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A Witch of the Hills, v. 1-2 by Florence Warden








Publishers in Ordinary to Her Majesty the Queen




Poor little witch! I think she left all her spells and love-philters behind her, when she let herself be carried off from Ballater to Bayswater, a spot where no sorcery more poetical or more interesting than modern Spiritualism finds a congenial home. What was her star about not to teach her that human hearts can beat as passionately up among the quiet hills and the dark fir-forests as down amid the rattle and the roar of the town? Well, well; it is only in the grave that we make no mistakes; and life and love, God knows, are mysteries beyond the ken of a chuckle-headed country gentleman, with just sense enough to handle a gun and land a salmon.

And the sum and substance of all this is that the Deeside hills are very bleak in December, that the north wind sighs and sobs, whistles and howls among the ragged firs and the bending larches in a manner fearsome and eerie to a lonely man at his silent fireside, and that books are but sorry substitutes for human companions when the deer are safe in their winter retreat in the forests, and the grouse-moors are white with snow. So here's for another pine-log on the fire, and a glance back at the fourteen years which have slipped away since I shut the gates of the world behind me.

The world! The old leaven is still there then, that after fourteen years of voluntary--almost voluntary--exile, I still call that narrow circle of a few hundreds of not particularly wise, not particularly interesting people--the world! They were wise enough and interesting enough for me at three and twenty, though, when by the death of my elder brother I leapt at once from an irksome struggle, with expensive tastes, on a stingy allowance of three hundred a year, to the full enjoyment of an income of eight thousand.

How fully I appreciated the delights of that sudden change from 'ineligible' to 'eligible!' How quickly I began to feel that, in accepting an invitation, instead of receiving a favour I now conferred one! My new knowledge speedily transformed a harmless and rather obliging young man into an insufferable puppy; but the puppy was welcomed where the obliging young man had hardly been tolerated. Beautifully gradual the change was, both in me and in my friends; for we were all well bred, and knew how to charge the old formulas with new meaning. 'You will be sure to come, won't you?' from a hostess to me, was no longer a crumb of kindness, it was an entreaty. 'You are very kind,' from me, expressed now not gratitude, but condescension. A rather nice girl, who had been scolded for dancing with me too often, was now, like the little children sent out in the streets to beg, praised or blamed by her mother according to the degree of attention I had paid her. I did not share the contempt of the other men of my own age for this manoeuvring mamma and the rest of her kind, though I daresay I spoke of them in the same tone as they did. In the first place, I was flattered by their homage to my new position, interested as it was; and in the second, in their presence we were all so much alike, in dress, manner, and what by courtesy is called conversation, that the poor ladies might well be excused for judging our merits by the only tangible point of difference--our relative wealth.

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