“But you have not told us why you brought him up here,” his mother said.
“Oh,” said he, with a sort of laugh, “I was looking at him, and I wondered whether Highland mutton and Highland air would make any difference in the wretched little skeleton; and so I made his acquaintance. I went home with him to a fearful place—I have got the address, but I did not know there were such quarters in London—and I saw his mother. The poor woman was very ill, and she had a lot of children; and she seemed quite glad when I offered to take this one and make a herd or a gamekeeper of him. I promised he should go to visit her once a year, that she might see whether there was any difference. And I gave her a sovereign.”
“You were quite right, Keith,” his cousin said, gravely; “You run a great risk. Do they hang slavers?”
“Mother,” said he, for by this time the ladies were standing still, so that Hamish and the new gillie should overtake them, “you mustn’t laugh at the little chap when you see him with the plaid taken off. The fact is, I took him to a shop in the neighborhood to get some clothes for him, but I couldn’t get anything small enough. He does look ridiculous; but you mustn’t laugh at him, for he is like a girl for sensitiveness. But when he has been fed up a bit, and got some Highland air into his lungs, his own mother won’t know him. And you will get him some other clothes, Janet—some kilts, maybe—when his legs get stronger.”
Whatever Keith Macleod did was sure to be right in his mother’s eyes, and she only said, with a laugh,—
“Well, Keith, you are not like your brothers. When they brought me home presents, it was pretty things; but all your curiosities, wherever you go, are the halt, and the lame, and the blind; so that people laugh at you, and say that Castle Dare is becoming the hospital of Mull.”
“Mother, I don’t care what the people say.”
“And indeed I know that,” she answered.
Their waiting had allowed Hamish and the new gillie to overtake them; and certainly the latter, deprived of his plaid, presented a sufficiently ridiculous appearance in the trousers and jacket that were obviously too big for him. But neither Lady Macleod nor Janet laughed at all when they saw this starved London waif before them.