“Lady Beauregard, for example?” said Macleod.
“Oh, I am not talking about women,” observed the sagacious boy; “I never could make out a woman’s notions about any thing. I dare say they like London life well enough, for they can show off their shoulders and their diamonds.”
“Ogilvie,” Macleod said, with a sudden earnestness, “I am fretting my heart out here—that is the fact. If it were not for the poor old mother—and Janet—but I will tell you another time.”
He got up on his feet, and took his gun from Sandy. His companion—wondering not a little, but saying nothing—did likewise. Was this the man who had always seemed rather proud of his hard life on the hills? Who had regarded the idleness and effeminacy of town life with something of an unexpressed scorn? A young fellow in robust health and splendid spirits—an eager sportsman and an accurate shot—out for his first shooting-day of the year: was it intelligible that he should be visited by vague sentimental regrets for London drawing-rooms and vapid talk? The getting up of a snipe interrupted these speculations; Ogilvie blazed away, missing with both barrels; Macleod, who had been patiently waiting to see the effect of the shots, then put up his gun, and presently the bird came tumbling down, some fifty yards off.
“You haven’t warmed to it yet,” Macleod said, charitably. “The first half hour after luncheon a man always shoots badly.”
“Especially when his clothes are glued to his skin from head to foot,” said Ogilvie.
“You will soon walk some heat into yourself.”
And again they went on, Macleod pursuing the same tactics, so that his companion had the cream of the shooting. Despite the continued soaking rain, Ogilvie’s spirits seemed to become more and more buoyant. He was shooting capitally; one very long shot he made, bringing down an old blackcock with a thump on the heather, causing Hamish to exclaim,—
“Well done, sir! It is a glass of whiskey you will deserve for that shot.”
Whereupon Mr. Ogilvie stopped and modestly hinted that he would accept of at least a moiety of the proffered reward.
“Do you know, Hamish,” said he, “that it is the greatest comfort in the world to get wet right through, for you know you can’t be worse, and it gives you no trouble.”
“And a whole glass will do you no harm, sir,” shrewdly observed Hamish.
“Not in the clouds.”
“The what, sir?”
“The clouds. Don’t you consider we are going shooting through clouds?”
“There will be a snipe or two down here, sir,” said Hamish, moving on; for he could not understand conundrums, especially conundrums in English.
The day remained of this moist character to the end; but they had plenty of sport, and they had a heavy bag on their return to Castle Dare. Macleod was rather silent on the way home. Ogilvie was still at a loss to know why his friend should have taken this sudden dislike to living in a place he had lived in all his life. Nor could he understand why Macleod should have deliberately surrendered to him the chance of bagging the brace of grouse that got up by the side of the road. It was scarcely, he considered, within the possibilities of human nature.