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Title: White Wings, Volume I - A Yachting Romance
Author: Black, William, 1841-1898
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "White Wings, Volume I - A Yachting Romance" ***

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                              WHITE WINGS:

                          A Yachting Romance.


                             WILLIAM BLACK,


                          _IN THREE VOLUMES._

                                VOL. I.

                           MACMILLAN AND CO.

        _The Right of Translation and Reproduction is Reserved._

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

                                 TO OUR

                             *QUEEN MABS,*

                      OBLIGED AND HUMBLE SERVANT,

                             _THE AUTHOR._

                         BRIGHTON, _June_ 1880.


                               CHAPTER I.


                              CHAPTER II.


                              CHAPTER III.


                              CHAPTER IV.


                               CHAPTER V.


                              CHAPTER VI.


                              CHAPTER VII.


                             CHAPTER VIII.


                              CHAPTER IX.


                               CHAPTER X.


                              CHAPTER XI.


                              CHAPTER XII.


                             CHAPTER XIII.


                              CHAPTER XIV.


                              CHAPTER XV.


                              CHAPTER XVI.


                             *WHITE WINGS:*

                         *A Yachting Romance.*

                              *CHAPTER I.*

                             *ON THE QUAY.*

A murmur runs through the crowd; the various idlers grow alert; all eyes
are suddenly turned to the south.  And there, far away over the green
headland, a small tuft of brown smoke appears, rising into the golden
glow of the afternoon, and we know that by and by we shall see the great
steamer with her scarlet funnels come sailing round the point.  The
Laird of Denny-mains assumes an air of still further importance; he
pulls his frock-coat tight at the waist; he adjusts his black satin
necktie; his tall, white, stiff collar seems more rigid and white than
ever.  He has heard of the wonderful stranger; and he knows that now she
is drawing near.

Heard of her?  He has heard of nothing else since ever he came to us in
these northern wilds.  For the mistress of this household—with all her
domineering ways and her fits of majestic temper—has a love for her
intimate girl-friends far passing the love of men; especially when the
young ladies are obedient, and gentle, and ready to pay to her matronly
dignity the compliment of a respectful awe. And this particular friend
who is now coming to us: what has not the Laird heard about her during
these past few days?—of her high courage, her resolute unselfishness,
her splendid cheerfulness?  "A singing-bird in the house," that was one
of the phrases used, "in wet weather or fine."  And then the
enthusiastic friend muddled her metaphors somehow, and gave the puzzled
Laird to understand that the presence of this young lady in a house was
like having sweet-brier about the rooms.  No wonder he put on his
highest and stiffest collar before he marched grandly down with us to
the quay.

"And does she not deserve a long holiday sir?" says the Laird’s hostess
to him, as together they watch for the steamer coming round the point.
"Just fancy!  Two months’ attendance on that old woman, who was her
mother’s nurse.  Two months in a sick-room, without a soul to break the
monotony of it. And the girl living in a strange town all by herself!"

"Ay; and in such a town as Edinburgh," remarks the Laird, with great
compassion. His own property lies just outside Glasgow.

"Dear me," says he, "what must a young English leddy have thought of our
Scotch way of speech when she heard they poor Edinburgh bodies and their
yaumering sing-song?  Not that I quarrel with any people for having an
accent in their way of speaking; they have that in all parts of England
as well as in Scotland—in Yorkshire, and Somersetshire, and what not;
and even in London itself there is a way of speech that is quite
recognisable to a stranger.  But I have often thought that there was
less trace of accent about Glesca and the west of Scotland than in any
other part; in fact, ah have often been taken for an Englishman maself."

"Indeed!" says this gentle creature standing by him; and her upturned
eyes are full of an innocent belief.  You would swear she was meditating
on summoning instantly her boys from Epsom College that they might
acquire a pure accent—or get rid of all accent—on the banks of the

"Yes," say the Laird, with a decision almost amounting to enthusiasm,
"it is a grand inheritance that we in the south of Scotland are
preserving for you English people; and you know little of it.  You do
not know that we are preserving the English language for you as it was
spoken centuries ago, and as you find it in your oldest writings.
Scotticisms! Why, if ye were to read the prose of Mandeville or Wyclif,
or the poetry of Robert of Brunne or Langdale, ye would find that our
Scotticisms were the very pith and marrow of the English language.  Ay;
it is so."

The innocent eyes express such profound interest that the Laird of
Denny-mains almost forgets about the coming steamer, so anxious is he to
crush us with a display of his erudition.

"It is just remarkable," he says, "that your dictionaries should put
down, as obsolete, words that are in common use all over the south of
Scotland, where, as I say, the old Northumbrian English is preserved in
its purity; and that ye should have learned people hunting up in Chaucer
or Gower for the very speech that they might hear among the bits o’
weans running about the Gallowgate or the Broomielaw.  ’_Wha’s acht
ye?_’ you say to one of them; and you think you are talking Scotch. No,
no; _acht_ is only the old English for possession: isn’t ’_Wha’s acht
ye?_’ shorter and pithier than ’_To whom do you belong?_’

"Oh, certainly!" says the meek disciple: the recall of the boys from
Surrey is obviously decided on.

"And _speir_ for _inquire_; and _ferly_ for _wonderful_; and _tyne_ for
_lose_; and _fey_ for _about to die_; and _reek_ for _smoke_; and
_menseful_ for _becoming_; and _belyve_, and _fere_, and _biggan_, and
such words.  Ye call them Scotch?  Oh, no, ma’am; they are English; ye
find them in all the old English writers; and they are the best of
English too; a great deal better than the Frenchified stuff that your
southern English has become."

Not for worlds would the Laird have wounded the patriotic sensitiveness
of this gentle friend of his from the South; but indeed, she had surely
nothing to complain of in his insisting to an Englishwoman on the value
of thorough English?

"I thought," says she, demurely, "that the Scotch had a good many French
words in it."

The Laird pretends not to hear: he is so deeply interested in the
steamer which is now coming over the smooth waters of the bay. But,
having announced that there are a great many people on board, he returns
to his discourse.

"Ah’m sure of this, too," says he, "that in the matter of pronunciation
the Lowland Scotch have preserved the best English—you can see that
_faither_, and _twelmonth_, and _twa_, and such words are nearer the
original Anglo-Saxon——"

His hearers had been taught to shudder at the phrase Anglo-Saxon—without
exactly knowing why.  But who could withstand the authority of the
Laird?  Moreover, we see relief drawing near; the steamer’s paddles are
throbbing in the still afternoon.

"If ye turn to _Piers the Plowman_," continues the indefatigable
Denny-mains, "ye will find Langdale writing—

    And a fewe Cruddes and Crayme.

Why, it is the familiar phrase of our Scotch children!—Do ye think they
would say _curds_? And then, _fewe_.  I am not sure, but I imagine we
Scotch are only making use of old English when we make certain forms of
food plural. We say ’a few broth;’ we speak of porridge as ’they.’
Perhaps that is a survival, too, eh?"

"Oh, yes, certainly.  But please mind the ropes, sir," observes his
humble pupil, careful of her master’s physical safety.  For at this
moment the steamer is slowing into the quay; and the men have the ropes
ready to fling ashore.

"Not," remarks the Laird, prudently backing away from the edge of the
pier, "that I would say anything of these matters to your young English
friend; certainly not.  No doubt she prefers the southern English she
has been accustomed to.  But, bless me! just to think that she should
judge of our Scotch tongue by the way they Edinburgh bodies speak!"

"It is sad, is it not?" remarks his companion—but all her attention is
now fixed on the crowd of people swarming to the side of the steamer.

"And, indeed," the Laird explains, to close the subject, "it is only a
hobby of mine—only a hobby.  Ye may have noticed that I do not use those
words in my own speech, though I value them.  No, I will not force any
Scotch on the young leddy.  As ah say, ah have often been taken for an
Englishman maself, both at home and abroad."

And now—and now—the great steamer is in at the quay; the gangways are
run over; there is a thronging up the paddle-boxes; and eager faces on
shore scan equally eager faces on board—each pair of eyes looking for
that other pair of eyes to flash a glad recognition. And where is
she—the flower of womankind—the possessor of all virtue and grace and
courage—the wonder of the world?  The Laird shares in our excitement.
He, too, scans the crowd eagerly.  He submits to be hustled by the
porters; he hears nothing of the roaring of the steam; for is she not
coming ashore at last?  And we know—or guess—that he is looking out for
some splendid creature—some Boadicea, with stately tread and imperious
mien—some Jephtha’s daughter, with proud death in her eyes—some Rosamond
of our modern days, with a glory of loveliness on her face and hair.
And we know that the master who has been lecturing us for half-an-hour
on our disgraceful neglect of pure English will not shock the sensitive
Southern ear by any harsh accent of the North; but will address her in
beautiful and courtly strains, in tones such as Edinburgh never knew.
Where is the queen of womankind, amid all this commonplace, hurrying,
loquacious crowd?

Forthwith the Laird, with a quick amazement in his eyes, sees a small
and insignificant person—he only catches a glimpse of a black dress and
a white face—suddenly clasped round in the warm embrace of her friend.
He stares for a second; and then he exclaims—apparently to himself:—

"Dear me!  What a shilpit bit thing!"

_Pale—slight—delicate—tiny_: surely such a master of idiomatic English
cannot have forgotten the existence of these words.  But this is all he
cries to himself, in his surprise and wonder:—

"Dear me!  What a shilpit bit thing!"

                             *CHAPTER II.*

                              *MARY AVON.*

The bright, frank laugh of her face!—the friendly, unhesitating,
affectionate look in those soft black eyes!  He forgot all about
Rosamond and Boadicea when he was presented to this "shilpit" person.
And when, instead of the usual ceremony of introduction, she bravely put
her hand in his, and said she had often heard of him from their common
friend, he did not notice that she was rather plain.  He did not even
stop to consider in what degree her Southern accent might be improved by
residence amongst the preservers of pure English.  He was anxious to
know if she was not greatly tired.  He hoped the sea had been smooth as
the steamer came past Easdale.  And her luggage—should he look after her
luggage for her?

But Miss Avon was an expert traveller, and quite competent to look after
her own luggage. Even as he spoke, it was being hoisted on to the

"You will let me drive?" says she, eying critically the two shaggy,
farm-looking animals.

"Indeed I shall do nothing of the kind," says her hostess, promptly.

But there was no disappointment at all on her face as we drove away
through the golden evening—by the side of the murmuring shore, past the
overhanging fir-wood, up and across the high land commanding a view of
the wide western seas.  There was instead a look of such intense delight
that we knew, however silent the lips might be, that the bird-soul was
singing within.  Everything charmed her—the cool, sweet air, the scent
of the sea-weed, the glow on the mountains out there in the west.  And
as she chattered her delight to us—like a bird escaped from its prison
and glad to get into the sunlight and free air again—the Laird sate mute
and listened.  He watched the frank, bright, expressive face. He
followed and responded to her every mood—with a sort of fond paternal
indulgence that almost prompted him to take her hand.  When she smiled,
he laughed.  When she talked seriously, he looked concerned.  He was
entirely forgetting that she was a "shilpit bit thing;" and he would
have admitted that the Southern way of speaking English—although, no
doubt, fallen away from the traditions of the Northumbrian dialect—had,
after all, a certain music in it that made it pleasant to the ear.

Up the hill, then, with a flourish for the last!—the dust rolling away
in clouds behind us—the view over the Atlantic widening as we ascend.
And here is Castle Osprey, as we have dubbed the place, with its wide
open door, and its walls half hidden with tree-fuchsias, and its great
rose-garden.  Had Fair Rosamond herself come to Castle Osprey that
evening, she could not have been waited on with greater solicitude than
the Laird showed in assisting this "shilpit bit thing" to alight—though,
indeed there was a slight stumble, of which no one took any notice at
the time. He busied himself with her luggage quite unnecessarily.  He
suggested a cup of tea, though it wanted but fifteen minutes to
dinner-time.  He assured her that the glass was rising—which was not the
case.  And when she was being hurried off to her own room to prepare for
dinner—by one who rules her household with a rod of iron—he had the
effrontery to tell her to take her own time: dinner could wait.  The man
actually proposed to keep dinner waiting—in Castle Osprey.

That this was love at first sight, who could doubt?  And perhaps the
nimble brain of one who was at this moment hurriedly dressing in her own
room—and whom nature has constituted an indefatigable matchmaker—may
have been considering whether this rich old bachelor might not marry,
after all.  And if he were to marry, why should not he marry the young
lady in whom he seemed to have taken so sudden and warm an interest?  As
for her: Mary Avon was now two or three-and-twenty; she was not likely
to prove attractive to young men; her small fortune was scarcely worth
considering; she was almost alone in the world.  Older men had married
younger women.  The Laird had no immediate relative to inherit
Denny-mains and his very substantial fortune.  And would they not see
plenty of each other on board the yacht?

But in her heart of hearts the schemer knew better.  She knew that the
romance-chapter in the Laird’s life—and a bitter chapter it was—had been
finished and closed and put away many and many a year ago.  She knew how
the great disappointment of his life had failed to sour him; how he was
ready to share among friends and companions the large and generous heart
that had been for a time laid at the feet of a jilt; how his keen and
active interest, that might have been confined to his children and his
children’s children, was now devoted to a hundred things—the planting at
Denny-mains, the great heresy case, the patronage of young artists, even
the preservation of pure English, and what not.  And that fortunate
young gentleman—ostensibly his nephew—whom he had sent to Harrow and to
Cambridge, who was now living a very easy life in the Middle Temple, and
who would no doubt come in for Denny-mains?  Well, we knew a little
about that young man, too.  We knew why the Laird, when he found that
both the boy’s father and mother were dead, adopted him, and educated
him, and got him to call him uncle.  He had taken under his care the son
of the woman who had jilted him five-and-thirty years ago; the lad had
his mother’s eyes.

And now we are assembled in the drawing-room—all except the new guest;
and the glow of the sunset is shining in at the open windows. The Laird
is eagerly proving to us that the change from the cold east winds of
Edinburgh to the warm westerly winds of the Highlands must make an
immediate change in the young lady’s face—and declaring that she ought
to go on board the yacht at once—-and asserting that the ladies’ cabin
on board the _White Dove_ is the most beautiful little cabin he ever

When, behold! at the open door—meeting the glow of the sunshine—appears
a figure—dressed all in black velvet, plain and unadorned but for a
broad belt of gold fringe that comes round the neck and crosses the
bosom.  And above that again is a lot of white muslin stuff, on which
the small, shapely, smooth-dressed head seems gently to rest.  The plain
black velvet dress gives a certain importance and substantiality to the
otherwise slight figure; the broad fringe of gold glints and gleams as
she moves towards us; but who can even think of these things when he
meets the brave glance of Mary Avon’s eyes?  She was humming, as she
came down the stair—

_O think na lang, lassie, though I gang awa;_
_For I’ll come and see ye, in spite o’ them a’,_

—we might have known it was the bird-soul come among us.

Now the manner in which the Laird of Denny-mains set about capturing the
affections of this innocent young thing—as he sate opposite her at
dinner—would have merited severe reproof in one of less mature age; and
might, indeed, have been followed by serious consequences but for the
very decided manner in which Miss Avon showed that she could take care
of herself.  Whoever heard Mary Avon laugh would have been assured.  And
she did laugh a good deal; for the Laird, determined to amuse her, was
relating a series of anecdotes which he called "good ones," and which
seemed to have afforded great enjoyment to the people of the south of
Scotland during the last century or so.  There was in especial a
Highland steward of a steamer about whom a vast number of these stories
was told; and if the point was at times rather difficult to catch, who
could fail to be tickled by the Laird’s own and obvious enjoyment?
"There was another good one, Miss Avon," he would say; and then the bare
memory of the great facetiousness of the anecdote would break out in
such half-suppressed guffaws as altogether to stop the current of the
narrative.  Miss Avon laughed—we could not quite tell whether it was at
the Highland steward or the Laird—until the tears ran down her checks.
Dinner was scarcely thought of.  It was a disgraceful exhibition.

"There was another good one about Homesh," said the Laird, vainly
endeavouring to suppress his laughter.  "He came up on deck one
enormously hot day, and looked ashore, and saw some cattle standing
knee-deep in a pool of water.  Says he—ha! ha! ha!—ho! ho! ho!—says
he—-says he—’_A wish a wass a stot!_’—he! he! he!—ho! ho! ho!"

Of course we all laughed heartily, and Mary Avon more than any of us;
but if she had gone down on her knees and sworn that she knew what the
point of the story was, we should not have believed her.  But the Laird
was delighted.  He went on with his good ones.  The mythical Homesh and
his idiotic adventures became portentous.  The very servants could
scarcely carry the dishes straight.

But in the midst of it all the Laird suddenly let his knife and fork
drop on his plate, and stared.  Then he quickly exclaimed—

"Bless me! lassie!"

We saw in a second what had occasioned his alarm.  The girl’s face had
become ghastly white; and she was almost falling away from her chair
when her hostess, who happened to spring to her feet first, caught her,
and held her, and called for water.  What could it mean?  Mary Avon was
not of the sighing and fainting fraternity.

And presently she came to herself—and faintly making apologies, would go
from the room.  It was her ankle, she murmured—with the face still white
from pain.  But when she tried to rise, she fell back again: the agony
was too great.  And so we had to carry her.

About ten minutes thereafter the mistress of the house came back to the
Laird, who had been sitting by himself, in great concern.

"That girl! that girl!" she exclaims—and one might almost imagine there
are tears in her eyes.  "Can you fancy such a thing!  She twists her
ankle in getting down from the waggonette—brings back the old
sprain—perhaps lames herself for life—and, in spite of the pain, sits
here laughing and joking, so that she may not spoil our first evening
together! Did you ever hear of such a thing!  Sitting here laughing,
with her ankle swelled so that I had to cut the boot off!"

"Gracious me!" says the Laird; "is it as bad as that?"

"And if she should become permanently lame—why—why——"

But was she going to make an appeal direct to the owner of Denny-mains?
If the younger men were not likely to marry a lame little white-faced
girl, that was none of his business. The Laird’s marrying days had
departed five-and-thirty years before.

However, we had to finish our dinner, somehow, in consideration to our
elder guest. And then the surgeon came; and bound up the ankle hard and
fast; and Miss Avon, with a thousand meek apologies for being so stupid,
declared again and again that her foot would be all right in the
morning, and that we must get ready to start.  And when her friend
assured her that this preliminary canter of the yacht might just as well
be put off for a few days—until, for example, that young doctor from
Edinburgh came who had been invited to go a proper cruise with us—her
distress was so great that we had to promise to start next day
punctually at ten.  So she sent us down again to amuse the Laird.

But hark! what is this we hear just as Denny-mains is having his whisky
and hot water brought in?  It is a gay voice humming on the stairs—

_By the margin of fair Zürich’s waters._

"That girl!" cries her hostess angrily, as she jumps to her feet.

The door opens; and here is Mary Avon, with calm self-possession, making
her way to a chair.

"I knew you wouldn’t believe me," she says coolly, "if I did not come
down.  I tell you my foot is as well as may be; and Dot-and-carry-one
will get down to the yacht in the morning as easily as any of you.  And
that last story about Homesh," she says to the Laird, with a smile in
the soft black eyes that must have made his heart jump.  "Really, sir,
you must tell me the ending of that story; it was so stupid of me!"

"Shilpit" she may have been; but the Laird, for one, was beginning to
believe that this girl had the courage and nerve of a dozen men.

                             *CHAPTER III.*

                              *UNDER WAY.*

The first eager glance out on this brilliant and beautiful morning; and
behold! it is all a wonder of blue seas and blue skies that we find
before us, with Lismore lying golden-green in the sunlight, and the
great mountains of Mull and Morven shining with the pale etherial
colours of the dawn.  And what are the rhymes that are ringing through
one’s brain—the echo perchance of something heard far away among the
islands—the islands that await our coming in the west?—

  _O land of red heather!_
  _O land of wild weather,_
_And the cry of the waves, and the laugh of the breeze!_
  _O love, now, together_
  _Through the wind and wild weather_
_We spread our while sails to encounter the seas!_

Up and out, laggards, now; and hoist this big red and blue and white
thing up to the head of the tall pole that the lads far below may know
to send the gig ashore for us!  And there, on the ruffled blue waters of
the bay, behold! the noble _White Dove_, with her great mainsail, and
mizzen, and jib, all set and glowing in the sun; and the scarlet caps of
the men are like points of fire in this fair blue picture; and the red
ensign is fluttering in the light north-westerly breeze.  Breakfast is
hurried over; and a small person who has a passion for flowers is
dashing hither and thither in the garden until she has amassed an armful
of our old familiar friends—abundant roses, fuchsias, heart’s-ease,
various coloured columbine, and masses of southernwood to scent our
floating saloon; the waggonette is at the door, to take our invalid down
to the landing-slip; and the Laird has discarded his dignified costume,
and appears in a shooting-coat and a vast gray wide-awake.  As for Mary
Avon, she is laughing, chatting, singing, here, there, and
everywhere—giving us to understand that a sprained ankle is rather a
pleasure than otherwise, and a great assistance in walking; until the
Laird pounces upon her—as one might pounce on a butterfly—and imprisons
her in the waggonette, with many a serious warning about her imprudence.
There let her sing to herself as she likes—amid the wild confusion of
things forgotten till the last moment and thrust upon us just as we

And here is the stalwart and brown-bearded Captain John—John of Skye we
call him—himself come ashore in the gig, in all his splendour of blue
and brass buttons; and he takes off his peaked cap to the mistress of
our household—whom some of her friends call Queen Titania, because of
her midge-like size—and he says to her with a smile—

"And will Mrs. —— herself be going with us this time?"

That is Captain John’s chief concern: for he has a great regard for this
domineering small woman; and shows his respect for her, and his own high
notions of courtesy, by invariably addressing her in the third person.

"Oh, yes, John!" says she—and she can look pleasant enough when she
likes—"and this is a young friend of mine, Miss Avon, whom you have to
take great care of on board."

And Captain John takes off his cap again; and is understood to tell the
young lady that he will do his best, if she will excuse his not knowing
much English.  Then, with great care, and with some difficulty, Miss
Avon is assisted down from the waggonette, and conducted along the rough
little landing-slip, and helped into the stern of the shapely and
shining gig.  Away with her, boys!  The splash of the oars is heard in
the still bay; the shore recedes; the white sails seem to rise higher
into the blue sky as we near the yacht; here is the black hull with its
line of gold—the gangway open—the ropes ready—the white decks brilliant
in the sun.  We are on board at last.

"And where will Mr. —— himself be for going?" asks John of Skye, as the
men are hauling the gig up to the davits.

Mr. —— briefly but seriously explains to the captain that, from some
slight experience of the winds on this coast, he has found it of about
as much use to order the tides to be changed as to settle upon any
definite route. But he suggests the circumnavigation of the adjacent
island of Mull as a sort of preliminary canter for a few days, until a
certain notable guest shall arrive; and he would prefer going by the
south, if the honourable winds will permit.  Further, John of Skye is
not to be afraid of a bit of sea, on account of either of those ladies;
both are excellent sailors. With these somewhat vague instructions,
Captain John is left to get the yacht under way; and we go below to look
after the stowage of our things in the various staterooms.

And what is this violent altercation going on, in the saloon?

"I will not have a word said against my captain," says Mary Avon.  "I am
in love with him already.  His English is perfectly correct."

This impertinent minx talking about correct English in the presence of
the Laird of Denny-mains!

"Mrs. —— herself is perfectly correct; it is only politeness; it is like
saying ’Your Grace’ to a Duke."

But who was denying it?  Surely not the imperious little woman who was
arranging her flowers on the saloon table; nor yet Denny-mains, who was
examining a box of variegated and recondite fishing-tackle?

"It is all very well for fine ladies to laugh at the blunders of servant
maids," continues this audacious girl.  "’Miss Brown presents her
compliments to Miss Smith; and would you be so kind,’ and so on.  But
don’t they often make the same blunder themselves?"

Well, this was a discovery!

"Doesn’t Mrs. So-and-So request the honour of the company of Mr.
So-and-So or Miss So-and-So for some purpose or other; and then you find
at one corner of the card ’_R.S.V.P._?’  ’Answer if YOU please’!"

A painful silence prevailed.  We began to reflect.  Whom did she mean to
charge with this deadly crime?

But her triumph makes her considerate. She will not harry us with scorn.

"It is becoming far less common now, however," she remarks.  "’An answer
is requested,’ is much more sensible."

"It is English," says the Laird, with decision.  "Surely it must be more
sensible for an English person to write English.  Ah never use a French
word maself."

But what is the English that we hear now—called out on deck by the voice
of John of Skye?

"Eachan, slack the lee topping-lift!  Ay, and the tackle, too.  That’ll
do, boys.  Down with your main-tack, now!"

"Why," exclaims our sovereign mistress, who knows something of nautical
matters, "we must have started!"

Then there is a tumbling up the companion-way; and lo! the land is
slowly leaving us; and there is a lapping of the blue water along the
side of the boat; and the white sails of the _White Dove_ are filled
with this gentle breeze.  Deck-stools are arranged; books and
field-glasses and what not scattered about; Mary Avon is helped on deck,
and ensconced in a snug little camp-chair.  The days of our summer
idleness have begun.

And as yet these are but familiar scenes that steal slowly by—the long
green island of Lismore—_Lios-mor_, the Great Garden; the dark ruins of
Duart, sombre as if the shadow of nameless tragedies rested on the
crumbling walls; Loch Don, with its sea-bird-haunted shallows, and Loch
Speliv leading up to the awful solitudes of Glen More; then, stretching
far into the wreathing clouds, the long rampart of precipices, rugged
and barren and lonely, that form the eastern wall of Mull.

There is no monotony on this beautiful summer morning; the scene changes
every moment, as the light breeze bears us away to the south.  For there
is the Sheep Island; and Garveloch—which is the rough island; and
Eilean-na naomha—which is the island of the Saints.  But what are these
to the small transparent cloud resting on the horizon?—smaller than any
man’s hand.  The day is still; and the seas are smooth: cannot we hear
the mermaiden singing on the far shores of Colonsay?

"Colonsay!" exclaims the Laird, seizing a field-glass.  "Dear me!  Is
that Colonsay? And they telled me that Tom Galbraith was going there
this very year."

The piece of news fails to startle us altogether; though we have heard
the Laird speak of Mr. Galbraith before.

"Ay," says he, "the world will know something o’ Colonsay when Tom
Galbraith gets there."

"Whom did you say?" Miss Avon asks.

"Why, Galbraith!" says he.  "Tom Galbraith!"

The Laird stares in amazement.  Is it possible she has not heard of Tom
Galbraith? And she herself an artist; and coming direct from Edinburgh,
where she has been living for two whole months!

"Gracious me!" says the Laird.  "Ye do not say ye have never heard of
Galbraith—he’s an Academeecian!—a Scottish Academeecian!"

"Oh, yes; no doubt," she says, rather bewildered.

"There is no one living has had such an influence on our Scotch school
of painters as Galbraith—a man of great abeelity—a man of great and
uncommon abeelity—he is one of the most famous landscape painters of our

"I scarcely met any one in Edinburgh," she pleads.

"But in London—in London!" exclaims the astonished Laird.  "Do ye mean
to say you never heard o’ Tom Galbraith?"

"I—I think not," she confesses.  "I—I don’t remember his name in the
Academy catalogue——"

"The Royal Academy!" cries the Laird, with scorn.  "No, no!  Ye need not
expect that.  The English Academy is afraid of the Scotchmen: their
pictures are too strong: you do not put good honest whisky beside small
beer.  I say the English Academy is afraid of the Scotch school——"

But flesh and blood can stand this no longer: we shall not have Mary
Avon trampled upon.

"Look here, Denny-mains: we always thought there was a Scotchman or two
in the Royal Academy itself—and quite capable of holding their own
there, too.  Why, the President of the Academy is a Scotchman! And as
for the Academy exhibition, the very walls are smothered with Scotch
hills, Scotch spates, Scotch peasants, to say nothing of the thousand
herring-smacks of Tarbert."

"I tell ye they are afraid of Tom Galbraith; they will not exhibit one
of his pictures," says the Laird, stubbornly; and here the discussion is
closed; for Master Fred tinkles his bell below, and we have to go down
for luncheon.

