MoboReader> Literature > The Wizard's Son, Vol. 1(of 3)

   Chapter 11 No.11

The Wizard's Son, Vol. 1(of 3) By Margaret Oliphant Characters: 36314

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


To insist upon the difference between an impression made when we arrive, tired and excited at night, in a strange place, and that which the same scene produces in the early freshness and new life of the morning, would be to deliver ourselves over to the reign of the truism. It would, however, have been impossible to feel this with more force than Walter felt it. His sensations of alarm and excitement struck him not only as unjustifiable but ludicrous. He laughed once more when he came out of his chamber into the warm and genial room, which had seemed to him so mysterious and dark on the previous night. There were windows upon either side of the fire-place, each in a deep recess like a small room, so great was the thickness of the wall. They looked out upon the mountains, upon the narrow end of the loch, all bubbling and sparkling in the sunshine, and down upon the little grassy slope rough and uncared for, yet green, which was the only practicable entrance to the castle. The windows were not large, and the room still not very light, though the sunshine which poured in at one side made a most picturesque effect of light and shade. The portraits on the wall were better than they had seemed, and had lost the inquisitive air of dissatisfied inspection which Walter's imagination had given them. The book-shelves at the end gave relief to the room, with their cheerful gilding and the subdued tone of their bindings. Walter thought of the chamber in the Pilgrim's Progress turned towards the sunrising, the name of which was Peace. But peace was not the thing most suggested at Kinloch Houran by any of the accessories about, and a vision of the chilliness of the gray light in the afternoon, and the force of the east wind when it came, crossed his mind in true nineteenth century criticism of the more poetical view. But in the mean time, the policy of enjoying the present was undeniable, especially when that present took the form of a Loch Houran trout, fresh from the water, and cooked as fish only are under such conditions. He looked back upon the agitations of the evening, and the reluctant angry sentiment with which he had come to this old house of his family, with amused incredulity and shame. To think that he could be such an impressionable fool! He dismissed it all lightly from his mind as he hurried over his breakfast, with the intention of getting out at once and exploring everything about. He had even newspapers upon his table along with the fresh scones, the new-made butter, all the fresh provisions of the meal. To be sure, it was Glasgow and not London from which they came-but the world's history was no less instant in them, flashing from all parts of the world into this home of the ancient ages.

His first inspection was of the castle itself, which he undertook under the auspices of old Symington and old Macalister, both eager to explain and describe what it had been, as well as what it was. What it was did not consist of very much. "My lord's rooms," those in which he had spent the night, were the only habitable portion of the great pile. He was led through the roofless hall, with its musicians' gallery still perched high up and overshadowed with canopies of ashen boughs, vigorous though leafless; the guard-room, the supposed kitchen with its large chimney, the oblong space from east to west which was supposed to have been the chapel. All was a little incoherent in the completeness of ruin. There was little of the stimulation of family pride to be got out of those desolate places. The destruction was too complete to leave room even for the facile web of imagination. The Crusader, about whom there was a legend a little too picturesque and romantic to be true, or the lady who was only saved by his sudden appearance from unfaithfulness, were not more easy to conjure up within the inclosure of those shapeless walls than on any unremarkable spot where the story might have been told. Walter grew a little weary as Symington and the old guardian of the house argued as to which was this division of the castle, and which that. He left them discussing the question, and climbed up by a rude stair which had been half improvised from the ruined projections of the masonry, to the crumbling battlements above. From thence he looked down upon a scene which was older than the oldest ruin, yet ever fresh in perennial youth: the loch stretched out like a great mirror under the wintry blue of the sky and the dazzling blaze of the sunshine, reflecting everything, every speck of cloud above and every feathery twig and minute island below. There was no need to make believe, to simulate unfelt enthusiasm, or endeavour to connect with unreal associations this wonderful and glorious scene. Perhaps there was in his mind something more in harmony with the radiance of nature than with the broken fragments of a history which he had no skill to piece up into life again. He stood gazing upon the scene in a rapture of silent delight. The hills in their robes of velvet softness, ethereal air-garments more lovely than any tissue ever woven in mortal loom, drew aside on either hand in the blue space and dazzling atmosphere to open out this liquid vale of light, with its dark specks of islets, its feathery banks, all rustling with leafless trees. Every outline and detail within its reach was turned into a line, a touch, more sweet by the flattering glory of the still water in which everything was double. The morning freshness and sheen were still unbroken. It was like a new creation lying contemplating itself in the first ecstasy of consciousness. Walter was gazing upon this wonderful scene when the sharp voice of old Macalister made him start, and take a step aside which almost had serious consequences: for he stepped back unwarily upon the crumbling wall, and might have fallen but for the violent grip of the old man, who clutched him like a shaky Hercules, with a grasp which was vigorous yet trembling.

