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Macleod of Dare
by William Black
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Placid, indeed, they were as they went flowing quietly by; and the young day promised to be bright enough; and why should there be aught but peace and goodwill upon earth toward all men and women? Surely there was no call for any unrest, or fear, or foreboding? The still and shining morning was but emblematic of his life—if only he knew, and were content. And indeed he looked contented enough, as he wandered on, breathing the cool freshness of the air, and with a warmer light from the east now touching from time to time his sun-tanned face. He went up to Covent Garden—for mere curiosity's sake. He walked along Piccadilly, and thought the elms in the Green Park looked more beautiful than ever. When he returned to his rooms he was of opinion that it was scarcely worth while to go to bed; and so he changed his clothes, and called for breakfast as soon as some one was up. In a short time—after his newspaper had been read—he would have to go down to Charing Cross.

What of this morning walk? Perhaps it was unimportant enough. Only, in after-times, he once or twice thought of it; and very clearly indeed he could see himself standing there in the early light, looking out on the shining waters of the river. They say that when you see yourself too vividly—when you imagine that you yourself are standing before yourself—that is one of the signs of madness.



CHAPTER VI.

A SUMMER DAY ON THE THAMES.

It occurred to him as he walked down to the station—perhaps he went early on the chance of finding her there alone—that he ought seriously to study the features of this girl's face; for was there not a great deal of character to be learned, or guessed at, that way? He had but the vaguest notion of what she was really like. He knew that her teeth were pearly white when she smiled, and that the rippling golden-brown hair lay rather low on a calm and thoughtful forehead; but he had a less distinct impression that her nose was perhaps the least thing retrousse; and as to her eyes? They might be blue, gray, or green, but one thing he was sure of was that they could speak more than was ever uttered by any speech. He knew, besides, that she had an exquisite figure: perhaps it was the fact that her shoulders were a trifle squarer than is common with women that made her look somewhat taller than she really was.

He would confirm or correct these vague impressions. And as the chances were that they would spend a whole long day together, he would have abundant opportunity of getting to know something about the character and disposition of this new acquaintance, so that she should no longer be to him a puzzling and distracting will-o'-the-wisp. What had he come to London for but to improve his knowledge of men and of women, and to see what was going on in the larger world? And so this earnest student walked down to the station.

There were a good many people about, mostly in groups chatting with each other; but he recognized no one. Perhaps he was looking out for Colonel and Mrs. Ross; perhaps for a slender figure in black, with blue beads; at all events, he was gazing somewhat vacantly around when some one turned close by him. Then his heart stood still for a second. The sudden light that sprang to her face when she recognized him blinded him. Was it to be always so? Was she always to come upon him in a flash, as it were? What chance had the poor student of fulfilling his patient task when, on his approach, he was sure to be met by this surprise of the parted lips, and sudden smile, and bright look? He was far too bewildered to examine the outline of her nose or the curve of the exquisitely short upper lip.

But the plain truth was that there was no extravagant joy at all in Miss White's face, but a very slight and perhaps pleased surprise; and she was not in the least embarrassed.

"Are you looking for Mrs. Ross," said she, "like myself?"

"Yes," said he; and then he found himself exceedingly anxious to say a great deal to her, without knowing where to begin. She had surprised him too much—as usual. She was so different from what he had been dreaming about. Here was no one of the imaginary creatures that had risen before his mind during the stillness of the night. Even the pale dreamer in black and blue beads was gone. He found before him (as far as he could make out) a quiet, bright-faced, self-possessed girl, clad in a light and cool costume of white, with bits of black velvet about it; and her white gloves and sunshade, and the white silver chain round her slender waist, were important features in the picture she presented. How could this eager student of character get rid of the distressing trivialities? All night long he had been dreaming of beautiful sentiments and conflicting emotions: now his first thought was that he had never seen any costume so delightfully cool, and clear, and summer-like. To look at her was to think of a mountain spring, icy cold even in the sunshine.

"I always come early," said she, in the most matter-of-fact way. "I cannot bear hurry in catching a train."

Of course not. How could any one associate rattling cabs, and excited porters, and frantic mobs with this serene creature, who seemed to have been wafted to Charing Cross on a cloud? And if he had had his will, there would have been no special train to disturb her repose. She would have embarked in a noble barge, and lain upon couches of swans-down, and ample awnings of silk would have sheltered her from the sun, while the beautiful craft floated away down the river, its crimson hangings here and there just touching the rippling waters.

"Ought we to take tickets?"

That was what she actually said; but what those eloquent, innocent eyes seemed to say was, "Can you read what we have to tell you? Don't you know what a simple and confiding soul appeals to you?—clear as the daylight in its truth. Cannot you look through us and see the trusting, tender soul within?"

"Perhaps we had better wait for Colonel Ross," said he; and there was a little pronoun in this sentence that he would like to have repeated. It was a friendly word. It established a sort of secret companionship. It is the proud privilege of a man to know all about railway tickets; but he rather preferred this association with her helpless innocence and ignorance.

"I had no idea you were coming to-day. I rather like those surprise parties. Mrs. Ross never thought of going until last evening, she says. Oh, by the way, I saw you in the theatre last evening."

He almost started. He had quite forgotten that this self-possessed, clear-eyed, pale girl was the madcap coquette whose caprices and griefs had alternately fascinated and moved him on the previous evening.

"Oh indeed," he stammered. "It was a great pleasure to me—and a surprise. Lieutenant Ogilvie played a trick on me. He did not tell me before we went that—that you were to appear."

She looked amused.

"You did not know, then, when we met at Mrs. Ross's that I was engaged at the Piccadilly Theatre?"

"Not in the least," he said, earnestly, as if he wished her distinctly to understand that he could not have imagined such a thing to be possible.

"You should have let me send you a box. We have another piece in rehearsal. Perhaps you will come to see that."

Now if these few sentences, uttered by those two young people in the noisy railway station, be taken by themselves and regarded, they will be found to consist of the dullest commonplace. No two strangers in all that crowd could have addressed each other in a more indifferent fashion. But the trivial nothings which the mouth utters may become possessed of awful import when accompanied by the language of the eyes; and the poor commonplace sentences may be taken up and translated so that they shall stand written across the memory in letters of flashing sunlight and the colors of June. "Ought we to take tickets?" There was not much poetry in the phrase but she lifted her eyes just then.

And now Colonel Ross and his wife appeared, accompanied by the only other friend they could get at such short notice to join this scratch party—a demure little old lady who had a very large house on Campden Hill which everybody coveted. They were just in time to get comfortably seated in the spacious saloon carriage that had been reserved for them. The train slowly glided out of the station, and then began to rattle away from the midst of London. Glimpses of a keener blue began to appear. The gardens were green with the foliage of the early summer; martins swept across the still pools, a spot of white when they got into the shadow. And Miss White would have as many windows open as possible, so that the sweet June air swept right through the long carriage.

And was she not a very child in her enjoyment of this sudden escape into the country? The rapid motion, the silvery light, the sweet air, the glimpses of orchards, and farm-houses, and millstreams—all were a delight to her; and although she talked in a delicate, half-reserved, shy way with that low voice of hers, still there was plenty of vivacity and gladness in her eyes. They drove from Gravesend station to the river-side. They passed through the crowd waiting to see the yachts start. They got on board the steamer; and at the very instant that Macleod stepped from the gangway on to the deck, the military band on board, by some strange coincidence, struck up "A Highland lad my love was born." Mrs. Ross laughed, and wondered whether the band-master had recognized her husband.

And now they turned to the river; and there were the narrow and shapely cutters, with their tall spars, and their pennons fluttering in the sunlight. They lay in two tiers across the river, four in each tier, the first row consisting of small forty-tonners, the more stately craft behind. A brisk northeasterly wind was blowing, causing the bosom of the river to flash in ripples of light. Boats of every size and shape moved up and down and across the stream. The sudden firing of a gun caused some movement among the red-capped mariners of the four yachts in front.

"They are standing by the main halyards," said Colonel Ross to his women-folk. "Now watch for the next signal."

Another gun was fired; and all of a sudden there was a rattling of blocks and chains, and the four mainsails slowly rose, and the flapping jibs were run out. The bows drifted round: which would get way on her first? But now there was a wild uproar of voices. The boom end of one of the yachts had caught one of the stays of her companion, and both were brought up head to wind. Cutter No. 3 took advantage of the mishap to sail through the lee of both her enemies, and got clear away, with the sunlight shining full on her bellying canvas. But there was no time to watch the further adventures of the forty-tonners. Here and closer at hand were the larger craft, and high up in the rigging were the mites of men, ready to drop into the air, clinging on to the halyards. The gun is fired. Down they come, swinging in the air; and the moment they have reached the deck they are off and up the ratlines again, again to drop into the air until the gaff is high hoisted, the peak swinging this way and that, and the gray folds of the mainsail lazily flapping in the wind. The steamer begins to roar. The yachts fall away from their moorings, and one by one the sails fill out to the fresh breeze. And now all is silence and an easy gliding motion, for the eight competitors have all started away, and the steamer is smoothly following them.

