And so the simple-minded major prattled on, Macleod paying but little heed. There had been nothing about Major Stuart’s courtship and marriage to shake the world: why, he said to himself, when the lady was pleased to lend a favoring ear, was there any reason for making such a fuss?
“Your happiness will all depend on one thing,” said he to Macleod, with a complacent wisdom in the round and jovial face. “Take my word for it. I hear of people studying the character, the compatibilities, and what not, of other people; but I never knew of a young man thinking of such things when he was in love. He plunges in, and finds out afterward. Now it all comes this—is she likely, or not likely, to prove a sigher?”
“A what?” said Macleod, apparently awakening from a trance.
“A sigher. A woman who goes about the house all day sighing, whether over your sins or her own, she won’t tell you.”
“Indeed, I cannot say,” Macleod said, laughing. “I should hope not. I think she has excellent spirits.”
“Ah!” said the major, thoughtfully; and he himself sighed. Perhaps he was thinking of a certain house far away in Mull, to which he had shortly to return.
Macleod did not know how to show his gratitude toward this good-natured friend. He would have given him half a dozen banquets a day; and Major Stuart liked a London dinner. But what he did offer as a great reward was this: that Major Stuart should go up the next morning to a particular church, and take up a particular position in the church, and then—then he would get a glimpse of the most wonderful creature the world had seen. Oddly enough, the major did not eagerly accept this munificent offer. To another proposal—that he should go up to Mr. White’s, on the first day after their return from Sussex, and meet the young lady at luncheon—he seemed better inclined.
“But why shouldn’t we go to the theatre to-night?” said he, in his simple way.
Macleod looked embarrassed.
“Frankly, then, Stuart,” said he, “I don’t want you to make her acquaintance as an actress.”
“Oh, very well,” said he, not greatly disappointed. “Perhaps it is better. You see, I may be questioned at Castle Dare. Have you considered that matter?”
“Oh no,” Macleod said, lightly and cheerfully, “I have had time to consider nothing as yet. I can scarcely believe it to be all real. It takes a deal of hard thinking to convince myself that I am not dreaming.”
But the true fashion in which Macleod showed his gratitude to his friend was in concealing his great reluctance on going down with him into Sussex. It was like rending his heart-strings for him to leave London for a single hour at this time. What beautiful confidences, and tender, timid looks, and sweet, small words he was leaving behind him in order to go and shoot a lot of miserable pheasants! He was rather gloomy when he met the major at Victoria Station.