It was most unfair of the wind to take advantage of our absence, and to
sneak off, leaving us in a dead calm.  It was all very well, when we
came on deck again, to watch the terns darting about in their
swallow-like fashion, and swooping down to seize a fish; and the strings
of sea-pyots whirring by, with their scarlet beaks and legs; and the
sudden shimmer and hissing of a part of the blue plain, where a shoal of
mackerel had come to the surface; but where were we, now in the open
Atlantic, to pass the night? We relinquished the doubling of the Ross of
Mull; we should have been content—more than content, for the sake of
auld lang syne—to have put into Carsaig; we were beginning even to have
ignominious thoughts of Loch Buy.  And yet we let the golden evening
draw on with comparative resignation; and we watched the colour
gathering in the west, and the Atlantic taking darker hues, and a ruddy
tinge beginning to tell on the seamed ridges of Garveloch and the isle
of Saints.  When the wind sprung up again—it had backed to due west, and
we had to beat against it with a series of long tacks, that took us down
within sight of Islay and back to Mull apparently all for nothing—we
were deeply engaged in prophesying all manner of things to be achieved
by one Angus Sutherland, an old friend of ours, though yet a young man

"Just fancy, sir!" says our hostess to the Laird—the Laird, by the way,
does not seem so enthusiastic as the rest of us, when he hears that this
hero of modern days is about to join our party.  "What he has done beats
all that I ever heard about Scotch University students; and you know
what some of them have accomplished in the face of difficulties.  His
father is a minister in some small place in Banffshire; perhaps he has
200*l.* a year at the outside.  This son of his has not cost him a
farthing for either his maintenance or his education, since he was
fourteen; he took bursaries, scholarships, I don’t know what, when he
was a mere lad; supported himself and travelled all over Europe—but I
think it was at Leipsic and at Vienna he studied longest; and the papers
he has written—the lectures—and the correspondence with all the great
scientific people—when they made him a Fellow, all he said was, ’I wish
my mother was alive.’"

This was rather an incoherent and jumbled account of a young man’s

"A Fellow of what?" says the Laird.

"A Fellow of the Royal Society!  They made him a Fellow of the Royal
Society last year!  And he is only seven-and-twenty!  I do believe he
was not over one-and-twenty when he took his degree at Edinburgh.  And
then—and then—there is really nothing that he doesn’t know: is there,

This sudden appeal causes Mary Avon to flush slightly; but she says
demurely, looking down—

"Of course I don’t know anything that he doesn’t know."

"Hm!" says the Laird, who does not seem over pleased.  "I have observed
that young men who are too brilliant at the first, seldom come to much
afterwards.  Has he gained anything substantial?  Has he a good
practice? Does he keep his carriage yet?"

"No, no!" says our hostess, with a fine contempt for such things.  "He
has a higher ambition than that.  His practice is almost nothing.  He
prefers to sacrifice that in the meantime.  But his reputation—among the
scientific—why—why, it is European!"

"Hm!" says the Laird.  "I have sometimes seen that persons who gave
themselves up to erudeetion, lost the character of human beings
altogether.  They become scientific machines.  The world is just made up
of books for them—and lectures—they would not give a halfpenny to a
beggar for fear of poleetical economy——"

"Oh, how can you say such a thing of Angus Sutherland!" says she—though
he has said no such thing of Angus Sutherland. "Why, here is this girl
who goes to Edinburgh—all by herself—to nurse an old woman in her last
illness; and as Angus Sutherland is in Edinburgh on some
business—connected with the University, I believe—I ask him to call on
her and see if he can give her any advice. What does he do?  He stops in
Edinburgh two months—editing that scientific magazine there instead of
in London—and all because he has taken an interest in the old woman and
thinks that Mary should not have the whole responsibility on her
shoulders.  Is that like a scientific machine?"

"No," says the Laird, with a certain calm grandeur; "you do not often
find young men doing that for the sake of an old woman."  But of course
we don’t know what he means.

"And I am so glad he is coming to us!" she says, with real delight in
her face.  "We shall take him away from his microscopes, and his
societies, and all that.  Oh, and he is such a delightful companion—so
simple, and natural, and straightforward!  Don’t you think so, Mary?"

Mary Avon is understood to assent: she does not say much—she is so
deeply interested in a couple of porpoises that appear from time to time
on the smooth plain on the sea.

"I am sure a long holiday would do him a world of good," says this eager
hostess; "but that is too much to expect.  He is always too busy.  I
think he has got to go over to Italy soon, about some exhibition of
surgical instruments, or something of that sort."

We had plenty of further talk about Dr. Sutherland, and of the wonderful
future that lay before him, that evening before we finally put into Loch
Buy.  And there we dined; and after dinner we found the wan, clear
twilight filling the northern heavens, over the black range of
mountains, and throwing a silver glare on the smooth sea around us.  We
could have read on deck at eleven at night—-had that been necessary; but
Mary Avon was humming snatches of songs to us, and the Laird was
discoursing of the wonderful influence exerted on Scotch landscape-art
by Tom Galbraith. Then in the south the yellow moon rose; and a golden
lane of light lay on the sea, from the horizon across to the side of the
yacht; and there was a strange glory on the decks and on the tall,
smooth masts.  The peace of that night!—the soft air, the silence, the
dreamy lapping of the water!

"And whatever lies before Angus Sutherland," says one of us—"whether a
baronetcy, or a big fortune, or marriage with an Italian princess—he
won’t find anything better than sailing in the _White Dove_ among the
western islands."

                             *CHAPTER IV.*

                              *A MESSAGE.*

What fierce commotion is this that awakes us in the morning—what
pandemonium broken loose of wild storm-sounds—-with the stately _White
Dove_, ordinarily the most sedate and gentle of her sex, apparently gone
mad, and flinging herself about as if bent on somersaults?  When one
clambers up the companion-way, clinging hard, and puts one’s head out
into the gale, behold! there is not a trace of land visible
anywhere—nothing but whirling clouds of mist and rain; and
mountain-masses of waves that toss the _White Dove_ about as if she were
a plaything; and decks all running wet with the driven spray.  John of
Skye, clad from head to heel in black oilskins—and at one moment up in
the clouds, the next moment descending into the great trough of the
sea—-hangs on to the rope that is twisted round the tiller; and laughs a
good-morning; and shakes the salt water from his shaggy eyebrows and

"Hallo!  John—where on earth have we got to?"

"Ay, ay, sir."

"I say WHERE ARE WE?" is shouted, for the roar of the rushing Atlantic
in deafening.

"’Deed I not think we are far from Loch Buy," says John of Skye, grimly.
"The wind is dead ahead of us—ay, shist dead ahead!"

"What made you come out against a headwind then?"

"When we cam’ out," says John—picking his English, "the wind will be
from the norse—ay, a fine light breeze from the norse.  And will Mr. ——
himself be for going on now? it is a ferry bad sea for the leddies—a
ferry coorse sea."

But it appears that this conversation—bawled aloud—has been overheard.
There are voices from below.  The skylight of the ladies’ cabin is
partly open.

"Don’t mind us," calls Mary Avon.  "Go on by all means!"

The other voice calls—

"Why can’t you keep this fool of a boat straight?  Ask him when we shall
be into the Sound of Iona."

One might as well ask him when we shall be into the Sound of Jericho or
Jerusalem. With half a gale of wind right in our teeth, and with the
heavy Atlantic swell running, we might labour here all day—and all the
night too—without getting round the Ross of Mull. There is nothing for
it but to turn and run, that we may have our breakfast in peace.  Let
her away, then, you brave John of Skye!—slack out the main-sheet, and
give her plenty of it, too: then at the same moment Sandy from Islay
perceives that a haul at the weather topping-lift will clear the boom
from the davits; and now—and now, good Master Fred—our much-esteemed and
shifty Friedrich d’or—if you will but lay the cloth on the table, we
will help you to steady the dancing phantasmagoria of plates and forks!

"Dear me!" says the Laird, when we are assembled together, "it has been
an awful night!"

"Oh, I hope you have not been ill!" says his hostess, with a quick
concern in the soft, clear eyes.

He does not look as if he had suffered much.  He is contentedly chipping
an egg; and withal keeping an eye on the things near him, for the _White
Dove_, still plunging a good deal, threatens at times to make of
everything on the table a movable feast.

"Oh, no, ma’am, not ill," he says.  "But at my time of life, ye see, one
is not as light in weight as one used to be; and the way I was flung
about in that cabin last night was just extraordinary.  When I was
trying to put on my boots this morning, I am sure I resembled nothing so
much as a pea in a bladder—indeed it was so—I was knocked about like a
pea in a bladder."

Of course we expressed great sympathy, and assured him that the _White
Dove_—famed all along this coast for her sober and steady-going
behaviour—would never act so any more.

"However," said he thoughtfully, "the wakefulness of the night is often
of use to people.  Yes, I have come to a decision."

We were somewhat alarmed: was he going to leave us merely because of
this bit of tossing?

"I dare say ye know, ma’am," says he slowly, "that I am one of the
Commissioners of the Burgh of Strathgovan.  It is a poseetion of grave
responsibility.  This very question now—about our getting a steam
fire-engine—has been weighing on my mind for many a day.  Well, I have
decided I will no longer oppose it.  They may have the steam fire-engine
as far as I am concerned."

We felt greatly relieved.

"Yes," continued the Laird, solemnly, "I think I am doing my duty in
this matter as a public man should—laying aside his personal prejudice.
But the cost of it!  Do ye know that we shall want bigger nozzles to all
the fire-plugs?"

Matters were looking grave again.

"However," said the Laird cheerfully—for he would not depress us too
much, "it may all turn out for the best; and I will telegraph my
decision to Strathgovan as soon as ever the storm allows us to reach a

The storm, indeed!  When we scramble up on deck again, we find that it
is only a brisk sailing breeze we have; and the _White Dove_ is bowling
merrily along, flinging high the white spray from her bows.  And then we
begin to see that, despite those driving mists around us, there is
really a fine clear summer day shining far above this twopenny-halfpenny
tempest.  The whirling mists break here and there; and we catch glimpses
of a placid blue sky, flecked with lines of motionless cirrhus cloud.
The breaks increase; floods of sunshine fall on the gleaming decks;
clearer and clearer become the vast precipices of southern Mull; and
then, when we get well to the lee of Eilean-straid-ean, behold! the blue
seas around us once more; and the blue skies overhead; and the red
ensign fluttering in the summer breeze.  No wonder that Mary Avon sings
her delight—as a linnet sings after the rain; and though the song is not
meant for us at all, but is really hummed to herself as she clings on to
the shrouds and watches the flashing and dipping of the white-winged
gulls, we know that it is all about a jolly young waterman.  The
audacious creature: John of Skye has a wife and four children.

Too quickly indeed does the fair summer day go by—as we pass the old
familiar Duart and begin to beat up the Sound of Mull against a fine
light sailing breeze.  By the time we have reached Ardtornish, the Laird
has acquired some vague notion as to how the gaff topsail is set.
Opposite the dark-green woods of Funeray, he tells us of the
extraordinary faculty possessed by Tom Galbraith of representing the
texture of foliage. At Salen we have Master Fred’s bell summoning us
down to lunch; and thereafter, on deck, coffee, draughts, crochet, and a
profoundly interesting description of some of the knotty points in the
great Semple heresy case. And here again, as we bear away over almost to
the mouth of Loch Sunart, is the open Atlantic—of a breezy grey under
the lemon-colour and silver of the calm evening sky. What is the use of
going on against this contrary wind, and missing, in the darkness of the
night, all the wonders of the western islands that the Laird is anxious
to see?  We resolve to run into Tobermory; and by and by we find
ourselves under the shadow of the wooded rocks, with the little white
town shining along the semicircle of the bay.  And very cleverly indeed
does John of Skye cut in among the various craft—showing off a little
bit, perhaps—until the _White Dove_ is brought up to the wind, and the
great anchor-cable goes out with a roar.

Now it was by the merest accident that we got at Tobermory a telegram
that had been forwarded that very day to meet us on our return voyage.
There was no need for any one to go ashore, for we were scarcely in port
before a most praiseworthy gentleman was so kind as to send us on board
a consignment of fresh flowers, vegetables, milk, eggs, and so forth—the
very things that become of inestimable value to yachting people.
However, we had two women on board; and of course—despite a certain
bandaged ankle—they must needs go shopping.  And Mary Avon, when we got
ashore, would buy some tobacco for her favourite Captain John; and went
into the post-office for that purpose, and was having the black stuff
measured out by the yard when some mention was made of the _White Dove_.
Then a question was asked; there was a telegram; it was handed to Miss
Avon, who opened it and read it.

"Oh!" said she, looking rather concerned; and then she regarded her
friend with some little hesitation.

"It is my uncle," she says; "he wants to see me on very urgent business.
He is—coming—to see me—the day after to-morrow."

Blank consternation followed this announcement. This person, even though
he was Mary Avon’s sole surviving relative, was quite intolerable to us.
East Wind we had called him in secret, on the few occasions on which he
had darkened our doors.  And just as we were making up our happy family
party—with the Laird, and Mary, and Angus Sutherland—to sail away to the
far Hebrides, here was this insufferable creature—with his raucous
voice, his washed-out eyes, his pink face, his uneasy manner, and
general groom or butler-like appearance—thrusting himself on us!

"Well, you know, Mary," says her hostess—entirely concealing her dismay
in her anxious politeness—"we shall almost certainly be home by the day
after to-morrow, if we get any wind at all.  So you had better telegraph
to your uncle to come on to Castle Osprey, and to wait for you if you
are not there; we cannot be much longer than that. And Angus Sutherland
will be there; he will keep him company until we arrive."

So that was done, and we went on board again—one of us meanwhile vowing
to himself that ere ever Mr. Frederick Smethurst set sail with us on
board the _White Dove_, a rifle-bullet through her hull would send that
gallant vessel to the lobsters.

Now what do you think our Mary Avon set to work to do—all during this
beautiful summer evening, as we sat on deck and eyed curiously the other
craft in the bay, or watched the firs grow dark against the
silver-yellow twilight?  We could not at first make out what she was
driving at.  Her occupation in the world, so far as she had any—beyond
being the pleasantest of companions and the faithfullest of friends—was
the painting of landscapes in oil, not the construction of Frankenstein
monsters.  But here she begins by declaring to us that there is one type
of character that has never been described by any satirist, or
dramatist, or fictionist—a common type, too, though only becoming
pronounced in rare instances.  It is the moral Tartuffe, she
declares—the person who is through and through a hypocrite, not to cloak
evil doings, but only that his eager love of approbation may be
gratified.  Look now how this creature of diseased vanity, of plausible
manners, of pretentious humbug, rises out of the smoke like the figure
summoned by a wizard’s wand!  As she gives us little touches here and
there of the ways of this professor of bonhomie—this bundle of
affectations—we begin to prefer the most diabolical villainy that any
thousand of the really wicked Tartuffes could have committed.  He grows
and grows.  His scraps of learning, as long as those more ignorant than
himself are his audience; his mock humility anxious for praise; his
parade of generous and sententious sentiment; his
pretence—pretence—pretence—all arising from no evil machinations
whatever, but from a morbid and restless craving for esteem.  Hence,
horrible shadow! Let us put out the candles and get to bed.

But next morning, as we find ourselves out on the blue Atlantic again,
with Ru-na-Gaul lighthouse left far behind, and the pale line of Coll at
the horizon, we begin to see why the skill and patient assiduity of this
amateur psychologist should have raised that ghost for us the night
before.  Her uncle is coming. He is not one of the plausible kind.  And
if it should be necessary to invite him on board, might we not the more
readily tolerate his cynical bluntness and rudeness, after we have been
taught to abhor as the hatefullest of mortals the well-meaning hypocrite
whose vanity makes his life a bundle of small lies? Very clever indeed,
Miss Avon—very clever. But don’t you raise any more ghosts; they are
unpleasant company—even as an antidote. And now, John of Skye, if it
must be that we are to encounter this pestilent creature at the end of
our voyage, clap on all sail now, and take us right royally down through
these far islands of the west.  Ah! do we not know them of old?  Soon as
we get round the Cailleach Point we descry the nearest of them amid the
loneliness of the wide Atlantic sea. For there is Carnaburg, with her
spur of rock; and Fladda, long and rugged, and bare; and Lunga, with her
peak; and the Dutchman’s Cap—a pale blue in the south.  How bravely the
_White Dove_ swings on her way—springing like a bird over the western
swell!  And as we get past Ru-Treshnish, behold! another group of
islands—Gometra and the green-shored Ulva, that guard the entrance to
Loch Tua; and Colonsay, the haunt of the sea birds; and the rock of
Erisgeir—all shining in the sun.  And then we hear a strange
sound—different from the light rush of the waves—a low, and sullen, and
distant booming, such as one faintly hears in a sea-shell. As the _White
Dove_ ploughs on her way, we come nearer and nearer to this wonder of
the deep—the ribbed and fantastic shores of Staffa; and we see how the
great Atlantic rollers, making for the cliffs of Gribun and Burg, are
caught by those outer rocks and torn into masses of white foam, and sent
roaring and thundering into the blackness of the caves. We pass close
by; the air trembles with the shock of that mighty surge; there is a
mist of spray rising into the summer air.  And then we sail away again;
and the day wears on as the white-winged _White Dove_ bounds over the
heavy seas; and Mary Avon—as we draw near the Ross of Mull, all glowing
in the golden evening—is singing a song of Ulva.

But there is no time for romance, as the _White Dove_ (drawing eight
feet of water) makes in for the shallow harbour outside Bunessan.

"Down foresail!" calls out our John of Skye; and by and by her head
comes up to the wind, the great mainsail flapping in the breeze.  And
again, "Down chub, boys!" and there is another rattle and roar amid the
silence of this solitary little bay.  The herons croak their fright and
fly away on heavy wing; the curlews whistle shrilly; the sea-pyots whirr
along the lonely shores.  And then our good Friedrich d’or sounds his
silver-toned bell.

The stillness of this summer evening on deck; the glory deepening over
the wide Atlantic; the delightful laughter of the Laird over those "good
ones" about Homesh; the sympathetic glance of Mary Avon’s soft black
eyes: did we not value them all the more that we knew we had something
far different to look forward to?  Even as we idled away the beautiful
and lambent night, we had a vague consciousness that our enemy was
stealthily drawing near.  In a day or two at the most we should find the
grim spectre of the East Wind in the rose-garden of Castle Osprey.

                              *CHAPTER V.*

                           *A BRAVE CAREER.*

Bur when we went on deck the next morning we forgot all about the
detestable person who was about to break in upon our peace (there was
small chance that our faithful Angus Sutherland might encounter the
snake in this summer paradise, and trample on him, and pitch him out;
for this easy way of getting rid of disagreeable folk is not permitted
in the Highlands nowadays) as we looked on the beautiful bay shining all
around us.

"Dear me!" said Denny-mains, "if Tom Galbraith could only see that now!
It is a great peety he has never been to this place. I’m thinking I must
write to him."

The Laird did not remember that we had an artist on board—one who, if
she was not so great an artist as Mr. Galbraith, had at least exhibited
one or two small landscapes in oil at the Royal Academy.  But then the
Academicians, though they might dread the contrast between their own
work and that of Tom Galbraith, could have no fear of Mary Avon.

And even Mr. Galbraith himself might have been puzzled to find among his
pigments any equivalent for the rare and clear colours of this morning
scene as now we sailed away from Bunessan with a light topsail breeze.
How blue the day was—blue skies, blue seas, a faint transparent blue
along the cliffs of Burg and Gribun, a darker blue where the far
Ru-Treshanish ran out into the sea, a shadow of blue to mark where the
caves of Staffa retreated from the surface of the sun-brown rocks!  And
here, nearer at hand, the warmer colours of the shore—the soft, velvety
olive-greens of the moss and breckan; the splashes of lilac where the
rocks were bare of herbage; the tender sunny reds where the granite
promontories ran out to the sea; the beautiful cream-whites of the sandy

Here, too, are the islands again as we get out into the open—Gometra,
with its one white house at the point; and Inch Kenneth, where the seals
show their shining black heads among the shallows; and Erisgeir and
Colonsay, where the skarts alight to dry their wings on the rocks; and
Staffa, and Lunga, and the Dutchman, lying peaceful enough now on the
calm blue seas.  We have time to look at them, for the wind is slight,
and the broad-beamed _White Dove_ is not a quick sailer in a light
breeze.  The best part of the forenoon is over before we find ourselves
opposite to the gleaming white sands of the northern bays of Iona.

"But surely both of us together will be able to make him stay longer
than ten days," says the elder of the two women to the younger—and you
may be sure she was not speaking of East Wind.

Mary Avon looks up with a start; then looks down again—perhaps with the
least touch of colour in her face—as she says hurriedly—

"Oh, I think you will.  He is your friend. As for me—you see—I—I
scarcely know him."

"Oh, Mary!" says the other reproachfully. "You have been meeting him
constantly all these two months; you must know him better than any of
us.  I am sure I wish he was on board now—he could tell us all about the
geology of the islands, and what not.  It will be delightful to have
somebody on board who knows something."

Such is the gratitude of women!—and the Laird had just been describing
to her some further points of the famous heresy case.

"And then he knows Gaelic!" says the elder woman.  "He will tell us what
all the names of the islands mean."

"Oh, yes," says the younger one, "he understands Gaelic very well,
though he cannot speak much of it."

"And I think he is very fond of boats," remarks our hostess.

"Oh, exceedingly—exceedingly!" says the other, who, if she does not know
Angus Sutherland, seems to have picked up some information about him
somehow.  "You cannot imagine how he has been looking forward to sailing
with you; he has scarcely had any holiday for years."

"Then he must stay longer than ten days," says the elder woman; adding
with a smile, "you know, Mary, it is not the number of his patients that
will hurry him back to London."

"Oh, but I assure you," says Miss Avon seriously, "that he is not at all
anxious to have many patients—as yet!  Oh, no!—I never knew any one who
was so indifferent about money.  I know he would live on bread and
water—if that were necessary—to go on with his researches.  He told me
himself that all the time he was at Leipsic his expenses were never more
than 1*l.* a week."

She seemed to know a good deal about the circumstances of this young

"Look at what he has done with those anæsthetics," continues Miss Avon.
"Isn’t it better to find out something that does good to the whole world
than give yourself up to making money by wheedling a lot of old women?"

This estimate of the physician’s art was not flattering.

"But," she says warmly, "if the Government had any sense, that is just
the sort of man they would put in a position to go on with his
invaluable work.  And Oxford and Cambridge, with all their wealth, they
scarcely even recognise the noblest profession that a man can devote
himself to—when even the poor Scotch Universities and the Universities
all over Europe have always had their medical and scientific chairs.  I
think it is perfectly disgraceful!"

Since when had she become so strenuous an advocate of the endowment of

"Why, look at Dr. Sutherland—when he is burning to get on with his own
proper work—when his name is beginning to be known all over Europe—he
has to fritter away his time in editing a scientific magazine and in
those hospital lectures.  And that, I suppose, is barely enough to live
on.  But I know," she says, with decision, "that in spite of
everything—I know that before he is five-and-thirty, he will be
President of the British Association."

Here, indeed, is a brave career for the Scotch student: cannot one
complete the sketch as it roughly exists in the minds of those two

At twenty-one, B.M. of Edinburgh.

At twenty-six, F.R.S.

At thirty, Professor of Biology at Oxford: the chair founded through the
intercession of the women of Great Britain.

At thirty-five, President of the British Association.

At forty, a baronetcy, for further discoveries in the region of

At forty-five, consulting physician to half the gouty old gentlemen of
England, and amassing an immense fortune.

At fifty——

Well, at fifty, is it not time that "the poor Scotch student," now
become great and famous and wealthy, should look around for some
beautiful princess to share his high estate with him?  He has not had
time before to think of such matters.  But what is this now?  Is it that
microscopes and test-tubes have dimmed his eyes?  Is it that honours and
responsibilities have silvered his hair?  Or, is the drinking deep of
the Pactolus stream a deadly poison?  There is no beautiful princess
awaiting him anywhere.  He is alone among his honours.  There was once a
beautiful princess—beautiful-souled and tender-eyed, if not otherwise
too lovely—awaiting him among the Western Seas; but that time is over
and gone many a year ago.  The opportunity has passed. Ambition called
him away, and he left her; and the last he saw of her was when he bade
good-bye to the _White Dove_.

What have we to do with these idle dreams? We are getting within sight
of Iona village now; and the sun is shining on the green shores, and on
the ruins of the old cathedral, and on that white house just above the
cornfield.  And as there is no good anchorage about the island, we have
to make in for a little creek on the Mull side of the Sound, called
Polterriv, or the Bull-hole; and this creek is narrow, tortuous, and
shallow; and a yacht drawing eight feet of water has to be guided with
some circumspection—especially if you go up to the inner harbour above
the rock called the Little Bull.  And so we make inquiries of John of
Skye, who has not been with us here before.  It is even hinted, that if
he is not quite sure of the channel, we might send the gig over to Iona
for John Macdonald, who is an excellent pilot.

"John Macdonald!" exclaims John of Skye, whose professional pride has
been wounded. "Will John Macdonald be doing anything more than I wass do
myself in the Bull-hole—ay, last year—last year I will tek my own smack
out of the Bull-hole at the norse end, and ferry near low water, too;
and her deep-loaded?  Oh, yes, I will be knowing the Bull-hole this many
a year."

And John of Skye is as good as his word. Favoured by a flood-tide, we
steal gently into the unfrequented creek, behind the great rocks of red
granite; and so extraordinarily clear is the water that, standing
upright on the deck, we can see the white sand of the bottom with shoals
of young saithe darting this way and that.  And then just as we get
opposite an opening in the rocks, through which we can descry the
northern shores of Iona, and above those the blue peak of the Dutchman,
away goes the anchor with a short, quick rush; her head swings round to
meet the tide; the _White Dove_ is safe from all the winds that blow.
Now lower away the gig, boys, and bear us over the blue waters of the

"I am really afraid to begin," Mary Avon says, as we remonstrate with
her for not having touched a colour-tube since she started. "Besides,
you know, I scarcely look on it that we have really set out yet.  This
is only a sort of shaking ourselves into our places; I am only getting
accustomed to the ways of our cabin now.  I shall scarcely consider that
we have started on our real voyaging until——"

Oh, yes, we know very well.  Until we have got Angus Sutherland on
board.  But what she really said was, after slight hesitation:

"——until we set out for the Northern Hebrides."

"Ay, it’s a good thing to feel nervous about beginning," says the Laird,
as the long sweep of the four oars brings us nearer and nearer to the
Iona shores.  "I have often heard Tom Galbraith say that to the younger
men.  He says if a young man is over confident, he’ll come to nothing.
But there was a good one I once heard Galbraith tell about a young man
that was pentin at Tarbert—that’s Tarbert on Loch Fyne, Miss Avon.  Ay,
well, he was pentin away, and he was putting in the young lass of the
house as a fisher-lass; and he asked her if she could not get a creel to
strap on her back, as a background for her head, ye know.  Well, says

Here the fierce humour of the story began to bubble up in the Laird’s
blue-grey eyes. We were all half laughing already.  It was impossible to
resist the glow of delight on the Laird’s face.

"Says she—just as pat as ninepence—says she, ’it’s your ain head that
wants a creel!’"

The explosion was inevitable.  The roar of laughter at this good one was
so infectious that a subdued smile played over the rugged features of
John of Skye.  "_It’s your ain head that wants a creel:_" the Laird
laughed, and laughed again, until the last desperately suppressed sounds
were something like _kee! kee! kee!_  Even Mary Avon pretended to

"There was a real good one," says he, obviously overjoyed to have so
appreciative an audience, "that I mind of reading in the Dean’s
_Reminiscences_.  It was about an old leddy in Edinburgh who met in a
shop a young officer she had seen before.  He was a tall young man, and
she eyed him from head to heel, and says she—ha! ha!—says she, ’_Od,
ye’re a lang lad: God gie ye grace._’  Dry—very dry—wasn’t it?  There
was real humour in that—a pawky humour that people in the South cannot
understand at all.  ’_Od_’, says she, ’_ye’re a lang lad: God grant ye
grace._’  There was a great dale of character in that."

We were sure of it; but still we preferred the Laird’s stories about
Homesh.  We invariably liked best the stories at which the Laird laughed
most—whether we quite understood their pawky humour or not.

"Dr. Sutherland has a great many stories about the Highlanders," says
Miss Avon timidly; "they are very amusing."

"As far as I have observed," remarked the Laird—for how could he relish
the notion of having a rival anecdote-monger on board?—"as far as I have
observed, the Highland character is entirely without humour.  Ay, I have
heard Tom Galbraith say that very often, and he has been everywhere in
the Highlands."

