Nature herself seemed to have conspired with Macleod to welcome and charm this fair guest. He had often spoken to her of the sunsets that shone over the Western seas; and he had wondered whether, during her stay in the North, she would see some strange sight that would remain forever a blaze of color in her memory. And now on this very first evening there was a spectacle seen from the high windows of Dare that filled her with astonishment, and caused her to send quickly for her father, who was burrowing among the old armor. The sun had just gone down. The western sky was of the color of a soda-water bottle become glorified; and in this vast breadth of shining clear green lay one long island of cloud—a pure scarlet. Then the sky overhead and the sea far below them were both of a soft roseate purple; and Fladda and Staffa and Lunga, out at the horizon, were almost black against that flood of green light. When he asked her if she had brought her water-colors with her, smiled. She was not likely to attempt to put anything like that down on paper.
Then they adjourned to the big hall, which was now lit up with candles; and Major Stuart had remained to dinner: and the gallant soldier, glad to have a merry evening away from his sighing wife, did his best to promote the cheerfulness of the party. Moreover, Miss White had got rid of her headache, and showed a greater brightness of face; so that both the old lady at the head of the table and her niece Janet had to confess to themselves that this English girl who was like to tear Keith Macleod away from them was very pretty, and had an amiable look, and was soft and fine and delicate in her manners and speech. The charming simplicity of her costume, too: had anybody ever seen a dress more beautiful with less pretence of attracting notice? Her very hands—they seemed objects fitted to be placed on a cushion of blue velvet under a glass shade, so white and small and perfectly formed were they. That was what the kindly-hearted Janet thought. She did not ask herself how these hands would answer if called upon to help—amidst the grime and smoke of a shepherd’s hut—the shepherd’s wife to patch together a pair of homespun trousers for the sailor son coming back from the sea.
“And now,” said Keith Macleod to his fair neighbor, when Hamish had put the claret and the whiskey on the table, “since your head is well now, would you like to hear the pipes? It is an old custom of the house. My mother would think it strange to have it omitted,” he added, in a lower voice.
“Oh, if it is a custom of the house,” she said, coldly—for she thought it was inconsiderate of him to risk bringing back her headache—“I have no objection whatever.”
And so he turned to Hamish and said something in the Gaelic. Hamish replied in English, and loud enough for Miss White to hear.
“It is no pibroch there will be this night, for Donald is away.”