He strode forward and caught her by the wrist. There was a look in his face that for a second terrified her into silence.
"Gerty," said he, "I warn you! Do not mention that man to me—now or at any time; or it will be bad for him and for you!"
She twisted her hand from his grasp.
"How dare you come near me!" she cried.
"I beg your pardon," said he, with an instant return to his former grave gentleness of manner. "I wish to let you know how you are situated, if you will let me, Gerty. I don't wish to justify what I have done, for you would not hear me—just yet. But this I must tell you, that I don't wish to force myself on your society. You will do as you please. There is your cabin; you have occupied it before. If you would like to have this saloon, you can have that too; I mean I shall not come into it unless it pleases you. And there is a bell in your cabin; and if you ring it, Christina will answer."
She heard him out patiently. Her reply was a scornful, perhaps nervous, laugh.
"Why, this is mere folly," she exclaimed. "It is simple madness. I begin to believe that you are really ill, after all; and it is your mind that is affected. Surely you don't know what you are doing?"
"You are angry, Gerty," said he,
But the first blaze of her wrath and indignation had passed away; and now fear was coming uppermost.
"Surely, Keith, you cannot be dreaming of such a mad thing! Oh, it is impossible! It is a joke: it was to frighten me; it was to punish me, perhaps. Well, I have deserved it; but now—now you have succeeded; and you will let me go ashore, farther down the river."
Her tone was altered. She had been watching his face.
"Oh no, Gerty; oh no," he said. "Do you not understand yet? You were everything in the world to me; you were life itself. Without you I had nothing, and the world might just as well come to an end for me. And when I thought you were going away from me, what could I do? I could not reach you by letters, and letters; and how could I know what the people around you were saying to you? Ah, you do not know what I have suffered, Gerty! And always I was saying to myself that if I could get you away from these people, you would remember the time that you gave me the red rose, and all those beautiful days would come back again, and I would lake your hand again, and I would forget altogether about the terrible nights when I saw you beside me and heard you laugh just as in the old times. And I knew there was only the one way left. How could I but try that? I knew you would be angry, but I hoped your anger would go away. And now you are angry, Gerty, and my speaking to you is not of much use—as yet; but I can wait until I see yourself again, as you used to be, in the garden—don't you remember, Gerty?"
Her face was proud, cold, implacable.
"Do I understand you aright: that you have shut me up in this yacht and mean to take me away?"
"Gerty, I have saved you from yourself!"
"Will you be so kind as to tell me where we are going?"
"Why not away back to the Highlands, Gerty?" said he, eagerly. "And then some day when your heart relents, and you forgive me, you will put your hand in mine, and we will walk up the road to Castle Dare. Do you not think they will be glad to see us that day, Gerty?"
She maintained her proud attitude, but she was trembling from head to foot.
"Do you mean to say that until I consent to be your wife I am not to be allowed to leave this yacht?"
"You will consent Gerty!"
"Not if I were to be shut up here for a thousand years!" she exclaimed, with another burst of passion. "Oh, you will pay for this dearly! I thought it was madness—mere folly; but if it is true, you will rue this day! Do you think we are savages here? Do you think we have no law?"
"I do not care for any law," said he, simply. "I can only think of the one thing in the world. If I have not your love, Gerty, what else can I care about?"
"My love!" she exclaimed. "And this is the way to earn it, truly! My love! If you were to keep me shut up for a thousand years, you would never have it! You can have my hatred, if you like, and plenty of it, too!"
"You are angry, Gerty!" was all he said.
"Oh, you do not know with whom you have to deal!" she continued, with the same bitter emphasis. "You terrified me with stories of butchery—the butchery of innocent women and children; and no doubt you thought the stories were fine; and now you too would show you are one of the race by taking revenge on a woman. But if she is only a woman, you have not conquered her yet! Oh, you will find out before long that we have law in this country, and that it is not to be outraged with impunity. You think you can do as you like, because you are a Highland master, and you have a lot of slaves round you!"
"I am going on deck now, Gerty," said he, in the same sad and gentle way. "Shall I send Christina to you?"
For an instant she looked bewildered, as if she had not till now comprehended what was going on; and she said, quite wildly,—
"Oh no, no, no, Keith; you don't mean what you say! You cannot mean it! You are only frightening me! You will put me ashore—and not a word shall pass my lips. We cannot be far down the river, Keith. There are many places where you could put me ashore, and I could get back to London by rail. They won't know I have ever seen you. Keith, you will put me ashore now?"
"And if I were to put you ashore now, you would go away, Gerty, and I should never see you again—never, and never. And what would that be for you and for me, Gerty? But now you are here, no one can poison your mind: you will be angry for a time; but the brighter days are coming—oh yes, I know that: if I was not sure of that, what would become of me? It is a good thing to have hope—to look forward to the glad days: that stills the pain at the heart. And now we two are together at last, Gerty! And if you are angry, the anger will pass away; and we will go forward together to the glad days."
She was listening in a sort of vague and stunned amazement. Both her anger and her fear were slowly yielding to the bewilderment of the fact that she was really setting out on a voyage, the end of which neither she nor any one living could know.
"Ah, Gerty," said he, regarding her with a strange wistfulness in the sad eyes, "you do not know what it is to me to see you again! I have seen you many a time—in dreams; but you were always far away, and I could not take your hand. And I said to myself that you were not cruel; that you did not wish any one to suffer pain. And I knew if I could only see you again, and take you away from these people, then your heart would be gentle, and you would think of the time when you gave me the red rose, and we went out in the garden, and all the air round us was so full of gladness that we did not speak at all. Oh yes; and I said to myself that your true friends were in the North; and what would the men at Dubh-Artach not do for you, and Captain Macallum too, when they knew you were coming to live at Dare; and I was thinking that would be a grand day when you came to live among us; and there would be dancing, and a good glass of whiskey for every one, and some playing on the pipes that day! And sometimes I did not know whether there would be more of laughing or of crying when Janet came to meet you. But I will not trouble you any more now, Gerty; for you are tired, I think; and I will send Christina to you. And you will soon think that I was not cruel to you when I took you away and saved you from yourself."
She did not answer; she seemed in a sort of trance. But she was aroused by the entrance of Christina, who came in directly after Macleod left. Miss White stared at this tall white-haired woman, as if uncertain how to address her; when she spoke, it was in a friendly and persuasive way.
"You have not forgotten me, then, Christina?"
"No, mem," said the grave Highland woman. She had beautiful, clear, blue-gray eyes, but there was no pity in them.
"I suppose you have no part in this mad freak?"
The old woman seemed puzzled. She said, with a sort of serious politeness,—
"I do not know, mem. I have not the good English as Hamish."
"But surely you know this," said Miss Gertrude White, with more animation, "that I am here against my will? You understand that, surely? That I am being carried away against my will from my own home and my friends? You know it very well; but perhaps your master has not told you of the risk you run? Do you know what that is? Do you think there are no laws in this country?"
"Sir Keith he is the master of the boat," said Christina. "Iss there anything now that I can do for you, mem?"
"Yes," said Miss White, boldly; "there is. You can help me to get ashore. And you will save your master from being looked on as a madman. And you will save yourselves from being hanged."
