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Title: White Wings, Volume II - A Yachting Romance
Author: Black, William, 1841-1898
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                              WHITE WINGS:

                          A Yachting Romance.


                                   BY

                            *WILLIAM BLACK,*

            AUTHOR OF "THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A PHAETON,"
                 "GREEN PASTURES AND PICCADILLY," ETC.



                           _IN THREE VOLUMES_

                                VOL. II.



                                London:
                           MACMILLAN AND CO.
                                 1880.

        _The Right of Translation and Reproduction is Reserved._



                                LONDON:
                       R. CLAY, SONS, AND TAYLOR.
                           BREAD STREET HILL.



                              *CONTENTS.*


                               CHAPTER I.

VILLANY ABROAD

                              CHAPTER II.

AN ULTIMATUM

                              CHAPTER III.

THE NEW SUITOR

                              CHAPTER IV.

CHASING A THUNDERSTORM

                               CHAPTER V.

CHASING SEALS

                              CHAPTER VI.

"UNCERTAIN, COY, AND HARD TO PLEASE"

                              CHAPTER VII.

SECRET SCHEMES

                             CHAPTER VIII.

BEFORE BREAKFAST

                              CHAPTER IX.

A PROTECTOR

                               CHAPTER X.

"MARY, MARY!"

                              CHAPTER XI.

AN UNSPOKEN APPEAL

                              CHAPTER XII.

HIS LORDSHIP

                             CHAPTER XIII.

THE LAIRD’S PLANS

                              CHAPTER XIV.

A SUNDAY IN FAR SOLITUDES

                              CHAPTER XV.

HIDDEN SPRINGS



                             *WHITE WINGS:*

                         *A Yachting Romance.*



                              *CHAPTER I.*

                           *VILLANY ABROAD.*


It is near mid-day; two late people are sitting at breakfast; the
skylight overhead has been lifted, and the cool sea-air fills the
saloon.

"Dead calm again," says Angus Sutherland, for he can see the rose-red
ensign hanging limp from the mizen-mast, a blaze of colour against the
still blue.

There is no doubt that the _White Dove_ is quite motionless; and that a
perfect silence reigns around her.  That is why we can hear so
distinctly—through the open skylight—the gentle footsteps of two people
who are pacing up and down the deck, and the soft voice of one of them
as she speaks to her friend.  What is all this wild enthusiasm about,
then?

"It is the noblest profession in the world!" we can hear so much as she
passes the skylight. "One profession lives by fomenting quarrels; and
another studies the art of killing in every form; but this one lives
only to heal—only to relieve the suffering and help the miserable. That
is the profession I should belong to, if I were a man!"

Our young Doctor says nothing as the voice recedes; but he is obviously
listening for the return walk along the deck.  And here she comes again.

"The patient drudgery of such a life is quite heroic—whether he is a man
of science, working day and night to find out things for the good of the
world, nobody thanking him or caring about him, or whether he is a
physician in practice with not a minute that can be called his
own—liable to be summoned at any hour——"

The voice again becomes inaudible.  It is remarked to this young man
that Mary Avon seems to have a pretty high opinion of the medical
profession.

"She herself," he says hastily, with a touch of colour in his face, "has
the patience and fortitude of a dozen doctors."

Once more the light tread on deck comes near the skylight.

"If I were the Government," says Mary Avon, warmly, "I should be ashamed
to see so rich a country as England content to take her knowledge
second-hand from the German Universities; while such men as Dr.
Sutherland are harassed and hampered in their proper work by having to
write articles and do ordinary doctor’s visiting.  I should be ashamed.
If it is a want of money, why don’t they pack off a dozen or two of the
young noodles who pass the day whittling quills in the Foreign
Office?——"

Even when modified by the distance, and by the soft lapping of the water
outside, this seems rather strong language for a young lady.  Why should
Miss Avon again insist in such a warm fashion on the necessity of
endowing research?

But Angus Sutherland’s face is burning red. Listeners are said to hear
ill of themselves.

"However, Dr. Sutherland is not likely to complain," she says, proudly,
as she comes by again.  "No; he is too proud of his profession.  He does
his work; and leaves the appreciation of it to others.  And when
everybody knows that he will one day be among the most famous men in the
country, is it not monstrous that he should be harassed by drudgery in
the meantime?  If I were the Government——"

But Angus Sutherland cannot suffer this to go on.  He leaves his
breakfast unfinished, passes along the saloon, and ascends the
companion.

"Good morning!" he says.

"Why, are you up already?" his hostess says.  "We have been walking as
lightly as we could, for we thought you were both asleep. And Mary has
been heaping maledictions on the head of the Government because it
doesn’t subsidise all you microscope-men.  The next thing she will want
is a licence for the whole of you to be allowed to vivisect criminals."

"I heard something of what Miss Avon said," he admitted.

The girl, looking rather aghast, glanced at the open skylight.

"We thought you were asleep," she stammered, and with her face somewhat
flushed.

"At least, I heard you say something about the Government," he said,
kindly.  "Well, all I ask from the Government is to give me a trip like
this every summer."

"What," says his hostess, "with a barometer that won’t fall?"

"I don’t mind."

"And seas like glass?"

"I don’t mind."

"And the impossibility of getting back to land?"

"So much the better," he says defiantly.

"Why," she reminds him, laughing, "you were very anxious about getting
back some days ago.  What has made you change your wishes?"

He hesitates for a moment, and then he says—

"I believe a sort of madness of idleness has got possession of me.  I
have dallied so long with that tempting invitation of yours to stay and
see the _White Dove_ through the equinoctials that—that I think I really
must give in——"

"You cannot help yourself," his hostess says, promptly.  "You have
already promised.  Mary is my witness."

The witness seems anxious to avoid being brought into this matter; she
turns to the Laird quickly, and asks him some question about Ru-na-Gaul
light over there.

Ru-na-Gaul light no doubt it is—shining white in the sun at the point of
the great cliffs; and there is the entrance to Tobbermorry; and here is
Mingary Castle—brown ruins amid the brilliant greens of those sloping
shores—and there are the misty hills over Loch Sunart. For the rest,
blue seas around us, glassy and still; and blue skies overhead,
cloudless and pale.  The barometer refuses to budge.

But suddenly there is a brisk excitement. What though the breeze that is
darkening the water there is coming on right ahead?—we shall be moving
any way.  And as the first puffs of it catch the sails, Angus Sutherland
places Mary Avon in command; and she is now—by the permission of her
travelling physician—allowed to stand as she guides the course of the
vessel.  She has become an experienced pilot: the occasional glance at
the leach of the top-sail is all that is needed; she keeps as accurately
"full and by" as the master of one of the famous cuptakers.

"Now, Mary," says her hostess, "it all depends on you as to whether
Angus will catch the steamer this evening."

"Oh, does it?" she says, with apparent innocence.

"Yes; we shall want very good steering to get within sight of Castle
Osprey before the evening."

"Very well, then," says this audacious person.

At the same instant she deliberately puts the helm down.  Of course the
yacht directly runs up to the wind, her sails flapping helplessly.
Everybody looks surprised; and John of Skye, thinking that the new
skipper has only been a bit careless, calls out—

"Keep her full, mem, if you please."

"What do you mean, Mary?  What are you about?" cries Queen T.

"I am not going to be responsible for sending Dr. Sutherland away," she
says, in a matter-of-fact manner, "since he says he is in no hurry to
go.  If you wish to drive your guest away, I won’t be a party to it.  I
mean to steer as badly as I can."

"Then I depose you," says Dr. Sutherland promptly.  "I cannot have a
pilot who disobeys orders."

"Very well," she says, "you may take the tiller yourself"—and she goes
away, and sits down in high dudgeon, by the Laird.

So once more we get the vessel under way; and the breeze is beginning to
blow somewhat more briskly; and we notice with hopefulness that there is
rougher water further down the Sound.  But with this slow process of
beating, how are we to get within sight of Castle Osprey before the
great steamer comes up from the South?

The Laird is puzzling over the Admiralty Sailing Directions.  The young
lady, deeply offended, who sits beside him, pays him great attention,
and talks "at" the rest of the passengers with undisguised contempt.

"It is all haphazard, the sailing of a yacht," she says to him, though
we can all hear. "Anybody can do it.  But they make a jargon about it to
puzzle other people, and pretend it is a science, and all that."

"Well," says the Laird, who is quite unaware of the fury that fills her
brain, "there are some of the phrases in this book that are verra
extraordinary.  In navigating this same Sound of Mull, they say you are
to keep the ’weather shore aboard.’  How can ye keep the weather shore
aboard?"

"Indeed, if we don’t get into a port soon," remarks our hostess and
chief commissariat-officer, "it will be the only thing we shall have on
board.  How would you like it cooked, Mary?"

"I won’t speak to any of you," says the disgraced skipper, with much
composure.

"Will you sing to us, then?"

"Will you behave properly if you are reinstated in command?" asks Angus
Sutherland.

"Yes, I will," she says, quite humbly; and forthwith she is allowed to
have the tiller again.

Brisker and brisker grows the breeze; it is veering to the south, too;
the sea is rising, and with it the spirits of everybody on board. The
ordinarily sedate and respectable _White Dove_ is showing herself a
trifle frisky, moreover; an occasional clatter below of hairbrushes or
candlesticks tells us that people accustomed to calms fall into the
habit of leaving their cabins ill-arranged.

"There will be more wind, sir," says John of Skye, coming aft; and he is
looking at some long and streaky "mare’s tails" in the south-western
sky.  "And if there wass a gale o’ wind, I would let her have it!"

Why that grim ferocity of look, Captain John?  Is the poor old _White
Dove_ responsible for the too fine weather, that you would like to see
her driven, all wet and bedraggled, before a south-westerly gale?  If
you must quarrel with something, quarrel with the barometer; you may
admonish it with a belaying-pin if you please.

Brisker and brisker grows the breeze.  Now we hear the first
pistol-shots of the spray come rattling over the bows; and Hector of
Moidart has from time to time to duck his head, or shake the water from
his jersey.  The _White Dove_ breasts these rushing waves and a foam of
white water goes hissing away from either side of her.  Speine Mor and
Speine Beg we leave behind; in the distance we can descry the ruins of
Aros Castle and the deep indentation of Salen Bay; here we are passing
the thick woods of Funeray.  "_Farewell, farewell, to Funeray!_"  The
squally look in the south-west increases; the wind veers more and more.
Commander Mary Avon is glad to resign the helm, for it is not easy to
retain hold in these plunging seas.

"Why, you will catch the steamer after all, Angus!" says his hostess, as
we go tearing by the mouth of Loch Aline.

"This is a good one for the last!" he calls to her.  "Give her some more
sheet, John; the wind is going round to the north!"

Whence comes the whirling storm in the midst of the calm summer weather?
The blue heavens are as blue as the petal of a crane’sbill: surely such
a sky has nothing to do with a hurricane.  But wherever it comes from,
it is welcome enough; and the brave _White Dove_ goes driving through
those heavy seas, sometimes cresting them buoyantly, at other times
meeting them with a dull shock, followed by a swish of water that rushes
along the lee scuppers.  And those two women-folk—without ulsters or
other covering: it is a merry game to play jack-in-the-box, and duck
their heads under the shelter of the gig when the spray springs into the
air.  But somehow the sea gets the best of it.  Laugh as they may, they
must be feeling rather damp about their hair; and as for Mary Avon’s
face—that has got a bath of salt-water at least a dozen times.  She
cares not.  Sun, wind and sea she allows to do their worst with her
complexion.  Soon we shall have to call her the Nut-brown Maid.

Brisker and brisker grows the breeze.  Angus Sutherland, with a rope
round the tiller, has his teeth set hard: he is indeed letting the
_White Dove_ have it at last, for he absolutely refuses to have the
topsail down.  The main tack, then: might not that be hauled up? No; he
will have none of John of Skye’s counsels.  The _White Dove_ tears her
way through the water—we raise a cloud of birds from the rocks opposite
Scallasdale—we see the white surf breaking in at Craignure—ahead of us
is Lismore Lighthouse, perched over the whirling and struggling tides,
shining white in the sunlight above the dark and driven sea.

    _Ahead she goes; the land she knows!_

—past the shadowy ruins of Duart, and out and through the turbulent
tides off the lighthouse rocks.  The golden afternoon is not yet far
advanced; let but this brave breeze continue, and soon they will descry
the _White Dove_ from the far heights of Castle Osprey!

But there was to be no Castle Osprey for Angus Sutherland that evening,
despite the splendid run the _White Dove_ had made.  It was a race,
indeed, between the yacht and the steamer for the quay; and
notwithstanding that Mary Avon was counselling everybody to give it up
as impossible, John of Skye would hold to it in the hope of pleasing Dr.
Sutherland himself.  And no sooner was the anchor let go in the bay,
than the gig was down from the davits; the men had jumped in; the
solitary portmanteau was tossed into the stern; and Angus Sutherland was
hurriedly bidding his adieux.  The steamer was at this instant slowing
into the quay.

"I forbid any one to say good-bye to him," says our Admiral-in-chief,
sternly.  "_Au revoir—auf Wiedersehen_—anything you like—no good-bye."

Last of all he took Mary Avon’s hand.

"You have promised, you know," she said, with her eyes cast down.

"Yes," said he, regarding her for an instant with a strange look—earnest
perhaps, and yet timid—as if it would ask a question, and dared not—"I
will keep my promise."  Then he jumped into the boat.

That was a hard pull away to the quay; and even in the bay the water was
rough, so that the back-sweep of the oars sometimes caught the waves and
sent the spray flying in the wind.  The _Chevalier_ had rung her bells.
We made sure he would be too late. What was the reason of this
good-natured indulgence?  We lost sight of the gig in at the
landing-slip.

Then the great steamer slowly steamed away from the quay: who was that
on the paddle-box waving good-bye to us?

"Oh, yes, I can see him plainly," calls out Queen T., looking through a
glass; and there is a general waving of handkerchiefs in reply to the
still visible signal.  Mary Avon waves her handkerchief, too—in a limp
fashion.  We do not look at her eyes.

And when the gig came back, and we bade good-bye for the time to the
brave old _White Dove_, and set out for Castle Osprey, she was rather
silent.  In vain did the Laird tell her some of the very best ones about
Homesh; she seemed anxious to get into the house and to reach the
solitude of her own room.

But in the meantime there was a notable bundle of letters, newspapers,
and what not, lying on the hall-table.  This was the first welcome that
civilisation gave us.  And although we defied these claims—and
determined that not an envelope should be opened till after dinner—Mary
Avon, having only one letter awaiting her, was allowed to read that. She
did it mechanically, listlessly—she was not in very good spirits.  But
suddenly we heard her utter some slight exclamation; and then we turned
and saw that there was a strange look on her face—of dismay and dread.
She was pale, too, and bewildered—like one stunned.  Then without a
word, she handed the letter to her friend.

"What is the matter, Mary?"

But she read the letter—and, in her amazement, she repeated the reading
of it, aloud. It was a brief, business-like, and yet friendly letter,
from the manager of a certain bank in London.  He said he was sorry to
refer to painful matters; but no doubt Miss Avon had seen in the papers
some mention of the absconding of Mr. Frederick Smethurst, of ——.  He
hoped there was nothing wrong; but he thought it right to inform Miss
Avon that, a day or two before this disappearance, Mr. Smethurst had
called at the bank and received, in obedience to her written
instructions, the securities—U.S. Funded Stock—which the bank held in
her name. Mr. Smethurst had explained that these bonds were deliverable
to a certain broker; and that securities of a like value would be
deposited with the bank in a day or two afterwards. Since then nothing
had been heard of him till the Hue and Cry appeared in the newspapers.
Such was the substance of the letter.

"But it isn’t true!" said Mary Avon, almost wildly.  "I cannot believe
it.  I will not believe it.  I saw no announcement in the papers.  And I
did give him the letter—he was acting quite rightly.  What do they want
me to believe?"

"Oh, Mary!" cries her friend, "why did you not tell us?  Have you parted
with everything?"

"The money?" says the girl—with her white face, and frightened pathetic
eyes.  "Oh, I do not care about the money!  It has got nothing to do
with the money.  But—but—he—was my mother’s only brother."

The lips tremble for a moment; but she collects herself.  Her courage
fights through the stun of this sudden blow.

"I will not believe it!" she says.  "How dare they say such things of
him?  How is it we have never seen anything of it in the papers?"

But the Laird leaves these and other wild questions to be answered at
leisure.  In the meantime, his eyes are burning like coals of fire; and
he is twisting his hands together in a vain endeavour to repress his
anger and indignation.

"Tell them to put a horse to," he says in a voice the abruptness of
which startles every one.  "I want to drive to the telegraph-office.
This is a thing for men to deal wi’—not weemen."



                             *CHAPTER II.*

                            *AN ULTIMATUM.*


When our good friend the Laird of Denny-mains came back from the
post-office, he seemed quite beside himself with wrath.  And yet his
rage was not of the furious and loquacious sort; it was reticent, and
deep, and dangerous.  He kept pacing up and down the gravel-path in
front of the house, while as yet dinner was not ready.  Occasionally he
would rub his hands vehemently, as if to get rid of some sort of
electricity; and once or twice we heard him ejaculate to himself, "The
scoondrel!  The scoondrel!"  It was in vain that our gentle Queen
Titania, always anxious to think the best of everybody, broke in on
these fierce meditations, and asked the Laird to suspend his judgment.
How could he be sure, she asked, that Frederick Smethurst had really run
away with his niece’s little property?  He had come to her and
represented that he was in serious difficulties; that this temporary
loan of seven thousand pounds or so would save him; that he would repay
her directly certain remittances came to him from abroad.  How could he,
the Laird, know that Frederick Smethurst did not mean to keep his
promise?

But Denny-mains would have none of these possibilities.  He saw the
whole story clearly.  He had telegraphed for confirmation; but already
he was convinced.  As for Frederick Smethurst being a swindler—that did
not concern him, he said.  As for the creditors, that was their own
look-out: men in business had to take their chance.  But that this
miscreant, this ruffian, this mean hound should have robbed his own
niece of her last farthing—and left her absolutely without resources or
protection of any kind in the world—this it was that made the Laird’s
eyes burn with a dark fire.  "The scoondrel!—the scoondrel!" he said;
and he rubbed his hands as though he would wrench the fingers off.

We should have been more surprised at this exhibition of rage on the
part of a person so ordinarily placid as Denny-mains, but that every one
had observed how strong had become his affection for Mary Avon during
our long days on the Atlantic.  If she had been twenty times his own
daughter he could not have regarded her with a greater tenderness. He
had become at once her champion and her slave.  When there was any
playful quarrel between the young lady and her hostess, he took the side
of Mary Avon with a seriousness that soon disposed of the contest.  He
studied her convenience to the smallest particular when she wished to
paint on deck; and so far from hinting that he would like to have Tom
Galbraith revise and improve her work, he now said that he would have
pride in showing her productions to that famous artist.  And perhaps it
was not quite so much the actual fact of the stealing of the money as
the manner and circumstance of it that now wholly upset his equilibrium,
and drove him into this passion of rage.  "The scoondrel!—the
scoondrel!" he muttered to himself, in these angry pacings to and fro.

Then he surprised his hostess by suddenly stopping short, and uttering
some brief chuckle of laughter.

"I beg your pardon, ma’am," said he, "for the leeberty I have taken; but
I was at the telegraph-office in any case; and I thought ye would not
mind my sending for my nephew Howard.  Ye were so good as to say——"

"Oh, we shall be most pleased to see him," said she promptly.  "I am
sure he must have heard us talking about the yacht; he will not mind a
little discomfort——"

"He will have to take what is given him, and be thankful," said the
Laird, sharply. "In my opeenion the young people of the present day are
too much given to picking and choosing.  They will not begin as their
parents began.  Only the best of everything is good enough for them."

But here the Laird checked himself.

"No, no, ma’am," said he.  "My nephew Howard is not like that.  He is a
good lad—a sensible lad.  And as for his comfort on board that yacht,
I’m thinking it’s not that, but the opposite, he has to fear most.  Ye
are spoiling us all—the crew included."

"Now we must go in to dinner," is the practical answer.

"Has she come down?" asks the Laird, in a whisper.

"I suppose so."

In the drawing-room we found Mary Avon. She was rather pale, and
silent—that was all; and she seemed to wish to avoid observation. But
when dinner was announced the Laird went over to her, and took her hand,
and led her into the dining-room, just as he might have led a child.
And he arranged her chair for her; and patted her on the back as he
passed on, and said cheerfully—

"Quite right—quite right—don’t believe all the stories ye hear.  _Nil
desperandum_—we’re not beaten down yet!"

She sate cold and white, with her eyes cast down.  He did not know that
in the interval her hostess had been forced to show the girl that
paragraph of the Hue and Cry.

"_Nil desperandum_—that’s it," continued the good-hearted Laird, in his
blithest manner. "Keep your own conscience clear, and let other people
do as they please—that is the philosophy of life.  That is what Dr.
Sutherland would say to ye, if he was here."

This chance reference to Angus Sutherland was surely made with the best
intentions; but it produced a strange effect on the girl. For an instant
or two she tried to maintain her composure—though her lips trembled;
then she gave way, and bent her head, and burst out crying, and covered
her face with her hands.  Of course her kind friend and hostess was with
her in a moment, and soothed her, and caressed her, and got her to dry
her eyes.  Then the Laird said, after a second or two of inward
struggle—

"Oh, do you know that there is a steamer run on the rocks at the mouth
of Loch Etive?"

"Oh, yes," his hostess—who had resumed her seat—said cheerfully.  "That
is a good joke.  They say the captain wanted to be very clever; and
would not have a pilot, though he knows nothing about the coast. So he
thought he would keep mid-channel in going into the Loch!".

The Laird looked puzzled: where was the joke?

"Oh," said she, noticing his bewilderment, "don’t you know that at the
mouth of Loch Etive the rocks are right in the middle, and the channel
on each side?  He chose precisely the straight line for bringing his
vessel full tilt on the rocks!"

So this was the joke, then: that a valuable ship should be sunk?  But it
soon became apparent that any topic was of profound interest—was
exceedingly facetious even—that could distract Mary Avon’s attention.
They would not let her brood over this thing.  They would have found a
joke in a coffin.  And indeed amidst all this talking and laughing Mary
Avon brightened up considerably; and took her part bravely; and seemed
to have forgotten all about her uncle and his evil deeds. You could only
have guessed from a certain preoccupation that, from time to time, these
words must have been appearing before her mind, their commonplace and
matter-of-fact phraseology in no way detracting from their horrible
import: "_Police-officers and others are requested to make immediate
search and inquiry for the above named; and those stationed at seaport
towns are particularly requested to search outward-bound vessels._"  The
description of Mr. Frederick Smethurst that preceded this injunction was
not very flattering.

But among all the subjects, grave and gay, on which the Laird touched
during this repast, there was none he was so serious and pertinacious
about as the duty owed by young people to their parents and guardians.
It did not seem an opportune topic.  He might, for example, have
enlarged upon the duties of guardians towards their helpless and
unprotected wards.  However, on this matter he was most decided.  He
even cross-examined his hostess, with an unusual sternness, on the
point.  What was the limit—was there any limit—she would impose on the
duty which young folks owed to those who were their parents or who stood
to them in the relation of parents?  Our sovereign mistress, a little
bit frightened, said she had always found her boys obedient enough.  But
this would not do.  Considering the care and affection bestowed on
them—considering the hardly-earned wealth spent on them—considering the
easy fortune offered to them—was it not bounden on young people to
consult and obey the wishes of those who had done so much for them?  She
admitted that such was the case. Pressed to say where the limit of such
duty should lie, she said there was hardly any.  So far good; and the
Laird was satisfied.

It was not until two days afterwards that we obtained full information
by letter of what was known regarding the proceedings of Frederick
Smethurst, who, it appears, before he bolted, had laid hands on every
farthing of money he could touch, and borrowed from the credulous among
his friends; so that there remained no reasonable doubt that the story
he had told his niece was among his other deceptions, and that she was
left penniless.  No one was surprised.  It had been almost a foregone
conclusion.  Mary Avon seemed to care little about it; the loss of her
fortune was less to her than the shame and dishonour that this scoundrel
had brought on her mother’s name.

But this further news only served to stir up once more the Laird’s
slumbering wrath.  He kept looking at his watch.

"She’ll be off Easdale now," said he to himself; and we knew he was
speaking of the steamer that was bringing his nephew from the south.

By and by—"She’ll be near Kerrara, now," he said, aloud.  "Is it not
time to drive to the quay?"

It was not time, but we set out.  There was the usual crowd on the quay
when we got there; and far off we could descry the red funnels and the
smoke of the steamer.  Mary Avon had not come with us.

"What a beautiful day your nephew must have had for his sail from the
Crinan," said the Laird’s gentle hostess to him.

Did he not hear her?  Or was he absorbed in his own thoughts?  His
answer, at all events, was a strange one.

"It is the first time I have asked anything of him," he said almost
gloomily.  "I have a right to expect him to do something for me now."

The steamer slows in; the ropes are thrown across; the gangways run up;
and the crowd begins to pour out.  And here is a tall and handsome young
fellow who comes along with a pleasant smile of greeting on his face.

"How do you do, Mr. Smith?" says Queen T., very graciously—but she does
not call him "Howard" as she calls Dr. Sutherland "Angus."

"Well, uncle," says he, brightly, when he has shaken hands all round,
"what is the meaning of it all?  Are you starting for Iceland in a
hurry?  I have brought a rifle as well as my breechloader.  But perhaps
I had better wait to be invited?"

This young man with the clear, pale complexion, and the dark hair, and
dark grey eyes, had good looks and a pleasant smile in his favour; he
was accustomed to be made welcome; he was at ease with himself.  He was
not embarrassed that his uncle did not immediately answer; he merely
turned and called out to the man who had got his luggage.  And when we
had got him into the waggonette, and were driving off, what must he
needs talk about but the absconding of Mr. Frederick Smethurst, whom he
knew to be the uncle of a young lady he had once met at our house.

"Catch him?" said he with a laugh. "They’ll never catch him."

His uncle said nothing at all.

When we reached Castle Osprey, the Laird said in the hall, when he had
satisfied himself that there was no one within hearing—

"Howard, I wish to have a few meenutes’ talk with ye; and perhaps our
good friends here will come into the room too——"

We followed him into the dining-room; and shut the door.

"—just to see whether there is anything unreasonable in what I have got
to say to ye."

The young man looked rather alarmed; there was an unusual coldness and
austerity in the elder man’s voice.

"We may as well sit down," he said; "it wants a little explanation."

We sate down in silence, Howard Smith looking more concerned than ever.
He had a real affection, as we knew, for this pseudo-uncle of his, and
was astounded that he should be spoken to in this formal and cold
manner.

The Laird put one or two letters on the table before him.

"I have asked our friends here," said he, in a calm and measured voice,
"to listen to what I have to say, and they will judge whether it is
unreasonable.  I have a service to ask of ye.  I will say nothing of the
relations between you and me before this time—but I may tell ye
frankly—what doubtless ye have understood—that I had intended to leave
ye Denny-mains at my death.  I have neither kith nor kin of my own
blood; and it was my intention that ye should have Denny-mains—perhaps
even before I was called away."

The young man said nothing; but the manner in which the Laird spoke of
his intentions in the past sense might have made the most disinterested
of heirs look frightened.  After ali, he had certainly been brought up
on the understanding that he was to succeed to the property.

