Roger has risen, and is coming to help me down, but I say, crossly, “Do not, please; Algy manages best!” Algy, however, has no intention of helping anybody down. He has helped himself down; and, without a word or a look to any of his fellow-travellers, has thrown himself down on the heather at Mrs. Huntley’s feet, and is relieving his mind by audible animadversions on our late triumphal progress. I am therefore left to the tender mercies of the grooms; at least, I should have been, if Mr. Musgrave had not taken pity on me, and guided my uncertain feet and the petticoats, which Zephyr is doing his playful best to turn over my head, down the steep declivity of the ladder. This, as you may guess, does not help to restore my equanimity. However, I am down now, on firm ground; and, at least, we are rid of the dust. My eyes are still full of grit, but I suppose they will get over that. I turn them disconsolately about.
On a fine sunny day—with butterflies hovering over the heather-flowers, and bees sucking honey from the gorse—with little mild airs playing about, and a torquoise sky shining overhead—it might be a spot on which to lie and dream dreams of paradise; but now! The sun has finally retired, and hid his sulky face for the day; the heather is over; and, though the gorse is not, yet it gives no fragrance to the raw air. All over the great rolling expanse there is a heavy, leaden look, caught from the angry heavens above. The great clouds are gathering themselves together to battle; and the mighty wind, with nothing to check its progress, is sweeping over the great plain, and singing with eerie, loud mournfulness.
“Where are the Scotch firs?” (I say, querulously, to Mr. Parker, who by this time had joined me); “you said there were plenty of them! where are they?”
“Where?” (looking cheerfully round), “oh, there!” (pointing to where one lightning-riven little wreck bends its sickly head to the gale). “Ah! I see there is only one, after all. I thought that there had been more.”
My heart sinks. Is that one withered, scathed little stick to be our sole protection against the storm, so evidently quickly coming up?
“Fine view, is not it?” pursues my companion, not in the least perceiving my depression, and complacently surveying the prospect. “Of course it might have been clearer, but, after all, you get a very good idea of it.”
I turn my faint eyes in the same direction as his. Down on the horizon the sullen rain-clouds are settling, and, to meet them, there stretches a dead, colorless flat, dotted with little round trees, little church-spires, little houses, little fields, little hedges—one of those mappy views, that lack even the beauties of a map—the nice pink and green and blue lines which so gayly define the boundaries of each county.
“Very extensive, is not it?” he says, proudly; “you know you can see—”