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- The Marquis of Lossie - 4/95 -
husband's dignity, still more jealous of her own.
"The verra image o' the auld markis!" she said to herself; for in the recesses of her bosom she spoke the Scotch she scorned to utter aloud; "and sits jist like himsel', wi' a wee stoop i' the saiddle, and ilka noo an' than a swing o' his haill boady back, as gien some thoucht had set him straught.--Gien the fractious brute wad but brak a bane or twa o' him!" she went on in growing anger. "The impidence o' the fallow! He has his leave: what for disna he tak' it an' gang? But oot o' this gang he sail. To ca' a man like mine a heepocreet 'cause he wadna procleem till a haul market ilka secret fau't o' the horse he had to sell! Haith, he cam' upo' the wrang side o' the sheet to play the lord and maister here! and that I can tell him!"
The mare was fresh, and the roads through the policy hard both by nature and by frost, so that he could not let her go, and had enough to do with her. He turned, therefore, towards the sea gate, and soon reached the shore. There, westward of the Seaton, where the fisher folk lived, the sand lay smooth, flat, and wet along the edge of the receding tide: he gave Kelpie the rein, and she sprang into a wild gallop, every now and then flinging her heels as high as her rider's head. But finding, as they approached the stony part from which rose the great rock called the Bored Craig, that he could not pull her up in time, he turned her head towards the long dune of sand which, a little beyond the tide, ran parallel with the shore. It was dry and loose, and the ascent steep. Kelpie's hoofs sank at every step, and when she reached the top, with wide spread struggling haunches, and "nostrils like pits full of blood to the brim," he had her in hand. She stood panting, yet pawing and dancing, and making the sand fly in all directions.
Suddenly a woman with a child in her arms rose, as it seemed to Malcolm, under Kelpie's very head. She wheeled and reared, and, in wrath or in terror, strained every nerve to unseat her rider, while, whether from faith or despair, the woman stood still as a statue, staring at the struggle.
"Haud awa' a bit, Lizzy," cried Malcolm. "She's a mad brute, an' I mayna be able to haud her. Ye ha'e the bairnie, ye see!"
She was a young woman, with a sad white face. To what Malcolm said she paid no heed, but stood with her child in her arms and gazed at Kelpie as she went on plunging and kicking about on the top of the dune.
"I reckon ye wadna care though the she deevil knockit oot yer harns; but ye ha'e the bairn, woman! Ha'e mercy on the bairn, an' rin to the boddom."
"I want to speak to ye, Ma'colm MacPhail," she said, in a tone whose very stillness revealed a depth of trouble.
"I doobt I canna hearken to ye richt the noo," said Malcolm. "But bide a wee." He swung himself from Kelpie's back, and, hanging hard on the bit with one hand, searched with the other in the pocket of his coat, saying, as he did so--"Sugar, Kelpie! sugar!"
The animal gave an eager snort, settled on her feet, and began snuffing about him. He made haste, for, if her eagerness should turn to impatience, she would do her endeavour to bite him. After crunching three or four lumps, she stood pretty quiet, and Malcolm must make the best of what time she would give him.
"Noo, Lizzy!" he said hurriedly. "Speyk while ye can."
"Ma'colm," said the girl, and looked him full in the face for a moment, for agony had overcome shame; then her gaze sought the far horizon, which to seafaring people is as the hills whence cometh their aid to the people who dwell among mountains; "--Ma'colm, he's gaein' to merry Leddy Florimel."
Malcolm started. Could the girl have learned more concerning his sister than had yet reached himself? A fine watching over her was his, truly! But who was this he?
Lizzy had never uttered the name of the father of her child, and all her people knew was that he could not be a fisherman, for then he would have married her before the child was born. But Malcolm had had a suspicion from the first, and now her words all but confirmed it.--And was that fellow going to marry his sister? He turned white with dismay--then red with anger, and stood speechless.
But he was quickly brought to himself by a sharp pinch under the shoulder blade from Kelpie's long teeth: he had forgotten her, and she had taken the advantage.
"Wha tellt ye that, Lizzy?" he said.
"I'm no at leeberty to say, Ma'colm, but I'm sure it's true, an' my hert's like to brak."
"Puir lassie!" said Malcolm, whose own trouble had never at any time rendered him insensible to that of others. "But is't onybody 'at kens what he says?" he pursued.
