But not quite. It was about ten o’clock that night that word came to Castle Dare that Dugald the Post had met with an accident that morning while starting from Bunessan; and that his place had been taken by a young lad who had but now arrived with the bag. Macleod hastily looked over the bundle of newspapers, etc., they brought him and his eager eyes fell on an envelope, the writing on which made his heart jump.
“Give the lad a half-crown,” said he.
And then he went to his own room. He had the letter in his hand; and he knew the handwriting: but there was no wind of the night that could bring him the mystic message she had sent with it:
“Oh, here is, Glenogie, a letter for thee!”
For a second or two he held the letter in his hand, regarding the outside of it; and it was with more deliberation than haste that he opened it. Perhaps it was with some little tremor of fear—lest the first words that should meet his eye might be cruelly cold and distant. What right had he to expect anything else? Many a time, in thinking carefully over the past, he had recalled the words—the very tone—in which he had addressed her, and had been dismayed to think of their reserve, which had on one or two occasions almost amounted to austerity. He could expect little beyond a formal acknowledgment of the receiving of his letter, and the present that had accompanied it.
Imagine, then, his surprise when he took out from the envelope a number of sheets closely written over in her beautiful, small, neat hand. Hastily his eye ran over the first few lines; and then surprise gave way to a singular feeling of gratitude and joy. Was it indeed she who was writing to him thus? When he had been thinking of her as some one far away and unapproachable—who could have no thought of him or of the too brief time in which he had been near to her—had she indeed been treasuring up some recollection that she now seemed disposed to value?
“You will guess that I am woman enough,” she wrote, “to be greatly pleased and flattered by your sending me such a beautiful present; but you must believe me when I say that its chief value to me was its showing me that I had another friend in the world who was not disposed to forget me the next day after bidding me good-bye. Perhaps you will say that I am cynical; but actresses are accustomed to find the friendships they make—outside the sphere of their own profession—of a singularly temporary character. We are praised and flattered to-day, and forgotten to-morrow. I don’t complain. It is only natural. People go away to their own families and home occupations; why should they remember a person who has amused them for an hour?”
Miss Gertrude White could, when she chose, write a clever and interesting letter—interesting from its very simplicity and frankness; and as Macleod read on and on, he ceased to feel any wonder that this young lady should be placing before him such ample revelations of her experiences and opinions. Indeed, it was more than suggested in this confidential chat that Sir Keith Macleod himself had been the first cause of her having carefully studied her own position, and the influence likely to be exerted on her by her present mode of life.