"How beautiful they are!—like splendid swans," Miss White said: she had a glass in her hand, but did not use it, for as yet the stately fleet was near enough.

"A swan has a body," said Macleod. "These things seem to me to be all wings. It is all canvas, and no hull."

And, indeed, when the large top-sails and big jibs came to be set, it certainly seemed as if there was nothing below to steady this vast extent of canvas. Macleod was astonished. He could not believe that people were so reckless as to go out in boats like that.

"If they were up in our part of the world," said he, "a puff of wind from the Gribun Cliffs would send the whole fleet to the bottom."

"They know better than to try," Colonel Ross said, "Those yachts are admirably suited for the Thames; and Thames yachting is a very nice thing. It is very close to London. You can take a day's fresh air when you like, without going all the way to Cowes. You can get back to town in time to dine."

"I hope so," said Miss White, with emphasis.

"Oh, you need not be afraid," her host said, laughing. "They only go round the Nore; and with this steady breeze they ought to be back early in the afternoon. My dear Miss White, we sha'n't allow you to disappoint the British public."

"So I may abandon myself to complete idleness without concern?"

"Most certainly."

And it was an enjoyable sort of idleness. The river was full of life and animation as they glided along; fitful shadows and bursts of sunshine crossed the foliage and pasture-lands of the flat shores; the yellow surface of the stream was broken with gleams of silver; and always, when this somewhat tame, and peaceful, and pretty landscape tended to become monotonous, they had on this side or that the spectacle of one of those tall and beautiful yachts rounding on a new tack or creeping steadily up on one of her opponents. They had a sweepstakes, of course, and Macleod drew the favorite. But then he proceeded to explain to Miss White that the handicapping by means of time allowances made the choice of a favorite a mere matter of guesswork; that the fouling at the start was of but little moment: and that on the whole she ought to exchange yachts with him.

"But if the chances are all equal, why should your yacht be better than mine?" said she.

The argument was unanswerable; but she took the favorite for all that, because he wished her to do so; and she tendered him in return the bit of folded paper with the name of a rival yacht on it. It had been in her purse for a minute or two. It was scented when she handed it to him.

"I should like to go to the Mediterranean in one of those beautiful yachts," she said, looking away across the troubled waters, "and lie and dream under the blue skies. I should want no other occupation than that: that would be real idleness, with a breath of wind now and then to temper the heat; and an awning over the deck; and a lot of books. Life would go by like a dream."

Her eyes were distant and pensive. To fold the bits of paper, she had taken off her gloves: he regarded the small white hands, with the blue veins and the pink, almond-shaped nails. She was right. That was the proper sort of existence for one so fine and pale, and perfect even to the finger-tips. Rose Leaf—Rose Leaf—what faint wind will carry you away to the south?

At this moment the band struck up a lively air. What was it?

"O this is no my ain lassie, Fair though the lassie be."

"You are in great favor, to-day, Hugh," Mrs. Ross said to her husband. "You will have to ask the band-master to lunch with us."

But this sharp alternative of a well-known air had sent Macleod's thoughts flying away northward, to scenes far different from these flat shores, and to a sort of boating very different from this summer sailing. Janet, too: what was she thinking of—far away in Castle Dare? Of the wild morning on which she insisted on crossing to one of the Freshnist islands, because of the sick child of a shepherd there; and of the open herring smack, and she sitting on the ballast stones; and of the fierce gale of wind and rain that hid the island from their sight; and of her landing, drenched to the skin, and with the salt-water running from her hair and down her face?

"Now for lunch," said Colonel Ross; and they went below.

The bright little saloon was decorated with flowers; the colored glass on the table looked pretty enough; here was a pleasant break in the monotony of the day. It was an occasion, too, for assiduous helpfulness, and gentle inquiries, and patient attention. They forgot about the various chances of the yachts. They could not at once have remembered the name of the favorite. And there was a good deal of laughter and pleasant chatting, while the band overhead—heard through the open skylight—still played,

"O this is no my ain lassie, Kind though the lassie be."

And behold! when they went up on deck again they had got ahead of all the yachts, and were past the forts at the mouth of the Medway, and were out on an open space of yellowish-green water that showed where the tide of the sea met the current of the river. And away down there in the south, a long spur of land ran out at the horizon, and the sea immediately under was still and glassy, so that the neck of land seemed projected into the sky—a sort of gigantic razor-fish suspended in the silvery clouds. Then, to give the yachts time to overtake them, they steamed over to a mighty ironclad that lay at anchor there; and as they came near her vast black bulk they lowered their flag, and the band played "Rule, Britannia." The salute was returned; the officer on the high quarterdeck raised his cap; they steamed on.

In due course of time they reached the Nore lightship, and there they lay and drifted about until the yachts should come up. Long distances now separated that summer fleet; but as they came along, lying well over before the brisk breeze, it was obvious that the spaces of time between the combatants Would not be great. And is not this Miss White's vessel, the favorite in the betting, that comes sheering through the water, with white foam at her bows? Surely she is more than her time allowance ahead? And on this tack will she get clear round the ruddy little lightship, or is there not a danger of her carrying off a bowsprit? With what an ease and majesty she comes along, scarcely dipping to the slight summer waves, while they on board notice that she has put out her long spinnaker boom, ready to hoist a great ballooner as soon as she is round the lightship and running home before the wind. The speed at which she cuts the water is now visible enough as she obscures for a second or so the hull of the lightship. In another second she has sheered round; and then the great spinnaker bulges out with the breeze, and away she goes up the river again. Chronometers are in request. It is only a matter of fifty seconds that the nearest rival, now coming sweeping along, has to make up. But what is this that happens just as the enemy has got round the Nore? There is a cry of "Man overboard!" The spinnaker boom has caught the careless skipper and pitched him clean into the plashing waters, where he floats about, not as yet certain, probably, what course his vessel will take. She at once brings her head up to wind and puts about; but meanwhile a small boat from the lightship has picked up the unhappy skipper, and is now pulling hard to strike the course of the yacht on her new tack. In another minute or two he is on board again; and away she goes for home.

"I think you have won the sweepstakes, Miss White," Macleod said. "Your enemy has lost eight minutes."

She was not thinking of sweepstakes. She seemed to have been greatly frightened by the accident.

"It would have been so dreadful to see a man drowned before your eyes—in the midst of a mere holiday excursion."

"Drowned?" he cried. "There? If a sailor lets himself get drowned in this water, with all these boats about, he deserves it."

"But there are many sailors who cannot swim at all."

"More shame for them," said he.

"Why, Sir Keith," said Mrs. Ross, laughing, "do you think that all people have been brought up to an amphibious life like yourself? I suppose in your country, what with the rain and the mist, you seldom know whether you are on sea or shore."

"That is quite true," said he, gravely. "And the children are all born with fins. And we can hear the mermaids singing all day long. And when we want to go anywhere, we get on the back of a dolphin."

But he looked at Gertrude White. What would she say about that far land that she had shown such a deep interest in? There was no raillery at all in her low voice as she spoke.

"I can very well understand," she said, "how the people there fancied they heard the mermaids singing—amidst so much mystery, and with the awfulness of the sea around them."

"But we have had living singers," said Macleod, "and that among the Macleods, too. The most famous of all the song-writers of the Western Highlands was Mary Macleod, that was born in Harris—Mairi Nighean Alasdair ruaidh, they called her, that is, Mary, the daughter of Red Alister. Macleod of Dunvegan, he wished her not to make any more songs; but she could not cease the making of songs. And there was another Macleod—Fionaghal, they called her, that is the Fair Stranger. I do not know why they called her the Fair Stranger—perhaps she came to the Highlands from some distant place. And I think if you were going among the people there at this very day, they would call you the Fair Stranger."

He spoke quite naturally and thoughtlessly: his eyes met hers only for a second; he did not notice the soft touch of pink that suffused the delicately tinted cheek.

"What did you say was the name of that mysterious stranger?" asked Mrs. Ross—"that poetess from unknown lands?"

"Fionaghal," he answered.

She turned to her husband.

