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By Right of Purchase

Harold Edward Bindloss

213 pages
Library of Alexandria
It was a hot September afternoon. Leland wondered vaguely how the harvesting and threshing were progressing in his own far distant country, as he leant on the moss-grown wall of the terrace beneath the old house of Barrock-holme. He had been a week there now as the guest of Lieutenant Denham, whose acquaintance he had originally made out on the wide prairie in Western Canada, and for whom he had a certain liking that was slightly tinged with contempt. The estate would be Jimmy Denham's some day, provided that his father succeeded in keeping it out of the grasp of his creditors. Those who knew the old man well fancied that he might with difficulty accomplish it, for Branscombe Denham of Barrock-holme was not troubled by many scruples, and had acquired considerable proficiency in the evasion of debts. The mansion stood on the brink of a ravine in the desolate border marshes. Part of it had been built to stand a siege in the days of the Scottish wars. The strong square tower was intact and habitable still; the rest of the low building stretched round three sides of a quadrangle, with a dry moat across the fourth, beyond which lawn and flower-garden lay shielded from the shrewd border winds by tall, lichened walls. Through an archway one could look down, across silver-stemmed birches and dusky firs, upon the Barrock flashing in the depths of the ravine. Leland found the prospect pleasant as he lounged there, with a cigar in his hand. He was accustomed to his own country, and there was something congenial and, in a fashion, familiar in the sweep of lonely moorlands and bleak Scottish hills which stretched, shining warm in the paling sunlight, along the northern horizon. It reminded him of his own country, which was even more wild and desolate, on the southern border of Western Canada. He had been three months in England, and was already longing to be home again, though he had found what he called the hardness of the North congenial. It was a land of legends and traditions, of which they were rather proud at Barrock-holme. The grey tower had more than once been beset by the border spears, on whom the dragon's mouth on the wall above had spouted boiling oil. There was an oak on the edge of the ravine which had borne bitter fruit in the days of foray, and—for the men of Barrock-holme could strike back tellingly then—the quadrangle had been filled with Scottish cattle. They were grim, hard men, and what he had heard of their doings appealed to Leland. He himself was in some respects a hard man, and rather primitive. The life of the wardens of Barrock-holme and the moss-troopers was rather more comprehensible to him than the one of which he had had brief glimpses in London.