“Well, Gerty,” he said that evening after dinner, “what do you think about Mr. ——’s offer? It is very good-natured of him to let you have the ordering of the drawing-room scene, for you can have the furniture and the color to suit your own costume.”
“Indeed I shall have nothing whatever to do with it,” said she, promptly. “The furniture at home is enough for me. I don’t wish to become the upholsterer of a theatre.”
“You are very ungrateful, then. Half the effect of a modern comedy is lost because the people appear in rooms which resemble nothing at all that people ever lived in. Here is a man who gives you carte blanche to put a modern drawing-room on the stage; and your part would gain infinitely from having real surroundings. I consider it a very flattering offer.”
“And perhaps it is, pappy,” said she, “but I think I do enough if I get through my own share of the work. And it is very silly of him to want me to introduce a song into this part, too. He knows I can’t sing—”
“Gerty!” her sister said.
“Oh, you know as well as I. I can get through a song well enough in a room; but I have not enough voice for a theatre; and although he says it is only to make the drawing-room scene more realistic—and that I need not sing to the front—that is all nonsense. I know what it is meant for—to catch the gallery. Now I refuse to sing for the gallery.”
This was decided enough.
“What was the song you put into your last part, Gerty?” her sister asked. “I saw something in the papers about it.”
“It was a Scotch one, Carry; I don’t think you know it.”
“I wonder it was not a Highland one,” her sister said, rather spitefully.
“Oh, I have a whole collection of Highland ones now, would you like to hear one? Would you, pappy?”
She went and fetched the book, and opened the piano.
“It is an old air that belonged to Scarba,” she said, and then she sang, simply and pathetically enough, the somewhat stiff and cumbrous English translation of the Gaelic words. It was the song of the exiled Mary Macleod, who, sitting on the shores of “sea-worn Mull,” looks abroad on the lonely islands of Scarba, and Islay, and Jura, and laments that she is far away from her own home.
“How do you like it, pappy?” she said, when she had finished. “It is a pity I do not know the Gaelic. They say that when the chief heard these verses repeated, he let the old woman go back to her own home.”
One of the two listeners, at all events, did not seem to be particularly struck by the pathos of Mary Macleod’s lament. She walked up to the piano.
“Where did you get that book, Gerty?” she said, in a firm voice.
“Where?” said the other, innocently. “In Manchester, I think it was, I bought it.”
But before she had made the explanation, Miss Carry, convinced that this, too, had come from her enemy, had seized the book and turned to the title-page. Neither on title-page nor on fly-leaf, however, was there any inscription.