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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Marquis Of Lossie - Chapter 65. The Eve Of The Crisis
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The Marquis Of Lossie - Chapter 65. The Eve Of The Crisis Post by :joebio91 Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :938

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The Marquis Of Lossie - Chapter 65. The Eve Of The Crisis


It was late in the sweetest of summer mornings when the Partan's boat slipped slowly back with a light wind to the harbour of Portlossie. Malcolm did not wait to land the fish, but having changed his clothes and taken breakfast with Duncan, who was always up early, went to look after Kelpie. When he had done with her, finding some of the household already in motion, he went through the kitchen, and up the old corkscrew stone stair to his room to have the sleep he generally had before his breakfast. Presently came a knock at his door, and there was Rose.

The girl's behaviour to Malcolm was much changed. The conviction had been strengthened in her that he was not what he seemed, and she regarded him now with a vague awe. She looked this way and that along the passage, with fear in her eyes, then stepped timidly inside the room to tell him, in a hurried whisper, that she had seen the woman who gave her the poisonous philtre, talking to Caley the night before, at the foot of the bridge, after everybody else was in bed. She had been miserable till she could warn him. He thanked her heartily, and said he would be on his guard; he would neither eat nor drink in the house. She crept softly away. He secured the door, lay down, and trying to think fell asleep.

When he woke his brain was clear. The very next day, whether Lenorme came or not, he would declare himself. That night he would go fishing with Lady Clementina, but not one day longer would he allow those people to be about his sister. Who could tell what might not be brewing, or into what abyss, with the help of her friends, the woman Catanach might not plunge Florimel?

He rose, took Kelpie out, and had a good gallop. On his way back he saw in the distance Florimel riding with Liftore. The earl was on his father's bay mare. He could not endure the sight, and dashed home at full speed.

Learning from Rose that Lady Clementina was in the flower garden, he found her at the swan basin, feeding the gold and silver fishes. An under gardener who had been about the place for thirty years, was at work not far off. The light splash of the falling column which the marble swan spouted from its upturned beak, prevented her from hearing his approach until he was close behind her. She turned, and her fair face took the flush of a white rose.

"My lady," he said, "I have got everything arranged for tonight."

"And when shall we go?" she asked eagerly.

"At the turn of the tide, about half past seven. But seven is your dinner hour."

"It is of no consequence.--But could you not make it half an hour later, and then I should not seem rude?"

"Make it any hour you please, my lady, so long as the tide is falling."

"Let it be eight then, and dinner will be almost over. They will not miss me after that. Mr Cairns is going to dine with them. I think, except Liftore, I never disliked a man so much. Shall I tell them where I am going?"

"Yes, my lady. It will be better.--They will look amazed--for all their breeding!"

"Whose boat is it, that I may be able to tell them if they should ask me?"

"Joseph Mair's. He and his wife will come and fetch you. Annie Mair will go with us--if I may say us: will you allow me to go in your boat, my lady?"

"I couldn't go without you, Malcolm."

"Thank you, my lady. Indeed I don't know how I could let you go without me! Not that there is anything to fear, or that I could make it the least safer; but somehow it seems my business to take care of you."

"Like Kelpie?" said Clementina, with a merrier smile than he had ever seen on her face before.

"Yes, my lady," answered Malcolm; "--if to do for you all and the best you will permit me to do, be to take care of you like Kelpie, then so it is."

Clementina gave a little sigh.

"Mind you don't scruple, my lady, to give what orders you please. It will be your fishing boat for tonight."

Clementina bowed her head in acknowledgment.

"And now, my lady," Malcolm went on, "just look about you for a moment. See this great vault of heaven, full of golden light raining on trees and flowers--every atom of air shining. Take the whole into your heart, that you may feel the difference at night, my lady --when the stars, and neither sun nor moon, will be in the sky, and all the flowers they shine on will be their own flitting, blinking, swinging, shutting and opening reflections in the swaying floor of the ocean,--when the heat will be gone, and the air clean and clear as the thoughts of a saint."

Clementina did as he said, and gazed above and around her on the glory of the summer day overhanging the sweet garden, and on the flowers that had just before been making her heart ache with their unattainable secret. But she thought with herself that if Malcolm and she but shared it with a common heart as well as neighboured eyes, gorgeous day and ethereal night, or snow clad wild and sky of stormy blackness, were alike welcome to her spirit.