"Now," said he, slowly, "I may say I have shown ye some kindness——"

"Indeed you have, sir!" said the other warmly.

"—and I have asked nothing from ye in return.  I would ask nothing now,
if I was your age.  If I was twenty years younger, I would not have
telegraphed for ye—indeed no, I would have taken the matter into my own
hands——"

Here the Laird paused for a second or so to regain that coldness of
demeanour with which he had started.

"Ay, just so.  Well, ye were talking about the man Smethurst as we were
coming along. His niece, as ye may be aware, is in this house—a better
lass was never seen within any house."

The Laird hesitated more and more as he came to the climax of his
discourse: it was obviously difficult for him to put this restraint on
himself.

"Yes," said he, speaking a little more hurriedly, "and that
scoondrel—that scoondrel—has made off with every penny that the poor
lass had—every penny of it—and she is left an orphan—without a farthing
to maintain herself wi’—and that infernal scoondrel——"

The Laird jumped from his seat; his anger was too much for him.

"I mean to stand by her," said he, pacing up and down the room, and
speaking in short ejaculations.  "She will not be left without a
farthing.  I will reach him too, if I can.  Ay, ay, if I was but twenty
years younger, and had that man before me!"

He stopped short opposite his nephew, and controlled himself so as to
speak quite calmly.

"I would like to see ye settled at Denny-mains, Howard," said he.  "And
ye would want a wife.  Now if ye were to marry this young leddy, it
would be the delight of my old age to see ye both comfortable and well
provided for.  And a better wife ye would not get within this country.
Not a better!"

Howard Smith stared.

"Why, uncle!" said he, as if he thought some joke was going forward.
We, who had been aware of certain profound plans on the part of
Denny-mains, were less startled by this abrupt disclosure of them.

"That is one of two things," said the Laird, with forced composure,
"that I wished to put before ye.  If it is impossible, I am sorely
vexed.  But there is another; and one or the other, as I have been
thinking, I am fairly entitled to ask of ye.  So far I have not thought
of any return for what I have done; it has been a pleasure to me to look
after your up-bringing."

"Well, uncle," said the young man, beginning to look a little less
frightened.  "I would rather hear of the other thing.  You know—eh—that
is—a girl does not take anybody who is flung at her, as it were—it would
be an insult—and—and people’s inclinations and affections——"

"I know—I know—I know," said the Laird, impatiently.  "I have gone over
all that.  Do ye think I am a fool?  If the lass will not have ye, there
is an end to it: do your best to get her, and that is enough for me."

"There was another thing—" the young man suggested timidly.

"Yes, there is," said the Laird, with a sudden change in his manner.
"It is a duty, sir, ye owe not to me, but to humanity.  Ye are young,
strong, have plenty of time, and I will give ye the money.  Find out
that man Smethurst; get him face to face; and fell him! Fell him!"—the
Laird brought his fist down on the table with a bang that made
everything jump, and his eyes were like coals of fire.  "None o’ your
pistols or rapiers or trash like that!—no, no!—a mark on his face for
the rest of his life—the brand of a scoondrel between his eyes—there!
will ye do that for me?"

"But, uncle," cried the young man, finding this alternative about as
startling as the other, "how on earth can I find him?  He is off to
Brazil, or Mexico, or California, long ere now, you may depend on it."

The Laird had pulled himself together again.

"I have put two things before ye," said he, calmly.  "It is the first
time I have asked ye for a service, after having brought ye up as few
lads have been brought up.  If you think it is unfair of me to make a
bargain about such things, I will tell ye frankly that I have more
concern in that young thing left to herself than in any creature now
living on earth; and I will be a friend to her as well as an old man
can.  I have asked our friends here to listen to what I had to say; they
will tell ye whether I am unreasonable.  I will leave ye to talk it
over."

He went to the door.  Then he turned for a moment to his hostess.

"I am going to see, ma’am, if Mary will go for a bit walk wi’ me—down to
the shore, or the like; but we will be back before the hour for denner."



                             *CHAPTER III.*

                           *THE NEW SUITOR.*


It is only those who have lived with her for a number of years who can
tell when a certain person becomes possessed with the demon of mischief,
and allows sarcasm and malignant laughter and other unholy delights to
run riot in her brain.  The chief symptom is the assumption of an
abnormal gravity, and a look of simple and confiding innocence that
appears in the eyes.  The eyes tell most of all.  The dark pupils seem
even clearer than is their wont, as if they would let you read them
through and through; and there is a sympathetic appeal in them; the
woman seems so anxious to be kind, and friendly, and considerate.  And
all the time—especially if it be a man who is hopelessly
dumfoundered—she is revenging the many wrongs of her sex by covertly
laughing at him and enjoying his discomfiture.

And no doubt the expression on Howard Smith’s face, as he sat there in a
bewildered silence, was ludicrous enough.  He was inclined to laugh the
thing away as a joke, but he knew that the Laird was not given to
practical jokes. And yet—and yet—

"Do you really think he is serious?" he blurted out at length, and he
spoke to this lady with the gentle innocent eyes.

"Oh, undoubtedly," she answered, with perfect gravity.

"Oh, no; it is impossible!" he said, as if arguing with himself.  "Why,
my uncle, of all men in the world,—and pretending it was serious—of
course people often do wish their sons or daughters to marry a
particular person—for a sensible reason, to keep estates together, or to
join the fortunes of a family—but this—no, no; this is a joke, or else
he wants to drive me into giving that fellow a licking.  And that, you
know, is quite absurd; you might as well drag the Atlantic for a
penknife."

"I am afraid your uncle is quite serious," said she, demurely.

"But it was to be left to you," he answered quickly.  "You were to say
whether it was unreasonable.  Surely you must see it is not reasonable.
Neither the one thing nor the other is possible—"

Here the young man paused for a moment.

"Surely," he said, "my uncle can’t mean, by putting these impossible
things before me, to justify his leaving his property to somebody else?
There was no need for any such excuse; I have no claim on him; he has a
right to do what he pleases."

"That has nothing to do with it," said Queen T. promptly.  "Your uncle
is quite resolved, I know, that you should have Denny-mains."

"Yes—and a wife," responded the young man, with a somewhat wry smile.
"Oh, but you know, it is quite absurd; you will reason him out of it,
won’t you?  He has such a high opinion of your judgment, I know."

The ingenious youth!

"Besides," said he warmly, "do you think it very complimentary to your
friend Miss Avon that any one should be asked to come and marry her?"

This was better; it was an artful thrust. But the bland sympathetic eyes
only paid him a respectful attention.

"I know my uncle is pretty firm when he has got a notion into his head,"
said he, "and—and—no doubt he is quite right in thinking that the young
lady has been badly treated, and that somebody should give the absconder
a thrashing.  All that is quite right; but why should I be made
responsible for it?  I can’t do impossible things."

"Well, you see," said his sage adviser, with a highly matter-of-fact
air, "your uncle may not regard either the one thing or the other as
impossible."

"But they are impossible," said he.

"Then I am very sorry," said she, with great sweetness.  "Because
Denny-mains is really a beautiful place.  And the house would lend
itself splendidly to a thorough scheme of redecoration; the hall could
be made perfectly lovely.  I would have the wooden dado painted a dark
bottle-green, and the wall over it a rich Pompeian red—I don’t believe
the colours of a hall can be too bold if the tones are good in
themselves.  Pompeian red is a capital background for pictures, too; and
I like to see pictures in the hall; the gentlemen can look at them while
they are waiting for their wives. Don’t you think Indian matting makes a
very nice, serviceable, sober-coloured dado for a dining-room—so long as
it does not drive your pictures too high on the wall?"

The fiendishness of this woman!  Denny-mains was being withdrawn from
him at this very moment; and she was bothering him with questions about
its decoration.  What did he think of Indian matting?

"Well," said he, "if I am to lose my chance of Denny-mains through this
piece of absurdity, I can’t help it."

"I beg your pardon," said she most amiably; "but I don’t think your
uncle’s proposal so very absurd.  It is the commonest thing in the world
for people to wish persons in whom they are interested to marry each
other; and very often they succeed by merely getting the young people to
meet, and so forth.  You say yourself that it is reasonable in certain
cases.  Well, in this case, you probably don’t know how great an
interest your uncle takes in Miss Avon, and the affection that he has
for her.  It is quite remarkable.  And he has been dwelling on this
possibility of a match between you—of seeing you both settled at
Denny-mains—until he almost regards it as already arranged.  ’Put
yourself in his place,’ as Mr. Reade says.  It seems to him the most
natural thing in the world, and I am afraid he will consider you very
ungrateful if you don’t fall in with his plan."

Deeper and deeper grew the shadow of perplexity on the young man’s brow.
At first he had seemed inclined to laugh the whole matter aside, but the
gentle reasoning of this small person had a ghastly aspect of
seriousness about it.

"Then his notion of my seeking out the man Smethurst and giving him a
thrashing: you would justify that, too?" he cried.

"No, not quite," she answered, with a bit of a smile.  "That is a little
absurd, I admit—it is merely an ebullition of anger.  He won’t think any
more of that in a day or two I am certain.  But the other—the other, I
fear, is a fixed idea."

At this point we heard some one calling outside:

"Miss Mary!  I have been searching for ye everywhere; are ye coming for
a walk down to the shore?"

Then a voice, apparently overhead at an open window—

"All right, sir; I will be down in a moment."

Another second or two, and we hear some one singing on the stair, with a
fine air of bravado—

    _A strong sou-wester’s blowing, Billy; can’t you hear it roar,
            now?_

—the gay voice passes through the hall—

    _Lord help ’em, how I pities all un—_

—then the last phrase is heard outside—

    _—folks on shore now—_


Queen Titania darts to the open window of the dining-room.

"Mary!  Mary!" she calls.  "Come here."

The next instant a pretty enough picture is framed by the lower half of
the window, which is open.  The background is a blaze of scarlet and
yellow and green—a mixture of sunlight and red poppies and nasturtiums
and glancing fuchsia leaves.  Then this slight figure that has appeared
is dark in shadow; but there is a soft reflected light from the front of
the house, and that just shows you the smile on Mary Avon’s face and the
friendliness of her dark soft eyes.

"Oh, how do you do?" she says, reaching in her hand and shaking hands
with him. There is not any timidity in her manner.  No one has been
whispering to her of the dark plots surrounding her.

Nor was Mr. Smith much embarrassed, though he did not show himself as
grateful as a young man might have done for so frank and friendly a
welcome.

"I scarcely thought you would have remembered me," said he modestly.
But at this moment Denny-mains interfered, and took the young lady by
the arm, and dragged her away.  We heard their retreating footsteps on
the gravel walk.

"So you remember her?" says our hostess, to break the awkward silence.

"Oh, yes, well enough," said he; and then he goes on to say
stammeringly—"Of course, I—I have nothing to say against her——"

"If you have," it is here interposed, as a wholesome warning, "you had
better not mention it here.  Ten thousand hornets’ nests would be a fool
compared to this house if you said anything in it against Mary Avon."

"On the contrary," says he, "I suppose she is a very nice girl
indeed—very—I suppose there’s no doubt of it.  And if she has been
robbed like that, I am very sorry for her; and I don’t wonder my uncle
should be interested in her, and concerned about her, and—and all that’s
quite right.  But it is too bad—it is too bad—that one should be
expected to—to ask her to be one’s wife, and a sort of penalty hanging
over one’s head, too.  Why, it is enough to set anybody against the
whole thing; I thought everybody knew that you can’t get people to marry
if you drive them to it—except in France, I suppose, where the whole
business is arranged for you by your relatives.  This isn’t France; and
I am quite sure Miss Avon would consider herself very unfairly treated
if she thought she was being made part and parcel of any such
arrangement. As for me—well, I am very grateful to my uncle for his long
kindness to me; he has been kindness itself to me; and it is quite true,
as he says, that he has asked for nothing in return.  Well, what he asks
now is just a trifle too much.  I won’t sell myself for any property.
If he is really serious—if it is to be a compulsory marriage like
that—Denny-mains can go.  I shall be able to earn my own living
somehow."

There was a chord struck in this brief, hesitating, but emphatic speech
that went straight to his torturer’s heart.  A look of liking and
approval sprang to her eyes.  She would no longer worry him.

"Don’t you think," said she gently, "that you are taking the matter too
seriously?  Your uncle does not wish to force you into a marriage
against your will; he knows nothing about Adelphi melodramas.  What he
asks is simple and natural enough.  He is, as you see, very fond of Mary
Avon; he would like to see her well provided for; he would like to see
you settled and established at Denny-mains. But he does not ask the
impossible. If she does not agree, neither he nor you can help it.
Don’t you think it would be a very simple matter for you to remain with
us for a time, pay her some ordinary friendly attention, and then show
your uncle that the arrangement he would like does not recommend itself
to either you or her?  He asks no more than that; it is not much of a
sacrifice."

There was no stammering about this lady’s exposition of the case.  Her
head is not very big, but its perceptive powers are remarkable.

Then the young man’s face brightened considerably.

"Well," said he, "that would be more sensible, surely.  If you take away
the threat, and the compulsion, and all that, there can be no harm in my
being civil to a girl, especially when she is, I am sure, just the sort
of girl one ought to be civil to.  I am sure she has plenty of common
sense—-"

It is here suggested once more that, in this house, negative praise of
Mary Avon is likely to awake slumbering lions.

"Oh, I have no doubt," says he readily, "that she is a very nice girl
indeed.  One would not have to pretend to be civil to some creature
stuffed with affectation, or a ghoul.  I don’t object to this at all.
If my uncle thinks it enough, very well.  And I am quite sure that a
girl you think so much of would have more self-respect than to expect
anybody to go and make love to her in the country-bumpkin style."

Artful again; but it was a bad shot.  There was just a little asperity
in Madame’s manner when she said—

"I beg you not to forget that Mary does not wish to be made love to by
anybody.  She is quite content as she is.  Perhaps she has quite other
views, which you would not regret, I am sure. But don’t imagine that she
is looking for a husband; or that a husband is necessary for her; or
that she won’t find friends to look after her. It is your interests we
are considering, not hers."

Was the snubbing sufficient?

"Oh, of course, of course," said he, quite humbly.  "But then, you know,
I was only thinking that—that—if I am to go in and make believe about
being civil to your young lady-friend, in order to please my uncle, too
much should not be expected.  It isn’t a very nice thing—at least, for
you it may be very nice—to look on at a comedy——"

"And is it so very hard to be civil to a girl?" says his monitress
sharply.  "Mary will not shock you with the surprise of her gratitude.
She might have been married ere now if she had chosen."

"She—isn’t—quite a school-girl, you know," he says timidly.

"I was not aware that men preferred to marry school-girls," says the
other, with a gathering majesty of demeanour.

Here a humble witness of this interview has once more to interpose to
save this daring young man from a thunderbolt.  Will he not understand
that the remotest and most round-about reflection on Mary Avon is in
this house the unpardonable sin?

"Well," said he frankly, "it is exceedingly kind of you to show me how I
am to get out of this troublesome affair; and I am afraid I must leave
it to you to convince my uncle that I have done sufficient.  And it is
very kind of you to ask me to go yachting with you; I hope I shall not
be in the way.  And—and—there is no reason at all why Miss Avon and I
should not become very good friends—in fact, I hope we shall become such
good friends that my uncle will see we could not be anything else."

Could anything be fairer than this?  His submission quite conquered his
hostess.  She said she would show him some of Mary Avon’s sketches in
oil, and led him away for that purpose. His warm admiration confirmed
her good opinion of him; henceforth he had nothing to fear.

At dinner that evening he was at first a little shy; perhaps he had a
suspicion that there were present one or two spectators of a certain
comedy which he had to play all by himself. But, indeed, our eyes and
ears were not for him alone.  Miss Avon was delighting the Laird with
stories of the suggestions she had got about her pictures from the
people who had seen them—even from the people who had bought them—in
London.

"And you know," said she quite frankly, "I must study popular taste as
much as I fairly can now, for I have to live by it.  If people will have
sea-pieces spoiled by having figures put in, I must put in figures.  By
and by I may be in a position to do my own work in my own way."

The Laird glanced at his nephew: was it not for him to emancipate this
great and original artist from the fear of critics, and dealers, and
purchasers?  There was no response.

"I mean to be in London soon myself," the Laird said abruptly; "ye must
tell me where I can see some of your pictures."

"Oh, no," she said, laughing, "I shall not victimise my friends.  I mean
to prey on the public—if possible.  It is Mr. White, in King Street, St.
James’s, however, who has taken most of my pictures hitherto; and so if
you know of anybody who would like to acquire immortal works for a few
guineas apiece, that is the address."

"I am going to London myself soon," said he, with a serious air, as if
he had suddenly determined on buying the National Gallery.

Then Howard Smith, perceiving that no one was watching him, or expecting
impossibilities of him, became quite cheerful and talkative; and told
some excellent stories of his experiences at various shooting quarters
the previous winter. Light-hearted, good-natured, fairly humorous, he
talked very well indeed.  We gathered that during the last months of the
year the shooting of pheasants occupied a good deal more of his time and
attention than the study of law.  And how could one wonder that so
pleasant-mannered a young man was a welcome guest at those various
country-houses in the south?

But it appeared that, despite all this careless talk, he had been
keeping an eye on Mary Avon during dinner.  Walking down to the yacht
afterwards—the blood-red not quite gone from the western skies, a cool
wind coming up from the sea—he said casually to his uncle—

"Well, sir, whatever trouble that young lady may have gone through has
not crushed her spirits yet.  She is as merry as a lark."

"She has more than cheerfulness—she has courage," said the Laird, almost
severely.  "Oh, ay, plenty of courage.  And I have no doubt she could
fight the world for herself just as well as any man I know.  But I mean
to make it my business that she shall not have to fight the world for
herself—not as long as there is a stick standing on Denny-mains!"



                             *CHAPTER IV.*

                       *CHASING A THUNDERSTORM.*


"_All on board then—all on board!_" the summons comes ringing through
the wonderland of dreams.  And then, amid the general hurry and scurry
throughout the house, certain half-bewildered people turn first of all
to the windows of their rooms: a welcome sight! The glory of the summer
dawn is shining over the mountains; the _White Dove_, with nearly all
her sail set, is swinging there at her moorings; best of all, a strong
breeze—apparently from the north-east—is ruffling the dark blue seas and
driving a line of white surf on the further shores.  The news comes that
Master Fred, by darting about in the dingay since ever daylight began,
has got the very last basket on board; the red caps are even now
bringing the gig in to the landing slip; John of Skye is all impatience
to take advantage of the favourable wind.  There is but little time
lost; the happy-go-lucky procession—_dona ferentes_—set out for the
beach.  And if the Laird is pleased to find his nephew apparently
falling into his scheme with a good grace; and if the nephew thinks he
is very lucky to get so easily out of an awkward predicament; and if
Mary Avon—unconscious of these secret designs—is full of an eager
delight at the prospect of being allowed to set to work again—may not
all this account for a certain indecorous gaiety that startles the
silence of the summer morning? Or is it that mythical hero Homesh who is
responsible for this laughter?  We hear the Laird chuckling; we notice
the facetious wrinkles about his eyes; we make sure it must be Homesh.
Then the final consignment of books, shawls, gun-cases, and what not is
tossed into the gig; and away we go, with the measured dash of the oars.

And what does the bearded John of Skye think of the new hand we have
brought him? Has he his own suspicions?  Is his friend and sworn ally,
Dr. Sutherland, to be betrayed and supplanted in his absence?

"Good morning, sir," he says obediently, at the gangway; and the quick
Celtic eyes glance at Howard Smith from top to toe.

"Good morning, captain," the young man says lightly; and he springs too
quickly up the steps, making a little bit of a stumble.  This is not an
auspicious omen.

Then on deck: the handsome figure and pleasant manner of this young man
ought surely to prepossess people in his favour. What if his
tightly-fitting garments and his patent-leather boots and white gaiters
are not an orthodox yachting rig?  John of Skye would not judge of a man
by his costume. And if he does not seem quite at home—in this first look
round—every one is not so familiar with boating life as Dr. Sutherland.
It is true, an umbrella used as a walking-stick looks strange on board a
yacht; and he need not have put it on the curved top of the companion,
for it immediately rolls over into the scuppers. Nor does he seem to see
the wickedness of placing a heavy bundle of canvases on the raised
skylight of the ladies’ cabin; does he want to start the glass?  Dr.
Sutherland, now, would have given the men a hand in hauling up the gig.
Dr. Sutherland would not have been in the way of the tiller, as the
yacht is released from her moorings.

Unaware of this rapid criticism, and unconcerned by all the bustle going
on around, our new friend is carelessly and cheerfully chatting with his
hostess; admiring the yacht; praising the beauty of the summer morning;
delighted with the prospect of sailing in such weather. He does not
share in the profound curiosity of his uncle about the various duties of
the men. When John of Skye, wishing to leave the tiller for a minute to
overhaul the lee tackle, turns quite naturally to Mary Avon, who is
standing by him, and says with a grin of apology, "If ye please, mem,"
the young man betrays but little surprise that this young lady should be
entrusted with the command of the vessel.

"What!" he says, with a pleasant smile—they seem on very friendly terms
already—"can you steer, Miss Avon?  Mind you don’t run us against any
rocks."

Miss Avon has her eye on the mainsail.  She answers, with a
business-like air—

"Oh, there is no fear of that.  What I have to mind, with this wind, is
not to let her gybe, or I should get into disgrace."

"Then I hope you won’t let her gybe, whatever that is," said he, with a
laugh.

Never was any setting-out more auspicious. We seemed to have bade
farewell to those perpetual calms.  Early as it was in the morning,
there was no still, dream-like haze about the mountains; there was a
clear greenish-yellow where the sunlight struck them; the great slopes
were dappled with the shadows of purple-brown; further away the tall
peaks were of a decided blue.  And then the windy, fresh, brisk morning;
the _White Dove_ running races with the driven seas; the white foam
flying away from her sides.  John of Skye seemed to have no fear of this
gentle skipper. He remained forward, superintending the setting of the
topsail; the _White Dove_ was to "have it" while the fresh breeze
continued to blow.

And still the squally easterly wind bears her bravely onward, the puffs
darkening the water as they pass us and strike the rushing seas. Is that
a shadow of Colonsay on the far southern horizon?  The lighthouse people
here have gone to bed; there is not a single figure along the
yellow-white walls.  Look at the clouds of gulls on the rocks, resting
after their morning meal.  By this time the deer have retreated into the
high slopes above Craignure; there is a white foam breaking along the
bay of Innismore.  And still the _White Dove_ spins along, with
foam-diamonds glittering in the sunlight at her bows; and we hear the
calling of the sea-swallows, and the throbbing of a steamer somewhere in
among the shadows of Loch Aline.  Surely now we are out of the reign of
calms; the great boom strains at the sheets; there is a whirl of blue
waters; the _White Dove_ has spread her wings at last.

"Ay, ay," says John of Skye, who has relieved Miss Avon at the helm; "it
is a great peety."

"Why, John?" says she, with some surprise; is he vexed that we should be
sailing well on this fine sailing day?

"It iss a great peety that Mr. Sutherland not here," said John, "and he
wass know so much about a yacht, and day after day not a breeze at ahl.
There iss not many chentlemen will know so much about a yacht as Mr.
Sutherland."

Miss Avon did not answer, though her face seemed conscious in its
colour.  She was deeply engaged in a novel.

"Oh, that is the Mr. Sutherland who has been with you," said Howard
Smith to his hostess, in a cheerful way.  "A doctor, I think you said?"

At this Miss Avon looked up quickly from her book.

"I should have thought," said she with a certain dignity of manner,
"that most people had heard of Dr. Angus Sutherland."

"Oh, yes, no doubt," said he, in the most good-natured fashion.  "I know
about him myself—it must be the same man.  A nephew of Lord Foyers,
isn’t he?  I met some friends of his at a house last winter; they had
his book with them—the book about tiger-hunting in Nepaul, don’t you
know?—very interesting indeed it was, uncommonly interesting.  I read it
right through one night when everybody else was in bed——"

"Why, that is Captain Sutherland’s book," said his hostess, with just a
trace of annoyance. "They are not even related.  How can you imagine
that Angus Sutherland would write a book about tiger-hunting?—he is one
of the most distinguished men of science in England."

"Oh, indeed," says the young man, with the most imperturbable good
humour.  "Oh, yes, I am sure I have heard of him—the Geographical
Society, or something like that; really those evenings are most amusing.
The women are awfully bored, and yet they do keep their eyes open
somehow.  But about those Indian fellows; it was only last winter that I
heard how the —— —— manages to make those enormous bags, all to his own
gun, that you see in the papers.  Haven’t you noticed them?"

Well, some of us had been struck with amazement by the reports of the
enormous slaughter committed by a certain Indian prince; and had
wondered at one of the gentle natives of the East taking so thoroughly
and successfully to our robust English sports.

"Why," said this young man, "he has every covert laid out with netting,
in small squares like a dice-board; and when he has done blazing away in
the air, the under-keepers come up and catch every pheasant, hare, and
rabbit that has run into the netting, and kill them, and put them down
to his bag.  Ingenious, isn’t it?  But I’ll tell you what I have seen
myself.  I have seen Lord Justice —— deliberately walk down a line of
netting and shoot every pheasant and rabbit that had got entangled.
’Safer not to let them get away,’ says he.  And when his host came up he
said, ’Very good shooting; capital.  I have got four pheasants and seven
rabbits there; I suppose the beaters will pick them up.’"

And so the Youth, as we had got to call him, rattled on, relating his
personal experiences, and telling such stories as occurred to him.
There was a good sprinkling of well-known names in this desultory talk;
how could Miss Avon fail to be interested, even if the subject-matter
was chiefly composed of pheasant-shooting, private theatricals, billiard
matches on wet days, and the other amusements of country life?

The Laird, when he did turn aside from that huge volume of _Municipal
London_—which he had brought with him for purposes of edification—must
have seen and approved.  If the young man’s attentions to Mary Avon were
of a distinctly friendly sort, if they were characterised by an obvious
frankness, if they were quite as much at the disposal of Mr. Smith’s
hostess, what more could be expected? Rome was not built in a day.
Meanwhile Miss Avon seemed very well pleased with her new companion.

And if it may have occurred to one or other of us that Howard Smith’s
talking, however pleasant and good-natured and bright, was on a somewhat
lower level than that of another of our friends, what then?  Was it not
better fitted for idle sailing among summer seas?  Now, indeed, our good
friend the Laird had no need to fear being startled by the sudden
propounding of conundrums.

He was startled by something else.  Coming up from luncheon, we found
that an extraordinary darkness prevailed in the western heavens—a
strange bronze-purple gloom that seemed to contain within it the promise
of a hundred thunderstorms.  And as this fair wind had now brought us
within sight of the open Atlantic, the question was whether we should
make for Skye or run right under this lurid mass of cloud that appeared
to lie all along the western shores of Mull.  Unanimously the vote was
for the latter course.  Had not Angus Sutherland been anxious all along
to witness a thunderstorm at sea?  Might it not be of inestimable value
to Miss Avon?  John of Skye, not understanding these reasons, pointed
out that the wind had backed somewhat to the north, and that Mull would
give us surer shelter than Skye for the night.  And so we bore away past
Quinish, the brisk breeze sending the _White Dove_ along in capital
style; past the mouth of Loch Cuan; past the wild Cailleach Point; past
the broad Calgary Bay; and past the long headland of Ru-Treshanish. It
was a strange afternoon.  The sun was hidden; but in the south and west
there was a wan, clear, silver glow on the sea; and in this white light
the islands of Lunga, and Fladda, and Staffa, and the Dutchman were of
sombre purple.  Darker still were the islands lying towards the
land—Gometra, and Ulva, and Inch Kenneth; while the great rampart of
cliff from Loch-na-Keal to Loch Scridain was so wrapped in gloom that
momentarily we watched for the first quivering flash of the lightning.
Then the wind died away.  The sea grew calm.  On the glassy grey surface
the first drops of the rain fell—striking black, and then widening out
in small circles. We were glad of the cool rain, but the whispering of
it sounded strangely in the silence.