"Well, then," says Mary Avon, with a quick warmth of indignation in her
face—how rapidly those soft dark eyes could change their expression!—"I
hope Mr. Galbraith knows more about painting than he knows about the
Highlanders!  I thought that anybody who knows anything knows that the
Celtic nature is full of imagination, and humour, and pathos, and
poetry; and the Saxon—the Saxon!—it is his business to plod over
ploughed fields, and be as dull and commonplace as the other animals he
sees there!"

Gracious goodness!—here was a tempest! The Laird was speechless; for,
indeed, at this moment we bumped against the sacred shores—that is to
say, the landing-slip—of Iona; and had to scramble on to the big stones.
Then we walked up and past the cottages, and through the potato-field,
and past the white inn, and so to the hallowed shrine and its graves of
the kings.  We spent the whole of the afternoon there.

When we got back to the yacht and to dinner we discovered that a friend
had visited us in our absence, and had left of his largesse behind
him—nasturtiums and yellow-and-white pansies, and what not—to say
nothing of fresh milk, and crisp, delightful lettuce.  We drank his

Was it the fear of some one breaking in on our domestic peace that made
that last evening among the western islands so lovely to us?  We went
out in the gig after dinner; the Laird put forth his engines of
destruction to encompass the innocent lythe; we heard him humming the
"Haughs o’ Cromdale" in the silence.  The wonderful glory of that
evening!—Iona become an intense olive-green against the gold and crimson
of the sunset; the warm light shining along the red granite of western
Mull.  Then the yellow moon rose in the south—into the calm violet-hued
vault of the heavens; and there was a golden fire on the ripples and on
the wet blades of the oars as we rowed back with laughter and singing.

_Sing tantara! sing tantara!_
_Sing tantara! sing tantara!_
  _Said he, the Highland army rues_
  _That ere they came to Cromdale!_

And then, next morning, we were up at five o’clock.  If we were going to
have a tooth pulled, why not have the little interview over at once?
East Wind would be waiting for us at Castle Osprey.

Blow, soft westerly breeze, then, and bear us down by Fion-phort, and
round the granite Ross—shining all a pale red in the early dawn. And
here is Ardalanish Point; and there, as the morning goes by, are the
Carsaig arches, and then Loch Buy, and finally the blue Firth of Lorn.
Northward now, and still northward—until, far away, the white house
shining amidst the firs, and the flag fluttering in the summer air.
Have they descried us, then? Or is the bunting hoisted in honour of
guests? The pale cheek of Mary Avon tells a tale as she descries that
far signal; but that is no business of ours.  Perhaps it is only of her
uncle that she is thinking.

                             *CHAPTER VI.*

                           *OUR NEW GUESTS.*

Behold, now!—this beautiful garden of Castle Osprey all ablaze in the
sun—the roses, pansies, poppies, and what not bewildering our eyes after
the long looking at the blue water and, in the midst of the brilliant
paradise—just as we had feared—the snake!  He did not scurry away at our
approach, as snakes are wont to do; or raise his horrent head, and hiss.
The fact is, we found him comfortably seated under a drooping ash,
smoking.  He rose and explained that he had strolled up from the shore
to await our coming.  He did not seem to notice that Mary Avon, as she
came along, had to walk slowly, and was leaning on the arm of the Laird.

Certainly nature had not been bountiful to this short, spare person who
had now come among us.  He had closely-cropped, coarse grey hair; an
eagle beak; a certain pink and raw appearance of the face, as if
perpetual east winds had chafed the skin; and a most pernicious habit of
loudly clearing his husky throat. Then with the aggressive nose went a
well-defined pugilist’s jaw and a general hang-dog scowl about the
mouth.  For the rest Mr. Smethurst seemed desirous of making up for
those unpleasant features which nature had bestowed upon him by a
studied air of self-possession, and by an extreme precision of dress.
Alack, and well-a-day! these laudable efforts were of little avail.
Nature was too strong for him.  The assumption of a languid air was not
quite in consonance with the ferrety grey eyes and the bull-dog mouth;
the precision of his costume only gave him the look of a well-dressed
groom, or a butler gone on the turf.  There was not much grateful to the
sight about Mr. Frederick Smethurst.

But were we to hate the man for being ugly? Despite his raw face, he
might have the white soul of an angel.  And in fact we knew absolutely
nothing against his public character or private reputation, except that
he had once gone through the Bankruptcy Court; and even of that little
circumstance our womenfolk were not aware.  However, there was no doubt
at all that a certain coldness—apparent to us who knew her well—marked
the manner of this small lady who now went up and shook hands with him,
and declared—unblushingly—that she was so glad he had run up to the

"And you know," said she, with that charming politeness which she would
show to the arch-fiend himself if he were properly introduced to her,
"you know, Mr. Smethurst, that yachting is such an uncertain thing, one
never knows when one may get back; but if you could spare a few days to
take a run with us, you would see what a capital mariner Mary has
become, and I am sure it would be a great pleasure to us."

These were actually her words.  She uttered them without the least
tremor of hesitation. She looked him straight in the face with those
clear, innocent, confiding eyes of hers.  How could the man tell that
she was wishing him at Jericho?

And it was in silence that we waited to hear our doom pronounced.  A
yachting trip with this intolerable Jonah on board! The sunlight went
out of the day; the blue went out of the sky and the seas; the world was
filled with gloom, and chaos, and East Wind!

Imagine, then, the sudden joy with which we heard of our deliverance!
Surely it was not the raucous voice of Frederick Smethurst, but a sound
of summer bells.

"Oh, thank you," he said, in his affectedly indifferent way; "but the
fact is, I have run up to see Mary only on a little matter of business,
and I must get back at once.  Indeed, I purpose leaving by the Dalmally
coach in the afternoon.  Thank you very much, though; perhaps some other
time I may be more fortunate."

How we had wronged this poor man!  We hated him no longer.  On the
contrary, great grief was expressed over his departure; and he was
begged at least to stay that one evening.  No doubt he had heard of Dr.
Angus Sutherland, who had made such discoveries in the use of
anæsthetics? Dr. Sutherland was coming by the afternoon steamer.  Would
not he stay and meet him at dinner?

Our tears broke out afresh—metaphorically—when East Wind persisted in
his intention of departure; but of course compulsion was out of the
question.  And so we allowed him to go into the house, to have that
business interview with his niece.

"A poor crayture!" remarked the Laird confidently, forgetting that he
was talking of a friend of ours.  "Why does he not speak out like a man,
instead of drawling and dawdling? His accent is jist insufferable."

"And what business can he have with Mary?" says our sovereign lady
sharply—just as if a man with a raw skin and an eagle-beak must
necessarily be a pickpocket. "He was the trustee of that little fortune
of hers, I know; but that is all over.  She got the money when she came
of age.  What can he want to see her about now?"

We concerned ourselves not with that.  It was enough for us that the
snake was about to retreat from our summer paradise of his own free will
and pleasure.  And Angus Sutherland was coming; and the provisioning of
the yacht had to be seen to; for to-morrow—to-morrow we spread our white
wings again and take flight to the far north!

Never was parting guest so warmly speeded. We concealed our tears as the
coach rolled away.  We waved a hand to him.  And then, when it was
suggested that the wagonette that had brought Mary Avon down from Castle
Osprey might just as well go along to the quay—for the steamer bringing
Dr. Sutherland would be in shortly—and when we actually did set out in
that direction, there was so little grief on our faces that you could
not have told we had been bidding farewell to a valued friend and

Now if our good-hearted Laird had had a grain of jealousy in his nature,
he might well have resented the manner in which these two women spoke of
the approaching guest.  In their talk the word "he" meant only one
person.  "He" was sure to come by this steamer.  "He" was so punctual in
his engagements.  Would he bring a gun or a rod; or would the sailing be
enough amusement for him?  What a capital thing it was for him to be
able to take an interest in some such out-of-door exercise, as a
distraction to the mind! And so forth, and so forth.  The Laird heard
all this, and his expectations were no doubt rising and rising.
Forgetful of his disappointment on first seeing Mary Avon, he was in all
likelihood creating an imaginary figure of Angus Sutherland—and, of
course, this marvel of erudition and intellectual power must be a tall,
wan, pale person, with the travail of thinking written in lines across
the spacious brow.  The Laird was not aware that for many a day after we
first made the acquaintance of the young Scotch student he was generally
referred to in our private conversation as "Brose."

And, indeed, the Laird did stare considerably when he saw—elbowing his
way through the crowd and making for us with a laugh of welcome on the
fresh-coloured face—a stout-set, muscular, blue-eyed, sandy-haired,
good-humoured-looking, youngish man; who, instead of having anything
Celtic about his appearance, might have been taken for the son of a
south-country farmer.  Our young Doctor was carrying his own
portmanteau, and sturdily shoving his way through the porters who would
fain have seized it.

"I am glad to see you, Angus," said our queen regent, holding out her
hand; and there was no ceremonial politeness in that reception—but you
should have seen the look in her eyes.

Then he went on to the waggonette.

"How do you do, Miss Avon?" said he, quite timidly, like a school-boy.
He scarcely glanced up at her face, which was regarding him with a very
pleasant welcome; he seemed relieved when he had to turn and seize his
portmanteau again.  Knowing that he was rather fond of driving, our
mistress and admiral-in-chief offered him the reins, but he declined the
honour; Mary Avon was sitting in front.  "Oh, no, thank you," said he
quite hastily, and with something uncommonly like a blush.  The Laird,
if he had been entertaining any feeling of jealousy, must have been
reassured.  This Doctor-fellow was no formidable rival.  He spoke very
little—he only listened—as we drove away to Castle Osprey.  Mary Avon
was chatting briskly and cheerfully, and it was to the Laird that she
addressed that running fire of nonsense and merry laughter.

But the young Doctor was greatly concerned when, on our arrival at
Castle Osprey, he saw Mary Avon helped down with much care, and heard
the story of the sprain.

"Who bandages your ankle?" said he at once, and without any shyness now.

"I do it myself," said she cheerfully.  "I can do it well enough."

"Oh, no, you cannot!" said he abruptly; "a person stooping cannot.  The
bandage should be as tight, and as smooth, as the skin of a drum.  You
must let some one else do that for you."

And he was disposed to resent this walking about in the garden before
dinner.  What business had she to trifle with such a serious matter as a
sprain?  And a sprain which was the recall of an older sprain.  "Did she
wish to be lame for life?" he asked sharply.

Mary Avon laughed, and said that worse things than that had befallen
people.  He asked her whether she found any pleasure in voluntary
martyrdom; she blushed a little, and turned to the Laird.

The Laird was at this moment laying before us the details of a most
gigantic scheme.  It appeared that the inhabitants of Strathgovan, not
content with a steam fire-engine, were talking about having a public
park—actually proposing to have a public park, with beds of flowers, and
iron seats; and, to crown all, a gymnasium, where the youths of the
neighbourhood might twirl themselves on the gay trapeze to their hearts’
content.  And where the subscriptions were to come from; and what were
the hardiest plants for borders; and whether the gymnasium should be
furnished with ropes or with chains—these matters were weighing heavily
on the mind of our good friend of Denny-mains.  Angus Sutherland
relapsed into silence, and gazed absently at a tree-fuchsia that stood

"It is a beautiful tree, is it not?" said a voice beside him—that of our
midge-like empress.

He started.

"Oh, yes," he said cheerfully.  "I was thinking I should like to live
the life of a tree like that, dying in the winter, you know, and being
quite impervious to frost, and snow, and hard weather; and then, as soon
as the fine warm spring and summer came round, coming to life again and
spreading yourself out to feel all the sunlight and the warm winds. That
must be a capital life."

"But do you really think they can feel that? Why, you must believe that
those trees and flowers are alive!"

"Does anybody doubt it?" said he quite simply.  "They are certainly
alive.  Why——"

And here he bethought himself for a moment.

"If I only had a good microscope now," said he eagerly, "I would show
you the life of a plant directly—in every cell of it: did you never see
the constant life in each cell—the motion of the chlorophyll granules
circling and circling night and day?  Did no one ever show you that?"

Well, no one had ever shown us that.  We may now and again have
entertained angels unawares; but we were not always stumbling against
Fellows of the Royal Society.

"Then I must borrow one somewhere," said he decisively, "and show you
the secret life of even the humblest plant that exists.  And then look
what a long life it is, in the case of the perennial plants.  Did you
ever think of that? Those great trees in the Yosemite valley—they were
alive and feeling the warm sunlight and the winds about them when Alfred
was hiding in the marshes; and they were living the same undisturbed
life when Charles the First had his head chopped off; and they were
living—in peace and quietness—when all Europe had to wake up to stamp
out the Napoleonic pest; and they are alive now and quite careless of
the little creatures that come to span out their circumference, and
ticket them, and give them ridiculous names.  Had any of the patriarchs
a life as long as that?"

The Laird eyed this young man askance. There was something uncanny about
him. What might not he say when—in the northern solitudes to which we
were going—the great Semple heresy-case was brought on for discussion?

But at dinner the Laird got on very well with our new guest; for the
latter listened most respectfully when Denny-mains was demonstrating the
exceeding purity, and strength, and fitness of the speech used in the
south of Scotland.  And indeed the Laird was generous. He admitted that
there were blemishes.  He deprecated the introduction of French words;
and gave us a much longer list of those aliens than usually appears in
books.  What about _conjee_, and _que-vee_, and _fracaw_ as used by
Scotch children and old wives?

Then after dinner—at nine o’clock the wonderful glow of the summer
evening was still filling the drawing-room—the Laird must needs have
Mary Avon sing to him.  It was not a custom of hers.  She rarely would
sing a song of set purpose.  The linnet sings all day—when you do not
watch her; but she will not sing if you go and ask.

However, on this occasion, her hostess went to the piano, and sat down
to play the accompaniment; and Mary Avon stood beside her and sang, in
rather a low voice—but it was tender enough—some modern version of the
old ballad of the Queen’s Maries.  What were the words?  These were of
them, any way:—

_Yestreen the Queen had four Maries;_
_This night she’ll hae but three:_
_There was Mary Beaton, and Mary Seaton,_
_And Mary Carmichael, and me._

But indeed, if you had seen that graceful slim figure—clad all in black
velvet, with the broad band of gold fringe round the neck—and the small,
shapely, smoothly-brushed head above the soft swathes of white
muslin—and if you had caught a glimpse of the black eyelashes drooping
outward from the curve of the pale cheek—and if you had heard the
tender, low voice of Mary Avon, you might have forgotten about the
Queen’s Maries altogether.

And then Dr. Sutherland: the Laird was determined—in true Scotch
fashion—that everybody who could not sing should be goaded to sing.

"Oh, well," said the young man, with a laugh, "you know a student in
Germany must sing whether he can or not.  And I learned there to smash
out something like an accompaniment also."

And he went to the piano without more ado and did smash out an
accompaniment.  And if his voice was rather harsh?—well, we should have
called it raucous in the case of East Wind, but we only called it manly
and strenuous when it was Angus Sutherland who sang. And it was a manly
song, too—a fitting song for our last night on shore, the words hailing
from the green woods of Fuinary, the air an air that had many a time
been heard among the western seas.  It was the song of the Biorlinn[#]
that he sang to us; we could hear the brave chorus and the splash of the
long oars:—

_Send the biorlinn on careering!_
_Cheerily and all together—_
  _Ho, ro, clansmen!_
_A long, strong pull together—_
  _Ho, ro, clansmen!_

_Give her way and show her wake_
_’Mid showering spray and curling eddies—_
  _Ho, ro, clansmen!_
_A long, strong pull together—_
  _Ho, ro, clansmen!_

Do we not hear now the measured stroke in the darkness of the morning?
The water springs from her bows; one by one the headlands are passed.
But lo! the day is breaking; the dawn will surely bring a breeze with
it; and then the sail of the gallant craft will bear her over the seas:—

_Another cheer, our Isle appears!_
_Our biorlinn bears her on the faster—_
  _Ho, ro, clansmen!_
_A long, strong pull together—_
  _Ho, ro, clansmen!_

_Ahead she goes! the land she knows!_
_Behold! the snowy shores of Canna—_
  _Ho, ro, clansmen!_
_A long, strong pull together—_
  _Ho, ro, clansmen!_

A long, strong pull together indeed: who could resist joining in the
thunder of the chorus? And we were bound for Canna, too: this was our
last night on shore.

[#] _Biorlinn_—that is, a rowing-boat.  The word is pronounced
_byurlen_.  The song, which in a measure imitates the rhythm peculiar to
Highland poetry—consisting in a certain repetition of the same vowel
sounds—is the production of Dr. Macleod, of Morven.  And here, for the
benefit of any one who minds such things, is a rough draft of the air,
arranged by a most charming young lady, who, however, says she would
much rather die than have her name mentioned:—

[Illustration: Music fragments]

Our last night on shore.  In such circumstances one naturally has a
glance round at the people with whom one is to be brought into such
close contact for many and many a day. But in this particular case, what
was the use of speculating, or grumbling, or remonstrating? There is a
certain household that is ruled with a rod of iron.  And if the mistress
of that household chose to select as her summer companions a "shilpit
bit thing," and a hard-headed, ambitious Scotch student, and a parochial
magnate haunted by a heresy-case, how dared one object?  There is such a
thing as peace and quietness.

But however unpromising the outlook might be, do we not know the remark
that is usually made by that hard-worked officer, the chief mate, when,
on the eve of a voyage, he finds himself confronted by an unusually
mongrel crew?  He regards those loafers and outcasts—from the Bowery,
and Ratcliffe Highway, and the Broomielaw—Greeks, niggers, and
Mexicans—with a critical and perhaps scornful air, and forthwith
proceeds to address them in the following highly polished manner:—

"By etcetera-etcetera, you are an etceteraed rum-looking lot; but
etcetera-etcetera me _if I don’t lick you into shape before we get to

And so—good-night!—and let all good people pray for fair skies and a
favouring breeze!  And if there is any song to be heard in our dreams,
let it be the song of the Queen’s Maries—in the low, tender voice of
Mary Avon:—

_There was Mary Beaton, and Mary Seaton,_
_And Mary Carmichael, and me._

                             *CHAPTER VII.*


We have bidden good-bye to the land; the woods and the green hills have
become pale in the haze of the summer light; we are out here, alone, on
the shining blue plain.  And if our young Doctor betrays a tendency to
keep forward—conversing with John of Skye about blocks, and tackle, and
winches; and if the Laird—whose parental care and regard for Mary Avon
is becoming beautiful to see—should have quite a monopoly of the young
lady, and be more bent than ever on amusing her with his "good ones;"
and if our queen and governor should spend a large portion of her time
below, in decorating cabins with flowers, in overhauling napery, and in
earnest consultation with Master Fred about certain culinary mysteries;
notwithstanding all these divergences of place and occupation, our
little kingdom afloat is compact enough.  There is always, for example,
a reassembling at meals. There is an instant community of interest when
a sudden cry calls all hands on deck to regard some new thing—the
spouting of a whale or the silvery splashing of a shoal of mackerel.
But now—but now—if only some cloud-compelling Jove would break this
insufferably fine weather, and give us a tearing good gale!

It is a strange little kingdom.  It has no postal service.  Shilling
telegrams are unknown in it; there is no newspaper at breakfast. There
are no barrel-organs; nor rattling hansoms raising the dust in windy
streets; there is no afternoon scandal; overheated rooms at midnight are
a thing of the past.  Serene, independent, self-centred, it minds its
own affairs; if the whole of Europe were roaring for war, not even an
echo of the cry would reach us.  We only hear the soft calling of the
sea-birds as we sit and read, or talk, or smoke; from time to time
watching the shadows move on the blistering hot decks, or guessing at
the names of the blue mountains that rise above Loch Etive and Lochaber.
At the present moment there is a faint summer haze over these mountains;
as yet we have around us none of the dazzling light and strangely
intense colours that are peculiar to this part of the world, and that
are only possible, in fact, in an atmosphere frequently washed clear by
squalls of rain.  This question of rain turns up at lunch.

"They prayed for rain in the churches last Sunday—so Captain John says,"
Mary Avon remarks.

"The distilleries are stopped: that’s very serious," continues the

"Well," says Queen T., "people talk about the rain in the West
Highlands.  It must be true, as everybody says it is true.  But
now—excepting the year we went to America with Sylvia Balfour—we have
been here for five years running; and each year we made up our mind for
a deluge—thinking we had deserved it, you know.  Well, it never came.
Look at this now."

And the fact was that we were lying motionless on the smooth bosom of
the Atlantic, with the sun so hot on the decks that we were glad to get

"Very strange—very strange, indeed," remarked the Laird, with a profound
air.  "Now what value are we to put on any historical evidence if we
find such a conflict of testimony about what is at our own doors?  How
should there be two opeenions about the weather in the West Highlands?
It is a matter of common experience—dear me!  I never heard the like."

"Oh, but I think we might try to reconcile those diverse opinions!" said
Angus Sutherland, with an absolute gravity.  "You hear mostly the
complaints of London people, who make much of a passing shower.  Then
the tourist and holiday folk, especially from the South, come in the
autumn, when the fine summer weather has broken.  And then," he added,
addressing himself with a frank smile to the small creature who had been
expressing her wonder over the fine weather, "perhaps, if you are
pleased with your holiday on the whole, you are not anxious to remember
the wet days; and then you are not afraid of a shower, I know; and
besides that, when one is yachting, one is more anxious for wind than
for fine weather."

"Oh, I am sure that is it!" called out Mary Avon quite eagerly.  She did
not care how she destroyed the Laird’s convictions about the value of
historical evidence.  "That is an explanation of the whole thing."

At this, our young Doctor—-who had been professing to treat this matter
seriously merely as a joke—quickly lowered his eyes.  He scarcely ever
looked Mary Avon in the face when she spoke to him, or when he had to
speak to her.  And a little bit of shy embarrassment in his manner
towards her—perceivable only at times—was all the more singular in a man
who was shrewd and hard-headed enough, who had knocked about the world
and seen many persons and things, and who had a fair amount of
unassuming self-confidence, mingled with a vein of sly and reticent
humour.  He talked freely enough when he was addressing our
admiral-in-chief. He was not afraid to meet _her_ eyes.  Indeed, they
were so familiar friends that she called him by his Christian name—a
practice which in general she detested.  But she would as soon have
thought of applying "Mr." to one of her own boys at Epsom College as to
Angus Sutherland.

"Well, you know, Angus," says she pleasantly, "you have definitely
promised to go up to the Outer Hebrides with us, and back. The longer
the calms last, the longer we shall have you.  So we shall gladly put up
with the fine weather."

"It is very kind of you to say so; but I have already had such a long

"Oh!" said Mary Avon, with her eyes full of wonder and indignation.  She
was too surprised to say any more.  She only stared at him.  She knew he
had been working night and day in Edinburgh.

"I mean," said he hastily, and looking down, "I have been away so long
from London. Indeed, I was getting rather anxious about my next month’s
number; but luckily, just before I left Edinburgh, a kind friend sent me
a most valuable paper, so I am quite at ease again.  Would you like to
read it, sir? It is set up in type."

He took the sheets from his pocket, and handed them to the Laird.
Denny-mains looked at the title.  It was _On the Radiolarians of the
Coal Measures_, and it was the production of a well-known professor.
The Laird handed back the paper without opening it.

"No, thank you," said he, with some dignity. "If I wished to be
instructed, I would like a safer guide than that man."

We looked with dismay on this dangerous thing that had been brought on
board: might it not explode and blow up the ship?

"Why," said our Doctor, in unaffected wonder, and entirely mistaking the
Laird’s exclamation, "he is a perfect master of his subject."

"There is a great deal too much speculation nowadays on these matters,
and parteecularly among the younger men," remarked the Laird severely.
And he looked at Angus Sutherland. "I suppose now ye are well acquainted
with the _Vestiges of Creation_?"

"I have heard of the book," said Brose—regretfully confessing his
ignorance, "but I never happened to see it."

The Laird’s countenance lightened.

"So much the better—so much the better. A most mischievous and
unsettling book.  But all the harm it can do is counteracted by a noble
work—a conclusive work that leaves nothing to be said.  Ye have read the
_Testimony of the Rocks_, no doubt?"

"Oh, yes, certainly," our Doctor was glad to be able to say; "but—but it
was a long time ago—when I was a boy, in fact."

"Boy, or man, you’ll get no better book on the history of the earth.  I
tell ye, sir, I never read a book that placed such firm conviction in my
mind.  Will ye get any of the new men they are talking about as keen an
observer and as skilful in arguing as Hugh Miller?  No, no; not one of
them dares to try to upset the _Testimony of the Rocks_."

Angus Sutherland appealed against this sentence of finality only in a
very humble way.

"Of course, sir," said he meekly, "you know that science is still moving

"Science?" repeated the Laird.  "Science may be moving forward or moving
backward; but can it upset the facts of the earth? Science may say what
it likes; but the facts remain the same."

Now this point was so conclusive that we unanimously hailed the Laird as
victor.  Our young Doctor submitted with an excellent good humour.  He
even promised to post that paper on the Radiolarians at the very first
post-office we might reach: we did not want any such explosive compounds
on board.

That night we only got as far as Fishnish Bay—a solitary little harbour
probably down on but few maps; and that we had to reach by getting out
the gig for a tow.  There was a strange bronze-red in the northern
skies, long after the sun had set; but in here the shadow of the great
mountains was on the water.  We could scarcely see the gig; but Angus
Sutherland had joined the men and was pulling stroke; and along with the
measured splash of the oars, we heard something about "_Ho, ro,
clansmen!_"  Then, in the cool night air, there was a slight fragrance
of peat-smoke; we knew we were getting near the shore.

"He’s a fine fellow, that," says the Laird, generously, of his defeated
antagonist.  "A fine fellow.  His knowledge of different things is just
remarkable; and he’s as modest as a girl.  Ay, and he can row, too; a
while ago when it was lighter, I could see him put his shoulders into
it.  Ay, he’s a fine, good-natured fellow, and I am glad he has not been
led astray by that mischievous book, the _Vestiges of Creation_."

Come on board now, boys, and swing up the gig to the davits!  Twelve
fathoms of chain?—away with her then!—and there is a roar in the silence
of the lonely little bay. And thereafter silence; and the sweet
fragrance of the peat in the night air, and the appearance, above the
black hills, of a clear, shining, golden planet that sends a quivering
line of light across the water to us.  And, once more, good-night and
pleasant dreams!

But what is this in the morning?  There have been no pleasant dreams for
John of Skye and his merry men during the last night; for here we are
already between Mingary Bay and Ru-na-Gaul Lighthouse; and before us is
the open Atlantic, blue under the fair skies of the morning.  And here
is Dr. Sutherland, at the tiller, with a suspiciously negligent look
about his hair and shirt-collar.

"I have been up since four," says he, with a laugh.  "I heard them
getting under way, and did not wish to miss anything.  You know these
places are not so familiar to me as they are to you."

"Is there going to be any wind to-day, John?"

"No mich," says John of Skye, looking at the cloudless blue vault above
the glassy sweeps of the sea.

Nevertheless, as the morning goes by, we get as much of a breeze as
enables us to draw away from the mainland—round Ardnamurchan ("the
headland of the great sea") and out into the open—with Muick Island, and
the sharp Scuir of Eigg, and the peaks of Rum lying over there on the
still Atlantic, and far away in the north the vast and spectral
mountains of Skye.

And now the work of the day begins.  Mary Avon, for mere shame’s sake,
is at last compelled to produce one of her blank canvases and open her
box of tubes.  And now it would appear that Angus Sutherland—though
deprived of the authority of the sick-room—is beginning to lose his fear
of the English young lady.  He makes himself useful—not with the
elaborate and patronising courtesy of the Laird, but in a sort of
submissive, matter-of-fact shifty fashion.  He sheathes the spikes of
her easel with cork so that they shall not mark the deck.  He rigs up,
to counterbalance that lack of stability, a piece of cord with a heavy
weight.  Then, with the easel fixed, he fetches her a deck-chair to sit
in, and a deck-stool for her colours, and these and her he places under
the lee of the foresail, to be out of the glare of the sun.  Thus our
artist is started; she is going to make a sketch of the after-part of
the yacht with Hector of Moidart at the tiller: beyond, the calm blue
seas, and a faint promontory of land.

Then the Laird—having confidentially remarked to Miss Avon that Tom
Galbraith, than whom there is no greater authority living, invariably
moistens the fresh canvas with megilp before beginning work—has turned
to the last report of the Semple case.

