Alice for her part saw a strong, well-knit being, with a brown, clean-shaven face, a straight nose, and a delicate, humorous mouth. He had large grey eyes, very keen, quizzical, and kindly. His raiment was disgraceful—an old knickerbocker suit with a ruinous Norfolk jacket, patched at the elbows and with leather at wrist and shoulder. Apparently he scorned the June sun, for he had no cap. His pockets seemed bursting with tackle, and a discarded basket lay on the ground. The whole figure pleased her, its rude health, simplicity, and disorder. The atrocious men who sometimes came to her father’s house had been miracles of neatness, and Mr. Stocks was wont to robe his person in the most faultless of shooting suits.
A fugitive memory began to haunt the girl. She had met or heard of this man before. The valley was divided between Glenavelin and Etterick. He was not the Doctor, and he was not the minister. Might not he be that Lewie, the well-beloved, whose praises she had heard consistently sung since her arrival? It pleased her to think that she had been the first to meet the redoubtable young man.
To them there entered the two boys, the younger dangling a fish. “It is the big trout ye lost,” he cried. “We guddled ’um. We wad has gotten ’um afore, but a wumman frichted ’um.” Then turning unabashed to Alice, he said in accusing tones, “That’s the wumman!”
The elder boy gently but firmly performed on his brother the operation known as “scragging.” It was a subdued spirit which emerged from the fraternal embrace.
“Pit the fush in the basket, Tam,” said he, “and syne gang away wide up the hill till I cry ye back.” The tones implied that his younger brother was no fit company for two gentlemen and a lady.
“I won’t spoil your fishing,” said Alice, fearing fratricidal strife. “You are fishing up, so I had better go down the burn again.” And with a dignified nod to the others she turned to go.
Jock sprang forward with a bound and proceeded to stone the small Tarn up the hill. He coursed that young gentleman like a dog, bidding him “come near,” or “gang wide,” or “lie down there,” to all of which the culprit, taking the sport in proper spirit, gaily responded.
“I think you had better not go down the burn,” said the man reflectively. “You should keep the dry hillside. It is safer.”
“Oh, I am not afraid,” said the girl, laughing.
“But then I might want to fish down, and the trout are very shy there,” said he, lying generously.
“Well, I won’t then, but please tell me where Glenavelin is, for the stream-side is my only direction.”
“You are staying there?” he asked with a pleased face. “We shall meet again, for I shall be over to-morrow. That fence on the hillside is their march, and if you follow it you will come to the footbridge on the Avelin. Many thanks for taking Jock’s place and helping me.”