“Macleod,” said his companion, looking up, and yet speaking rather slowly and timidly, “if I were to say what would naturally occur to any one—you won’t be offended? What you have been telling me is absurd, unnatural, impossible, unless there is a woman in the case.”
“And what then?” Macleod said, quickly, as he regarded his friend with a watchful eye, “You have guessed?”
“Yes,” said the other: “Gertrude White.”
Macleod was silent for a second or two. Then he sat down.
“I scarcely care who knows it now,” said he, absently “so long as I can’t fight it out of my own mind. I tried not to know it. I tried not to believe it. I argued with myself, laughed at myself, invented a hundred explanations of this cruel thing that was gnawing at my heart and giving me no peace night or day. Why, man, Ogilvie, I have read ‘Pendennis!’ Would you think it possible that any one who has read ‘Pendennis’ could ever fall in love with an actress?”
He jumped to his feet again, walked up and down for a second or two, twisting the while a bit of casting-line round his finger so that it threatened to cut into the flesh.
“But I will tell you now, Ogilvie—now that I am speaking to any one about it,” said he—and he spoke in a rapid, deep, earnest voice, obviously not caring much what his companion might think, so that he could relieve his overburdened mind—“that it was not any actress I fell in love with. I never saw her in a theatre but that once. I hated the theatre whenever I thought of her in it. I dared scarcely open a newspaper, lest I should see her name. I turned away from the posters in the streets: when I happened by some accident to see her publicly paraded that way, I shuddered all through—with shame, I think; and I got to look on her father as a sort of devil that had been allowed to drive about that beautiful creature in vile chains. Oh, I cannot tell you! When I have heard him talking away in that infernal, cold, precise way about her duties to her art, and insisting that she should have no sentiments or feelings of her own, and that she should simply use every emotion as a bit of something to impose on the public—a bit of her trade, an exposure of her own feelings to make people clap their hands—I have sat still and wondered at myself that I did not jump up and catch him by the throat, and shake the life out of his miserable body.”
“You have cut your hand, Macleod.”
He shook a drop or two of blood off.
“Why, Ogilvie, when I saw you on the bridge of the steamer, I nearly went mad with delight. I said to myself, ’Here is some one who has seen her and spoken to her, who will know when I tell him.’ And now that I am telling you of it, Ogilvie, you will see—you will understand—that it is not any actress I have fallen in love with—it was not the fascination of an actress at all, but the fascination of the woman herself; the fascination