Then, as we are still watching for the first silver-blue flash of the
lightning, behold! the mighty black wall of the Bourg and Gribun cliffs
slowly, mysteriously disappears; and there is only before us a vague
mist of grey. Colonsay is gone; Inch Kenneth is gone; no longer can we
make out the dark rocks of Erisgeir.  And then the whispering of the sea
increases; there is a deeper gloom over head; the rain-king is upon us!
There is a hasty retreat down stairs; the hatches are shoved over; after
dinner we shall see what this strange evening portends.

"I hope we shall get into the Sound of Ulva before dark," says Miss
Avon.

"I wish Angus was on board.  It is a shame he should be cheated out of
his thunderstorm.  But we shall have the equinoctials for him, at all
events," says Queen Titania—just as if she had a series of squalls and
tempests bottled, labelled, and put on a shelf.

When we get on deck again we find that the evening, but not the _White
Dove_, has advanced.  There is no wind; there is no rain; around us
there is the silent, glassy, lilac-grey sea, which, far away in the
west, has one or two gleams of a dull bronze on it, as if some afterglow
were struggling through the clouds at the horizon.  Along the Gribun
cliffs, and over the islands, the gloom has surely increased; it were
better if we were in some shelter for this night.

Then a noise is heard that seems to impose a sudden silence—thunder,
low, distant, and rumbling.  But there is no splendid gleam through the
gathering gloom of the night: the Gribun cliffs have not spoken yet.

John of Skye has carelessly seated himself on one of the deck-stools;
his arm hangs idly on the tiller; we guess, rather than hear, that he is
regaling himself with the sad, monotonous _Farewell to Fuineray_.  He
has got on his black oilskins, though there is not a drop of rain.

By and by, however, it being now quite dark, he jumps to his feet, and
appears to listen intently.

"Ay, do ye hear it?" he says, with a short laugh.  "And it iss off the
land it iss coming!"

He calls aloud—"Look out boys! it is a squahl coming over, and we’ll hev
the topsail down whatever!"

Then we hear a distant roaring; and presently the headsails are
violently shaken, and the great boom swings over as John puts the helm
up to get way on her.  The next instant we are racing in for the land,
as if we mean to challenge the heavy squall that is tearing across from
the unseen Gribun cliffs. And now the rain-clouds break in deluges; the
men in their black oilskins go staggering this way and that along the
slippery decks; the _White Dove_ is wrestling with the sudden storm;
another low murmur of thunder comes booming through the darkness.  What
is that solitary light far in there towards the land?—dare any steamer
venture so near the shore on such a night?  And we, too; would it not be
safer for us to turn and run out to sea rather than beat against a
squall into the narrow and shallow channels of Ulva’s Sound? But John of
Skye is not afraid.  The wind and sea cannot drown his strident voice;
the rain deluge cannot blind the trained eyes; the men on the
look-out—when the bow of the boat springs high on a wave, we can see the
black figures against the sombre sky—know the channels too; we are not
afraid to make for Ulva’s Sound.

There is a wild cry from one of the women; she has caught sight, through
the gloom, of white foam dashing on the rocks.

"It is all right, mem!" John calls aloud, with a laugh; but all the same
the order is shouted, "_Ready about!_"—"_Ready about!_" is the call
coming back to us from the darkness. "_’Bout ship!_" and then away she
sheers from that ugly coast.

We were after all cheated of our thunderstorm, but it was a wild and a
wet night nevertheless.  Taking in the mizen was no joke amid this fury
of wind and rain, but that and the hauling up of the main-tack lessened
the pressure on her.  John of Skye was in high spirits.  He was proud of
his knowledge of the dangerous coast; where less familiar eyes saw only
vague black masses looming out of the darkness he recognised every rock
and headland.

"No, no, mem," he was calling out in friendly tones; "we not hef to run
out to sea at ahl. We will get into the Sound of Ulva ferry well; and
there will not be any better anchorage as the Sound of Ulva, when you
are acquaint. But a stranger—I not ask a stranger to go into the Sound
of Ulva on so dark a night."

What is this we hear?—"_Down foresail, boys!_" and there is a rattle on
to the decks. The head of the yacht seems to sway round; there is a loud
flapping of sails.  "_Down chub!_"—and there are black figures
struggling up there at the bowsprit; but vaguely seen against the
blackness of the sky and the sea. Then, in a second or two, there is a
fiercer rattle than ever; the anchor is away with a roar.  Some further
chain is paid out; then a strange silence ensues; we are anchored in
Ulva’s Sound.

Come down into the cabin, then, you women-folk, and dry your streaming
faces, and arrange your dishevelled hair.  Is not this a wonderful
stillness and silence after the whirl and roar of the storm outside?
But then you must know that the waters are smooth in here; and the winds
become gentle—as gentle as the name of the island that is close to us
now in the dark.  It is a green-shored island.  The sailors call it
_Ool-a-va_.



                              *CHAPTER V.*

                            *CHASING SEALS.*


Next morning found the Laird in a most excellent humour.  All was going
well. Though nothing had been said or promised by the Youth, was not his
coming away with us into these remote solitudes—to say nothing of the
very pleasant manner in which he sought to entertain Miss Mary
Avon—sufficient evidence that he had at least no great repugnance to his
uncle’s scheme?  The Laird was disposed to chuckle privately over the
anxiety that Mary displayed about her work.  The poor young thing: she
did not understand what higher powers were ordering her future for her.

"Let her work on," the Laird said, in great confidence, to his hostess,
and there was a fine secret humour in his eyes.  "Ay, ay, let her work
on: hard work never harmed anybody.  And if she brings her bit mailin to
the marriage—ye would call it her dowry in the south—in the shape of a
bundle of pictures—just as a young Scotch lass brings a chest of drawers
or a set of napery—she will not be empty-handed.  She can hang them up
herself at Denny-mains."

"You are looking too far ahead, sir," says Queen T., with a quiet smile.

"Maybe—maybe," says the Laird, rubbing his hands with a certain proud
satisfaction. "We’ll see who’s right—we will see who is right, ma’am."

Then, at breakfast, he was merry, complaisant, philosophical in turns.
He told us that the last vidimus of the affairs of the Burgh of
Strathgovan was most satisfactory: assets about 35,000*l.*; liabilities
not over 20,000*l.*; there was thus an estimated surplus of no less than
15,000*l*.  Why, then, he asked, should certain poor creatures on the
Finance Committee make such a work about the merest trifles?  Life was
not given to man that he should worry himself into a rage about a penny
farthing.

"There is a great dale of right down common sense, ma’am," said he, "in
that verse that was written by my countryman, Welliam Dunbaur—

    Be merry man, and tak not sair in mind
      The wavering of this wretched world of sorrow;
    To God be humble, to thy friend be kind,
      And with thy neighbours gladly lend and borrow;
    His chance to-night, it may be thine to-morrow;
      Be blythe in heart for any aventúre,
    For oft with wise men it has been said aforow,
      Without Gladnésse availeth no Treasúre."


But we, who were in the secret, knew that this quotation had nothing in
the world to do with the Finance Committee of Strathgovan. The Laird had
been comforting himself with these lines.  They were a sort of
philosophico-poetical justification of himself to himself for his
readiness to make these two young people happy by giving up to them
Denny-mains.

And no doubt he was still chuckling over the simplicity of this poor
girl, when, after breakfast, he found her busily engaged in getting her
painting materials on deck.

"Beautiful—beautiful," said he, glancing around.  "Ye will make a fine
picture out of those mountains, and the mist, and the still sea.  What
an extraordinary quiet after last night’s rain!"

And perhaps he was thinking how well this picture would look in the
dining-room at Denny-mains; and how a certain young hostess—no longer
pale and fragile, but robust and sun-browned with much driving in a
pony-carriage—would take her friends to the picture, and show them Ulva,
and Loch-na-Keal, and Ben-More; and tell them how this strange quiet and
beauty had followed on a wild night of storm and rain.  The world around
us was at this moment so quiet that we could hear the twittering of some
small bird among the rocks in there at the shore.  And the pale, wan,
dream-like sea was so perfect a mirror that an absolutely double picture
was produced—of the gloomy mountain-masses of Ben-More, amid silver
gleams of cloud and motionless wreaths of mist; of the basaltic pillars
of the coast nearer at hand—a pale reddish-brown, with here and there a
scant sprinkling of grass; of that broad belt of rich orange-yellow
seaweed that ran all along the rocks, marking the junction of the world
of the land with the water-world below.  An absolutely perfect mirror;
except when some fish splashed; then the small circles widened out and
gradually disappeared; and the surface was as glassy as before.

The Laird was generous.  He would leave the artist undisturbed at her
work.  Would not his nephew be better amused if a bachelor expedition
were fitted out to go in search of the seals that abound in the channels
around Inch Kenneth?  Our hostess declined to go; but provided us with
an ample lunch.  The gig was lowered; and everything ready for the
start.

"Bring your shot-gun, too, Howard," said the Laird.  "I want ye to shoot
some skarts. I am told that the breasts of them are very close and fine
in the feathers; and I would like a muff or a bag made of them for a
leddy—for a young leddy."

Mary Avon was busy with her work: how could she hear?

"And if the skin of the seals about here is not very fine, we will make
something of it.  Oh, ay, we will make something of it in the way of a
present.  I know a man in Glasgow who is extraordinary clever at such
things."

"We have first to get the seal, uncle," said his nephew, laughing.  "I
know any number of men who assure you they have shot seals; but not
quite so many who have got the seals that were shot."

"Oh, but we’ll get the seal, and the skarts, too," said the Laird; and
then he added, grimly, "Man, if ye cannot do that, what can ye do?  If
ye cannot shoot well, what else are ye fit for?"

"I really don’t know, uncle," the Youth confessed modestly, as he handed
down his rifle into the gig.  "The London solicitors are a blind race.
If they only knew what a treasure of learning and sound judgment they
might have for the asking: but they don’t.  And I can’t get any of the
Scotch business you were talking about; because my name doesn’t begin
with Mac."

"Well, well, we must wait, and hope for the best," said the Laird,
cheerfully, as he took his seat in the stern of the gig.  "We are not
likely to run against a solicitor in the Sound of Ulva.  Sufficient for
the day.  As I was saying, there’s great common sense in what Welliam
Dunbaur wrote—

      Be blythe in heart for any aventúre,
    For oft with wise men it has been said aforow,
      Without Gladnésse availeth no Treasúre.

—Bless me, look at that!"

This sudden exclamation sent all eyes to the shore.  A large heron,
startled by the rattling of the oars, had risen, with a sharp and loud
croak of alarm, from among the sea-weed, his legs hanging down, his long
neck, and wings, and body apparently a grey-white against the shadow of
the basaltic rocks. Then, lazily flapping, he rose higher and higher; he
tucked up his legs; the great wings went somewhat more swiftly; and
then, getting above the low cliffs, and appearing quite black against
the silver-clear sky, he slowly sailed away.

The silence of this dream-like picture around us was soon broken.  As
the men pulled away from the yacht, the lonely shores seemed to waken up
into life; and there were whistlings, and callings, and warnings all
along the cliffs; while the startled sea-birds whirred by in flashes of
colour, or slowly and heavily betook themselves to some further
promontory.  And now, as we passed along the narrow Sound, and saw
through the translucent water the wonder-land of seaweed below—with the
patches of clear yellow sand intervening—we appreciated more and more
highly the skill of John of Skye in getting us into such a harbour on
the previous night.  It is not every one who, in pitch darkness and in
the midst of squalls, can run a yacht into the neck of a bottle.

We emerged from the narrow channel, and got out into the open; but even
the broad waters of Loch-na-Keal were pale and still: the reflection of
Eorsa was scarcely marred by a ripple.  The long, measured throb of the
rowing was the only sound of life in this world of still water and
overhanging cloud.  There was no stroke-oar now to give the chorus

    _A long strong pull together,_
      _Ho, ro, clansman._

But still we made good way.  As we got further out, we came in sight of
Little Colonsay; and further off still, Staffa, lying like a dark cloud
on the grey sea.  Inch Kenneth, for which we were making, seemed almost
black; although, among the mists that lay along the Gribun and Bourg
cliffs, there was a dull silver-yellow light, as though some sunlight
had got mixed up with the clouds.

"No, no," the Laird was saying, as he studied a scrap of paper, "it is
not a great property to admeenister; but I am strong in favour of local
management.  After reading that book on London, and its catalogue of the
enormous properties there, our little bit Burgh appears to be only a
toy; but the principle of sound and energetic self-government is the
same.  And yet it is no so small, mind ye. The Burgh buildings are
estimated at nineteen thousand pounds odd; the furniture at twelve
hunderd pounds; lamps near on two thousand five hunderd; sewers nine
thousand pounds odd; and then debts not far from three thousand
pounds—that makes our assets just about thirty-five thousand.  And if
the water-pipes in some places are rather too small for the steam
fire-engine, we maun have them bigger.  It was quite rideeculous that a
thriving place like Strathgovan, when there was a big fire, should have
to run to Glesca for help. No, no; I believe in independence; and if ye
should ever live in our neighbourhood, Howard, I hope ye will stand out
against the policy of annexation.  It is only a lot o’ Radical bodies
that are for upsetting institutions that have been tried by time and not
found wanting."

"Oh, certainly, sir," Howard Smith said blithely.  "When you educate
people to take an interest in small parochial matters, they are better
fitted to give an opinion about the general affairs of the country."

"Small?" said the Laird, eyeing him severely.  "They are of as much
importance as human life; is there anything of greater importance in the
world?  By abolishin’ the Coulterburn nuisance, and insisting on greater
cleanliness and ventilation, we have reduced the number of deaths from
infectious diseases in a most extraordinar’ manner; and there will be no
more fear of accidents in the Mitherdrum Road, for we are going to have
a conteenuous line of lamps that’ll go right in to the Glesca lamps.  I
do not call these small matters.  As for the asphalting of the pavement
in front of John Anderson’s line of houses," continued the Laird, as he
consulted the memorandum in his hand, "that is a small matter, if ye
like.  I am not disposed to pronounce an opinion on that matter: they
can settle it without my voice.  But it will make a great difference to
John Anderson; and I would like to see him come forward with a bigger
subscription for the new Park.  Well, well; we must fight through as
best we can."

It was here suggested to the Laird that he should not let these weighty
matters trouble him while he is away on a holiday.

"Trouble me?" said he, lightly.  "Not a bit, man!  People who have to
meddle in public affairs must learn how to throw off their cares.  I am
not troubled.  I am going to give the men a dram; for better pulling I
never saw in a boat!"

He was as good as his word, too.  He had the luncheon-basket handed down
from the bow; he got out the whisky bottle; there was a glass filled out
for each of the men, which was drunk in solemn silence.

"Now, boys," said he, as they took to their oars again, "haven’t ye got
a song or a chorus to make the rowing easy?"

But they were too shy for a bit.  Presently, however, we heard at the
bow a low, plaintive, querulous voice; and the very oars seemed to
recognise the air as they gripped the water. Then there was a hum of a
chorus—not very musical—and it was in the Gaelic—but we knew what the
refrain meant.

    _Ō bōatmān, ă fārewĕll tō yŏu,_
    _Ō bōatmān, ă fārewĕll tō yŏu,_
    _Whĕrēvēr yŏu māy bĕ gōĭng._

That is something like the English of it: we had heard the _Fhir a
Bhata_ in other days.

The long, heavy pull is nearly over.  Here are the low-lying reefs of
rock outside Inch Kenneth; not a whisper is permissible as we creep into
the nearest bay.  And then the men and the boat are left there; and the
Youth—perhaps dimly conscious that his uncle means the seal-skin for
Mary Avon—grasps his rifle and steals away over the undulating shelves
of rock; while his two companions, with more leisure but with not less
circumspection, follow to observe his operations.  Fortunately there is
no screaming sea-pyot or whistling curlew to give warning; stealthily,
almost bent in two, occasionally crawling on all fours, he makes his way
along the crannies in the reef, until, as we see, he must be nearly
approaching the channel on his left.  There he pauses to take breath.
He creeps behind a rock; and cautiously looks over.  He continues his
progress.

"This is terrible woark," says the Laird, in a stage-whisper, as he,
too—with a much heavier bulk to carry—worms along.  From time to time he
has to stay to apply his handkerchief to his forehead; it is hot work on
this still, breathless day.

And at last we, too, get down to the edge of a channel—some hundred
yards lower than Howard Smith’s post—and from behind a rock we have a
pretty clear view of the scene of operations.  Apparently there is no
sign of any living thing—except that a big fish leaps into the air, some
dozen yards off.  Thereafter a dead silence.

After waiting about a quarter of an hour or so, the Laird seemed to
become violently excited, though he would neither budge nor speak.  And
there, between two islands right opposite young Smith, appeared two
shining black heads on the still water; and they were evidently coming
down this very channel.  On they came—turning about one way and another,
as if to look that the coast was clear.  Every moment we expected to
hear the crack of the rifle.  Then the heads silently disappeared.

The Laird was beside himself with disappointment.

"Why did he no shoot?  Why did he no shoot?" he said, in an excited
whisper.

He had scarcely spoken when he was startled by an apparition.  Right
opposite to him—not more than twenty yards off—a black thing appeared on
the water—with a glistening smooth head, and large, soft eyes.  Then
another.  We dared not move.  We waited for the whistle of the
rifle-bullet.  The next instant the first seal caught sight of the
Laird; raised its head for an instant at least six inches higher; then
silently plunged along with its companion. They were gone, at all
events.

The Youth came marching along the rocks, his rifle over his shoulder.

"Why didn’t you fire?" his uncle said, almost angrily.

"I thought they were coming nearer," said he.  "I was just about to fire
when they dived.  Mind, it isn’t very easy to get on to a thing that is
bobbing about like that, with a rifle.  I propose we have luncheon, now,
until the tide ebbs a bit; then there may be a chance of catching one
lying on the rocks. That is the proper time for getting a shot at a
seal."

We had luncheon: there was no difficulty about securing that.  But as
for getting at the seals—whether we crawled over the rocks, or lay in
hiding, or allowed the boat to drift towards some island, on the chance
of one of them rising in our neighbourhood—it was no use at all.  There
were plenty of seals about: a snap shot now and again served to break
the monotony of the day; but that present tor Mary Avon seemed as remote
as ever.  And when one is determined on shooting a seal, one is not
likely to waste one’s attention, and cartridges, on such inferior
animals as skarts.

The silver-grey day became more golden; there was a touch of warm purple
about the shadows of Staffa.

"Come," said the Laird at last.  "We must go back.  It is no use.  I
have often heard people say that if you miss the first chance at a seal
it never gives ye another."

"Better luck next time, uncle," said the Youth; but his uncle refused to
be comforted. And the first thing he said to Mary Avon when he got back
to the yacht was—

"We have not got it."

"Got what?" said she.

"The seal-skin I wanted to have dressed for ye.  No, nor the skarts I
wanted to have made into a muff or a bag for ye."

"Oh," said she, promptly, "I am very glad. I hope you won’t shoot any of
those poor things on my account; I should be very sorry indeed."

The Laird took this as one of the familiar protestations on the part of
women, who wouldn’t for the world have poor things shot, but who don’t
object to wearing any amount of furs and feathers, to say nothing of
having innocent sheep sheared and harmless silkworms robbed in order to
deck themselves out. She should have that dressed seal-skin, and that
muff of skarts’ breasts, all the same.

Nothing of stupendous importance happened that evening except that—after
we had caught three dozen of good-sized lithe and returned to the yacht
with this welcome addition to our stores—there was a general discussion
of our plans for the next few days.  And our gentle hostess was
obviously looking forward to Angus Sutherland’s coming back to us with
great pleasure; and we were to make our return to suit his convenience;
and she would write to him whenever we got near a post-office again.

Mary Avon had sate silent during all this.  At last, she said—apparently
with some effort and yet very deliberately—

"I—I think you are a little cruel to Dr. Sutherland.  You are forcing
him to come with you against his better judgment—for you know, with his
prospects, and the calls on his time, he cannot afford such long
idleness.  Do you think it is quite fair?"

The woman stared at this girl, who spoke with some earnestness, though
her eyes were downcast.

"He would do anything to please you," Mary Avon continued, as if she
were determined to get through with some speech that she had prepared,
"and he is very fond of sailing: but do you think you should allow him
to injure his prospects in this way? Wouldn’t it be a greater kindness
to write and say that, if he really feels he ought to return to London,
you would not hold him to his promise?  I am sure he would not be
offended: he would understand you at once. And I am sure he would do
what is clearly right: he would go straight back to London, and resume
his work—for his own sake and for the sake of those who count on a great
future for him.  I, for one, should be very sorry to see him come back
to idle away his time in sailing."

And still Queen Tita stared at the girl, though their eyes did not meet.
And she could scarcely believe that it was Mary Avon who had counselled
this cold dismissal.



                             *CHAPTER VI.*

                *"UNCERTAIN, COY, AND HARD TO PLEASE."*


There are two people walking up and down the deck this beautiful
morning: the lazy ones are still below, dawdling over breakfast.  And
now young Smith, though he is not much more than an acquaintance, talks
quite confidentially to his hostess.  She has his secret; he looks to
her for aid.  And when they do have a quiet moment like this together
there is usually but one person of whom they speak.

"I must say she has an extraordinary spirit," he observes, with some
decision.  "Why, I believe she is rather pleased than otherwise to have
lost that money.  She is not a bit afraid of going up to London to
support herself by her work.  It seems to amuse her on the whole!"

"Mary has plenty of courage," says the other quietly.

"I don’t wonder at my uncle being so fond of her: he likes her
independent ways and her good humour.  I shouldn’t be surprised if he
were to adopt her as his daughter, and cut me out.  There would be some
sense in that."

"I am glad you take it so coolly," says our governor-general, in a
matter-of-fact way that rather startles him.  "More unlikely things have
happened."

But he recovers himself directly.

"No, no," says he, laughing.  "There is one objection.  She could not
sit on any of the parochial Boards of Strathgovan.  Now I know my uncle
looks forward to putting me on the Police Committee and the Lighting
Committee, and no end of other Committees. By the way, she might go on
the School Board.  Do they have women on the School Boards in Scotland?"

On this point his hostess was no better informed than himself.

"Well," said he, after a bit, "I wouldn’t call her pretty, you know; but
she has a singularly interesting face."

"Oh, do you think so?" says the other, quite innocently.

"I do, indeed," answers the ingenuous Youth. "And the more you see of
her the more interesting it becomes.  You seem to get so well acquainted
with her somehow; and—and you have a sort of feeling that her presence
is sort of necessary."

This was somewhat vague; but he made another wild effort to express
himself.

"What I mean is—that—that suppose she were to leave the yacht, wouldn’t
the saloon look quite different?  And wouldn’t the sailing be quite
different?  You would know there was something wanting."

"I should, indeed," is the emphatic reply.

"I never knew any one," says the Youth, warming to his work of thorough
explanation, "about whose presence you seem so conscious—even when she
isn’t here—I don’t mean that exactly—I mean that at this moment now, you
know she is on board the yacht—and it would be quite different if she
were not.  I suppose most people wouldn’t call her pretty.  There is
nothing of the Book of Beauty about her.  But I call it a most
interesting face.  And she has fine eyes.  Anybody must admit that.
They have a beautiful, soft expression; and they can laugh even when she
is quite silent——"

"My dear Mr. Smith," says his hostess, suddenly stopping short, and with
a kind of serious smile on her face, "let me talk frankly to you.  You
acted very sensibly, I think, in coming with us to humour your uncle.
He will come to see that this scheme of his is impracticable; and in the
meantime, if you don’t mind the discomfort of it, you have a holiday.
That is all quite well.  But pray don’t think it necessary that you
should argue yourself into falling in love with Mary.  I am not in her
confidence on such a delicate matter; but one has eyes; and I think I
might almost safely say to you that, even if you persuaded yourself that
Mary would make an excellent wife—and be presentable to your friends—I
say even if you succeeded in persuading yourself, I am afraid you would
only have thrown that labour away.  Please don’t try to convince
yourself that you ought to fall in love with her."

This was plain speaking.  But then our admiral-in-chief was very quickly
sensitive where Mary Avon was concerned; and perhaps she did not quite
like her friend being spoken of as though she were a pill that had to be
swallowed.  Of course the Youth instantly disclaimed any intention of
that kind.  He had a very sincere regard for the girl, so far as he had
seen her; he was not persuading himself; he was only saying how much she
improved when you got better acquainted with her.

"And if," said he, with just a touch of dignity, "if Miss Avon
is—is—engaged——"

"Oh, I did not say that," his hostess quickly interposed.  "Oh,
certainly not.  It was only a guess on my part——"

"——or likely to be engaged," he continued, with something of the same
reserve, "I am sure I am very glad for her sake; and whoever marries her
ought to have a cheerful home and a pleasant companion."

This was a generous sentiment; but there was not much of a
"wish-you-may-be-happy" air about the young man.  Moreover, where was
the relief he ought to have experienced on hearing that there was an
obstacle—or likelihood of an obstacle—to the execution of his uncle’s
scheme which would absolve him from responsibility altogether?

However, the subject could not be continued just then; for at this
moment a tightly-brushed small head, and a narrow-brimmed felt hat, and
a shapely neck surrounded by an upstanding collar and bit of ribbon of
navy-blue, appeared at the top of the companion, and Mary Avon, looking
up with her black eyes full of a cheerful friendliness, said—

"Weil, John, are you ready to start yet?"

And the great, brown-bearded John of Skye, looking down at this small
Jack-in-the-box with a smile of welcome on his face, said—

"Oh, yes, mem, when the breakfast is over."

"Do you think it is blowing outside, then?"

"Oh, no, mem, but there is a good breeze; and maybe there will be a bit
of a rowl from the Atlantic.  Will Mr. —— himself be for going now?"

"Oh, yes, certainly," she says, with a fine assumption of authority.
"We are quite ready when you are ready, John; Fred will have the things
off the table in a couple of minutes."

"Very well, mem," says the obedient John of Skye, going forward to get
the men up to the windlass.

Our young Doctor should have been there to see us getting under way.
The Sound of Ulva is an excellent harbour and anchorage when you are
once in it; but getting out of it, unless with both wind and tide in
your favour, is very like trying to manoeuvre a man-of-war in a tea-cup.
But we had long ago come to the conclusion that John of Skye could sail
the _White Dove_ through a gas-pipe, with half a gale of wind dead in
his teeth; and the manner in which he got us out of this narrow and
tortuous channel fully justified our confidence.

"Very prettily done, Captain John!" said the Laird—who was beginning to
give himself airs on nautical matters—when we had got out into the open.

