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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMalcolm - Chapter 50. Lizzy Findlay
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Malcolm - Chapter 50. Lizzy Findlay Post by :Clivew Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :1836

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Malcolm - Chapter 50. Lizzy Findlay

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.

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