Thereafter they lit pipes, and, with the gravity which is due to a great subject, inspected their friend’s rods and guns.
“I see no memorials of your travels, Lewie,” said Arthur. “You must have brought back no end of things, and most people like to stick them round as a remembrance.”
“I have got a roomful if you want to see them,” said The traveller; “but I don’t see the point of spoiling a moorland place with foreign odds and ends. I like homely and native things about me when I am in Scotland.”
“You’re a sentimentalist, old man,” said his friend; and George, who heard only the last word, assumed that Arthur had then and there divulged his suspicions, and favoured that gentleman with a wild frown of disapproval.
As Lewis sat on the edge of the Etterick burn and looked over the shining spaces of morning, forgetful of his friends, forgetful of his past, his mind was full of a new turmoil of feeling. Alice Wishart had begun to claim a surprising portion of his thoughts. He told himself a thousand times that he was not in love—that he should never be in love, being destined for other things; that he liked the girl as he liked any fresh young creature in the morning of life, with youth’s beauty and the grace of innocence. But insensibly his everyday reflections began to be coloured by her presence. “What would she think of this?” “How that would please her!” were sentences spoken often by the tongue of his fancy. He found charm in her presence after his bachelor solitude; her demure gravity pleased him; but that he should be led bond-slave by love—that was a matter he valiantly denied.
The sheepfolds of Etterick lie in a little fold of glen some two miles from the dwelling, where the heathy tableland, known all over the glen as “The Muirs,” relieves the monotony of precipitous hills. On this day it was alert with life. The little paddock was crammed with sheep, and more stood huddling in the pens. Within was the liveliest scene, for there a dozen herds sat on clipping-stools each with a struggling ewe between his knees, and the ground beneath him strewn with creamy folds of fleece. From a thing like a gallows in a corner huge bags were suspended which were slowly filling. A cauldron of pitch bubbled over a fire, and the smoke rose blue in the hot hill air. Every minute a bashful animal was led to be branded with a great E on the left shoulder and then with awkward stumbling let loose to join her naked fellow-sufferers. Dogs slept in the sun and wagged their tails in the rear of the paddock. Small children sat on gates and lent willing feet to drive the flocks. In a corner below a little shed was the clippers’ meal of ale and pies, with two glasses of whisky each, laid by under a white cloth. Meantime from all sides rose the continual crying of sheep, the intermittent bark of dogs, and the loud broad converse of the men.