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Title: Green Fire - A Romance
Author: Sharp, William, 1855-1905
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Internet Archive)



    GREEN FIRE

    A Romance

    BY

    FIONA MACLEOD

    "_While still I may, I write for you
    The love I lived, the dream I knew_"



    NEW YORK
    HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
    1896



    Copyright, 1896, by HARPER & BROTHERS.

    _All rights reserved._



    TO

    ESCLARMOUNDO

    "_Nec sine te nec tecum vivere possum._"--OVID



"_There are those of us who would rather be with Cathal of the Woods,
and be drunken with green fire, than gain the paradise of the holy
Molios who banned him, if in that gain were to be heard no more the
earth-sweet ancient song of the blood that is in the veins of youth...._

"_O green fire of life, pulse of the world! O Love, O Youth, O Dream of
Dreams!_

  "THE ANNIR CHOILLE."



    CONTENTS



    BOOK FIRST

  THE BIRDS OF ANGUS OGUE

  CHAP.                                     PAGE

  I. EUCHARIS                                  3

  II. THE HOUSE OF KERIVAL                    22

  III. STORM                                  37

  IV. THE DREAM AND THE DREAMERS              53

  V. THE WALKER IN THE NIGHT                  69

  VI. VIA OSCURA                              99

  VII. "DEIREADH GACH COGAIDH, SITH" (THE
        END OF ALL WARFARE, PEACE)           114

  VIII. THE UNFOLDING OF THE SCROLL          125


    BOOK SECOND

  THE HERDSMAN

  IX. RETROSPECTIVE: FROM THE HEBRID ISLES   149

  X. AT THE EDGE OF THE SHADOW               175

  XI. MYSTERY                                195

  XII. IN THE GREEN ARCADES                  208

  XIII. THE MESSAGE                          224

  XIV. THE LAUGHTER OF THE KING              239


    BOOK THIRD

  XV. THE BEAUTY OF THE WORLD                259



    GREEN FIRE



    BOOK FIRST

    _THE BIRDS OF ANGUS OGUE_



    Hither and thither,
      And to and fro,
    They thrid the Maze
      Of Weal and Woe:
      O winds that blow
    For golden weather
      Blow me the birds,
      All white as snow
    On the hillside heather--
    Blow me the birds
      That Angus know:
    Blow me the birds,
      Be it Weal or Woe!



CHAPTER I

EUCHARIS


 _Then, in the violet forest, all a-bourgeon, Eucharis said to me: "It
 is Spring."_--ARTHUR RIMBAUD.


After the dim purple bloom of a suspended spring, a green rhythm ran
from larch to thorn, from lime to sycamore; spread from meadow to
meadow, from copse to copse, from hedgerow to hedgerow. The blackthorn
had already snowed upon the nettle-garths. In the obvious nests among
the bare boughs of ash and beech the eggs of the blackbird were
blue-green as the sky that March had bequeathed to April. For days
past, when the breath of the equinox had surged out of the west, the
missel-thrushes had bugled from the wind-swayed topmost branches of the
tallest elms. Everywhere the green rhythm ran.

In every leaf that had uncurled there was a delicate bloom, that which
is upon all things in the first hours of life. The spires of the grass
were washed in a green, dewy light. Out of the brown earth a myriad
living things thrust tiny green shafts, arrow-heads, bulbs, spheres,
clusters. Along the pregnant soil keener ears than ours would have
heard the stir of new life, the innumerous whisper of the bursting
seed; and, in the wind itself, shepherding the shadow-chased sunbeams,
the voice of that vernal gladness which has been man's clarion since
Time began.

Day by day the wind-wings lifted a more multitudinous whisper from
the woodlands. The deep hyperborean note, from the invisible ocean
of air, was still audible: within the concourse of bare boughs which
lifted against it, that surging voice could not but have an echo of its
wintry roar. In the sun-havens, however, along the southerly copses,
in daisied garths of orchard-trees, amid the flowering currant and
guelder and lilac bushes in quiet places where the hives were all
a-murmur, the wind already sang its lilt of spring. From dawn till
noon, from an hour before sundown till the breaking foam along the
wild cherry flushed fugitively because of the crimson glow out of the
west, there was a ceaseless chittering of birds. The starlings and the
sparrows enjoyed the commune of the homestead; the larks and fieldfares
and green and yellow linnets congregated in the meadows, where, too,
the wild bee already roved. Among the brown ridgy fallows there was
a constant flutter of black, white-gleaming, and silver-gray wings,
where the stalking rooks, the jerking pewets, and the wary, uncertain
gulls from the neighboring sea, feasted tirelessly from the teeming
earth. Often, too, the wind-hover, that harbinger of the season of the
young broods, quivered his curved wings in his arrested flight, while
his lance-like gaze penetrated the whins, beneath which a new-born
rabbit crawled, or discerned in the tangle of a grassy tuft the brown,
watchful eyes of a nesting quail.