And here, as we soon discovered, was the brisk fresh breeze that John of
Skye had predicted; and the running swell, too, that came sweeping in to
the mouth of Loch-na-Keal. Black indeed looked that far-reaching loch on
this breezy, changeful morning—as dark as it was when the chief of
Ulva’s Isle came down to the shore with his runaway bride; and all along
Ben-More and over the Gribun cliffs hung heavy masses of cloud, dark and
threatening as if with thunder.  But far away in the south there was a
more cheerful outlook; the windy sea shimmering in light; some gleams of
blue in the sky; we knew that the sunshine must be shining on the green
clover and the beautiful sands of Iona.  The _White Dove_ seemed to
understand what was required of her.  Her head was set for the gleaming
south; her white wings outspread; as she sprang to meet those rushing
seas we knew we were escaping from the thunder-darkness that lay over
Loch-na-Keal.

And Ulva: had we known that we were now leaving Ulva behind us for the
last time, should we not have taken another look back, even though it
now lay under a strange and mysterious gloom?  Perhaps not.  We had
grown to love the island in other days.  And when one shuts one’s eyes
in winter, it is not to see an Ulva of desolate rocks and leaden waves;
it is a fair and shining Ulva, with blue seas breaking whitely along its
shores; and magical still channels, with mermaid’s halls of seaweed; and
an abundant, interesting life—all manner of sea-birds, black rabbits
running among the rocks, seals swimming in the silent bays.  Then the
patch of civilisation under shelter of the hills; the yellow
corn-fields; the dots of human creatures and the red and tawny-grey
cattle visible afar in the meadow; the solitary house; the soft foliage
of trees and bushes; the wild-flowers along the cliffs. That is the
green-shored island: that is the _Ool-a-va_ of the sailors; we know it
only in sunlight and among blue summer seas: it shines for us for ever!

The people who go yachting are a fickle folk.  The scene changes—and
their interests change—every few minutes.  Now it is the swooping down
of a solan; again it is the appearance of another island far away;
presently it is a shout of laughter forward, as some unlucky wight gets
drowned in a shower of sea-spray: anything catches their attention for
the moment.  And so the _White Dove_ swings along; and the sea gets
heavier and heavier; and we watch the breakers springing high over the
black rocks of Colonsay.  It is the Laird who is now instructing our new
guest; pointing out to him, as they come in view, Staffa, the Dutchman,
Fladda, and Lunga, and Cairnaburg.  Tiree is invisible at the horizon:
there is too wild a whirl of wind and water.

The gloom behind us increases; we know not what is about to happen to
our beloved but now distant Ulva—what sudden rumble of thunder is about
to startle the silence of the dark Loch-na-Keal.  But ahead of us the
south is still shining clear: blow, winds, that we may gain the quiet
shelter of Polterriv before the evening falls!  And is it not full moon
to-night?—to-night our new guest may see the yellow moon shining on the
still waters of Iona Sound.

But the humiliating truth must be told.  The heavy sea has been trying
to one unaccustomed to life on board.  Howard Smith, though answering
questions well enough, and even joining voluntarily in conversation
occasionally, wears a preoccupied air.  He does not take much interest
in the caves of Bourg.  The bright look has gone from his face.

His gentle hostess—who has herself had moments of gloom on the bosom of
the deep—recognises these signs instantly; and insists on immediate
luncheon.  There is a double reason for this haste.  We can now run
under the lee of the Erisgeir rocks, where there will be less danger to
Master Fred’s plates and tumblers.  So we are all bundled down into the
saloon; the swell sensibly subsides as we get to leeward of Erisgeir;
there is a scramble of helping and handing; and another explosion in the
galley tells us that Master Fred has not yet mastered the art of
releasing effervescing fluids.  Half a tumblerful of that liquid puts
new life into our solemn friend. The colour returns to his face, and
brightness to his eyes.  He admits that he was beginning to long for a
few minutes on firm land—but now—but now—he is even willing to join us
in an excursion that has been talked of to the far Dubhartach
lighthouse.

"But we must really wait for Angus," our hostess says, "before going out
there. He was always so anxious to go to Dubhartach."

"But surely you won’t ask him to come away from his duties again?" Mary
Avon puts in hastily.  "You know he ought to go back to London at once."

"I know I have written him a letter," says the other demurely.  "You can
read it if you like, Mary.  It is in pencil, for I was afraid of the
ink-bottle going waltzing over the table."

Miss Avon would not read the letter.  She said we must be past Erisgeir
by this time; and proposed we should go on deck.  This we did; and the
Youth was now so comfortable and assured in his mind that, by lying full
length on the deck, close to the weather bulwarks, he managed to light a
cigar.  He smoked there in much content, almost safe from the spray.

Mary Avon was seated at the top of the companion, reading.  Her hostess
came and squeezed herself in beside her, and put her arm round her.

"Mary," said she, "why don’t you want Angus Sutherland to come back to
the yacht?"

"I!" said she, in great surprise—though she did not meet the look of the
elder woman—"I—I—don’t you see yourself that he ought to go back to
London?  How can he look after that magazine while he is away in the
Highlands?  And—and—he has so much to look forward to—so much to do—that
you should not encourage him in making light of his work."

"Making light of his work!" said the other. "I am almost sure that you
yourself told him that he deserved and required a long—a very
long—holiday."

"You did, certainly."

"And didn’t you?"

The young lady looked rather embarrassed.

"When you saw him," said she, with flushed cheeks, "so greatly enjoying
the sailing—absorbed in it—and—and gaining health and strength,
too—well, of course you naturally wished that he should come back and go
away with you again.  But it is different on reflection.  You should not
ask him."

"Why, what evil is likely to happen to him through taking another six
weeks’ holiday? Is he likely to fall out of the race of life because of
a sail in the _White Dove_? And doesn’t he know his own business?  He is
not a child."

"He would do a great deal to please you."

"I want him to please himself," said the other; and she added, with a
deadly frown gathering on her forehead, "and I won’t have you, Miss
Dignity, interfering with the pleasures of my guests.  And there is to
be no snubbing, and no grim looks, and no hints about work, and London,
and other nonsense, when Angus Sutherland comes back to us. You shall
stand by the gangway—do you hear?—and receive him with a smiling face;
and if you are not particularly kind, and civil, and attentive to him,
I’ll have you lashed to the yard-arm and painted blue—keel-haul me if I
don’t."

Fairer and fairer grew the scene around us as the brave _White Dove_
went breasting the heavy Atlantic rollers.  Blue and white overhead; the
hot sunlight doing its best to dry the dripping decks; Iona shining
there over the smoother waters of the Sound; the sea breaking white, and
spouting up in columns, as it dashed against the pale red promontories
of the Ross of Mull.  But then this stiff breeze had backed to the west;
and there was many a long tack to be got over before we left behind the
Atlantic swell and ran clear into the Sound.  The evening was drawing on
apace as we slowly and cautiously steered into the little creek of
Polterriv.  No sooner had the anchor rattled out than we heard the clear
tinkling of Master Fred’s bell; how on earth had he managed to cook
dinner amid all that diving and rolling and pitching?

And then, as we had hoped, it was a beautiful evening; and the long gig
was got out, and shawls for the women-folk flung into the stern.  The
fishing did not claim our attention.  Familiar as some of us were with
the wonderful twilights of the north, which of us had ever seen anything
more solemn, and still, and lovely than these colours of sea and shore?
Half-past nine at night on the 8th of August; and still the west and
north were flushed with a pale rose-red, behind the dark, rich,
olive-green of the shadowed Iona.  But what was that to the magic world
that lay before us as we returned to the yacht?  Now the moon had
arisen, and it seemed to be of a clear, lambent gold; and the cloudless
heavens and the still sea were of a violet hue—not imaginatively, or
relatively, but positively and literally violet.  Then between the
violet-coloured sky and the violet-coloured sea, a long line of rock,
jet black as it appeared to us.  That was all the picture: the yellow
moon, the violet sky, the violet sea, the line of black rock.  No doubt
it was the intensity of the shadows along this line of rock that gave
that extraordinary luminousness to the still heavens and the still sea.

When we got back to the yacht a telegram awaited us.  It had been sent
to Bunessan, the nearest telegraph-station; but some kind friends there,
recognising the _White Dove_ as she came along by Erisgeir, and shrewdly
concluding that we must pass the night at Polterriv, had been so kind as
to forward it on to Fion-phort by a messenger.

"I thought so!" says Queen T. with a fine delight in her face as she
reads the telegram.  "It is from Angus.  He is coming on Thursday.  We
must go back to meet him at Ballahulish or Corpach."

Then the discourtesy of this remark struck her.

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Smith," said she, instantly.  "Of course, I mean
if it is quite agreeable to you.  He does not expect us, you see; he
would come on here——"

"I assure you I would as soon go to Ballahulish as anywhere else," says
the Youth promptly.  "It is quite the same to me—it is all new, you see,
and all equally charming."

Mary Avon alone expressed no delight at this prospect of our going to
Ballahulish to meet Angus Sutherland; she sate silent; her eyes were
thoughtful and distant; it was not of anything around her that she was
thinking.

The moon had got whiter now; the sea and the sky blue-black in place of
that soft warm violet colour.  We sate on deck till a late hour; the
world was asleep around us; not a sound disturbed the absolute stillness
of land and sea.

And where was the voice of our singing bird?  Had the loss of a mere sum
of money made her forget all about Mary Beaton, and Mary Seaton, "and
Mary Carmichael and me?" Or was the midnight silence too much for her;
and the thought of the dusky cathedral over there; with the gravestones
pale in the moonlight; and all around a whispering of the lonely sea?
She had nothing to fear. She might have crossed over to Iona and might
have walked all by herself through the ruins, and in calmness regarded
the sculptured stones.  The dead sleep sound.



                             *CHAPTER VII.*

                           *SECRET SCHEMES.*


The delight with which John of Skye heard that his friend Dr. Sutherland
was coming back to the yacht, and that we were now setting out for
Ballahulish or Corpach to meet him, found instant and practical
expression on this fine, breezy, sunlit morning.

"Hector," says he, "we will put the gaff topsail on her!"

What did he care though this squally breeze came blowing down the Sound
in awkward gusts?

"It is a fine wind, mem," says he to the Admiral, as we slowly leave the
green waters and the pink rocks of Polterriv, and get into the open and
breezy channel.  "Oh, we will mek a good run the day.  And I beg your
pardon, mem, but it is a great pleasure to me that Mr. Sutherland
himself is coming back to the yat."

"He understands your clever sailing, John: is that it?"

"He knows more about a yat as any chentleman I will ever see, mem.  And
we will try to get a good breeze for him this time, mem—and not to have
the calm weather."

This is not likely to be a day of calm weather, at all events.  Tide and
wind together take us away swiftly from the little harbour behind the
granite rocks.  And is Iona over there all asleep; or are there some
friends in the small village watching the _White Dove_ bearing away to
the south?  We wave our handkerchiefs on chance.  We take a last look at
the gabled ruins over the sea; at the green corn-fields; and the
scattered houses; and the beaches of silver sand. Good-bye—good-bye!  It
is a last look for this summer at least; perhaps it is a last look for
ever.  But Iona too—as well as Ulva—remains in the memory a vision of
sunlight, and smooth seas, and summer days.

Harder and harder blows this fresh breeze from the north; and we are
racing down the Sound with the driven waves.  But for the rope round the
tiller, Miss Avon, who is steering, would find it difficult to keep her
feet; and her hair is blown all about her face.  The salt water comes
swishing down the scuppers; the churned foam goes hissing and boiling
away from the sides of the vessel; the broad Atlantic widens out.  And
that small grey thing at the horizon?  Can that speck be a mass of
masonry a hundred and fifty feet in height, wedged into the lonely rock?

"No, no," says our gentle Queen Titania with an involuntary shudder,
"not for worlds would I climb up that iron ladder, with the sea and the
rocks right below me.  I should never get half-way up."

"They will put a rope round your waist, if you like," it is pointed out
to her.

"When we go out, then," says this coward. "I will see how Mary gets on.
If she does not die of fright, I may venture."

"Oh, but I don’t think I shall be with you," remarks the young lady
quite simply.

At this there is a general stare.

"I don’t know what you mean," says her hostess, with an ominous
curtness.

"Why, you know," says the girl, cheerfully—and disengaging one hand to
get her hair out of her eyes—"I can’t afford to go idling much longer.
I must get back to London."

"Don’t talk nonsense," says the other woman, angrily.  "You may try to
stop other people’s holidays, if you like; but I am going to look after
yours.  Holidays!  How are you to work, if you don’t work now? Will you
find many landscapes in Regent Street?"

"I have a great many sketches," says Mary Avon, "and I must try to make
something out of them, where there is less distraction of amusement.
And really, you know, you have so many friends—would you like me to
become a fixture—like the mainmast—"

"I would like you to talk a little common sense," is the sharp reply.
"You are not going back to London till the _White Dove_ is laid up for
the winter—that is what I know."

"I am afraid I must ask you to let me off," she says, quite simply and
seriously.  "Suppose I go up to London next week?  Then, if I get on
pretty well, I may come back——"

"You may come back!" says the other with a fine contempt.  "Don’t try to
impose on me.  I am an older woman than you.  And I have enough
provocations and worries from other quarters: I don’t want you to begin
and bother."

"Is your life so full of trouble?" says the girl, innocently.  "What are
these fearful provocations?"

"Never mind.  You will find out in time. But when you get married, Mary,
don’t forget to buy a copy of Doddridge on Patience. That should be
included in every bridal trousseau."

"Poor thing—is it so awfully ill-used?" replies the steersman, with much
compassion.

Here John of Skye comes forward.

"If ye please, mem, I will tek the tiller until we get round the Ross.
The rocks are very bad here."

"All right, John," says the young lady; and then, with much cautious
clinging to various objects, she goes below, saying that she means to do
a little more to a certain slight water-colour sketch of Polterriv.  We
know why she wants to put some further work on that hasty production.
Yesterday the Laird expressed high approval of the sketch.  She means
him to take it with him to Denny-mains, when she leaves for London.

But this heavy sea: how is the artist getting on with her work amid such
pitching and diving?  Now that we are round the Ross, the _White Dove_
has shifted her course; the wind is more on her beam; the mainsheet has
been hauled in; and the noble ship goes ploughing along in splendid
style; but how about water-colour drawing?

Suddenly, as the yacht gives a heavy lurch to leeward, an awful sound is
heard below. Queen T. clambers down the companion, and holds on by the
door of the saloon; the others following and looking over her shoulders.
There a fearful scene appears.  At the head of the table, in the regal
recess usually occupied by the carver and chief president of our
banquets, sits Mary Avon, in mute and blank despair.  Everything has
disappeared from before her.  A tumbler rolls backwards and forwards on
the floor, empty.  A dishevelled bundle of paper, hanging on to the edge
of a carpet-stool, represents what was once an orderly sketch-book.
Tubes, pencils, saucers, sponges—all have gone with the table-cloth. And
the artist sits quite hopeless and silent, staring before her like a
maniac in a cell.

"Whatever have you been and done?" calls her hostess.

There is no answer: only that tragic despair.

"It was all bad steering," remarks the Youth.  "I knew it would happen
as soon as Miss Avon left the helm."

But the Laird, not confining his sympathy to words, presses by his
hostess; and, holding hard by the bare table, staggers along to the
scene of the wreck.  The others timidly follow. One by one the various
objects are rescued, and placed for safety on the couch on the leeward
side of the saloon.  Then the automaton in the presidential chair begins
to move.  She recovers her powers of speech.  She says—awaking from her
dream—

"Is my head on?"

"And if it is, it is not of much use to you," says her hostess, angrily.
"Whatever made you have those things out in a sea like this? Come up on
deck at once; and let Fred get luncheon ready."

The maniac only laughs.

"Luncheon!" she says.  "Luncheon in the middle of earthquakes!"

But this sneer at the _White Dove_, because she has no swinging table,
is ungenerous. Besides, is not our Friedrich d’or able to battle any
pitching with his ingeniously bolstered couch—so that bottles, glasses,
plates, and what not, are as safe as they would be in a case in the
British Museum?  A luncheon party on board the _White Dove_, when there
is a heavy Atlantic swell running, is not an imposing ceremony.  It
would not look well as a coloured lithograph in the illustrated papers.
The figures crouching on the low stools to leeward; the narrow cushion
bolstered up so that the most enterprising of dishes cannot slide; the
table-cover plaited so as to afford receptacles for knives and spoons;
bottles and tumblers plunged into hollows and propped; Master Fred,
balancing himself behind these stooping figures, bottle in hand, and
ready to replenish any cautiously proffered wine-glass.  But it serves.
And Dr. Sutherland has assured us that, the heavier the sea, the more
necessary is luncheon for the weaker vessels, who may be timid about the
effect of so much rolling and pitching.  When we get on deck again, who
is afraid?  It is all a question as to what signal may be visible to the
white house of Carsaig—shining afar there in the sunlight, among the
hanging woods, and under the soft purple of the hills.
Behold!—behold!—the red flag run up to the top of the white pole! Is it
a message to us, or only a summons to the _Pioneer_?  For now, through
the whirl of wind and spray, we can make out the steamer that daily
encircles Mull, bringing with it white loaves, and newspapers, and other
luxuries of the mainland.

She comes nearer and nearer; the throbbing of the paddles is heard among
the rush of the waves; the people crowd to the side of the boat to have
a look at the passing yacht; and one well-known figure, standing on the
hurricane deck, raises his gilt-braided cap,—for we happen to have on
board a gentle small creature who is a great friend of his.  And she
waves her white handkerchief, of course; and you should see what a
fluttering of similar tokens there is all along the steamer’s decks, and
on the paddle boxes.  Farewell!—farewell!—may you have a smooth landing
at Staffa, and a pleasant sail down the Sound, in the quiet of the
afternoon! The day wears on, with puffs and squalls coming tearing over
from the high cliffs of southern Mull; and still the gallant _White
Dove_ meets and breasts those rolling waves, and sends the spray flying
from her bows. We have passed Loch Buy; Garveloch and the Island of
Saints are drawing nearer; soon we shall have to bend our course
northward, when we have got by Eilean-straid-ean.  And whether it is
that Mary Avon is secretly comforting herself with the notion that she
will soon see her friends in London again, or whether it is that she is
proud of being again promoted to the tiller, she has quite recovered her
spirits.  We hear our singing-bird once more—though it is difficult,
amid the rush and swirl of the waters, to do more than catch chance
phrases and refrains.  And then she is being very merry with the Laird,
who is humorously decrying England and the English, and proving to her
that it is the Scotch migration to the south that is the very saving of
her native country.

"The Lord Chief Justice of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the
President of the Royal Academy—the heads and leading men everywhere—all
Scotch—all Scotch," says he.

"But the weak point about the Scotch, sir," says this philosopher in the
ulster, who is clinging on to the tiller rope, "is their modesty. They
are so distrustful of their own merits. And they are always running down
their own country."

"Ha, ha!—ho! ho! ho!" roars the Laird. "Verra good! verra good!  I owe
ye one for that.  I owe ye one.  Howard, have ye nothing to say in
defence of your native country?"

"You are speaking of Scotland, sir?"

"Ay."

"That is not my native country, you know."

"It was your mother’s, then."

Somehow, when by some accident—and it but rarely happened—the Laird
mentioned Howard Smith’s mother, a brief silence fell on him.  It lasted
but a second or two.  Presently he was saying, with much cheerfulness—

"No, no, I am not one of those that would promote any rivalry between
Scotland and England.  We are one country now.  If the Scotch preserve
the best leeterary English—the most pithy and characteristic forms of
the language—the English that is talked in the south is the most
generally received throughout the world.  I have even gone the
length—I’m no ashamed to admit it—of hinting to Tom Galbraith that he
should exheebit more in London: the influence of such work as his should
not be confined to Edinburgh.  And jealous as they may be in the south
of the Scotch school, they could not refuse to recognise its
excellence—eh?  No, no; when Galbraith likes to exheebit in London,
ye’ll hear a stir, I’m thinking.  The jealousy of English artists will
have no effect on public opeenion.  They may keep him out o’ the
Academy—there’s many a good artist has never been within the walls—but
the public is the judge.  I am told that when his picture of _Stonebyres
Falls_ was exheebited in Edinburgh, a dealer came all the way from
London to look at it."

"Did he buy it?" asked Miss Avon, gently.

"Buy it!" the Laird said, with a contemptuous laugh.  "There are some of
us about Glasgow who know better than to let a picture like that get to
London.  I bought it myself.  Ye’ll see it when ye come to Denny-mains.
Ye have heard of it, no doubt?"

"N—no, I think not," she timidly answers.

"No matter—no matter.  Ye’ll see it when ye come to Denny-mains."

He seemed to take it for granted that she was going to pay a visit to
Denny-mains: had he not heard, then, of her intention of at once
returning to London?

Once well round into the Frith of Lorn, the wind that had borne us down
the Sound of Iona was now right ahead; and our progress was but slow.
As the evening wore on, it was proposed that we should run into Loch
Speliv for the night.  There was no dissentient voice.

The sudden change from the plunging seas without to the quiet waters of
the solitary little loch was strange enough.  And then, as we slowly
beat up against the northerly wind to the head of the loch—a beautiful,
quiet, sheltered little cup of a harbour among the hills—we found before
us, or rather over us, the splendours of a stormy sunset among the
mountains above Glen More.  It was a striking spectacle—the vast and
silent gloom of the valleys below, which were of a cold and intense
green in the shadow; then above, among the great shoulders and peaks of
the hills, flashing gleams of golden light, and long swathes of purple
cloud touched with scarlet along their edges, and mists of rain that
came along with the wind, blotting out here and there those splendid
colours.  There was an absolute silence in this overshadowed bay—but for
the cry of the startled wild-fowl.  There was no sign of any habitation,
except perhaps a trace of pale blue smoke rising from behind a mass of
trees.  Away went the anchor with a short, sharp rattle; we were safe
for the night.

We knew, however, what that trace of smoke indicated behind the dark
trees.  By and by, as soon as the gig had got to the land, there was a
procession along the solitary shore—in the wan twilight—and up the rough
path—and through the scattered patches of birch and fir. And were you
startled, Madam, by the apparition of people who were so inconsiderate
as to knock at your door in the middle of dinner, and whose eyes, grown
accustomed to the shadows of the valleys of Mull, must have looked
bewildered enough on meeting the glare of the lamps?  And what did you
think of a particular pair of eyes—very soft and gentle in their dark
lustre—appealing, timid, friendly eyes, that had nevertheless a quiet
happiness and humour in them?  It was at all events most kind of you to
tell the young lady that her notion of throwing up her holiday and
setting out for London was mere midsummer madness.  How could you—or any
one else—guess at the origin of so strange a wish?



                            *CHAPTER VIII.*

                          *BEFORE BREAKFAST.*


Who is this who slips through the saloon, while as yet all on board are
asleep—who noiselessly ascends the companion-way, and then finds herself
alone on deck?  And all the world around her is asleep too, though the
gold and rose of the new day is shining along the eastern heavens.
There is not a sound in this silent little loch: the shores and the
woods are as still as the far peaks of the mountains, where the mists
are touched here and there with a dusky fire.

She is not afraid to be alone in this silent world.  There is a bright
and contented look on her face.  Carefully and quietly, so as not to
disturb the people below, she gets a couple of deck stools, and puts
down the large sketch-book from under her arm, and opens out a certain
leather case.  But do not think she is going to attack that blaze of
colour in the east, with the reflected glare on the water, and the bar
of dark land between.  She knows better. She has a wholesome fear of
chromo-lithographs. She turns rather to those great mountain masses,
with their mysteriously moving clouds, and their shoulders touched here
and there with a sombre red, and their deep and silent glens a cold,
intense green in shadow. There is more workable material.

And after all there is no ambitious effort to trouble her.  It is only a
rough jotting of form and colour, for future use.  It is a pleasant
occupation for this still, cool, beautiful morning; and perhaps she is
fairly well satisfied with it, for one listening intently might catch
snatches of songs and airs—of a somewhat incoherent and inappropriate
character.  For what have the praises of Bonny Black Bess to do with
sunrise in Loch Speliv?  Or the saucy Arethusa either?  But all the same
the work goes quietly and dexterously on—no wild dashes and searchings
for theatrical effect, but a patient mosaic of touches precisely
reaching their end.  She does not want to bewilder the world.  She wants
to have trustworthy records for her own use.  And she seems content with
the progress she is making.

    _Here’s a health to the girls that we loved long ago,_

this is the last air into which she has wandered—half humming and half
whistling—

    _Where the Shannon, and Liffey, and Blackwater flow._

—when she suddenly stops her work to listen. Can any one be up already?
The noise is not repeated; and she proceeds with her work.

    _Here’s a health to old Ireland: may she ne’er be dismayed;_
    _Then pale grew the cheeks of the Irish Brigade!_


The clouds are assuming substance now: they are no mere flat washes but
accurately drawn objects that have their fore-shortening like anything
else.  And if Miss Avon may be vaguely conscious that had our young
Doctor been on board she would not have been left so long alone, that
had nothing to with her work. The mornings on which he used to join her
on deck, and chat to her while she painted, seem far away now.  He and
she together would see Dunvegan no more.

But who is this who most cautiously comes up the companion, bearing in
his hand a cup and saucer?

"Miss Avon," says he, with a bright laugh, "here is the first cup of tea
I ever made; are you afraid to try it?"

"Oh, dear me," said she, penitently, "did I make any noise in getting my
things below?"

"Well," he says, "I thought I heard you; and I knew what you would be
after; and I got up and lit the spirit-lamp."

"Oh, it is so very kind of you," she says—for it is really a pretty
little attention on the part of one who is not much given to shifting
for himself on board.

Then he dives below again and fetches her up some biscuits.

"By Jove," he says, coming closer to the sketch, "that is very good.
That is awfully good.  Do you mean to say you have done all that this
morning?"

"Oh, yes," she says, modestly.  "It is only a sketch."

"I think it uncommonly good," he says, staring at it as if he would
pierce the paper.

Then there is a brief silence, during which Miss Avon boldly adventures
upon this amateur’s tea.

"I beg your pardon," he says, after a bit, "it is none of my business,
you know—but you don’t really mean that you are going back to London?"

"If I am allowed," she answers with a smile.

"I am sure you will disappoint your friends most awfully," says he, in
quite an earnest manner.  "I know they had quite made up their minds you
were to stay the whole time. It would be very unfair of you.  And my
uncle: he would break his heart if you were to go."

"They are all very kind to me," was her only answer.

"Look here," he says, with a most friendly anxiety.  "If—if—it is only
about business—about pictures I mean—I really beg your pardon for
intermeddling——"

"Oh," said she, frankly, "there is no secret about it.  In fact, I want
everybody to know that I am anxious to sell my pictures.  You see, as I
have got to earn my own living, shouldn’t I begin at once and find out
what it is like?"

"But look here," he said eagerly, "if it is a question of selling
pictures, you should trust to my uncle.  He is among a lot of men in the
West of Scotland, rich merchants and people of that sort, who haven’t
inherited collections of pictures, and whose hobby is to make a
collection for themselves.  And they have much too good sense to buy
spurious old masters, or bad examples for the sake of the name: they
prefer good modern art, and I can tell you they are prepared to pay for
it too.  And they are not fools, mind you; they know good pictures. You
may think my uncle is very prejudiced—he has his favourite
artists—and—and believes in Tom Galbraith, don’t you know—but I can
assure you, you won’t find many men who know more about a good landscape
than he does; and you would say so if you saw his dining room at
Denny-mains."

"I quite believe that," said she, beginning to put up her materials: she
had done her morning’s work.

