw open the door of
the library, and he beheld ten thousand volumes at a glance, all
in solemn stillness. It was like a sepulchre of kings. But his
astonishment took a strange form of expression, the thought in
which was beyond the reach of his mistress.

"Eh, my leddy!" he cried, after staring for a while in breathless
bewilderment, "it's jist like a byke o' frozen bees! Eh! gien they
war a' to come to life an' stick their stangs o' trowth intill
a body, the waukin' up wad be awfu'!--It jist gars my heid gang
roon'!" he added, after a pause.

"It is a fine thing," said the girl, "to have such a library."

"'Deed is 't, my leddy! It's ane o' the preevileeges o' rank,"
said Malcolm. "It taks a faimily that hauds on throu' centeries in
a hoose whaur things gether, to mak sic an unaccoontable getherin'
o' buiks as that. It's a gran' sicht--worth livin' to see."

"Suppose you were to be a rich man some day," said Florimel, in
the condescending tone she generally adopted when addressing him,
"it would be one of the first things you would set about--wouldn't
it--to get such a library together?"

"Na, my leddy; I wad hae mair wut. A leebrary canna be made a' at
ance, ony mair nor a hoose, or a nation, or a muckle tree: they
maun a' tak time to grow, an' sae maun a leebrary. I wadna even ken
what buiks to gang an' speir for.  I daursay, gien I war to try,
I cudna at a moment's notice tell ye the names o' mair nor a twa
score o' buiks at the ootside. Fowk maun mak acquantance amo' buiks
as they wad amo' leevin' fowk."

"But you could get somebody who knew more about them than yourself
to buy for you."

"I wad as sune think o' gettin' somebody to ate my denner for me."

"No, that's not fair," said Florimel. "It would only be like
getting somebody who knew more of cookery than yourself, to order
your dinner for you."

"Ye 're richt, my leddy; but still I wad as sune think o' the
tane 's the tither. What wad come o' the like o' me, div ye think,
broucht up upo' meal brose, an' herrin', gien ye was to set me
doon to sic a denner as my lord, yer father, wad ait ilka day, an'
think naething o'? But gien some fowk hed the buyin' o' my buiks,
I'm thinkin' the first thing I wad hae to du, wad be to fling the
half o' them into the burn."

"What good would that do?"

"Clear awa' the rubbitch. Ye see, my leddy, it's no buiks, but what
buiks. Eh! there maun be mony ane o' the richt sort here, though.
I wonner gien Mr Graham ever saw them. He wad surely hae made
mention o them i' my hearin'!"

"What would be the first thing you would do, then, Malcolm, if you
happened to turn out a great man after all?" said Florimel, seating
herself in a huge library chair, whence, having arranged her skirt,
she looked up in the young fisherman's face.

"I doobt I wad hae to sit doon, an' turn ower the change a feow
times afore I kent aither mysel' or what wad become me," he said.

"That's not answering my question," retorted Florimel.

"Weel, the second thing I wad du," said Malcolm, thoughtfully,
and pausing a moment, "wad be to get Mr Graham to gang wi' me to
Ebberdeen, an' cairry me throu' the classes there. Of coorse, I
wadna try for prizes; that wadna be fair to them 'at cudna affoord
a tutor at their lodgin's."

"But it's the first thing you would do that I want to know,"
persisted the girl.

"I tell't ye I wad sit doon an' think aboot it."

"I don't count that doing anything."

"'Deed, my leddy! thinkin 's the hardest wark I ken."

"Well, what is it you would think about first?" said Florimel--
not to be diverted from her course.

"Ow, the third thing I wad du--"

"I want to know the first thing you would think about."

"I canna say yet what the third thing wad be. Fower year at the
college wad gie me time to reflec upon a hantle o' things."

"I insist on knowing the first thing you would think about doing,"
cried Florimel, with mock imperiousness, but real tyranny.

"Weel, my leddy, gien ye wull hae 't--but hoo great a man wad ye
be makin' o' me?"

"Oh!--let me see;--yes--yes--the heir to an earldom.--
That's liberal enough--is it not?"

"That 's as muckle as say I wad come to be a yerl some day, sae be
I didna dee upo' the ro'd?"

"Yes--that's what it means."

"An' a yerl's neist door till a markis--isna he?"

"Yes--he's in the next lower rank."

"Lower?--Ay!--No that muckle, maybe?"

"No," said Lady Florimel consequentially; "the difference is not
so great as to prevent their meeting on a level of courtesy."

"I dinna freely ken what that means; but gien 't be yer leddyship's
wull to mak a yerl o' me, I'm no to raise ony objections."

He uttered it definitively, and stood silent.

"Well?" said the girl.

"What's yer wull, my leddy?" returned Malcolm, as if roused from
a reverie.

"Where's your answer?"

"I said I wad be a yerl to please yer leddyship.--I wad be a
flunky for the same rizzon, gien 't was to wait upo' yersel' an'
nae ither."

"I ask you," said Florimel, more imperiously than ever, "what is
the first thing you would do, if you found yourself no longer a
fisherman, but the son of an earl?"

"But it maun be that I was a fisherman--to the en' o' a' creation,
my leddy."

"You refuse to answer my question?"

"By no means, my leddy, gien ye wull hae an answer."

"I will have an answer."

"Gien ye wull hae 't than--But--"

"No buts, but an answer!"

"Weel--it's yer am wyte, my leddy!--I wad jist gang doon upo'
my k-nees, whaur I stude afore ye, and tell ye a heap o' things
'at maybe by that time ye wad ken weel eneuch a'ready ."

"What would you tell me?"

"I wad tell ye 'at yer een war like the verra leme o' the levin
(brightness of the lightning) itsel'; yer cheek like a white rose
the licht frae a reid ane; yer hair jist the saft lattin' gang o'
his han's whan the Maker cud du nae mair; yer mou' jist fashioned
to drive fowk daft 'at daurna come nearer nor luik at it; an' for
yer shape, it was like naething in natur' but itsel'.--Ye wad hae't
my leddy!" he added apologetically--and well he might, for Lady
Florimel's cheek had flushed, and her eye had been darting fire
long before he got to the end of his Celtic outpouring. Whether she
was really angry or not, she had no difficulty in making Malcolm
believe she was. She rose from her chair--though not until he
had ended--swept halfway to the door, then turned upon him with
a flash.

"How dare you?" she said, her breed well obeying the call of the
game.

"I'm verra sorry, my leddy," faltered Malcolm, trying to steady
himself against a strange trembling that had laid hold upon him,
"--but ye maun alloo it was a' yer ain wyte."

"Do you dare to say 1 encouraged you to talk such stuff to me?"

"Ye did gar me, my leddy."

Florimel turned and undulated from the room, leaving the poor fellow
like a statue in the middle of it, with the books all turning their
backs upon him.

"Noo," he said to himself, "she's aff to tell her father, and
there'll be a bonny bane to pyke atween him an' me! But haith! I'll
jist tell him the trowth o' 't, an' syne he can mak a kirk an' a
mill o' 't, gien he likes."

With this resolution he stood his ground, every moment expecting
the wrathful father to make his appearance and at the least order
him out of the house. But minute passed after minute, and no wrathful
father came. He grew calmer by degrees, and at length began to peep
at the titles of the books.

When the great bell rang for lunch, he was embalmed rather than
buried in one of Milton's prose volumes--standing before the
shelf on which he had found it--the very incarnation of study.

My reader may well judge that Malcolm could not have been very far
gone in love, seeing he was thus able to read, remark in return
that it was not merely the distance between him and Lady Florimel
that had hitherto preserved his being from absorption and his will
from annihilation, but also the strength of his common sense, and
the force of his individuality.



CHAPTER XXXIV: MILTON, AND THE BAY MARE


For some days Malcolm saw nothing more of Lady Florimel; but with
his grandfather's new dwelling to see to, the carpenter's shop and
the blacksmith's forge open to him, and an eye to detect whatever
wanted setting right, the hours did not hang heavy on his hands.
At length, whether it was that she thought she had punished him
sufficiently for an offence for which she was herself only to blame,
or that she had indeed never been offended at all and had only
been keeping up her one sided game, she began again to indulge the
interest she could not help feeling in him, an interest heightened
by the mystery which hung over his birth, and by the fact that
she knew that concerning him of which he was himself ignorant. At
the same time, as I have already said, she had no little need of
an escape from the ennui which, now that the novelty of a country
life had worn off did more than occasionally threaten her. She
began again to seek his company under the guise of his help, half
requesting, half commanding his services; and Malcolm found himself
admitted afresh to the heaven of her favour. Young as he was, he
read himself a lesson suitable to the occasion.

One afternoon the marquis sent for him to the library, but when he
reached it his master was not yet there. He took down the volume of
Milton in which he had been reading before, and was soon absorbed
in it again.

"Faith! it's a big shame," he cried at length almost unconsciously,
and closed the book with a slam.

"What is a big shame?" said the voice of the marquis close behind
him.

Malcolm started, and almost dropped the volume.

"I beg yer lordship's pardon," he said; "I didna hear ye come in.

"What is the book you were reading?" asked the marquis.

"I was jist readin' a bit o' Milton's Eikonoklastes," answered
Malcolm, "--a buik I hae hard tell o', but never saw wi' my ain
een afore."

"And what's your quarrel with it?" asked his lordship.

"I canna mak oot what sud set a great man like Milton sae sair
agane a puir cratur like Cherles."

"Read the history, and you 'll see."

"Ow! I ken something aboot the politics o' the time, an' I 'm no
sayin' they war that wrang to tak the heid frae him, but what for
sud Milton hate the man efter the king was deid?"

"Because he didn't think the king dead enough, I suppose."

"I see!--an' they war settin' him up for a saint. Still he had
a richt to fair play.--Jist hearken, my lord."

So saying, Malcolm reopened the volume, and read the well known
passage, in the first chapter, in which Milton censures the king as
guilty of utter irreverence, because of his adoption of the prayer
of Pamela in the Arcadia.

"Noo, my lord," he said, half closing the book, "what wad ye expec'
to come upo', efter sic a denunciation as that, but some awfu'
haithenish thing? Weel, jist hearken again, for here's the verra
prayer itsel' in a futnote."

His lordship had thrown himself into a chair, had crossed one leg
over the other, and was now stroking its knee.

"Noo, my lord," said Malcolm again, as he concluded, "what think
ye o' the jeedgment passed?"

"Really I have no opinion to give about it," answered the marquis.
"I 'm no theologian. I see no harm in the prayer."

"Hairm in 't, my lord! It's perfetly gran'! It 's sic a prayer as
cudna weel be aiqualt. It vexes me to the verra hert o' my sowl that
a michty man like Milton--ane whase bein' was a crood o' hermonies
--sud ca' that the prayer o' a haithen wuman till a haithen God.
'O all seein' Licht, an' eternal Life o' a' things!'--Ca's he
that a haithen God?--or her 'at prayed sic a prayer a haithen
wuman?"

"Well, well," said the marquis, "I do n't want it all over again.
I see nothing to find fault with, myself, but I do n't take much
interest in that sort of thing."

"There's a wee bitty o' Laitin, here i' the note, 'at I canna freely
mak oot," said Malcolm, approaching Lord Lossie with his finger on
the passage, never doubting that the owner of such a library must
be able to read Latin perfectly: Mr Graham would have put him right
at once, and his books would have been lost in one of the window
corners of this huge place. But his lordship waved him back.

"I can't be your tutor," he said, not unkindly. "My Latin is far
too rusty for use."

The fact was that his lordship had never got beyond Maturin Cordier's
Colloquies.

"Besides," he went on, "I want you to do something for me."

Malcolm instantly replaced the book on its shelf, and approached
his master, saying--

"Wull yer lordship lat me read whiles, i' this gran' place? I mean
whan I'm no wantit ither gaits, an' there 's naebody here."

"To be sure," answered the marquis; "--only the scholar must n't
come with the skipper's hands."

"I s' tak guid care o' that, my lord. I wad as sune think o' han'lin'
a book wi' wark-like han's as I wad o' branderin' a mackeral ohn
cleaned it oot."

"And when we have visitors, you 'll be careful not to get in their
way."

"I wull that, my lord."

"And now," said his lordship rising, "I want you to take a letter
to Mrs Stewart of Kirkbyres.--Can you ride?"

"I can ride the bare back weel eneuch for a fisher loon," said
Malcolm; "but I never was upon a saiddle i' my life."

"The sooner you get used to one the better. Go and tell Stoat to
saddle the bay mare. Wait in the yard: I will bring the letter out
to you myself."

"Verra weel, my lord!" said Malcolm. He knew, from sundry remarks
he had heard about the stables, that the mare in question was a
ticklish one to ride, but would rather have his neck broken than
object.

Hardly was she ready, when the marquis appeared, accompanied by Lady
Florimel--both expecting to enjoy a laugh at Malcolm's expense.
But when the mare was brought out, and he was going to mount her
where she stood, something seemed to wake in the marquis's heart,
or conscience, or wherever the pigmy Duty slept that occupied the
all but sinecure of his moral economy: he looked at Malcolm for a
moment, then at the ears of the mare hugging her neck, and last at
the stones of the paved yard.

"Lead her on to the turf, Stoat," he said.

The groom obeyed, all followed, and Malcolm mounted. The same
instant he lay on his back on the grass, amidst a general laugh,
loud on the part of marquis and lady, and subdued on that of the
servants. But the next he was on his feet, and, the groom still
holding the mare, in the saddle again: a little anger is a fine
spur for the side of even an honest intent. This time he sat for
half a minute, and then found himself once more on the grass. It
was but once more: his mother earth had claimed him again only to
complete his strength. A third time he mounted--and sat. As soon
as she perceived it would be hard work to unseat him, the mare was
quiet.

"Bravo!" cried the marquis, giving him the letter.

"Will there be an answer, my lord?"

"Wait and see."

"I s' gar you pey for't, gien we come upon a broon rig atween this
an' Kirkbyres," said Malcolm, addressing the mare, and rode away.

Both the marquis and Lady Florimel, whose laughter had altogether
ceased in the interest of watching the struggle, stood looking
after him with a pleased expression, which, as he vanished up the
glen, changed to a mutual glance and smile.

"He's got good blood in him, however he came by it," said the
marquis. "The country is more indebted to its nobility than is
generally understood."

Otherwise indebted at least than Lady Florimel could gather from
her father's remark!



CHAPTER XXXV: KIRKBYRES


Malcolm felt considerably refreshed after his tussle with the mare
and his victory over her, and much enjoyed his ride of ten miles.
It was a cool autumn afternoon. A few of the fields were being
reaped, one or two were crowded with stooks, while many crops of
oats yet waved and rustled in various stages of vanishing green.
On all sides kine were lowing; overhead rooks were cawing; the sun
was nearing the west, and in the hollows a thin mist came steaming
up. Malcolm had never in his life been so far from the coast before:
his road led southwards into the heart of the country.

The father of the late proprietor of Kirkbyres had married the
heiress of Gersefell, an estate which marched with his own, and
was double its size, whence the lairdship was sometimes spoken of
by the one name, sometimes by the other. The combined properties
thus inherited by the late Mr Stewart were of sufficient extent to
justify him, although a plain man, in becoming a suitor for the hand
of the beautiful daughter of a needy baronet in the neighbourhood
--with the already somewhat tarnished condition of whose reputation,
having come into little contact with the world in which she moved,
he was unacquainted. Quite unexpectedly she also, some years after
their marriage, brought him a property of considerable extent, a
fact which doubtless had its share in the birth and nourishment of
her consuming desire to get the estates into her own management.

Towards the end of his journey, Malcolm came upon a bare moorland
waste, on the long ascent of a low hill,--very desolate, with not
a tree or house within sight for two miles. A ditch, half full of
dark water, bordered each side of the road, which went straight as
a rod through a black peat moss lying cheerless and dreary on all
sides--hardly less so where the sun gleamed from the surface of
some stagnant pool filling a hole whence peats had been dug, or
where a patch of cotton grass waved white and lonely in the midst
of the waste expanse. At length, when he reached the top of the
ridge, he saw the house of Kirkbyres below him; and, with a small
modern lodge near by, a wooden gate showed the entrance to its
grounds. Between the gate and the house he passed through a young
plantation of larches and other firs for a quarter of a mile, and
so came to an old wall with an iron gate in the middle of it, within
which the old house, a gaunt meagre building--a bare house in
fact, relieved only by four small turrets or bartizans, one at each
corner--lifted its grey walls, pointed gables, and steep roof
high into the pale blue air. He rode round the outer wall, seeking
a back entrance, and arrived at a farm yard, where a boy took
his horse. Finding the kitchen door open, he entered, and having
delivered his letter to a servant girl, sat down to wait the possible
answer.

In a few minutes she returned and requested him to follow her.
This was more than he had calculated upon, but he obeyed at once.
The girl led him along a dark passage, and up a winding stone
stair, much worn, to a room richly furnished, and older fashioned,
he thought, than any room he had yet seen in Lossie House.

On a settee, with her back to a window, sat Mrs Stewart, a lady
tall and slender, with well poised, easy carriage, and a motion
that might have suggested the lithe grace of a leopard. She greeted
him with a bend of the head and a smile, which, even in the twilight
and her own shadow, showed a gleam of ivory, and spoke to him in
a hard sweet voice, wherein an ear more experienced than Malcolm's
might have detected an accustomed intent to please. Although he knew
nothing of the so called world, and hence could recognize neither
the Parisian air of her dress nor the indications of familiarity
with fashionable life prominent enough in her bearing, he yet could
not fail to be at least aware of the contrast between her appearance
and her surroundings. Yet less could the far stronger contrast
escape him, between the picture in his own mind of the mother of
the mad laird, and the woman before him; he could not by any effort
cause the two to coalesce.

"You have had a long ride, Mr MacPhail," she said; "you must be
tired."

"What wad tire me, mem?" returned Malcolm. "It's a fine caller
evenin', an' I hed ane o' the marquis's best mears to carry me."

"You'll take a glass of wine, anyhow," said Mrs Stewart. "Will you
oblige me by ringing the bell?"

"No, I thank ye, mem. The mear wad be better o' a mou'fu' o' meal
an' watter, but I want naething mysel'."

A shadow passed over the lady's face. She rose and rang the bell,
then sat in silence until it was answered.

"Bring the wine and cake," she said, then turned to Malcolm. "Your
master speaks very kindly of you. He seems to trust you thoroughly."

"I'm verra glaid to hear 't, mem; but he has never had muckle cause
to trust or distrust me yet."

"He seems even to think that I might place equal confidence in
you."

"I dinna ken. I wadna hae ye lippen to me owre muckle," said Malcolm.

"You do not mean to contradict the good character your master gives
you?" said the lady, with a smile and a look right into his eyes.

"I wadna hae ye lippen till me afore ye had my word," said Malcolm.

"I may use my own judgment about that," she replied, with another
winning smile. "But oblige me by taking a glass of wine."

She rose and approached the decanters.

"'Deed no, mem I'm no used till 't, an' it micht jummle my
jeedgement," said Malcolm, who had placed himself on the defensive
from the first, jealous of his own conduct as being the friend of
the laird.

At his second refusal the cloud again crossed the lady's brow, but
her smile did not vanish. Pressing her hospitality no more, she
resumed her seat.

"My lord tells me," she said, folding a pair of lovely hands on
her lap, "that you see my poor unhappy boy sometimes."

"No sae dooms (absolutely) unhappy, mem!" said Malcolm; but she
went on without heeding the remark.

"And that you rescued him not long ago from the hands of ruffians."

Malcolm made no reply.

"Everybody knows," she continued, after a slight pause, "what an
unhappy mother I am. It is many years since I lost the loveliest
infant ever seen, while my poor Stephen was left to be the mockery
of every urchin in the street!"

She sighed deeply, and one of the fair hands took a hand kerchief
from a work table near.

"No in Portlossie, mem," said Malcolm. "There's verra feow o' them
so hard hertit or so ill mainnert. They're used to seein' him at the
schuil, whaur he shaws himsel' whiles; an' he 's a great favourite
wi' them, for he's ane o' the best craturs livin'."

"A poor, witless, unmanageable being! He's a dreadful grief to me,"
said the widowed mother, with a deep sigh.

"A bairn could manage him," said Malcolm in strong contradiction.

"Oh, if I could but convince him of my love! but he won't give me
a chance. He has an unaccountable dread of me, which makes him as
well as me wretched. It is a delusion which no argument can overcome,
and seems indeed an essential part of his sad affliction. The more
care and kindness he needs, the less will he accept at my hands. I
long to devote my life to him, and he will not allow me. I should
be but too happy to nurse him day and night. Ah, Mr MacPhail, you
little know a mother's heart! Even if my beautiful boy had not been
taken from me, Stephen would still have been my idol, idiot as he
is--and will be as long as he lives. And--"

"He 's nae idiot, mem," interposed Malcolm.

"And just imagine," she went on, "what a misery it must be to a
widowed mother, poor companion as he would be at the best, to think
of her boy roaming the country like a beggar! sleeping she doesn't
know where! eating wretched food! and--"

"Guid parritch an' milk, an' brose an' butter," said Malcolm
parenthetically; "--whiles herrin' an' yallow haddies."

"It's enough to break a mother's heart! If I could but persuade him
to come home for a week so as to have a chance with him! But it's
no use trying: ill disposed people have made mischief between
us, telling wicked lies, and terrifying the poor fellow almost to
death. It is quite impossible except I get some one to help me--
and there are so few who have any influence with him!"

Malcolm thought she must surely have had chances enough before he
ran away from her; but he could not help feeling softened towards
her.

"Supposin' I was to get ye speech o' 'im, mem?" he said.

"That would not be of the slightest use. He is so prejudiced against
me, he would only shriek, and go into one of those horrible fits."

"I dinna see what's to be dune than," said Malcolm.

"I must have him brought here--there is no other way."

"An' whaur wad be the guid o' that, mem? By yer ain shawin', he
wad rin oot o' 's verra body to win awa' frae ye."

"I did not mean by force," returned Mrs Stewart. "Some one he
has confidence in must come with him. Nothing else will give me a
chance. He would trust you now; your presence would keep him from
being terrified--at his own mother, alas! through you he would
learn to trust me; and if a course of absolute indulgence did not
bring him to live like other people--that of course is impossible
--it might at least induce him to live at home, and cease to be
a byword to the neighbourhood."

Her tone was so refined, and her voice so pleading; her sorrow was
so gentle; and she looked, in the dimness, to Malcolm's imagination
at least, so young and handsome, that the strong castle of his
prejudices was swaying as if built on reeds; and had it not been
that he was already the partizan of her son, and therefore in honour
bound to give him the benefit of every doubt, he would certainly
have been gained over to work her will. He knew absolutely nothing
against her--not even that she was the person he had seen in Mrs
Catanach's company in the garret of Lossie House. But he steeled
himself to distrust her, and held his peace.

"It is clear," she resumed after a pause, "that the intervention of
some friend of both is the only thing that can be of the smallest
use. I know you are a friend of his--a true one, and I do not
see why you should not be a friend of mine as well--Will you be
my friend too?"

She rose as she said the words, and approaching him, bent on him
out of the shadow the full strength of eyes whose light had not yet
begun to pale before the dawn we call death, and held out a white
hand glimmering in the dusk: she knew only too well the power of
a still fine woman of any age over a youth of twenty.

Malcolm, knowing nothing about it, yet felt hers, and was on his
guard. He rose also, but did not take her hand.

"I have had only too much reason," she added, "to distrust some
who, unlike you, professed themselves eager to serve me; but I know
neither Lord Lossie nor you will play me false."

She took his great rough hand between her two soft palms, and for
one moment Malcolm was tempted--not to betray his friend, but
to simulate a yielding sympathy, in order to come at the heart of
her intent, and should it prove false, to foil it the more easily.
But the honest nature of him shrunk from deception, even where the
object of it was good: he was not at liberty to use falsehood for
the discomfiture of the false even; a pretended friendship was of
the vilest of despicable things, and the more holy the end, the
less fit to be used for the compassing of it--least of all in
the cause of a true friendship.

"I canna help ye, mem," he said; "I daurna. I hae sic a regaird
for yer son 'at afore I wad du onything to hairm him, I wad hae my
twa han's chappit frae the shackle bane."

"Surely, my dear Mr MacPhail," returned the lady in her most
persuasive tones, and with her sweetest smile, "you cannot call it
harming a poor idiot to restore him to the care of his own mother!"

"That's as it turnt oot," rejoined Malcolm. "But I'm sure o' ae
thing, mem, an' that is, 'at he's no sae muckle o' an eediot as
some fowk wad hae him."

Mrs Stewart's face fell, she turned from him, and going back to
her seat hid her face in her handkerchief.

"I'm afraid," she said sadly, after a moment, "I must give up my
last hope: you are not disposed to be friendly to me, Mr MacPhail;
you too have been believing hard things of me."

"That's true; but no frae hearsay alane," returned Malcolm. "The
luik o' the puir fallow whan he but hears the chance word mither,
's a sicht no to be forgotten. He grips his lugs atween 's twa
han's, an' rins like a colley wi' a pan at 's tail. That couldna
come o' naething."

Mrs Stewart hid her face on the cushioned arm of the settee, and
sobbed. A moment after she sat erect again, but languid and red
eyed, saying, as if with sudden resolve:

"I will tell you all I know about it, and then you can judge for
yourself. When he was a very small child, I took him for advice
to the best physicians in London and Paris: all advised a certain
operation which had to be performed for consecutive months, at
intervals of a few days. Though painful it was simple, yet of such
a nature that no one was so fit to attend to it as his mother. Alas!
instead of doing him any good, it has done me the worst injury in
the world: my child hates me!"

Again she hid her face on the settee.

The explanation was plausible enough, and the grief of the mother
surely apparent! Malcolm could not but be touched.

"It's no 'at I'm no willin' to be your freen', mem; but I'm yer
son's freen' a'ready, an' gien he war to hear onything 'at gart
him mislippen till me, it wad gang to my hert."

"Then you can judge what I feel!" said the lady.

"Gien it wad hale your hert to hurt mine, I wad think aboot it,
mem; but gien it hurtit a' three o' 's, and did guid to nane, it
wad be a misfit a'thegither. I'll du naething till I'm doonricht
sure it's the pairt o' a freen'."

"That's just what makes you the only fit person to help me that I
know. If I were to employ people in the affair, they might be rough
with the poor fellow."

"Like eneuch, mem," assented Malcolm, while the words put him afresh
on his guard.

"But I might be driven to it," she added.

Malcolm responded with an unuttered vow.

"It might become necessary to use force--whereas you could lead
him with a word."

"Na; I'm naither sic witch nor sic traitor."

"Where would be the treachery when you knew it would be for his
good?"

"That's jist what I dinna ken, mem," retorted Malcolm. "Luik ye
here, mem," he continued, rousing himself to venture an appeal to
the mother's heart; "--here's a man it has pleased God to mak no
freely like ither fowk. His min' though cawpable a hantle mair nor
a body wad think 'at didna ken him sae weel as I du, is certainly
weyk--though maybe the weykness lies mair i' the tongue than
i' the brain o' 'im efter a'--an' he's been sair frichtit wi'
some guideship or ither; the upshot o 't a' bein', 'at he's unco
timoursome, and ready to bursten himsel' rinnin' whan there's nane
pursuin'. But he's the gentlest o' craturs--a doonricht gentleman,
mem, gien ever there was ane--an' that kin'ly wi' a' cratur, baith
man an' beast! A verra bairn cud guide him--ony gait but ane."

"Anywhere but to his mother!" exclaimed Mrs Stewart, pressing her
handkerchief to her eyes, and sobbed as she spoke. "There is a
child he is very fond of, I am told," she added, recovering herself.

"He likes a' bairns," returned Malcolm, "an' they 're maistly
a' freen'ly wi' him. But there's but jist ae thing 'at maks life
endurable till 'im. He suffers a hantle (a great deal) wi' that
puir back o' his, an' wi' his breath tu whan he's frichtit, for
his hert gangs loupin like a sawmon in a bag net. An' he suffers
a hantle, forbye, in his puir feeble min tryin' to unnerstan' the
guid things 'at fowk tells him, an' jaloosin' it's his ain wyte 'at
he disna unnerstan' them better an' whiles he thinks himsel' the
child o' sin and wrath, an' that Sawtan has some special propriety
in him, as the carritchis says--"

"But," interrupted the lady hurriedly, "you were going to tell me
the one comfort he has."

"It's his leeberty, mem--jist his leeberty; to gang whaur he lists
like the win'; to turn his face whaur he wull i' the mornin', an'
back again at nicht gien he likes; to wan'er--"

"Back where?" interrupted the mother, a little too eagerly.

"Whaur he likes, mem--I cudna say whaur wi' ony certainty. But
aih! he likes to hear the sea moanin', an' watch the stars sheenin'!
--There's a sicht o' oondevelopit releegion in him, as Maister
Graham says; an' I du not believe 'at the Lord 'll see him wranged
mair nor 's for 's guid. But it's my belief, gien ye took the
leeberty frae the puir cratur, ye wad kill him."

"Then you won't help me!" she cried despairingly. "They tell me
you are an orphan yourself--and yet you will not take pity on a
childless mother!--worse than childless, for I had the loveliest
boy once--he would be about your age now, and I have never had
any comfort in life since I lost him. Give me my son, and I will
bless you--love you."

As she spoke she rose, and approaching him gently, laid a hand on
his shoulder. Malcolm trembled, but stood his mental ground.

"'Deed, mem, I can an' wull promise ye naething!" he said. "Are ye
to play a man fause 'cause he's less able to tak care o' himsel'
than ither fowk? Gien I war sure 'at ye cud mak it up, an' 'at
he would be happy wi' ye efterhin, it micht be anither thing; but
excep' ye garred him, ye cudna get him to bide lang eneuch for ye
to try--an' syne (even then) he wad dee afore ye hed convenced
him. I doobt, mem, ye hae lost yer chance wi' him and maun du yer
best to be content withoot him--I'll promise ye this muckle, gien
ye like--I s' tell him what ye hae said upo' the subjec'."

"Much good that will be!" replied the lady, with ill concealed
scorn.

"Ye think he wadna unnerstan' 't; but he unnerstan's wonnerfu'."

"And you would come again, and tell me what he said?' she murmured,
with the eager persuasiveness of reviving hope.

"Maybe ay, maybe no--I winna promise.--Hae ye ony answer to
sen' back to my lord's letter, mem?"

"No; I cannot write; I cannot even think. You have made me so
miserable!"

Malcolm lingered.

"Go, go;" said the lady dejectedly. "Tell your master I am not
well. I will write tomorrow. If you hear anything of my poor boy,
do take pity upon me and come and tell me."

The stiffer partizan Malcolm appeared, the more desirable did it
seem in Mrs Stewart's eyes to gain him over to her side. Leaving
his probable active hostility out of the question, she saw plainly
enough that, if he were called on to give testimony as to the laird's
capacity, his witness would pull strongly against her plans; while,
if the interests of such a youth were wrapped up in them, that fact
in itself would prejudice most people in favour of them.



CHAPTER XXXVI: THE BLOW


"Well, Malcolm," said his lordship, when the youth reported himself,
"how's Mrs Stewart?"

"No ower weel pleased, my lord," answered Malcolm.

"What!--you have n't been refusing to--?"

"Deed hev I, my lord!"

"Tut! tut!--Have you brought me any message from her?"

He spoke rather angrily.

"Nane but that she wasna weel, an' wad write the morn."

The marquis thought for a few moments.

"If I make a personal matter of it, MacPhail--I mean--you won't
refuse me if I ask a personal favour of you?"

"I maun ken what it is afore I say onything, my lord."

"You may trust me not to require anything you could n't undertake."

"There micht be twa opinions, my lord."

"You young boor! What is the world coming to? By Jove!"

"As far 's I can gang wi' a clean conscience, I'll gang,--no ae
step ayont," said Malcolm.

"You mean to say your judgment is a safer guide than mine?"

"No, my lord; I micht weel follow yer lordship's jeedgment, but
gien there be a conscience i' the affair, it's my ain conscience
I'm bun' to follow, an' no yer lordship's, or ony ither man's.
Suppose the thing 'at seemed richt to yer lordship, seemed wrang
to me, what wad ye hae me du than?"

"Do as I told you, and lay the blame on me."

"Na, my lord, that winna haud: I bude to du what I thoucht richt,
an' lay the blame upo' naebody, whatever cam o' 't."

"You young hypocrite! Why did n't you tell me you meant to set up
for a saint before I took you into my service?"

"'Cause I had nae sic intention, my lord. Surely a body micht ken
himsel' nae sant, an' yet like to haud his han's clean!"

"What did Mrs Stewart tell you she wanted of you?" asked the marquis
almost fiercely, after a moment's silence.

"She wantit me to get the puir laird to gang back till her; but
I sair misdoobt, for a' her fine words, it 's a closed door, gien
it bena a lid, she wad hae upon him; an' I wad suner be hangt nor
hae a thoom i' that haggis."

"Why should you doubt what a lady tells you?"

"I wadna be ower ready, but I hae hard things, ye see, an' bude to
be upo' my gaird."

"Well, I suppose, as you are a personal friend of the idiot--"
His lordship had thought to sting him, and paused for a moment;
but Malcolm's manner revealed nothing except waiting watchfulness.

"--I must employ some one else to get a hold of the fellow for
her," he concluded.

"Ye winna du that, my lord," cried Malcolm, in a tone of entreaty;
but his master chose to misunderstand him.

"Who's to prevent me, I should like to know?" he said.

Malcolm accepted the misinterpretation involved, and answered--
but calmly:

"Me, my lord. I wull. At ony rate, I s' du my best."

"Upon my word!" exclaimed Lord Lossie, "you presume sufficiently
on my good nature, young man!"

"Hear me ae moment, my lord," returned Malcolm. "I've been turnin'
't ower i' my min', an' I see, plain as the daylicht, that I'm
bun', bein' yer lordship's servan' an' trustit by yer lordship, to
say that to yersel' the whilk I was nowise bun' to say to Mistress
Stewart. Sae, at the risk o' angerin' ye, I maun tell yer lordship,
wi' a' respec', 'at gien I can help it, there sall no han', gentle
or semple, be laid upo' the laird against his ain wull."

The marquis was getting tired of the contest. He was angry too,
and none the less that he felt Malcolm was in the right.

"Go to the devil you booby!" he said--even more in impatience
than in wrath.

"I'm thinkin' I needna budge," retorted Malcolm, angry also.

"What do you mean by that insolence?"

"I mean, my lord, that to gang will be to gang frae him. He canna
be far frae yer lordship's lug this meenute."

All the marquis's gathered annoyance broke out at last in rage. He
started from his chair, made three strides to Malcolm, and struck
him in the face. Malcolm staggered back till he was brought up by
the door.

"Hoot, my lord!" he exclaimed, as he sought his blue cotton
handkerchief, "ye sudna hae dune that: ye'll blaud the carpet!"

"You precious idiot!" cried his lordship, already repenting the
deed; "why did n't you defend yourself?"

"The quarrel was my ain, an' I cud du as I likit, my lord."

"And why should you like to take a blow? Not to lift a hand, even
to defend yourself!" said the marquis, vexed both with Malcolm and
with himself.

"Because I saw I was i' the wrang, my. lord. The quarrel was o'
my ain makin': I hed no richt to lowse my temper an' be impident.
Sae I didna daur defen' mysel'. An' I beg yer lordship's pardon.
But dinna ye du me the wrang to imaigine, my lord, 'cause I took a
flewet (blow) in guid pairt whan I kent mysel' i' the wrang, 'at
that's hoo I wad cairry mysel' gien 'twas for the puir laird. Faith!
I s' gar ony man ken a differ there!"

"Go along with you--and do n't show yourself till you 're fit to
be seen. I hope it 'll be a lesson to you."

"It wull, my lord," said Malcolm. "But," he added, "there was nae
occasion to gie me sic a dirdum: a word wad hae pitten me mair i'
the wrang."

So saying, he left the room, with his handkerchief to his face.
The marquis was really sorry for the blow, chiefly because Malcolm,
without a shadow of pusillanimity, had taken it so quietly. Malcolm
would, however, have had very much more the worse of it had he
defended himself, for his master had been a bruiser in his youth,
and neither his left hand nor his right arm had yet forgot their
cunning so far as to leave him less than a heavy overmatch for one
unskilled, whatever his strength or agility.

For some time after he was gone, the marquis paced up and down the
room, feeling strangely and unaccountably uncomfortable.

"The great lout!" he kept saying to himself; "why did he let me
strike him?"

Malcolm went to his grandfather's cottage. In passing the window,
he peeped in. The old man was sitting with his bagpipes on his
knees, looking troubled. When he entered, he held out his arms to
him.

"Tere 'll pe something cone wrong with you, Malcolm, my son!" he
cried. "You'll pe hafing a hurt! She knows it. She has it within
her, though she couldn't chust see it. Where is it?"

As he spoke he proceeded to feel his head and face. "God pless her
sowl! you are plooding, Malcolm!" he cried the same moment.

"It's naething to greit aboot, daddy. It's hardly mair nor the
flype o' a sawmon's tail."

"Put who 'll pe tone it?" asked Duncan angrily.

"Ow, the maister gae me a bit flewet!" answered Malcolm with
indifference.

"Where is he?" cried the piper, rising in wrath. "Take her to him,
Malcolm. She will stap him. She will pe killing him. She will trife
her turk into his wicked pody."

"Na, na, daddy," said Malcolm; "we hae hed eneuch o' durks a'ready!"

"Tat you haf tone it yourself, ten, Malcolm? My prave poy!"

"No, daddy; I took my licks like a man, for I deserved them."

"Deserfed to pe peaten, Malcolm--to pe peaten like a tog? Ton't
tell her tat! Ton't preak her heart, my poy."

"It wasna that muckle, daddy. I only telled him auld Horny was at
's lug."

"And she'll make no toubt it was true," cried Duncan, emerging
sudden from his despondency.

"Ay, sae he was, only I had nae richt to say 't."

"Put you striked him pack, Malcolm? Ton't say you tidn't gif him
pack his plow. Ton't tell it to her, Malcolm!"

"Hoo cud I hit my maister, an' mysel' i' the wrang, daddy?"

"Then she 'll must to it herself," said Duncan quietly, and, with
the lips compressed of calm decision, turned towards the door, to
get his dirk from the next room.

"Bide ye still, daddy," said Malcolm, laying hold of his arm, "an'
sit ye doon till ye hear a' aboot it first."

Duncan yielded, for the sake of better instruction in the circumstances;
over the whole of which Malcolm now went. But before he came to a
close, he had skilfully introduced and enlarged upon the sorrows
and sufferings and dangers of the laird, so as to lead the old
man away from the quarrel, dwelling especially on the necessity of
protecting Mr Stewart from the machinations of his mother. Duncan
listened to all he said with marked sympathy.

"An' gien the markis daur to cross me in 't," said Malcolm at last,
as he ended, "lat him leuk till himsel', for it's no at a buffet
or twa I wad stick, gien the puir laird was intill 't."

This assurance, indicative of a full courageous intent on the part
of his grandson, for whose manliness he was jealous, greatly served
to quiet Duncan; and he consented at last to postpone all quittance,
in the hope of Malcolm's having the opportunity of a righteous
quarrel for proving himself no coward. His wrath gradually died
away, until at last he begged his boy to take his pipes, that he
might give him a lesson. Malcolm made the attempt, but found it
impossible to fill the bag with his swollen and cut lips, and had
to beg his grandfather to play to him instead. He gladly consented,
and played until bedtime; when, having tucked him up, Malcolm
went quietly to his own room, avoiding supper and the eyes of Mrs
Courthope together. He fell asleep in a moment, and spent a night
of perfect oblivion, dreamless of wizard lord or witch lady.



CHAPTER XXXVII: THE CUTTER


Some days passed during which Malcolm contrived that no one should
see him: he stole down to his grandfather's early in the morning,
and returned to his own room at night. Duncan told the people
about that he was not very well, but would be all better in a day
or two. It was a time of jubilation to the bard, and he cheered his
grandson's retirement with music, and with wild stories of highland
lochs and moors, chanted or told.

Malcolm's face was now much better, though the signs of the blow
were still plain enough upon it, when a messenger came one afternoon
to summon him to the marquis's presence.

"Where have you been sulking all this time?" was his master's
greeting.

"I havena been sulkin', my lord," answered Malcolm. "Yer lordship
tauld me to haud oot o' the gait till I was fit to be seen, an' no
a sowl has set an ee upo' me till this verra moment 'at yer lordship
has me in yer ain."

"Where have you been then?"

"I' my ain room at nicht, and doon at my gran'father's as lang's
fowk was aboot--wi' a bit dauner (stroll) up the burn i' the
mirk."

"You couldn't encounter the shame of being seen with such a face
--eh?"

"It micht ha' been thoucht a disgrace to the tane or the tither o'
's, my lord--maybe to baith."

"If you don't learn to curb that tongue of yours, it will bring
you to worse."

"My lord, I confessed my faut, and I pat up wi' the blow. But if
it hadna been that I was i' the wrang--weel, things micht hae
differt."

"Hold your tongue, I tell you. You're an honest, good fellow, and
I'm sorry I struck you. There!"

"I thank yer lordship."

"I sent for you because I've just heard from Aberdeen that the
boat is on her way round. You must be ready to take charge of her
the moment she arrives."

"I wull be that, my lord. It doesna shuit me at a' to be sae lang
upo' the solid: I'm like a cowt upon a toll ro'd."

The next morning he got a telescope, and taking with him his dinner
of bread and cheese, and a book in his pocket, went up to the Temple
of the Winds, to look out for the boat. Every few minutes he swept
the offing, but morning and afternoon passed, and she did not
appear. The day's monotony was broken only by a call from Demon.
Malcolm looked landwards, and spied his mistress below amongst the
trees, but she never looked in his direction.

He had just become aware of the first dusky breath of the twilight,
when a tiny sloop appeared, rounding the Deid Heid, as they called
the promontory which closed in the bay on the east. The sun was
setting, red and large, on the other side of the Scaurnose, and
filled her white sails with a rosy dye, as she came stealing round
in a fair soft wind. The moon hung over her, thin, and pale, and
ghostly, with hardly shine enough to show that it was indeed she,
and not the forgotten scrap of a torn up cloud. As she passed the
point and turned towards the harbour, the warm amethystine hue
suddenly vanished from her sails, and she looked white and cold, as
if the sight of the Death's Head had scared the blood out of her.
"It 's hersel'!" cried Malcolm in delight. "Aboot the size a muckle
herrin' boat, but nae mair like ane than Lady Florimel 's like
Meg Partan! It 'll be jist gran' to hae a cratur sae near leevin'
to guide an' tak yer wull o'! I had nae idea she was gaein' to be
onything like sae bonny. I'll no be fit to manage her in a squall
though. I maun hae anither han'. An' I winna hae a laddie aither.
It maun be a grown man, or I winna tak in han' to baud her abune
the watter. I wull no. I s' hae Blue Peter himsel' gien I can get
him. Eh! jist luik at her--wi' her bit gaff tappie set, and her
jib an a', booin' an' booin', an' comin' on ye as gran' 's ony born
leddy!"

He shut up his telescope, ran down the hill, unlocked the private
door at its foot, and in three or four minutes was waiting her on
the harbour wall.

She was a little cutter--and a lovely show to eyes capable of the
harmonies of shape and motion. She came walking in, as the Partan,
whom Malcolm found on the pierhead, remarked, "like a leddy closin'
her parasol as she cam." Malcolm jumped on board, and the two men
who had brought her round, gave up their charge.

She was full decked, with a dainty little cabin. Her planks were
almost white--there was not a board in her off which one might
not, as the Partan expanded the common phrase, "ait his parritch,
an' never fin' a mote in 's mou'." Her cordage was all so clean,
her standing rigging so taut, everything so shipshape, that Malcolm
was in raptures. If the burn had only been navigable so that he
might have towed the graceful creature home and laid her up under
the very walls of the House! It would have perfected the place in
his eyes. He made her snug for the night, and went to report her
arrival.

Great was Lady Florimel's jubilation. She would have set out on
a "coasting voyage," as she called it, the very next day, but her
father listened to Malcolm.

"Ye see, my lord," said Malcolm, "I maun ken a' aboot her afore
I daur tak ye oot in her. An' I canna unnertak' to manage her my
lane. Ye maun jist gie me anither man wi' me."

"Get one," said the marquis.

Early in the morning, therefore, Malcolm went to Scaurnose, and
found Blue Peter amongst his nets. He could spare a day or two,
and would join him. They returned together, got the cutter into
the offing, and, with a westerly breeze, tried her every way. She
answered her helm with readiness, rose as light as a bird, made a
good board, and seemed every way a safe boat.

"She's the bonniest craft ever lainched!" said Malcolm, ending a
description of her behaviour and qualities rather too circumstantial
for his master to follow.

They were to make their first trip the next morning--eastward,
if the wind should hold, landing at a certain ancient ruin on the
coast, two or three miles from Portlossie.



CHAPTER XXXVIII: THE TWO DOGS


Lady Florimel's fancy was so full of the expected pleasure, that she
woke soon after dawn. She rose and anxiously drew aside a curtain
of her window. The day was one of God's odes written for men.
Would that the days of our human autumn were as calmly grand, as
gorgeously hopeful as the days that lead the aging year down to the
grave of winter! If our white hairs were sunlit from behind like
those radiance bordered clouds; if our air were as pure as this
when it must be as cold; if the falling at last of longest cherished
hopes did but, like that of the forest leaves, let in more of the
sky, more of the infinite possibilities of the region of truth
which is the matrix of fact; we should go marching down the hill
of life like a battered but still bannered army on its way home.
But alas! how often we rot, instead of march, towards the grave!
"If he be not rotten before he die," said Hamlet's absolute grave
digger.--If the year was dying around Lady Florimel, as she looked,
like a deathless sun from a window of the skies, it was dying at
least with dignity.

The sun was still revelling in the gift of himself. A thin blue mist
went up to greet him, like the first of the smoke from the altars
of the morning. The fields lay yellow below; the rich colours of
decay hung heavy on the woods, and seemed to clothe them as with
the trappings of a majestic sorrow; but the spider webs sparkled
with dew, and the gossamer films floated thick in the level sunbeams.
It was a great time for the spiders, those visible Deaths of the
insect race.

The sun, like a householder leaving his house for a time, was burning
up a thousand outworn things before he went; hence the smoke of
the dying hearth of summer was going up to the heavens; but there
was a heart of hope left, for, when farthest away, the sun is never
gone, and the snow is the earth's blanket against the frost. But,
alas, it was not Lady Florimel who thought these things! Looking
over her shoulder, and seeing both what she can and what she cannot
see, I am having a think to myself.

"Which it is an offence to utter in the temple of Art!" cry the
critics.

Not against Art, I think: but if it be an offence to the worshipper
of Art, let him keep silence before his goddess; for me, I am a
sweeper of the floors in the temple of Life, and his goddess is my
mare, and shall go in the dust cart; if I find a jewel as I sweep,
I will fasten it on the curtains of the doors, nor heed if it should
break the fall of a fold of the drapery.

Below Lady Florimel's oriel window, under the tall bridge, the burn
lay dark in a deep pool, with a slow revolving eddy, in which one
leaf, attended by a streak of white froth, was performing solemn
gyrations; away to the north the great sea was merry with waves
and spotted with their broken crests; heaped against the horizon,
it looked like a blue hill dotted all over with feeding sheep; but,
today, she never thought why the waters were so busy--to what
end they foamed and ran, flashing their laughter in the face of the
sun: the mood of nature was in harmony with her own, and she felt
no need to discover any higher import in its merriment. How could
she, when she sought no higher import in her own--had not as
yet once suspected that every human gladness--even to the most
transient flicker of delight--is the reflex--from a potsherd
it may be--but of an eternal sun of joy?--Stay, let me pick up
the gem: every faintest glimmer, all that is not utter darkness,
is from the shining face of the Father of Lights.--Not a breath
stirred the ivy leaves about her window; but out there, on the
wide blue, the breezes were frolicking; and in the harbour the new
boat must be tugging to get free! She dressed in haste, called her
staghound, and set out the nearest way, that is by the town gate,
for the harbour. She must make acquaintance with her new plaything.

Mrs Catanach in her nightcap looked from her upper window as she
passed, like a great spider from the heart of its web, and nodded
significantly after her, with a look and a smile such as might mean,
that for all her good looks she might have the heartache some day.
But she was to have the first herself, for that moment her ugly
dog, now and always with the look of being fresh from an ash pit,
rushed from somewhere, and laid hold of Lady Florimel's dress,
frightening her so, that she gave a cry. Instantly her own dog,
which had been loitering behind, came tearing up, five lengths at
a bound, and descended like an angel of vengeance upon the offensive
animal, which would have fled, but found it too late. Opening his
huge jaws, Demon took him across the flanks, much larger than his
own, as if he had been a rabbit. His howls of agony brought Mrs
Catanach out in her petticoats. She flew at the hound, which Lady
Florimel was in vain attempting to drag from the cur, and seized
him by the throat.

"Take care; he is dangerous!" cried the girl.

Finding she had no power upon him, Mrs Catanach forsook him, and,
in despairing fury, rushed at his mistress. Demon saw it with one
flaming eye, left the cur--which, howling hideously, dragged his
hind quarters after him into the house--and sprang at the woman.
Then indeed was Lady Florimel terrified, for she knew the savage
nature of the animal when roused. Truly, with his eyes on fire as
now, his long fangs bared, the bristles on his back erect, and his
moustache sticking straight out, he might well be believed, much
as civilization might have done for him, a wolf after all! His
mistress threw herself between them, and flung her arms tight round
his neck.

"Run, woman! Run for your life!" she shrieked. "I can't hold him
long."

Mrs Catanach fled, cowed by terror. Her huge legs bore her huge
body, a tragicomic spectacle, across the street to her open door.
She had hardly vanished, flinging it to behind her, when Demon
broke from his mistress, and going at the door as if launched from
a catapult, burst it open and disappeared also.

Lady Florimel gave a shriek of horror, and darted after him.

The same moment the sound of Duncan's pipes as he issued from
the town gate, at which he always commenced instead of ending his
reveille now, reached her, and bethinking herself of her inability
to control the hound, she darted again from the cottage, and flew
to meet him, crying aloud,--"Mr MacPhail! Duncan! Duncan! stop
your pipes and come here directly."

"And who may pe calling me?" asked Duncan, who had not thoroughly
distinguished the voice through the near clamour of his instrument.

She laid her hand trembling with apprehension on his arm, and began
pulling him along.

"It's me,--Lady Florimel," she said. "Come here directly. Demon
has got into a house and is worrying a woman."

"Cod haf mercy!" cried Duncan. "Take her pipes, my laty, for fear
anything paad should happen to tem."

She led him hurriedly to the door. But ere he had quite crossed
the threshold he shivered and drew back.

"Tis is an efil house," he said. "She 'll not can co in." A great
floundering racket was going on above, mingled with growls and
shrieks, but there was no howling.

"Call the dog then. He will mind you, perhaps," she cried--knowing
what a slow business an argument with Duncan was--and flew to
the stair.

"Temon! Temon!" cried Duncan, with agitated voice. Whether the dog
thought his friend was in trouble next, I cannot tell, but down he
came that instant, with a single bound from the top of the stair,
right over his mistress's head as she was running up, and leaping
out to Duncan, laid a paw upon each of his shoulders, panting with
out lolled tongue. But the piper staggered back, pushing the dog
from him. "It is plood!" he cried; "ta efil woman's plood!"

"Keep him out, Duncan dear," said Lady Florimel. "I will go and
see. There! he'll be up again if you don't mind!"

Very reluctant, yet obedient, the bard laid hold of the growling
animal by the collar; and Lady Florimel was just turning to finish
her ascent of the stair and see what dread thing had come to pass,
when, to her great joy, she heard Malcolm's voice, calling from
the farther end of the street--"Hey, daddy! What's happened 'at
I dinna hear the pipes?"

She rushed out, the pipes dangling from her hand, so that the drone
trailed on the ground behind her.

"Malcolm! Malcolm!" she cried; and he was by her side in scarcely
more time than Demon would have taken.

Hurriedly and rather incoherently, she told him what had taken
place. He sprang up the stair, and she followed.

In the front garret--with a dormer window looking down into the
street--stood Mrs Catanach facing the door, with such a malignant
rage in her countenance that it looked demoniacal. Her dog lay at
her feet with his throat torn out.

As soon as she saw Malcolm, she broke into a fury of vulgar
imprecation--most of it quite outside the pale of artistic record.

"Hoots! for shame, Mistress Catanach!" he cried, "Here's my leddy
ahin' me, hearin' ilka word!"

"Deil stap her lugs wi' brunstane! What but a curse wad she hae
frae me? I sweir by God i s' gar her pey for this, or my name's no
--" She stopped suddenly.

"I thocht as muckle," said Malcolm with a keen look.

"Ye'll think twise, ye deil's buckie, or ye think richt! Wha are
ye to think? What sud my name be but Bawby Catanach? Ye're unco
upsettin' sin' ye turned my leddy's flunky! Sorrow taik ye baith!
My dawtit Beauty!--worriet by that hell tyke o' hers!"

"Gien ye gang on like that, the markis 'll hae ye drummed oot o'
the toon or twa days be ower," said Malcolm.

"Wull he than?" she returned with a confident sneer, showing all the
teeth she had left. "Ye'll be far hen wi' the markis, nae doobt!
An' yon donnert auld deevil ye ca' yer gran'father 'ill be fain
eneuch to be drummer, I'll sweir. Care 's my case!"

"My leddy, she's ower ill tongued for you to hearken till,"
said Malcolm, turning to Florimel who stood in the door white and
trembling. "Jist gang doon, an' tell my gran'father to sen' the
dog up. There's surely some gait o' garrin' her haud her tongue!"

Mrs Catanach threw a terrified glance towards Lady Florimel.

"Indeed I shall do nothing of the kind!" replied Florimel. "For
shame!"

"Hoots, my leddy!" returned Malcolm; "I only said it to try the
effec' o' 't. It seems no that ill."

"Ye son o' a deevil's soo!" cried the woman; "I s' hae amen's o'
ye for this, gien I sud ro'st my ain hert to get it."

"'Deed, but ye re duin that fine a'ready! That foul brute o' yours
has gotten his arles (earnest) tu. I wonner what he thinks o sawmon
troot noo!--Eh, mem?"

"Have done, Malcolm," said Florimel. "I am ashamed of you. If the
woman is not hurt, we have no business in her house."

"Hear till her!" cried Mrs Catanach contemptuously. "The woman!"

But Lady Florimel took no heed. She had already turned and was going
down the stair. Malcolm followed in silence; nor did another word
from Mrs Catanach overtake them.

Arrived in the street, Florimel restored his pipes to Duncan
--who, letting the dog go, at once proceeded to fill the bag--
and, instead of continuing her way to the harbour, turned back,
accompanied by Malcolm, Demon, and Lady Stronach's Strathspey.

"What a horrible woman that is!" she said with a shudder.

"Ay is she; but I doobt she wad be waur gien she didna brak oot
that gait whiles," rejoined Malcolm.

"How do you mean?"

"It frichts fowk at her, an' maybe sometimes pits 't oot o' her
pooer to du waur. Gien ever she seek to mak it up wi' ye, my leddy,
I wad hae little to say till her, gien I was you."

"What could I have to say to a low creature like that?"

"Ye wadna ken what she micht be up till, or hoo she micht set aboot
it, my leddy. I wad hae ye mistrust her a'thegither. My daddy has
a fine moral nose for vermin, an' he canna bide her, though he
never had a glimp o' the fause face o' her, an' in trowth never
spak till her."

"I will tell my father of her. A woman like that is not fit to live
amongst civilized people."

"Ye're richt there, my leddy; but she wad only gang some ither gait
amo' the same. Of coorse ye maun tell yer father, but she's no fit
for him to tak ony notice o'."

As they sat at breakfast, Florimel did tell her father. His first
emotion, however--at least the first he showed--was vexation
with herself.

"You must not be going out alone--and at such ridiculous hours,"
he said. "I shall be compelled to get you a governess."

"Really, papa," she returned, "I don't see the good of having
a marquis for a father, if I can't go about as safe as one of the
fisher children. And I might just as well be at school, if I'm not
to do as I like."

"What if the dog had turned on you!" he said.

"If he dared!" exclaimed the girl, and her eyes flashed.

Her father looked at her for a moment, said to himself--"There
spoke a Colonsay!" and pursued the subject no further.

When they passed Mrs Catanach's cottage an hour after, on their
way to the harbour, they saw the blinds drawn down, as if a dead
man lay within: according to after report, she had the brute already
laid out like a human being, and sat by the bedside awaiting a
coffin which she had ordered of Watty Witherspail.



CHAPTER XXXIX: COLONSAY CASTLE


The day continued lovely, with a fine breeze. The whole sky and
air and sea were alive--with moving clouds, with wind, with waves
flashing in the sun. As they stepped on board amidst the little
crowd gathered to see, Lady Florimel could hardly keep her delight
within the bounds of so called propriety. It was all she could do
to restrain herself from dancing on the little deck half swept by
the tiller. The boat of a schooner which lay at the quay towed them
out of the harbour. Then the creature spread her wings like a bird
--mainsail and gaff topsail, staysail and jib--leaped away to
leeward, and seemed actually to bound over the waves. Malcolm sat
at the tiller, and Blue Peter watched the canvas.