In the remoter woodlands the three foresters of April could be heard:
the woodpecker tapping on the gnarled boles of the oaks; the wild-dove
calling in low, crooning monotones to his silent mate; the cuckoo
tolling his infrequent peals from skyey belfries built of sun and mist.

In the fields, where the thorns were green as rivulets of melted snow
and the grass had the bloom of emerald, and the leaves of docken,
clover, cinquefoil, sorrel, and a thousand plants and flowers, were
wave-green, the ewes lay, idly watching with their luminous amber
eyes the frisking and leaping of the close-curled, tuft-tailed,
woolly-legged lambs. In corners of the hedgerows, and in hollows in
the rolling meadows, the primrose, the celandine, the buttercup, the
dandelion, and the daffodil spilled little eddies of the sun-flood
which overbrimmed them with light. All day long the rapture of the
larks filled the blue air with vanishing spirals of music, swift and
passionate in the ascent, repetitive and less piercing in the narrowing
downward gyres. From every whin the poignant, monotonous note of the
yellow-hammer reëchoed. Each pastoral hedge was alive with robins,
chaffinches, and the dusky shadows of the wild-mice darting here and
there among the greening boughs.

Whenever this green fire is come upon the earth, the swift contagion
spreads to the human heart. What the seedlings feel in the brown
mould, what the sap feels in the trees, what the blood feels in every
creature from the newt in the pool to the nesting bird--so feels the
strange, remembering ichor that runs its red tides through human hearts
and brains. Spring has its subtler magic for us, because of the dim
mysteries of unremembering remembrance and of the vague radiances of
hope. Something in us sings an ascendant song, and we expect, we know
not what; something in us sings a decrescent song, and we realize
vaguely the stirring of immemorial memories.

There is none who will admit that spring is fairer elsewhere than in
his own land. But there are regions where the season is so hauntingly
beautiful that it would seem as though Angus Ogue knew them for his
chosen resting-places in his green journey.

Angus Og, Angus MacGreine, Angus the Ever Youthful, the Son of
the Sun, a fair god he indeed, golden-haired and wonderful as Apollo
Chrusokomes. Some say that he is Love; some, that he is Spring; some,
even, that in him, Thanatos, the Hellenic Celt that was his far-off
kin, is reincarnate. But why seek riddles in flowing water? It may
well be that Angus Ogue is Love, and Spring, and Death. The elemental
gods are ever triune; and in the human heart, in whose lost Eden an
ancient tree of knowledge grows wherefrom the mind has not yet gathered
more than a few windfalls, it is surely sooth that Death and Love are
oftentimes one and the same, and that they love to come to us in the
apparel of Spring.

Sure, indeed, Angus Ogue is a name above all sweet to lovers, for is
he not the god--the fair youth of the Tuatha-de-Danann, the Ancient
People, with us still, though for ages seen of us no more--from the
meeting of whose lips are born white birds, which fly abroad and nest
in lovers' hearts till the moment come when, on the yearning lips of
love, their invisible wings shall become kisses again?

Then, too, there is the old legend that Angus goes to and fro upon the
world, a weaver of rainbows. He follows the spring, or is its herald.
Often his rainbows are seen in the heavens; often in the rapt gaze of
love. We have all perceived them in the eyes of children, and some of
us have discerned them in the hearts of sorrowful women and in the dim
brains of the old. Ah! for sure, if Angus Og be the lovely Weaver
of Hope he is deathless comrade of the spring, and we may well pray
to him to let his green fire move in our veins, whether he be but the
Eternal Youth of the World, or be also Love, whose soul is youth, or
even though he be likewise Death himself, Death to whom Love was wedded
long, long ago.

       *       *       *       *       *

But nowhere was spring more lovely, nowhere was the green fire of
life so quick with impulsive ardors, as, one year of the years, in a
seaward region to the north of the ancient forest of Broceliande, in
what of old was Armorica and now is Brittany.

Here spring often comes late, but ever lingers long. Here, too, in the
dim green avenues of the oak-woods of Kerival, the nightingales reach
their uttermost western flight. Never has the shepherd, tending his
scant flock on the upland pastures of Finistère, nor the fisherman
lying a-dream amid the sandy thickets of Ushant, heard that quaint
music--that primeval and ever young song of the passionate heart which
Augustine might well have had in mind when he exclaimed "Sero te amavi,
Pulchritudo, tam antiqua et tam nova, sero te amavi." But, each April,
in the woods of Kerival, the nightingales congregate from afar, and
through May their songs make the forest like a sanctuary filled with
choristers swinging incense of a delicate music.