"No, no," says he to our sovereign lady, who is engaged in some
mysterious work in wool, "it does not look well for the Presbytery to go
over every one of the charges in the major proposeetion—supported by the
averments in the minor—only to find them irrelevant; and then bring home
to him the part of the libel that deals with tendency.  No, no; that
shows a lamentable want of purpose.  In view of the great danger to be
apprehended from these secret assaults on the inspiration of the
Scriptures, they should have stuck to each charge with tenahcity.  Now,
I will just show ye where Dr. Carnegie, in defending
_Secundo_—illustrated as it was with the extracts and averments in the
minor—let the whole thing slip through his fingers."

But if any one were disposed to be absolutely idle on this calm,
shining, beautiful day—far away from the cares and labours of the land?
Out on the taffrail, under shadow of the mizen, there is a seat that is
gratefully cool.  The Mare of the sea no longer bewilders the eyes; one
can watch with a lazy enjoyment the teeming life of the open Atlantic.
The great skarts go whizzing by, long-necked, rapid of flight.  The
gannets poise in the air, and then there is a sudden dart downwards, and
a spout of water flashes up where the bird has dived.  The guillemots
fill the silence with their soft kurrooing—and here they are on all
sides of us—_Kirroo! Kurroo!_—dipping their bills in the water,
hastening away from the vessel, and then rising on the surface to flap
their wings.  But this is a strange thing: they are all in
pairs—obviously mother and child—and the mother calls _Kurroo!
Kurroo!_—and the young one unable as yet to dive or swim, answers
_Pe-yoo-it!  Pe-yoo-it!_ and flutters and paddles after her.  But where
is the father?  And has the guillemot only one of a family?  Over that
one, at all events, she exercises a valiant protection.  Even though the
stem of the yacht seems likely to run both of them down, she will
neither dive nor fly until she has piloted the young one out of danger.

Then a sudden cry startles the Laird from his heresy-case and Mary Avon
from her canvas.  A sound far away has turned all eyes to the north;
though there is nothing visible there, over the shining calm of the sea,
but a small cloud of white spray that slowly sinks.  In a second or two,
however, we see another jet of white water arise; and then a great brown
mass heave slowly over; and then we hear the spouting of the whale.

"What a huge animal!" cries one.  "A hundred feet!"

"Eighty, any way!"

The whale is sheering off to the north: there is less and less chance of
our forming any correct estimate.

"Oh, I am sure it was a hundred!  Don’t you think so, Angus?" says our

"Well," says the Doctor, slowly—pretending to be very anxious about
keeping the sails full (when there was no wind)—"you know there is a
great difference between ’yacht measurement’ and ’registered tonnage.’
A vessel of fifty registered tons may become eighty or ninety by yacht
measurement.  And I have often noticed," continues this graceless young
man, who takes no thought how he is bringing contempt on his elders,
"that objects seen from the deck of a yacht are naturally subject to
’yacht measurement.’  I don’t know what the size of that whale may be.
Its registered tonnage, I suppose, would be the number of Jonahs it
could carry.  But I should think that if the apparent ’yacht
measurement’ was a hundred feet, the whale was probably about twenty
feet long."

It was thus he tried to diminish the marvels of the deep!  But, however
he might crush us otherwise, we were his masters on one point. The
Semple heresy-case was too deep even for him.  What could he make of
"_the first alternative of the general major_"?

And see now, on this calm summer evening, we pass between Muick and
Eigg; and the sea is like a plain of gold.  As we draw near the sombre
mass of Rum, the sunset deepens, and a strange lurid mist hangs around
this remote and mountainous island rising sheer from the Atlantic.
Gloomy and mysterious are the vast peaks of Haleval and Haskeval; we
creep under them—favoured by a flood-tide—and the silence of the
desolate shores seems to spread out from them and to encompass us.

Mary Avon has long ago put away her canvas; she sits and watches; and
her soft black eyes are full of dreaming as she gazes up at those
thunder-dark mountains against the rosy haze of the west.

"Haleval and Haskeval?" Angus Sutherland repeats, in reply to his
hostess; but he starts all the same, for he has been covertly regarding
the dark and wistful eyes of the girl sitting there.  "Oh, these are
Norse names.  Scuir na Gillean, on the other hand, is Gaelic—it is _the
peak of the young men_.  Perhaps, the Norsemen had the north of the
island, and the Celts the south."

Whether they were named by Scandinavian or by Celt, Haleval and Haskeval
seemed to overshadow us with their sultry gloom as we slowly glided into
the lonely loch lying at their base.  We were the only vessel there; and
we could make out no sign of life on shore, until the glass revealed to
us one or two half-ruined cottages.  The northern twilight shone in the
sky far into the night; but neither that clear metallic glow, nor any
radiance from moon, or planet, or star, seemed to affect the
thunder-darkness of Haskeval and Haleval’s silent peaks.

There was another tale to tell below—the big saloon aglow with candles;
the white table-cover with its centre-piece of roses, nasturtiums, and
ferns; the delayed dinner, or supper, or whatever it might be called,
all artistically arranged; our young Doctor most humbly solicitous that
Mary Avon should be comfortably seated, and, in fact, quite usurping the
office of the Laird in that respect; and then a sudden sound in the
galley, a hissing as of a thousand squibs, telling us that Master Fred
had once more and ineffectually tried to suppress the released genie of
the bottle by jamming down the cork. Forthwith the Laird, with his
old-fashioned ways, must needs propose a health, which is that of our
most sovereign and midge-like mistress; and this he does with an
elaborate and gracious and sonorous courtesy.  And surely there is no
reason why Mary Avon should not for once break her habit and join in
that simple ceremony; especially when it is a real live Doctor—and not
only a Doctor, but an encyclopædia of scientific and all other
knowledge—who would fain fill her glass? Angus Sutherland timidly but
seriously pleads; and he does not plead in vain; and you would think
from his look that she had conferred an extraordinary favour on him.
Then we—we propose a health too—the health of the FOUR WINDS! and we do
not care which of them it is who is coming to-morrow, so long as he or
she comes in force.  Blow, breezes, blow!—from the Coolins of Skye, or
the shores of Coll, or the glens of Arisaig and Moidart—for to-morrow
morning we shake out once more the white wings of the _White Dove_, and
set forth for the loneliness of the northern seas.

                            *CHAPTER VIII.*

                       *PLOTS AND COUNTER-PLOTS.*

Now the Laird has a habit—laudable or not—of lingering over an
additional half-cup at breakfast, as an excuse for desultory talk; and
thus it is, on this particular morning, the young people having gone on
deck to see the yacht get under way, that Denny-mains has a chance of
revealing to us certain secret schemes of his over which he has
apparently been brooding. How could we have imagined that all this
plotting and planning had been going on beneath the sedate exterior of
the Commissioner for the Burgh of Strathgovan?

"She’s just a wonderful bit lass!" he says, confidently, to his hostess;
"as happy and contented as the day is long; and when she’s not singing
to herself, her way of speech has a sort of—a sort of music in it that
is quite new to me.  Yes, I must admit that; I did not know that the
southern English tongue was so accurate and pleasant to the ear.  Ay,
but what will become of her?"

What, indeed!  The lady whom he was addressing had often spoken to him
of Mary Avon’s isolated position in the world.

"It fairly distresses me," continues the good-hearted Laird, "when I
think of her condeetion—not at present, when she has, if I may be
allowed to say so, _several_ friends near her who would be glad to do
what they could for her; but by and by, when she is becoming older——"

The Laird hesitated.  Was it possible, after all, that he was about to
hint at the chance of Mary Avon becoming the mistress of the mansion and
estate of Denny-mains?  Then he made a plunge.

"A young woman in her position should have a husband to protect her,
that is what I am sure of.  Have ye never thought of it, ma’am?"

"I should like very well to see Mary married," says the other, demurely.
"And I know she would make an excellent wife."

"An excellent wife!" exclaims the Laird; and then he adds, with a tone
approaching to severity, "I tell ye he will be a fortunate man that gets
her.  Oh, ay; I have watched her. I can keep my eyes open when there is
need. Did you hear her asking the captain about his wife and children?
I tell you there’s _human nature_ in that lass."

There was no need for the Laird to be so pugnacious; we were not
contesting the point. However, he resumed—

"I have been thinking," said he, with a little more shyness, "about my
nephew.  He’s a good lad.  Well, ye know, ma’am, that I do not approve
of young men being brought up in idleness, whatever their prospects must
be; and I have no doubt whatever that my nephew Howard is working hard
enough—what with the reading of law-books, and attending the courts, and
all that—though as yet he has not had much business.  But then there is
no necessity. I do not think he is a lad of any great ambeetion, like
your friend Mr. Sutherland, who has to fight his way in the world in any
case.  But Howard—I have been thinking now that if he was to get married
and settled, he might give up the law business altogether; and, if they
were content to live in Scotland, he might look after Denny-mains.  It
will be his in any case, ye know; he would have the interest of a man
looking after his own property.  Now, I will tell ye plainly, ma’am,
what I have been thinking about this day or two back; if Howard would
marry your young lady friend, that would be agreeable to me."

The calm manner in which the Laird announced his scheme showed that it
had been well matured.  It was a natural, simple, feasible arrangement,
by which two persons in whom he took a warm interest would be benefited
at once.

"But then, sir," said his hostess, with a smile which she could not
wholly repress, "you know people never do marry to please a third
person—at least, very seldom."

"Oh, there can be no forcing," said the Laird with decision.  "But I
have done a great deal for Howard; may I not expect that he will do
something for me?"

"Oh, doubtless, doubtless," says this amiable lady, who has had some
experience in match-making herself; "but I have generally found that
marriages that would be in every way suitable and pleasing to friends,
and obviously desirable, are precisely the marriages that never come
off.  Young people, when they are flung at each other’s heads, to use
the common phrase, never will be sensible and please their relatives.
Now if you were to bring your nephew here, do you think Mary would fall
in love with him because she ought?  More likely you would find that,
out of pure contrariety, she would fall in love with Angus Sutherland,
who cannot afford to marry, and whose head is filled with other things."

"I am not sure, I am not sure," said the Laird, musingly.  "Howard is a
good-looking young fellow, and a capital lad, too.  I am not so sure."

"And then, you know," said the other shyly, for she will not plainly say
anything to Mary’s disparagement, "young men have different tastes in
their choice of a wife.  He might not have the high opinion of her that
you have."

At this the Laird gave a look of surprise—even of resentment.

"Then I’ll tell ye what it is, ma’am," said he, almost angrily; "if my
nephew had the chance of marrying such a girl, and did not do so, I
should consider him—I should consider him _a fool_, and say so."

And then he added, sharply—

"And do ye think I would let Denny-mains pass into the hands of _a

Now this kind lady had had no intention of rousing the wrath of the
Laird in this manner; and she instantly set about pacifying him.  And
the Laird was easily pacified.  In a minute or two he was laughing
good-naturedly at himself for getting into a passion; he said it would
not do for one at his time of life to try to play the part of the stern
father as they played that in theatre pieces—there was to be no forcing.

"But he’s a good lad, ma’am, a good lad," said he, rising as his hostess
rose; and he added, significantly, "he is no fool, I assure ye, ma’am;
he has plenty of common sense."

When we get up on deck again, we find that the _White Dove_ is gently
gliding out of the lonely Loch Scresorst, with its solitary house among
the trees, and its crofters’ huts at the base of the sombre hills.  And
as the light cool breeze—gratefully cool after the blazing heat of the
last day or two—carries us away northward, we see more and more of the
awful solitudes of Haleval and Haskeval, that are still thunderous and
dark under the hazy sky. Above the great shoulders, and under the purple
peaks, we see the far-reaching corries opening up, with here and there a
white waterfall just visible in the hollows.  There is a sense of escape
as we draw away from that overshadowing gloom.

Then we discover that we have a new skipper to-day, _vice_ John of Skye,
deposed. The fresh hand is Mary Avon, who is at the tiller, and looking
exceedingly business-like. She has been promoted to this post by Dr.
Sutherland, who stands by; she receives explanations about the procedure
of Hector of Moidart, who is up aloft, lacing the smaller topsail to the
mast; she watches the operations of John of Skye and Sandy, who are at
the sheets below; and, like a wise and considerate captain, she pretends
not to notice Master Fred, who is having a quiet smoke by the windlass.
And so, past those lonely shores sails the brave vessel—the yawl _White
Dove_, Captain Mary Avon, bound for anywhere.

But you must not imagine that the new skipper is allowed to stand by the
tiller. Captain though she may be, she has to submit civilly to
dictation, in so far as her foot is concerned, Our young Doctor has
compelled her to be seated, and he has passed a rope round the tiller
that so she can steer from her chair, and from time to time he gives
suggestions, which she receives as orders.

"I wish I had been with you when you first sprained your foot," he says.

"Yes?" she answers, with humble inquiry in her eyes.

"I would have put it in plaster of Paris," he says, in a matter-of-fact
way, "and locked you up in the house for a fortnight; at the end of that
time you would not know which ankle was the sprained one."

There was neither "with your leave" nor "by your leave" in this young
man’s manner when he spoke of that accident.  He would have taken
possession of her.  He would have discarded your bandages and hartshorn,
and what not; when it was Mary Avon’s foot that was concerned—it was
intimated to us—he would have had his own way in spite of all comers.

"I wish I had known," she says, timidly, meaning that it was the
treatment she wished she had known.

"There is a more heroic remedy," said he, with a smile; "and that is
walking the sprain off.  I believe that can be done, but most people
would shrink from the pain.  Of course, if it were done at all, it would
be done by a woman; women can bear pain infinitely better than men."

"Oh, do you think so!" she says, in mild protest.  "Oh, I am sure not.
Men are so much braver than women, so much stronger——"

But this gentle quarrel is suddenly stopped, for some one calls
attention to a deer that is calmly browsing on one of the high slopes
above that rocky shore, and instantly all glasses are in request.  It is
a hind, with a beautifully shaped head and slender legs; she takes no
notice of the passing craft, but continues her feeding, walking a few
steps onward from time to time.  In this way she reaches the edge of a
gully in the rugged cliffs where there is some brushwood, and probably a
stream; into this she sedately descends, and we see her no more.

Then there is another cry; what is this cloud ahead, or waterspout
resting on the calm bosom of the sea?  Glasses again in request, amid
many exclamations, reveal to us that this is a dense cloud of birds; a
flock so vast that towards the water it seems black; can it be the dead
body of a whale that has collected this world of wings from all the
Northern seas?  Hurry on, _White Dove_; for the floating cloud with the
black base is moving and seething—in fantastic white fumes, as it
were—in the loveliness of this summer day. And now, as we draw nearer,
we can descry that there is no dead body of a whale causing that
blackness; but only the density of the mass of seafowl.  And nearer and
nearer as we draw, behold! the great gannets swooping down in such
numbers that the sea is covered with a mist of waterspouts; and the air
is filled with innumerable cries; and we do not know what to make of
this bewildering, fluttering, swimming, screaming mass of terns,
guillemots, skarts, kittiwakes, razorbills, puffins, and gulls.  But
they draw away again.  The herring-shoal is moving northward.  The
murmur of cries becomes more remote, and the seething cloud of the
sea-birds is slowly dispersing.  When the _White Dove_ sails up to the
spot at which this phenomenon was first seen, there is nothing visible
but a scattered assemblage of guillemots—_kurroo! kurroo!_ answered by
_pe-yoo-it! pe-yoo-it!_—and great gannets—"as big as a sheep," says John
of Skye—apparently so gorged that they lie on the water within
stone’s-throw of the yacht, before spreading out their long, snow-white,
black-tipped wings to bear them away over the sea.

And now, as we are altering our course to the west—far away to our right
stand the vast Coolins of Skye—we sail along the northern shores of Rum.
There is no trace of any habitation visible; nothing but the precipitous
cliffs, and the sandy bays, and the outstanding rocks dotted with rows
of shining black skarts. When Mary Avon asks why those sandy bays should
be so red, and why a certain ruddy warmth of colour should shine through
even the patches of grass, our F.R.S. begins to speak of powdered basalt
rubbed down from the rocks above.  He would have her begin another
sketch, but she is too proud of her newly acquired knowledge to forsake
the tiller.

The wind is now almost dead aft, and we have a good deal of gybing.
Other people might think that all this gybing was an evidence of bad
steering on the part of our new skipper; but Angus Sutherland—and we
cannot contradict an F.R.S.—assures Miss Avon that she is doing
remarkably well; and, as he stands by to lay hold of the main sheet when
the boom swings over, we are not in much danger of carrying away either
port or starboard davits.

"Do you know," says he lightly, "I sometimes think I ought to apply for
the post of surgeon on board a man-of-war?  That would just suit me——"

"Oh, I hope you will not," she blurts out quite inadvertently; and
thereafter there is a deep blush on her face.

"I should enjoy it immensely, I know," says he, wholly ignorant of her
embarrassment, because he is keeping an eye on the sails. "I believe I
should have more pleasure in life that way than any other——"

"But you do not live for your own pleasure," says she hastily, perhaps
to cover her confusion.

"I have no one else to live for, any way," says he, with a laugh; and
then he corrected himself.  "Oh, yes, I have.  My father is a sad
heretic.  He has fallen away from the standards of his faith; he has set
up idols—the diplomas and medals I have got from time to time.  He has
them all arranged in his study, and I have heard that he positively sits
down before them and worships them. When I sent him the medal from
Vienna—it was only bronze—he returned to me his Greek Testament, that he
had interleaved and annotated when he was a student; I believe it was
his greatest possession."

"And you would give up all that he expects from you to go away and be a
doctor on board a ship!" says Mary Avon, with some proud emphasis.
"That would not be my ambition if I were a man, and—and—if I had—if——"

Well, she could not quite say to Brose’s face what she thought of his
powers and prospects; so she suddenly broke away and said—

"Yes; you would go and do that for your own amusement?  And what would
the amusement be?  Do you think they would let the doctor interfere with
the sailing of the ship?"

"Well," said he, laughing, "that is a practical objection.  I don’t
suppose the captain of a man-of-war or even of a merchant vessel would
be as accommodating as your John of Skye.  Captain John has his
compensation when he is relieved; he can go forward, and light his

"Well, I think for _your father’s sake_," says Miss Avon, with decision,
"you had better put that idea out of your head, once and for all."

Now blow, breezes, blow!  What is the great headland that appears,
striking out into the wide Atlantic?

_Ahead she goes! the land she knows!_
_Behold! the snowy shores of Canna!_
  _Ho, ro, clansmen!_
_A long, strong pull together,_
  _Ho, ro, clansmen!_

"Tom Galbraith," the Laird is saying solemnly to his hostess, "has
assured me that Rum is the most picturesque island on the whole of the
western coast of Scotland.  That is his deleeberate opinion.  And indeed
I would not go so far as to say he was wrong.  Arran! They talk about
Arran!  Just look at those splendid mountains coming sheer down to the
sea; and the light of the sun on them!  Eh me, what a sunset there will
be this night!"

"Canna?" says Dr. Sutherland, to his interlocutor, who seems very
anxious to be instructed.  "Oh, I don’t know.  _Canna_ in Gaelic is
simply a can; but then _Cana_ is a whale; and the island in the distance
looks long and flat on the water.  Or it may be from _canach_—that is,
the moss-cotton; or from _cannach_—that is, the sweet-gale. You see,
Miss Avon, ignorant people have an ample choice."

Blow! breezes blow! as the yellow light of the afternoon shines over the
broad Atlantic. Here are the eastern shores of Canna, high and rugged,
and dark with caves; and there the western shores of Rum, the mighty
mountains aglow in the evening light.  And this remote and solitary
little bay, with its green headlands, and its awkward rocks at the
mouth, and the one house presiding over it amongst that shining
wilderness of shrubs and flowers? Here is fair shelter for the night.

After dinner, in the lambent twilight, we set out with the gig; and
there was much preparation of elaborate contrivances for the entrapping
of fish.  But the Laird’s occult and intricate tackle—the spinning
minnows, and spoons, and india-rubber sand-eels—proved no competitor for
the couple of big white flies that Angus Sutherland had busked.  And of
course Mary Avon had that rod; and when some huge lithe dragged the end
of the rod fairly under water, and when she cried aloud, "Oh! oh! I
can’t hold it; he’ll break the rod!" then arose our Doctor’s word of

"Haul him in!  Shove out the butt!  No scientific playing with a lithe!
Well done!—well done!—a five-pounder I’ll bet ten farthings!"

It was not scientific fishing; but we got big fish—which is of more
importance in the eyes of Master Fred.  And then, as the night fell, we
set out again for the yacht; and the Doctor pulled stroke; and he sang
some more verses of the _biorlinn_ song as the blades dashed fire into
the rushing sea:—

_Proudly o’er the waves we’ll bound her,_
_As the staghound bounds the heather!_
  _Ho, ro, clansmen!_
_A long, strong pull together,_
  _Ho, ro, clansmen!_

_Through the eddying tide we’ll guide her,_
_Round each isle and breezy headland,_
  _Ho, ro, clansmen!_
_A long, strong pull together,_
  _Ho, ro, clansmen!_

The yellow lamp at the bow of the yacht grew larger and larger; the hull
of the boat looked black between us and the starlit heavens; as we
clambered on board there was a golden glow from the saloon skylight. And
then, during the long and happy evening, amid all the whist-playing and
other amusements going forward, what about certain timid courtesies and
an occasional shy glance between those two young people?  Some of us
began to think that if the Laird’s scheme was to come to anything, it
was high time that Mr. Howard Smith put in an appearance.

                             *CHAPTER IX.*

                            *A WILD STUDIO.*

There is a fine bustle of preparation next morning—for the gig is
waiting by the side of the yacht; and Dr. Sutherland is carefully
getting our artist’s materials into the stern; and the Laird is busy
with shawls and waterproofs; and Master Fred brings along the
luncheon-basket.  Our Admiral-in-chief prefers to stay on board; she has
letters to write; there are enough of us to go and be tossed on the
Atlantic swell off the great caves of Canna.

And as the men strike their oars in the water and we wave a last adieu,
the Laird catches a glimpse of our larder at the stern of the yacht.
Alas! there is but one remaining piece of fresh meat hanging there,
under the white canvas.

"It reminds me," says he, beginning to laugh already, "of a good one
that Tom Galbraith told me—a real good one that was.  Tom had a little
bit yacht that his man and himself sailed when he was painting, ye know;
and one day they got into a bay where Duncan—that was the man’s name—had
some friends ashore.  Tom left him in charge of the yacht; and—and—ha!
ha! ha!—there was a leg of mutton hanging at the stern.  Well, Tom was
rowed ashore; and painted all day; and came back to the yacht in the
afternoon. _There was no leg of mutton_!  ’Duncan,’ says he, ’where is
the leg of mutton?’  Duncan pretended to be vastly surprised.  ’Iss it
away?’ says he.  ’Away?’ says Tom.  ’Don’t you see it is away?  I want
to know who took it!’  Duncan looked all round him—at the sea and the
sky—and then says he—then says he, ’Maybe it wass a dog!’—ha! ha! hee!
hee! hee!—’maybe it wass a dog,’ says he; and they were half a mile from
the shore! I never see the canvas at the stern of a yacht without
thinking o’ Tom Galbraith and the leg of mutton;" and here the Laird
laughed long and loud again.

"I have heard you speak once or twice about Tom Galbraith," remarked our
young Doctor, without meaning the least sarcasm; "he is an artist, I

The Laird stopped laughing.  There was a look of indignant
wonder—approaching to horror—on his face.  But when he proceeded, with
some dignity and even resentment, to explain to this ignorant person the
immense importance of the school that Tom Galbraith had been chiefly
instrumental in forming; and the high qualities of that artist’s
personal work; and how the members of the Royal Academy shook in their
shoes at the mere mention of Tom Galbraith’s name, he became more
pacified; for Angus Sutherland listened with great respect, and even
promised to look out for Mr. Galbraith’s work if he passed through
Edinburgh on his way to the south.

The long, swinging stroke of the men soon took us round the successive
headlands until we were once more in the open, with the mountains of
Skye in the north, and, far away at the horizon, a pale line which we
knew to be North Uist.  And now the green shores of Canna were becoming
more precipitous; and there was a roaring of the sea along the spurs of
black rock; and the long Atlantic swell, breaking on the bows of the
gig, was sending a little more spray over us than was at all desirable.
Certainly no one who could have seen the Doctor at this moment—with his
fresh-coloured face dripping with the salt water and shining in the
sunlight—would have taken him for a hard-worked and anxious student.
His hard work was pulling stroke-oar, and he certainly put his shoulders
into it, as the Laird had remarked; and his sole anxiety was about Mary
Avon’s art-materials.  That young lady shook the water from the two
blank canvases, and declared it did not matter a bit.

These lonely cliffs!—becoming more grim and awful every moment, as this
mite of a boat still wrestles with the great waves, and makes its way
along the coast.  And yet there are tender greens where the pasturage
appears on the high plateaus; and there is a soft ruddy hue where the
basalt shines.  The gloom of the picture appears below—in the caves
washed out of the conglomerate by the heavy seas; in the spurs and
fantastic pillars and arches of the black rock; and in this leaden-hued
Atlantic springing high over every obstacle to go roaring and booming
into the caverns.  And these innumerable white specks on the sparse
green plateaus and on this high promontory: can they be mushrooms in
millions?  Suddenly one of the men lifts his oar from the rowlock, and
rattles it on the gunwale of the gig.  At this sound a cloud rises from
the black rocks; it spreads; the next moment the air is darkened over
our heads; and almost before we know what has happened, this vast
multitude of puffins has wheeled by us, and wheeled again further out to
sea—a smoke of birds!  And as we watch them, behold! stragglers come
back—in thousands upon thousands—the air is filled with them—some of
them swooping so near us that we can see the red parrot-like beak and
the orange-hued web-feet, and then again the green shelves of grass and
the pinnacles of rock become dotted with those white specks.  The
myriads of birds; the black caverns; the arches and spurs of rock; the
leaden-hued Atlantic bounding and springing in white foam: what says
Mary Avon to that?  Has she the courage?

"If you can put me ashore?" says she.

"Oh, we will get you ashore, somehow," Dr. Sutherland answers.

But, indeed, the nearer we approach that ugly coast the less we like the
look of it. Again and again we make for what should be a sheltered bit;
but long before we can get to land we can see through the plunging sea
great masses of yellow, which we know to be the barnacled rock; and then
ahead we find a shore that, in this heavy surf, would make match-wood of
the gig in three seconds.  Our Doctor, however, will not give in.  If he
cannot get the gig on to any beach or into any creek, he will land our
artist somehow.  And at last—and in spite of the remonstrances of John
of Skye—he insists on having the boat backed in to a projecting mass of
conglomerate, all yellowed over with small shell-fish, against which the
sea is beating heavily.  It is an ugly landing-place; we can see the
yellow rock go sheer down in the clear green sea; and the surf is
spouting up the side in white jets.  But if she can watch a high wave,
and put her foot there—and there—will she not find herself directly on a
plateau of rock at least twelve feet square?

"Back her, John!—back her!—" and therewith the Doctor, watching his
chance, scrambles out and up to demonstrate the feasibility of the
thing.  And the easel is handed out to him; and the palette and
canvases; and finally Mary Avon herself.  Nay, even the Laird will
adventure, sending on before him the luncheon-basket.

It is a strange studio—this projecting shell-crusted rock, surrounded on
three sides by the sea, and on the fourth by an impassable cliff. And
the sounds beneath our feet—there must be some subterranean passage or
cave into which the sea roars and booms.  But Angus Sutherland rigs up
the easel rapidly; and arranges the artist’s camp-stool; and sets her
fairly agoing; then he proposes to leave the Laird in charge of her.  He
and the humble chronicler of the adventures of these people mean to have
some further exploration of this wild coast.

But we had hardly gone a quarter of a mile or so—it was hard work
pulling in this heavy sea—when the experienced eye of Sandy from Islay
saw that something was wrong.

"What’s that?" he said, staring.

We turned instantly, and strove to look through the mists of spray.
Where we had left the Laird and Mary Avon there were now visible only
two mites, apparently not bigger than puffins.  But is not one of the
puffins gesticulating wildly?

"Round with her, John!" the Doctor calls out.  "They want us—I’m sure."

And away the gig goes again—plunging into the great troughs and then
swinging up to the giddy crests.  And as we get nearer and nearer, what
is the meaning of the Laird’s frantic gestures?  We cannot understand
him; and it is impossible to hear, for the booming of the sea into the
caves drowns his voice.