"Hugh," she said, "let me introduce you to our mysterious guest. This is Fionaghal—this is the Fair Stranger from the islands—this is the poetess whose melodies the mermaids have picked up. If she only had a harp, now—with sea-weed hanging from it—and an oval mirror—"

The booming of a gun told them that the last yacht had rounded the lightship. The band struck up a lively air, and presently the steamer was steaming off in the wake of the procession of yachts. There was now no more fear that Miss White should be late. The breeze had kept up well, and had now shifted a point to the east, so that the yachts, with their great ballooners, were running pretty well before the wind. The lazy abandonment of the day became more complete than ever. Careless talk and laughter; an easy curiosity about the fortunes of the race; tea in the saloon, with the making up of two bouquets of white roses, sweet-peas, fuchias, and ferns—the day passed lightly and swiftly enough. It was a summer day, full of pretty trifles. Macleod, surrendering to the fascination, began to wonder what life would be if it were all a show of June colors and a sound of dreamy music: for one thing, he could not imagine this sensitive, beautiful, pale, fine creature otherwise than as surrounded by an atmosphere of delicate attentions and pretty speeches, and sweet, low laughter.

They got into their special train again at Gravesend, and were whirled up to London. At Charing Cross he bade good-bye to Miss White, who was driven off by Mr. and Mrs. Ross along with their other guest. In the light of the clear June evening he walked rather absently up to his rooms.

There was a letter lying on the table. He seized it and opened it with gladness. It was from his cousin Janet, and the mere sight of it seemed to revive him like a gust of keen wind from the sea. What had she to say? About the grumbling of Donald, who seemed to have no more pride in his pipes, now the master was gone? About the anxiety of his mother over the reports of the keepers? About the upsetting of a dog-cart on the road to Lochbuy? He had half resolved to go to the theatre again that evening—getting, if possible, into some corner where he might pursue his profound pyschological investigations unseen—but now he thought he would not go. He would spend the evening in writing a long letter to his cousin, telling her and the mother about all the beautiful, fine, gay, summer life he had seen in London—so different from anything they could have seen in Fort William, or Inverness, or even in Edinburgh. After dinner he sat down to this agreeable task. What had he to write about except brilliant rooms, and beautiful flowers, and costumes such as would have made Janet's eyes wide—of all the delicate luxuries of life, and happy idleness, and the careless enjoyment of people whose only thought was about a new pleasure? He gave a minute description of all the places he had been to see—except the theatre. He mentioned the names of the people who had been kind to him; but he said nothing about Gertrude White.

Not that she was altogether absent from his thoughts. Sometimes his fancy fled away from the sheet of paper before him, and saw strange things. Was this Fionaghal the Fair Stranger—this maiden who had come over the seas to the dark shores of the isles—this king's daughter clad in white, with her yellow hair down to her waist and bands of gold on her wrists? And what does she sing to the lashing waves but songs of high courage, and triumph, and welcome to her brave lover coming home with plunder through the battling seas? Her lips are parted with her singing, but her glance is bold and keen: she has the spirit of a king's daughter, let her come from whence she may.

Or is Fionaghal the Fair Stranger this poorly dressed lass who boils the potatoes over the rude peat fire, and croons her songs of suffering and of the cruel drowning in the seas, so that from hut to hut they carry her songs, and the old wives' tears start afresh to think of their brave sons lost years and years ago?

Neither Fionaghal is she—this beautiful, pale woman, with her sweet, modern English speech, and her delicate, sensitive ways, and her hand that might be crushed like a rose leaf. There is a shimmer of summer around her; flowers lie in her lap; tender observances encompass and shelter her. Not for her the biting winds of the northern seas; but rather the soft luxurious idleness of placid waters, and blue skies, and shadowy shores ... Rose Leaf! Rose Leaf! what faint wind will carry you away to the south?



CHAPTER VII.

THE DUCHESS OF DEVONSHIRE.

Late one night a carefully dressed elderly gentleman applied his latch-key to the door of a house in Bury Street, St. James's, and was about to enter without any great circumspection, when he was suddenly met by a white phantom, which threw him off his legs, and dashed outward into the street. The language that the elderly gentleman used, as he picked himself up, need not be repeated here. Suffice it to say that the white phantom was the dog Oscar, who had been shut in a minute before by his master, and who now, after one or two preliminary dashes up and down the street, very soon perceived the tall figure of Macleod, and made joyfully after him. But Oscar knew that he had acted wrongly, and was ashamed to show himself; so he quietly slunk along at his master's heels. The consequence of this was that the few loiterers about beheld the very unusual spectacle of a tall young gentleman walking down Bury Street and into King Street, dressed in full Highland costume, and followed by a white-and-lemon collie. No other person going to the Caledonian fancy-dress ball was so attended.

Macleod made his way through the carriages, crossed the Pavement, and entered the passage. Then he heard some scuffling behind, and he turned.

"Let alone my dog, you fellow!" said he, making a step forward, for the man had got hold of Oscar by the head, and was hauling him out.

"Is it your dog, sir?" said he.

Oscar himself answered by wrestling himself free and taking refuge by his master's legs, though he still looked guilty.

"Yes, he is my dog; and a nice fix he has got me into," said Macleod, standing aside to let the Empress Maria Theresa pass by in her resplendent costume. "I suppose I must walk home with him again. Oscar, Oscar, how dare you?"

"If you please, sir," said a juvenile voice behind him, "if Mr. —— will let me, I will take the dog. I know where to tie him up."

Macleod turned.

"Co an so?" said he, looking down at the chubby-faced boy in the kilts, who had his pipes under his arm. "Don't you know the Gaelic?"

"I am only learning," said the young musician. "Will I take the dog, sir?"

"March along, then, Phiobaire bhig!" Macleod said. "He will follow me, if he will not follow you."

Little Piper turned aside into a large hall which had been transformed into a sort of waiting-room; and here Macleod found himself in the presence of a considerable number of children, half of them girls, half of them boys, all dressed in tartan, and seated on the forms along the walls. The children, who were half asleep at this time of the night, woke up with sudden interest at sight of the beautiful collie; and at the same moment Little Piper explained to the gentleman who was in charge of these young ones that the dog had to be tied up somewhere, and that a small adjoining room would answer that purpose. The proposal was most courteously entertained. Macleod, Mr. ——, and Little Piper walked along to this side room, and there Oscar was properly secured.

"And I will get him some water, sir, if he wants it," said the boy in the kilts.

"Very well," Macleod said. "And I will give you my thanks for it; for that is all that a Highlander, and especially a piper, expects for a kindness. And I hope you will learn the Gaelic soon, my boy. And do you know 'Cumhadh na Cloinne?' No, it is too difficult for you; but I think if I had the chanter between my fingers myself, I could let you hear 'Cumhadh na Cloinne.'"

"I am sure John Maclean can play it," said the small piper.

"Who is he?"

The gentleman in charge of the youngsters explained that John Maclean was the eldest of the juvenile pipers, five others of whom were in attendance.

"I think," said Macleod, "that I am coming down in a little time to make the acquaintance of your young pipers, if you will let me."

He passed up the broad staircase and into the empty supper-room, from which a number of entrances showed him the strange scene being enacted in the larger hall. Who were these people who were moving to the sound of rapid music? A clown in a silken dress of many colors, with bells to his cap and wrists, stood at one of the doors. Macleod became his fellow-spectator of what was going forward. A beautiful Tyrolienne, in a dress of black, silver, and velvet, with her yellow hair hanging in two plaits down her back, passed into the room, accompanied by Charles the First in a large wig and cloak; and the next moment they were whirling along in the waltz, coming into innumerable collisions with all the celebrated folk who ever lived in history. And who were these gentlemen in the scarlet collars and cuffs, who but for these adornments would have been in ordinary evening dress? he made bold to ask the friendly clown, who was staring in a pensive manner at the rushing couples.

"They call it the Windsor uniform," said the clown. "I think it mean. I sha'n't come in a fancy dress again, if stitching on a red collar will do."

At this moment the waltz came to an end, and the people began to walk up and down the spacious apartment. Macleod entered the throng to look about him. And soon he perceived, in one of the little stands at the side of the hall, the noble lady who had asked him to go to this assembly, and forthwith he made his way through the crowd to her. He was most graciously received.

"Shall I tell you a secret, Lady ——?" said he. "You know the children belonging to the charity; they are all below, and they are sitting doing nothing, and they are all very tired and half asleep. It is a shame to keep them there—"

"But the Prince hasn't come yet; and they must be marched round: they show that we are not making fools of ourselves for nothing."

A sharper person than Macleod might have got in a pretty compliment here: for this lady was charmingly dressed as Flora Macdonald; but he merely said:—

"Very well; perhaps it is necessary. But I think I can get them some amusement, if you will only keep the director of them, that is, Mr. ——, out of the way. Now shall I send him to you? Will you talk to him?"

"What do you mean to do?"