"Lord's sake take care," he cried. His face flushed, then paled again with genuine emotion. "Do you think we have a store of young lads like you, that you will risk your life like yon? and just in the place where the lady fell. You have given me such a start I canna breathe," he cried.

To tell the truth, looking back upon it, Walter himself did not like the look of the precipice which he had escaped.

"Where the lady fell?" he asked with a little eagerness, as he came to the battlement.

"Oh ay. I seldom bother my head about what's happened, so to speak, two or three days since. It was just there she fell. She has been bedridden ever since, from a' I hear, which just shows the folly of venturing about an auld place without somebody that knows how to take care of ye. What would have come of you yoursel', that is the maister of a', if auld Sandy Macalister had not been there?"

"Thank you, Macalister, you shall find me grateful," said Walter; "but who was this lady? two or three days ago, did you say?"

"Years-years; did I no say years? Oh ay, it may be longer, twenty or thirty. I'm meaning just naething in a life like mine. She had some silly story of being frightened with a gentleman that she thought she saw. They are keen about making up a story-women folk. She was just the sister to the man of business, ye'll have heard of her-a pretty bit thing, if that was of any consequence; but, Lord's sake, what's that atween you and me, and you ignorant of everything?" the old man said. "Do you see the chimneys yonder, and the gable end with the crow steps, as they call it, just pushing out among the trees? That's just your ain shooting-box-they call it Auchnasheen. I'll tell you the meanings of the names another time. Out beyond yonder, the big house away at the point, it's a new place built for his diversion by one of your new men. Yon island far away that's bare and green is the island of Rest, where all the loch was once buried: and atween us and that there's another isle with a gable end among the trees which is just the last place that's left to an auld race to plant their feet upon. It's a bonnie piece of water; you that's come from the south you'll never have seen the like. I'll tell you all the stories of the divers places, and how they're connected with the Me'vens that are chiefs of Loch Houran; for I wouldna give a button for that new-fangled title of the Lords Erradeen."

"It has lasted however for some centuries," said Walter, with a sudden sense of displeasure which he felt to be absurd enough.

"And what is that in a family?" said old Macalister, "I think nothing of it. A hundred years or two that never counts one way nor another; it's nae antiquity. If that nonsense were true about the Warlock lord, he would be but twa hundred and fifty at the present speaking, or thereabouts, and a' that have ever thought they saw him represent him as a fine personable man. I have never had that pleasure myself," the old man said with his shrill laugh. "Where are you going, my young gentleman? Ye'll just go down like a stane and end in a rattle of dust and mortar, if you'll no be guided by me."

"Let you his lordship alone, Sandy," cried the voice of Symington, intermingled with pants and sobs as he climbed up to the parapet. "Ye must not occupy my lord's time with your old craiks. You would perhaps like, my lord, to visit Auchnasheen, where the keeper will be on the outlook: or may be it would be better to organise your day's shooting for to-morrow, when you have lookit a little about you: or ye would perhaps like to take a look at the environs, or see the factor, who is very anxious as soon as your lordship has a moment-"

"Oh! and there is the minister that can tell ye a' about the antiquities, my lord: and traces out the auld outline of the castle grandly, till ye seem to see it in all its glory-"

"Or-" Symington had begun, when Walter turned at bay. He faced the old men with a half-laughing defiance. "I see plenty of boats about," he said. "I am going out to explore the loch. I want no attendance, or any help, but that you will be good enough to leave me to myself."

