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- The Marquis of Lossie - 5/95 -
had spoken. He could not get rid of them. They caused an acrid burning in his bosom, for they had in them truth, like which no poison stings.
Malcolm, having crossed by the great bridge at the house, hurried down the western side of the burn to find Lizzy, and soon came upon her, walking up and down.
"Eh, lassie, ye maun be cauld!" he said.
"No that cauld," she answered, and with the words burst into tears: "But naebody says a kin' word to me noo," she said in excuse, "an' I canna weel bide the soun' o' ane when it comes; I'm no used till 't."
"Naebody?" exclaimed Malcolm.
"Na, naebody," she answered. "My mither winna, my father daurna, an' the bairnie canna, an I gang near naebody forbye."
"Weel, we maunna stan' oot here i' the cauld: come this gait," said Malcolm. "The bairnie 'll get its deid."
"There wadna be mony to greit at that," returned Lizzy, and pressed the child closer to her bosom.
Malcolm led the way to the little chamber contrived under the temple in the heart of the hill, and unlocking the door made her enter. There he seated her in a comfortable chair, and wrapped her in the plaid he had brought for the purpose. It was all he could do to keep from taking her in his arms for very pity, for, both body and soul, she seemed too frozen to shiver. He shut the door, sat down on the table near her, and said:
"There's naebody to disturb 's here, Lizzy: what wad ye say to me noo?"
The sun was nearly down, and its light already almost smothered in clouds, so that the little chamber, whose door and window were in the deep shadow of the hill, was nearly dark.
"I wadna hae ye tell me onything ye promised no to tell," resumed Malcolm, finding she did not reply, "but I wad like to hear as muckle as ye can say."
"I hae naething to tell ye, Ma'colm, but jist 'at my leddy Florimel's gauin' to be merried upo' Lord Meikleham--Lord Liftore, they ca' him noo. Hech me!"
"God forbid she sud be merried upon ony sic a bla'guard!" cried Malcolm.
"Dinna ca' 'im ill names, Ma'colm. I canna bide it, though I hae no richt to tak up the stick for him."
"I wadna say a word 'at micht fa' sair on a sair hert," he returned; "but gien ye kent a', ye wad ken I hed a gey sized craw to pluck wi' 's lordship mysel'."
The girl gave a low cry.
"Ye wadna hurt 'im, Ma'colm?" she said, in terror at the thought of the elegant youth in the clutches of an angry fisherman, even if he were the generous Malcolm MacPhail himself.
"I wad raither not," he replied, "but we maun see hoo he cairries himsel'."
"Du naething till 'im for my sake, Ma'colm. Ye can hae naething again' him yersel'."
It was too dark for Malcolm to see the keen look of wistful regret with which Lizzy tried to pierce the gloom and read his face: for a moment the poor girl thought he meant he had loved her himself. But far other thoughts were in Malcolm's mind: one was that her whom, as a scarce approachable goddess, he had loved before he knew her of his own blood, he would rather see married to an honest fisherman in the Seaton of Portlossie, than to such a lord as Meikleham. He had seen enough of him at Lossie House to know what he was, and puritanical fish catching Malcolm had ideas above those of most marquises of his day: the thought of the alliance was horrible to him. It was possibly not inevitable, however; only what could he do, and at the same time avoid grievous hurt?
"I dinna think he'll ever merry my leddy," he said.
"What gars ye say that, Ma'colm?" returned Lizzy, with eagerness.
"I canna tell ye jist i' the noo; but ye ken a body canna weel be aye aboot a place ohn seein things. I'll tell ye something o' mair consequence hooever," he continued. . "Some fowk say there's a God, an' some say there's nane, an' I ha'e no richt to preach to ye, Lizzy; but I maun jist tell ye this--'at gien God dinna help them 'at cry till 'im i' the warst o' tribles, they micht jist as weel ha'e nae God at a'. For my ain pairt I ha'e been helpit, an' I think it was him intil 't. Wi' his help, a man may warstle throu' onything. I say I think it was himsel' tuik me throu' 't, an' here I stan' afore ye, ready for the neist trible, an' the help 'at 'll come wi' 't. What it may be, God only knows!"
CHAPTER VI: MR CRATHIE
He was interrupted by the sudden opening of the door, and the voice of the factor in exultant wrath.
"MacPhail!" it cried. "Come out with you. Don't think to sneak there. I know you. What right have you to be on the premises? Didn't I send you about your business this morning?"
"Ay, sir, but ye didna pay me my wages," said Malcolm, who had sprung to the door and now stood holding it half shut, while Mr Crathie pushed it half open.
"No matter. You're nothing better than a housebreaker if you enter any building about the place."
"I brak nae lock," returned Malcolm. "I ha'e the key my lord gae me to ilka place 'ithin the wa's excep' the strong room."
"Give it me directly. I'm master here now."
"'Deed, I s' du nae sic thing, sir. What he gae me I'll keep."
"Give up that key, or I'll go at once and get a warrant against you for theft."
"Weel, we s' refar't to Maister Soutar."
"Damn your impudence--'at I sud say't!--what has he to do with my affairs? Come out of that directly."
"Huly, huly, sir!" returned Malcolm, in terror lest he should discover who was with him.
"You low bred rascal! Who have you there with you?"
As he spoke Mr Crathie would have forced his way into the dusky chamber, where he could just perceive a motionless undefined form. But stiff as a statue Malcolm kept his stand, and the door was immovable. Mr Crathie gave a second and angrier push, but the youth's corporeal as well as his mental equilibrium was hard to upset, and his enemy drew back in mounting fury.
"Get out of there," he cried, "or I'll horsewhip you for a damned blackguard."
"Whup awa'," said Malcolm, "but in here ye s' no come the nicht."
The factor rushed at him, his heavy whip upheaved--and the same moment found himself, not in the room, but lying on the flower bed in front of it. Malcolm instantly stepped out, locked the door, put the key in his pocket, and turned to assist him. But he was up already, and busy with words unbefitting the mouth of an elder of the kirk.
"Didna I say 'at ye sudna come in, sir? What for wull fowk no tak' a tellin'?" expostulated Malcolm.
But the factor was far beyond force of logic or illumination of reason. He raved and swore.
"Get oot o' my sicht," he cried, "or I'll shot ye like a tyke."
"Gang an' fess yer gun," said Malcolm, "an' gien ye fin' me waitin' for ye, ye can lat at me."
The factor uttered a horrible imprecation on himself if he did not make him pay dearly for his behaviour.
"Hoots, sir! Be asham't o' yersel'. Gang hame to the mistress, an' I s' be up the morn's mornin' for my wages."
"If ye set foot on the grounds again, I'll set every dog in the place upon you."
"Gien I was to turn the order the ither gait, wad they min' you or me, div ye think, Maister Crathie?"
"Give me that key, and go about your business."
"Na, na, sir! What my lord gae me I s' keep--for a' the factors atween this an' the Land's En'," returned Malcolm. "An' for lea'in' the place, gien I be na in your service, Maister Crathie, I'm nae un'er your orders. I'll gang whan it shuits me. An' mair yet, ye s' gang oot o' this first, or I s' gar ye, an that ye'll see."
It was a violent proceeding, but for a matter of manners he was not going to risk what of her good name poor Lizzy had left: like the books of the Sibyl, that grew in value. He made, however, but one threatful stride towards the factor, for the great man turned and fled.
The moment he was out of sight, Malcolm unlocked the door, led Lizzy out, and brought her through the tunnel to the sands. There he left her, and set out for Scaurnose.
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