“Oh, nonsense!” Macleod said. “I was not thinking when I told him. He may come with us if he likes. At the same time, Janet, I should think Norman Ogilvie will laugh at seeing the butler come out as a keeper.”
“You know quite well, Keith,” said his cousin, “that Hamish is no more a butler than he is captain of the Umpire or clerk of the accounts. Hamish is simply everybody and everything at Castle Dare. And if you speak of Norman Ogilvie—well, I think it would be more like yourself, Keith, to consult the feelings of an old man rather than the opinions of a young one.”
“You are always on the right side, Janet. Tell Hamish I am very sorry. I meant him no disrespect. And he may call me at one in the morning if he likes. He never looked on me but as a bit of his various machinery for killing things.”
“That is not fair of you, Keith. Old Hamish would give his right hand to save you the scratch of a thorn.”
She went off to cheer the old man, and he turned to his book. But it was not to read it; it was only to stare at the outside of it in an absent sort of way. The fact is, he had found in it the story of a young aid-de-camp who was intrusted with a message to a distant part of the field while a battle was going forward, and who in mere bravado rode across a part of the ground open to the enemy’s fire. He came back laughing. He had been hit, he confessed, but he had escaped: and he carelessly shook a drop or two of blood from a flesh wound on his hand. Suddenly, however, he turned pale, wavered a little, and then fell forward on his horse’s neck, a corpse.
Macleod was thinking about this story rather gloomily. But at last he got up with a more cheerful air, and seized his cap.
“And if it is my death-wound I have got,” he was thinking to himself, as he set out for the boat that was waiting for him at the shore, “I will not cry out too soon.”
His death-wound! There was but little suggestion of any death-wound about the manner or speech of this light-hearted and frank-spoken fellow who now welcomed his old friend Ogilvie ashore. He swung the gun-case into the cart as if it had been a bit of thread. He himself would carry Ogilvie’s top-coat over his arm.
“And why have you not come in your hunting tartan?” said he, observing the very precise and correct shooting costume of the young man.
“Not likely,” said Mr. Ogilvie, laughing. “I don’t like walking through clouds with bare knees, with a chance of sitting down on an adder or two. And I’ll tell you what it is, Macleod; if the morning is wet, I will not go out stalking, if all the stags in Christendom were there. I know what it is; I have had enough of it in my younger days.”
“My dear fellow,” Macleod said, seriously, “you must not talk here as if you could do what you liked. It is not what you wish to do, or what you don’t wish to do; it is what Hamish orders to have done. Do you think I would dare to tell Hamish what we must do to-morrow?”