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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Marquis Of Lossie - Chapter 3. Miss Horn
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The Marquis Of Lossie - Chapter 3. Miss Horn Post by :acw112 Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :3055

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The Marquis Of Lossie - Chapter 3. Miss Horn


The door opened, and in walked a tall, gaunt, hard featured woman, in a huge bonnet, trimmed with black ribbons, and a long black net veil, worked over with sprigs, coming down almost to her waist. She looked stern, determined, almost fierce, shook hands with a sort of loose dissatisfaction, and dropped into one of the easy chairs in which the library abounded. With the act the question seemed shot from her--"Duv ye ca' yersel' an honest man, noo, Ma'colm?"

"I ca' myself naething," answered the youth; "but I wad fain be what ye say, Miss Horn."

"Ow! I dinna doobt ye wadna steal, nor yet tell lees aboot a horse: I ha'e jist come frae a sair waggin' o' tongues about ye. Mistress Crathie tells me her man's in a sair vex 'at ye winna tell a wordless lee aboot the black mere: that's what I ca't--no her. But lee it wad be, an' dinna ye aither wag or haud a leein' tongue. A gentleman maunna lee, no even by sayin' naething--na, no gien 't war to win intill the kingdom. But, Guid be thankit, that's whaur leears never come. Maybe ye're thinkin' I ha'e sma' occasion to say sic like to yersel'. An' yet what's yer life but a lee, Ma'colm? You 'at's the honest Marquis o' Lossie to waur yer time an' the stren'th o' yer boady an' the micht o' yer sowl tyauvin' (wrestling) wi' a deevil o' a she horse, whan there's that half sister o' yer' ain gauin' to the verra deevil o' perdition himsel' amang the godless gentry o' Lon'on!"

"What wad ye ha'e me un'erstan' by that, Miss Horn?" returned Malcolm. "I hear no ill o' her. I daursay she's no jist a sa'nt yet, but that's no to be luiked for in ane o' the breed: they maun a' try the warl' first ony gait. There's a heap o' fowk--an' no aye the warst, maybe," continued Malcolm, thinking of his father, "'at wull ha'e their bite o' the aipple afore they spite it oot. But for my leddy sister, she's owre prood ever to disgrace hersel'."

"Weel, maybe, gien she bena misguidit by them she's wi'. But I'm no sae muckle concernt aboot her. Only it's plain 'at ye ha'e no richt to lead her intill temptation."

"Hoo am I temptin' at her, mem?"

"That's plain to half an e'e. Ir ye no lattin' her live believin' a lee? Ir ye no allooin' her to gang on as gien she was somebody mair nor mortal, when ye ken she's nae mair Marchioness o' Lossie nor ye're the son o' auld Duncan MacPhail? Faith, ye ha'e lost trowth gien ye ha'e gaint the warl' i' the cheenge o' forbeirs!"

"Mint at naething again the deid, mem. My father's gane till's accoont; an it's weel for him he has his father an' no his sister to pronoonce upo' him."

"'Deed ye're right there, laddie," said Miss Horn, in a subdued tone.

"He's made it up wi' my mither afore noo, I'm thinkin'; an' ony gait he confesst her his wife an' me her son afore he dee'd, an' what mair had he time to du?"

"It's fac'," returned Miss Horn. "An' noo luik at yersel': what yer father confesst wi' the verra deid thraw o' a labourin' speerit, to the whilk naething cud ha'e broucht him but the deid thraws (death struggles) o' the bodily natur' an' the fear o' hell, that same confession ye row up again i' the cloot o' secrecy, in place o' dightin' wi' 't the blot frae the memory o' ane wha I believe I lo'ed mair as my third cousin nor ye du as yer ain mither!"

"There's no blot upo' her memory, mem," returned the youth, "or I wad be markis the morn. There's never a sowl kens she was mither but kens she was wife--ay, an' whase wife, tu."

Miss Horn had neither wish nor power to reply, and changed her front.

"An' sae, Ma'colm Colonsay," she said, "ye ha'e no less nor made up yer min' to pass yer days in yer ain stable, neither better nor waur than an ostler at the Lossie Airms, an' that efter a' 'at I ha'e borne an' dune to mak a gentleman o' ye, bairdin' yer father here like a verra lion in 's den, an' garrin' him confess the thing again' ilka hair upon the stiff neck o' 'im? Losh, laddie! it was a pictur' to see him stan'in wi' 's back to the door like a camstairy (obstinate) bullock!"

"Haud yer tongue, mem, gien ye please. I canna bide to hear my father spoken o' like that. For ye see I lo'ed him afore I kent he was ony drap 's blude to me."

"Weel, that's verra weel; but father an' mither's man and wife, an' ye camna o' a father alane."

"That's true, mem, an' it canna be I sud ever forget yon face ye shawed me i' the coffin, the bonniest, sairest sicht I ever saw," returned Malcolm, with a quaver in his voice.

"But what for cairry yer thouchts to the deid face o' her? Ye kent the leevin' ane weel," objected Miss Horn.

"That's true, mem; but the deid face maist blottit the leevin' oot o' my brain."

"I'm sorry for that.--Eh, laddie, but she was bonny to see!"

