She went away and wrote to Macleod; but she did not wholly explain her position. She only begged once more for time to consider her own feelings. It would be better that he should not come just now to London. And if she were convinced, after honest and earnest questioning of herself, that she had not the courage and strength of mind necessary for the great change in her life she had proposed, would it not be better for his happiness and hers that the confession should be made?
Macleod did not answer that letter, and she grew alarmed. Several days elapsed. One afternoon, coming home from rehearsal, she saw a card lying on the tray on the hall-table.
“Papa,” said she, with her face somewhat paler than usual, “Sir Keith Macleod is in London!”
She was alone in the drawing-room. She heard the bell ring, and the sound of some one being let in by the front door. Then there was a man’s step in the passage outside. The craven heart grew still with dread.
But it was with a great gentleness that he came forward to her, and took both of her trembling hands, and said,—
“Gerty, you do not think that I have come to be angry with you—not that!”
He could not but see with those anxious, pained, tender eyes of his that she was very pale; and her heart was now beating so fast—after the first shock of fright—that for a second or two she could not answer him. She withdrew her hands. And all this time he was regarding her face with an eager, wistful intensity.
“It is—so strange—for me to see you again,” said he, almost in a bewildered way. “The days have been very long without you—I had almost forgotten what you were like. And now—and now—oh, Gerty, you are not angry with me for troubling you?”
She withdrew a step and sat down.
“There is a chair,” said she. He did not seem to understand what she meant. He was trying to read her thoughts in her eyes, in her manner, in the pale face; and his earnest gaze did not leave her for a moment.
“I know you must be greatly troubled and worried, Gerty; and—and I tried not to come; but your last letter was like the end of the world for me. I thought everything might go then. But then I said, ’Are you a man, and to be cast down by that? She is bewildered by some passing doubt; her mind is sick for the moment; you must go to her, and recall her, and awake her to herself; and you will see her laugh again!’ And so I am here, Gerty; and if I am troubling you at a bad time—well, it is only for a moment or two; and you will not mind that? You and I are so different, Gerty! You are all-perfect. You do not want the sympathy of any one. You are satisfied with your own thinkings; you are a world to yourself. But I cannot live without being in sympathy with you. It is a craving—it is like a fire—Well, I did not come here to talk about myself.”