"We'll do that, my lord. I will just run and cry upon Duncan that is waiting about-"

The end of all this zeal and activity was that when Walter found himself at last free and on the shining bosom of the loch, he was in a boat too heavy for his own sole management, sharing the care of it with Duncan, who was of a taciturn disposition and answered only when spoken to. This made the arrangement almost as satisfactory as if he had been alone, for Duncan was quite willing to obey and yield a hearty service without disturbing his young master with either questions or remarks. He was a large young man, strong and well knit though somewhat heavy, with a broad smiling face, red and freckled, with honest blue eyes under sandy eyelashes, and a profusion of strong and curly reddish hair. He beamed upon Lord Erradeen with a sort of friendly admiration and awe, answering, "Ay, my lord," and "No, my lord," always with the same smile of general benevolence and readiness to comply with every desire. When they had got beyond hail of the castle, from which Symington and Macalister watched them anxiously, Duncan mutely suggested the elevation of a mast and setting of the sail which the vessel was furnished with, to which Walter assented with eagerness: and soon they were skimming along before a light wind as if they had wings. And now began perhaps the most pleasurable expedition that Walter had ever made in his life. Escaped from the ruinous old pile, within which he had feared he knew not what, escaped too from the observation and inspection of the two old men so much better acquainted with the history of his family than himself, whom he felt to be something between keepers and schoolmasters-fairly launched forth upon the world, with nothing to consult but his own pleasure, Walter felt his spirits rise to any height of adventure. There was not indeed any very wild adventure probable, but he was not much used to anything of the kind, and the sense of freedom and freshness in everything was intoxicating to the young man. The small boat, the rag of a sail, the lively wind that drove them along, the rushing ripple under their keel, all delighted him. He held the helm with a sense of pleasure almost beyond anything he had ever known, feeling all the exhilaration of a discoverer in a new country, and for the first time the master of himself and his fate. Duncan said nothing, but grinned from ear to ear, when the young master in his inattention to, or to tell the truth ignorance of, the capabilities of the boat, turned the helm sharply, bringing her up to the wind in such a way as to threaten the most summary end for the voyage. He kept his eye upon the rash steersman, and Walter was not aware of the risks he ran. He directed his little vessel now here, now there, with absolute enjoyment, running in close ashore to examine the village, turning about again in a wild elation to visit an island, running the very nose of the boat into the rocky banks or feathery bushwood. How it was that no harm came as they thus darted from point to point Duncan never knew. He stood up roused to watchfulness, with his eyes intent on the movements of his master ready to remedy any indiscretion. It was in the nature of such undeserved vigilance that the object of it was never aware of it, but to be sure Duncan had his own life to think of too.

They had thus swept triumphantly down the loch, the wind favouring, and apparently watching over the rash voyager as carefully, as and still more disinterestedly than Duncan. The motion, the air, the restless career, the novelty, and the freedom enchanted Walter. He felt like a boy in his first escapade, with an intoxicating sense of independence and scorn of danger which gave zest to the independence. At every new zigzag he made, Duncan but grinned the more. He uttered the Gaelic name of every point and isle, briefly, with guttural depth, out of his chest, as they went careering along before the wind. The boat was like an inquisitive visitor, too open for a spy, poking in to every corner. At length they came to an island standing high out of the water, with a rocky beach, upon which a boat lay carefully hauled up, and a feathery crest of trees, fine clumps of fir, fringed and surrounded by a luxuriant growth of lighter wood. In the midst of this fine network of branches, such as we call bare, being leafless, but which in reality are all astir with life restrained, brown purple buddings eager to start and held in like hounds in a leash-rose the solid outline of a house, built upon the ridge of rock, and appearing like a shadow in the midst of all the anatomy of the trees.

"That will be joost the leddy's," cried Duncan; at which Walter's heart, so light in his bosom, gave an additional leap of pleasure. He steered it so close that Duncan's vigilance was doubly taxed, for the least neglect would have sent the little vessel ashore. Walter examined the little landing, the rocky path that led up the bank, winding among the trees, and as much as could be made out of the house, with keen interest. The man with the red shirt, who had been the young lady's boatman on the previous day, appeared at the further point as they went on. He was fishing from a rock that projected into the water, and turning to gaze upon the unwary boat, with astonished eyes, shouted something in Gaelic to Duncan, who nodded good-humouredly a great many times, and replied with a laugh in the same tongue-

"Yon will joost be Hamish," said Duncan.