"He has lost his hat," says Angus Sutherland; and then, the next second,
"Where’s the easel?"

Then we understand those wild gestures. Pull away, merry men! for has
not a squall swept the studio of its movables?  And there, sure enough,
tossing high and low on the waves, we descry a variety of things—an
easel, two canvases, a hat, a veil, and what not.  Up with the boat-hook
to the bow; and gently with those plunges, you eager Hector of Moidart!

"I am so sorry," she says (or rather shrieks), when her dripping
property is restored to her.

"It was my fault," our Doctor yells; "but I will undertake to fasten
your easel properly this time"—and therewith he fetches a lump of rock
that might have moored a man-of-war.

We stay and have luncheon in this gusty and thunderous studio—though
Mary Avon will scarcely turn from her canvas.  And there is no painting
of pink geraniums about this young woman’s work.  We see already that
she has got a thorough grip of this cold, hard coast (the sun is
obscured now, and the various hues are more sombre than ever); and,
though she has not had time as yet to try to catch the motion of the
rolling sea, she has got the colour of it—a leaden-grey, with glints of
blue and white, and with here and there a sudden splash of deep, rich,
glassy, bottle green, where some wave for a moment catches, just as it
gets to the shore, a reflection from the grass plateaus above.  Very
good, Miss Avon; very good—but we pretend that we are not looking.

Then away we go again, to leave the artist to her work; and we go as
near as possible—the high sea will not allow us to enter—the vast black
caverns; and we watch through the clear water for those masses of yellow
rock. And then the multitudes of white-breasted, red-billed birds
perched up there—close to the small burrows in the scant grass; they
jerk their heads about in a watchful way just like the prairie-dogs at
the mouth of their sandy habitations on the Colorado plains.  And then
again a hundred or two of them come swooping down from the rocky
pinnacles and sail over our heads—twinkling bits of colour between the
grey-green sea and the blue-and-white of the sky.  They resent the
presence of strangers in this far-home of the sea-birds.

It is a terrible business getting that young lady and her paraphernalia
back into the gig again; for the sea is still heavy, and, of course,
additional care has now to be taken of the precious canvas.  But at last
she, and the Laird, and the luncheon-basket, and everything else have
been got on board; and away we go for the yacht again, in the now
clearing afternoon.  As we draw further away from the roar of the caves,
it is more feasible to talk; and naturally we are all very complimentary
about Mary Avon’s sketch in oils.

"Ay," says the Laird, "and it wants but one thing; and I am sure I could
get Tom Galbraith to put that in for you.  A bit of a yacht, ye know, or
other sailing vessel, put below the cliffs, would give people a notion
of the height of the cliffs, do ye see?  I am sure I could get Tom
Galbraith to put that in for ye."

"I hope Miss Avon won’t let Tom Galbraith or anybody else meddle with
the picture." says Angus Sutherland, with some emphasis. "Why, a yacht!
Do you think anybody would let a yacht come close to rocks like these!
As soon as you introduce any making-up like that, the picture is a sham.
It is the real thing now, as it stands.  Twenty years hence you could
take up that piece of canvas, and there before you would be the very day
that you spent here—it would be like finding your old life of twenty
years before opened up to you with a lightning-flash.  The picture
is—why I should say it is invaluable, as it stands."

At this somewhat fierce praise, Mary Avon colours a little.  And then
she says with a gentle hypocrisy—

"Oh, do you really think there is—there is—some likeness to the place?"

"It is the place itself!" says he warmly.

"Because," she says, timidly, and yet with a smile, "one likes to have
one’s work appreciated, however stupid it may be.  And—and—if you think
that—would you like to have it?  Because I should be so proud if you
would take it—only I am ashamed to offer my sketches to anybody——"

"That!" said he, staring at the canvas as if the mines of Golconda were
suddenly opened to him.  But then he drew back.  "Oh, no," he said; "you
are very kind—but—but, you know, I cannot.  You would think I had been
asking for it."

"Well," says Miss Avon, still looking down, "I never was treated like
this before.  You won’t take it?  You don’t think it is worth putting in
your portmanteau?"

At this the young Doctor’s face grew very red; but he said boldly—

"Very well, now, if you have been playing fast and loose, you shall be
punished.  I _will_ take the picture, whether you grudge it me or not.
And I don’t mean to give it up now."

"Oh," said she, very gently, "if it reminds you of the place, I shall be
very pleased—and—and it may remind you too that I am not likely to
forget your kindness to poor Mrs. Thompson."

And so this little matter was amicably settled—though the Laird looked
with a covetous eye on that rough sketch of the rocks of Canna, and
regretted that he was not to be allowed to ask Tom Galbraith to put in a
touch or two. And so back to the yacht, and to dinner in the silver
clear evening; and how beautiful looked this calm bay of Canna, with its
glittering waters and green shores, after the grim rocks and the heavy
Atlantic waves!

That evening we pursued the innocent lithe again—our larder was becoming
terribly empty—and there was a fine take.  But of more interest to some
of us than the big fish was the extraordinary wonder of colour in sea
and sky when the sun had gone down; and there was a wail on the part of
the Laird that Mary Avon had not her colours with her to put down some
jotting for further use.  Or if on paper: might not she write down
something of what she saw; and experiment thereafter?  Well, if any
artist can make head or tail of words in such a case as this, here they
are for him—as near as our combined forces of observation could go.

The vast plain of water around us a blaze of salmon-red—with the waves
(catching the reflection of the zenith) marked in horizontal lines of
blue.  The great headland of Canna, between us and the western sky, a
mass of dark, intense olive-green.  The sky over that a pale, clear
lemon-yellow.  But the great feature of this evening scene was a mass of
cloud that stretched all across the heavens—a mass of flaming,
thunderous, orange-red cloud that began in the far pale mists in the
east, and came across the blue zenith overhead, burning with a splendid
glory there, and then stretched over to the west, where it narrowed down
and was lost in the calm, clear gold of the horizon.  The splendour of
this great cloud was bewildering to the eyes; one turned gratefully to
the reflection of it in the sultry red of the sea below, broken by the
blue lines of waves.  Our attention was not wholly given to the fishing
or the boat on this lambent evening; perhaps that was the reason we ran
on a rock, and with difficulty got off again.

Then back to the yacht again about eleven o’clock.  What is this
terrible news from Master Fred, who was sent off with instructions to
hunt up any stray crofter he might find, and use such persuasions in the
shape of Gaelic friendliness and English money as would enable us to
replenish our larder?  What! that he had walked two miles and seen
nothing eatable or purchasable but an old hen?  Canna is a beautiful
place; but we begin to think it is time to be off.

On this still night, with the stars coming out, we cannot go below.  We
sit on deck and listen to the musical whisper along the shore, and watch
one golden-yellow planet rising over the dusky peaks of Rum, far in the
east.  And our young Doctor is talking of the pathetic notices that are
common in the Scotch papers—in the advertisements of deaths.  "_New
Zealand papers, please copy._"  "_Canadian papers, please copy._"  When
you see this prayer appended to the announcement of the death of some
old woman of seventy or seventy-five, do you not know that it is a
message to loved ones in distant climes, wanderers who may forget but
who have not been forgotten? They are messages that tell of a scattered
race—of a race that once filled the glens of these now almost deserted
islands.  And surely, when some birthday or other time of recollection
comes round, those far away,

_Where wild Altama murmurs to their woe,_

must surely bethink themselves of the old people left behind—living in
Glasgow or Greenock now, perhaps—and must bethink themselves too of the
land where last they saw the bonny red heather, and where last they
heard the pipes playing the sad _Farewell, MacCruimin_ as the ship stood
out to sea. They cannot quite forget the scenes of their youth—the rough
seas and the red heather and the islands; the wild dancing at the
weddings; the secret meetings in the glen, with Ailasa, or Morag, or
Mairi, come down from the sheiling, all alone, a shawl round her head to
shelter her from the rain, her heart fluttering like the heart of a
timid fawn.  They cannot forget.

And we, too, we are going away; and it may be that we shall never see
this beautiful bay or the island there again.  But one of us carries
away with him a talisman for the sudden revival of old memories.  And
twenty years hence—that was his own phrase—what will Angus
Sutherland—perhaps a very great and rich person by that time—what will
he think when he turns to a certain picture, and recalls the long summer
day when he rowed with Mary Avon round the wild shores of Canna?

                              *CHAPTER X.*

                      *"DUNVEGAN!—OH!  DUNVEGAN!"*

Commander Mary Avon sends her orders below: everything to be made snug
in the cabins, for there is a heavy sea running outside, and the _White
Dove_ is already under way. Farewell, then, you beautiful blue bay—all
rippled into silver now with the breeze—and green shores and picturesque
cliffs!  We should have lingered here another day or two, perhaps, but
for the report about that one old hen.  We cannot ration passengers and
crew on one old hen.

And here, as we draw away from Canna, is the vast panorama of the
sea-world around us once more—the mighty mountain range of Skye shining
faintly in the northern skies; Haleval and Haskeval still of a gloomy
purple in the east; and away beyond these leagues of rushing Atlantic
the clear blue line of North Uist.  Whither are we bound, then, you
small captain with the pale face and the big, soft, tender black eyes?
Do you fear a shower of spray that you have strapped that
tightly-fitting ulster round the graceful small figure?  And are you
quite sure that you know whether the wind is on the port or starboard

"Look! look! look!" she calls, and our F.R.S., who has been busy over
the charts, jumps to his feet.

Just at the bow of the vessel we see the great shining black thing
disappear.  What if there had been a collision?

"You cannot call _that_ a porpoise, any way," says she.  "Why, it must
have been eighty feet long!"

"Yes, yacht measurement," says he.  "But it had a back fin, which is
suspicious, and it did not blow.  Now," he adds—for we have been looking
all round for the re-appearance of the huge stranger—"if you want to see
real whales at work, just look over there, close under Rum.  I should
say there was a whole shoal of them in the Sound."

And there, sure enough, we see from time to time the white
spoutings—rising high into the air in the form of the letter V, and
slowly falling again.  They are too far away for us to hear the sound of
their blowing, nor can we catch any glimpse, through the best of our
glasses, of their appearance at the surface. Moreover, the solitary
stranger that nearly ran against our bows makes no reappearance; he has
had enough of the wonders of the upper world for a time.

It is a fine sailing morning, and we pay but little attention to the
fact that the wind, as usual, soon gets to be dead ahead.  So long as
the breeze blows, and the sun shines, and the white spray flies from the
bows of the _White Dove_, what care we which harbour is to shelter us
for the night?  And if we cannot get into any harbour, what then?  We
carry our own kingdom with us; and we are far from being dependent on
the one old hen.

But in the midst of much laughing at one of the Laird’s good ones—the
inexhaustible Homesh was again to the fore—a head appears at the top of
the companion-way; and there is a respectful silence.  Unseemly mirth
dies away before the awful dignity of this person.

"Angus," she says, with a serious remonstrance on her face, "do you
believe what scientific people tell you?"

Angus Sutherland starts, and looks up; he has been deep in a chart of
Loch Bracadaile.

"Don’t they say that water finds its own level?  Now do you call this
water finding its own level?"—and as she propounds this conundrum, she
clings on tightly to the side of the companion, for, in truth, the
_White Dove_ is curveting a good deal among those great masses of waves.

"Another tumbler broken!" she exclaims. "Now who left that tumbler on
the table?"

"I know," says Mary Avon.

"Who was it then?" says the occupant of the companion-way; and we begin
to tremble for the culprit.

"Why, you yourself!"

"Mary Avon, how can you tell such a story!" says the other, with a stern

"Oh, but that is so," calls out our Doctor, "for I myself saw you bring
the tumbler out of the ladies’ cabin with water for the flowers."

The universal shout of laughter that overwhelms Madame Dignity is too
much for her. A certain conscious, lurking smile begins to break through
the sternness of her face.

"I don’t believe a word of it," she declares, firing a shot as she
retreats.  "Not a word of it.  You are two conspirators.  To tell such a
story about a tumbler—-!"

But at this moment a further assault is made on the majesty of this
imperious small personage.  There is a thunder at the bows; a rattling
as of pistol-shots on the decks forward; and at the same moment the
fag-ends of the spray come flying over the after part of the yacht.
What becomes of one’s dignity when one gets a shower of salt water over
one’s head and neck?  Go down below, madam!—retreat, retreat,
discomfited!—go, dry your face and your bonny brown hair—and bother us
no more with your broken tumbler!

And despite those plunging seas and the occasional showers of spray,
Mary Avon still clings bravely to the rope that is round the tiller; and
as we are bearing over for Skye on one long tack, she has no need to
change her position.  And if from time to time her face gets wet with
the salt water, is it not quickly dried again in the warm sun and the
breeze? Sun and salt water and sea-air will soon chase away the pallor
from that gentle face: cannot one observe already—after only a few days’
sailing—a touch of sun-brown on her cheeks?

And now we are drawing nearer and nearer to Skye, and before us lies the
lonely Loch Breatal, just under the splendid Coolins.  See how the vast
slopes of the mountains appear to come sheer down to the lake; and there
is a soft, sunny green on them—a beautiful, tender, warm colour that
befits a summer day.  But far above and beyond those sunny slopes a
different sight appears.  All the clouds of this fair day have gathered
round the upper portions of the mountains; and that solitary range of
black and jagged peaks is dark in shadow, dark as if with the
expectation of thunder.  The Coolins are not beloved of mariners.  Those
beautiful sunlit ravines are the secret haunts of hurricanes that
suddenly come out to strike the unwary yachtsman as with the blow of a
hammer.  _Stand by, forward, then, lads! About ship!  Down with the
helm, Captain Avon!_—and behold! we are sailing away from the black
Coolins, and ahead of us there is only the open sea, and the sunlight
shining on the far cliffs of Canna.

"When your course is due north," remarks Angus Sutherland, who has
relieved Mary Avon at the helm, "and when the wind is due north, you get
a good deal of sailing for your money."

The profound truth of this remark becomes more and more apparent as the
day passes in a series of long tacks which do not seem to be bringing
those far headlands of Skye much nearer to us.  And if we are beating in
this heavy sea all day and night, is there not a chance of one or other
of our women-folk collapsing?  They are excellent sailors, to be

Dr. Sutherland is consulted.  Dr. Sutherland’s advice is prompt and
emphatic.  His sole and only precaution against sea-sickness is simple:
resolute eating and drinking.  Cure for sea-sickness, after it has set
in, he declares there is none: to prevent it, eat and drink, and let the
drink be _brut_ champagne.  So our two prisoners are ordered below to
undergo that punishment.

And, perhaps, it is the _brut_ champagne, or perhaps it is merely the
snugness of our little luncheon-party that prompts Miss Avon to remark
on the exceeding selfishness of yachting and to suggest a proposal that
fairly takes away our breath by its audacity.

"Now," she says, cheerfully, "I could tell you how you could occupy an
idle day on board a yacht so that you would give a great deal of
happiness—quite a shock of delight—to a large number of people."

Well, we are all attention.

"At what cost?" says the financier of our party.

"At no cost."

This is still more promising.  Why should not we instantly set about
making all those people happy?

"All that you have got to do is to get a copy of the _Field_ or of the
_Times_ or some such paper."

Yes; and how are we to get any such thing? Rum has no post-office.  No
mail calls at Canna.  Newspapers do not grow on the rocks of Loch

"However, let us suppose that we have the paper."

"Very well.  All you have to do is to sit down and take the
advertisements, and write to the people, accepting all their offers on
their own terms.  The man who wants 500*l.* for his shooting in the
autumn; the man who will sell his steam-yacht for 7,000*l,*; the curate
who will take in another youth to board at 200*l.* a year; the lady who
wants to let her country-house during the London season; all the people
who are anxious to sell things.  You offer to take them all.  If a man
has a yacht to let on hire, you will pay for new jerseys for the men.
If a man has a house to be let, you will take all the fixtures at his
own valuation.  All you have to do is to write two or three hundred
letters—as an anonymous person, of course—and you make two or three
hundred people quite delighted for perhaps a whole week!"

The Laird stared at this young lady as if she had gone mad; but there
was only a look of complacent friendliness on Mary Avon’s face.

"You mean that you write sham letters?" says her hostess.  "You gull
those unfortunate people into believing that all their wishes are

"But you make them happy!" says Mary Avon, confidently.

"Yes—and the disappointment afterwards!" retorts her friend, almost with
indignation. "Imagine their disappointment when they find they have been
duped!  Of course they would write letters and discover that the
anonymous person had no existence."

"Oh, no!" says Mary Avon, eagerly. "There could be no such great
disappointment. The happiness would be definite and real for the time.
The disappointment would only be a slow and gradual thing when they
found no answer coming to their letter.  You would make them happy for a
whole week or so by accepting their offer; whereas by not answering
their letter or letters you would only puzzle them, and the matter would
drop away into forgetfulness.  Do you not think it would be an excellent

Come on deck, you people; this girl has got demented.  And behold! as we
emerge once more into the sunlight and whirling spray and wind, we find
that we are nearing Skye again on the port tack, and now it is the mouth
of Loch Bracadaile that we are approaching.  And these pillars of rock,
outstanding from the cliffs, and worn by the northern seas?

"Why, these must be Macleod’s Maidens!" says Angus Sutherland, unrolling
one of the charts.

And then he discourses to us of the curious fancies of sailors—passing
the lonely coasts from year to year—and recognising as old friends, not
any living thing, but the strange conformations of the rocks—and giving
to these the names of persons and of animals.  And he thinks there is
something more weird and striking about these solitary and sea-worn
rocks fronting the great Atlantic than about any comparatively modern
Sphinx or Pyramid; until we regard the sunlit pillars, and their fretted
surface and their sharp shadows, with a sort of morbid imagination; and
we discover how the sailors have fancied them to be stone women; and we
see in the largest of them—her head and shoulder tilted over a bit—some
resemblance to the position of the Venus discovered at Milo.  All this
is very fine; but suddenly the sea gets darkened over there; a squall
comes roaring out of Loch Bracadaile; John of Skye orders the boat
about; and presently we are running free before this puff from the
north-east.  Alas! alas! we have no sooner got out of the reach of the
squall than the wind backs to the familiar north, and our laborious
beating has to be continued as before.

But we are not discontented.  Is it not enough, as the golden and
glowing afternoon wears on, to listen to the innocent prattle of
Denny-mains, whose mind has been fired by the sight of those pillars of
rock.  He tells us a great many remarkable things—about the similarity
between Gaelic and Irish, and between Welsh and Armorican; and he
discusses the use of the Druidical stones, as to whether the priests
followed serpent-worship or devoted those circles to human sacrifice. He
tells us about the Picts and Scots; about Fingal and Ossian; about the
doings of Arthur in his kingdom of Strathclyde.  It is a most innocent
sort of prattle.

"Yes, sir," says our Doctor—quite gravely—though we are not quite sure
that he is not making fun of our simple-hearted Laird, "there can be no
doubt that the Aryan race that first swept over Europe spoke a Celtic
language, more or less akin to Gaelic, and that they were pushed out, by
successive waves of population, into Brittany, and Wales, and Ireland,
and the Highlands.  And I often wonder whether it was they themselves
that modestly call themselves the foreigners or strangers, and affixed
that name to the land they laid hold of, from Galicia and Gaul to
Galloway and Galway? The Gaelic word _gall_, a stranger, you find
everywhere.  Fingal himself is only _Fionn-gall_—the Fair Stranger;
_Dubh-gall_—that is, the familiar Dugald—or the Black Stranger—is what
the Islay people call a Lowlander. _Ru-na-Gaul_, that we passed the
other day—that is the Foreigner’s Point.  I think there can be no doubt
that the tribes that first brought Aryan civilisation through the west
of Europe spoke Gaelic or something like Gaelic."

"Ay," said the Laird, doubtfully.  He was not sure of this young man.
He had heard something about Gaelic being spoken in the Garden of Eden,
and suspected there might be a joke lying about somewhere.

However, there was no joking about our F.R.S. when he began to tell Mary
Avon how, if he had time and sufficient interest in such things, he
would set to work to study the Basque people and their language—that
strange remnant of the old race who inhabited the west of Europe long
before Scot, or Briton, or Roman, or Teuton had made his appearance on
the scene.  Might they not have traditions, or customs, or verbal
survivals to tell us of their pre-historic forefathers?  The Laird
seemed quite shocked to hear that his favourite Picts and Scots—and
Fingal and Arthur and all the rest of them—were mere modern interlopers.
What of the mysterious race that occupied these islands before the great
Aryan tide swept over from the East?

Well, this was bad enough; but when the Doctor proceeded to declare his
conviction that no one had the least foundation for the various
conjectures about the purposes of those so-called Druidical stones—that
it was all a matter of guess-work whether as regarded council-halls,
grave-stones, altars, or serpent-worship—and that it was quite possible
these stones were erected by the non-Aryan race who inhabited Europe
before either Gaul or Roman or Teuton came west, the Laird interrupted
him, triumphantly—

"But," says he, "the very names of those stones show they are of Celtic
origin—will ye dispute that?  What is the meaning of _Carnac_, that is
in Brittany—eh?  Ye know Gaelic?"

"Well, I know that much," said Angus, laughing.  "Carnac means simply
the place of piled stones.  But the Celts may have found the stones
there, and given them that name."

"I think," says Miss Avon, profoundly, "that when you go into a question
of names, you can prove anything.  And I suppose Gaelic is as
accommodating as any other language."

Angus Sutherland did not answer for a moment; but at last he said,
rather shyly—

"Gaelic is a very complimentary language, at all events.  Beau is ’a
woman;’ and bean-nachd is ’a blessing.’  _An ti a bheannaich thu_—that
is, ’the one who blessed you.’"

Very pretty; only we did not know how wildly the young man might not be
falsifying Gaelic grammar in order to say something nice to Mary Avon.

Patience works wonders.  Dinner-time finds us so far across the Minch
that we can make out the lighthouse of South Uist.  And all these outer
Hebrides are now lying in a flood of golden-red light; and on the cliffs
of Canna, far away in the south-east, and now dwarfed so that they lie
like a low wall on the sea, there is a paler red, caught from the glare
of the sunset. And here is the silver tinkle of Master Fred’s bell.

On deck after dinner; and the night air is cooler now; and there are
cigars about; and our young F.R.S. is at the tiller; and Mary Avon is
singing, apparently to herself, something about a Berkshire farmer’s
daughter. The darkness deepens, and the stars come out; and there is one
star—larger than the rest, and low down, and burning a steady red—that
we know to be Ushinish lighthouse.  And then from time to time the
silence is broken by, "_Stand by, forrard!  ’Bout ship!_" and there is a
rattling of blocks and cordage and then the head-sails fill and away she
goes again on the other tack.  We have got up to the long headlands of
Skye at last.

Clear as the night is, the wind still comes in squalls, and we have the
topsail down.  Into which indentation of that long, low line of dark
land shall we creep in the darkness?

But John of Skye keeps away from the land. It is past midnight.  There
is nothing visible but the black sea and the clear sky, and the red star
of the lighthouse; nothing audible but Mary Avon’s humming to herself
and her friend—the two women sit arm-in-arm under half-a-dozen of
rugs—some old-world ballad to the monotonous accompaniment of the
passing seas.

One o’clock: Ushinish light is smaller now, a minute point of red fire,
and the black line of land on our right looms larger in the dusk. Look
at the splendour of the phosphorous-stars on the rushing waves.

And at last John of Skye says in an undertone to Angus—

"Will the leddies be going below now?"

"Going below!" he says in reply.  "They are waiting till we get to
anchor.  We must be just off Dunvegan Loch now."

Then John of Skye makes his confession.

"Oh, yes; I been into Dunvegan Loch more as two or three times; but I
not like the dark to be with us in going in; and if we lie off till the
daylight comes, the leddies they can go below to their peds.  And if Dr.
Sutherland himself would like to see the channel in going in, will I
send below when the daylight comes?"

"No, no, John; thank you," is the answer. "When I turn in, I turn in for
good.  I will leave you to find out the channel for yourself."

And so there is a clearance of the deck, and rugs and camp-stools handed
down the companion.  _Deoch-an-doruis_ in the candle-lit saloon?  To
bed—to bed!

It is about five o’clock in the morning that the swinging out of the
anchor-chain causes the yacht to tremble from stem to stern; and the
sleepers start in their sleep, but are vaguely aware that they are at a
safe anchorage at last. And do you know where the brave _White Dove_ is
lying now?  Surely if the new dawn brings any stirring of wind—and if
there is a sound coming over to us from this far land of legend and
romance—it is the wild, sad wail of Dunvegan!  The mists are clearing
from the hills; the day breaks wan and fair; the great grey castle,
touched by the early sunlight, looks down on the murmuring sea.  And is
it the sea, or is it the cold wind of the morning, that sings and sings
to us in our dreams—

_Dunvegan—oh!  Dunvegan!_

                             *CHAPTER XI.*

                           *DRAWING NEARER.*

She is all alone on deck.  The morning sun shines on the beautiful blue
bay; on the great castle perched on the rocks over there; and on the
wooded green hills beyond. She has got a canvas fixed on her easel; she
sings to herself as she works.

Now this English young lady must have beguiled the tedium of her long
nursing in Edinburgh by making a particular acquaintance with Scotch
ballads; or how otherwise could we account for her knowledge of the
"Song of Ulva," and now of the "Song of Dunvegan?"

_Macleod the faithful, and fearing none!_
  _Dunvegan—oh!  Dunvegan!_

—she hums to herself as she is busy with this rough sketch of sea and
shore.  How can she be aware that Angus Sutherland is at this very
moment in the companion way, and not daring to stir hand or foot lest he
should disturb her?

_Friends and foes had our passion thwarted,_

she croons to herself, though, indeed, there is no despair at all in her
voice, but a perfect contentment—

_But true, tender, and lion-hearted,_
_Lived he on, and from life departed,_
  _Macleod, whose rival is breathing none!_
    _Dunvegan—oh, Dunvegan!_

She is pleased with the rapidity of her work. She tries to whistle a
little bit.  Or, perhaps it is only the fresh morning air that has put
her in such good spirits?

_Yestreen the Queen had four Maries._

What has that got to do with the sketch of the shining grey castle?
Among these tags and ends of ballads, the young Doctor at last becomes
emboldened to put in an appearance.

"Good morning, Miss Avon," says he; "you are busy at work again?"

She is not in the least surprised.  She has got accustomed to his coming
on deck before the others; they have had a good deal of quiet chatting
while as yet the Laird was only adjusting his high white collar and
satin neckcloth.

"It is only a sketch," said she, in a rapid and highly business-like
fashion, "but I think I shall be able to sell it.  You know most people
merely value pictures for their association with things they are
interested in themselves.  A Yorkshire farmer would rather have a
picture of his favourite cob than any Raphael or Titian.  And the
ordinary English squire: I am sure that you know in his own heart he
prefers one of Herring’s farm yard pieces to Leonardo’s _Last Supper_.
Well, if some yachting gentleman, who has been in this loch, should see
this sketch, he will probably buy it, however bad it is, just because it
interests him——"

"But you don’t really mean to sell it?" said he.

"That depends," said she demurely, "on whether I get any offer for it."

"Why," he exclaimed, "the series of pictures you are now making should
be an invaluable treasure to you all your life long: a permanent record
of a voyage that you seem to enjoy very much.  I almost shrink from
robbing you of that one of Canna; still, the temptation is too great.
And you propose to sell them all?"

"What I can sell of them," she says; and then she adds, rather shyly,
"You know I could not very well afford to keep them all for myself.  I—I
have a good many almoners in London; and I devote to them what I can get
for my scrawls—that is, I deduct the cost of the frames, and keep the
rest for them.  It is not a large sum."

"Any other woman would spend it in jewellery and dresses," says he

At this, Miss Mary Avon flushes slightly, and hastily draws his
attention to a small boat that is approaching.  Dr. Sutherland does not
pay any heed to the boat.

He is silent for a second or so; and then he says, with an effort to
talk in a cheerful and matter-of-fact way—

"You have not sent ashore yet this morning: don’t you know there is a
post-office at Dunvegan?"

"Oh, yes; I heard so.  But the men are below at breakfast, I think, and
I am in no hurry to send, for there won’t be any letters for me, I

"Oh, indeed," he says, with seeming carelessness, "it must be a long
time since you have heard from your friends."

