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6. The Picture in the Loch
 “’Tis a terrible complicated matter, the war,” objected Eithne doubtfully as she began basting a sleeve into what was to be a fine linen shirt for Ian’s birthday. “I fear I’d only be confusing you.”
Kelpie surveyed the four or five yards of red and green tartan wool which constituted a kilt for a small lad, and wondered how even Donald could have managed to tear such stout weave. “I could not be more confused than I am,” she pointed out, “for I am knowing nothing at all. Tell me at least a little.”
Eithne sighed and obeyed. “Well,” she began hesitantly, “you know that King Charles is King of England and Scotland both?” Kelpie nodded. “But in both countries are representative bodies of men called Parliaments, and they
 help to rule. They are supposed to agree with the things the King does, and it is the English parliament who must vote to give him things like extra money when he needs it—which he usually does.”
She paused to squint critically at her basting, and Kelpie waited. Somehow she had developed a great eagerness to learn about the matters which had thrown England and Scotland into civil war. “Aye, go on,” she murmured.
“Well, so. Neither King Charles nor his father before him has got along well with Parliament. King and Parliament each said the other will be trying to take more rights and power than they should have, and they became angry. Parliament would refuse to vote money for the King, so the King would dissolve Parliament, which meant that they could not meet any more to vote on anything at all until King Charles called them back, and so everyone was unhappy.”
She bit off her thread and held the shirt closer to the dim light which filtered through the thick diamond-shaped mullion panes of the casement window. “And then”—she sighed—“religion came into it. Father,” she remarked severely, “says that religion should never be mixed with politics, but they do not listen to wise people like Father, and so there is trouble.”
“What has religion to do with it?” asked Kelpie curiously. She had never known anything of religion for herself, only that the stern Kirk of the Lowlands had severe
 views on all other faiths, on fun and laughter, and most particularly on witches. But the Anglican services here at Glenfern seemed peaceful and vaguely pleasant, even though she did not understand them.
“Och!” protested Eithne, but Kelpie’s face was implacable, so she went on. “Well, the Catholics and Protestants do not like each other, and especially the Protestants of the new Reformed Church, like the Puritans in England and the Calvinist Covenanters in Scotland—and we Anglicans caught in the middle. King Charles is Anglican, but the Parliament is mostly Puritan, I think. At any rate, they were very angry when the King married Queen Henrietta, who is a Roman Catholic and said she would turn the country all Catholic and burn Protestants at the stake. And the Catholics said the Protestants were trying to rule the country and force their religion on everyone, and so it was a fine braw quarrel for years, with religion and politics all mixed together.”
Kelpie carefully selected a strand of wool to match the soft, dull red of the Cameron tartan. This was the most difficult bit of mending she had yet been trusted with. “Mmm,” she murmured after a minute, turning her mind back to the conversation. “And then?”
It was Eithne’s turn to pause, while the rain beat against the casement windows. Wee Mairi turned from her doll to lift a merry smile in the direction of “her Kelpie,” who felt a new pang of affection. Och, the bonnie wee thing!
Eithne scowled at the shirt and then glanced up at Kelpie with a rueful shrug. “Ou, I cannot mind me of all the details.” She sighed again. “But the quarrel turned into fighting.”
“But what of Scotland?” demanded Kelpie. “What had it to do with us at all?”
“Why,” interrupted the dry voice of Alex, “King Charles himself must be bringing that on!” They looked up to see him standing in the doorway, a shirt in his hand and a wry grin on his angular face. “Scotland might have been loyal to him, even though all the Lowlands are Calvinist, and even more rigid than the Puritans, but he had the bright idea of forcing the Anglican prayer book on Scotland. And the next thing he knew, there was a Solemn League and Covenant formed against him, and Scotland divided as England was, with Lowlands against the King, and most of the Highlands loyal to him.”
Eithne looked both relieved and worried, while Kelpie studied Alex’s expression in the dim light, not quite certain if he were teasing or not. She decided not—for once. There was a faint note of bitterness in his voice. “I thought you were a King’s man!” she challenged him.
“I am so,” he returned promptly and unpropped himself from the doorway. “Look you, Eithne,” he went on, crossing the room to her. “I have ripped my shirt sorely and am needing a bonnie sweet lass to mend it for me.”