It is a wonderful region, that which lies betwixt Ploumaliou on the
east and Kerloek on the west; the oldest, remotest part of an ancient,
remote land. Here the few hamlets and fewer scattered villages are,
even in externals, the same as they were a hundred or three hundred
years ago. In essentials, there is no difference since St. Hervé
or St. Ronan preached the new faith, or indeed since Ahès the Pale
rode through the forest aisles in the moonlight and heard the Nains
chanting, or since King Gradlon raced his horse against the foam when
his daughter let the sea in upon the fair city of Ys. The good _curés_
preach the religion of Christ and of Mary to the peasants; but in the
minds of most of these there lingers much of the bygone faith that
reared the menhirs. Few indeed there are in whose ears is never an echo
of the old haunted world, when every wood and stream, every barren
moor and granite wilderness, every sea-pasture and creek and bay had
its particular presence, its spirit of good or ill, its menace, its
perilous enchantment. The eyes of the peasants by these shores, these
moors, these windy hill-slopes of the south, are not fixed only on the
meal-chest and the fallow-field, or, on fête-days, upon the crucifix
in the little church; but often dwell upon a past time, more sacred now
than ever in this bitter relinquishing age. On the lips of many may be
heard lines from that sad folk-song, "Ann Amzer Dremenet" (In the Long
Ago):

    Eur c'havel kaer karn olifant,
    War-n-han tachou aour hag arc' hant.

    Daelou a ver, daelou c'houero:
    Neb a zo enn han zo maro!

    Zo maro, zo maro pell-zo,
    Hag hi luskel, o kana 'to,

    Hag hi luskel, luskel ato,
    Kollet ar skiand-vad gant-ho.

    Ar skiand-vad ho deuz kollet;
    Kollet ho deuz joaiou ar bed.

           *       *       *       *       *

    [But when they had made the cradle
      Of ivory and of gold,
    Their hearts were heavy still
      With the sorrow of old.

    And ever as they rocked, the tears
      Ran down, sad tears:
    Who is it lieth dead therein,
      Dead all these weary years?


    And still they rock that cradle there
      Of ivory and gold;
    For in their brains the shadow is
      The Shadow of Old.

    They weep, and know not what they weep;
      They wait a vain rebirth:
    Vanity of vanities, alas!
      For there is but one birth
      On the wide, green earth.]

Old sayings they have, too; who knows how old? The charcoal-burner in
the woods above Kerloek will still shudder at the thought of death
on the bleak, open moor, because of the carrion-crow that awaits his
sightless eyes, the fox that will tear his heart out, and the toad
that will swallow his soul. Long, long ago Gwenc'hlan the Bard sang
thus of his foe and the foes of his people, when every battle field
was a pasture for the birds and beasts of prey, and when the Spirit of
Evil lurked near every corpse in the guise of a toad. And still the
shrimper, in the sands beyond Ploumaliou, will cry out against the
predatory sea fowl _A gas ar Gall--a gas ar Gall!_ (Chase the Franks!)
and not know that, ages ago, this cry went up from the greatest of
Breton kings, when Nomenoë drove the Frankish invaders beyond the Oust
and the Vilaine, and lighted their flight by the flames of Nantes and
Rennes.

Near the northern frontier of the remotest part of this ancient region,
the Manor of Kerival was the light-house of its forest vicinage. It
was and is surrounded by woods, for the most part of oak and chestnut
and beech. Therein are trees of an age so great that they may have
sheltered the flight of Jud Mael, when Ahès chased him on her white
stallion from glade to glade, and one so venerably old that its roots
may have been soaked in the blood of their child Judik, whom she forced
her betrayer to slay with the sword before she thrust a dagger into
his heart. Northward of the manor, however, the forest is wholly of
melancholy spruce, of larch and pine. The pines extend in a desolate
disarray to the interminable dunes, beyond which the Breton sea lifts
its gray wave against a gray horizon. On that shore there are few
rocks, though here and there fang-like reefs rise, ready to tear and
devour any boat hurled upon them at full tide in days of storm. At
Kerival Haven, too, there is a wilderness of granite rock; a mass of
pinnacles, buttresses, and inchoate confusion, ending in long, smooth
ledges of black basalt, these forever washed by the green flow of the
tides.

None of the peasants knew the age of the House of Kerival, or how long
the Kerival family had been there. Old Yann Hénan, the blind brother of
the white-haired _curé_, Père Alain, who was the oldest man in all the
countryside, was wont to say that Kerival woods had been green before
ever there was a house on the banks of the Seine, and that a Kerival
had been lord of the land before ever there was a king of France. All
believed this, except Père Alain, and even he dissented only when
Yann spoke of the seigneur's ancestor as the Marquis of Kerival; for,
as he explained, there were no marquises in those far-off days. But
this went for nothing; for, unfortunately, Père Alain had once in his
youth preached against the popular belief in Korrigans and Nains, and
had said that these supernatural beings did not exist, or at any
rate were never seen of man. How, then, could much credence be placed
on the testimony of a man who could be so prejudiced? Yann had but
to sing a familiar snatch from the old ballad of "Aotru Nann Hag ar
Gorrigan"--the fragment beginning

    Ken a gavas eur waz vihan
    E-kichen ti eur Gorrigan,

and ending

    Met gwell eo d'in mervel breman
    'Get dimizi d' eur Gorrigan!--

    [The Lord Nann came to the Kelpie's Pool
    And stooped to drink the water cool;

    But he saw the kelpie sitting by,
    Combing her long locks listlessly.

