‘I mind nothing of it,’ replied the marquis. However, Mrs. Bower stuck to her guns, and the marquis was, or appeared to be, resigned to accept her explanation. He dozed throughout the day, but next day he asked for Merton. Their interview was satisfactory; Merton begged leave to introduce Logan, and the marquis, quite broken down, received his kinsman with tears, and said nothing about his marriage.
‘I’m a dying man,’ he remarked finally, ’but I’ll live long enough to chouse the taxes.’
His sole idea was to hand over (in the old Scottish fashion) the main part of his property to Logan, inter vivos, and then to live long enough to evade the death-duties. Merton and Logan knew well enough the unsoundness of any such proceedings, especially considering the mental debility of the old gentleman. However, the papers were made out. The marquis retired to one of his English seats, after which event his reappearance was made known to the world. In his English home Logan sedulously nursed him. A more generous diet than he had ever known before did wonders for the marquis, though he peevishly remonstrated against every bottle of wine that was uncorked. He did live for the span which he deemed necessary for his patriotic purpose, and peacefully expired, his last words being ‘Nae grand funeral.’
Public curiosity, of course, was keenly excited about the mysterious reappearance of the marquis in life. But the interviewers could extract nothing from Mrs. Bower, and Logan declined to be interviewed. To paragraphists the mystery of the marquis was ‘a two months’ feast,’ like the case of Elizabeth Canning, long ago.
Logan inherited under the marquis’s original will, and, of course, the Exchequer benefitted in the way which Lord Restalrig had tried to frustrate.
Miss Markham (whose father is now the distinguished head of the ethnological department in an American museum) did not persist in her determination never to see Logan again. The beautiful Lady Fastcastle never allows her photograph to appear in the illustrated weekly papers. Logan, or rather Fastcastle, does not unto this day, know the secret of the Emu’s feathers, though, later, he sorely tried the secretiveness of Merton, as shall be shown in the following narrative.
I. At Castle Skrae
‘How vain a thing is wealth,’ said Merton. ’How little it can give of what we really desire, while of all that is lost and longed for it can restore nothing—except churches—and to do that ought to be made a capital offence.’
’Why do you contemplate life as a whole, Mr. Merton? Why are you so moral? If you think it is amusing you are very much mistaken! Isn’t the scenery, isn’t the weather, beautiful enough for you? I could gaze for ever at the “unquiet bright Atlantic plain,” the rocky isles, those cliffs of basalt on either hand, while I listened to the crystal stream that slips into the sea, and waves the yellow fringes of the seaweed. Don’t be melancholy, or I go back to the castle. Try another line!’