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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMalcolm - Chapter 52. Cream Or Scum?
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Malcolm - Chapter 52. Cream Or Scum? Post by :Clivew Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :1811

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Malcolm - Chapter 52. Cream Or Scum?


Of the new evil report abroad concerning him, nothing had as yet reached Malcolm. He read, and pondered, and wrestled with difficulties of every kind; saw only a little of Lady Florimel, who, he thought, avoided him; saw less of the marquis; and, as the evenings grew longer, spent still larger portions of them with Duncan--now and then reading to him, but oftener listening to his music or taking a lesson in the piper's art. He went seldom into the Seaton, for the faces there were changed towards him. Attributing this to the reports concerning his parentage, and not seeing why he should receive such treatment because of them, hateful though they might well be to himself, he began to feel some bitterness towards his early world, and would now and then repeat to himself a misanthropical thing he had read, fancying he too had come to that conclusion. But there was not much danger of such a mood growing habitual with one who knew Duncan MacPhail, Blue Peter, and the schoolmaster-- not to mention Miss Horn. To know one person who is positively to be trusted, will do more for a man's moral nature--yes, for his spiritual nature--than all the sermons he has ever heard or ever can hear.

One evening, Malcolm thought he would pay Joseph a visit, but when he reached Scaurnose, he found it nearly deserted: he had forgotten that this was one of the nights of meeting in the Baillies' Barn. Phemy indeed had not gone with her father and mother, but she was spending the evening with the laird. Lifting the latch, and seeing no one in the house, he was on the point of withdrawing when he caught sight of an eye peeping through an inch opening of the door of the bed closet, which the same moment was hurriedly closed. He called, but received no reply, and left the cottage wondering. He had not heard that Mrs Mair had given Lizzy Findlay shelter for a season. And now a neighbour had observed and put her own construction on the visit, her report of which strengthened the general conviction of his unworthiness.

Descending from the promontory, and wandering slowly along the shore, he met the Scaurnose part of the congregation returning home. The few salutations dropped him as he passed were distant, and bore an expression of disapproval. Mrs Mair only, who was walking with a friend, gave him a kind nod. Blue Peter, who followed at a little distance, turned and walked back with him.

"I'm exerceesed i' my min'," he said, as soon as they were clear of the stragglers, "aboot the turn things hae taen, doon by at the Barn."

"They tell me there's some gey queer customers taen to haudin' furth," returned Malcolm.

"It's a fac'," answered Peter. "The fowk 'll hardly hear a word noo frae ony o' the aulder an' soberer Christians. They haena the gift o' the Speerit, they say. But in place o' steerin' them up to tak hold upo' their Maker, thir new lichts set them up to luik doon upo' ither fowk, propheseein' an' denuncin', as gien the Lord had committit jeedgment into their han's."

"What is 't they tak haud o' to misca' them for?" asked Malcolm.

"It's no sae muckle," answered Peter, "for onything they du, as for what they believe or dinna believe. There's an 'uman frae Clamrock was o' their pairty the nicht. She stude up an' spak weel, an' weel oot, but no to muckle profit, as 't seemed to me; only I'm maybe no a fair jeedge, for I cudna be rid o' the notion 'at she was lattin' at mysel' a' the time. I dinna ken what for. An' I cudna help wonnerin' gien she kent what fowk used to say aboot hersel' whan she was a lass; for gien the sma' half o' that was true, a body micht think the new grace gien her wad hae driven her to hide her head, i' place o' exaltin' her horn on high. But maybe it was a' lees--she kens best hersel'."

"There canna be muckle worship gaein' on wi' ye by this time, than, I'm thinkin'," said Malcolm.

"I dinna like to say 't," returned Joseph; "but there's a speerit o' speeritooal pride abroad amang 's, it seems to me, 'at's no fawvourable to devotion. They hae taen 't intill their heids, for ae thing--an that's what Dilse's Bess lays on at--'at 'cause they're fisher fowk, they hae a speecial mission to convert the warl'."

"What foon' they that upo'?" asked Malcolm.

"Ow, what the Saviour said to Peter an' the lave o' them 'at was fishers--to come to him, an' he would mak them fishers o' men."

"Ay, I see!--What for dinna ye bide at hame, you an' the lave o' the douce anes?"

"There ye come upo' the thing 'at 's troublin' me. Are we 'at begude it to brak it up? Or are we to stan' aside an' lat it a' gang to dirt an' green bree? Or are we to bide wi' them, an warsle aboot holy words till we tyne a' stamach for holy things?"

"Cud ye brak it up gien ye tried?" asked Malcolm.

"I doobt no. That's ane o' the considerations 'at hings some sair upo' me: see what we hae dune!"

"What for dinna ye gang ower to Maister Graham, an' speir what he thinks?"

"What for sud I gang till him? What's he but a fine moaral man? I never h'ard 'at he had ony discernment o' the min' o' the speerit."

"That's what Dilse's Bess frae Clamrock wad say aboot yersel', Peter."

"An' I doobt she wadna be far wrang."

"Ony gait, she kens nae mair aboot you nor ye ken aboot the maister. Ca' ye a man wha cares for naething in h'aven or in earth but the wull o' 's Creator--ca' ye sic a man no speeritual? Jist gang ye till 'im, an' maybe he'll lat in a glent upo' ye 'at 'll astonish ye."

"He's taen unco little enterest in onything 'at was gaein' on."

"Arena ye some wissin' ye hadna taen muckle mair yersel, Peter?"

"'Deed am I! But gien he be giftit like that ye say, what for didna he try to haud 's richt?"

"Maybe he thoucht ye wad mak yer mistaks better wantin' him."

"Weel, ye dinna ca' that freenly!"

"What for no? I hae h'ard him say fowk canna come richt 'cep' by haein' room to gang wrang. But jist ye gang till him noo. Maybe he'll open mair een i' yer heids nor ye kent ye had."

"Weel, maybe we micht du waur. I s' mention the thing to Bow o' meal an' Jeames Gentle, an' see what they say--There's nae guid to be gotten o' gaein' to the minister, ye see: there's naething in him, as the saw says, but what the spune pits intill him."

With this somewhat unfavourable remark, Blue Peter turned homewards. Malcolm went slowly back to his room, his tallow candle, and his volume of Gibbon.

He read far into the night, and his candle was burning low in the socket. Suddenly he sat straight up in his chair, listening: he thought he heard a sound in the next room--it was impossible even to imagine of what--it was such a mere abstraction of sound. He listened with every nerve, but heard nothing more; crept to the door of the wizard's chamber, and listened again; listened until he could no longer tell whether he heard or not, and felt like a deaf man imagining sounds; then crept back to his own room and went to bed--all but satisfied that, if it was anything, it must have been some shaking window or door he had heard.

But he could not get rid of the notion that he had smelt sulphur.

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