Poems & Short Stories: 4,271
Forum Members: 70,634
Forum Posts: 1,033,546
And over 2 million unique readers monthly!
Lady Clementina had to return to England to see her lawyers, and arrange her affairs. Before she went, she would gladly have gone with Malcolm over every spot where had passed any portion of his history, and at each heard its own chapter or paragraph; but Malcolm obstinately refused to begin such a narration before Clementina was mistress of the region to which it mainly belonged. After that, he said, he would, even more gladly, he believed, than she, occupy all the time that could be spared from the duties of the present in piecing together the broken reflections of the past in the pools of memory, until they had lived both their lives over again together, from earliest recollection to the time when the two streams flowed into one, thenceforth to mingle more and more inwardly to endless ages.
So the Psyche was launched. Lady Clementina, Florimel, and Lenorme were the passengers, and Malcolm, Blue Peter, and Davy the crew. There was no room for servants, yet was there no lack of service. They had rough weather a part of the time, and neither Clementina nor Lenorme was altogether comfortable, but they made a rapid voyage, and were all well when they landed at Greenwich.
Knowing nothing of Lady Bellair's proceedings, they sent Davy to reconnoitre in Portland Place. He brought back word that there was no one in the house but an old woman. So Malcolm took Florimel there. Everything belonging to their late visitors had vanished, and nobody knew where they had gone.
Searching the drawers and cabinets, Malcolm, to his unspeakable delight, found a miniature of his mother, along with one of his father--a younger likeness than he had yet seen. Also he found a few letters of his mother--mostly mere notes in pencil; but neither these nor those of his father which Miss Horn had given him, would he read:
"What right has life over the secrets of death ?" he said. "Or rather, what right have we who sleep over the secrets of those who have waked from their sleep and left the fragments of their dreams behind them?"
Lovingly he laid them together, and burned them to dust flakes.
"My mother shall tell me what she pleases, when I find her," he said. "She shall not reprove me for reading her letters to my father."
They were married, at Wastbeach, both couples in the same ceremony. Immediately after the wedding, the painter and his bride set out for Rome, and the marquis and marchioness went on board the Psyche. For nothing would content Clementina, troubled at the experience of her first voyage, but she must get herself accustomed to the sea, as became the wife of a fisherman; therefore in no way would she journey but on board the Psyche; and as it was the desire of each to begin their married life at home, they sailed direct for Portlossie. After a good voyage, however, they landed, in order to reach home quietly, at Duff Harbour, took horses from there, and arrived at Lossie House late in the evening.
Malcolm had written to the housekeeper to prepare for them the Wizard's Chamber, but to alter nothing on walls or in furniture. That room, he had resolved, should be the first he occupied with his bride. Mrs Courthope was scandalized at the idea of taking an earl's daughter to sleep in the garret, not to mention that the room had for centuries had an ill name; but she had no choice, and therefore contented herself with doing all that lay in the power of woman, under such severe restrictions, to make the dingy old room cheerful.
Alone at length in their somewhat strange quarters, concerning which Malcolm had merely told her that the room was that in which he was born--what place fitter, thought Clementina, wherein to commence the long and wonderful story she hungered to hear. Malcolm would still have delayed it, but she asked question upon question till she had him fairly afloat. He had not gone far, however, before he had to make mention of the stair in the wall, which led from the place where they sat, straight from the house.
"Can there be such a stair in this room?" she asked in surprise.
He rose, took a candle, opened a door, then another, and showed her the first of the steps down which the midwife had carried him, and descending which, twenty years after, his father had come by his death.
"Let us go down," said Clementina.
"Are you not afraid? Look," said Malcolm.
"Afraid, and you with me!" she exclaimed.
"But it is dark, and the steps are broken."
"If it led to Hades, I would go with my fisherman. The only horror would be to be left behind."
"Come then," said Malcolm, "Only you must be very careful." He laid a shawl on her shoulders, and down they went, Malcolm a few steps in front, holding the candle to every step for her, many being broken.
They came at length where the stair ceased in ruin. He leaped down; she stooped, put her hands on his shoulder, and dropped into his arms. Then over the fallen rubbish, out by the groaning door, they went into the moonlight.
Clementina was merry as a child. All was so safe and peaceful with her fisherman! She would not hear of returning. They must have a walk in the moonlight first! So down the steps and the winding path into the valley of the burn, and up to the flower garden they wandered, Clementina telling him how sick the moonlight had made her feel that night she met him first on the Boar's Tail, when his words concerning her revived the conviction that he loved Florimel. At the great stone basin Malcolm set the swan spouting, but the sweet musical jargon of the falling water seemed almost coarse in the soundless diapason of the moonlight. So he stopped it again, and they strolled farther up the garden.
Clementina venturing to remind him of the sexton-like gardener's story of the lady and the hermit's cave, which because of its Scotch, she was unable to follow. Malcolm told her now what John Jack had narrated, adding that the lady was his own mother, and that from the gardener's tale he learned that morning at length how to account for the horror which had seized him on his first entering the cave, as also for his father's peculiar carriage on that occasion: doubtless he then caught a likeness in him to his mother. He then recounted the occurrence circumstantially.