"I wass to ask you," said the old Highland woman "when you would be for having the dinner. And Hamish, he wass saying that you will hef the dinner what time you are thinking of; and will you hef the dinner all by yourself?"
"I tell you this, woman," said Miss White, with quick anger, "that I will neither eat nor drink so long as I am on board this yacht! What is the use of this nonsense? I wish to be put on shore. I am getting tired of this folly. I tell you I want to go ashore; and I am going ashore; and it will be the worse for any one who tries to stop me!"
"I do not think you can go ashore, mem," Christina said, somewhat deliberately picking out her English phrases, "for the gig is up at the davits now; and the dingy—you wass not thinking of going ashore by yourself in the dingy? And last night, mem, at a town, we had many things brought on board; and if you would tell me what you would hef for the dinner, there is no one more willing than me. And I hope you will hef very good comfort on board the yacht."
"I can't get it into your head that you are talking nonsense!" said Miss White, angrily. "I tell you I will not go anywhere in this yacht! And what is the use of talking to me about dinner? I tell you I will neither eat nor drink while I am on board this yacht!"
"I think that would be a ferry foolish thing, mem," Christina said, humbly enough; but all the same, the scornful fashion in which this young lady had addressed her had stirred a little of the Highland woman's blood; and she added—still with great apparent humility—"But if you will not eat, they say that iss a ferry good thing for the pride; and there iss not much pride left if one hass nothing to eat, mem."
"I presume that is to be my prison?" said Miss White, haughtily, turning to the smart little stateroom beyond the companion.
"That iss your cabin, mem, if you please, mem," said Christina, who had been instructed in English politeness by her husband.
"Well, now, can you understand this? Go to Sir Keith Macleod, and tell him that I have shut myself up in that cabin; and that I will speak not a word to any one; and I will neither eat nor drink until I am taken on shore. And so, if he wishes to have a murder on his hands, very well! Do you understand that?"
"I will say that to Sir Keith," Christina answered, submissively.
Miss White walked into the cabin and locked herself in. It was an apartment with which she was familiar; but where had they got the white heather? And there were books; but she paid little heed. They would discover they had not broken her spirit yet.
On either side the skylight overhead was open an inch; and it was nearer to the tiller than the skylight of the saloon. In the absolute stillness of this summer day she heard two men talking. Generally they spoke in the Gaelic, which was of course unintelligible to her; but sometimes they wandered into English—especially if the name of some English town cropped up—and thus she got hints as to the whereabouts of the Umpire.
"Oh yes, it is a fine big town that town of Gravesend, to be sure, Hamish," said the one voice, "and I have no doubt, now, that it will be sending a gentleman to the Houses of Parliament in London, just as Greenock will do. But there is no one you will send from Mull. They do not know much about Mull in the Houses of Parliament."
"And they know plenty about ferry much worse places," said Hamish, proudly. "And wass you saying there will be anything so beautiful about Greenock ass you will find at Tobbermorry?"
"Tobermory!" said the other; "There are some trees at Tobermory—oh yes; and the Mish-nish and the shops—"
"Yess, and the waterfahl—do not forget the waterfahl, Colin; and there iss better whiskey in Tobbermorry ass you will get in all Greenock, where they will be for mixing it with prandy and other drinks like that; and at Tobbermorry you will hef a Professor come all the way from Edinburgh and from Oban to gif a lecture on the Gaelic; but do you think he would gif a lecture in a town like Greenock? Oh no; he would not do that!"
"Very well, Hamish; but it is glad I am that we are going back the way we came."
"And me, too, Colin."
"And I will not be sorry when I am in Greenock once more."
"But you will come with us first of all to Castle Dare, Colin," was the reply. "And I know that Lady Macleod herself will be for shaking hands with you, and thanking you that you wass tek the care of the yacht."
"I think I will stop at Greenock, Hamish. You know you can take her well on from Greenock. And will you go round the Mull, Hamish, or through the Crinan, do you think now?"
"Oh, I am not afrait to tek her round the Moil; but there iss the English lady on board; and it will be smoother for her to go through the Crinan. And it iss ferry glad I will be, Colin, to see Ardalanish Point again; for I would rather be going through the Doruis Mohr twenty times ass getting petween the panks of this tamned river."
Here they relapsed into their native tongue, and she listened no longer; but, at all events, she had learned that they were going away to the North. And as her nerves had been somewhat shaken, she began to ask herself what further thing this madman might not do. The old stories he had told her came back with a marvellous distinctness. Would he plunge her into a dungeon and mock her with an empty cup when she was dying of thirst? Would he chain her to a rock at low-water; and watch the tide slowly rise? He professed great gentleness and love for her; but if the savage nature had broken out at last! Her fear grew apace. He had shown himself regardless of everything on earth: where would he stop, if she continued to repel him? And then the thought of her situation—alone; shut up in this small room; about to venture forth on the open sea with this ignorant crew—so overcame her that she hastily snatched at the bell on the dressing table and rang it violently. Almost instantly there was a tapping at the door.
"I ask your pardon, mem," she heard Christina say.
She sprang to the door and opened it, and caught the arm of the old woman.
"Christina, Christina!" she said, almost wildly, "you won't let them take me away? My father will give you hundreds and hundreds of pounds if only you get me ashore! Just think of him—he is an old man—if you had a daughter—"
Miss White was acting very well indeed; though she was more concerned about herself than her father.
"I wass to say to you," Christina explained with some difficulty, "that if you wass saying that, Sir Keith had a message sent away to your father, and you wass not to think any more about that. And now, mem, I cannot tek you ashore; is iss no business I hef with that; and I could not go ashore myself whateffer; but I would get you some dinner, mem."
"Then I suppose you don't understand the English language!" Miss White exclaimed, angrily. "I tell you I will neither eat nor drink so long as I am on board this yacht! Go and tell Sir Keith Macleod what I have said."
So Miss White was left alone again; and the slow time passed; and she heard the murmured conversation of the men; and also a measured pacing to and fro, which she took to be the step of Macleod. Quick rushes of feeling went through her, indignation, a stubborn obstinacy, a wonder over the audacity of this thing, malevolent hatred even; but all these were being gradually subdued by the dominant claim of hunger. Miss White had acted the part of many heroines; but she was not herself a heroine—if there is anything heroic in starvation. It was growing to dusk when she again summoned the old Highland-woman.
"Get me something to eat," said she; "I cannot die like a rat in a hole."
"Yes, mem," said Christina, in the most matter-of-fact way; for she had never been in a theatre in her life, and she had not imagined that Miss White's threat meant anything at all. "The dinner is just ready now, mem; and if you will hef it in the saloon, there will be no one there; that wass Sir Keith's message to you."
"I will not have it in the saloon; I will have it here."
"Ferry well, mem," Christina said, submissively. "But you will go into the saloon, mem, when I will mek the bed for you, and the lamp will hef to be lit, but Hamish he will light the lamp for you. And are there any other things you wass thinking of that you would like, mem?"
"No; I want something to eat."
"And Hamish, mem, he wass saying I will ask you whether you will hef the claret-wine, or—or—the other wine, mem, that makes a noise—"
"Bring me some water. But the whole of you will pay dearly for this!"
"I ask your pardon, mem?" said Christina, with great respect.
"Oh, go away, and get me something to eat!"
