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The Half-Hearted

3. Upland Waters
When Alice woke next morning the cool upland air was flooding through the window,
and a great dazzle of sunlight made the world glorious. She dressed and ran out to the
lawn, then past the loch right to the very edge of the waste country. A high fragrance of
heath and bog-myrtle was in the wind, and the mouth grew cool as after long draughts
of spring water. Mists were crowding in the valleys, each bald mountain top shone like a
jewel, and far aloft in the heavens were the white streamers of morn. Moorhens were
plashing at the loch's edge, and one tall heron rose from his early meal. The world was
astir with life: sounds of the _plonk-plonk_ of rising trout and the endless twitter of
woodland birds mingled with the far-away barking of dogs and the lowing of the full-
uddered cows in the distant meadows. Abashed and enchanted, the girl listened. It was
an elfin land where the old witch voices of hill and river were not silenced. With the wind
in her hair she climbed the slope again to the garden ground, where she found a
solemn-eyed collie sniffing the fragrant wind in his morning stroll.
Breakfast over, the forenoon hung heavy on her hands. It was Lady Manorwater's
custom to let her guests sit idle in the morning and follow their own desire, but in the
afternoon she would plan subtle and far-reaching schemes of enjoyment. It was a
common saying that in her large good-nature she amused people regardless of their
own expense. She would light-heartedly make town-bred folk walk twenty miles or bear
the toil of infinite drives. But this was after lunch; before, her guests might do as they
pleased. Lord Manorwater went off to see some tenant; Arthur, after vain efforts to
decoy Alice into a fishing expedition, went down the stream in a canoe, because to his
fool's head it seemed the riskiest means of passing the time at his disposal; Bertha and
her sister were writing letters; the spectacled people had settled themselves below
shady trees with voluminous papers and a pile of books. Alice alone was idle. She
made futile expeditions to the library, and returned with an armful of volumes which she
knew in her heart she would never open. She found the deepest and most comfortable
chair and placed it in a shady place among beeches. But she could not stay there, and
must needs wander restlessly about the gardens, plucking flowers and listlessly
watching the gardeners at their work.
Lunch-time found this young woman in a slightly irritable frame of mind. The cause
direct and indirect was Mr. Stocks, who had found her alone, and had saddled her with
his company for the space of an hour and a half. His vein had been _badinage_ of the
serious and reproving kind, and the girl had been bored to distraction. But a misspent
hour is soon forgotten, and the sight of her hostess's cheery face would have restored
her to good humour had it not been for a thought which could not be exorcised. She
knew of Lady Manorwater's reputation as an inveterate matchmaker, and in some subtle
 
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