But Macleod, perhaps having mustered up further courage, stopped in his walk, and returned. This time he passed more slowly, and turned his head to the house, as if listening. There was no light in the windows; there was no sound at all; there was no motion but that of the trembling acacia leaves as the cold wind of the night stirred them. And then he passed over to the south side of the thoroughfare, and stood in the black shadow of a high wall; and Oscar came and looked up into his face.
A brougham rattled by; then there was utter stillness again; and the moonlight shone on the front of the small house; which was to all appearances as lifeless as the grave. Then, far away, twelve o’clock struck, and the sound seemed distant as the sound of a bell at sea in this intense quiet.
He was alone with the night, and with the dreams and fancies of the night. Would he, then, confess to himself that which he would confess to no other? Or was it merely some passing whim—some slight underchord of sentiment struck amidst the careless joy of a young man’s holiday—that had led him up into the silent region of trees and moonlight? The scene around him was romantic enough, but he certainly had not the features of an anguish-stricken lover.
Again the silence of the night was broken by the rumbling of a cab that came along the road; and now, whatever may have been the fancy that brought him hither, he turned to leave, and Oscar joyfully bounded out into the road. But the cab, instead of continuing its route, stopped at the gate of the house he had been watching, and two young ladies stepped out. Fionaghal, the Fair Stranger, had not, then, been wandering in the enchanted land of dreams, but toiling home in a humble four-wheeler from the scene of her anxious labors? He would have slunk away rapidly but for an untoward accident. Oscar, ranging up and down, came upon an old friend, and instantly made acquaintance with her, on seeing which, Macleod, with deep vexation at his heart, but with a pleasant and careless face, had to walk along also.
“What an odd meeting!” said he. “I have been giving Oscar a run. I am glad to have a chance of bidding you good-night. You are not very tired, I hope.”
“I am rather tired,” said she; “but I have only two more nights, and then my holiday begins.”
He shook hands with both sisters, and wished them good-night, and departed. As Miss Gertrude White went into her father’s house she seemed rather grave.
“Gerty,” said the younger sister, as she screwed up the gas, “wouldn’t the name of Lady Macleod look well in a play-bill?”
The elder sister would not answer; but as she turned away there was a quick flush of color in her face—whether caused by anger or by a sudden revelation of her own thought it was impossible to say.