And in fact Miss White made a very good dinner, though the things had to be placed before her on her dressing-table. And her rage and indignation did not prevent her having, after all a glass or two of the claret-wine. And then she permitted Hamish to come in and light the swinging lamp; and thereafter Christina made up one of the two narrow beds. Miss White was left alone.
Many a hundred times had she been placed in great peril—on the stage; and she knew that on such occasions it had been her duty to clasp her hand on her forehead and set to work to find out how to extricate herself. Well, on this occasion she did not make use of any dramatic gesture; but she turned out the lamp, and threw herself on the top of this narrow little bed; and was determined that, before they got her conveyed to their savage home in the North, she would make one more effort for her freedom. Then she heard the man at the helm begin to hum to himself "Fhir a bhata, na horo eile." The night darkened. And soon all the wild emotions of the day were forgotten; for she was asleep.
* * * * *
Asleep—in the very waters through which she had sailed with her lover on the white summer day. But Rose-leaf! Rose-leaf! what faint wind will carry you NOW to the South?
THE VOYAGE OVER.
And now the brave old Umpire is nearing her Northern home once more; and surely this is a right royal evening for the reception of her. What although the sun has just gone down, and the sea around them become a plain of heaving and wrestling blue-black waves? Far away, in that purple-black sea, lie long promontories that are of a still pale rose-color; and the western sky is a blaze of golden-green; and they know that the wild, beautiful radiance is still touching the wan walls of Castle Dare. And there is Ardalanish Point; and that the ruddy Ross of Mull; and there will be a good tide in the Sound of Iona. Why, then, do they linger, and keep the old Umpire with her sails flapping idly in the wind?
"As you pass through Jura's Sound Bend your course by Scarba's shore; Shun, oh shun, the gulf profound Where Corrievreckan's surges roar!"
They are in no danger of Corrievreckan now; they are in familiar waters; only that is another Colonsay that lies away there in the south. Keith Macleod, seated up at the bow, is calmly regarding it. He is quite alone. There is no sound around him but the lapping of the waves.
"And ever as the year returns, The charm-bound sailors knows the day; For sadly still the Mermaid mourns The lovely chief of Colonsay."
And is he listening now for the wild sound of her singing? Or is he thinking of the brave Macphail, who went back after seven long months of absence, and found the maid of Colonsay still true to him? The ruby ring she had given him had never paled. There was one woman who could remain true to her absent lover.
Hamish came forward.
"Will we go on now, sir?" said he, in the Gaelic.
Hamish looked round. The shining clear evening looked very calm, notwithstanding the tossing of the blue-black waves. And it seemed wasteful to the old sailor to keep the yacht lying-to or aimlessly sailing this way and that while this favorable wind remained to them.
"I am not sure that the breeze will last, Sir Keith."
"Are you sure of anything, Hamish?" Macleod said, quite absently. "Well, there is one thing we can all make sure of. But I have told you, Hamish, I am not going up the Sound of Iona in daylight: why, there is not a man in all the islands who would not know of our coming by to-morrow morning. We will go up the Sound as soon as it is dark. It is a new moon to-night; and I think we can go without lights, Hamish."
"Dunara is coming south to-night, Sir Keith," the old man said.
"Why, Hamish, you seem to have lost all your courage as soon as you put Colin Laing ashore."
"Colin Laing! Is it Colin Laing!" exclaimed Hamish, indignantly. "I will know how to sail this yacht, and I will know the banks, and the tides, and the rocks better than any fifteen thousands of Colin Laings!"
"And what if the Dunara is coming south? If she cannot see us, we can see her."
But whether it was that Colin Laing had, before leaving the yacht, managed to convey to Hamish some notion of the risk he was running, or whether it was that he was merely anxious for his master's safety, it was clear that Hamish was far from satisfied. He opened and shut his big clasp-knife in an awkward silence. Then he said,—
"You will not go to Castle Dare, Sir Keith?"
Macleod started; he had forgotten that Hamish was there.
"No. I have told you where I am going."
"But there is not any good anchorage at that island sir!" he protested. "Have I not been round every bay of it; and you too, Sir Keith? and you know there is not an inch of sand or of mud, but only the small loose stones. And then the shepherd they left there all by himself; it was mad he became at last, and took his own life too."
"Well, do you expect to see his ghost?" Macleod said. "Come, Hamish, you have lost your nerve in the South. Surely you are not afraid of being anywhere in the old yacht so long as she has good sea-room around her?"
"And if you are not wishing to go up the Sound of Iona in the daylight, Sir Keith," Hamish said, still clinging to the point, "we could bear a little to the south, and go round the outside of Iona."
"The Dubh-Artach men would recognize the Umpire at once," Macleod said, abruptly; and then he suggested to Hamish that he should get a little more way on the yacht, so that she might be a trifle steadier when Christina carried the dinner into the English lady's cabin. But indeed there was now little breeze of any kind. Hamish's fears of a dead calm was likely to prove true.
Meanwhile another conversation had been going forward in the small cabin below, that was now suffused by a strange warm light reflected from the evening sky. Miss White was looking very well now, after her long sea-voyage. During their first few hours in blue water she had been very ill indeed; and she repeatedly called en Christina to allow her to die. The old Highland-woman came to the conclusion that English ladies were rather childish in their way; but the only answer she made to this reiterated prayer was to make Miss White as comfortable as was possible, and to administer such restoratives as she thought desirable. At length, when recovery and a sound appetite set in, the patient began to show a great friendship for Christina. There was no longer any theatrical warning of the awful fate in store for everybody connected with this enterprise. She tried rather to enlist the old woman's sympathies on her behalf, and if she did not very well succeed in that direction, at least she remained on friendly terms with Christina and received from her the solace of much gossip about the whereabouts and possible destination of the ship.
And on this evening Christina had an important piece of news.
"Where have we got to now, Christina?" said Miss White, quite cheerfully, when the old woman entered.
"Oh yes, mem, we will still be off the Mull shore, but a good piece away from it, and there is not much wind, mem. But Hamish thinks we will get to the anchorage the night whatever."
"The anchorage!" Miss White exclaimed eagerly. "Where? You are going to Castle Dare, surely?"
"No, mem, I think not," said Christina. "I think it is an island; but you will not know the name of that island—there is no English for it at all."
"But where is it? Is it near Castle Dare?"
"Oh no, mem; it is a good way from Castle Dare; and it is out in the sea. Do you know Gometra, mem?—wass you ever going out to Gometra?"
"Yes, of course, I remember something about it anyway."
"Ah, well, it is away out past Gometra, mem; and not a good place for an anchorage whatever; but Hamish he will know all the anchorages."
"What on earth is the use of going there?"
"I do not know, mem."
"Is Sir Keith going to keep me on board this boat forever?"
"I do not know, mem."
Christina had to leave the cabin just then; when she returned she said, with some little hesitation,
"If I wass mekking so bold, mem, ass to say this to you: Why are you not asking the questions of Sir Keith himself? He will know all about it; and if you were to come into the saloon, mem—"
"Do you think I would enter into any communication with him after his treatment of me?" said Miss White, indignantly, "No; let him atone for that first. When he has set me at liberty, then I will speak with him; but never so long as he keeps me shut up like a convict."
