A sobbing wind and a weeping rain beat round the walls of Arranstoun, and the great gray turrets and towers made a grim picture against the November sky, darkening toward late afternoon, as its master came through the postern gate and across the lawn to his private rooms. He had been tramping the moorland beyond the park without Binko or a gun, his thoughts too tempestuous to bear with even them. For the letter to Messrs. McDonald and Malden had gone, and the first act of the tragedy of his freedom had been begun.
It was a colossal price to pay for honor and friendship, but while they had been brigands and robbers for hundreds of years, the Arranstouns had not been dishonorable men, and had once or twice in their history done a great and generous thing.
Michael was not of the character which lauded itself, indeed he was never introspective nor thought of himself at all. He was just strong and living and breathing, his actions governed by an inherited sense of the fitness of things for a gentleman’s code, which, unless it was swamped, as on one occasion it had been by violent passion, very seldom led him wrong.
Now he determined never to look ahead or picture the blankness of his days as they must become with no hope of ever seeing Sabine. He supposed vaguely that the pain would grow less in time. He should have to play a lot of games, and take tremendous interest in his tenants and his property and perhaps presently go into Parliament. And if all that failed, he could make some expedition into the wilds again. He was too healthy and well-balanced to have even in this moment of deep suffering any morbid ideas.
When he had changed his soaking garments, he came back into his sitting-room and pulled Binko upon his knees. The dog and his fat wrinkles seemed some kind of comfort to him.
“She remembered you, Binko, old man,” he said, caressing the creature’s ears. “She is the sweetest little darling in all the world. You would have loved her soft brown hair and her round dimpled cheek. And she loves your master, Binko, just as he loves her; she has forgiven him for everything of long ago—and if she could, she would come back here, and live with us and make us divinely happy—as we believed she was going to do once when we were young.”
And then he thought suddenly of Henry’s home—the stately Elizabethan house amidst luxuriant, peaceful scenery—not grim and strong like Arranstoun—though she preferred gaunt castles, evidently, since she had bought Heronac for her own. But the thought of Henry’s home and her adorning it brought too intimate pictures to his imagination; they galled him so that at last he could not bear it and started to his feet.
It was possible to part from her and go away, but it was not possible to contemplate calmly the fact of her being the wife of another man. Material things came always more vividly to Michael than spiritual ones, and the vision he had conjured up was one of Sabine encircled by Henry’s arms. This was unbearable—and before he was aware of it he found he was clenching his fists in rage, and that Binko was sitting on his haunches, blinking at him, with his head on one side in his endeavors to understand.