"I have ever since felt ashamed of the weakness," he concluded: "but at this moment I believe I could walk in with perfect coolness."
"We won't try it tonight," said Clementina, and once more turned him from the place, reverencing the shadow he had brought with him from the spirit of his mother.
They walked and sat and talked in the moonlight, for how long neither knew; and when the moon went behind the trees on the cliff, and the valley was left in darkness, but a darkness that seemed alive with the new day soon to be born, they sat yet, lost in a peaceful unveiling of hearts, till a sudden gust of wind roused Malcolm, and looking up he saw that the stars were clouded, and knew that the chill of the morning was drawing near.
He kept that chamber just as it was ever after, and often retired to it for meditation. He never restored the ruinous parts of the stair, and he kept the door at the top carefully closed. But he cleared out the rubbish that choked the place where the stair had led lower down, came upon it again in tolerable preservation a little beneath, and followed it into a passage that ran under the burn, appearing to lead in the direction of the cave behind the Baillies' Barn. Doubtless there was some foundation for the legend of Lord Gernon.
There however, he abandoned the work, thinking of the possibility of a time when employment would be scarce, and his people in want of all he could give them. And when such a time arrived, as arrive it did before they had been two years married, a far more important undertaking was found needful to employ the many who must earn or starve. Then it was that Clementina had the desire of her heart, and began to lay out the money she had been saving for the purpose, in rebuilding the ancient Castle of Colonsay. Its vaults were emptied of rubbish and ruin, the rock faced afresh, walls and towers and battlements raised, until at last, when the loftiest tower seemed to have reached its height, it rose yet higher, and blossomed in radiance; for, topmost crown of all, there, flaming far into the northern night, shone a splendid beacon lamp, to guide the fisherman when his way was hid.
Every summer for years, Florimel and her husband spent weeks in the castle, and many a study the painter made there of the ever changing face of the sea.
Malcolm, as he well might, had such a strong feeling of the power for good of every high souled schoolmaster, that nothing would serve him but Mr Graham must be reinstated. He told the presbytery that if it were not done, he would himself build a school house for him, and the consequence, he said, needed no prediction. Finding, at the same time, that the young man they had put in his place was willing to act as his assistant, he proposed that he should keep the cottage, and all other emoluments of the office, on the sole condition that, when he found he could no longer conscientiously and heartily further the endeavours of Mr Graham, he should say so; whereupon the marquis would endeavour to procure him another appointment; and on these understandings the thing was arranged.
Mr Graham thenceforward lived in the House, a spiritual father to the whole family, reverenced by all, ever greeted with gladness, ever obeyed. The spiritual dignity and simplicity, the fine sense and delicate feeling of the man, rendered him a saving presence in the place; and Clementina felt as if one of the ancient prophets, blossomed into a Christian, was the glory of their family and house. Like a perfect daughter, she watched him, tried to discover preferences of which he might not himself be aware, and often waited upon him with her own hands.
There was an ancient building connected with the house, divided now for many years into barn and dairy, but evidently the chapel of the monastery: this Malcolm soon set about reconverting. It made a lovely chapel--too large for the household, but not too large for its congregation upon Wednesday evenings, when many of the fishermen and their families, and not a few of the inhabitants of the upper town, with occasionally several farm servants from the neighbourhood, assembled to listen devoutly to the fervent and loving expostulations and rousings, or the tender consolings and wise instructions of the master, as every one called him. The hold he had of their hearts was firm, and his influence on their consciences far reaching.
When there was need of conference, or ground for any wide expostulation, the marquis would call a meeting in the chapel; but this occurred very seldom. Now and then the master, sometimes the marquis himself, would use it for a course of lectures or a succession of readings from some specially interesting book; and in what had been the sacristy they gathered a small library for the use of the neighbourhood.
No meeting was held there of a Sunday, for although the clergyman was the one person to whom all his life the marquis never came any nearer, he was not the less careful to avoid everything that might rouse contention or encourage division.
"I find the doing of the will of God," he would say, "leaves me no time for disputing about his plans--I do not say for thinking about them."
Not therefore, however, would he waive the exercise of the inborn right of teaching, and anybody might come to the house and see the master on Sunday evenings. As to whether people went to church or stayed away, he never troubled himself in the least; and no more did the schoolmaster.
The chapel had not been long finished when he had an organ built in it. Lady Lossie played upon it. Almost every evening, at a certain hour, she played for a while; the door was always open, and any one who pleased might sit down and listen.
Gradually the feeling of the community, from the strengthening and concentrating influence of the House, began to bear upon offenders; and any whose conduct had become in the least flagrant soon felt that the general eye was upon them, and that gradually the human tide was falling from them, and leaving them prisoned in a rocky basin on a barren shore. But at the same time, all three of the powers at the House were watching to come in the moment there was a chance; and what with the marquis's warnings, his wife's encouragements, and the master's expostulations, there was no little hope of the final recovery of several who would otherwise most likely have sunk deeper and deeper.
