The moon was up, riding high in a shoreless sea of blue, and in the still weather the streams called to each other from the mountain sides, as in some fantastic cosmic harmony. High on the ridge shoulder the lights of Etterick twinkled starlike amid the fretted veil of trees. A sense of extraordinary and crazy exhilaration, the recoil from the constraint of weeks, laid hold on his spirit. He hummed a dozen fragments of song, and at times would laugh with the pure pleasure of life. The quixotic, the generous, the hopeless, the successful; laughter and tears; death and birth; the warm hearth and the open road—all seemed blent for the moment into one great zest for living. “I’ll to Lochiel and Appin and kneel to them,” he was humming aloud, when suddenly his bridle was caught and a man’s hand was at his knee.
“Lewie,” cried Wratislaw, “gracious, man! have you been drinking?” And then seeing the truth, he let go the bridle, put an arm through the stirrup leathers, and walked by the horse’s side. “So that’s the way you take it, old chap? Do you know that you are a discredited and defeated man? and yet I find you whistling like a boy. I have hopes for you, Lewie. You have the Buoyant Heart, and with that nothing can much matter. But, confound it! you are hours late for dinner.”
PASTORAL AND TRAGEDY
The news of the election, brought to Glenavelin by a couple of ragged runners, had a different result from that forecast by Lewis. Alice heard it with a heart unquickened; and when, an hour after, the flushed, triumphant Mr. Stocks arrived in person to claim the meed of success, he was greeted with a painful carelessness. Lady Manorwater had been loud in her laments for her nephew, but to Mr. Stocks she gave the honest praise which a warm-hearted woman cannot withhold from the fighter.
“Our principles have won,” she cried. “Now who will call the place a Tory stronghold? Oh, Mr. Stocks, you have done wonderfully, and I am very glad. I’m not a bit sorry for Lewis, for he well deserved his beating.”
But with Alice there could be neither pleasure nor its simulation. Her terrible honesty forbade her the easy path of false congratulations. She bit her lip till tears filled her eyes. What was this wretched position into which she had strayed? Lewis was all she had feared, but he was Lewis, and far more than any bundle of perfections. A hot, passionate craving for his presence was blinding her to reason. And this man who had won—this, the fortunate politician—she cared for him not a straw. A strong dislike began to grow in her heart to the blameless Mr. Stocks.