And when he went back to Dare it was a wet day also; but he was very cheerful; and he had a friendly word for all whom he met; and he told the mother and Janet that he had got home at last, and meant to go no more a-roving. But that evening, after dinner, when Donald began to play the Lament for the memory of the five sons of Dare, Macleod gave a sort of stifled cry, and there were tears running down his cheeks—which was a strange thing for a man; and he rose and left the hall, just as a woman would have done. And his mother sat there, cold, and pale, and trembling; but the gentle cousin Janet called out, with a piteous trouble in her eyes,—
“Oh, auntie, have you seen the look on our Keith’s face, ever since he came ashore to-day?”
“I know it, Janet,” said she. “I have seen it. That woman has broken his heart; and he is the last of my six brave lads!”
They could not speak any more now; for Donald had come up the hall; and he was playing the wild, sad wail of the Cumhadh-na-Cloinne.
A LAST HOPE.
Those sleepless nights of passionate yearning and despair—those days of sullen gloom, broken only by wild cravings for revenge that went through his brain like spasms of fire—these were killing this man. His face grew haggard and gray; his eyes morose and hopeless; he shunned people as if he feared their scrutiny; he brooded over the past in a silence he did not wish to have broken by any human voice. This was no longer Macleod of Dare. It was the wreck of a man—drifting no one knew whither.
And in those dark and morbid reveries there was no longer any bewilderment. He saw clearly how he had been tricked and played with. He understood now the coldness she had shown on coming to Dare; her desire to get away again; her impatience with his appeals; her anxiety that communication between them should be solely by letter. “Yes, yes,” he would say to himself—and sometimes he would laugh aloud in the solitude of the hills, “she was prudent. She was a woman of the world, as Stuart used to say. She would not quite throw me off—she would not be quite frank with me—until she had made sure of the other. And in her trouble of doubt, when she was trying to be better than herself, and anxious to have guidance, that was the guide she turned to—the woman-man, the dabbler in paint-boxes, the critic of carpets and wall-papers!”
Sometimes he grew to hate her. She had destroyed the world for him. She had destroyed his faith in the honesty and honor of womanhood. She had played with him as with a toy—a fancy of the brain—and thrown him aside when something new was presented to her. And when a man is stung by a white adder, does he not turn and stamp with his heel? Is he not bound to crush the creature out of existence, to keep God’s earth and the free sunlight sweet and pure?