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The McTavish
by [?]

I

By the look of her she might have been a queen, or a princess, or at the very least a duchess. But she was no one of these. She was only a commoner–a plain miss, though very far from plain. Which is extraordinary when you consider that the blood of the Bruce flowed with exceeding liveliness in her veins, together with the blood of many another valiant Scot–Randolph, Douglas, Campbell–who bled with Bruce or for him.

With the fact that she was not at the very least a duchess, most of her temporal troubles came to an abrupt end. When she tired of her castle at Beem-Tay she could hop into her motor-car and fly down the Great North Road to her castle at Brig O’Dread. This was a fifty-mile run, and from any part of the road she could see land that belonged to her–forest, farm, and moor. If the air at Beem-Tay was too formal, or the keep at Brig O’Dread too gloomy, she could put up at any of her half-dozen shooting lodges, built in wild, inaccessible, wild-fowly places, and shake the dust of the world from her feet, and tread, just under heaven, upon the heather.

But mixed up with all this fine estate was one other temporal trouble. For, over and above the expenses of keeping the castles on a good footing, and the shooting lodges clean and attractive, and the motor-car full of petrol, and the horses full of oats, and the lawns empty of weeds, and the glass houses full of fruit, she had no money whatsoever. She could not sell any of her land because it was entailed–that is, it really belonged to somebody who didn’t exist; she couldn’t sell her diamonds, for the same reason; and she could not rent any of her shootings, because her ancestors had not done so. I honestly believe that a sixpence of real money looked big to her.

Her first name was the same as that of the Lady of the Lake–Ellen. Her last name was McTavish–if she had been a man she would have been The McTavish (and many people did call her that)–and her middle names were like the sands of the sea in number, and sounded like bugles blowing a charge–Campbell and Cameron, Dundee and Douglas. She had a family tartan–heather brown, with Lincoln green tit-tat-toe crisscrosses–and she had learned how to walk from a thousand years of strong-walking ancestors. She had her eyes from the deepest part of a deep moorland loch, her cheeks from the briar rose, some of the notes of her voice from the upland plover, and some from the lark. And her laugh was like an echo of the sounds that the River Tay makes when it goes among the shallows.

One day she was sitting all by herself in the Seventh Drawing Room (forty feet by twenty-four) of Brig O’Dread Castle, looking from a fourteen-foot-deep window embrasure, upon the brig itself, the river rushing under it, and the clean, flowery town upon both banks. From most of her houses she could see nothing but her own possessions, but from Brig O’Dread Castle, standing, as it did, in one corner of her estates, she could see past her entrance gate, with its flowery, embattled lodge, a little into the outside world. There were tourists whirling by in automobiles along the Great North Road, or parties of Scotch gypsies, with their dark faces and ear-rings, with their wagons and folded tents, passing from one good poaching neighborhood to the next. Sometimes it amused her to see tourists turned from her gates by the proud porter who lived in the lodge; and on the present occasion, when an automobile stopped in front of the gate and the chauffeur hopped out and rang the bell, she was prepared to be mildly amused once more in the same way.