    "O knight," she sang, "thou dost not fear
    To draw these perilous waters near!

    Wed thou me now, or on a stone
    For seven years perish all alone,
    Or three days hence moan your death-moan!"

    "I will not wed you, nor alone
    Perish with torment on a stone,
    Nor three days hence draw my death-moan--


    For I shall die, O Kelpie fair,
    When God lets down the golden stair,
    And so my soul thou shalt not share--

    But, if my fate is to lie dead,
    Here, with thy cold breast for my bed,
    Death can be mine, I will not wed!"]

When Yann sang this, or told for the hundredth time the familiar story
of how Paskou-Hir the tailor was treated by the Nains when he sought to
rifle the hidden treasure in the grotto, every one knew that he spoke
what was authentic, what was true. As for Père Alain--well, priests are
told to say many things by the good, wise Holy Father, who rules the
world so well but has never been in Brittany, and so cannot know all
that happens there, and has happened from time immemorial. Then, again,
was there not the evidence of the alien, the strange, quiet man called
Yann the Dumb, because of his silence at most times--him that was the
servitor-in-chief to the Lady Lois, the beautiful paralyzed wife of the
Marquis of Kerival, and that came from the far north, where the kindred
of the Armorican race dwell among the misty isles and rainy hills
of Scotland? Indeed Yann had been heard to say that he would sooner
disbelieve in the Pope himself than in the kelpie, for in his own land
he had himself heard her devilish music luring him across a lonely
moor, and he had known a man who had gone fey because he had seen the
face of a kelpie in a hill-tarn.

In the time of the greening, even the Korrigans are unseen of walkers
in the dusk. They are busy then, some say, winding the white into
the green bulbs of the water-lilies, or tinting the wings within the
chrysalis of the water-fly, or weaving the bright skins for the newts;
but however this may be, the season of the green flood over the brown
earth is not that wherein man may fear them.

No fear of Korrigan or Nain, or any other woodland creature or haunter
of pool or stream, disturbed two who walked in the green-gloom of a
deep avenue in the midst of the forest beyond the Manor of Kerival.
They were young, and there was green fire in their hearts; for they
moved slow, hand claspt in hand, and with their eyes dwelling often
on the face of each other. And whenever Ynys de Kerival looked at
her cousin Alan she thought him the fairest and comeliest of the sons
of men; and whenever Alan turned the longing of his eyes upon Ynys he
wondered if anywhere upon the green earth moved aught so sweet and
winsome, if anywhere in the green world was another woman so beautiful
in body, mind, and spirit, as Ynys--Ynys the Dark, as the peasants
called her, though Ynys of the dusky hair and the hazel-green eyes
would have been truer of her whom Alan de Kerival loved. Of a truth,
she was fair to see. Tall she was, and lithe; in her slim, svelt body
there was something of the swift movement of the hill-deer, something
of the agile abandon of the leopard. She was of that small clan, the
true daughters of the sun. Her tanned face and hands showed that she
loved the open air, though indeed her every movement proved this. The
sun-life was even in that shadowy hair of hers, which had a sheen of
living light wrought into its fragrant dusk; it was in her large, deep,
translucent eyes, of a soft, dewy twilight-gray often filled with
green light, as of the forest-aisles or as the heart of a sea-wave as
it billows over sunlit sand; it was in the heart and in the brain of
this daughter of an ancient race--and the nostalgia of the green world
was hers. For in her veins ran the blood not only of her Armorican
ancestors but of another Celtic strain, that of the Gael of the Isles,
Through her mother, Lois Macdonald, of the remote south isles of the
Outer Hebrides, the daughter of a line as ancient as that of Tristran
de Kerival, she inherited even more than her share of the gloom, the
mystery, the sea-passion, the vivid oneness with nature which have
disclosed to so many of her fellow-Celts secret sources of peace.

Everywhere in that region the peasant poets sang of Ynys the Dark or
of her sister Annaik. They were the two beautiful women of the world,
there. But, walking in the fragrant green-gloom of the beeches, Alan
smiled when he thought of Annaik, for all her milk-white skin and
her wonderful tawny hair, for all her strange, shadowy amber-brown
eyes--eyes often like dark hill-crystals aflame with stormy light. She
was beautiful, and tall too, and with an even wilder grace than Ynys;
yet--there was but one woman in the world, but one Dream, and her name
was Ynys.

It was then that he remembered the line of the unfortunate boy-poet of
the Paris that has not forgotten him; and looking at Ynys, who seemed
to him the very spirit of the green life all around him, muttered:
"Then in the violet forest, all a-bourgeon, Eucharis said to me: 'It is
Spring.'"



CHAPTER II

THE HOUSE OF KERIVAL


It was with a sudden beating of the heart that, midway in Easter, Alan
de Kerival received in Paris two letters: one from the Marquis de
Kerival, and the other from his cousin Ynys, whom he loved.

