But as for him, there was no moderation at all in the vehemence of his joy. In the surprise and bewilderment of it, the world around him underwent transfiguration; London in November was glorified into an earthly paradise. The very people in the streets seemed to have kindly faces; Bury Street, St. James’s—which is usually a somewhat misty thoroughfare—was more beautiful than the rose-garden of an Eastern king. And on this Saturday afternoon the blue skies did, indeed, continue to shine over the great city; and the air seemed sweet and clear enough, as it generally does to any one whose every heart-beat is only another throb of conscious gladness.
In this first intoxication of wonder, and pride, and gratitude, he had forgotten all about these ingenious theories which, in former days, he had constructed to promise to himself that Gertrude White should give up her present way of life. Was it true, then, that he had rescued the white slave? Was it once and forever that Nature, encountering the subtle demon of Art, had closed and wrestled with the insidious thing, had seized it by the throat, and choked it, and flung it aside from the fair roadway of life? He had forgotten about these things now. All that he was conscious of was this eager joy, with now and again a wild wonder that he should indeed have acquired so priceless a possession. Was it possible that she would really withdraw herself from the eyes of all the world and give herself to him alone?—that some day, in the beautiful and laughing future, the glory of her presence would light up the dull halls of Castle Dare?
Of course he poured all his pent-up confidence into the ear of the astonished major, and again and again expressed his gratitude to his companion for having given him the opportunity of securing this transcendent happiness. The major was somewhat frightened. He did not know in what measure he might be regarded as an accomplice by the silver-haired lady of Castle Dare. And in any case he was alarmed by the vehemence of the young man.
“My dear Macleod,” said he, with an oracular air, “you never have any hold on yourself. You fling the reins on the horse’s neck, and gallop down hill; a very slight check would send you whirling to the bottom. Now, you should take the advice of a man of the world, who is older than you, and who—if I may say so—has kept his eyes open. I don’t want to discourage you; but you should take it for granted that accidents may happen. I would feel the reins a little bit, if I were you. Once you’ve got her into the church, and see her with a white veil over her head, then you may be as perfervid as you like—”