"I want to give them a dance. Why should you have all the dancing up here?"

"Mind, I am not responsible. What shall I talk to him about?"

Macleod considered for a moment.

"Tell him that I will take the whole of the girls and boys to the Crystal Palace for a day, if it is permissable; and ask him what it will cost, and all about the arrangements."

"Seriously?"

"Yes. Why not? They can have a fine run in the grounds, and six pipers to play for them. I will ask them now whether they will go."

He left and went downstairs. He had seen but few people in the hall above whom he knew. He was not fond of dancing, though he knew the elaborate variations of the reel. And here was a bit of practical amusement.

"Oh, Mr. ——," said he, with great seriousness, "I am desired by Lady —— to say that she would like to see you for a moment or two. She wishes to ask you some questions about your young people."

"The Prince may come at any moment," said Mr. —— doubtfully.

"He won't be in such a hurry as all that, surely."

So the worthy man went upstairs; and the moment he was gone Macleod shut the door.

"Now, you piper boys!" he called aloud, "get up and play us a reel. We are going to have a dance. You are all asleep, I believe. Come, girls stand up. You that know the reel, you will keep to this end. Boys, come out. You that can dance a reel, come to this end; the others will soon pick it up. Now, piper boys, have you got the steam up? What can you give us, now? 'Monymusk?' or the 'Marquis of Huntley's Fling?' or 'Miss Johnston?' Nay, stay a bit. Don't you know 'Mrs. Macleod of Raasay?'"

"Yes," "Yes," "Yes," "Yes," "Yes," "Yes," came from the six pipers, all standing in a row, with the drones over their shoulders and the chanters in their fingers.

"Very well, then—off you go! Now, boys and girls, are all ready? Pipers, 'Mrs. Macleod of Raasay!'"

For a second there was a confused roaring on the long drones; then the shrill chanters broke clear away into the wild reel; and presently the boys and girls, who were at first laughingly shy and embarrassed, began to make such imitations of the reel figure, which they had seen often enough, as led to a vast amount of scrambling and jollity, if it was not particularly accurate. The most timid of the young ones soon picked up courage. Here and there one of the older boys gave a whoop that would have done justice to a wedding dance in a Highland barn.

"Put your lungs into it, pipers!" Macleod cried out, "Well played, boys! You are fit to play before a prince?"

The round cheeks of the boys were red with their blowing; they tapped their toes on the ground as proudly as if every one of them was a MacCruimin; the wild noise in this big, empty hall grew more furious than ever—when suddenly there was an awful silence. The pipers whipped the chanters from their mouths; the children, suddenly stopping in their merriment, cast one awestruck glance at the door, and then slunk back to their seats. They had observed not only Mr. ——, but also the Prince himself. Macleod was left standing alone in the middle of the floor.

"Sir Keith Macleod?" said his Royal Highness, with a smile.

Macleod bowed low.

"Lady —— told me what you were about. I thought we could have had a peep unobserved, or we should not have broken in on the romp of the children."

"I think your Royal Highness could make amends for that," said Macleod.

There was an inquiring glance.

"If your Royal Highness would ask some one to see that each of the children has an orange, and a tart, and a shilling, it would be some compensation to them for being kept up so late."

"I think that might be done," said the Prince, as he turned to leave. "And I am glad to have made your acquaintance, although in—"

"In the character of a dancing-master," said Macleod, gravely.

After having once more visited Oscar, in the company of Phiobaire bhig, Macleod went up again to the brilliantly lit hall; and here he found that a further number of his friends had arrived. Among them was young Ogilvie, in the tartan of the Ninety-third Highlanders; and very smart indeed the boy-officer looked in his uniform. Mrs. Ross was here too and she was busy in assisting to get up the Highland quadrille. When she asked Macleod if he would join in it, he answered by asking her to be his partner, as he would be ashamed to display his ignorance before an absolute stranger. Mrs. Ross most kindly undertook to pilot him through the not elaborate intricacies of the dance; and they were fortunate in having the set made up entirely of their own friends.

Then the procession of the children took place; and the fantastically dressed crowd formed a lane to let the homely-clad lads and lasses pass along, with the six small pipers proudly playing a march at their head.

He stopped the last of the children for a second.

"Have you got a tart, and an orange, and a shilling?"

"No, sir."

"I have got the word of a prince for it," he said to himself, as he went out of the room; "and they shall not go home with empty pockets."

As he was coming up the staircase again to the ball-room he was preceded by two figures that were calculated to attract any one's notice by the picturesqueness of their costume. The one stranger was apparently an old man, who was dressed in a Florentine costume of the fourteenth century—a cloak of sombre red, with a flat cap of black velvet, one long tail of which was thrown over the left shoulder and hung down behind. A silver collar hung from his neck across his breast: other ornament there was none. His companion, however, drew all eyes toward her as the two passed into the ball-room. She was dressed in imitation of Gainsborough's portrait of the Duchess of Devonshire; and her symmetrical figure and well-poised head admirably suited the long trained costume of blue satin, with its fichu of white muslin, the bold coquettish hat and feathers, and the powdered puffs and curls that descended to her shoulders. She had a gay air with her, too. She bore her head proudly. The patches on her cheek seemed not half so black as the blackness of her eyes, so full of a dark mischievous light were they; and the redness of the lips—a trifle artificial, no doubt—as she smiled seemed to add to the glittering whiteness of her teeth. The proud, laughing, gay coquette: no wonder all eyes were for a moment turned to her, in envy or in admiration.

Macleod, following these two, and finding that his old companion, the pensive clown in cap and bells, was still at his post of observation at the door, remained there also for a minute or two, and noticed that among the first to recognize the two strangers was young Ogilvie, who with laughing surprise in his face, came forward to shake hands with them. Then there was some further speech; the band began to play a gentle and melodious waltz; the middle of the room cleared somewhat; and presently her Grace of Devonshire was whirled away by the young Highland officer, her broad-brimmed hat rather overshadowing him, notwithstanding the pronounced colors of his plaid. Macleod could not help following this couple with his eyes whithersoever they went. In any part of the rapidly moving crowd he could always make out that one figure; and once or twice as they passed him it seemed to him that the brilliant beauty, with her powdered hair, and her flashing bright eyes, and her merry lips, regarded him for an instant; and then he could have imagined that in a by-gone century—

"Sir Keith Macleod, I think?"

The old gentleman with the grave and scholarly cap of black velvet and the long cloak of sober red held out his hand. The folds of the velvet hanging down from the cap rather shadowed his face; but all the same Macleod instantly recognized him—fixing the recognition by means of the gold spectacles.

"Mr. White?" said he.

"I am more disguised than you are," the old gentleman said, with a smile. "It is a foolish notion of my daughter's; but she would have me come."

His daughter! Macleod turned in a bewildered way to that gay crowd under the brilliant lights.

"Was that Miss White?" said he.

"The Duchess of Devonshire. Didn't you recognize her? I am afraid she will be very tired to-morrow; but she would come."

He caught sight of her again—that woman, with the dark eyes full of fire, and the dashing air, and the audacious smile! He could have believed this old man to be mad. Or was he only the father of a witch, of an illusive ignis fatuus, of some mocking Ariel darting into a dozen shapes to make fools of the poor simple souls of earth?

"No," he stammered, "I—I did not recognize her. I thought the lady who came with you had intensely dark eyes."

"She is said to be very clever in making up," her father said, coolly and sententiously. "It is a part of her art that is not to be despised. It is quite as important as a gesture or a tone of voice in creating the illusion at which she aims. I do not know whether actresses, as a rule, are careless about it, or only clumsy; but they rarely succeed in making their appearance homogeneous. A trifle too much here, a trifle too little there, and the illusion is spoiled. Then you see a painted woman—not the character she is presenting. Did you observe my daughter's eyebrows?"

"No, sir, I did not," said Macleod, humbly.

"Here she comes. Look at them."

But how could he look at her eyebrows, or at any trick of making up, when the whole face, with its new excitement of color, its parted lips and lambent eyes, was throwing its fascination upon him? She came forward laughing, and yet with a certain shyness. He would fain have turned away.

The Highlanders are superstitious. Did he fear being bewitched? Or what was it that threw a certain coldness over his manner? The fact of her having danced with young Ogilvie? Or the ugly reference made by her father to her eyebrows? He had greatly admired this painted stranger when he thought she was a stranger; he seemed less to admire the artistic make-up of Miss Gertrude White.

The merry Duchess, playing her part admirably, charmed all eyes but his; and yet she was so kind as to devote herself to her father and him, refusing invitations to dance, and chatting to them—with those brilliant lips smiling—about the various features of the gay scene before them. Macleod avoided looking at her face.