At all times he was ill at ease in the great city; or at all times save
when he was alone in his little study in the Tour de l'Ile, or in the
great circular room where the master astronomer, Daniel Darc, wrought
unceasingly. On rare occasions, golden afternoons these, he escaped to
the green places near Paris--to Rambouillet or St. Germain, or even
to Fontainebleau. There, under the leafless trees of winter or at the
first purpling of spring, he was wont to walk for hours, dreaming his
dream. For Alan was a poet, and to dream was his birthright.

And for dream, what had he? There was Ynys above all, Ynys whom he
loved with ever deepening joy and wonder. More and more she had become
to him his real life; he lived in her, for her, because of her. More
and more, too, he realized that she was his strength, his inspiration.
But besides this abiding delight, which made his heart leap whenever
he saw a Breton name above a shop or on a volume on the bookstalls,
he was ever occupied by that wonderful past of his race which was to
him a living reality. It was perhaps because he so keenly perceived
the romance of the present--the romance of the general hour, of the
individual moment--that he turned so insatiably to the past with its
deathless charm, its haunting appeal. The great astronomer whom he
loved and served knew the young man well, and was wont to say that his
favorite assistant was born a thousand years too late.

One day a Breton neighbor of the Marquis de Kerival questioned Daniel
Darc as to who the young man's friends were. "Nomenoë, Gradlon-Maur,
Gwenc'hlan, Taliésin, Merlin, and Oisin," was the reply. And it was
true. Alan's mind was as irresistibly drawn to the Celtic world of the
past as the swallow to the sun-way. In a word, he was not only a poet,
but a Celtic poet; and not only a Celtic poet, but a dreamer of the
Celtic dream.

Perhaps this was because of the double strain in his veins. Doubtless,
too, it was continuously enhanced by his intimate knowledge of two of
the Celtic languages, that of the Breton and that of the Gael. It is
language that is the surest stimulus to the remembering nerves. We have
a memory within memory, as layers of skin underlie the epidermis. With
most of us this anterior remembrance remains dormant throughout life;
but to some are given swift ancestral recollections. Alan de Kerival
was of these few.

His aunt, the Marquise, true Gael of the Hebrid Isles as she was, loved
the language of her people, and spoke it as she spoke English, even
better than French. Of Breton, save a few words and phrases, she knew
almost nothing--though Armorican was exclusively used throughout the
whole Kerival region, was the common tongue in the Manor itself, and
was habitually affected even by the Marquis de Kerival--on the few
occasions when Tristran the Silent, as the old nobleman was named,
cared to speak. But with two members of the household she invariably
spoke in Gaelic; with her nephew Alan, the child of her sister Silis
Macdonald, and her old servitor, Ian Macdonald, known among his fellows
as Yann the Dumb, mainly because he seldom spoke to them, having
no language but his own. Latterly, her daughter Ynys had become as
familiar with the one Celtic tongue as the other.

With this double key, Alan unlocked many doors. All the wonderful
romance of old Armorica and of ancient Wales was familiar to him, and
he was deeply versed in the still more wonderful and magical lore of
the Gaelic race. In his brain ran ever that Ossianic tide which has
borne so many marvellous argosies through the troubled waters of the
modern mind. Old ballads of his native isles, with their haunting
Gaelic rhythms and idioms and their frequent reminiscences of the
Norse viking and the Danish summer-sailor, were often in his ears. He
had lived with his hero Cuchullin from the days when the boy showed his
royal blood at Emain-Macha till that sad hour when his madness came
upon him and he died. He had fared forth with many a Lifting of the
Sunbeam, and had followed Oisin step by step on that last melancholy
journey when Malvina led the blind old man along the lonely shores of
Arran. He had watched the _crann-tara_ flare from glen to glen, and at
the bidding of that fiery cross he had seen the whirling of swords, the
dusky flight of arrow-rain, and, from the isles, the leaping forth of
the war _birlinns_ to meet the viking galleys. How often, too, he had
followed Nial of the Nine Hostages, and had seen the Irish Charlemagne
ride victor through Saxon London, or across the Norman plains, or with
onward sword direct his army against the white walls of the Alps!
How often he had been with the great king Nomonoë, when he with his
Armoricans chased the Frankish wolves away from Breton soil, or had
raced with Gradlon-Maur from the drowning seas which overwhelmed Ys,
where the king's daughter had at the same moment put her hands on the
Gates of Love and Death! How often he had heard Merlin and Taliésin
speak of the secret things of the ancient wisdom, or Gwenc'hlan chant
upon his wild harp, or the fugitive song of Vivien in the green woods
of Broceliande, where the enchanted seer sleeps his long sleep and
dreams his dream of eternal youth.

It was all this marvellous life of old which wrought upon Alan de
Kerival's life as by a spell. Often he recalled the words of a Gaelic
_sian_ he had heard Yann croon in his soft, monotonous voice--words
which made a light shoreward eddy of the present and were solemn with
the deep-sea sound of the past, that is with us even as we speak.

