IT WAS, I THINK, Madame de Sévigné -- a subtle and discerning woman -- who first made the sage observation that no man is a hero to his valet. But Montaigne had forestalled her, less wittily, perhaps, yet with greater wisdom, when he wrote: "No man should be a hero to himself." To be honest, then, the writer who embarks upon the dangerous sea of self-revelation should acknowledge the defects of his character parallel with any merits he may possess, balance his vanities against his virtues.
Do not imagine, then, that I was the admirable Crichton of Tannochbrae, a blameless young medico who was never stupid, fatuous, or foolish. More than once I was all three. And that is why I must introduce a lady whom I shall call Miss Malcolm.
I first met Miss Malcolm at a dance, not an ordinary dance, like the Knoxhill Academy reunion or the Markinch Anglers' Social, but the annual Highland Ball, given by the President of the Society, Lord Sinclair of Dundrum Castle.
This sounds -- at least for the moment -- extremely grand, and, indeed, the Sinclairs were the great shipbuilding family, whose yards had outgrown and now outrivalled even the most famous shipyards on the Clyde. They were county people, connected by kinship and marriage with half the notables in Glasgow, whose tremendous estate between Markinch and Ardfillan was the pride and envy of the countryside.
Every winter, at the castle, they gave a dance -- a ball, to be accurate -- at which everybody who was anybody appeared. A stray