And once again the big dining-hall of Castle Dare was ablaze with candles; and Janet was there, gravely listening to the garrulous talk of the boy-officer; and Keith Macleod, in his dress tartan; and the noble-looking old lady at the head of the table, who more than once expressed to her guest, in that sweetly modulated and gracious voice of hers, how sorry she was he had encountered so bad a day for the first day of his visit.
“It is different with Keith,” said she, “for he is used to be out in all weathers. He has been brought up to live out of doors.”
“But you know, auntie,” said Janet Macleod, “a soldier is much of the same thing. Did you ever hear of a soldier with an umbrella?”
“All I know is,” remarked Mr. Ogilvie—who, in his smart evening dress, and with his face flashed into a rosy warmth after the cold and the wet, did not look particularly miserable—“that I don’t remember ever enjoying myself so much in one day. But the fact is, Lady Macleod, your son gave me all the shooting; and Hamish was sounding my praises all day long, so that I almost got to think I could shoot the birds without putting up the gun at all; and when I made a frightful bad miss, everybody declared the bird was dead round the other side of the hill.”
“And indeed you were not making many misses,” Macleod said. “But we will try your nerve, Ogilvie, with a stag or two, I hope.”
“I am on for anything. What with Hamish’s flattery and the luck I had to-day, I begin to believe I could bag a brace of tigers if they were coming at me fifty miles an hour.”
Dinner over, and Donald having played his best (no doubt he had learned that the stranger was an officer in the Ninety-third), the ladies left the dining-hall, and presently Macleod proposed to his friend that they should go into the library and have a smoke. Ogilvie was nothing loath. They went into the odd little room, with its guns and rods and stuffed birds, and, lying prominently on the writing-table, a valuable little heap of dressed otter-skins. Although the night was scarcely cold enough to demand it, there was a log of wood burning in the fireplace; there were two easy-chairs, low and roomy; and on the mantelpiece were some glasses, and a big black broad-bottomed bottle, such as used to carry the still vintages of Champagne even into the remote wilds of the Highlands, before the art of making sparkling wines had been discovered. Mr. Ogilvie lit a cigar, stretched out his feet towards the blazing log, and rubbed his hands, which were not as white as usual.
“You are a lucky fellow, Macleod,” said he, “and you don’t know it. You have everything about you here to make life enjoyable.”
“And I feel like a slave tied to a galley oar,” said he, quickly. “I try to hide it from the mother—for it would break her heart—and from Janet too; but every morning I rise, the dismalness of being alone here—of being caged up alone—eats more and more into my heart. When I look at you, Ogilvie—to-morrow morning you could go spinning off to any quarter you liked, to see any one you wanted to see—”