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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Marquis Of Lossie - Chapter 19. Kelpie In London
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The Marquis Of Lossie - Chapter 19. Kelpie In London Post by :acw112 Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :528

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The Marquis Of Lossie - Chapter 19. Kelpie In London


Before noon Lord Liftore came round to the mews: his riding horses were there. Malcolm was not at the moment in the stable.

"What animal is that?" he asked of his own groom, catching sight of Kelpie in her loose box.

"One just come up from Scotland for Lady Lossie, my lord," answered the man.

"She looks a clipper! Lead her out, and let me see her."

"She's not sound in the temper, my lord, the groom that brought her says. He told me on no account to go near her till she got used to the sight of me."

"Oh! you're afraid, are you?" said his lordship, whose breeding had not taught him courtesy to his inferiors.

At the word the man walked into her box. As he did so he looked out for her hoofs, but his circumspection was in vain: in a moment she had wheeled, jammed him against the wall, and taken his shoulder in her teeth. He gave a yell of pain. His lordship caught up a stable broom, and attacked the mare with it over the door; but it flew from his hand to the other end of the stable, and the partition began to go after it. But she still kept her hold of the man. Happily, however, Malcolm was not far off and hearing the noise, rushed in. He was just in time to save the groom's life. Clearing the stall partition, and seizing the mare by the nose with a mighty grasp, he inserted a forefinger behind her tusk, for she was one of the few mares tusked like a horse, and soon compelled her to open her mouth. The groom staggered and would have fallen, so cruelly had she mauled him, but Malcolm's voice roused him.

"For God's sake gang oot, as lang's there twa limbs o' ye stickin' thegither."

The poor fellow just managed to open the door, and fell senseless on the stones. Lord Liftore called for help, and they carried him into the saddle room, while one ran for the nearest surgeon.

Meantime Malcolm was putting a muzzle on Kelpie, which he believed she understood as a punishment, and while he was thus occupied, his lordship came from the saddle room and approached the box.

"Who are you?" he said. "I think I have seen you before."

"I was servant to the late Marquis of Lossie, my lord, and now I am groom to her ladyship."

"What a fury you've brought up with you! She'll never do for London."

"I told the man not to go near her, my lord."

"What's the use of her if no one can go near her?"

"I can, my lord."

"By Jove, she's a splendid creature to look at! but I don't know what you can do with her here, my man. She's fit to go double with Satan himself."

"She'll do for me to ride after my lady well enough. If only I had room to exercise her a bit!"

"Take her into the park early in the morning, and gallop her round. Only mind she don't break your neck. What can have made Lady Lossie send for such a devil as that!"

Malcolm held his peace.

"I'll try her myself some morning," said his lordship, who thought himself a better horseman than he was.

"I wouldn't advise you, my lord."

"Who the devil asked your advice?"

"Ten to one she'll kill you, my lord."

"That's my look out," said Liftore, and went into the house.

As soon as he had done with Kelpie, Malcolm dressed himself in his new livery, and went to tell his mistress of her arrival. She sent him orders to bring the mare round in half an hour. He went back to her, took off her muzzle, fed her, and while she ate her corn, put on the spurs he had prepared expressly for her use--a spike without a rowel, rather blunt, but sharp indeed when sharply used --like those of the Gauchos of the Pampas. Then he saddled her, and rode her round.

Having had her fit of temper, she was, to all appearance, going to be fairly good for the rest of the day, and looked splendid. She was a large mare, nearly thoroughbred, but with more bone than usual for her breeding, which she carried triumphantly--an animal most men would have been pleased to possess--and proud to ride. Florimel came to the door to see her, accompanied by Liftore, and was so delighted with the very sight of her that she sent at once to the stables for her own horse, that she might ride out attended by Malcolm. His lordship also ordered his horse.

They went straight to Rotten Row for a little gallop, and Kelpie was behaving very well for her.

"What did you have two such savages, horse and groom both, up from Scotland for, Florimel?" asked his lordship, as they cantered gently along the Row, Kelpie coming sideways after them, as if she would fain alter the pairing of her legs..

Florimel turned and cast an admiring glance on the two.

"Do you know I am rather proud of them," she said.

"He's a clumsy fellow, the groom; and for the mare, she's downright wicked," said Liftore.

"At least neither is a hypocrite," returned Florimel, with Malcolm's account of his quarrel with the factor in her mind. "The mare is just as wicked as she looks, and the man as good. Believe me, my lord, that man you call a savage never told a lie in his life!"

