Luncheon was announced, and they went into the other room, accompanied by Miss Carry, who had suffered herself, to be introduced to Major Stuart with a certain proud sedateness. And now the major played the part of the accepted lover’s friend to perfection. He sat next Miss White herself; and no matter what the talk was about, he managed to bring it round to something that redounded to Macleod’s advantage. Macleod could do this, and Macleod could do that; it was all Macleod, and Macleod, and Macleod.
“And if you should ever come to our part of the world, Miss White,” said the major—not letting his glance meet hers—“you will be able to understand something of the old loyalty and affection and devotion the people in the Highlands showed to their chiefs; for I don’t believe there is a man, woman, or child about the place who would not rather have a hand cut off than that Macleod should have a thorn scratch him. And it is all the more singular, you know, that they are not Macleods. Mull is the country of the Macleans; and the Macleans and the Macleods had their fights in former times. There is a cave they will show you round the point from Ru na Gaul lighthouse that is called Uamh-na-Ceann—that is, the Cavern of the Skulls—where the Macleods murdered fifty of the Macleans, though Alastair Crotach, the humpbacked son of Macleod, was himself killed.”
“I beg your pardon, Major Stuart,” said Miss Carry, with a grand stateliness in her tone, “but will you allow me to ask if this is true? It is a passage I saw quoted in a book the other day, and I copied it out. It says something about the character of the people you are talking about.”
She handed him the bit of paper; and he read these words: "Trew it is, that thir Ilandish men ar of nature verie prowd, suspicious, avaricious, full of decept and evill inventioun each aganis his nychtbour, be what way soever he may circumvin him. Besydis all this, they ar sa crewall in taking of revenge that nather have they regard to person, eage, tyme, or caus; sa ar they generallie all sa far addictit to thair awin ty rannicall opinions that, in all respects, they exceed in creweltie the maist barbarous people that ever hes bene sen the begynning of the warld."
“Upon my word,” said the honest major, “it is a most formidable indictment. You had better ask Sir Keith about it.”
He handed the paper across the table; Macleod read it, and burst out laughing.
“It is too true, Carry,” said he. “We are a dreadful lot of people up there among the hills. Nothing but murder and rapine from morning till night.”
“I was telling him this morning he would probably be hanged,” observed the major, gravely.
“For what?” Miss White asked.
“Oh,” said the major, carelessly, “I did not specify the offence. Cattle-lifting, probably.”