As they talked they wandered up the garden, and had drawn near the spot where, in the side of the glen, was hollowed the cave of the hermit. They now turned towards the pretty arbour of moss that covered its entrance, each thinking the other led, but Malcolm not without reluctance. For how horribly and unaccountably had he not been shaken, the only time he ever entered it, at the sight of the hermit! The thing was a foolish wooden figure, no doubt, but the thought that it still sat over its book in the darkest corner of the cave, ready to rise and advance with outstretched hand to welcome its visitor, had, ever since then, sufficed to make him shudder. He was on the point of warning Clementina lest she too should be worse than startled, when he was arrested by the voice of John Jack, the old gardener, who came stooping after them, looking a sexton of flowers.

"Ma'colm, Ma'colm!" he cried, and crept up wheezing. "--I beg yer leddyship's pardon, my leddy, but I wadna ha'e Ma'colm lat ye gang in there ohn tellt ye what there is inside."

"Thank you, John. I was just going to tell my lady," said Malcolm.

"Because, ye see," pursued John, "I was ae day here i' the gairden --an' I was jist graftin' a bonny wull rose buss wi' a Hector o' France--an' it grew to be the bonniest rose buss in a' the haul gairden--whan the markis, no the auld markis, but my leddy's father, cam' up the walk there, an' a bonny young leddy wi' his lordship, as it micht be yersel's twa--an' I beg yer pardon, my leddy, but I'm an auld man noo, an' whiles forgets the differs 'atween fowk--an' this yoong leddy 'at they ca'd Miss Cam'ell-- ye kenned her yersel' efterhin', I daursay, Ma'colm--he was unco ta'en with her, the markis, as ilka body cud see ohn luikit that near, sae 'at some saich 'at hoo he hed no richt to gang on wi' her that gait, garrin' her believe, gien he wasna gaein' to merry her. That's naither here nor there, hooever, seein' it a' cam' to jist naething ava'. Sae up they gaed to the cave yon'er, as I was tellin' ye; an' hoo it was, was a won'er, for I 's warran' she had been aboot the place near a towmon (twelvemonth), but never had she been intil that cave, and kenned no more nor the bairn unborn what there was in 't. An' sae whan the airemite, as the auld minister ca'd him, though what for he ca'd a muckle block like yon an airy mite, I'm sure I never cud fathom--whan he gat up, as I was sayin', an' cam' foret wi' his han' oot, she gae a scraich 'at jist garred my lugs dirl, an' doon she drappit, an' there, whan I ran up, was she lyin' i' the markis his airms, as white 's a cauk eemege, an' it was lang or he brought her till hersel', for he wadna lat me rin for the hoosekeeper, but sent me fleein' to the f'untain for watter, an' gied me a gowd guinea to haud my tongue aboot it a'. Sae noo, my leddy, ye're forewarnt, an' no ill can come to ye, for there's naething to be fleyt at whan ye ken what's gauin' to meet ye."

Malcolm had turned his head aside, and now moved on without remark. Struck by his silence, Clementina looked up, and saw his face very pale, and the tears standing in his eyes.

"You must tell me the sad story, Malcolm," she murmured. "I could scarcely understand a word the old man said."

He continued silent, and seemed struggling with some emotion. But when they were within a few paces of the arbour, he stopped short, and said--"I would rather not go in there today. You would oblige me, my lady, if you would not go."

She looked up at him again, with wonder but more concern in her lovely face, put her hand on his arm, gently turned him away, and walked back with him to the fountain. Not a word more did she say about the matter.

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The Marquis Of Lossie - Chapter 66. Sea The Marquis Of Lossie - Chapter 66. Sea

The Marquis Of Lossie - Chapter 66. Sea
CHAPTER LXVI. SEAThe evening came; and the company at Lossie House was still seated at table, Clementina heartily weary of the vapid talk that had been going on all through the dinner, when she was informed that a fisherman of the name of Mair was at the door, accompanied by his wife, saying they had an appointment with her. She had already acquainted her hostess, when first they sat down, with her arrangements for going a-fishing that night, and much foolish talk and would be wit had followed; now, when she rose and excused herself, they all wished her a pleasant

The Marquis Of Lossie - Chapter 64. A Visitation The Marquis Of Lossie - Chapter 64. A Visitation

The Marquis Of Lossie - Chapter 64. A Visitation
CHAPTER LXIV. A VISITATIONMalcolm's custom was, first, immediately after breakfast, to give Kelpie her airing--and a tremendous amount of air she wanted for the huge animal furnace of her frame, and the fiery spirit that kept it alight; then, returning to the Seaton, to change the dress of the groom, in which he always appeared about the house, lest by any chance his mistress should want him, for that of the fisherman, and help with the nets, or the boats, or in whatever was going on. As often as he might he did what seldom a man would--went to the long