“Johnny,” said Macleod, “here are two ladies who will be very kind to you, so you needn’t be afraid to live here.”
But Johnny did look mortally afraid, and instinctively once more took hold of Macleod’s coat. Then he seemed to have some notion of his duty. He drew back one foot, and made a sort of courtesy. Probably he had seen girls do this, in mock-heroic fashion, in some London court.
“And are you very tired?” said Janet Macleod, in that soft voice of hers that all children loved.
“Yes,” said the child.
“Kott bless me!” cried Hamish, “I did not know that!”—and therewith the old man caught up Johnny Wickes as if he had been a bit of ribbon, and flung him on to his shoulder, and marched off to Castle Dare.
Then the three Macleods continued on their way—through the damp-smelling fir-wood; over the bridge that spanned the brawling brook; again through the fir-wood; until they reached the open space surrounding the big stone house. They stood for a minute there—high over the great plain of the sea, that was beautiful with a thousand tints of light. And there was the green island of Ulva, and there the darker rocks of Colonsay, and farther out, amidst the windy vapor and sunlight, Lunga, and Fladda, and the Dutchman’s Cap, changing in their hue every minute as the clouds came driving over the sea.
“Mother,” said he, “I have not tasted fresh air since I left. I am not sorry to get back to Dare.”
“And I don’t think we are sorry to see you back, Keith,” his cousin said, modestly.
And yet the manner of his welcome was not imposing; they are not very good at grand ceremonies on the western shores of Mull. It is true that Donald, relieved of the care of Johnny Wickes, had sped by a short-cut through the fir-wood, and was now standing in the gravelled space outside the house, playing the “Heights of Alma” with a spirit worthy of all the MacCruimins that ever lived. But as for the ceremony of welcome, this was all there was of it: When Keith Macleod went up to the hall door, he found a small girl of five or six standing quite by herself at the open entrance. This was Christina, the granddaughter of Hamish, a pretty little girl with wide blue eyes and yellow hair.
“Halloo, Christina,” said Macleod, “won’t you let me into the house?”
“This is for you, Sir Keith,” said she, in the Gaelic, and she presented him with a beautiful bunch of white heather. Now white heather, in that part of the country, is known to bring great good fortune to the possessor of it.
“And it is a good omen,” said he, lightly, as he took the child up and kissed her. And that was the manner of his welcome to Castle Dare.