It may be true that the last subject of which a man tires is himself, but Lewis Haystoun in this matter must have been distinct from the common run of men. Alice had given him excellent opportunities for egotism, but the blind young man had not taken them. The girl, having been brought up to a very simple and natural conception of talk, thought no more about it, except that she would have liked so great a traveller to speak more generously. No doubt, after all, this reticence was preferable to self-revelation. Mr. Stocks had been her companion that morning in the drive to Etterick, and he had entertained her with a sketch of his future. He had declined, somewhat nervously, to talk of his early life, though the girl, with her innate love of a fighter, would have listened with pleasure. But he had sketched his political creed, hinted at the puissance of his friends, claimed a monopoly of the purer sentiments of life, and rosily augured the future. The girl had been silent—the man had thought her deeply impressed; but now the morning’s talk seemed to point a contrast, and Mr. Lewis Haystoun climbed to a higher niche in the temple of her esteem.
Afar off the others were signaling that lunch was ready, but the two on the rock were blind.
“I think you are right to go away,” said Alice. “You would be too well off here. One would become a very idle sort of being almost at once.”
“And I am glad you agree with me, Miss Wishart. ’Here is the shore, and the far wide world’s before me,’ as the song says. There is little doing in these uplands, but there’s a vast deal astir up and down the earth, and it would be a pity not to have a hand in it.”
Then he stopped suddenly, for at that moment the light and colour went out of his picture of the wanderer’s life, and he saw instead a homelier scene-a dainty figure moving about the house, sitting at his table’s head, growing old with him in the fellowship of years. For a moment he felt the charm of the red hearth and the quiet life. Some such sketch must the Goddess of Home have drawn for Ulysses or the wandering Olaf, and if Swanhild or the true Penelope were as pretty as this lady of the rock there was credit in the renunciation. The man forgot the wide world and thought only of the pin-point of Glenavelin.
Some such fancy too may have crossed the girl’s mind. At any rate she cast one glance at the abstracted Lewis and welcomed a courier from the rest of the party. This was no other than the dandified Tam, who had been sent post-haste by George-that true friend having suffered the agonies of starvation and a terrible suspicion as to what rash step his host might be taking. Plainly the young man had not yet made Miss Wishart’s acquaintance.