And from that moment to the moment of her departure Miss White seemed to breathe more freely, and she took less care to avoid Keith Macleod in her daily walks and ways. There was at last quite a good understanding between them, as the people around imagined.
But the very first thing she did on reaching home again was to write to Macleod begging him to postpone his visit to London. What was the use? The company of which she formed a part was most probably going on an autumn tour; she was personally very busy. Surely it would not much interest him to be present at the production of a new piece in Liverpool?
And then she pointed out to him that, as she had her duties and occupations, so ought he to have. It was monstrous his thought of foregoing the shooting that year. Why, if he wanted some additional motive, what did he say to preserving as much grouse-plumage as would trim a cloak for her? It was a great pity that the skins of so beautiful a bird should be thrown away. And she desired him to present her kind regards to Lady Macleod and to Miss Macleod; and to thank them both for their great kindness.
Immediately after writing that letter Miss White seemed to grow very light-hearted indeed, and she laughed and chatted with Carry, and was exceedingly affectionate toward her sister.
“And what do you think of your own home now, Gerty?” said Miss Carry, who had been making some small experiments in arrangement.
“You mean, after my being among the savages?” said she. “Ah, it is too true, Carry. I have seen them in their war-paint; and I have shuddered at their spears; and I have made voyages in their canoes. But it is worth while going anywhere and doing anything in order to come back and experience such a sense of relief and quiet. Oh, what a delicious cushion! where did you get it, Carry?”
She sank back in the rocking-chair out on this shaded veranda. It was the slumbering noontide of a July day the foliage above and about the Regent’s Canal hung motionless in the still sunlight; and there was a perfume of roses in the air. Here, at last, was repose. She had said that her notion of happiness was to be let alone; and—now that she had despatched that forbidding letter—she would be able to enjoy a quiet and languor free from care.
“Aha, Gerty, don’t you know?” said the younger sister. “Well, I suppose, you poor creature, you don’t know—you have been among the tigers and crocodiles so long. That cushion is a present from Mr. Lemuel to me—to me, mind, not to you—and he brought it all the way from Damascus some years ago. Oh, Gerty, if I was only three years older, shouldn’t I like to be your rival, and have a fight with you for him!”
“I don’t know what you mean,” said the elder sister, sharply.
“Oh, don’t you! Poor, innocent thing! Well, I am not going to quarrel with you this time, for at last you are showing some sense. How you ever could have thought of Mr. Howson, or Mr. Brook, or you know whom—I never could imagine; but here is some one now whom people have heard of—some one with fame like yourself—who will understand you. Oh Gerty, hasn’t he lovely eyes?”