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Perth on the Tay
Chapter 25


"Amang the bonnie winding banks,
Where Doon rins wimplin' clear,
Where Bruce aince ruled the martial ranks,
An' shook his Carrick spear."
—Burns.

DEAR Father and Mother,—Mr. Wilson has just told me a mail will leave to-day, catching an outgoing ship, and I hasten to write you in time for it.

I have seen the Highlands, and now I do not wonder at a Highlander's love for them. Aunt Janet came down for me, driving her shaggy little Highland pony, a beastie that I must confess I did not think much of on first sight; his external was fierce, and I got the impression he must be fashioned alike all the way through, therefore his temper would be none of the mildest. I was really glad I had not uttered my thoughts aloud, for by the time we had travelled twenty out of the forty miles from Straitheldy to Dunblane, I found I had —to myself—much maligned the puir beastie. He travelled on and on with a steady, determined little trot that needed no urging, leaving us plenty of time to look about us. You will know all the places; we skirted Stirling, but I saw her towers, and the gate through which King James rode, fresh from the iron embrace of Roderick Dhu. I thought of Jean who, with nothing of her chieftain's looks, has much of his bold spirit; and of our poor Douglas, whom among us, mother, we treated badly; I see it more every day. We went over the Bridge of Allan, and round the Woods of Kier; Jean would say our maple bush surpassed the one, and the bridge to be built over the narrows at Oliver's Ferry would be much finer than the other. Jean is a right loyal Canadian ; but could she have been with us a day or two later, when we went through Doune, Callander, and on to Coilantogle Ford, where there are yet pine trees that might have been singing a requiem as Roderick Dhu lay stretched on the gorse, his life blood ebbing fast, she could not have helped being touched.

I send you a bit of pine, knowing you will treasure it for auld lang syne. We did not stop to see the castle at Doune; that is for another day, also the battlefields of Bannockburn and Sheriffmuir.

While I was at Aunt Janet's, Mr. Wilson was in Oban, and who do you think he met? You would never guess, so I must tell you—none other than Mr. Maxwell. Mr. Wilson said he seemed much pleased at meeting him, and asked permission to call, as he would be in the vicinity of Straitheldy when grouse shooting begins. Mrs. Wilson is pleased at the prospect of having someone with whom to talk about Perth; she says she has exhausted all Mr. Wilson and I know on the subject.

Donald will be waiting to take this to the post. With many loving remembrances, I am,

Your dutiful and affectionate daughter,
EUPHEMIA.

The wafer was hardly dry on the letter when Catty, the Highland maid, came to summon Phemie to the drawing-room. "Mrs. Wilson said would she please . come down—a gentleman, whom she would remember, had called."

Phemie knew immediately who it was, and feeling this was quite a strong link between her and home, hastened to greet "th' man frae th' toun."

Philip, with the bronze worn off his face, and an appearance of ennui that had never been visible during his calls at the "Ninth," rose to meet Phemie, and as she approached was almost surprised into an exclamation—a very graceful, gracious young lady was coming to shake hands with him. As he crossed the room to meet her, he noted— with the pleasure we feel at having a young relative turn out a credit to us—Phemie's graceful poise and self-possession. What a sweet, dainty maiden she was, and how genuine was the spirit in which she greeted him.

"Miss McGregor, you are as welcome to Scotland as sunshine at Scaur," said Philip, as he clasped the little brown hand.

"Forgetting that this is your native country, Mr. Maxwell, I was just going to assure you that you are welcome," returned Phemie, smiling.

"Having you meet me with a smile of welcome, Miss McGregor, gars me feel that I might return to Canada again and find my old friends glad to see me," said Philip.

"Oh! yes, indeed, Mr. Maxwell, father often speaks of you, and so do the other men on the Line ; they all derived a great deal of pleasure, and I am sure much substantial benefit, from your sojourn among us; they often speak of the valuable hints you gave them as to their farms and stock."