"Well," he says, "you trust to him; there are lots of those Glasgow men
who would only be too glad to have the chance——"

"Oh, no, no," she cried, laughing.  "I am not going to coerce people
into buying my pictures for the sake of friendship.  I think your uncle
would buy every sketch I have on board the yacht; but I cannot allow my
friends to be victimised."

"Oh, victimised!" said he, scornfully. "They ought to be glad to have
the chance. And do you mean to go on giving away your work for nothing?
That sketch of the little creek we were in—opposite Iona, don’t you
know—that you gave my uncle, is charming. And they tell me you have
given that picture of the rocks and sea-birds—where is the place?——"

"Oh, do you mean the sketch in the saloon—of Canna?"

"Yes; why it is one of the finest landscapes I ever saw.  And they tell
me you gave it to that doctor who was on board!"

"Dr. Sutherland," says she, hastily—and there is a quick colour in her
face—"seemed to like it as—as a sort of reminiscence, you know——"

"But he should not have accepted a valuable picture," said the Youth,
with decision.  "No doubt you offered it to him when you saw he admired
it.  But now—when he must understand that—well, in fact, that
circumstances are altered—he will have the good sense to give it you
back again."

"Oh, I hope not," she says, with her embarrassment not diminishing.
"I—I should not like that!  I—I should be vexed."

"A person of good tact and good taste," says this venturesome young man,
"would make a joke of it—would insist that you never meant it—and would
prefer to buy the picture."

She answers, somewhat shortly—

"I think not.  I think Dr. Sutherland has as good taste as any one.  He
would know that that would vex me very much."

"Oh, well," says he, with a sort of carelessness, "every one to his
liking.  If he cares to accept so valuable a present, good and well."

"You don’t suppose he asked me for it?" she says, rather warmly.  "I
gave it him.  He would have been rude to have refused it.  I was very
much pleased that he cared for the picture."

"Oh, he is a judge of art, also?  I am told he knows everything."

"He was kind enough to say he liked the sketch; that was enough for me."

"He is very lucky; that is all I have to say."

"I dare say he has forgotten all about such a trifle.  He has more
important things to think about."

"Well," said he, with a good-natured laugh, "I should not consider such
a picture a trifle if any one presented it to me.  But it is always the
people who get everything they want who value things least."

"Do you think Dr. Sutherland such a fortunate person?" says she.  "Well,
he is fortunate in having great abilities; and he is fortunate in having
chosen a profession that has already secured him great honour, and that
promises a splendid future to him. But that is the result of hard work;
and he has to work hard now.  I don’t think most men would like to
change places with him just at present."

"He has one good friend and champion, at all events," he says, with a
pleasant smile.

"Oh," says she, hastily and anxiously, "I am saying what I hear.  My
acquaintance with Dr. Sutherland is—is quite recent, I may say; though I
have met him in London.  I only got to know something about him when he
was in Edinburgh, and I happened to be there too."

"He is coming back to the yacht," observes Mr. Smith.

"He will be foolish to think of it," she answers, simply.

At this stage the yacht begins to wake up. The head of Hector of
Moidart, much dishevelled, appears at the forecastle, and that wiry
mariner is rubbing his eyes; but no sooner does he perceive that one of
the ladies is on deck than he suddenly ducks down again—to get his face
washed, and his paper collar. Then there is a voice heard in the saloon
calling:—

"Who has left my spirit-lamp burning?"

"Oh, good gracious!" says the Youth, and tumbles down the companion
incontinently.

Then the Laird appears, bringing up with him a huge red volume entitled
_Municipal London_; but no sooner does he find that Miss Avon is on deck
than he puts aside that mighty compendium, and will have her walk up and
down with him before breakfast.

"What?" he says, eyeing the cup and saucer, "have ye had your breakfast
already?"

"Mr. Smith was so kind as to bring me a cup of tea."

"What," he says again—and he is obviously greatly delighted.  "Of his
own making?  I did not think he had as much gumption."

"I beg your pardon, sir?" said she.  She had been startled by the
whistling of a curlew close by, and had not heard him distinctly.

"I said he was a smart lad," said the Laird, unblushingly.  "Oh, ay, a
good lad; ye will not find many better lads than Howard.  Will I tell ye
a secret?"

"Well, sir—if you like," said she.

There was a mysterious, but humorous look about the Laird; and he spoke
in a whisper.

"It is not good sometimes for young folk to know what is in store for
them.  But I mean to give him Denny-mains.  Whish!  Not a word.  I’ll
surprise him some day."

"He ought to be very grateful to you, sir," was her answer.

"That he is—that he is," said the Laird; "he’s an obedient lad.  And I
should not wonder if he had Denny-mains long before he expects it;
though I must have my crust of bread, ye know.  It would be a fine
occupation for him, looking after the estate; and what is the use of his
living in London, and swallowing smoke and fog?  I can assure ye that
the air at Denny-mains, though it’s no far from Glasgow, is as pure as
it is in this very Loch Speliv."

"Oh, indeed, sir."

They had another couple of turns in silence.

"Ye’re verra fond of sailing," says the Laird.

"I am now," she says.  "But I was very much afraid before I came; I have
suffered so terribly in crossing the Channel.  Somehow one never thinks
of being ill here—with nice clean cabins—and no engines throbbing——"

"I meant that ye like well enough to go sailing about these places?"

"Oh yes," says she.  "When shall I ever have such a beautiful holiday,
again?"

The Laird laughed a little to himself.  Then he said with a
business-like air:

"I have been thinking that, when my nephew came to Denny-mains, I would
buy a yacht for him, that he could keep down the Clyde somewhere—at
Gourock, or Kilmun, or Dunoon, maybe.  It is a splendid ground for
yachting—a splendid!  Ye have never been through the Kyles of Bute?"

"Oh, yes, sir; I have been through them in the steamer."

"Ay, but a yacht; wouldn’t that be better? And I am no sure I would not
advise him to have a steam-yacht—ye are so much more independent of wind
and tide; and I’m thinking ye could get a verra good little steam-yacht
for 3,000*l*."

"Oh, indeed."

"A great deal depends on the steward," he continues, seriously.  "A good
steward that does not touch drink, is jist worth anything. If I could
get a first-class man, I would not mind giving him two pounds a week,
with his clothes and his keep, while the yacht was being used; and I
would not let him away in the winter—no, no.  Ye could employ him at
Denny-mains, as a butler-creature, or something like that."

She did not notice the peculiarity of the little pronoun: if she had,
how could she have imagined that the Laird was really addressing himself
to her?

"I have none but weeman-servants indoors at Denny-mains," he continued,
"but when Howard comes, I would prefer him to keep the house like other
people, and I will not stint him as to means.  Have I told ye what
Welliam Dunbaur says—

    _Be merry, man, and tak not sair in mind—_"


"Oh, yes, I remember."

"There’s fine common sense in that.  And do not you believe the people
who tell ye that the Scotch are a dour people, steeped in Calvinism, and
niggardly and grasping at the last farthing——"

"I have found them exceedingly kind to me, and warm-hearted and
generous—" says she; but he interrupted her suddenly.

"I’ll tell ye what I’ll do," said he, with decision.  "When I buy that
yacht, I’ll get Tom Galbraith to paint every panel in the saloon—no
matter what it costs!"

"Your nephew will be very proud of it," she said.

"And I would expect to take a trip in her myself, occasionally," he
added, in a facetious manner.  "I would expect to be invited——"

"Surely, sir, you cannot expect your nephew to be so ungrateful——"

"Oh," he said, "I only expect reasonable things.  Young people are young
people; they cannot like to be always hampered by grumbling old fogeys.
No, no; if I present any one wi’ a yacht, I do not look on myself as a
piece of its furniture."

The Laird seemed greatly delighted.  His step on the deck was firmer.
In the pauses of the conversation she heard something about—

    _tántará!  Sing tántará!_


"Will ye take your maid with ye?" he asked of her, abruptly.

The girl looked up with a bewildered air—perhaps with a trifle of alarm
in her eyes.

"I, sir?"

"Ha, ha!" said he, laughing, "I forgot.  Ye have not been invited yet.
No more have I. But—if the yacht were ready—and—and if ye were going—ye
would take your maid, no doubt, for comfort’s sake?"

The girl looked reassured.  She said, cheerfully:

"Well, sir, I don’t suppose I shall ever go yachting again, after I
leave the _White Dove_. And if I were, I don’t suppose I should be able
to afford to have a maid with me, unless the dealers in London should
suddenly begin to pay me a good deal more than they have done hitherto."

At this point she was summoned below by her hostess calling.  The Laird
was left alone on deck.  He continued to pace up and down, muttering to
himself, with a proud look on his face.

"A landscape in every panel, as I’m a living man! ... Tom ’ll do it
well, when I tell him who it’s for....  The leddies’ cabin blue and
silver—cool in the summer—the skylight pented—she’ll no be saying that
the Scotch are wanting in taste when she sees that cabin!

      Sing tántará!  Sing tántará!
      * * * The Highland army rues
    That ere they came to Cromdale!

And her maid—if she will not be able to afford a maid, who will?—French,
if she likes!  Blue and silver—blue and silver—that’s it!"

And then the Laird, still humming his lugubrious battle-song, comes down
into the saloon.

"Good morning, ma’am; good morning! Breakfast ready?  I’m just ravenous.
That wild lassie has walked me up and down until I am like to faint.  A
beautiful morning again—splendid!—splendid!  And do ye know where ye
will be this day next year?"

"I am sure I don’t," says his hostess, busy with the breakfast-things.

"I will tell ye.  Anchored in the Holy Loch, off Kilmun, in a
screw-yacht.  Mark my words now: _this very day next year!_"



                             *CHAPTER IX.*

                             *A PROTECTOR.*


"Oh, ay," says John of Skye, quite proudly, as we go on deck after
breakfast, "there will be no more o’ the dead calms.  We will give Mr.
Sutherland a good breeze or two when he comes back to the yat."

It is all Mr. Sutherland and Mr. Sutherland now!—everything is to be
done because Mr. Sutherland is coming.  Each belaying pin is polished so
that one might see to shave in it; Hector of Moidart has spent about two
hours in scraping and rubbing the brass and copper of the galley
stove-pipe; and Captain John, with many grins and apologies, has got
Miss Avon to sew up a rent that has begun to appear in the red ensign.
All that he wants now is to have the yacht beached for a couple of days,
to have the long slender sea-grass scraped from her hull: then Mr.
Sutherland will see how the _White Dove_ will sail!

"I should imagine," says the Youth, in an undertone, to his hostess, as
we are working out the narrow entrance to Loch Speliv, "that your
doctor-friend must have given those men a liberal _pour-boire_ when he
left."

"Oh, I am sure not," said she, quickly, as if that was a serious
imputation.  "That is very unlikely."

"They seem very anxious to have everything put right against his
coming," he says; "at all events, your captain seems to think that every
good breeze he gets is merely thrown away on us."

"Dr. Sutherland and he," she says, laughing, "were very good friends.
And then Angus had very bad luck when he was on board: the glass
wouldn’t fall.  But I have promised to bottle up the equinoctials for
him—he will have plenty of winds before we have done with him. You must
stay too, you know, Mr. Smith, and see how the _White Dove_ rides out a
gale."

He regarded her—with some suspicion.  He was beginning to know that this
lady’s speech—despite the great gentleness and innocence of her
eyes—sometimes concealed curious meanings.  And was she now merely
giving him a kind and generous invitation to go yachting with us for
another month; or was she, with a cruel sarcasm, referring to the
probability of his having to remain a prisoner for that time, in order
to please his uncle?

However, the conversation had to be dropped, for at this moment the
Laird and his _protégée_ made their appearance; and, of course, a
deck-chair had to be brought for her, and a foot-stool, and a sunshade,
and a book.  But what were these attentions, on the part of her elderly
slave, compared with the fact that a young man, presumably enjoying a
sound and healthy sleep, should have unselfishly got up at an unholy
hour of the morning, and should have risked blowing up the yacht with
spirits of wine in order to get her a cup of tea?

It was a fine sailing day.  Running before a light topsail breeze from
the south-east, the _White Dove_ was making for the Lynn of Morven, and
bringing us more and more within view of the splendid circle of
mountains, from Ben Cruachan in the east to Ben Nevis in the north; from
Ben Nevis down to the successive waves of the Morven hills.  And we knew
why, among all the sunlit yellows and greens—faint as they were in the
distance—there were here and there on slope and shoulder stains of a
beautiful rose-purple that were a new feature in the landscape.  The
heather was coming into bloom—the knee-deep, honey-scented heather, the
haunt of the snipe, and the muircock, and the mountain hare.  And if
there was to be for us this year no toiling over the high slopes and
crags—looking down from time to time on a spacious world of sunlit sea
and island—we were not averse from receiving friendly and substantial
messages from those altitudes.  In a day or two now the first crack of
the breechloader would startle the silence of the morning air.  And
Master Fred’s larder was sorely in want of variety.

Northward, and still northward, the light breeze tempering the scorching
sunlight that glares on the sails and the deck.  Each long ripple of the
running blue sea flashes in diamonds; and when we look to the south,
those silver lines converge and converge, until at the horizon they
become a solid blaze of light unendurable to the eye.  But it is to the
north we turn—to the land of Appin, and Kingairloch, and Lochaber: blow,
light wind; and carry us onward, gentle tide; we have an appointment to
keep within shadow of the mountains that guard Glencoe.

The Laird has discovered that these two were up early this morning: he
becomes facetious.

"Not sleepy yet, Miss Mary?" he says.

"Oh, no—not at all," she says, looking up from her book.

"It’s the early bird that catches the first sketch.  Fine and healthy is
that early rising, Howard.  I’m thinking ye did not sleep sound last
night: what for were ye up before anybody was stirring?"

But the Laird does not give him time to answer.  Something has tickled
the fancy of this profound humourist.

"_Kee! kee!_" he laughs; and he rubs his hands.  "I mind a good one I
heard from Tom Galbraith, when he and I were at the Bridge of Allan;
room to room, ye know; and Tom did snore that night.  ’What,’ said I to
him in the morning, ’had ye nightmare, or _delirium tremens_, that ye
made such a noise in the night?’  ’Did I snore?’ said he—I’m thinking
somebody else must have complained before.  ’Snore?’ said I, ’twenty
grampuses was nothing to it.’  And Tom—he burst out a-laughing.  ’I’m
very glad,’ says he.  ’If I snored, I must have had a sound sleep!’  A
_sound_ sleep—d’ye see?  Very sharp—very smart—eh?"—and the Laird
laughed and chuckled over that portentous joke.

"Oh, uncle, uncle, uncle!" his nephew cried. "You used never to do such
things.  You must quit the society of those artists, if they have such a
corrupting influence on you."

"I tell ye," he says, with a sudden seriousness, "I would just like to
show Tom Galbraith that picture o’ Canna that’s below.  No; I would not
ask him to alter a thing.  Very good—very good it is.  And—and—I think—I
will admit it—for a plain man likes the truth to be told—there is just a
bit jealousy among them against any English person that tries to paint
Scotch scenery.  No, no, Miss Mary—don’t you be afraid.  Ye can hold
your own. If I had that picture, now—if it belonged to me—and if Tom was
stopping wi’ me at Denny-mains, I would not allow him to alter it, not
if he offered to spend a week’s work on it."

After that—what?  The Laird could say no more.

Alas! alas! our wish to take a new route northward was all very well;
but we had got under the lee of Lismore, and slowly and slowly the wind
died away, until even the sea was as smooth as the surface of a mirror.
It was but little compensation that we could lean over the side of the
yacht, and watch the thousands of "sea-blubbers" far down in the water,
in all their hues of blue, and purple, and pale pink. The heat of the
sun was blistering; scorching with a sharp pain any nose or cheek that
was inadvertently turned towards it.  As for the Laird, he could not
stand this oven-like business any longer; he declared the saloon was
ever so much cooler than the deck; and went down below, and lay at
length on one of the long blue cushions.

"Why, John," says Queen T., "you are bringing on those dead calms again.
What will Dr. Sutherland say to you?"

But John of Skye has his eye on the distant shore.

"Oh, no, mem," he says, with a crafty smile, "there will not be a dead
calm very long."

And there, in at the shore, we see a dark line on the water; and it
spreads and spreads; the air becomes gratefully cool to the face before
the breeze perceptibly fills the sails; then there is a cheerful swing
over of the boom and a fluttering of the as yet unreleased head-sails.
A welcome breeze, surely, from the far hills of Kingairloch.  We thank
you, you beautiful Kingairloch, with your deep glens and your
rose-purple shoulders of hills: long may you continue to send fresh
westerly winds to the parched and passing voyager!

We catch a distant glimpse of the white houses of Port Appin; we bid
adieu to the musically-named Eilean-na-Shuna; far ahead of us is the
small white lighthouse at the mouth of the narrows of Corran.  But there
is to be no run up to Fort William for us to-night; the tide will turn
soon; we cannot get through the Corran narrows.  And so there is a talk
of Ballahulish; and Captain John is trying hard to get Miss Avon to
pronounce this Bal-a-chaolish. It is not fair of Sandy from Islay—who
thinks he is hidden by the foresail—to grin to himself at these innocent
efforts.

Grander and grander grow those ramparts of mountains ahead of us—with
their wine-coloured stains of heather on the soft and velvety
yellow-green.  The wind from the Kingairloch shores still carries us on;
and Inversanda swells the breeze; soon we shall be running into that
wide channel that leads up to the beautiful Loch Leven.  The Laird
reappears on deck.  He is quite enchanted with the scene around him.  He
says if an artist had placed that black cloud behind the great bulk of
Ben Nevis, it could not have been more artistically arranged.  He
declares that this entrance to Loch Leven is one of the most beautiful
places he has ever seen.  He calls attention to the soft green foliage
of the steep hills; and to that mighty peak of granite, right in the
middle of the landscape, that we discover to be called the Pap of
Glencoe.  And here, in the mellow light of the afternoon, is the steamer
coming down from the north: is it to be a race between us for the
Bal-a-chaolish quay?

It is an unfair race.  We have to yield to brute strength and steam
kettles.

    _Four to one Argyle came on,_

as the dirge of Eric says.  But we bear no malice.  We salute our enemy
as he goes roaring and throbbing by; and there is many a return signal
waved to us from the paddle-boxes.

"Mr. Sutherland is no there, mem, I think," says Captain John, who has
been scanning those groups of people with his keen eyes.

"I should think not; he said he was coming to-morrow," is the answer.

"Will he be coming down by the _Chevalier_ in the morning, or by the
_Mountaineer_ at night?" is the further question.

"I don’t know."

"We will be ashore for him in the morning, whatever," says John of Skye
cheerfully; and you would have thought it was his guest, and not ours,
who was coming on board.

The roaring out of the anchor chain was almost immediately followed by
Master Fred’s bell.  Mary Avon was silent and _distraite_ at dinner; but
nothing more was said of her return to London.  It was understood that,
when Angus Sutherland came on board, we should go back to Castle Osprey,
and have a couple of days on shore, to let the _White Dove_ get rid of
her parasitic seaweed.

Then, after dinner, a fishing excursion; but this was in a new loch, and
we were not very successful.  Or was it that most of us were watching,
from this cup of water surrounded by the circle of great mountains, the
strange movings of the clouds in the gloomy and stormy twilight, long
after the sun had sunk?

"It is not a very sheltered place," remarked the Laird, "if a squall
were to come down from the hills."

But by and by something appeared that lent an air of stillness and peace
to this sombre scene around us.  Over one of those eastern mountains a
faint, smoky, suffused yellow light began to show; then the outline of
the mountain—serrated with trees—grew dark; then the edge of the moon
appeared over the black line of trees; and by and by the world was
filled with this new, pale light, though the shadows on the hills were
deeper than ever. We did not hurry on our way back to the yacht.  It was
a magical night—the black, overhanging hills, the white clouds crossing
the blue vaults of the heavens, the wan light on the sea.  What need for
John of Skye to put up that golden lamp at the bow?  But it guided us on
our way back—under the dusky shadows of the hills.

Then below, in the orange-lit cabin, with cards and dominoes and chess
about, a curious thing overhead happens to catch the eye of one of the
gamblers.  Through the skylight, with this yellow glare, we ought not to
see anything; but there, shining in the night, is a long bar of pale
phosphorescent green light. What can this be?  Why green?  And it is
Mary Avon who first suggests what this strangely luminous thing must
be—the boom, wet with the dew, shining in the moonlight.

"Come," says the Laird to her, "put a shawl round ye, and we will go up
for another look round."

And so, after a bit, they went on deck, these two, leaving the others to
their bezique.  And the Laird was as careful about the wrapping up of
this girl as if she had been a child of five years of age; and when they
went out on to the white deck, he would give her his arm that she should
not trip over any stray rope; and they were such intimate friends now
that he did not feel called upon to talk to her.

But by and by the heart of the Laird was lifted up within him because of
the wonderful beauty and silence of this moonlight night.

"It is a great peety," said he, "that you in the south are not brought
up as children to be familiar with the Scotch version of the Psalms of
David.  It is a fountain-head of poetry that ye can draw from all your
life long; and is there any poetry in the world can beat it?  And many a
time I think that David had a great love for mountains—and that he must
have looked at the hills around Jerusalem—and seen them on many a night
like this.  Ye cannot tell, lassie, what stirs in the heart of a
Scotchman or Scotchwoman when they repeat the 121st Psalm:—

    I to the hills will lift mine eyes,
      From whence doth come mine aid;
    My safety cometh from the Lord
      Who heaven and earth hath made.
    Thy foot He’ll not let slide, nor will
      He slumber that thee keeps:
    Behold, He that keeps Israel
      He slumbers not nor sleeps.

Ask your friend Dr. Sutherland—ask him whether he has found anything
among his philosophy, and science, and the new-fangled leeterature of
the day that comes so near to his heart as a verse of the old Psalms
that he learnt as a boy.  I have heard of Scotch soldiers in distant
countries just bursting out crying, when they heard by chance a bit
repeated o’ the Psalms of David.  And the strength and reliance of them:
what grander source of consolation can ye have?  ’As the mountains are
round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about His people from
henceforth, even for ever.’  What are the trials of the hour to them
that believe and know and hope?  They have a sure faith; the captivity
is not for ever.  Do ye remember the beginning of the 126th Psalm—it
reminds me most of all of the Scotch phrase

    ’laughin’ maist like to greet’

—’When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them
that dream.  Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue
with singing; then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great
things for them.  The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are
glad.  Turn again our captivity, O Lord, as the streams in the south!’"

The Laird was silent for a minute or two; there was nothing but the
pacing up and down the moonlit deck.

"And you have your troubles too, my lass," said he, at length.  "Oh, I
know—though ye put so brave a face on it.  But you need not be afraid;
you need not be afraid.  Keep up your heart.  I am an old man now; I may
have but few years to reckon on; but while I live ye will not want a
friend....  Ye will not want a friend....  If I forget, or refuse what I
promise ye this night, may God do so and more unto me!"

But the good-hearted Laird will not have her go to sleep with this
solemnity weighing on her mind.

"Come, come," he says cheerfully, "we will go below now; and you will
sing me a song—the Queen’s Maries, if ye like—though I doubt but that
they were a lot o’ wild hizzies."



                              *CHAPTER X.*

                            *"MARY, MARY!"*


Is there any one awake and listening—perhaps with a tremor of the
heart—for the calling out of "_White Dove_, ahoy!" from the shore? Once
the ordinary loud noises of the morning are over—the brief working of
the pump, the washing down of the decks—silence reigns once more
throughout the yacht.  One can only hear a whispering of the rain above.

Then, in the distance, there is a muffled sound of the paddles of a
steamer; and that becomes fainter and fainter, while the _White Dove_
gradually loses the motion caused by the passing waves.  Again there is
an absolute stillness; with only that whispering of the rain.

But this sudden sound of oars? and the slight shock against the side of
the vessel? The only person on board the yacht who is presentable whips
a shawl over her head, darts up the companion way, and boldly emerges
into the moist and dismal morning.

"Oh, Angus!" she cries, to this streaming black figure that has just
stepped on deck, "what a day you have brought with you!"

"Oh, it is nothing!" says a cheerful voice from out of the dripping
macintosh—perhaps it is this shining black garment that makes the wet
face and whiskers and hair glow redder than ever, and makes the blue
eyes look even bluer. "Nothing at all!  John and I have agreed it is
going to clear.  But this is a fine place to be in, with a falling
glass!  If you get a squall down from Glencoe, you won’t forget it."

"A squall!" she says, looking round, in amazement.  Well might she
exclaim; for the day is still, and grey, and sombre; the mountains are
swathed in mist; the smooth sea troubled only by the constant rain.

However, the ruddy-faced Doctor, having divested himself of his dripping
garment, follows his hostess down the companion, and into the saloon,
and sits down on one of the couches.  There is an odd, half pathetic
expression on his face, as he looks around.

"It seems a long time ago," he says, apparently to himself.

"What does?" asks his hostess, removing her head-gear.

"The evenings we used to spend in this very saloon," says he—looking
with a strange interest on those commonplace objects, the draughts and
dominoes, the candlesticks and cigar-boxes, the cards and books—"away up
there in the north.  It seems years since we were at Dunvegan, doesn’t
it, and lying off Vaternish Point?  There never was as snug a cabin as
this in any yacht.  It is like returning to an old home to get into it."

"I am very glad to hear you say so," says his hostess, regarding him
with a great kindliness. "We will try to make you forget that you have
ever been away.  Although," she added frankly, "I must tell you you have
been turned out of your state-room—for a time.  I know you won’t mind
having a berth made up for you on one of those couches."

"Of course not," he said; "if I am not in your way at all.  But——"

And his face asked the question.

"Oh! it is a nephew of Denny-mains who has come on board—a Mr. Smith, a
very nice young fellow; I am sure you will like him."

There was nothing said in reply to this.

Then the new-comer inquired, rather timidly, "You are all well, I hope?"

"Oh, yes!"

"And—and Miss Avon, too?" said he.

"Oh, yes!  But Mary has suffered a great misfortune since you left."

She looked up quickly.  Then she told him the story; and in telling him
her indignation awoke afresh.  She spoke rapidly.  The old injury had
touched her anew.

But, strangely enough, although Angus Sutherland displayed a keen
interest in the matter, he was not at all moved to that passion of anger
and desire for vengeance that had shaken the Laird.  Not at all.  He was
very thoughtful for a time; but he only said, "You mean she has to
support herself now?"

"Absolutely."

"She will naturally prefer that to being dependent on her friends?"

"She will not be dependent on her friends, I know," is the answer;
"though the Laird has taken such a great liking for her that I believe
he would give her half Denny-mains."

He started a little bit at this; but immediately said—

"Of course she will prefer independence. And, as you say, she is quite
capable of earning her own living.  Well, she does not worry about it?
It does not trouble her mind?"

"That affair of her uncle wounded her very keenly, I imagine, though she
said little; but as for the loss of her little fortune, not at all! She
is as light-hearted as ever.  The only thing is that she is possessed by
a mad notion that she should start away at once for London."

"Why?"

"To begin work; I tell her she must work here."

"But she is not anxious?  She is not troubled?"

"Not a bit!  The Laird says she has the courage of ten men; and I
believe him."

"That is all right.  I was going to prescribe a course of Marcus
Aurelius; but if you have got philosophy in your blood, it is better
than getting it through the brain."