"I wass only saying, mem," Christina answered, with great respect, "that if you were wishing to know where we were going, Sir Keith will know that; but how can I know it? And you know, mem, Sir Keith has not shut you up in this cabin; you hef the saloon, if you would please to hef it."
"Thank you, I know!" rejoined Miss White. "If I choose, my gaol may consist of two rooms instead of one. I don't appreciate that amount of liberty. I want to be set ashore."
"That I hef nothing to do with, mem," Christina said, humbly, proceeding with her work.
Miss White, being left to think over these things, was beginning to believe that, after all, her obduracy was not likely to be of much service to her. Would it not be wiser to treat with the enemy—perhaps to outwit him by a show of forgiveness? Here they were approaching the end of the voyage—at least, Christina seemed to intimate as much; and if they were not exactly within call of friends, they would surely be within rowing distance of some inhabited island, even Gometra, for example. And if only a message could be sent to Castle Dare? Lady Macleod and Janet Macleod were women. They would not countenance this monstrous thing. If she could only reach them, she would be safe.
The rose-pink died away from the long promontories, and was succeeded by a sombre gray; the glory in the west sank down; a wan twilight came over the sea and the sky; and a small golden star, like the point of a needle, told where the Dubh-Artach men had lit their beacon for the coming night. The Umpire lay and idly rolled in this dead calm; Macleod paced up and down the deck in the solemn stillness. Hamish threw a tarpaulin over the skylight of the saloon, to cover the bewildering light from below; and then, as the time went slowly by, darkness came over the land and the sea. They were alone with the night, and the lapping waves, and the stars.
About ten o'clock there was a loud rattling of blocks and cordage—the first puff of a coming breeze had struck her. The men were at their posts in a moment; there were a few sharp, quick orders from Hamish; and presently the old Umpire, with her great boom away over her quarter, was running free before a light southeasterly wind.
"Ay, ay!" said Hamish, in sudden gladness, "we will soon be by Ardalanish Point with a fine wind like this, Sir Keith; and if you would rather hef no lights on her—well, it is a clear night whateffer; and the Dunara she will hef up her lights."
The wind came in bits of squalls, it is true; but the sky overhead remained clear, and the Umpire bowled merrily along. Macleod was still on deck. They rounded the Ross of Mull, and got into the smoother waters of the Sound. Would any of the people in the cottages at Drraidh see this gray ghost of a vessel go gliding past over the dark water? Behind them burned the yellow eye of Dubh-Artach; before them a few small red points told them of the Iona cottages; and still this phantom gray vessel held on her way. The Umpire was nearing her last anchorage.
And still she steals onward, like a thief in the night She has passed through the Sound; she is in the open sea again; there is a calling of startled birds from over the dark bosom of the deep. Then far away they watch the light of a steamer; but she is miles from their course; they cannot even hear the throb of her engines.
It is another sound they hear—a low booming as of distant thunder. And that black thing away on their right—scarcely visible over the darkened waves—is that the channelled and sea-bird haunted Staffa, trembling through all her caves under the shock of the smooth Atlantic surge? For all the clearness of the starlit sky, there is a wild booming of waters all around her rocks; and the giant caverns answer; and the thunder shudders out to the listening sea.
The night drags on. The Dutchman is fast asleep in his vast Atlantic bed; the dull roar of the waves he has heard for millions of years is not likely to awake him. And Fladda and Lunga; surely this ghost-gray ship that steals by is not the old Umpire that used to visit them in the gay summer-time, with her red ensign flying, and the blue seas all around her? But here is a dark object on the waters that is growing larger and larger as one approaches it. The black outline of it is becoming sharp against the clear dome of stars. There is a gloom around as one gets nearer and nearer the bays and cliffs of this lonely island; and now one hears the sound of breakers on the rocks. Hamish and his men are on the alert. The topsail has been lowered. The heavy cable of the anchor lies ready by the windlass. And then, as the Umpire glides into smooth water, and her head is brought round to the light breeze, away goes the anchor with a rattle that awakes a thousand echoes; and all the startled birds among the rocks are calling through the night—the sea-pyots screaming shrilly, the curlews uttering their warning note, the herons croaking as they wing their slow flight away across the sea. The Umpire has got to her anchorage at last.
And scarcely was the anchor down when they brought him a message from the English lady. She was in the saloon, and wished to see him. He could scarcely believe this; for it was now past midnight, and she had never come into the saloon before. But he went down through the forecastle, and through his own stateroom, and opened the door of the saloon.
For a second the strong light almost blinded him; but, at all events, he knew she was sitting there; and that she was regarding him with no fierce indignation at all, but with quite a friendly look.
"Gertrude!" said he, in wonder; but he did not approach her. He stood before her, as one who was submissive.
"So we have got to land at last," said she; and more and more he wondered to hear the friendliness of her voice. Could it be true, then? Or was it only one of those visions that had of late been torturing his brain?
"Oh yes, Gerty!" said he. "We have got to an anchorage."
"I thought I would sit up for it," said she. "Christina said we should get to land some time to-night; and I thought I would like to see you. Because, you know, Keith, you have used me very badly. And won't you sit down?"
He accepted that invitation. Could it be true? could it be true? This was ringing in his ears. He heard her only in a bewildered way.
"And I want you to tell me what you mean to do with me," said she, frankly and graciously: "I am at your mercy, Keith."
"Oh, not that—not that," said he; and he added, sadly enough, "it is I who have been at your mercy since ever I saw you, Gerty; and it is for you to say what is to become of you and of me. And have you got over your anger now? And will you think of all that made me do this, and try to forgive it for the sake of my love for you, Gerty? Is there any chance of that now?"
She rather avoided the earnest gaze that was bent on her. She did not notice how nervously his hand gripped the edge of the table near him.
"Well, it is a good deal to forgive, Keith; you will acknowledge that yourself: and though you used to think that I was ready to sacrifice everything for fame, I did not expect you would make me a nine-days' wonder in this way. I suppose the whole thing is in the papers now."
"Oh no, Gerty; I sent a message to your father."
"Well, that was kind of you—and audacious. Were you not afraid of his overtaking you? The Umpire is not the swiftest of sailors, you used to say; and you know there are telegraphs and railways to all the ports."
"He did not know you were in the Umpire, Gerty. But of course, if he were very anxious about you, he would write or come to Dare. I should not be surprised if he were there now."
A quick look of surprise and gladness sprang to her face.
"Papa—at Castle Dare!" she exclaimed. "And Christina says it is not far from here."
"Not many miles away."
"Then, of course, they will know we are here in the morning!" she cried, in the indiscretion of sudden joy. "And they will come out for me."
"Oh no, Gerty, they will not come out for you. No human being but those on board knows that we are here. Do you think they could see you from Dare? And there is no one living now on the island. We are alone in the sea."
The light died away from her face; but she said, cheerfully enough,—
"Well, I am at your mercy, then, Keith. Let us take it that way. Now you must tell me what part in the comedy you mean me to play; for the life of me I can't make it out."
"Oh, Gerty, Gerty, do not speak like that!" he exclaimed. "You are breaking my heart! Is there none of the old love left? Is it all a matter for jesting?"
She saw she had been incautious.