"What is he saying?" cried Walter.

"He will just be telling us to mind where we are going," said Duncan, imperturbable.

"Tell him to mind his own business," cried Walter, with a laugh. "And who is Hamish, and who is the leddy? Come, tell me all about it." His interest in the voyage flagged a little at this point.

Duncan thus interrogated was more put to it than by the dangerous course they had hitherto been running.

"It will joost be the leddy," he said; "and Hamish that's her man: and they will joost be living up there like ither persons, and fearing God: fery decent folk-oh, joost fery decent folk."

"I never doubted that. But who are they, and what are they? And do you mean to say they live there, on that rock, in winter, so far north?"

Walter looked up at the dazzling sky, and repented his insinuation: but he was, alas, no better than an Englishman, when all was said, and he could not help a slight shiver as he looked back. Hamish, who had made a fine point of colour on his projecting rock, had gone from that point, and was visible in his red shirt mounting the high crest of the island with hurried appearances and disappearances as the broken nature of the ground made necessary. He had gone, there seemed little doubt, to intimate to the inhabitants the appearance of the stranger. This gave Walter a new thrill of pleasure, but it took away his eagerness about the scenery. He lay back languidly, neglecting the helm, and as he distracted Duncan's attention too, they had nearly run aground on the low beach of the next island. When this difficulty was got over, Walter suddenly discovered that they had gone far enough, and might as well be making their way homeward, which was more easily said than done; for the wind, which had hitherto served their purpose nobly, was no longer their friend. They made a tack or two, and crept along a little, but afterwards resigned themselves to ship the sail and take to the oars, which was not so exhilarating nor so well adapted to show the beauty of the landscape. It took them some time to make their way once more past the rocky point, and along the edge of the island which attracted Walter's deepest interest, but to which he could not persuade Duncan to give any name.

"It will joost be the leddy's," the boatman insisted on saying, with a beaming face; but either his English or his knowledge was at fault, and he went no further.

Walter's heart beat with a kind of happy anxiety, a keen but

pleasant suspense, as he swept his oar out of the water, and glanced behind him to measure how near they were to the landing, at which he had a presentiment something more interesting than Hamish might be seen. And as it turned out, he had not deceived himself. But what he saw was not what he expected to see.

The lady on the bank was not his fellow-traveller of yesterday. She was what Walter to himself, with much disappointment, called an old lady, wrapped in a large furred mantle and white fleecy wrap about her head and shoulders. She stood and waved her hand as Walter's boat came slowly within range.

"You will be joost the leddy," said Duncan of the few words; and with one great sweep of his oar he turned the boat towards the landing. It was the man's doing, not the master's; but the master was not sorry to take advantage of this sudden guidance. It was all done in a moment, without intention. Hamish stood ready to secure the boat, and before he had time to think, Walter found himself on the little clearing above the stony bit of beach, hat in hand, glowing with surprise and pleasure, and receiving the warmest of welcomes.

"You will forgive me for just stopping you on your way," the lady said; "but I was fain to see you, Lord Erradeen, for your father and I were children together. I was Violet Montrose. You must have heard him speak of me."

"I hope," said Walter, with his best bow, and most ingratiating tone, "that you will not consider it any fault of mine; but I don't remember my father; he died when I was a child."

"Dear me," cried the lady; "how could I be so foolish! Looking at you again, I see you would not be old enough for that: and, now I remember, he married late, and died soon after. Well, there is no harm done. We are just country neighbours, and as I was great friends with Walter Methven some five-and-forty years ago--"

"I hope," said the young man with a bow and smile, "that you will be so good as to be friends with Walter Methven now: for that is the name under which I know myself."

