CHAPTER LXIX: LIZZY'S BABY
While they were out in the fishing boat together, Clementina had,
with less difficulty than she had anticipated, persuaded Lizzy to
tell Lady Lossie her secret. It was in the hope of an interview
with her false lover that the poor girl had consented so easily.
A great longing had risen within her to have the father of her child
acknowledge him--only to her, taking him once in his arms. That
was all. She had no hope, thought indeed she had no desire for
herself. But a kind word to him would be welcome as light. The love
that covers sins had covered the multitude of his, and although
hopelessness had put desire to sleep, she would gladly have given
her life for a loving smile from him. But mingled with this longing
to see him once with his child in his arms, a certain loyalty to the
house of Lossie also influenced her to listen to the solicitation
of Lady Clementina, and tell the marchioness the truth.
She cherished no resentment against Liftore, but not therefore was
she willing to allow a poor young thing like Lady Lossie, whom they
all liked, to be sacrificed to such a man, who would doubtless at
length behave badly enough to her also.
With trembling hands, and heart now beating wildly, now failing for
fear, she dressed her baby and herself as well as she could, and,
about one o'clock, went to the House.
Now nothing would have better pleased Lady Clementina than that
Liftore and Lizzy should meet in Florimel's presence, but she
recoiled altogether from the small stratagems, not to mention the
lies, necessary to the effecting of such a confrontation. So she
had to content herself with bringing the two girls together, and,
when Lizzy was a little rested, and had had a glass of wine, went
to look for Florimel.
She found her in a little room adjoining the library, which, on
her first coming to Lossie, she had chosen for her waking nest.
Liftore had, if not quite the freedom of the spot, yet privileges
there; but at that moment Florimel was alone in it. Clementina
informed her that a fisher girl, with a sad story which she wanted
to tell her, had come to the house; and Florimel, who was not only
kind hearted, but relished the position she imagined herself to
occupy as lady of the place, at once assented to her proposal to
bring the young woman to her there.
Now Florimel and the earl had had a small quarrel the night before,
after Clementina left the dinner table, and for the pleasure
of keeping it up Florimel had not appeared at breakfast, and had
declined to ride with his lordship, who had therefore been all the
morning on the watch for an opportunity of reconciling himself. It
so happened that from the end of one of the long narrow passages
in which the house abounded, he caught a glimpse of Clementina's
dress vanishing through the library door, and took the lady for
Florimel on her way to her boudoir.
When Clementina entered with Lizzy carrying her child, Florimel
instantly suspected the truth, both as to who she was and as to the
design of her appearance. Her face flushed, for her heart filled
with anger, chiefly indeed against Malcolm, but against the two
women as well, who, she did not doubt, had lent themselves to his
designs, whatever they might be. She rose, drew herself up, and
stood prepared to act for both Liftore and herself.
Scarcely however had the poor girl, trembling at the evident
displeasure the sight of her caused in Florimel, opened her mouth
to answer her haughty inquiry as to her business, when Lord Liftore,
daring an entrance without warning, opened the door behind her,
and, almost as he opened it, began his apology.
At the sound of his voice Lizzy turned with a cry, and her small
remaining modicum of self possession vanished at sight of him
round whose phantom in her bosom whirred the leaves of her withered
life on the stinging blasts of her shame and sorrow. As much from
inability to stand as in supplication for the coveted favour, she
dropped on her knees before him, incapable of uttering a word, but
holding up her child imploringly. Taken altogether by surprise,
and not knowing what to say or do, the earl stood and stared for
a moment, then, moved by a dull spirit of subterfuge, fell back on
the pretence of knowing nothing about her.
"Well, young woman," he said, affecting cheerfulness, "what do you
want with me? I didn't advertise for a baby. Pretty child, though!"
Lizzy turned white as death, and her whole body seemed to give a
heave of agony. Clementina had just taken the child from her arms
when she sunk motionless at his feet. Florimel went to the bell.
But Clementina prevented her from ringing.
"I will take her away," she said. "Do not expose her to your servants.
Lady Lossie, my Lord Liftore is the father of this child: and if
you can marry him after the way you have seen him use its mother,
you are not too good for him, and I will trouble myself no more
"I know the author of this calumny!" cried Florimel, panting and
flushed. "You have been listening to the inventions of an ungrateful
dependent! You slander my guest."
"Is it a calumny, my lord? Do I slander you?" said Lady Clementina,
turning sharply upon the earl.
His lordship made her a cool obeisance. Clementina ran into
the library, laid the child in a big chair, and returned for the
mother. She was already coming a little to herself; and feeling
about blindly for her baby, while Florimel and Liftore were looking
out of the window, with their backs towards her. Clementina raised
and led her from the room. But in the doorway she turned and said
--"Goodbye, Lady Lossie. I thank you for your hospitality, but I
can of course be your guest no longer."
"Of course not. There is no occasion for prolonged leave taking,"
returned Florimel, with the air of a woman of forty.
"Florimel, you will curse the day you marry that man!" cried
Clementina, and closed the door.
She hurried Lizzy to the library, put the baby in her arms, and
clasped them both in her own. A gush of tears lightened the oppressed
heart of the mother.
"Lat me oot o' the hoose, for God's sake!" she cried; and Clementina,
almost as anxious to leave it as she, helped her down to the hall.
When she saw the open door, she rushed out of it as if escaping
from the pit.
Now Malcolm, as he came from the factor's, had seen her go in
with her baby in her arms, and suspected the hand of Clementina.
Wondering and anxious, but not very hopeful as to what might come
of it, he waited close by; and when now he saw Lizzy dart from the
house in wild perturbation, he ran from the cover of the surrounding
trees into the open drive to meet her.
"Ma'colm!" groaned the poor girl, holding out her baby, "he winna
own till't. He winna alloo 'at he kens oucht aboot me or the bairn
Malcolm had taken the child from her, and was clasping him to his
"He's the warst rascal, Lizzy," he said, "'at ever God made an'
the deevil blaudit."
"Na, na," cried Lizzy; "the likes o' him whiles kills the wuman,
but he wadna du that. Na, he's nae the warst; there's a heap waur
"Did ye see my mistress?" asked Malcolm.
"Ow ay; but she luikit sae angry at me, I cudna speyk. Him an' her
's ower thrang for her to believe onything again' him. An' what
ever the bairn 's to du wantin' a father!"
"Lizzy," said Malcolm, clasping the child again to his bosom. "I
s' be a father to yer bairn--that is, as weel's ane 'at's no yer
man can be."
And he kissed the child tenderly.
The same moment an undefined impulse--the drawing of eyes probably
--made him lift his towards the house: half leaning from the open
window of the boudoir above him, stood Florimel and Liftore; and
just as he looked up, Liftore was turning to Florimel with a smile
that seemed to say--"There! I told you so! He is the father
Malcolm replaced the infant in his mother's arm, and strode towards
the house. Imagining he went to avenge her wrongs, Lizzy ran after
"Ma'colm Ma'colm!" she cried; "--for my sake!--He's the father
o' my bairn!"
"Lizzy," he said solemnly, "I winna lay han' upon 'im."
Lizzy pressed her child closer with a throb of relief.
"Come in yersel' an' see," he added.
"I daurna! I daurna!" she said. But she lingered about the door.