"I have not many friends to hear from," she answers, with a light laugh,
"and those I have don’t trouble me with many letters.  I suppose they
think I am in very good hands at present."

"Oh, yes—no doubt," says he, and suddenly he begins to talk in warm
terms of the delightfulness of the voyage.  He is quite charmed with the
appearance of Dunvegan Loch and castle.  A more beautiful morning he
never saw.  And in the midst of all this enthusiasm the small boat comes

There is an old man in the boat, and when he has fastened his oars, he
says a few words to Angus Sutherland, and hands up a big black bottle.
Our young Doctor brings the bottle over to Mary Avon.  He seems to be
very much pleased with everything this morning.

"Now, is not that good-natured?" says he. "It is a bottle of fresh milk,
with the compliments of ——, of Uginish.  Isn’t it good-natured?"

"Oh, indeed it is," says she, plunging her hand into her pocket.  "You
must let me give the messenger half-a-crown."

"No, no; that is not the Highland custom," says the Doctor; and
therewith he goes below, and fetches up another black bottle, and pours
out a glass of whiskey with his own hand, and presents it to the ancient
boatman.  You should have seen the look of surprise in the old man’s
face when Angus Sutherland said something to him in the Gaelic.

And alas! and alas!—as we go ashore on this beautiful bright day, we
have to give up for ever the old Dunvegan of many a dream—the dark and
solitary keep that we had imagined perched high above the Atlantic
breakers—the sheer precipices, the awful sterility, the wail of
lamentation along the lonely shores.  This is a different picture
altogether that Mary Avon has been trying to put down on her canvas—a
spacious, almost modern-looking, but nevertheless picturesque castle,
sheltered from the winds by softly wooded hills, a bit of smooth, blue
water below, and further along the shores the cheerful evidences of
fertility and cultivation.  The wail of Dunvegan?  Why, here is a brisk
and thriving village, with a post-office, and a shop, and a building
that looks uncommonly like an inn; and there, dotted all about, and
encroaching on the upper moorland, any number of those small crofts that
were once the pride of the Highlands and that gave to England the most
stalwart of her regiments.  Here are no ruined huts and voiceless
wastes; but a cheerful, busy picture of peasant-life; the strapping
wenches at work in the small farm-yards, well-built and frank of face;
the men well clad; the children well fed and merry enough.  It is a
scene that delights the heart of our good friend of Denny-mains.  If we
had but time, he would fain go in among the tiny farms, and inquire
about the rent of the holdings, and the price paid for those picturesque
little beasts that the artists are for ever painting—with a louring sky
beyond, and a dash of sunlight in front.  But our Doctor is obdurate.
He will not have Mary Avon walk further; she must return to the yacht.

But on our way back, as she is walking by the side of the road, he
suddenly puts his hand on her arm, apparently to stop her. Slight as the
touch is, she naturally looks surprised.

"I beg your pardon," he says, hastily, "but I thought you would rather
not tread on it——"

He is regarding a weed by the wayside—a thing that looks like a
snapdragon of some sort.  We did not expect to find a hard-headed man of
science betray this trumpery sentiment about a weed.

"I thought you would rather not tread upon it when you knew it was a
stranger," he says, in explanation of that rude assault upon her arm.
"That is not an English plant at all; it is the _Mimulus_, its real home
is in America."

We began to look with more interest on the audacious small foreigner
that had boldly adventured across the seas.

"Oh," she says, looking back along the road, "I hope I have not trampled
any of them down."

"Well, it does not _much_ matter," he admits, "for the plant is becoming
quite common now in parts of the West Highlands; but I thought as it was
a stranger, and come all the way across the Atlantic on a voyage of
discovery, you would be hospitable.  I suppose the Gulf-stream brought
the first of them over."

"And if they had any choice in the matter," says Mary Avon, looking
down, and speaking with a little self-conscious deliberation, "and if
they wanted to be hospitably received, they showed their good sense in
coming to the West Highlands."

After that there was a dead silence on the part of Angus Sutherland.
But why should he have been embarrassed?  There was no compliment
levelled at him that he should blush like a schoolboy.  It was quite
true that Miss Avon’s liking—even love—for the West Highlands was
becoming very apparent; but Banffshire is not in the West Highlands.
What although Angus Sutherland could speak a few words in the Gaelic
tongue to an old boatman?  He came from Banff.  Banffshire is not in the
West Highlands.

Then that afternoon at the great castle itself: what have we but a
confused recollection of twelfth-century towers; and walls nine feet
thick; and ghost-chambers; and a certain fairy-flag, that is called the
_Bratach-Sith_; and the wide view over the blue Atlantic; and of a great
kindness that made itself visible in the way of hothouse flowers and
baskets of fruit, and what not?  The portraits, too: the various
centuries got mixed up with the old legends, until we did not know in
which face to look for some transmitted expression that might tell of
the Cave of Uig or the Uamh-na-Ceann. But there was one portrait there,
quite modern, and beautiful, that set all the tourist-folk a raving, so
lovely were the life-like eyes of it; and the Laird was bold enough to
say to the gentle lady who was so good as to be our guide, that it would
be one of the greatest happinesses of his life if he might be allowed to
ask Mr. Galbraith, the well-known artist of Edinburgh, to select a young
painter to come up to Dunvegan and make a copy of this picture for him,
Denny-mains.  And Dr. Sutherland could scarcely come away from that
beautiful face; and our good Queen T. was quite charmed with it; and as
for Mary Avon, when one of us regarded her, behold! as she looked up,
there was a sort of moisture in the soft black eyes.

What was she thinking of?  That it must be a fine thing to be so
beautiful a woman, and charm the eyes of all men?  But now—now that we
had had this singing-bird with us on board the yacht for so long a
time—would any one of us have admitted that she was rather plain?  It
would not have gone well with any one who had ventured to say so to the
Laird of Denny-mains, at all events.  And as for our sovereign-lady and
mistress, these were the lines which she always said described Mary

    Was never seen thing to be praised derre,[#]
    Nor under blacke cloud so bright a sterre,
    As she was, as they saiden, every one
    That her behelden in her blacke weed;
    And yet she stood, full low and still, alone,
    Behind all other folk, in little brede,[#]
    And nigh the door, ay under shame’s drede;
    Simple of bearing, debonair of cheer,
    With a full surë[#] looking and mannere.

[#] _derre_, dearer.

[#] _in little brede_, without display.

[#] _surë_, frank.

How smart the saloon of the _White Dove_ looked that evening at dinner,
with those geraniums, and roses, and fuchsias, and what not, set amid
the tender green of the maidenhair fern!  But all the same there was a
serious discussion.  Fruit, flowers, vegetables, and fresh milk, however
welcome, fill no larder; and Master Fred had returned with the doleful
tale that all his endeavours to purchase a sheep at one of the
neighbouring farms had been of no avail.  Forthwith we resolve to make
another effort.  Far away, on the outer shores of Dunvegan Loch, we can
faintly descry, in the glow of the evening, some crofter’s huts on the
slopes of the hill.  Down with the gig, then, boys; in with the
fishing-rods; and away for the distant shores, where haply, some tender
ewe-lamb, or brace of quacking duck, or some half-dozen half-starved
fowls may be withdrawn from the reluctant tiller of the earth!

It is a beautiful clear evening, with lemon-gold glory in the
north-west.  And our stout-sinewed Doctor is rowing stroke, and there is
a monotonous refrain of

  _Ho, ro, clansmen!_
_A long, strong pull together,_
  _Ho, ro, clansmen!_

"We must give you a wage as one of the hands, Angus," says Queen T.

"I am paid already," says he.  "I would work my passage through for the
sketch of Canna that Miss Avon gave me."

"Would you like to ask the other men whether they would take the same
payment?" says Miss Avon, in modest depreciation of her powers.

"Do not say anything against the landscape ye gave to Dr. Sutherland,"
observes the Laird.  "No, no; there is great merit in it. I have told ye
before I would like to show it to Tom Galbraith before it goes south; I
am sure he would approve of it.  Indeed, he is jist such a friend of
mine that I would take the leeberty of asking him to give it a bit touch
here and there—what an experienced artist would see amiss ye know——"

"Mr. Galbraith may be an experienced artist," says our Doctor friend
with unnecessary asperity, "but he is not going to touch that picture."

"Ah can tell ye," says the Laird, who is rather hurt by this rejection,
"that the advice of Tom Galbraith has been taken by the greatest artists
in England.  He was up in London last year, and was at the studio of one
of the first of the Acadameecians, and that very man was not ashamed to
ask the opeenion of Tom Galbraith.  And says Tom to him, ’The face is
very fine, but the right arm is out of drawing.’  You would think that
impertinent? The Acadameecian, I can tell you, thought differently.
Says he, ’That has been my own opeenion, but no one would ever tell me
so; and I would have left it as it is had ye no spoken.’"

"I have no doubt the Academacian who did not know when his picture was
out of drawing was quite right to take the advice of Tom Galbraith,"
says our stroke-oar.  "But Tom Galbraith is not going to touch Miss
Avon’s sketch of Canna——" and here the fierce altercation is stopped,
for stroke-oar puts a fresh spurt on, and we hear another sound—

_Soon the freshening breeze will blow._
_Well show the snowy canvas on her,_
    _Ho, ro, clansmen!_
  _A long, strong pull together,_
    _Ho, ro, clansmen!_

Well, what was the result of our quest? After we had landed Master Fred,
and sent him up the hills, and gone off fishing for lithe for an hour or
so, we returned to the shore in the gathering dusk.  We found our
messenger seated on a rock, contentedly singing a Gaelic song, and
plucking a couple of fowls which was all the provender he had secured.
It was in vain that he tried to cheer us by informing us that the
animals in question had cost only sixpence a-piece.  We knew that they
were not much bigger than thrushes. Awful visions of tinned meats began
to rise before us.  In gloom we took the steward and the microscopic
fowls on board, and set out for the yacht.

But the Laird did not lose his spirits.  He declared that
self-preservation was the first law of nature, and that, despite the
injunctions of the Wild Birds’ Protection Act, he would get out his gun
and shoot the first brood of "flappers" he saw about those lonely lochs.
And he told us such a "good one" about Homesh that we laughed nearly all
the way back to the yacht.  Provisions?  We were independent of
provisions!  With a handful of rice a day we would cross the Atlantic—we
would cross twenty Atlantics—so long as we were to be regaled and
cheered by the "good ones" of our friend of Denny-mains.

Dr. Sutherland, too, seemed in no wise depressed by the famine in the
land.  In the lamp-lit saloon, as we gathered round the table, and cards
and things were brought out, and the Laird began to brew his toddy, the
young Doctor maintained that no one on land could imagine the snugness
of life on board a yacht.  And now he had almost forgotten to speak of
leaving us; perhaps it was the posting of the paper on Radiolarians,
along with other MSS., that had set his mind free.  But touching that
matter of the Dunvegan post-office: why had he been so particular in
asking Mary Avon if she were not expecting letters; and why did he so
suddenly grow enthusiastic about the scenery on learning that the young
lady, on her travels, was not pestered with correspondence?  Miss Avon
was not a Cabinet Minister.

                             *CHAPTER XII.*

                     *THE OLD SCHOOL AND THE NEW.*

The last instructions given to John of Skye that night were large and
liberal.  At break of day he was to sail for any port he might chance to
encounter on the wide seas.  So long as Angus Sutherland did not speak
of returning, what did it matter to us?—Loch Boisdale, Loch Seaforth,
Stornaway, St. Kilda, the North Pole were all the same.  It is true that
of fresh meat we had on board only two fowls about the size of wrens;
but of all varieties of tinned meats and fruit we had an abundant store.
And if perchance we were forced to shoot a sheep on the Flannen Islands,
would not the foul deed be put down to the discredit of those dastardly
Frenchmen? When you rise up as a nation and guillotine all the
respectable folk in the country, it is only to be expected of you
thereafter that you should go about the seas shooting other people’s

And indeed when we get on deck after breakfast, we find that John of
Skye has fulfilled his instructions to the letter; that is to say, he
must have started at daybreak to get away so far from Dunvegan and the
headlands of Skye.  But as for going farther?  There is not a speck of
cloud in the dome of blue; there is not a ripple on the dazzling sea;
there is not a breath of wind to stir the great white sails all aglow in
the sunlight; nor is there even enough of the Atlantic swell to move the
indolent tiller.  How John of Skye has managed to bring us so far on so
calm a morning remains a mystery.

"And the glass shows no signs of falling," says our young Doctor quite
regretfully: does he long for a hurricane, that so he may exhibit his
sailor-like capacities?

But Mary Avon, with a practical air, is arranging her easel on deck, and
fixing up a canvas, and getting out the tubes she wants—the while she
absently sings to herself something about

  _Beauty lies_
  _In many eyes,_
_But love in yours, my Nora Creina._

And what will she attack now?  Those long headlands of Skye, dark in
shadow, with a glow of sunlight along their summits; or those lonely
hills of Uist set far amid the melancholy main; or those vaster and
paler mountains of Harris, that rise on the north of the dreaded Sound?

"Well, you _have_ courage," says Angus Sutherland, admiringly, "to try
to make a picture out of _that_!"

"Oh," she says, modestly, though she is obviously pleased, "that is a
pet theory of mine.  I try for ordinary every-day effects, without any
theatrical business; and if I had only the power to reach them, I know I
should surprise people.  Because you know most people go through the
world with a sort of mist before their eyes; and they are awfully
grateful to you when you suddenly clap a pair of spectacles on their
nose and make them see things as they are.  I cannot do it as yet, you
know; but there is no harm in trying."

"I think you do it remarkably well," he says; "but what are you to make
of that?—nothing but two great sheets of blue, with a line of bluer
hills between?"

But Miss Avon speedily presents us with the desired pair of spectacles.
Instead of the cloudless blue day we had imagined it to be, we find that
there are low masses of white cloud along the Skye cliffs, and these
throw long reflections on the glassy sea, and moreover we begin to
perceive that the calm vault around us is not an uninterrupted blue, but
melts into a pale green as it nears the eastern horizon.  Angus
Sutherland leaves the artist to her work.  He will not interrupt her by
idle talk.

There is no idle talk going forward where the Laird is concerned.  He
has got hold of an attentive listener in the person of his hostess, who
is deep in needlework; and he is expounding to her more clearly than
ever the merits of the great Semple case, pointing out more particularly
how the charges in the major proposition are borne out by the extracts
in the minor.  Yes; and he has caught the critics, too, on the hip.
What about the discovery of those clever gentlemen that Genesis X. and
10 was incorrect?  They thought they were exceedingly smart in proving
that the founders of Babel were the descendants, not of Ham, but of
Shem.  But when the ruins of Babel were examined, what then?

"Why, it was distinctly shown that the founders were the descendants of
Ham, after all!" says Denny-mains, triumphantly.  "What do ye think of
that, Dr. Sutherland?"

Angus Sutherland starts from a reverie: he has not been listening.

"Of what?" he says.  "The Semple case?"


"Oh, well," he says, rather carelessly, "all that wrangling is as good
an occupation as any other—to keep people from thinking."

The Laird stares, as if he had not heard aright.  Angus Sutherland is
not aware of having said anything startling.  He continues quite

"Any occupation is valuable enough that diverts the mind—that is why
hard work is conducive to complete mental health; it does not matter
whether it is grouse-shooting, or commanding an army, or wrangling about
major or minor propositions.  If a man were continually to be facing the
awful mystery of existence—asking the record of the earth and the stars
how he came to be here, and getting no answer at all—he must inevitably
go mad. The brain could not stand it.  If the human race had not busied
itself with wars and commerce, and so forth, it must centuries ago have
committed suicide.  That is the value of hard work—to keep people from
thinking of the unknown around them; the more a man is occupied, the
happier he is—it does not matter whether he occupies himself with School
Boards, or salmon-fishing, or the prosecution of a heretic."

He did not remark the amazed look on the Laird’s face, nor yet that Mary
Avon had dropped her painting and was listening.

"The fact is," he said, with a smile, "if you are likely to fall to
thinking about the real mysteries of existence anywhere, it is among
solitudes like these, where you see what a trivial little accident human
life is in the history of the earth.  You can’t think about such things
in Regent Street; the cigar-shops, the cabs, the passing people occupy
you.  But here you are brought back as it were to all sorts of first
principles; and commonplaces appear somehow in their original freshness.
In Regent Street you no doubt know that life is a strange thing, and
that death is a strange thing, because you have been told so, and you
believe it, and think no more about it.  But here—with the seas and
skies round you, and with the silence of the night making you think, you
_feel_ the strangeness of these things.  Now just look over there; the
blue sea, and the blue sky, and the hills—it is a curious thing to think
that they will be shining there just as they are now—on just such
another day as this—and you unable to see them or anything else—passed
away like a ghost.  And the _White Dove_ will be sailing up here; and
John will be keeping an eye on Ushinish lighthouse; but your eyes won’t
be able to see anything——"

"Well, Angus, I do declare," exclaims our sovereign mistress, "you have
chosen a comforting thing to talk about this morning.  Are we to be
always thinking about our coffin?"

"On the contrary," says the young Doctor; "I was only insisting on the
wholesomeness of people occupying themselves diligently with some
distraction or other, however trivial.  And how do you think the Semple
case will end, sir?"

But our good friend of Denny-mains was far too deeply shocked and
astounded to reply. The great Semple case a trivial thing—a
distraction—an occupation to keep people from serious thinking!  The
public duties, too, of the Commissioner for the Burgh of Strathgovan;
were these to be regarded as a mere plaything? The new steam fire-engine
was only a toy, then?  The proposed new park and the addition to the
rates were to be regarded as a piece of amiable diversion?

The Laird knew that Angus Sutherland had not read the _Vestiges of
Creation_, and that was a hopeful sign.  But, _Vestiges_ or no
_Vestiges_, what were the young men of the day coming to if their daring
speculations led them to regard the most serious and important concerns
of life as a pastime?  The Commissioners for the Burgh of Strathgoven
were but a parcel of children, then, playing on the sea-shore, and
unaware of the awful deeps beyond?

"I am looking at these things only as a doctor," says Dr. Sutherland,
lightly—seeing that the Laird is too dumbfounded to answer his question,
"and I sometimes think a doctor’s history of civilisation would be an
odd thing, if only you could get at the physiological facts of the case.
I should like to know, for example, what Napoleon had for supper on the
night before Waterloo.  Something indigestible, you may be sure; if his
brain had been clear on the 15th, he would have smashed the Allies, and
altered modern history.  I should have greatly liked, too, to make the
acquaintance of the man who first announced his belief that infants
dying unbaptised were to suffer eternal torture: I think it must have
been his liver.  I should like to have examined him."

"I should like to have poisoned him," says Mary Avon, with a flash of
anger in the soft eyes.

"Oh, no; the poor wretch was only the victim of some ailment," said our
Doctor, charitably.  "There must have been something very much the
matter with Calvin, too.  I know I could have cured Schopenhauer of his
pessimism if he had let me put him on a wholesome regimen."

The Laird probably did not know who Schopenhauer was; but the audacity
of the new school was altogether too much for him.

"I—I suppose," he said, stammering in his amazement, "ye would have
taken Joan of Arc, and treated her as a lunatic?"

"Oh, no; not as a confirmed lunatic," he answered, quite simply.  "But
the diagnosis of that case is obvious; I think she could have been
cured.  All that Joanna Southcote wanted was a frank physician."

The Laird rose and went forward to where Mary Avon was standing at her
easel.  He had had enough.  The criticism of landscape painting was more
within his compass.

"Very good—very good," says he, as if his whole attention had been
occupied by her sketching.  "The reflections on the water are just fine.
Ye must let me show all your sketches to Tom Galbraith before ye go back
to the south."

"I hear you have been talking about the mysteries of existence," she
says, with a smile.

"Oh, ay, it is easy to talk," he says, sharply—and not willing to
confess that he has been driven away from the field.  "I am afraid there
is an unsettling tendency among the young men of the present day—a want
of respect for things that have been established by the common sense of
the world.  Not that I am against all innovation.  No, no.  The world
cannot stand still.  I myself, now; do ye know that I was among the
first in Glasgow to hold that it might be permissible to have an organ
to lead the psalmody of a church?"

"Oh, indeed," says she, with much respect.

"That is true.  No, no; I am not one of the bigoted.  Give me the
Essentials, and I do not care if ye put a stone cross on the top of the
church.  I tell ye that honestly; I would not object even to a cross on
the building if all was sound within."

"I am sure you are quite right, sir," says Mary Avon, gently.

"But no tampering with the Essentials. And as for the millinery, and
incense, and crucifixes of they poor craytures that have not the courage
to go right over to Rome—who stop on this side, and play-act at being
Romans—it is seeckening—perfectly seeckening.  As for the Romans
themselves, I do not condemn them.  No, no.  If they are in error, I
doubt not they believe with a good conscience.  And when I am in a
foreign town, and one o’ their processions of priests and boys comes by,
I raise my hat.  I do indeed."

"Oh, naturally," says Mary Avon.

"No, no," continues Denny-mains, warmly, "there is none of the bigot
about me.  There is a minister of the Episcopalian Church that I know;
and there is no one more welcome in my house: I ask him to say grace
just as I would a minister of my own Church."

"And which is that, sir?" she asked meekly.

The Laird stares at her.  Is it possible that she has heard him so
elaborately expound the Semple prosecution, and not be aware to what
denomination he belongs?

"The Free—the Free Church, of course," he says, with some surprise.
"Have ye not seen the _Report of Proceedings_ in the Semple case?"

"No, I have not," she answers, timidly. "You have been so kind in
explaining it that—that a printed report was quite unnecessary."

"But I will get ye one—I will get ye one directly," says he.  "I have
several copies in my portmanteau.  And ye will see my name in front as
one of the elders who considered it fit and proper that a full report
should be published, so as to warn the public against these inseedious
attacks against our faith.  Don’t interrupt your work, my lass; but I
will get ye the pamphlet; and whenever you want to sit down for a time,
ye will find it most interesting reading—most interesting."

And so the worthy Laird goes below to fetch that valued report.  And
scarcely has he disappeared than a sudden commotion rages over the deck.
Behold! a breeze coming swiftly over the sea—ruffling the glassy deep as
it approaches!  Angus Sutherland jumps to the tiller.  The head-sails
fill; and the boat begins to move.  The lee-sheets are hauled taut; and
now the great mainsail is filled too.  There is a rippling and hissing
of water; and a new stir of life and motion throughout the vessel from
stem to stern.

It seems but the beginning of the day now, though it is near lunch-time.
Mary Avon puts away her sketch of the dead calm, and sits down just
under the lee of the boom, where the cool breeze is blowing along.  The
Laird, having brought up the pamphlet, is vigorously pacing the deck for
his morning exercise; we have all awakened from these idle reveries
about the mystery of life.

"Ha, ha," he says, coming aft, "this is fine—this is fine now.  Why not
give the men a glass of whiskey all round for whistling up such a fine
breeze?  Do ye think they would object?"

"Better give them a couple of bottles of beer for their dinner,"
suggests Queen T., who is no lover of whiskey.

But do you think the Laird is to be put off his story by any such
suggestion?  We can see by his face that he has an anecdote to fire off;
is it not apparent that his mention of whiskey was made with a purpose?

"There was a real good one," says he—and the laughter is already
twinkling in his eyes, "about the man that was apologising before his
family for having been drinking whiskey with some friends.  ’Ay,’ says
he, ’they just held me and forced it down my throat.’  Then says his
son—a little chap about ten—says he, ’I think I could ha’ held ye
mysel’, feyther’—ho! ho! ho!’ says he, ’I think I could ha’ held ye
mysel’, feyther;’" and the Laird laughed, and laughed again, till the
tears came into his eyes.  We could see that he was still internally
laughing at that good one when we went below for luncheon.

At luncheon, too, the Laird quite made up his feud with Angus
Sutherland, for he had a great many other good ones to tell about
whiskey and whiskey drinking; and he liked a sympathetic audience.  But
this general merriment was suddenly dashed by an ominous suggestion
coming from our young Doctor.  Why, he asked, should we go on fighting
against these northerly winds?  Why not turn and run before them?

"Then you want to leave us, Angus," said his hostess reproachfully.

"Oh, no," he said, and with some colour in his face.  "I don’t want to
go, but I fear I must very soon now.  However, I did not make that
suggestion on my own account; if I were pressed for time, I could get
somewhere where I could catch the _Clansman_."

Mary Avon looked down, saying nothing.

"You would not leave the ship like that," says his hostess.  "You would
not run away, surely?  Rather than that we will turn at once. Where are
we now?"

"If the breeze lasts, we will get over to Uist, to Loch na Maddy, this
evening, but you must not think of altering your plans on my account.  I
made the suggestion because of what Captain John was saying."

"Very well," says our Admiral of the Fleet, taking no heed of properly
constituted authority.  "Suppose we set out on our return voyage
to-morrow morning, going round the other side of Skye for a change.  But
you know, Angus, it is not fair of you to run away when you say yourself
there is nothing particular calls you to London."

"Oh," says he, "I am not going to London just yet.  I am going to Banff,
to see my father.  There is an uncle of mine, too, on a visit to the

"Then you will be coming south again?"


"Then why not come another cruise with us on your way back?"

It was not like this hard-headed young Doctor to appear so embarrassed.

"That is what I should like very much myself," he stammered, "if—if I
were not in the way of your other arrangements."

"We shall make no other arrangements," says the other definitely.  "Now
that is a promise, mind.  No drawing back.  Mary will put it down in
writing, and hold you to it."

Mary Avon had not looked up all this time.

"You should not press Dr. Sutherland too much," she says shyly; "perhaps
he has other friends he would like to see before leaving Scotland."

The hypocrite!  Did she want to make Angus Sutherland burst a
blood-vessel in protesting that of all the excursions he had made in his
life this would be to him for ever the most memorable; and that a
repetition or extension of it was a delight in the future almost too
great to think of?  However, she seemed pleased that he spoke so warmly,
and she did not attempt to contradict him.  If he had really enjoyed all
this rambling idleness, it would no doubt the better fit him for his
work in the great capital.

We beat in to Loch na Maddy—that is, the Lake of the Dogs—in the quiet
evening; and the rather commonplace low-lying hills, and the plain
houses of the remote little village, looked beautiful enough under the
glow of the western skies.  And we went ashore, and walked inland for a
space, through an intricate network of lagoons inbranching from the sea;
and we saw the trout leaping and making circles on the gold-red pools,
and watched the herons rising from their fishing and winging their slow
flight across the silent lakes.

And it was a beautiful night, too, and we had a little singing on deck.
Perhaps there was an under-current of regret in the knowledge that
now—for this voyage, at least—we had touched our farthest point.
To-morrow we were to set out again for the south.

                            *CHAPTER XIII.*

                        *FERDINAND AND MIRANDA.*

The wind was laughing at Angus Sutherland. All the time we had been
sailing north it had blown from the north; how that we turned our faces
eastward, it wheeled round to the east, as if it would imprison him for
ever in this floating home.

"_You would fain get away_"—this was the mocking sound that one of us
seemed to hear in those light airs of the morning that blew along the
white canvas—"_the world calls; ambition, fame, the eagerness of
rivalry, the spell that science throws over her disciples, all these are
powerful, and they draw you, and you would fain get away.  But the hand
of the wind is uplifted against you; you may fret as you will, but you
are not round Ru Hunish yet!_"

And perhaps the imaginative small creature who heard these strange
things in the light breeze against which we were fighting our way across
the Minch may have been forming her own plans.  Angus Sutherland, she
used often to say, wanted humanising.  He was too proud and scornful in
the pride of his knowledge; the gentle hand of a woman was needed to
lead him into more tractable ways.  And then this Mary Avon, with her
dexterous, nimble woman’s wit, and her indomitable courage, and her life
and spirit, and abounding cheerfulness; would she not be a splendid
companion for him during his long and hard struggle?  This born
match-maker had long ago thrown away any notion about the Laird
transferring our singing-bird to Denny-mains.  She had almost forgotten
about the project of bringing Howard Smith, the Laird’s nephew, and
half-compelling him to marry Mary Avon: that was preposterous on the
face of it.  But she had grown accustomed, during those long days of
tranquil idleness, to see our young Doctor and Mary Avon together, cut
off from all the distractions of the world, a new Paul and Virginia.
Why—she may have asked herself—should not these two solitary waifs, thus
thrown by chance together on the wide ocean of existence, why should
they not cling to each other and strengthen each other in the coming
days of trial and storm?  The strange, pathetic, phantasmal farce of
life is brief; they cannot seize it and hold it, and shape it to their
own ends; they know not whence it comes, or whither it goes; but while
the brief, strange thing lasts, they can grasp each other’s hand, and
make sure—amid all the unknown things around them, the mountains, and
the wide seas, and the stars—of some common, humble, human sympathy.  It
is so natural to grasp the hand of another in the presence of something
vast and unknown.

