He slept but little that night; and next morning he got up nervous and trembling, like a drunken man, with half the courage and confidence, that had so long sustained him, gone. Major Stuart went out early. He kept pacing about the room until the frightfully slow half-hours went by; he hated the clock on the mantelpiece. And then, by a strong effort of will, he delayed starting until he should barely have time to reach her house by twelve o’clock, so that he should have the mad delight of eagerly wishing the hansom had a still more furious speed. He had chosen his horse well. It wanted five minutes to the appointed hour when he arrived at the house.
Did this trim maid-servant know? Was there anything of welcome in the demure smile? He followed her; his face was pale, though he knew it not; in the dusk of the room he was left alone.
But what was this on the table? He almost uttered a cry as his bewildered eyes fixed themselves on it. The very bouquet he had sent the previous evening; and behold—behold!—the red rose wanting! And then, at the same moment, he turned; and there was a vision of something all in white—that came to him timidly—all in white but for the red star of love shining there. And she did not speak at all; but she buried her head in his bosom; and he held her hands tight.
And now what will Ulva say—and the lonely shores of Fladda—and the distant Dutchman roused from his winter sleep amidst the wild waves? Far away over the white sands of Iona—and the sunlight must be shining there now—there is many a sacred spot fit for the solemn plighting of lovers’ vows; and if there is any organ wanted, what more noble than the vast Atlantic rollers booming into the Bourg and Gribun caves? Surely they must know already; for the sea-birds have caught the cry; and there is a sound all through the glad rushing of the morning seas like the sound of wedding-bells. There is a bride coming to Castle Dare—the islands listen; and the wild sea calls again; and the green shores of Ulva grow greener still in the sunlight. There is a bride coming to Castle Dare; and the bride is dressed all in white—only she wears a red rose.
She was seated alone, her arms on the table, her head bent down. There was no red rose now in the white morning-dress, for she had given it to him when he left. The frail November sunshine streamed into the room and put a shimmer of gold on the soft brown of her hair.
It was a bold step she had taken, without counsel of any one. Her dream was now to give up everything that she had hitherto cared about, and to go away into private life to play the part of Lady Bountiful. And if doubts about the strength of her own resolution occasionally crossed her mind, could she not appeal for aid and courage to him who would always be by her side? When she became a Macleod, she would have to accept the motto of the Macleods. That motto is, Hold Fast.