"Oh, Lord Erradeen," the lady said with a little flutter of pleasure. Such a speech would be pretty from any young man; but made by a young lord, in all the flush of his novel honours, and by far the greatest potentate of the district, there was no one up the loch or down the loch who would not have been gratified. "It is just possible," she said, after a momentary pause, "that having been brought up in England, and deprived of your father so early, you may not know much about your neighbours, nor even who we are, in this bit island of ours. We are the Forresters of Eaglescairn, whom no doubt ye have heard of; and I am one of the last of the Montroses-alas! that I should say so. I have but one of a large family left with me; and Oona and me, we have just taken advantage of an old family relic that came from my side of the house, and have taken up our habitation here. I hear she must have travelled with you yesterday on the coach, not thinking who it was. Oh, yes; news travels fast at this distance from the world. I think the wind blows it, or the water carries it. All the loch by this time is aware of Lord Erradeen's arrival. Indeed," she added, with a little laugh, "you know, my lord, we all saw the light."

She was a woman over fifty, but fair and slight, with a willowy figure, and a complexion of which many a younger woman might have been proud; and there was a little airiness of gesture and tread about her, which probably thirty years before had been the pretty affectations, half-natural, half-artificial, of a beauty, and which still kept up the tradition of fascinating powers. The little toss of her head, the gesture of her hands, as she said the last words, the half-apologetic laugh as if excusing herself for a semi-absurdity, were all characteristic and amusing.

"You know," she added, "in the Highlands we are allowed to be superstitious," and repeated the little laugh at herself with which she deprecated offence.

"What is it supposed to mean?" Walter asked somewhat eagerly. "Of course there is some natural explanation which will be simple enough. But I prefer to take the old explanation, if I knew what it was."

"And so do we," she said quickly. "We are just ready to swear to it, man and woman of us on the loch. Some say it is a sign the head of the house is coming-some that it is a call to him to come and meet-Dear me, there is Oona calling. And where is Hamish? I will not have the child kept waiting," said the lady, looking round her with a little nervous impatience.

She had begun to lead the way upward by a winding path among the rocks and trees, and now paused, a little breathless, to look down towards the landing-place, and clap her hands impatiently.

"Hamish is away, mem," said the woman whom Walter had seen on the coach, and who now met them coming down the winding path. She looked at him with a cordial smile, and air of kindly welcome. It was evident that it did not occur to Mysie that her salutations might be inappropriate. "You're very welcome, sir, to your ain country," she said with a courtesy, which was polite rather than humble. Walter felt that she would have offered him her hand, on the smallest encouragement, with a kindly familiarity which conveyed no disrespect.

"You should say my lord, Mysie," her mistress remarked.

"Deed, mem, and so I should; but when you're no much in the way o't, ye get confused. I said, as soon as I heard the news, that it would be the young gentleman on the coach, and I had just a feeling a' the time that it was nae tourist, but a kent face. Hamish is away, mem. I tell him he hears Miss Oona's foot on the bank, before ever she cries upon him; and yonder he is just touching the shore, and her ready to jump in."

The party had reached a little platform on the slope. The path was skilfully engineered between two banks, clothed with ferns and grasses, and still luxuriant with a vivid green, though the overhanging trees were all bare. Here and there a little opening gave a point of repose and extended view. Mrs. Forrester paused and turned round to point out to her visitor the prospect that now lay before them. She was a little breathless and glad of the pause, but it did not suit her character to say so. She pointed round her with a little triumph. They were high enough to see the loch on either side, looking down upon it through the fringe of branches. Opposite to this was the mainland which at that spot formed a little bay, thickly wooded with the dark green of the fir woods, amid which appeared the gables of a sort of ornamental cottage. Nearer the eye was the road, and underneath the road on the beach stood a little slight figure in the closely-fitting garb which Walter recognised. She had evidently been set down from a waggonette full of a lively party which waited on the high road to see her embark. It was impossible to hear what they were saying, but the air was full of a pleasant murmur of voices.

"It is the young Campbells of Ellermore," said Mrs. Forrester, waving her handkerchief towards the group. "Oona has been spending last night with them, and they have brought her back. They will all be astonished, Mysie, to see me standing here with a gentleman. Dear me, they will all be saying who has Mrs. Forrester got with her?"

"They will think," said Mysie, "just that it's Mr. James or Mr. Ronald come home."