The rest of us, at all events, have no time for such vague dreams and
reveries.  There is no idleness on board the _White Dove_ out here on
the shining deep.  Dr. Sutherland has rigged up for himself a sort of
gymnasium by putting a rope across the shrouds to the peak halyards; and
on this rather elastic cross-bar he is taking his morning exercise by
going through a series of performances, no doubt picked up in Germany.
Miss Avon is busy with a sketch of the long headland running out to
Vaternish Point; though, indeed, this smooth Atlantic roll makes it
difficult for her to keep her feet, and introduces a certain amount of
haphazard into her handiwork. The Laird has brought on deck a formidable
portfolio of papers, no doubt relating to the public affairs of
Strathgovan; and has put on his gold spectacles; and has got his pencil
in hand.  Master Fred is re-arranging the cabins; the mistress of the
yacht is looking after her flowers.  And then is heard the voice of John
of Skye—"_Stand by, boys!_" and "_Bout ship!_" and the helm goes down,
and the jib and foresail flutter and tear at the blocks and sheets, and
then the sails gently fill, and the _White Dove_ is away on another

"Well, I give in," says Mary Avon, at last, as a heavier lurch than
usual threatens to throw her and her easel together into the scuppers.
"It _is_ no use."

"I thought you never gave in, Mary," says our Admiral, whose head has
appeared again at the top of the companion-stairs.

"I wonder who could paint like this," says Miss Avon, indignantly.  And
indeed she is trussed up like a fowl, with one arm round one of the gig

"Turner was lashed to the mast of a vessel in order to see a storm,"
says Queen T.

"But not to paint," retorts the other. "Besides, I am not Turner.
Besides, I am tired."

By this time, of course, Angus Sutherland has come to her help; and
removes her easel and what not for her; and fetches her a deck-chair.

"Would you like to play chess?" says he.

"Oh, yes," she answers dutifully, "if you think the pieces will stay on
the board."

"Draughts will be safer," says he, and therewith he plunges below, and
fetches up the squared board.

And so, on this beautiful summer day, with the shining seas around them,
and a cool breeze tempering the heat of the sun, Ferdinand and Miranda
set to work.  And it was a pretty sight to see them—her soft dark eyes
so full of an anxious care to acquit herself well; his robust, hard,
fresh-coloured face full of a sort of good-natured forbearance.  But
nevertheless it was a strange game.  All Scotchmen are supposed to play
draughts; and one brought up in a manse is almost of necessity a good
player.  But one astonished onlooker began to perceive that, whereas
Mary Avon played but indifferently, her opponent played with a blindness
that was quite remarkable.  She had a very pretty, small, white hand;
was he looking at that that he did not, on one occasion, see how he
could have taken three pieces and crowned his man all at one fell swoop?
And then is it considered incumbent on a draught-player to inform his
opponent of what would be a better move on the part of the latter?
However that may be, true it is that, by dint of much advice, opportune
blindness, and atrocious bad play, the Doctor managed to get the game
ended in a draw.

"Dear me," said Mary Avon, "I never thought I should have had a chance.
The Scotch are such good draught-players."

"But you play remarkably well," said he—and there was no blush of shame
on his face.

Draughts and luncheon carry us on to the afternoon; and still the light
breeze holds out; and we get nearer and nearer to the most northerly
points of Skye.  And as the evening draws on, we can now make out the
hilly line of Ross-shire—a pale rose-colour in the far east; and nearer
at hand is the Skye coast, with the warm sunlight touching on the ruins
of Duntulme, where Donald Gorm Mor fed his imprisoned nephew on salt
beef, and then lowered to him an empty cup—mocking him before he died;
and then in the west the mountains of Harris, a dark purple against the
clear lemon-golden glow.  But as night draws on, behold! the wind dies
away altogether; and we lie becalmed on a lilac-and-silver sea, with
some rocky islands over there grown into a strange intense green in the
clear twilight.

Down with the gig, then, John of Skye!—and hurry in all our rods, and
lines, and the occult entrapping inventions of our patriarch of
Denny-mains.  We have no scruple about leaving the yacht in mid-ocean,
in charge of the steward only.  The clear twilight shines in the sky;
there is not a ripple on the sea; only the long Atlantic swell that we
can hear breaking far away on the rocks.  And surely such calms are
infrequent in the Minch; and surely these lonely rocks can have been
visited but seldom by passing voyagers?

Yet the great rollers—as we near the forbidding shores—break with an
ominous thunder on the projecting points and reefs.  The Doctor insists
on getting closer and closer—he knows where the big lithe are likely to
be found—and the men, although they keep a watchful eye about them,
obey.  And then—it is Mary Avon who first calls out—and behold!  her rod
is suddenly dragged down—the point is hauled below the water—agony and
alarm are on her face.

"Here—take it—take it!" she calls out. "The rod will be broken."

"Not a bit," the Doctor calls out.  "Give him the butt hard!  Never mind
the rod! Haul away!"

And indeed by this time everybody was alternately calling and hauling;
and John of Skye, attending to the rods of the two ladies, had scarcely
time to disengage the big fish, and smooth the flies again; and the
Laird was declaring that these lithe fight as hard as a twenty-pound
salmon.  What did we care about those needles and points of black rock
that every two or three seconds showed their teeth through the breaking
white surf?

"Keep her close in, boys!" Angus Sutherland cried.  "We shall have a
fine pickling to-morrow."

Then one fish, stronger or bigger than his fellows, pulls the rod clean
out of Mary Avon’s hands.

"Well, I have done it this time," she says.

"Not a bit!" her companion cries.  "Up all lines!  Back now,

And as the stern of the boat is shoved over the great glassy billows,
behold! a thin dark line occasionally visible—the end of the lost rod!
Then there is a swoop on the part of our Doctor; he has both his hands
on the butt; there elapses a minute or two of fighting between man and
fish; and then we can see below the boat the wan gleam of the captured
animal as it comes to the surface in slow circles.  Hurrah! a
seven-pounder!  John of Skye chuckles to himself as he grasps the big

"Oh, ay!" he says, "the young leddy knows ferry well when to throw away
the rod.  It is a gran’ good thing to throw away the rod when there will
be a big fish.  Ay, ay, it iss a good fish."

But the brutes that fought hardest of all were the dog-fish—the snakes
of the sea; and there was a sort of holy Archangelic joy on the face of
John of Skye when he seized a lump of stick to fell these hideous
creatures before flinging them back into the water again. And yet why
should they have been killed on account of their snake-like eyes and
their cruel mouth?  The human race did not rise and extirpate Frederick
Smethurst because he was ill-favoured.

By half-past ten we had secured a good cargo of fish; and then we set
out for the yacht.  The clear twilight was still shining above the
Harris hills; but there was a dusky shadow along the Outer Hebrides,
where the orange ray of Scalpa light was shining; and there was dusk in
the south, so that the yacht had become invisible altogether.  It was a
long pull back; for the _White Dove_ had been carried far by the ebb
tide.  When we found her, she looked like a tall grey ghost in the
gathering darkness; and no light had as yet been put up; but all the
same we had a laughing welcome from Master Fred, who was glad to have
the fresh fish wherewith to supplement our frugal meals.

Then the next morning—when we got up and looked around—we were in the
same place!  And the glass would not fall; and the blue skies kept blue;
and we had to encounter still another day of dreamy idleness.

"The weather is conspiring against you, Angus," our sovereign lady said,
with a smile. "And you know you cannot run away from the yacht: it would
be so cowardly to take the steamer."

"Well, indeed," said he, "it is the first time in my life that I have
found absolute idleness enjoyable; and I am not so very anxious it
should end.  Somehow, though, I fear we are too well off.  When we get
back to the region of letters and telegrams, don’t you think we shall
have to pay for all this selfish happiness?"

"Then why should we go back?" she says lightly.  "Why not make a compact
to forsake the world altogether, and live all our life on board the
_White Dove_?"

Somehow, his eyes wandered to Mary Avon; and he said—rather absently—

"I, for one, should like it well enough; if it were only possible."

"No, no," says the Laird, brusquely, "that will no do at all.  It was
never intended that people should go and live for themselves like that.
Ye have your duties to the nation and to the laws that protect ye.  When
I left Denny-mains I told my brother Commissioners that what I could do
when I was away to further the business of the Burgh I would do; and I
have entered most minutely into several matters of great importance.
And that is why I am anxious to get to Portree.  I expect most important
letters there."

Portree!  Our whereabouts on the chart last night was marked between 45
and 46 fathoms W.S.W. from some nameless rocks; and here, as far as we
can make out, we are still between these mystical numbers.  What can we
do but chat, and read, and play draughts, and twirl round a rope, and
ascend to the cross-trees to look out for a breeze, and watch and listen
to the animal-life around us?

"I do think," says Mary Avon to her hostess, "the calling of those
divers is the softest and most musical sound I ever heard; perhaps
because it is associated with so many beautiful places.  Just fancy,
now, if you were suddenly to hear a diver symphony beginning in an
opera—if all the falsetto recitative and the blare of the trumpets were
to stop—and if you were to hear the violins and flutes beginning, quite
low and soft, a diver symphony, would you not think of the Hebrides, and
the _White Dove_, and the long summer days?  In the winter, you know, in
London, I fancy we should go once or twice to see _that_ opera!"

"I have never been to an opera," remarks the Laird, quite impervious to
Mary Avon’s tender enthusiasm.  "I am told it is a fantastic

One incident of that day was the appearance of a new monster of the
deep, which approached quite close to the hull of the _White Dove_.
Leaning over the rail we could see him clearly in the clear water—a
beautiful, golden, submarine insect, with a conical body like that of a
land-spider, and six or eight slender legs, by the incurving of which he
slowly propelled himself through the water.  As we were perfectly
convinced that no one had ever been in such dead calms in the Minch
before, and had lain for twenty-four hours in the neighbourhood of 45
and 46, we took it for granted that this was a new animal.  In the
temporary absence of our F.R.S., the Laird was bold enough to name it
the _Arachne Mary-Avonensis_; but did not seek to capture it.  It went
on its golden way.

But we were not to linger for ever in these northern seas, surrounded by
perpetual summer calms—however beautiful the prospect might be to a
young man fallen away, for the moment, from his high ambitions.
Whatever summons from the far world might be awaiting us at Portree was
soon to be served upon us.  In the afternoon a slight breeze sprung up
that gently carried us away past Ru Hunish, and round by Eilean Trodda,
and down by Altavaig. The grey-green basaltic cliffs of the Skye coast
were now in shadow; but the strong sunlight beat on the grassy ledges
above; and there was a distant roar of water along the rocks. This other
throbbing sound, too: surely that must be some steamer far away on the
other side of Rona?

The sunset deepened.  Darker and darker grew the shadows in the great
mountains above us.  We heard the sea along the solitary shores.

The stars came out in the twilight: they seemed clearest just over the
black mountains. In the silence there was the sound of a waterfall
somewhere—in among those dark cliffs. Then our side-lights were put up;
and we sate on deck; and Mary Avon, nestling close to her friend, was
persuaded to sing for her

_Yestreen the Queen had four Maries_

—just as if she had never heard the song before.  The hours went by;
Angus Sutherland was talking in a slow, earnest, desultory fashion; and
surely he must have been conscious that one heart there at least was
eagerly and silently listening to him.  The dawn was near at hand when
finally we consented to go below.

What time of the morning was it that we heard John of Skye call out
"_Six or seven fathoms ’ll do?_"  We knew at least that we had got into
harbour; and that the first golden glow of the daybreak was streaming
through the skylights of the saloon.  We had returned from the wilds to
the claims and the cares of civilisation; if there was any message to
us, for good or for evil, from the distant world we had left for so
long, it was now waiting for us on shore.

                             *CHAPTER XIV.*

                            *EVIL TIDINGS.*

We had indeed returned to the world: the first thing we saw on entering
the saloon in the morning was a number of letters—actual letters, that
had come through a post-office—lying on the breakfast-table.  We stared
at these strange things.  Our good Queen T. was the first to approach
them.  She took them up as if she expected they would bite her.

"Oh, Mary," she says, "there is not one for you—not one."

Angus Sutherland glanced quickly at the girl.  But there was not the
least trace of disappointment on her face.  On the contrary, she said,
with a cheerful indifference—

"So much the better.  They only bother people."

But of course they had to be opened and read—even the bulky parcel from
Strathgovan. The only bit of intelligence that came from that quarter
was to the effect that Tom Galbraith had been jilted by his lady-love;
but as the rumour, it appeared, was in circulation among the Glasgow
artists, the Laird instantly and indignantly refused to believe it.
Envy is the meanest of the passions; and we knew that the Glasgow
artists could scarcely sleep in their bed at night for thinking of the
great fame of Mr. Galbraith of Edinburgh.  However, amid all these
letters one of us stumbled upon one little item that certainly concerned
us.  It was a clipping from the advertisement column of a newspaper.  It
was inclosed, without word or comment, by a friend in London who knew
that we were slightly acquainted, perforce, with Mr. Frederick
Smethurst.  And it appeared that that gentleman, having got into
difficulties with his creditors, had taken himself off, in a
surreptitious and evil manner, insomuch that this newspaper clipping was
nothing more nor less than a hue and cry after the fraudulent bankrupt.
That letter and its startling inclosure were quickly whipped into the
pocket of the lady to whom they had been sent.

By great good luck Mary Avon was the first to go on deck.  She was
anxious to see this new harbour into which we had got.  And then, with
considerable dismay on her face, our sovereign mistress showed us this
ugly thing. She was much excited.  It was so shameful of him to bring
this disgrace on Mary Avon! What would the poor girl say?  And this
gentle lady would not for worlds have her told while she was with
us—until at least we got back to some more definite channel of
information.  She was, indeed, greatly distressed.

But we had to order her to dismiss these idle troubles.  We formed
ourselves into a committee on the spot; and this committee unanimously,
if somewhat prematurely, and recklessly, resolved—

First, that it was not of the slightest consequence to us or any human
creature where Mr. Frederick Smethurst was, or what he might do with

Secondly, that if Mr. Frederick Smethurst were to put a string and a
stone round his neck and betake himself to the bottom of the sea, he
would earn our gratitude and in some measure atone for his previous

Thirdly, that nothing at all about the matter should be said to Mary
Avon: if the man had escaped, there might probably be an end of the
whole business.

To these resolutions, carried swiftly and unanimously, Angus Sutherland
added a sort of desultory rider, to the effect that moral or immoral
qualities do sometimes reveal themselves in the face.  He was also of
opinion that spare persons were more easy of detection in this manner.
He gave an instance of a well-known character in London—a most promising
ruffian who had run through the whole gamut of discreditable offences.
Why was there no record of this brave career written in the man’s face?
Because nature had obliterated the lines in fat.  When a man attains to
the dimensions and appearance of a scrofulous toad swollen to the size
of an ox, moral and mental traces get rubbed out.  Therefore, contended
our F.R.S., all persons who set out on a career of villany, and don’t
want to be found out, should eat fat-producing foods. Potatoes and sugar
he especially mentioned as being calculated to conceal crime.

However, we had to banish Frederick Smethurst and his evil deeds from
our minds; for the yacht from end to end was in a bustle of commotion
about our going ashore; and as for us—why, we meant to run riot in all
the wonders and delights of civilisation.  Innumerable fowls, tons of
potatoes and cabbage and lettuce, fresh butter, new loaves, new milk:
there was no end to the visions that rose before the excited brain of
our chief commissariat officer.  And when the Laird, in the act of
stepping, with much dignity, into the gig, expressed his firm conviction
that somewhere or other we should stumble upon a Glasgow newspaper not
more than a week old, so that he might show us the reports of the
meetings of the Strathgovan Commissioners, we knew of no further luxury
that the mind could desire.

And as we were being rowed ashore, we could not fail to be struck by the
extraordinary abundance of life and business and activity in the world.
Portree, with its wooded crags and white houses shining in the sun,
seemed a large and populous city.  The smooth waters of the bay were
crowded with craft of every description; and the boats of the yachts
were coming and going with so many people on board of them that we were
quite stared out of countenance.  And then, when we landed, and walked
up the quay, and ascended the hill into the town, we regarded the signs
over the shop-doors with the same curiosity that regards the commonest
features of a foreign street.  There was a peculiarity about Portree,
however, that is not met with in continental capitals.  We felt that the
ground swayed lightly under our feet.  Perhaps these were the last
oscillations of the great volcanic disturbance that shot the black
Coolins into the sky.

Then the shops: such displays of beautiful things, in silk, and wool,
and cunning woodwork; human ingenuity declaring itself in a thousand
ways, and appealing to our purses. Our purses, to tell the truth, were
gaping.  A craving for purchase possessed us.  But, after all, the Laird
could not buy servant girls’ scarves as a present for Mary Avon; and
Angus Sutherland did not need a second waterproof coat; and though we
reached the telegraph office, there would have been a certain monotony
in spending innumerable shillings on unnecessary telegrams, even though
we might be rejoicing in one of the highest conveniences of
civilisation.  The plain truth must be told.  Our purchases were limited
to some tobacco and a box or two of paper collars for the men; to one or
two shilling novels; and a flask of eau-de-Cologne.  We did not half
avail ourselves of all the luxuries spread out so temptingly before us.

"Do you think the men will have the water on board yet?" Mary Avon says,
as we walk back.  "I do not at all like being on land. The sun scorches
so, and the air is stifling."

"In my opeenion," says the Laird, "the authorities of Portree are
deserving of great credit for having fixed up the apparatus to let boats
get water on board at the quay.  It was a public-spirited project—it was
that.  And I do not suppose that any one grumbles at having to pay a
shilling for the privilege.  It is a legeetimate tax.  I am sure it
would have been a long time or we could have got such a thing at
Strathgovan, if there was need for it there; ye would scarcely believe
it, ma’am, what a spirit of opposition there is among some o’ the
Commissioners to any improvement, ye would not believe it."

"Indeed," she says, in innocent wonder; she quite sympathises with this
public-spirited reformer.

"Ay, it’s true.  Mind ye, I am a Conservative myself; I will have
nothing to do with Radicals and their Republics; no, no, but a wise
Conservative knows how to march with the age.  Take my own poseetion:
for example, as soon as I saw that the steam fire-engine was a
necessity, I withdrew my opposition at once.  I am very thankful to you,
ma’am, for having given me an opportunity of carefully considering the
question.  I will never forget our trip round Mull.  Dear me! it is warm
the day," added the Laird, as he raised his broad felt hat, and wiped
his face with his voluminous silk handkerchief.

Here come two pedestrians—good-looking young lads of an obviously
English type—and faultlessly equipped from head to heel.  They look
neither to the left nor right; on they go manfully through the dust, the
sun scorching their faces; there must be a trifle of heat under these
knapsacks.  Well, we wish them fine weather and whole heels.  It is not
the way some of us would like to pass a holiday. For what is this that
Miss Avon is singing lightly to herself as she walks carelessly on,
occasionally pausing to look in at a shop—

_And often have we seamen heard how men are killed or undone,_
_By overturns of carriages, and thieves, and fires in London._

Here she turns aside to caress a small terrier; but the animal,
mistaking her intention, barks furiously, and retreats, growling and
ferocious, into the shop.  Miss Avon is not disturbed. She walks on, and
completes her nautical ballad—all for her own benefit—

_We’ve heard what risk all landsmen run, from noblemen to tailors,_
_So, Billy, let’s thank Providence that you and I are sailors!_

"What on earth is that, Mary?" her friend behind asks.

The girl stops with a surprised look, as if she had scarcely been
listening to herself; then she says lightly:—

"Oh, don’t you know the sailor’s song—I forget what they call it:—

_A strong sou-wester’s blowing, Billy, can’t you hear it roar now,_
_Lord help ’em, how I pities all unhappy folks on shore now._

"You have become a thorough sailor, Miss Avon," says Angus Sutherland,
who has overheard the last quotation.

"I—I like it better—I am more interested," she says, timidly, "since you
were so kind as to show me the working of the ship."

"Indeed," says he, "I wish you would take command of her, and order her
present captain below.  Don’t you see how tired his eyes are becoming?
He won’t take his turn of sleep like the others; he has been scarcely
off the deck night or day since we left Canna; and I find it is no use
remonstrating with him.  He is too anxious; and he fancies I am in a
hurry to get back; and these continual calms prevent his getting on.
Now the whole difficulty would be solved, if you let me go back by the
steamer; then you could lie at Portree here for a night or two, and let
him have some proper rest."

"I do believe, Angus," says his hostess, laughing in her gentle way,
"that you threaten to leave us just to see how anxious we are to keep

"My position as ship’s doctor," he retorts, "is compromised.  If Captain
John falls ill on my hands whom am I to blame but myself?"

"I am quite sure I can get him to go below," says Mary Avon, with
decision—"quite sure of it.  That is, especially," she adds, rather
shyly, "if you will take his place.  I know he would place more
dependence on you than on any of the men."

This is a very pretty compliment to pay to one who is rather proud of
his nautical knowledge.

"Well," he says, laughing, "the responsibility must rest on you.  Order
him below, to-night, and see whether he obeys.  If we don’t get to a
proper anchorage, we will manage to sail the yacht somehow among us—you
being captain, Miss Avon."

"If I am captain," she says, lightly—though she turns away her head
somewhat, "I shall forbid your deserting the ship."

"So long as you are captain, you need not fear that," he answers.
Surely he could say no less.

But it was still John of Skye who was skipper when, on getting under
way, we nearly met with a serious accident.  Fresh water and all
provisions having been got on board, we weighed anchor only to find the
breeze die wholly down.  Then the dingay was got out to tow the yacht
away from the sheltered harbour; and our young Doctor, always anxious
for hard work, must needs jump in to join in this service.  But the
little boat had been straining at the cable for scarcely five minutes
when a squall of wind came over from the north-west and suddenly filled
the sails.  "Look out there, boys!" called Captain John, for we were
running full down on the dingay.  "Let go the rope!  Let go!" he
shouted: but they would not let go, as the dingay came sweeping by. In
fact, she caught the yacht just below the quarter, and seemed to
disappear altogether. Mary Avon uttered one brief cry; and then stood
pale—clasping one of the ropes—not daring to look.  And John of Skye
uttered some exclamation in the Gaelic; and jumped on to the taffrail.
But the next thing we saw, just above the taffrail, was the red and
shining and laughing face of Angus Sutherland, who was hoisting himself
up by means of the mizen boom; and directly afterwards appeared the
scarlet cap of Hector of Moidart.  It was upon this latter culprit that
the full force of John of Skye’s wrath was expended.

"Why did you not let go the rope when I wass call to you?"

"It is all right, and if I wass put into the water, I have been in the
water before," was the philosophic reply.

And now it was, as we drew away from Portree, that Captain Mary Avon
endeavoured to assume supreme command and would have the deposed skipper
go below and sleep.  John of Skye was very obedient, but he said:—"Oh,
ay.  I will get plenty of sleep.  But that hill there, that is Ben
Inivaig; and there is not any hill in the West Highlands so bad for
squalls as that hill.  By and by I will get plenty of sleep."

Ben Inivaig let us go past its great, gloomy, forbidding shoulders and
cliffs without visiting us with anything worse than a few variable
puffs; and we got well down into the Raasay Narrows.  What a picture of
still summer loveliness was around us!—the rippling blue seas, the green
shores, and far over these the black peaks of the Coolins now taking a
purple tint in the glow of the afternoon.  The shallow Sound of Scalpa
we did not venture to attack, especially as it was now low water; we
went outside Scalpa, by the rocks of Skier Dearg. And still John of Skye
evaded, with a gentle Highland courtesy, the orders of the captain. The
silver bell of Master Fred summoned us below for dinner, and still John
of Skye was gently obdurate.

"Now, John," says Mary Avon, seriously, to him, "you want to make me

"Oh, no, mem; I not think that," says he, deprecatingly.

"Then why won’t you go and have some sleep?  Do you want to be ill?"

"Oh, there iss plenty of sleep," says he. "Maybe we will get to Kyle
Akin to-night; and there will be plenty of sleep for us."

"But I am asking you as a favour to go and get some sleep _now_.  Surely
the men can take charge of the yacht!"

"Oh, yes, oh, yes!" says John of Skye. "They can do that ferry well."

And then he paused—for he was great friends with this young lady, and
did not like to disoblige her.

"You will be having your dinner now. After the dinner, if Mr. Sutherland
himself will be on deck, I will go below and turn in for a time."

"Of course Dr. Sutherland will be on deck," says the new captain,
promptly; and she was so sure of one member of her crew that she added,
"and he will not leave the tiller for a moment until you come to relieve

Perhaps it was this promise—perhaps it was the wonderful beauty of the
evening—that made us hurry over dinner.  Then we went on deck again; and
our young Doctor, having got all his bearings and directions clear in
his head, took the tiller, and John of Skye at length succumbed to the
authority of Commander Avon and disappeared into the forecastle.

The splendour of colour around us on that still evening!—away in the
west the sea of a pale yellow green, with each ripple a flash of
rose-flame, and over there in the south the great mountains of Skye—the
Coolins, Blaven, and Ben-na-Cailleach—become of a plum-purple in the
clear and cloudless sky. Angus Sutherland was at the tiller
contemplatively smoking an almost black meerschaum; the Laird was
discoursing to us about the extraordinary pith and conciseness of the
Scotch phrases in the Northumbrian Psalter; while ever and anon a
certain young lady, linked arm-in-arm with her friend, would break the
silence with some aimless fragment of ballad or old-world air.

And still we glided onwards in the beautiful evening; and now ahead of
us in the dusk of the evening, the red star of Kyle Akin lighthouse
steadily gleamed.  We might get to anchor, after all, without awaking
John of Skye.

"In weather like this," remarked our sovereign lady, "in the gathering
darkness, John might keep asleep for fifty years."

"Like Rip Van Winkle," said the Laird, proud of his erudition.  "That is
a wonderful story that Washington Irving wrote—a verra fine story."

"Washington Irving!—the story is as old as the Coolins," says Dr.

The Laird stared as if he had been Rip Van Winkle himself: was he for
ever to be checkmated by the encyclopædic knowledge of Young England—or
Young Scotland rather—and that knowledge only the gatherings and
sweepings of musty books that anybody with a parrot-like habit might

"Why, surely you know that the legend belongs to that common stock of
legends that go through all literatures?" says our young Doctor.  "I
have no doubt the Hindoos have their Epimenides; and that Peter Klaus
turns up somewhere or other in the Gaelic stories. However, that is of
little importance; it is of importance that Captain John should get some
sleep.  Hector, come here!"

There was a brief consultation about the length of anchor-chain wanted
for the little harbour opposite Kyle Akin; Hector’s instructions were on
no account to disturb John of Skye.  But no sooner had they set about
getting the chain on deck than another figure appeared, black among the
rigging; and there was a well-known voice heard forward.  Then Captain
John came aft, and, despite all remonstrances, would relieve his
substitute.  Rip Van Winkle’s sleep had lasted about an hour and a half.

And now we steal by the black shores; and that solitary red star comes
nearer and nearer in the dusk; and at length we can make out two or
three other paler lights close down by the water.  Behold! the yellow
ports of a steam-yacht at anchor; we know, as our own anchor goes
rattling out in the dark, that we shall have at least one neighbour and
companion through the still watches of the night.

                             *CHAPTER XV.*


But the night, according to John of Skye’s chronology, lasts only until
the tide turns or until a breeze springs up.  Long before the wan glare
in the east has arisen to touch the highest peaks of the Coolins, we
hear the tread of the men on deck getting the yacht under way.  And then
there is a shuffling noise in Angus Sutherland’s cabin; and we guess
that he is stealthily dressing in the dark.  Is he anxious to behold the
wonders of daybreak in the beautiful Loch Alsh, or is he bound to take
his share in the sailing of the ship?  Less perturbed spirits sink back
again into sleep, and contentedly let the _White Dove_ go on her own way
through the expanding blue-grey light of the dawn.

