CHAPTER XXXI: THE TWO DAIMONS
Things had taken a turn that was not to Malcolm's satisfaction,
and his thoughts were as busy all the way home as Kelpie would
allow. He had ardently desired that his sister should be thoroughly
in love with Lenorme, for that seemed to open a clear path out of
his worst difficulties; now they had quarrelled; and besides were
both angry with him. The main fear was that Liftore would now make
some progress with her. Things looked dangerous. Even his warning
against Caley had led to a result the very opposite of his intent
and desire. And now it recurred to him that he had once come upon
Liftore talking to Caley, and giving her something that shone like
Earlier on the same morning of her visit to the studio, Florimel
had awaked and found herself in the presence of the spiritual
Vehmgericht. Every member of the tribunal seemed against her. All
her thoughts were busy accusing, none of them excusing one another.
So hard were they upon her that she fancied she had nearly come to
the conclusion that, if only she could do it pleasantly, without
pain or fear, the best thing would be to swallow something and
fall asleep; for like most people she was practically an atheist,
and therefore always thought of death as the refuge from the ills
of life. But although she was often very uncomfortable, Florimel
knew nothing of such genuine downright misery as drives some people
to what can be no more to their purpose than if a man should strip
himself naked because he is cold. When she returned from her unhappy
visit, and had sent her attendant to get her some tea, she threw
herself upon her bed, and found herself yet again in the dark
chambers of the spiritual police. But already even their company
was preferable to that of Caley, whose officiousness began to enrage
her. She was yet tossing in the Nessus tunic of her own disharmony,
when Malcolm came for orders. To get rid of herself and Caley both,
she desired him to bring the horses round at once.
It was more than Malcolm had expected. He ran: he might yet have a
chance of trying to turn her in the right direction. He knew that
Liftore was neither in the house nor at the stable. With the help
of the earl's groom, he was round in ten minutes. Florimel was all
but ready: like some other ladies she could dress quickly when she
had good reason. She sprang from Malcolm's hand to the saddle, and
led as straight northward as she could go, never looking behind her
till she drew rein on the top of Hampstead Heath. When he rode up
to her "Malcolm," she said, looking at him half ashamed, "I don't
think my father would have minded you wearing his clothes."
"Thank you, my lady," said Malcolm. "At least he would have forgiven
anything meant for your pleasure."
"I was too hasty," she said. "But the fact was, Mr Lenorme had
irritated me, and I foolishly mixed you up with him."
"When I went into the studio, after you left it, this morning my
lady," Malcolm ventured, "he had his head between his hands and
would not even look at me."
Florimel turned her face aside, and Malcolm thought she was sorry;
but she was only hiding a smile: she had not yet got beyond the
kitten stage of love, and was pleased to find she gave pain.
"If your ladyship never had another true friend, Mr Lenorme is
one," added Malcolm.
"What opportunity can you have had for knowing?" said Florimel.
"I have been sitting to him every morning for a good many days,"
answered Malcolm. "he is something like a man!"
Florimel's face flushed with pleasure. She liked to hear him praised,
for he loved her.
"You should have seen, my lady, the pains he took with that portrait!
He would stare at the little picture you lent him of my lord for
minutes, as if he were looking through it at something behind it;
then he would get up and go and gaze at your ladyship on the pedestal,
as if you were the goddess herself able to tell him everything
about your father; and then he would hurry back to his easel, and
give a touch or two to the face, looking at it all the time as if
he loved it. It must have been a cruel pain that drove him to smear
it as he did!"
Florimel began to feel a little motion of shame somewhere in the
mystery of her being. But to show that to her servant, would be to
betray herself--the more that he seemed the painter's friend.
"I will ask Lord Liftore to go and see the portrait, and if he
thinks it like, I will buy it," she said. "Mr Lenorme is certainly
very clever with his brush."
Malcolm saw that she said this not to insult Lenorme, but to blind
her groom, and made no answer.
"I will ride there with you tomorrow morning," she added in
conclusion, and moved on.
Malcolm touched his hat, and dropped behind. But the next moment
he was by her side again.
"I beg your pardon, my lady, but would you allow me to say one word
She bowed her head.
"That woman Caley, I am certain, is not to be trusted. She does
not love you, my lady."
"How do you know that?" asked Florimel, speaking steadily, but
writhing inwardly with the knowledge that the warning was too late.
"I have tried her spirit," answered Malcolm, "and know that it is
of the devil. She loves herself too much to be true."
After a little pause Florimel said,
"I know you mean well, Malcolm; but it is nothing to me whether
she loves me or not. We don't look for that nowadays from servants."
"It is because I love you, my lady," said Malcolm, "that I know Caley
does not. If she should get hold of anything your ladyship
would not wish talked about,--"
"That she cannot," said Florimel, but with an inward shudder. "She
may tell the whole world all she can discover."
She would have cantered on as the words left her lips, but something
in Malcolm's looks held her. She turned pale; she trembled: her
father was looking at her as only once had she seen him--in doubt
whether his child lied. The illusion was terrible. She shook in her
saddle. The next moment she was galloping along the grassy border
of the heath in wild flight from her worst enemy, whom yet she could
never by the wildest of flights escape; for when, coming a little
to herself as she approached a sand pit, she pulled up, there was
her enemy--neither before nor behind, neither above nor beneath
nor within her: it was the self which had just told a lie to the
servant of whom she had so lately boasted that he never told one
in his life. Then she grew angry. What had she done to be thus
tormented? She a marchioness, thus pestered by her own menials
--pulled in opposing directions by a groom and a maid. She would
turn them both away, and have nobody about her, either to trust or
She might have called them her good and her evil demon; for she
knew, that is, she had it somewhere about her, but did not look
it out, that it was her own cowardice and concealment, her own
falseness to the traditional, never failing courage of her house,
her ignobility, and unfitness to represent the Colonsays--her
double dealing in short, that had made the marchioness in her own
right the slave of her woman, the rebuked of her groom!
She turned and rode back, looking the other way as she passed
When they reached the top of the heath, riding along to meet them
came Liftore--this time to Florimel's consolation and comfort:
she did not like riding unprotected with a good angel at her heels.
So glad was she that she did not even take the trouble to wonder how
he had discovered the road she went. She never suspected that Caley
had sent his lordship's groom to follow her until the direction
of her ride should be evident, but took his appearance without
question, as a loverlike attention, and rode home with him, talking
the whole way, and cherishing a feeling of triumph over both Malcolm
and Lenorme. Had she not a protector of her own kind? Could she
not, when they troubled her, pass from their sphere into one beyond
their ken? For the poor moment, the weak lord who rode beside her
seemed to her foolish heart a tower of refuge. She was particularly
gracious to her lover as they rode, and fancied again and again
that perhaps the best way out of her troubles would be to encourage
and at last accept him, so getting rid of honeyed delights and
rankling stings together, of good and evil angels and low bred
lover at one sweep. Quiet would console for dulness, innocence for
weariness. She would fain have a good conscience toward Society--
that image whose feet are of gold and its head a bag of chaff and
Malcolm followed sick at heart that she should prove herself so
shallow. Riding Honour, he had plenty of leisure to brood.