When their host heard of this, he was for breaking up the party; but Major Stuart warmly remonstrated; and so one of the men was sent with the two friends to show them the way back to the house. When the surgeon came he examined the wound, and pronounced it to be slight enough in itself, but possibly dangerous when so near so sensitive an organ as the eye. He advised the major, if any symptoms of inflammation declared themselves, to go at once to a skillful oculist in London, and not to leave for the North until he was quite assured.
“That sounds rather well, Macleod,” said he, ruefully.
“Oh, if you must remain in London—though I hope not—I will stay with you,” Macleod said. It was a great sacrifice, his remaining in London, instead of going at once back to Castle Dare; but what will not one do for one’s friend?
On the eventful morning on which Major Stuart was to be presented to the chosen bride of Macleod of Dare, the simple-hearted soldier—notwithstanding that he had a shade over one eye, made himself exceedingly smart. He would show the young lady that Macleod’s friends in the North were not barbarians. The major sent back his boots to be brushed a second time. A more smoothly fitting pair of gloves Bond Street never saw.
“But you have not the air,” said he to Macleod, “of a young fellow going to see his sweetheart. What is the matter, man?”
Macleod hesitated for a moment.
“Well, I am anxious she should impress you favorably,” said he, frankly; “and it is an awkward position for her—and she will be embarrassed, no doubt—and I have some pity for her, and almost wish some other way had been taken—”
“Oh, nonsense?” the major said, cheerfully. “You need not be nervous on her account. Why, man, the silliest girl in the world could impose on an old fool like me. Once upon a time, perhaps, I may have considered myself a connoisseur—well, you know, Macleod, I once had a waist like the rest of you; but now, bless you, if a tolerably pretty girl only says a civil word or two to me, I begin to regard her as if I were her guardian angel—in loco parentis, and that kind of thing—and I would sooner hang myself than scan her dress or say a word about her figure. Do you think she will be afraid of a critic with one eye? Have courage, man. I dare bet a sovereign she is quite capable of taking care of herself. It’s her business.”
Macleod flushed quickly, and the one eye of the major caught that sudden confession of shame or resentment.
“What I meant was,” he said, instantly, “that nature had taught the simplest of virgins a certain trick of fence—oh yes, don’t you be afraid. Embarrassment! If there is any one embarrassed, it will not be me, and it will not be she. Why, she’ll begin to wonder whether you are really one of the Macleods, if you show yourself nervous, apprehensive, frightened like this.”