"What a bonny boy your friend Mr. Ogilvie is!" said she, glancing across the room.

He did not answer.

"But he does not look much of a soldier," she continued. "I don't think I should be afraid of him if I were a man."

He answered, somewhat distantly:—

"It is not safe to judge that way, especially of any one of Highland blood. If there is fighting in his blood, he will fight when the proper time comes. And we have a good Gaelic saying—it has a great deal of meaning in it, that saying—'You do not know what sword is in the scabbard until it is drawn.'"

"What did you say was the proverb?" she asked; and for second her eyes met his; but she immediately withdrew them startled by the cold austerity of his look.

"'You do not know what sword is in the scabbard until it is drawn,'" said he, carelessly. "There is a good deal of meaning in it."



CHAPTER VIII.

LAUREL COTTAGE.

A small, quaint, old-fashioned house in South Bank, Regent's Park; two maidens in white in the open veranda; around them the abundant foliage of June, unruffled by any breeze; and down at the foot of the steep garden the still canal, its surface mirroring the soft translucent greens of the trees and bushes above, and the gaudier colors of a barge lying moored on the northern side. The elder of the two girls is seated in a rocking-chair; she appears to have been reading, for her right hand, hanging down, still holds a thin MS. book covered with coarse brown paper. The younger is lying at her feet, with her head thrown back in her sister's lap, and her face turned up to the clear June skies. There are some roses about this veranda, and the still air is sweet with them.

"And of all the parts you ever played in," she says, "which one did you like the best Gerty?"

"This one," is the gentle answer.

"What one?"

"Being at home with you and papa, and having no bother at all, and nothing to think of."

"I don't believe it," says the other, with the brutal frankness of thirteen. "You couldn't live without the theatre, Gerty—and the newspapers talking about you—and people praising you—and bouquets—"

"Couldn't I?" says Miss White, with a smile, as she gently lays her hand on her sister's curls.

"No," continues the wise young lady. "And besides, this pretty, quiet life would not last. You would have to give up playing that part. Papa is getting very old now; and he often talks about what may happen to us. And you know, Gerty, that though it is very nice for sisters to say they will never and never leave each other, it doesn't come off, does it? There is only one thing I see for you—and that is to get married."

"Indeed!"

It is easy to fence with a child's prattle. She might have amused herself by encouraging this chatterbox to go through the list of their acquaintances, and pick out a goodly choice of suitors. She might have encouraged her to give expression to her profound views of the chances and troubles of life, and the safeguards that timid maidens may seek. But she suddenly said, in a highly matter-of-fact manner:—

"What you say is quite true, Carry, and I've thought of it several times. It is a very bad thing for an actress to be left without a father or husband, or brother, as her ostensible guardian. People are always glad to hear stories—and to make them—about actresses. You would be no good at all, Carry—"

"Very well, then," the younger sister said, promptly, "you've got to get married. And to a rich man, too; who will buy you a theatre, and let you do what you like in it."

Miss Gertrude White, whatever she may have thought of this speech, was bound to rebuke the shockingly mercenary ring in it.

"For shame, Carry! Do you think people marry from such motives as that?"

"I don't know," said Carry; but she had, at least, guessed.

"I should like my husband to have money, certainly," Miss White said, frankly; and here she flung the MS. book from her on to a neighboring chair. "I should like to be able to refuse parts that did not suit me. I should like to be able to take just such engagements as I chose. I should like to go to Paris for a whole year, and study hard—"

"Your husband might not wish you to remain an actress," said Miss Carry.

"Then he would never be my husband," the elder sister said, with decision. "I have not worked hard for nothing. Just when I begin to think I can do something—when I think I can get beyond those coquettish, drawing-room, simpering parts that people run after now—just when the very name of Mrs. Siddons, or Rachael, or any of the great actresses makes my heart jump—when I have ambition and a fair chance, and all that—do you think I am to give the whole thing up, and sink quietly into the position of Mrs. Brown or Mrs. Smith, who is a very nice lady, no doubt, and very respectable, and lives a quiet and orderly life, with no greater excitement than scheming to get big people to go to her garden parties?"

She certainly seemed very clear on that point.

"I don't see that men are so ready to give up their professions, when they marry, in order to devote themselves to domestic life, even when they have plenty of money. Why should all the sacrifice be on the side of the woman? But I know if I have to choose between my art and a husband, I shall continue to do without a husband."

Miss Carry had risen, and put one arm round her sister's neck, while with the other she stroked the soft brown hair over the smooth forehead.

"And it shall not be taken away from its pretty theatre, it sha'n't!" said she, pettingly; "and it shall not be asked to go away with any great ugly Bluebeard, and be shut up in a lonely house—"

"Go away, Carry," said she, releasing herself. "I wonder why you began talking such nonsense. What do you know about all those things?"

"Oh! very well," said the child, turning away with a pout; and she pulled a rose and began to take its petals off, one by one, with her lips. "Perhaps I don't know. Perhaps I haven't studied your manoeuvres on the stage, Miss Gertrude White. Perhaps I never saw the newspapers declaring that it was all so very natural and life-like." She flung two or three rose petals at her sister. "I believe you're the biggest flirt that ever lived, Gerty. You could make any man you liked marry you in ten minutes."

"I wish I could manage to have certain schoolgirls whipped and sent to bed."

At this moment there appeared at the open French window an elderly woman of Flemish features and extraordinary breadth of bust.

"Shall I put dressing in the salad, miss?" she said, with scarcely any trace of foreign accent.

"Not yet, Marie," said Miss White. "I will make the dressing first. Bring me a large plate, and the cruet-stand, and a spoon and fork, and some salt."

Now when these things had been brought, and when Miss White had sat about preparing this salad dressing in a highly scientific manner, a strange thing occurred. Her sister seemed to have been attacked by a sudden fit of madness. She had caught up a light shawl, which she extended from hand to hand, as if she were dancing with some one, and then she proceeded to execute a slow waltz in this circumscribed space, humming the improvised music in a mystical and rhythmical manner. And what were these dark utterances that the inspired one gave forth, as she glanced from time to time at her sister and the plate?

"Oh, a Highland lad my love was born—and the Lowland laws he held in scorn—"

"Carry, don't make a fool of yourself!" said the other flushing angrily.

Carry flung her imaginary partner aside.

"There is no use making any pretence," said she, sharply. "You know quite well why you are making that salad dressing."

"Did you never see me make salad dressing before?" said the other, quite as sharply.

"You know it is simply because Sir Keith Macleod is coming to lunch. I forgot all about it. Oh, and that's why you had the clean curtains put up yesterday?"

What else had this precocious brain ferreted out?

"Yes, and that's why you bought papa a new necktie," continued the tormenter; and then she added, triumphantly, "But he hasn't put it on this morning, ha—Gerty?"

A calm and dignified silence is the best answer to the fiendishness of thirteen. Miss White went on with the making of the salad-dressing. She was considered very clever at it. Her father had taught her: but he never had the patience to carry out his own precepts. Besides, brute force is not wanted for the work: what you want is the self-denying assiduity and the dexterous light-handedness of a woman.

A smart young maid-servant, very trimly dressed, made her appearance.

"Sir Keith Macleod, miss," said she.

"Oh, Gerty, you're caught!" muttered the fiend.

But Miss White was equal to the occasion. The small white fingers plied the fork without a tremor.

"Ask him to step this way, please," she said.

And then the subtle imagination of this demon of thirteen jumped to another conclusion.

"Oh, Gerty, you want to show him that you are a good housekeeper—that you can make salad—"

But the imp was silenced by the appearance of Macleod himself. He looked tall as he came through the small drawing-room. When he came out onto the balcony the languid air of the place seemed to acquire a fresh and brisk vitality: he had a bright smile and a resonant voice.

"I have taken the liberty of bringing you a little present, Miss White—no, it is a large present—that reached me this morning," said he. "I want you to see one of our Highland salmon. He is a splendid fellow—twenty-six pounds four ounces, my landlady says. My cousin Janet sent him to me."

"Oh, but, Sir Keith, we cannot rob you," Miss White said, as she still demurely plied her fork. "If there is any special virtue in a Highland salmon, it will be best appreciated by yourself, rather than by those who don't know."

"The fact is," said he, "people are so kind to me that I scarcely ever am allowed to dine at my lodgings; and you know the salmon should be cooked at once."

Miss Carry had been making a face behind his back to annoy her sister. She now came forward and said, with a charming innocence in her eyes:—

"I don't think you can have it cooked for luncheon, Gerty, for that would look too much like bringing your tea in your pocket, and getting hot water for twopence. Wouldn't it?"

Macleod turned and regarded this new-comer with an unmistakable "Who is this?"—"Co an so?"—in his air.

