The booming of a gun told them that the last yacht had rounded the lightship. The band struck up a lively air, and presently the steamer was steaming off in the wake of the procession of yachts. There was now no more fear that Miss White should be late. The breeze had kept up well, and had now shifted a point to the east, so that the yachts, with their great ballooners, were running pretty well before the wind. The lazy abandonment of the day became more complete than ever. Careless talk and laughter; an easy curiosity about the fortunes of the race; tea in the saloon, with the making up of two bouquets of white roses, sweet-peas, fuchias, and ferns—the day passed lightly and swiftly enough. It was a summer day, full of pretty trifles. Macleod, surrendering to the fascination, began to wonder what life would be if it were all a show of June colors and a sound of dreamy music: for one thing, he could not imagine this sensitive, beautiful, pale, fine creature otherwise than as surrounded by an atmosphere of delicate attentions and pretty speeches, and sweet, low laughter.
They got into their special train again at Gravesend, and were whirled up to London. At Charing Cross he bade good-bye to Miss White, who was driven off by Mr. and Mrs. Ross along with their other guest. In the light of the clear June evening he walked rather absently up to his rooms.
There was a letter lying on the table. He seized it and opened it with gladness. It was from his cousin Janet, and the mere sight of it seemed to revive him like a gust of keen wind from the sea. What had she to say? About the grumbling of Donald, who seemed to have no more pride in his pipes, now the master was gone? About the anxiety of his mother over the reports of the keepers? About the upsetting of a dog-cart on the road to Lochbuy? He had half resolved to go to the theatre again that evening—getting, if possible, into some corner where he might pursue his profound pyschological investigations unseen—but now he thought he would not go. He would spend the evening in writing a long letter to his cousin, telling her and the mother about all the beautiful, fine, gay, summer life he had seen in London—so different from anything they could have seen in Fort William, or Inverness, or even in Edinburgh. After dinner he sat down to this agreeable task. What had he to write about except brilliant rooms, and beautiful flowers, and costumes such as would have made Janet’s eyes wide—of all the delicate luxuries of life, and happy idleness, and the careless enjoyment of people whose only thought was about a new pleasure? He gave a minute description of all the places he had been to see—except the theatre. He mentioned the names of the people who had been kind to him; but he said nothing about Gertrude White.