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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMacleod Of Dare - Chapter 2. Mentor
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Macleod Of Dare - Chapter 2. Mentor Post by :Dusty13 Category :Long Stories Author :William Black Date :May 2012 Read :2545

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Macleod Of Dare - Chapter 2. Mentor


It was with a wholly indescribable surprise and delight that Macleod came upon the life and stir and gayety of London in the sweet June time, when the parks and gardens and squares would of themselves have been a sufficient wonder to him. The change from the sombre shores of lochs Na Keal, and Iua, and Scridain to this world of sunlit foliage--the golden yellow of the laburnum, the cream-white of the chestnuts, the rose-pink of the red hawthorn, and everywhere the keen, translucent green of the young lime-trees--was enough to fill the heart with joy and gladness, though he had been no diligent student of landscape and color. The few days he had to spend by himself--while getting properly dressed to satisfy the demands of his friend--passed quickly enough. He was not at all ashamed of his country-made clothes as he watched the whirl of carriages in Piccadilly, or lounged under the elms at Hyde Park, with his beautiful silver-white and lemon-colored collie attracting the admiration of every passer-by. Nor had he waited for the permission of Lieutenant Ogilvie to make his entrance into, at least, one little corner of society. He was recognized in St. James's Street one morning by a noble lady whom he had met once or twice at Inverness; and she, having stopped her carriage, was pleased to ask him to lunch with herself and her husband next day. To the great grief of Oscar, who had to be shut up by himself, Macleod went up next day to Brook Street, and there met several people whose names he knew as representatives of old Highland families, but who were very English, as it seemed to him, in their speech and ways. He was rather petted, for he was a handsome lad, and he had high spirits and a proud air. And his hostess was so kind as to mention that the Caledonian Ball was coming off on the 25th, and of course he must come, in the Highland costume; and as she was one of the patronesses, should she give him a voucher? Macleod answered, laughingly, that he would be glad to have it, though he did not know what it was; whereupon she was pleased to say that no wonder he laughed at the notion of a voucher being wanted for any Macleod of Dare.

One morning a good-looking and slim young man knocked at the door of a small house in Bury Street, St. James's, and asked if Sir Keith Macleod was at home. The man said he was, and the young gentleman entered. He was a most correctly dressed person. His hat, and gloves, and cane, and long-tailed frock-coat were all beautiful; but it was, perhaps, the tightness of his nether garments, or, perhaps, the tightness of his brilliantly-polished boots (which were partially covered by white gaiters), that made him go up the narrow little stairs with some precision of caution. The door was opened and he was announced.

"My dear old boy," said he, "how do you do?" and Macleod gave him a grip of the hand that nearly burst one of his gloves.

But at this moment an awful accident occurred. From behind the door of the adjacent bedroom, Oscar, the collie, sprang forward with an angry growl; then he seemed to recognize the situation of affairs, when he saw his master holding the stranger's hand; then he began to wag his tail; then he jumped up with his fore-paws to give a kindly welcome.

"Hang it all, Macleod!" young Ogilvie cried, with all the starch gone out of his manner; "your dog's all wet? What's the use of keeping a brute like that about the place?"

Alas! the beautiful, brilliant boots were all besmeared, and the white gaiters too, and the horsey-looking nether garments. Moreover, the Highland savage, so far from betraying compunction, burst into a roar of laughter.

"My dear fellow," he cried, "I put him in my bedroom to dry. I couldn't do more, could I? He has just been in the Serpentine."

"I wish he was there now, with a stone and a string round his neck!" observed Lieutenant Ogilvie, looking at his boots; but he repented him of this rash saying, for within a week he had offered Macleod L20 for the dog. He might have offered twenty dozen of L20, and thrown his polished boots and his gaiters too into the bargain, and he would have had the same answer.

Oscar was once more banished into the bedroom; and Mr. Ogilvie sat down, pretending to take no more notice of his boots. Macleod put some sherry on the table, and a handful of cigars; his friend asked whether he could not have a glass of seltzer-water and a cigarette.

"And how do you like the rooms I got for you?"

"There is not much fresh air about them, nor in this narrow street," Macleod said, frankly; "but that is no matter for I have been out all day--all over London."

"I thought the price was as high as you would care to go," Ogilvie said; "but I forgot you had come fresh up, with your pocket full of money. If you would like something a trifle more princely, I'll put you up to it."