Lady Florimel turned out to be a good sailor, and her enjoyment was
so contagious as even to tighten certain strings about her father's
heart which had long been too slack to vibrate with any simple
gladness. Her questions were incessant--first about the sails
and rigging, then about the steering; but when Malcolm proceeded
to explain how the water reacted on the rudder, she declined to
trouble herself with that.

"Let me steer first," she said, "and then tell me how things work."

"That is whiles the best plan," said Malcolm. "Jist lay yer han'
upo' the tiller, my leddy, an' luik oot at yon pint they ca' the
Deid Heid yonner. Ye see, whan I turn the tiller this gait, her
heid fa's aff frae the pint; an' whan I turn't this ither gait,
her heid turns till 't again: haud her heid jist aboot a twa yairds
like aff o' 't."

Florimel was more delighted than ever when she felt her own hand
ruling the cutter--so overjoyed indeed, that, instead of steering
straight, she would keep playing tricks with the rudder--fretting
the mouth of the sea palfrey, as it were. Every now and then Malcolm
had to expostulate.

"Noo, my leddy, caw canny. Dinna steer sae wull. Haud her steddy.
--My lord, wad ye jist say a word to my leddy, or I'll be forced
to tak the tiller frae her."

But by and by she grew weary of the attention required, and, giving
up the helm, began to seek the explanation of its influence, in a
way that delighted Malcolm.

"Ye'll mak a guid skipper some day," he said: "ye spier the richt
questions, an' that's 'maist as guid 's kennin' the richt answers."

At length she threw herself on the cushions Malcolm had brought
for her, and, while her father smoked his cigar, gazed in silence
at the shore. Here, instead of sands, low rocks, infinitively broken
and jagged, filled all the tidal space--a region of ceaseless rush
and shattered waters. High cliffs of gray and brown rock, orange
and green with lichens here and there, and in summer crowned with
golden furze, rose behind--untouched by the ordinary tide, but at
high water lashed by the waves of a storm.

Beyond the headland which they were fast nearing, the cliffs and
the sea met at half tide.

The moment they rounded it--

"Luik there, my lord," cried Malcolm, "--there's Colonsay Castel,
'at yer lordship gets yer name, I'm thinkin', an', ony gait, ane o'
yer teetles frae. It maun be mony a hunner year sin' ever Colonsay
baid intill 't!"

Well might he say so! for they looked but saw nothing--only cliff
beyond cliff rising from a white fringed shore. Not a broken tower,
not a ragged battlement invaded the horizon!

"There's nothing of the sort there!" said Lady Florimel.

"Ye maunna luik for tooer or pinnacle, my leddy, for nane will
ye see: their time's lang ower. But jist taik the sea face o' the
scaur (cliff) i' yer ee, an' traivel alang 't oontil ye come till
a bit 'at luiks like mason wark. It scarce rises abune the scaur
in ony but ae pairt, an' there it 's but a feow feet o' a wa'."

Following his direction, Lady Florimel soon found the ruin. The
front of a projecting portion of the cliff was faced, from the
very water's edge as it seemed, with mason work; while on its side,
the masonry rested here and there upon jutting masses of the rock,
serving as corbels or brackets, the surface of the rock itself
completing the wall front. Above, grass grown heaps and mounds,
and one isolated bit of wall pierced with a little window, like an
empty eyesocket with no skull behind it, was all that was visible
from the sea of the structure which had once risen lordly on the
crest of the cliff.

"It is poor for a ruin even!" said Lord Lossie.

"But jist consider hoo auld the place is, my lord!--as auld as the
time o' the sea rovin' Danes, they say. Maybe it's aulder nor King
Alfred! Ye maun regaird it only as a foondation; there's stanes eneuch
lyin' aboot to shaw 'at there maun hae been a gran' supperstructur
on 't ance. I some think it has been ance disconneckit frae the
lan', an' jined on by a drawbrig. Mony a lump o' rock an' castel
thegither has rowed doon the brae upon a' sides, an' the ruins may
weel hae filled up the gully at last. It's a wonnerfu' auld place,
my lord."

"What would you do with it if it were yours, Malcolm?" asked Lady
Florimel.

"I wad spen' a my spare time patchin' 't up to gar 't stan' oot
agane the wither. It's crum'let awa' a heap sin' I min'."

"What would be the good of that? A rickle of old stones!" said the
marquis.

"It's a growth 'at there winna be mony mair like," returned Malcolm.
"I wonner 'at yer lordship!"

He was now steering for the foot of the cliff. As they approached,
the ruin expanded and separated, grew more massy, and yet more
detailed. Still it was a mere root clinging to the soil.

"Suppose you were Lord Lossie, Malcolm, what would you do with it?"
asked Florimel, seriously, but with fun in her eyes.

"I wad win at the boddom o' 't first."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Ye'll see whan ye win in till 't. There 's a heap o' voutit places
inside yon blin' face. Du ye see yon wee bit squaur winnock? That
lats the licht in till ane o' them. There maybe vouts aneath vouts,
for them 'at ye can win intill 's half fu' o' yird an' stanes. I
wad hae a' that cleart oot, an syne begin frae the verra foondation,
diggin', an' patchin', an' buttressin', till I got it a' as soun'
as a whunstane; an' whan I cam to the tap o' the rock, there the
castel sud tak to growin' again; an' grow it sud, till there it
stude, as near what it was as the wit an' the han' o' man cud set
it."

"That would ruin a tolerably rich man," said the marquis..

"Ony gait it's no the w'y fowk ruins themsel's nooadays, my lord.
They'll pu' doon an auld hoose ony day to save themsel's blastin'
poother. There's that gran' place they ca' Huntly Castel!--
a suckin' bairn to this for age, but wi' wa's, they tell me, wad
stan' for thoosan's o' years: wad ye believe 't? there's a sowlless
chiel' o' a factor there diggin' park wa's an' a grainery oot o'
't, as gien 'twar a quarry o' blue stane! An' what 's ten times
mair exterord'nar, there's the Duke o' Gordon jist lattin' the gype
tak 's wull o' the hoose a' his grace's ain forbears! I wad maist
as sune lat a man speyk ill o' my daddy!"

"But this is past all rebuilding," said his lordship. "It would be
barely possible to preserve the remains as they are."

"It wad be ill to du, my lord, ohn set it up again. But jist think
what a gran' place it wad be to bide in!"

The marquis burst out laughing.

"A grand place for gulls and kittiwakes and sea crows!" he said. "But
where is it, pray, that a fisherman like you gets such extravagant
notions?--How do you come to think of such things?"

"Thoucht's free, my lord. Gien a thing be guid to think, what for
sudna a fisher lad think it? I hae read a heap aboot auld castles
an' sic like i' the history o' Scotlan', an' there's mony an auld
tale an' ballant aboot them.--Jist luik there, my leddy: ye see
yon awfu' hole i' the wa,' wi' the verra inside o' the hill, like,
rushin' oot at it?--I cud tell ye a fearfu' tale aboot that same."

"Do let us have it," said Florimel eagerly, setting herself to
listen.

"Better wait till we land," said the marquis lazily.

"Ay, my lord; we're ower near the shore to begin a story.--Slack
the mainsheet, Peter, an' stan' by the jib--doonhaul--Dinna
rise, my leddy; she'll be o' the grun' in anither meenute."

Almost immediately followed a slight grating noise, which grew
loud, and before one could say her speed had slackened, the cutter
rested on the pebbles, with the small waves of the just turned tide
flowing against her quarter. Malcolm was overboard in a moment.

"How the deuce are we to land here?" said the marquis.

"Yes!" followed Florimel, half risen on her elbow, "how the deuce
are we to land here?"

"Hoot, my leddy!" said Malcolm, "sic words ill become yer bonny
mou'."

The marquis laughed.

"I ask you how we are to get ashore?" said Florimel with grave
dignity, though an imp was laughing in the shadows of her eyes.

"I'll sune lat ye see that, my leddy," answered Malcolm; and
leaning over the low bulwark he had her in his arms almost before
she could utter an objection. Carrying her ashore like a child--
indeed, to steady herself, she had put an arm round his shoulders
--he set her down on the shingle, and turning in the act, left her
as if she had been a burden of nets, and waded back to the boat.

"And how, pray, am I to go?" asked the marquis. "Do you fancy you
can carry me in that style?"

"Ow na, my lord! that wadna be dignifeed for a man. Jist loup upo'
my back."

As he spoke he turned his broad shoulders, stooping.

The marquis accepted the invitation, and rode ashore like a schoolboy,
laughing merrily.

They were in a little valley, open only to the sea, one boundary of
which was the small promontory whereon the castle stood. The side
of it next them, of stone and live rock combined, rose perpendicular
from the beach to a great height; whence, to gain the summit, they
had to go a little way back, and ascend by a winding path till they
reached the approach to the castle from the landward side.

"Noo, wad na this be a gran' place to bide at, my lord?" said
Malcolm, as they reached the summit--the marquis breathless,
Florimel fresh as a lark. "Jist see sic an outluik! The verra place
for pirates like the auld Danes! Naething cud escape the sicht o'
them here. Yon's the hills o' Sutherlan'. Ye see yon ane like a
cairn? that's a great freen' to the fisher fowk to tell them whaur
they are. Yon's the laich co'st o' Caithness. An' yonner's the
north pole, only ye canna see sae far. Jist think, my lord, hoo
gran' wad be the blusterin' blap o' the win' aboot the turrets,
as ye stude at yer window on a winter's day, luikin oot ower the
gurly twist o' the watters, the air fu' o' flichterin snaw, the
cloods a mile thick abune yer heid, an' no a leevin cratur but yer
ain fowk nearer nor the fairm toon ower the broo yonner!"

"I don't see anything very attractive in your description," said
his lordship. "And where," he added, looking around him, "would be
the garden?"

"What cud ye want wi' a gairden, an' the sea oot afore ye there?
The sea's bonnier than ony gairden. A gairden's maist aye the same,
or it changes sae slow, wi' the ae flooer gaein' in, an' the ither
flooer comin' oot, 'at ye maist dinna nottice the odds. But the
sea's never twa days the same. Even lauchin' she never lauchs twise
wi' the same face, an' whan she sulks, she has a hunner w'ys o'
sulkin'."

"And how would you get a carriage up here?" said the marquis.

"Fine that, my lord. There's a ro'd up as far's yon neuk. An' for
this broo, I wad clear awa the lowse stanes, an' lat the nait'ral
gerse grow sweet an' fine, an' turn a lot o' bonny heelan' sheep
on till't. I wad keep yon ae bit o' whuns, for though they're rouch
i' the leaf; they blaw sae gowden. Syne I wad gether a' the bits
o' drains frae a' sides, till I had a bonny stream o' watter aff
o' the sweet corn lan', rowin' doon here whaur we stan', an' ower
to the castel itsel', an' throu' coort an' kitchie, gurglin' an'
rinnin', an' syne oot again an' doon the face o' the scaur, splashin'
an' loupin' like mad. I wad lea' a' the lave to Natur' hersel'.
It wad be a gran' place, my lord! An' whan ye was tired o' 't, ye
cud jist rin awa' to Lossie Hoose, an' hide ye i' the how there for
a cheenge. I wad like fine to hae the sortin' o' 't for yer lordship."

"I daresay!" said the marquis.

"Let's find a nice place for our luncheon, papa, and then we can
sit down and hear Malcolm's story," said Florimel.

"Dinna ye think, my lord, it wad be better to get the baskets up
first?" interposed Malcolm.

"Yes, I think so. Wilson can help you."

"Na, my lord; he canna lea' the cutter. The tide's risin, an' she's
ower near the rocks."

"Well, well; we shan't want lunch for an hour yet, so you can take
your time."

"But ye maun taik kent, my lord, hoo ye gang amo' the ruins.
There's awkward kin' o' holes aboot thae vouts, an' jist whaur ye
think there's nane. I dinna a'thegither like yer gaein' wantin'
me."

"Nonsense! Go along," said the marquis.

"But I'm no jokin'," persisted Malcolm.

"Yes, yes; we'll be careful," returned his master impatiently, and
Malcolm ran down the hill, but not altogether satisfied with the
assurance.



CHAPTER XL: THE DEIL'S WINNOCK


Florimel was disappointed, for she longed to hear Malcolm's tale.
But amid such surroundings it was not so very difficult to wait.
They set out to have a peep at the ruins, and choose a place for
luncheon.

From the point where they stood, looking seawards, the ground sunk
to the narrow isthmus supposed by Malcolm to fill a cleft formerly
crossed by a drawbridge, and, beyond it, rose again to the grassy
mounds in which lay so many of the old bones of the ruined carcass.

Passing along the isthmus, where on one side was a steep descent to
the shore of the little bay, and on the other the live rock hewn
away to wall, shining and sparkling with crystals of a clear irony
brown, they next clambered up a rude ascent of solid rock, and
so reached what had been the centre of the seaward portion of the
castle. Here they came suddenly upon a small hole at their feet,
going right down. Florimel knelt, and peeping in, saw the remains
of a small spiral stair. The opening seemed large enough to let
her through, and, gathering her garments tight about her, she was
halfway buried in the earth before her father, whose attention had
been drawn elsewhere, saw what she was about. He thought she had
fallen in, but her merry laugh reassured him, and ere he could
reach her, she had screwed herself out of sight. He followed her in
some anxiety, out, after a short descent, rejoined her in a small
vaulted chamber, where she stood looking from the little square
window Malcolm had pointed out to them as they neared the shore.
The bare walls around them were of brown stone, wet with the drip
of rains, and full of holes where the mortar had yielded and stones
had fallen out. Indeed the mortar had all but vanished; the walls
stood and the vaults hung chiefly by their own weight. By breaches
in the walls, where once might have been doors, Florimel passed
from one chamber to another and another, each dark, brown, vaulted,
damp, and weather eaten, while her father stood at the little
window she had left, listlessly watching the two men on the beach
far below landing the lunch, and the rippled sea, and the cutter
rising and falling with every wave of the flowing tide.

At length Florimel found herself on the upper end of a steep sloping
ridge of hard, smooth earth, lying along the side of one chamber,
and leading across to yet another beyond, which, unlike the rest,
was full of light. The passion of exploration being by this time
thoroughly roused in her, she descended the slope, half sliding, half
creeping. When she thus reached the hole into the bright chamber,
she almost sickened with horror, for the slope went off steeper,
till it rushed, as it were, out of a huge gap in the wall of the
castle, laying bare the void of space, and the gleam of the sea
at a frightful depth below: if she had gone one foot further, she
could not have saved herself from sliding out of the gap. It was
the very breach Malcolm had pointed out to them from below, and
concerning which he had promised them the terrible tale. She gave
a shriek of terror, and laid hold of the broken wall. To heighten
her dismay to the limit of mortal endurance, she found at the very
first effort, partly, no doubt, from the paralysis of fear, that
it was impossible to reascend; and there she lay on the verge of
the steeper slope, her head and shoulders in the inner of the two
chambers, and the rest of her body in the outer, with the hideous
vacancy staring at her. In a few moments it had fascinated her so
that she dared not close her eyes lest it should leap upon her.
The wonder was that she did not lose her consciousness, and fall
at once to the bottom of the cliff.

Her cry brought her father in terror to the top of the slope.

"Are you hurt, child?" he cried, not seeing the danger she was in.

"It's so steep, I can't get up again," she said faintly.

"I'll soon get you up," he returned cheerily, and began to descend.

"Oh, papa!" she cried, "don't come a step nearer. If you should
slip, we should go to the bottom of the rock together. Indeed,
indeed, there is great danger! Do run for Malcolm."

Thoroughly alarmed, yet mastering the signs of his fear, he enjoined
her to keep perfectly still while he was gone, and hurried to the
little window. Thence he shouted to the men below, but in vain,
for the wind prevented his voice from reaching them. He rushed from
the vaults, and began to descend at the first practicable spot he
could find, shouting as he went.

The sound of his voice cheered Florimel a little, as she lay
forsaken in her misery. Her whole effort now was to keep herself
from fainting, and for this end, to abstract her mind from the
terrors of her situation: in this she was aided by a new shock,
which, had her position been a less critical one, would itself have
caused her a deadly dismay. A curious little sound came to her,
apparently from somewhere in the dusky chamber in which her head
lay. She fancied it made by some little animal, and thought of the
wild cats and otters of which Malcolm had spoken as haunting the
caves; but, while the new fear mitigated the former, the greater
fear subdued the less. It came a little louder, then again a little
louder, growing like a hurried whisper, but without seeming to
approach her. Louder still it grew, and yet was but an inarticulate
whispering. Then it began to divide into some resemblance of
articulate sounds. Presently, to her utter astonishment, she heard
herself called by name.

"Lady Florimel! Lady Florimel!" said the sound plainly enough.

"Who's there?" she faltered, with her heart in her throat hardly
knowing whether she spoke or not.

"There's nobody here," answered the voice. "I'm in my own bedroom
at home, where your dog killed mine."

It was the voice of Mrs Catanach, but both words and tone were
almost English.

Anger, and the sense of a human presence, although an evil one,
restored Lady Florimel's speech.

"How dare you talk such nonsense?" she said.

"Don't anger me again," returned the voice. "I tell you the truth.
I'm sorry I spoke to your ladyship as I did this morning. It was
the sight of my poor dog that drove me mad."

"I couldn't help it. I tried to keep mine off him, as you know."

"I do know it, my lady, and that's why I beg your pardon."

"Then there's nothing more to be said."

"Yes, there is, my lady: I want to make you some amends. I know
more than most people, and I know a secret that some would give
their ears for. Will you trust me?"

"I will hear what you've got to say."

"Well, I don't care whether you believe me or not: I shall tell
you nothing but the truth. What do you think of Malcolm MacPhail,
my lady?"

"What do you mean by asking me such a question?"

"Only to tell you that by birth he is a gentleman, and comes of an
old family."

"But why do you tell me?" said Florimel. "What have I to do with
it?"

"Nothing, my lady--or himself either. I hold the handle of the
business. But you needn't think it's from any favour for him. I
don't care what comes of him. There's no love lost between him and
me. You heard yourself this very day, how he abused both me and my
poor dog who is now lying dead on the bed beside me!"

"You don't expect me to believe such nonsense as that!" said Lady
Florimel.

There was no reply. The voice had departed; and the terrors of her
position returned with gathered force in the desolation of redoubled
silence that closes around an unanswered question. A trembling
seized her, and she could hardly persuade herself that she was not
slipping by slow inches down the incline.

Minutes that seemed hours passed. At length she heard feet and
voices, and presently her father called her name, but she was too
agitated to reply except with a moan. A voice she was yet more
glad to hear followed--the voice of Malcolm, ringing confident
and clear.

"Haud awa', my lord," it said, "an' lat me come at her."

"You're not going down so!" said the marquis angrily. "You'll slip
to a certainty, and send her to the bottom."

"My lord," returned Malcolm, "I ken what I'm aboot, an' ye dinna.
I beg 'at ye'll haud ootby, an' no upset the lassie, for something
maun depen' upon hersel'. Jist gang awa' back into that ither vout,
my lord. I insist upo' 't."

His lordship obeyed, and Malcolm, who had been pulling off his
boots as he spoke, now addressed Mair.

"Here, Peter!" he said, "haud on to the tail o' that rope like grim
deith.--Na, I dinna want it roon' me; it's to gang roon' her.
But dinna ye haul, for it micht hurt her, an' she'll lippen to me
and come up o' hersel."



"Dinna be feart, my bonny leddy: there's nae danger--no ae grain.
I'm comin'."


With the rope in his hand, he walked down the incline, and kneeling
by Florimel, close to the broken wall, proceeded to pass the rope
under and round her waist, talking to her, as he did so, in the
tone of one encouraging a child.

"Noo, my leddy! Noo, my bonny leddy! Ae meenute, an' ye're as safe's
gien ye lay i' yer minnie's lap!"

"I daren't get up, Malcolm! I daren't turn my back to it! I shall
drop right down into it if I do!" she faltered, beginning to sob.

"Nae fear o' that! There! ye canna fa' noo, for Blue Peter has the
other en', and Peter's as strong 's twa pownies. I'm gaein to tak
aff yer shune neist."

So saying, he lowered himself a little through the breach, holding
on by the broken wall with one hand, while he gently removed her
sandal shoes with the other. Drawing himself up again, he rose to
his feet, and taking her hand, said,

"Noo, my leddy, tak a gude grip o' my han', an' as I lift ye, gie
a scram'le wi' yer twa bit feet, an' as sune's ye fin' them aneth
ye, jist gang up as gien ye war clim'in' a gey stey brae (rather
steep ascent). Ye cudna fa' gien ye tried yer warst."

At the grasp of his strong hand the girl felt a great gush
of confidence rise in her heart; she did exactly as he told her,
scrambled to her feet, and walked up the slippery way without
one slide, holding fast by Malcolm's hand, while Joseph kept just
feeling her waist with the loop of the rope as he drew it in. When
she reached the top, she fell, almost fainting, into her father's
arms; but was recalled to herself by an exclamation from Blue Peter:
just as Malcolm relinquished her hand, his foot slipped. But he
slid down the side of the mound only some six or seven feet to the
bottom of the chamber, whence his voice came cheerily, saying he
would be with them in a moment. When, however, ascending by another
way, he rejoined them, they were shocked to see blood pouring
from his foot: he had lighted amongst broken glass, and had felt
a sting, but only now was aware that the cut was a serious one. He
made little of it, however, bound it up, and, as the marquis would
not now hear of bringing the luncheon to the top, having, he said,
had more than enough of the place, limped painfully after them down
to the shore.

Knowing whither they were bound, and even better acquainted with
the place than Malcolm himself; Mrs Catanach, the moment she had
drawn down her blinds in mourning for her dog, had put her breakfast
in her pocket, and set out from her back door, contriving mischief
on her way. Arrived at the castle, she waited a long time before
they made their appearance, but was rewarded for her patience, as
she said to herself; by the luck which had so wonderfully seconded
her cunning. From a broken loophole in the foundation of a round
tower, she now watched them go down the hill. The moment they
were out of sight, she crept like a fox from his earth, and having
actually crawled beyond danger of discovery, hurried away inland,
to reach Portlossie by footpaths and byways, and there show herself
on her own doorstep.

The woman's consuming ambition was to possess power over others
--power to hurt them if she chose--power to pull hidden strings
fastened to their hearts or consciences or history or foibles or
crimes, and so reduce them, in her knowledge, if not in theirs, to
the condition of being, more or less, her slaves. Hence she pounced
upon a secret as one would on a diamond in the dust, any fact even
was precious, for it might be allied to some secret--might, in
combination with other facts, become potent. How far this vice may
have had its origin in the fact that she had secrets of her own,
might be an interesting question.

As to the mysterious communication she had made to her, Lady Florimel
was not able to turn her mind to it--nor indeed for some time was
she able to think of anything.



CHAPTER XLI: THE CLOUDED SAPPHIRES


Before they reached the bottom of the hill, however, Florimel had
recovered her spirits a little, and had even attempted a laugh at
the ridiculousness of her late situation; but she continued very
pale. They sat down beside the baskets--on some great stones,
fallen from the building above. Because of his foot, they would not
allow Malcolm to serve them, but told Mair and him to have their
dinner near, and called the former when they wanted anything.

Lady Florimel revived still more after she had had a morsel of
partridge and a glass of wine, but every now and then she shuddered:
evidently she was haunted by the terror of her late position, and,
with the gladness of a discoverer, the marquis bethought himself of
Malcolm's promised tale, as a means of turning her thoughts aside
from it. As soon, therefore, as they had finished their meal he
called Malcolm, and told him they wanted his story.

"It's some fearsome," said Malcolm, looking anxiously at the pale
face of Lady Florimel.

"Nonsense!" returned the marquis; for he thought, and perhaps
rightly, that if such it would only serve his purpose the better.

"I wad raither tell 't i' the gloamin' roon' a winter fire," said
Malcolm, with another anxious look at Lady Florimel.

"Do go on," she said. "I want so much to hear it!"

"Go on," said the marquis; and Malcolm, seating himself near them,
began.

I need not again tell my reader that he may take a short cut if he
pleases.

"There was ance a great nobleman--like yersel', my lord, only no
sae douce--an' he had a great followin', and was thoucht muckle
o' in a' the country, frae John o' Groat's to the Mull o' Gallowa'.
But he was terrible prood, an' thoucht naebody was to compare wi'
him, nor onything 'at onybody had, to compare wi' onything 'at he
had. His horse war aye swifter, an' his kye aye better milkers nor
ither fowk's; there war nae deer sae big nor had sic muckle horns
as the reid deer on his heelan' hills; nae gillies sae strang's
his gillies; and nae castles sae weel biggit or sae auld as his!
It may ha' been a' verra true for onything I ken, or onything the
story says to the contrar'; but it wasna heumble or Christian-like
o' him to be aye at it, ower an' ower, aye gloryin'--as gien he
had a'thing sae by ord'nar' 'cause he was by ord'nar' himsel', an'
they a' cam till him by the verra natur' o' things. There was but
ae thing in which he was na fawvoured, and that was, that he had
nae son to tak up what he left. But it maittered the less, that
the teetle as weel's the lan's, wad, as the tale tells, gang a'
the same till a lass bairn--an' a lass bairn he had."

"That is the case in the Lossie family," said the marquis.

"That's hoo I hae hard the tale, my lord; but I wad be sorry sud
a' it conteens meet wi' like corroboration.--As I say, a dochter
there was, an' gien a' was surpassin', she was surpassin' a'. The
faimily piper, or sennachy, as they ca'd him--I wadna wonner, my
lord, gien thae gran' pipes yer boonty gae my gran'father, had been
his!--he said in ane o' his sangs, 'at the sun blinkit whanever
she shawed hersel' at the hoose door. I s' warran' ae thing--'at
a' the lads blinkit whan she luikit at them, gien sae be she cud
ever be said to condescen' sae far as to luik at ony; for gien
ever she set ee upo' ane, she never loot it rist: her ee aye jist
slippit ower a face as gien the face micht or micht not be there
--she didna ken or care. A'body said she had sic a hauchty leuk
as was never seen on human face afore; an' for freen'ly luik, she
had nane for leevin' cratur, 'cep' it was her ain father, or her
ain horse 'at she rade upo'. Her mither was deid.

"Her father wad fain hae seen her merriet afore he dee'd, but the
pride he had gien her was like to be the en' o' a', for she coontit
it naething less than a disgrace to pairt wi' maiden leeberty.
'There's no man,' she wad say, whan her father wad be pressin' upo'
the subjec',--'there's no mortal man, but yersel', worth the turn
o' my ee.' An' the father, puir man, was ower weel pleased wi' the
flattery to be sae angry wi' her as he wad fain hae luikit. Sae
time gaed on, till frae a bonny lassie she had grown a gran' leddy,
an' cud win up the hill nae forder, but bude to gang doon o' the
ither side; an' her father was jist near han' daft wi' anxiety to
see her wad. But no! never ane wad she hearken till.

"At last there cam to the hoose--that's Colonsay Castel, up there
--ae day, a yoong man frae Norrawa', the son o' a great nobleman
o' that country; an' wi' him she was some ta'en. He was a fine
man to leuk at, an' he pat them a' to shame at onything that nott
stren'th or skeel. But he was as heumble as he was fit, an' never
teuk ony credit till himsel' for onything 'at he did or was; an'
this she was ill pleased wi', though she cudna help likin' him,
an' made nae banes o' lattin' him see 'at he wasna a'thegither a
scunner till her.

"Weel, ae mornin', verra ear', she gaed oot intill her gairden,
an luikit ower the hedge; an' what sud she see but this same yoong
nobleman tak the bairn frae a puir traivellin' body, help her ower
a dyke, and gie her her bairn again! He was at her ain side in
anither meenute, but he was jist that meenute ahint his tryst, an'
she was in a cauld rage at him. He tried to turn her hert, sayin'
--wad she hae had him no help the puir thing ower the dyke, her
bairnie bein' but a fortnicht auld, an' hersel' unco weak-like? but
my leddy made a mou' as gien she was scunnert to hear sic things
made mention o'. An' was she to stan' luikin' ower the hedge, an'
him convoyin' a beggar wife an' her brat! An' syne to come to her
ohn ever washen his han's! 'Hoot, my leddy,' says he, 'the puir
thing was a human cratur!'--'Gien she had been a God's angel,'
says she, 'ye had no richt to keep me waitin'.'--'Gien she had
been an angel,' says he, 'there wad hae been little occasion, but
the wuman stude in want o' help!'--'Gien 't had been to save her
life, ye sudna hae keepit me waitin',' says she. The lad was scaret
at that, as weel he micht, an' takin' aff 's bannet, he lowtit
laich, an' left her. But this didna shuit my leddy; she wasna to
be left afore she said gang! sae she cried him back, an' he cam,
bannet in han'; an' she leuch, an' made as gien she had been but
tryin' the smeddum o' 'im, an' thoucht him a true k-nicht. The
puir fallow pluckit up at this, an' doon he fell upo's knees, an'
oot wi' a' 'at was in 's hert,--hoo 'at he lo'ed her mair nor
tongue cud tell, an' gien she wad hae him, he wad be her slave for
ever.

"'Ye s' be that,' says she, an' leuch him to scorn. 'Gang efter
yer beggar wife,' she says; 'I'm sick o' ye.'

"He rase, an' teuk up 's bannet, an' loupit the hedge, an' gae a
blast upo' 's horn, an' gethered his men, an' steppit aboord his
boat, ower by Puffie Heid yonner, an' awa to Norrowa' ower the
faem, 'an was never hard tell o' in Scotlan' again. An' the leddy
was hauchtier, and cairried her heid heicher nor ever--maybe
to hide a scaum (slight mark of burning) she had taen, for a' her
pride.

"Sae things gaed on as afore, till at len'th the tide o' her time
was weel past the turn, an' a streak o' the snaw in her coal black
hair. For, as the auld sang says,

Her hair was like the craw,
An' her ble was like the snaw,
An' her bow bendit lip
Was like the rose hip,
An' her ee was like the licht'nin',
Glorious an' fricht'nin'.
But a' that wad sune be ower!

"Aboot this time, ae day i' the gloamin', there cam on sic an awfu'
storm, 'at the fowk o' the castel war frichtit 'maist oot o' their
wits. The licht'nin' cam oot o' the yerd, an' no frae the lift
at a'; the win' roared as gien 't had been an incarnat rage; the
thunner rattlet an' crackit, as gien the mune an' a' the stars had
been made kettledrums o' for the occasion; but never a drap o'
rain or a stane o' hail fell; naething brak oot but blue licht an'
roarin' win'. But the strangest thing was, that the sea lay a' the
time as oonconcerned as a sleepin' bairn; the win' got nae mair grip
o' 't nor gien a' the angels had been poorin' ile oot o' widows'
cruses upo' 't; the verra tide came up quaieter nor ord'nar; and
the fowk war sair perplext as weel's frichtit.

"Jist as the clock o' the castel chappit the deid o' the nicht,
the clamour o' v'ices was hard throu' the thunner an' the win,' an'
the warder--luikin' doon frae the heich bartizan o' the muckle
tooer, saw i' the fire flauchts, a company o' riders appro'chin'
the castel, a' upo' gran' horses, he said, that sprang this gait
an' that, an shot fire frae their een. At the drawbrig they blew
a horn 'at rowtit like a' the bulls o' Bashan, an' whan the warder
challencht them, claimt hoose room for the nicht. Naebody had ever
hard o' the place they cam frae; it was sae far awa 'at as sane 's
a body hard the name o' 't, he forgot it again; but their beasts
war as fresh an' as fu' o' smeddum as I tell ye, an' no a hair o'
ane o' them turnt. There was jist a de'il's dizzen o' them an whaurever
ye began to count them, the thirteent had aye a reid baird.

"Whan the news was taen to the markis--the yerl, I sud say--
he gae orders to lat them in at ance; for whatever fau'ts he had,
naither fear nor hainin' (penuriousness) was amang them. Sae in
they cam, clatterin' ower the drawbrig, 'at gaed up an' down aneth
them as gien it wad hae cast them.

"Richt fremt (strange) fowk they luikit whan they cam intill the
coortyaird--a' spanglet wi' bonny bricht stanes o' a' colours.
They war like nae fowk 'at ever the yerl had seen, an' he had been
to Jeroozlem in 's day, an' had fouchten wi' the Saracenes. But
they war coorteous men an' weel bred--an' maistly weel faured tu
--ilk ane luikin' a lord's son at the least. They had na a single
servin' man wi' them, an' wad alloo nane o' the fowk aboot the place
to lay han' upo' their beasts; an' ilk ane as he said na, wad gie
the stallion aneth him a daig wi' 's spurs, or a kick 'i the ribs,
gien he was aff o' 's back, wi' the steel tae o' his bute; an' the
brute wad lay his lugs i' the how o' 's neck, an' turn his heid
asklent, wi' ae white ee gleyin' oot o' 't, an' lift a hin' leg wi'
the glintin' shue turnt back, an' luik like Sawtan himsel' whan he
daurna.

"Weel, my lord an' my leddy war sittin' i' the muckle ha', for
they cudna gang to their beds in sic a byous storm, whan him 'at
was the chief o' them was ushered in by the seneschal, that's the
steward, like, booin' afore him, an' ca'in' him the Prence, an' nae
mair, for he cudna min' the name o' 's place lang eneuch to say 't
ower again.

"An' sae a prence he was! an', forbye that, jist a man by himsel'
to luik at!--i' the prime o' life, maybe, but no freely i' the
first o' 't, for he had the luik as gien he had had a hard time o'
't, an' had a white streak an' a craw's fit here and there--the
liklier to please my leddy, wha lookit doon upo' a'body yoonger
nor hersel'. He hae a commandin', maybe some owerbeirin' luik--
ane at a man micht hae birstled up at, but a leddy like my leddy
wad welcome as worth bringin' doon. He was dressed as never man
had appears in Scotlan' afore--glorious withoot--no like the
leddy i' the Psalms--for yer ee cud licht nowhaur but there was
the glitter o' a stane, sae 'at he flashed a' ower, ilka motion
he made. He cairret a short swoord at his side--no muckle langer
nor my daddy's dirk, as gien he never foucht but at closs quarters
--the whilk had three sapphires--blue stanes, they tell me--an
muckle anes, lowin' i' the sheath o' 't, an' a muckler ane still i'
the heft; only they war some drumly (clouded), the leddy thoucht,
bein' a jeedge o' hingars at lugs (earrings) an' sic vainities.

"That may be 's it may, but in cam the prence, wi' a laich boo, an'
a gran upstrauchtin' again; an' though, as I say, he was flashin'
a' ower, his mainner was quaiet as the munelicht,--jist grace
itsel'. He profest himsel unco' indebtit for the shelter accordit
him; an' his een aye soucht the leddy's, an' his admiration o'
her was plain in ilka luik an' gestur', an' though his words were
feow, they a' meant mair nor they said. Afore his supper cam in,
her hert was at his wull.

"They say that whan a wuman's late o' fa'in' in love--ye'll
ken my lord--I ken naething aboot it--it 's the mair likly to
be an oonrizzonin' an ooncontrollable fancy; in sic maitters it
seems wisdom comesna wi' gray hairs: within ae hoor the leddy was
enamoured o' the stranger in a fearfu' w'y. She poored oot his wine
till him wi' her ane han'; an' the moment he put the glaiss till
's lips, the win' fell an' the lichtnin' devallt (ceased). She set
hersel' to put questions till him, sic as she thoucht he wad like
to answer--a' aboot himsel' an' what he had come throu'; an' sic
stories as he tellt! She atten't till him as she had never dune to
guest afore, an' her father saw 'at she was sair taen wi' the man.
But he wasna a'thegither sae weel pleased, for there was something
aboot him--he cudna say what--'at garred him grue (shudder). He
wasna a man to hae fancies, or stan' upo' freits, but he cudna help
the creep that gaed doon his backbane ilka time his ee encoontert
that o' the prence--it was aye sic a strange luik the prence cuist
upon him--a luik as gien him an' the yerl had been a'ready ower
weel acquant, though the yerl cudna min' 'at ever he had set ee
upo' him. A' the time, hooever, he had a kin' o' suspicion 'at they
bude to be auld acquantances, an' sair he soucht to mak him oot,
but the prence wad never lat a body get a glimp o' his een 'cep'
the body he was speykin' till--that is gien he cud help it, for
the yerl did get twa or three glimps o' them as he spak till 's
dauchter; an' he declaret efterhin to the king's commissioner, that
a pale blue kin' o' a licht cam frae them, the whilk the body he
was conversin' wi', an' luikin' straucht at, never saw.

"Weel, the short and the lang o' 't that nicht was, that they gaed
a' to their beds.

"I' the mornin', whan the markis--the yerl, I sud say--an' his
dochter cam doon the stair, the haill menyie (company) was awa.
Never a horse or horse was i' the stable, but the yerl's ain beasts
--no ae hair left ahin' to shaw that they had been there! an' i'
the chaumers allotted to their riders, never a pair o' sheets had
been sleepit in.

"The yerl an my leddy sat doon to brak their fast--no freely i'
the same humour, the twa o' them, as ye may weel believe. Whan they
war aboot half throu', wha sud come stridin' in, some dour an' ill
pleased like, but the prence himsel'! Baith yerl an' leddy startit
up: 'at they sud hae sitten doon till a meal ohn even adverteest
their veesitor that sic was their purpose! They made muckle adu
wi' apologies an' explanations, but the prence aye booed an' booed,
an' said sae little, that they thocht him mortal angert, the whilk
was a great vex to my leddy, ye may be sure. He had a withert like
luik, an' the verra diamonds in 's claes war douf like. A'thegither
he had a brunt oot kin' o' aissy (ashy) leuk.

"At len'th the butler cam in, an' the prence signed till him, an'
he gaed near, an' the prence drew him doon, an' toot mootit in 's
lug--an' his breath, the auld man said, was like the grave: he
hadna had 's mornin', he said, an' tell't him to put the whusky
upo' the table. The butler did as he was tauld, an' set doon the
decanter, an' a glaiss aside it; but the prence bannt him jist
fearfu', an' ordert him to tak awa that playock, and fess a tum'ler.

"I'm thinkin', my lord, that maun be a modern touch," remarked
Malcolm here, interrupting himself: "there wasna glaiss i' thae
times--was there?"

"What do I know!" said the marquis. "Go on with your story."

"But there's mair intill 't than that," persisted Malcolm. "I
doobt gien there was ony whusky i' thae times aither; for I hard a
gentleman say the ither day 'at hoo he had tastit the first whusky
'at was ever distillt in Scotlan', an' horrible stuff it was, he
said, though it was 'maist as auld as the forty-five."

"Confound your long wind! Go on," said the marquis peremptorily.

"We s' ca' 't whusky, than, ony gait," said Malcolm, and resumed.

"The butler did again as he was bidden, an' fiess (fetched) a tum'ler,
or mair likely a siller cup, an' the prence took the decanter, or
what it micht be, an' filled it to the verra brim. The butler's een
'maist startit frae 's heid, but naebody said naething. He liftit
it, greedy like, an' drank aff the whusky as gien 't had been watter.
'That's middlin',' he said, as he set it o' the table again. They
luikit to see him fa' doon deid, but in place o' that he begoud to
gether himsel' a bit, an' says he, 'We brew the same drink i' my
country, but a wee mair pooerfu'.' Syne he askit for a slice o'
boar ham an' a raw aipple'; an' that was a' he ate. But he took
anither waucht (large draught) o' the whusky, an' his een grew
brichter, an' the stanes aboot him began to flash again; an' my
leddy admired him the mair, that what wad hae felled ony ither man
ony waukened him up a bit. An' syne he telled them hoo, laith to
be fashous, he had gi'en orders till 's menyie to be all afore the
mornin' brak, an' wait at the neist cheenge hoose till he jined
them. 'Whaur,' said the leddy, 'I trust ye'll lat them wait, or
else sen' for them.' But the yerl sat an' said never a word. The
prence gae him ae glower, an' declared that his leddy's word was
law to him; he wad bide till she wulled him to gang. At this her
een shot fire 'maist like his ain, an' she smilit as she had never
smilit afore; an' the yerl cudna bide the sicht o' 't, but daurna
interfere: he rase an' left the room an' them thegither.

"What passed atwixt the twa, there was nane to tell: but or an hoor
was by, they cam oot upo' the gairden terrace thegither, han' in
han', luikin' baith o' them as gran' an' as weel pleased as gien
they had been king and queen. The lang an' the short o' 't was,
that the same day at nicht the twa was merried. Naither o' them
wad hear o' a priest. Say what the auld yerl cud, they wad not hear
o' sic a thing, an' the leddy was 'maist mair set agane 't nor the
prence. She wad be merried accordin' to Scots law, she said, an'
wad hae nae ither ceremony, say 'at he likit!

"A gran' feast was gotten ready, an' jist the meenute afore it was
cairriet to the ha', the great bell o' the castel yowlt oot, an'
a' the fowk o' the hoose was gaithered i' the coortyaird, an' oot
cam the twa afore them, han' in han', declarin' themsel's merried
fowk, the whilk, accordin' to Scots law, was but ower guid a
merriage. Syne they sat doon to their denner, an' there they sat
--no drinkin' muckle, they say, but merrily enjoyin' themsel's,
the leddy singin' a sang noo an' again, an' the prence sayin' he
ance cud sing, but had forgotten the gait o' 't: but never a prayer
said, nor a blessin' askit--oontil the clock chappit twal, whaurupon
the prence and the prencess rase to gang to their bed--in a room
whaur the king himsel' aye sleepit whan he cam to see them. But
there wasna ane o' the men or the maids 'at wad hae daured be their
lanes wi' that man, prence as he ca'd himsel'.

"A meenute, or barely twa, was ower, whan a cry cam frae the king's
room--a fearfu' cry--a lang lang skreigh. The men an' the maids
luikit at ane anither wi' awsome luiks; an' 'He's killin' her!'
they a' gaspit at ance.

"Noo she was never a favourite wi' ony ane o' her ain fowk, but
still they couldna hear sic a cry frae her ohn run to the yell."

"They fand him pacin' up and doon the ha', an' luikin' like a deid
man in a rage o' fear. But when they telled him, he only leuch at
them, an' ca'd them ill names, an' said he had na hard a cheep.
Sae they tuik naething by that, an' gaed back trimlin'.

"Twa o' them, a man an' a maid to haud hert in ane anither, gaed
up to the door o' the transe (passage) 'at led to the king's room;
but for a while they hard naething. Syne cam the soon' o' moanin'
an' greitin' an' prayin'.

"The neist meenute they war back again amo' the lave, luikin' like
twa corps. They had opent the door o' the transe to hearken closer,
an' what sud they see there but the fiery een an' the white teeth
o' the prence's horse, lyin' athort the door o' the king's room,
wi' 's hied atween 's fore feet, an keepin' watch like a tyke (dog)!

"Er' lang they bethoucht themsels, an twa o' them set oot an aff
thegither for the priory--that's whaur yer ain hoose o' Lossie
noo stan's, my lord, to fess a priest. It wad be a guid twa hoor
or they wan back, an' a' that time, ilka noo an' than, the moaning
an' the beggin' an' the cryin' wad come again. An' the warder
upo' the heich tooer declared 'at ever sin' midnicht the prence's
menyie, the haill twal o' them, was careerin' aboot the castel, noon'
an noon', wi' the een o' their beasts lowin', and their heids oot,
an' their manes up, an their tails fleein' ahint them. He aye lost
sicht o' them whan they wan to the edge o' the scaur, but roon'
they aye cam again upo' the ither side, as gien there had been a
ro'd whaur there wasna even a ledge.

"The moment the priest's horse set fut upo' the drawbrig, the puir
leddy gae anither ougsome cry, a hantle waur nor the first, an'
up gat a suddent roar an' a blast o' win' that maist cairried the
castel there aff o' the cliff intill the watter, an' syne cam a
flash o' blue licht an' a rum'lin'. Efter that, a' was quaiet: it
was a' ower afore the priest wan athort the coortyaird an' up the
stair. For he crossed himsel' an' gaed straucht for the bridal
chaumer. By this time the yerl had come up, an' followed cooerin'
ahin' the priest.

"Never a horse was i' the transe; an' the priest, first layin' the
cross 'at hang frae 's belt agane the door o' the chaumer, flang
't open wi'oot ony ceremony, for ye 'll alloo there was room for
nane.

"An' what think ye was the first thing the yerl saw?--A great
hole i' the wa' o' the room, an' the starry pleuch luikin' in at
it, an' the sea lyin' far doon afore him--as quaiet as the bride
upo' the bed--but a hantle bonnier to luik at; for ilka steek that
had been on her was brunt aff, an' the bonny body o' her lyin' a'
runklet, an' as black 's a coal frae heid to fut; an' the reek 'at
rase frae 't was heedeous. I needna say the bridegroom wasna there.
Some fowk thoucht it a guid sign that he hadna cairried the body
wi' him; but maybe he was ower suddent scared by the fut o' the
priest's horse upo' the drawbrig, an' dauredna bide his oncome.
Sae the fower fut stane--wa' had to flee afore him, for a throu
gang to the Prence o' the Pooer o' the Air. An' yon's the verra hole
to this day, 'at ye was sae near ower weel acquaint wi' yersel',
my leddy. For the yerl left the castel, and never a Colonsay has
made his abode there sin' syne. But some say 'at the rizzon the
castel cam to be desertit a'thegither was, that as aften as they
biggit up the hole, it fell oot again as sure 's the day o' the year
cam roon' whan it first happened. They say, that at twal o'clock
that same nicht, the door o' that room aye gaed tu, an' that naebody
daur touch 't, for the heat o' the han'le o' 't; an' syne cam the
skreighin' an' the moanin', an' the fearsome skelloch at the last,
an' a rum'le like thun'er, an' i' the mornin' there was the wa' oot!
The hole's bigger noo, for a' the decay o' the castel has taen to
slidin' oot at it, an' doobtless it'll spread an' spread till the
haill structur vainishes; at least sae they say, my lord; but I
wad hae a try at the haudin' o' 't thegither for a' that. I dinna
see 'at the deil sud hae 't a' his ain gait, as gien we war a' fleyt
at him. Fowk hae threepit upo' me that there i' the gloamin' they
hae seen an' awsome face luikin' in upo' them throu' that slap i'
the wa'; but I never believed it was onything but their ain fancy,
though for a' 'at I ken, it may ha' been something no canny. Still,
I say, wha 's feart? The Ill Man has no pooer 'cep ower his ain
kin. We 're tellt to resist him an' he'll flee frae 's."

"A good story, and well told," said the marquis kindly. "Don't you
think so, Florimel?"

"Yes, papa," Lady Florimel answered; "only he kept us waiting too
long for the end of it."

"Some fowk, my leddy," said Malcolm, "wad aye be at the hin'er en'
o' a'thing. But for mysel', the mair pleased I was to be gaein'
ony gait, the mair I wad spin oot the ro'd till 't."

"How much of the story may be your own invention now?" said the
marquis.

"Ow, nae that muckle, my lord; jist a feow extras an' partic'lars
'at micht weel hae been, wi' an adjective, or an adverb, or sic
like, here an' there. I made ae mistak' though; gien 't was you
hole yonner, they bude till hae gane doon an' no up the stair to
their chaumer."

His lordship laughed, and, again commending the tale, rose: it was
time to re-embark--an operation less arduous than before, for in
the present state of the tide it was easy to bring the cutter so
close to a low rock that even Lady Florimel could step on board.

As they had now to beat to windward, Malcolm kept the tiller in
his own hand. But indeed, Lady Florimel did not want to steer; she
was so much occupied with her thoughts that her hands must remain
idle.

Partly to turn them away from the more terrible portion of her
adventure, she began to reflect upon her interview with Mrs Catanach
--if interview it could be called, where she had seen no one. At
first she was sorry that she had not told her father of it, and
had the ruin searched; but when she thought of the communication
the woman had made to her, she came to the conclusion that it was,
for various reasons--not to mention the probability that he would
have set it all down to the workings of an unavoidably excited
nervous condition--better that she should mention it to no one
but Duncan MacPhail.

When they arrived at the harbour quay, they found the carriage
waiting, but neither the marquis nor Lady Florimel thought of
Malcolm's foot, and he was left to limp painfully home. As he passed
Mrs Catanach's cottage, he looked up: there were the blinds still
drawn down; the door was shut, and the place was silent as the
grave. By the time he reached Lossie House, his foot was very much
swollen. When Mrs Courthope saw it, she sent him to bed at once,
and applied a poultice.



CHAPTER XLII: DUNCAN'S DISCLOSURE


The night long Malcolm kept dreaming of his fall; and his dreams
were worse than the reality, inasmuch as they invariably sent him
sliding out of the breach, to receive the cut on the rocks below.
Very oddly this catastrophe was always occasioned by the grasp of
a hand on his ankle. Invariably also, just as he slipped, the face
of the Prince appeared in the breach, but it was at the same time
the face of Mrs Catanach.

The next morning, Mrs Courthope found him feverish, and insisted
on his remaining in bed--no small trial to one who had never been
an hour ill in his life; but he was suffering so much that he made
little resistance.

In the enforced quiescence, and under the excitements of pain and
fever, Malcolm first became aware how much the idea of Lady Florimel
had at length possessed him. But even in his own thought he never
once came upon the phrase, in love, as representing his condition
in regard of her: he only knew that he worshipped her, and would
be overjoyed to die for her. The youth had about as little vanity
as could well consist with individual coherence; if he was vain at
all, it was neither of his intellectual nor personal endowments,
but of the few tunes he could play on his grandfather's pipes. He
could run and swim, rare accomplishments amongst the fishermen, and
was said to be the best dancer of them all; but he never thought
of such comparison himself. The rescue of Lady Florimel made him
very happy: he had been of service to her; but so far was he from
cherishing a shadow of presumption, that as he lay there he felt
it would be utter content to live serving her for ever, even when
he was old and wrinkled and gray like his grandfather: he never
dreamed of her growing old and wrinkled and gray.

A single sudden thought sufficed to scatter--not the devotion,
but its peace. Of course she would marry some day, and what then?
He looked the inevitable in the face; but as he looked, that face
grew an ugly one. He broke into a laugh: his soul had settled like
a brooding cloud over the gulf that lay between a fisher lad and
the daughter of a peer! But although he was no coxcomb, neither had
fed himself on romances, as Lady Florimel had been doing of late,
and although the laugh was quite honestly laughed at himself, it was
nevertheless a bitter one. For again came the question: Why should
an absurdity be a possibility? It was absurd, and yet possible:
there was the point. In mathematics it was not so: there, of two
opposites to prove one an absurdity, was to prove the other a fact.
Neither in metaphysics was it so: there also an impossibility and
an absurdity were one and the same thing. But here, in a region
of infinitely more import to the human life than an eternity
of mathematical truth, there was at least one absurdity which was
yet inevitable--an absurdity--yet with a villainous attendance
of direst heat, marrow freezing cold, faintings, and ravings, and
demoniacal laughter.

Had it been a purely logical question he was dealing with, he
might not have been quite puzzled; but to apply logic here, as he
was attempting to do, was like--not like attacking a fortification
with a penknife, for a penknife might win its way through the
granite ribs of Cronstadt--it was like attacking an eclipse with
a broomstick: there was a solution to the difficulty; but as the
difficulty itself was deeper than he knew, so the answer to it
lay higher than he could reach--was in fact at once grander and
finer than he was yet capable of understanding.

His disjointed meditations were interrupted quite by the entrance
of the man to whom alone of all men he could at the time have given
a hearty welcome. The schoolmaster seated himself by his bedside,
and they had a long talk. I had set down this talk, but came to the
conclusion I had better not print it: ranging both high and wide,
and touching on points of vital importance, it was yet so odd, that
it would have been to too many of my readers but a Chimera tumbling
in a vacuum--as they will readily allow when I tell them that it
started from the question--which had arisen in Malcolm's mind so
long ago, but which he had not hitherto propounded to his friend
--as to the consequences of a man's marrying a mermaid; and that
Malcolm, reversing its relations, proposed next, the consequences
of a man's being in love with a ghost or an angel.

"I'm dreidfu' tired o' lyin' here i' my bed," said Malcolm at length
when, neither desiring to carry the conversation further, a pause
had intervened. "I dinna ken what I want. Whiles I think its the
sun, whiles the win', and whiles the watter. But I canna rist. Haena
ye a bit ballant ye could say till me Mr Graham? There's naething
wad quaiet me like a ballant."

The schoolmaster thought for a few minutes, and then said, "I'll
give you one of my own, if you like, Malcolm. I made it some twenty
or thirty years ago."

"That wad be a trate, sir," returned Malcolm; and the master,
with perfect rhythm, and a modulation amounting almost to melody,
repeated the following verses:

The water ran doon fine the heich hope heid, (head of the valley)
Wi' a Rin, burnie, rin;
It wimpled, an' waggled, an' sang a screed
O' nonsense, an' wadna blin, (cease)
Wi' its Rin, burnie, rin.

Frae the hert o' the warl', wi' a swirl an' a sway,
An' a Rin, burnie, rin,
That water lap clear frae the dark till the day,
An' singin' awa' did spin,
Wi' its Rin, burnie, rin.

Ae wee bit mile frae the heich hope held,
Wi' a Rin, burnie, rin,
'Mang her yows an' her lambs the herd lassie stude
An' she loot a tear fa' in,
Wi' a Rin, burnie, rin.

Frae the hert o' the maiden that tear drap rase,
Wi' a Rin, burnie rin;
Wearily clim'in' up narrow ways,
There was but a drap to fa' in,
Sae slow did that burnie rin.

Twa wee bit miles frae the heich hope heid,
Wi' a Rin, burnie, rin,
Doon creepit a cowerin' streakie o' reid,
An' meltit awa' within,
Wi' a Rin, burnie, rin.

Frae the hert o' a youth cam the tricklin' reid,
Wi' a Rin, burnie, rin;
It ran an' ran till it left him deid,
An' syne it dried up i' the win',
An' that burnie nae mair did rin.

Whan the wimplin' horn that frae three herts gaed
Wi' a Rin, burnie, rin,
Cam to the lip o' the sea sae braid,
It curled an' grued wi' pain o' sin--
But it took that burnie in.

"It's a bonny, bonny sang," said Malcolm; "but I canna say I
a'thegither like it."

"Why not?" asked Mr Graham, with an inquiring smile.

"Because the ocean sudna mak a mou' at the puir earth burnie that
cudna help what ran intill 't."

"It took it in though, and made it clean, for all the pain it
couldn't help either."

"Weel, gien ye luik at it that gait!" said Malcolm.

In the evening his grandfather came to see him, and sat down by his
bedside, full of a tender anxiety which he was soon able to alleviate.

"Wownded in ta hand and in ta foot!" said the seer: "what can it
mean? It must mean something, Malcolm, my son."

"Weel, daddy, we maun jist bide till we see," said Malcolm cheerfully.

A little talk followed, in the course of which it came into Malcolm's
head to tell his grandfather the dream he had had so much of the
first night he had slept in that room--but more for the sake of
something to talk about that would interest one who believed in
all kinds of prefigurations, than for any other reason.

Duncan sat moodily silent for some time, and then, with a great heave
of his broad chest, lifted up his head, like one who had formed a
resolution, and said:

"The hour has come. She has long peen afrait to meet it, put it has
come, and Allister will meet it.--She 'll not pe your cran'father,
my son."

He spoke the words with perfect composure, but as soon as they were
uttered, burst into a wail, and sobbed like a child.

"Ye'll be my ain father than?" said Malcolm.

"No, no, my son. She'll not pe anything that's your own at aal!"

And the tears flowed down his channelled cheeks.

For one moment Malcolm was silent, utterly bewildered. But he
must comfort the old man first, and think about what he had said
afterwards.

"Ye're my ain daddy, whatever ye are!" he said. "Tell me a' aboot
it, daddy."

"She 'll tell you all she 'll pe knowing, my son, and she nefer
told a lie efen to a Cawmill."

He began his story in haste, as if anxious to have it over, but had
to pause often from fresh outbursts of grief. It contained nothing
more of the essential than I have already recorded, and Malcolm
was perplexed to think why what he had known all the time should
affect him so much in the telling. But when he ended with the bitter
cry--"And now you'll pe loving her no more, my poy: my chilt, my
Malcolm!" he understood it.

"Daddy! daddy!" he cried, throwing his arms round his neck and
kissing him, "I lo'e ye better nor ever. An' weel I may!"

"But how can you, when you 've cot none of ta plood in you, my
son?" persisted Duncan.

"I hae as muckle as ever I had, daddy."

"Yes, put you 'll tidn't know."

"But ye did, daddy."

"Yes, and inteet she cannot tell why she 'll pe loving you so much
herself aal ta time!"

"Weel, daddy, gien ye cud lo'e me sae weel, kennin' me nae bluid's
bluid o' yer ain--I canna help it: I maun lo'e ye mair nor ever,
noo' at I ken 't tu.--Daddy, daddy, I had nae claim upo' ye, an'
ye hae been father an' gran'father an' a' to me!"

"What could she do, Malcolm, my poy? Ta chilt had no one, and she
had no one, and so it wass. You must pe her own poy after all! And
she 'll not pe wondering put.--It might pe.--Yes, inteed not!"

His voice sank to the murmurs of a half uttered soliloquy, and as
he murmured he stroked Malcolm's cheek.

"What are ye efter noo daddy?" asked Malcolm.