"Well," said she, gently, "I was wrong; I know it is more serious than that; and I am not indisposed to forgive you, if you treat me fairly. I know you have great earnestness of nature; and—and you were very fond of me; and although you have risked a great deal in what you have done, still, men who are very deeply in love don't think much about consequences. And if I were to forgive you, and make friends again, what then?"
"And if we were as we used to be," said he, with a grave wistfulness in his face, "do you not think I would gladly take you ashore, Gerty?"
"And to Castle Dare?"
"Oh yes, to Castle Dare! Would not my mother and Janet be glad to welcome you!"
"And papa may be there?"
"If he is not there, can we not telegraph for him? Why, Gerty, surely you would not be married anywhere but in the Highlands?"
At the mention of marriage she blanched somewhat; but she had nerved herself to play this part.
"Then, Keith," said she, gallantly, "I will make you a promise. Take me to Castle Dare to-morrow, and the moment I am within its doors I will shake hands with you, and forgive you, and we will be friends again as in the old days."
"We were more than friends, Gerty," said he, in a low voice.
"Let us be friends first, and then who knows what may not follow?" said she, brightly. "You cannot expect me to be overprofuse in affection just after being shut up like this?"
"Gerty," said he, and he looked at her with those strangely tired eyes, and there was a great gentleness in his voice, "do you know where you are? You are close to the island that I told you of—where I wish to have my grave on the cliff. But instead of a grave, would it not be a fine thing to have a marriage here? No, do not be alarmed, Gerty! it is only with your own goodwill; and surely your heart will consent at last! Would not that be a strange wedding, too; with the minister from Salen; and your father on board; and the people from Dare? Oh, you would see such a number of boats come out that day, and we would go proudly back; and do you not think there would be a great rejoicing that day? Then all our troubles would be at an end, Gerty! There would be no more fear; and the theatres would never see you again; and the long happy life we should lead, we two together! And do you know the first thing I would get you, Gerty?—it would be a new yacht! I would go to the Clyde and have it built all for you. I would not have you go out again in this yacht, for you would then remember the days in which I was cruel to you; but in a new yacht you would not remember that any more; and do you not think we would have many a pleasant, long summer day on the deck of her, and only ourselves, Gerty? And you would sing the songs I first heard you sing, and I think the sailors would imagine they heard the singing of the mermaid of Colonsay; for there is no one can sing as you can sing, Gerty. I think it was that first took away my heart from me."
"But we can talk about all these things when I am on shore again," said she, coldly. "You cannot expect me to be very favorably disposed so long as I am shut up here."
"But then," he said, "if you were on shore you might go away again from me, Gerty! The people would get at your ear again; they would whisper things to you; you would think about the theatres again. I have saved you, sweetheart; can I let you go back?"
The words were spoken with an eager affection, and yearning; but they sank into her mind with a dull and cold conviction that there was no escape for her through any way of artifice.
"Am I to understand, then," said she, "that you mean to keep me a prisoner here until I marry you?"
"Why do you speak like that, Gerty?"
"I demand an answer to my question."
"I have risked everything to save you; can I let you go back?"
A sudden flash of desperate anger—even of hatred—was in her eyes; her fine piece of acting had been of no avail.
"Well, let the farce end!" said she, with frowning eyebrows. "Before I came on board this yacht I had some pity for you. I thought you were at least a man, and had a man's generosity. Now I find you a coward, and a tyrant—"
"Oh, do not think you have frightened me with your stories of the revenge of your miserable chiefs and their savage slaves! Not a bit of it! Do with me what you like; I would not marry you if you gave me a hundred yachts!"
The anguish of his face was growing wild with despair.
"I say, let the farce end! I had pity for you—yes, I had! Now—I hate you!"
He sprang up with a quick cry, as of one shot to the heart. He regarded her, in a bewildered manner, for one brief second; and then he gently said, "Good-night, Gerty! God forgive you!" and he staggered backward, and got out of the saloon, leaving her alone.
See! the night is still fine. All around this solitary bay there is a wall of rock, jet black, against the clear, dark sky, with its myriad twinkling stars. The new moon has arisen; but it sheds but little radiance yet down there in the south. There is a sharper gleam from one lambent planet—a thin line of golden-yellow light that comes all the way across from the black rocks until it breaks in flashes among the ripples close to the side of the yacht. Silence once more reigns around; only from time to time one hears the croak of a heron from the dusky shore.
What can keep this man up so late on deck? There is nothing to look at but the great bows of the yacht black against the pale gray sea, and the tall spars and the rigging going away up into the starlit sky, and the suffused glow from the skylight touching a yellow-gray on the main-boom. There is no need for the anchor-watch that Hamish was insisting on: the equinoctials are not likely to begin on such a night as this.
He is looking across the lapping gray water to the jet-black line of cliff. And there are certain words haunting him. He cannot forget them; he cannot put them away.
* * * * *
WHEREFORE IS LIGHT GIVEN TO HIM THAT IS IN MISERY, AND LIFE UNTO THE BITTER IN SOUL? * * * WHICH LONG FOR DEATH, BUT IT COMETH NOT; AND DIG FOR IT MORE THAN FOR HIDDEN TREASURES. * * * WHICH REJOICE EXCEEDINGLY, AND ARE GLAD WHEN THEY CAN FIND THE GRAVE.
* * * * *
Then, in the stillness of the night, he heard a breathing. He went forward, and found that Hamish had secreted himself behind the windlass. He uttered some exclamation in the Gaelic, and the old man rose and stood guiltily before him.
"Have I not told you to go below before? and will I have to throw you down into the forecastle?"
The old man stood irresolute for a moment. Then he said, also in his native tongue,—
"You should not speak like that to me, Sir Keith: I have known you many a year."
Macleod caught Hamish's hand.
"I beg your pardon, Hamish. You do not know. It is a sore heart I have this night."
"Oh, God help us! Do I not know that!" he exclaimed, in a broken voice; and Macleod, as he turned away, could hear the old man crying bitterly in the dark. What else could Hamish do now for him who had been to him as the son of his old age?
"Go below now, Hamish," said Macleod in a gentle voice and the old man slowly and reluctantly obeyed.
But the night had not drawn to day when Macleod again went forward, and said, in a strange, excited whisper,—
"Hamish, Hamish, are you awake now?"
Instantly the old man appeared; he had not turned into his berth at all.
"Hamish, Hamish, do you hear the sound?" Macleod said, in the same wild way; "do you not hear the sound?"
"What sound, Sir Keith?" said he; for indeed there was nothing but the lapping of the water along the side of the yacht and a murmur of ripples along the shore.
"Do you not hear it, Hamish? It is a sound as of a brass-band!—a brass-band playing music—as if it was in a theatre. Can you not hear it, Hamish?"
"Oh, God help us! God help us!" Hamish cried.
"You do not hear it, Hamish?" he said. "Ah, it is some mistake. I beg your pardon for calling you, Hamish: now you will go below again."
"Oh no, Sir Keith," said Hamish. "Will I not stay on deck now till the morning? It is a fine sleep I have had; oh yes, I had a fine sleep. And how is one to know when the equinoctials may not come on?"
"I wish you to go below, Hamish."
And now this sound that is ringing in his ears is no longer of the brass-band that he had heard in the theatre. It is quite different. It has all the ghastly mirth of that song that Norman Ogilvie used to sing in the old, half-forgotten days. What is it that he hears?