"And where have I got the money? There are no gold mines in the west of Mull. It is you who are Fortunatus."

"By Jove, if you knew how hard a fellow is run at Aldershot," Mr. Ogilvie remarked, confidentially, "you would scarcely believe it. Every new batch of fellows who come in have to be dined all round; and the mess bills are simply awful. It's getting worse and worse; and then these big drinks put one off one's work so."

"You are studying hard, I suppose," Macleod said, quite gravely.

"Pretty well," said he, stretching out his legs, and petting his pretty mustache with his beautiful white hand. Then he added, suddenly, surveying the brown-faced and stalwart young fellow before him, "By Jove, Macleod, I'm glad to see you in London. It's like a breath of mountain air. Don't I remember the awful mornings we've had together--the rain and the mist and the creeping through the bogs? I believe you did your best to kill me. If I hadn't had the constitution of a horse, I should have been killed."

"I should say your big drinks at Aldershot were more likely to kill you than going after the deer," said Macleod, "And will you come up with me this autumn, Ogilvie? The mother will be glad to see you, and Janet, too; though we haven't got any fine young ladies for you to make love to, unless you go up to Fort William, or Fort George, or Inverness. And I was all over the moors before I came away; and if there is anything like good weather, we shall have plenty of birds this year, for I never saw before such a big average of eggs in the nests."

"I wonder you don't let part of that shooting," said young Ogilvie, who knew well of the straitened circumstances of the Macleods of Dare.

"The mother won't have it done," said Macleod, quite simply, "for she thinks it keeps me at home. But a young man cannot always stay at home. It is very good for you, Ogilvie, that you have brothers."

"Yes, if I had been the eldest of them," said Mr. Ogilvie. "It is a capital thing to have younger brothers; it isn't half so pleasant when you are the younger brother."

"And will you come up, then, and bury yourself alive at Dare?"

"It is awfully good of you to ask me, Macleod; and if I can manage it, I will; but I am afraid there isn't much chance this year. In the meantime, let me give you a hint. In London we talk of going _down to the Highlands."

"Oh, do you? I did not think you were so stupid," Macleod remarked.

"Why, of course we do. You speak of going up to the capital of a country, and of going down to the provinces."

"Perhaps you are right--no doubt you are right; but it sounds stupid," the unconvinced Highlander observed again. "It sounds stupid to say going up to the south, and going down to the north. And how can you go down to the Highlands? You might go down to the Lowlands. But no doubt you are right; and I will be more particular. And will you have another cigarette? And then we will go out for a walk, and Oscar will get drier in the street than indoors."

"Don't imagine I am going out to have that dog plunging about among my feet," said Ogilvie. "But I have something else for you to do. You know Colonel Ross of Duntorme."

"I have heard of him."

"His wife is an awfully nice woman, and would like to meet you, I fancy they think of buying some property--I am not sure it isn't an island--in your part of the country; and she has never been to the Highlands at all. I was to take you down with me to lunch with her at two, if you care to go. There is her card."

Macleod looked at the card.

"How far is Prince's Gate from here?" he asked.

"A mile and a half, I should say."

"And it is now twenty minutes to two," said he, rising. "It will be a nice smart walk."

"Thank you," said Mr. Ogilvie; "if it is all the same to you, we will perform the journey in a hansom. I am not in training just at present for your tramps to Ben-an-Sloich."

"Ah! Your boots are rather tight," said Macleod, with grave sympathy.

They got into a hansom, and went spinning along through the crowd of carriages on this brilliant morning. The busy streets, the handsome women, the fine buildings, the bright and beautiful foliage of the parks--all these were a perpetual wonder and delight to the new-comer, who was as eager in the enjoyment of this gay world of pleasure and activity as any girl come up for her first season. Perhaps this notion occurred to the astute and experienced Lieutenant Ogilvie, who considered it his duty to warn his youthful and ingenuous friend.

"Mrs. Ross is a very handsome woman," he remarked.


"And uncommonly fascinating, too, when she likes."


"You had better look out, if she tries to fascinate you."

"She is a married woman," said Macleod.

"They are always the worst," said this wise person; "for they are jealous of the younger women."

"Oh, that is all nonsense," said Macleod, bluntly. "I am not such a greenhorn. I have read all that kind of talk in books and magazines: it is ridiculous. Do you think I will believe that married women have so little self-respect as to make themselves the laughing stock of men?"