"Weel, I dinna jist richtly ken gien she kens, but I think she maun ha'e gude rizzon, or she wadna say as she says. Oh me! me! my bairnie 'ill be scornin' me sair whan he comes to ken. Ma'colm, ye're the only ane 'at disna luik doon upo' me, an whan ye cam' ower the tap o' the Boar's Tail, it was like an angel in a fire flaucht, an' something inside me said--Tell 'im; tell 'im; an' sae I bude to tell ye."
Malcolm was even too simple to feel flattered by the girl's confidence, though to be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved.
"Hearken, Lizzy!" he said. "I canna e'en think, wi' this brute ready ilka meenute to ate me up. I maun tak' her hame. Efter that, gien ye wad like to tell me onything, I s' be at yer service. Bide aboot here--or, luik ye: here's the key o' yon door; come throu' that intil the park--throu' aneth the toll ro'd, ye ken. There ye'll get into the lythe (lee) wi' the bairnie; an' I'll be wi' ye in a quarter o' an hoor. It'll tak' me but twa meenutes to gang hame. Stoat 'ill put up the mere, and I'll be back--I can du't in ten meenutes."
"Eh! dinna hurry for me, Ma'colm: I'm no worth it," said Lizzy.
But Malcolm was already at full speed along the top of the dune.
"Lord preserve 's!" cried Lizzy, when she saw him clear the brass swivel. "Sic a laad as that is! Eh, he maun ha'e a richt lass to lo'e him some day! It's a' ane to him, boat or beast. He wadna turn frae the deil himsel'. An syne he's jist as saft's a deuk's neck when he speyks till a wuman or a bairn--ay, or an auld man aither!"
And full of trouble as it was about another, Lizzy's heart yet ached at the thought that she should be so unworthy of one like him.
CHAPTER V: LIZZY FINDLAY
From the sands she saw him gain the turnpike road with a bound and a scramble. Crossing it he entered the park by the sea gate; she had to enter it by the tunnel that passed under the same road. She approached the grated door, unlocked it, and looked in with a shudder. It was dark, the other .end of it being obscured by trees, and the roots of the hill on whose top stood the temple of the winds. Through the tunnel blew what seemed quite another wind --one of death, from regions beneath. She drew her shawl, one end of which was rolled about her baby, closer around them both ere she entered. Never before had she set foot within the place, and a strange horror of it filled her: she did not know that by that passage, on a certain lovely summer night, Lord Meikleham had issued to meet her on the sands under the moon. The sea was not terrible to her; she knew all its ways nearly as well as Malcolm knew the moods of Kelpie; but the earth and its ways were less known to her, and to turn her face towards it and enter by a little door into its bosom was like a visit to her grave. But she gathered her strength, entered with a shudder, passed in growing hope and final safety through it, and at the other end came out again into the light, only the cold of its death seemed to cling to her still. But the day had grown colder; the clouds that, seen or unseen, ever haunt the winter sun, had at length caught and shrouded him, and through the gathering vapours he looked ghastly. The wind blew from the sea. The tide was going down. There was snow in the air. The thin leafless trees were all bending away from the shore, and the wind went sighing, hissing, and almost wailing through their bare boughs and budless twigs. There would be a storm, she thought, ere the morning, but none of their people were out.
Had there been--well, she had almost ceased to care about anything, and her own life was so little to her now, that she had become less able to value that of other people. To this had the ignis fatuus of a false love brought her! She had dreamed heedlessly, to awake sorrowfully. But not until she heard he was going to be married, had she come right awake, and now she could dream no more. Alas! alas! what claim had she upon him? How could she tell, since such he was, what poor girl like herself she might not have robbed of her part in him?
Yet even in the midst of her misery and despair, it was some consolation to think that Malcolm was her friend.
Not knowing that he had already suffered from the blame of her fault, or the risk at which he met her, she would have gone. towards the house to meet him the sooner, had not this been a part of the grounds where she knew Mr Crathie tolerated no one without express leave given. The fisher folk in particular must keep to the road by the other side of the burn, to which the sea gate admitted them. Lizzy therefore lingered near the tunnel, afraid of being seen.
Mr Crathie was a man who did well under authority, but upon the top of it was consequential, overbearing, and far more exacting than the marquis. Full of his employer's importance when he was present, and of his own when he was absent, he was yet in the latter circumstances so doubtful of its adequate recognition by those under him, that he had grown very imperious, and resented with indignation the slightest breach of his orders. Hence he was in no great favour with the fishers.
Now all the day he had been fuming over Malcolm's behaviour to him in the morning, and when he went home and learned that his wife had seen him upon Kelpie, as if nothing had happened, he became furious, and, in this possession of the devil, was at the present moment wandering about the grounds, brooding on the words Malcolm
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