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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Marquis Of Lossie - Chapter 69. Lizzy's Baby
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The Marquis Of Lossie - Chapter 69. Lizzy's Baby Post by :joebio91 Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :1281

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The Marquis Of Lossie - Chapter 69. Lizzy's Baby


While they were out in the fishing boat together, Clementina had, with less difficulty than she had anticipated, persuaded Lizzy to tell Lady Lossie her secret. It was in the hope of an interview with her false lover that the poor girl had consented so easily.

A great longing had risen within her to have the father of her child acknowledge him--only to her, taking him once in his arms. That was all. She had no hope, thought indeed she had no desire for herself. But a kind word to him would be welcome as light. The love that covers sins had covered the multitude of his, and although hopelessness had put desire to sleep, she would gladly have given her life for a loving smile from him. But mingled with this longing to see him once with his child in his arms, a certain loyalty to the house of Lossie also influenced her to listen to the solicitation of Lady Clementina, and tell the marchioness the truth.

She cherished no resentment against Liftore, but not therefore was she willing to allow a poor young thing like Lady Lossie, whom they all liked, to be sacrificed to such a man, who would doubtless at length behave badly enough to her also.

With trembling hands, and heart now beating wildly, now failing for fear, she dressed her baby and herself as well as she could, and, about one o'clock, went to the House.

Now nothing would have better pleased Lady Clementina than that Liftore and Lizzy should meet in Florimel's presence, but she recoiled altogether from the small stratagems, not to mention the lies, necessary to the effecting of such a confrontation. So she had to content herself with bringing the two girls together, and, when Lizzy was a little rested, and had had a glass of wine, went to look for Florimel.

She found her in a little room adjoining the library, which, on her first coming to Lossie, she had chosen for her waking nest. Liftore had, if not quite the freedom of the spot, yet privileges there; but at that moment Florimel was alone in it. Clementina informed her that a fisher girl, with a sad story which she wanted to tell her, had come to the house; and Florimel, who was not only kind hearted, but relished the position she imagined herself to occupy as lady of the place, at once assented to her proposal to bring the young woman to her there.

Now Florimel and the earl had had a small quarrel the night before, after Clementina left the dinner table, and for the pleasure of keeping it up Florimel had not appeared at breakfast, and had declined to ride with his lordship, who had therefore been all the morning on the watch for an opportunity of reconciling himself. It so happened that from the end of one of the long narrow passages in which the house abounded, he caught a glimpse of Clementina's dress vanishing through the library door, and took the lady for Florimel on her way to her boudoir.

When Clementina entered with Lizzy carrying her child, Florimel instantly suspected the truth, both as to who she was and as to the design of her appearance. Her face flushed, for her heart filled with anger, chiefly indeed against Malcolm, but against the two women as well, who, she did not doubt, had lent themselves to his designs, whatever they might be. She rose, drew herself up, and stood prepared to act for both Liftore and herself.

Scarcely however had the poor girl, trembling at the evident displeasure the sight of her caused in Florimel, opened her mouth to answer her haughty inquiry as to her business, when Lord Liftore, daring an entrance without warning, opened the door behind her, and, almost as he opened it, began his apology.

At the sound of his voice Lizzy turned with a cry, and her small remaining modicum of self possession vanished at sight of him round whose phantom in her bosom whirred the leaves of her withered life on the stinging blasts of her shame and sorrow. As much from inability to stand as in supplication for the coveted favour, she dropped on her knees before him, incapable of uttering a word, but holding up her child imploringly. Taken altogether by surprise, and not knowing what to say or do, the earl stood and stared for a moment, then, moved by a dull spirit of subterfuge, fell back on the pretence of knowing nothing about her.

"Well, young woman," he said, affecting cheerfulness, "what do you want with me? I didn't advertise for a baby. Pretty child, though!"

Lizzy turned white as death, and her whole body seemed to give a heave of agony. Clementina had just taken the child from her arms when she sunk motionless at his feet. Florimel went to the bell. But Clementina prevented her from ringing.

"I will take her away," she said. "Do not expose her to your servants. Lady Lossie, my Lord Liftore is the father of this child: and if you can marry him after the way you have seen him use its mother, you are not too good for him, and I will trouble myself no more about you."

"I know the author of this calumny!" cried Florimel, panting and flushed. "You have been listening to the inventions of an ungrateful dependent! You slander my guest."

"Is it a calumny, my lord? Do I slander you?" said Lady Clementina, turning sharply upon the earl.

His lordship made her a cool obeisance. Clementina ran into the library, laid the child in a big chair, and returned for the mother. She was already coming a little to herself; and feeling about blindly for her baby, while Florimel and Liftore were looking out of the window, with their backs towards her. Clementina raised and led her from the room. But in the doorway she turned and said --"Goodbye, Lady Lossie. I thank you for your hospitality, but I can of course be your guest no longer."

"Of course not. There is no occasion for prolonged leave taking," returned Florimel, with the air of a woman of forty.

"Florimel, you will curse the day you marry that man!" cried Clementina, and closed the door.

She hurried Lizzy to the library, put the baby in her arms, and clasped them both in her own. A gush of tears lightened the oppressed heart of the mother.

"Lat me oot o' the hoose, for God's sake!" she cried; and Clementina, almost as anxious to leave it as she, helped her down to the hall. When she saw the open door, she rushed out of it as if escaping from the pit.

Now Malcolm, as he came from the factor's, had seen her go in with her baby in her arms, and suspected the hand of Clementina. Wondering and anxious, but not very hopeful as to what might come of it, he waited close by; and when now he saw Lizzy dart from the house in wild perturbation, he ran from the cover of the surrounding trees into the open drive to meet her.

"Ma'colm!" groaned the poor girl, holding out her baby, "he winna own till't. He winna alloo 'at he kens oucht aboot me or the bairn aither!"

Malcolm had taken the child from her, and was clasping him to his bosom.

"He's the warst rascal, Lizzy," he said, "'at ever God made an' the deevil blaudit."

"Na, na," cried Lizzy; "the likes o' him whiles kills the wuman, but he wadna du that. Na, he's nae the warst; there's a heap waur nor him."

"Did ye see my mistress?" asked Malcolm.

"Ow ay; but she luikit sae angry at me, I cudna speyk. Him an' her 's ower thrang for her to believe onything again' him. An' what ever the bairn 's to du wantin' a father!"

"Lizzy," said Malcolm, clasping the child again to his bosom. "I s' be a father to yer bairn--that is, as weel's ane 'at's no yer man can be."

And he kissed the child tenderly.

The same moment an undefined impulse--the drawing of eyes probably --made him lift his towards the house: half leaning from the open window of the boudoir above him, stood Florimel and Liftore; and just as he looked up, Liftore was turning to Florimel with a smile that seemed to say--"There! I told you so! He is the father himself."

Malcolm replaced the infant in his mother's arm, and strode towards the house. Imagining he went to avenge her wrongs, Lizzy ran after him.

"Ma'colm Ma'colm!" she cried; "--for my sake!--He's the father o' my bairn!"

Malcolm turned.

"Lizzy," he said solemnly, "I winna lay han' upon 'im."

Lizzy pressed her child closer with a throb of relief.

"Come in yersel' an' see," he added.

"I daurna! I daurna!" she said. But she lingered about the door.

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