The only sign that Duncan heard the question was the complete
silence that followed. When Malcolm repeated it, he said something
in Gaelic, but finished the sentence thus, apparently unaware of
the change of language:

"--only how else should she pe lovin you so much, Malcolm, my
son?"

"I ken what Maister Graham would say, daddy," rejoined Malcolm, at
a half guess.

"What would he say, my son? He's a coot man, your Maister Graham.
--It could not pe without ta sem fathers, and ta sem chief."

"He wad say it was 'cause we war a' o' ae bluid--'cause we had
a' ae father."

"Oh yes, no toubt! We aal come from ta same first paarents; put tat
will be a fery long way off, pefore ta clans cot tokether. It 'll
not pe holding fery well now, my son. Tat waas pefore ta Cawmills."

"That's no what Maister Graham would mean, daddy," said Malcolm.
"He would mean that God was the father o' 's a', and sae we cudna
help lo'in' ane anither."

"No; tat cannot pe right, Malcolm; for then we should haf to love
eferybody. Now she loves you, my son, and she hates Cawmill of
Clenlyon. She loves Mistress Partan when she'll not pe too rude to
her, and she hates tat Mistress Catanach. She's a paad woman, 'tat
she'll pe certain sure, though she'll nefor saw her to speak to
her. She'll haf claaws to her poosoms."

"Weel, daddy, there was naething ither to gar ye lo'e me. I was
jist a helpless human bein', an' sae for that, an' nae ither rizzon,
ye tuik a' that fash wi' me! An' for mysel', I'm deid sure I cudna
lo'e ye better gien ye war twise my gran'father."

"He's her own poy!" cried the piper, much comforted; and his hand
sought his head, and lighted gently upon it. "Put, maype," he went
on, "she might not haf loved you so much if she hadn't peen tinking
sometimes--"

He checked himself. Malcolm's questions brought no conclusion to
the sentence, and a long silence followed.

"Supposin' I was to turn oot a Cawmill?" said Malcolm, at length.

The hand that was fondling his curls withdrew as if a serpent had
bit it, and Duncan rose from his chair.

"Wass it her own son to pe speaking such an efil thing?" he said,
in a tone of injured and sad expostulation.

"For onything ye ken, daddy--ye canna tell but it mith be."

"Ton't preathe it, my son!" cried Duncan in a voice of agony, as
if he saw unfolding a fearful game the arch enemy had been playing
for his soul. "Put it cannot pe," he resumed instantly, "for ten
how should she pe loving you, my son?"

"'Cause ye was in for that afore ye kent wha the puir beastie was."

"Ta tarling chilt! she could not haf loved him if he had peen a
Cawmill. Her soul would haf chumped pack from him as from ta snake
in ta tree. Ta hate in her heart to ta plood of ta Cawmill, would
have killed ta chilt of ta Cawmill plood. No, Malcolm! no, my son!"

"Ye wadna hae me believe, daddy, that gien ye had kent by mark o'
hiv (hoof) an' horn, that the cratur they laid i' yer lap was a
Cawmill--ye wad hae risen up, an' lootin it lie whaur it fell?"

"No, Malcolm; I would haf put my foot upon it, as I would on ta
young fiper in ta heather."

"Gien I was to turn oot ane o' that ill race, ye wad hate me, than,
daddy--efter a'! Ochone, daddy! Ye wad be weel pleased to think
hoo ye stack yer durk throu' the ill han' o' me, an' wadna rist
till ye had it throu' the waur hert.--I doobt I had better up
an' awa', daddy, for wha' kens what ye mayna du to me?"

Malcolm made a movement to rise, and Duncan's quick ears understood
it. He sat down again by his bedside and threw his arms over him.

"Lie town, lie town, my poy. If you ket up, tat will pe you are a
Cawmill. No, no, my son! You are ferry cruel to your own old daddy.
She would pe too much sorry for her poy to hate him. It will pe
so treadful to pe a Cawmill! No, no, my poy! She would take you to
her poosom, and tat would trive ta Cawmill out of you. Put ton't
speak of it any more, my son, for it cannot pe.--She must co now,
for her pipes will pe waiting for her."

Malcolm feared he had ventured too far, for never before had his
grandfather left him except for work. But the possibility he had
started might do something to soften the dire endurance of his
hatred.

His thoughts turned to the new darkness let in upon his history and
prospects. All at once the cry of the mad laird rang in his mind's
ear: "I dinna ken whaur I cam frae!"

Duncan's revelation brought with it nothing to be done--hardly
anything to be thought--merely room for most shadowy, most unfounded
conjecture--nay, not conjecture--nothing but the vaguest of
castle building! In merry mood, he would henceforth be the son of
some mighty man, with a boundless future of sunshine opening before
him; in sad mood, the son of some strolling gipsy or worse--his
very origin better forgotten--a disgrace to the existence for
his share in which he had hitherto been peacefully thankful.

Like a lurking phantom shroud, the sad mood leaped from the field
of his speculation, and wrapped him in its folds: sure enough he was
but a beggar's brat--How henceforth was he to look Lady Florimel
in the face? Humble as he had believed his origin, he had hitherto
been proud of it: with such a high minded sire as he deemed his
own, how could he be other? But now! Nevermore could he look one
of his old companions in the face! They were all honourable men;
he a base born foundling!

He would tell Mr Graham of course; but what could Mr Graham say to
it? The fact remained. He must leave Portlossie.

His mind went on brooding, speculating, devising. The evening sunk
into the night, but he never knew he was in the dark until the
housekeeper brought him a light. After a cup of tea, his thoughts
found pleasanter paths. One thing was certain: he must lay himself
out, as he had never done before, to make Duncan MacPhail happy.
With this one thing clear to both heart and mind, he fell fast
asleep.



CHAPTER XLIII: THE WIZARD'S CHAMBER


He woke in the dark, with that strange feeling of bewilderment
which accompanies the consciousness of having been waked: is it that
the brain wakes before the mind, and like a servant unexpectedly
summoned, does not know what to do with its master from home? or
is it that the master wakes first, and the servant is too sleepy
to answer his call? Quickly coming to himself, however, he sought
the cause of the perturbation now slowly ebbing. But the dark into
which he stared could tell nothing; therefore he abandoned his eyes,
took his station in his ears, and thence sent out his messengers.
But neither, for some moments, could the scouts of hearing come
upon any sign.

At length, something seemed doubtfully to touch the sense-the
faintest suspicion of a noise in the next room--the wizard's
chamber: it was enough to set Malcolm on the floor.

Forgetting his wounded foot and lighting upon it, the agony it
caused him dropped him at once on his hands and knees, and in this
posture he crept into the passage. As soon as his head was outside
his own door, he saw a faint gleam of light coming from beneath
that of the next room. Advancing noiselessly, and softly feeling
for the latch, his hand encountered a bunch of keys depending from
the lock, but happily did not set them jingling. As softly, he
lifted the latch, when, almost of itself, the door opened a couple
of inches, and, with bated breath, he saw the back of a figure he
could not mistake--that of Mrs Catanach. She was stooping by the
side of a tent bed much like his own, fumbling with the bottom hem
of one of the check curtains, which she was holding towards the
light of a lantern on a chair. Suddenly she turned her face to the
door, as if apprehending a presence; as suddenly, he closed it,
and turned the key in the lock. To do so he had to use considerable
force, and concluded its grating sound had been what waked him.

Having thus secured the prowler, he crept back to his room, considering
what he should do next. The speedy result of his cogitations was,
that he indued his nether garments, though with difficulty from
the size of his foot, thrust his head and arms through a jersey,
and set out on hands and knees for an awkward crawl to Lord Lossie's
bedroom.

It was a painful journey, especially down the two spiral stone
stairs, which led to the first floor where he lay. As he went,
Malcolm resolved, in order to avoid rousing needless observers, to
enter the room, if possible, before waking the marquis.

The door opened noiselessly. A night light, afloat in a crystal
cup, revealed the bed, and his master asleep, with one arm lying
on the crimson quilt. He crept in, closed the door behind him,
advanced halfway to the bed, and in a low voice called the marquis.

Lord Lossie started up on his elbow, and without a moment's
consideration seized one of a brace of pistols which lay on a table
by his side, and fired. The ball went with a sharp thud into the
thick mahogany door.

"My lord! my lord!" cried Malcolm, "it's only me!"

"And who the devil are you?" returned the marquis, snatching up
the second pistol.

"Malcolm, yer ain henchman, my lord."

"Damn you! what are you about then? Get up. What are you after
there--crawling like a thief?"

As he spoke he leaped from the bed, and seized Malcolm by the back
of the neck.

"It's a mercy I wasna mair like an honest man," said Malcolm, "or
that bullet wad hae been throu' the hams o' me. Yer lordship's a
wheen ower rash."

"Rash! you rascal!" cried Lord Lossie; "when a fellow comes into
my room on his hands and knees in the middle of the night! Get up,
and tell me what you are after, or, by Jove! I'll break every bone
in your body."

A kick from his bare foot in Malcolm's ribs fitly closed the
sentence.

"Ye are ower rash, my lord!" persisted Malcolm. "I canna get up.
I hae a fit the size o' a sma' buoy!"

"Speak, then, you rascal!" said his lordship, loosening his hold,
and retreating a few steps, with the pistol cocked in his hand.

"Dinna ye think it wad be better to lock the door, for fear the
shot sud bring ony o' the fowk?" suggested Malcolm, as he rose to
his knees and leaned his hands on a chair.

"You're bent on murdering me--are you then?" said the marquis,
beginning to come to himself and see the ludicrousness of the
situation.

"Gien I had been that, my lord, I wadna hae waukent ye up first."

"Well, what the devil is it all about?--You needn't think any
of the men will come. They're a pack of the greatest cowards ever
breathed."

"Weel, my lord, I hae gruppit her at last, an' I bude to come an
tell ye.''

"Leave your beastly gibberish. You can speak what at least resembles
English when you like."

"Weel, my lord, I hae her unner lock an' keye."

"Who, in the name of Satan?"

"Mistress Catanach, my lord!"

"Damn her eyes! What's she to me that I should be waked out of a
good sleep for her?"

"That's what I wad fain yer lordship kent: I dinna."

"None of your riddles! Explain yourself;--and make haste; I want
to go to bed again."

"'Deed, yer lordship maun jist pit on yer claes, an' come wi'."

"Where to?"

"To the warlock's chaumer, my lord--whaur that ill wuman remains
'in durance vile,' as Spenser wad say--but no sae vile's hersel',
I doobt."

Thus arrived at length, with a clear road before him, at the opening
of his case, Malcolm told in few words what had fallen out. As
he went on, the marquis grew interested, and by the time he had
finished, had got himself into dressing gown and slippers.

"Wadna ye tak yer pistol?" suggested Malcolm slyly.

"What! to meet a woman?" said his lordship.

"Ow na! but wha kens there michtna be anither murderer aboot? There
micht be twa in ae nicht."

Impertinent as was Malcolm's humour, his master did not take it
amiss: he lighted a candle, told him to lead the way, and took his
revenge by making joke after joke upon him as he crawled along.
With the upper regions of his house the marquis was as little
acquainted, as with those of his nature, and required a guide.

Arrived at length at the wizard's chamber, they listened at the
door for a moment, but heard nothing; neither was there any light
visible at its lines of junction. Malcolm turned the key, and the
marquis stood close behind, ready to enter. But the moment the
door was unlocked, it was pulled open violently, and Mrs Catanach,
looking too high to see Malcolm who was on his knees, aimed a good
blow at the face she did see, in the hope, no doubt, of thus making
her escape. But it fell short, being countered by Malcolm's head
in the softest part of her person, with the result of a clear
entrance. The marquis burst out laughing, and stepped into the room
with a rough joke. Malcolm remained in the doorway.

"My lord," said Mrs Catanach, gathering herself together, and
rising little the worse, save in temper, for the treatment he had
commented upon, "I have a word for your lordship's own ear."

"Your right to be there does stand in need of explanation," said
the marquis.

She walked up to him with confidence.

"You shall have an explanation, my lord," she said, "such as shall
be my full quittance for intrusion even at this untimely hour of
the night."

"Say on then," returned his lordship.

"Send that boy away then, my lord."

"I prefer having him stay," said the marquis.

"Not a word shall cross my lips till he's gone," persisted Mrs
Catanach. "I know him too well! Awa' wi' ye, ye deil's buckie!"
she continued, turning to Malcolm; "I ken mair aboot ye nor ye ken
aboot yersel', an' deil hae't I ken o' guid to you or yours! But
I s' gar ye lauch o' the wrang side o' your mou' yet, my man."

Malcolm, who had seated himself on the threshold, only laughed and
looked reference to his master.

"Your lordship was never in the way of being frightened at a woman,"
said Mrs Catanach, with an ugly expression of insinuation.

The marquis shrugged his shoulders.

"That depends," he said. Then turning to Malcolm, "Go along," he
added; "only keep within call. I may want you."

"Nane o' yer hearkenin' at the keye hole, though, or I s' lug mark
ye, ye--!" said Mrs Catanach, finishing the sentence none the more
mildly that she did it only in her heart.

"I wadna hae ye believe a' 'at she says, my lord," said Malcolm,
with a significant smile, as he turned to creep away.

He closed the door behind him, and lest Mrs Catanach should
repossess herself of the key, drew it from the lock, and, removing
a few yards, sat down in the passage by his own door. A good many
minutes passed, during which he heard not a sound.

At length the door opened, and his lordship came out. Malcolm looked
up, and saw the light of the candle the marquis carried, reflected
from a face like that of a corpse. Different as they were, Malcolm
could not help thinking of the only dead face he had ever seen. It
terrified him for the moment in which it passed without looking at
him.

"My lord!" said Malcolm gently.

His master made no reply.

"My lord!" cried Malcolm, hurriedly pursuing him with his voice,
"am I to lea' the keyes wi' yon hurdon, and lat her open what doors
she likes?"

"Go to bed," said the marquis angrily, "and leave the woman alone;"
with which words he turned into the adjoining passage, and disappeared.

Mrs Catanach had not come out of the wizard's chamber, and for a
moment Malcolm felt strongly tempted to lock her in once more. But
he reflected that he had no right to do so after what his lordship
had said--else, he declared to himself, he would have given her
at least as good a fright as she seemed to have given his master,
to whom he had no doubt she had been telling some horrible lies.
He withdrew, therefore, into his room--to lie pondering again
for a wakeful while.

This horrible woman claimed then to know more concerning him than
his so called grandfather, and, from her profession; it was likely
enough; but information from her was hopeless--at least until
her own evil time came; and then, how was any one to believe what
she might choose to say? So long, however, as she did not claim
him for her own, she could, he thought, do him no hurt he would be
afraid to meet.

But what could she be about in that room still? She might have gone,
though, without the fall of her soft fat foot once betraying her!

Again he got out of bed, and crept to the wizard's door, and
listened. But all was still. He tried to open it, but could not:
Mrs Catanach was doubtless spending the night there, and perhaps at
that moment lay, evil conscience and all, fast asleep in the tent
bed. He withdrew once more, wondering whether she was aware that
he occupied the next room; and, having, for the first time, taken
care to fasten his own door, got into bed, finally this time, and
fell asleep.



CHAPTER XLIV: THE HERMIT


Malcolm had flattered himself that he would at least be able to
visit his grandfather the next day; but, instead of that, he did
not even make an attempt to rise--head as well as foot aching
so much, that he felt unfit for the least exertion--a phase of
being he had never hitherto known. Mrs Courthope insisted on advice,
and the result was that a whole week passed before he was allowed
to leave his room.

In the meantime, a whisper awoke and passed from mouth to mouth
in all directions through the little burgh--whence arising only
one could tell, for even her mouthpiece, Miss Horn's Jean, was such
a mere tool in the midwife's hands, that she never doubted but Mrs
Catanach was, as she said, only telling the tale as it was told
to her. Mrs Catanach, moreover, absolutely certain that no threats
would render Jean capable of holding her tongue, had so impressed
upon her the terrible consequences of repeating what she had told
her, that, the moment the echo of her own utterances began to
return to her own ears, she began to profess an utter disbelief in
the whole matter--the precise result Mrs Catanach had foreseen
and intended: now she lay unsuspected behind Jean, as behind a
wall whose door was built up; for she had so graduated her threats,
gathering the fullest and vaguest terrors of her supernatural
powers about her name, that while Jean dared, with many misgivings,
to tamper with the secret itself she dared not once mention
Mrs Catanach in connection with it. For Mrs Catanach herself, she
never alluded to the subject, and indeed when it was mentioned in
her hearing pretended to avoid it; but at the same time she took good
care that her silence should be not only eloquent, but discreetly
so, that is, implying neither more nor less than she wished to be
believed.

The whisper, in its first germinal sprout, was merely that Malcolm
was not a MacPhail; and even in its second stage it only amounted
to this, that neither was he the grandson of old Duncan.

In the third stage of its development, it became the assertion that
Malcolm was the son of somebody of consequence; and in the fourth,
that a certain person, not yet named, lay under shrewd suspicion.

The fifth and final form it took was, that Malcolm was the son of
Mrs Stewart of Gersefell, who had been led to believe that he died
within a few days of his birth, whereas he had in fact been carried
off and committed to the care of Duncan MacPhail, who drew a secret
annual stipend of no small amount in consequence--whence indeed
his well known riches!

Concerning this final form of the whisper, a few of the women of
the burgh believed or thought or fancied they remembered both the
birth and reported death of the child in question--also certain
rumours afloat at the time, which cast an air of probability over
the new reading of his fate. In circles more remote from authentic
sources, the general reports met with remarkable embellishments,
but the framework of the rumour--what I may call the bones of it
--remained undisputed.

From Mrs Catanach's behaviour, every one believed that she knew
all about the affair, but no one had a suspicion that she was the
hidden fountain and prime mover of the report--so far to the
contrary was it that people generally anticipated a frightful result
for her when the truth came to be known, for that Mrs Stewart would
follow her with all the vengeance of a bereaved tigress. Some indeed
there were who fancied that the mother, if not in full complicity
with the midwife, had at least given her consent to the arrangement;
but these were not a little shaken in their opinion when at length
Mrs Stewart herself began to figure more immediately in the affair,
and it was witnessed that she had herself begun to search into
the report. Certain it was that she had dashed into the town in a
carriage and pair--the horses covered with foam--and had hurried,
quite raised-like, from house to house, prosecuting inquiries. It
was said that, finding at length, after much labour that she could
arrive at no certainty even as to the first promulgator of the
assertion, she had a terrible fit of crying, and professed herself
unable, much as she would have wished it, to believe a word of the
report: it was far too good news to be true; no such luck ever fell
to her share--and so on. That she did not go near Duncan MacPhail
was accounted for by the reflection, that, on the supposition
itself, he was of the opposite party, and the truth was not to be
looked for from him.

At length it came to be known that, strongly urged, and battling
with a repugnance all but invincible, she had gone to see Mrs
Catanach, and had issued absolutely radiant with joy, declaring
that she was now absolutely satisfied, and, as soon as she had
communicated with the young man himself, would, without compromising
any one, take what legal steps might be necessary to his recognition
as her son.

Although, however, these things had been going on all the week that
Malcolm was confined to his room, they had not reached this last
point until after he was out again, and mean time not a whisper of
them had come to his or Duncan's ears. Had they been still in the
Seaton, one or other of the travelling ripples of talk must have
found them; but Duncan had come and gone between his cottage and
Malcolm's bedside, without a single downy feather from the still
widening flap of the wings of Fame ever dropping on him; and the
only persons who visited Malcolm besides were the Doctor--too
discreet in his office to mix himself up with gossip; Mr Graham,
to whom nobody, except it had been Miss Horn, whom he had not seen
for a fortnight, would have dreamed of mentioning such a subject;
and Mrs Courthope--not only discreet like the doctor, but shy
of such discourse as any reference to the rumour must usher in its
train.

At length he was sufficiently recovered to walk to his grandfather's
cottage; but only now for the first time had he a notion of how
far bodily condition can reach in the oppression and overclouding
of the spiritual atmosphere.

"Gien I be like this," he said to himself, "what maun the weather
be like aneth yon hump o' the laird's!"

Now also for the first time he understood what Mr Graham had meant
when he told him that he only was a strong man who was strong in
weakness; he only a brave man who, inhabiting trembling, yet faced
his foe; he only a true man who, tempted by good, yet abstained.

Duncan received him with delight, made him sit in his own old chair,
got him a cup of tea, and waited upon him with the tenderness of a
woman. While he drank his tea, Malcolm recounted his last adventure
in connection with the wizard's chamber.

"Tat will be ta ped she 'll saw in her feeshon," said Duncan, whose
very eyes seemed to listen to the tale.

When Malcolm came to Mrs Catanach's assertion that she knew more
of him than he did himself--

"Then she peliefs ta voman does, my poy. We are aall poth of us in
ta efil voman's power," said Duncan sadly.

"Never a hair, daddy!" cried Malcolm. "A' pooer 's i' the han's
o' ane, that's no her maister. Ken she what she likes, she canna
pairt you an' me, daddy."

"God forpid!" responded Duncan. "But we must pe on our kard."

Close by the cottage stood an ivy grown bridge, of old leading the
king's highway across the burn to the Auld Toon, but now leading
only to the flower garden. Eager for the open air of which he had
been so long deprived, and hoping he might meet the marquis or Lady
Florimel, Malcolm would have had his grandfather to accompany him
thither; but Duncan declined, for he had not yet attended to the
lamps; and Malcolm therefore went alone.

He was slowly wandering, where never wind blew, betwixt rows
of stately hollyhocks, on which his eyes fed, while his ears were
filled with the sweet noises of a little fountain, issuing from
the upturned beak of a marble swan, which a marble urchin sought
in vain to check by squeezing the long throat of the bird, when the
sounds of its many toned fall in the granite basin seemed suddenly
centupled on every side, and Malcolm found himself caught in
a tremendous shower. Prudent enough to avoid getting wet in the
present state of his health, he made for an arbour he saw near by,
on the steep side of the valley--one he had never before happened
to notice.

Now it chanced that Lord Lossie himself was in the garden, and,
caught also by the rain while feeding some pet goldfishes in a
pond, betook himself to the same summer house, following Malcolm.

Entering the arbour, Malcolm was about to seat himself until the
shower should be over, when, perceiving a mossy arched entrance
to a gloomy recess in the rock behind, he went to peep into it,
curious to see what sort of a place it was.

Now the foolish whim of a past generation had, in the farthest corner
of the recess, and sideways from. the door, seated the figure of a
hermit, whose jointed limbs were so furnished with springs and so
connected with the stone that floored the entrance, that as soon
as a foot pressed the threshold, he rose, advanced a step, and held
out his hand.

The moment, therefore, Malcolm stepped in, up rose a pale, hollow
cheeked, emaciated man, with eyes that stared glassily, made a long
skeleton like stride towards him, and held out a huge bony hand,
rather, as it seemed, with the intent of clutching, than of greeting,
him. An unaccountable horror seized him; with a gasp which had
nearly become a cry, he staggered backwards out of the cave. It
seemed to add to his horror that the man did not follow--remained
lurking in the obscurity behind. In the arbour Malcolm turned--
turned to flee!--though why, or from what, he had scarce an idea.

But when he turned he encountered the marquis, who was just entering
the arbour.

"Well, MacPhail," he said kindly, "I'm glad--"

But his glance became fixed in a stare; he changed colour, and did
not finish his sentence.

"I beg yer lordship's pardon," said Malcolm, wondering through all
his perturbation at the look he had brought on his master's face;
"I didna ken ye was at han'."

"What the devil makes you look like that?" said the marquis, plainly
with an effort to recover himself.

Malcolm gave a hurried glance over his shoulder.

"Ah! I see!" said his lordship, with a mechanical kind of smile,
very unlike his usual one; "--you've never been in there before?"

"No, my lord."

"And you got a fright?"

"Ken ye wha's that, in there, my lord?"

"You booby! It's nothing but a dummy--with springs, and--and
--all damned tomfoolery!"

While he spoke his mouth twitched oddly, but instead of his bursting
into the laugh of enjoyment natural to him at the discomfiture of
another, his mouth kept on twitching and his eyes staring.

"Ye maun hae seen him yersel' ower my shouther, my lord," hinted
Malcolm.

"I saw your face, and that was enough to--" But the marquis did
not finish the sentence.

"Weel, 'cep it was the oonnaiteral luik o' the thing--no human,
an' yet sae dooms like it--I can not account for the grue or the
trimmle 'at cam ower me, my lord, I never fan' onything like it i'
my life afore. An' even noo 'at I unnerstan' what it is, I kenna
what wad gar me luik the boody (bogie) i' the face again."

"Go in at once," said the marquis fiercely.

Malcolm looked him full in the eyes.

"Ye mean what ye say, my lord?"

"Yes, by God!" said the marquis, with an expression I can describe
only as of almost savage solemnity.

Malcolm stood silent for one moment.

"Do you think I'll have a man about me that has no more courage than
--than--a woman!" said his master, concluding with an effort.

"I was jist turnin' ower an auld question, my lord--whether it
be lawfu' to obey a tyrant. But it's na worth stan'in' oot upo'.
I s' gang."

He turned to the arch, placed a hand on each side of it, and leaned
forward with outstretched neck, peeped cautiously in, as if it were
the den of a wild beast. The moment he saw the figure--seated
on a stool--he was seized with the same unaccountable agitation,
and drew back shivering.

"Go in," shouted the marquis.

Most Britons would count obedience to such a command slavish; but
Malcolm's idea of liberty differed so far from that of most Britons,
that he felt, if now he refused to obey the marquis, he might be a
slave for ever; for he had already learned to recognize and abhor
that slavery which is not the less the root of all other slaveries
that it remains occult in proportion to its potency--self slavery:
he must and would conquer this whim, antipathy, or whatever the
loathing might be: it was a grand chance given him of proving his
will supreme--that is himself a free man! He drew himself up,
with a full breath, and stepped within the arch. Up rose the horror
again, jerked itself towards him with a clank, and held out its
hand. Malcolm seized it with such a gripe that its fingers came
off in his grasp.

"Will that du, my lord?" he said calmly, turning a face rigid with
hidden conflict, and gleaming white, from the framework of the
arch, upon his master, whose eyes seemed to devour him.

"Come out," said the marquis, in a voice that seemed to belong to
some one else.

"I hae blaudit yer playock, my lord," said Malcolm ruefully, as he
stepped from the cave and held out the fingers.

Lord Lossie turned and left the arbour.

Had Malcolm followed his inclination, he would have fled from it,
but he mastered himself still, and walked quietly out. The marquis
was pacing, with downbent head and hasty strides, up the garden:
Malcolm turned the other way.

The shower was over, and the sun was drawing out millions of mimic
suns from the drops that hung, for a moment ere they fell, from
flower and bush and great tree. But Malcolm saw nothing. Perplexed
with himself and more perplexed yet with the behaviour of his
master, he went back to his grandfather's cottage, and, as soon as
he came in, recounted to him the whole occurrence.

"He had a feeshon," said the bard, with wide eyes. "He comes of a
race that sees."

"What cud the veesion hae been, daddy?"

"Tat she knows not, for ta feeshon tid not come to her," said the
piper solemnly.

Had the marquis had his vision in London, he would have gone straight
to his study, as he called it, not without a sense of the absurdity
involved, opened a certain cabinet, and drawn out a certain hidden
drawer; being at Lossie, he walked up the glen of the burn to the
bare hill, overlooking the House, the royal burgh, the great sea,
and his own lands lying far and wide around him. But all the time
he saw nothing of these--he saw but the low white forehead of
his vision, a mouth of sweetness, and hazel eyes that looked into
his very soul.

Malcolm walked back to the House, clomb the narrow duct of an
ancient stone stair that went screwing like a great auger through
the pile from top to bottom, sought the wide lonely garret, flung
himself upon his bed, and from his pillow gazed through the little
dormer window on the pale blue skies flecked with cold white
clouds, while in his mind's eye he saw the foliage beneath burning
in the flames of slow decay, diverse as if each of the seven in the
prismatic chord had chosen and seared its own: the first nor'easter
that drove the flocks of Neptune on the sands, would sweep its
ashes away. Life, he said to himself, was but a poor gray kind of
thing after all. The peacock summer had folded its gorgeous train,
and the soul within him had lost its purple and green, its gold
and blue. He never thought of asking how much of the sadness was
owing to bodily conditions with which he was little acquainted, and
to compelled idleness in one accustomed to an active life. But if
he had, the sorrowful probabilities of life would have seemed just
the same. And indeed he might have argued that, to be subject to
any evil from a cause inadequate, only involves an absurdity that
embitters the pain by its mockery. He had yet to learn what faith
can do, in the revelation of the Moodless, for the subjugation of
mood to will.

As he lay thus weighed upon rather than pondering, his eye fell on
the bunch of keys which he had taken from the door of the wizard's
chamber, and he wondered that Mrs Courthope had not seen and taken
them--apparently had not missed them. And the chamber doomed to
perpetual desertion lying all the time open to any stray foot! Once
more at least, he must go and turn the key in the lock.

As he went the desire awoke to look again into the chamber, for
that night he had had neither light nor time enough to gain other
than the vaguest impression of it.

But for no lifting of the latch would the door open.--How could
the woman--witch she must be--have locked it? He proceeded to
unlock it. He tried one key, then another. He went over the whole
bunch. Mystery upon mystery!--not one of them would turn. Bethinking
himself, he began to try them the other way, and soon found one to
throw the bolt on. He turned it in the contrary direction, and it
threw the bolt off: still the door remained immovable! It must then
--awful thought!--be fast on the inside! Was the woman's body
lying there behind those check curtains? Would it lie there until
it vanished, like that of the wizard,--vanished utterly--bones
and all, to a little dust, which one day a housemaid might sweep
up in a pan?

On the other hand, if she had got shut in, would she not have
made noise enough to be heard?--he had been day and night in the
next room! But it was not a spring lock, and how could that have
happened? Or would she not have been missed, and inquiry made
after her? Only such an inquiry might well have never turned in the
direction of Lossie House, and he might never have heard of it, if
it had.

Anyhow he must do something; and the first rational movement would
clearly be to find out quietly for himself whether the woman was
actually missing or not.

Tired as he was he set out at once for the burgh, and the first
person he saw was Mrs Catanach standing on her doorstep and shading
her eyes with her hand, as she looked away out to the horizon over
the roofs of the Seaton. He went no farther.

In the evening he found an opportunity of telling his master how
the room was strangely closed; but his lordship pooh poohed, and
said something must have gone wrong with the clumsy old lock.

With vague foresight, Malcolm took its key from the bunch, and,
watching his opportunity, unseen hung the rest on their proper nail
in the housekeeper's room. Then, having made sure that the door of
the wizard's chamber was locked, he laid the key away in his own
chest.



CHAPTER XLV: MR CAIRNS AND THE MARQUIS


The religious movement amongst the fisher folk was still going on.
Their meeting was now held often during the week, and at the same
hour on the Sunday as other people met at church. Nor was it any
wonder that, having participated in the fervour which pervaded
their gatherings in the cave, they should have come to feel the so
called divine service in the churches of their respective parishes
a dull, cold, lifeless, and therefore unhelpful ordinance, and at
length regarding it as composed of beggarly elements, breathing of
bondage, to fill the Baillies' Barn three times every Sunday--a
reverential and eager congregation.

Now, had they confined their prayers and exhortations to those
which, from an ecclesiastical point of view, constitute the unholy
days of the week, Mr Cairns would have neither condescended nor
presumed to take any notice of them; but when the bird's eye view
from his pulpit began to show patches of bare board where human
forms had wont to appear; and when these plague spots had not only
lasted through successive Sundays, but had begun to spread more
rapidly, he began to think it time to put a stop to such fanatical
aberrations--the result of pride and spiritual presumption--
hostile towards God, and rebellious towards their lawful rulers
and instructors.

For what an absurdity it was that the spirit of truth should have
anything to communicate to illiterate and vulgar persons except
through the mouths of those to whom had been committed the dispensation
of the means of grace! Whatever wind might blow, except from their
bellows, was, to Mr Cairns at least, not even of doubtful origin.
Indeed the priests of every religion, taken in class, have been
the slowest to recognize the wind of the spirit, and the quickest
to tell whence the blowing came and whither it went--even should
it have blown first on their side of the hedge. And how could it
be otherwise? How should they recognize as a revival the motions of
life unfelt in their own hearts, where it was most required? What
could they know of doubts and fears, terrors and humiliations,
agonies of prayer, ecstasies of relief, and thanksgiving, who
regarded their high calling as a profession, with social claims
and ecclesiastical rights; and even as such had so little respect
for it that they talked of it themselves as the cloth? How could
such a man as Mr Cairns, looking down from the height of his
great soberness and the dignity of possessing the oracles and the
ordinances, do other than contemn the enthusiasms and excitements
of ignorant repentance? How could such as he recognize in the babble
of babes the slightest indication of the revealing of truths hid
from the wise and prudent; especially since their rejoicing also was
that of babes, hence carnal, and accompanied by all the weaknesses
and some of the vices which it had required the utmost energy of the
prince of apostles to purge from one at least of the early churches?

He might, however, have sought some foundation for a true judgment,
in a personal knowledge of their doctrine and collective behaviour;
but, instead of going to hear what the babblers had to say, and
thus satisfying himself whether the leaders of the movement spoke
the words of truth and soberness, or of discord and denial--
whether their teaching and their prayers were on the side of order
and law, or tending to sedition--he turned a ready ear to all
the reports afloat concerning them, and, misjudging them utterly,
made up his mind to use all lawful means for putting an end to
their devotions and exhortations. One fact he either had not heard
or made no account of--that the public houses in the villages
whence these assemblies were chiefly gathered, had already come to
be all but deserted.

Alone, then, and unsupported by one of his brethren of the
Presbytery, even of those who suffered like himself, he repaired
to Lossie House, and laid before the marquis the whole matter from
his point of view--that the tabernacles of the Lord were deserted
for dens and caves of the earth; that fellows so void of learning
as not to be able to put a sentence together, or talk decent English,
(a censure at which Lord Lossie smiled, for his ears were accustomed
to a different quality of English from that which now invaded them)
took upon themselves to expound the Scriptures; that they taught
antinomianism, (for which assertion, it must be confessed, there
was some apparent ground) and were at the same time suspected of
Arminianism and Anabaptism: that, in a word, they were a terrible
disgrace to the godly and hitherto sober minded parishes in which
the sect, if it might be dignified with even such a name, had sprung
up.

The marquis listened with much indifference, and some impatience:
what did he or any other gentleman care about such things? Besides,
he had a friendly feeling towards the fisher folk, and a decided
disinclination to meddle with their liberty, either of action or
utterance.*

*[Ill, from all artistic points of view, as such a note comes
in, I must, for reasons paramount to artistic considerations, remind
my readers, that not only is the date of my story half a century
or so back, but, dealing with principles, has hardly anything to
do with actual events, and nothing at all with persons. The local
skeleton of the story alone is taken from the real, and I had not
a model, not to say an original, for one of the characters in it
--except indeed Mrs Catanach's dog.]

"But what have I to do with it, Mr Cairns?" he said, when the stream
of the parson's utterance had at length ceased to flow. "I am not
a theologian; and if I were, I do not see how that even would give
me a right to interfere."

"In such times of insubordination as these, my lord," said Mr
Cairns, "when every cadger thinks himself as good as an earl, it
is more than desirable that not a single foothold should be lost.
There must be a general election soon, my lord. Besides, these men
abuse your lordship's late hospitality, declaring it has had the
worst possible influence on the morals of the people."

A shadow of truth rendered this assertion the worse misrepresentation:
no blame to the marquis had even been hinted at; the speakers had
only animadverted on the fishermen who had got drunk on the occasion.

"Still," said the marquis, smiling, for the reported libel did not
wound him very deeply, "what ground of right have I to interfere?"

"The shore is your property, my lord--every rock and every buckie
(spiral shell) upon it; the caves are your own--every stone and
pebble of them: you can prohibit all such assemblies."

"And what good would that do? They would only curse me, and go
somewhere else."

"Where could they go, where the same law wouldn't hold, my lord?
The coast is yours for miles and miles on both sides."

"I don't know that it should be."

"Why not, my lord? It has belonged to your family from time
immemorial, and will belong to it, I trust, while the moon endureth."

"They used to say," said the marquis thoughtfully, as if he were
recalling something he had heard long ago, "that the earth was the
Lord's."

"This part of it is Lord Lossie's," said Mr Cairns, combining the
jocular with the complimentary in one irreverence; but, as if to
atone for the freedom he had taken--"The Deity has committed it
to the great ones of the earth to rule for him," he added, with a
devout obeisance to the delegate.

Lord Lossie laughed inwardly.

"You can even turn them out of their houses, if you please, my
lord," he superadded.

"God forbid!" said the marquis.

"A threat--the merest hint of such a measure is all that would
be necessary."

"But are you certain of the truth of these accusations?"

"My lord!"

"Of course you believe them, or you would not repeat them, but it
does not follow that they are fact."

"They are matter of common report, my lord. What I have stated is
in every one's mouth."

"But you have not yourself heard any of their sermons, or what do
they call them?"

"No, my lord," said Mr Cairns, holding up his white hands in
repudiation of the idea; "it would scarcely accord with my position
to act the spy."

"So, to keep yourself immaculate, you take all against them for
granted! I have no such scruples, however. I will go and see, or
rather hear, what they are about: after that I shall be in a position
to judge."

"Your lordship's presence will put them on their guard."

"If the mere sight of me is a check," returned the marquis, "extreme
measures will hardly be necessary."

He spoke definitively, and made a slight movement, which his visitor
accepted as his dismissal. He laughed aloud when the door closed,
for the spirit of what the Germans call Schadenfreude was never
far from his elbow, and he rejoiced in the parson's discomfiture.
It was in virtue of his simplicity, precluding discomfiture, that
Malcolm could hold his own with him so well. For him he now sent.

"Well, MacPhail," he said kindly, as the youth entered, "how is
that foot of yours getting on?"

"Brawly, my lord; there's naething muckle the maitter wi' hit or
me aither, noo 'at we're up. But I was jist nearhan' deid o' ower
muckle bed."

"Had n't you better come down out of that cockloft?" said the
marquis, dropping his eyes.

"Na, my lord; I dinna care aboot pairtin' wi' my neebour yet."

"What neighbour?"

"Ow, the auld warlock, or whatever it may be 'at hauds a reemish
(romage) there."

"What! is he troublesome next?

"Ow, na! I'm no thinkin' 't; but 'deed I dinna ken, my lord!" said
Malcolm.

"What do you mean, then?"

"Gien yer lordship wad aloo me to force yon door, I wad be better
able to tell ye."

"Then the old man is not quiet?"

"There's something no quaiet."

"Nonsense! It's all your imagination--depend on it."

"I dinna think it."

"What do you think, then? You're not afraid of ghosts, surely?"

"No muckle. I hae naething mair upo' my conscience nor I can bide
i' the deidest o' the nicht."

"Then you think ghosts come of a bad conscience? A kind of moral
delirium tremens--eh?"

"I dinna ken, my lord; but that's the only kin' o' ghaist I wad
be fleyed at--at least 'at I wad rin frae. I wad a heap raither
hae a ghaist i' my hoose nor ane far'er benn. An ill man, or wuman,
like Mistress Catanach, for enstance, 'at's a'boady, 'cep'
what o' her 's deevil,"

"Nonsense!" said the marquis, angrily; but Malcolm went on:

"--maun be jist fu' o' ghaists! An' for onything I ken, that 'll
be what maks ghaists o' themsel's efter they 're deid, settin'
them waukin', as they ca' 't. It's full waur nor bein' possessed
wi' deevils, an' maun be a hantle mair ooncoamfortable.--But I
wad hae yon door opent, my lord."

"Nonsense!" exclaimed the marquis once more, and shrugged his
shoulders. "You must leave that room. If I hear anything more about
noises, or that sort of rubbish, I shall insist upon it.--I sent
for you now, however, to ask you about these clandestine meetings
of the fisher folk."

"Clandestine, my lord? There's no clam aboot them, but the clams
upo' the rocks."

The marquis was not etymologist enough to understand Malcolm's poor
pun, and doubtless thought it worse than it was.

"I don't want any fooling," he said. "Of course you know these
people?"

"Ilka man, wuman, an' bairn o' them," answered Malcolm.

"And what sort are they?"

"Siclike as ye micht expec'."

"That's not a very luminous answer."

"Weel, they're nae waur nor ither fowk, to begin wi'; an' gien this
hauds, they'll be better nor mony."

"What sort are their leaders?"

"Guid, respectable fowk, my lord."

"Then there's not much harm in them?"

"There's nane but what they wad fain be rid o'. I canna say as
muckle for a' 'at hings on to them. There's o' them, nae doobt,
wha wad fain win to h'aven ohn left their sins ahin' them; but they
get nae encouragement frae Maister MacLeod. Blue Peter, 'at gangs
oot wi' 's i' yer lordship's boat--he's ane o' their best men--
though he never gangs ayont prayin', I'm tauld."

"Which is far enough, surely," said his lordship, who, belonging to
the Episcopal church, had a different idea concerning the relative
dignities of preaching and praying.

"Ay, for a body's sel', surely; but maybe no aye eneuch for ither
fowk," answered Malcolm, always ready after his clumsy fashion.

"Have you been to any of these meetings?"

"I was at the first twa, my lord."

"Why not more?"

"I didna care muckle aboot them, an' I hae aye plenty to du. Besides,
I can get mair oot o' Maister Graham wi' twa words o' a question
nor the haill crew o' them could tell me atween this an' eternity."

"Well, I am going to trust you," said the marquis slowly, with an
air of question rather than of statement.

"Ye may du that, my lord."

"You mean I may with safety?"

"I div mean that same, my lord."

"You can hold your tongue then?"

"I can, an' I wull my lord," said Malcolm; but added in haste, "--
'cept it interfere wi' ony foregane agreement or nat'ral obligation."

It must be borne in mind that Malcolm was in the habit of discussing
all sorts of questions with Mr Graham: some of the formulae wrought
out between them he had made himself thoroughly master of.

"By Jupiter!" exclaimed the marquis, with a pause of amusement.
"Well," he went on, "I suppose I must take you on your own terms.
--They've been asking me to put a stop to these conventicles."

"Wha has, my lord?"

"That's my business."

"Lat it be nae ither body's, my lord."

"That's my intention. I told him I would go and myself."

"Jist like yer lordship!"

"What do you mean by that?"

"I was aye sure ye was for fair play, my lord."

"It's little enough I've ever had," said the marquis.

"Sae lang's we gie plenty, my lord, it maitters less hoo muckle we
get. A'body likes to get it."

"That doctrine won't carry you far, my lad."

"Far eneuch, gien 't cairry me throu', my lord."

"How absolute the knave is!" said his lordship good humouredly. "--
Well, but," he resumed, "--about these fishermen: I'm only afraid
Mr Cairns was right."

"What said he, my lord?"

"That, when they saw me there, they would fit their words to my
ears."

"I ken them better nor ony black coat atween Cromarty an' Peterheid;
an' I can tell yer lordship there winna be ae word o' differ for
your bein' there."

"If only I could be there and not there both at once! There's no
other sure mode of testing your assertion. What a pity the only
thorough way should be an impossible one!"

"To a' practical purpose, it's easy eneuch, my lord. Jist gang ohn
be seen the first nicht, an' the neist gang in a co'ch an' fower.
Syne compaur."

"Quite satisfactory, no doubt, if I could bring myself to do it;
but, though I said I would, I don't like to interfere so far even
as to go at all."

"At ony public meetin', my lord, ye hae as guid a richt to be present,
as the puirest body i' the lan'. An' forbye that, as lord o' the
place, ye hae a richt to ken what's gaein' on: I dinna ken hoo far
the richt o' interferin' gangs; that's anither thing a'thegither."

"I see you're a thorough going rebel yourself."

"Naething o' the kind, my lord. I'm only sae far o' yer lordship's
min' 'at I like fair play--gien a body could only be aye richt
sure what was fair play!"

"Yes, there's the very point!--certainly, at least, when the
question comes to be of eavesdropping--not to mention that I
could never condescend to play the spy."

"What a body has a richt to hear, he may hear as he likes--either
shawin' himsel' or hidin' himsel'. An' it 's the only plan 'at 's
fair to them, my lord. It 's no 's gien yer lordship was lyin' in
wait to du them a mischeef: ye want raither to du them a kin'ness,
an' tak their pairt."

"I don't know that, Malcolm. It depends."

"It's plain yer lordship's prejudeezed i' their fawvour. Ony. gait
I 'm sartin it's fair play ye want; an' I canna for the life o' me
see a hair o' wrang i' yer lordship's gaein' in a cogue, as auld
Tammy Dyster ca's 't; for, at the warst, ye cud only interdick
them, an' that ye cud du a' the same, whether ye gaed or no. An',
gien ye be sae wulled, I can tak you an' my leddy whaur ye 'll hear
ilka word 'at 's uttered, an' no a body get a glimp o' ye, mair
nor gien ye was sittin' at yer ain fireside as ye are the noo."

"That does make a difference!" said the marquis, a great part of
whose unwillingness arose from the dread of discovery. "It would
be very amusing."

"I'll no promise ye that," returned Malcolm. "I dinna ken aboot
that.--There's jist ae objection hooever: ye wad hae to gang a
guid hoor afore they begoud to gaither.--An' there 's aye laadies
aboot the place sin' they turned it intill a kirk!" he added
thoughtfully. "But," he resumed, "we cud manage them."

"How?"

"I wad get my gran'father to strik' up wi' a spring upo' the pipes,
o' the other side o' the bored craig--or lat aff a shot of the
sweevil: they wad a' rin to see, an' i' the meantime we cud lan'
ye frae the cutter. We wad hae ye in an' oot o' sicht in a moment
--Blue Peter an' me--as quaiet as gien ye war ghaists, an' the
hoor midnicht."

The marquis was persuaded, but objected to the cutter. They would
walk there, he said. So it was arranged that Malcolm should take
him and Lady Florimel to the Baillies' Barn the very next time the
fishermen had a meeting.



CHAPTER XLVI: THE BAILLIES' BARN


Lady Florimel was delighted at the prospect of such an adventure.
The evening arrived. An hour before the time appointed for the meeting,
the three issued from the tunnel, and passed along the landward
side of the dune, towards the promontory. There sat the piper on
the swivel, ready to sound a pibroch the moment they should have
reached the shelter of the bored craig--his signal being Malcolm's
whistle. The plan answered perfectly. In a few minutes, all the
children within hearing were gathered about Duncan--a rarer sight
to them than heretofore--and the way was clear to enter unseen.

It was already dusk, and the cave was quite dark, but Malcolm
lighted a candle, and, with a little difficulty, got them up into
the wider part of the cleft, where he had arranged comfortable
seats with plaids and cushions. As soon as they were placed, he
extinguished the light.

"I wish you would tell us another story, Malcolm," said Lady
Florimel.

"Do," said the marquis "the place is not consecrated yet."

"Did ye ever hear the tale o' the auld warlock, my leddy?" asked
Malcolm. "Only my lord kens 't!" he added.

"I don't," said Lady Florimel.

"It's great nonsense," said the marquis.

"Do let us have it, papa."

"Very well. I don't mind hearing it again." He wanted to see how
Malcolm would embellish it.

"It seems to me," said Malcolm, "that this ane aboot Lossie Hoose'
an' yon ane aboot Colonsay Castel, are verra likly but twa stalks
frae the same rute. Ony gate, this ane aboot the warlock maun be the
auldest o' the twa. Ye s' hae 't sic 's I hae 't mysel'. Mistress
Coorthoup taul' 't to me."

It was after his own more picturesque fashion, however, that he
recounted the tale of Lord Gernon.

As the last words left his lips, Lady Florimel gave a startled cry,
seized him by the arm, and crept close to him. The marquis jumped
to his feet, knocked his head against the rock, uttered an oath,
and sat down again.

"What ails ye, my leddy!" said Malcolm. "There's naething here to
hurt ye."

"I saw a face," she said, "a white face!"

"Whaur?"

"Beyond you a little way--near the ground," she answered, in a
tremulous whisper.

"It's as dark's pick!" said Malcolm, as if thinking it to himself.
--He knew well enough that it must be the laird or Phemy, but he
was anxious the marquis should not learn the secret of the laird's
refuge.

"I saw a face anyhow," said Florimel. "It gleamed white for one
moment, and then vanished."

"I wonner ye didna cry oot waur, my leddy," said Malcolm, peering
into the darkness.

"I was too frightened. It looked so ghastly!--not more than a
foot from the ground."

"Cud it hae been a flash, like, frae yer ain een ?"

"No I am sure it was a face."

"How much is there of this cursed hole?" asked the marquis; rubbing
the top of his head.

"A heap," answered Malcolm. "The grun' gangs down like a brae ahin'
's, intil a--"

"You don't mean right behind us?" cried the marquis.

"Nae jist doss, my lord. We're sittin' i' the mou' o' 't, like, wi'
the thrapple (throat) o' 't ahin' 's, an' a muckle stamach ayont
that."

"I hope there's no danger," said the marquis.

"Nane 'at I ken o'."

"No water at the bottom ?"

"Nane, my lord--that is, naething but a bonny spring i' the rock
side."

"Come away, papa!" cried Florimel. "I don't like it. I've had enough
of this kind of thing."

"Nonsense!" said the marquis, still rubbing his head.

"Ye wad spile a', my leddy! It's ower late, forbye," said Malcolm;
"I hear a fut."

He rose and peeped out, but drew back instantly, saying in a whisper:

"It's Mistress Catanach wi' a lantren! Haud yer tongue, my bonny
leddy; ye ken weel she's no mowse. Dinna try to leuk, my lord; she
micht get a glimp o' ye--she's terrible gleg. I hae been hearin'
mair yet aboot her. Yer lordship 's ill to convence, but depen'
upo' 't, whaurever that woman is, there there's mischeef! Whaur
she taks a scunner at a body, she hates like the verra deevil. She
winna aye lat them ken 't, but taks time to du her ill turns. An'
it 's no that only, but gien she gets a haud o' onything agane
anybody, she 'll save 't up upo' the chance o' their giein' her
some offence afore they dee. She never lowses haud o' the tail o'
a thing, an' at her ain proaper time, she 's in her natur' bun' to
mak the warst use o' 't."

Malcolm was anxious both to keep them still, and to turn aside any
further inquiry as to the face Florimel had seen. Again he peeped
out.

"What is she efter noo? She 's comin' this gait," he went on, in
a succession of whispers, turning his head back over his shoulder
when he spoke. "Gien she thoucht ther was a hole i' the perris she
didna ken a' the oots an' ins o', it wad baud her ohn sleepit.--
Weesht! weesht! here she comes!" he concluded, after a listening
pause, in the silence of which he could hear her step approaching.

He stretched out his neck over the ledge, and saw her coming
straight for the back of the cave, looking right before her with
slow moving, keen, wicked eyes. It was impossible to say what made
them look wicked: neither in form, colour, motion, nor light, were
they ugly--yet in everyone of these they looked wicked, as her
lantern, which, being of horn, she had opened for more light, now
and then, as it swung in her hand, shone upon her pale, pulpy, evil
countenance.

"Gien she tries to come up, I'll hae to caw her doon," he said to
himself, "an' I dinna like it, for she 's a wuman efter a', though
a deevilich kin' o' a ane; but there's my leddy! I hae broucht her
intill 't, an' I maun see her safe oot o' 't!"

But if Mrs. Catanach was bent on an exploration, she was for the
time prevented from prosecuting it by the approach of the first of
the worshippers, whose voices they now plainly heard. She retreated
towards the middle of the cave, and sat down in a dark corner,
closing her lantern and hiding it with the skirt of her long cloak.
Presently a good many entered at once, some carrying lanterns, and
most of them tallow candles, which they quickly lighted and disposed
about the walls. The rest of the congregation, with its leaders,
came trooping in so fast, that in ten minutes or so the service
began.

As soon as the singing commenced, Malcolm whispered to Lady Florimel,
"Was 't a man's face or a lassie's ye saw, my leddy?"

"A man's face--the same we saw in the storm," she answered, and
Malcolm felt her shudder as she spoke.

"It 's naething but the mad laird," he said. "He 's better nor
hairmless. Dinna say a word to yer father my leddy. I dinna like
to say that, but I 'll tell ye a' what for efterhin'."

But Florimel, knowing that her father had a horror of lunatics,
was willing enough to be silent.

No sooner was her terror thus assuaged, than the oddities of the
singing laid hold upon her, stirring up a most tyrannous impulse
to laughter. The prayer that followed made it worse. In itself the
prayer was perfectly reverent, and yet, for dread of irreverence,
I must not attempt a representation of the forms of its embodiment,
or the manner of its utterance.

So uncontrollable did her inclination to merriment become, that she
found at last the only way to keep from bursting into loud laughter
was to slacken the curb, and go off at a canter--I mean, to laugh
freely but gently. This so infected her father, that he straightway
accompanied her, but with more noise. Malcolm sat in misery, from
the fear not so much of discovery, though that would be awkward
enough, as of the loss to the laird of his best refuge. But when
he reflected, he doubted much whether it was even now a safe one;
and, anyhow, knew it would be as vain to remonstrate as to try to
stop the noise of a brook by casting pebbles into it.

When it came to the sermon, however, things went better; for MacLeod
was the preacher,--an eloquent man after his kind, in virtue of
the genuine earnestness of which he was full. If his anxiety for
others appeared to be rather to save them from the consequences of
their sins, his main desire for himself certainly was to be delivered
from evil; the growth of his spiritual nature, while it rendered
him more and more dissatisfied with himself, had long left behind
all fear save of doing wrong. His sermon this evening was founded on
the text: "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit
of God." He spoke fervently and persuasively; nor, although his
tone and accent were odd, and his Celtic modes and phrases to those
Saxon ears outlandish, did these peculiarities in the least injure
the influence of the man. Even from Florimel was the demon of
laughter driven; and the marquis, although not a single notion of
what the man intended passed through the doors of his understanding,
sat quiet, and disapproved of nothing. Possibly, had he been alone
as he listened, he too, like one of old, might have heard, in the
dark cave, the still small voice of a presence urging him forth
to the light; but, as it was, the whole utterance passed without
a single word or phrase or sentence having roused a thought,
or suggested a doubt, or moved a question, or hinted an objection
or a need of explanation. That the people present should interest
themselves in such things, only set before him the folly of mankind.
The text and the preacher both kept telling him that such as he
could by no possibility have the slightest notion what such things
were; but not the less did he, as if he knew all about them, wonder
how the deluded fisher folk could sit and listen. The more tired
he grew, the more angry he got with the parson who had sent him
there with his foolery: and the more convinced that the men who
prayed and preached were as honest as they were silly; and that
the thing to die of itself had only to be let alone. He heard the
Amen of the benediction with a sigh of relief, and rose at once--
cautiously this time.

"Ye maunna gang yet, my lord," said Malcolm. "They maun be a' oot
first."

"I don't care who sees me," protested the weary man.

"But yer lordship wadna like to be descriet scram'lin' doon efter
the back like the bear in Robinson Crusoe!"

The marquis grumbled, and yielded impatiently.

At length Malcolm, concluding from the silence that the meeting had
thoroughly skailed, peeped cautiously out to make sure. But after
a moment, he drew back, saying in a regretful whisper,

"I 'm sorry ye canna gang yet, my lord. There's some half a dizzen
o' ill luikin' chields, cairds (gipsies), I 'm thinkin', or maybe
waur, congregat doon there, an' it 's my opinion they're efter nae
guid, my lord."

"How do you know that?"

"Ony body wad ken that, 'at got a glimp o' them."

"Let me look."

"Na, my lord; ye dinna understan' the lie o' the stanes eneuch to
haud oot o' sicht."

"How long do you mean to keep us here?" asked the marquis impatiently.

"Till it's safe to gang, my lord. For onything I ken, they may be
efter comin' up here. They may be used to the place--though I
dinna think it."

"In that case we must go down at once. We must not let them find
us here."

"They wad tak 's ane by ane as we gaed doon, my lord, an' we wadna
hae a chance. Think o' my leddy there!"

Florimel heard all, but with the courage of her race.

"This is a fine position you have brought us into, MacPhail!" said
his master, now thoroughly uneasy for his daughter's sake.

"Nae waur nor I 'll tak ye oot o', gien ye lippen to me, my lord,
an' no speyk a word."

"If you tell them who papa is," said Florimel, "they won't do us
any harm, surely!"

"I 'm nane sae sure o' that.  They micht want to ripe 's pooches
(search his pockets), an' my lord wad ill stan' that, I 'm thinkin'!
Na, na. Jist stan' ye back, my lord an' my leddy, an' dinna speyk
a word. I s' sattle them. They're sic villains, there nae terms to
be hauden wi' them."

His lordship was far from satisfied; but a light shining up into
the crevice at the moment, gave powerful support to Malcolm's
authority: he took Florimel's hand and drew her a little farther
from the mouth of the cave.

"Don't you wish we had Demon with us?" whispered the girl.

"I was thinking how I never went without a dagger in Venice," said
the marquis, "and never once had occasion to use it. Now I haven't
even a penknife about me! It looks very awkward."

"Please don't talk like that," said Florimel. "Can't you trust
Malcolm, papa?"

"Oh, yes; perfectly!" he answered; but the tone was hardly up to
the words.