"Oh, that is my sister Carry, Sir Keith," said Miss White. "I forgot you had not seen her."

"How do you do?" said he, in a kindly way; and for a second he put his hand on the light curls as her father might have done. "I suppose you like having holidays?"

From that moment she became his deadly enemy. To be patted on the head, as if she were a child, an infant—and that in the presence of the sister whom she had just been lecturing.

"Yes, thank you," said she, with a splendid dignity, as she proudly walked off. She went into the small lobby leading to the door. She called to the little maid-servant. She looked at a certain long bag made of matting which lay there, some bits of grass sticking out of one end. "Jane, take this thing down to the cellar at once! The whole house smells of it."

Meanwhile Miss White had carried her salad dressing in to Marie, and had gone out again to the veranda where Macleod was seated. He was charmed with the dreamy stillness and silence of the place, with the hanging foliage all around, and the colors in the steep gardens, and the still waters below.

"I don't see how it is," said he, "but you seem to have much more open houses here than we have. Our houses in the North look cold, and hard, and bare. We should laugh if we saw a place like this up with us; it seems to me a sort of a toy place out of a picture—from Switzerland or some such country. Here you are in the open air, with your own little world around you, and nobody to see you; you might live all your life here, and know nothing about the storm crossing the Atlantic, and the wars in Europe, if only you gave up the newspapers."

"Yes, it is very pretty and quiet," said she, and the small fingers pulled to pieces one of the rose leaves that Carry had thrown at her. "But you know one is never satisfied anywhere. If I were to tell you the longing I have to see the very places you describe as being so desolate—But perhaps papa will take me there some day."

"I hope so," said he; "but I would not call them desolate. They are terrible at times, and they are lonely, and they make you think. But they are beautiful too, with a sort of splendid beauty and grandeur that goes very near making you miserable.... I cannot describe it. You will see for yourself."

Here a bell rang, and at the same moment Mr. White made his appearance.

"How do you do, Sir Keith? Luncheon is ready, my dear—luncheon is ready—luncheon is ready."

He kept muttering to himself as he led the way. They entered a small dining-room, and here, if Macleod had ever heard of actresses having little time to give to domestic affairs, he must have been struck by the exceeding neatness and brightness of everything on the table and around it. The snow-white cover; the brilliant glass and spoons; the carefully arranged, if tiny, bouquets; and the precision with which the smart little maiden-servant, the only attendant, waited—all these things showed a household well managed. Nay, this iced claret-cup—was it not of her own composition?—and a pleasanter beverage he had never drank.

But she seemed to pay little attention to these matters, for she kept glancing at her father, who, as he addressed Macleod from time to time, was obviously nervous and harassed about something. At last she said,—

"Papa, what is the matter with you? Has anything gone wrong this morning?"

"Oh, my dear child," said he, "don't speak of it. It is my memory—I fear my memory is going. But we will not trouble our guest about it. I think you were saying, Sir Keith, that you had seen the latest additions to the National Gallery—"

"But what is it, papa?" his daughter insisted.

"My dear, my dear, I know I have the lines somewhere; and Lord —— says that the very first jug fired at the new pottery he is helping shall have these lines on it, and be kept for himself. I know I have both the Spanish original and the English translation somewhere; and all the morning I have been hunting and hunting—for only one line. I think I know the other three,—

'Old wine to drink. Old wrongs let sink, * * * * Old friends in need.'

It is the third line that has escaped me—dear, dear me! I fear my brain is going."

"But I will hunt for it, papa," said she; "I will get the lines for you. Don't you trouble."

"No, no, no, child," said he, with somewhat of a pompous air. "You have this new character to study. You must not allow any trouble to disturb the serenity of your mind while you are so engaged. You must give your heart and soul to it, Gerty; you must forget yourself; you must abandon yourself to it, and let it grow up in your mind until the conception is so perfect that there are no traces of the manner of its production left."

He certainly was addressing his daughter, but somehow the formal phrases suggested that he was speaking for the benefit of the stranger. The prim old gentleman continued; "That is the only way. Art demands absolute self-forgetfulness. You must give yourself to it in complete surrender. People may not know the difference; but the true artist seeks only to be true to himself. You produce the perfect flower; they are not to know of the anxious care—of the agony of tears, perhaps you have spent on it. But then your whole mind must be given to it; there must be no distracting cares; I will look for the missing lines myself."

"I am quite sure, papa," said Miss Carry, spitefully, "that she was far more anxious about these cutlets than about her new part this morning. She was half a dozen times to the kitchen. I didn't see her reading the book much."

"The res angustae domi," said the father, sententiously, "sometimes interfere, where people are not too well off. But that is necessary. What is not necessary is that Gerty should take my troubles over to herself, and disturb her formation of this new character, which ought to be growing up in her mind almost insensibly, until she herself will scarcely be aware how real it is. When she steps on to the stage she ought to be no more Gertrude White than you or I. The artist loses himself. He transfers his soul to his creation. His heart beats in another breast; he sees with other eyes. You will excuse me, Sir Keith, but I keep insisting on this point to my daughter. If she ever becomes a great artist, that will be the secret of her success. And she ought never to cease from cultivating the habit. She ought to be ready at any moment to project herself, as it were, into any character. She ought to practise so as to make of her own emotions an instrument that she can use at will. It is a great demand that art makes on the life of an artist. In fact, he ceases to live for himself. He becomes merely a medium. His most secret experiences are the property of the world at large, once they have been transfused and moulded by his personal skill."

And so he continued talking, apparently for the instruction of his daughter, but also giving his guest clearly to understand that Miss Gertrude White was not as other women but rather as one set apart for the high and inexorable sacrifice demanded by art. At the end of his lecture he abruptly asked Macleod if he had followed him. Yes, he had followed him, but in rather a bewildered way. Or had he some confused sense of self-reproach, in that he had distracted the contemplation of this pale and beautiful artist, and sent her downstairs to look after cutlets?

"It seems a little hard, sir," said Macleod to the old man, "that an artist is not to have any life of his or her own at all; that he or she should become merely a—a—a sort of ten-minutes' emotionalist."

It was not a bad phrase for a rude Highlander to have invented on the spur of the moment. But the fact was that some little personal feeling stung him into the speech. He was prepared to resent this tyranny of art. And if he now were to see some beautiful pale slave bound in these iron chains, and being exhibited for the amusement of an idle world, what would the fierce blood of the Macleods say to that debasement? He began to dislike this old man, with his cruel theories and his oracular speech. But he forbore to have further or any argument with him; for he remembered what the Highlanders call "the advice of the bell of Scoon"—"The thing that concerns you not meddle not with."



CHAPTER IX.

THE PRINCESS RIGHINN.

The people who lived in this land of summer, and sunshine, and flowers—had they no cares at all? He went out into the garden with these two girls; and they were like two young fawns in their careless play. Miss Carry, indeed, seemed bent on tantalizing him by the manner in which she petted and teased and caressed her sister—scolding her, quarrelling with her, and kissing her all at once. The grave, gentle, forbearing manner in which the elder sister bore all this was beautiful to see. And then her sudden concern and pity when the wild Miss Carry had succeeded in scratching her finger with the thorn of a rose-bush! It was the tiniest of scratches: and all the blood that appeared was about the size of a pin-head. But Miss White must needs tear up her dainty little pocket-handkerchief, and bind that grievous wound, and condole with the poor victim as though she were suffering untold agonies. It was a pretty sort of idleness. It seemed to harmonize with this still, beautiful summer day, and the soft green foliage around, and the still air that was sweet with the scent of the flowers of the lime-trees. They say that the Gaelic word for the lower regions ifrin, is derived from i bhuirn, the island of incessant rain. To a Highlander, therefore must not this land of perpetual summer and sunshine have seemed to be heaven itself?

And even the malicious Carry relented for a moment.

"You said you were going to the Zoological Gardens," she said.

"Yes," he answered, "I am. I have seen everything I want to see in London but that."

"Because Gerty and I might walk across the Park with you, and show you the way."

"I very much wish you would," said he, "if you have nothing better to do."

"I will see if papa does not want me," said Miss White, calmly. She might just as well be walking in Regent's Park as in this small garden.

Presently the three of them set out.

"I am glad of any excuse," she said, with a smile, "for throwing aside that new part. It seems to me insufferably stupid. It is very hard that you should be expected to make a character look natural when the words you have to speak are such as no human being would use in any circumstance whatever."

Oddly enough, he never heard her make even the slightest reference to her profession without experiencing a sharp twinge of annoyance. He did not stay to ask himself why this should be so. Ordinarily he simply made haste to change the subject.

"Then why should you take the part at all?" said he, bluntly.

