Two days later Alexander rode to Black Hill. There had been in the night a storm with thunder and lightning, wind and rain. Huge, ragged banks of clouds yet hung sullen in the air, though with lakes of blue between and shafts of sun. The road was wet and shone. Now Black Alan must pick his way, and now there held long stretches of easy going. The old laird’s quarrel with Mr. Archibald Touris was not the young laird’s. The old laird’s liking for Mrs. Alison was strongly the young laird’s. Glenfernie, in the months since his father’s death, had ridden often enough to Black Hill. Now as he journeyed, together with the summer and melody of his thoughts Elspeth-toward, he was holding with himself a cogitation upon the subject of Ian and Ian’s last letter. He rode easily a powerful steed, needing to be strong for so strongly built a horseman. His riding-dress was blue; he wore his own hair, unpowdered and gathered in a ribbon beneath a three-cornered hat. There was perplexity and trouble, too, in the Ian complex, but for all that he rode with the color and sparkle of happiness in his face. In his gray eyes light played to great depths.
Black Hill appeared before him, the dark pine and crag of the hill itself, and below that the house with its far-stretching, well-planted policy. He passed the gates, rode under the green elm boughs of the avenue, and was presently before the porch of the house. A man presented himself to take Black Alan.
“Aye, sir, there’s company. Mr. Touris and Mrs. Alison are with them in the gardens.”
Glenfernie went there, passing by a terrace walk around the house. Going under the windows of the room that was yet Ian’s when he came home. Ian still in his mind, he recovered strongly the look of that room the day Ian had taken him there, in boyhood, when they first met. Out of that vividness started a nucleus more vivid yet—the picture in the book-closet of the city of refuge, and the silver goblet drawn from the hidden shelf of the aumry. The recaptured moment lost shape and color, returned to the infinite past. He turned the corner of the house and came into the gardens that Mr. Touris had had laid out after the French style.
Here by the fountain he discovered the retired merchant, and with him a guest, an old trade connection, now a power in the East India Company. The laird of Black Hill, a little more withered, a little more stooped than of old, but still fluent, caustic, and with now and then to the surface a vague, cold froth of insincerity, made up much to this magnate of commerce. He stood on his own heath, or by his own fountain, but his neck had in it a deferential crook. Lacs—rupees— factories—rajahs—ships—cottons—the words fell like the tinkle of a golden fountain. Listening to these two stood, with his hands behind his back, Mr. Wotherspoon, Black Hill’s lawyer and man of business down from Edinburgh. At a little distance Mrs. Alison showed her roses to the wife of the East India man and to a kinsman, Mr. Munro Touris, from Inverness way.