"My dear fellow, they have cart-loads of self-respect. What I mean is, that Mrs. Ross is a bit of a lion-hunter, and she may take a fancy to make a lion of you--"

"That is better than to make an ass of me, as you suggested."

"--And naturally she will try to attach you to her set. I don't think you are quite _outre enough for her; perhaps I made a mistake in putting you into decent clothes. You wouldn't have time to get into your kilts now? But you must be prepared to meet all sorts of queer folks at her house, especially if you stay on a bit and have some tea--mysterious poets that nobody ever heard of, and artists who won't exhibit, and awful swells from the German universities, and I don't know what besides--everybody who isn't the least like anybody else."

"And what is your claim, then, to go there?" Macleod asked.

"Oh," said the young lieutenant, laughing at the home-thrust, "I am only admitted on sufferance, as a friend of Colonel Ross. She never asked _me to put my name in her autograph-book. But I have done a bit of the jackal for her once or twice, when I happened to be on leave; and she has sent me with people to her box at Covent Garden when she couldn't go herself."

"And how am I to propitiate her? What am I to do?"

"She will soon let you know how you strike her. Either she will pet you, or she will snuff you out like winking. I don't know a woman who has a blanker stare, when she likes."

This idle conversation was suddenly interrupted. At the same moment both young men experienced a sinking sensation, as if the earth had been cut away from beneath their feet; then there was a crash, and they were violently thrown against each other; then they vaguely knew that the cab, heeling over, was being jolted along the street by a runaway horse. Fortunately, the horse could not run very fast, for the axle-tree, deprived of its wheel, was tearing at the road; but, all the same, the occupants of the cab thought they might as well get out, and so they tried to force open the two small panels of the door in front of them. But the concussion had so jammed these together that, shove at them as they might, they would not yield. At this juncture, Macleod, who was not accustomed to hansom cabs, and did not at all like this first experience of them, determined to get out somehow; and so he raised himself a bit, so as to get his back firm against the back of the vehicle; he pulled up his leg until his knee almost touched his mouth; he got the heel of his boot firmly fixed on the top edge of the door: and then with one forward drive he tore the panel right away from its hinges. The other was of course flung open at once. Then he grasped the brass rail outside, steadied himself for a moment, and jumped clear from the cab, lighting on the pavement. Strange to say, Ogilvie did not follow, though Macleod, as he rushed along to try to get hold of the horse, momentarily expected to see him jump out. His anxiety was of short duration. The axle-tree caught on the curb; there was a sudden lurch; and then, with a crash of glass, the cab went right over, throwing down the horse, and pitching the driver into the street. It was all the work of a few seconds; and another second seemed to suffice to collect a crowd, even in this quiet part of Kensington Gore. But, after all, very little damage was done, except to the horse, which had cut one of its hocks. When young Mr. Ogilvie scrambled out and got on to the pavement, instead of being grateful that his life had been spared, he was in a towering passion--with whom or what he knew not.

"Why didn't you jump out?" said Macleod to him, after seeing that the cabman was all right.

Ogilvie did not answer; he was looking at his besmeared hands and dishevelled clothes.

"Confound it!" said he; "what's to be done now? The house is just round the corner."

"Let us go in, and they will lend you a clothesbrush."

"As if I had been fighting a bargee? No, thank you. I will go along till I find some tavern, and get myself put to rights."

And this he did gloomily, Macleod accompanying him. It was about a quarter of an hour before he had completed his toilet; and then they set out to walk back to Prince's Gate. Mr. Ogilvie was in a better humor.

"What a fellow you are to jump, Macleod!" said he. "If you had cannoned against that policeman you would have killed him. And you never paid the cabman for destroying the lid of the door; you prized the thing clean off its hinges. You must have the strength of a giant."

"But where the people came from--it was that surprised me," said Macleod, who seemed to have rather enjoyed the adventure. "It was like one of our sea-lochs in the Highlands--you look all round and cannot find any gull anywhere but throw a biscuit into the water, and you will find them appearing from all quarters at once. As for the door, I forgot that; but I gave the man half a sovereign to console him for his shaking. Was not that enough?"

"We shall be frightfully late for luncheon," said Mr. Ogilvie, with some concern.

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