The breakfast-room was a place to refresh a townsman’s senses. Long and cool and dark, it was simply Lewis’s room, and he preferred to entertain his friends there instead of wandering among unused dining-rooms. It had windows at each end with old-fashioned folding sashes; and the view on one side was to a great hill shoulder, fir-clad and deep in heather, and on the other to the glen below and the shining links of the Avelin. It was panelled in dark oak, and the furniture was a strange medley. The deep arm-chairs by the fire and the many pipes savoured of the smoking-room; the guns, rods, polo sticks, whips, which were stacked or hung everywhere, and the heads of deer on the walls, gave it an atmosphere of sport. The pictures were few but good—two water-colours, a small Raeburn above the fireplace, and half a dozen fine etchings. In a corner were many old school and college groups—the Eton Ramblers, the O.U.A.C., some dining clubs, and one of Lewis on horseback in racing costume, looking deeply miserable. Low bookcases of black oak ran round the walls, and the shelves were crammed with books piled on one another, many in white vellum bindings, which showed pleasantly against the dark wood. Flowers were everywhere-common garden flowers of old-fashioned kinds, for the owner hated exotics, and in a shallow silver bowl in the midst of the snowy table-cloth was a great mass of purple heather-bells.
Three very hungry young men sat down to their morning meal with a hearty goodwill. The host began to rummage among his correspondence, and finally extracted an unstamped note, which he opened. His face brightened as he read, and he laid it down with a broad smile and helped himself to fish.
“Are you people very particular what you do to-day?” he asked.
Arthur said, No. George explained that he was in the hands of his beneficent friend.
“Because my Aunt Egeria down at Glenavelin has got up some sort of a picnic on the moors, and she wants us to meet her at the sheepfolds about twelve.”
“Oh,” said George meditatively. “Excellent! I shall be charmed.” But he looked significantly at Arthur, who returned the glance.
“Who are at Glenavelin?” asked that simple young man with an air of innocence.
“There’s a man called Stocks, whom you probably know.”
“And there’s Bertha Afflint and her sister.”
It was George’s turn to nod approvingly. The sharp-witted Miss Afflint was a great ally of his.
“And there’s a Miss Wishart—Alice Wishart,” said Lewis, without a word of comment. “And with my Aunt Egeria that will be all.”
The pair got the cue, and resolved to subject the Miss Wishart whose name came last on their host’s tongue to a friendly criticism. Meanwhile they held their peace on the matter like wise men.
“What a strange name Egeria is!” said Arthur. “Very,” said Lewis; “but you know the story. My respectable aunt’s father had a large family of girls, and being of a classical turn of mind he called them after the Muses. The Muses held out for nine, but for the tenth and youngest he found himself in a difficulty. So he tried another tack and called the child after the nymph Egeria. It sounds outlandish, but I prefer it to Terpsichore.”