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- The Marquis of Lossie - 60/95 -


entered. Keen sighted both physically and intellectually, she recognized Florimel the moment she saw her.

"Twa doos mair to the boody craw!" she laughed to herself. "Ae man thrashin', an' twa birdies pickin'!" she went on, quoting the old nursery nonsense. Then she stooped, and let down her veil. Florimel hated her, and therefore might know her.

"It's the day o' the Lord wi' auld Sanny Grame!" she resumed to herself, as she lifted her head. "He's stickit nae mair, but a chosen trumpet at last! Foul fa' 'im for a wearifu' cratur for a' that! He has nowther balm o' grace nor pith o' damnation.

"Yon laad Flemin', 'at preached i' the Baillies' Barn aboot the dowgs gaein' roon' an' roon' the wa's o' the New Jeroozlem, gien he had but hauden thegither an' no gean to the worms sae sune, wad hae dung a score o' 'im. But Sanny angers me to that degree 'at but for rizons--like yon twa--I wad gang oot i' the mids o' ane o' 's palahvers, an' never come back, though I ha'e a haill quarter o' my sittin' to sit oot yet, an' it cost me dear, an' fits the auld back o' me no that ill."

When Mr Graham rose to read the psalm, great was Clementina's disappointment: he looked altogether, as she thought, of a sort with the place--mean and dreary--of the chapel very chapelly, and she did not believe it could be the man of whom Malcolm had spoken. By a strange coincidence however, a kind of occurrence as frequent as strange, he read for his text that same passage about the gold ring and the vile raiment, in which we learn how exactly the behaviour of the early Jewish churches corresponded to that of the later English ones, and Clementina soon began to alter her involuntary judgment of him when she found herself listening to an utterance beside which her most voluble indignation would have been but as the babble of a child.

Sweeping, incisive, withering, blasting denunciation, logic and poetry combining in one torrent of genuine eloquence, poured confusion and dismay upon head and heart of all who set themselves up for pillars of the church without practising the first principles of the doctrine of Christ--men who, professing to gather their fellows together in the name of Christ, conducted the affairs of the church on the principles of hell--men so blind and dull and slow of heart, that they would never know what the outer darkness meant until it had closed around them--men who paid court to the rich for their money, and to the poor for their numbers--men who sought gain first, safety next, and the will of God not at all --men whose presentation of Christianity was enough to drive the world to a preferable infidelity.

Clementina listened with her very soul. All doubt as to whether this was Malcolm's friend, vanished within two minutes of his commencement. If she rejoiced a little more than was humble or healthful in finding that such a man thought as she thought, she gained this good notwithstanding--the presence and power of a man who believed in righteousness the doctrine he taught. Also she perceived that the principles of equality he held, were founded on the infinite possibilities of the individual--and of the race only through the individual; and that he held these principles with an absoluteness, an earnestness, a simplicity, that dwarfed her loudest objurgation to the uneasy murmuring of a sleeper. She could not but trust him, and her hope grew great that perhaps for her he held the key of the kingdom of heaven. She saw that if what this man said was true, then the gospel was represented by men who knew nothing of its real nature, and by such she bad been led into a false judgment of it.

"If such a man," said the schoolmaster in conclusion, "would but once represent to himself that the man whom he regards as beneath him, may nevertheless be immeasurably above him--and that after no arbitrary judgment, but according to the absolute facts of creation, the scale of the kingdom of God, in which being is rank; if he could persuade himself of the possibility that he may yet have to worship before the feet of those on whom he looks down as on the creatures of another and meaner order of creation, would it not sting him to rise, and, lest this should be one of such, make offer of his chair to the poor man in the vile raiment? Would he ever more, all his life long, dare to say, 'Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool?'"

During the week that followed, Clementina reflected with growing delight on what she had heard, and looked forward to hearing more of a kind correspondent on the approaching Sunday. Nor did the shock of the disappearance of Florimel with Malcolm abate her desire to be taught by Malcolm's friend.

Lady Bellair was astounded, mortified, enraged. Liftore turned grey with passion, then livid with mortification, at the news. Not one of all their circle, as Florimel had herself foreseen, doubted for a moment that she had run away with that groom of hers. Indeed, upon examination, it became evident that the scheme had been for some time in hand: the yacht they had gone on board had been lying there for months; and although she was her own mistress, and might marry whom she pleased, it was no wonder she had run away, for how could she have held her face to it, or up after it?