As she spoke she looked him hard in the face--with her father in her eyes.

Liftore could not return the look with equal steadiness. It seemed for the moment to be inquiring too curiously.

"I know what you mean," he said. "You don't believe my professions."

As he spoke he edged his horse close up to hers.

"But," he went on, "if I know that I speak the truth when I swear that I love every breath of wind that has but touched your dress as it passed, that I would die gladly for one loving touch of your hand--why should you not let me ease my heart by saying so? Florimel, my life has been a different thing from the moment I saw you first. It has grown precious to me since I saw that it might be --Confound the fellow! what's he about now with his horse devil?"

For at that moment his lordship's horse, a high bred but timid animal, sprang away from the side of Florimel's, and there stood Kelpie on her hind legs, pawing the air between him and his lady, and Florimel, whose old confidence in Malcolm was now more than revived, was laughing merrily at the discomfiture of his attempt at love making. Her behaviour and his own frustration put him in such a rage that, wheeling quickly round, he struck Kelpie, just as she dropped on all fours, a great cut with his whip across the haunches. She plunged and kicked violently, came within an inch of breaking his horse's leg, and flew across the rail into the park. Nothing could have suited Malcolm better. He did not punish her as he would have done had she been to blame, for he was always just to lower as well as higher animals, but he took her a great round at racing speed, while his mistress and her companion looked on, and everyone in the Row stopped and stared. Finally, he hopped her over the rail again, and brought her up dripping and foaming to his mistress. Florimel's eyes were flashing, and Liftore looked still angry.

"Dinna du that again, my lord," said Malcolm. "Ye're no my maister; an' gien ye war, ye wad hae no richt to brak my neck."

"No fear of that! That's not how your neck will be broken, my man," said his lordship, with an attempted laugh; for though he was all the angrier that he was ashamed of what he had done, he dared not further wrong the servant before his mistress.

A policeman came up and laid his hand on Kelpie's bridle.

"Take care what you're about," said Malcolm; "the mare's not safe. --There's my mistress, the Marchioness of Lossie."

The man saw an ugly look in Kelpie's eye, withdrew his hand, and turned to Florimel.

"My groom is not to blame," said she. "Lord Liftore struck his mare, and she became ungovernable."

The man gave a look at Liftore, seemed to take his likeness, touched his hat, and withdrew.

"You'd better ride the jade home," said Liftore.

Malcolm only looked at his mistress. She moved on, and he followed.

He was not so innocent in the affair as he had seemed. The expression of Liftore's face as he drew nearer to Florimel, was to him so hateful, that he interfered in a very literal fashion: Kelpie had been doing no more than he had made her until the earl struck her.

"Let us ride to Richmond tomorrow," said Florimel, "and have a good gallop in the park. Did you ever see a finer sight than that animal on the grass?"

"The fellow's too heavy for her," said Liftore. "I should very much like to try her myself."

Florimel pulled up, and turned to Malcolm.

"MacPhail," she said, "have that mare of yours ready whenever Lord Liftore chooses to ride her."

"I beg your pardon, my lady," returned Malcolm, "but would your ladyship make a condition with my lord that he shall not mount her anywhere on the stones."

"By Jove!" said Liftore scornfully. "You fancy yourself the only man that can ride!"

"It's nothing to me, my lord, if you break your neck; but I am bound to tell you I do not think your lordship will sit my mare. Stoat can't; and I can only because I know her as well as my own palm."

The young earl made no answer and they rode on--Malcolm nearer than his lordship liked.

"I can't think, Florimel," he said, "why you should want that fellow about you again. He is not only very awkward, but insolent as well."

"I should call it straightforward," returned Florimel.

"My dear Lady Lossie! See how close he is riding to us now."

"He is anxious, I daresay, as to your Lordship's behaviour. He is like some dogs that are a little too careful of their mistresses-- touchy as to how they are addressed--not a bad fault in dog--or groom either. He saved my life once, and he was a great favourite with my father: I won't hear anything against him."

"But for your own sake--just consider:--what will people say if you show any preference for a man like that?" said Liftore, who had already become jealous of the man who in his heart he feared could ride better than himself.

"My lord!" exclaimed Florimel, with a mingling of surprise and indignation in her voice, and suddenly quickening .her pace, dropped him behind.

Malcolm was after her so instantly that it brought him abreast of Liftore.

"Keep your own place," said his lordship, with stern rebuke.

"I keep my place to my mistress," returned Malcolm.

Liftore looked at him as it he would strike him. But he thought better of it apparently, and rode after Florimel.

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