They could see the dim figure of Malcolm, outlined in fits of the
approaching light, all but filling the narrow entrance, as he bent
forward to listen. Presently he laid himself down, leaning on his
left elbow, with his right shoulder only a little above the level
of the passage. The light came nearer, and they heard the sound
of scrambling on the rock, but no voice; then for one moment the
light shone clear upon the roof of the cleft; the next, came the
sound of a dull blow, the light vanished, and the noise of a heavy
fall came from beneath.

"Ane o' them, my lord," said Malcolm, in a sharp whisper, over his
shoulder.

A confusion of voices arose.

"You booby!" said one. "You climb like a calf. I'll go next."

Evidently they thought he had slipped and fallen, and he was unable
to set them right. Malcolm heard them drag him out of the way.

The second ascended more rapidly, and met his fate the sooner.
As he delivered the blow, Malcolm recognized one of the laird's
assailants, and was now perfectly at his ease.

"Twa o' them, my lord," he said. "Gien we had ane mair doon, we
cud manage the lave."

The second, however, had not lost his speech, and amidst the
confused talk that followed, Malcolm heard the words: "Rin doon to
the coble for the gun," and, immediately after, the sound of feet
hurrying from the cave. He rose quietly, leaped into the midst of
them, came down upon one, and struck out right and left. Two ran,
and three lay where they were.

"Gien ane o' ye muv han' or fit, I'll brain him wi' 's ain stick,"
he cried, as he wrenched a cudgel from the grasp of one of them.
Then catching up a lantern, and hurrying behind the projecting rock
--"Haste ye, an' come," he shouted. "The w'y 's clear, but only
for a meenute."

Florimel appeared, and Malcolm got her down.

"Mind that fellow," cried the marquis from above.

Malcolm turned quickly, and saw the gleam of a knife in the grasp
of his old enemy, who had risen, and crept behind him to the recess.
He flung the lantern in his face, following it with a blow in which
were concentrated all the weight and energy of his frame. The man
went down again heavily, and Malcolm instantly trampled all their
lanterns to pieces.

"Noo," he said to himself, "they winna ken but it 's the laird an'
Phemy wi' me!"

Then turning, and taking Florimel by the arm, he hurried her out
of the cave, followed by the marquis.

They emerged in the liquid darkness of a starry night. Lady Florimel
clung to both her father and Malcolm. It was a rough way for some
little distance, but at length they reached the hard wet sand,
and the marquis would have stopped to take breath; but Malcolm was
uneasy, and hurried them on.

"What are you frightened at now?" asked his lordship.

"Naething," answered Malcolm, adding to himself however, "I 'm
fleyt at naethin'--I 'm fleyt for the laird."

As they approached the tunnel, he fell behind.

"Why don't you come on?" said his lordship.

"I 'm gaein' back noo 'at ye 're safe," said Malcolm.

"Going back! What for?" asked the marquis.

"I maun see what thae villains are up till," answered Malcolm.

"Not alone, surely!" exclaimed the marquis. "At least get some of
your people to go with you."

"There 's nae time, my lord. Dinna be fleyt for me: I s' tak care
o' mysel'."

He was already yards away, running at full speed. The marquis
shouted after him, but Malcolm would not hear.

When he reached the Baillies' Barn once more, all was still. He
groped his way in and found his own lantern where they had been
sitting, and having lighted it, descended and followed the windings
of the cavern a long way, but saw nothing of the laird or Phemy.
Coming at length to a spot where he heard the rushing of a stream,
he found he could go no farther: the roof of the cave had fallen,
and blocked up the way with huge masses of stone and earth. He had
come a good distance certainly, but by no means so far as Phemy's
imagination had represented the reach of the cavern. He might
however have missed a turn, he thought.

The sound he heard was that of the Lossie Burn, flowing along in
the starlight through the grounds of the House. Of this he satisfied
himself afterwards; and then it seemed to him not unlikely that
in ancient times the river had found its way to the sea along the
cave, for throughout its length the action of water was plainly
visible. But perhaps the sea itself had used to go roaring along the
great duct: Malcolm was no geologist, and could not tell.



CHAPTER XLVII: MRS STEWART'S CLAIM


The weather became unsettled with the approach of winter, and the
marquis had a boat house built at the west end of the Seaton: there
the little cutter was laid up, well wrapt in tarpaulins, like a
butterfly returned to the golden coffin of her internatal chrysalis.
A great part of his resulting leisure, Malcolm spent with Mr Graham,
to whom he had, as a matter of course, unfolded the trouble caused
him by Duncan's communication.

The more thoughtful a man is, and the more conscious of what is
going on within himself, the more interest will he take in what
he can know of his progenitors, to the remotest generations; and a
regard to ancestral honours, however contemptible the forms which
the appropriation of them often assumes, is a plant rooted in the
deepest soil of humanity. The high souled labourer will yield to
none in his respect for the dignity of his origin, and Malcolm had
been as proud of the humble descent he supposed his own, as Lord
Lossie was of his mighty ancestry. Malcolm had indeed a loftier
sense of resulting dignity than his master.

He reverenced Duncan both for his uprightness and for a certain
grandeur of spirit, which, however ridiculous to the common eye,
would have been glorious in the eyes of the chivalry of old; he
looked up to him with admiration because of his gifts in poetry
and music; and loved him endlessly for his unfailing goodness and
tenderness to himself. Even the hatred of the grand old man had
an element of unselfishness in its retroaction, of power in its
persistency, and of greatness in its absolute contempt of compromise.
At the same time he was the only human being to whom Malcolm's
heart had gone forth as to his own; and now, with the knowledge of
yet deeper cause for loving him, he had to part with the sense of
a filial relation to him! And this involved more; for so thoroughly
had the old man come to regard the boy as his offspring, that he
had nourished in him his own pride of family; and it added a sting
of mortification to Malcolm's sorrow, that the greatness of the
legendary descent in which he had believed, and the honourableness
of the mournful history with which his thoughts of himself had been
so closely associated, were swept from him utterly. Nor was this
all even yet: in losing these he had had, as it were, to let go his
hold, not of his clan merely, but of his race: every link of kin
that bound him to humanity had melted away from his grasp. Suddenly
he would become aware that his heart was sinking within him, and
questioning it why, would learn anew that he was alone in the world,
a being without parents, without sister or brother, with none to
whom he might look in the lovely confidence of a right bequeathed
by some common mother, near or afar. He had waked into being,
but all around him was dark, for there was no window, that is, no
kindred eye, by which the light of the world whence he had come,
entering might console him.

But a gulf of blackness was about to open at his feet, against
which the darkness he now lamented would show purple and gray.

One afternoon, as he passed through the Seaton from the harbour,
to have a look at the cutter, he heard the Partaness calling after
him.

"Weel, ye're a sicht for sair een--noo 'at ye're like to turn
oot something worth luikin' at!" she cried, as he approached with
his usual friendly smile.

"What du ye mean by that, Mistress Findlay?" asked Malcolm, carelessly
adding: "Is yer man in?"

"Ay!" she went on, without heeding either question; "ye'll be gran'
set up noo! Ye'll no be hain' 'a fine day' to fling at yer auld
freen's, the puir fisher fowk, or lang! Weel! it's the w'y o' the
warl! Hech, sirs!"

"What on earth 's set ye aff like that Mrs Findlay?" said Malcolm.
"It's nae sic a feerious (furious) gran' thing to be my lord's
skipper--or henchman, as my daddy wad hae 't--surely! It's a
heap gran'er like to be a free fisherman, wi' a boat o' yer ain,
like the Partan."

"Hoots! Nane o' yer clavers! Ye ken weel eneuch what I mean--as
weel 's ilka ither creatit sowl o' Portlossie. An' gien ye dinna
chowse to lat on aboot it till an auld freen' cause she's naething
but a fisherwife, it's dune ye mair skaith a'ready nor I thocht it
wad to the lang last, Ma'colm--for it 's yer ain name I s' ca'
ye yet, gien ye war ten times a laird!--didna I gie ye the breist
whan ye cud du naething i' the wardle but sowk?--An' weel ye
sowkit, puir innocent 'at ye was!"

"As sure's we're baith alive," asseverated Malcolm, "I ken nae mair
nor a sawtit herrin' what ye're drivin' at."

"Tell me 'at ye dinna ken what a' the queentry kens--an' hit
aboot yer ain sel'!" screamed the Partaness.

"I tell ye I ken naething; an' gien ye dinna tell me what ye're
efter direckly, I s' haud awa' to Mistress Allison--she 'll tell
me."

This was a threat sufficiently prevailing.

"It's no in natur'!" she cried. "Here's Mistress Stewart o' the
Gersefell been cawin' (driving) like mad aboot the place, in her
cairriage an' hoo mony horse I dinna ken, declarin', ay, sweirin',
they tell me, 'at ane cowmonly ca'd Ma'colm MacPhail is neither
mair nor less nor the son born o' her ain boady in honest wadlock!
--an' tell me ye ken naething aboot it! What are ye stan'in' like
that for--as gray mou'd 's a deein' skate?"

For the first time in his life, Malcolm, young and strong as he was,
felt sick. Sea and sky grew dim before him, and the earth seemed
to reel under him. "I dinna believe 't," he faltered--and turned
away.

"Ye dinna believe what I tell ye!" screeched the wrathful Partaness.
"Ye daur to say the word!"

But Malcolm did not care to reply. He wandered away, half unconscious
of where he was, his head hanging, and his eyes creeping over the
ground. The words of the woman kept ringing in his ears; but ever
and anon, behind them as it were in the depth of his soul, he heard
the voice of the mad laird, with its one lamentation: "I dinna ken
whaur I cam' frae." Finding himself at length at Mr Graham's door,
he wondered how he had got there.

It was Saturday afternoon, and the master was in the churchyard.
Startled by Malcolm's look, he gazed at him in grave silent enquiry.

"Hae ye h'ard the ill news, sir?" said the youth.

"No; I'm sorry to hear there is any."

"They tell me Mistress Stewart's rinnin' aboot the toon claimin'
me!"

"Claiming you!--How do you mean?"

"For her ain!"

"Not for her son?"

"Ay, sir--that 's what they say. But ye haena h'ard o' 't?"

"Not a word."

"Then I believe it's a' havers!" cried Malcolm energetically. "It
was sair eneuch upo' me a'ready to ken less o' whaur I cam frae
than the puir laird himsel'; but to come frae whaur he cam frae,
was a thocht ower sair!"

"You don't surely despise the poor fellow so much as to scorn to
have the same parents with him!" said Mr Graham.

"The verra contrar', sir. But a wuman wha wad sae misguide the son
o' her ain body, an' for naething but that, as she had broucht him
furth, sic he was!--it 's no to be lichtly believed nor lichtly
endured. I s' awa' to Miss Horn an' see whether she 's h'ard ony
sic leeing clashes."

But as Malcolm uttered her name, his heart sank within him, for
their talk the night he had sought her hospitality for the laird,
came back to his memory, burning like an acrid poison.

"You can't do better," said Mr Graham. "The report itself may be
false--or true, and the lady mistaken."

"She'll hae to pruv 't weel afore I say haud," rejoined Malcolm.

"And suppose she does?"

"In that case," said Malcolm, with a composure almost ghastly, "a
man maun tak what mither it pleases God to gie him. But faith! she
winna du wi' me as wi' the puir laird. Gien she taks me up, she'll
repent 'at she didna lat me lie. She'll be as little pleased wi'
the tane o' her sons as the tither--I can tell her, ohn propheseed!"

"But think what you might do between mother and son," suggested
the master, willing to reconcile him to the possible worst.

"It's ower late for that," he answered. "The puir man's thairms
(fiddle-strings) are a' hingin' lowse, an' there's no grip eneuch
i' the pegs to set them up again. He wad but think I had gane ower
to the enemy, an' haud oot o' my gait as eident (diligently) as he
hauds oot o' hers. Na, it wad du naething for him. Gien 't warna
for what I see in him, I wad hae a gran' rebutter to her claim;
for hoo cud ony wuman's ain son hae sic a scunner at her as I hae
i' my hert an' brain an' verra stamach? Gien she war my ain mither,
there bude to be some nait'ral drawin's atween 's, a body wad think.
But it winna haud, for there's the laird! The verra name o' mither
gars him steik his lugs an' rin."

"Still, if she be your mother, it's for better for worse as much
as if she had been your own choice."

"I kenna weel hoo it cud be for waur," said Malcolm, who did not
yet, even from his recollection of the things Miss Horn had said,
comprehend what worst threatened him.

"It does seem strange," said the master thoughtfully, after a
pause, "that some women should be allowed to be mothers that through
them sons and daughters of God should come into the world--thief
babies, say! human parasites, with no choice but feed on the social
body!"

"I wonner what God thinks aboot it a'! It gars a body spier whether
he cares or no," said Malcolm gloomily.

"It does," responded Mr Graham solemnly.

"Div ye alloo that, sir?" returned Malcolm aghast. "That soon's as
gien a'thing war rushin' thegither back to the auld chaos."

"I should not be surprised," continued the master, apparently
heedless of Malcolm's consternation, "if the day should come when
well meaning men, excellent in the commonplace, but of dwarfed
imagination, refused to believe in a God on the ground of apparent
injustice in the very frame and constitution of things. Such would
argue, that there might be either an omnipotent being who did not
care, or a good being who could not help; but that there could not
be a being both all good and omnipotent, for such would never have
suffered things to be as they are."

"What wad the clergy say to hear ye, sir?" said Malcolm, himself
almost trembling at the words of his master.

"Nothing to the purpose, I fear. They would never face the
question. I know what they would do if they could,--burn me, as
their spiritual ancestor, Calvin, would have done--whose shoe
latchet they are yet not worthy to unloose. But mind, my boy, you've
not heard me speak my thought on the matter at all."

"But wadna 't be better to believe in twa Gods nor nane ava'?"
propounded Malcolm; "ane a' guid, duin' the best for 's he cud,
the ither a' ill, but as pooerfu' as the guid ane--an' forever
an' aye a fecht atween them, whiles ane gettin' the warst o' 't, an
whiles the ither? It wad quaiet yer hert ony gait, an' the battle
o' Armageddon wad gang on as gran' 's ever."

"Two Gods there could not be," said Mr Graham. "Of the two beings
supposed, the evil one must be called devil were he ten times the
more powerful."

"Wi' a' my hert!" responded Malcolm.

"But I agree with you," the master went on, that "Manicheism
is unspeakably better than atheism, and unthinkably better than
believing in an unjust God. But I am not driven to such a theory."

"Hae ye ane o' yer ain 'at 'll fit, sir?"

"If I knew of a theory in which was never an uncompleted arch
or turret, in whose circling wall was never a ragged breach, that
theory I should know but to avoid: such gaps are the eternal windows
through which the dawn shall look in. A complete theory is a vault
of stone around the theorist--whose very being yet depends on
room to grow."

"Weel, I wad like to hear what ye hae agane Manicheism!"

"The main objection of theologians would be, I presume, that it did
not present a God perfect in power as in goodness; but I think it
a far more objectionable point that it presents evil as possessing
power in itself. My chief objection, however, would be a far deeper
one--namely, that its good being cannot be absolutely good; for,
if he knew himself unable to insure the well being of his creatures,
if he could not avoid exposing them to such foreign attack, had
he a right to create them? Would he have chosen such a doubtful
existence for one whom he meant to love absolutely?--Either,
then, he did not love like a God, or he would not have created."

"He micht ken himsel' sure to win i' the lang rin."

"Grant the same to the God of the Bible, and we come back to where
we were before."

"Does that satisfee yersel', Maister Graham?" asked Malcolm, looking
deep into the eyes of his teacher.

"Not at all," answered the master.

"Does onything?"

"Yes: but I will not say more on the subject now. The time may
come when I shall have to speak that which I have learned, but it
is not yet. All I will say now is, that I am at peace concerning
the question. Indeed, so utterly do I feel myself the offspring of
the One, that it would be enough for my peace now--I don't say
it would have been always--to know my mind troubled on a matter:
what troubled me would trouble God: my trouble at the seeming wrong
must have its being in the right existent in him. In him, supposing
I could find none I should yet say there must lie a lucent, harmonious,
eternal, not merely consoling, but absolutely satisfying solution."

"Winna ye tell me a' 'at 's in yer hert aboot it, sir?"

"Not now, my boy. You have got one thing to mind now--before all
other things--namely, that you give this woman--whatever she
be--fair play: if she be your mother, as such you must take her,
that is, as such you must treat her."

"Ye 're richt, sir," returned Malcolm, and rose.

"Come back to me," said Mr Graham, "with whatever news you gather."

"I will, sir," answered Malcolm, and went to find Miss Horn. He was
shown into the little parlour, which, for all the grander things
he had been amongst of late, had lost nothing of its first charm.
There sat Miss Horn.

"Sit doon, Ma'colm," she said gruffly.

"Hae ye h'ard onything, mem?" asked Malcolm, standing.

"Ower muckle," answered Miss Horn, with all but a scowl. "Ye been
ower to Gersefell, I reckon."

"Forbid it!" answered Malcolm. "Never till this hoor--or at maist
it's nae twa sin' I h'ard the first cheep o' 't, an' that was frae
Meg Partan. To nae human sowl hae I made mention o' 't yet 'cep'
Maister Graham: to him I gaed direck."

"Ye cudna hae dune better," said the grim woman, with relaxing
visage.

"An' here I am the noo, straucht frae him, to beg o' you, Miss
Horn, to tell me the trowth o' the maitter."

"What ken I aboot it?" she returned angrily. "What sud I ken?"

"Ye micht ken whether the wuman's been sayin' 't or no."

"Wha has ony doobt aboot that?"

"Mistress Stewart has been sayin' she's my mither, than?"

"Ay--what for no?" returned Miss Horn, with a piercing glower at
the youth.

"Guid forfen'!" exclaimed Malcolm.

"Say ye that, laddie?" cried Miss Horn, and, starting up, she
grasped his arm and stood gazing in his face.

"What ither sud I say?" rejoined Malcolm, surprised.

"God be laudit!" exclaimed Miss Horn. "The limmer may say 'at she
likes noo."

"Ye dinna believe 't than, mem?" cried Malcolm. "Tell me ye dinna,
an' haud me ohn curst like a cadger."

"I dinna believe ae word o' 't, laddie," answered Miss Horn eagerly.
"Wha cud believe sic a fine laad come o' sic a fause mither?"

"She micht be ony body's mither, an' fause tu," said Malcolm
gloomily.

"That's true laddie; and the mair mither the fauser! There's a warl'
o' witness i' your face 'at gien she be yer mither, the markis, an
no puir honest hen peckit John Stewart, was the father o' ye.--
The Lord forgie' me! what am I sayin'!" adjected Miss Horn, with
a cry of self accusation, when she saw the pallor that overspread
the countenance of the youth, and his head drop upon his bosom: the
last arrow had sunk to the feather. "It's a' havers, ony gait," she
quickly resumed. "I div not believe ye hae ae drap o' her bluid i'
the body o' ye, man. But," she hurried on, as if eager to obliterate
the scoring impression of her late words--"that she's been sayin'
't, there can be no mainner o' doot. I saw her mysel' rinnin' aboot
the toon, frae ane till anither, wi' her lang hair doon the lang
back o' her, an' fleein' i' the win', like a body dementit. The
only question is, whether or no she believes 't hersel'."

"What cud gar her say 't gien she didna believe 't?"

"Fowk says she expecs that w'y to get a grip o' things oot o' the
han's o' the puir laird's trustees: ye wad be a son o' her ain,
cawpable o' mainagin' them. But ye dinna tell me she's never been
at yersel' aboot it?"

"Never a blink o' the ee has passed atween's sin' that day I gaed
till Gersefell, as I tellt ye, wi' a letter frae the markis. I
thoucht I was ower mony for her than: I wonner she daur be at me
again."

"She 's daurt her God er' noo, an' may weel daur you.--But what
says yer gran'father till 't, no?"

"He hasna hard a chuckie's cheep o' 't."

"What are we haverin' at than! Canna he sattle the maitter aff
han'?"

Miss Horn eyed him keenly as she spoke.

"He kens nae mair aboot whaur I come frae, mem, nor your Jean, wha
's hearkenin' at the keyhole this verra meenute."

The quick ear of Malcolm had caught a slight sound of the handle,
whose proximity to the keyhole was no doubt often troublesome to
Jean.

Miss Horn seemed to reach the door with one spring. Jean was ascending
the last step of the stair with a message on her lips concerning
butter and eggs. Miss Horn received it, and went back to Malcolm.

"Na; Jean wadna du that," she said quietly.

But she was wrong, for, hearing Malcolm's words, Jean had retreated
one step down the stair, and turned.

"But what's this ye tell me aboot yer gran'father, honest man."
Miss Horn continued.

"Duncan MacPhail's nae bluid o' mine--the mair's the pity!" said
Malcolm sadly--and told her all he knew.

Miss Horn's visage went through wonderful changes as he spoke.

"Weel, it is a mercy I hae nae feelin's!" she said when he had
done.

"Ony wuman can lay a claim till me 'at likes, ye see," said Malcolm.

"She may lay 'at she likes, but it's no ilka egg laid has a chuckie
intill 't," answered Miss Horn sententiously. "Jist ye gang hame
to auld Duncan, an' tell him to turn the thing ower in 's min' till
he's able to sweir to the verra nicht he fan' the bairn in 's lap.
But no ae word maun he say to leevin' sowl aboot it afore it's
requiret o' 'im."

"I wad be the son o' the puirest fisher wife i' the Seaton raither
nor hers," said Malcolm gloomily.

"An' it shaws ye better bred," said Miss Horn. "But she'll be at
ye or lang--an' tak ye tent what ye say. Dinna flee in her face;
lat her jaw awa', an' mark her words. She may lat a streak o' licht
oot o' her dirk lantren oonawaurs."

Malcolm returned to Mr Graham. They agreed there was nothing for
it but to wait. He went next to his grandfather and gave him Miss
Horn's message. The old man fell a thinking, but could not be
certain even of the year in which he had left his home. The clouds
hung very black around Malcolm's horizon.

Since the adventure in the Baillies' Barn, Lady Florimel had been
on a visit in Morayshire: she heard nothing of the report until
she returned.

"So you're a gentleman after all, Malcolm!" she said, the next time
she saw him.

The expression in her eyes appeared to him different from any
he had encountered there before. The blood rushed to his face; he
dropped his head, and saying merely, "It maun be a' as it maun,"
pursued the occupation of the moment.

But her words sent a new wind blowing into the fog. A gentleman
she had said! Gentlemen married ladies! Could it be that a glory
it was madness to dream of, was yet a possibility? One moment,
and his honest heart recoiled from the thought: not even for Lady
Florimel could he consent to be the son of that woman! Yet the
thought, especially in Lady Florimel's presence, would return,
would linger, would whisper, would tempt.

In Florimel's mind also, a small demon of romance was at work.
Uncorrupted as yet by social influences, it would not have seemed
to her absurd that an heiress of rank should marry a poor country
gentleman; but the thought of marriage never entered her head: she
only felt that the discovery justified a nearer approach from both
sides. She had nothing, not even a flirtation in view. Flirt she
might, likely enough, but she did not foremean it.

Had Malcolm been a schemer, he would have tried to make something
of his position. But even the growth of his love for his young
mistress was held in check by the fear of what that love tempted
him to desire.

Lady Florimel had by this time got so used to his tone and dialect,
hearing it on all sides of her, that its quaintness had ceased to
affect her, and its coarseness had begun to influence her repulsively.
There were still to be found in Scotland old fashioned gentlefolk
speaking the language of the country with purity and refinement;
but Florimel had never met any of them, or she might possibly have
been a little less repelled by Malcolm's speech.

Within a day or two of her return, Mrs Stewart called at Lossie
House, and had a long talk with her, in the course of which she
found no difficulty in gaining her to promise her influence with
Malcolm. From his behaviour on the occasion of their sole interview,
she stood in a vague awe of him, and indeed could not recall it
without a feeling of rebuke--a feeling which must either turn her
aside from her purpose or render her the more anxious to secure his
favour. Hence it came that she had not yet sought him: she would
have the certainty first that he was kindly disposed towards her
claim--a thing she would never have doubted but for the glimpse
she had had of him.

One Saturday afternoon, about this time, Mr Stewart put his head
in at the door of the schoolroom, as he had done so often already,
and seeing the master seated alone at his desk, walked in, saying
once more, with a polite bow, "I dinna ken whaur I cam frae: I want
to come to the school."

Mr Graham assured him of welcome as cordially as if it had been
the first time he came with the request, and yet again offered him
a chair; but the laird as usual declined it, and walked down the
room to find a seat with his companion scholars. He stopped midway,
however, and returned to the desk, where, standing on tiptoe, he
whispered in the master's ear: "I canna come upo' the door." Then
turning away again, he crept dejectedly to a seat where some of
the girls had made room for him. There he took a slate, and began
drawing what might seem an attempt at a door; but ever as he drew
he blotted out, and nothing that could be called a door was the
result. Meantime, Mr Graham was pondering at intervals what he had
said.

School being over, the laird was modestly leaving with the rest,
when the master gently called him, and requested the favour of a
moment more of his company. As soon as they were alone, he took a
Bible from his desk, and read the words:

"I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and
shall go in and out, and find pasture."

Without comment, he closed the book, and put it away. Mr Stewart
stood staring up at him for a moment, then turned, and gently
murmuring, "I canna win at the door," walked from the schoolhouse.

It was refuge the poor fellow sought--whether from temporal
or spiritual foes will matter little to him who believes that the
only shelter from the one is the only shelter from the other also.



CHAPTER XLVIII: THE BAILLIES' BARN AGAIN


It began to be whispered about Portlossie, that the marquis had
been present at one of the fishermen's meetings--a report which
variously affected the minds of those in the habit of composing
them. Some regarded it as an act of espial, and much foolish talk
arose about the covenanters and persecution and martyrdom. Others,
especially the less worthy of those capable of public utterance,
who were by this time, in virtue of that sole gift, gaining an
influence of which they were altogether unworthy, attributed it to
the spreading renown of the preaching and praying members of the
community, and each longed for an opportunity of exercising his
individual gift upon the conscience of the marquis. The soberer portion
took it for an act of mere curiosity, unlikely to be repeated.

Malcolm saw that the only way of setting things right was that the
marquis should go again--openly, but it was with much difficulty
that he persuaded him to present himself in the assembly. Again
accompanied by his daughter and Malcolm, he did, however, once
more cross the links to the Baillies' Barn. Being early they had a
choice of seats, and Florimel placed herself beside a pretty young
woman of gentle and troubled countenance, who sat leaning against
the side of the cavern.

The preacher on this occasion was the sickly young student--more
pale and haggard than ever, and halfway nearer the grave since his
first sermon. He still set himself to frighten the sheep into the
fold by wolfish cries; but it must be allowed that, in this sermon
at least, his representations of the miseries of the lost were not
by any means so gross as those usually favoured by preachers of
his kind. His imagination was sensitive enough to be roused by the
words of Scripture themselves, and was not dependent for stimulus
upon those of Virgil, Dante, or Milton. Having taken for his text
the fourteenth verse of the fifty-ninth psalm, "And at evening let
them return; and let them make a noise like a dog, and go round
about the city," he dwelt first upon the condition and character
of the eastern dog as contrasted with those of our dogs; pointing
out to his hearers, that so far from being valued for use or beauty
or rarity, they were, except swine, of all animals the most despised
by the Jews--the vile outcasts of the border land separating
animals domestic and ferine--filthy, dangerous, and hated; then
associating with his text that passage in the Revelation, "Blessed
are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the
tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city;
for without are dogs," he propounded, or rather asserted, that it
described one variety of the many punishments of the wicked, showing
at least a portion of them condemned to rush howling for ever about
the walls of the New Jerusalem, haunting the gates they durst not
enter.

"See them through the fog steaming up from the shores of their
Phlegethon!" he cried, warming into eloquence; "see the horrid
troop, afar from the crystal walls!--if indeed ye stand on those
heights of glory, and course not around them with the dogs!--hear
them howl and bark as they scour along! Gaze at them more earnestly
as they draw nigher; see upon the dog heads of them the signs and
symbols of rank and authority which they wore when they walked
erect, men--ay, women too, among men and women! see the crown
jewels flash over the hanging ears, the tiara tower thrice circled
over the hungry eyes! see the plumes and the coronets, the hoods
and the veils!"

Here, unhappily for his eloquence, he slid off into the catalogue
of women's finery given by the prophet Isaiah, at the close of
which he naturally found the oratorical impulse gone, and had to sit
down in the mud of an anticlimax. Presently, however, he recovered
himself, and, spreading his wings, once more swung himself aloft
into the empyrean of an eloquence, which, whatever else it might
or might not be, was at least genuine.

"Could they but surmount those walls, whose inherent radiance is
the artillery of their defence, those walls high uplifted, whose
lowest foundations are such stones as make the glory of earthly
crowns; could they overleap those gates of pearl, and enter the
golden streets, what think ye they would do there? Think ye they
would rage hither and thither at will, making horrid havoc amongst
the white robed inhabitants of the sinless capital? Nay, verily;
for, in the gold transparent as glass, they would see their own
vile forms in truth telling reflex, and, turning in agony, would
rush yelling back, out again into the darkness--the outer darkness
--to go round and round the city again and for evermore, tenfold
tortured henceforth with the memory of their visioned selves."

Here the girl beside Lady Florimel gave a loud cry, and fell backwards
from her seat. On all sides arose noises, loud or suppressed,
mingled with murmurs of expostulation. Even Lady Florimel, invaded
by shrieks, had to bite her lips hard to keep herself from responding
with like outcry; for scream will call forth scream, as vibrant
string from its neighbour will draw the answering tone.

"Deep calleth unto deep! The wind is blowing on the slain! The
Spirit is breathing on the dry bones!" shouted the preacher in an
ecstacy. But one who rose from behind Lizzy Findlay, had arrived
at another theory regarding the origin of the commotion--and
doubtless had a right to her theory, in as much as she was a woman
of experience, being no other than Mrs Catanach.

At the sound of her voice seeking to soothe the girl, Malcolm shuddered;
but the next moment, from one of those freaks of suggestion which
defy analysis, he burst into laughter: he had a glimpse of a she
dog, in Mrs Catanach's Sunday bonnet, bringing up the rear of the
preacher's canine company, and his horror of the woman found relief
in an involuntary outbreak that did not spring altogether from
merriment.

It attracted no attention. The cries increased; for the preacher
continued to play on the harp nerves of his hearers, in the firm
belief that the Spirit was being poured out upon them. The marquis,
looking very pale, for he could never endure the cry of a woman
even in a play, rose, and taking Florimel by the arm, turned to
leave the place. Malcolm hurried to the front to make way for them.
But the preacher caught sight of the movement, and, filled with a
fury which seemed to him sacred, rushed to the rescue of souls.

"Stop!" he shouted. "Go not hence, I charge you. On your lives I
charge you! Turn ye, turn ye: why will ye die? There is no fleeing
from Satan. You must resist the devil. He that flies is lost. If
you turn your backs upon Apollyon, he will never slacken pace until
he has driven you into the troop of his dogs, to go howling about
the walls of the city. Stop them, friends of the cross, ere they
step beyond the sound of mercy; for, alas! the voice of him who is
sent cannot reach beyond the particle of time wherein he speaks:
now, this one solitary moment, gleaming out of the eternity before
us only to be lost in the eternity behind us--this now is the
accepted time; this Now and no other is the moment of salvation!"

Most of the men recognized the marquis; some near the entrance saw
only Malcolm clearing the way: marquis or fisher, it was all the
same when souls were at stake: they crowded with one consent to
oppose their exit: yet another chance they must have, whether they
would or not These men were in the mood to give--not their own
--but those other men's bodies to be burnt on the poorest chance
of saving their souls from the everlasting burnings.

Malcolm would have been ready enough for a fight, had he and the
marquis been alone, but the presence of Lady Florimel put it out
of the question. Looking round, he sought the eye of his master.

Had Lord Lossie been wise, he would at once have yielded, and sat
down to endure to the end. But he jumped on the form next him, and
appealed to the common sense of the assembly.

"Don't you see the man is mad?" he said, pointing to the preacher.
"He is foaming at the mouth. For God's sake look after your women:
he will have them all in hysterics in another five minutes. I wonder
any man of sense would countenance such things!"

As to hysterics, the fisher folk had never heard of them; and
though the words of the preacher were not those of soberness, they
yet believed them the words of truth, and himself a far saner man
than the marquis.

"Gien a body comes to oor meetin'," cried one of them, a fine
specimen of the argle bargling Scotchman--a creature known and
detested over the habitable globe--"he maun just du as we du,
an' sit it oot. It's for yer sowl's guid."

The preacher, checked in full career, was standing with open mouth,
ready to burst forth in a fresh flood of oratory so soon as the
open channels of hearing ears should be again granted him; but all
were now intent on the duel between the marquis and Jamie Ladle.

"If, the next time you came, you found the entrance barricaded,"
said the marquis, "what would you say to that?"

"Ow, we wad jist tak doon the sticks," answered Ladle.

"You would call it persecution, wouldn't you?"

"Ay; it wad be that."

"And what do you call it now, when you prevent a man from going
his own way, after he has had enough of your foolery?"

"Ow, we ca' 't dissiplene!" answered the fellow.

The marquis got down, annoyed, but laughing at his own discomfiture.
"I've stopped the screaming, anyhow," he said.

Ere the preacher, the tap of whose eloquence presently began to
yield again, but at first ran very slow, had gathered way enough
to carry his audience with him, a woman rushed up to the mouth of
the cave, the borders of her cap flapping, and her grey hair flying
like an old Maenad's. Brandishing in her hand a spunk with which
she had been making the porridge for supper, she cried in a voice
that reached every ear:

"What's this I hear o' 't! Come oot o' that, Lizzy, ye limmer! Ir
ye gauin' frae ill to waur, i' the deevil's name!"

It was Meg Partan. She sent the congregation right and left from
her, as a ship before the wind sends a wave from each side of her
bows. Men and women gave place to her, and she went surging into
the midst of the assembly.

"Whaur's that lass o' mine?" she cried, looking about her in
aggravated wrath at failing to pounce right upon her.

"She's no verra weel, Mrs Findlay," cried Mrs Catanach, in a loud
whisper, laden with an insinuating tone of intercession. "She'll be
better in a meenute. The minister's jist ower pooerfu' the nicht."

Mrs Findlay made a long reach, caught Lizzy by the arm, and dragged
her forth, looking scared and white, with a red spot upon one cheek.
No one dared to bar Meg's exit with her prize; and the marquis,
with Lady Florimel and Malcolm, took advantage of the opening she
made, and following in her wake soon reached the open air.

Mrs Findlay was one of the few of the fisher women who did not
approve of conventicles, being a great stickler for every authority
in the country except that of husbands, in which she declared she
did not believe: a report had reached her that Lizzy was one of the
lawless that evening, and in hot haste she had left the porridge
on the fire to drag her home.

"This is the second predicament you have got us into, MacPhail,"
said his lordship, as they walked along the Boar's Tail--the name
by which some designated the dune, taking the name of the rock at
the end of it to be the Boar's Craig, and the last word to mean,
as it often does, not Crag, but Neck, like the German kragen, and
perhaps the English scrag.

"I'm sorry for't, my lord," said Malcolm; "but I'm sure yer lordship
had the worth o' 't in fun."

"I can't deny that," returned the marquis.

"And I can't get that horrid shriek out of my ears," said Lady
Florimel.

"Which of them?" said her father. "There was no end to the shrieking.
It nearly drove me wild."

"I mean the poor girl's who sat beside us, papa. Such a pretty nice
looking creature to! And that horrid woman close behind us all the
time! I hope you won't go again papa. They'll convert you if you
do, and never ask your leave. You wouldn't like that, I know."

"What do you say to shutting up the place altogether?"

"Do, papa. It's shocking. Vulgar and horrid!"

"I wad think twise, my lord, afore I wad sair (serve) them as ill
as they saired me."

"Did I ask your advice?" said the marquis sternly.

"It's nane the waur 'at it 's gien oonsoucht," said Malcolm. "It's
the richt thing ony gait."

"You presume on this foolish report about you, I suppose, MacPhail,"
said his lordship; "but that won't do."

"God forgie ye, my lord, for I hae ill duin' 't!" (find it difficult)
said Malcolm.

He left them and walked down to the foamy lip of the tide, which
was just waking up from its faint recession. A cold glimmer, which
seemed to come from nothing but its wetness, was all the sea had
to say for itself.

But the marquis smiled, and turned his face towards the wind which
was blowing from the south.

In a few moments Malcolm came back, but to follow behind them, and
say nothing more that night.

The marquis did not interfere with the fishermen. Having heard of
their rudeness, Mr Cairns called again, and pressed him to end the
whole thing; but he said they would only be after something worse,
and refused.

The turn things had taken that night determined their after course.
Cryings out and faintings grew common, and fits began to appear.
A few laid claim to visions,--bearing, it must be remarked, a
strong resemblance to the similitudes, metaphors, and more extended
poetic figures, employed by the young preacher, becoming at length
a little more original and a good deal more grotesque. They took
to dancing at last, not by any means the least healthful mode of
working off their excitement. It was, however, hardly more than a
dull beating of time to the monotonous chanting of a few religious
phrases, rendered painfully commonplace by senseless repetition.

I would not be supposed to deny the genuineness of the emotion, or
even of the religion, in many who thus gave show to their feelings.
But neither those who were good before nor those who were excited
now were much the better for this and like modes of playing
off the mental electricity generated by the revolving cylinder of
intercourse. Naturally, such men as Joseph Mair now grew shy of the
assemblies they had helped to originate, and withdrew--at least
into the background; the reins slipped from the hands of the first
leaders, and such windbags as Ladle got up to drive the chariot
of the gospel--with the results that could not fail to follow.
At the same time it must be granted that the improvement of their
habits, in so far as strong drink was concerned, continued: it
became almost a test of faith with them, whether or not a man was
a total abstainer. Hence their moral manners, so to say, improved
greatly; there were no more public house orgies, no fighting in the
streets, very little of what they called breaking of the Sabbath,
and altogether there was a marked improvement in the look of things
along a good many miles of that northern shore.

Strange as it may seem, however, morality in the deeper sense,
remained very much at the same low ebb as before. It is much easier
to persuade men that God cares for certain observances, than that
he cares for simple honesty and truth and gentleness and loving
kindness. The man who would shudder at the idea of a rough word
of the description commonly called swearing, will not even have a
twinge of conscience after a whole morning of ill tempered sullenness,
capricious scolding, villainously unfair animadversion, or surly
cross grained treatment generally of wife and children! Such a man
will omit neither family worship nor a sneer at his neighbour. He
will neither milk his cow on the first day of the week without a
Sabbath mask on his face, nor remove it while he waters the milk
for his customers. Yet he may not be an absolute hypocrite. What
can be done for him, however, hell itself may have to determine.

Notwithstanding their spiritual experiences, it was, for instance,
no easier to get them to pay their debts than heretofore. Of course
there were, and had always been, thoroughly honest men and women
amongst them; but there were others who took prominent part in
their observances, who seemed to have no remotest suspicion that
religion had anything to do with money or money's worth--not to
know that God cared whether a child of his met his obligations or
not. Such fulfilled the injunction to owe nothing by acknowledging
nothing. One man, when pressed, gave as a reason for his refusal,
that Christ had paid all his debts. Possibly this contemptible
state of feeling had been fostered by an old superstition that it
was unlucky to pay up everything, whence they had always been in
the habit of leaving at least a few shillings of their shop bills
to be carried forward to the settlement after the next fishing
season. But when a widow whose husband had left property, would
acknowledge no obligation to discharge his debts, it came to be
rather more than a whim. Evidently the religion of many of them
was as yet of a poor sort--precisely like that of the negroes,
whose devotion so far outstrips their morality.

If there had but been some one of themselves to teach that the true
outlet and sedative of overstrained feeling is right action! that
the performance of an unpleasant duty, say the paying of their debts,
was a far more effectual as well as more specially religious mode
of working off their excitement than dancing! that feeling is but
the servant of character until it becomes its child! or rather,
that feeling is but a mere vapour until condensed into character!
that the only process through which it can be thus consolidated
is well doing--the putting forth of the right thing according to
the conscience universal and individual, and that thus, and thus
only, can the veil be .withdrawn from between the man and his God,
and the man be saved in beholding the face of his Father!

"But have patience--give them time," said Mr Graham, who had
watched the whole thing from the beginning. "If their religion is
religion, it will work till it purifies; if it is not, it will show
itself for what it is, by plunging them into open vice. The mere
excitement and its extravagance--the mode in which their gladness
breaks out--means nothing either way. The man is the willing,
performing being, not the feeling shouting singing being: in the
latter there may be no individuality--nothing more than receptivity
of the movement of the mass. But when a man gets up and goes out
and discharges an obligation, he is an individual; to him God has
spoken, and he has opened his ears to hear: God and that man are
henceforth in communion."

These doings, however, gave--how should they fail to give?--a
strong handle to the grasp of those who cared for nothing in religion
but its respectability--who went to church Sunday after Sunday,
"for the sake of example" as they said--the most arrogant of
Pharisaical reasons! Many a screeching, dancing fisher lass in the
Seaton was far nearer the kingdom of heaven than the most respectable
of such respectable people! I would unspeakably rather dance with
the wildest of fanatics rejoicing over a change in their own spirits,
than sit in the seat of the dull of heart, to whom the old story
is an outworn tale.



CHAPTER XLIX: MOUNT PISGAH


The intercourse between Florimel and Malcolm grew gradually more
familiar, until at length it was often hardly to be distinguished
from such as takes place between equals, and Florimel was by degrees
forgetting the present condition in the possible future of the
young man. But Malcolm, on the other hand, as often as the thought
of that possible future arose in her presence, flung it from him
in horror, lest the wild dream of winning her should make him for
a moment desire its realization.

The claim that hung over him haunted his very life, turning the
currents of his thought into channels of speculation unknown before.
Imagine a young fisherman meditating--as he wandered with bent
head through the wilder woods on the steep banks of the burn, or
the little green levels which it overflowed in winter--of all
possible subjects what analogy there might be betwixt the body and
the soul in respect of derivation--whether the soul was traduced
as well as the body?--as his material form came from the forms
of his father and mother, did his soul come from their souls? or
did the Maker, as at the first he breathed his breath into the form
of Adam, still, at some crisis unknown in its creation, breathe
into each form the breath of individual being? If the latter theory
were the true, then, be his earthly origin what it might, he had
but to shuffle off this mortal coil to walk forth a clean thing,
as a prince might cast off the rags of an enforced disguise, and
set out for the land of his birth. If the former were the true,
then the wellspring of his being was polluted, nor might he by
any death fling aside his degradation, or show himself other than
defiled in the eyes of the old dwellers in "those high countries,"
where all things seem as they are, and are as they seem.

One day when, these questions fighting in his heart, he had for
the hundredth time arrived thus far, all at once it seemed as if
a soundless voice in the depth of his soul replied,

"Even then--should the wellspring of thy life be polluted with
vilest horrors such as, in Persian legends, the lips of the lost
are doomed to drink with loathings inconceivable--the well is
but the utterance of the water, not the source of its existence;
the rain is its father, and comes from the sweet heavens. Thy soul,
however it became known to itself is from the pure heart of God,
whose thought of thee is older than thy being--is its first
and eldest cause. Thy essence cannot be defiled, for in him it is
eternal."

Even with the thought, the horizon of his life began to clear; a
light came out on the far edge of its ocean--a dull and sombre
yellow, it is true, and the clouds hung yet heavy over sea and
land, while miles of vapour hid the sky; but he could now believe
there might be a blue beyond, in which the sun lorded it with
majesty.

He had been rambling on the waste hill in which the grounds of
Lossie House, as it were, dissipated. It had a far outlook, but
he had beheld neither sky or ocean. The Soutars of Cromarty had
all the time sat on their stools large in his view; the hills of
Sutherland had invited his gaze, rising faint and clear over the
darkened water at their base, less solid than the sky in which
they were set, and less a fact than the clouds that crossed their
breasts; the land of Caithness had lain lowly and afar, as if,
weary of great things, it had crept away in tired humility to the
rigours of the north; and east and west his own rugged shore had
gone lengthening out, fringed with the white burst of the dark sea;
but none of all these things had he noted.

Lady Florimel suddenly encountered him on his way home, and was
startled by his look.

"Where have you been, Malcolm?" she exclaimed.

"I hardly ken, my leddy: somewhaur aboot the feet o' Mount Pisgah,
I 'm thinkin', if no freely upo' the heid o' 't."

"That's not the name of the hill up there!"

"Ow na; yon's the Binn."

"What have you been about? Looking at things in general, I suppose."

"Na; they've been luikin' at me, I daursay; but I didna heed them,
an' they didna fash me."

"You look so strangely bright!" she said, "as if you had seen
something both marvellous and beautiful!"

The words revealed a quality of insight not hitherto manifested by
Florimel. In truth, Malcolm's whole being was irradiated by the flash
of inward peace that had visited him--a statement intelligible and
therefore credible enough to the mind accustomed to look over the
battlements of the walls that clasp the fair windows of the senses.
But Florimel's insight had reached its limit, and her judgment,
vainly endeavouring to penetrate farther, fell floundering in the
mud.

"I know!" she went on: "You've been to see your lady mother!"

Malcolm's face turned white as if blasted with leprosy. The same
scourge that had maddened the poor laird fell hissing on his soul,
and its knotted sting was the same word mother. He turned and walked
slowly away, fighting a tyrannous impulse to thrust his fingers in
his ears and run and shriek.

"Where are your manners?" cried the girl after him, but he never
stayed his slow foot or turned his bowed head, and Florimel wondered.

For the moment, his new found peace had vanished. Even if the old
nobility of heaven might regard him without a shadow of condescension
--that self righteous form of contempt--what could he do with
a mother whom he could neither honour or love? Love! If he could
but cease to hate her! There was no question yet of loving.

But might she not repent? Ah, then, indeed! And might he not help
her to repent?--He would not avoid her. How was it that she had
never yet sought him?

As he brooded thus, on his way to Duncan's cottage, and, heedless
of the sound of coming wheels, was crossing the road which went
along the bottom of the glen, he was nearly run over by a carriage
coming round the corner of a high bank at a fast trot Catching one
glimpse of the face of its occupant, as it passed within a yard
of his own, he turned and fled back through the woods, with again
a horrible impulse to howl to the winds the cry of the mad laird:
"I dinna ken whaur I cam frae!" When he came to himself, he found
his hands pressed hard on his ears, and for a moment felt a sickening
certainty that he too was a son of the lady of Gersefell.

When he returned at length to the House, Mrs Courthope informed
him that Mrs Stewart had called, and seen both the marquis and Lady
Florimel.

Meantime he had grown again a little anxious about the laird,
but as Phemy plainly avoided him, had concluded that he had found
another concealment, and that the child preferred not being questioned
concerning it.

With the library of Lossie House at his disposal, and almost nothing
to do, it might now have been a grand time for Malcolm's studies;
but alas! he too often found it all but impossible to keep his
thoughts on the track of a thought through a single sentence of
any length.

The autumn now hung over the verge of its grave. Hoar frost, thick
on the fields, made its mornings look as if they had turned gray
with fear. But when the sun arose, grayness and fear vanished; the
back thrown smile of the departing glory was enough to turn old
age into a memory of youth. Summer was indeed gone, and winter was
nigh with its storms and its fogs and its rotting rains and its
drifting snows, but the sun was yet in the heavens, and, changed
as was his manner towards her, would yet have many a half smile for
the poor old earth--enough to keep her alive until he returned,
bringing her youth with him. To the man who believes that the
winter is but for the sake of the summer; exists only in virtue of
the summer at its heart, no winter, outside or in, can be unendurable.
But Malcolm sorely missed the ministrations of compulsion: he
lacked labour--the most helpful and most healing of all God's
holy things, of which we so often lose the heavenly benefit by
labouring inordinately that we may rise above the earthly need of
it. How many sighs are wasted over the toil of the sickly--a toil
which perhaps lifts off half the weight of their sickness, elevates
their inner life, and makes the outer pass with tenfold rapidity.
Of those who honestly pity such, many would themselves be far less
pitiable were they compelled to share in the toil they behold with
compassion. They are unaware of the healing virtue which the thing
they would not pity at all were it a matter of choice, gains from
the compulsion of necessity.

All over the house big fires were glowing and blazing. Nothing
pleased the marquis worse than the least appearance of stinting
the consumption of coal. In the library two huge gratefuls were
burning from dawn to midnight--well for the books anyhow, if their
owner seldom showed his face amongst them. There were days during
which, except the servant whose duty it was to attend to the fires,
not a creature entered the room but Malcolm. To him it was as the
cave of Aladdin to the worshipper of Mammon, and yet now he would
often sit down indifferent to its hoarded splendours, and gather
no jewels.

But one morning, as he sat there alone, in an oriel looking seawards,
there lay on a table before him a thin folio, containing the chief
works of Sir Thomas Brown--amongst the rest his well known Religio
Medici, from which he had just read the following passage:

"When I take a full view and circle of myself, without this reasonable
moderatour, and equall piece of justice, Death, I doe conceive my
self the most miserablest person extant; were there not another
life that I hoped for, all the vanities of this world should not
intreat a moment's breath from me; could the Devil work my belief
to imagine I could never die, I would not outlive that very thought:
I have so abject a conceit of this common way of existence, this
retaining to the Sun and elements, I cannot think this is to be a
man, or to live according to the dignity of humanity. In expectation
of a better, I can with patience embrace this life, yet in my best
meditations do often desire death; I honour any man that contemnes
it, nor can I highly love any that is afraid of it: this makes me
naturally love a Soldier, and honour those tatter'd and contemptible
Regiments that will die at the command of a Sergeant."

These words so fell in with the prevailing mood of his mind, that
having gathered them, they grew upon him, and as he pondered them,
he sat gazing out on the bright blowing autumn day. The sky was
dimmed with a clear pallor, across which small white clouds were
driving; the yellow leaves that yet cleave to the twigs were few,
and the wind swept through the branches with a hiss. The far off
sea was alive with multitudinous white--the rush of the jubilant
oversea across the blue plain. All without was merry, healthy,
radiant, strong; in his mind brooded a single haunting thought that
already had almost filled his horizon, threatening by exclusion to
become madness! Why should he not leave the place, and the horrors
of his history with it? Then the hideous hydra might unfold itself
as it pleased; he would find at least a better fortune than his
birth had endowed him withal.

Lady Florimel entered in search of something to read: to her
surprise, for she had heard of no arrival, in one of the windows
sat a Highland gentleman, looking out on the landscape. She was on
the point of retiring again, when a slight movement revealed Malcolm.

The explanation was, that the marquis, their seafaring over, had
at length persuaded Malcolm to don the highland attire: it was an
old custom of the house of Lossie that its lord's henchman should
be thus distinguished, and the marquis himself wore the kilt when
on his western estates in the summer, also as often as he went to
court,--would indeed have worn it always but that he was no longer
hardy enough. He would not have succeeded with Malcolm, however,
but for the youth's love to Duncan, the fervent heat of which
vaporized the dark heavy stone of obligation into the purple vapour
of gratitude, and enhanced the desire of pleasing him until it
became almost a passion. Obligation is a ponderous roll of canvas
which Love spreads aloft into a tent wherein he delights to dwell.

This was his first appearance in the garments of Duncan's race.

It was no little trial to him to assume them in the changed aspect
of his circumstances; for alas! he wore them in right of service
only, not of birth, and the tartan of his lord's family was all he
could claim.

He had not heard Lady Florimel enter. She went softly up behind
him, and laid her hand on his shoulder. He started to his feet.

"A penny for your thoughts," she said, retreating a step or two.

"I wad gie twa to be rid o' them," he returned, shaking his bushy
head as if to scare the invisible ravens hovering about it.

"How fine you are!" Florimel went on, regarding him with an
approbation too open to be altogether gratifying. "The dress suits
you thoroughly. I didn't know you at first. I thought it must be
some friend of papa's. Now I remember he said once you must wear
the proper dress for a henchman. How do you like it?"

"It's a' ane to me," said Malcolm. "I dinna care what I weir.--
Gien only I had a richt till 't!" he added with a sigh.

"It is too bad of you, Malcolm!" rejoined Florimel in a tone of
rebuke. "The moment fortune offers you favour, you fall out with
her--won't give her a single smile. You don't deserve your good
luck."

Malcolm was silent.

"There's something on your mind," Florimel went on, partly from
willingness to serve Mrs Stewart, partly enticed by the romance of
being Malcolm's comforter, or perhaps confessor.

"Ay is there, my leddy."

"What is it? Tell me. You can trust me!"

"I could trust ye, but I canna tell ye. I daurna--I maunna."

"I see you will not trust me," said Florimel, with a half pretended,
half real offence.

"I wad lay doon my life--what there is o' 't--for ye, my leddy;
but the verra natur o' my trouble winna be tauld. I maun beir 't
my lane."

It flashed across Lady Florimel's brain, that the cause of his
misery, the thing he dared not confess, was love of herself. Now,
Malcolm, standing before her in his present dress, and interpreted
by the knowledge she believed she had of his history, was a very
different person indeed from the former Malcolm in the guise of
fisherman or sailor, and she felt as well as saw the difference:
if she was the cause of his misery, why should she not comfort him
a little? why should she not be kind to him? Of course anything more
was out of the question; but a little confession and consolation
would hurt neither of them. Besides, Mrs Stewart had begged her
influence, and this would open a new channel for its exercise.
Indeed, if he was unhappy through her, she ought to do what she
might for him. A gentle word or two would cost her nothing, and
might help to heal a broken heart! She was hardly aware, however,
how little she wanted it healed--all at once.

For the potency of a thought it is perhaps even better that
it should not be logically displayed to the intellect; anyhow the
germ of all this, undeveloped into the definite forms I have given,
sufficed to the determining of Florimel's behaviour. I do not mean
that she had more than the natural tendency of womankind to enjoy
the emotions of which she was the object; but besides the one in
the fable, there are many women with a tendency to arousing; and
the idea of deriving pleasure from the sufferings of a handsome
youth was not quite so repulsive to her as it ought to have been. At
the same time, as there cannot be many cats capable of understanding
the agonies of the mice within reach of their waving whiskers,
probably many cat women are not quite so cruel as they seem.

"Can't you trust me, Malcolm?" she said, looking in his eyes very
sweetly, and bending a little towards him; "Can't you trust me?"

At the words and the look it seemed as if his frame melted to
ether. He dropped on his knees, and, his heart half stifled in the
confluence of the tides of love and misery, sighed out between the
pulses in his throat:

"There's naething I could na tell ye 'at ever I thoucht or did i'
my life, my leddy; but it's ither fowk, my leddy! It's like to burn
a hole i' my hert, an' yet I daurna open my mou'."

There was a half angelic, half dog-like entreaty in his up looking
hazel eyes that seemed to draw hers down into his: she must put a
stop to that.

"Get up, Malcolm," she said kindly, "what would my father or Mrs
Courthope think?"

"I dinna ken, an' I maist dinna care; atween ae thing an' anither,
I'm near han' distrackit," answered Malcolm, rising slowly, but
not taking his eyes from her face. "An' there's my daddy!" he went
on, "maist won ower to the enemy--an' I daurna tell even him what
for I canna bide it!--Ye haena been sayin' onything till him--
hiv ye, my leddy?"

"I don't quite understand you," returned Florimel, rather guiltily,
for she had spoken on the subject to Duncan. "Saying anything to
your grandfather? About what?"

"Aboot--aboot--Her, ye ken, my leddy."

"What her?" asked Florimel.

"Her 'at--The leddy o' Gersefell."

"And why? What of her? Why, Malcolm! what can have possessed you?
You seem actually to dislike her!"

"I canna bide her," said Malcolm, with the calm earnestness of one
who is merely stating an incontrovertible fact, and for a moment his
eyes, at once troubled and solemn, kept looking wistfully in hers,
as if searching for a comfort too good to be found, then slowly
sank and sought the floor at her feet.

"And why?"

"I canna tell ye."

She supposed it an unreasoned antipathy.

"But that is very wrong," she said, almost as if rebuking a child.
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself. What!--dislike your own
mother?"

"Dinna say the word, my leddy," cried Malcolm in a tone of agony,
"or ye'll gar me skirl an' rin like the mad laird. He's no a hair
madder nor I wad be wi' sic a mither."

He would have passed her to leave the room.

But Lady Florimel could not bear defeat. In any contest she must
win or be shamed in her own eyes, and was she to gain absolutely
nothing in such a passage with a fisher lad? Was the billow of her
persuasion to fall back from such a rock, self beaten into poorest
foam? She would, she must subdue him! Perhaps she did not know how
much the sides of her intent were pricked by the nettling discovery
that she was not the cause of his unhappiness.

"You 're not going to leave me so!" she exclaimed, in a tone of
injury.

"I 'll gang or bide as ye wull, my leddy," answered Malcolm
resignedly.

"Bide then," she returned. "I haven't half done with you yet."

"Ye mauna jist tear my hert oot," he rejoined--with a sad half
smile, and another of his dog-like looks.

"That's what you would do to your mother!" said Florimel severely.

"Say nae ill o' my mither!" cried Malcolm, suddenly changing almost
to fierceness.

"Why, Malcolm!" said Florimel, bewildered, "what ill was I saying
of her?"

"It's naething less than an insult to my mither to ca' yon wuman
by her name," he replied with set teeth.