Hours afterwards there is a strident shouting down the companion-way;
everybody is summoned on deck to watch the yacht shoot the Narrows of
Kyle Rhea.  And the Laird is the first to express his surprise: are
these the dreaded Narrows that have caused Captain John to start before
daybreak so as to shoot them with the tide?  All around is a dream of
summer beauty and quiet.  A more perfect picture of peace and loveliness
could not be imagined than the green crags of the mainland, and the vast
hills of Skye, and this placid channel between shining in the fair light
of the morning.  The only thing we notice is that on the glassy green of
the water—this reflected, deep, almost opaque green is not unlike the
colour of Niagara below the Falls—there are smooth circular lines here
and there; and now and again the bows of the _White Dove_ slowly swerve
away from her course as if in obedience to some unseen and mysterious
pressure.  There is not a breath of wind; and it needs all the pulling
of the two men out there in the dingay and all the watchful steering of
Captain John to keep her head straight.  Then a light breeze comes along
the great gully; the red-capped men are summoned on board; the dingay is
left astern; the danger of being caught in an eddy and swirled ashore is
over and gone.

Suddenly the yacht stops as if she had run against a wall.  Then, just
as she recovers, there is an extraordinary hissing and roaring in the
dead silence around us, and close by the yacht we find a great circle of
boiling and foaming water, forced up from below and overlapping itself
in ever-increasing folds.  And then, on the perfectly glassy sea,
another and another of those boiling and hissing circles appears, until
there is a low rumbling in the summer air like the breaking of distant
waves. And the yacht—the wind having again died down—is curiously
compelled one way and then another, insomuch that John of Skye quickly
orders the men out in the dingay again; and once more the long cable is
tugging at her bows.

"It seems to me," says Dr. Sutherland to our skipper, "that we are in
the middle of about a thousand whirlpools."

"Oh, it iss ferry quate this morning," says Captain John, with a shrewd
smile.  "It iss not often so quate as this.  Ay, it iss sometimes ferry
bad here—quite so bad as Corrievreckan; and when the flood-tide is
rinnin, it will be rinnin like—shist like a race-horse."

However, by dint of much hard pulling, and judicious steering, we manage
to keep the _White Dove_ pretty well in mid-current; and only once—and
that but for a second or two—get caught in one of those eddies circling
in to the shore.  We pass the white ferry-house; a slight breeze carries
us by the green shores and woods of Glenelg; we open out the wider sea
between Isle Ornsay and Loch Hourn; and then a silver tinkle tells us
breakfast is ready.

That long, beautiful, calm summer day: Ferdinand and Miranda playing
draughts on deck—he having rigged up an umbrella to shelter her from the
hot sun; the Laird busy with papers referring to the Strathgovan Public
Park; the hostess of these people overhauling the stores and meditating
on something recondite for dinner.  At last the Doctor fairly burst out

"Well," said he, "I have been in many a yacht; but never yet in one
where everybody on board was anxiously waiting for the glass to fall."

His hostess laughed too.

"When you come south again," she said, "we may be able to give you a
touch of something different.  I think that, even with all your love of
gales, a few days of the equinoctials would quite satisfy you."

"The equinoctials!" he said, with a surprised look.

"Yes," said she boldly.  "Why not have a good holiday while you are
about it?  And a yachting trip is nothing without a fight with the
equinoctials.  Oh, you have no idea how splendidly the _White Dove_

"I should like to try her," he said, with a quick delight; but directly
afterwards he ruefully shook his head.  "No, no," said he, "such a
tremendous spell of idleness is not for me. I have not earned the right
to it yet.  Twenty years hence I may be able to have three months’
continued yachting in the West Highlands."

"If I were you," retorted this small person, with a practical air, "I
would take it when I could get it.  What do you know about twenty years
hence?—you may be physician to the Emperor of China.  And you have
worked very hard; and you ought to take as long a holiday as you can

"I am sure," says Mary Avon very timidly, "that is very wise advice."

"In the meantime," says he, cheerfully, "I am not physician to the
Emperor of China, but to the passengers and crew of the _White Dove_.
The passengers don’t do me the honour of consulting me; but I am going
to prescribe for the crew on my own responsibility.  All I want is, that
I shall have the assistance of Miss Avon in making them take the dose."

Miss Avon looked up inquiringly with the soft black eyes of her.

"Nobody has any control over them but herself—they are like refractory
children. Now," said he, rather more seriously, "this night-and-day work
is telling on the men. Another week of it and you would see _Insomnia_
written in large letters on their eyes.  I want you, Miss Avon, to get
Captain John and the men to have a complete night’s rest to-night—a
sound night’s sleep from the time we finish dinner till daybreak.  We
can take charge of the yacht."

Miss Avon promptly rose to her feet.

"John!" she called.

The big brown-bearded skipper from Skye came aft—putting his pipe in his
waistcoat-pocket the while.

"John," she said, "I want you to do me a favour now.  You and the men
have not been having enough sleep lately.  You must all go below
to-night as soon as we come up from dinner; and you must have a good
sleep till daybreak.  The gentlemen will take charge of the yacht."

It was in vain that John of Skye protested he was not tired.  It was in
vain that he assured her that, if a good breeze sprung up, we might get
right back to Castle Osprey by the next morning.

"Why, you know very well," she said, "this calm weather means to last
for ever."

"Oh, no!  I not think that, mem," said John of Skye, smiling.

"At all events we shall be sailing all night; and that is what I want
you to do, as a favour to me."

Indeed, our skipper found it was of no use to refuse.  The young lady
was peremptory.  And so, having settled that matter, she sate down to
her draught-board again.

But it was the Laird she was playing with now.  And this was a
remarkable circumstance about the game: when Angus Sutherland played
with Denny-mains, the latter was hopelessly and invariably beaten; and
when Denny-mains in his turn played with Mary Avon, he was relentlessly
and triumphantly the victor; but when Angus Sutherland played with Miss
Avon, she, somehow or other, generally managed to secure two out of
three games.  It was a puzzling triangular duel: the chief feature of it
was the splendid joy of the Laird when he had conquered the English
young lady.  He rubbed his hands, he chuckled, he laughed—just as if he
had been repeating one of his own "good ones."

However, at luncheon the Laird was much more serious; for he was showing
to us how remiss the Government was in not taking up the great solan
question.  He had a newspaper cutting which gave in figures—in rows of
figures—the probable number of millions of herrings destroyed every year
by the solan-geese.  The injuries done to the herring-fisheries of this
country, he proved to us, was enormous.  If a solan is known to eat on
an average fifty herrings a day, just think of the millions on millions
of fish that must go to feed those nests on the Bass Rock!  The Laird
waxed quite eloquent about it.  The human race were dearer to him far
than any gannet or family of gannets.

"What I wonder at is this," said our young Doctor with a curious grim
smile, that we had learned to know, coming over his face, "that the
solan, with that extraordinary supply of phosphorus to the brain, should
have gone on remaining only a bird, and a very ordinary bird, too.  Its
brain-power should have been developed; it should be able to speak by
this time.  In fact, there ought to be solan schoolboards and parochial
boards on the Bass Rock; and commissioners appointed to inquire whether
the building of nests might not be conducted on more scientific
principles. When I was a boy—I am sorry to say—I used often to catch a
solan by floating out a piece of wood with a dead herring on it: a wise
bird, with its brain full of phosphorus, ought to have known that it
would break its head when it swooped down on a piece of wood."

The Laird sate in dignified silence.  There was something occult and
uncanny about many of this young man’s sayings—they savoured too much of
the dangerous and unsettling tendencies of these modern days.  Besides,
he did not see what good could come of likening a lot of solan-geese to
the Commissioners of the Burgh of Strathgovan.  His remarks on the
herring-fisheries had been practical and intelligible; they had given no
occasion for jibes.

We were suddenly startled by the rattling out of the anchor-chain.  What
could it mean?—were we caught in an eddy?  There was a scurrying up on
deck, only to find that, having drifted so far south with the tide, and
the tide beginning to turn, John of Skye proposed to secure what
advantage we had gained by coming to anchor.  There was a sort of shamed
laughter over this business.  Was the noble _White Dove_ only a river
barge, then, that she was thus dependent on the tides for her progress?
But it was no use either to laugh or to grumble; two of us proposed to
row the Laird away to certain distant islands that lie off the shore
north of the mouth of Loch Hourn; and for amusement’s sake we took some
towels with us.

Look now how this long and shapely gig cuts the blue water.  The Laird
is very dignified in the stern, with the tiller-ropes in his hand; he
keeps a straight course enough—though he is mostly looking over the
side. And, indeed, this is a perfect wonder-hall over which we are
making our way—the water so clear that we notice the fish darting here
and there among the great brown blades of the tangle and the long green
sea-grass.  Then there are stretches of yellow sand, with shells and
star-fish shining far below.  The sun burns on our hands; there is a
dead stillness of heat; the measured splash of the oars startles the
sea-birds in there among the rocks.

_Send the biorlinn on careering,_
_Cheerily and all together,_
  _Ho, ro, clansmen!_
_A long, strong pull together!_
  _Ho, ro, clansmen!_

Look out for the shallows, most dignified of coxswains: what if we were
to imbed her bows in the silver sand?—

_Another cheer!  Our isle appears—_
_Our biorlinn bears her on the faster!_
  _Ho, ro, clansmen!_
_A long strong pull together!_
  _Ho, ro, clansmen!_

"Hold hard!" calls Denny-mains; and behold! we are in among a network of
channels and small islands lying out here in the calm sea; and the birds
are wildly calling and screaming and swooping about our heads, indignant
at the approach of strangers.  What is our first duty, then, in coming
to these unknown islands and straits?—why, surely, to name them in the
interests of civilisation. And we do so accordingly.  Here—let it be for
ever known—is John Smith Bay.  There, Thorley’s Food for Cattle Island.
Beyond that, on the south, Brown and Poison’s Straits. It is quite true
that these islands and bays may have been previously visited; but it was
no doubt a long time ago; and the people did not stop to bestow names.
The latitude and longitude may be dealt with afterwards; meanwhile the
discoverers unanimously resolve that the most beautiful of all the
islands shall hereafter, through all time, be known as the Island of
Mary Avon.

It was on this island that the Laird achieved his memorable capture of a
young sea-bird—a huge creature of unknown species that fluttered and
scrambled over bush and over scaur, while Denny-mains, quite forgetting
his dignity and the heat of the sun, clambered after it over the rocks.
And when he got it in his hands, it lay as one dead.  He was sorry.  He
regarded the newly-fledged thing with compassion; and laid it tenderly
down on the grass; and came away down again to the shore.  But he had
scarcely turned his back when the demon bird got on its legs, and—with a
succession of shrill and sarcastic "yawps"—was off and away over the
higher ledges.  No fasting girl had ever shammed so completely as this
scarcely-fledged bird.

We bathed in Brown and Poison’s Straits, to the great distress of
certain sea-pyots that kept screaming over our heads, resenting the
intrusion of the discoverers.  But in the midst of it, we were suddenly
called to observe a strange darkness on the sea, far away in the north,
between Glenelg and Skye.  Behold! the long-looked-for wind—a hurricane
swooping down from the northern hills!  Our toilette on the hot rocks
was of brief duration; we jumped into the gig; away we went through the
glassy water!  It was a race between us and the northerly breeze which
should reach the yacht first; and we could see that John of Skye had
remarked the coming wind, for the men were hoisting the fore-staysail.
The dark blue on the water spreads; the reflections of the hills and the
clouds gradually disappear; as we clamber on board the first puffs of
the breeze are touching the great sails.  The anchor has just been got
up; the gig is hoisted to the davits; slack out the main sheet, you
shifty Hector, and let the great boom go out! Nor is it any mere squall
that has come down from the hills; but a fine, steady, northerly breeze;
and away we go with the white foam in our wake.  Farewell to the great
mountains over the gloomy Loch Hourn; and to the lighthouse over there
at Isle Ornsay; and to the giant shoulders of Ard-na-Glishnich.  Are not
these the dark green woods of Armadale that we see in the west?  And
southward, and still southward we go with the running seas and the fresh
brisk breeze from the north: who knows where we may not be tonight
before Angus Sutherland’s watch begins?

There is but one thoughtful face on board. It is that of Mary Avon.  For
the moment, at least, she seems scarcely to rejoice that we have at last
got this grateful wind to bear us away to the south and to Castle

                             *CHAPTER XVI.*

                          *THROUGH THE DARK.*

_Ahead she goes! the land she knows!_

What though we see a sudden squall come tearing over from the shores of
Skye, whitening the waves as it approaches us?  The _White Dove_ is not
afraid of any squall.  And there are the green woods of Armadale, dusky
under the western glow; and here the sombre heights of Dun Bane; and
soon we will open out the great gap of Loch Nevis.  We are running with
the running waves; a general excitement prevails; even the Laird has
dismissed for the moment certain dark suspicions about Frederick
Smethurst that have for the last day or two been haunting his mind.

And here is a fine sight!—the great steamer coming down from the
north—and the sunset is burning on her red funnels—and behold! she has a
line of flags from her stem to her top-masts and down to her stern
again.  Who is on board?—some great laird, or some gay wedding-party?

"Now is your chance, Angus," says Queen T., almost maliciously, as the
steamer slowly gains on us.  "If you want to go on at once, I know the
captain would stop for a minute and pick you up."

He looked at her for a second in a quick, hurt way; then he saw that she
was only laughing at him.

"Oh, no, thank you," he said, blushing like a schoolboy; "unless you
want to get rid of me. I have been looking forward to sailing the yacht

"And—and you said," remarked Miss Avon, rather timidly, "that we should
challenge them again after dinner this evening."

This was a pretty combination: "we" referred to Angus Sutherland and
herself.  Her elders were disrespectfully described as "them."  So the
younger people had not forgotten how they were beaten by "them" on the
previous evening.

Is there a sound of pipes amid the throbbing of the paddles?  What a
crowd of people swarm to the side of the great vessel!  And there is the
captain on the paddle-box—out all handkerchiefs to return the
innumerable salutations—and good-bye, you brave Glencoe!—you have no
need to rob us of any one of our passengers.

Where does the breeze come from on this still evening?—there is not a
cloud in the sky, and there is a drowsy haze of heat all along the land.
But nevertheless it continues; and, as the _White Dove_ cleaves her way
through the tumbling sea, we gradually draw on to the Point of Sleat,
and open out the great plain of the Atlantic, now a golden green, where
the tops of the waves catch the light of the sunset skies.  And there,
too, are our old friends Haleval and Haskeval; but they are so far away,
and set amid such a bewildering light, that the whole island seems to be
of a pale transparent rose-purple.  And a still stranger thing now
attracts the eyes of all on board. The setting sun, as it nears the
horizon-line of the sea, appears to be assuming a distinctly oblong
shape.  It is slowly sinking into a purple haze, and becomes more and
more oblong as it nears the sea.  There is a call for all the glasses
hung up in the companion-way; and now what is it that we find out there
by the aid of the various binoculars?  Why, apparently, a wall of
purple; and there is an oblong hole in it, with a fire of gold light far
away on the other side.  This apparent golden tunnel through the haze
grows redder and more red; it becomes more and more elongated; then it
burns a deeper crimson until it is almost a line. The next moment there
is a sort of shock to the eyes; for there is a sudden darkness all along
the horizon-line: the purple-black Atlantic is barred against that lurid
haze low down in the west.

It was a merry enough dinner-party: perhaps it was the consciousness
that the _White Dove_ was still bowling along that brightened up our
spirits, and made the Laird of Denny-mains more particularly loquacious.
The number of good ones that he told us was quite remarkable—until his
laughter might have been heard through the whole ship.  And to whom now
did he devote the narration of those merry anecdotes—to whom but Miss
Mary Avon, who was his ready chorus on all occasions, and who entered
with a greater zest than any one into the humours of them.  Had she been
studying the Lowland dialect, then, that she understood and laughed so
lightly and joyously at stories about a thousand years of age?

"Oh, ay," the Laird was saying patronisingly to her, "I see ye can enter
into the peculiar humour of our Scotch stories; it is not every English
person that can do that.  And ye understand the language fine....
Well," he added, with an air of modest apology, "perhaps I do not give
the pronunciation as broad as I might.  I have got out of the way of
talking the provincial Scotch since I was a boy—indeed, ah’m generally
taken for an Englishman maself—but I do my best to give ye the speerit
of it."

"Oh, I am sure your imitation of the provincial Scotch is most
excellent—most excellent—and it adds so much to the humour of the
stories," says this disgraceful young hypocrite.

"Oh, ay, oh, ay," says the Laird, greatly delighted.  "I will admit that
some o’ the stories would not have so much humour but for the language.
But when ye have both!  Did ye ever hear of the laddie who was called in
to his porridge by his mother?"

We perceived by the twinkle in the Laird’s eyes that a real good one was
coming.  He looked round to see that we were listening, but it was Mary
Avon whom he addressed.

"A grumbling bit laddie—a philosopher, too," said he.  "His mother
thought he would come in the quicker if he knew there was a fly in the
milk.  ’_Johnny_,’ she cried out, ’_Johnny, come in to your parritch;
there’s a flee in the milk._’  ’_It’ll no droon,_’ says he.  ’_What!_’
she says, ’_grumblin again?  Do ye think there’s no enough milk?’
’Plenty for the parritch_,’ says he—_kee! kee! kee!_—sharp, eh, wasn’t
eh?—’_Plenty for the parritch_,’ says he—ha! ha! ho! ho! ho!"—and the
Laird slapped his thigh, and chuckled to himself.  "Oh, ay, Miss Mary,"
he added, approvingly, "I see you are beginning to understand the Scotch
humour fine."

And if our good friend the Laird had been but twenty years younger—with
his battery of irresistible jokes, and his great and obvious affection
for this stray guest of ours, to say nothing of his dignity and
importance as a Commissioner of Strathgovan?  What chance would a poor
Scotch student have had, with his test-tubes and his scientific
magazines, his restless, audacious speculations and eager ambitions?  On
the one side, wealth, ease, a pleasant facetiousness, and a comfortable
acceptance of the obvious facts of the universe—including water-rates
and steam fire-engines; on the other, poverty, unrest, the physical
struggle for existence, the mental struggle with the mysteries of life:
who could doubt what the choice would be?  However, there was no thought
of this rivalry now.  The Laird had abdicated in favour of his nephew,
Howard, about whom he had been speaking a good deal to Mary Avon of
late.  And Angus—though he was always very kind and timidly attentive to
Miss Avon—seemed nevertheless at times almost a little afraid of her; or
perhaps it was only a vein of shyness that cropped up from time to time
through his hard mental characteristics.  In any case, he was at this
moment neither the shy lover nor the eager student; he was full of the
prospect of having sole command of the ship during a long night on the
Atlantic, and he hurried us up on deck after dinner without a word about
that return-battle at bezique.

The night had come on apace, though there was still a ruddy mist about
the northern skies, behind the dusky purple of the Coolin hills. The
stars were out overhead; the air around us was full of the soft cries of
the divers; occasionally, amid the lapping of the water, we could hear
some whirring by of wings.  Then the red port light and the green
starboard light were brought up from the forecastle, and fixed in their
place; the men went below; Angus Sutherland took the tiller; the Laird
kept walking backwards and forwards as a sort of look-out; and the two
women were as usual seated on rugs together in some invisible
corner—crooning snatches of ballads, or making impertinent remarks about
people much wiser and older than themselves.

"Now, Angus," says the voice of one of them—apparently from somewhere
about the companion, "show us that you can sail the yacht properly, and
we will give you complete command during the equinoctials."

"You speak of the equinoctials," said he, laughing, "as if it was quite
settled I should be here in September."

"Why not?" said she, promptly.  "Mary is my witness you promised.  You
wouldn’t go and desert two poor lone women?"

"But I have got that most uncomfortable thing, a conscience," he
answered; "and I know it would stare at me as if I were mad if I
proposed to spend such a long time in idleness. It would be outraging
all my theories, besides. You know, for years and years back I have been
limiting myself in every way—living, for example, on the smallest
allowance of food and drink, and that of the simplest and cheapest—so
that if any need arose, I should have no luxurious habits to abandon——"

"But what possible need can there be?" said Mary Avon, warmly.

"Do you expect to spend your life in a jail?" said the other woman.

"No," said he, quite simply.  "But I will give you an instance of what a
man who devotes himself to his profession may have to do.  A friend of
mine, who is one of the highest living authorities on _Materia Medica_,
refused all invitations for three months, and during the whole of that
time lived each day on precisely the same food and drink, weighed out in
exact quantities, so as to determine the effect of particular drugs on
himself.  Well, you know, you should be ready to do that——"

"Oh, how wrong you are!" says Mary Avon, with the same impetuosity.  "A
man who works as hard as you do should not sacrifice yourself to a
theory.  And what is it?  It is quite foolish!"

"Mary!" her friend says.

"It is," she says, with generous warmth.  "It is like a man who goes
through life with a coffin on his back, so that he may be ready for
death.  Don’t you think that when death comes it will be time enough to
be getting the coffin?"

This was a poser.

"You know quite well," she says, "that when the real occasion offered,
like the one you describe, you could deny yourself any luxuries readily
enough; why should you do so now?"

At this there was a gentle sound of laughter.

"Luxuries—the luxuries of the _White Dove_!" says her hostess, mindful
of tinned meats.

"Yes, indeed," says our young Doctor, though he is laughing too.  "There
is far too much luxury—the luxury of idleness—on board this yacht to be
wholesome for one like me."

"Perhaps you object to the effeminacy of the downy couches and the
feather pillows," says his hostess, who is always grumbling about the
hardness of the beds.

But it appears that she has made an exceedingly bad shot.  The man at
the wheel—one can just make out his dark figure against the clear
starlit heavens, though occasionally he gets before the yellow light of
the binnacle—proceeds to assure her that, of all the luxuries of
civilisation, he appreciates most a horse-hair pillow; and that he
attributes his sound sleeping on board the yacht to the hardness of the
beds.  He would rather lay his head on a brick, he says, for a night’s
rest than sink it in the softest feathers.

"Do you wonder," he says, "that Jacob dreamed of angels when he had a
stone for his pillow?  I don’t.  If I wanted to have a pleasant sleep
and fine dreams that is the sort of pillow I should have."

Some phrase of this catches the ear of our look-out forward; he
instantly comes aft.

"Yes, it is a singular piece of testimony," he says.  "There is no doubt
of it; I have myself seen the very place."

We were not startled; we knew that the Laird, under the guidance of a
well-known Free Church minister, had made a run through Palestine.

"Ay," said he, "the further I went away from my own country the more I
saw nothing but decadence and meesery.  The poor craytures!—living among
ruins, and tombs, and decay, without a trace of public spirit or private
energy.  The disregard of sanitary laws was something terrible to look
at—as bad as their universal beggary.  That is what comes of
centralisation, of suppressing local government. Would ye believe that
there are a lot of silly bodies actually working to get our Burgh of
Strathgovan annexed to Glasgow—swallowed up in Glasgow!"

"Impossible!" we exclaim.

"I tell ye it is true.  But no, no!  We are not ripe yet for those
Radical measures.  We are constituted under an Act of Parliament. Before
the House of Commons would dare to annex the free and flourishing Burgh
of Strathgovan to Glasgow, I’m thinking the country far and near would
hear something of it!"

Yes; and we think so, too.  And we think it would be better if the
hamlets and towns of Palestine were governed by men of public spirit
like the Commissioners of Strathgovan; then they would be properly
looked after.  Is there a single steam fire-engine in Jericho?

However, it is late; and presently the women say good-night and retire.
And the Laird is persuaded to go below with them also; for how otherwise
could he have his final glass of toddy in the saloon?  There are but two
of us left on deck, in the darkness, under the stars.

It is a beautiful night, with those white and quivering points overhead,
and the other white and burning points gleaming on the black waves that
whirl by the yacht.  Beyond the heaving plain of waters there is nothing
visible but the dusky gloom of the Island of Eigg, and away in the south
the golden eye of Ardnamurchan lighthouse, for which we are steering.
Then the intense silence—broken only when the wind, changing a little,
gybes the sails and sends the great boom swinging over on to the lee
tackle.  It is so still that we are startled by the sudden noise of the
blowing of a whale; and it sounds quite close to the yacht, though it is
more likely that the animal is miles away.

"She is a wonderful creature—she is indeed," says the man at the wheel;
as if every one must necessarily be thinking about the same person.


"Your young English friend.  Every minute of her life seems to be an
enjoyment to her; she sings just as a bird sings, for her own amusement,
and without thinking."

"She can think, too; she is not a fool."

"Though she does not look very strong," continues the young Doctor, "she
must have a thoroughly healthy constitution, or how could she have such
a happy disposition?  She is always contented; she is never put out.  If
you had only seen her patience and cheerfulness when she was attending
that old woman—many a time I regretted it—the case was hopeless—a hired
nurse would have done as well."

"Hiring a nurse might not have satisfied the young lady’s notions of

"Well, I’ve seen women in sick-rooms, but never any one like her," said
he, and then he added, with a sort of emphatic wonder, "I’m hanged if
she did not seem to enjoy that, too! Then you never saw any one so
particular about following out instructions."

It is here suggested to our steersman that he himself may be a little
too particular about following out instructions.  For John of Skye’s
last counsel was to keep Ardnamurchan light on our port bow.  That was
all very well when we were off the north of Eigg; but is Dr. Sutherland
aware that the south point of Eigg—Eilean-na-Castle—juts pretty far out;
and is not that black line of land coming uncommonly close on our
starboard bow?  With some reluctance our new skipper consents to alter
his course by a couple of points; and we bear away down for

And of what did he not talk during the long starlit night—the person who
ought to have been lookout sitting contentedly aft, a mute listener?—of
the strange fears that must have beset the people who first adventured
out to sea; of the vast expenditure of human life that must have been
thrown away in the discovery of the most common facts about currents and
tides and rocks; and so forth, and so forth. But ever and again his talk
returned to Mary Avon.

"What does the Laird mean by his suspicions about her uncle?" he asked
on one occasion—just as we had been watching a blue-white bolt flash
down through the serene heavens and expire in mid-air.

"Mr. Frederick Smethurst has an ugly face."

"But what does he mean about those relations between the man with the
ugly face and his niece?"

"That is idle speculation.  Frederick Smethurst was her trustee, and
might have done her some mischief—that is, if he is an out-and-out
scoundrel; but that is all over.  Mary is mistress of her own property

Here the boom came slowly swinging over; and presently there were all
the sheets of the head-sails to be looked after—tedious work enough for
amateurs in the darkness of the night.

Then further silence; and the monotonous rush and murmur of the unseen
sea; and the dark topmast describing circles among the stars. We get up
one of the glasses to make astronomical observations, but the heaving of
the boat somewhat interferes with this quest after knowledge.  Whoever
wants to have a good idea of forked lightning has only to take up a
binocular on board a pitching yacht, and try to fix it on a particular

The calm, solemn night passes slowly; the red and green lights shine on
the black rigging; afar in the south burns the guiding star of
Ardnamurchan.  And we have drawn away from Eigg now, and passed the open
sound; and there, beyond the murmuring sea, is the doom of the Island of
Muick.  All the people below are wrapped in slumber; the cabins are
dark; there is only a solitary candle burning in the saloon.  It is a
strange thing to be responsible for the lives of those sleeping folk—out
here on the lone Atlantic, in the stillness of the night.

Our young Doctor bears his responsibility lightly.  He has—for a
wonder—laid aside his pipe; and he is humming a song that he has heard
Mary Avon singing of late—something about

    O think na lang, lassie, though I gang awa’,
    For I’ll come and see ye in spite o’ them a’,

and he is wishing the breeze would blow a bit harder—and wondering
whether the wind will die away altogether when we get under the lee of
Ardnamurchan Point.

But long before we have got down to Ardnamurchan, there is a pale grey
light beginning to tell in the eastern skies; and the stars are growing
fainter; and the black line of the land is growing clearer above the
wrestling seas.  Is it a fancy that the first light airs of the morning
are a trifle cold?  And then we suddenly see, among the dark rigging
forward, one or two black figures; and presently John of Skye comes aft,
rubbing his eyes.  He has had a good sleep at last.

Go below, then, you stout-sinewed young Doctor; you have had your desire
of sailing the _White Dove_ through the still watches of the night.  And
soon you will be asleep, with your head on the hard pillow of that
little state-room and though the pillow is not as hard as a stone, still
the night and the sea and the stars are quickening to the brain; and who
knows that you may not perchance after all dream of angels, or hear some
faint singing far away?

                     *      *      *      *      *

_There was Mary Beaton—and Mary Seaton——_

                     *      *      *      *      *

Or is it only a sound of the waves?

                             END OF VOL. I.


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