This was Blanche Clifford's experience as she stood at an eastward window, with an eager face, straining her eye across miles of moorland, which undulated far away, like purple seas lying in the golden light. Away, and up and on stretched the heather, till it seemed to rear itself into great waves of rock, which stood out clear and distinct, with the sunlight glinting into the gray, waterworn fissures, lighting them up like a smile on a wrinkled face. And beyond, in the dim distance, hills on hills are huddled, rearing themselves in dark lowering masses against the blue sky, like the shoulders of mighty monsters in a struggle for the nearest place to the clouds. For many weeks Blanche had been dreaming dreams and seeing visions of this scene, as she sat in her London schoolroom. "And this is Glen Eagle!" she murmured, with a satisfied sigh, when at last she turned her eyes from the more distant landscape, and climbing into the embrasured window of the quaint old room in which she awoke that morning, leant out to try and discover what sort of a building this new home might be. A perpendicular, gaunt wall, so lichen-spotted that it seemed as if the stones had taken to growing, was all that she could see; and under it there stretched a smooth grassy slope, belted by a grove of ancient ash-trees. A pleasant breeze, wafting a delicious scent of heather, came in at the open window, and played among Blanche's curls, reminding her how delightful it would be to go out under the blue sky; so she ran off in search of her papa, that she might begin her explorations at once.
Mr. Clifford, Blanche's father, was very fond of sport, and generally spent the autumn months on the moors, either in Ireland or Scotland. Hitherto his little motherless daughter had not accompanied him on any of his journeys, but had been left to wander among trim English lanes, or to patrol the parade of fashionable watering-places, under the guardianship of her governess, Miss Prosser. This year, however, Blanche had been so earnest in her entreaties to be taken among the hills, that her father had at last yielded, and it was arranged that she should accompany him to Glen Eagle, where he had taken shootings. Miss Prosser looked on the projected journey to the Highlands of Scotland as rather a wild scheme for herself and her little charge, having no special partiality for mountain scenery, and a dislike to change the old routine. But to Blanche, the prospect was full of the most delicious possibilities; the unknown mountain country was to her imagination an enchanted land of peril and adventure, where she could herself become the heroine of a new tale of romance. The "History of Scotland" suddenly became the most interesting of books, and the records of its heroic days were studied with an interest which they had never before excited. In the daily walks in Kensington Park, on hot July afternoons, Blanche Clifford wove many a fancy concerning these autumn days to be; but in the midst of all her imaginings, as she peopled the hills and valleys of Stratheagle with followers of the Wallace and the Bruce lurking among the heather, with waving tartans and glancing claymores, she did not guess what a lowly object of human interest was to be the centre of all her thoughts.