And so this talk ended; leaving on the mind of one of those two friends
a distinct sense of disappointment.  She had been under the impression
that Angus Sutherland had a very warm regard for Mary Avon; and she had
formed certain other suspicions.  She had made sure that he, more
quickly than any one else, would resent the injury done to this helpless
girl. And now he seemed to treat it as of no account.  If she was not
troubling herself; if she was not giving herself headaches about it:
then, no matter!  It was a professional view of the case.  A dose of
Marcus Aurelius?  It was not thus that the warm-hearted Laird had
espoused Mary Avon’s cause.

Then the people came one by one in to breakfast; and our young Doctor
was introduced to the stranger who had ousted him from his state-room.
Last of all came Mary Avon.

How she managed to go along to him, and to shake hands with him, seeing
that her eyes were bent on the floor all the time, was a mystery.  But
she did shake hands with him; and said, "How do you do?" in a somewhat
formal manner; and she seemed a little paler than usual.

"I don’t think you are looking quite as well as when I left," said he,
with a great interest and kindness in his look.

"Thank you, I am very well," she said; and then she instantly turned to
the Laird and began chatting to him.  Angus Sutherland’s face burned
red; it was not thus she had been used to greet him in the morning, when
we were far away beyond the shores of Canna.

And then, when we found that the rain was over, and that there was not a
breath of wind in this silent, grey, sombre world of mountain and mist,
and when we went ashore for a walk along the still lake, what must she
needs do but attach herself to the Laird, and take no notice of her
friend of former days?  Angus walked behind with his hostess, but he
rarely took his eyes off the people in front.  And when Miss Avon,
picking up a wild flower now and again, was puzzling over its name, he
did not, as once he would have done, come to her help with his
student-days’ knowledge of botany.  Howard Smith brought her a bit of
wall rue, and said he thought they called it _Asplenium marinum_: there
was no interference.  The preoccupied Doctor behind only asked how far
Miss Avon was going to walk with her lame foot.

The Laird of Denny-mains knew nothing of all this occult business.  He
was rejoicing in his occupation of philosopher and guide.  He was
assuring us all that this looked like a real Highland day—far more so
than the Algerian blue sky that had haunted us for so long.  He pointed
out, as we walked along the winding shores of Loch Leven, by the path
that rose, and fell, and skirted small precipices all hanging in
foliage, how beautiful was that calm, slate-blue mirror beneath, showing
every outline of the sombre mountains, with their masses of Landseer
mist.  He stopped his companion to ask her if she had ever seen anything
finer in colour than the big clusters of scarlet rowans among the
yellow-green leaves?  Did she notice the scent of the meadow-sweet, in
the moist air of this patch of wood?  He liked to see those white stars
of the grass-of-Parnassus; they reminded him of many a stroll among the
hills about Loch Katrine.

"And this still Loch Leven," he said at length, and without the least
blush on his face, "with the Glencoe mountains at the end of it. I have
often heard say was as picturesque a loch as any in Scotland, on a
gloomy day like this.  Gloomy I call it, but ye see there are fine
silver glints among the mist; and—and, in fact, there’s a friend of mine
has often been wishing to have a water-colour sketch of it.  If ye had
time, Miss Mary, to make a bit drawing from the deck of the yacht, ye
might name your own price—just name your own price.  I will buy it for
him."

A friend!  Mary Avon knew very well who the friend was.

"I should be afraid, sir," said she, laughing, "to meddle with anything
about Glencoe."

"Toots! toots!" said he; "ye have not enough confidence.  I know twenty
young men in Edinburgh and Glasgow who have painted every bit of
Glencoe, from the bridge to the King’s House inn, and not one of them
able to come near ye.  Mind, I’m looking forward to showing your
pictures to Tom Galbraith; I’m thinking he’ll stare!"

The Laird chuckled again.

"Oh, ay! he does not know what a formidable rival has come from the
south; I’m thinking he’ll stare when he comes to Denny-mains to meet ye.
Howard, what’s that down there?"

The Laird had caught sight of a pink flower on the side of a steep
little ravine, leading down to the shore.

"Oh, I don’t want it; I don’t want it!" Mary Avon cried.

But the Laird was obdurate.  His nephew had to go scrambling down
through the alders and rowan-trees and wet bracken to get this bit of
pink crane’s-bill for Miss Avon’s bouquet. And of course she was much
pleased; and thanked him very prettily; and was it catch-fly, or herb
robert, or what was it?

Then out of sheer common courtesy she had to turn to Angus Sutherland.

"I am sure Dr. Sutherland can tell us." she says, timidly; and she does
not meet his eyes.

"It is one of the crane’s-bills, any way," he says, indifferently.
"Don’t you think you had better return now, Miss Avon, or you will hurt
your foot?"

"Oh, my foot is quite well now, thank you!" she says; and on she goes
again.

We pass by the first cuttings of the slate-quarries; the men suspended
by ropes round their waists and hewing away at the face of the cliff.
We go through the long straggling village; and the Laird remarks that it
is not usual for a Celtic race to have such clean cottages, with pots of
flowers in the window. We saunter idly onwards, towards those great
mountain-masses, and there is apparently no thought of returning.

"When we’ve gone so far, might we not go on to the mouth of the pass?"
she asks. "I should like to have a look even at the beginning of
Glencoe."

"I thought so," said the Laird, with a shrewd smile.  "Oh, ay! we may as
well go on."

Past those straggling cottages, with the elder-bush at their doors to
frighten away witches; over the bridge that spans the brawling Cona;
along the valley down which the stream rushes; and this gloom overhead
deepens and deepens.  The first of the great mountains appears on our
right, green to the summit, and yet so sheer from top to bottom that it
is difficult to understand how those dots of sheep maintain their
footing.  Then the marks on him; he seems to be a huge Behemoth, with
great eyes, grand, complacent, even sardonic in his look.  But the
further and further mountains have nothing of this mild, grand humour
about them; they are sullen and awful; they grasp the earth with their
mighty bulk below, but far away they lift their lurid peaks to the
threatening skies, up there where the thunder threatens to shake the
silence of the world.

"Miss Avon," Dr. Sutherland again remonstrates, "you have come five or
six miles now.  Suppose you have to walk back in the rain?"

"I don’t mind about that," she says, cheerfully.  "But I am dreadfully,
dreadfully hungry."

"Then we must push on to Clachaig," says the Laird; "there is no help
for it."

"But wait a moment," she says.

She goes to the side of the road, where the great grey boulders, and
ferns, and moist marsh-grass are, and begins to gather handfuls of
"sourocks;" that is to say, of the smaller sheep’s sorrel.  "Who will
partake of this feast to allay the pangs of hunger?"

"Is thy servant a baa-lamb that she should do this thing?" her hostess
says, and drives the girl forward.

The inn is reached but in time; for behold there is a grey "smurr" of
mist coming down the glen; and the rain is beginning to darken the grey
boulders.  And very welcome are those chairs, and the bread and cheese
and beer, and the humble efforts in art around the walls.  If the feast
is not as the feasting of the Fishmongers—if we have no pretty boxes to
carry home to the children—if we have no glimpses of the pale blue river
and shipping through the orange light of the room, at least we are not
amazed by the appearance of the Duke of Sussex in the garb of a
Highlander.  And the frugal meal is substantial enough.  Then the
question about getting back arises.

"Now, Mary," says her hostess, "you have got to pay for your amusement.
How will you like walking seven or eight miles in a thunderstorm?"

But here the Laird laughs.

"No, no," he says, going to the window. "That waggonette that has just
come up I ordered at the inn on passing.  Ye will not have to walk a
step, my lass; but I think we had better be going, as it looks black
overhead."

Black enough, indeed, was it as we drove back in this silent afternoon,
with a thunderstorm apparently about to break over our heads.  And it
was close and sultry when we got on board again, though there was as yet
no wind.  Captain John did not like the look of the sky.

"I said you were going to bring a gale with you, Angus," his hostess
remarked to him, cheerfully, at dinner.

"It begins to look like it," he answered, gravely; "and it is getting
too late to run away from here if the wind rises.  As soon as it begins
to blow, if I were John, I would put out the starboard anchor."

"I know he will take your advice," she answers, promptly.

We saw little of Angus Sutherland that evening; for it was raining hard
and blowing hard; and the cabin below, with its lit candles, and books
and cards, and what not, was cheerful enough; while he seemed very much
to prefer being on deck.  We could hear the howling of the wind through
the rigging, and the gurgling of the water along the sides of the yacht;
and we knew by the way she was swaying that she was pulling hard at her
anchor chain.  There was to be no beautiful moonlight for us that night,
with the black shadows on the hills, and the lane of silver on the
water.

A dripping and glistening figure comes down the companion; a gleaming
red face appears at the door.  Mary Avon looks up from her draughts, but
for an instant.

"Well, Angus, what is the report?" says Queen Titania, brightly.  "And
what is all the noise on deck?  And why don’t you come below?"

"They have been paying out more anchor chain," says the rough voice from
out of the macintosh; "it is likely to be a nasty night, and we are
going to lower the topmast now. I want you to be so kind as to tell Fred
to leave out some whisky and some bread and cheese; for John thinks of
having an anchor watch."

"The bread and cheese and whisky Fred can get at any time," says she;
and she adds with some warmth, "But you are not going to stay on deck on
such a night?  Come in here at once.  Leave your macintosh on the
steps."

Is it that he looks at that draught-board? It is Mr. Howard Smith who is
playing with Mary Avon.  The faithless Miranda has got another Ferdinand
now.

"I think I would rather take my turn like the rest," he says, absently.
"There may be some amusement before the morning."

And so the black figure turned away and disappeared; and a strange thing
was that the girl playing draughts seemed to have been so bewildered by
the apparition that she stared at the board, and could not be got to
understand how she had made a gross and gigantic blunder.

"Oh, yes; oh, certainly!" she said, hurriedly; but she did not know how
to retrieve her obvious mistake.



                             *CHAPTER XI.*

                         *AN UNSPOKEN APPEAL.*


"What have I done?  Is she vexed? Have I offended her?" he asked the
next morning, in a rapid manner, when his hostess came on deck.  The
gale had abated somewhat, but gloom overspread earth and sky. It was
nothing to the gloom that overspread his usually frank and cheerful
face.

"You mean Mary?" she says, though she knows well enough.

"Yes; haven’t you seen?  She seems to treat me as though we had never
met before—as though we were perfect strangers—and I know she is too
kind-hearted to cause any one pain——"

Here he looks somewhat embarrassed for a moment; but his customary
straightforwardness comes to his rescue.

"Yes; I will confess I am very much hurt by it.  And—and I should like
to know if there is any cause.  Surely you must have noticed it?"

She had noticed it, sure enough; and, in contrast with that studied
coldness which Mary Avon had shown to her friend of former days, she had
remarked the exceeding friendliness the young lady was extending to the
Laird’s nephew.  But would she draw the obvious conclusion?  Not likely;
she was too staunch a friend to believe any such thing.  All the same
there remained in her mind a vague feeling of surprise, with perhaps a
touch of personal injury.

"Well, Angus, you know," she said, evasively; "Mary is very much
preoccupied just at present.  Her whole condition of life is changed,
and she has many things to think of——"

"Yes; but she is frank enough with her other friends.  What have I done,
that I should be made a stranger of?"

A pathetic answer comes to these idle frettings of the hour.  Far away
on the shore a number of small black figures emerge from the woods, and
slowly pass along the winding road that skirts the rocks.  They are
following a cart—a common farmyard cart; but on the wooden planks is
placed a dark object that is touched here and there with silver—or
perhaps it is only the white cords.  Between the overhanging gloom of
the mountains and the cold greys of the wind-swept sea the small black
line passes slowly on.  And these two on board the yacht watch it in
silence.  Are they listening for the wail of the pipes—the wild dirge of
Lord Lovat, or the cry of the _Cumhadh na Cloinne_?  But the winds are
loud, and the rushing seas are loud; and now the rude farmyard cart,
with its solemn burden, is away out at the point; and presently the
whole simple pageant has disappeared. The lonely burying-ground lies far
away among the hills.

Angus Sutherland turns round again, with a brief sigh.

"It will be all the same in a few years," he says to his hostess; and
then he adds, indifferently, "What do you say about starting? The wind
is against us; but anything is better than lying here.  There were some
bad squalls in the night."

Very soon after this the silent loch is resounding with the rattle of
halyards, blocks, and chains; and Angus Sutherland is seeking
distraction from those secret cares of the moment in the excitement of
hard work.  Nor is it any joke getting in that enormous quantity of
anchor chain.  In the midst of all the noise and bustle Mary Avon
appears on deck to see what is going on, and she is immediately followed
by young Smith.

"Why don’t you help them?" she says, laughing.

"So I would, if I knew what to do," he says, good-naturedly.  "I’ll go
and ask Dr. Sutherland."

It was a fatal step.  Angus Sutherland suggested, somewhat grimly, that,
if he liked, he might lend them a hand at the windlass. A muscular young
Englishman does not like to give in; and for a time he held his own with
the best of them; but long before the starboard anchor had been got up,
and the port one hove short, he had had enough of it.  He did not
volunteer to assist at the throat halyards.  To Miss Avon, who was
calmly looking on, he observed that it would take him about a fortnight
to get his back straight.

"That," said she, finding an excuse for him instantly, "is because you
worked too hard at it at first.  You should have watched the Islay man.
All he does is to call ’Heave!’ and to make his shoulders go up as if he
were going to do the whole thing himself.  But he does not help a bit.
I have watched him again and again."

"Your friend, Dr. Sutherland," said he, regarding her for an instant as
he spoke, "seems to work as hard as any of them."

"He is very fond of it," she said, simply, without any embarrassment;
nor did she appear to regard it as singular that Angus Sutherland should
have been spoken of specially as her friend.

Angus Sutherland himself comes rapidly aft, loosens the tiller rope, and
jams the helm over. And now the anchor is hove right up; the reefed
mainsail and small jib quickly fill out before this fresh breeze; and,
presently, with a sudden cessation of noise, we are spinning away
through the leaden-coloured waters.  We are not sorry to get away from
under the gloom of these giant hills; for the day still looks squally,
and occasionally a scud of rain comes whipping across, scarcely
sufficient to wet the decks.  And there is more life and animation on
board now; a good deal of walking up and down in ulsters, with
inevitable collisions; and of remarks shouted against, or with, the
wind; and of joyful pointing towards certain silver gleams of light in
the west and south.  There is hope in front; behind us nothing but
darkness and the threatenings of storm.  The Pap of Glencoe has
disappeared in rain; the huge mountains on the right are as black as the
deeds of murder done in the glen below; Ardgour over there, and Lochaber
here, are steeped in gloom.  And there is less sadness now in the old
refrain of Lochaber since there is a prospect of the South shining
before us. If Mary Avon is singing to herself about

    _Lochaber no more!  And Lochaber no more!_
    _We’ll maybe return to Lochaber no more!_

—it is with a light heart.

But then if it is a fine thing to go bowling along with a brisk breeze
on our beam, it is very different when we get round Ardshiel and find
the southerly wind veering to meet us dead in the teeth.  And there is a
good sea running up Loch Linnhe—a heavy grey-green sea that the _White
Dove_ meets and breaks, with spurts of spray forward, and a line of
hissing foam in our wake.  The zig-zag beating takes us alternately to
Ardgour and Appin, until we can see here and there the cheerful patches
of yellow corn at the foot of the giant and gloomy hills; then "’Bout
ship" again, and away we go on the heaving and rushing grey-green sea.

And is Mary Avon’s oldest friend—the woman who is the staunchest of
champions—being at last driven to look askance at the girl? Is it fair
that the young lady should be so studiously silent when our faithful
Doctor is by, and instantly begin to talk again when he goes forward to
help at the jib or foresail sheets? And when he asks her, as in former
days, to take the tiller, she somewhat coldly declines the offer he has
so timidly and respectfully made. But as for Mr. Smith, that is a very
different matter.  It is he whom she allows to go below for some wrapper
for her neck.  It is he who stands by, ready to shove over the top of
the companion when she crouches to avoid a passing shower of rain.  It
is he with whom she jokes and talks—when the Laird does not monopolise
her.

"I would have believed it of any girl in the world rather than of her,"
says her hostess, to another person, when these two happen to be alone
in the saloon below.  "I don’t believe it yet.  It is impossible.  Of
course a girl who is left as penniless as she is might be pardoned for
looking round and being friendly with rich people who are well inclined
towards her; but I don’t believe—I say it is impossible—that she should
have thrown Angus over just because she saw a chance of marrying the
Laird’s nephew.  Why, there never was a girl we have ever known so
independent as she is!—not any one half as proud and as fearless. She
looks upon going to London and earning her own living as nothing at all!
She is the very last girl in the world to speculate on making a good
match—she has too much pride—she would not speak another word to Howard
Smith if such a monstrous thing were suggested to her."

"Very well," says the meek listener.  The possibility was not of his
suggesting, assuredly: he knows better.

Then the Admiral-in-chief of the _White Dove_ sits silent and puzzled
for a time.

"And yet her treatment of poor Angus is most unfair.  He is deeply hurt
by it—he told me so this morning——"

"If he is so fearfully sensitive that he cannot go yachting and enjoy
his holiday because a girl does not pay him attention——"

"Why, what do you suppose he came back here for?" she says, warmly.  "To
go sailing in the _White Dove_?  No; not if twenty _White Doves_ were
waiting for him!  He knows too well the value of his time to stay away
so long from London if it were merely to take the tiller of a yacht.  He
came back here, at great personal sacrifice, because Mary was on board."

"Has he told you so?"

"He has not; but one has eyes."

"Then suppose she has changed her mind: how can you help it?"

She says nothing for a second.  She is preparing the table for Master
Fred: perhaps she tosses the novels on to the couch with an impatience
they do not at all deserve.  But at length she says—

"Well; I never thought Mary would have been so fickle as to go chopping
and changing about within the course of a few weeks. However, I won’t
accuse her of being mercenary; I will not believe that.  Howard Smith is
a most gentlemanly young man—good-looking, too, and pleasant tempered.
I can imagine any girl liking him."

Here a volume of poems is pitched on to the top of the draught-board, as
if it had done her some personal injury.

"And in any case she might be more civil to one who is a very old friend
of ours," she adds.

Further discourse on this matter is impossible; for our Freidrich d’or
comes in to prepare for luncheon.  But why the charge of incivility?
When we are once more assembled together, the girl is quite the reverse
of uncivil towards him.  She shows him—when she is forced to speak to
him—an almost painful courtesy; and she turns her eyes down, as if she
were afraid to speak to him.  This is no flaunting coquette, proud of
her wilful caprice.

And as for poor Angus, he does his best to propitiate her.  They begin
talking about the picturesqueness of various cities.  Knowing that Miss
Avon has lived the most of her life, if she was not actually born, in
London, he strikes boldly for London.  What is there in Venice, what is
there in the world, like London in moonlight—with the splendid sweep of
her river—and the long lines of gas-lamps—and the noble bridges?  But
she is all for Edinburgh if Edinburgh had but the Moldau running through
that valley, and the bridges of Prague to span it, what city in Europe
could compare with it?  And the Laird is so delighted with her approval
of the Scotch capital, that he forgets for the moment his Glaswegian
antipathy to the rival city, and enlarges no less on the picturesqueness
of it than on its wealth of historical traditions.  There is not a stain
of blood on any floor that he does not believe in.  Then the Sanctuary
of Holyrood: what stories has he not to tell about that famous refuse?

"I believe the mysterious influence of that Sanctuary has gone out and
charmed all the country about Edinburgh," said our young Doctor.  "I
suppose you know that there are several plants, poisonous elsewhere,
that are quite harmless in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh.  You remember
I told you, Miss Avon, that evening we went out to Arthur’s Seat?"

It was well done, Queen Titania must have thought, to expose this
graceless flirt before her new friends.  So she had been walking out to
Arthur’s Seat with him, in the summer afternoons?

"Y—yes," says the girl.

"Ay; that is a most curious thing," says the Laird, not noticing her
downcast looks and flushed cheeks.  "But what were they, did ye say?"

"Umbelliferous plants," replies Angus Sutherland, in quite a
matter-of-fact manner.  "The _Œnanthe crocata_ is one of them, I
remember; and I think the _Cicuta virosa_—that is, the Water Hemlock."

"I would jist like to know," says the Laird, somewhat pompously,
"whether that does not hold good about the neighbourhood of Glesca also.
There’s nothing so particular healthy about the climate of Edinburgh, as
far as ever I heard tell of.  Quite the reverse—quite the reverse.  East
winds—fogs—no wonder the people are shilpit-looking creatures as a
general rule—like a lot o’ Paisley weavers.  But the ceety is a fine
ceety, I will admit that; and many’s the time I’ve said to Tom Galbraith
that he could get no finer thing to paint than the view of the High
Street at night from Prince’s Street—especially on a moonlight night.  A
fine ceety: but the people themselves!—" here the Laird shook his head.
"And their manner o’ speech is most vexsome—a long, sing-song kind o’
yaumering as if they had not sufficient manliness to say outright what
they meant.  If we are to have a Scotch accent, I prefer the accent—the
very slight accent—ye hear about Glesca.  I would like to hear what Miss
Avon has to say upon that point."

"I am not a very good judge, sir," says Miss Avon, prudently.

Then on deck.  The leaden-black waves are breaking in white foam along
the shores of Kingairloch and the opposite rocks of Eilean-na-Shuna; and
we are still laboriously beating against the southerly wind; but those
silver-yellow gleams in the south have increased, over the softly-purple
hills of Morvern and Duart.  Black as night are the vast ranges of
mountains in the north; but they are far behind us; we have now no
longer any fear of a white shaft of lightning falling from the gloom
overhead.

The decks are dry now; camp-stools are in requisition; there is to be a
consultation about our future plans, after the _White Dove_ has been
beached for a couple of days.  The Laird admits that, if it had been
three days or four days, he would like to run through to Glasgow and to
Strathgovan, just to see how they are getting on with the gas-lamps in
the Mitherdrum Road; but, as it is, he will write for a detailed report;
hence he is free to go wherever we wish.  Miss Avon, interrogated,
answers that she thinks she must leave us and set out for London;
whereupon she is bidden to hold her tongue and not talk foolishness.
Our Doctor, also interrogated, looks down on the sitting parliament—he
is standing at the tiller—and laughs.

"Don’t be too sure of getting to Castle Osprey to-night," he says,
"whatever your plans may be.  The breeze is falling off a bit.  But you
may put me down as willing to go anywhere with you, if you will let me
come."

This decision seemed greatly to delight his hostess.  She said we could
not do without him. She was herself ready to go anywhere now; she
eagerly embraced the Youth’s suggestion that there were, according to
John of Skye’s account, vast numbers of seals in the bays on the western
shores of Knapdale; and at once assured the Laird, who said he
particularly wanted a sealskin or two and some skarts’ feathers for a
young lady, that he should not be disappointed.  Knapdale, then, it was
to be.

But in the meantime?  Dinner found us in a dead calm.  After dinner,
when we came on deck, the sun had gone down; and in the pale, tender
blue-grey of the twilight, the golden star of Lismore lighthouse was
already shining. Then we had our warning lights put up—the port red
light shedding a soft crimson glow on the bow of the dingay, the
starboard green light touching with a cold, wan colour the iron shrouds.
To crown all, as we were watching the dark shadows of Lismore island, a
thin, white, vivid line—like the edge of a shilling—appeared over the
low hill; and then the full moon rose into the partially clouded sky.
It was a beautiful night.

But we gave up all hope of reaching Castle Osprey.  The breeze had quite
gone; the calm sea slowly rolled.  We went below—to books, draughts, and
what not; Angus Sutherland alone remaining on deck, having his pipe for
his companion.

It was about an hour afterwards that we were startled by sounds on deck;
and presently we knew that the _White Dove_ was again flying through the
water.  The women took some little time to get their shawls and things
ready; had they known what was awaiting them, they would have been more
alert.

For no sooner were we on deck than we perceived that the _White Dove_
was tearing through the water without the slightest landmark or light to
guide her.  The breeze that had sprung up had swept before it a bank of
sea-fog—a most unusual thing in these windy and changeable latitudes;
and so dense was this fog that the land on all sides of us had
disappeared, while it was quite impossible to say where Lismore
light-house was.  Angus Sutherland had promptly surrendered the helm to
John of Skye; and had gone forward. The men on the look out at the bow
were themselves invisible.

"Oh, it is all right, mem!" called out John of Skye, through the dense
fog, in answer to a question.  "I know the lay o’ the land very well,
though I do not see it.  And I will keep her down to Duart, bekass of
the tide."

And then he calls out—

"Hector, do you not see any land yet?’

"_Cha n’eil!_" answers Hector, in his native tongue.

"We’ll put a tack on her now.  Ready about, boys!"

"_Ready about!_"

Round slews her head, with blocks and sails clattering and flapping;
there is a scuffle of making fast the lee sheets; then once more the
_White Dove_ goes plunging into the unknown.  The non-experts see
nothing at all but the fog; they have not the least idea whether Lismore
lighthouse—which is a solid object to run against—is on port or
starboard bow, or right astern, for the matter of that. They are huddled
in a group about the top of the companion.  They can only listen, and
wait.

John of Skye’s voice rings out again.

"Hector, can you not mek out the land yet?"

"_Cha n’eil!_"

"What does he say?" the Laird asks, almost in a whisper: he is afraid to
distract attention at such a time.

"He says ’No,’" Angus Sutherland answers.  "He cannot make out the land.
It is very thick; and there are bad rocks between Lismore and Duart.  I
think I will climb up to the cross-trees and have a look round."

What was this?  A girl’s hand laid for an instant on his arm; a girl’s
voice—low, quick, beseeching—saying "Oh, no!"

It was the trifle of a moment.

"There is not the least danger," says he, lightly.  "Sometimes you can
see better at the cross-trees."

Then the dim figure is seen going up the shrouds; but he is not quite up
at the cross-trees, when the voice of John of Skye is heard again.

"Mr. Sutherland!

"All right, John!" and the dusky figure comes stumbling down and across
the loose sheets on deck.

"If ye please, sir," says John of Skye; and the well-known formula means
that Angus Sutherland is to take the helm.  Captain John goes forward to
the bow: the only sound around us is the surging of the unseen waves.

"I hope you are not frightened, Miss Avon," says Mr. Smith, quite
cheerfully; though he is probably listening, like the rest of us, for
the sullen roaring of breakers in the dark.

"No—I am bewildered—I don’t know what it is all about."

"You need not be afraid," Angus Sutherland says to her, abruptly, for he
will not have the Youth interfere in such matters, "with Captain John on
board.  He sees better in a fog than most men in daylight."

"We are in the safe keeping of one greater than any Captain John," says
the Laird, simply and gravely: he is not in any alarm.

Then a call from the bow.

"Helm hard down, sir!"

"Hard down it is, John!"

Then the rattle again of sheets and sails; and as she swings round again
on the other tack, what is that vague, impalpable shadow one sees—or
fancies one sees—on the starboard bow?

"Is that the land, John?" Angus Sutherland asks, as the skipper comes
aft.

"Oh, ay!" says he, with a chuckle.  "I was thinking to myself it wass
the loom of Duart I sah once or twice.  And I wass saying to Hector if
it wass his sweetheart he will look, for he will see better in the
night."

Then by and by this other object, to which all attention is summoned:
the fog grows thinner and thinner; some one catches sight of a pale,
glimmering light on our port quarter; and we know that we have left
Lismore lighthouse in our wake.  And still the fog grows thinner, until
it is suffused with a pale blue radiance; then suddenly we sail out into
the beautiful moonlight, with the hills along the horizon all black
under the clear and solemn skies.