"I aye thoucht her the bonniest leddy I ever set e'e upo'. An' dinna think, mem, I'm gaein to forget the deid, 'cause I'm mair concemt aboot the leevin'. I tell ye I jist dinna ken what to du. What wi' my father's deein' words committin' her to my chairge, an' the more than regaird I ha'e to Leddy Florimel hersel', I'm jist whiles driven to ane mair. Hoo can I tak the verra sunsheen oot o' her life 'at I lo'ed afore I kent she was my ain sister, an' jist thoucht lang to win near eneuch till to du her ony guid turn worth duin? An' here I am, her ane half brither, wi' naething i' my pooer but to scaud the hert o' her, or else lee! Supposin' she was weel merried first, hoo wad she stan' wi' her man whan he cam to ken 'at she was nae marchioness--hed no lawfu' richt to ony name but her mither's? An' afore that, what richt cud I ha'e to alloo ony man to merry her ohn kent the trowth aboot her? Faith, it wad be a fine chance though for the fin'in' oot whether or no the man was worthy o' her! But, ye see that micht be to make a playock o' her hert. Puir thing, she luiks doon upo' me frae the tap o' her bonny neck, as frae a h'avenly heicht; but I s' lat her ken yet, gien only I can win at the gait o' 't, that I ha'ena come nigh her for naething."

He gave a sigh with the words, and a pause followed.

"The trowth's the trowth," resumed Miss Horn, "neither mair nor less."

"Ay," responded Malcolm; "but there's a richt an' a wrang time for the telling' o' 't. It's no as gien I had had han' or tongue in ony foregane lee. It was naething o' my duin', as ye ken, mem. To mysel', I was never onything but a fisherman born. I confess 'at whiles, when we wad be lyin' i' the lee o' the nets, tethered to them like, wi' the win' blawin' strong 'an steady, I ha'e thocht wi' mysel' 'at I kent naething aboot my father, an' what gien it sud turn oot 'at I was the son o' somebody--what wad I du wi' my siller?"

"An' what thoucht ye ye wad du, laddie?" asked Miss Horn gently.

"What but bigg a harbour at Scaurnose for the puir fisher fowk 'at was like my ain flesh and blude!"

"Weel," rejoined Miss Horn eagerly, "div ye no look upo' that as a voo to the Almichty--a voo 'at ye're bun' to pay, noo 'at ye ha'e yer wuss? An' it's no merely 'at ye ha'e the means, but there's no anither that has the richt; for they're yer ain fowk, 'at ye gaither rent frae, an 'at's been for mony a generation sattlet upo' yer lan'--though for the maitter o' the lan', they ha'e had little mair o' that than the birds o' the rock ha'e ohn feued--an' them honest fowks wi' wives an' sowls o' their ain! Hoo upo' airth are ye to du yer duty by them, an' render yer accoont at the last, gien ye dinna tak till ye yer pooer an' reign? Ilk man 'at 's in ony sense a king o' men is bun' to reign ower them in that sense. I ken little aboot things mysel', an' I ha'e no feelin's to guide me, but I ha'e a wheen cowmon sense, an' that maun jist stan' for the lave."

A silence followed.

"What for speak na ye, Ma'colm?" said Miss Horn, at length.

"I was jist tryin'," he answered, "to min' upon a twa lines 'at I cam' upo' the ither day in a buik 'at Maister Graham gied me afore he gaed awa--'cause I reckon he kent them a' by hert. They say jist sic like's ye been sayin', mem--gien I cud but min' upo' them. They're aboot a man 'at aye does the richt gait--made by ane they ca' Wordsworth."

"I ken naething aboot him," said Miss Horn, with emphasized indifference.

"An' I ken but little: I s' ken mair or lang though. This is hoo the piece begins:

Who is the happy warrior? Who is he
That every Man in arms should wish to be?--
It is the generous Spirit, who, when brought
Among the tasks of real life, hath wrought
Upon the plan that pleased his childish thought.

--There! that's what ye wad hae o' me, mem!"

"Hear till him!" cried Miss Horn. "The man's i' the richt, though naebody never h'ard o' 'im. Haud ye by that, Ma'colm, an' dinna ye rist till ye ha'e biggit a harbour to the men an' women o' Scaurnose. Wha kens hoo mony may gang to the boddom afore it be dune, jist for the want o' 't?"

"The fundation maun be laid in richteousness, though, mem, else-- what gien 't war to save lives better lost?"

"That belangs to the Michty," said Miss Horn.

"Ay, but the layin' o' the fundation belangs to me. An' I'll no du't till I can du't ohn ruint my sister."

"Weel, there's ae thing clear: ye'll never ken what to do sae lang's ye hing on aboot a stable, fu' o' fower fittet animals wantin' sense--an' some twa fittet 'at has less."

"I doobt ye're richt there, mem; and gien I cud but tak puir Kelpie awa' wi' me--"

"Hoots! I'm affrontit wi ye. Kelpie--quo he! Preserve's a'! The laad 'ill lat his ain sister gang, an' bide at hame wi' a mere!"

Malcolm held his peace.

"Ay, I'm thinkin' I maun gang," he said at length.

"Whaur till, than?" asked Miss Horn.

"Ow! to Lon'on--whaur ither?"

"And what'll yer lordship du there?"

"Dinna say lordship to me, mem, or I'll think ye're jeerin' at me. What wad the caterpillar say," he added, with a laugh, "gien ye ca'd her my leddie Psyche?"

Malcolm of course pronounced the Greek word in Scotch fashion.

"I ken naething aboot yer Seechies or yer Sukies," rejoined Miss Horn. "I ken 'at ye're bun' to be a lord and no a stableman, an' I s' no lat ye rist till ye up an' say what neist?"

"It's what I ha'e been sayin' for the last three month," said Malcolm.

"Ay, I daursay; but ye ha'e been sayin' 't upo' the braid o' yer back, and I wad ha'e ye up an' sayin' 't."

"Gien I but kent what to du!" said Malcolm, for the thousandth time.

"Ye can at least gang whaur ye ha'e a chance o' learnin'," returned his friend.--"Come an' tak yer supper wi' me the nicht--a rizzart haddie an' an egg, an' I'll tell ye mair aboot yer mither."

But Malcolm avoided a promise, lest it should interfere with what he might find best to do.

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