It was to him an offence against the idea of motherhood--against
the mother he had so often imagined luminous against the dull blank
of memory, to call such a woman his mother.

"She's a very ladylike, handsome woman--handsome enough to be
your mother even, Mr Malcolm Stewart."

Florimel could not have dared the words but for the distance between
them; but, then, neither would she have said them while the distance
was greater! They were lost on Malcolm though, for never in his
life having started the question whether he was handsome or not, he
merely supposed her making game of him, and drew himself together
in silence, with the air of one bracing himself to hear and endure
the worst.

"Even if she should not be your mother," his tormentor resumed,
"to show such a dislike to any woman is nothing less than cruelty."

"She maun pruv' 't," murmured Malcolm--not the less emphatically
that the words were but just audible.

"Of course she will not do that; she has abundance of proof. She
gave me a whole hour of proof."

"Lang's no strang," returned Malcolm "there's comfort i' that! Gang
on my leddy."

"Poor woman! it was hard enough to lose her son; but to find him
again such as you seem likely to turn out, I should think ten times
worse."

"Nae doobt! nae doobt!--But there's ae thing waur."

"What is that?"

"To come upon a mither 'at--"

He stopped abruptly; his eyes went wandering about the room, and
the muscles of his face worked convulsively.

Florimel saw that she had been driving against a stone wall. She
paused a moment, and then resumed.

"Anyhow, if she is your mother," she said, "nothing you can do will
alter it."

"She maun pruv' 't," was all Malcolm's dogged reply.

"Just so; and if she can't," said Florimel, "you'll be no worse
than you were before--and no better," she added with a sigh.

Malcolm lifted his questioning to her searching eyes.

"Don't you .see," she went on, very softly, and lowering her look,
from the half conscious shame of half unconscious falseness, "I
can't be all my life here at Lossie? We shall have to say goodbye
to each other--never to meet again most likely. But if you should
turn out to be of good family, you know,--"

Florimel saw neither the paling of his brown cheek nor the great
surge of red that followed, but, glancing up to spy the effect of
her argument, did see the lightning that broke from the darkened
hazel of his eyes, and again cast down her own.

"--then there might be some chance," she went on, "of our meeting
somewhere--in London, or perhaps in Edinburgh, and I could ask
you to my house--after I was married you know."

Heaven and earth seemed to close with a snap around his brain.
The next moment, they had receded an immeasurable distance, and in
limitless wastes of exhausted being he stood alone. What time had
passed when he came to himself he had not an idea; it might have
been hours for anything his consciousness was able to tell him.
But, although he recalled nothing of what she had been urging, he
grew aware that Lady Florimel's voice, which was now in his ears,
had been sounding in them all the time. He was standing before her
like a marble statue with a dumb thrill in its helpless heart of
stone. He must end this! Parting was bad enough, but an endless
parting was unendurable! To know that measureless impassable leagues
lay between them, and yet to be for ever in the shroud of a cold
leave taking! To look in her eyes, and know that she was not there!
A parting that never broke the bodily presence--that was the form
of agony which the infinite moment assumed. As to the possibility
she would bribe him with--it was not even the promise of a glimpse
of Abraham's bosom from the heart of hell. With such an effort as
breaks the bonds of a nightmare dream, he turned from her, and,
heedless of her recall, went slowly, steadily, out of the house.

While she was talking, his eyes had been resting with glassy gaze
upon the far off waters: the moment he stepped into the open air,
and felt the wind on his face, he knew that their turmoil was the
travailing of sympathy, and that the ocean had been drawing him all
the time. He walked straight to his little boat, lying dead on the
sands of the harbour, launched it alive on the smooth water within
the piers, rove his halliard, stepped his mast, hoisted a few inches
of sail, pulled beyond the sheltering sea walls, and was tossing
amidst the torn waters whose jagged edges were twisted in the
loose flying threads of the northern gale. A moment more, and he
was sitting on the windward gunwale of his spoon of a boat, with
the tiller in one hand and the sheet in the other, as she danced
like a cork over the broken tops of the waves. For help in his sore
need, instinct had led him to danger.

Half way to the point of Scaurnose, he came round on the other
tack, and stood for the Death Head.

Glancing from the wallowing floor beneath him, and the one wing
that bore him skimming over its million deaths, away to the House
of Lossie, where it stood steady in its woods, he distinguished
the very window whence, hardly an hour ago, from the centre of the
calm companionship of books, he had gazed out upon the wind swept
waste as upon a dream.

"How strange," he thought, "to find myself now in the midst of what
I then but saw! This reeling ocean was but a picture to me then--
a picture framed in the window; it is now alive and I toss like a
toy on its wild commotion. Then I but saw from afar the flashing of
the white out of the blue water, and the blue sky overhead, which
no winds can rend into pallid pains; now I have to keep eye and
hand together in one consent to shun death; I meet wind and wave on
their own terms, and humour the one into an evasion of the other.
The wind that then revealed itself only in white blots and streaks
now lashes my hair into my eyes, and only the lift of my bows is
betwixt me and the throat that swallows the whales and the krakens.

"Will it be so with death? It looks strange and far off now, but
it draws nigh noiselessly, and one day I meet it face to face in
the grapple: shall I rejoice in that wrestle as I rejoice in this?
Will not my heart grow sick within me? Shall I not be faint and
fearful? And yet I could almost wish it were at hand!

"I wonder how death and this wan water here look to God! To him is
it like a dream--a picture? Water cannot wet him; death cannot
touch him. Yet Jesus could have let the water wet him; and he granted
power to death when he bowed his head and gave up the ghost. God
knows how things look to us both far off and near; he also can see
them so when he pleases. What they look to him is what they are:
we cannot see them so, but we see them as he meant us to see them,
therefore truly, according to the measure of the created. Made in
the image of God, we see things in the image of his sight."

Thoughts like these, only in yet cruder forms, swept through the
mind of Malcolm as he tossed on that autumn sea. But what we call
crude forms are often in reality germinal forms; and one or other
of these flowered at once into the practical conclusion that God
must know all his trouble, and would work for him a worthy peace.
Ere he turned again towards the harbour, he had reascended the
cloud haunted Pisgah whence the words of Lady Florimel had hurled
him.



CHAPTER L: LIZZY FINDLAY


Leaving his boat again on the dry sand that sloped steep into the
harbour, Malcolm took his way homeward along the shore. Presently
he spied, at some little distance in front of him, a woman sitting
on the .sand, with her head bowed upon her knees. She had no shawl,
though the wind was cold and strong, blowing her hair about wildly.
Her attitude and whole appearance were the very picture of misery.
He drew near and recognized her.

"What on earth's gane wrang wi' ye, Lizzy?" he asked.

"Ow naething," she murmured, without lifting her head. The brief
reply was broken by a sob.

"That canna be," persisted Malcolm, trouble of whose own had never
yet rendered him indifferent to that of another. "Is 't onything
'at a body cun stan' by ye in?"

Another sob was the only answer.

"I'm in a peck o' troubles mysel'," said Malcolm. "I wad fain help
a body gien I cud."

"Naebody can help me," returned the girl, with an agonized burst,
as if the words were driven from her by a convulsion of her inner
world, and therewith she gave way, weeping and sobbing aloud. "I
doobt I'll hae to droon mysel'," she added with a wail, as he stood
in compassionate silence, until the gust should blow over; and as
she said it she lifted a face tear stained, and all white, save where
five fingers had branded their shapes in red. Her eyes scarcely
encountered his; again she buried her face in her hands, and rocked
herself to and fro, moaning in fresh agony.

"Yer mither's been sair upo' ye, I doobt!" he said. "But it'll sune
blaw ower. She cuils as fest 's she heats."

As he spoke he set himself down on the sand beside her. But Lizzy
started to her feet, crying,

"Dinna come near me, Ma'colm. I'm no fit for honest man to come
nigh me. Stan' awa'; I hae the plague."

She laughed, but it was a pitiful laugh, and she looked wildly
about, as if for some place to run to.

"I wad na be sorry to tak it mysel', Lizzy. At ony rate I'm ower
auld a freen' to be driven frae ye that gait," said Malcolm, who
could not bear the thought of leaving her on the border of the
solitary sea, with the waves barking at her all the cold winterly
gloamin'. Who could tell what she might do after the dark came down?
He rose and would have taken her hand to draw it from her face;
but she turned her back quickly, saying in a hard forced voice:

"A man canna help a wuman--'cep it be till her grave." Then
turning suddenly, she laid her hands on his shoulders, and cried:
"For the love o' God, Ma'colm, lea' me this moment. Gien I cud
tell ony man what ailed me, I wad tell you; but I canna, I canna!
Rin laddie; rin' an' leap me."

It was impossible to resist her anguished entreaty and agonized
look. Sore at heart and puzzled in brain, Malcolm yielding turned
from her, and with eyes on the ground, thoughtfully pursued his
slow walk towards the Seaton.

At the corner of the first house in the village stood three women,
whom he saluted as he passed. The tone of their reply struck
him a little, but, not having observed how they watched him as he
approached, he presently forgot it. The moment his back was turned
to them, they turned to each other and interchanged looks.

"Fine feathers mak fine birds," said one of them.

"Ay, but he luiks booed doon," said another.

"An' weel he may! What 'll his leddy mither say to sic a ploy? She
'll no sawvour bein' made a granny o' efter sic a fashion 's yon,"
said the third.

"'Deed, lass, there's feow oucht to think less o' 't," returned
the first.

Although they took little pains to lower their voices, Malcolm was
far too much preoccupied to hear what they said. Perceiving plainly
enough that the girl's trouble was much greater than a passing
quarrel with her mother would account for, and knowing that any
intercession on his part would only rouse to loftier flames the
coal pits of maternal wrath, he resolved at length to take counsel
with Blue Peter and his wife, and therefore, passing the sea gate,
continued his walk along the shore, and up the red path to the
village of Scaurnose.

He found them sitting at their afternoon meal of tea and oatcake.
A peat fire smouldered hot upon the hearth; a large kettle hung
from a chain over it--fountain of plenty, whence the great china
teapot, splendid in red flowers and green leaves, had just been
filled; the mantelpiece was crowded with the gayest of crockery,
including the never absent half shaved poodles, and the rarer
Gothic castle, from the topmost story of whose keep bloomed a few
late autumn flowers. Phemy too was at the table: she rose as if to
leave the room, but apparently changed her mind, for she sat down
again instantly.

"Man ye're unco braw the day--i' yer kilt an' tartan hose!"
remarked Mair as he welcomed him.

"I pat them on to please my daddy an' the markis," said Malcolm,
with a half shamed faced laugh.

"Are na ye some cauld aboot the k-nees?" asked the guidwife.

"Nae that cauld! I ken 'at they're there; but I'll sune be used
till 't."

"Weel, sit ye doon an' tak a cup o' tay wi' 's"

"I haena muckle time to spare," said Malcolm; "but I'll tak a cup
o' tay wi' ye. Gien 't warna for wee bit luggies (small ears) I
wad fain spier yer advice aboot ane 'at wants a wuman freen', I'm
thinkin'."

Phemy, who had been regarding him with compressed lips and suspended
operations, deposited her bread and butter on the table, and slipped
from her chair.

"Whaur are ye gaein', Phemy?" said her mother.

"Takin' awa' my lugs," returned Phemy.

"Ye cratur!" exclaimed Malcolm, "ye're ower wise. Wha wad hae
thoucht ye sae gleg at the uptak!"

"Whan fowk winna lippen to me--" said Phemy and ceased.

"What can ye expec," returned Malcolm, while father and mother
listened with amused faces, "whan ye winna lippen to fowk? Phemy,
whaur's the mad laird?"

A light flush rose to her cheeks, but whether from embarrassment
or anger could not be told from her reply.

"I ken nane o' that name," she said.

"Whaur's the laird o' Kirkbyres, than?"

"Whar ye s' never lay han' upo' 'im!" returned the child, her cheeks
now rosy red, and her eyes flashing.

"Me lay han' upo' 'im!" cried Malcolm, surprised at her behaviour.

"Gien 't hadna been for you, naebody wad hae fun' oot the w'y
intil the cave," she rejoined, her gray eyes, blue with the fire
of anger, looking straight into his.

"Phemy! Phemy!" said her mother. "For shame!"

"There's nae shame intill 't," protested the child indignantly.

"But there is shame intill 't," said Malcolm quietly, "for ye wrang
an honest man."

"Weel, ye canna deny," persisted Phemy, in mood to brave the evil
one himself, "'at ye was ower at Kirkbyres on ane o' the markis's
mears, an' heild a lang confab wi' the laird's mither!"

"I gaed upo' my maister's eeran'," answered Malcolm.

"Ow, ay! I daursay!--But wha kens--wi' sic a mither!"

She burst out crying, and ran into the street.

Malcolm understood it now.

"She's like a' the lave (rest)!" he said sadly, turning to her
mother.

"I'm jist affrontit wi' the bairn!" she replied, with manifest
annoyance in her flushed face.

"She's true to him," said Malcolm, "gien she binna fair to me.
Sayna a word to the lassie. She 'll ken me better or lang. An' noo
for my story."

Mrs Mair said nothing while he told how he had come upon Lizzy,
the state she was in, and what had passed between them; but he had
scarcely finished, when she rose, leaving a cup of tea untasted,
and took her bonnet and shawl from a nail in the back of the door.
Her husband rose also.

"I 'll jist gang as far 's the Boar's Craig wi' ye mysel', Annie,"
he said.

"I'm thinkin' ye'll fin' the puir lassie whaur I left her," remarked
Malcolm. "I doobt she daured na gang hame."

That night it was all over the town, that Lizzy Findlay was in a
woman's worst trouble, and that Malcolm was the cause of it.



CHAPTER LI: THE LAIRD'S BURROW


Annie Mair had a brother, a carpenter, who, following her to Scaurnose,
had there rented a small building next door to her cottage, and
made of it a workshop. It had a rude loft, one end of which was
loosely floored, while the remaining part showed the couples through
the bare joists, except where some planks of oak and mahogany, with
an old door, a boat's rudder, and other things that might come
in handy, were laid across them in store. There also, during the
winter, hung the cumulus clouds of Blue Peter's herring nets; for
his cottage, having a garret above, did not afford the customary
place for them in the roof.

When the cave proved to be no longer a secret from the laird's
enemies, Phemy, knowing that her father's garret could never afford
him a sufficing sense of security, turned the matter over in her
active little brain until pondering produced plans, and she betook
herself to her uncle, with whom she was a great favourite. Him she
found no difficulty in persuading to grant the hunted man a refuge
in the loft. In a few days he had put up a partition between the
part which was floored and that which was open, and so made for him
a little room, accessible from the shop by a ladder and a trapdoor.
He had just taken down an old window frame to glaze for it, when
the laird coming in and seeing what he was about, scrambled up
the ladder, and, a moment after, all but tumbled down again in his
eagerness to put a stop to it: the window was in the gable, looking
to the south, and he would not have it glazed.

In blessed compensation for much of the misery of his lot, the
laird was gifted with an inborn delicate delight in nature and her
ministrations such as few poets even possess; and this faculty was
supplemented with a physical hardiness which, in association with
his weakness and liability to certain appalling attacks, was truly
astonishing. Though a rough hand might cause him exquisite pain, he
could sleep soundly on the hardest floor; a hot room would induce
a fit, but he would lie under an open window in the sharpest night
without injury; a rude word would make him droop like a flower in
frost, but he might go all day wet to the skin without taking cold.
To all kinds of what are called hardships, he had readily become
inured, without which it would have been impossible for his love
of nature to receive such a full development. For hence he grew
capable of communion with her in all her moods, undisabled either
by the deadening effects of present, or the aversion consequent on
past suffering. All the range of earth's shows, from the grandeurs
of sunrise or thunderstorm down to the soft unfolding of a daisy
or the babbling birth of a spring, was to him an open book. It
is true, the delight of these things was constantly mingled with,
not unfrequently broken, indeed, by the troublous question of his
origin; but it was only on occasions of jarring contact with his
fellows, that it was accompanied by such agonies as my story has
represented. Sometimes he would sit on a rock, murmuring the words
over and over, and dabbling his bare feet, small and delicately
formed, in the translucent green of a tide abandoned pool. But
oftener in a soft dusky wind, he might have been heard uttering them
gently and coaxingly, as if he would wile from the evening zephyr
the secret of his birth--which surely mother Nature must know. The
confinement of such a man would have been in the highest degree
cruel, and must speedily have ended in death. Even Malcolm did
not know how absolute was the laird's need, not simply of air and
freedom, but of all things accompanying the enjoyment of them.

There was nothing then of insanity in his preference of a windowless
bedroom;--it was that airs and odours, birds and sunlight--the
sound of flapping wing, of breaking wave, and quivering throat,
might be free to enter. Cool clean air he must breathe, or die; with
that, the partial confinement to which he was subjected was not
unendurable; besides, the welcome rain would then visit him sometimes,
alighting from the slant wing of the flying blast; while the sun
would pour in his rays full and mighty and generous, unsifted by
the presumptuous glass--green and gray and crowded with distorting
lines; and the sharp flap of pigeon's wing would be mimic thunder
to the flash which leapt from its whiteness as it shot by.

He not only loved but understood all the creatures, divining by an
operation in which neither the sympathy nor the watchfulness was
the less perfect that both were but half conscious, the emotions
and desires informing their inarticulate language. Many of them
seemed to know him in return--either recognizing his person,
and from experience deducing safety, or reading his countenance
sufficiently to perceive that his interest prognosticated no
injury. The maternal bird would keep her seat in her nursery, and
give back his gaze; the rabbit peeping from his burrow would not
even draw in his head at his approach; the rooks about Scaurnose
never took to their wings until he was within a yard or two of
them: the laird, in his half acted utterance, indicated that they
took him for a scarecrow and therefore were not afraid of him.
Even Mrs Catanach's cur had never offered him a bite in return for
a caress. He could make a bird's nest, of any sort common in the
neighbourhood, so as deceive the most cunning of the nest harrying
youths of the parish.*

* [See article Martin Fereol, in St. Paul's Magazine vol. iv.
generally.]

Hardly was he an hour in his new abode ere the sparrows and robins
began to visit him. Even strange birds of passage flying in at his
hospitable window, would espy him unscared, and sometimes partake
of the food he had always at hand to offer them. He relied, indeed,
for the pleasures of social intercourse with the animal world, on
stray visits alone; he had no pets--dog nor cat nor bird; for
his wandering and danger haunted life did not allow such companionship.

He insisted on occupying his new quarters at once. In vain Phemy
and her uncle showed reason against it. He did not want a bed; he
much preferred a heap of spies, that is, wood shavings. Indeed,
he would not have a bed; and whatever he did want he would get
for himself. Having by word and gesture made this much plain, he
suddenly darted up the ladder, threw down the trapdoor, and, lo!
like a hermit crab, he had taken possession. Wisely they left him
alone.

For a full fortnight he allowed neither to enter the little
chamber. As often as they called him, he answered cheerfully, but
never showed himself except when Phemy brought him food, which,
at his urgent request, was only once in the twenty four hours--
after nightfall, the last thing before she went to bed; then he
would slide down the ladder, take what she had brought him, and hurry
up again. Phemy was perplexed, and at last a good deal distressed,
for he had always been glad of her company before.

At length, one day, hearing her voice in the shop, and having peeped
through a hole in the floor to see that no stranger was present,
he invited her to go up, and lifted the trapdoor.

"Come, come," he said hurriedly, when her head appeared and came
no farther.

He stood holding the trapdoor, eager to close it again as soon as
she should step clear of it, and surprise was retarding her ascent.

Before hearing his mind, the carpenter had already made for him,
by way of bedstead, a simple frame of wood, crossed with laths in
the form of lattice work: this the laird had taken and set up on
its side, opposite the window, about two feet from it, so that, with
abundant passage for air, it served as a screen. Fixing it firmly
to the floor, he had placed on the top of it a large pot of the
favourite cottage plant there called Humility, and trained its long
pendent runners over it. On the floor between it and the window, he
had ranged a row of flower pots--one of them with an ivy plant,
which also he had begun to train against the trellis; and already
the humility and the ivy had begun to intermingle.

At one side of the room, where the sloping roof met the floor, was
his bed of fresh pine shavings, amongst which, their resinous half
aromatic odour apparently not sweet enough to content him, he had
scattered a quantity of dried rose leaves. A thick tartan plaid,
for sole covering, lay upon the heap.

"I wad hae likit hay better," he said, pointing to this lair rather
than couch, "but it's some ill to get, an' the spales they 're at
han', an' they smell unco clean."

At the opposite side of the room lay a corresponding heap,
differing not a little, however, in appearance and suggestion. As
far as visible form and material could make it one, it was a grave
--rather a short one, but abundantly long for the laird. It was
in reality a heap of mould, about a foot and a half high, covered
with the most delicate grass, and bespangled with daisies.

"Laird!" said Phemy, half reproachfully, as she stood gazing at
the marvel, "ye hae been oot at nicht!"

"Aye--a' nicht whiles, whan naebody was aboot 'cep' the win'."
He pronounced the word with a long drawn imitative sough--"an'
the cloods an' the splash o' the watter."

Pining under the closer imprisonment in his garret, which the
discovery of his subterranean refuge had brought upon him, the
laird would often have made his escape at night but for the fear
of disturbing the Mairs; and now that there was no one to disturb,
the temptation to spend his nights in the open air was the more
irresistible that he had conceived the notion of enticing nature
herself into his very chamber. Abroad then he had gone, as soon
as the first midnight closed around his new dwelling, and in the
fields had with careful discrimination begun to collect the mould
for his mound, a handful here and a handful there. This took him
several nights, and when it was finished, he was yet more choice
in his selection of turf, taking it from the natural grass growing
along the roads and on the earthen dykes, or walls, the outer
sides of which feed the portionless cows of that country. Searching
for miles in the moonlight, he had, with eye and hand, chosen out
patches of this grass, the shortest and thickest he could find, and
with a pocket knife, often in pieces of only a few inches, removed
the best of it and carried it home, to be fitted on the heap, and
with every ministration and blandishment enticed to flourish. He
pressed it down with soft firm hands, and beshowered it with water
first warmed a little in his mouth; when the air was soft, he guided
the wind to blow upon it; and as the sun could not reach it where
it lay, he gathered a marvellous heap of all the bright sherds he
could find--of crockery and glass and mirror, so arranging them
in the window, that each threw its tiny reflex upon the turf.
With this last contrivance, Phemy was specially delighted; and the
laird, happy as a child in beholding her delight, threw himself in
an ecstasy on the mound and clasped it in his arms. I can hardly
doubt that he regarded it as representing his own grave, to which
in his happier moods he certainly looked forward as a place of
final and impregnable refuge.

As he lay thus, foreshadowing his burial, or rather his resurrection,
a young canary which had flown from one of the cottages, flitted in
with a golden shiver and flash, and alighted on his head. He took
it gently in his hand and committed it to Phemy to carry home, with
many injunctions against disclosing how it had been captured.

His lonely days were spent in sleep, in tending his plants, or in
contriving defences; but in all weathers he wandered out at midnight,
and roamed or rested among fields or rocks till the first signs of
the breaking day, when he hurried like a wild creature to his den.

Before long he had contrived an ingenious trap, or man spider web,
for the catching of any human insect that might seek entrance at his
window: the moment the invading body should reach a certain point,
a number of lines would drop about him, in making his way through
which he would straightway be caught by the barbs of countless
fishhooks--the whole strong enough at least to detain him until
its inventor should have opened the trapdoor and fled.



CHAPTER LII: CREAM OR SCUM?


Of the new evil report abroad concerning him, nothing had as yet
reached Malcolm. He read, and pondered, and wrestled with difficulties
of every kind; saw only a little of Lady Florimel, who, he thought,
avoided him; saw less of the marquis; and, as the evenings grew
longer, spent still larger portions of them with Duncan--now and
then reading to him, but oftener listening to his music or taking
a lesson in the piper's art. He went seldom into the Seaton, for
the faces there were changed towards him. Attributing this to the
reports concerning his parentage, and not seeing why he should
receive such treatment because of them, hateful though they might
well be to himself, he began to feel some bitterness towards his
early world, and would now and then repeat to himself a misanthropical
thing he had read, fancying he too had come to that conclusion.
But there was not much danger of such a mood growing habitual with
one who knew Duncan MacPhail, Blue Peter, and the schoolmaster--
not to mention Miss Horn. To know one person who is positively to
be trusted, will do more for a man's moral nature--yes, for his
spiritual nature--than all the sermons he has ever heard or ever
can hear.

One evening, Malcolm thought he would pay Joseph a visit, but when
he reached Scaurnose, he found it nearly deserted: he had forgotten
that this was one of the nights of meeting in the Baillies' Barn.
Phemy indeed had not gone with her father and mother, but she was
spending the evening with the laird. Lifting the latch, and seeing
no one in the house, he was on the point of withdrawing when he
caught sight of an eye peeping through an inch opening of the door
of the bed closet, which the same moment was hurriedly closed. He
called, but received no reply, and left the cottage wondering. He
had not heard that Mrs Mair had given Lizzy Findlay shelter for a
season. And now a neighbour had observed and put her own construction
on the visit, her report of which strengthened the general conviction
of his unworthiness.

Descending from the promontory, and wandering slowly along the shore,
he met the Scaurnose part of the congregation returning home. The
few salutations dropped him as he passed were distant, and bore
an expression of disapproval. Mrs Mair only, who was walking with
a friend, gave him a kind nod. Blue Peter, who followed at a little
distance, turned and walked back with him.

"I'm exerceesed i' my min'," he said, as soon as they were clear
of the stragglers, "aboot the turn things hae taen, doon by at the
Barn."

"They tell me there's some gey queer customers taen to haudin'
furth," returned Malcolm.

"It's a fac'," answered Peter. "The fowk 'll hardly hear a word
noo frae ony o' the aulder an' soberer Christians. They haena the
gift o' the Speerit, they say. But in place o' steerin' them up
to tak hold upo' their Maker, thir new lichts set them up to luik
doon upo' ither fowk, propheseein' an' denuncin', as gien the Lord
had committit jeedgment into their han's."

"What is 't they tak haud o' to misca' them for?" asked Malcolm.

"It's no sae muckle," answered Peter, "for onything they du, as for
what they believe or dinna believe. There's an 'uman frae Clamrock
was o' their pairty the nicht. She stude up an' spak weel, an' weel
oot, but no to muckle profit, as 't seemed to me; only I'm maybe
no a fair jeedge, for I cudna be rid o' the notion 'at she was
lattin' at mysel' a' the time. I dinna ken what for. An' I cudna
help wonnerin' gien she kent what fowk used to say aboot hersel'
whan she was a lass; for gien the sma' half o' that was true, a
body micht think the new grace gien her wad hae driven her to hide
her head, i' place o' exaltin' her horn on high. But maybe it was
a' lees--she kens best hersel'."

"There canna be muckle worship gaein' on wi' ye by this time, than,
I'm thinkin'," said Malcolm.

"I dinna like to say 't," returned Joseph; "but there's a speerit
o' speeritooal pride abroad amang 's, it seems to me, 'at's no
fawvourable to devotion. They hae taen 't intill their heids, for
ae thing--an that's what Dilse's Bess lays on at--'at 'cause
they're fisher fowk, they hae a speecial mission to convert the
warl'."

"What foon' they that upo'?" asked Malcolm.

"Ow, what the Saviour said to Peter an' the lave o' them 'at was
fishers--to come to him, an' he would mak them fishers o' men."

"Ay, I see!--What for dinna ye bide at hame, you an' the lave o'
the douce anes?"

"There ye come upo' the thing 'at 's troublin' me. Are we 'at begude
it to brak it up? Or are we to stan' aside an' lat it a' gang to
dirt an' green bree? Or are we to bide wi' them, an warsle aboot
holy words till we tyne a' stamach for holy things?"

"Cud ye brak it up gien ye tried?" asked Malcolm.

"I doobt no. That's ane o' the considerations 'at hings some sair
upo' me: see what we hae dune!"

"What for dinna ye gang ower to Maister Graham, an' speir what he
thinks?"

"What for sud I gang till him? What's he but a fine moaral man? I
never h'ard 'at he had ony discernment o' the min' o' the speerit."

"That's what Dilse's Bess frae Clamrock wad say aboot yersel',
Peter."

"An' I doobt she wadna be far wrang."

"Ony gait, she kens nae mair aboot you nor ye ken aboot the maister.
Ca' ye a man wha cares for naething in h'aven or in earth but the
wull o' 's Creator--ca' ye sic a man no speeritual? Jist gang ye
till 'im, an' maybe he'll lat in a glent upo' ye 'at 'll astonish
ye."

"He's taen unco little enterest in onything 'at was gaein' on."

"Arena ye some wissin' ye hadna taen muckle mair yersel, Peter?"

"'Deed am I! But gien he be giftit like that ye say, what for didna
he try to haud 's richt?"

"Maybe he thoucht ye wad mak yer mistaks better wantin' him."

"Weel, ye dinna ca' that freenly!"

"What for no? I hae h'ard him say fowk canna come richt 'cep' by
haein' room to gang wrang. But jist ye gang till him noo. Maybe
he'll open mair een i' yer heids nor ye kent ye had."

"Weel, maybe we micht du waur. I s' mention the thing to Bow o'
meal an' Jeames Gentle, an' see what they say--There's nae guid
to be gotten o' gaein' to the minister, ye see: there's naething
in him, as the saw says, but what the spune pits intill him."

With this somewhat unfavourable remark, Blue Peter turned homewards.
Malcolm went slowly back to his room, his tallow candle, and his
volume of Gibbon.

He read far into the night, and his candle was burning low in the
socket. Suddenly he sat straight up in his chair, listening: he
thought he heard a sound in the next room--it was impossible even
to imagine of what--it was such a mere abstraction of sound. He
listened with every nerve, but heard nothing more; crept to the
door of the wizard's chamber, and listened again; listened until
he could no longer tell whether he heard or not, and felt like a
deaf man imagining sounds; then crept back to his own room and went
to bed--all but satisfied that, if it was anything, it must have
been some shaking window or door he had heard.

But he could not get rid of the notion that he had smelt sulphur.



CHAPTER LIII: THE SCHOOLMASTER'S COTTAGE


The following night, three of the Scaurnose fishermen--Blue Peter,
Bow o' meal, and Jeames Gentle--called at the schoolmaster's
cottage in the Alton, and were soon deep in earnest conversation
with him around his peat fire, in the room which served him for
study, dining room, and bed chamber. All the summer a honeysuckle
outside watched his back window for him; now it was guarded within
by a few flowerless plants. It was a deep little window in a thick
wall, with an air of mystery, as if thence the privileged might look
into some region of strange and precious things. The front window
was comparatively commonplace, with a white muslin curtain across
the lower half. In the middle of the sanded floor stood a table of
white deal, much stained with ink. The green painted doors of the
box bed opposite the hearth stood open, revealing a spotless white
counterpane. On the wall beside the front window hung by red cords
three shelves of books; and near the back window stood a dark,
old fashioned bureau, with pendant brass handles as bright as new,
supporting a bookcase with glass doors, crowded with well worn
bindings. A few deal chairs completed the furniture.

"It's a sair vex, sir, to think o' what we a' jeedged to be the
wark o' the speerit takin' sic a turn! I'm feart it 'll lie heavy at
oor door," said Blue Peter, after a sketch of the state of affairs.

"I don't think they can have sunk so low as the early Corinthian
Church yet," said Mr Graham, "and St. Paul never seems to have
blamed himself for preaching the gospel to the Corinthians."

"Weel, maybe!" rejoined Mair. "But, meantime, the practical p'int
is--are we to tyauve (struggle) to set things richt again, or
are we to lea' them to their ain devices?"

"What power have you to set things right?"

"Nane, sir. The Baillies' Barn 's as free to them as to oorsel's."

"What influence have you, then?"

"Unco little," said Bow o' meal, taking the word. "They're afore
the win'. An' it 's plain eneuch 'at to stan' up an' oppose them
wad be but to breed strife an' debate."

"An' that micht put mony a waukent conscience soon' asleep again
--maybe no to be waukent ony mair," said Blue Peter.

"Then you don't think you can either communicate or receive benefit
by continuing to take a part in those meetings?"

"I dinna think it," answered all three.

"Then the natural question is--'Why should you go?'"

"We're feart for the guilt o' what the minister ca's shism," said
Blue Peter.

"That might have occurred to you before you forsook the parish
church," said the schoolmaster, with a smile.

"But there was nae speeritooal noorishment to be gotten i' that
houff (haunt)," said Jeames Gentle.

"How did you come to know the want of it?"

"Ow, that cam frae the speerit himsel'-what else?" replied Gentle.

"By what means?"

"By the readin' o' the word an' by prayer," answered Gentle.

"By his ain v'ice i' the hert," said Bow o' meal.

"Then a public assembly is not necessary for the communication of
the gifts of the spirit?"

They were silent.

"Isn't it possible that the eagerness after such assemblies may
have something to do with a want of confidence in what the Lord
says of his kingdom--that it spreads like the hidden leaven--
grows like the buried seed? My own conviction is, that if a man
would but bend his energies to live, if he would but try to be a
true, that is, a godlike man, in all his dealings with his fellows,
a genuine neighbour and not a selfish unit, he would open such
channels for the flow of the spirit as no amount of even honest
and so called successful preaching could."

"Wha but ane was ever fit to lead sic a life 's that?"

"All might be trying after it. In proportion as our candle burns
it will give light. No talking about light will supply the lack of
its presence either to the talker or the listeners."

"There 's a heap made o' the preachin' o' the word i' the buik
itsel'," said Peter with emphasis.

"Undoubtedly. But just look at our Lord: he never stopped living
amongst his people--hasn't stopped yet; but he often refused to
preach, and personally has given it up altogether now."

"Ay, but ye see he kent what he was duin'."

"And so will every man in proportion as he partakes of his spirit."

"But dinna ye believe there is sic a thing as gettin' a call to
the preachin'?"

"I do; but even then a man's work is of worth only as it supplements
his life. A network of spiritual fibres connects the two, makes
one of them."

"But surely, sir, them 'at 's o' the same min' oucht to meet an'
stir ane anither up? 'They that feart the Lord spak aften thegither,'
ye ken."

"What should prevent them? Why should not such as delight in each
other's society, meet, and talk, and pray together,--address each
the others if they like? There is plenty of opportunity for that,
without forsaking the church or calling public meetings. To continue
your quotation--'The Lord hearkened and heard:' observe, the Lord
is not here said to hearken to sermons or prayers, but to the talk
of his people. This would have saved you from false relations with
men that oppose themselves, caring nothing for the truth--perhaps
eager to save their souls, nothing more at the very best."

"Sir! sir! what wad ye hae? Daur ye say it's no a body's first duty
to save his ain sowl alive?" exclaimed Bow o' meal.

"I daur't--but there 's little daur intill 't!" said Mr Graham,
breaking into Scotch.

Bow o' meal rose from his chair in indignation, Blue Peter made a grasp
at his bonnet, and Jeames Gentle gave a loud sigh of commiseration.

"I allow it to be a very essential piece of prudence," added the
schoolmaster, resuming his quieter English--"but the first duty!
--no. The Catechism might have taught you better than that! To
mind his chief end must surely be man's first duty; and
the Catechism says-. 'Man's chief end is to glorify God.'"

"And to enjoy him for ever," supplemented Peter.

"That 's a safe consequence. There's no fear of the second if he
does the first. Anyhow he cannot enjoy him for ever this moment,
and he can glorify him at once."

"Ay, but hoo?" said Bow o' meal, ready to swoop upon the master's
reply.

"Just as Jesus Christ did--by doing his will--by obedience."

"That's no faith--it's works! Ye'll never save yer sowl that
gait."

"No man can ever save his soul. God only can do that. You can
glorify him by giving yourself up heart and soul and body and life
to his Son. Then you shall be saved. That you must leave to him,
and do what he tells you. There will be no fear of the saving then
--though it 's not an easy matter--even for him, as has been
sorely proved."

"An' hoo are we to gie oorsel's up till him?--for ye see we're
practical kin' o' fowk, huz fisher fowk, Maister Graham," said Bow
o' meal.

The tone implied that the schoolmaster was not practical.

"I say again--In doing his will and not your own."

"An' what may his wull be?"

"Is he not telling you himself at this moment? Do you not know what
his will is? How should I come between him and you! For anything I
know, it may be that you pay your next door neighbour a crown you
owe him, or make an apology to the one on the other side. I do not
know: you do."

"Dinna ye think aboot savin' yer ain sowl noo, Maister Graham?"
said Bow o' meal, returning on their track.

"No, I don't. I've forgotten all about that. I only desire and pray
to do the will of my God--which is all in all to me."

"What say ye than aboot the sowls o' ither fowk? Wadna ye save
them, no?"

"Gladly would I save them--but according to the will of God. If
I were, even unwittingly, to attempt it in any other way, I should
be casting stumbling blocks in their path, and separating myself
from my God--doing that which is not of faith, and therefore is
sin. It is only where a man is at one with God that he can do the
right thing or take the right way. Whatever springs from any other
source than the spirit that dwelt in Jesus, is of sin, and works
to thwart the divine will. Who knows what harm may be done to a
man by hurrying a spiritual process in him?"

"I doobt, sir, gien yer doctrine was to get a hearin', there wad
be unco little dune for the glory o' God i' this place!" remarked
Bow o' meal, with sententious reproof.

"But what was done would be of the right sort, and surpassingly
powerful."

"Weel, to come back to the business in han'--what wad be yer
advice?" said Bow o' meal.

"That's a thing none but a lawyer should give. I have shown you
what seem to me the principles involved: I can do no more."

"Ye dinna ca' that neebourly, whan a body comes speirin' 't?"

"Are you prepared then to take my advice?"

"Ye wadna hae a body du that aforehan'! We micht as weel a' be
Papists, an' believe as we 're tauld."

"Precisely so. But you can exercise your judgment upon the principles
whereon my opinion is founded, with far more benefit than upon my
opinion itself--which I cannot well wish you to adopt, seeing
I think it far better for a man to go wrong upon his own honest
judgment, than to go right upon anybody else's judgment, however
honest also."

"Ye hae a heap o' queer doctrines, sir."

"And yet you ask advice of me?"

"We haena ta'en muckle, ony gait," returned Bow o' meal rudely,
and walked from the cottage.

Jeames Gentle and Blue Peter bade the master a kindly good night,
and followed Bow o' meal.

The next Sunday evening Blue Peter was again at the Alton, accompanied
by Gentle and another fisherman, not Bow o' meal, and had another
and longer conversation with the schoolmaster. The following Sunday
he went yet again; and from that time, every Sunday evening, as
soon as he had had his tea, Blue Peter took down his broad bonnet,
and set out to visit Mr Graham. As he went, one and another would
join him as he passed, the number increasing every time, until at
last ten or twelve went regularly.

But Mr Graham did not like such a forsaking of wives and children
on the Sunday.

"Why shouldn't you bring Mrs Mair with you?" he said one evening,
addressing Joseph first. Then turning to the rest--"I should be
happy to see any of your wives who can come," he added; "and some
of you have children who would be no trouble. If there is any good
in gathering this way, why shouldn't we have those with us who are
our best help at all other times?"

"'Deed, sir," said Joseph, "we're sae used to oor wives 'at we're
ower ready to forget hoo ill we cud du wantin' them."

Mrs Mair and two other wives came the next night. A few hung back
from modesty and dread of being catechized; but ere long about half
a dozen went when they could.

I need hardly say that Malcolm, as soon as he learned what was
going on, made one of the company. And truly, although he did not
know even yet all the evil that threatened him, he stood in heavy
need of the support and comfort to be derived from such truths as
Mr Graham unfolded. Duncan also, although he took little interest
in what passed, went sometimes, and was welcomed.

The talk of the master not unfrequently lapsed into monologue, and
sometimes grew eloquent. Seized occasionally by the might of the
thoughts which arose in him,--thoughts which would, to him, have
lost all their splendour as well as worth, had he imagined them
the offspring of his own faculty, meteors of his own atmosphere
instead of phenomena of the heavenly region manifesting themselves
on the hollow side of the celestial sphere of human vision,--he
would break forth in grand poetic speech that roused to aspiration
Malcolm's whole being, while in the same instant calming him with
the summer peace of profoundest faith.

To no small proportion of his hearers some of such outbursts were
altogether unintelligible--a matter of no moment; but there were
of them who understood enough to misunderstand utterly: interpreting
his riches by their poverty, they misinterpreted them pitifully,
and misrepresented them worse. And, alas! in the little company
there were three or four men who, for all their upward impulses,
yet remained capable of treachery, because incapable of recognizing
the temptation to it for what it was. These by and by began to confer
together and form an opposition--in this at least ungenerous,
that they continued to assemble at his house, and show little sign
of dissension. When, however, they began at length to discover that
the master did not teach that interpretation of atonement which
they had derived--they little knew whence, but delivered another
as the doctrine of St. Paul, St. Peter, and St. John, they judged
themselves bound to take measures towards the quenching of a dangerous
heresy. For the more ignorant a man is, the more capable is he of
being absolutely certain of many things--with such certainty,
that is, as consists in the absence of doubt. Mr Graham, in the
meantime, full of love, and quiet solemn fervour, placed completest
confidence in their honesty, and spoke his mind freely and faithfully.



CHAPTER LIV: ONE DAY


The winter was close at hand--indeed, in that northern region,
might already have claimed entire possession; but the trailing
golden fringe of the skirts of autumn was yet visible behind him,
as he wandered away down the slope of the world. In the gentle
sadness of the season, Malcolm could not help looking back with
envy to the time when labour, adventure, and danger, stormy winds
and troubled waters, would have helped him to bear the weight of
the moral atmosphere which now from morning to night oppressed him.
Since their last conversation, Lady Florimel's behaviour to him was
altered. She hardly ever sent for him now, and when she did, gave
her orders so distantly that at length, but for his grandfather's
sake, he could hardly have brought himself to remain in the house
even until the return of his master who was from home, and contemplated
proposing to him as soon as he came back, that he should leave his
service and resume his former occupation, at least until the return
of summer should render it fit to launch the cutter again.

One day, a little after noon, Malcolm stepped from the house. The
morning had broken gray and squally, with frequent sharp showers,
and had grown into a gurly gusty day. Now and then the sun sent
a dim yellow glint through the troubled atmosphere, but it was
straightway swallowed up in the volumes of vapour seething and
tumbling in the upper regions. As he crossed the threshold, there
came a moaning wind from the west, and the water laden branches
of the trees all went bending before it, shaking their burden of
heavy drops on the ground. It was dreary, dreary, outside and in.
He turned and looked at the house. If he might have but one peep
of the goddess far withdrawn! What did he want of her? Nothing
but her favour--something acknowledged between them--some
understanding of accepted worship! Alas it was all weakness, and
the end thereof dismay! It was but the longing of the opium eater
or the drinker for the poison which in delight lays the foundations
of torture. No; he knew where to find food--something that was
neither opium nor strong drink--something that in torture sustained,
and, when its fruition came, would, even in the splendours of
delight, far surpass their short lived boon! He turned towards the
schoolmaster's cottage.

Under the trees, which sighed aloud in the wind, and, like earth
clouds, rained upon him as he passed, across the churchyard, bare
to the gray, hopeless looking sky, through the iron gate he went,
and opened the master's outer door. Ere he reached that of his
room, he heard his voice inviting him to enter.

"Come to condole with me, Malcolm?" said Mr Graham cheerily.

"What for, sir?" asked Malcolm.

"You haven't heard, then, that I'm going to be sent about my
business? At least, it's more than likely."

Malcolm dropped into a seat, and stared like an idol. Could he have
heard the words? In his eyes Mr Graham was the man of the place--
the real person of the parish. He dismissed! The words breathed of
mingled impiety and absurdity.

The schoolmaster burst out laughing at him.

"I'm feart to speyk, sir," said Malcolm. "Whatever I say, I'm bun'
to mak a fule o' mysel'! What in plain words div ye mean, sir?"

"Somebody has been accusing me of teaching heresy--in the school
to my scholars, and in my own house to the fisherfolk: the presbytery
has taken it up, and here is my summons to appear before them and
answer to the charge."

"Guid preserve 's, sir! And is this the first ye hae h'ard o't?"

"The very first."

"An' what are ye gauin' to do?"

"Appear, of course."

"An' what 'll ye say to them?"

"I shall answer their questions."

"They 'll condemn ye!"

"I do not doubt it."

"An' what neist?"

"I shall have to leave Scotland, I suppose."

"Sir, it 's awfu'."

The horror stricken expression of Malcolm's face drew a second
merry laugh from Mr Graham.

"They can't burn me," he said: "you needn't look like that."

"But there's something terrible wrang, sir, whan sic men hae pooer
ower sic a man.

"They have no power but what's given them. I shall accept their
decision as the decree of heaven."

"It's weel to be you, sir--'at can tak a thing sae quaiet."

"You mustn't suppose I am naturally so philosophical. It stands
for five and forty years of the teaching of the Son of Man in this
wonderful school of his, where the clever would be destroyed but
for the stupid, where the church would tear itself to pieces but
for the laws of the world, and where the wicked themselves are the
greatest furtherance of godliness in the good."

"But wha ever cud hae been baze eneuch to du 't!" said Malcolm,
too much astounded for his usual eager attention to the words that
fell from the master.

"That I would rather not inquire," answered Mr Graham. "In the
meantime it would be better if the friends would meet somewhere
else, for this house is mine only in virtue of my office. Will you
tell them so for me?"

"Surely, sir. But will ye no mak ane?"

"Not till this is settled. I will after, so long as I may be here."

"Gien onybody had been catecheesin' the bairns, I wad surely hae
h'ard o' 't!" said Malcolm, after a pause of rumination, "Poochy
wad hae tellt me. I saw him thestreen (yestereven).--Wha 'll ever
say again a thing's no poassible!"

"Whatever doctrine I may have omitted to press in the school,"
said Mr Graham, "I have inculcated nothing at variance with the
Confession of Faith or the Shorter Catechism."

"Hoo can ye say that, sir?" returned Malcolm, "whan, in as weel's
oot o' the schuil, ye hae aye insistit 'at God 's a just God--
abune a' thing likin' to gie fair play?"

"Well, does the Catechism say anything to the contrary?"

"No in sae mony words, doobtless; but it says a sicht o' things
'at wad mak God oot the maist oonrichteous tyrant 'at ever was."

"I 'm not sure you can show that logically," said Mr Graham. "I will
think it over, however--not that I mean to take up any defence
of myself. But now I have letters to write, and must ask you to
leave me. Come and see me again tomorrow."

Malcolm went from him--

like one that hath been stunned,
And is of sense forlorn.

Here was trouble upon trouble! But what had befallen him compared
with what had come upon the schoolmaster! A man like him to be so
treated! How gladly he would work for him all the rest of his days!
And how welcome his grandfather would make him to his cottage! Lord
Lossie would be the last to object. But he knew it was a baseless
castle while he built it, for Mr Graham would assuredly provide
for himself, if it were by breaking stones on the road and saying
the Lord's Prayer. It all fell to pieces just as he lifted his hand
to Miss Horn's knocker.

She received him with a cordiality such as even she had never shown
him before. He told her what threatened Mr Graham. She heard him
to the end without remark, beyond the interjection of an occasional
"Eh, sirs!" then sat for a minute in troubled silence.

"There's a heap o' things an 'uman like me," she said at length,
"canna un'erstan'. I didna ken whether some fowk mair nor preten'
to un'erstan' them. But set Sandy Graham doon upo' ae side, an' the
presbytery doon upo' the ither, an' I hae wit eneuch to ken whilk
I wad tak my eternal chance wi'. Some o' the presbytery's guid
eneuch men, but haena ower muckle gumption; an' some o' them has
plenty o' gumption, but haena ower muckle grace, ta jeedge by the
w'y 'at they glower an' rair, layin' doon the law as gien the Almichty
had been driven to tak coonsel wi' them. But luik at Sandy Graham!
Ye ken whether he has gumption or no; an' gien he be a stickit
minister, he stack by the grace o' moadesty. But, haith, I winna
peety him! for, o' a' things, to peety a guid man i' the richt gate
is a fule's folly. Troth, I'm a hantle mair concernt about yersel',
Ma'colm!"

Malcolm heard her without apprehension. His cup seemed full, and
he never thought that cups sometimes run over. But perhaps he was
so far the nearer to a truth: while the cup of blessing may and
often does run over, I doubt if the cup of suffering is ever more
than filled to the brim.

"Onything fresh, mem?" he asked, with the image of Mrs Stewart
standing ghastly on the slopes of his imagination.

"I wadna be fit to tell ye, laddie, gien 't warna, as ye ken, 'at
the Almichty 's been unco mercifu' to me i' the maitter o' feelin's.
Yer freen's i' the Seaton, an' ower at Scaurnose, hae feelin's,
an' that 's hoo nane o' them a' has pluck it up hert to tell ye o'
the waggin' o' slanderous tongues against ye."

"What are they sayin' noo?" asked Malcolm with considerable
indifference.

"Naither mair nor less than that ye 're the father o' an oonborn
wean," answered Miss Horn.

"I dinna freely unnerstan' ye," returned Malcolm, for the unexpectedness
of the disclosure was scarcely to be mastered at once.

I shall not put on record the plain form of honest speech whereby
she made him at once comprehend the nature of the calumny. He
started to his feet, and shouted "Wha daur say that?" so loud that
the listening Jean almost fell down the stair.

"Wha sud say 't but the lassie hersel'?" answered Miss Horn simply.
"She maun hae the best richt to say wha's wha."

"It wad better become anybody but her," said Malcolm.

"What mean ye there, laddie?" cried Miss Horn, alarmed.

"'At nane cud ken sae weel 's hersel' it was a damned lee. Wha is
she?"

"Wha but Meg Partan's Lizzy!"

"Puir lassie! is that it?--Eh, but I'm sorry for her! She never
said it was me. An' whaever said it, surely ye dinna believe 't o'
me, mem?"

"Me believe 't! Malcolm MacPhail, wull ye daur insult a maiden
wuman 'at's stude clear o' reproch till she's lang past the danger
o' 't? It's been wi' unco sma' diffeeclety, I maun alloo, for I
haena been led into ony temptation!"

"Eh, mem!" returned Malcolm, perceiving by the flash of her eyes
and the sudden halt of her speech that she was really indignant--
"I dinna ken what I hae said to anger ye!"

"Anger me! quo' he? What though I hae nae feelin's! Will he daur till
imaigine 'at he wad be sittin' there, an' me haudin' him company,
gien I believed him cawpable o' turnin' oot sic a meeserable,
contemptible wratch! The Lord come atween me an' my wrath!"

"I beg yer pardon, mem. A body canna aye put things thegither afore
he speyks. I 'm richt sair obleeged till ye for takin' my pairt."

"I tak naebody's pairt but my ain, laddie. Obleeged to me for
haein' a wheen common sense--a thing 'at I was born wi'! Toots!
Dinna haiver."

"Weel, mem, what wad ye hae me du? I canna sen' my auld daddie
roon the toon wi' his pipes, to procleem 'at I'm no the man. I 'm
thinkin' I 'll hae to lea' the place."

"Wad ye sen' yer daddy roun' wi' the pipes to say 'at ye was the
man? Ye micht as weel du the tane as the tither. Mony a better man
has been waur misca'd, an' gart fowk forget that ever the lee was
lee'd. Na, na; never rim frae a lee. An' never say, naither, 'at
ye didna du the thing, 'cept it be laid straucht to yer face. Lat
a lee lie i' the dirt. Gien ye pike it up, the dirt 'll stick till
ye, though ye fling the lee ower the dyke at the warl's en'. Na,
na! Lat a lee lie, as ye wad the deevil's tail 'at the laird's Jock
took aff wi' the edge o' 's spaud."

"A' thing 's agane me the noo!" sighed Malcolm.

"Auld Jobb ower again!" returned Miss Horn almost sarcastically.
"The deil had the warst o' 't though, an' wull hae, i' the lang
hinner en'. Meanwhile ye maun face him. There's nae airmour for
the back aither i' the Bible or i' the Pilgrim's Progress."

"What wad ye hae me du, than, mem?"

"Du? Wha said ye was to du onything? The best duin whiles is to bide
still. Lat ye the jaw (wave) gae ower ohn joukit (without ducking)."

"Gien I binna to du onything, I maist wiss I hadna kent," said
Malcolm, whose honourable nature writhed under the imputed vileness.

"It's aye better to ken in what licht ye stan' wi' ither fowk.
It hauds ye ohn lippent ower muckle, an' sae dune things or made
remarks 'at wad be misread till ye. Ye maun haud an open ro'd, 'at
the trowth whan it comes oot may have free course. The ae thing
'at spites me is, 'at the verra fowk 'at was the first to spread
yer ill report, 'ill be the first to wuss ye weel whan the trowth's
kent--ay, an they 'll persuaud their verra sel's 'at they stuck
up for ye like born brithers."

"There maun be some jeedgement upo' leein'!"

"The warst wuss I hae agane ony sic back biter is that he may live
to be affrontit at himsel'. Efter that he'll be guid eneuch company
for me. Gang yer wa's, laddie; say yer prayers, an' haud up yer
heid. Wha wadna raither be accused o' a' the sins o' the comman'ments
nor be guilty o' ane o' them?"

Malcolm did hold up his head as he walked away.

Not a single person was in the street Far below, the sea was chafing
and tossing--grey green broken into white. The horizon was formless
with mist, hanging like thin wool from the heavens down to the face
of the waters, against which the wind, which had shifted round
considerably towards the north, and blew in quicker coming and
more menacing gusts, appeared powerless. He would have gone to the
sands and paced the shore till nightfall, but that he would not
expose himself thus to unfriendly eyes and false judgments. He
turned to the right instead, and walked along the top of the cliffs
eastward. Buffeted by winds without and hurrying fancies within, he
wandered on until he came near Colonsay Castle, at sight of which
the desire awoke in him to look again on the scene of Lady Florimel's
terror. He crossed the head of the little bay and descended into
the heart of the rock. Even there the wind blew dank and howling
through all the cavernous hollows. As he approached the last chamber,
out of the Devil's Window flew, with clanging wing, an arrow barbed
seagull, down to the grey veiled tumult below, and the joy of life
for a moment seized his soul. But the next, the dismay of that
which is forsaken was upon him. It was not that the once lordly
structure lay abandoned to the birds and the gusts, but that she would
never think of the place without an instant assay at forgetfulness.
He turned and reascended, feeling like a ghost that had been
wandering through the forlorn chambers of an empty skull.

When he rose on the bare top of the ruin, a heavy shower from the
sea was beating slant against the worn walls and gaping clefts.
Myriads of such rains had, with age long inevitableness, crumbled
away the strong fortress till its threatful mass had sunk to an abject
heap. Thus all devouring Death--nay, nay! it is all sheltering,
all restoring mother Nature, receiving again into her mighty matrix
the stuff worn out in the fashioning toil of her wasteful, greedy,
and slatternly children. In her genial bosom, the exhausted gathers
life, the effete becomes generant, the disintegrate returns to
resting and capable form. The rolling oscillating globe dips it
for an aeon in growing sea, lifts it from the sinking waters of its
thousand year bath to the furnace of the sun, remodels and remoulds,
turns ashes into flowers, and divides mephitis into diamonds and
breath. The races of men shift and hover like shadows over her
surface, while, as a woman dries her garment before the household
flame, she turns it, by portions, now to and now from the sun heart
of fire. Oh joy that all the hideous lacerations and vile gatherings
of refuse which the worshippers of mammon disfigure the earth withal,
scoring the tale of their coming dismay on the visage of their
mother, shall one day lie fathoms deep under the blessed ocean,
to be cleansed and remade into holy because lovely forms! May the
ghosts of the men who mar the earth, turning her sweet rivers into
channels of filth, and her living air into irrespirable vapours
and pestilences, haunt the desolations they have made, until they
loathe the work of their hands, and turn from themselves with a
divine repudiation.

It was about half tide, and the sea coming up, with the wind straight
from the north, when Malcolm, having descended to the shore of
the little bay, and scrambled out upon the rocks, bethought him of
a certain cave which he had not visited since he was a child, and
climbing over the high rocks between, took shelter there from the
wind. He had forgotten how beautiful it was, and stood amazed at
the richness of its colour, imagining he had come upon a cave of
the serpentine marble which is found on the coast; for sides and
roof and rugged floor were gorgeous with bands and spots and veins
of green, and rusty red. A nearer inspection, however, showed that
these hues were not of the rock itself but belonged to the garden
of the ocean, and when he turned to face the sea, lo! they had
all but vanished, the cave shone silvery gray, with a faint moony
sparkle, and out came the lovely carving of the rodent waves. All
about, its sides were fretted in exquisite curves, and fantastic
yet ever graceful knots and twists; as if a mass of gnarled and
contorted roots, first washed of every roughness by some ethereal
solvent, leaving only the soft lines of yet grotesque volutions,
had been transformed into mingled silver and stone. Like a soldier
crab that had found a shell to his mind, he gazed through the
yawning mouth of the cavern at the turmoil of the rising tide, as
it rushed straight towards him through a low jagged channel in the
rocks. But straight with the tide came the wind, blowing right into
the cave; and finding it keener than pleasant, he turned and went
farther in. After a steep ascent some little way, the cavern took
a sharp turn to one side, where not a breath of wind, not a glimmer
of light, reached, and there he sat down upon a stone, and fell a
thinking.

