“That’s Margaret,” he murmured rapturously.
“It’s a poor kind of man that gives up hope until he lies in his coffin, and even then—” and she nodded thoughtfully, as though tempted to a descent into metaphysics.
“Let us talk of bridal wreaths. They are very much nicer to think of than coffins when one is discussing Margaret Brandt.”
“She is very sweet and very beautiful—”
“There never was anyone like her in this world—unless it was my mother and yourself.”
“Let Margaret be first with you, my boy. That also is as it should be. Neither your dear mother nor I stand in need of empty compliments. Margaret Brandt is worthy any good man’s whole heart, and perhaps I can be of some help to you. But, all the same, remember what I’ve said. You may be too late in the field.”
“You are just the splendidest old lady in the world,” he said exuberantly; and added, with a touch of gloom, “She was talking of going off to the Riviera.”
“Ah, then, I suppose I shall be in eclipse also, until she returns.”
“Oh no, you won’t. We can talk of her, you know,” at which Lady Elspeth’s eyes twinkled merrily.
“What would you say to convoying a troublesome old lady to the Riviera, yourself, Jock?”
“You?” and he jumped up delightedly,—and just at that point old Hamish opened the door of the cosy room, and announced—
“Miss Brandt, mem!”
“Miss Brandt, mem!” announced old Hamish, in as dry and matter-of-fact a voice as though it were only, “Here’s the doctor, mem!” or “Dinner’s ready, mem!” and Margaret herself came in, rosy-faced and bright-eyed from the kiss of the wind outside.
Lady Elspeth laughed enjoyably at the sight of her, and touched the bell for tea.
“You are always like a breath from the heather to me, my dear, or a glimpse of Schiehallion,” said she, as they kissed, and Graeme stood reverently looking on, as at a holy rite.
“Oh, surely I’m not as rugged and wrinkled as all that!” laughed Margaret. “And I certainly am not bald. How do you do, Mr. Graeme?”
“There is no need to ask you that question, at any rate,” he said, with visible appreciation.
“I have loved Schiehallion all my life,” said Lady Elspeth. “To me there is no mountain in the world to compare with it. You see how one’s judgment is biassed by one’s affections. And how is Mrs. Pixley to-day, my dear?”
“She is much as usual, dear Lady Elspeth. She is never very lively, you know. If anything, I think she is, perhaps, a trifle less lively than usual just now.”
“And Mr. Pixley is as busied in good works as ever, I suppose.”
“As busy as ever—outside,”—at which gentle thrust the others smiled.
“It’s all very well to laugh,” remonstrated Margaret, “but truly, you know, philanthropy, like charity, would be none the less commendable to its relations if it sometimes remembered that it had a home. I sometimes think that if ever there was a deserving case it is poor Aunt Susan.”