She could not fail to notice the trace of bitterness, and subsequent coldness, with which he spoke. She knew that he must have been thinking deeply over this matter, and that it was no ordinary thing that caused him to speak with so much feeling. But, of course, when he proposed that they should return to the marquee, she consented. He could not expect her to stand there and defend her whole manner of life. Much less could he expect her to give up her profession merely because he had exercised his wits in getting up some fantastic theory about it. And she began to think that he had no right to talk to her in this bitter fashion.
When they had got half way back to the tent, he paused for a moment.
“I am going to ask a favor of you,” he said, in a low voice. “I have spent a pleasant time in England, and I cannot tell you how grateful I am to you for letting me become one of your friends. To-morrow morning I am going back home. I should like you to give me that flower—as some little token of remembrance.”
The small fingers did not tremble at all as she took the flower from her dress. She presented it to him with a charming smile and without a word. What was the giving of a flower? There was a cart-load of roses in the tent.
But this flower she had worn next her heart.
And now behold! the red flag flying from the summit of Castle Dare—a spot of brilliant color in this world of whirling mist and flashing sunlight. For there is half a gale blowing in from the Atlantic, and gusty clouds come sweeping over the islands, so that now the Dutchman, and now Fladda, and now Ulva disappears from sight, and then emerges into the sunlight again, dripping and shining after the bath, while ever and anon the huge promontory of Ru-Treshanish shows a gloomy purple far in the north. But the wind and the weather may do what they like to-day; for has not the word just come down from the hill that the smoke of the steamer has been made out in the south? and old Hamish is flying this way and that, fairly at his wits’ end with excitement; and Janet Macleod has cast a last look at the decorations of heather and juniper in the great hall; while Lady Macleod, dressed in the most stately fashion, has declared that she is as able as the youngest of them to walk down to the point to welcome home her son.
“Ay, your leddyship, it is very bad,” complains the distracted Hamish, “that it will be so rough a day this day, and Sir Keith not to come ashore in his own gig, but in a fishing-boat, and to come ashore at the fishing quay, too; but it is his own men will go out for him, and not the fishermen at all, though I am sure they will hef a dram whatever when Sir Keith comes ashore. And will you not tek the pony, your leddyship? for it is a long road to the quay.”
“No, I will not take the pony, Hamish,” said the tall, white-haired dame, “and it is not of much consequence what boat Sir Keith has, so long as he comes back to us. And now I think you had better go down to the quay yourself, and see that the cart is waiting and the boat ready.”