The marchioness took Lizzy for her personal attendant, and had her boy much about her; so that by the time she had children of her own, she had some genuine and worthy notion of what a child was, and what could and ought to be done for the development of the divine germ that lay in the human egg; and had found that the best she could do for any child, or indeed anybody, was to be good herself.
Rose married a young fisherman, and made a brave wife and mother. To the end of her days she regarded the marquis almost as a being higher than human, an angel that had found and saved her.
Kelpie had a foal, and, apparently in consequence, grew so much more gentle that at length Malcolm consented that Clementina, who was an excellent horsewoman, should mount her. After a few attempts to unseat her, not of the most determined kind however, Kelpie, on her part, consented to carry her, and ever after seemed proud of having a mistress that could ride. Her foal turned out a magnificent horse. Malcolm did not allow him to do anything that could be called work before he was eight years old, and had the return at the other end, for when Goblin was thirty he rode him still, and to judge by appearances, might but for an accident have ridden him ten years more.
It was not long ere people began to remark that no one now ever heard the piper utter the name Campbell. An ill bred youth once --it was well for him that Malcolm was not near--dared the evil word in his presence: a cloud swept across the old man's face, but he held his peace; and to the day of his death, which arrived in his ninety-first year, it never crossed his lips. He died with the Lossie pipes on his bed, Malcolm on one side of him, and Clementina on the other.
Some of my readers may care to know that Phemy and Davy were married, and made the quaintest, oldest fashioned little couple, with hearts which king or beggar might equally have trusted.
Malcolm's relations with the fisher folk, founded as they were in truth and open uprightness, were not in the least injured by his change of position. He made it a point to be always at home during the herring fishing. Whatever might be going on in London, the marquis and marchioness, their family and household, were sure to leave in time for the commencement of that. Those who admired Malcolm, of whom there were not a few even in Vanity Fair, called him the fisher king: the wags called him the kingfisher, and laughed at the oddity of his taste in preferring what he called his duty to the pleasures of the season. But the marquis found even the hen pecked Partan a nobler and more elevating presence than any strutting platitude of Bond Street. And when he was at home, he was always about amongst the people. Almost every day he would look in at some door in the Seaton, and call out a salutation to the busy housewife--perhaps go in and sit down for a minute. Now he would be walking with this one, now talking with that--oftenest with Blue Peter; and sometimes both their wives would be with them, upon the shore, or in the grounds. Nor was there a family meal to which any one or all together of the six men whom he had set over the Seaton and Scaurnose would not have been welcomed by the marquis and his Clemency. The House was head and heart of the whole district.
A conventional visitor was certain to feel very shruggish at first sight of the terms on which the marquis was with "persons of that sort;" but often such a one came to allow that it was no great matter: the persons did not seem to presume unpleasantly, and, notwithstanding his atrocious training, the marquis was after all a very good sort of fellow--considering.
In the third year he launched a strange vessel. Her tonnage was two hundred, but she was built like a fishing boat. She had great stowage forward and below: if there was a large take, boat after boat could empty its load into her, and go back and draw its nets again. But this was not the original design in her.
The after half of her deck was parted off with a light rope rail, was kept as white as holystone could make it, and had a brass railed bulwark. She was steered with a wheel, for more room; the top of the binnacle was made sloping, to serve as a lectern; there were seats all round the bulwarks; and she was called the Clemency.
For more than two years he had provided training for the fittest youths he could find amongst the fishers, and now he had a pretty good band playing on wind instruments, able to give back to God a shadow of his own music. The same formed the Clemency's crew. And every Sunday evening the great fishing boat with the marquis, and almost always the marchioness on board, and the latter never without a child or children, led out from the harbour such of the boats as were going to spend the night on the water.
When they reached the ground, all the other boats gathered about the great boat, and the chief men came on board, and Malcolm stood up betwixt the wheel and the binnacle, and read--always from the gospel, and generally words of Jesus, and talked to them, striving earnestly to get the truth alive into their hearts. Then he would pray aloud to the living God, as one so living that they could not see him, so one with them that they could not behold him. When they rose from their knees; man after man dropped into his boat, and the fleet scattered wide over the waters to search them for their treasure.
Then the little ones were put to bed; and Malcolm and Clementina would sit on the deck, reading and talking, till the night fell, when they too went below, and slept in peace. But if ever a boat wanted help, or the slightest danger arose, the first thing was to call the marquis, and he was on deck in a moment.
In the morning, when a few of the boats had gathered, they would make for the harbour again, but now with full blast of praising trumpets and horns, the waves seeming to dance to the well ordered noise divine. Or if the wind was contrary, or no wind blew, the lightest laden of the boats would take the Clemency in tow, and, with frequent change of rowers, draw her softly back to the harbour.
For such Monday mornings, the marquis wrote a little song, and his Clemency made an air to it, and harmonized it for the band. Here is the last stanza of it:
Like the fish that brought the coin,
We in ministry will join--
Bring what pleases thee the best;
Help from each to all the rest.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
|Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily|
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.