He was himself, too, a poet, and loved to tell anew, in Breton, to the
peasants of Kerival, some of the wild north tales, or to relate in
Gaelic to his aunt and to Ynys the beautiful folk-ballads of Brittany,
which Annaik knew by heart and chanted with the strange, wailing music
of the forest-wind.

In that old Manor, moreover, another shadow put a gloom into his
mind--this was another shadow than that which made the house so silent
and chill, the inviolate isolation of the paralyzed but still beautiful
Marquise Lois from her invalid husband, limb-useless from his thighs
because of a hurt done in the war into which he had gone brown-haired
and strong, and whence he had come broken in hope, shattered in health,
and gray with premature age. And this other shadow was the mystery of
his birth.

It was in vain he had tried to learn the name of his father. Only three
people knew it: the Marquis Tristran, the Marquise Lois, and Yann the
Dumb. From none of these could he elicit more than what he had long
known. All was to be made clear on his twenty-fifth birthday; till then
he had to be content with the knowledge that he was Alan de Kerival by
courtesy only; that he was the son of Silis Macdonald, of an ancient
family whose ancestral home was in one of the isles of the Southern
Hebrides, of Silis, the dead sister of Lois de Kerival; and that he
was the adopted child of the Marquis and Marquise who bore that old
Armoric name.

That there was tragedy inwrought with his story he knew well. From
fugitive words, too, he had gained the idea that his father, in common
with the Marquis Tristran, had been a soldier in the French army;
though as to whether this unknown parent was Scottish or Breton or
French, or as to whether he was alive or dead, there was no homing clew.

To all his enquiries of the Marquise he received no answer, or was
told simply that he must wait. The Marquis he rarely saw, and never
spoke with. If ever he encountered the stern, white-haired man as he
was wheeled through the garden ways or down one of the green alleys,
or along the corridors of the vast, rambling château, they passed in
silence. Sometimes the invalid would look at him with the fierce,
unwavering eyes of a hawk; but for the most part the icy, steel-blue
eyes ignored the young man altogether.

Yann, too, could not, or would not confide any thing more than Alan had
already learned from the Marquise. The gaunt old Hebridean--whose sole
recreation, when not sitting pipe in mouth before the flaming logs, was
to wander along the melancholy dunes by the melancholy gray sea, and
mutter continuously to himself in his soft island-Gaelic--would talk
slowly by the hour on old legends, and ballad-lore, and on seanachas of
every kind. When, however, Alan asked him about the sisters Lois and
Silis Macdonald, or how Lois came to marry a Breton, and as to the man
Silis loved, and what the name was of the isle whereon they lived,--or
even as to whether Ian himself had kith or kin living,--Yann would
justify his name. He took no trouble in evasion: he simply became dumb.

Sometimes Alan asked the old man if he cared to see the Isles again. At
that, a look ever came into Ian Macdonald's eyes which made his young
clansman love him.

"It will never, never be forgetting my own place I will be," he replied
once, "no, never. I would rather be hearing the sea on the shores there
than all the hymns of heaven, and I would rather be having the canna
and the heather over my head than be under the altar of the great
church at Kerloek. No, no, it is the pain I have for my own place, and
the isle where my blood has been for hundreds of years, and where for
sure my heart is, Alan Mac----"

With eager ears Alan had hoped for the name whereat the old man had
stopped short. It would have told him much. "Alan, son of----!" Even
that baptismal name would probably have told him if his father were a
Gael or a Breton, an Englishman or a Frenchman. But Yann said no more,
then or later.

Alan had hoped, too, that when he came back, after his first long
absence from Kerival, his aunt would be more explicit with him. A vain
hope, for when once more he was at the château he found the Marquise
even less communicative than was her wont. Her husband was more than
ever taciturn, and a gloom seemed to have descended upon the house.
For the first time he noticed a change in the attitude of Annaik. Her
great, scornful, wild-bird eyes looked at him often strangely. She
sought him, and then was silent. If he did not speak, she became
morose; if he spoke, she relapsed into her old scornful quiescence.
Sometimes, when they were alone, she unbent, and was his beautiful
cousin and comrade again; but in the presence of Ynys she bewildered
him by her sudden ennui or bitterness or even shadowy hostility. As for
Ynys, she was unhappy, save in Alan's love--a love that neither her
father nor mother knew, and of which she never spoke to Annaik.

