Miss Macrae, in sabbatical raiment, was fresher than a rose and gay as a lark. Merton tried not to look at her; he failed in this endeavour.
The day was Sunday, and Merton, who had a holy horror of news, rejoiced to think that the telegraphic machine would probably not tinkle its bell for twenty-four hours. This was not the ideal of the millionaire. Things happen, intelligence arrives from the limits of our vast and desirable empire, even on the Day of Rest. But the electric bell was silent. Mr. Macrae, from patriotic motives, employed a Highland engineer and mechanician, so there was nothing to be got out of him in the way of work on the sabbath day. The millionaire himself did not quite understand how to work the thing. He went to the smoking-room where it dwelt and looked wistfully at it, but was afraid to try to call up his correspondents in London. As for the usual manipulator, Donald McDonald, he had started early for the distant Free Kirk. An ‘Unionist’ minister intended to try to preach himself in, and the majority of the congregation, being of the old Free Kirk rock, and averse to union with the United Presbyterians, intended to try to keep him out. They ’had a lad with the gift who would do the preaching fine,’ and as there was no police-station within forty miles it seemed fairly long odds on the Free Kirk recalcitrants. However, there was a resolute minority of crofters on the side of the minister, and every chance of an ecclesiastical battle royal. Accompanied by the stalker, two keepers, and all the gardeners, armed with staves, the engineer had early set out for the scene of brotherly amity, and Mr. Macrae had reluctantly to admit that he was cut off from his communications.
Merton, who was with him in the smoking-room, mentally absolved the Highland housemaids. If they had not swept up the tiny glittering metallic points on the carpet before, they had done so now. Only two or three caught his eye.
Mr. Macrae, avid of news, accommodated himself in an arm-chair with newspapers of two or three days old, from which he had already sucked the heart by aid of his infernal machine. The Budes and Blake, with Miss Macrae (an Anglican), had set off to walk to the Catholic chapel, some four miles away, for crofting opinion was resolute against driving on the Lord’s Day. Merton, self-denying and resolved, did not accompany his lady; he read a novel, wrote letters, and felt desolate. All was peace, all breathed of the Sabbath calm.