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The Half-Hearted

2. Lady Manorwater's Guests
When the afternoon train from the south drew into Gledsmuir station, a girl who had
been devouring the landscape for the last hour with eager eyes, rose nervously to
prepare for exit. To Alice Wishart the country was a novel one, and the prospect before
her an unexplored realm of guesses. The daughter of a great merchant, she had lived
most of her days in the ugly environs of a city, save for such time as she had spent at
the conventional schools. She had never travelled; the world of men and things was
merely a name to her, and a girlhood, lonely and brightened chiefly by the
companionship of books, had not given her self-confidence. She had casually met Lady
Manorwater at some political meeting in her father's house, and the elder woman had
taken a strong liking to the quiet, abstracted child. Then came an invitation to
Glenavelin, accepted gladly yet with much fear and searching of heart. Now, as she
looked out on the shining mountain land, she was full of delight that she was about to
dwell in the heart of it. Something of pride, too, was present, that she was to be the
guest of a great lady, and see something of a life which seemed infinitely remote to her
provincial thoughts. But when her journey drew near its end she was foolishly nervous,
and scanned the platform with anxious eye.
The sight of her hostess reassured her. Lady Manorwater was a small middle-aged
woman, with a thin classical face, large colourless eyes, and untidy fair hair. She was
very plainly dressed, and as she darted forward to greet the girl with entire frankness
and kindness, Alice forgot her fears and kissed her heartily. A languid young woman
was introduced as Miss Afflint, and in a few minutes the three were in the Glenavelin
carriage with the wide glen opening in front.
"Oh, my dear, I hope you will enjoy your visit. We are quite a small party, for Jack says
Glenavelin is far too small to entertain in. You are fond of the country, aren't you? And
of course the place is very pretty. There is tennis and golf and fishing; but perhaps you
don't like these things? We are not very well off for neighbours, but we are large enough
in number to be sufficient to ourselves. Don't you think so, Bertha?" And Lady
Manorwater smiled at the third member of the group.
Miss Afflint, a silent girl, smiled back and said nothing. She had been engaged in a
secret study of Alice's face, and whenever the object of the study raised her eyes she
found a pair of steady blue ones beaming on her. It was a little disconcerting, and Alice
gazed out at the landscape with a fictitious curiosity.
They passed out of the Gled valley into the narrower strath of Avelin, and soon, leaving
the meadows behind, went deep into the recesses of woods. At a narrow glen bridged
by the road and bright with the spray of cascades and the fresh green of ferns, Alice
 
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