CHAPTER XLVIII: TORTURE
Though unable to eat any breakfast, Malcolm persuaded himself
that he felt nearly as well as usual when he went to receive his
mistress's orders. Florimel had had enough of horseback--for
several days to come indeed--and would not ride. So he saddled
Kelpie, and rode to Chelsea to look after his boat. To get rid of
the mare, he rang the stable bell at Mr Lenorme's, and the gardener
let him in. As he was putting her up, the man told him that the
housekeeper had heard from his master. Malcolm went to the house
to learn what he might, and found to his surprise that, if he had
gone on the continent, he was there no longer, for the letter,
which contained only directions concerning some of his pictures,
was dated from Newcastle, and bore the Durham postmark of a week
ago. Malcolm remembered that he had heard Lenorme speak of Durham
cathedral, and in the hope that he might be spending some time
there, begged the housekeeper to allow him to go to the study to
write to her master. When he entered, however, he saw something that
made him change his plan, and, having written, instead of sending
the letter, as he had intended, inclosed to the postmaster at Durham,
he left it upon an easel. It contained merely an earnest entreaty
to be made and kept acquainted with his movements, that he might
at once let him know if anything should occur that he ought to be
He found all on board the yacht in shipshape, only Davy was absent.
Travers explained that he sent him on shore for a few hours every
day. He was a sharp boy, he said, and the more he saw, the more
useful he would be, and as he never gave him any money, there was
no risk of his mistaking his hours.
"When do you expect him?" asked Malcolm.
"At four o'clock," answered Travers.
"It is four now," said Malcolm.
A shrill whistle came from the Chelsea shore.
"And there's Davy," said Travers.
Malcolm got into the dinghy and rowed ashore.
"Davy," he said "I don't want you to be all day on board, but I
can't have you be longer away than an hour at a time,"
"Ay, ay, sir," said Davy.
"Now attend to me."
"Ay, ay, sir."
"Do you know Lady Lossie's house?"
"No, sir; but I ken hersel'."
"How is that?"
"I ha'e seen her mair nor twa or three times, ridin' wi' yersel',
to yon hoose yon'er."
"Would you know her again?"
"Ay wad I--fine that. What for no, sir."
"It's a good way to see a lady across the Thames and know her
"Ow! but I tuik the spy glaiss till her," answered Davy, reddening.
"You are sure of her, then?"
"I am that, sir."
"Then come with me, and I will show you where she lives. I will
not ride faster than you can run. But mind you don't look as if
you belonged to me."
"Na, na, sir. There's fowk takin' nottice."
"What do you mean by that?"
"There's a wee laddie been efter mysel' twise or thrice."
"Did you do anything?"
"He wasna big eneuch to lick, sae I jist got him the last time an'
pu'd his niz, an' I dinna think he'll come efter me again."
To see what the boy could do, Malcolm let Kelpie go at a good trot:
but Davy kept up without effort, now shooting ahead, now falling
behind, now stopping to look in at a window, and now to cast
a glance at a game of pitch and toss. No mere passerby could have
suspected that the sailor boy belonged to the horseman. He dropped
him not far from Portland Place, telling him to go and look at the
number, but not stare at the house.
All the time he had had no return of the sickness, but, although
thus actively occupied, had felt greatly depressed. One main cause
of this was, however, that he had not found his religion stand him
in such stead as he might have hoped. It was not yet what it must
be to prove its reality. And now his eyes were afresh opened to
see that in his nature and thoughts lay large spaces wherein God
ruled not supreme--desert places, where who could tell what might
appear? For in such regions wild beasts range, evil herbs flourish,
and demons go about. If in very deed he lived and moved and had
his being in God, then assuredly there ought not to be one cranny
in his nature, one realm of his consciousness, one well spring of
thought, where the will of God was a stranger. If all were as it
should be, then surely there would be no moment, looking back on
which he could not at least say,
Yet like some sweet beguiling melody,
So sweet, we know not we are listening to it,
Thou, the meanwhile, wast blending with my thought,
Yea, with my life and life's own secret joy.
