He slept but little that night, and early the next morning he was up and away by himself—paying but little heed to the rushing blue seas, and the white gulls, and the sunshine touching the far sands on the shores of Iona. He was in a fever of unrest. He knew not what to make of that letter; it might mean anything or nothing. Alternations of wild hope and cold despair succeeded each other. Surely it was unusual for a girl so to reveal her innermost confidences to any one whom she considered a stranger? To him alone had she told this story of her private troubles. Was it not in effect asking for a sympathy which she could not hope for from any other? Was it not establishing a certain secret between them? Her own father did not know. Her sister was too young to be told. Friends like Mrs. Ross could not understand why this young and beautiful actress, the favorite of the public, could be dissatisfied with her lot. It was to him alone she had appealed.
And then again he read the letter. The very frankness of it made him fear. There was none of the shyness of a girl writing to one who might be her lover. She might have written thus to one of her school-companions. He eagerly searched it for some phrase of tenderer meaning; but no there was a careless abandonment about it, as if she had been talking without thinking of the person she addressed. She had even joked about a young man falling in love with her. It was a matter of perfect indifference to her. It was ludicrous as the shape of the lad’s collar was ludicrous, but of no more importance. And thus she receded from his imagination again, and became a thing apart—the white slave bound in those cruel chains that seemed to all but herself and him the badges of triumph.
Herself and him—the conjunction set his heart throbbing quickly. He eagerly bethought himself how this secret understanding could be strengthened, if only he might see her and speak to her. He could tell by her eyes what she meant, whatever her words might be. If only he could see her again: all his wild hopes, and fears, and doubts—all his vague fancies and imaginings—began to narrow themselves down to this one point; and this immediate desire became all-consuming. He grew sick at heart when he looked round and considered how vain was the wish.
The gladness had gone from the face of Keith Macleod. Not many months before, any one would have imagined that the life of this handsome young fellow, whose strength, and courage, and high spirits seemed to render him insensible to any obstacle, had everything in it that the mind of man could desire. He had a hundred interests and activities; he had youth and health, and a comely presence; he was on good terms with everybody around him—for he had a smile and a cheerful word for each one he met, gentle or simple. All this gay, glad life seemed to have fled. The watchful Hamish was the first to notice that his master