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Perth on the Tay
Chapter 26


"Time rolls his ceaseless course.
The race of yore,
Who danced our infancy upon their knee,
And told our wondering boyhood legends store
Of their strange ventures happ'd by land and sea;
How are they blotted from the things that be!"
—Scott.

MR. WILSON certainly seemed to have some influence with the clerk of the weather, for there was not a speck in the sky when Philip drove up. The carryall was a big, awkward looking affair, but a peep inside showed many possibilities of comfort; then the top could be folded back, and let down until it did not offer the least obstruction to the vision, while spread out and with curtains closed, it afforded a most complete shelter against a storm. Mrs. Wilson stared as a groom dismounted from a big black horse and respectfully stepped to the horses' heads, when Philip clambered down from his high seat to help arrange the sittings in the carriage.

"You made a point of a groom, Mrs. Wilson," said Philip, "and as I changed my office to that of coachman, I brought along a substitute."

Mr. Wilson preferred a seat inside to one on the box beside Philip, in fact the soft cushions seemed to have attractions for everyone.

Philip turned to Phemie: "Would you mind a seat on the box, Miss McGregor? You would be a few inches nearer the sky, and your counsel might keep me out of some awkward situations with the horses."

"I think I would like riding up there very much; it would be my first experience in such an exalted position."

They drove over slowly, and Philip pointed out all the interesting spots.

"I suppose Mrs. Wilson has told you the history of the building of Kilchurn Castle, Miss McGregor?" he said.

"Only that it was built by a noble lady, whose husband was fighting the Saracens in one of the Crusades. She said it were better to reserve the traditions until there, and under the glamour of its beauty, as I would then more readily believe them." "She is right," said Philip, "and I will not spoil the effect by any untimely narrative, but the ground over which we are driving is historic enough to form a basis for many a winter night's tale. Just across where my whip is pointing, a monastery stood, one of the first built in Scotland ; the monks waxed fat and lazy; the soil is fertile, and they owned the land for miles around; cattle, sheep and goats grazed here, hundreds of them; fields of grain yellowed under the summer sun, and the same agent reddened the plums and purpled the grapes over many acres of ground; bees flitted to and fro, filling with honey hives innumerable." Phemie was so quiet, Philip stopped a minute; "am I tiring you, Miss McGregor?"

"Oh, no," Phemie said, "do go on, please; what happened? There is nothing of the building, unless those irregular piles of stones had something to do with it."

"Individually they had," said Philip, "but not as piled now. This is what happened: Up in the hills where lived your ancestors, Miss McGregor, and mine, for I am half Highland, there was famine. Your father would tell you there was not much to be gotten by tilling the soil, principally because there is not much soil to till; and this time a total of a rival house; also the staircase—what remained of it, which was but little—down which she slipped to be carried "ower th' borders and awa," to return many years after with her son, who was heir to both houses, for she was an only child.

Once more in the carriage, with their horses' heads turned toward home, there was many a sigh from the little party for a pleasant day gone into the annals of the past. Philip, however, was looking grave, for other and less sentimental reasons; an hour past clouds began to gather; he was too well acquainted with weather signs in this locality to be quite at ease about the homeward trip. Hints thrown out by himself, and respectfully tendered by the groom, were not heeded. As Mr. Wilson had said, Mrs. Wilson and Phemie were enthusiastic dilletante antiquarians; they saw everything but the weather.

At last, however, just as they were settling into their places, Mrs. Wilson remarked,—

"It is very well we came to-day: see that black cloud over there! We will have a rainy day tomorrow."

"I do not wish to alarm you, Mrs. Wilson, but I am afraid you will have to prepare for a touch of that cloud before we get home," said Philip; "when we reach the Glen, I will have Briggs put up the top."

And this was done none too soon.

"You would better go inside, Miss McGregor," Philip said, and both Mrs. and Mr. Wilson also insisted on this; but Phemie protested, she was not afraid of either lightning or rain, and wanted to watch the shower from the outside. A hood projected over the coachman's box, having side-curtains, and Philip wrapped a plaid, that had been stowed away somewhere inside, around Phemie, and she stayed on the box, watching the storm and his masterly handling of the spirited pair.

There was little chance for conversation. The horses were rearing and plunging; as the bright flashes shot across the road in front of them, and branches twisted from trees hit them smart raps. Still as a mouse, Phemie sat through it all. When home was finally reached, and Philip had lifted her to the ground, there was not much time for leave-taking—the storm was still raging; but Philip took time to say:

"Nature's fireworks have no terrors for you, Miss McGregor; you are a true Highlander."

The truth is, Phemie was afraid; but, thinking it would be ungrateful of them to all creep inside and leave Philip to weather the storm alone, she curbed her fears and remained at her post. And we might infer from the above that her presence had cheered the way.


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