“But some day ye will find a lad for yourself, Anna, and then you will also be leaving Ardarroch and the auld folk behind ye.”

My sister smiled a quiet smile and her eyes were far away.

“Maybe—maybe,” she said, temperately, “but that day is not yet.”

“Has never a lad come wooin’ ye, Anna? Was there not Johnny of Ironmacanny, Peter Tait frae the Bogue, or——”

“Aye,” said Anna, “they cam’ and they gaed away to ither lasses that were readier to loe them. For I never saw a lad yet that I could like as well as my great silly brother who should be thinking more concerning his sermon-making than about putting daft thoughts into the heads of maidens.”

After this there was silence between us for a while. We had been sitting in the barn with both doors open. The wide arch to the front, opening out into the quadrangle of the courtyard,{151} let in a cool drawing sough of air, and the smaller door at the back let it out again, and gave us at the same time a sweet eye-blink into the orchard, where the apples were hanging mellow and pleasant on the branches, and the leaves hardly yet loosening themselves for their fall. The light sifted through the leaves from the westering sun, dappling the grass and wavering upon the hard-beaten earthen floor of the barn.

“I am going over by to Earlstoun!” I said to Anna, without looking up.

Anna and I spoke but half our talks out loud. We had been such close comrades all our lives that we understood muchwithout needing to clothe our thoughts in words.

Apparently Anna did not hear what I said, so I repeated it.

“Dinna,” was all she answered.

“And wherefore should I not?” I persisted, argumentatively. “The laird most kindly invited me, indeed laid it on me like an obligation that I should come.”

“Ye are going over to Earlstoun to see the laird?”

where the apples were hanging mellow“Why, yes,” I said; “that is, he has a desire to see me. He is the greatest of all the{152} Covenant men, and we have much in common to speak about.”