That evening at supper Mrs. Grizel made a remark. She leaned back in her chair and looked at Glenfernie. “I never thought you like your mother before! Oh aye! there’s your father, too, and a kind of grand man he was, for all that he saw things dark. But will you look, Mr. Strickland, and see Margaret—”
Much later, from his own room, Strickland, gazing forth, saw light in the keep. Alexander would be sitting there among the books and every ancient memorial. Strickland felt a touch of doubt and apprehension. Suppose that to-morrow should find not this Alexander, at once old and new, but only the Alexander who had ridden from Glenfernie, who had shipped to Lisbon, nearly three years ago? To-day’s deep satisfaction only a dream! Strickland shook off the fear.
“He breathed lasting growth.... O Christ! the help for all in winged men!”
He turned to his bed. Lying awake he went in imagination to the desert, to the Eastern places, that in few words the laird had painted.
And in the morning he found still the old-new Alexander. He saw that the new had always been in the old, the oak in the acorn.... There was a great, sane naturalness in the alteration, in the advance. Strickland caught glimpses of larger orders.
“I will make thee ruler over many things.”
The day was deep and bright. The laird fell at once into the old routine. For none at Glenfernie was there restlessness; there was only ache gone, and a feeling of fulfilling. Mrs. Grizel pattered to and fro. Alice sang like a lark, gathering pansy seed from her garden. Phemie and Eppie sang. The men whistled at their work. Davie discoursed to himself. But Tibbie Ross was wild to get away early and to the village with the news. By the foot of the hill she began to meet wayfarers.
“Oh, aye, this is the real weather! Did ye know—”
Alexander did not leave home that day. In their old work-room he listened to Strickland’s account of his stewardship.
“Strickland, I love you!” he said, when it was all given.
He wrote to Jamie; he sat in the garden seat built against the garden wall and watched Alice as she moved from plant to plant.
“You do not say much,” thought Alice, “but I like you—I like you—I like you!”
In the afternoon Strickland met him coming from the little green beyond the school-room.
“I have been out through the wall, under the old pine. I seemed to hold many things in the palm of the hand.... I believe that you know what it is to make essences.”
After bedtime Strickland saw again the light in the keep. But he had ceased to fear. “Oh All-Being, how rich and stately and various and surprising you are!” In the morning, outside in the court, he found Black Alan saddled.
“The laird will be riding to Black Hill,” said Tam Dickson.