"King Death was a rare old fellow, He sat where no sun could shine; And he lifted his hand so yellow, And poured out his coal-black wine! Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah! for the coal-black wine!"
It is a strange mirth. It might almost make a man laugh. For do we not laugh gently when we bury a young child, and put the flowers over it, and know that it is at peace? The child has no more pain at the heart. Oh, Norman Ogilvie, are you still singing the wild song? and are you laughing now?—or is it the old man Hamish that is crying in the dark?
* * * * *
"There came to him many a maiden, Whose eyes had forgot to shine; And widows with grief o'erladen, For a draught of his sleepy wine. Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah! for the coal-black wine!"
It is such a fine thing to sleep—when one has been fretting all the night, and spasms of fire go through the brain! Ogilvie, Ogilvie, do you remember the laughing Duchess? do you think she would laugh over one's grave; or put her foot on it, and stand relentless, with anger in her eyes? That is a sad thing; but after it is over there is sleep.
* * * * *
"All came to the rare old fellow, Who laughed till his eyes dropped brine, As he gave them his hand so yellow, And pledged them, in Death's black wine! Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah! for the coal-black wine!"
Hamish!—Hamish!—will you not keep her away from me! I have told Donald what pibroch he will play; I want to be at peace now. But the brass-band—the brass-band—I can hear the blare of the trumpets; Ulva will know that we are here, and the Gometra men, and the sea-birds too, that I used to love. But she has killed all that now, and she stands on my grave. She will laugh, for she was light-hearted, like a young child. But you, Hamish, you will find the quiet grave for me; and Donald will play the pibroch for me that I told him of; and you will say no word to her of all that is over and gone.
* * * * *
See—he sleeps. This haggard-faced man is stretched on the deck; and the pale dawn, arising in the east, looks at him; and does not revive him, but makes him whiter still. You might almost think he was dead. But Hamish knows better than that; for the old man comes stealthily forward; and he has a great tartan plaid in his hand's; and very gently indeed he puts it over his young master. And there are tears running down Hamish's face; and he says "The brave lad! the brave lad!"
"Duncan," said Hamish, in a low whisper—for Macleod had gone below, and they thought he might be asleep in the small, hushed stateroom, "this is a strange-looking day, is it not? And I am afraid of it in this open bay, with an anchorage no better than a sheet of paper for an anchorage. Do you see now how strange-looking it is?"
Duncan Cameron also spoke in his native tongue; and he said,—
"That is true, Hamish. And it was a day like this there was when the Solan was sunk at her moorings in Loch Hourn. Do you remember, Hamish? And it would be better for us now if we were in Loch Tua, or Loch-na-Keal, or in the dock that was built for the steamer at Tiree. I do not like the look of this day."
Yet to an ordinary observer it would have seemed that the chief characteristic of this pale, still day, was extreme and settled calm. There was not a breath of wind to ruffle the surface of the sea; but there was a slight, glassy swell, and that only served to show curious opalescent tints under the suffused light of the sun. There were no clouds; there was only a thin veil of faint and sultry mist all across the sky; the sun was invisible, but there was a glare of yellow at one point of the heavens. A dead calm; but heavy, oppressed, sultry. There was something in the atmosphere that seemed to weigh on the chest.
"There was a dream I had this morning," continued Hamish, in the same low tones. "It was about my little granddaughter Christina. You know my little Christina, Duncan. And she said to me, 'What have you done with Sir Keith Macleod? Why have you not brought him back? He was under your care, grandfather.' I did not like that dream."
"Oh, you are becoming as bad as Sir Keith Macleod himself?" said the other. "He does not sleep. He talks to himself. You will become like that if you pay attention to foolish dreams, Hamish."
Hamish's quick temper leaped up.
"What do you mean, Duncan Cameron, by saying, 'as bad as Sir Keith Macleod?' You—you come from Ross: perhaps they have not good masters there. I tell you there is not any man in Ross, or in Sutherland either, is as good a master, and as brave a lad, as Sir Keith Macleod—not any one, Duncan Cameron!"
"I did not mean anything like that, Hamish," said the other, humbly. "But there was a breeze this morning. We could have got over to Loch Tua. Why did we stay here, where there is no shelter and no anchorage? Do you know what is likely to come after a day like this?"
"It is your business to be a sailor on board this yacht; it is not your business to say where she will go," said Hamish.
But all the same the old man was becoming more and more alarmed at the ugly aspect of the dead calm. The very birds, instead of stalking among the still pools, or lying buoyant on the smooth waters, were excitedly calling, and whirring from one point to another.
"If the equinoctials were to begin now," said Duncan Cameron, "this is a fine place to meet the equinoctials! An open bay, without shelter; and a ground that is no ground for an anchorage. It is not two anchors or twenty anchors would hold in such ground."
Macleod appeared; the man was suddenly silent. Without a word to either of them—and that was not his wont—he passed to the stern of the yacht. Hamish knew from his manner that he would not be spoken to. He did not follow him, even with all this vague dread on his mind.
The day wore on to the afternoon. Macleod, who had been pacing up and down the deck, suddenly called Hamish. Hamish came aft at once.
"Hamish," said he, with a strange sort of laugh, "do you remember this morning, before the light came? Do you remember that I asked you about a brass-band that I heard playing?"
Hamish looked at him, and said, with an earnest anxiety,
"Oh, Sir Keith, you will pay no heed to that! It is very common; I have heard them say it is very common. Why, to hear a brass-band, to be sure! There is nothing more common than that. And you will not think you are unwell merely because you think you can hear a brass-band playing."
"I want you to tell me, Hamish," said he, in the same jesting way, "whether my eyes have followed the example of my ears, and are playing tricks. Do you think they are bloodshot, with my lying on deck in the cold? Hamish, what do you see all around?"
The old man looked at the sky, and the shore, and the sea. It was a marvellous thing. The world was all enshrouded in a salmon-colored mist: there was no line of horizon visible between the sea and the sky.
"It is red, Sir Keith," said Hamish.
"Ah! Am I in my senses this time? And what do you think of a red day, Hamish? That is not a usual thing."
"Oh, Sir Keith, it will be a wild night this night! And we cannot stay here, with this bad anchorage!"
"And where would you go, Hamish—in a dead calm?" Macleod asked, still with a smile on the wan face.
"Where would I go?" said the old man, excitedly. "I—I will take care of the yacht. But you, Sir Keith; oh! you—you will go ashore now. Do you know, sir, the sheiling that the shepherd had? It is a poor place; oh yes; but Duncan Cameron and I will take some things ashore. And do you not think we can look after the yacht? She has met the equinoctials before, if it is the equinoctials that are beginning. She has met them before; and cannot she meet them now? But you, Sir Keith, you will go ashore."
Macleod burst out laughing, in an odd sort of fashion.
"Do you think I am good at running away when there is any kind of danger, Hamish. Have you got into the English way. Would you call me a coward too? Nonsense, nonsense, nonsense, Hamish! I—why, I am going to drink a glass of the coal-black wine, and have done with it. I will drink it to the health of my sweetheart, Hamish!"
"Sir Keith," said the old man, beginning to tremble, though he but half understood the meaning of the scornful mirth, "I have had charge of you since you were a young lad."