"Ah, Mysie, if that could be!" said the lady of the isle: and she put her hands together, which were thin and white, and ornamented by a number of rings, with a pretty conventional gesture of maternal regret. Walter stood looking on with mingled amazement and pleasure: pleased as if he were at a play with all the new indications of domestic history which were opening to him, and with a sense of enjoyment through all his being. When the girl sprang into the boat, and Hamish, conspicuous in his red shirt, pushed off into the loch, the tumult of good-byes became almost articulate. He laughed to himself under his breath, remembering all the greetings he had heard along the line of railway, the recognitions at every station.

"Your daughter seems to know everybody," he said.

"And how could she help knowing every person," cried Mysie, taking the words, as it were, out of her mistress's mouth, "when she was born and brought up on the loch, and never one to turn her back upon a neebor, gentle or simple, but just adored wherever she goes?"

"Oh, whisht, Mysie, whisht! we are partial," said Mrs. Forrester with her little antiquated graces; and then she invited Lord Erradeen to continue his walk.

It was the full blaze of day, and the view extended as they went higher up to the crest of rock upon which the house was set. It was built of irregular reddish stone, all cropped with lichens where it was visible, but so covered with clinging plants that very little of the walls could be seen. The rustic porch was built something like a bee-hive, with young, slim-growing saplings for its pillars, and chairs placed within its shelter. There were some flower-beds laid out around, in which a few autumn crocuses had struggled into pale bloom-and a number of china roses hung half opened against the sides of the house. The roofs were partly blue slates, that most prosaic of comfortable coverings, and partly the rough red tiles of the country, which shone warm through the naked boughs.

"Every hardy plant could bear

Loch Katrine's keen and searching air,"

was garlanded about the house, the little lawn was as green as velvet, the china roses were pale but sweet. Behind the house were the mossed apple-trees of a primitive orchard among the rocky shelves. It lay smiling in the sun, with the silver mirror of the lake all round, and every tint and outline doubled in the water. From the door the dark old castle of Kinloch Houran stood out against the silent darkness of the hill. Little rocky islets, like a sport of nature, too small to be inhabited by anything bigger than rabbits, lay all reflected in broken lines of rock and brushwood, between Walter's old castle and this romantic house. They were so visible, one to the other, that the mere position seemed to form a link of connection between the inhabitants.

"We cannot but take an interest in you, you see, Lord Erradeen, for we can never get out of sight of you," said Mrs. Forrester.

"And I think the old place looks better from here than any other view I have seen," Walter added almost in the same breath.

They laughed as they spoke together. It was not possible to be more entirely "country neighbours." The young man had a fantastic feeling that it was a sort of flattery to himself that his house should be so entirely the centre of the landscape. He followed the lady into the house with a little reluctance, the scene was so enchanting. Inside, the roofs were low, but the rooms well-sized and comfortable. They were full of curiosities of every kind: weapons from distant countries, trophies of what is called "the chase," hung upon the wall of the outer hall. The drawing-room was full of articles from India and China, carved ivories, monsters in porcelain, all the wonders that people used to send home before we got Japanese shops at every corner. An air of gentle refinement was everywhere, with something, too, in the many ornaments, little luxuries, and daintinesses which suggested the little minauderies of the old beauty, the old-fashioned airs and graces that had been irresistible to a previous generation.

"You will just stay and eat your luncheon with us, Lord Erradeen. I might have been but poor company, an old woman as I'm getting; but, now that Oona is coming, I need not be too modest; for, though there will not be a grand luncheon, there will be company, which is always something. And sit down and tell me something about your father and the lady he married, and where you have been living all this time."

Walter laughed. "Is it all my humble history you want me to tell you?" he said. "It is not very much. I don't remember my father, and the lady he married is-my mother, you know. The best mother--But I have not been the best of sons. I was an idle fellow, good-for-nothing a little while ago. Nobody knew what was going to come of me. I did nothing but loaf, if you know what that means."

"Ah, that I do," said Mrs. Forrester; "that was just like my Jamie. But now they tell me he is the finest officer--"

Walter paused, but the lady was once more entirely attention, listening with her hands clasped, and her head raised to his with an ingratiating sidelong look. He laughed. "They all made up their minds I was to be good-for-nothing--"

"Yes," murmured Mrs. Forrester, softly, half closing her eyes and shaking her head, "that was just like my Bob-till he took a thought: and now he is planting coffee in Ceylon and doing well. Yes? and then?"

