“What a find for my first day at Priorsford!
“I went to tea with the Jardines and I never was at a nicer tea-party. We said poems to each other most of the time. Mhor’s rendering of Chesterton’s ‘The Pleasant Town of Roundabout’ was very fine, but Jock loves best ‘Don John of Austria.’ You would like Jock. He has a very gruff voice and such surprised blue eyes, and is fond of weird interjections like ‘Gosh, Maggie!’ and ‘Earls in the streets of Cork!’ He is a determined foe to sentiment. He won’t read a book that contains love-making or death-beds. ‘Does anybody marry?’ ‘Does anybody die?’ are his first questions about a book, so naturally his reading is much restricted.
“The Jardines have the lovable habit of becoming suddenly overpowered with laughter, crumpled up, and helpless. You have it, too; I have it; all really nice people have it. I have been refreshing myself with Irish Memories since dinner. Do you remember what is said of Martin Ross? ’The large conventional jest had but small power over her; it was the trivial absurdity, the inversion of the expected the sublimity getting a little above itself and failing to realise that it had taken that fatal step over the border—those were the things that felled her, and laid her, wherever she might be, in ruins....’
“Bella Bathgate, I must tell you, remains unthawed. She hinted to me to-night that she thought the Hydropathic was the place for me—surely the unkindest cut of all. People dress for dinner every night there, she tells me, and most of them are English, and a band plays. Evidently she thinks I would be at home in such company.
“Some day I think you must visit Priorsford and get to know Miss Bathgate.—Yours,
“I forgot to tell you that for some dark reason the Jardines call their cat Sir J.M. Barrie.
“I asked why, but got no satisfaction.
“‘Well, you see, there’s Peter,’ Mhor said vaguely.
“Jock looked at the cat and observed obscurely, ’It’s not a sentimental beast either’—while Jean asked if I would have preferred it called Sir Rabindranath Tagore!”
“O, the land is fine,
I could buy it a’ for mine,
For ma gowd’s as the stooks in Strathairlie.”
When Peter Reid arrived at Priorsford Station from London he stood for a few minutes looking about him in a lost way, almost as if after thirty years he expected to see a “kent face” coming to meet him. He had no -notion where to go; he had not written for rooms; he had simply obeyed the impulse that sent him—the impulse that sends a hurt child to its mother. It is said that an old horse near to death turns towards the pastures where he was foaled. It is true of human beings. “Man wanders back to the fields which bred him.”
After a talk with a helpful porter he found rooms in a temperance hotel in the Highgate—a comfortable quiet place.