It is a pleasant sail into the smooth harbour on this enchanted night:
the far windows of Castle Osprey are all aglow; the mariners are to rest
for a while from the travail of the sea. And as we go up the moonlit
road, the Laird is jocular enough; and asks Mary Avon, who is his
companion, whether she was prepared to sing "Lochaber no more!" when we
were going blindly through the mist.  But our young Doctor remembers
that hour or so of mist for another reason.  There was something in the
sound of the girl’s voice he cannot forget. The touch of her hand was
slight; but his arm has not even yet parted with the thrill of it.



                             *CHAPTER XII.*

                            *HIS LORDSHIP.*


Miss Avon is seated in the garden in front of Castle Osprey, under the
shade of a drooping ash.  Her book lies neglected beside her, on the
iron seat; she is idly looking abroad on the sea and the mountains, now
all aglow in the warm light of the afternoon.

There is a clanging of a gate below.  Presently, up the steep gravel
path, comes a tall and handsome young fellow, in full shooting
accoutrement, with his gun over his shoulder.  Her face instantly loses
its dreamy expression.  She welcomes him with a cheerful "Good evening!"
and asks what sport he has had.  For answer he comes across the
greensward; places his gun against the trunk of the ash; takes a seat
beside her; and puts his hands round one knee.

"It is a long story," says the Youth.  "Will it bore you to hear it?
I’ve seen how the women in a country house dread the beginning of the
talk at dinner about the day’s shooting; and yet give themselves up,
like the martyrs and angels they are; and—and it is very different from
hunting, don’t you know, for there the women can talk as much as
anybody."

"Oh!  but I should like to hear, really," says she.  "It was so kind of
a stranger on board a steamer to offer you a day’s shooting."

"Well, it was," says he; "and the place has been shot over only once—on
the 12th.  Very well; you shall hear the whole story.  I met the keeper
by appointment, down at the quay. I don’t know what sort of a fellow he
is—Highlander or Lowlander—I am not such a swell at those things as my
uncle is; but I should have said he talked a most promising mixture of
Devonshire, Yorkshire, and Westmoreland——"

"What was his name?"

"I don’t know," says the other leisurely. "I called him Donald, on
chance; and he took to it well enough.  I confess I thought it rather
odd he had only one dog with him—an old retriever; but then, don’t you
know, the moor had been shot over only once; and I thought we might get
along.  As we walked along to the hill, Donald says, ’Dinna tha mind,
sir, if a blackcock gets up; knock un ower, knock un ower, sir.’"

At this point Miss Avon most unfairly bursts out laughing.

"Why," she says, "what sort of countryman was he if he talked like that?
That is how they speak in plays about the colliery districts."

"Oh, it’s all the same!" says the young man, quite unabashed.  "I gave
him my bag to carry, and put eight or ten cartridges in my pockets.  ’A
few mower, sir; a few mower, sir,’ says Donald; and crams my pockets
full. Then he would have me put cartridges in my gun even before we left
the road; and as soon as we began to ascend the hill I saw he was on the
outlook for a straggler or two, or perhaps a hare.  But he warned me
that the shooting had been very bad in these districts this year; and
that on the 12th the rain was so persistent that scarcely anybody went
out. Where could we have been on the 12th? surely there was no such rain
with us?"

"But when you are away from the hills you miss the rain," remarks this
profound meteorologist.

"Ah! perhaps so.  However, Donald said, ’His lordship went hout for an
hour, and got a brace and a alf.  His lordship is no keen for a big bag,
ye ken; but is just satisfied if he can get a brace or a couple of brace
afore luncheon.  It is the exerceez he likes.’  I then discovered that
Lord —— had had this moor as part of his shooting last year; and I
assured Donald I did not hunger after slaughter.  So we climbed higher
and higher.  I found Donald a most instructive companion.  He was very
great on the ownership of the land about here; and the old families,
don’t you know; and all that kind of thine.  I heard a lot about the
MacDougalls, and how they had all their possessions confiscated in 1745;
and how, when the Government pardoned them, and ordered the land to be
restored, the Campbells and Breadalbane, into whose hands it had fallen,
kept all the best bits for themselves.  I asked Donald why they did not
complain; he only grinned; I suppose they were afraid to make a row.
Then there was one MacDougall, an admiral or captain, don’t you know;
and he sent a boat to rescue some shipwrecked men, and the boat was
swamped.  Then he would send another; and that was swamped, too.  The
Government, Donald informed me, wanted to hang him for his philanthropy;
but he had influential friends; and he was let off on the payment of a
large sum of money—I suppose out of what Argyll and Breadalbane had left
him."

The Youth calmly shifted his hands to the other knee.

"You see, Miss Avon, this was all very interesting; but I had to ask
Donald where the birds were.  ’I’ll let loose the doag now,’ says he.
Well; he did so.  You would have thought he had let loose a sky-rocket!
It was off and away—up hill and down dale—and all his whistling wasn’t
of the slightest use.  ’He’s a bit wild,’ Donald had to admit; ’but if I
had kent you were agoin’ shootin’ earlier in the morning, I would have
given him a run or two to take the freshness hoff.  But on a day like
this, sir, there’s no scent; we will just have to walk them up; they’ll
lie as close as a water-hen.’  So we left the dog to look after himself;
and on we pounded.  Do you see that long ridge of rugged hill?"

He pointed to the coast-line beyond the bay.

"Yes."

"We had to climb that, to start with; and not even a glimpse of a rabbit
all the way up.  ’’Ave a care, sir,’ says Donald; and I took down my gun
from my shoulder, expecting to walk into a whole covey at least. ’His
lordship shot a brace and a alf of grouse on this wery knoll the last
day he shot over the moor last year.’  And now there was less talking,
don’t you know; and we went cautiously through the heather, working
every bit of it, until we got right to the end of the knoll.  ’It’s fine
heather,’ says Donald; ’bees would dae well here.’  On we went; and
Donald’s information began again.  He pointed out a house on some
distant island where Alexander III. was buried.  ’But where are the
birds?’ I asked of him, at last.  ’Oh,’ says he, ’his lordship was never
greedy after the shootin’!  A brace or two afore luncheon was all he
wanted.  He baint none o’ your greedy ones, he baint.  His lordship shot
a hare on this very side last year—a fine long shot.’  We went on again:
you know what sort of morning it was, Miss Avon?"

"It was hot enough even in the shelter of the trees."

"Up there it was dreadful: not a breath of wind: the sun blistering.
And still we ploughed through that knee-deep heather, with the retriever
sometimes coming within a mile of us; and Donald back to his old
families. It was the MacDonnells now; he said they had no right to that
name; their proper name was MacAlister—Mack Mick Alister, I think he
said.  ’But where the dickens are the birds?’ I asked.  ’If we get a
brace afore luncheon, we’ll do fine,’ said he; and then he added,
’There’s a braw cold well down there that his lordship aye stopped at.’
The hint was enough; we had our dram.  Then we went on, and on, and on,
and on, until I struck work, and sat down, and waited for the luncheon
basket."

"We were so afraid Fred would be late," she said; "the men were all so
busy down at the yacht."

"What did it matter?" the Youth said, resignedly.  "I was being
instructed.  He had got further back still now, to the Druids, don’t you
know, and the antiquity of the Gaelic language.  ’What was the river
that ran by Rome?’  ’The Tiber,’ I said.  ’And what,’ he asked, ’was
_Tober_ in Gaelic but a spring or fountain?’  And the Tamar in
Devonshire was the same thing.  And the various Usks—_uska_, it seems,
is the Gaelic for water.  Well, I’m hanged if I know what that man did
_not_ talk about!"

"But surely such a keeper must be invaluable," remarked the young lady,
innocently.

"Perhaps.  I confess I got a little bit tired of it; but no doubt the
poor fellow was doing his best to make up for the want of birds.
However, we started again after luncheon.  And now we came to place
after place where his lordship had performed the most wonderful feats
last year.  And, mind you, the dog wasn’t ranging so wild now; if there
had been the ghost of a shadow of a feather in the whole district we
must have seen it.  Then we came to another well where his lordship used
to stop for a drink.  Then we arrived at a crest where no one who had
ever shot on the moor had ever failed to get a brace or two. A brace or
two!  What we flushed was a covey of sheep that flew like mad things
down the hill.  Well, Donald gave in at last.  He could not find words
to express his astonishment. His lordship had never come along that
highest ridge without getting at least two or three shots.  And when I
set out for home, he still stuck to it; he would not let me take the
cartridges out of my gun; he assured me his lordship never failed to get
a snipe or a blackcock on the way home.  Confound his lordship!"

"And is that all the story?" says the young lady, with her eyes wide
open.

"Yes, it is," says he, with a tragic gloom on the handsome face.

"You have not brought home a single bird?"

"Not a feather!—never saw one."

"Nor even a rabbit?’

"Nary rabbit!"

"Why, Fred was up here a short time ago, wanting a few birds for the
yacht."

"Oh, indeed," says he, with a sombre contempt.  "Perhaps he will go and
ask his lordship for them.  In the meantime, I’m going in to dress for
dinner.  I suppose his lordship would do that, too, after having shot
his thirty brace."

"You must not, any way," she says.  "There is to be no dressing for
dinner to-day; we are all going down to the yacht after."

"At all events," he says, "I must get my shooting things off.  Much good
I’ve done with ’em!"

So he goes into the house, and leaves her alone.  But this chat together
seems to have brightened her up somewhat; and with a careless and
cheerful air she goes over to the flower borders and begins culling an
assortment of various-hued blossoms.  The evening is becoming cooler;
she is not so much afraid of the sun’s glare; it is a pleasant task; and
she is singing, or humming, snatches of songs of the most heterogeneous
character.

    _Then fill up a bumper!—what can I do less_
    _Than drink to the health of my bonny Black Bess!_

—this is the point at which she has arrived when she suddenly becomes
silent, and for a second her face is suffused with a conscious colour.
It is our young Doctor who has appeared on the gravel path.  She does
not rise from her stooping position; but she hurries with her work.

"You are going to decorate the dinner-table, I suppose?" he says,
somewhat timidly.

"Yes," she answers, without raising her head.  The fingers work nimbly
enough: why so much hurry?

"You will take some down to the yacht, too?" he says.  "Everything is
quite ready now for the start to-morrow."

"Oh, yes!" she says.  "And I think I have enough now for the table.  I
must go in."

"Miss Avon," he says; and she stops—with her eyes downcast.  "I wanted
to say a word to you.  You have once or twice spoken about going away.
I wanted to ask you—you won’t think it is any rudeness.  But if the
reason was—if it was the presence of any one that was distasteful to
you——"

"Oh, I hope no one will think that!" she answers, quickly; and for one
second the soft, black, pathetic eyes meet his.  "I am very happy to be
amongst such good friends—too happy, I think—I, I must think of other
things——"

And here she seems to force this embarrassment away from her; and she
says to him, with quite a pleasant air—

"I am so glad to hear that the _White Dove_ will sail so much better
now.  It must be so much more pleasant for you, when you understand all
about it."

And then she goes into the house to put the flowers on the table.  He,
left alone, goes over to the iron seat beneath the ash tree; and takes
up the book she has been reading, and bends his eyes on the page.  It is
not the book he is thinking about.



                            *CHAPTER XIII.*

                          *THE LAIRD’S PLANS.*


Who is first up to thrust aside those delusive yellow blinds that
suggest sunshine whether the morning be fair or foul?  But the first
glance through the panes removes all apprehensions: the ruffled bay, the
fluttering ensign, the shining white wings of the _White Dove_ are all a
summons to the slumbering house.  And the mistress of Castle Osprey, as
soon as she is dressed, is up stairs and down stairs like a furred flash
of lightning.  Her cry and potent command—a reminiscence of certain
transatlantic experiences—is, "_All aboard for Dan’ls!_"  She will not
have so fine a sailing morning wasted, especially when Dr. Angus
Sutherland is with us.

Strangely enough, when at last we stand on the white decks, and look
round on the shining brass and varnished wood, and help to stow away the
various articles needed for our cruise, he is the least excited of all
those chattering people.  There is a certain conscious elation on
starting on a voyage, especially on a beautiful morning; but there also
may be some vague and dim apprehension.  The beginning is here; but the
end?  Angus walked about with Captain John, and was shown all that had
been done to the yacht, and listened in silence.

But the rest were noisy enough, calling for this and that, handing
things down the companion, and generally getting in the way of the
steward.

"Well, Fred," says our facetious Laird, "have ye hung up all the game
that Mr. Smith brought back from the moor yesterday?" and Master Fred
was so much tickled by this profound joke that he had to go down into
the forecastle to hide his grinning delight, and went covertly smiling
about his work for the next quarter of an hour.

Then the hubbub gradually ceased; for the boats had been swung to the
davits, and the _White Dove_ was gently slipping away from her moorings.
A fine northerly breeze; a ruffled blue sea; and the south all shining
before her! How should we care whither the beautiful bird bore us?
Perhaps before the night fell we should be listening for the singing of
the mermaid of Colonsay.

The wooded shores slowly drew away; the horizon widened; there was no
still blue, but a fine windy grey, on the vast plain of the sea that was
opening out before us.

"Oh, yes, mem!" says John of Skye to Miss Avon.  "I wass sure we would
get a good breeze for Mr. Sutherland when he will come back to the yat."

Miss Avon does not answer: she is looking at the wide sea, and at the
far islands, with somewhat wistful eyes.

"Would you like to tek the tiller, now, mem?" says the bearded skipper,
in his most courteous tones.  "Mr. Sutherland was aye very proud to see
ye at the tiller."

"No, thank you, John," she says.

And then she becomes aware that she has—in her absent mood—-spoken
somewhat curtly; so she turns and comes over to him, and says in a
confidential way—

"To tell you the truth, John, I never feel very safe in steering when
the yacht is going before the wind.  When she is close-hauled I have
something to guide me; but with the wind coming behind I know I may make
a blunder without knowing why."

"No, no, mem; you must not let Mr. Sutherland hear you say that: when he
was so prood o’ learnin’ ye; and there is no dancher at ahl of your
making a plunder."

But at this moment our young Doctor himself comes on deck; and she
quickly moves away to her camp-stool, and plunges herself into a book;
while the attentive Mr. Smith provides her with a sunshade and a
footstool. Dr. Sutherland cannot, of course, interfere with her diligent
studies.

Meanwhile our hostess is below, putting a few finishing touches to the
decoration of the saloon; while the Laird, in the blue-cushioned recess
at the head of the table, is poring over _Municipal London_.  At length
he raises his eyes, and says to his sole companion—

"I told ye, ma’am, he was a good lad—a biddable lad—did I not?"

"You are speaking of your nephew, of course," she says.  "Well; it is
very kind of him to offer to turn out of his state-room in favour of Dr.
Sutherland; but there is really no need for it.  Angus is much better
accustomed to roughing it on board a yacht."

"I beg your pardon, ma’am," says the Laird, with judicial gravity.
"Howard is in the right there too.  He must insist on it.  Dr.
Sutherland is your oldest friend.  Howard is here on a kind of
sufferance.  I am sure we are both of us greatly obliged to ye."

Here there was the usual deprecation.

"And I will say," observes the Laird, with the same profound air, "that
his conduct since I sent for him has entirely my approval—entirely my
approval.  Ye know what I mean. I would not say a word to him for the
world—no, no—after the first intimation of my wishes, no coercion.
Every one for himself: no coercion."

She does not seem so overjoyed as might have been expected.

"Oh, of course not!" she says.  "It is only in plays and books that
anybody is forced into a marriage; at least you don’t often find a man
driven to marry anybody against his will.  And indeed, sir," she adds,
with a faint smile, "you rather frightened your nephew at first.  He
thought you were going to play the part of a stage guardian, and
disinherit him if he did not marry the young lady.  But I took the
liberty of saying to him that you could not possibly be so unreasonable.
Because, you know, if Mary refused to marry him, how could that be any
fault of his?"

"Precisely so," said the Laird, in his grand manner.  "A most judeecious
and sensible remark.  Let him do his part, and I am satisfied.  I would
not exact impossibeelities from any one, much less from one that I have
a particular regard for.  And, as I was saying, Howard is a good lad."

The Laird adopted a lighter tone.

"Have ye observed, ma’am, that things are not at all unlikely to turn
out as we wished?" he said, in a half-whisper; and there was a secret
triumph in his look.  "Have ye observed? Oh, yes! young folks are very
shy; but their elders are not blind.  Did ye ever see two young people
that seemed to get on better together on so short an acquaintance?"

"Oh, yes!" she says, rather gloomily; "they seem to be very good
friends."

"Yachting is a famous thing for making people acquainted," says the
Laird, with increasing delight.  "They know one another now as well as
though they had been friends for years on the land.  Has that struck ye
now before?"

"Oh, yes!" she says.  There is no delight on _her_ face.

"It will jist be the happiness of my old age, if the Lord spares me, to
see these two established at Denny-mains," says he, as if he were
looking at the picture before his very eyes.  "And we have a fine soft
air in the west of Scotland; it’s no like asking a young English leddy
to live in the bleaker parts of the north, or among the east winds of
Edinburgh.  And I would not have the children sent to any public school,
to learn vulgar ways of speech and clipping of words.  No, no; I would
wale out a young man from our Glasgow University—one familiar with the
proper tradeetions of the English language; and he will guard against
the clipping fashion of the South, just as against the yaumering of the
Edinburgh bodies.  Ah will wale him out maself.  But no too much
education: no, no; that is the worst gift ye can bestow upon bairns.  A
sound constitution; that is first and foremost.  I would rather see a
lad out and about shooting rabbits than shut up wi’ a pale face among a
lot of books.  And the boys will have their play, I can assure ye; I
will send that fellow Andrew about his business if he doesna stop
netting and snaring. What do I care about the snipping at the shrubs?  I
will put out turnips on the verra lawn, jist to see the rabbits run
about in the morning.  The boys shall have their play at Denny-mains, I
can assure ye; more play than school-hours, or I’m mistaken!"

The Laird laughed to himself just as if he had been telling a good one
about Homesh.

"And no muzzle-loaders," he continued, with a sudden seriousness.  "Not
a muzzle-loader will I have put into their hands.  Many’s the time it
makes me grue to think of my loading a muzzle-loader when I was a
boy—loading one barrel, with the other barrel on full-cock, and jist
gaping to blow my fingers off.  I’m thinking Miss Mary—though she’ll no
be Miss Mary then—will be sore put to when the boys bring in thrushes
and blackbirds they have shot; for she’s a sensitive bit thing; but what
I say is, better let them shoot thrushes and blackbirds than bring them
up to have white faces ower books.  Ah tell ye this: I’ll give them a
sovereign a-piece for every blackbird they shoot on the wing!"

The Laird had got quite excited; he did not notice that _Municipal
London_ was dangerously near the edge of the table.

"Andrew will not objeck to the shooting o’ blackbirds," he said, with a
loud laugh—as if there was something of Homesh’s vein in that gardener.
"The poor crayture is just daft about his cherries.  That’s another
thing; no interference with bairns in a garden.  Let them steal what
they like.  Green apples? bless ye, they’re the life o’ children!
Nature puts everything to rights.  She kens better than books.  If I
catched the schoolmaster lockin’ up they boys in their play-hours, my
word but I’d send him fleein’!"

He was most indignant with this school-master, although he was to be of
his own "waling."  He was determined that the lads should have their
play, lessons or no lessons. Green apples he preferred to Greek.  The
dominie would have to look out.

"Do you think, ma’am," he says, in an insidious manner; "do ye think she
would like to have a furnished house in London for pairt of the year?
She might have her friends to see——"

Now at last this is too much.  The gentle, small creature has been
listening with a fine, proud, hurt air on her face, and with tears near
to her eyes.  Is it thus that her Scotch student, of whom she is the
fierce champion, is to be thrust aside?

"Why," she says, with an indignant warmth; "you take it all for granted!
I thought it was a joke.  Do you really think your nephew is going to
marry Mary?  And Angus Sutherland in love with her!"

"God bless me!" exclaimed the Laird, with such a start that the bulky
_Municipal London_ banged down on the cabin floor.

Was it the picking up of that huge tome, or the consciousness that he
had been betrayed into an unusual ejaculation, that crimsoned the
Laird’s face?  When he sate upright again, however, wonder was the chief
expression visible in his eyes.

"Of course I have no right to say so," she instantly and hurriedly adds:
"it is only a guess—a suspicion.  But haven’t you seen it? And until
quite recently I had other suspicions, too.  Why, what do you think
would induce a man in Angus Sutherland’s position to spend such a long
time in idleness?"

But by this time the Laird had recovered his equanimity.  He was not to
be disturbed by any bogie.  He smiled serenely.

"We will see, ma’am; we will see.  If it is so with the young man, it is
a peety.  But you must admit yourself that ye see how things are likely
to turn out?"

"I don’t know," she said, with reluctance: she would not admit that she
had been grievously troubled during the past few days. "Very well,
ma’am, very well," said the Laird, blithely.  "We will see who is right.
I am not a gambler, but I would wager ye a gold ring, a sixpence, and a
silver thimble that I am no so far out.  I have my eyes open; oh, aye!
Now I am going on deck to see where we are."

And so the Laird rose, and put the bulky volume by, and passed along the
saloon to the companion.  We heard

    _Sing tántara!  Sing tántara!_

as his head appeared.  He was in a gay humour.

Meanwhile the _White Dove_, with all sail set, had come along at a
spanking pace.  The weather threatened change, it is true; there was a
deep gloom overhead; but along the southern horizon there was a blaze of
yellow light which had the odd appearance of being a sunset in the
middle of the day; and in this glare lay the long blue promontory known
as the Rhinns of Islay, within sight of the Irish coast.  And so we went
down by Easdail, and past Colipoll and its slate-quarries; and we knew
this constant breeze would drive us through the swirls of the Dorus
Mohr—the "Great Gate."  And were we listening, as we drew near in the
afternoon to the rose-purple bulk of Scarba, for the low roar of
Corrievrechan?  We knew the old refrain:—

    _As you pass through Jura’s Sound_
      _Bend your course by Scarba’s shore;_
    _Shun, oh, shun the gulf profound_
      _Where Corrievrechan’s surges roar!_


But now there is no ominous murmur along those distant shores.  Silence
and a sombre gloom hang over the two islands.  We are glad to shun this
desolate coast; and glad that the _White Dove_ is carrying us away to
the pleasanter south, when, behold! behold! another sight!  As we open
out the dreaded gulf, Corrievrechan itself becomes but an open lane
leading out to the west; and there, beyond the gloom, amid the golden
seas, lies afar the music-haunted Colonsay!  It is the calm of the
afternoon; the seas lie golden around the rocks; surely the sailors can
hear her singing now for the lover she lost so long ago!  What is it
that thrills the brain so, and fills the eyes with tears, when we can
hear no sound at all coming over the sea?

It is the Laird who summons us back to actualities.

"It would be a strange thing," says he, "if Tom Galbraith were in that
island at this very meenit.  Ah’m sure he was going there."

And Captain John helps.

"I not like to go near Corrievrechan," he says, with a grin, "when there
is a flood tide and half a gale from the sou’-west.  It is an ahfu’
place," he adds, more seriously, "an ahfu’ place."

"I should like to go through," Angus Sutherland says, quite
inadvertently.

"Aye, would ye, sir?" says Captain John, eagerly.  "If there wass only
you and me on board, I would tek you through ferry well—with the wind
from the norrard and an ebb tide.  Oh, yes!  I would do that; and maybe
we will do it this year yet!"

"I do not think I am likely to see Corrievrechan again this year," said
he, quite quietly—so quietly that scarcely any one heard.  But Mary Avon
heard.

Well, we managed, after all, to bore through the glassy swirls of the
Dorus Mohr—the outlying pickets, as it were, of the fiercer whirlpools
and currents of Corrievrechan—and the light breeze still continuing we
crept along in the evening past Crinan, and along the lonely coast of
Knapdale, with the giant Paps of Jura darkening in the west.  Night
fell; the breeze almost died away; we turned the bow of the _White Dove_
towards an opening in the land, and the flood tide gently bore her into
the wide, silent, empty loch.  There did not seem to be any light on the
shores.  Like a tall, grey phantom the yacht glided through the gloom;
we were somewhat silent on deck.

But there was a radiant yellow glow coming through the skylight; and
Master Fred had done his best to make the saloon cheerful enough.  And
where there is supper there ought to be other old-fashioned
institutions—singing, for example; and how long was it since we had
heard anything about the Queen’s Maries, or "Ho, ro, clansmen!" or the
Irish Brigade?  Nobody, however, appeared to think of these things.
This was a silent and lonely loch, and the gloom of night was over land
and water; but we still seemed to have before our eyes the far island
amid the golden seas.  And was there not still lingering in the night
air some faint echo of the song of Colonsay?  It is a heart-breaking
song; it is all about the parting of lovers.



                             *CHAPTER XIV.*

                      *A SUNDAY IN FAR SOLITUDES.*


Mary Avon is seated all alone on deck, looking rather wistfully around
her at this solitary Loch-na-Chill—that is, the Loch of the Burying
Place.  It is Sunday morning, and there is a more than Sabbath peace
dwelling over sea and shore.  Not a ripple on the glassy sea; a pale
haze of sunshine on the islands in the south; a stillness as of death
along the low-lying coast.  A seal rises to the surface of the calm sea,
and regards her for a moment with his soft black eyes; then slowly
subsides.  She has not seen him; she is looking far away.

Then a soft step is heard on the companion; and the manner of the girl
instantly changes.  Are these tears that she hastily brushes aside?  But
her face is all smiles to welcome her friend.  She declares that she is
charmed with the still beauty of this remote and solitary loch.

Then other figures appear; and at last we are all summoned on deck for
morning service. It is not an elaborate ceremony; there are no candles,
or genuflexions, or embroidered altar-cloths.  But the Laird has put on
a black frock coat, and the men have put aside their scarlet cowls and
wear smart sailor-looking cloth caps.  Then the Laird gravely rises, and
opens his book.

Sometimes, it is true, our good friend has almost driven us to take
notice of his accent, and we have had our little jokes on board about
it; but you do not pay much heed to these peculiarities when the strong
and resonant voice—amid the strange silence of this Loch of the Burying
Place—reads out the 103rd Psalm: "Like as a father peetieth his
children," he may say; but one does not heed that.  And who is to notice
that, as he comes to these words, he lifts his eyes from the book and
fixes them for a moment on Mary Avon’s downcast face?  "Like as a father
pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him.  For He
knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust. As for man, his days
are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.  For the wind
passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no
more.  But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon
them that fear Him, and His righteousness unto children’s children."
Then, when he had finished the Psalm, he turned to the New Testament,
and read in the same slow and reverent manner the 6th chapter of
Matthew.  This concluded the service; it was not an elaborate one.

Then, about an hour afterwards, the Laird, on being appealed to by his
hostess, gave it as his opinion that there would be no Sabbath
desecration at all in our going ashore to examine the ruins of what
appeared to be an ancient chapel, which we could make out by the aid of
our glasses on the green slope above the rocks.  And as our young
friends—Angus and the Youth—idly paddled us away from the yacht, the
Laird began to apologise to his hostess for not having lengthened the
service by the exposition of some chosen text.

"Ye see, ma’am," he observed, "some are gifted in that way, and some
not.  My father, now, had an amazing power of expounding and
explaining—I am sure there was nothing in _Hutcheson’s Exposeetion_ he
had not in his memory.  A very famous man he was in those days as an
Anti-Lifter—very famous; there were few who could argue with him on that
memorable point."