"An old man arrived one evening," said Walter, half laughing, "and told me-that I was Lord Erradeen. And do you know, from that moment nobody, not even I myself, would believe that I had ever loafed or idled or been good-for-nothing."

There was a pause, in which Walter thought he heard some one move behind him. But no sound reached Mrs. Forrester, who responded eagerly-

"My son, the present Eaglescairn, was just of the same kind," she said, reflectively. She had a comparison ready for every case that could be suggested-"till he came of age. It was in the will that they were to come of age only at twenty-five, and till then I had a sore time. Oh, Oona, my dear, is that you? And had you a pleasant evening. Here is young Lord Erradeen that has come in, most kindly, I'm sure, to tell me about his father, that I knew so well. And it appears you met upon the coach yesterday. Come away, my dear, come away! And that was just most curious that, knowing nothing of one another, you should meet upon the coach."

Oona came in lightly, in her out-door dress. She gave Walter a look which was very friendly. She had paused for a moment at the door, and she had heard his confession. It seemed to Oona that what he said was generous and manly. She was used to forming quick impressions. She had been annoyed when she had heard from Hamish of the visitor, but her mind changed when she heard what he said. She came up to him and held out her hand. The fresh air was in her face, which Walter thought was like the morning, all bright and fresh and full of life. She made him a little curtsey with much gravity, and said in the pretty voice which was so fresh and sweet, and with that novelty of accent which had amused and delighted the young man, "You are welcome to your own country Lord Erradeen."

"Now that is very pretty of you, Oona," cried her mother. "I never thought you would remember to pay your little compliment, as a well-bred person should; for, to tell the truth, she is just too brusque-it is her fault."

"Hamish told me what to say," said Oona, with a glance of provocation. "He is a very well-bred person. He told me I was to bid my lord welcome to his own."

"Oh, my dear, you need not take away the merit of it, as if you had not thought of it yourself," said the mother, aggrieved; "but run away and take off your hat, and let us have our lunch, for Lord Erradeen has been all the morning on the water and he will be hungry, and you are all blown about with the wind."

The young people exchanged looks, while Mrs. Forrester made her little protest. There was a sort of laughing interchange between them, in which she was mocking and he apologetic. Why, neither could have said. They understood each other, though they by no means clearly understood each what he and she meant. There was to be a little war between them, all in good-humour and good-fellowship, not insipid agreement and politeness. The next hour was, Walter thought, the most pleasant he had ever spent in his life. He had not been ignorant of such enjoyments before. When we said that various mothers in Sloebury had with the first news of his elevation suffered a sudden pang of self-reproach, to think how they had put a stop to certain passages, the end of which might now have been to raise a daughter to the peerage, it must have been understood that Walter was not altogether a novice in the society of women; but this had a new flavour which was delightful to him. It had been pleasant enough in the cottage, when Julia Herbert sang, and on other occasions not necessary to enter into. But on this romantic isle, where the sound of the loch upon the rocks made a soft accompaniment to everything, in a retirement which no vulgar interruption could reach, with the faded beauty on one side, scarcely able to forget the old pretty mannerisms of conquest even in her real maternal kindness and frank Highland hospitality, and the girl, with her laughing defiance on the other, he felt himself to have entered a new chapter of history. The whole new world into which he had come became visible to him in their conversation. He heard how he himself had been looked for, and how "the whole loch" had known something about him for years before he had ever heard of Loch Houran. "We used to know you as the 'English lad,'" Oona said, with her glance of mischief. All this amused Walter more than words can say. The sun was dropping towards the west before-escorted to the landing-place by both the ladies, and taken leave of as an old friend-he joined the slow-spoken Duncan, and addressed himself to the homeward voyage. Duncan had not been slow of speech in the congenial company of Hamish. They had discussed the new-comer at length, with many a shaft of humour and criticism, during the visit which Duncan had paid to the kitchen. He blushed not now, secure in the stronghold of his unknown tongue, to break off in a witty remark at Walter's expense as he turned to his master his beaming smile of devotion. They set off together, master and man, happy yet regretful, upon their homeward way. And it was a tough row back to Kinloch Houran against the fresh and not too quiet Highland wind.

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