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Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu, James Legge (trans.)

Mortal Coils

Aldous Huxley

Esoteric Buddhism

A. P. Sinnett

The Count of Monte Cristo

Alexandre Dumas

Morag the seal

by J W Brodie-Innes


I had no time to reply then, for there came a ring at the front-door bell.

'Ah, there's Dr. MacCulloch, punctual to the moment, as usual ; an old-fashioned virtue, out of vogue now, they tell me, but a great virtue in my eyes.'

The doctor came in as he spoke—a little thin, loosely hung man, with a keen lean face and smooth black hair, and a pair of the kindliest brown eyes I ever saw in any human head, a man you would go to instinctively in any trouble, sure of help and sympathy to the very fullest measure of his capacity. A shrewd face, too, betokening, if physiognomy were to be trusted, a man of rare qualities in his profession, and a man to whom one might entrust one's life with confidence that all that skill could do would be done.

Sir John made us acquainted. 'Dr. MacCulloch is our greatest authority on everything about this district,' he said. 'He has all the local history at his fingers' ends. He has been of the utmost service to me in getting up the history of this old place and of my family. I trust, Mr. Kingsburgh, you will find his deep knowledge of use to you also in the tangled investigations that you have undertaken.'

The dinner-gong cut him short. I had discovered by this time that my host was an inveterate talker

So much the better, I thought; I shall be able to manage him easily. A silent man is always the most troublesome. Only we three sat down to an excellent though very plain dinner. The doctor was a perfect fount of stories of the place, and, indeed, of the whole country-side. Ancient history of the coming of Columba and his monks, comparatively modern stories of the romantic wanderings of Prince Charles and the devotion of the Highland lasses, stories of raids and wild fights and smuggling and cattle-lifting, with quaint touches about the manners and customs of many bygone ages. He told us of the old Camerons, of the sieges the mouldering old castle had been through, of the gradual fall into poverty consequent on their wild and reckless hospitality mainly, of how they came to live at last, poor but proud, in the humble farmbuilding, cultivating a couple of hundred acres or so for sheer maintenance, while all then: broad lands were in the hands of creditors, and held by trustees; how at last, a large proportion of the debts being paid off, they had gone to live in the Dower House, with a small but sufficient income ; how investments failed and they were again in trouble.

'Very sad, very pathetic,' said Sir John. 'I can hardly bear to think of it now, though I was very bitter against them once for having the lands I thought should be ours ; that was when I was quite a boy, before my father acquired the lands. I am so glad now that he did what he did, and gave a fair, even a large, price for them, which I trust has made the last Camerons comfortable and comparatively prosperous. Doctor, do you know even yet Mr. Kingsburgh can't quite understand my title. Can't you put the gist of it in a nut-shell? We shall want your help often, I expect, for I know I am intolerably verbose, and I think my solicitors must be more so. They seem to have raised so many points that the real issue has got lost among them.'

'The main point is simple enough,' said the doctor. 'The property, like many of our Highland estates, is entailed on females as well as males. Well, there were two brothers, and the eldest had only a daughter, the other had sons. Of course, the property should have gone to the daughter, but it never had gone to a girl, and somehow the deed of entail wasn't forthcoming, and it was quietly assumed that it was a tail male, and the nephew succeeded without opposition, and his descendants were the old Cameron family. The daughter married, and she, again, had a daughter, and their descendants are the Bradleys.'

'Yes! yes!' I said, a trifle nettled, though I would not admit it, at my peculiar province being thus invaded by an outsider who presumed to tell me how a title was made up—' Yes! I know all that. But where's the deed of entail or any proof of its terms? and where are all the records of that time? Where are the registers of the births of these people—the daughter and the nephews — and their marriages, and all the rest of it? The whole thing has vanished into thin air, and there are all sorts of strange legends of Scotch marriages and holograph wills, and such like, but not an ounce of evidence of any part of the story.'

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