"Once you have given yourself up to a particular calling—you must accept its little annoyances," she said, frankly. "I cannot have everything my own way. I have been very fortunate in other respects. I never had to go through the drudgery of the provinces, though they say that is the best school possible for an actress. And I am sure the money and the care papa has spent on my training—you see, he had no son to send to college. I think he is far more anxious about my succeeding than I am myself."

"But you have succeeded," said Macleod. It was, indeed, the least he could say, with all his dislike of the subject.

"Oh, I do not call that success," said she, simply. "That is merely pleasing people by showing them little scenes from their own drawing-rooms transferred to the stage. They like it because it is pretty and familiar. And people pretend to be very cynical at present—they like things with 'no nonsense about them;' and I suppose this son of comedy is the natural reaction from the rant of the melodrama. Still, if you happen to be ambitious—or perhaps it is mere vanity?—if you would like to try what is in you—"

"Gerty wants to be a Mrs. Siddons: that's it," said Miss Carry, promptly.

Talking to an actress about her profession, and not having a word of compliment to say? Instead, he praised the noble elms and chestnuts of the Park, the broad white lake, the flowers, the avenues. He was greatly interested by the whizzing by overhead of a brace of duck.

"I suppose you are very fond of animals?" Miss White said.

"I am indeed," said he, suddenly brightening up. "And up at our place I give them all a chance. I don't allow a single weasel or hawk to be killed, though I have a great deal of trouble about it. But what is the result? I don't know whether there is such a thing as the balance of nature, or whether it is merely that the hawks and weasels and other vermin kill off the sickly birds: but I do know that we have less disease among our birds than I hear of anywhere else. I have sometimes shot a weasel, it is true, when I have run across him as he was hunting a rabbit—you cannot help doing that if you hear the rabbit squealing with fright long before the weasel is at him—but it is against my rule. I give them all a fair field and no favor. But there are two animals I put out of the list; I thought there was only one till this week—now there are two; and one of them I hate, the other I fear."

"Fear?" she said: the slight flash of surprise in her eyes was eloquent enough. But he did not notice it.

"Yes," said he, rather gloomily. "I suppose it is superstition, or you may have it in your blood; but the horror I have of the eyes of a snake—I cannot tell you of it. Perhaps I was frightened when I was a child—I cannot remember; or perhaps it was the stories of the old women. The serpent is very mysterious to the people in the Highlands: they have stories of watersnakes in the lochs: and if you get a nest of seven adders with one white one, you boil the white one, and the man who drinks the broth knows all things in heaven and earth. In the Lewis they call the serpent righinn, that is, 'a princess;' and they say that the serpent is a princess bewitched. But that is from fear—it is a compliment—"

"But surely there are no serpents to be afraid of in the Highlands?" said Miss White. She was looking rather curiously at him.

"No," said he, in the same gloomy way. "The adders run away from you if you are walking through the heather. If you tread on one, and he bites your boot, what then? He cannot hurt you. But suppose you are out after the deer, and you are crawling along the heather with your face to the ground, and all at once you see the two small eyes of an adder looking at you and close to you—"

He shuddered slightly—perhaps it was only an expression of disgust.

"I have heard," he continued, "that in parts of Islay they used to be so bad that the farmers would set fire to the heather in a circle, and as the heather burned in and in you could see the snakes and adders twisting and curling in a great ball. We have not many with us. But one day John Begg, that is the schoolmaster, went behind a rock to get a light for his pipe; and he put his head close to the rock to be out of the wind; and then he thought he stirred something with his cap; and the next moment the adder fell on to his shoulder, and bit him in the neck. He was half mad with the fright; but I think the adder must have bitten the cap first and expended its poison; for the schoolmaster was only ill for about two days, and then there was no more of it. But just think of it—an adder getting to your neck—"

"I would rather not think of it," she said, quickly. "What is the other animal—that you hate?"

"Oh!" he said, lightly, "that is a very different affair—that is a parrot that speaks. I was never shut up in the house with one till this week. My landlady's son brought her home one from the West Indies; and she put the cage in a window recess on my landing. At first it was a little amusing; but the constant yelp—it was too much for me. 'Pritty poal! pritty poal!' I did not mind so much; but when the ugly brute, with its beady eyes and its black snout, used to yelp, 'Come and kiz me! come and kiz me!' I grew to hate it. And in the morning, too, how was one to sleep? I used to open my door and fling a boot at it; but that only served for a time. It began again."

"But you speak of it as having been there. What became of it?"

He glanced at her rather nervously—like a schoolboy—and laughed.

"Shall I tell you?" he said, rather shamefacedly. "The murder will be out sooner or later. It was this morning. I could stand it no longer. I had thrown both my boots at it; it was no use. I got up a third time, and went out. The window, that looks into a back yard, was open. Then I opened the parrot's cage. But the fool of an animal did not know what I meant—or it was afraid—and so I caught him by the back of the neck and flung him out. I don't know anything more about him."

"Could he fly?" said the big-eyed Carry, who had been quite interested in this tragic tale.

"I don't know," Macleod said, modestly. "There was no use asking him. All he could say was, 'Come and kiz me;' and I got tired of that."

"Then you have murdered him!" said the elder sister in an awestricken voice; and she pretended to withdraw a bit from him. "I don't believe in the Macleods having become civilized, peaceable people. I believe they would have no hesitation in murdering any one that was in their way."

"Oh, Miss White," said he, in protest, "you must forget what I told you about the Macleods; and you must really believe they were no worse than the others of the same time. Now I was thinking of another story the other day, which I must tell you—"

"Oh, pray, don't," she said, "if it is one of those terrible legends—"

"But I must tell you," said he, "because it is about the Macdonalds; and I want to show you that we had not all the badness of those times. It was Donald Gorm Mor; and his nephew Hugh Macdonald, who was the heir to the chieftainship, he got a number of men to join him in a conspiracy to have his uncle murdered. The chief found it out, and forgave him. That was not like a Macleod," he admitted, "for I never heard of a Macleod of those days forgiving anybody. But again Hugh Macdonald engaged in a conspiracy; and then Donald Gorm Mor thought he would put an end to the nonsense. What did he do? He put his nephew into a deep and foul dungeon—so the story says—and left him without food or water for a whole day. Then there was salt beef lowered into the dungeon; and Macdonald he devoured the salt beef; for he was starving with hunger. Then they left him alone. But you can imagine the thirst of a man who has been eating salt beef, and who has had no water for a day or two. He was mad with thirst. Then they lowered a cup into the dungeon—you may imagine the eagerness with which the poor fellow saw it coming down to him—and how he caught it with both his hands. But it was empty! And so, having made a fool of him in that way, they left him to die of thirst That was the Macdonalds, Miss White, not the Macleods."

"Then I am glad of Culloden," said she, with decision, "for destroying such a race of fiends."

"Oh, you must not say that," he protested, laughing. "We should have become quiet and respectable folks without Culloden. Even without Culloden we should have had penny newspapers all the same; and tourist boats from Oban to Iona. Indeed, you won't find quieter folks anywhere than the Macdonalds and Macleods are now."

"I don't know how far you are to be trusted," said she, pretending to look at him with some doubts.

Now they reached the gate of the gardens.

"Do let us go in, Gerty," said Miss Carry. "You know you always get hints for your dresses from the birds—you would never have thought of that flamingo pink and white if you had not been walking through here—"

"I will go in for a while if you like, Carry," said she; and certainly Macleod was nothing loath.

There were but few people in the Gardens on this afternoon, for all the world was up at the Eton and Harrow cricket-match at Lord's, and there was little visible of 'Arry and his pipe. Macleod began to show more than a school boy's delight over the wonders of this strange place. That he was exceedingly fond of animals—always barring the two he had mentioned—was soon abundantly shown. He talked to them as though the mute inquiring eyes could understand him thoroughly. When he came to animals with which he was familiar in the North, he seemed to be renewing acquaintance with old friends—like himself, they were strangers in a strange land.

"Ah," said he to the splendid red deer, which was walking about the paddock with his velvety horns held proudly in the air, "what part of the Highlands have you come from? And wouldn't you like now a canter down the dry bed of a stream on the side of Ben-an-Sloich?"

The hind, with slow and gentle step, and with her nut-brown hide shining in the sun, came up to the bars, and regarded him with those large, clear, gray-green eyes—so different from the soft dark eyes of the roe—that had long eyelashes on the upper lid. He rubbed her nose.

"And wouldn't you rather be up on the heather, munching the young grass and drinking out of the burn?"

They went along to the great cage of the sea-eagles. The birds seemed to pay no heed to what was passing immediately around them. Ever and anon they jerked their heads into an attitude of attention, and the golden brown eye with its contracted pupil and stern upper lid, seemed to be throwing a keen glance over the immeasurable leagues of sea.