If Alan were a dreamer, Ynys was even more so. Then, too, she had what
Annaik had not, though she lacked what her sister had. For she was
mystical as that young saint of the Bretons who saw Christ walking by
night upon the hills, and believed that he met there a new Endymion,
his Bride of the Church come to him in the moonshine. Ynys believed in
St. Guennik, as she believed in Jeanne d'Arc, and no legend fascinated
her more than that strange one she had heard from Yann, of how Arthur
the Celtic hero would come again out of Flath-innis, and redeem his
lost, receding peoples. But, unlike Annaik, she had little of the
barbaric passion, little of that insatiate nostalgia for the life
of the open moor and the windy sea, though these she loved not less
whole-heartedly than did her sister. The two both loved Nature as
few women love her; but to Annaik the forest and the moorland were
home, while to Ynys they were rather sanctuaries or realms of natural
romance. This change to an unwelcome taciturnity had been noted by Alan
on his home visit at Christmas. Still, he had thought little of it
after his return to Paris, for the Noël-tide had been sweetened by the
word given to him by Ynys.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then Easter had come, and with it the two letters of such import. That
from the Marquise was short and in the tongue he and she loved best:
but even thus it was written guardedly. The purport was that, now his
twenty-fifth birthday was at hand, he would soon learn what he had so
long wished to know.

That from Ynys puzzled him. Why should dispeace have arisen between
Ynys and Annaik? Why should an already gloomy house have been made
still more sombre?

One day, Ynys wrote, she had come upon Annaik riding Sultan, the black
stallion, and thrashing the horse till the foam flew from the champed
bit. When she had cried to Annaik to be merciful, and asked her why she
punished Sultan so, her sister had cried mockingly, "It is my love!
_Addio, Amore! Addio! Addio! Addio!_"--and at each _addio_ had brought
her whip so fiercely upon the stallion's quivering flanks that he had
reared, and all but thrown her, till she swung him round as on a pivot
and went at a wild gallop down a long beech-alley that led into the
heart of the forest.

Well, these things would be better understood soon. In another week
he would be out of Paris, possibly never to return. And then ...
Brittany--Kerival--Ynys!

Nevertheless his heart was not wholly away from his work. The great
astronomer had known and loved Hersart de Kerival, the younger brother
of Tristran, and it was for his sake that he had taken the young man
into his observatory. Soon he had discovered that the youth loved the
beautiful science, and was apt, eager, and yet patient to learn. In
the five years which Alan spent--with brief Brittany intervals--in
the observatory of the Tour de l'Ile, he had come to delight in the
profession which he had chosen, and of which the Marquise had approved.

He was none the less close and eager a student because that he brought
to this enthralling science that spirit of the poetry of the past,
which was the habitual atmosphere wherein his mind dwelt. Even the
most eloquent dissertations of Daniel Darc failed to move him so much
as some ancient strain wherein the stars of heaven were hailed as
kindred of men; and never had any exposition of the lunar mystery so
exquisitely troubled him as that wonderful cry of Ossian which opens
the poem of "Darthula":

"Daughter of heaven, fair art thou! the silence of thy face is
pleasant. Thou comest forth in loveliness; the stars attend thy
blue steps in the east. The clouds rejoice in thy presence, O moon,
and brighten their dark-brown sides. Who is like thee in heaven,
daughter of the night? The stars are ashamed in thy presence, and turn
aside their green sparkling eyes. Whither dost thou retire from thy
course, when the darkness of thy countenance grows? Hast thou thy hall
like Ossian? Dwellest thou in the shadow of grief? Have thy sisters
fallen from heaven? Are they who rejoiced with thee, at night, no
more?--Yes!--They have fallen, fair light! and thou dost often retire
to mourn. But thou thyself shalt fail, one night; and leave thy blue
path in heaven. The stars will then lift their green heads; they, who
were ashamed in thy presence, will rejoice."



CHAPTER III

STORM


Yes, he was glad to leave Paris, although that home of lost
causes--thus designate in a far truer sense than is the fair city by
the Isis--had a spell for him. But not Paris, not even what, night
after night, he beheld from the Tour de l'Ile, held him under a spell
comparable with that which drew him back to the ancient land where his
heart was.

In truth, it was with relief at last that he saw the city recede from
his gaze, and merge into the green alleys north-westward. With a sigh
of content, he admitted that it was indeed well to escape from that
fevered life--a life that, to him, even in his lightest mood, seemed
far more phantasmal than that which formed the background to all his
thoughts and visions. Long before the cherry orchards above Rouen
came into view he realized how glad he was even to be away from the
bare, gaunt room where so many of his happiest hours had been spent;
that windy crow's-nest of a room at the top of the Tour de l'Ile,
whence nightly he had watched the procession of the stars, and nightly
had opened the dreamland of his imagination to an even more alluring
procession out of the past.

His one regret was in having to part from Daniel Darc, that strange
and impressive personality who had so fascinated him, and the spell
of whose sombre intellect, with its dauntless range and scope, had
startled the thought of Europe, and even given dreams to many to whom
all dreams had become the very Fata Morgana of human life.

Absorbed as he was, Daniel Darc realized that Alan was an astronomer
primarily because he was a poet rather than an astronomer by inevitable
bias. He saw clearly into the young man's mind, and certainly did not
resent that his favorite pupil loved to dwell with Merlin rather than
with Kepler, and that even Newton or his own master Arago had no such
influence over him as the far-off, nigh inaudible music of the harp of
Aneurin.

