This preoccupation of mind, of which Hamish was alone observant, was nearly inflicting a cruel injury on Hamish himself. On the morning of the day on which Ogilvie was expected to arrive, Hamish went in to his master’s library. Macleod had been reading a book, but he had pushed it aside, and now both his elbows were on the table, and he was leaning his head on his hands, apparently in deep meditation of some kind or other.
“Will I tek the bandage off Nell’s foot now, sir?”
“Oh yes, if you like. You know as much as I do about it.”
“Oh, I am quite sure,” said Hamish, brightly, “that she will do ferry well to-morrow. I will tek her whatever; and I can send her home if it is too much for her.”
Macleod took up his book again.
“Very well, Hamish. But you have plenty to do about the house. Duncan and Sandy can go with us to-morrow.”
The old man started, and looked at his master for a second. Then he said, “Ferry well, sir,” in a low voice, and left the room.
But for the hurt, and the wounded, and the sorrowful there was always one refuge of consolation in Castle Dare. Hamish went straight to Janet Macleod; and she was astonished to see the emotion of which the keen, hard, handsome face of the old man was capable. Who before had ever seen tears in the eyes of Hamish MacIntyre?
“And perhaps it is so,” said Hamish, with his head hanging down, “and perhaps it is that I am an old man now, and not able any more to go up to the hills; but if I am not able for that, I am not able for anything; and I will not ask Sir Keith to keep me about the house, or about the yacht. It is younger men will do better as me; and I can go away to Greenock; and if it is an old man I am, maybe I will find a place in a smack, for all that—”
“Oh, nonsense, Hamish!” Janet Macleod said, with her kindly eyes bent on him. “You may be sure Sir Keith did not mean anything like that—”
“Ay, mem,” said the old man, proudly, “and who wass it that first put a gun into his hand? and who wass it skinned the ferry first seal that he shot in Loch Scridain? and who wass it told him the name of every spar and sheet of the Umpire, and showed him how to hold a tiller? And if there is any man knows more as me about the birds and the deer, that is right—let him go out; but it is the first day I hef not been out with Sir Keith since ever I wass at Castle Dare; and now it is time that I am going away; for I am an old man; and the younger men they will be better on the hills, and in the yacht too. But I can make my living whatever.”
“Hamish, you are speaking like a foolish man,” said Janet Macleod to him. “You will wait here now till I go to Sir Keith.”
She went to him.
“Keith,” said she, “do you know that you have nearly broken old Hamish’s heart?”
“What is the matter?” said he, looking up in wonder.
“He says you have told him he is not to go out to the shooting with you to-morrow; and that is the first time he has been superseded; and he takes it that you think he is an old man; and he talks of going away to Greenock to join a smack.”