“No, sir, I did not,” said Macleod, humbly.
“Here she comes. Look at them.”
But how could he look at her eyebrows, or at any trick of making up, when the whole face, with its new excitement of color, its parted lips and lambent eyes, was throwing its fascination upon him? She came forward laughing, and yet with a certain shyness. He would fain have turned away.
The Highlanders are superstitious. Did he fear being bewitched? Or what was it that threw a certain coldness over his manner? The fact of her having danced with young Ogilvie? Or the ugly reference made by her father to her eyebrows? He had greatly admired this painted stranger when he thought she was a stranger; he seemed less to admire the artistic make-up of Miss Gertrude White.
The merry Duchess, playing her part admirably, charmed all eyes but his; and yet she was so kind as to devote herself to her father and him, refusing invitations to dance, and chatting to them—with those brilliant lips smiling—about the various features of the gay scene before them. Macleod avoided looking at her face.
“What a bonny boy your friend Mr. Ogilvie is!” said she, glancing across the room.
He did not answer.
“But he does not look much of a soldier,” she continued. “I don’t think I should be afraid of him if I were a man.”
He answered, somewhat distantly:—
“It is not safe to judge that way, especially of any one of Highland blood. If there is fighting in his blood, he will fight when the proper time comes. And we have a good Gaelic saying—it has a great deal of meaning in it, that saying—’You do not know what sword is in the scabbard until it is drawn.’”
“What did you say was the proverb?” she asked; and for second her eyes met his; but she immediately withdrew them startled by the cold austerity of his look.
“‘You do not know what sword is in the scabbard until it is drawn,’” said he, carelessly. “There is a good deal of meaning in it.”
A small, quaint, old-fashioned house in South Bank, Regent’s Park; two maidens in white in the open veranda; around them the abundant foliage of June, unruffled by any breeze; and down at the foot of the steep garden the still canal, its surface mirroring the soft translucent greens of the trees and bushes above, and the gaudier colors of a barge lying moored on the northern side. The elder of the two girls is seated in a rocking-chair; she appears to have been reading, for her right hand, hanging down, still holds a thin MS. book covered with coarse brown paper. The younger is lying at her feet, with her head thrown back in her sister’s lap, and her face turned up to the clear June skies. There are some roses about this veranda, and the still air is sweet with them.
“And of all the parts you ever played in,” she says, “which one did you like the best Gerty?”