Then he turned to other matters; for, as the slow weeks went by, one eagerly disposed to look for the signs of the coming spring might occasionally detect a new freshness in the morning air, or even find a little bit of the whitlow-grass in flower among the moss of an old wall. And Major Stuart had come over to Dare once or twice; and had privately given Lady Macleod and her niece such enthusiastic accounts of Miss Gertrude White that the references to her forthcoming visit ceased to be formal and became friendly and matter of course. It was rarely, however, that Keith Macleod mentioned her name. He did not seem to wish for any confidant. Perhaps her letters were enough.
But on one occasion Janet Macleod said to him, with a shy smile.
“I think you must be a very patient lover, Keith, to spend all the winter here. Another young man would have wished to go to London.”
“And I would go to London, too!” he said suddenly, and then he stopped. He was somewhat embarrassed. “Well, I will tell you, Janet. I do not wish to see her any more as an actress, and she says it is better that I do not go to London; and—and, you know, she will soon cease to be an actress.”
“But why not now,” said Janet Macleod, with some wonder, “if she has such a great dislike for it?”
“That I do not know,” said he, somewhat gloomily.
But he wrote to Gertrude White, and pressed the point once more, with great respect, it is true, but still with an earnestness of pleading that showed how near the matter lay to his heart. It was a letter that would have touched most women; and even Miss Gertrude White was pleased to see how anxiously interested he was in her.
“But you know, my dear Keith,” she wrote back, “when people are going to take a great plunge into the sea, they are warned to wet their head first. And don’t you think I should accustom myself to the change you have in store for me by degrees? In any case, my leaving the stage at the present moment could make no difference to us—you in the Highlands, I in London. And do you know, sir, that your request is particularly ill-timed; for, as it happens, I am about to enter into a new dramatic project of which I should probably never have heard but for you. Does that astonish you? Well, here is the story. It appears that you told the Duchess of Wexford that I would give her a performance for the new training-ship she is getting up; and, being challenged, could I break a promise made by you? And only fancy what these clever people have arranged, to flatter their own vanity in the name of charity. They have taken St. George’s Hall, and the distinguished amateurs have chosen the play; and the play—don’t laugh, dear Keith—is ‘Romeo and Juliet!’ And I am to play Juliet to the Romeo of the Honorable Captain Brierley, who is a very good-looking man, but who is so solemn and stiff a Romeo that I know I shall burst out laughing