Suddenly, and with a shock of delight that made his heart throb, he tried to picture this beautiful fair creature sitting over there in that very chair by the side of the fire, her head bent down over her sewing, the warm light of the lamp touching the tender curve of her cheek. And when she lifted her head to speak to him—and when her large and lambent eyes met his—surely Fionaghal, the fair poetess from strange lands, never spoke in softer tones than this other beautiful stranger, who was now his wife and his heart’s companion. And now he would bid her lay aside her work, and he would get a white shawl for her, and like a ghost she would steal out with him into the moonlight air. And is there enough wind on this summer night to take them out from the sombre shore to the open plain of the sea? Look now, as the land recedes, at the high walls of Castle Dare, over the black cliffs, and against the stars. Far away they see the graveyard of Inch Kenneth, the stones pale in the moonlight. And what song will she sing now, that Ulva and Colonsay may awake and fancy that some mermaiden is singing to bewail her lost lover? The night is sad, and the song is sad; and then, somehow, he finds himself alone in this waste of water, and all the shores of the islands are silent and devoid of life, and there is only the echo of the sad singing in his ears—
He jumps to his feet, for there is a knocking at the door. The gentle Cousin Janet enters, and hastily he thrusts that letter into his pocket, while his face blushes hotly.
“Where have you been, Keith?” she says, in her quiet, kindly way. “Auntie would like to say good-night to you now.”
“I will come directly,” said he.
“And now that Norman Ogilvie is away, Keith,” said she, “you will take more rest about the shooting; for you have not been looking like yourself at all lately; and you know, Keith, when you are not well and happy, it is no one at all about Dare that is happy either. And that is why you will take care of yourself.”
He glanced at her rather uneasily; but he said, in a light and careless way,—
“Oh, I have been well enough, Janet, except that I was not sleeping well one or two nights. And if you look after me like that, you will make me think I am a baby, and you will send me some warm flannels when I go up on the hills.”
“It is too proud of your hardihood you are, Keith,” said his cousin, with a smile. “But there never was a man of your family who would take any advice.”
“I would take any advice from you, Janet,” said he; and therewith he followed her to bid good-night to the silver-haired mother.