“Aye, when my work’s done. Gilian and I love the greenwood.”
He gave her the narrow path, but kept beside her on stone and dead leaves and mossy root. Though he was so large of frame, he moved with a practised, habitual ease, as far as might be from any savor of clumsiness. He had magnetism, and to-day he drew like a planet in glow. Now he looked at the woman beside him, and now he looked straight ahead with kindled eyes.
Elspeth walked with slightly quickened breath, with knitted brows. The laird of Glenfernie was above her in station, though go to the ancestors and blood was equal enough! It carried appeal to a young woman’s vanity, to be walking so, to feel that the laird liked well enough to be where he was. She liked him, too. Glenfernie House was talked of, talked of, by village and farm and cot, talked of, talked of, year by year—all the Jardines, their virtues and their vices, what they said and what they did. She had heard, ever since she was a bairn, that continual comment, like a little prattling burn running winter and summer through the dale. So she knew much that was true of Alexander Jardine, but likewise entertained a sufficient amount of misapprehension and romancing. Out of it all came, however, for the dale, and for the women at White Farm who listened to the burn’s voice, a sense of trustworthiness. Elspeth, walking by Glenfernie, felt kindness for him. If, also, there ran a tremor of feeling that it was very fair to be Elspeth Barrow and walking so, she was young and it was natural. But beyond that was a sense, vague, unexplained to herself, but disturbing. There was feeling in him that was not in her. She was aware of it as she might be aware of a gathering storm, though the brain received as yet no clear message. She felt, struggling with that diffused kindness and young vanity, something like discomfort and fear. So her mood was complex enough, unharmonized, parted between opposing currents. She was a riddle to herself.
But Glenfernie walked in a great simplicity of faeryland or heaven. She did not love Robin Greenlaw; she was not so young a lass, with a rose in her cheek for every one; she was come so far without mating because she had snow in her heart! The palace gleamed, the palace shone. All the music of earth—of the world—poured through. The sun had drunk up the mist, time had eaten the thorn-wood, the spider at the gate had vanished into chaos and old night.
The cows and sheep and work-horses, the dogs, the barn-yard fowls, the very hives of bees at White Farm, seemed to know well enough that it was the Sabbath. The flowers knew it that edged the kitchen garden, the cherry-tree knew it by the southern wall. The sunshine knew it, wearing its calm Sunday best. Sights and sounds attuned themselves.