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Ronald, Marquis of Shetland, had been distinguished in the councils of his country, a leading Tory in the House of Lords, an able diplomat at foreign courts, a wise colonial governor in India, where wisdom was of more value than was force of arms. But now he was retired from public affairs, and was living quietly at Trosach Castle.
He had married, early in life, a daughter of the ancient house of Murray, a handsome, haughty woman, who only needed temptation and opportunity to be come cruel and wicked.
No children had blessed this long union, but their place was well filled in the hearts and home of the childless couple by the orphan niece and ward of the earl, the beautiful Eglantine Seton, Baroness of Linlithgow, in her own right.
The wardship of this young lady was a most important trust, involving a great responsibility.
Eglantine Seton's history and condition were very singular and intersting, for from the infrequency of marriage and the absence of children among her near est kindred, she had been, from her very birth, presumptive heir of four great estates, situated severally in Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland. Before she had attained her twelfth year she had succeeded to, one after the other, all these rich estates, and thence she came to be called the "combination heiress." And before she had reached her fourteenth year, by the death of her father, the tenth and last baron, she be came Baroness Linlithgow in her own right.
From her sunny home at Seton Court Eglantine was taken to the stern, dark castle on the hill, and an aged tutor provided for her in the person of the Rev. Mr. Graham, a retired clergyman.