He must face the lie out, and he must accept any mother God had
given him: but with such a mother as Mrs Stewart, and without Mr
Graham, how was he to endure the altered looks of his old friends?
Faces indifferent before, had grown suddenly dear to him; and
opinions he would have thought valueless once, had become golden in
his eyes. Had he been such as to deserve their reproaches, he would
doubtless have steeled himself to despise them; but his innocence
bound him to the very people who judged him guilty. And there was
that awful certainty slowly but steadily drawing nearer--that
period of vacant anguish, in which Lady Florimel must vanish from
his sight, and the splendour of his life go with her, to return no
more.

But not even yet did he cherish any fancy of coming nearer to
her than the idea of absolute service authorized. As often as the
fancy had, compelled by the lady herself, crossed the horizon of
his thoughts, a repellent influence from the same source had been
at hand to sweep it afar into its antenatal chaos. But his love
rose ever from the earth to which the blow had hurled it, purified
again, once more all devotion and no desire, careless of recognition
beyond the acceptance of its offered service, and content that
the be all should be the end all.

The cave seemed the friendliest place he had yet found. Earth herself
had received him into her dark bosom, where no eye could discover
him, and no voice reach him but that of the ocean, as it tossed
and wallowed in the palm of God's hand. He heard its roar on the
rocks around him; and the air was filled with a loud noise of broken
waters, while every now and then the wind rushed with a howl into
the cave, as if searching for him in its crannies; the wild raving
soothed him, and he felt as if he would gladly sit there, in the dark
torn with tumultuous noises, until his fate had unfolded itself.

The noises thickened around him as the tide rose; but so gradually
that, although at length he could not have heard his own voice, he
was unaware of the magnitude to which the mighty uproar had enlarged
itself. Suddenly, something smote the rock as with the hammer of
Thor, and, as suddenly, the air around him grew stifling hot. The
next moment it was again cold. He started to his feet in wonder,
and sought the light. As he turned the angle, the receding back of
a huge green foam spotted wave, still almost touching the roof of
the cavern, was sweeping out again into the tumult. It had filled
the throat of it, and so compressed the air within by the force
of its entrance, as to drive out for the moment a large portion of
its latent heat. Looking then at his watch, Malcolm judged it must
be about high tide: brooding in the darkness, he had allowed the
moments to lapse unheeded, and it was now impossible to leave the
cavern until the tide had fallen. He returned into its penetral, and
sitting down with the patience of a fisherman, again lost himself
in reverie.

The darkness kept him from perceiving how the day went, and the
rapidly increasing roar of the wind made the diminishing sound
of the tide's retreat less noticeable. He thought afterwards that
perhaps he had fallen asleep; anyhow, when at length he looked out,
the waves were gone from the rock, and the darkness was broken only
by the distant gleam of their white defeat. The wind was blowing
a hurricane, and even for his practised foot, it was not easy to
surmount the high, abrupt spines he must cross to regain the shore.
It was so dark that he could see nothing of the castle, though it
was but a few yards from him; and he resolved therefore, the path
along the top of the cliffs being unsafe, to make his way across
the fields, and return by the high road. The consequence was,
that, what with fences and ditches, the violence of the wind, and
uncertainty about his direction, it was so long before he felt the
hard road under his feet that with good reason he feared the house
would be closed for the night ere he reached it.



CHAPTER LV: THE SAME NIGHT


When he came within sight of it, however, he perceived, by the
hurried movement of lights, that instead of being folded in silence,
the house was in unwonted commotion. As he hastened to the south
door, the prince of the power of the air himself seemed to resist
his entrance, so fiercely did the wind, eddying round the building,
dispute every step he made towards it; and when at length he reached
and opened it, a blast, rushing up the glen straight from the sea,
burst wide the opposite one, and roared through the hall like a
torrent. Lady Florimel, flitting across it at the moment, was almost
blown down, and shrieked aloud for help. Malcolm was already at the
north door, exerting all his strength to close it, when she spied
him, and, bounding to him, with white face and dilated eyes,
exclaimed--"Oh Malcolm! what a time you have been!"

"What's wrang, my leddy?" cried Malcolm with respondent terror.

"Don't you hear it?" she answered. "The wind is blowing the house
down. There's just been a terrible fall, and every moment I hear
it going. If my father were only come! We shall be all blown into
the burn."

"Nae fear o' that, my leddy!" returned Malcolm. "The wa's o' the
auld carcass are 'maist live rock, an' 'ill stan' the warst win'
'at ever blew--this side o' the tropics, ony gait. Gien 't war
ance to get its nose in, I wadna say but it micht tirr (strip) the
rufe, but it winna blaw 's intil the burn, my leddy. I'll jist gang
and see what's the mischeef."

He was moving away, but Lady Florimel stopped him. "No, no,
Malcolm!" she said. "It's very silly of me, I dare say; but I've
been so frightened. They're such a set of geese--Mrs Courthope,
and the butler, and all of them! Don't leave me, please."

"I maun gang and see what's amiss, my leddy," answered Malcolm;
"but ye can come wi' me gien ye like. What's fa'en, div ye think?"

"Nobody knows. It fell with a noise like thunder, and shook the
whole house."

"It's far ower dark to see onything frae the ootside," rejoined
Malcolm, "at least afore the mune's up. It's as dark's pick. But I
can sune saitisfee mysel' whether the deil 's i' the hoose or no."

He took a candle from the hall table, and went up the square
staircase, followed by Florimel.

"What w'y is 't, my leddy, 'at the hoose is no lockit up, an' ilka
body i' their beds?" he asked.

"My father is coming home tonight. Didn't you know? But I should
have thought a storm like this enough to account for people not
being in bed!"

"It's a fearfu' nicht for him to be sae far frae his! Whaur's he
comin' frae! Ye never speyk to me noo, my leddy, an' naebody tell't
me."

"He was to come from Fochabers tonight. Stoat took the bay mare to
meet him yesterday."

"He wad never start in sic a win'! It's fit to blaw the saiddle
aff o' the mear's back."

"He may have started before it came on to blow like this," said
Lady Florimel.

Malcolm liked the suggestion the less because of its probability,
believing, in that case, he should have arrived long ago. But he
took care not to increase Florimel's alarm.

By this time Malcolm knew the whole of the accessible inside of the
roof well--better far than any one else about the house. From one
part to another, over the whole of it, he now led Lady Florimel.
In the big shadowed glimmer of his one candle, all parts of the
garret seemed to him frowning with knitted brows over resentful
memories--as if the phantom forms of all the past joys and self
renewing sorrows, all the sins and wrongs, all the disappointments
and failures of the house, had floated up, generation after
generation, into that abode of helpless brooding, and there hung
hovering above the fast fleeting life below, which now, in its turn,
was ever sending up like fumes from heart and brain, to crowd the
dim, dreary, larva haunted, dream wallowing chaos of half obliterated
thought and feeling. To Florimel it looked a dread waste, a
region deserted and forgotten, mysterious with far reaching nooks
of darkness, and now awful with the wind raving and howling over
slates and leads so close to them on all sides,--as if a flying
army of demons were tearing at the roof to get in and find covert
from pursuit.

At length they approached Malcolm's own quarters, where they would
have to pass the very door of the wizard's chamber to reach a short
ladder-like stair that led up into the midst of naked rafters, when,
coming upon a small storm window near the end of a long passage,
Lady Florimel stopped and peeped out.

"The moon is rising," she said, and stood looking.

Malcolm glanced over her shoulder. Eastward a dim light shone
up from behind the crest of a low hill. Great part of the sky was
clear, but huge masses of broken cloud went sweeping across the
heavens. The wind had moderated.

"Aren't we somewhere near your friend the wizard?" said Lady
Florimel, with a slight tremble in the tone of mockery with which
she spoke.

Malcolm answered as if he were not quite certain.

"Isn't your own room somewhere hereabouts?" asked the girl sharply.

"We'll jist gang till ae ither queer place," observed Malcolm,
pretending not to have heard her, "and gien the rufe be a' richt
there, I s' no bather my heid mair aboot it till the mornin'. It's
but a feow steps farther, an' syne a bit stair."

A fit of her not unusual obstinacy had however seized Lady Florimel.

"I won't move a step," she said, "until you have told me where the
wizard's chamber is."

"Ahint ye, my leddy, gien ye wull hae 't," answered Malcolm, not
unwilling to punish her a little; "--jist at the far en' o' the
transe there."

In fact the window in which she stood, lighted the whole length of
the passage from which it opened.

Even as he spoke, there sounded somewhere as it were the slam of
a heavy iron door, the echoes of which seemed to go searching into
every cranny of the multitudinous garrets. Florimel gave a shriek,
and laying hold of Malcolm, clung to him in terror. A sympathetic
tremor, set in motion by her cry, went vibrating through the
fisherman's powerful frame, and, almost involuntarily, he clasped
her close. With wide eyes they stood staring down the long passage,
of which, by the poor light they carried, they could not see a
quarter of the length. Presently they heard a soft footfall along
its floor, drawing slowly nearer through the darkness; and slowly
out of the darkness grew the figure of a man, huge and dim, clad
in a long flowing garment, and coming straight on to where they
stood. They clung yet closer together. The apparition came within
three yards of them, and then they recognized Lord Lossie in his
dressing gown.

They started asunder. Florimel flew to her father, and Malcolm
stood, expecting the last stroke of his evil fortune. The marquis
looked pale, stern, and agitated. Instead of kissing his daughter
on the forehead as was his custom, he put her from him with
one expanded palm, but the next moment drew her to his side. Then
approaching Malcolm, he lighted at his the candle he carried, which
a draught had extinguished on the way.

"Go to your room, MacPhail," he said, and turned from him, his arm
still round Lady Florimel.

They walked a way together down the long passage, vaguely visible
in flickering fits. All at once their light vanished, and with
it Malcolm's eyes seemed to have left him. But a merry laugh, the
silvery thread in which was certainly Florimel's, reached his ears,
and brought him to himself.



CHAPTER LVI: SOMETHING FORGOTTEN


I will not trouble my reader with the thoughts that kept rising,
flickering, and fading, one after another, for two or three dismal
hours, as he lay with eyes closed but sleepless. At length he opened
them wide, and looked out into the room. It was a bright moonlit
night; the wind had sunk to rest; all the world slept in the exhaustion
of the storm; he only was awake; he could lie no longer; he would
go out, and discover, if possible, the mischief the tempest had
done.

He crept down the little spiral stair used only by the servants,
and knowing all the mysteries of lock and bar, was presently in the
open air. First he sought a view of the building against the sky,
but could not see that any portion was missing. He then proceeded
to walk round the house, in order to find what had fallen.

There was a certain neglected spot nearly under his own window, where
a wall across an interior angle formed a little court or yard; he
had once peeped in at the door of it, which was always half open,
and seemed incapable of being moved in either direction, but had
seen nothing except a broken pail and a pile of brushwood; the flat
arch over this door was broken, and the door itself half buried
in a heap of blackened stones and mortar. Here was the avalanche
whose fall had so terrified the household! The formless mass had
yesterday been a fair proportioned and ornate stack of chimneys.

He scrambled to the top of the heap and sitting down on a stone
carved with a plaited Celtic band, yet again fell athinking. The
marquis must dismiss him in the morning; would it not be better to
go away now, and spare poor old Duncan a terrible fit of rage? He
would suppose he had fled from the pseudo maternal net of Mrs Stewart;
and not till he had found a place to which he could welcome him
would he tell him the truth. But his nature recoiled both from the
unmanliness of such a flight, and from the appearance of conscious
wrong it must involve, and he dismissed the notion. Scheme after
scheme for the future passed through his head, and still he sat
on the heap in the light of the high gliding moon, like a ghost on
the ruins of his earthly home, and his eyes went listlessly straying
like servants without a master. Suddenly he found them occupied
with a low iron studded door in the wall of the house, which he
had never seen before. He descended, and found it hardly closed,
for there was no notch to receive the heavy latch. Pushing. it open
on great rusty hinges, he saw within what in the shadow appeared
a precipitous descent His curiosity was roused; he stole back
to his room and fetched his candle; and having, by the aid of his
tinderbox, lighted it in the shelter of the heap, peeped again
through the doorway, and saw what seemed a narrow cylindrical pit,
only, far from showing a great yawning depth, it was filled with
stones and rubbish nearly to the bottom of the door. The top of the
door reached almost to the vaulted roof, one part of which, close
to the inner side of the circular wall, was broken. Below this
breach, fragments of stone projected from the wall, suggesting the
remnants of a stair. With the sight came a foresight of discovery.

One foot on the end of a long stone sticking vertically from the
rubbish, and another on one of the stones projecting from the wall,
his head was already through the break in the roof; and in a minute
more he was climbing a small, broken, but quite passable spiral
staircase, almost a counterpart of that already described as going
like a huge augerbore through the house from top to bottom--that
indeed by which he had just descended. There was most likely more
of it buried below, probably communicating with an outlet in some
part of the rock towards the burn, but the portion of it which, from
long neglect, had gradually given way, had fallen down the shaft,
and cut off the rest with its ruins.

At the height of a storey, he came upon a built up doorway, and
again, at a similar height, upon another; but the parts filled in
looked almost as old as the rest of the wall. Not until he reached
the top of the stair, did he find a door. It was iron studded, and
heavily hinged, like that below. It opened outward--noiselessly
he found, as if its hinges had been recently oiled, and admitted
him to a small closet, the second door of which he opened hurriedly,
with a beating heart. Yes! there was the check curtained bed! it
must be the wizard's chamber! Crossing to another door, he found
it both locked and further secured by a large iron bolt in a strong
staple. This latter he drew back, but there was no key in the lock.
With scarce a doubt remaining, he shot down the one stair and flew
up the other to try the key that lay in his chest. One moment and
he stood in the same room, admitted by the door next his own.

Some exposure was surely not far off! Anyhow here was room for counter
plot, on the chance of baffling something underhand--villainy
most likely, where Mrs Catanach was concerned!--And yet, with
the control of it thus apparently given into his hands, he must
depart, leaving the house at the mercy of a low woman--for the
lock of the wizard's door would not exclude her long if she wished
to enter and range the building! He would not go, however, without
revealing all to the marquis, and would at once make some provision
towards her discomfiture.

Going to the forge, and bringing thence a long bar of iron to use
as a lever, he carefully drew from the door frame the staple of
the bolt, and then replaced it so, that, while it looked just as
before, a good push would now send it into the middle of the room.
Lastly, he slid the bolt into it, after having carefully removed
all traces of disturbance, left the mysterious chamber by its own
stair, and once more ascending to the passage, locked the door,
and retired to his room with the key.

He had now plenty to think about beyond himself! Here certainly
was some small support to the legend of the wizard earl. The stair
which he had discovered, had been in common use at one time; its
connection with other parts of the house had been cut off with an
object; and by degrees it had come to be forgotten altogether; many
villainies might have been effected by means of it. Mrs Catanach
must have discovered it the same night on which he found her there,
had gone away by it then, and had certainly been making use of it
since. When he smelt the sulphur, she must have been lighting a
match.

It was now getting towards morning, and at last he was tired. He
went to bed and fell asleep. When he woke, it was late, and as he
dressed, he heard the noise of hoofs and wheels in the stable yard.
He was sitting at breakfast in Mrs Courthope's room, when she came
in full of surprise at the sudden departure of her lord and lady.
The marquis had rung for his man, and Lady Florimel for her maid,
as soon as it was light; orders were sent at once to the stable;
four horses were put to the travelling carriage; and they were
gone, Mrs Courthope could not tell whither.

Dreary as was the house without Florimel, things had turned out a
shade or two better than Malcolm had expected, and he braced himself
to endure his loss.



CHAPTER LVII: THE LAIRD'S QUEST


Things were going pretty well with the laird: Phemy and he drew.
yet closer to each other, and as he became yet more peaceful in her
company, his thoughts flowed more freely, and his utterance grew
less embarrassed; until at length, in talking with her, his speech
was rarely broken with even a slight impediment, and a stranger
might have overheard a long conversation between them without
coming to any more disparaging conclusion in regard to him than
that the hunchback was peculiar in mind as well as in body. But his
nocturnal excursions continuing to cause her apprehension, and his
representations of the delights to be gathered from Nature while
she slept, at the same time alluring her greatly, Phemy had become,
both for her own pleasure and his protection, anxious in these also
to be his companion.

With a vital recognition of law, and great loyalty to any utterance
of either parent, she had yet been brought up in an atmosphere of
such liberty, that except a thing were expressly so conditioned,
or in itself appeared questionable, she never dreamed of asking
permission to do it; and, accustomed as she had been to go with
the laird everywhere, and to be out with him early and late, her
conscience never suggested the possibility of any objection to her
getting up at twelve, instead of four or five, to accompany him.
It was some time, however, before the laird himself would consent;
and then he would not unfrequently interpose with limitations,
especially, if the night were not mild and dry, sending her always
home again to bed. The mutual rule and obedience between them was
something at once strange and lovely.

At midnight Phemy would enter the shop, and grope her way until
she stood under the trapdoor. This was the nearest she could come
to the laird's chamber, for he had not only declined having the
ladder stand there for his use, but had drawn a solemn promise from
the carpenter that at night it should always be left slung up to
the joists. For himself he had made a rope ladder, which he could
lower from beneath when he required it, invariably drew up after
him, and never used for coming down.

One night Phemy made her customary signal by knocking against the
trapdoor with a long slip of wood: it opened, and, as usual, the
body of the laird appeared, hung for a moment in the square gap,
like a huge spider, by its two hands, one on each side, then dropped
straight to the floor, when, without a word, he hastened forth,
and Phemy followed.

The night was very still--and rather dark, for it was cloudy about
the horizon, and there was no moon. Hand in hand the two made for
the shore--here very rocky--a succession of promontories with
little coves between. Down into one of these they went by a winding
path, and stood at the lip of the sea. A violet dimness, or, rather,
a semi-transparent darkness, hung over it, through which came now
and then a gleam, where the slow heave of some Triton shoulder caught
a shine of the sky; a hush also, as of sleep, hung over it, which
not to break, the wavelets of the rising tide carefully stilled
their noises; and the dimness and the hush seemed one. They sat
down on a rock that rose but a foot or two from the sand and for
some moments listened in silence to the inarticulate story of the
night. At length the laird turned to Phemy, and taking one of her
hands in both of his, very solemnly said, as if breaking to her
his life's trouble, "Phemy, I dinna ken whaur I cam frae."

"Hoot, laird! ye ken weel eneuch ye cam frae Go-od," answered Phemy,
lengthening out the word with solemn utterance.

The laird did not reply, and again the night closed around them,
and the sea hushed at their hearts. But a soft light air began
to breathe from the south, and it waked the laird to more active
thought.

"Gien he wad but come oot an' shaw himsel'!" he said. "What for
disna he come oot?"

"Wha wad ye hae come oot?" asked Phemy.

"Ye ken wha, weel eneuch. They say he 's a' gait at ance: jist
hearken. What for will he aye bide in, an' never come oot an' lat
a puir body see him?"

The speech was broken into pauses, filled by the hush rather than
noise of the tide, and the odour-like wandering of the soft air in
the convolutions of their ears.

"The lown win' maun be his breath--sae quaiet!--He 's no
hurryin' himsel' the nicht.--There 's never naebody rins efter
him.--Eh, Phemy! I jist thoucht he was gauin' to speyk!"

This last exclamation he uttered in a whisper, as the louder gush
of a larger tide pulse died away on the shore.

"Luik, Phemy, luik!" he resumed. "Luik oot yonner! Dinna ye see
something 'at micht grow to something?"

His eyes were fixed on a faint spot of steely blue, out on the sea,
not far from the horizon. It was hard to account for, with such a
sky overheard, wherein was no lighter part to be seen that might
be reflected in the water below; but neither of the beholders was
troubled about its cause: there it glimmered on in the dimness of
the wide night--a cold, faint splash of blue grey.

"I dinna think muckle o' that, sir," said Phemy.

"It micht be the mark o' the sole o' his fut, though," returned
the laird. "He micht hae fist setten 't doon, an' the watter hae
lowed (flamed) up aboot it, an' the low no be willin' to gang oot!
Luik sharp, Phemy; there may come anither at the neist stride--
anither fut mark. Luik ye that gait an' I'll luik this.--What for
willna he come oot? The lift maun be fu' o' 'im, an' I 'm hungert
for a sicht o' 'im. Gien ye see ony thing, Phemy, cry oot."

"What will I cry?" asked Phemy.

"Cry 'Father o' lichts!'" answered the laird.

"Will he hear to that--div ye think, sir?"

"Wha kens! He micht jist turn his heid; an' ae luik wad sair me
for a hunner year."

"I s' cry, gien I see onything," said Phemy.

As they sat watching, by degrees the laird's thought swerved a
little. His gaze had fixed on the northern horizon, where, as if
on the outer threshold of some mighty door, long low clouds, with
varied suggestion of recumbent animal forms, had stretched themselves,
like creatures of the chase, watching for their lord to issue.

"Maybe he's no oot o' the hoose yet," he said. "Surely it canna be
but he comes oot ilka nicht! He wad never hae made sic a sicht o'
bonny things to lat them lie wi'oot onybody to gaither them! An'
there's nae ill fowk the furth at this time o' nicht, ta mak an
oogly din, or disturb him wi' the sicht o' them. He maun come oot
i' the quaiet o' the nicht, or else what's 't a' for?--Ay! he
keeps the nicht till himsel', an' lea's the day to hiz (us). That
'll be what the deep sleep fa's upo' men for, doobtless--to haud
them oot o' his gait! Eh! I wuss he wad come oot whan I was by! I
micht get a glimp o' 'm.--Maybe he wad tak the hump aff o' me,
an' set things in order i' my heid, an' mak me like ither fowk.
Eh me! that wad be gran'! Naebody wad daur to touch me syne. Eh!
Michty! come oot! Father o' lichts! Father o' lichts!"

He went on repeating the words till, growing softer and softer,
his voice died away in silence, and still as his seat of stone he
sat, a new Job, on the verge of the world waters, like the old Job
on his dunghill when he cried out,--

"Lo, he goeth by me, and I see him not; he passeth on also, but I
perceive him not--Call thou, and I will answer; or let me speak
and answer thou me.--Oh that I knew where I might find him! that
I might come even to his seat!--Behold I go forward, but he is not
there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him; on the left hand,
where he doth work, but I cannot behold him; he hideth himself on
the right hand, that I cannot see him."

At length he rose and wandered away from the shore, his head sunk
upon his chest. Phemy rose also and followed him in silence. The
child had little of the poetic element in her nature, but she had
much of that from which everything else has to be developed--
heart. When they reached the top of the brae, she joined him, and
said, putting her hand in his, but not looking at, or even turning
towards him, "Maybe he 'll come oot upo' ye afore ye ken some day
--whan ye 're no luikin' for him."

The laird stopped, gazed at her for a moment, shook his head, and
walked on.

Grassy steeps everywhere met the stones and sands of the shore,
and the grass and the sand melted, as it were, and vanished each
in the other. Just where they met in the next hollow, stood a small
building of stone with a tiled roof. It was now strangely visible
through the darkness, for from every crevice a fire illumined smoke
was pouring. But the companions were not alarmed or even surprised.
They bent their way towards it without hastening a step, and coming
to a fence that enclosed a space around it, opened a little gate,
and passed through. A sleepy watchman challenged them. "It 's me,"
said the laird.

"A fine nicht, laird," returned the voice, and said no more.

The building was divided into several compartments, each with
a separate entrance. On the ground in each burned four or five
little wood fires, and the place was filled with smoke and glow.
The smoke escaped partly by openings above the doors, but mostly
by the crannies of the tiled roof. Ere it reached these, however,
it had to pass through a great multitude of pendent herrings. Hung
up by the gills, layer above layer, nearly to the roof, their last
tails came down as low as the laird's head. From beneath nothing
was to be seen but a firmament of herring tails. These fish were
the last of the season, and were thus undergoing the process of
kippering. It was a new venture in the place, and its success as
yet a question.

The laird went into one of the compartments, and searching about
a little amongst the multitude within his reach, took down a plump
one, then cleared away the blazing wood from the top of one of the
fires, and laid his choice upon the glowing embers beneath.

"What are ye duin' there, laird?" cried Phemy from without, whose
nostrils the resulting odour had quickly reached. "The fish is no
yours."

"Ye dinna think I wad tak it wantin' leave, Phemy!" returned the
laird. "Mony a supper hae I made this w'y, an' mony anither I houp
to mak. It'll no be this sizzon though, for this lot's the last o'
them. They're fine aitin', but I'm some feart they winna keep."

"Wha gae ye leave, sir?" persisted Phemy showing herself the
indivertible guardian of his morals as well as of his freedom.

"Ow, Mr Runcie himsel', of coorse!" answered the laird. "Wull I
pit ane on to you?"

"Did ye speir leave for me tu?" asked the righteous maiden.

"Ow, na; but I'll tell him the neist time I see him."

"I 'm nae for ony," said Phemy.

The fish wanted little cooking. The laird turned it, and after
another half minute of the fire, took it up by the tail, sat down
on a stone beside the door, spread a piece of paper on his knees,
laid the fish upon it, pulled a lump of bread from his pocket, and
proceeded to make his supper. Ere he began, however, he gazed all
around with a look which Phemy interpreted as a renewed search for
the Father of lights, whom he would fain thank for his gifts. When
he had finished, he threw the remnants into one of the fires, then
went down to the sea, and there washed his face and hands in a rock
pool, after which they set off again, straying yet further along
the coast.

One of the peculiarities in the friendship of the strange couple
was that, although so closely attached, they should maintain such
a large amount of mutual independence. They never quarrelled, but
would flatly disagree, with never an attempt at compromise; the
whole space between midnight and morning would sometimes glide by
without a word spoken between them; and the one or the other would
often be lingering far behind. As, however, the ultimate goal of
the night's wandering was always understood between them, there
was little danger of their losing each other.

On the present occasion, the laird, still full of his quest, was
the one who lingered. Every few minutes he would stop and stare, now
all around the horizon, now up to the zenith, now over the wastes
of sky--for, any moment, from any spot in heaven, earth, or sea,
the Father of lights might show foot, or hand, or face. He had
at length seated himself on a lichen covered stone with his head
buried in his hands, as if, wearied with vain search for him outside
he would now look within and see if God might not be there, when
suddenly a sharp exclamation from Phemy reached him. He listened.

"Rin! rin! rin!" she cried--the last word prolonged into a scream.

While it yet rang in his ears, the laird was halfway down the steep.
In the open country he had not a chance; but, knowing every cranny
in the rocks large enough to hide him, with anything like a start
near enough to the shore for his short lived speed, he was all but
certain to evade his pursuers, especially in such a dark night as
this.

He was not in the least anxious about Phemy, never imagining she
might be less sacred in other eyes than in his, and knowing neither
that her last cry of loving solitude had gathered intensity from
a cruel grasp, nor that while he fled in safety, she remained a
captive.

Trembling and panting like a hare just escaped from the hounds,
he squeezed himself into a cleft, where he sat half covered with
water until the morning began to break. Then he drew himself out and
crept along the shore, from point to point, with keen circumspection,
until he was right under the village and within hearing of its
inhabitants, when he ascended hurriedly, and ran home. But having
reached his burrow, pulled down his rope ladder, and ascended, he
found, with trebled dismay, that his loft had been invaded during
the night. Several of the hooked cords had been cut away, on one
or two were shreds of clothing, and on the window sill was a drop
of blood.

He threw himself on the mound for a moment, then started to his
feet, caught up his plaid, tumbled from the loft, and fled from
Scaurnose as if a visible pestilence had been behind him.



CHAPTER LVIII: MALCOLM AND MRS STEWART


When her parents discovered that Phemy was not in her garret,
it occasioned them no anxiety. When they had also discovered that
neither was the laird in his loft, and were naturally seized with
the dread that some evil had befallen him, his hitherto invariable
habit having been to house himself with the first gleam of returning
day, they supposed that Phemy, finding he had not returned, had
set out to look for him. As the day wore on, however, without her
appearing, they began to be a little uneasy about her as well. Still
the two might be together, and the explanation of their absence a
very simple and satisfactory one; for a time therefore they refused
to admit importunate disquiet. But before night, anxiety, like
the slow but persistent waters of a flood, had insinuated itself
through their whole being--nor theirs alone, but had so mastered
and possessed the whole village that at length all employment was
deserted, and every person capable joined in a search along the
coast, fearing to find their bodies at the foot of some cliff. The
report spread to the neighbouring villages. In Portlossie Duncan
went round with his pipes, arousing attention by a brief blast, and
then crying the loss at every corner. As soon as Malcolm heard of
it, he hurried to find Joseph, but the only explanation of their
absence he was prepared to suggest was one that had already occurred
to almost everybody--that the laird, namely, had been captured
by the emissaries of his mother, and that, to provide against
a rescue, they had carried off his companion with him--on which
supposition, there was every probability that, within a few days
at farthest, Phemy would be restored unhurt.

"There can be little doobt they hae gotten a grip o' 'm at last,
puir fallow!" said Joseph. "But whatever 's come till him, we
canna sit doon an' ait oor mait ohn kent hoo Phemy 's farin, puir
wee lamb! Ye maun jist haud awa' ower to Kirkbyres, Ma'colm, an'
get word o' yer mither, an' see gien onything can be made oot o'
her."

The proposal fell on Malcolm like a great billow.

"Blue Peter," he said, looking him in the face, "I took it as a
mark o' yer freen'ship 'at ye never spak the word to me. What richt
has ony man to ca' that wuman my mither? I hae never allooed it!"

"I 'm thinkin'," returned Joseph, the more easily nettled that
his horizon also was full of trouble, "your word upo' the maitter
winna gang sae far 's John o' Groat's. Ye 'll no be suppeent for
your witness upo' the pint."

"I wad as sune gang a mile intill the mou' o' hell, as gang to
Kirkbyres!" said Malcolm.

"I hae my answer," said Peter, and turned away.

"But I s' gang," Malcolm went on. "The thing 'at maun be can be.
--Only I tell ye this, Peter," he added, "gien ever ye say sic a
word 's yon i' my hearin' again, that is, afore the wuman has priven
hersel' what she says, I s' gang by ye ever efter ohn spoken, for
I'll ken ''at ye want nae mair o' me."

Joseph, who had been standing with his back to his friend, turned
and held out his hand. Malcolm took it.

"Ae question afore I gang, Peter," he said. "What for didna ye tell
me what fowk was sayin' aboot me--anent Lizzy Findlay?"

"'Cause I didna believe a word o' 't, an' I wasna gaein' to add to
yer troubles."

"Lizzy never mootit sic a thing?"

"Never."

"I was sure o' that!--Noo I 'll awa' to Kirkbyres--God help
me! I wad raither face Sawtan an' his muckle tyke.--But dinna ye
expec' ony news. Gien yon ane kens, she's a' the surer no to tell.
Only ye sanna say I didna du my best for ye."

It was the hardest trial of the will Malcolm had yet had to
encounter. Trials of submission he had had, and tolerably severe
ones: but to go and do what the whole feeling recoils from is to be
weighed only against abstinence from what the whole feeling urges
towards. He walked determinedly home. Stoat saddled a horse for him
while he changed his dress, and once more he set out for Kirkbyres.

Had Malcolm been at the time capable of attempting an analysis
of his feeling towards Mrs Stewart, he would have found it very
difficult to effect. Satisfied as he was of the untruthful--even
cruel nature of the woman who claimed him, and conscious of a strong
repugnance to any nearer approach between them, he was yet aware
of a certain indescribable fascination in her. This, however, only
caused him to recoil from her the more--partly from dread lest it
might spring from the relation asserted, and partly that, whatever
might be its root, it wrought upon him in a manner he scarcely
disliked the less that it certainly had nothing to do with the
filial. But his feelings were too many and too active to admit of
the analysis of any one of them, and ere he reached the house his
mood had grown fierce.

He was shown into a room where the fire had not been many minutes
lighted. It had long narrow windows, over which the ivy had grown
so thick, that he was in it some moments ere he saw through the
dusk that it was a library--not half the size of that at Lossie
House, but far more ancient, and, although evidently neglected,
more study-like.

A few minutes passed, then the door softly opened, and Mrs Stewart
glided swiftly across the floor with outstretched arms.

"At last!" she said, and would have clasped him to her bosom.

But Malcolm stepped back.

"Na, na, mem!" he said; "it taks twa to that!"

"Malcolm!" she exclaimed, her voice trembling with emotion--of
some kind.

"Ye may ca' me your son, mem, but I ken nae gr'un' yet for ca'in'
you my--"

He could not say the word.

"That is very true, Malcolm," she returned gently; "but this
interview is not of my seeking. I wish to precipitate nothing. So
long as there is a single link, or half a link even, missing from
the chain of which one end hangs at my heart--"

She paused, with her hand on her bosom, apparently to suppress
rising emotion. Had she had the sentence ready for use?

"I will not subject myself," she went on, "to such treatment as
it seems I must look for from you. It is hard to lose a son but it
is harder yet to find him again after he has utterly ceased to be
one."

Here she put her handkerchief to her eyes.

"Till the matter is settled, however," she resumed, "let us be
friends--or at least not enemies.--What did you come for now?
Not to insult me surely. Is there anything I can do for you?"

Malcolm felt the dignity of her behaviour, but not the less, after
his own straightforward manner, answered her question to the point.

"I cam aboot naething concernin' mysel', mem, I cam to see whether
ye kent onything aboot Phemy Mair."

"Is it a wo?--I don't even know who she is.--You don't mean
the young woman that--?--Why do you come to me about her? Who
is she?"

Malcolm hesitated a moment: if she really did not know what he
meant, was there any risk in telling her? But he saw none.

"Wha is she, mem!" he returned. "I whiles think she maun be the
laird's guid angel, though in shape she's but a wee bit lassie.
She maks up for a heap to the laird.--Him an' her, mem, they 've
disappeart thegither, naebody kens whaur."

Mrs Stewart laughed a low unpleasant laugh, but made no other reply.
Malcolm went on.

"An' it's no to be wonnert at gien fowk wull hae 't 'at ye maun
ken something aboot it, mem."

"I know nothing whatever," she returned emphatically. "Believe
me or not, as you please," she added, with heightened colour. "If
I did know anything," she went on, with apparent truthfulness, "I
don't know that I should feel bound to tell it. As it is, however,
I can only say I know nothing of either of them. That I do say most
solemnly."

Malcolm turned,--satisfied at least that he could learn no more.

"You are not going to leave me so!" the lady said, and her face
grew "sad as sad could be."

"There's naething mair atween 's, mem," answered Malcolm, without
turning even his face.

"You will be sorry for treating me so some day."

"Weel than, mem, I will be; but that day's no the day (today)."

"Think what you could do for your poor witless brother, if--"

"Mem," interrupted Malcolm, turning right round and drawing himself
up in anger, "priv' 'at I 'm your son, an' that meenute I speir at
you wha was my father."

Mrs Stewart changed colour--neither with the blush of innocence
nor with the pallor of guilt, but with the gray of mingled rage and
hatred. She took a step forward with the quick movement of a snake
about to strike, but stopped midway, and stood looking at him with
glittering eyes, teeth clenched, and lips half open.

Malcolm returned her gaze for a moment or two.

"Ye never was the mither, whaever was the father o' me!" he said,
and walked out of the room.

He had scarcely reached the door, when he heard a heavy fall, and
looking round saw the lady lying motionless on the floor. Thoroughly
on his guard, however, and fearful both of her hatred and her
blandishments, he only made the more haste down stairs, where he
found a maid, and sent her to attend to her mistress. In a minute
he was mounted and trotting fast home, considerably happier than
before, inasmuch as he was now almost beyond doubt convinced that
Mrs Stewart was not his mother.



CHAPTER LIX: AN HONEST PLOT


Ever since the visit of condolence with which the narrative of
these events opened, there had been a coolness between Mrs Mellis
and Miss Horn. Mr Mellis's shop was directly opposite Miss Horn's
house, and his wife's parlour was over the shop, looking into
the street; hence the two neighbours could not but see each other
pretty often; beyond a stiff nod, however, no sign of smouldering
friendship had as yet broken out. Miss Horn was consequently a good
deal surprised when, having gone into the shop to buy some trifle,
Mr Mellis informed her, in all but a whisper, that his wife was
very anxious to see her alone for a moment, and begged her to have
the goodness to step up to the parlour. His customer gave a small
snort, betraying her first impulse to resentment, but her nobler
nature, which was never far from the surface, constrained her
compliance.

Mrs Mellis rose hurriedly when the plumb line figure of her
neighbour appeared, ushered in by her husband, and received her with
a somewhat embarrassed empressement, arising from the consciousness
of goodwill disturbed by the fear of imputed meddlesomeness. She
knew the inward justice of Miss Horn, however, and relied upon that,
even while she encouraged herself by waking up the ever present
conviction of her own superiority in the petite morale of social
intercourse. Her general tendency indeed was to look down upon Miss
Horn: is it not usually the less that looks down on the greater?
I had almost said it must be, for that the less only can look down
but that would not hold absolutely in the kingdoms of this world,
while in the kingdom of heaven it is all looking up.

"Sit ye doon, Miss Horn," she said; "it 's a lang time sin we had
a news thegither."

Miss Horn seated herself with a begrudged acquiescence.

Had Mrs Mellis been more of a tactician, she would have dug a few
approaches ere she opened fire upon the fortress of her companion's
fair hearing: but instead of that, she at once discharged the
imprudent question--"Was ye at hame last nicht, mem, atween the
hoors o' aucht an' nine?"--a shot which instantly awoke in reply
the whole battery of Miss Horn's indignation.

"Wha am I, to be speirt sic a queston! Wha but yersel' wad hae
daurt it, Mistress Mellis?"

"Huly (softly), huly, Miss Horn!" expostulated her questioner. "I
hae nae wuss to pry intill ony secrets o' yours, or--"

"Secrets!" shouted Miss Horn!

But her consciousness of good intent, and all but assurance of
final victory, upheld Mrs Mellis.

"--or Jean's aither," she went on, apparently regardless; "but I
wad fain be sure ye kent a' aboot yer ain hoose 'at a body micht
chance to see frae the croon o' the caus'ay (middle of the street)."

"The parlour blind 's gane up crookit sin' ever that thoomb fingert
cratur, Watty Witherspail, made a new roller till 't. Gien 't be
that ye mean, Mistress Mellis,--"

"Hoots!" returned the other. "--Hoo far can ye lippen to that Jean
o' yours, mem?"

"Nae farer nor the len'th o' my nose, an' the breid o' my twa een,"
was the scornful answer.

Although, however, she thus manifested her resentment of Mrs Mellis's
catechetical attempts in introducing her subject, Miss Horn had no
desire to prevent the free outcome of her approaching communication.

"In that case, I may speyk oot," said Mrs Mellis.

"Use yer freedom."

"Weel, I will. Ye was hardly oot o' the hoose last nicht, afore
--"

"Ye saw me gang oot?"

"Ay did I."

"What gart ye speir than? What for sud a body come screwin' up a
straucht stair--noo the face an' noo the back o' her?"

"Weel, I nott (needed) na hae speirt. But that's naething to the
p'int.--Ye hadna been gane, as I was saying', ower a five meenutes,
whan in cam a licht intill the bedroom neist the parlour, an' Jean
appeart wi' a can'le in her han'. There was nae licht i' this room
but the licht o' the fire, an' no muckle o' that, for 'twas maistly
peat, sae I saw her weel eneuch-ohn been seen mysel'. She cam
straucht to the window, and drew doon the blind, but lost hersel'
a bit or she wad never hae set doon her can'le whaur it cuist a
shaidow o' hersel' an' her doin's upo' the blind."

"An' what was 't she was efter, the jaud?" cried Miss Horn, without
any attempt to conceal her growing interest.

"She made naething o' 't, whatever it was; for doon the street cam
the schuilmaister, an' chappit at the door, an gaed in an' waitit
till ye came hame."

"Weel!" said Miss Horn.

But Mrs Mellis held her peace.

"Weel!!?" repeated Miss Horn.

"Weel," returned Mrs Mellis, with a curious mixture of deference
and conscious sagacity in her tone, "a' 'at I tak upo' me to say
is--Think ye twice afore ye lippen to that Jean o' yours."

"I lippen naething till her! I wad as sune lippen to the dottle o'
a pipe amo' dry strae. What saw ye, Mistress Mellis?"

"Ye needna speyk like that," returned Mrs Mellis, for Miss Horn's
tone was threatening: "I'm no Jean."

"What saw ye?" repeated Miss Horn, more gently, but not less eagerly.

"Whause is that kist o' mahogany drawers i' that bedroom, gien I
may preshume ta spier?"

"Whause but mine?"

"They're no Jean's?"

"Jean's!"

"Ye micht hae latten her keep her bit duds i' them, for onything
I kent!"

"Jean's duds i' my Grizel's drawers! A lik'ly thing!"

"Hm! They war puir Miss Cam'ell's, war they?"

"They war Grizell Cam'ell's drawers as lang she had use for ony;
but what for ye sud say puir till her, I dinna ken, 'cep' it be
'at she's gane whaur they haena muckle 'at needs layin' in drawers.
That's neither here nor there.--Div ye tell me 'at Jean was
intromittin' wi thae drawers? They're a' lockit, ilk ane o' them
--an' they're guid locks."

"No ower guid to hae keyes to them--are they?"

"The keyes are i' my pooch," said Miss Horn, clapping her hand to
the skirt of her dress. "They're aye i' my pooch, though I haena
had the feelin's to mak use o' them sin' she left me."

"Are ye sure they war there last nicht, mem?"

Miss Horn seemed struck.

"I had on my black silk last nicht." she answered vaguely, and was
here silent, pondering doubtfully.

"Weel, mem, jist ye put on yer black silk again the morn's nicht,
an' come ower aboot aucht o'clock; an' ye'll be able to jeedge by
her ongang whan ye're no i' the hoose, gien there be onything amiss
wi' Jean. There canna be muckle ill dune yet--that's a comfort!"

"What ill, by (beyond) meddlin' wi' what doesna concern her, cud
the wuman du?" said Miss Horn, with attempted confidence.

"That ye sud ken best yersel', mem. But Jean's an awfu' gossip,
an' a lady like yer cousin micht hae left dockiments ahint her 'at
she wadna jist like to hear procleemt frae the hoose tap. No 'at
she 'll ever hear onything mair, puir thing!"

"What mean ye?" cried Miss Horn, half frightened, half angry.

"Jist what I say--neither mair nor less," returned Mrs Mellis.
"Miss Cam'ell may weel hae left letters for enstance, an' hoo wad
they fare in Jean's han's?"

"Whan I never had the hert to open her drawers!" exclaimed Miss
Horn, enraged at the very notion of the crime. "I hae nae feelin's,
thank God for the furnishin' o' me!"

"I doobt Jean has her full share o' a' feelin's belangin' to fallen
human natur'," said Mrs Mellis, with a slow horizontal oscillation
of the head. "But ye jist come an' see wi' yer ain een, an' syne
jeedge for yersel': it 's nae business o' mine."

"I'll come the nicht, Mrs Mellis. Only lat it be atween 's twa."

"I can haud my tongue, mem,--that is, frae a' but ane. Sae lang
's merried fowk sleeps in ae bed, it 's ill to haud onything till
a body's sel'."

"Mr Mellis is a douce man, an' I carena what he kens." answered
Miss Horn.

She descended to the shop, and having bought bulk enough to account
to Jean for her lengthened stay, for she had beyond a doubt been
watching the door of the shop, she crossed the street, went up to
her parlour, and rang the bell. The same moment Jean's head was
popped in at the door: she had her reasons for always answering
the bell like a bullet.

"Mem?" said Jean.

"Jean, I'm gaein' oot the nicht. The minister oucht to be spoken
till aboot the schuilmaister, honest man. Tak the lantren wi' ye
to the manse aboot ten o'clock. That 'll be time eneuch."

"Verra weel, mem. But I'm thinkin' there's a mune the nicht."

"Naething but the doup o' ane, Jean. It 's no to ca' a mune. It's
a mercy we hae lantrens, an' sic a sicht o' cairds (gipsies) aboot."

"Ay, lantren lats them see whaur ye are, an' haud oot o' yer gait,"
said Jean, who happened not to relish going out that night.

"Troth, wuman, ye 're richt there!" returned her mistress, with
cheerful assent. "The mair they see o' ye, the less they 'll meddle
wi' ye--caird or cadger. Haud ye the licht upo' yer ain face,
lass, an' there 's feow 'll hae the hert to luik again."

"Haith, mem, there's twa sic like o' 's!" returned Jean bitterly,
and bounced from the room.

"That's true tu," said her mistress--adding after the door was
shut, "It's a peety we cudna haud on thegither."

"I'm gaein' noo, Jean," she called into the kitchen as she crossed
the threshold at eight o'clock.

She turned towards the head of the street, in the direction of the
manse; but, out of the range of Jean's vision, made a circuit, and
entered Mr Mellis's house by the garden at the back.

In the parlour she found a supper prepared to celebrate the renewal
of old goodwill. The clear crystal on the table; the new loaf so
brown without and so white within; the rich, clear complexioned
butter, undebased with a particle of salt; the self satisfied hum
of the kettle in attendance for the guidman's toddy; the bright
fire, the golden glow of the brass fender in its red light, and the
dish of boiled potatoes set down before it, under a snowy cloth;
the pink eggs, the yellow haddock, and the crimson strawberry jam;
all combined their influences--each with its private pleasure
wondrously heightened by the zest of a secret watch and the hope
of discomfitted mischief--to draw into a friendship what had
hitherto been but a somewhat insecure neighbourship. From below
came the sound of the shutters which Mr Mellis was putting up a
few minutes earlier than usual; and when presently they sat down
to the table, and, after prologue judged suitable, proceeded to
enjoy the good things before them, an outside observer would have
thought they had a pleasant evening, if not Time himself, by the
forelock.

But Miss Horn was uneasy. The thought of what Jean might have
already discovered had haunted her all day long; for her reluctance
to open her cousin's drawers had arisen mainly from the dread of
finding justified a certain painful suspicion which had haunted
the whole of her intercourse with Grizell Campbell--namely, that
the worm of a secret had been lying at the root of her life, the
cause of all her illness, and of her death at last. She had fought
with, out argued, and banished the suspicion a thousand times while
she was with her, but evermore it had returned; and now since her
death, when again and again on the point of turning over her things,
she had been always deterred by the fear, not so much of finding
what would pain herself as of discovering what Grizell would not
wish her to know. Never was there a greater contrast between form
and reality, between person and being, between manner and nature,
than existed in Margaret Horn: the shell was rough, the kernel
absolute delicacy. Not for a moment had her suspicion altered her
behaviour to the gentle suffering creature towards whom she had
adopted the relation of an elder and stronger sister. To herself,
when most satisfied of the existence of a secret, she steadily
excused her cousin's withholdment of confidence, on the ground of
her own lack of feelings: how could she unbosom herself to such as
she! And now the thought of eyes like Jean's exploring Grizell's
forsaken treasures, made her so indignant and restless that she
could hardly even pretend to enjoy her friend's hospitality.

Mrs Mellis had so arranged the table and their places, that she and
her guest had only to lift their eyes to see the window of their
watch, while she punished her husband for the virile claim to greater
freedom from curiosity by seating him with his back to it, which
made him every now and then cast a fidgety look over his shoulder
--not greatly to the detriment of his supper, however. Their plan
was, to extinguish their own the moment Jean's light should appear,
and so watch without the risk of counter discovery.

"There she comes!" cried Mrs Mellis; and her husband and Miss Horn
made such haste to blow out the candle, that they knocked their
heads together, blew in each other's face, and the first time missed
it. Jean approached the window with hers in her hand, and pulled
down the blind. But, alas, beyond the form of a close bent elbow
moving now and then across a corner of the white field, no shadow
appeared upon it!

Miss Horn rose.

"Sit doon, mem, sit doon; ye hae naething to gang upo' yet,"
exclaimed Mr Mellis, who, being a bailie, was an authority.

"I can sit nae langer, Mr Mellis," returned Miss Horn. "I hae
eneuch to gang upo' as lang 's I hae my ain flure aneth my feet:
the wuman has nae business there. I'll jist slip across an' gang
in, as quaiet as a sowl intill a boady; but I s' warran' I s' mak
a din afore I come oot again!"

With a grim diagonal nod she left the room.

Although it was now quite dark, she yet deemed it prudent to go by
the garden gate into the back lane, and so cross the street lower
down. Opening her own door noiselessly, thanks to Jean, who kept
the lock well oiled for reasons of Mrs Catanach's, she closed it
as silently, and, long boned as she was, crept up the stair like
a cat. The light was shining from the room; the door was ajar. She
listened at it for a moment, and could distinguish nothing; then
fancying she heard the rustle of paper, could bear it no longer,
pushed the door open, and entered. There stood Jean, staring at
her with fear blanched face, a deep top drawer open before her,
and her hands full of things she was in the act of replacing. Her
terror culminated, and its spell broke in a shriek, when her mistress
sprang upon her like a tigress.

The watchers in the opposite house heard no cry, and only saw
a heave of two intermingled black shadows across the blind, after
which they neither heard nor saw anything more. The light went on
burning until its final struggle with the darkness began, when it
died with many a flickering throb. Unable at last to endure the
suspense, now growing to fear, any longer, they stole across the
street, opened the door, and went in. Over the kitchen fire, like
an evil spirit of the squabby order, crouched Mrs Catanach, waiting
for Jean; no one else was to be found.

About ten o'clock the same evening, as Mr Graham sat by his peat
fire, some one lifted the latch of the outer door and knocked at
the inner. His invitation to enter was answered by the appearance
of Miss Horn, gaunt and grim as usual, but with more than the wonted
fire gleaming from the shadowy cavern of her bonnet. She made no
apology for the lateness of her visit, but seated herself at the
other side of the deal table, and laid upon it a paper parcel,
which she proceeded to open with much deliberation and suppressed
plenitude. Having at length untied the string with the long fingers
of a hand which, notwithstanding its evident strength, trembled so
as almost to defeat the attempt, she took from the parcel a packet
of old letters sealed with spangled wax, and pushed it across the
table to the schoolmaster, saying--"Hae, Sandy Graham! Naebody
but yersel' has a richt to say what's to be dune wi' them."

He put out his hand and took them gently, with a look of sadness
but no surprise.

"Dinna think I hae been readin' them, Sandy Graham. Na, na! I wad
read nae honest man's letters, be they written to wha they micht."

Mr Graham was silent.

"Ye're a guid man, Sandy Graham," Miss Horn resumed, "gien God ever
took the pains to mak ane. Dinna think onything atween you an' her
wad hae brocht me at this time o' nicht to disturb ye in yer ain
chaumer. Na, na! Whatever was atween you twa had an honest man intill
't, an' I wad hae taen my time to gie ye back yer dockiments. But
there 's some o' anither mark here."

As she spoke, she drew from the parcel a small cardboard box,
broken at the sides, and tied with a bit of tape. This she undid
and, turning the box upside down, tumbled its contents out on the
table before him.

"What mak ye o' sic like as thae?" she said.

"Do you want me to--?" asked the schoolmaster with trembling voice.

"I jist div," she answered.

They were a number of little notes--some of them but a word or
two, and signed with initials; others longer, and signed in full.
Mr Graham took up one of them reluctantly, and unfolded it softly.
He had hardly looked at it when he started and exclaimed, "God have
mercy! What can be the date of this!"

There was no date to it. He held it in his hand for a minute, his
eyes fixed on the fire, and his features almost convulsed with his
efforts at composure; then laid it gently on the table, and said
but without turning his eyes to Miss Horn,

"I cannot read this. You must not ask me. It refers doubtless to
the time when Miss Campbell was governess to Lady Annabel. I see
no end to be answered by my reading one of these letters."

"I daursay! Wha ever saw 'at wadna luik?" returned Miss Horn, with
a glance keen as an eagle's into the thoughtful eyes of her friend.

"Why not do by the writer of these as you have done by me? Why not
take them to him?" suggested Mr Graham.

"That wad be but thoomb fingert wark--to lat gang the en' o' yer
hank!" exclaimed Miss Horn.

"I do not understand you, ma'am."

"Weel, I maun gar ye un'erstan' me. There's things whiles, Sandy
Graham, 'at 's no easy to speyk aboot--but I hae nae feelin's,
an' we 'll a' be deid or lang, an' that's a comfort. Man 'at ye
are, ye 're the only human bein' I wad open my moo' till aboot this
maitter, an' that's 'cause ye lo'e the memory o' my puir lassie,
Grizell Cam'ell."

"It is not her memory, it is herself I love," said the schoolmaster
with trembling voice. "Tell me what you please: you may trust me."

"Gien I needit you to tell me that, I wad trust ye as I wad the
black dog wi' butter!--Hearken, Sandy Graham."

The result of her communication and their following conference
was, that she returned about midnight with a journey before her,
the object of which was to place the letters in the safe keeping
of a lawyer friend in the neighbouring county town.

Long before she reached home, Mrs Catanach had left--not without
communication with her ally, in spite of a certain precaution
adopted by her mistress, the first thing the latter did when she
entered being to take the key of the cellar stairs from her pocket,
and release Jean, who issued crestfallen and miserable, and was
sternly dismissed to bed. The next day, however, for reasons of her
own, Miss Horn permitted her to resume her duties about the house
without remark, as if nothing had happened serious enough to render
further measures necessary.



CHAPTER LX: THE SACRAMENT


Abandoning all her remaining effects to Jean's curiosity, if indeed
it were no worse demon that possessed her, Miss Horn, carrying
a large reticule, betook herself to the Lossie Arms, to await the
arrival of the mail coach from the west, on which she was pretty
sure of a vacant seat.

It was a still, frosty, finger pinching dawn, and the rime lay
thick wherever it could lie; but Miss Horn's red nose was carried
in front of her in a manner that suggested nothing but defiance
to the fiercest attacks of cold. Declining the offered shelter of
the landlady's parlour, she planted herself on the steps of the inn,
and there stood until the sound of the guard's horn came crackling
through the frosty air, heralding the apparition of a flaming
chariot, fit for the sun god himself, who was now lifting his red
radiance above the horizon. Having none inside, the guard gallantly
offered his one lady passenger a place in the heart of his vehicle,
but she declined the attention--to him, on the ground of preferring
the outside,--for herself, on the ground of uncertainty whether
he had a right to bestow the privilege. But there was such a fire
in her heart that no frost could chill her; such a bright bow in
her west, that the sun now rising in the world's east was but a
reflex of its splendour. True, the cloud against which it glowed
was very dark with bygone wrong and suffering, but so much the more
brilliant seemed the hope now arching the entrance of the future.
Still, although she never felt the cold, and the journey was but
of a few miles, it seemed long and wearisome to her active spirit,
which would gladly have sent her tall person striding along, to
relieve both by the discharge of the excessive generation of muscle
working electricity.

At length the coach drove into the town, and stopped at the Duff
Arms. Miss Horn descended, straightened her long back with some
difficulty, shook her feet, loosened her knees, and after a douceur
to the guard more liberal than was customary, in acknowledgment of
the kindness she had been unable to accept, marched off with the
stride of a grenadier to find her lawyer.

Their interview did not relieve her of much of the time, which now
hung upon her like a cloak of lead, and the earliness of the hour
would not have deterred her from at once commencing a round of
visits to the friends she had in the place; but the gates of the
lovely environs of Fife House stood open, and although there were
no flowers now, and the trees were leafless, waiting in poverty and
patience for their coming riches, they drew her with the offer of
a plentiful loneliness and room. She accepted it, entered, and for
two hours wandered about their woods and walks.

Entering with her the well known domain, the thought meets me:
what would be the effect on us men of such a periodical alternation
between nothing and abundance as these woods undergo? Perhaps in
the endless variety of worlds there may be one in which that is
among the means whereby its dwellers are saved from self and lifted
into life; a world in which during the one half of the year they
walk in state, in splendour, in bounty, and during the other are
plunged in penury and labour.

Such speculations were not in Miss Horn's way; but she was better
than the loftiest of speculations, and we will follow her. By and
by she came out of the woods, and found herself on the banks of
the Wan Water, a broad, fine river, here talking in wide rippled
innocence from bank to bank, there lying silent and motionless and
gloomy, as if all the secrets of the drowned since the creation of
the world lay dim floating in its shadowy bosom. In great sweeps
it sought the ocean, and the trees stood back from its borders,
leaving a broad margin of grass between, as if the better to see
it go. Just outside the grounds and before reaching the sea, it
passed under a long bridge of many arches--then, trees and grass
and flowers and all greenery left behind, rushed through a waste
of storm heaped pebbles into the world water. Miss Horn followed
it out of the grounds and on to the beach.

Here its channel was constantly changing. Even while she stood
gazing at its rapid rush, its bank of pebbles and sand fell almost
from under her feet. But her thoughts were so busy that she scarcely
observed even what she saw, and hence it was not strange that she
should be unaware of having been followed and watched all the way.
Now from behind a tree, now from a corner of the mausoleum, now
from behind a rock, now over the parapet of the bridge, the mad
laird had watched her. From a heap of shingle on the opposite side
of the Wan Water, he was watching her now. Again and again he had
made a sudden movement as if to run and accost her, but had always
drawn back again and concealed himself more carefully than before.