Lady Clementina accepted the general conclusion, but judged it individually. She had more reason to be distressed at what seemed to have taken place than anyone else; indeed it stung her to the heart, wounding her worse than in its first stunning effects she was able to know; yet she thought better rather than worse of Florimel because of it. What she did not like in her with reference to the affair was the depreciatory manner in which she had always spoken of Malcolm. If genuine, it was quite inconsistent with due regard for the man for whom she was yet prepared to sacrifice so much; if, on the other hand, her slight opinion of his judgment was a pretence, then she had been disloyal to the just prerogatives of friendship.

The latter part of that week was the sorest time Clementina had ever passed. But, like a true woman, she fought her own misery and sense of loss, as well as her annoyance and anxiety,--constantly saying to herself that, be the thing as it might, she could never cease to be glad that she had known Malcolm MacPhail.

CHAPTER LIII: A NEW PUPIL

The sermon Lady Clementina heard with such delight had followed one levelled at the common and right worldly idea of success harboured by each, and unquestioned by one of the chief men of the community: together they caused a strange uncertain sense of discomfort in the mind diaconal. Slow to perceive that that idea, nauseous in his presentment of it, was the very same cherished and justified by themselves; unwilling also to believe that in his denunciation of respecters of persons they themselves had a full share, they yet felt a little uneasy from the vague whispers of their consciences on the side of the neglected principles enounced, clashing with the less vague conviction that if those whispers were encouraged and listened to, the ruin of their hopes for their chapel, and their influence in connection with it, must follow. They eyed each other doubtfully, and there appeared a general tendency amongst them to close pressed lips and single shakes of the head. But there were other forces at work--tending in the same direction.

Whatever may have been the influence of the schoolmaster upon the congregation gathered in Hope Chapel, there was one on whom his converse, supplemented by his preaching, had taken genuine hold. Frederick Marshal had begun to open his eyes to the fact that, regarded as a profession, the ministry, as they called it in their communion, was the meanest way of making a living in the whole creation, one deserving the contempt of every man honest enough to give honourable work, that is, work worth the money, for the money paid him. Also he had a glimmering insight, on the other hand, into the truth of what the dominie said--that it was the noblest of martyrdoms to the man who, sent by God, loved the truth with his whole soul, and was never happier than when bearing witness of it, except, indeed, in those blessed moments when receiving it of the Father. In consequence of this opening of his eyes the youth recoiled with dismay from the sacrilegious mockery of which he had been guilty in meditating the presumption of teaching holy things of which the sole sign that he knew anything was now afforded by this same recoil. At last he was not far from the kingdom of heaven, though whether he was to be sent to persuade men that that kingdom was amongst them, and must be in them, remained a question.

On the morning after the latter of those two sermons, Frederick, as they sat at breakfast, succeeded, with no small effort, for he feared his mother, in blurting out to his father the request that he might be taken into the counting house; and when indignantly requested, over the top of the teapot, to explain himself, declared that he found it impossible to give his mind to a course of education which could only end in the disappointment of his parents, seeing he was at length satisfied that he had no call to the ministry. His father was not displeased at the thought of having him at the shop; but his mother was for some moments speechless with angry tribulation. Recovering herself, with scornful bitterness she requested to know to what tempter he had been giving ear--for tempted he must have been ere son of hers would have been guilty of backsliding from the cause; of taking his hand from the plough and looking behind him. The youth returned such answers as, while they satisfied his father he was right, served only to convince his mother, where yet conviction was hardly needed, that she had to thank the dominie for his defection, his apostasy from the church to the world.

Incapable of perceiving that now first there was hope of a genuine disciple in the child of her affection, she was filled with the gall of disappointment, and with spite against the man who had taught her son how worse than foolish it is to aspire to teach before one has learned; nor did she fail to cast scathing reflections on her husband, in that he had brought home a viper in his bosom, a wolf into his fold, the wretched minion of a worldly church to lead her son away captive at his will; and partly no doubt from his last uncomfortable sermons, but mainly from the play of Mrs Marshal's tongue on her husband's tympanum, the deacons in full conclave agreed that no further renewal of the invitation to preach "for them" should be made to the schoolmaster--just the end of the business Mr Graham had expected, and for which he had provided. On Tuesday morning he smiled to himself, and wondered whether, if he were to preach in his own schoolroom the next Sunday evening, anyone would come to hear him. On Saturday he received a cool letter of thanks for his services, written by the ironmonger in the name of the deacons, enclosing a cheque, tolerably liberal as ideas went, in acknowledgment of them. The cheque Mr Graham returned, saying that, as he was not a preacher by profession, he had no right to take fees. It was a half holiday: he walked up to Hampstead Heath, and was paid for everything, in sky and cloud, fresh air, and a glorious sunset.


The Marquis of Lossie - 60/95

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