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- Malcolm - 110/113 -


The marquis looked at him keenly.

"You don't anticipate that inconvenience for me?" he said. "I 'm pretty sure to have my billet where they 're not so precise."

"Dinna brak my hert, my lord!" cried Malcolm, the tears rushing to his eyes.

"I should be sorry to hurt you, Malcolm," rejoined the marquis gently, almost tenderly. "I won't go there if I can help it. I should n't like to break any more hearts. But how the devil am I to keep out of it? Besides, there are people up there I don't want to meet; I have no fancy for being made ashamed of myself. The fact is I 'm not fit for such company, and I don't believe there is any such place. But if there be, I trust in God there isn't any other, or it will go badly with your poor master, Malcolm. It doesn't look like true--now does it? Only such a multitude of things I thought I had done with for ever, keep coming up and grinning at me! It nearly drives me mad, Malcolm--and I would fain die like a gentleman, with a cool bow and a sharp face about."

"Wadna ye hae a word wi' somebody 'at kens, my lord?" said Malcolm, scarcely able to reply.

"No," answered the marquis fiercely. "That Cairns is a fool."

"He's a' that an' mair, my lord. I didna mean him."

"They 're all fools together.'

"Ow, na, my lord! There 's a heap o' them no muckle better, it may be; but there 's guid men an' true amang them, or the kirk wad hae been wi' Sodom and Gomorrha by this time. But it 's no a minister I wad hae yer lordship confar wi'."

"Who then? Mrs Courthope? Eh?"

"Ow na, my lord--no Mistress Coorthoup! She 's a guid body, but she wadna believe her ain een gien onybody ca'd a minister said contrar' to them."

"Who the devil do you mean then?"

"Nae deevil, but an honest man 'at 's been his warst enemy sae lang 's I hae kent him: Maister Graham, the schuilmaister."

"Pooh!" said the marquis with a puff. "I'm too old to go to school."

"I dinna ken the man 'at isna a bairn till him, my lord."

"In Greek and Latin?"

"I' richteousness an' trouth, my lord; in what's been an' what is to be."

"What! has he the second sicht, like the piper?"

"He has the second sicht, my lord--but ane 'at gangs a sicht farther than my auld daddy's."

"He could tell me then what's going to become of me?'

"As weel 's ony man, my lord."

"That 's not saying much, I fear."

"Maybe mair nor ye think, my lord."

"Well, take him my compliments, and tell him I should like to see him," said the marquis, after a pause.

"He 'll come direckly, my lord."

"Of course he will!" said the marquis.

"Jist as readily, my lord, as he wad gang to ony tramp 'at sent for 'im at sic a time," returned Malcolm, who did not relish either the remark or its tone.

"What do you mean by that? You don't think it such a serious affair --do you?"

"My lord, ye haena a chance."

The marquis was dumb. He had actually begun once more to buoy himself up with earthly hopes.

Dreading a recall of his commission, Malcolm slipped from the room, sent Mrs Courthope to take his place, and sped to the schoolmaster. The moment Mr Graham heard the marquis's message, he rose without a word, and led the way from the cottage. Hardly a sentence passed between them as they went, for they were on a solemn errand.

"Mr Graham 's here, my lord," said Malcolm.

"Where? Not in the room?" returned the marquis.

"Waitin' at the door, my lord."

"Bah! You needn't have been so ready. Have you told the sexton to get a new spade? But you may let him in. And leave him alone with me."

Mr Graham walked gently up to the bedside.

"Sit down, sir," said the marquis courteously--pleased with the calm, self possessed, unobtrusive bearing of the man. "They tell me I 'm dying, Mr Graham."

"I 'm sorry it seems to trouble you, my lord."

"What! wouldn't it trouble you then?"

"I don't think so, my lord."

"Ah! you're one of the elect, no doubt?"

"That's a thing I never did think about, my lord."

"What do you think about then?"

"About God."

"And when you die you 'll go straight to heaven of course--"

"I don't know, my lord. That 's another thing I never trouble my head about."

"Ah! you 're like me then! I don't care much about going to heaven! What do you care about?"

"The will of God. I hope your lordship will say the same."

"No I won't. I want my own will."

"Well, that is to be had, my lord."

"How?"

"By taking his for yours, as the better of the two, which it must be every way."

"That's all moonshine."

"It is light, my lord."

"Well, I don't mind confessing, if I am to die, I should prefer heaven to the other place; but I trust I have no chance of either. Do you now honestly believe there are two such places?"

"I don't know, my lord."

"You don't know! And you come here to comfort a dying man!"

"Your lordship must first tell me what you mean by 'two such places.' And as to comfort, going by my notions, I cannot tell which you would be more or less comfortable in; and that, I presume, would be the main point with your lordship."

"And what, pray, sir, would be the main point with you?"

"To get nearer to God."

"Well--I can't say I want to get nearer to God. It 's little he 's ever done for me."

"It's a good deal he has tried to do for you, my lord."

"Well, who interfered? Who stood in his way, then?"

"Yourself, my lord."

"I wasn't aware of it. When did he ever try to do anything for me, and I stood in his way?"

"When he gave you one of the loveliest of women, my lord," said Mr Graham, with solemn, faltering voice, "and you left her to die in neglect, and the child to be brought up by strangers."

The marquis gave a cry. The unexpected answer had roused the slowly gnawing death, and made it bite deeper.

"What have you to do," he almost screamed, "with my affairs? It was for me to introduce what I chose of them. You presume."

"Pardon me, my lord: you led me to what I was bound to say. Shall I leave you, my lord?"

The marquis made no answer.

"God knows I loved her," he said after a while, with a sigh.

"You loved her, my lord!"

"I did, by God!"

"Love a woman like that, and come to this?"

"Come to this! We must all come to this, I fancy, sooner or later. Come to what, in the name of Beelzebub?"


Malcolm - 110/113

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