At length she turned in the direction of the town. It was a quaint
old place--a royal burgh for five centuries, with streets irregular
and houses of much individuality. Most of the latter were humble
in appearance, bare and hard in form, and gray in hue; but there
were curious corners, low archways, uncompromising gables, some with
corbel steps--now and then an outside stair, a delicious little
dormer window, or a gothic doorway, sometimes with a bit of carving
over it.

With the bent head of the climber, Miss Horn was walking up a
certain street, called from its precipitousness the Strait, that
is difficult, Path--an absolute Hill of Difficulty, when she was
accosted by an elderly man, who stood in the doorway of one of the
houses.

"Ken ye wha 's yon watchin' ye frae the tap o' the brae, mem?" he
said.

Miss Horn looked up: there was no one there.

"That 's it! he's awa' again! That's the w'y he 's been duin' this
last hoor, at least, to my knowledge. I saw him watchin' ilka mov'
ye made, mem, a' the time ye was doon upo' the shore--an there
he is noo, or was a meenute ago, at the heid o' the brae, glowerin'
the een oot o' 's heid at ye, mem!"

"Div ye ken him?" asked Miss Horn.

"No, mem--'cep' by sicht o' ee; he hasna been lang aboot the
toon. Some fowk sae he's dementit; but he's unco quaiet, speyks to
nobody, an' gien onybody speyk to him, jist rims. Cud he be kennin'
you, no? Ye 're a stranger here, mem."

"No sic a stranger, John!" returned Miss Horn, calling the man by
his name, for she recognized him as the beadle of the parish church.
"What 's the body like?"

"A puir, wee, hump backit cratur, wi' the face o' a gentleman."

"I ken him weel," said Miss Horn. "He is a gentleman--gien ever
God made ane. But he 's sair afflickit. Whaur does he lie at nicht
--can ye tell me?"

"I ken naething aboot him, mem, by what comes o' seein' him sic
like 's the day, an' ance teetin (peering) in at the door o' the
kirk. I wad hae weised him till a seat, but the moment II luikit at
him, awa' he ran. He 's unco cheenged though, sin' the first time
I saw him."

Since he lost Phemy, fear had been slaying him. No one knew where
he slept; but in the daytime he haunted the streets, judging them
safer than the fields or woods. The moment any one accosted him,
however, he fled like the wind. He had "no art to find the mind's
construction in the face;" and not knowing whom to trust, he
distrusted all. Humanity was good in his eyes, but there was no
man. The vision of Miss Horn was like the dayspring from on high to
him; with her near, the hosts of the Lord seemed to encamp around
him; but the one word he had heard her utter about his back, had
caused in him an invincible repugnance to appearing before her, and
hence it was that at a distance he had haunted her steps without
nearer approach.

There was indeed a change upon him! His clothes hung about him--
not from their own ragged condition only, but also from the state
of skin and bone to which he was reduced, his hump showing like a
great peg over which they had been carelessly cast. Half the round
of his eyes stood out from his face, whose pallor betokened the ever
recurring rush of the faintly sallying troops back to the citadel
of the heart. He had always been ready to run, but now he looked
as if nothing but weakness and weariness kept him from running
always. Miss Horn had presently an opportunity of marking the sad
alteration.

For ere she reached the head of the Strait Path, she heard sounds
as of boys at play, and coming out on the level of the High Street,
saw a crowd, mostly of little boys, in the angle made by a garden
wall with a house whose gable stood halfway across the pavement.
It being Saturday, they had just left school in all the exuberance
of spirits to which a half holiday gives occasion. In most of them
the animal nature was, for the time at least, far wider awake than
the human, and their proclivity towards the sport of the persecutor
was strong. To them any living thing that looked at once odd and
helpless was an outlaw--a creature to be tormented, or at best
hunted beyond the visible world. A meagre cat, an overfed pet
spaniel, a ditchless frog, a horse whose days hung over the verge
of the knacker's yard--each was theirs in virtue of the amusement
latent in it, which it was their business to draw out; but of all
such property an idiot would yield the most, and a hunchback idiot,
such as was the laird in their eyes, was absolutely invaluable--
beyond comparison the best game in the known universe. When he left
Portlossie, the laird knew pretty well what risks he ran, although
he preferred even them to the dangers he hoped by his flight to
avoid. It was he whom the crowd in question surrounded.

They had begun by rough teasing, to which he had responded with
smiles--a result which did not at all gratify them, their chief
object being to enrage him. They had therefore proceeded to small
torments, and were ready to go on to worse, their object being with
the laird hard to compass. Unhappily, there were amongst them two
or three bigger boys.

The moment Miss Horn descried what they were about, she rushed into
the midst of them, like a long bolt from a catapult, and scattering
them right and left from their victim, turned and stood in front
of him, regarding his persecutors with defiance in her flaming eye,
and vengeance in her indignant nose. But there was about Miss Horn
herself enough of the peculiar to mark her also, to the superficial
observer, as the natural prey of boys; and the moment the first
billow of consternation had passed and sunk, beginning to regard
her as she stood, the vain imagination awoke in these young lords
of misrule. They commenced their attack upon her by resuming it
upon her protege. She spread out her skirts, far from voluminous,
to protect him as he cowered behind them, and so long as she was
successful in shielding him, her wrath smouldered--but powerfully.
At length one of the bigger boys, creeping slyly up behind the front
row of smaller ones, succeeded in poking a piece of iron rod past
her, and drawing a cry from the laird. Out blazed the lurking
flame. The boy had risen, and was now attempting to prosecute like
an ape, what he had commenced like a snake. Inspired by the God of
armies--the Lord of hosts, she rushed upon him, and struck him
into the gutter. He fell in the very spot where he had found his
weapon, and there he lay. The Christian Amazon turned to the laird;
overflowing with compassion she stooped and kissed his forehead,
then took him by the hand to lead him away. But most of the enemy
had gathered around their fallen comrade, and seized with some
anxiety as to his condition, Miss Horn approached the group: the
instant she turned towards it, the laird snatched his hand from
hers, darted away like a hunting spider, and shot down the Strait
Path to the low street: by the time his protectress had looked
over the heads of the group, seen that the young miscreant was
not seriously injured, and requested him to take that for meddling
with a helpless innocent, the object of her solicitude, whom she
supposed standing behind her, was nowhere to be seen. Twenty voices,
now obsequious, were lifted to acquaint her with the direction in
which he had gone; but it was vain to attempt following him, and
she pursued her way, somewhat sore at his want of faith in her, to
the house of a certain relative, a dressmaker, whom she visited as
often as she went to Duff Harbour.

Now Miss Forsyth was one of a small sect of worshippers which had,
not many years before, built a chapel in the town--a quiet, sober,
devout company, differing from their neighbours in nothing deeply
touching the welfare of humanity. Their chief fault was, that,
attributing to comparative trifles a hugely disproportionate value,
they would tear the garment in pieces rather than yield their notion
of the right way of wrapping it together.

It so happened that, the next morning, a minister famous in
the community was to preach to them, on which ground Miss Forsyth
persuaded her relative to stop over the Sunday, and go with her
to their chapel. Bethinking herself next that her minister had no
sermon to prepare, she took Miss Horn to call upon him.

Mr Bigg was one of those men whose faculty is always underestimated
by their acquaintances and overestimated by their friends; to
overvalue him was impossible. He was not merely of the salt of the
earth, but of the leaven of the kingdom, contributing more to the
true life of the world than many a thousand far more widely known
and honoured. Such as this man are the chief springs of thought,
feeling, inquiry, action, in their neighbourhood; they radiate help
and breathe comfort; they reprove, they counsel, they sympathize;
in a word, they are doorkeepers of the house of God. Constantly
upon its threshold, and every moment pushing the door to peep in,
they let out radiance enough to keep the hearts of men believing
in the light. They make an atmosphere about them in which spiritual
things can thrive, and out of their school often come men who do
greater things, better they cannot do, than they.

Although a separatist as to externals, he was in heart a most
catholic man--would have found himself far too catholic for the
community over which he presided, had its members been capable
of understanding him. Indeed, he had with many, although such was
the force of his character that no one dared a word to that effect
in his hearing, the reputation of being lax in his ideas of what
constituted a saving faith; and most of the sect being very narrow
minded, if not small hearted, in their limitations of the company
fitly partaking of the last supper of our Lord--requiring proof
of intellectual accord with themselves as to the how and why of
many things, especially in regard of what they called the plan of
salvation, he was generally judged to be misled by the deceitful
kindliness of the depraved human heart in requiring as the ground
of communion only such an uplook to Jesus as, when on earth, Jesus
himself had responded to with healing. He was larger hearted, and
therefore larger minded, than his people.

In the course of their conversation, Miss Forsyth recounted, with
some humour, her visitor's prowess on behalf of the laird--much
to honest Mr Bigg's delight.

"What ither cud I du?" said Miss Horn apologetically. "But I doobt
I strack ower sair. Maybe ye wadna objec', sir, to gang and speir
efter the laddie, an' gie him some guid advice?"

"I'll do that," returned Mr Bigg.--"Are we to have the pleasure
of your company in our conventicle tomorrow?" he added, after a
little pause. "Dr Blare is going to preach."

"Will ye hae me, Mr Bigg?"

"Most willingly, ma'am; and we 'll be still better pleased if you
'll sit down with us to the Lord's table afterwards."

"I gang to the perris kirk, ye ken," said Miss Horn, supposing the
good man unaware of the fact.

"Oh! I know that, ma'am. But don't you think, as we shall, I
trust, sit down together to his heavenly supper it would be a good
preparation to sit down together, once at least, to his earthly
supper first?"

"I didna ken 'at ye wad hae ony but yer ain fowk! I hae aften thoucht
mysel', it was jist the ae thing ony Christian sud be ready to du
wi' ony ither. Is 't a new thing wi' ye to haud open hoose this
gait, sir,--gien I may tak the leeberty to speir?"

"We don't exactly keep open house. We wouldn't like to have any
one with us who would count it poor fare. But still less would we
like to exclude one of the Lord's friends. If that is a new thing,
it ought to be an old one.--You believe in Jesus Christ--don't
you, ma'am?"

"I dinna ken whether I believe in him as ye wad ca' believin' or
no--there's sic a heap o' things broucht to the fore nooadays
'at I canna richtly say I un'erstan'. But as he dee'd for me, I
wad dee for him. Raither nor say I didna ken him, I wad hing aside
him. Peter an' a', I canna say less."

Mr Bigg's eyes began to smart, and he turned away his head.

"Gien that 'll du wi' ye," Miss Horn went on, "an' ye mean nae
desertion o' the kirk o' my father an' his fathers afore him, I
wad willin'ly partak wi' ye."

"You'll be welcome, Miss Horn--as welcome, as any of my own
flock."

"Weel, noo, that I ca' Christian," said Miss Horn, rising. "An'
'deed I cud wuss," she added, "'at in oor ain kirk we had mair
opportunity, for ance i' the twalmonth 's no verra aften to tak up
the thouchts 'at belang to the holy ordnance."

The next day, after a powerful sermon from a man who, although
in high esteem, was not for moral worth or heavenly insight to
be compared with him whose place he took, they proceeded to the
celebration of the Lord's supper, after the fashion of that portion
of the church universal.

The communicants sat in several long pews facing the communion
table, which was at the foot of the pulpit. After the reading of St
Paul's account of the institution of the Lord's Supper, accompanied
by prayers and addresses, the deacons carried the bread to the
people, handing a slice to the first in each pew; each person in
turn broke off a portion, and handed what remained to the next:
thus they divided it among themselves.

It so happened that, in moving up to the communion seats, Miss
Forsyth and Miss Horn were the last to enter one of them, and Miss
Horn, very needlessly insisting on her custom of having her more
capable ear towards her friend, occupied the place next the passage.

The service had hardly commenced, when she caught sight of the
face of the mad laird peeping in at the door, which was in the side
of the building, near where she sat. Their eyes met. With a half
repentant, half apologetic look, he crept in, and, apparently to
get as near his protectress as he could, sat down in the entrance
of an empty pew, just opposite the one in which she was seated, on
the other side of the narrow passage. His presence attracted little
notice, for it was quite usual for individuals of the congregation
who were not members of the church to linger on the outskirts of
the company as spectators.

By the time the piece of bread reached Miss Horn from the other
end, it was but a fragment. She broke it in two, and, reserving
one part for herself in place of handing the remnant to the deacon
who stood ready to take it, stretched her arm across the passage,
and gave it to Mr Stewart, who had been watching the proceedings
intently. He received it from her hand, bent his head over it
devoutly, and ate it, unconscious of the scandalized looks of the
deacon, who knew nothing of the miserable object thus accepting
rather than claiming a share in the common hope of men.

When the cup followed, the deacon was on the alert, ready to take
it at once from the hands of Miss Horn. But as it left her lips she
rose, grasping it in both hands, and with the dignity of a messenger
of the Most High, before which the deacon drew back, bore it to the
laird, and having made him drink the little that was left, yielded
it to the conservator of holy privileges, with the words:

"Hoots, man! the puir body never had a taste o' the balm o' Gilead
in a' 's persecutit life afore!"

The liberality of Mr Bigg had not been lost upon her: freely she
had received--freely she gave. What was good must, because it
was good, be divided with her neighbour. It was a lawless act.

As soon as the benediction was spoken, the laird slipped away, but
as he left the seat, Miss Horn heard him murmur--"Eh, the bonny
man! the bonny man!" He could hardly have meant the deacon. He might
have meant Mr Bigg, who had concluded the observance with a simple
and loving exhortation.



CHAPTER LXI: MISS HORN AND THE PIPER


When Miss Horn bethought herself that night, in prospect of
returning home the next day, that she had been twice in the company
of the laird and had not even thought of asking him about Phemy,
she reproached herself not a little; and it was with shame that
she set out, immediately on her arrival, to tell Malcolm that she
had seen him. No one at the House being able to inform her where
he was at the moment, she went on to Duncan's cottage. There she
found the piper, who could not tell her where his boy was, but gave
her a hearty welcome, and offered her a cup of tea, which, as it
was now late in the afternoon, Miss Horn gladly accepted. As he
bustled about to prepare it, refusing all assistance from his guest,
he began to open his mind to her on a subject much in his thoughts
--namely, Malcolm's inexplicable aversion to Mrs Stewart.

"Ta nem of Stewart will pe a nople worrt, mem," he said.

"It's guid eneuch to ken a body by," answered Miss Horn.

"If ta poy will pe a Stewart," he went on, heedless of the
indifference of her remark, "who'll pe knowing put he'll may pe of
ta plood royal!"

"There didna leuk to be muckle royalty aboot auld John, honest man,
wha cudna rule a wife, though he had but ane!" returned Miss Horn.

"If you 'll please, mem, ton't you'll pe too sherp on ta poor man
whose wife will not pe ta coot wife. If ta wife will pe ta paad
wife, she will pe ta paad wife however, and ta poor man will pe
hafing ta paad wife and ta paad plame of it too, and tat will pe
more as 'll pe fair, mem."

"'Deed ye never said a truer word, Maister MacPhail!" assented Miss
Horn. "It's a mercy 'at a lone wuman like me, wha has a maisterfu'
temper o' her ain, an' nae feelin's, was never putten to the
temptation o' occkypeein' sic a perilous position. I doobt gien
auld John had been merried upo' me, I micht hae putten on the wrang
claes some mornin' mysel', an' may be had ill gettin' o' them aff
again."

The old man was silent, and Miss Horn resumed the main subject of
their conversation.

"But though he michtna objec' till a father 'at he wasna jist Hector
or Golia' o' Gath," she said, "ye canna wonner 'at the yoong laad
no carin' to hae sic a mither."

"And what would pe ta harm with ta mother? Will she not pe a coot
woman, and a coot letty more to ta bargain?"

"Ye ken what fowk says till her guideship o' her son?"

"Yes; put tat will pe ta lies of ta peoples. Ta peoples wass always
telling lies."

"Weel, allooin', it 's a peety ye sudna ken, supposin' him to be
hers, hoo sma' fowk hauds the chance o' his bein' a Stewart, for
a' that!"

"She 'll not pe comprestanding you," said Duncan, bewildered.

"He's a wise son 'at kens his ain faither!" remarked Miss Horn,
with more point than originality. "The leddy never bore the best
o' characters, as far 's my memory taks me,--an' that 's back
afore John an' her was merried ony gait. Na, na; John Stewart never
took a dwaum 'cause Ma'colm MacPhail was upo' the ro'd."

Miss Horn was sufficiently enigmatical; but her meaning had at
length, more through his own reflection than her exposition, dawned
upon Duncan. He leaped up with a Gaelic explosion of concentrated
force, and cried,

"Ta woman is not pe no mothers to Tuncan's poy!"

"Huly, huly, Mr MacPhail!" interposed Miss Horn, with good natured
revenge; "it may be naething but fowk's lees, ye ken."

"Ta woman tat ta peoples will pe telling lies of her, wass not pe
ta mother of her poy Malcolm. Why tidn't ta poy tell her ta why
tat he wouldn't pe hafing her?"

"Ye wadna hae him spread an ill report o' his ain mither?"

"Put she 'll not pe his mother, and you 'll not pelieve it, mem."

"Ye canna priv that--you nor him aither."

"It will pe more as would kill her poy to haf a woman like tat to
ta mother of him."

"It wad be near ban' as ill is haein' her for a wife," assented
Miss Horn; "but no freely (quite)," she added.

The old man sought the door, as if for a breath of air; but as he
went, he blundered, and felt about as if he had just been struck
blind; ordinarily he walked in his own house at least, as if he saw
every inch of the way. Presently he returned and resumed his seat.

"Was the bairn laid mither nakit intill yer han's, Maister MacPhail?"
asked Miss Horn, who had been meditating.

"Och! no; he wass his clo'es on," answered Duncan.

"Hae ye ony o' them left?" she asked again.

"Inteet not," answered Duncan. "Yes, inteet not."

"Ye lay at the Salmon, didna ye?"

"Yes, mem, and they wass coot to her."

"Wha drest the bairn till ye?"

"Och! she 'll trest him herself." said Duncan, still jealous of
the women who had nursed the child.

"But no aye?" suggested Miss Horn.

"Mistress Partan will pe toing a coot teal of tressing him, sometimes.
Mistress Partan is a coot 'oman when she 'll pe coot--fery coot
when she 'll be coot."

Here Malcolm entered, and Miss Horn told him what she had seen of
the laird, and gathered concerning him.

"That luiks ill for Phemy," remarked Malcolm, when she had described
his forlorn condition. "She canna be wi' 'im, or he wadna be like
that. Hae ye onything by w'y o' coonsel, mem?"

"I wad coonsel a word wi' the laird himsel'--gien 't be to be
gotten. He mayna ken what 's happent her, but he may tell ye the
last he saw o' her, an' that maun be mair nor ye ken."

"He 's taen sic a doobt o' me 'at I 'm feart it 'll be hard to come
at him, an' still harder to come at speech o' 'im, for whan he 's
frichtit he can hardly muv is jawbane--no to say speyk. I maun
try though and du my best. Ye think he's lurkin' aboot Fife Hoose,
div ye, mem?"

"He's been seen there awa' this while--aff an' on."

"Weel, I s' jist gang an' put on my fisher claes, an set oot
at ance. I maun haud ower to Scaurnose first, though, to lat them
ken 'at he 's been gotten sicht o'. It 'll be but sma' comfort, I
doobt."

"Malcolm, my son," interjected Duncan, who had been watching for
the conversation to afford him an opening, "if you'll pe meeting
any one will caal you ta son of tat woman, gif him a coot plow in
ta face, for you 'll pe no son of hers, efen if she'll proof it--
no more as hersel. If you 'll pe her son, old Tuncan will pe tisown
you for efer, and efermore, amen."

"What's broucht you to this, daddie?" asked Malcolm, who, ill as
he liked the least allusion to the matter, could not help feeling
curious, and indeed almost amused.

"Nefer you mind. Miss Horn will pe hafing coot reasons tat Mistress
Stewart 'll not can pe your mother."

Malcolm turned to Miss Horn.

"I 've said naething to Maister MacPhail but what I 've said mair
nor ance to yersel', laddie," she replied to the eager questioning
of his eyes. "Gang yer wa's. The trowth maun cow the lee i' the
lang rin. Aff wi' ye to Blue Peter!"

When Malcolm reached Scaurnose he found Phemy's parents in a sad
state. Joseph had returned that morning from a fruitless search in
a fresh direction, and reiterated disappointment seemed to have at
length overcome Annie's endurance, for she had taken to her bed.
Joseph was sitting before the fire on a three legged stool rocking
himself to and fro in a dull agony. When he heard Malcolm's voice,
he jumped to his feet, and a flash of hope shot from his eyes: but
when he had heard all, he sat down again without a word, and began
rocking himself as before. Mrs Mair was lying in the darkened
closet, where, the door being partly open, she had been listening
with all her might, and was now weeping afresh. Joseph was the
first to speak: still rocking himself with hopeless oscillation, he
said, in a strange muffled tone which seemed to come from somewhere
else--"Gien I kent she was weel deid I wadna care. It 's no like
a father to be sittin' here, but whaur 'll I gang neist? The wife
thinks I micht be duin' something: I kenna what to du. This last
news is waur nor mane. I hae maist nae faith left. Ma'colm, man!"
and with a bitter cry he started to his feet--"I maist dinna
believe there's a God ava'. It disna luik like it--dis 't noo?"

There came an answering cry from the closet; Annie rushed out, half
undressed, and threw her arms about her husband.

"Joseph! Joseph!" she said, in a voice hard with agony--almost
more dreadful than a scream--"gien ye speyk like that, ye 'll
drive me mad. Lat the lassie gang, but lea' me my God!" Joseph
pushed her gently away; turned from her, fell on his knees, and
moaned out--"O God, gien thoo has her, we s' neither greit nor
grum'le: but dinna tak the faith frae 's."

He remained on his knees silent, with his head against the chimney
jamb. His wife crept away to her closet.

"Peter," said Malcolm, "I'm gaein' aff the nicht to luik for the
laird, and see gien he can tell 's onything aboot her: wadna ye
better come wi' me?"

To the heart of the father it was as the hope of the resurrection
of the world. The same moment he was on his feet and taking down
his bonnet; the next he disappeared in the closet, and Malcolm heard
the tinkling of the money in the lidless teapot; then out he came
with a tear on his face and a glimmer in his eyes.

The sun was down, and a bone piercing chill, incarnate in the
vague mist that haunted the ground, assailed them as they left the
cottage. The sea moaned drearily. A smoke seemed to ascend from
the horizon halfway to the zenith, something too thin for cloud,
too black for vapour; above that the stars were beginning to shine.
Joseph shivered and struck his hands against his shoulders.

"Care 's cauldrife," he said, and strode on.

Almost in silence they walked together to the county town, put up
at a little inn near the river, and at once began to make inquiries.
Not a few persons had seen the laird at different times, but none
knew where he slept or chiefly haunted. There was nothing for it
but to set out in the morning, and stray hither and thither, on
the chance of somewhere finding him.



CHAPTER LXII: THE CUTTLE FISH AND THE CRAB


Although the better portion of the original assembly had forsaken
the Baillies' Barn, there was still a regular gathering in it as
before, and if possible even a greater manifestation of zeal for the
conversion of sinners. True, it might not be clear to an outsider
that they always made a difference between being converted and
joining their company, so ready were they to mix up the two in their
utterances; and the result's of what they counted conversion were
sometimes such as the opponents of their proceedings would have had
them: the arrogant became yet more arrogant, and the greedy more
greedy; the tongues of the talkative went yet faster, and the gad
abouts were yet seldomer at home, while there was such a superabundance
of private judgment that it overflowed the cisterns of their own
concerns, and invaded the walled gardens of other people's motives:
yet, notwithstanding, the good people got good, if the other sort
got evil; for the meek shall inherit the earth, even when the
priest ascends the throne of Augustus. No worst thing ever done in
the name of Christianity, no vilest corruption of the Church, can
destroy the eternal fact that the core of it is in the heart of
Jesus. Branches innumerable may have to be lopped off and cast into
the fire, yet the word I am the vine remaineth.

The demagogues had gloried in the expulsion of such men as Jeames
Gentle and Blue Peter, and were soon rejoiced by the return of Bow
o' meal--after a season of backsliding to the fleshpots of Egypt,
as they called the services of the parish church--to the bosom of
the Barn, where he soon was again one of the chief amongst them.
Meantime the circles of their emanating influence continued to
spread, until at length they reached the lower classes of the upper
town, of whom a few began to go to Barn. Amongst them, for reasons
best known to herself, though they might be surmised by such
as really knew her, was Mrs Catanach. I do not know that she ever
professed repentance and conversion, but for a while she attended
pretty often. Possibly business considerations had something to do
with it. Assuredly the young preacher, though he still continued
to exhort, did so with failing strength, and it was plain to see
that he was going rapidly: the exercise of the second of her twin
callings might be required. She could not, however, have been drawn
by any large expectations as to the honorarium. Still, she would
gain what she prized even more--a position for the moment at the
heart of affairs, with its excelling chances of hearing and overhearing.
Never had lover of old books half the delight in fitting together
a rare volume from scattered portions picked up in his travels,
than Mrs Catanach found in vitalizing stray remarks, arranging odds
and ends of news, and cementing the many fragments, with the help
of the babblings of gossip, into a plausible whole; intellectually
considered, her special pursuit was inasmuch the nobler as the
faculties it brought into exercise were more delicate and various;
and if her devotion to the minutia of biography had no high end
in view, it never caused her to lose sight of what ends she had,
by involving her in opinions, prejudices, or disputes: however she
might break out at times, her general policy was to avoid quarrelling.
There was a strong natural antagonism between her and the Partaness,
but she had never shown the least dislike to her, and that although
Mrs Findlay had never lost an opportunity of manifesting hers to
the midwife. Indeed, having gained a pretext by her ministrations
to Lizzy when overcome by the suggestions of the dog sermon, Mrs
Catanach had assayed an approach to her mother, and not without
success. After the discovery of the physical cause of Lizzy's
ailment, however, Mrs Findlay had sought, by might of rude resolve, to
break loose from the encroaching acquaintanceship, but had found,
as yet, that the hard shelled crab was not a match for the glutinous
cuttlefish.

On the evening of the Sunday following the events related in the
last chapter, Mrs Catanach had, not without difficulty, persuaded
Mrs Findlay to accompany her to the Baillies' Barn, with the
promise of a wonderful sermon from a new preacher--a ploughman
on an inland farm. That she had an object in desiring her company
that night, may seem probable from the conversation which arose as
they plodded their way thither along the sands.

"I h'ard a queer tale aboot Meg Horn at Duff Harbour the ither
day," said the midwife, speaking thus disrespectfully both to ease
her own heart and to call forth the feelings of her companion, who
also, she knew, disliked Miss Horn.

"Ay! an' what micht that be?"

"But she's maybe a freen' o' yours, Mrs Findlay? Some fowk likes
her, though I canna say I'm ane o' them."

"Freen' o' mine!" exclaimed the Partaness. "We gree like twa bills
(bulls) i' the same park!"

"I wadna wonner!--for they tellt me 'at saw her fechtin' i' the
High Street wi' a muckle loon, near han' as big 's hersel'! an'
haith, but Meg had the best o' 't, an' flang him intil the gutter,
an' maist fellt him! An' that's Meg Horn!"

"She had been at the drink! But I never h'ard it laid till her
afore."

"Didna ye than? Weel, I'm no sayin' onything--that's what I
h'ard."

"Ow, it's like eneuch! She was bulliraggin' at me nae langer ago
nor thestreen; but I doobt I sent her awa' wi' a flech (flea) in
her lug!"

"Whaten a craw had she to pluck wi' you, no?"

"Ow fegs! ye wad hae ta'en her for a thief catcher, and me for the
thief! She wad threpe (insist) 'at I bude to hae keepit some o'
the duds 'at happit Ma'colm MacPhail the reprobat, whan first he
cam to the Seaton--a puir scraichin' brat, as reid 's a bilet
lobster. Wae 's me 'at ever he was creatit! It jist drives me horn
daft to think 'at ever he got the breast o' me. 'At he sud sair
(serve) me sae! But I s' hae a grip o' 'im yet, or my name 's no
--what they ca' me."

"It 's the w'y o' the warl', Mistress Findlay. What cud ye expec'
o' ane born in sin an' broucht furth in ineequity?"--a stock
phrase of Mrs Catanach's, glancing at her profession, and embracing
nearly the whole of her belief.

"It 's a true word. The mair 's the peety he sud hae hed the milk
o' an honest wuman upo' the tap o' that!"

"But what cud the auld runt be efter? What was her business wi'
't? She never did onything for the bairn."

"Na, no she! She never had the chance, guid or ill--Ow! doobtless
it wad be anent what they ca' the eedentryfeein' o' im to the
leddy o' Gersefell. She had sent her. She micht hae waled (chosen)
a mair welcome messenger, an' sent her a better eeran! But she made
little o' me."

"Ye had naething o' the kin', I s' wad."

"Never a threid. There was a twal hunner shift upo' the bairn,
rowt roon 'im like deid claes:--gien 't had been but the Lord's
wull! It gart me wonner at the time, for that wasna hoo a bairn
'at had been caret for sud be cled."

"Was there name or mark upo' 't?" asked cuttlefish.

"Nane; there was but the place whaur the reid ingrain had been
pykit oot," answered crab.

"An what cam o' the shift?"

"Ow, I jist made it doon for a bit sark to the bairn whan he grew
to be rinnin' aboot. 'At ever I sud hae ta'en steik in claith for
sic a deil's buckie! To ane 'at was a mither till 'im! The Lord
haud me ohn gane mad whan I think o' 't!"

"An' syne for Lizzy!--" began Mrs Catanach, prefacing fresh remark.

But at her name the mother flew into such a rage that, fearful of
scandal, seeing it was the Sabbath and they were on their way to
public worship, her companion would have exerted all her powers of
oiliest persuasion to appease her. But if there was one thing Mrs
Catanach did not understand it was the heart of a mother.

"Hoots, Mistress Findlay! Fowk 'll hear ye. Haud yer tongue, I beg.
She may dee i' the strae for me. I s' never put han' to the savin'
o' her, or her bairn aither," said the midwife, thinking thus to
pacify her.

Then, like the eruption following mere volcanic unrest, out brake
the sore hearted woman's wrath. And now at length the crustacean
was too much for the mollusk. She raved and scolded and abused Mrs
Catanach, till at last she was driven to that final resource--the
airs of an injured woman. She turned and walked back to the upper
town, while Mrs Findlay went on to take what share she might in
the worship of the congregation.

Mrs Mair had that evening gone once more to the Baillies' Barn in
her husband's absence; for the words of unbelief he had uttered
in the Job-like agony of his soul, had haunted the heart of his
spouse, until she too felt as if she could hardly believe in a God.
Few know what a poor thing their faith is till the trial comes.
And in the weakness consequent on protracted suffering, she had
begun to fancy that the loss of Phemy was a punishment upon them
for deserting the conventicle. Also the schoolmaster was under an
interdict, and that looked like a judgment too! She must find some
prop for the faith that was now shaking like a reed in the wind.
So to the Baillies' Barn she had gone.

The tempest which had convulsed Mrs Findlay's atmosphere, had
swept its vapours with it as it passed away; and when she entered
the cavern, it was with an unwonted inclination to be friendly all
round. As fate would have it, she unwittingly took her place by
Mrs Mair, whom she had not seen since she gave Lizzy shelter. When
she discovered who her neighbour was, she started away, and stared;
but she had had enough of quarrelling for the evening, and besides
had not had time to bar her door against the angel Pity, who suddenly
stepped across the threshhold of her heart with the sight of Mrs
Mair's pale thin cheeks and tear reddened eyes. As suddenly, however,
an indwelling demon of her own house, whose name was Envy, arose
from the ashes of her hearth to meet the white robed visitant:
Phemy, poor little harmless thing, was safe enough! who would harm
a hair of her? but Lizzy! And this woman had taken in the fugitive
from honest chastisement! She would yet have sought another seat
but the congregation rose to sing; and her neighbour's offer of
the use in common of her psalm book, was enough to quiet for the
moment the gaseous brain of the turbulent woman. She accepted the
kindness, and, the singing over, did not refuse to look on the same
holy page with her daughter's friend, while the ploughman read,
with fitting simplicity, the parable of the Prodigal Son. It touched
something in both, but a different something in each. Strange to
say, neither applied it to her own case, but each to her neighbour's.
As the reader uttered the words "was lost and is found" and ceased,
each turned to the other with a whisper. Mrs Mair persisted in
hers; and the other, which was odd enough, yielded and listened.

"Wad the tale haud wi' lassies as weel 's laddies, Mistress Findlay,
div ye think?" said Mrs Mair.

"Ow, surely!" was the response; "it maun du that. There no respec'
o' persons wi' him. There 's no a doobt but yer Phemy 'ill come
hame to ye safe an' soon'."

"I was thinkin' aboot Lizzy," said the other, a little astonished;
and then the prayer began, and they had to be silent.

The sermon of the ploughman was both dull and sensible,--an
excellent variety where few of the sermons were either; but it made
little impression on Mrs Findlay or Mrs Mair.

As they left the cave together in the crowd of issuing worshippers,
Mrs Mair whispered again:

"I wad invete ye ower, but ye wad be wantin' Lizzy hame, an' I can
ill spare the comfort o' her the noo," she said, with the cunning
of a dove.

"An' what comes o' me?" rejoined Mrs Findlay, her claws out in a
moment where her personal consequence was touched. "Ye wadna surely
tak her frae me a' at ance!" pleaded Mrs Mair. "Ye micht lat her
bide--jist till Phemy comes hame; an' syne--" But there she
broke down; and the tempest of sobs that followed quite overcame
the heart of Mrs Findlay. She was, in truth, a woman like another;
only being of the crustacean order, she had not yet swallowed her
skeleton, as all of us have to do more or less, sooner or later,
the idea of that scaffolding being that it should be out of sight.
With the best commonplaces at her command she sought to comfort
her companion; walked with her to the foot of the red path; found
her much more to her mind than Mrs Catanach: seemed inclined to
go with her all the way, but suddenly stopped, bade her goodnight,
and left her.



CHAPTER LXIII: MISS HORN AND LORD LOSSIE


Notwithstanding the quarrel, Mrs Catanach did not return without
having gained something; she had learned that Miss Horn had been
foiled in what she had no doubt was an attempt to obtain proof
that Malcolm was not the son of Mrs Stewart. The discovery was a
grateful one; for who could have told but there might be something
in existence to connect him with another origin than she and Mrs
Stewart would assign him?

The next day the marquis returned. Almost his first word was the
desire that Malcolm should be sent to him. But nobody knew more
than that he was missing; whereupon he sent for Duncan. The old
man explained his boy's absence, and as soon as he was dismissed,
took his way to the town, and called upon Miss Horn. In half an
hour, the good lady started on foot for Duff Harbour. It was already
growing dark; but there was one feeling Miss Horn had certainly
been created without, and that was fear.

As she approached her destination, tramping eagerly along, in
a half cloudy, half starlit night, with a damp east wind blowing
cold from the German Ocean, she was startled by the swift rush of
something dark across the road before her. It came out of a small
wood on the left towards the sea, and bolted through a hedge on
the right.

"Is that you, laird?" she cried; but there came no answer.

She walked straight to the house of her lawyer friend, and, after
an hour's rest, the same night set out again for Portlossie, which
she reached in safety by her bedtime.

Lord Lossie was very accessible. Like Shakspere's Prince Hal, he
was so much interested in the varieties of the outcome of human
character, that he would not willingly lose a chance of seeing
"more man." If the individual proved a bore, he would get rid of
him without remorse; if amusing, he would contrive to prolong the
interview. There was a great deal of undeveloped humanity somewhere
in his lordship, one of whose indications was this spectacular
interest in his kind. As to their bygone history, how they fared
out of his sight, or what might become of them, he never gave
a thought to anything of the kind--never felt the pull of one
of the bonds of brotherhood, laughed at them the moment they were
gone, or, if a woman's story had touched him, wiped his eyes with
an oath, and thought himself too good a fellow for this world.

Since his retirement from the more indolent life of the metropolis
to the quieter and more active pursuits of the country, his character
had bettered a little--inasmuch as it was a shade more accessible
to spiritual influences; the hard soil had in a few places cracked
a hair's breadth, and lay thus far open to the search of those sun
rays which, when they find the human germ, that is, the conscience,
straightway begin to sting it into life. To this betterment the
company of his daughter had chiefly contributed; for if she was
little more developed in the right direction than himself she was
far less developed in the wrong, and the play of affection between
them was the divinest influence that could as yet be brought to
bear upon either; but certain circumstances of late occurrence had
had a share in it, occasioning a revival of old memories which had
a considerably sobering effect upon him.

As he sat at breakfast, about eleven o'clock on the morning after
his return, one of his English servants entered with the message
that a person, calling herself Miss Horn, and refusing to explain
her business desired to see his lordship for a few minutes "Who is
she?" asked the marquis. The man did not know.

"What is she like?"

"An odd looking old lady, my lord, and very oddly dressed."

"Show her into the next room. I shall be with her directly."

Finishing his cup of coffee and peafowl's egg with deliberation,
while he tried his best to recall in what connection he could have
heard the name before, the marquis at length sauntered into the
morning room in his dressing gown, with the Times of the day before
yesterday, just arrived, in his hand. There stood his visitor
waiting for him, such as my reader knows her, black and gaunt and
grim, in a bay window, whose light almost surrounded her, so that
there was scarcely a shadow about her, and yet to the eyes of the
marquis she seemed wrapped in shadows. Mysterious as some sybil,
whose being held secrets the first whisper of which had turned her
old, but made her immortal, she towered before him, with her eyes
fixed upon him, and neither spoke nor moved.

"To what am I indebted--?" began his lordship; but Miss Horn
speedily interrupted his courtesy.

"Own to nae debt, my lord, till ye ken what it 's for," she said,
without a tone or inflection to indicate a pleasantry.

"Good!" returned his lordship, and waited with a smile. She promised
amusement, and he was ready for it--but it hardly came.

"Ken ye that han' o' wreet, my lord?" she inquired, sternly advancing
a step, and holding out a scrap of paper at arm's length, as if
presenting a pistol.

The marquis took it. In his countenance curiosity had mingled with
the expectation. He glanced at it. A shadow swept over his face but
vanished instantly: the mask of impervious non expression which a
man of his breeding always knows how to assume, was already on his
visage.

"Where did you get this?" he said quietly, with just the slightest
catch in his voice.

"I got it, my lord, whaur there's mair like it."

"Show me them."

"I hae shawn ye plenty for a swatch (pattern), my lord."

"You refuse?" said the marquis; and the tone of the question was
like the first cold puff that indicates a change of weather.

"I div, my lord," she answered imperturbably.

"If they are not my property, why do you bring me this?"

"Are they your property, my lord?"

"This is my handwriting."

"Ye alloo that?"

"Certainly, my good woman. You did not expect me to deny it?"

"God forbid, my lord! But will ye uphaud yersel' the lawfu' heir
to the deceased? It lies 'atween yer lordship an' mysel'--i' the
meantime."

He sat down, holding the scrap of paper between his finger and
thumb.

"I will buy them of you," he said coolly, after a moment's thought,
and as he spoke he looked keenly at her.

The form of reply which first arose in Miss Horn's indignant soul
never reached her lips.

"It's no my trade," she answered, with the coldness of suppressed
wrath. "I dinna deal in sic waurs."

"What do you deal in then?" asked the marquis.

"In trouth an' fair play, my lord," she answered, and was again
silent.

So was the marquis for some moments, but was the first to resume.

"If you think the papers to which you refer of the least value,
allow me to tell you it is an entire mistake."

"There was ane thoucht them o' vailue," replied Miss Horn--and
her voice trembled a little, but she hemmed away her emotion--
"for a time at least, my lord; an' for her sake they're o' vailue
to me, be they what they may to yer lordship. But wha can tell?
Scots law may put life intill them yet, an' gie them a vailue to
somebody forbye me."

"What I mean, my good woman, is, that if you think the possession
of those papers gives you any hold over me which you can turn to
your advantage, you are mistaken."

"Guid forgie ye, my lord! My advantage! I thoucht yer lordship had
been mair o' a gentleman by this time, or I wad hae sent a lawyer
till ye, in place o' comin' mysel'."

"What do you mean by that?"

"It's plain ye cudna hae been muckle o' a gentleman ance, my lord;
an' it seems ye're no muckle mair o' ane yet, for a' ye maun hae
come throu' i' the meantime."

"I trust you have discovered nothing in those letters to afford
ground for such a harsh judgment," said the marquis seriously.

"Na, no a word i' them, but the mair oot o' them. Ye winna threep
upo' me 'at a man wha lea's a wuman, lat alane his wife--or
ane 'at he ca's his wife--to a' the pains o' a mither, an' a'
the penalties o' an oonmerried ane, ohn ever speirt hoo she wan
throu' them, preserves the richt he was born till o' bein' coontit
a gentleman? Ony gait, a maiden, wuman like mysel' wha has nae
feelin's will not alloo him the teetle--Guid forbid it!"

"You are plain spoken."

"I 'm plain made, my lord. I ken guid frae ill, an' little forbye,
but aye fand that eneuch to sare my turn. Aither thae letters o'
yer lordship's are ilk ane o' them a lee, or ye desertit yer wife
an' bairn."

"Alas!" interrupted the marquis with some emotion--"she deserted
me--and took the child with her!"

"Wha ever daurt sic a lee upo' my Grizel?" shouted Miss Horn,
clenching and shaking her bony fist at the world in general. "It
was but a fortnicht or three weeks, as near as I can judge, efter
the birth o' your bairn, that Grizel Cam'ell--"

"Were you with her then?" again interrupted the marquis, in a tone
of sorrowful interest.

"No, my lord, I was not. Gien I had been, I wadna be upo' sic an
eeran' this day. For nigh twenty lang years 'at her 'an me keepit
hoose thegither, till she dee'd i' my airms, never a day was she
oot o' my sicht, or ance--"

The marquis leaped rather than started to his feet, exclaiming,
"What in the name of God do you mean, woman?"

"I kenna what ye mean, my lord. I ken 'at I 'm but tellin' ye the
trouth whan I tell ye 'at Grizel Cam'ell, up to that day,
an' that 's little ower sax month sin' syne."

"Good God!" cried the marquis; "and here have I--Woman! are you
speaking the truth? If--," he added threateningly, and paused.

"Leein' 's what I never cud bide, my lord, an' I 'm no likly to
tak till 't at my age, wi' the lang to come afore me."

The marquis strode several times up and down the floor. "I 'll
give you a thousand pounds for those letters," he said, suddenly
stopping in front of Miss Horn.

"They 're o' nae sic worth, my lord--I hae yer ain word for 't.
But I carena the leg o' a spin maggie (daddy longlegs)! Pairt wi'
them I will not, 'cep' to him 'at pruves himsel' the richtfu' heir
to them."

"A husband inherits from his wife."

"Or maybe her son micht claim first--I dinna ken. But there 's
lawyers, my lord, to redd the doot."

"Her son! You don't mean--"

"I div mean Ma'colm MacPhail, my lord."

"God in heaven!"

"His name 's mair i' yer mou' nor i' yer hert, I 'm doobtin', my
lord! Ye a' cry oot upo' him--the men o' ye--whan ye' 're in
ony tribble, or want to gar women believe ye! But I 'm thinkin' he
peys but little heed to sic prayers."

Thus Miss Horn; but Lord Lossie was striding up and down the room,
heedless of her remarks, his eyes on the ground, his arms straight
by his sides, and his hands clenched.

"Can you prove what you say?" he asked at length, half stopping,
and casting an almost wild look at Miss Horn, then resuming his
hurried walk. His voice sounded hollow, as if sent from the heart
of a gulf of pain.

"No, my lord," answered Miss Horn.

"Then what the devil," roared the marquis, "do you mean by coming
to me with such a cock and bull story."

"There 's naither cock craw nor bill rair intill 't my lord. I cum
to you wi' 't i' the houp ye 'll help to redd (clear) it up, for
I dinna weel ken what we can du wantin' ye. There 's but ane kens
a' the truth o' 't, an' she 's the awfu'es leear oot o' purgatory
--no 'at I believe in purgatory, but it 's the langer an' lichter
word to mak' use o'."

"Who is she?"

"By name she's Bauby Cat'nach, an' by natur' she's what I tell ye
--an' gien I had her 'atween my twa een, it 's what I wad say to
the face o' her."

"It can't be MacPhail! Mrs Stewart says he is her son, and the
woman Catanach is her chief witness in support of the claim."

"The deevil has a better to the twa o' them, my lord, as they 'll
ken some day. His claim 'll want nae supportin'. Dinna ye believe
a word Mistress Stewart or Bauby Catanach aither wad say to ye.--
Gien he be Mistress Stewart's, wha was his father?"

"You think he resembles my late brother: he has a look of him, I
confess."

"He has, my lord. But onybody 'at kent the mither o' 'im, as you
an' me did, my lord, wad see anither lik'ness as weel."

"I grant nothing."

"Ye grant Grizel Cam'ell yer wife, my lord, whan ye own to that
wreet. Gien 't war naething but a written promise an' a bairn to
follow, it wad be merriage eneuch i' this cuintry, though it mayna
be in cuintries no sae ceevileest."

"But all that is nothing as to the child. Why do you fix on this
young fellow? You say you can't prove it."

"But ye cud, my lord, gien ye war as set upo' justice as I am. Gien
ye winna muv i' the maitter, we s' manage to hirple (go halting)
throu' wantin ye, though, wi' the Lord's help."

The marquis, who had all this time continued his walk up and down
the floor, stood still, raised his head as if about to speak, dropped
it again on his chest, strode to the other window, turned, strode
back, and said,

"This is a very serious matter."

"It's a' that, my lord," replied Miss Horn.

"You must give me a little time to turn it over," said the marquis.

"Isna twenty year time eneuch, my lord?" rejoined Miss Horn.

"I swear to you that till this moment I believed her twenty years
in her grave. My brother sent me word that she died in childbed,
and the child with her. I was then in Brussels with the Duke."

Miss Horn made three great strides, caught the marquis's hand in
both hers, and said, "I praise God ye 're an honest man, my lord."

"I hope so," said the marquis, and seized the advantage "You'll hold
your tongue about this ?" he added, half inquiring, half requesting.

"As lang as I see rizzon, my lord, nae langer," answered Miss Horn,
dropping his hand. "Richt maun be dune."

"Yes--if you can tell what right is, and avoid wrong to others."

"Richt 's richt, my lord," persisted Miss Horn. "I 'll hae nae
modifi-qualifications!"

His lordship once more began to walk up and down the room every now
and then taking a stolen glance at Miss Horn, a glance of uneasy
anxious questioning. She stood rigid--a very Lot's wife of
immobility, her eyes on the ground, waiting what he would say next.

"I wish I knew whether I could trust her," he said at length, as
if talking aloud to himself.

Miss Horn took no notice.

"Why don't you speak, woman?" cried the marquis with irritation.
How he hated perplexity!

"Ye speired nae queston, my lord; an' gien ye had, my word has ower
little weicht to answer wi'."

"Can I trust you, woman--I want to know," said his lordship
angrily.

"No far'er, my lord, nor to du what I think 's richt."

"I want to be certain that you will do nothing with those letters
until you hear from me?" said the marquis, heedless of her reply.

"I 'll du naething afore the morn. Far'er nor that I winna pledge
mysel'," answered Miss Horn, and with the words moved towards the
door.

"Hadn't you better take this with you?" said the marquis, offering
the little note, which he had carried all the time between his
finger and thumb.

"There 's nae occasion. I hae plenty wantin' that. Only dinna lea'
't lyin' aboot."

"There 's small danger of that," said the marquis, and rang the
bell.

The moment she was out of the way, he went up to his own room, and,
flinging the door to, sat down at the table, and laid his arms and
head upon it. The acrid vapour of tears that should have been wept
long since, rose to his eyes: he dashed his hand across them, as
if ashamed that he was not even yet out of sight of the kingdom of
heaven. His own handwriting, of a period when all former sins and
defilements seemed about to be burned clean from his soul by the
fire of an honest and virtuous love, had moved him; for genuine
had been his affection for the girl who had risked and lost so much
for him. It was with no evil intent, for her influence had rendered
him for the time incapable of playing her false, but in part from
reasons of prudence, as he persuaded himself, for both their sakes,
and in part led astray by the zest which minds of a certain cast
derive from the secrecy of pleasure, that he had persuaded her to
the unequal yoking of honesty and secrecy. But, suddenly called
away and sent by the Prince on a private mission, soon after their
marriage, and before there was any special reason to apprehend
consequences that must lead to discovery, he had, in the difficulties
of the case and the hope of a speedy return, left her without any
arrangement for correspondence and all he had ever heard of her
more was from his brother, then the marquis--a cynical account
of the discovery of her condition, followed almost immediately by
a circumstantial one of her death and that of her infant. He was
deeply stung and the thought of her sufferings in the false position
where his selfishness had placed her, haunted him for a time beyond
his endurance--for of all things he hated suffering, and of all
sufferings remorse is the worst. Hence, where a wiser man might
have repented, he rushed into dissipation, whose scorching wind
swept away not only the healing dews of his sorrow, but the tender
buds of new life that had begun to mottle the withering tree of his
nature. The desire after better things which had, under his wife's
genial influence, begun to pass into effort, not only vanished
utterly in the shameless round of evil distraction, but its memory
became a mockery to the cynical spirit that arose behind the vanishing
angel of repentance; and he was soon in the condition of the man
from whom the exorcised demon had gone but to find his seven worse
companions.

Reduced at length to straits--almost to want, he had married the
mother of Florimel, to whom for a time he endeavoured to conduct
himself in some measure like a gentleman. For this he had been
rewarded by a decrease in the rate of his spiritual submergence,
but his bedraggled nature could no longer walk without treading
on its own plumes; and the poor lady who had bartered herself for
a lofty alliance, speedily found her mistake a sad one and her life
uninteresting, took to repining and tears, alienated her husband
utterly, and died of a sorrow almost too selfish to afford even a
suggestion of purifying efficacy. But Florimel had not inherited
immediately from her mother, so far as disposition was concerned; in
these latter days she had grown very dear to him, and his love had
once more turned his face a little towards the path of righteousness.
Ah! when would he move one step to set his feet in it?

And now, after his whirlwind harvest of evil knowledge, bitter
disappointment, and fading passion, in the gathering mists of gray
hopelessness, and the far worse mephitic air of indifference, he
had come all of a sudden upon the ghastly discovery that, while
overwhelmed with remorse for the vanished past, the present and
the future had been calling him, but had now also--that present
and that future--glided from him, and folded their wings of gloom
in the land of shadows. All the fierce time he might have been
blessedly growing better, instead of heaping sin upon sin until
the weight was too heavy for repentance; for, while he had been
bemoaning a dead wife, that wife had been loving a renegade husband!
And the blame of it all he did not fail to cast upon that Providence
in which until now he had professed not to believe: such faith as
he was yet capable of, awoke in the form of resentment! He judged
himself hardly done by; and the few admonitory sermons he had
happened to hear, especially that in the cave about the dogs going
round the walls of the New Jerusalem, returned upon him, not as
warnings, but as old threats now rapidly approaching fulfilment.

Lovely still peered the dim face of his girl wife upon him, through
the dusty lattice of his memory; and a mighty corroboration of
Malcolm's asserted birth lay in the look upon his face as he hurried
aghast from the hermit's cell; for not on his first had the marquis
seen that look and in those very circumstances! And the youth was
one to be proud of--one among a million! But there were other
and terrible considerations.

Incapable as he naturally was of doing justice to a woman of Miss
Horn's inflexibility in right, he could yet more than surmise the
absoluteness of that inflexibility--partly because it was hostile
to himself, and he was in the mood to believe in opposition and
harshness, and deny--not providence, but goodness. Convenient half
measures would, he more than feared, find no favour with her. But
she had declared her inability to prove Malcolm his son without the
testimony of Mrs Catanach, and the latter was even now representing
him as the son of Mrs Stewart! That Mrs Catanach at the same time
could not be ignorant of what had become of the child born to him,
he was all but certain; for, on that night when Malcolm and he
found her in the wizard's chamber, had she not proved her strange
story--of having been carried to that very room blindfolded,
and, after sole attendance on the birth of a child, whose mother's
features, even in her worst pains, she had not once seen, in like
manner carried away again,--had she not proved the story true
by handing him the ring she had drawn from the lady's finger, and
sewn, for the sake of future identification, into the lower edge of
one of the bed curtains--which ring was a diamond he had given
his wife from his own finger when they parted? She probably believed
the lady to have been Mrs Stewart, and the late marquis the father
of the child. Should he see Mrs Catanach? And what then?

He found no difficulty in divining the reasons which must have
induced his brother to provide for the secret accouchement of his
wife in the wizard's chamber, and for the abduction of the child
--if indeed his existence was not owing to Mrs Catanach's love
of intrigue. The elder had judged the younger brother unlikely to
live long, and had expected his own daughter to succeed himself.
But now the younger might any day marry the governess, and legalize
the child; and the elder had therefore secured the disappearance
of the latter, and the belief of his brother in the death of both.

Lord Lossie was roused from his reverie by a tap at the door, which
he knew for Malcolm's, and answered with admission.

When he entered, his master saw that a change had passed upon him,
and for a moment believed Miss Horn had already broken faith with
him and found communication with Malcolm. He was soon satisfied
of the contrary, however, but would have found it hard indeed to
understand, had it been represented to him, that the contentment,
almost elation, of the youth's countenance had its source in the
conviction that he was not the son of Mrs Stewart.

"So here you are at last!" said the marquis.

"Ay, my lord."

"Did you find Stewart?"

"Ay did we at last, my lord; but we made naething by 't, for he
kent noucht aboot the lassie, an 'maist lost his wuts at the news."

"No great loss, that!" said the marquis. "Go and send Stoat here."

"Is there ony hurry aboot Sto't, my lord?" asked Malcolm, hesitating.
"I had a word to say to yer lordship mysel'."

"Make haste then."

"I 'm some fain to gang back to the fishin', my lord," said Malcolm.
"This is ower easy a life for me. The deil wins in for the liftin'
o' the sneck. Forbye, my lord, a life wi'oot aither danger or wark
's some wersh-like (insipid); it wants saut, my lord. But a' that
's naither here nor there, I ken, sae lang's ye want me oot o' the
hoose, my lord."

"Who told you I wanted you out of the house? By Jove! I should have
made shorter work of it. What put that in your head? Why should
I?"

"Gien yer lordship kens nane, sma' occasion hae I to baud a rizzon
to yer han'. I thoucht--but the thoucht itsel's impidence."

"You young fool! You thought, because I came upon you as I did in
the garret the other night--Bah!--You damned ape! As if I could
not trust--! Pshaw!"

For the moment Malcolm forgot how angry his master had certainly
been, although, for Florimel's sake doubtless, he had restrained
himself; and fancied that, in the faint light of the one candle,
he had seen little to annoy him, and had taken the storm and its
results, which were indeed the sole reason, as a sufficient one for
their being alone together. Everything seemed about to come right
again. But his master remained silent.

"I houp my leddy's weel," ventured Malcolm at length.

"Quite well. She's with Lady Bellair, in Edinburgh."

Lady Bellair was the bold faced countess.

"I dinna like her," said Malcolm.

"Who the devil asked you to like her?" said the marquis. But he
laughed as he said it.

"I beg yer lordship's pardon," returned Malcolm. "I said it 'or I
kent. It was nane o' my business wha my leddy was wi'."

"Certainly not. But I don't mind confessing that Lady Bellair is
not one I should choose to give authority over Lady Florimel. You
have some regard for your young mistress, I know, Malcolm."

"I wad dee for her, my lord."

"That 's a common assertion," said the marquis.

"No wi' fisher fowk. I kenna hoo it may be wi' your fowk, my lord."

"Well, even with us it means something. It implies at least that he
who uses it would risk his life for her whom he wishes to believe
it. But perhaps it may mean more than that in the mouth of a
fisherman? Do you fancy there is such a thing as devotion--real
devotion, I mean--self sacrifice, you know?"

"I daurna doobt it, my lord."

"Without fee or hope of reward?"

"There maun be some cawpable o' 't, my lord, or what for sud the
warl' be? What ither sud haud it ohn been destroyt as Sodom was for
the want o' the ten richteous? There maun be saut whaur corruption
hasna the thing a' its ain gait."

"You certainly have pretty high notions of things, MacPhail. For
my part, I can easily enough imagine a man risking his life; but
devoting it!--that 's another thing altogether."

"There maun be 'at wad du a' 't cud be dune, my lord."

"What, for instance, would you do for Lady Florimel, now? You say
you would die for her: what does dying mean on a fisherman's tongue?"

"It means a' thing, my lord--short o' ill. I wad sterve for her,
but I wadna steal. I wad fecht for her, but I wadna lee."

"Would ye be her servant all your days? Come, now."

"Mair nor willin'ly, my lord--gien she wad only hae me, an' keep
me."

"But supposing you came to inherit the Kirkbyres property?"

"My lord," said Malcolm solemnly, "that 's a puir test to put me
till. It gangs for naething. I wad raither clean my leddie's butes
frae mornin' to nicht, nor be the son o' that wuman, gien she war
a born duchess. Try me wi' something worth yer lordship's mou'."

But the marquis seemed to think he had gone far enough for the
present. With gleaming eyes he rose, took his withered love letter
from the table, put it in his waistcoat pocket, and saying "Well,
find out for me what this is they're about with the schoolmaster,"
walked to the door.

