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The Half-Hearted

6. Pastoral
I
A July morning had dawned over the Dreichill, and the glen was filled with sunlight,
though as yet there seemed no sun. Behind a peak of hill it displayed its chastened
morning splendours, but a stray affluence of brightness had sought the nooks of valley
in all the wide uplands, courier of the great lord of heat and light and the brown summer.
The house of Etterick stands high in a crinkle of hill, with a background of dark pines,
and in front a lake, set in shores of rock and heather. When the world grew bright Lewis
awoke, for that strange young man had a trick of rising early, and as he rubbed sleep
from his eyes at the window he saw the exceeding goodliness of the morning. He
roused his companions with awful threats, and then wandered along a corridor till he
came to a low verandah, whence a little pier ran into a sheltered bay of the loch. This
was his morning bathing-place, and as he ran down the surface of rough moorland
stone he heard steps behind him, and George plunged into the cold blue waters
scarcely a second after his host.
It was as chill as winter save for the brightness of the morning, which made the loch in
open spaces a shining gold. As they raced each other to the far end, now in the dark
blue of shade, now in the gold of the open, the hill breeze fanned their hair, and the
great woody smell of pines was sweet around them. The house stood dark and silent,
for the side before them was the men's quarters, and at that season given up to
themselves; but away beyond, the smoke of chimneys curled into the still air. A man
was mowing in some field on the hillside, and the cry of sheep came from the valley. By
and by they reached the shelving coast of fine hill gravel, and as they turned to swim
easily back a sleepy figure staggered down the pier and stumbled rather than plunged
into the water.
"Hullo!" gasped George, "there's old John. He'll drown, for I bet you anything he isn't
awake. Look!"
But in a second a dark head appeared which shook itself vigorously, and a figure made
for the other two with great strokes. He was by so much the best swimmer of the three
that he had soon reached them, and though in all honesty he first swam to the farther
shore, yet he touched the pier very little behind them. Then came a rush for the house,
and in half an hour three fresh-coloured young men came downstairs, whistling for
breakfast.
The breakfast-room was a place to refresh a townsman's senses. Long and cool and
dark, it was simply Lewis's room, and he preferred to entertain his friends there instead
 
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