"And Lady Macleod will ask of me, 'Such and such a thing happened: what did you do for my son?' Then I will say, 'Your ladyship, we were afraid of the equinoctials; and we got Sir Keith to go ashore; and the next day we went ashore for him; and now we have brought him back to Castle Dare!'"
"Hamish, Hamish, you are laughing at me! Or you want to call me a coward? Don't you know I should be afraid of the ghost of the shepherd who killed himself? Don't you know that the English people call me a coward?"
"May their souls dwell in the downmost hall of perdition!" said Hamish, with his cheeks becoming a gray-white; "and every woman that ever came of the accursed race!"
He looked at the old man for a second, and he gripped his hand.
"Do not say that, Hamish—that is folly. But you have been my friend. My mother will not forget you—it's not the way of a Macleod to forget—whatever happens to me."
"Sir Keith!" Hamish cried, "I do not know what you mean! But you will go ashore before the night?"
"Go ashore," Macleod answered, with a return to this wild, bantering tone, "when I am going to see my sweetheart? Oh no! Tell Christina, now! Tell Christina to ask the young English lady to come into the saloon, for I have something to say to her. Be quick, Hamish!"
Hamish went away; and before long he returned with the answer that the young English lady was in the saloon. And now he was no longer haggard and piteous, but joyful; and there was a strange light in his eyes.
"Sweetheart," said he, "are you waiting for me at last? I have brought you a long way. Shall we drink a glass now at the end of the voyage?"
"Do you wish to insult me?" said she; but there was no anger in her voice: there was more of fear in her eyes as she regarded him.
"You have no other message for me than the one you gave me last night, Gerty?" said he, almost cheerfully. "It is all over, then? You would go away from me forever? But we will drink a glass before we go!"
He sprang forward, and caught both her hands in his with the grip of a vice.
"Do you know what you have done, Gerty?" said he, in a low voice. "Oh, you have soft, smooth, English ways; and you are like a rose-leaf; and you are like a queen, whom all people are glad to serve. But do you know that you have killed a man's life? And there is no penalty for that in the South, perhaps; but you are no longer in the South. And if you have this very night to drink a glass with me, you will not refuse it? It is only a glass of the coal-black wine!"
She struggled back from him, for there was a look in his face that frightened her. But she had a wonderful self command.
"Is that the message I was to hear?" she said, coldly.
"Why, sweetheart, are you not glad? Is not that the only gladness left for you and for me, that we should drink one glass together, and clasp hands, and say good-by? What else is there left? What else could come to you and to me? And it may not be this night, or to-morrow night; but one night I think it will come; and then, sweetheart, we will have one more glass together, before the end."
He went on deck. He called Hamish.
"Hamish," said he, in a grave, matter of fact way, "I don't like the look of this evening. Did you say the sheiling was still on the island?"
"Oh yes, Sir Keith," said Hamish, with great joy; for he thought his advice was going to be taken, after all.
"Well, now, you know the gales, when they begin, sometimes last for two, or three, or four days; and I will ask you to see that Christina takes a good store of things to the sheiling before the darkness comes on. Take plenty of things now, Hamish, and put them in the sheiling, for I am afraid this is going to be a wild night."
Now, indeed, all the red light had gone away; and as the sun went down there was nothing but a spectral whiteness over the sea and the sky; and the atmosphere was so close and sultry that it seemed to suffocate one. Moreover, there was a dead calm; if they had wanted to get away from this exposed place, how could they? They could not get into the gig and pull this great yacht over to Loch Tua.
It was with a light heart that Hamish set about this thing; and Christina forthwith filled a hamper with tinned meats, and bread, and whiskey, and what not. And fuel was taken ashore, too; and candles, and a store of matches. If the gales were coming on, as appeared likely from this ominous-looking evening, who could tell how many days and nights the young master—and the English lady, too, if he desired her company—might not have to stay ashore, while the men took the chance of the sea with this yacht, or perhaps seized the occasion of some lull to make for some place of shelter? There was Loch Tua, and there was the bay at Bunessan, and there was the little channel called Polterriv, behind the rocks opposite Iona. Any shelter at all was better than this exposed place, with the treacherous anchorage.
Hamish and Duncan Cameron returned to the yacht.
"Will you go ashore now, Sir Keith?" the old man said.
"Oh no; I am not going ashore yet, It is not yet time to run away, Hamish."
He spoke in a friendly and pleasant fashion, though Hamish, in his increasing alarm, thought it no proper time for jesting. They hauled the gig up to the davits, however, and again the yacht lay in dead silence in this little bay.
The evening grew to dusk; the only change visible in the spectral world of pale yellow-white mist was the appearance in the sky of a number of small, detached bulbous-looking clouds of a dusky blue-gray. They had not drifted hither, for there was no wind. They had only appeared. They were absolutely motionless.
But the heat and the suffocation in this atmosphere became almost insupportable. The men, with bare heads, and jerseys unbuttoned at the neck, were continually going to the cask of fresh water beside the windlass. Nor was there any change when the night came on. If anything, the night was hotter than the evening had been. They awaited in silence what might come of this ominous calm.
Hamish came aft.
"I beg your pardon, Sir Keith," said he, "but I am thinking we will have an anchor-watch to-night."
"You will have no anchor-watch to-night," Macleod answered, slowly, from out of the darkness. "I will be all the anchor-watch you will need, Hamish, until the morning."
"You, sir!" Hamish cried. "I have been waiting to take you ashore: and surely it is ashore that you are going!"
Just as he had spoken there was a sound that all the world seemed to stand still to hear. It was a low murmuring sound of thunder; but it was so remote as almost to be inaudible. The next moment an awful thing occurred. The two men standing face to face in the dark suddenly found themselves in a blaze of blinding steel-blue light; and at the very same instant the thunder-roar crackled and shook all around them like the firing of a thousand cannon. How the wild echoes went booming over the sea! Then they were in the black night again. There was a period of awed silence.
"Hamish," Macleod said, quickly, "do as I tell you now! Lower the gig; take the men with you, and Christina, and go ashore, and remain in the sheiling till the morning."
"I will not!" Hamish cried. "Oh, Sir Keith, would you have me do that?"
Macleod had anticipated his refusal. Instantly he went forward and called up Christina. He ordered Duncan Cameron and John Cameron to lower away the gig. He got them all in but Hamish.
"Hamish," said he, "you are a smaller man than I. Is it on such a night, that you would have me quarrel with you? Must I throw you into the boat?"
The old man clasped his trembling hands together as if in prayer; and he said, with an agonized and broken voice,
"Oh, Sir Keith, you are my master, and there is nothing I will not do for you; but only this one night you will let me remain with the yacht? I will give you the rest of my life; but only this one night—"
"Into the gig with you!" Macleod cried, angrily. "Why, man, don't you think I can keep anchor-watch?" But then he added, very gently, "Hamish, shake hands with me now. You were my friend, and you must get ashore before the sea rises."
"I will stay in the dingy, then?" the old man entreated.
"You will go ashore, Hamish; and this very instant, too. If the gale begins, how will you get ashore. Good-by, Hamish—good-night!"
