Ian was at once more like and more unlike other people. His manner was equally courteous, but notably stiffer: he was as much at his ease, but more reserved. To use a figure, he did not step out so far to meet them. They walked on together. "You are a little earlier than usual this morning, ladies!" remarked the chief. "How do you know that, Mr. Macruadh?" rejoined Christina.
"She does not mean me, mother," said Alister; "she means Jesus Christ. He would say to you, LET HER ALONE. He does not care for Society. Its ways are not his ways, nor its laws his laws. Come in, Mercy. I am sorry my mother's trouble about me should have made her inhospitable to you!" "I cannot come in, Alister, if she will not let me!" answered Mercy. "Pray walk in!" said Mrs. Macruadh.
The uncle of the present Macruadh did all he could to keep his people at home, lived on a couple of hundreds a year himself, and let many of his farms to his gentlemen-tacksmen, as they were called, at lower rents; but it was unavailing; one after another departed, until his land lay in a measure waste, and he grew very poor, mourning far more over his clan and his country than his poverty.
In himself he was much beloved, and in love the blessed rule, blessed where understood, holds, that to him that hath shall be given, he only who has being fit to receive. The love the people bore to his father, both pastor and chief, crowned head and heart of Alister. Scarce man or woman of the poor remnant of the clan did not love the young Macruadh. On his side was true response.
There is one other point in the character of the Macruadh which I must mention ere I pass on; in this region, and at this time, it was a great peculiarity, one that yielded satisfaction to few of the clan, and made him even despised in the strath: he hated whisky, and all the drinking customs associated with it.
Macruadh was anxious to know that the girl was respectable, and so far worthy of her son. The idea of such an inquiry would have filled Mercy's parents with scornful merriment, as a thing ludicrous indeed.
Peregrine Palmer. But the mother thought it high time to make inquiry as to his position and connections. She had an old friend in London, the wife of a certain vice-chancellor, with whom she held an occasional correspondence, and to her she wrote, asking if she knew anything of the family. Mrs. Macruadh was nowise free from the worldliness that has regard to the world's regard.
"It was not for that, Macruadh," answered Rob of the Angels. "It was because he struck my father, and laid a better man than himself on the grass." The chief turned to the Englishman. "Did the old man strike you, Mr. Sercombe?" "No, by Jove! I took a little care of that! If he had, I would have broke every bone in his body!" "Why did you strike him then?" "Because he rushed at me."
He hoped the Macruadh would live long to enjoy it, and make his father-in-law the great grandfather of chiefs, perpetuating his memory to ages unborn. There was more to the same effect, void neither of eloquence nor of a certain good-heartedness, which the laird both recognized and felt. It was again his painful turn. He had now to make his refusal as positive as words could make it.
"Good enough if I were ten times better. Do you really mean it, Macruadh?" "With all my heart. Only there is one thing I am very anxious about." "What is that?" "How your father will take my condition." "He will allow, I think, that it is good enough for me and more than I deserve." "That is not what I mean; it is that I have a certain condition to make." "Else you won't marry me?