"In that agony o' sickness, as I sat upo' the stair," he said to
himself, for still in his own thoughts he spoke his native tongue,
"whaur was my God in a' my thouchts? I did cry till 'im, I min'
weel, but it was my reelin' brain an' no my trustin' hert 'at cried.
Aih me! I doobt gien the Lord war to come to me noo, he wadna fin'
muckle faith i' my pairt o' the yerth. Aih! I wad like to lat him
see something like lippenin'! I wad fain trust him till his hert's
content. But I doobt it's only speeritual ambeetion, or better wad
hae come o' 't by this time. Gien that sickness come again, I maun
see, noo 'at I'm forewarned o' my ain wakeness, what I can du. It
maun be something better nor last time, or I'll tine hert a'thegither.
Weel, maybe I need to be heumblet. The Lord help me!"
In the evening he went to the schoolmaster, and gave him a pretty
full account of where he had been and what had taken place since last
he saw him, dwelling chiefly on his endeavours with Lady Clementina.
From Mr Graham's lodging to the northeastern gate of the Regent's
Park, the nearest way led through a certain passage, which, although
a thoroughfare to persons on foot, was little known. Malcolm had
early discovered it, and always used it. Part of this short cut was
the yard and back premises of a small public house. It was between
eleven and twelve as he entered it for the second time that night.
Sunk in thought and suspecting no evil, he was struck down from
behind, and lost his consciousness. When he came to himself he was
lying in the public house, with his head bound up, and a doctor
standing over him, who asked him if he had been robbed. He searched
his pockets, and found that his old watch was gone, but his money
left. One of the men standing about said he would see him home. He
half thought he had seen him before, and did not like the look of
him, but accepted the offer, hoping to get on the track of something
thereby. As soon as they entered the comparative solitude of the
park he begged his companion, who had scarcely spoken all the way,
to give him his arm, and leaned upon it as if still suffering,
but watched him closely. About the middle of the park, where not
a creature was in sight, he felt him begin to fumble in his coat
pocket, and draw something .from it. But when, unresisted, he
snatched away his other arm, Malcolm's fist followed it, and the
man fell, nor made any resistance while he took from him a short
stick, loaded with lead, and his own watch, which he found in his
waistcoat pocket. Then the fellow rose with apparent difficulty,
but the moment he was on his legs, ran like a hare, and Malcolm
let him run, for he felt unable to follow him.
As soon as he reached home, he went to bed, for his head ached
severely; but he slept pretty well, and in the morning flattered
himself he felt much as usual. But it was as if all the night that
horrible sickness had been lying in wait on the stair to spring upon
him, for, the moment he reached the same spot on his way down, he
almost fainted. It was worse than before. His very soul seemed to
turn sick. But although his heart died within him, somehow, in the
confusion of thought and feeling occasioned by intense suffering,
it seemed while he clung to the balusters as if with both hands he
were clinging to the skirts of God's garment; and through the black
smoke of his fainting, his soul seemed to be struggling up towards
the light of his being. Presently the horrible sense subsided as
before, and again he sought to descend the stair and go to Kelpie.
But immediately the sickness returned, and all he could do after
a long and vain struggle, was to crawl on hands and knees up the
stairs and back to his room. There he crept upon his bed, and was
feebly committing Kelpie to the care of her maker, when consciousness
It returned, heralded by frightful pains all over his body, which
by and by subsiding, he sank again to the bottom of the black Lethe.
Meantime Kelpie had got so wildly uproarious that Merton tossed her
half a truss of hay, which she attacked like an enemy, and ran to
the house to get somebody to call Malcolm. After what seemed endless
delay, the door was opened by his admirer, the scullery maid, who,
as soon as she heard what was the matter, hastened to his room.