"But what did you call him, sir?" asks his hostess, with some vague
notion that the Laird’s father had lived in the days of body-snatchers.

"An Anti-Lifter: it was a famous controversy; but ye are too young to
remember of it perhaps.  And now in these days we are more tolerant, and
rightly so; I do not care whether the minister lifts the sacramental
bread before distribution or not, now that there is no chance of Popery
getting into our Presbyterian Church in disguise.  It is the speerit,
not the form, that is of importance: our Church authoritatively declares
that the efficacy of the sacraments depends not ’upon any virtue in them
or in him that doth administer them.’  Aye; that is the cardinal truth.
But in those days they considered it right to guard against Popery in
every manner; and my father was a prominent Anti-Lifter; and well would
he argue and expound on that and most other doctrinal subjects. But I
have not much gift that way," added the Laird, modestly; quite
forgetting with what clearness he had put before us the chief features
of the great Semple case.

"I don’t think you have anything to regret, sir," said our young Doctor,
as he carelessly worked the oar with one hand, "that you did not bother
the brains of John and his men with any exposition of the Sermon on the
Mount.  Isn’t it an odd thing that the common fishermen and boatmen of
the Sea of Galilee understood the message Christ brought them just at
once? and now a days, when we have millions of churches built, and
millions of money being spent, and tons upon tons of sermons being
written every year, we seem only to get further and further into
confusion and chaos.  Fancy the great army of able-bodied men that go on
expounding and expounding; and the learning and time and trouble they
bestow on their work; and scarcely any two of them agreed; while the
people who listen to them are all in a fog. Simon Peter, and Andrew, and
the sons of Zebedee, must have been men of the most extraordinary
intellect.  They understood at once; they were commissioned to teach;
and they had not even a Shorter Catechism to go by."

The Laird looked at him doubtfully.  He did not know whether to
recognise in him a true ally or not.  However, the mention of the
Shorter Catechism seemed to suggest solid ground; and he was just about
entering into the question of the Subordinate Standards when an
exclamation of rage on the part of his nephew startled us.  That
handsome lad, during all this theological discussion, had been keeping a
watchful and matter-of-fact eye on a number of birds on the shore; and
now that we were quite close to the sandy promontory, he had recognised
them.

"Look! look!" he said, in tones of mingled eagerness and disappointment.
"Golden plovers, every one of them!  Isn’t it too bad?  It’s always like
this on Sunday.  I will bet you won’t get within half a mile of them
to-morrow!"

And he refused to be consoled as we landed on the sandy shore; and found
the golden-dusted, long-legged birds running along before us, or
flitting from patch to patch of the moist greensward.  We had to leave
him behind in moody contemplation as we left the shore and scrambled up
the rugged and rocky slope to the ruins of this solitary little chapel.

There was an air of repose and silence about these crumbling walls and
rusted gates that was in consonance with a habitation of the dead.  And
first of all, outside, we came upon an upright Iona cross, elaborately
carved with strange figures of men and beasts.  But inside the small
building, lying prostrate among the grass and weeds, there was a
collection of those memorials that would have made an antiquarian’s
heart leap for joy.  It is to be feared that our guesses about the
meaning of the emblems on the tombstones were of a crude and superficial
character.  Were these Irish chiefs, those stone figures with the long
sword and the harp beside them?  Was the recurrent shamrock a national
or religious emblem?  And why was the effigy of this ancient worthy
accompanied by a pair of pincers, an object that looked like a
tooth-comb, and a winged griffin?  Again, outside but still within the
sacred walls, we came upon still further tombs of warriors, most of them
hidden among the long grass; and here and there we tried to brush the
weeds away.  It was no bad occupation for a Sunday morning, in this
still and lonely burial-place above the wide seas.

On going on board again we learned from John of Skye that there were
many traces of an ancient ecclesiastical colonisation about this coast;
and that in especial there were a ruined chapel and other remains on one
of a small group of islands that we could see on the southern horizon.
Accordingly, after luncheon, we fitted out an expedition to explore that
distant island.  The Youth was particularly anxious to examine these
ecclesiastical remains; he did not explain to everybody that he had
received from Captain John a hint that the shores of this sainted island
swarmed with seals.

And now the gig is shoved off; the four oars strike the glassy water;
and away we go in search of the summer isles in the south. The Laird
settles himself comfortably in the stern; it seems but natural that he
should take Mary Avon’s hand in his, just as if she were a little child.

"And ye must know, Miss Mary," he says, quite cheerfully, "that if ever
ye should come to live in Scotland, ye will not be persecuted with our
theology.  No, no; far from it; we respect every one’s religion, if it
is sincere; though we cling to our own.  And why should we not cling to
it, and guard it from error? We have had to fight for our civil and
religious leeberties inch by inch, foot by foot; and we have won.  The
blood of the saints has not been shed in vain.  The cry of the dying and
wounded on many a Lanarkshire moor—when the cavalry were riding about,
and hewing and slaughtering—was not wasted on the air! The Lord heard,
and answered.  And we do well to guard what we have gained; and, if need
were, there are plenty of Scotsmen alive at this day who would freely
spend their lives in defending their own releegion.  But ye need not
fear.  These are the days of great toleration.  Ye might live in
Scotland all your life, and not hear an ill word said of the Episcopal
Church!"

After having given this solemn assurance the Laird cast a glance of sly
humour at Angus Sutherland.

"I will confess," said he, "when Dr. Sutherland brought that up this
morning about Peter and Andrew, and James and John, I was a bit put out.
But then," he added, triumphantly, "ye must remember that in those days
they had not the inseedious attacks of Prelacy to guard against.  There
was no need for them to erect bulwarks of the faith.  But in our time it
is different, or rather it has been different.  I am glad to think that
we of the Scotch Church are emancipated from the fear of Rome; and I am
of opeenion that with the advancing times they are in the right who
advocate a little moderation in the way of applying and exacting the
Standards.  No, no; I am not for bigotry.  I assure ye, Miss Mary, ye
will find far fewer bigots in Scotland than people say."

"I have not met any, sir," remarks Miss Mary.

"I tell ye what," said he, solemnly; "I am told on good authority that
there is a movement among the U. P. Presbytery to send up to the Synod a
sort of memorial with regard to the Subordinate Standards—that is, ye
know, the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter
Catechisms—just hinting, in a mild sort of way, that these are of human
composition, and necessarily imperfect; and that a little amount
of—of——"

The Laird could not bring himself to pronounce the word "laxity."  He
stammered and hesitated, and at last said—

"Well; a little judeecious liberality of construction—do ye see?—on
certain points is admissible, while clearly defining other points on
which the Church will not admit of question. However, as I was saying,
we have little fear of Popery in the Presbyterian Church now; and ye
would have no need to fear it in your English Church if the English
people were not so sorely wanting in humour.  If they had any sense of
fun they would have laughed those millinery, play-acting people out o’
their Church long ago——"

But at this moment it suddenly strikes the Laird that a fair proportion
of the people he is addressing are of the despised English race; and he
hastily puts in a disclaimer.

"I meant the clergy, of course," says he, most unblushingly, "the
English clergy, as having no sense of humour at all—none at all.  Dear
me, what a stupid man I met at Dunoon last year!  There were some people
on board the steamer talking about Homesh—ye know, he was known to every
man who travelled up and down the Clyde—and they told the English
clergyman about Homesh wishing he was a stot.  ’Wishing he was a what?’
says he.  Would ye believe it, it took about ten meenutes to explain the
story to him bit by bit; and at the end of it his face was as blank as a
bannock before it is put on the girdle!"

We could see the laughter brimming in the Laird’s eyes; he was thinking
either of the stot or some other story about Homesh.  But his reverence
for Sunday prevailed.  He fell back on the Standards; and was most
anxious to assure Miss Avon that, if ever she were to live in Scotland,
she would suffer no persecution at all, even though she still determined
to belong to the Episcopal Church.

"We have none in the neighbourhood of Strathgovan," he remarked, quite
simply; "but ye could easily drive in to Glasgow"—and he did not notice
the quick look of surprise and inquiry that Angus Sutherland immediately
directed from the one to the other.  But Mary Avon was poking down.

It was a long pull; but by and by the features of the distant island
became clearer; and we made out an indentation that probably meant a
creek of some sort.  But what was our surprise, as we drew nearer and
nearer to what we supposed to be an uninhabited island, to find the
topmast of a vessel appearing over some rocks that guard the entrance to
the bay?  As we pulled into the still waters, and passed the heavy black
smack lying at anchor, perhaps the two solitary creatures in charge of
her were no less surprised at the appearance of strangers in these
lonely waters.  They came ashore just as we landed.  They explained, in
more or less imperfect English, that they were lobster-fishers; and that
this was a convenient haven tor their smack, while they pulled in their
small boat round the shores to look after the traps.  And if—when the
Laird was not looking—his hostess privately negotiated for the sale of
half-a-dozen live lobsters, and if young Smith also took a quiet
opportunity of inquiring about the favourite resorts of the seals; what
then?  Mice will play when they get the chance.  The Laird was walking
on with Mary Avon; and was telling her about the Culdees.

And all the time we wandered about the deserted island, and explored its
ruins, and went round its bays, the girl kept almost exclusively with
the Laird, or with her other and gentle friend; and Angus had but little
chance of talking to her or walking with her. He was left pretty much
alone.  Perhaps he was not greatly interested in the ecclesiastical
remains.  But he elicited from the two lobster-fishers that the hay
scattered on the floor of the chapel was put there by fishermen, who
used the place to sleep in when they came to the island.  And they
showed him the curious tombstone of the saint, with its sculptured
elephant and man on horseback.  Then he went away by himself to trace
out the remains of a former civilisation on the island; the withered
stumps of a blackthorn hedge, and the abundant nettle.  A big rat ran
out; the only visible tenant of the crumbled habitation.

Meanwhile the others had climbed to the summit of the central hill; and
behold! all around the smooth bays were black and shining objects, like
the bladders used on fishermen’s nets.  But these moved this way and
that; sometimes there was a big splash as one disappeared.  The Youth
sate and regarded this splendid hunting-ground with a breathless
interest.

"I’m thinking ye ought to get your sealskin to-morrow, Miss Mary," says
the Laird, for once descending to worldly things.

"Oh, I hope no one will be shot for me!" she said.  "They are such
gentle creatures."

"But young men will be young men, ye know," said he, cheerfully.  "When
I was Howard’s age, and knew I had a gun within reach, a sight like that
would have made my heart jump."

"Yes," said the nephew; "but you never do have a sight like that when
you have a rifle within reach."

"Wait till to-morrow—wait till to-morrow," said the Laird, cheerfully.
"And now we will go down to the boat.  It is a long pull back to the
yacht."

But the Laird’s nephew got even more savage as we rowed back in the
calm, pale twilight. Those wild duck would go whirring by within easy
shot—apparently making away to the solitudes of Loch Swen.  Then that
greyish-yellow thing on the rocks—could it be a sheep? We watched it for
several minutes, as the gig went by in the dusk; then, with a heavy
plunge or two, the seal floundered down and into the water.  The splash
echoed through the silence.

"Did you ever see the like of that?" the Youth exclaimed, mortified
beyond endurance. "Did you ever?  As big as a cow!  And as sure as you
get such a chance, it is Sunday!"

"I am very glad," says Miss Avon.  "I hope no one will shoot a seal on
my account."

"The seal ought to be proud to have such a fate," said the Laird,
gallantly.  "Ye are saving him from a miserable and lingering death of
cold, or hunger, or old age.  And whereas in that case nobody would care
anything or see anything more about him, ye give him a sort of
immortality in your dining-room, and ye are never done admiring him.  A
proud fellow he ought to be.  And if the seals about here are no very
fine in their skins, still it would be a curiosity, and at present we
have not one at all at Denny-mains."

Again this reference to Denny-mains: Angus Sutherland glanced from one
to the other; but what could he see in the dusk?

Then we got back to the yacht: what a huge grey ghost she looked in the
gloom! And as we were all waiting to get down the companion, Angus
Sutherland put his hand on his hostess’s arm, and stayed her.

"You must be wrong," said he, simply.  "I have offended her somehow.
She has not spoken ten words to me to-day."



                             *CHAPTER XV.*

                           *HIDDEN SPRINGS.*


"Well, perhaps it is better, after all," says a certain person, during
one of those opportunities for brief conjugal confidences that are
somewhat rare on board ship.  She sighs as she speaks.  "I thought it
was going to be otherwise.  But it will be all the better for Angus not
to marry for some years to come. He has a great future before him; and a
wife would really be an encumbrance.  Young professional men should
never marry; their circumstances keep on improving, but they can’t
improve their wives."

All this is very clear and sensible.  It is not always that this person
talks in so matter-of-fact a way.  If, however, everything has turned
out for the best, why this sudden asperity with which she adds—

"But I did not expect it of Mary."

And then again—

"She might at least be civil to him."

"She is not uncivil to him.  She only avoids him."

"I consider that her open preference for Howard Smith is just a little
bit too ostentatious," she says, in rather an injured way. "Indeed, if
it comes to that, she would appear to prefer the Laird to either of
them.  Any stranger would think she wanted to marry Denny-mains
himself."

"Has it ever occurred to you," is the respectful question, "that a young
woman—say once in a century—may be in that state of mind in which she
would prefer not to marry anybody?"

Abashed?  Not a bit of it!  There is a calm air of superiority on her
face: she is above trifles and taunts.

"If unmarried women had any sense," she says, "that would be their
normal state of mind."

And she might have gone on enlarging on this text, only that at this
moment Mary Avon comes along from the ladies’ cabin; and the morning
greetings take place between the two women.  Is it only a suspicion that
there is a touch of coldness in the elder woman’s manner? Is it possible
that her love for Mary Avon may be decreasing by ever so little a bit?

Then Angus comes down the companion: he has got some wild flowers; he
has been ashore.  And surely he ought to give them to the younger of the
two women: she is of the age when such pretty compliments are a natural
thing.  But no.  The flowers are for his hostess—for the decoration of
her table; and Mary Avon does not look up as they are handed along.

Then young Mr. Smith makes his appearance; he has been ashore too.  And
his complaints and protests fill the air.

"Didn’t I tell you?" he says, appealing more especially to the
women-folk for sympathy.  "Didn’t I tell you?  You saw all those golden
plover yesterday, and the wild duck further up the loch: there is not a
sign of one of them!  I knew it would be so.  As sure as Monday begins,
you never get a chance! I will undertake to say that when we get to
those islands where all the seals were yesterday, we sha’n’t see one
to-day!"

"But are we to stop here a whole day in order to let you go and shoot
seals?" says his hostess.

"You can’t help it," says he, laughing. "There isn’t any wind."

"Angus," she says—as if nobody knew anything about the wind but the
young Doctor—"is that so?"

"Not a doubt of it," he says.  "But it is a beautiful day.  You might
make up a luncheon-party, and have a pic-nic by the side of the Saint’s
Well—down in the hollow, you know."

"Much chance I shall have with the seals, then!" remarks the other young
man, good-naturedly enough.

However, it is enough that the suggestion has come from Angus
Sutherland.  A pic-nic on the Island of the Saints is forthwith
commanded—seals or no seals.  And while Master Fred, immediately after
breakfast, begins his preparations, the Laird helps by carefully putting
a corkscrew in his pocket.  It is his invariable custom.  We are ready
for any emergency.

And if the golden plover, and mergansers, and seals appear to know that
the new, busy, brisk working-days have begun again, surely we ought to
know it too.  Here are the same silent shores; and the calm blue seas
and blue sky; and the solitary islands in the south—all just as they
were yesterday; but we have a secret sense that the lassitude and
idleness of Sunday are over, and that there is something of freedom in
the air.  The Laird has no longer any need to keep a check on his
tongue: those stories about Homesh may bubble up to the surface of his
mind just as they please.  And indeed he is exceedingly merry and
facetious as the preparations go on for this excursion.  When at length
he gets into the stern of the boat he says to his companion—

    _"There was Mary Beaton, and Mary Seaton,_
    _And Mary Avon, and me._

—What ails ye, lass?  I have not heard much of your singing of late."

"You would not have me sing profane songs on Sunday?" she says,
demurely.

"No; but I mean long before Sunday. However," he says, cheerfully, and
looking at her, "there is a wonderful change in ye—wonderful!  Well do I
mind the day I first saw ye, on the quay; though it seems a long time
since then.  Ye were a poor white bit thing then; I was astonished; and
the next day too, when ye were lame as well, I said to myself, ’Well;
it’s high time that bit lass had a breath o’ the sea air.’  And now—why
ye just mind me o’ the lasses in the Scotch songs—the country lasses, ye
know—with the fine colour on your face."

And indeed this public statement did not tend to decrease the sun-brown
that now tinged Mary Avon’s cheeks.

"These lads," said he—no doubt referring to his nephew and to Angus
Sutherland, who were both labouring at the long oars—"are much too
attentive to ye, putting ye under the shadow of the sails, and bringing
ye parasols and things like that.  No, no; don’t you be afraid of
getting sun-burned; it is a comely and wholesome thing: is it not
reasonable that human beings need the sunlight as much as plants?  Just
ask your friend Dr. Sutherland that; though a man can guess as much
without a microscope.  Keep ye in the sun, Miss Mary; never mind the
brown on your cheeks, whatever the young men say: I can tell ye ye are
looking a great deal better now than when ye stepped on shore—a shilpit
pale bit thing—on that afternoon."

Miss Avon had not been in the habit of receiving lectures like this
about her complexion, and she seemed rather confused; but fortunately
the measured noise of the rowlocks prevented the younger men from
overhearing.

    _"There was Mary Beaton, and Mary Seaton,_
    _And Mary Avon, and me."—_

continued the Laird, in his facetious way; and he contentedly patted the
hand of the girl beside him.  "I fear I am growing very fond of
idleness."

"I am sure, sir, you are so busy during the rest of the year," says this
base flatterer, "that you should be able to enjoy a holiday with a clear
conscience."

"Well, perhaps so—perhaps so," said the Laird, who was greatly pleased.
"And yet, let one work as hard as one can, it is singular how little one
can do, and what little thanks ye get for doing it.  I am sure those
people in Strathgovan spend half their lives in fault-finding; and
expect ye to do everything they can think of without asking them for a
farthing. At the last meeting of the ratepayers in the Burgh Hall I
heckled them, I can tell ye.  I am not a good speaker—no, no; far from
it; but I can speak plain.  I use words that can be driven into people’s
heads; and I will say this, that some o’ those people in Strathgovan
have a skull of most extraordinar’ thickness. But said I to them, ’Do ye
expect us to work miracles?  Are we to create things out of nothing?  If
the rates are not to be increased, where are the new gas-lamps to come
from? Do ye think we can multiply gas-lamps as the loaves and fishes
were multiplied?’  I’m thinking," added the Laird, with a burst of
hearty laughter, "that the thickest-skulled of them all understood
that—eh?"

"I should hope so," remarked Miss Avon.

Then the measured rattle of the oars: it wants hard pulling against this
fiercely running tide; indeed, to cheat it in a measure, we have to keep
working along the coast and across the mouth of Loch Swen.

    _"There was Mary Beaton, and Mary Seaton,_
    _And Mary Avon, and me"—_

says the Laird, as a playful introduction to another piece of talking.
"I have been asking myself once or twice whether I know any one in the
whole kingdom of Scotland better than you."

"Than me, sir?" she says, with a start of surprise.

"Yes," he says, sententiously.  "That is so.  And I have had to answer
myself in the naygative.  It is wonderful how ye get to know a person on
board a yacht.  I just feel as if I had spent years and years with ye;
so that there is not any one I know with whom I am better acquaint.
When ye come to Denny-mains, I shall be quite disappointed if ye look
surprised or strange to the place. I have got it into my head that ye
must have lived there all your life.  Will ye undertake to say," he
continues, in the same airy manner, "that ye do not know the little
winding path that goes up through the trees to the flag-staff—eh?"

"I’m afraid I don’t remember it," she says, with a smile.

"Wait till ye see the sunsets ye can see from there!" he says, proudly.
"We can see right across Glasgow to Tennants’ Stalk; and in the
afternoon the smoke is all turning red and brown with the sunset—many’s
and many’s the time I have taken Tom Galbraith to the hill, and asked
him whether they have finer sunsets at Naples or Venice.  No, no; give
me fire and smoke and meestery for a strong sunset.  But just the best
time of the year, as ye’ll find out"—and here he looked in a kindly way
at the girl—"where there is a bit wood near the house, is the
spring-time. When ye see the primroses and the blue-bells about the
roots of the trees—when ye see them so clear and bright among the red of
the withered leaves—well, ye cannot help thinking about some of our old
Scotch songs, and there’s something in that that’s just like to bring
the tears to your een.  We have a wonderful and great inheritance in
these songs, as ye’ll find out, my lass.  You English know only of
Burns; but a Scotchman, who is familiar with the ways and the feelings
and the speech of the peasantry, has a sort o’ uncomfortable impression
that Burns is at times just a bit artifeecial and leeterary—especially
when he is masquerading in fine English; though at other times ye get
the real lilt—what a man would sing to himself when he was all alone at
the plough, in the early morning, and listening to the birds around him.
But there are others that we are proud of, too—Tannahill, and John
Mayne, that wrote about _Logan Braes_; and Hogg, and Motherwell: I’m
sure o’ this, that when ye read Motherwell’s _Jeanie Morrison_, ye’ll no
be able to go on for greetin’."

"I beg your pardon?" said Miss Avon.

But the Laird is too intent on recalling some of the lines to notice
that she has not quite understood him.

"They were school-mates," he says, in an absent way.  "When school was
over, they wandered away like lad and lass; and he writes the poem in
after-life, and speaks to her he has never seen since.

    _"Oh, mind ye, love, how oft we left_
      _The deavin’ dinsome toun,_
    _To wander by the green burn-side,_
      _And hear its water croon?_
    _The simmer leaves hung ower our heads,_
      _The flowers burst round our feet;_
    _And in the gloamin’ o the wood_
      _The throssil whistled sweet._

        *      *      *      *      *

    _"And on the knowe aboon the burn_
      _For hours thegither sat_
    _In the silentness o’ joy, till baith_
      _Wi’ very gladness grat!_
    _Aye, aye, dear Jeanie Morrison,_
      _Tears trinkled down your cheek,_
    _Like dew-beads on a rose, yet nane_
      _Had ony power to speak!"_

The Laird’s voice faltered for a moment; but he pretended he had great
difficulty in remembering the poem, and confessed that he must have
mixed up the verses.  However, he said he remembered the last one.

    _"O dear, dear Jeanie Morrison,_
      _Since we were sundered young,_
    _I’ve never seen your face, nor heard_
      _The music of your tongue;_
    _But I could hug all wretchedness,_
      _And happy could I dee,_
    _Did I but ken your heart still dreamed_
      _O’ bygane days and me!"_


Just as he finished, the old Laird turned aside his head.  He seemed to
be suddenly interested in something over at the mouth of Loch Swen.
Then he quickly passed his red silk handkerchief across his face, and
said, in a gay manner—though he was still looking in that alien
direction—

"This is a desperate hard pull.  We had nothing like this yesterday.
But it will do the lads good; it will take the stiffness out of their
backs."

However, one of the lads—to wit, the Laird’s nephew—admitted at length
that he had had quite enough of it, and gave up his oar to the man he
had relieved.  Then he came into the stern, and was very pleasant and
talkative; and said he had quite made up his mind to find all the seals
gone from the shores of the sacred island.

So formidable, indeed, was the tide, that we had to keep well away to
the south of the island before venturing to make across for it; and when
at length we did put the bow straight for the little harbour, the
mid-channel current swept us away northward, as if the gig had been a
bit of cork.  But the four oars kept manfully to their work; and by dint
of hard pulling and pertinacious steering we managed to run into the
little bay.

We found it quite deserted.  The two lobster-fishers had left in the
morning; we were in sole possession of this lonely island, set amid the
still summer seas.

But by this time it was nearly noon; and so it was arranged that the men
of the party should content themselves with a preliminary expedition, to
find out, by stealthy crawlings out to the various bays, where the seals
were chiefly congregated; while the women were to remain by the Saints’
Well, to help Fred to get luncheon spread out and arranged.  And this
was done; and thus it happened that, after Master Fred had finished his
work, and retired down to his mates in the gig, the two women-folk were
left alone.

"Why, Mary," said the one of them, quite cheerfully (as we afterwards
heard), "it is quite a long time since you and I had a chat together."

"Yes, it is."

"One gets so often interfered with on board, you know.  Aren’t you going
to begin now and make a sketch?"

She had brought with her her sketching materials; but they were lying
unopened on a rock hard by.

"No, I think not," she said, listlessly.

"What is the matter with you?" said her kind friend, pretending to laugh
at her.  "I believe you are fretting over the loss of the money, after
all."

"Oh, no: I hope you do not think I am fretting!" said she, anxiously.
"No one has said that?  I am really quite content—I am very—happy."

She managed to say the word.

"I am very glad to hear it," said her friend; "but I have a great mind
to scold you all the same."

The girl looked up.  Her friend went over to her, and sate down beside
her, and took her hand in hers.

"Don’t be offended, Mary," she said, good-naturedly.  "I have no right
to interfere; but Angus is an old friend of mine.  Why do you treat him
like that?"

The girl looked at her with a sort of quick, frightened, inquiring
glance; and then said—as if she were almost afraid to hear herself
speak—

"Has he spoken to you?"

"Yes.  Now don’t make a mole-hill into a mountain, Mary.  If he has
offended you, tell him.  Be frank with him.  He would not vex you for
the world: do you think he would?"

The girl’s hand was beginning to tremble a good deal; and her face was
white, and piteous.

"If you only knew him as well as I do, you would know he is as gentle as
a child: he would not offend any one.  Now, you will be friends with him
again, Mary?"

The answer was a strange one.  The girl broke into a fit of wild crying,
and hid her face in her friend’s bosom, and sobbed there so that her
whole frame was shaken with the violence of her misery.

"Mary, what is it?" said the other, in great alarm.

Then, by and by, the girl rose, and went away over to her sketching
materials for a minute or two.  Then she returned: her face still rather
white, but with a certain cold and determined look on it.

"It is all a mistake," said she, speaking very distinctly.  "Dr.
Sutherland has not offended me in the least: please tell him so if he
speaks again.  I hope we shall always be good friends."

She opened out her colour-box.

"And then," said she, with an odd laugh, "before you think I have gone
crazed, please remember it isn’t every day one loses such an enormous
fortune as mine."

She began to get her other sketching things ready.  And she was very
cheerful about it, and very busy; and she was heard to be singing to
herself—

    _Then fill up a bumper: what can I do less_
    _Than drink to the health of my bonny Black Bess?_

But her friend, when by chance she turned her head a little bit,
perceived that the pale and piteous face was still wet with tears; and
the praises of Black Bess did not wholly deceive her.



                            END OF VOL. II.



         LONDON: R. CLAY, SONS, AND TAYLOR, BREAD STREET HILL.



           *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *



                       *NOVELS BY WILLIAM BLACK.*


MACLEOD OF DARE.
THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A PHAETON.
A PRINCESS OF THULE.
MADCAP VIOLET.
GREEN PASTURES AND PICCADILLY.
THE MAID OF KILLEENA, and other Tales.


                       MACMILLAN AND CO., LONDON.





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