"Poor old chap!" he said to one perched high on an old stump, "wouldn't you like to have one sniff of a sea-breeze, and a look round for a sea-pyot or two? What do they give you here—dead fish, I suppose?"

The eagle raised its great wings and slowly flapped them once or twice, while it uttered a succession of shrill yawps.

"Oh yes," he said, "you could make yourself heard above the sound of the waves. And I think if any of the boys were after your eggs or your young ones, you could make short work of them with those big wings. Or would you like to have a battle-royal with a seal, and try whether you could pilot the seal in to the shore, or whether the seal would drag you and your fixed claws down to the bottom and drown you?"

There was a solitary kittiwake in a cage devoted to sea-birds, nearly all of which were foreigners.

"You poor little kittiwake," said he, "this is a sad place for you to be in. I think you would rather be out at Ru-Treshanish, even if it was blowing hard, and there was rain about. There was a dead whale came ashore there about a month ago; that would have been something like a feast for you."

"Why," said he, to his human companion, "if I had only known before! Whenever there was an hour or two with nothing to do, here was plenty of occupation. But I must not keep you too long, Miss White. I could remain here days and weeks."

"You will not go without looking in at the serpents," said she, with a slight smile.

He hesitated for a second.

"No," said he; "I think I will not go in to see them."

"But you must," said she, cruelly. "You will see they are not such terrible creatures when they are shut up in glass boxes."

He suffered himself to be led along to the reptile house; but he was silent. He entered the last of the three. He stood in the middle of the room, and looked around him in rather a strange way.

"Now, come and look at this splendid fellow," said Miss White, who, with her sister, was leaning over the rail. "Look at his splendid bars of color! Do you see the beautiful blue sheen on its scales?"

It was a huge anaconda, its body as thick as a man's leg, lying coiled up in a circle; its flat, ugly head reposing in the middle. He came a bit nearer. "Hideous!" was all he said. And then his eyes was fixed on the eyes of the animal—the lidless eyes, with their perpetual glassy stare. He had thought at first they were closed; but now he saw that that opaque yellow substance was covered by a glassy coating, while in the centre there was a small slit as if cut by a penknife. The great coils slowly expanded and fell again as the animal breathed; otherwise the fixed stare of those yellow eyes might have been taken for the stare of death.

"I don't think the anaconda is poisonous at all," said she, lightly.

"But if you were to meet that beast in a jungle," said he, "what difference would that make!"

He spoke reproachfully, as if she were luring him into some secret place to have him slain with poisonous fangs. He passed on from that case to the others unwillingly. The room was still. Most of the snakes would have seemed dead but for the malign stare of the beaded eyes. He seemed anxious to get out; the atmosphere of the place was hot and oppressive.

But just at the door there was a case some quick motion in which caught his eye, and despite himself he stopped to look. The inside of this glass box was alive with snakes—raising their heads in the air, slimily crawling over each other, the small black forked tongues shooting in and out, the black points of eyes glassily staring. And the object that had moved quickly was a wretched little yellow frog, that was not motionless in a dish of water, its eyes apparently starting out of its head with horror. A snake made its appearance over the edge of the dish. The shooting black tongue approached the head of the frog; and then the long, sinuous body glided along the edge of the dish again, the frog meanwhile being too paralyzed with fear to move. A second afterward the frog, apparently recovering, sprung clean out of the basin; but it was only to alight on the backs of two or three of the reptiles lying coiled up together. It made another spring, and got into a corner among some grass, But along that side of the case another of those small, flat, yellow marked heads was slowly creeping along, propelled by the squirming body; and again the frog made a sudden spring, this time leaping once more into the shallow water, where, it stood and panted, with its eyes dilated. And now a snake that had crawled up the side of the case put out its long neck as if to see whither it should proceed. There was nothing to lay hold of. The head swayed and twisted, the forked tongue shooting out; and at last the snake fell away from its hold, and splashed right into the basin of water on the top of the frog. There was a wild shooting this way and that—but Macleod did not see the end of it. He had uttered some slight exclamation, and got into the open air, as one being suffocated: and there were drops of perspiration on his forehead, and a trembling of horror and disgust had seized him. His two companions followed him out.

"I felt rather faint," said he, in a low voice—and he did not turn to look at them as he spoke—"the air is close in that room."

They moved away. He looked around—at the beautiful green of the trees, and the blue sky, and the sunlight on the path—God's world was getting to be more wholesome again, and the choking sensation of disgust was going from his throat. He seemed, however, rather anxious to get away from this place. There was a gate close by; he proposed they should go out by that. As he walked back with them to South Bank, they chatted about many of the animals—the two girls in especial being much interested in certain pheasants, whose colors of plumage they thought would look very pretty in a dress—but he never referred, either then or at any future time, to his visit to the reptile house. Nor did it occur to Miss White, in this idle conversation, to ask him whether his Highland blood had inherited any other qualities besides that instinctive and deadly horror of serpents.



CHAPTER X.

LAST NIGHTS.

"Good-night, Macleod!"—"Good-night!"—"Good-night!" The various voices came from the top of a drag. They were addressed to one of two young men who stood on the steps of the Star and Garter—black fingers in the blaze of light. And now the people on the drag had finally ensconced themselves, and the ladies had drawn their ample cloaks more completely around their gay costumes, and the two grooms were ready to set free the heads of the leaders. "Good-night, Macleod!" Lord Beauregard called again; and then, with a little preliminary prancing of the leaders, away swung the big vehicle through the clear darkness of the sweet-scented summer night.

"It was awfully good-natured of Beauregard to bring six of your people down and take them back again," observed Lieutenant Ogilvie to his companion. "He wouldn't do it for most folks. He wouldn't do it for me. But then you have the grand air, Macleod. You seem to be conferring a favor when you get one."

"The people have been very kind to me," said Macleod, simply. "I do not know why. I wish I could take them all up to Castle Dare and entertain them as a prince could entertain people—"

"I want to talk to you about that, Macleod," said his companion. "Shall we go upstairs again? I have left my hat and coat there."

They went upstairs, and entered a long chamber which had been formed by the throwing of two rooms into one. The one apartment had been used as a sort of withdrawing room; in the other stood the long banquet-table, still covered with bright-colored flowers, and dishes of fruit, and decanters and glasses. Ogilvie sat down, lit a cigar, and poured himself out some claret.

"Macleod," said he, "I am going to talk to you like a father. I hear you have been going on in a mad way. Surely you know that a batchelor coming up to London for a season, and being asked about by people who are precious glad to get unmarried men to their houses, is not expected to give these swell dinner parties? And then, it seems, you have been bringing down all your people in drags. What do those flowers cost you? I dare say this is Lafitte, now?"

"And if it is, why not drink it and say no more about it? I think they enjoyed themselves pretty well this evening—don't you, Ogilvie?"

"Yes, yes; but then, my dear fellow, the cost! You will say it is none of my business; but what would your decent, respectable mother say to all this extravagance?"

"Ah?" said Macleod, "that is just the thing; I should have more pleasure in my little dinner parties if only the mother and Janet were here to see. I think the table would look a good deal better if my mother was at the head of it. And the cost?—oh, I am only following out her instructions. She would not have people think that I was insensible to the kindness that has been shown me; and then we cannot ask all those good friends up to Castle Dare; it is an out-of-the-way place, and there are no flowers on the dining-table there."

He laughed as he looked at the beautiful things before him; they would look strange in the gaunt hall of Castle Dare.

"Why," said he, "I will tell you a secret, Ogilvie. You know my cousin Janet—she is the kindest-hearted of all the women I know—and when I was coming away she gave me L2000, just in case I should need it."

"L2000!" exclaimed Ogilvie. "Did she think you were going to buy Westminster Abbey during the course of your holidays?" And then he looked at the table before him, and a new idea seemed to strike him. "You don't mean to say, Macleod, that it is your cousin's money—"

Macleod's face flushed angrily. Had any other man made the suggestion, he would have received a tolerably sharp answer. But he only said to his old friend Ogilvie,—

"No, no, Ogilvie; we are not very rich folks; but we have not come to that yet. 'I'd sell my kilts, I'd sell my shoon,' as the song says, before I touched a farthing of Janet's money. But I had to take it from her so as not to offend her. It is wonderful, the anxiety and affection of women who live away out of the world like that. There was my mother, quite sure that something awful was going to happen to me, merely because I was going away for two or three months, And Janet—I suppose she knew that our family never was very good at saving money—she would have me take this little fortune of hers, just as if the old days were come back, and the son of the house was supposed to go to Paris to gamble away every penny."

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