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Alick Murray had not over-praised the Highland home of which he had so often spoken when far away across the wide ocean. The house, substantially built in a style suited to that clime, stood some way up the side of a hill which rose abruptly from the waters of Loch Etive, on the north side of which it was situated. To the west the hills were comparatively low, the shores alternately widening and contracting, and projecting in numerous promontories. The higher grounds were clothed with heath and wood, while level spaces below were diversified by cultivated fields. To the east of the house, up the loch, the scenery assumed a character much more striking and grand. Far as the eye could reach appeared a succession of lofty and barren mountains, rising sheer out of the water, on the calm surface of which their fantastic forms were reflected as in a mirror. Across the loch the lofty summit of Ben Cruachan appeared towering to the sky. The scenery immediately surrounding Murray's domain of Bercaldine was of extreme beauty. At some little distance the hill, rising abruptly, was covered with oak, ash, birch, and alder, producing a rich tone of colouring; the rowan and hawthorn trees mingling their snowy blossoms or coral berries with the foliage of the more gigantic natives of the forest, while the dark purple heath, in tufted wreaths, and numerous wild-flowers, were interspersed amid the rich sward and underwood along the shore beneath. Behind the house were shrubberies and a well-cultivated kitchen-garden, sheltered on either side by a thick belt of pines; while in front a lawn, also protected by shrubberies from the keen winds which blew down from the mountain heights, sloped towards the loch, with a gravel walk leading to the landing-place. Murray had added a broad verandah to the front of the house, to remind himself and Stella of Don Antonio's residence in Trinidad, where they had first met. Indeed, in some of its features, the scenery recalled to their memories the views they had enjoyed in that lovely island; and though they confessed that Trinidad carried off the palm of beauty, yet they both loved far better their own Highland home.