He was startled by a voice; it was only that of old John MacIntyre, the postman, who was glad enough to get into this place of refuge too.
“It’s a bad day for you to be out this day, Sir Keith,” said he, in the Gaelic, “and you have no cause to be out; and why will you not go back to Castle Dare?”
“Have you any letter for me, John?” said he, eagerly.
Oh yes, there was a letter; and the old man was astonished to see how quickly Sir Keith Macleod took that letter, and how anxiously he read it, as though the awfulness of the storm had no concern for him at all. And what was it all about, this wet sheet that he had to hold tight between his hands, or the gust that swept round the rocks would have whirled it up and away over the giant ramparts of the Bourg? It was a very pretty letter, and rather merry; for it was all about a fancy-dress ball which was to take place at Mr. Lemuel’s house; and all the people were to wear a Spanish costume of the time of Philip IV.; and there were to be very grand doings indeed. And as Keith Macleod had nothing to do in the dull winter-time but devote himself to books, would he be so kind as to read up about that period, and advise her as to which historical character she ought to assume?
Macleod burst out laughing, in a strange sort of way, and put the wet letter in his pocket, and led Jack out into the road again.
“Sir Keith, Sir Keith!” cried the old man, “you will not go on now?” And as he spoke, another blast of snow tore across the glen, and there was a rumble of thunder among the hills.
“Why, John,” Macleod called back again from the gray gloom of the whirling snow and sleet, “would you have me go home and read books too? Do you know what a fancy dress ball is, John? And do you know what they think of us in the South, John: that we have nothing to do here in winter-time—nothing to do here but read books?”
The old man heard him laughing to himself in that odd way, as he rode off and disappeared into the driving snow; and his heart was heavy within him, and his mind filled with strange forebodings. It was a dark and an awful glen, this great ravine that led down to the solitary shores of Loch Scridain.
OVER THE SEAS.
But no harm at all came of that reckless ride through the storm; and in a day or two’s time Macleod had almost argued himself into the belief that it was but natural for a young girl to be fascinated by these new friends. And how could he protest against a fancy-dress ball, when he himself had gone to one on his brief visit to London? And it was a proof of her confidence in him that she wished to take his advice about her costume.