Or was not this she—the calm and gracious woman who received as a matter of right the multitude of attentions that all men—and women too—were glad to pay her? The air fine about her; the south winds fanning her cheek; the day long, and balmy, and clear. The white-sailed boats glide slowly through the water; there is a sound of music and of gentle talk; a butterfly comes fluttering over the blue summer seas. And then there is a murmuring refrain in the lapping of the waves: Rose Leaf! Rose Leaf! what faint wind will carry you away to the south?
Or this audacious Duchess of Devonshire, with the flashing black eyes, and a saucy smile on her lips? She knows that every one regards her; but what of that? Away she goes through the brilliant throng with that young Highland officer, with glowing light and gay costumes and joyous music all around her. What do you think of her, you poor clown, standing all alone and melancholy, with your cap and bells? Has she pierced your heart too with a flash of the saucy black eyes?
But there is still another vision; and perhaps this solitary dreamer, who has no eyes for the great slopes of Ben-an-Sloich that stretch into the clouds, and no ears for the soft calling of the sea-birds as they wheel over his head, tries hardest to fix this one in his memory. Here she is the neat and watchful house-mistress, with all things bright and shining around her; and she appears, too, as the meek daughter and the kind and caressing sister. Is it not hard that she should be torn from this quiet little haven of domestic duties and family affection to be bound hand and foot in the chains of art, and flung into the arena to amuse that great ghoul-faced thing, the public? The white slave does not complain. While as yet she may, she presides over the cheerful table; and the beautiful small hands are helpful, and that light morning costume is a wonder of simplicity and grace. And then the garden, and the soft summer air, and the pretty ways of the two sisters: why should not this simple, homely, beautiful life last forever, if only the summer and the roses would last forever?
But suppose now that we turn aside from these fanciful pictures of Macleod’s and take a more commonplace one of which he could have no notion whatever. It is night—a wet and dismal night—and a four-wheeled cab is jolting along through the dark and almost deserted thoroughfares of Manchester. Miss Gertrude White is in the cab, and the truth is that she is in a thorough bad temper. Whether it was that the unseemly scuffle that took place in the gallery during the performance, or whether it is that the streets of Manchester, in the midst of rain and after midnight are not inspiriting, or whether it is merely that she has got a headache, it is certain that Miss White is in an ill-humor, and that she has not spoken a word to her maid, her only companion, since together they left the theatre. At length the cab stops opposite a hotel, which is apparently closed for the night. They get out, cross the muddy pavements under the glare of a gas-lamp; after some delay get into the hotel; pass through a dimly lit and empty corridor; and then Miss White bids her maid good-night and opens the door of a small parlor.