By and by from out of the brilliancy of the tent stepped Macleod and Fionaghal herself, she leaning on his arm, a light scarf thrown round her neck. She uttered a slight cry of surprise when she saw the picture this garden presented—the colored cups on the trees, the swinging lanterns, the broader sheen of the moonlight spreading over the foliage, and the lawn, and the walks.
“It is like fairyland!” she said.
They walked along the winding gravel-paths; and now that some familiar quadrille was being danced in that brilliant tent, there were fewer people out here in the moonlight.
“I should begin to believe that romance was possible,” she said, with a smile, “if I often saw a beautiful scene like this. It is what we try to get in the theatre; but I see all the bare boards and the lime light—I don’t have a chance of believing in it.”
“Do you have a chance of believing in anything,” said he, “on the stage?”
“I don’t understand you,” she said, gently; for she was sure he would not mean the rudeness that his words literally conveyed.
“And perhaps I cannot explain,” said he. “But—but your father was talking the other day about your giving yourself up altogether to your art—living the lives of other people for the time being, forgetting yourself, sacrificing yourself, having no life of your own but that. What must the end of it be?—that you play with emotions and beliefs until you have no faith in any one—none left for yourself; it is only the material of your art. Would you not rather like to live your own life?”
He had spoken rather hesitatingly, and he was not at all sure that he had quite conveyed to her his meaning, though he had thought over the subject long enough and often enough to get his own impressions of it clear.
If she had been ten years older, and an experienced coquette, she would have said to herself, “This man hates the stage because he is jealous of its hold on my life,” and she would have rejoiced over the inadvertent confession. But now these hesitating words of his seemed to have awakened some quick responsive thrill in her nature, for she suddenly said, with an earnestness that was not at all assumed:
“Sometimes I have thought of that—it is so strange to hear my own doubts repeated. If I could choose my own life—yes, I would rather live that out than merely imagining the experiences of others. But what is one to do? You look around, and take the world as it is. Can anything be more trivial and disappointing? When you are Juliet in the balcony, or Rosalind in the forest, then you have some better feeling with you, if it is only for an hour or so.”
“Yes,” said he; “and you go on indulging in those doses of fictitious sentiment until—But I am afraid the night air is too cold for you. Shall we go back?”