"It is kind of you to say this, Miss McGregor; it makes a man feel that he is of some use in the world," returned Philip, a faint flush of pleasure creeping over his face, as might on that of a lassie.

"Are you still interested in mining operations, Mr. Maxwell? " asked Mr. Wilson.

Philip had gotten into a brown study for a second; when he caught the question, he smiled in rather an incomprehensible manner.

"Yes, to a certain extent; have some thought of returning to Canada on that account next year. I must ask you to pardon me—for a moment, my wits were wool-gathering. I was thinking how we were going to arrange about substantially conveying to this young lady from Canada an appreciation of her visit. For myself, I shall never forget the kind, hospitable reception I received in Canada, and would like to make the most of this opportunity to evince it."

"I would not object to being relieved of the task of acting as guide to all the places of interest, Maxwell," said Mr. Wilson. "Mrs. Wilson has been away so long, she is as bad as Phemie, and they are both voracious relic hunters."

"Mr. Wilson's years are telling on him," said Mrs. Wilson, in playful maliciousness; "but the first day there is prospect of a measure of sunshine we are going to make a pilgrimage to Kilchurn Castle, and if we could prevail on you to accompany us, it would afford to Mr. Wilson great relief of mind from now to the first pleasant day, and great relief of body during the day in question."

"I feel very much flattered at being invited to act as Mr. Wilson's proxy," replied Philip; "suppose I begin now, and make some suggestions— may I?"

"Certainly, Mr. Maxwell," said Mrs. Wilson; "it really is refreshing to find one taking an interest, and showing they are a bit pleased. Mr. Wilson only says ' Umphm! umph!' to everything I say— don't you, James?" appealing to him to condemn himself.

"Umphm!" replied Mr. Wilson, at which they all laughed.

"Now," said Philip, when the mirth had subsided, "how are you going to get over there? It's a longish drive."

"We are going in the pony-chaise," replied Mrs. Wilson; "it is our one and only vehicle, and we will expect you to escort us as a mounted groom."

Philip smiled. "I think I can offer a suggestion here. A pony chaise is well enough for short distances, and the trip over could be made in it without discomfort; but returning you would want something more luxurious than the chaise, and swifter than the ponies, else the weariness incurred would rob your day of its pleasure. My friend over at the shooting-box, who has kindly put me up for a few days, has a big affair with some high-backed seats, and any amount of room in which to store away hampers; he will also give me a team that, should we be caught in a storm, will bring us home faster than the ponies would."

"And you will drive!" said Mrs. Wilson, delightedly; "it makes Mr. Wilson almost cross to ask him to drive ; and always, coining home, both the children are so sleepy, it gives me all I can do to take care of them."

" Then it is settled," Philip said, "and I think we would better go to-morrow."

"I'll have to object to the date, my lad," said Mr. Wilson; "my good offices are already secured for that date: two of my young people are about to embark on that perilous voyage called matrimony."

"Could you go the next day, Mr. Maxwell? " asked Mrs. Wilson.

"At any time, Mrs. Wilson, when it suits yourself and Mr. Wilson best," replied Philip.

"Wednesday, then," said Mrs. Wilson, "and I so much hope we will have a fine day. I do not want Phemie to think Scotland's sky is always in tears."

Very shortly after Philip took leave. They all went to the door, which opened on a pretty garden, whose sweet rose-scent was filling the room in which they sat. There stood Caesar, just outside the little rustic gate; the children raced back to Catty for lumps of sugar to feed him; they both remembered him quite well. Phemie, too, went down and stroked his glossy arched neck.

"Do you ride, Miss McGregor? I do not remember having seen you on horseback," asked Philip.

"Oh, yes!" answered Phemie, "that is, I used to when Rob was at home." Phemie did not add that it was Douglas who always rode with her, Rob and Jean being either in front or behind.

"I dare say McKay will have a passable mount for a lady," Philip is saying to himself; aloud he said, "Bespeak a fair day for Wednesday, Mr. Wilson."


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