Eithne tilted her chestnut curls at him and wrinkled up
 her nose in an impish grin. “If I do,” she said, bargaining, “will you be explaining the rest of the war to Kelpie?”
“Dhé!” said Alex and raised both eyebrows at Kelpie.
“She is truly wanting to know,” said Eithne sternly, “so do not be teasing her, Alex. And I am gey muddled about it, and you knowing so much more, with having been at Oxford and even seeing the King and his family yourself. Will you?”
“’Tis a hard bargain,” complained Alex, “and I am thinking I pity the man who will one day marry you, Eithne m’eudail.” He perched on the corner of the massive table, his kilt falling in heavy folds about his lean knees. “Well, then, and what bit of my great knowledge should I be sharing with you first?”
Kelpie gave him a wicked pointed smile. “Tell me,” she said softly, “in one word, just, what are they fighting for?”
“My sorrow!” exclaimed Alex, straightening up as if he had sat on a thistle. “Is that all?”
“Don’t you know?” asked Kelpie tauntingly. “I will tell you, then. They’re fighting for power. Is it not so?”
Alex resumed his perch and surveyed her ruefully. “Och, and are you not the young cynic!” he observed. “And you have shocked my foster sister, too.” For Eithne was looking both dismayed and indignant. Both girls had forgotten their sewing for the moment and sat staring at Alex challengingly, waiting for his opinion.
He laughed. “I fear me I shall anger you both,” he
 remarked, “and go through the rest of my life with an evil spell on my head and a tom sleeve in my shirt.”
“Well?” demanded Kelpie.
Alex gave her a crooked grin. “Sorry I am to agree with you even in part,” he confessed, “but no doubt some men are fighting for power. No, no, Eithne,” he added as she opened her mouth. “Do not deny it too quickly. What about Argyll?”
Eithne subsided.
“On the other hand, Alex avic, there is Montrose.” It was Ian. He pulled up a hassock and ranged himself quietly but firmly on Eithne’s side.
“Montrose?” asked Kelpie.
“Aye,” said Ian, turning his warm smile upon her. “James Graham of Montrose, and he one of the finest, truest men under the sun. He it is who is named to fight for the King’s cause in Scotland, even to form and organize the army. And he is fighting for no selfish reason whatever, but only for what he believes to be right. Alex cannot deny it, for we both met and talked to him last winter in Oxford.”
“Indeed and I’ll not deny it,” agreed Alex amiably, “though Kelpie might. My point was just that all men are not like Montrose, and my proof of it is still Argyll. Och, and have you done, my sonsie Eithne?” he added as she held up the mended shirt. “Come away, then, Ian, and let’s be outside. I believe the sun is going to come out.”
And they were gone before Kelpie could ask about Argyll.
 Perhaps it was as well, she decided, going back to her mending. For she really thought she had heard quite as much as she could absorb all in one lump.
Eithne flickered a mischievous sideways glance at her. “And wasn’t I warning you ’twas complicated?” she murmured.
As if by tacit agreement, no one brought up matters like war and politics for some time. After all, it was easy enough, in that peaceful, secluded glen, to put such things far out of mind. Kelpie’s free hours were full enough, as spring days became longer, with other things. Wee Mairi tagged along with her, a self-appointed guardian, and the glenspeople had learned to hide their hostility when Mairi was there. The twins were insatiably hungry for more stories—and so, for that matter, were the older young people. Books were rare and precious, and mostly devoted to serious and difficult subjects. And, as Ian generously remarked on a sunny afternoon by the loch, Kelpie was a master at telling tales.
Alex grinned impishly. “She is that!” he agreed with a wicked twinkle in his eye and a double meaning to his voice which Kelpie chose to ignore.
“Next time I will tell you about the sithiche (fairies) of Loch Maree—if you are all very kind to me,” she said blandly and glanced impudently at Alex.
She sat on alone by the loch for a little while after the
 others had left, thinking about things. How Alex had changed since she first met him! He was much nicer than she had thought. And she had begun to like his teasing and mockery, for it was all good-humored.... Or was it perhaps herself had changed? And if so—She rolled over to lie full-length on her face in the fragrant long grasses and pondered. Then, lazily, she stretched until her head was............
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