Another white sheet of flame quivered all around them, just as this black figure was descending into the gig; and then the fierce hell of sounds broke loose once more. Sea and sky together seemed to shudder at the wild uproar, and far away the sounds went thundering through the hollow night. How could one hear if there was any sobbing in that departing boat, or any last cry of farewell? It was Ulva calling now, and Fladda answering from over the black water; and the Dutchman is surely awake at last!
There came a stirring of wind from the east, and the sea began to moan. Surely the poor fugitives must have reached the shore now. And then there was a strange noise in the distance: in the awful silence between the peals of thunder it would be heard; it came nearer and nearer—a low murmuring noise, but full of secret life and thrill—it came along like the tread of a thousand armies—and then the gale struck its first blow. The yacht reeled under the stroke, but her bows staggered up again like a dog that has been felled, and after one or two convulsive plunges she clung hard at the strained cables. And now the gale was growing in fury, and the sea rising. Blinding showers of rain swept over, hissing and roaring; the white tongues of flame were shooting this way and that across the startled heavens; and there was a more awful thunder than even the falling of the Atlantic surge booming into the great sea-caves. In the abysmal darkness the spectral arms of the ocean rose white in their angry clamor; and then another blue gleam would lay bare the great heaving and wreathing bosom of the deep. What devil's dance is this? Surely it cannot be Ulva—Ulva the green-shored—Ulva that the sailors, in their love of her, call softly Ool-a-va—that is laughing aloud with wild laughter on this awful night? And Colonsay, and Lunga, and Fladda—they were beautiful and quiet in the still summer-time; but now they have gone mad, and they are flinging back the plunging sea in white masses of foam, and they are shrieking in their fierce joy of the strife. And Staffa—Staffa is far away and alone; she is trembling to her core: how long will the shuddering caves withstand the mighty hammer of the Atlantic surge? And then again the sudden wild gleam startles the night, and one sees, with an appalling vividness, the driven white waves and the black island; and then again a thousand echoes go booming along the iron-bound coast. What can be heard in the roar of the hurricane, and the hissing of rain, and the thundering whirl of the waves on the rocks? Surely not the glad last cry: SWEETHEART! YOUR HEALTH! YOUR HEALTH IN THE COAL-BLACK WINE?
* * * * *
The poor fugitives crouching in among the rocks: is it the blinding rain or the driven white surf that is in their eyes? But they have sailors' eyes; they can see through the awful storm; and their gaze is fixed on one small green point far out there in the blackness—the starboard light of the doomed ship. It wavers like a will-o'-the-wisp, but it does not recede; the old Umpire still clings bravely to her chain-cables.
And amidst all the din of the storm they hear the voice of Hamish lifted aloud in lamentation:—"Oh, the brave lad! the brave lad! And who is to save the young master now? and who will carry this tale back to Castle Dare? They will say to me: 'Hamish, you had charge of the young lad: you put the first gun in his hand: you had charge of him: he had the love of a son for you: what is it you have done with him this night?' He is my Absalom; he is my brave young lad: oh, do you think that I will let him drown and do nothing to try to save him? Do you think that? Duncan Cameron, are you a man? Will you get into the gig with me and pull out to the Umpire?"
"By God," said Duncan Cameron, solemnly, "I will do that! I have no wife; I do not care. I will go into the gig with you, Hamish; but we will never reach the yacht—this night or any night that is to come."
Then the old woman Christina shrieked aloud, and caught her husband by the arm.
"Hamish? Hamish! Are you going to drown yourself before my eyes?"
He shook her hand away from him.
"My young master ordered me ashore: I have come ashore. But I myself, I order myself back again. Duncan Cameron, they will never say that we stood by and saw Macleod of Dare go down to his grave!"
They emerged from the shelter of this great rock; the hurricane was so fierce that they had to cling to one boulder after another to save themselves from being whirled into the sea. But were these two men by themselves? Not likely! It was a party of five men that now clambered along the slippery rocks to the shingle up which they had hauled the gig, and one wild lightning-flash saw them with their hands on the gunwale, ready to drag her down to the water. There was a surf raging there that would have swamped twenty gigs: these five men were going of their own free-will and choice to certain death—so much had they loved the young master.
But a piercing cry from Christina arrested them. They looked out to sea. What was this sudden and awful thing? Instead of the starboard green light, behold! the port red light—and that moving? Oh see! how it recedes, wavering, flickering through the whirling vapor of the storm! And there again is the green light! Is it a witch's dance, or are they strange death-fires hovering over the dark ocean grave? But Hamish knows too well what it means; and with a wild cry of horror and despair, the old man sinks on his knees and clasps his hands, and stretches them out to the terrible sea.
"Oh Macleod, Macleod! are you going away from me forever and we will go up the hills together and on the lochs together no more—no more—no more! Oh, the brave lad that he was!—and the good master! And who was not proud of him—my handsome lad—and he the last of the Macleods of Dare?"
Arise, Hamish, and have the gig hauled up into shelter; for will you not want it when the gale abates, and the seas are smooth, and you have to go away to Dare, you and your comrades, with silent tongues and sombre eyes? Why this wild lamentation in the darkness of the night? The stricken heart that you loved so well has found peace at last; the coal-black wine has been drank; there is an end! And you, you poor cowering fugitives, who only see each other's terrified faces when the wan gleam of the lightning blazes through the sky, perhaps it is well that you should weep and wail for the young master; but that is soon over, and the day will break. And this is what I am thinking of now: when the light comes, and the seas are smooth, then which of you—oh, which of you all will tell this tale to the two women at Castle Dare.
* * * * *
So fair shines the morning sun on the white sands of Iona! The three days' gale is over. Behold, how Ulva—Ulva the green-shored—the Ool-a-va that the sailors love—is laughing out again to the clear skies! And the great skarts on the shores of Erisgeir are spreading abroad their dusky wings to get them dried in the sun; and the seals are basking on the rocks in Loch-na-Keal; and in Loch Scridain the white gulls sit buoyant on the blue sea. There go the Gometra men in their brown-sailed boat to look after the lobster-traps at Staffa, and very soon you will see the steamer come round the far Cailleach Point; over at Erraidh they are signalling to the men at Dubh-artach, and they are glad to have a message from them after the heavy gale. The new, bright day has begun; the world has awakened again to the joyous sunlight; there is a chattering of the sea-birds all along the shores. It is a bright, eager, glad day for all the world. But there is silence in Castle Dare!
* * * * *
1) Chapter IX was misprinted as Chapter XI in the original text.
2) Inconsistent hyphenation was standardized.
3) Several obvious misprints were corrected (some based on context); alterative/alternative, Christiana/Christina, Gertude/Gertrude, have have/have, entravagant/extravagant, handerchief/handkerchief, imposssible/impossible, Kinlock/Kinloch (for consistency within text), litterally/literally, Macintyre/MacIntyre (for consistency within text), Medditerranean/Mediterranean, af/of, Oglivie/Ogilvie, (for consistency within text), nansense/nonsense, Pyschological/Psychological, reay/ready, sailers/sailors, Sgirobh/Sgriobh, thay/they, thrist/thirst, then/them, though/thought, tyrany/tyranny, umrest/unrest, visting/visiting.
4) CHAPTER XLIII: "And it was with a gentleness equal to her own that Hamish shut the little doors after her." The 'was' was added based on context.]