“Ech, Mr. Graeme!” said the old man, with his grizzled old face tuned to befitting concern. “Her leddyship’s awa’ to Inverstrife at a moment’s notice. She had a tailegram late last night saying the little leddy—the Countess, ye ken—was very bad, and would she go at once. And she and Jannet were off by the first train this morning. They aye send for us, ye ken, when anything by-ordinar’s to the fore. It’s the little leddy’s first, ye understand, and ye’ll mind that her own mother died two years ago.”
“Well, well! I’m sorry you’ve had such an upsetting, Hamish. And there’s no knowing when Lady Elspeth will return, I suppose?”
“It a’ depends on the little leddy, Mr. Graeme. Her leddyship will stay till everything’s all right, ye may depend upon that. She told me to give you her kindest regairds and beg you to excuse her not writing. They were all on their heads, so to speak, as ye can understand.”
“Yes, of course. Well, we must just hope the little lady will pull through all right. If I don’t hear from Lady Elspeth I will call now and again for your latest news.”
“Surely, sir. Jannet’ll be letting me know, if her leddyship’s too busy. Miss Brandt was here about hauf an hour ago,” he added, with unmoved face;—to think of any man, even so ancient a man as old Hamish, being able to state a fact so great as that with unmoved face! And there was actually no sign of reminiscent and lingering after-glow perceptible in him!—but Graeme was not at all sure that there was not a veiled twinkle away down in the depths of his little blue-gray eyes.
“Ah! Miss Brandt has been here! She would be surprised too——”
“She was that, sir,—and a bit disappointed, it seemed to me——”
Yes, there was a twinkle in the old fellow’s eyes! Oh, he knew, he knew without a doubt. Trust old Hamish for not missing much that was to the fore. He and his old wife, Jannet Gordon, had been in Lady Elspeth’s service for over forty years, ever since her leddyship married into the family, and Lady Elspeth trusted them both implicitly and discussed most matters very freely with them. The dilatations of those three shrewd old people, concerning things in general, and the men and women of their acquaintance in particular, would have been rare, rare hearing.
“Well, I’ll call again in a day or two, Hamish,” and he went away along the gloomy streets, which were all ablaze with soft April sunshine, and yet to him had suddenly become darkened. For he saw at a glance all that this was like to do for him.
PART THE SECOND
The rare delight of his meetings with Margaret was at an end. Bluff Fortune had slammed the door in his face, and White-handed Hope had folded her golden wings and sat moping with melancholy mien.
He wandered into Kensington Gardens, but the daffodils swung their heads despondently, and the gorgeous masses of hyacinths made him think of funeral plumes on horses’ heads.