The House of Glenfernie and the House of Touris became friends. A round of country festivities, capped by a great party at Black Hill, wrought bonds of acquaintanceship for and with the Scots family returned after long abode in England. Archibald Touris spent money with a cautious freedom. He set a table and poured a wine better by half than might be found elsewhere. He kept good horses and good dogs. Laborers who worked for him praised him; he proved a not ungenerous landlord. Where he recognized obligations he met them punctually. He had large merchant virtues, no less than the accompanying limitations. He returned to the Church of Scotland.
The laird of Glenfernie and the laird of Black Hill found constitutional impediments to their being more friendly than need be. Each was polite to the other to a certain point, then the one glowered and the other scoffed. It ended in a painstaking keeping of distance between them, a task which, when they were in company, fell often to Mrs. Jardine. She did it with tact, with a twist of her large, humorous mouth toward Strickland if he were by. Admirable as she was, it was curious to see the difference between her method, if method there were, and that of Mrs. Alison. The latter showed no effort, but where she was there fell harmony. William Jardine liked her, liked to be in the room with her. His great frame and her slight one, his rough, massive, somewhat unshaped personality and her exquisite clearness contrasted finely enough. Her brother, who understood her very little, yet had for her an odd, appealing affection, strange in one who had so positively settled what was life and the needs of life. It was his habit to speak of her as though she were more helplessly dependent even than other women. But at times there might be seen who was more truly the dependent.
August passed into September, September into brown October. Alexander and Ian were almost continually in company. The attraction between them was so great that it appeared as though it must stretch backward into some unknown seam of time. If they had differences, these apparently only served in themselves to keep them revolving the one about the other. They might almost quarrel, but never enough to drag their two orbs apart, breaking and rending from the common center. The sun might go down upon a kind of wrath, but it rose on hearts with the difference forgotten. Their very unlikenesses pricked each on to seek himself in the other.
They were going to Edinburgh after Christmas, to be students there, to grow to be men. Here at home, upon the eve of their going, rein upon them was slackened. They would so soon be independent of home discipline that that independence was to a degree already allowed. Black Hill did not often question Ian’s comings and goings, nor Glenfernie Alexander’s. The school-room saw the latter some part of each morning. For the rest of the day he might be almost anywhere with Ian, at Glenfernie, or at Black Hill, or on the road between, or in the country roundabout.