He jumped to his feet, and hastily ran his eyes over the letter. It was a trifle formal, it is true; but it was kind, and it expressed the hope that Miss White and her father would next summer visit Castle Dare. The young man threw his arms round his mother’s neck and kissed her. “That is like a good mother,” said he. “Do you know how happy she will be when she receives this message from you?”
Lady Macleod left him the letter to address. He read it over carefully; and though he saw that the handwriting was the handwriting of his mother, he knew that the spirit that had prompted these words was that of the gentle cousin Janet.
This concession had almost been forced from the old lady by the patience and mild persistence of Janet Macleod; but if anything could have assured her that she had acted properly in yielding, it was the answer which Miss Gertrude White sent in return. Miss White wrote that letter several times over before sending it off, and it was a clever piece of composition. The timid expressions of gratitude; the hints of the writer’s sympathy with the romance of the Highlands and the Highland character; the deference shown by youth to age; and here and there just the smallest glimpse of humor, to show that Miss White, though very humble and respectful and all that, was not a mere fool. Lady Macleod was pleased by this letter. She showed it to her son one night at dinner. “It is a pretty hand,” she remarked, critically.
Keith Macleod read it with a proud heart. “Can you not gather what kind of woman she is from that letter alone?” he said, eagerly. “I can almost hear her talk in it. Janet, will you read it too?”
Janet Macleod took the small sheet of perfumed paper and read it calmly, and handed it back to her aunt. “It is a nice letter,” said she. “We must try to make Dare as bright as maybe when she comes to see us, that she will not go back to England with a bad account of the Highland people.” That was all that was said at the time about the promised visit of Miss Gertrude White to Castle Dare. It was only as a visitor that Lady Macleod had consented to receive her. There was no word mentioned on either side of anything further than that. Mr. White and his daughter were to be in the Highlands next summer; they would be in the neighborhood of Castle Dare; Lady Macleod would be glad to entertain them for a time, and make the acquaintance of two of her son’s friends. At all events, the proud old lady would be able to see what sort of woman this was whom Keith Macleod had chosen to be his wife.
And so the winter days and nights and weeks dragged slowly by; but always, from time to time, came those merry and tender and playful letters from the South, which he listened to rather than read. It was her very voice that was speaking to him, and in imagination he went about with her. He strolled with her over the crisp grass, whitened with hoar-frost, of the Regent’s Park; he hurried home with her in the chill gray afternoons—the yellow gas-lamps being lit—to the little tea-table. When she visited a picture gallery, she sent him a full report of that, even.