"I ken a' aboot that, my lord," answered Malcolm, "ohn speirt at
onybody."

Lord Lossie turned from the door, ordered him to bring his riding
coat and boots, and, ringing the bell, sent a message to Stoat to
saddle the bay mare.



CHAPTER LXIV: THE LAIRD AND HIS MOTHER


When Malcolm and Joseph set out from Duff Harbour to find the laird,
they could hardly be said to have gone in search of him: all in
their power was to seek the parts where he was occasionally seen
in the hope of chancing upon him; and they wandered in vain about
the woods of Fife House all that week, returning disconsolate every
evening to the little inn on the banks of the Wan Water. Sunday came
and went without yielding a trace of him; and, almost in despair,
they resolved, if unsuccessful the next day, to get assistance and
organize a search for him. Monday passed like the days that had
preceded it, and they were returning dejectedly down the left bank
of the Wan Water, in the gloamin', and nearing a part where it
is hemmed in by precipitous rocks, and is very narrow and deep,
crawling slow and black under the lofty arch of an ancient bridge
that spans it at one leap, when suddenly they caught sight of a head
peering over the parapet. They dared not run for fear of terrifying
him, if it should be the laird, and hurried quietly to the spot.
But when they reached the end of the bridge its round back was bare
from end to end. On the other side of the river, the trees came
close up, and pursuit was hopeless in the gathering darkness.

"Laird, laird! they've taen awa' Phemy, an' we dinna ken whaur to
luik for her," cried the poor father aloud.

Almost the same instant, and as if he had issued from the ground,
the laird stood before them. The men started back with astonishment
--soon changed into pity, for there was light enough to see how
miserable the poor fellow looked. Neither exposure nor privation
had thus wrought upon him: he was simply dying of fear. Having
greeted Joseph with embarrassment, he kept glancing doubtfully at
Malcolm, as if ready to run on his least movement. In a few words
Joseph explained their quest, with trembling voice and tears that
would not be denied enforcing the tale. Ere he had done, the laird's
jaw had fallen, and further speech was impossible to him. But by
gestures sad and plain enough, he indicated that he knew nothing
of her, and had supposed her safe at home with her parents. In vain
they tried to persuade him to go back with them, promising every
protection: for sole answer he shook his head mournfully.

There came a sudden gust of wind among the branches. Joseph,
little used to trees and their ways with the wind, turned towards
the sound, and Malcolm unconsciously followed his movement. When
they turned again, the laird had vanished, and they took their way
homeward in sadness.

What passed next with the laird, can be but conjectured. It came
to be well enough known afterwards where he had been hiding; and
had it not been dusk as they came down the riverbank, the two men
might, looking up to the bridge from below, have had it suggested
to them. For in the half spandrel wall between the first arch and
the bank, they might have spied a small window, looking down on
the sullen, silent gloom, foam flecked with past commotion, that
crept languidly away from beneath. It belonged to a little vaulted
chamber in the bridge, devised by some banished lord as a kind of
summer house--long neglected, but having in it yet a mouldering
table, a broken chair or two, and a rough bench. A little path led
steep from the end of the parapet down to its hidden door. It was
now used only by the gamekeepers for traps and fishing gear, and
odds and ends of things, and was generally supposed to be locked
up. The laird had, however, found it open, and his refuge in it had
been connived at by one of the men, who, as they heard afterwards,
had given him the key, and assisted him in carrying out a plan he
had devised for barricading the door. It was from this place he
had so suddenly risen at the call of Blue Peter, and to it he had
as suddenly withdrawn again--to pass in silence and loneliness
through his last purgatorial pain.*

* [Com'io fui dentro, in un bogliente vetro
Gittato mi sarci per rinfrescarmi,
Tant' era ivi lo 'ncendio senza metro.
Del Purgatoria, xxvii. 49.]

Mrs Stewart was sitting in her drawing room alone: she seldom had
visitors at Kirkbyres--not that she liked being alone, or indeed
being there at all, for she would have lived on the Continent, but
that her son's trustees, partly to indulge their own aversion to
her, taking upon them a larger discretionary power than rightly
belonged to them, kept her too straitened, which no doubt in the
recoil had its share in poor Stephen's misery. It was only after
scraping for a whole year that she could escape to Paris or Hamburg,
where she was at home. There her sojourn was determined by her good
or ill fortune at faro.

What she meditated over her knitting by the firelight,--she had
put out her candles,--it would be hard to say, perhaps unwholesome
to think:--there are souls to look into which is, to our dim
eyes, like gazing down from the verge of one of the Swedenborgian
pits.

But much of the evil done by human beings is as the evil of evil
beasts: they know not what they do--an excuse which, except in
regard of the past, no man can make for himself, seeing the very
making of it must testify its falsehood.

She looked up, gave a cry, and started to her feet: Stephen stood
before her, halfway between her and the door. Revealed in a flicker
of flame from the fire, he vanished in the following shade, and
for a moment she stood in doubt of her seeing sense. But when the
coal flashed again, there was her son, regarding her out of great
eyes that looked as if they had seen death. A ghastly air hung
about him as if he had just come back from Hades, but in his silent
bearing there was a sanity, even dignity, which strangely impressed
her. He came forward a pace or two, stopped, and said--

"Dinna be frichtit, mem. I 'm come. Sen' the lassie hame, an' du
wi' me as ye like. I canna haud aff o' me. But I think I 'm deein',
an ye needna misguide me."

His voice, although it trembled a little, was clear and unimpeded,
and though weak, in its modulation manly.

Something in the woman's heart responded. Was it motherhood--
or the deeper godhead? Was it pity for the dignity housed in the
crumbling clay, or repentance for the son of her womb? Or was it
that sickness gave hope, and she could afford to be kind?

"I don't know what you mean, Stephen," she said, more gently than
he had ever heard her speak.

Was it an agony of mind or of body, or was it but a flickering
of the shadows upon his face? A moment, and he gave a half choked
shriek, and fell on the floor. His mother turned from him with
disgust, and rang the bell.

"Send Tom here," she said.

An elderly, hard featured man came.

"Stephen is in one of his fits," she said.

The man looked about him: he could see no one in the room but his
mistress.

"There he is," she continued, pointing to the floor. "Take him
away. Get him up to the loft and lay him in the hay."

The man lifted his master like an unwieldy log, and carried him
convulsed from the room.

Stephen's mother sat down again by the fire, and resumed her
knitting.



CHAPTER LXV: THE LAIRD'S VISION


Malcolm had just seen his master set out for his solitary ride,
when one of the maids informed him that a man from Kirkbyres wanted
him. Hiding his reluctance, he went with her and found Tom, who was
Mrs Stewart's grieve, and had been about the place all his days.

"Mr Stephen's come hame, sir," he said, touching his bonnet, a
civility for which Malcolm was not grateful.

"It's no possible!" returned Malcolm. "I saw him last nicht."

"He cam about ten o'clock, sir, an' hed a turn o' the fa'in' sickness
o' the spot. He 's verra ill the noo, an' the mistress sent me ower
to speir gien ye wad obleege her by gaein' to see him."

"Has he ta'en till 's bed?" asked Malcolm.

"We pat him till 't, sir. He 's ravin' mad, an' I 'm thinkin' he
's no far frae his hin'er en'."

"I 'll gang wi' ye direckly," said Malcolm.

In a few minutes they were riding fast along the road to Kirkbyres,
neither with much to say to the other, for Malcolm distrusted every
one about the place, and Tom was by nature taciturn.

"What garred them sen' for me--div ye ken?" asked Malcolm at
length, when they had gone about halfway.

"He cried oot upo' ye i' the nicht," answered Tom.

When they arrived, Malcolm was shown into the drawing room, where
Mrs Stewart met him with red eyes.

"Will you come and see my poor boy?" she said.

"I wull du that, mem. Is he verra ill?"

"Very. I 'm afraid he is in a bad way."

She led him to a dark old fashioned chamber, rich and gloomy.
There, sunk in the down of a huge bed with carved ebony posts, lay
the laird, far too ill to be incommoded by the luxury to which he
was unaccustomed. His head kept tossing from side to side, and his
eyes seemed searching in vacancy.

"Has the doctor been to see 'im, mem?" asked Malcolm.

"Yes; but he says he can't do anything for him."

"Wha waits upon 'im, mem?"

"One of the maids and myself."

I 'll jist bide wi' 'im."

"That will be very kind of you."

"I s' bide wi' 'im till I see 'im oot o' this, ae w'y or ither,"
added Malcolm, and sat down by the bedside of his poor distrustful
friend. There Mrs Stewart left him.

The laird was wandering in the thorny thickets and slimy marshes
which, haunted by the thousand misshapen honors of delirium, beset
the gates of life. That one so near the light, and slowly drifting
into it, should lie tossing in hopeless darkness! Is it that the
delirium falls, a veil of love, to hide other and more real terrors?

His eyes would now and then meet those of Malcolm, as they gazed
tenderly upon him, but the living thing that looked out of the
windows was darkened, and saw him not. Occasionally a word would
fall from him, or a murmur of half articulation float up, like
the sound of a river of souls; but whether Malcolm heard, or only
seemed to hear, something like this, he could not tell, for he could
not be certain that he had not himself shaped the words by receiving
the babble into the moulds of the laird's customary thought and
speech.

"I dinna ken whaur I cam frae!--I kenna whaur I 'm gaein' till.
--Eh, gien he wad but come oot an' shaw himsel'!--O Lord! tak
the deevil aff o' my puir back.--O Father o' lichts! gar him tak
the hump wi' him. I hae nae fawvour for 't, though it 's been my
constant companion this mony a lang."

But in general, he only moaned, and after the words thus heard or
fashioned by Malcolm, lay silent and nearly still for an hour.

All the waning afternoon Malcolm sat by his side, and neither
mother, maid, nor doctor came near them.

"Dark wa's an' no a breath!" he murmured or seemed to murmur again.
"Nae gerse, nor flooers, nor bees!--I hae na room for my hump,
an' I canna lie upo' 't, for that wad kill me!--Wull I ever ken
whaur I cam frae?--The wine 's unco guid. Gie me a drap mair, gien
ye please, Lady Horn.--I thought the grave was a better place.
I hae lain safter afore I dee'd!--Phemy! Phemy! Rin, Phemy, rin!
I s' bide wi' them this time. Ye rin, Phemy!"

As it grew dark, the air turned very chill, and snow began to fall
thick and fast Malcolm laid a few sticks on the smouldering peat
fire, but they were damp and did not catch. All at once the laird
gave a shriek, and crying out, "Mither, mither!" fell into a fit
so violent that the heavy bed shook with his convulsions. Malcolm
held his wrists and called aloud. No one came, and bethinking himself
that none could help, he waited in silence, for what would follow.

The fit passed quickly, and he lay quiet. The sticks had meantime
dried, and suddenly they caught fire and blazed up. The laird turned
his face towards the flame; a smile came over it; his eyes opened
wide, and with such an expression of seeing gazed beyond Malcolm,
that he turned his in the same direction.

"Eh, the bonny man! The bonny man!" murmured the laird.

But Malcolm saw nothing, and turned again to the laird: his jaw had
fallen, and the light was fading out of his face like the last of
a sunset. He was dead.

Malcolm rang the bell, told the woman who answered it what had taken
place, and hurried from the house, glad at heart that his friend
was at rest.

He had ridden but a short distance when he was overtaken by a boy
on a fast pony, who pulled up as he neared him.

"Whaur are ye for?" asked Malcolm.

"I'm gaein' for Mistress Cat'nach," answered the boy.

"Gang yer wa's than, an' dinna haud the deid waitin'," said Malcolm,
with a shudder.

The boy cast a look of dismay behind him, and galloped off.

The snow still fell, and the night was dark. Malcolm spent nearly
two hours on the way, and met the boy returning, who told him that
Mrs Catanach was not to be found.

His road lay down the glen, past Duncan's cottage, at whose door
he dismounted, but he did not find him. Taking the bridle on his
arm he walked by his horse the rest of the way. It was about nine
o'clock, and the night very dark. As he neared the house, he heard
Duncan's voice.

"Malcolm, my son! Will it pe your own self?" it said.

"It wull that, daddy," answered Malcolm.

The piper was sitting on a fallen tree, with the snow settling
softly upon him.

"But it's ower cauld for ye to be sittin' there i' the snaw, an'
the mirk tu!" added Malcolm.

"Ta tarkness will not be ketting to ta inside of her," returned
the seer. "Ah, my poy! where ta light kets in, ta tarkness will pe
ketting in too. Tis now, your whole pody will pe full of tarkness,
as ta piple will say, and Tuncan's pody--tat will pe full of ta
light." Then with suddenly changed tone he said "Listen, Malcolm,
my son! She 'll pe fery uneasy till you 'll wass pe come home."

"What's the maitter noo, daddy?" returned Malcolm. "Ony thing wrang
aboot the hoose?"

"Someting will pe wrong, yes, put she 'll not can tell where. No,
her pody will not pe full of light! For town here in ta curset
Lowlands, ta sight has peen almost cone from her, my son. It will
now pe no more as a co creeping troo' her, and she 'll nefer see
plain no more till she 'll pe cone pack to her own mountains."

"The puir laird's gane back to his," said Malcolm. "I won'er gien
he kens yet, or gien he gangs speirin' at ilk ane he meets gien he
can tell him whaur he cam frae. He's mad nae mair, ony gait."

"How? Will he pe not tead? Ta poor lairt! Ta poor maad lairt!"

"Ay, he's deid: maybe that's what 'll be troublin' yer sicht,
daddy."

"No, my son. Ta maad lairt was not fery maad, and if he was maad
he was not paad, and it was not to ta plame of him; he wass coot
always however."

"He was that, daddy."

"But it will pe something fery paad, and it will pe troubling her
speerit. When she'll pe take ta pipes, to pe amusing herself, and
will plow Till an crodh a' Dhonnachaidh (Turn the cows, Duncan),
out will pe come Cumhadh an fhir mhoir (The Lament of the Big Man).
All is not well, my son."

"Weel, dinna distress yersel', daddy. Lat come what wull come.
Foreseein' 's no forefen'in'. Ye ken yersel' 'at mony 's the time
the seer has broucht the thing on by tryin' to haud it aff."

"It will pe true, my son. Put it would aalways haf come."

"Nae doobt; sae ye jist come in wi' me, daddy, an' sit doon by the
ha' fire, an' I 'll come to ye as sune 's I've been to see 'at the
maister disna want me. But ye'll better come up wi' me to my room
first," he went on, "for the maister disna like to see me in onything
but the kilt."

"And why will he no pe in ta kilts aal as now?"

"I hae been ridin', ye ken, daddy, an' the trews fits the saiddle
better nor the kilts."

"She'll not pe knowing tat. Old Allister, your creat--her own
crandfather, was ta pest horseman ta worrlt efer saw, and he 'll
nefer pe hafing ta trews to his own lecks nor ta saddle to his
horse's pack. He 'll chust make his men pe strap on an old plaid,
and he 'll pe kive a chump, and away they wass, horse and man, one
peast, aal two of tem poth together."

Thus chatting they went to the stable, and from the stable to the
house, where they met no one, and went straight up to Malcolm's
room--the old man making as little of the long ascent as Malcolm
himself.



CHAPTER LXVI: THE CRY FROM THE CHAMBER


Brooding, if a man of his temperament may ever be said to brood,
over the sad history of his young wife and the prospects of his
daughter, the marquis rode over fields and through gates--he never
had been one to jump a fence in cold blood--till the darkness
began to fall; and the bearings of his perplexed position came
plainly before him.

First of all, Malcolm acknowledged, and the date of his mother's death
known, what would Florimel be in the eyes of the world? Supposing
the world deceived by the statement that his mother died when he
was born, where yet was the future he had marked out for her? He
had no money to leave her, and she must be helplessly dependent on
her brother.

Malcolm, on the other hand, might make a good match, or, with the
advantages he could secure him, in the army, still better in the
navy, well enough push his way in the world.

Miss Horn could produce no testimony; and Mrs Catanach had asserted
him the son of Mrs Stewart. He had seen enough, however, to make
him dread certain possible results if Malcolm were acknowledged
as the laird of Kirkbyres. No; there was but one hopeful measure,
one which he had even already approached in a tentative way--
an appeal, namely, to Malcolm himself--in which, acknowledging
his probable rights, but representing in the strongest manner
the difficulty of proving them, he would set forth, in their full
dismay, the consequences to Florimel of their public recognition,
and offer, upon the pledge of his word to a certain line of conduct,
to start him in any path he chose to follow.

Having thought the thing out pretty thoroughly, as he fancied, and
resolved at the same time to feel his way towards negotiations with
Mrs Catanach, he turned and rode home.

After a tolerable dinner, he was sitting over a bottle of the port
which he prized beyond anything else his succession had brought him,
when the door of the dining room opened suddenly, and the butler
appeared, pale with terror.

"My lord! my lord!" he stammered, as he closed the door behind him.

"Well? What the devil's the matter now? Whose cow's dead?"

"Your lordship didn't hear it then?" faltered the butler.

"You've been drinking, Bings," said the marquis, lifting his seventh
glass of port.

"I didn't say I heard it, my lord."

"Heard what--in the name of Beelzebub?"

"The ghost, my lord."

"The what?" shouted the marquis.

"That's what they call it, my lord. It 's all along of having that
wizard's chamber in the house, my lord."

"You're a set of fools," said the marquis, "the whole kit of you!"

"That's what I say, my lord. I don't know what to do with them,
stericking and screaming. Mrs Courthope is trying her best with
them; but it's my belief she's about as bad herself."

The marquis finished his glass of wine, poured out and drank another,
then walked to the door. When the butler opened it, a strange sight
met his eyes. All the servants in the house, men and women, Duncan
and Malcolm alone excepted, had crowded after the butler, every one
afraid of being left behind; and there gleamed the crowd of ghastly
faces in the light of the great hall fire. Demon stood in front,
his mane bristling, and his eyes flaming. Such was the silence that
the marquis heard the low howl of the waking wind, and the snow
like the patting of soft hands against the windows. He stood for a
moment, more than half enjoying their terror, when from somewhere
in the building a far off shriek, shrill and piercing, rang in
every ear. Some of the men drew in their breath with a gasping sob,
but most of the women screamed outright, and that set the marquis
cursing.

Duncan and Malcolm had but just entered the bedroom of the latter,
when the shriek rent the air close beside, and for a moment deafened
them. So agonized, so shrill, so full of dismal terror was it, that
Malcolm stood aghast, and Duncan started to his feet with responsive
outcry. But Malcolm at once recovered himself.

"Bide here till I come back," he whispered, and hurried noiselessly
out.

In a few minutes he returned--during which all had been still.
"Noo, daddy," he said, "I'm gaein' to drive in the door o' the
neist room. There 's some deevilry at wark there. Stan' ye i' the
door, an' ghaist or deevil 'at wad win by ye, grip it, an' haud on
like Demon the dog."

"She will so, she will so!" muttered Duncan in a strange tone. "Ochone!
that she'll not pe hafing her turk with her! Ochone! Ochone!"

Malcolm took the key of the wizard's chamber from his chest, and
his candle from the table, which he set down in the passage. In a
moment he had unlocked the door, put his shoulder to it, and burst
it open. A light was extinguished, and a shapeless figure went
gliding away through the gloom. It was no shadow, however, for,
dashing itself against a door at the other side of the chamber, it
staggered back with an imprecation of fury and fear, pressed two
hands to its head, and, turning at bay, revealed the face of Mrs
Catanach.

In the door stood the blind piper, with outstretched arms, and
hands ready to clutch, the fingers curved like claws, his knees
and haunches bent, leaning forward like a rampant beast prepared
to spring. In his face was wrath, hatred, vengeance, disgust--an
enmity of all mingled kinds.

Malcolm was busied with something in the bed, and when she turned,
Mrs Catanach saw only the white face of hatred gleaming through
the darkness.

"Ye auld donnert deevil!" she cried, with an addition too coarse
to be set down, and threw herself upon him.

The old man said never a word, but with indrawn breath hissing
through his clenched teeth, clutched her, and down they went together
in the passage, the piper undermost. He had her by the throat, it
is true, but she had her fingers in his eyes, and kneeling on his
chest, kept him down with a vigour of hostile effort that drew the
very picture of murder. It lasted but a moment, however, for the
old man, spurred by torture as well as hate, gathered what survived
of a most sinewy strength into one huge heave, threw her back into
the room, and rose, with the blood streaming from his eyes--just
as the marquis came round the near end of the passage, followed by
Mrs Courthope, the butler, Stoat, and two of the footmen. Heartily
enjoying a row, he stopped instantly, and signing a halt to his
followers, stood listening to the mud geyser that now burst from
Mrs Catanach's throat.

"Ye blin' abortion o' Sawtan's soo!" she cried, "didna I tak ye to
du wi' ye as I likit. An' that deil's tripe ye ca' yer oye (grandson)
--he! he!--him yer gran'son! He's naething but ane o' yer hatit
Cawm'ells!"

"A teanga a' diabhuil mhoir, tha thu ag deanamh breug (O tongue of
the great devil thou art making a lie)!" screamed Duncan, speaking
for the first time.

"God lay me deid i' my sins gien he be onything but a bastard
Cawm'ell!" she asseverated with a laugh of demoniacal scorn. "Yer
dautit (petted) Ma'colm 's naething but the dyke side brat o' the
late Grizel Cawm'ell, 'at the fowk tuik for a sant 'cause she grat
an' said naething. I laid the Cawm'ell pup i' yer boody (scarecrow)
airms wi' my ain han's, upo' the tap o' yer curst scraighin' bagpipes
'at sae aften drave the sleep frae my een. Na, ye wad nane o' me!
But I ga'e ye a Cawm'ell bairn to yer hert for a' that, ye auld,
hungert, weyver (spider) leggit, worm aten idiot!"

A torrent of Gaelic broke from Duncan, into the midst of which
rushed another from Mrs Catanach, similar, but coarse in vowel and
harsh in consonant sounds.

The marquis stepped into the room.

"What is the meaning of all this?" he said with dignity. The tumult
of Celtic altercation ceased. The piper drew himself up to his full
height, and stood silent. Mrs Catanach, red as fire with exertion
and wrath, turned ashy pale. The marquis cast on her a searching
and significant look.

"See here, my lord," said Malcolm.

Candle in hand, his lordship approached the bed. The same moment
Mrs Catanach glided out with her usual downy step, gave a wink as
of mutual intelligence to the group at the door, and vanished.

On Malcolm's arm lay the head of a young girl. Her thin, worn
countenance was stained with tears, and livid with suffocation.
She was recovering, but her eyes rolled stupid and visionless.

"It's Phemy, my lord--Blue Peter's lassie 'at was tint," said
Malcolm.

"It begins to look serious," said the marquis. "Mrs Catanach!--
Mrs Courthope!"

He turned towards the door. Mrs Courthope entered, and a head or two
peeped in after her. Duncan stood as before, drawn up and stately,
his visage working, but his body motionless as the statue of a
sentinel.

"Where is the Catanach woman gone?" cried the marquis.

"Cone!" shouted the piper. "Cone! and her huspant will pe waiting
to pe killing her! Och nan ochan!"

"Her husband!" echoed the marquis.

"Ach! she 'll not can pe helping it, my lort--no more till one
will pe tead--and tat should pe ta woman, for she 'll pe a paad
woman--ta worstest woman efer was married, my lort."

"That's saying a good deal," returned the marquis.

"Not one worrt more as enough, my lort," said Duncan "She was only
pe her next wife, put, ochone! ochone! why did she'll pe marry
her? You would haf stapt her long aco, my lort, if she'll was your
wife, and you was knowing the tamned fox and padger she was pe.
Ochone! and she tidn't pe have her turk at her hench nor her sgian
in her hose."

He shook his hands like a despairing child, then stamped and wept
in the agony of frustrated rage.

Mrs Courthope took Phemy in her arms, and carried her to her own
room, where she opened the window, and let the snowy wind blow full
upon her. As soon as she came quite to herself Malcolm set out to
bear the good tidings to her father and mother.

Only a few nights before had Phemy been taken to the room where
they found her. She had been carried from place to place, and had
been some time, she believed, in Mrs Catanach's own house. They had
always kept her in the dark, and removed her at night, blindfolded.
When asked if she had never cried out before, she said she had been
too frightened; and when questioned as to what had made her do so
then, she knew nothing of it: she remembered only that a horrible
creature appeared by the bedside, after which all was blank. On
the floor they found a hideous death mask, doubtless the cause of
the screams which Mrs Catanach had sought to stifle with the pillows
and bedclothes.

When Malcolm returned, he went at once to the piper's cottage, where
he found him in bed, utterly exhausted, and as utterly restless.

"Weel, daddy," he said, "I doobt I daurna come near ye noo."

"Come to her arms, my poor poy!" faltered Duncan. "She'll pe sorry
in her sore heart for her poy! Nefer you pe minding, my son; you
couldn't help ta Cam'ell mother, and you'll pe her own poy however.
Ochone! it will pe a plot upon you aal your tays, my son, and she'll
not can help you, and it 'll pe preaking her old heart!"

"Gien God thoucht the Cam'ells worth makin', daddy, I dinna see
'at I hae ony richt to compleen 'at I cam' o' them."

"She hopes you 'll pe forgifing ta plind old man, however. She
could n't see, or she would haf known at once petter."

"I dinna ken what ye 're efter noo, daddy," said Malcolm.

"That she'll do you a creat wrong, and she'll be ferry sorry for
it, my son."

"What wrang did ye ever du me, daddy?"

"That she was let you crow up a Cam'ell, my poy. If she tid put know
ta paad plood was pe in you, she wouldn't pe tone you ta wrong as
pring you up."

"That 's a wrang no ill to forgi'e, daddy. But it 's a pity ye
didna lat me lie, for maybe syne Mistress Catanach wad hae broucht
me up hersel', an' I micht hae come to something."

"Ta duvil mhor (great) would pe in your heart and prain and poosom,
my son."

"Weel, ye see what ye hae saved me frae."

"Yes; put ta duvil will pe to pay, for she couldn't safe you from
ta Cam'ell plood, my son! Malcolm, my poy," he added after a pause,
and with the solemnity of a mighty hate, "ta efil woman herself
will pe a Cam'ell--ta woman Catanach will pe a Cam'ell, and her
nain sel' she'll not know it pefore she 'll be in ta ped with the
worsest Cam'ell tat ever God made--and she pecks his pardon, for
she'll not pelieve he wass making ta Cam'ells."

"Divna ye think God made me, daddy?" asked Malcolm.

The old man thought for a little.

"Tat will tepend on who was pe your father, my son," he replied.
"If he too will be a Cam'ell--ochone! ochone! Put tere may pe
some coot plood co into you, more as enough to say God will pe make
you, my son. Put don't pe asking, Malcolm. Ton't you 'll pe asking."

"What am I no to ask, daddy?"

"Ton't pe asking who made you--who was ta father to you, my poy.
She would rather not pe knowing, for ta man might pe a Cam'ell
poth. And if she couldn't pe lofing you no more, my son, she would
pe tie pefore her time, and her tays would pe long in ta land under
ta crass, my son."

But the memory of the sweet face whose cold loveliness he had once
kissed, was enough to outweigh with Malcolm all the prejudices of
Duncan's instillation, and he was proud to take up even her shame.
To pass from Mrs Stewart to her, was to escape from the clutches
of a vampire demon to the arms of a sweet mother angel.

Deeply concerned for the newly discovered misfortunes of the old
man to whom he was indebted for this world's life at least, he
anxiously sought to soothe him; but he had far more and far worse
to torment him than Malcolm even yet knew, and with burning cheeks
and bloodshot eyes, he lay tossing from side to side, now uttering
terrible curses in Gaelic, and now weeping bitterly. Malcolm took
his loved pipes, and with the gentlest notes he could draw from
them tried to charm to rest the ruffled waters of his spirit; but
his efforts were all in vain, and believing at length that he would
be quieter without him, he went to the House, and to his own room.

The door of the adjoining chamber stood open, and the long forbidden
room lay exposed to any eye. Little did Malcolm think as he gazed
around it, that it was the room in which he had first breathed the
air of the world; in which his mother had wept over her own false
position and his reported death; and from which he had been carried,
by Duncan's wicked wife, down the ruinous stair, and away to the
lip of the sea, to find a home in the arms of the man whom he had
just left on his lonely couch, torn between the conflicting emotions
of a gracious love for him, and the frightful hate of her.



CHAPTER LXVII: FEET OF WOOL


The next day, Miss Horn, punctual as Fate, presented herself at
Lossie House, and was shown at once into the marquis's study, as
it was called. When his lordship entered, she took the lead the
moment the door was shut.

"By this time, my lord, ye 'll doobtless hae made up yer min' to
du what 's richt?" she said.

"That 's what I have always wanted to do," returned the marquis.

"Hm!" remarked Miss Horn, as plainly as inarticulately.

"In this affair," he supplemented; adding, "It 's not always so
easy to tell what is right!"

"It's no aye easy to luik for 't wi' baith yer een," said Miss
Horn.

"This woman Catanach--we must get her to give credible testimony.
Whatever the fact may be, we must have strong evidence. And there
comes the difficulty, that she has already made an altogether
different statement."

"It gangs for naething, my lord. It was never made afore a justice
o' the peace."

"I wish you would go to her, and see how she is inclined."

"Me gang to Bawbie Catanach!" exclaimed Miss Horn. "I wad as sune
gang an' kittle Sawtan's nose wi' the p'int o' 's tail. Na, na, my
lord! Gien onybody gang till her wi' my wull, it s' be a limb o'
the law. I s' hae nae cognostin' wi' her."

"You would have no objection, however, to my seeing her, I presume
--just to let her know that we have an inkling of the truth?" said
the marquis.

Now all this was the merest talk, for of course Miss Horn could
not long remain in ignorance of the declaration fury had, the night
previous, forced from Mrs Catanach; but he must, he thought, put
her off and keep her quiet, if possible, until he had come to an
understanding with Malcolm, after which he would no doubt have his
trouble with her.

"Ye can du as yer lordship likes," answered Miss Horn; "but I wadna
hae 't said o' me 'at I had ony dealin's wi' her. Wha kens but she
micht say ye tried to bribe her? There 's naething she wad bogle
at gien she thoucht it worth her while. No 'at I 'm feart at her.
Lat her lee! I 'm no sae blate but--! Only dinna lippen till a
word she says, my lord."

The marquis meditated.

"I wonder whether the real source of my perplexity occurs to you,
Miss Horn," he said at length. "You know I have a daughter?"

"Weel eneuch that, my lord."

"By my second marriage."

"Nae merridge ava', my lord."

"True,--if I confess to the first."

"A' the same, whether or no, my lord."

"Then you see," the marquis went on, refusing offence, "what the
admission of your story would make of my daughter?"

"That's plain eneuch, my lord."

"Now, if I have read Malcolm right, he has too much regard for his
--mistress--to put her in such a false position."

"That is, my lord, ye wad hae yer lawfu' son beir the lawless name."

"No, no; it need never come out what he is. I will provide for him
--as a gentleman, of course."

"It canna be, my lord. Ye can du naething for him wi' that face o'
his, but oot comes the trouth as to the father o' 'im; an' it wadna
be lang afore the tale was ekit oot wi' the name o' his mither--
Mistress Catanach wad see to that, gien 'twas only to spite me; an'
I wunna hae my Grizel ca'd what she is not, for ony lord's dauchter
i' the three kynriks."

"What does it matter, now she 's dead and gone?" said the marquis,
false to the dead in his love for the living.

"Deid an' gane, my lord! What ca' ye deid an' gane? Maybe the great
anes o' the yerth get sic a forlethie (surfeit) o' gran'ur 'at they
're for nae mair, an' wad perish like the brute beast. For onything
I ken, they may hae their wuss, but for mysel', I wad warstle to
haud my sowl waukin' (awake), i' the verra article o' deith, for
the bare chance o' seein' my bonny Grizel again.--It 's a mercy
I hae nae feelin's!" she added, arresting her handkerchief on its
way to her eyes, and refusing to acknowledge the single tear that
ran down her cheek.

Plainly she was not like any of the women whose characters the
marquis had accepted as typical of womankind.

"Then you won't leave the matter to her husband and son," he said
reproachfully.

"I tellt ye, my lord, I wad du naething but what I saw to be richt.
Lat this affair oot o' my han's I daurna. That laad ye micht work
to onything 'at made agane himsel'. He 's jist like his puir mither
there."

"If Miss Campbell was his mother," said the marquis.

"Miss Cam'ell!" cried Miss Horn. "I 'll thank yer lordship to ca'
her by her ain, 'an that 's Lady Lossie."

What if the something ruinous heart of the marquis was habitable,
was occupied by his daughter, and had no accommodation at present
either for his dead wife or his living son. Once more he sat thinking
in silence for a while.

"I'll make Malcolm a post captain in the navy, and give you a
thousand pounds," he said at length, hardly knowing that he spoke.

Miss Horn rose to her full height, and stood like an angel of
rebuke before him. Not a word did she speak, only looked at him
for a moment, and turned to leave the room. The marquis saw his
danger, and striding to the door, stood with his back against it.

"Think ye to scare me, my lord?" she asked, with a scornful laugh.
"Gang an' scare the stane lion beast at yer ha' door. Haud oot o'
the gait, an' lat me gang."

"Not until I know what you are going to do," said the marquis, very
seriously.

"I hae naething mair to transac' wi' yer lordship. You an' me 's
strangers, my lord."

"Tut! tut! I was but trying you."

"An' gien I had taen the disgrace ye offert me, ye wad hae drawn
back?"

"No, certainly."

"Ye wasna tryin' me than: ye was duin' yer best to corrup' me."

"I 'm no splitter of hairs."

"My lord, it 's nane but the corrup'ible wad seek to corrup'."

The marquis gnawed a nail or two in silence. Miss Horn dragged an
easy chair within a couple of yards of him.

"We 'll see wha tires o' this ghem first, my lord!" she said, as
she sank into its hospitable embrace.

The marquis turned to lock the door, but there was no key in it.
Neither was there any chair within reach, and he was not fond of
standing. Clearly his enemy had the advantage.

"Hae ye h'ard o' puir Sandy Graham--hoo they 're misguidin' him,
my lord?" she asked with composure.

The marquis was first astounded, and then tickled by her assurance.

"No," he answered.

"They hae turnt him oot o' hoose an' ha'--schuil, at least, an'
hame," she rejoined. "I may say, they hae turnt him oot o' Scotlan';
for what presbytery wad hae him efter he had been fun' guilty o' no
thinkin' like ither fowk? Ye maun stan' his guid freen', my lord."

"He shall be Malcolm's tutor," answered the marquis, not to be
outdone in coolness, "and go with him to Edinburgh--or Oxford,
if he prefers it."

"Never yerl o' Colonsay had a better!" said Miss Horn.

"Softly, softly, ma'am!" returned the marquis. "I did not say he
should go in that style."

"He 's gang as my lord o' Colonsay, or he s' no gang at your expense,
my lord," said his antagonist.

"Really, ma'am, one would think you were my grandmother, to hear
you order my affairs for me."

"I wuss I war, my lord: I sud gar ye hear rizzon upo' baith sides
o' yer heid, I s' warran'!"

The marquis laughed.

"Well, I can't stand here all day!" he said, impatiently swinging
one leg.

"I 'm weel awaur o' that, my lord," answered Miss Horn, rearranging
her scanty skirt.

"How long are ye going to keep me, then?"

"I wadna hae ye bide a meenute langer nor 's agreeable to yersel'.
But I 'm in nae hurry sae lang 's ye 're afore me. Ye 're nae ill
to luik at--though ye maun hae been bonnier the day ye wan the
hert o' my Grizzel."

The marquis uttered an oath, and left the door. Miss Horn sprang
to it; but there was the marquis again.

"Miss Horn," he said, "I beg you will give me another day to think
of this."

"Whaur 's the use? A' the thinkin' i' the warl' canna alter a single
fac'. Ye maun du richt by my laddie o' yer ain sel', or I maun gar
ye."

"You would find a lawsuit heavy, Miss Horn."

"An' ye wad fin' the scandal o' 't ill to bide, my lord. It wad
come sair upo' Miss--I kenna what name she has a richt till, my
lord."

The marquis uttered a frightful imprecation, left the door, and
sitting down, hid his face in his hands.

Miss Horn rose, but instead of securing her retreat, approached
him gently, and stood by his side.

"My lord," she said, "I canna thole to see a man in tribble. Women
's born till 't, an' they tak it, an' are thankfu'; but a man never
gies in till 't, an' sae it comes harder upo' him nor upo' them.
Hear me, my lord: gien there be a man upo' this earth wha wad shield
a wuman, that man 's Ma'colm Colonsay."

"If only she weren't his sister!" murmured the marquis.

"An' jist bethink ye, my lord: wad it be onything less nor an
imposition to lat a man merry her ohn tellt him what she was?"

"You insolent old woman!" cried the marquis, losing his temper,
discretion, and manners, all together. "Go and do your worst, and
be damned to you!"

So saying, he left the room, and Miss Horn found her way out of the
house in a temper quite as fierce as his,--in character, however,
entirely different, inasmuch as it was righteous.

At that very moment Malcolm was in search of his master; and seeing
the back of him disappear in the library, to which he had gone in
a half blind rage, he followed him. "My lord!" he said.

"What do you want?" returned his master in a rage. For some time
he had been hauling on the curb rein, which had fretted his temper
the more; and when he let go, the devil ran away with him.

"I thoucht yer lordship wad like to see an auld stair I cam upo'
the ither day, 'at gang's frae the wizard's chaumer."

"Go to hell with your damned tomfoolery!" said the marquis "If ever
you mention that cursed hole again, I'll kick you out of the house."

Malcolm's eyes flashed, and a fierce answer rose to his lips, but
he had seen that his master was in trouble, and sympathy supplanted
rage. He turned and left the room in silence.

Lord Lossie paced up and down the library for a whole hour--a
long time for him to be in one mood. The mood changed colour pretty
frequently during the hour, however, and by degrees his wrath
assuaged. But at the end of it he knew no more what he was going to
do than when he left Miss Horn in the study. Then came the gnawing
of his usual ennui and restlessness: he must find something to do.

The thing he always thought of first was a ride; but the only
animal of horse kind about the place which he liked was the bay
mare, and her he had lamed. He would go and see what the rascal
had come bothering about--alone though, for he could not endure
the sight of the fisher fellow--damn him!

In a few moments he stood in the wizard's chamber, and glanced round
it with a feeling of discomfort rather than sorrow--of annoyance
at the trouble of which it had been for him both fountain and
storehouse, rather than regret for the agony and contempt which
his selfishness had brought upon the woman he loved; then spying
the door in the furthest corner, he made for it, and in a moment
more, his curiosity, now thoroughly roused, was slowly gyrating
down the steps of the old screw stair. But Malcolm had gone to his
own room, and hearing some one in the next, half suspected who it
was, and went in. Seeing the closet door open, he hurried to the
stair, and shouted, "My lord! my lord! or whaever ye are! tak care
hoo ye gang, or ye'll get a terrible fa'."

Down a single yard the stair was quite dark, and he dared not follow
fast for fear of himself falling and occasioning the accident he
feared. As he descended, he kept repeating his warnings, but either
his master did not hear or heeded too little, for presently Malcolm
heard a rush, a dull fall, and a groan. Hurrying as fast as he
dared with the risk of falling upon him, he found the marquis lying
amongst the stones in the ground entrance, apparently unable to
move, and white with pain. Presently, however, he got up, swore a
good deal, and limped swearing into the house.

The doctor, who was sent for instantly pronounced the knee cap
injured, and applied leeches. Inflammation set in, and another
doctor and surgeon were sent for from Aberdeen. They came; applied
poultices, and again leeches, and enjoined the strictest repose.
The pain was severe; but to one of the marquis's temperament, the
enforced quiet was worse.



CHAPTER LXVIII: HANDS OF IRON


The marquis was loved by his domestics; and his accident, with its
consequences, although none more serious were anticipated, cast a
gloom over Lossie House. Far apart as was his chamber from all the
centres of domestic life, the pulses of his suffering beat as it
were through the house, and the servants moved with hushed voice
and gentle footfall.

Outside, the course of events waited upon his recovery, for Miss
Horn was too generous not to delay proceedings while her adversary
was ill. Besides, what she most of all desired was the marquis's
free acknowledgment of his son; and after such a time of suffering
and constrained reflection as he was now passing through, he could
hardly fail, she thought, to be more inclined to what was just and
fair.

Malcolm had of course hastened to the schoolmaster with the joy of
his deliverance from Mrs Stewart; but Mr Graham had not acquainted
him with the discovery Miss Horn had made, or her belief concerning
his large interest therein, to which Malcolm's report of the wrath
born declaration of Mrs Catanach had now supplied the only testimony
wanting, for the right of disclosure was Miss Horn's. To her he had
carried Malcolm's narrative of late events, tenfold strengthening
her position; but she was anxious in her turn that the revelation
concerning his birth should come to him from his father. Hence
Malcolm continued in ignorance of the strange dawn that had begun
to break on the darkness of his origin.

Miss Horn had told Mr Graham what the marquis had said about the
tutorship; but the schoolmaster only shook his head with a smile,
and went on with his preparations for departure.

The hours went by; the days lengthened into weeks, and the marquis's
condition did not improve. He had never known sickness and pain
before, and like most of the children of this world, counted them
the greatest of evils; nor was there any sign of their having as yet
begun to open his eyes to what those who have seen them call truths,
those who have never even boded their presence count absurdities.

More and more, however, he desired the attendance of Malcolm, who
was consequently a great deal about him, serving with a love to
account for which those who knew his nature would not have found
it necessary to fall back on the instinct of the relation between
them. The marquis had soon satisfied himself that that relation
was as yet unknown to him, and was all the better pleased with his
devotion and tenderness.

The inflammation continued, increased, spread, and at length the
doctors determined to amputate. But the marquis was absolutely
horrified at the idea,--shrank from it with invincible repugnance.
The moment the first dawn of comprehension vaguely illuminated
their periphrastic approaches, he blazed out in a fury, cursed them
frightfully, called them all the contemptuous names in his rather
limited vocabulary, and swore he would see them--uncomfortable
first.

"We fear mortification, my lord," said the physician calmly.

"So do I. Keep it off," returned the marquis.

"We fear we cannot, my lord."

It had, in fact, already commenced.

"Let it mortify, then, and be damned," said his lordship.

"I trust, my lord, you will reconsider it," said the surgeon. "We
should not have dreamed of suggesting a measure of such severity
had we not had reason to dread that the further prosecution of
gentler means would but lessen your lordship's chance of recovery."

"You mean then that my life is in danger?"

"We fear," said the physician, "that the amputation proposed is
the only thing that can save it."

"What a brace of blasted bunglers you are!" cried the marquis,
and turning away his face, lay silent. The two men looked at each
other, and said nothing.

Malcolm was by, and a keen pang shot to his heart at the verdict.
The men retired to consult. Malcolm approached the bed.

"My lord!" he said gently.

No reply came.

"Dinna lea 's oor lanes, my lord--no yet," Malcolm persisted.
"What 's to come o' my leddy?"

The marquis gave a gasp. Still he made no reply.

"She has naebody, ye ken, my lord, 'at ye wad like to lippen her
wi'."

"You must take care of her when I am gone, Malcolm,' murmured the
marquis; and his voice was now gentle with sadness and broken with
misery.

"Me, my lord!" returned Malcolm. "Wha wad min' me? An' what cud
I du wi' her? I cudna even haud her ohn wat her feet. Her leddy's
maid cud du mair wi' her--though I wad lay doon my life for her,
as I tauld ye, my lord--an' she kens 't weel eneuch."

Silence followed. Both men were thinking.

"Gie me a richt, my lord, an' I'll du my best," said Malcolm, at
length breaking the silence.

"What do you mean?" growled the marquis, whose mood had altered.

"Gie me a legal richt, my lord, an' see gien I dinna."

"See what?"

"See gien I dinna luik weel efter my leddy."

"How am I to see? I shall be dead and damned."

"Please God, my lord, ye'll be alive an' weel--in a better place,
if no here to luik efter my leddy yersel'."

"Oh, I dare say!" muttered the marquis.

"But ye'll hearken to the doctors, my lord," Malcolm went on, "an'
no dee wantin' time to consider o' 't."

"Yes, yes; tomorrow I'll have another talk with them. We'll see
about it. There's time enough yet. They're all cox combs--every
one of them. They never give a patient the least credit for common
sense."

"I dinna ken, my lord," said Malcolm doubtfully.

After a few minutes' silence, during which Malcolm thought he had
fallen asleep, the marquis resumed abruptly.

"What do you mean by giving you a legal right?" he said.

"There's some w'y o' makin' ae body guairdian till anither, sae
'at the law 'ill uphaud him--isna there, my lord?"

"Yes, surely. Well!--Rather odd--wouldn't it be?--A young
fisher lad guardian to a marchioness! Eh? They say there's nothing
new under the sun; but that sounds rather like it, I think."

Malcolm was overjoyed to hear him speak with something like his old
manner. He felt he could stand any amount of chaff from him now,
and so the proposition he had made in seriousness, he went on
to defend in the hope of giving amusement, yet with a secret wild
delight in the dream of such full devotion to the service of Lady
Florimel.

"It wad soon' queer eneuch, my lord, nae doobt; but fowk maunna min'
the soon' o' a thing gien 't be a' straucht an' fair, an' strong
eneuch to stan'. They cudna lauch me oot o' my richts, be they 'at
they likit--Lady Bellair, or ony o' them--na, nor jaw me oot
o' them aither!"

"They might do a good deal to render those rights of little use,"
said the marquis.

"That wad come till a trial o' brains, my lord," returned Malcolm;
"an' ye dinna think I wadna hae the wit to speir advice--an'
what's mair, to ken whan it was guid, an' tak it! There's lawyers,
my lord."

"And their expenses?"

"Ye cud lea' sae muckle to be waured (spent) upo' the cairryin'
oot o' yer lordship's wull."

"Who would see that you applied it properly?"

"My ain conscience, my lord--or Mr Graham, gien ye likit."

"And how would you live yourself?"

"Ow! lea' ye that to me, my lord. Only dinna imaigine I wad be
behauden to yer lordship. I houp I hae mair pride nor that. Ilka
poun' not', shillin', an' baubee sud be laid oot for her, an' what
was left hainet (saved) for her."

"By Jove! it's a daring proposal!" said the marquis; and, which
seemed strange to Malcolm, not a single thread of ridicule ran
through the tone in which he made the remark.

The next day came, but brought neither strength of body nor of mind
with it. Again his professional attendants besought him, and he heard
them more quietly, but rejected their proposition as positively as
before. In a day or two he ceased to oppose it, but would not hear
of preparation. Hour glided into hour, and days had gathered to a
week, when they assailed him with a solemn and last appeal.

"Nonsense!" answered the marquis. "My leg is getting better. I
feel no pain--in fact nothing but a little faintness. Your damned
medicines, I haven't a doubt."

"You are in the greatest danger, my lord. It is all but too late
even now."

"Tomorrow, then--if it must be. Today I could not endure to have
my hair cut--positively; and as to having my leg off,--pooh!
the thing's preposterous!"

He turned white and shuddered, for all the nonchalance of his
speech.

When tomorrow came, there was not a surgeon in the land who would
have taken his leg off. He looked in their faces, and seemed for
the first time convinced of the necessity of the measure.

"You may do as you please," he said. "I am ready."

"Not today, my lord," replied the doctor. "Your lordship is not
equal to it today."

"I understand," said the marquis, paled frightfully, and turned
his head aside.

When Mrs Courthope suggested that Lady Florimel should be sent
for, he flew into a frightful rage, and spoke as it is to be hoped
he had never spoken to a woman before. She took it with perfect
gentleness, but could not repress a tear. The marquis saw it, and
his heart was touched.

"You mustn't mind a dying man's temper," he said.

"It's not for myself, my lord," she answered.

"I know: you think I 'm not fit to die; and, damn it! you are right.
Never one was less fit for heaven, or less willing to go to hell."

"Wouldn't you like to see a clergyman, my lord?" she suggested,
sobbing.

He was on the point of breaking out in a still worse passion, but
controlled himself.

"A clergyman!" he cried; "I would as soon see the undertaker. What
could he do but tell me I was going to be damned--a fact I know
better than he can? That is, if it 's not all an invention of the
cloth, as, in my soul, I believe it is! I 've said so any time this
forty years."

"Oh, my lord, my lord! do not fling away your last hope."

"You imagine me to have a chance then? Good soul! You don't know
better!"

"The Lord is merciful."

The marquis laughed--that is, he tried, failed, and grinned.

"Mr Cairns is in the dining room, my lord."

"Bah! A low pettifogger, with the soul of a bullock! Don't let me
hear the fellow's name. I 've been bad enough, God knows! but I
haven't sunk to the level of his help yet. If he 's God Almighty's
factor, and the saw holds--'Like master, like man!' well, I would
rather have nothing to do with either."

"That is, if you had the choice, my lord," said Mrs Courthope, her
temper yielding a little, though in truth his speech was not half
so irreverent as it seemed to her.

"Tell him to go to hell. No, don't: set him down to a bottle of port
and a great sponge cake and you needn't tell him to go to heaven,
for he 'll be there already. Why, Mrs Courthope, the fellow isn't
a gentleman! And yet all he cares for the cloth is, that he thinks
it makes a gentleman of him--as if anything in heaven, earth, or
hell could work that miracle!"

In the middle of the night, as Malcolm sat by his bed, thinking
him asleep, the marquis spoke suddenly.

"You must go to Aberdeen tomorrow, Malcolm," he said.

"Verra weel, my lord."

"And bring Mr Glennie, the lawyer, back with you."

"Yes, my lord."

"Go to bed then."

"I wad raither bide, my lord. I cudna sleep a wink for wantin' to
be back aside ye."

The marquis yielded, and Malcolm sat by him all the night through.
He tossed about, would doze off and murmur strangely, then wake
up and ask for brandy and water, yet be content with the lemonade
Malcolm gave him.

Next day he quarrelled with every word Mrs Courthope uttered, kept
forgetting he had sent Malcolm away, and was continually wanting
him. His fits of pain were more severe, alternated with drowsiness,
which deepened at times to stupor.

It was late before Malcolm returned. He went instantly to his
bedside.

"Is Mr Glennie with you?" asked his master feebly.

"Yes, my lord."

"Tell him to come here at once."

When Malcolm returned with the lawyer, the marquis directed him
to set a table and chair by the bedside, light four candles, get
everything necessary for writing, and go to bed.



CHAPTER LXIX: THE MARQUIS AND THE SCHOOLMASTER


Before Malcolm was awake, his lordship had sent for him. When he
re-entered the sick chamber, Mr Glennie had vanished, the table
had been removed, and instead of the radiance of the wax lights,
the cold gleam of a vapour dimmed sun, with its sickly blue white
reflex from the wide spread snow, filled the room. The marquis
looked ghastly, but was sipping chocolate with a spoon.

"What w'y are ye the day, my lord?" asked Malcolm.

"Nearly well," he answered; "but those cursed carrion crows are
set upon killing me--damn their souls!"

"We'll hae Leddy Florimel sweirin' awfu', gien ye gang on that
gait, my lord," said Malcolm.

The marquis laughed feebly.

"An' what 's mair," Malcolm continued, "I doobt they 're some
partic'lar aboot the turn o' their phrases up yonner, my lord."

The marquis looked at him keenly.

"You don't anticipate that inconvenience for me?" he said. "I 'm
pretty sure to have my billet where they 're not so precise."

"Dinna brak my hert, my lord!" cried Malcolm, the tears rushing to
his eyes.

"I should be sorry to hurt you, Malcolm," rejoined the marquis gently,
almost tenderly. "I won't go there if I can help it. I should n't
like to break any more hearts. But how the devil am I to keep out
of it? Besides, there are people up there I don't want to meet; I
have no fancy for being made ashamed of myself. The fact is I 'm
not fit for such company, and I don't believe there is any such
place. But if there be, I trust in God there isn't any other, or it
will go badly with your poor master, Malcolm. It doesn't look like
true--now does it? Only such a multitude of things I thought I
had done with for ever, keep coming up and grinning at me! It nearly
drives me mad, Malcolm--and I would fain die like a gentleman,
with a cool bow and a sharp face about."

"Wadna ye hae a word wi' somebody 'at kens, my lord?" said Malcolm,
scarcely able to reply.

"No," answered the marquis fiercely. "That Cairns is a fool."

"He's a' that an' mair, my lord. I didna mean him."

"They 're all fools together.'

"Ow, na, my lord! There 's a heap o' them no muckle better, it may
be; but there 's guid men an' true amang them, or the kirk wad hae
been wi' Sodom and Gomorrha by this time. But it 's no a minister
I wad hae yer lordship confar wi'."

"Who then? Mrs Courthope? Eh?"

"Ow na, my lord--no Mistress Coorthoup! She 's a guid body, but
she wadna believe her ain een gien onybody ca'd a minister said
contrar' to them."

"Who the devil do you mean then?"

"Nae deevil, but an honest man 'at 's been his warst enemy sae lang
's I hae kent him: Maister Graham, the schuilmaister."

"Pooh!" said the marquis with a puff. "I'm too old to go to school."

"I dinna ken the man 'at isna a bairn till him, my lord."

"In Greek and Latin?"

"I' richteousness an' trouth, my lord; in what's been an' what is
to be."

"What! has he the second sicht, like the piper?"

"He has the second sicht, my lord--but ane 'at gangs a sicht
farther than my auld daddy's."

"He could tell me then what's going to become of me?'

"As weel 's ony man, my lord."

"That 's not saying much, I fear."

"Maybe mair nor ye think, my lord."

"Well, take him my compliments, and tell him I should like to see
him," said the marquis, after a pause.

"He 'll come direckly, my lord."

"Of course he will!" said the marquis.

"Jist as readily, my lord, as he wad gang to ony tramp 'at sent
for 'im at sic a time," returned Malcolm, who did not relish either
the remark or its tone.

"What do you mean by that? You don't think it such a serious affair
--do you?"

"My lord, ye haena a chance."

The marquis was dumb. He had actually begun once more to buoy
himself up with earthly hopes.

Dreading a recall of his commission, Malcolm slipped from the room,
sent Mrs Courthope to take his place, and sped to the schoolmaster.
The moment Mr Graham heard the marquis's message, he rose without
a word, and led the way from the cottage. Hardly a sentence passed
between them as they went, for they were on a solemn errand.

"Mr Graham 's here, my lord," said Malcolm.

"Where? Not in the room?" returned the marquis.

"Waitin' at the door, my lord."

"Bah! You needn't have been so ready. Have you told the sexton to
get a new spade? But you may let him in. And leave him alone with
me."

Mr Graham walked gently up to the bedside.

"Sit down, sir," said the marquis courteously--pleased with the
calm, self possessed, unobtrusive bearing of the man. "They tell
me I 'm dying, Mr Graham."

"I 'm sorry it seems to trouble you, my lord."

"What! wouldn't it trouble you then?"

"I don't think so, my lord."

"Ah! you're one of the elect, no doubt?"

"That's a thing I never did think about, my lord."

"What do you think about then?"

"About God."

"And when you die you 'll go straight to heaven of course--"

"I don't know, my lord. That 's another thing I never trouble my
head about."

"Ah! you 're like me then! I don't care much about going to heaven!
What do you care about?"

"The will of God. I hope your lordship will say the same."

"No I won't. I want my own will."

"Well, that is to be had, my lord."

"How?"

"By taking his for yours, as the better of the two, which it must
be every way."

"That's all moonshine."

"It is light, my lord."

"Well, I don't mind confessing, if I am to die, I should prefer
heaven to the other place; but I trust I have no chance of either.
Do you now honestly believe there are two such places?"

"I don't know, my lord."

"You don't know! And you come here to comfort a dying man!"

"Your lordship must first tell me what you mean by 'two such places.'
And as to comfort, going by my notions, I cannot tell which you
would be more or less comfortable in; and that, I presume, would
be the main point with your lordship."

"And what, pray, sir, would be the main point with you?"

"To get nearer to God."

"Well--I can't say I want to get nearer to God. It 's little he
's ever done for me."

"It's a good deal he has tried to do for you, my lord."

"Well, who interfered? Who stood in his way, then?"

"Yourself, my lord."

"I wasn't aware of it. When did he ever try to do anything for me,
and I stood in his way?"

"When he gave you one of the loveliest of women, my lord," said Mr
Graham, with solemn, faltering voice, "and you left her to die in
neglect, and the child to be brought up by strangers."

The marquis gave a cry. The unexpected answer had roused the slowly
gnawing death, and made it bite deeper.

"What have you to do," he almost screamed, "with my affairs? It
was for me to introduce what I chose of them. You presume."

"Pardon me, my lord: you led me to what I was bound to say. Shall
I leave you, my lord?"

The marquis made no answer.

"God knows I loved her," he said after a while, with a sigh.

"You loved her, my lord!"

"I did, by God!"

"Love a woman like that, and come to this?"

"Come to this! We must all come to this, I fancy, sooner or later.
Come to what, in the name of Beelzebub?"

"That, having loved a woman like her, you are content to lose her.
In the name of God, have you no desire to see her again?"

"It would be an awkward meeting," said the marquis. His was an old
love, alas! He had not been capable of the sort that defies change.
It had faded from him until it seemed one of the thi