And, in truth, below all Alan's passion for science--of that science
which is at once the oldest, the noblest, and the most momentous;
the science of the innumerous concourse of dead, dying, and flaming
adolescent worlds, dust about the threshold of an unfathomable and
immeasurable universe, wherein this Earth of ours is no more than a
mere whirling grain of sand--below all this living devotion lay a
deeper passion still.

Truly, his soul must have lived a thousand years ago. In him, at least,
the old Celtic brain was reborn with a vivid intensity which none
guessed, and none except Ynys knew--if even she, for Alan himself only
vaguely surmised the extent and depth of this obsession. In heart and
brain that old world lived anew. Himself a poet, all that was fair and
tragically beautiful was forever undergoing in his mind a marvellous
transformation--a magical resurrection rather, wherein what was remote
and bygone, and crowned with oblivious dust, became alive again with
intense and beautiful life.

       *       *       *       *       *

It did not harmonize ill with Alan's mood that, on the afternoon of the
day he left Rouen, great, bulbous storm-clouds soared out of the west
and cast a gloom upon the landscape.

That is a strange sophistry which registers passion according to its
nearness to the blithe weal symbolized in fair weather. Deep passion
instinctively moves toward the shadow rather than toward the golden
noons of light. Passion hears what love at the most dreams of; passion
sees what love mayhap dimly discerns in a glass darkly. A million of
our fellows are "in love" at any or every moment; and for these the
shadowy way is intolerable. But for the few, in whom love is, the eyes
are circumspect against the dark hour which comes when heart and brain
and blood are aflame with the paramount ecstasy of life.

Deep passion is always in love with death. The temperate solicitudes of
affection know not this perverse emotion, which is simply the darker
shadow inevitable to a deeper joy--as the profundity of an Alpine lake
is to be measured by the height of the remote summits which rise sheer
from its marge.

When Alan saw this gloom slowly absorb the sunlight, and heard below
the soft spring cadences of the wind the moan of coming tempest, his
melancholy lightened. Soon he would see the storm crushing through the
woods of Kerival; soon feel the fierce rain come sweeping inland from
Ploumaliou; soon hear, confusedly obscure, the noise of the Breton Sea
along the reef-set sands. Already he felt the lips of Ynys pressed
against his own.

       *       *       *       *       *

The sound of the sea called through the dusk, now with the muffled
under roar of famished lions, now with a loud, continuous baying like
that of eager hounds.

Seaward, the deepening shadows passed intricately from wave to wave.
The bays and sheltered waters were full of a tumult as of baffled
flight, of fugitives jostling each other in a wild and fruitless
evasion. Along the interminable reach of the Dunes of Kerival the
sea's lips writhed and curled; while out of the heart of the turbulent
waste beyond issued a shrill, intermittent crying, followed by stifled
laughter. Ever and again tons of whirling water, meeting, disparted
with a hoarse thunder. This ever-growing and tempestuous violence was
reiterated in a myriad raucous, clamant voices along the sands and
among the reefs and rocks and weed-covered wave-hollowed crags.

Above the shore a ridge of tamarisk-fringed dune suspended, hanging
there dark and dishevelled, like a gigantic eyebrow on the forehead of
a sombre and mysterious being. Beyond this, again, lay a stretch of
barren moor, caught and claspt a mile away by a dark belt of pines,
amid which the incessant volume of the wind passed with a shrill
whistling. Further in among the trees were oases of a solemn silence,
filled only at intervals with a single flute-like wind-eddy, falling
there as the song of a child lost and baffled in a waste place.

Over and above the noise of the sea was a hoarse cry thridding it
as a flying shuttle in a gigantic loom. This was the wind, which
continuously swept from wave to wave--shrewd, salt, bitter with the
sterile breath of the wilderness whereon it roamed, crying and moaning,
baying, howling, insatiate.

The sea-fowl, congregating from afar, had swarmed inland. Their wailing
cries filled the spray-wet obscurities. The blackness that comes before
the deepest dark lay in the hollow of the great wings of the tempest.
Peace nowhere prevailed, for in those abysmal depths where the wind was
not even a whisper, there was listless gloom only, because no strife is
there, and no dream lives amid those silent apathies.

Neither upon the waters nor on the land was there sign of human life.
In that remote region, solitude was not a dream but a reality. An
ancient land, this loneliest corner of sea-washed Brittany; an ancient
land, with ever upon it the light of olden dreams, the gloom of
indefinable tragedy, the mystery of a destiny long ago begun and never
fulfilled.

Lost like a rock in a forest, a weather-worn, ivy-grown château stood
within sound, though not within sight, of this tempestuous sea. All
about it was the deep, sonorous echo of wind and wave, transmuted into
a myriad cries among the wailing pines and oaks and vast beeches of the
woods of Kerival. Wind and wave, too, made themselves audible amid the
gables and in the huge chimneys of the old manor-house; even in the
draughty corridors an echo of the sea could be heard.

The pathways of the forest were dank with sodden leaves, the _débris_
of autumn which the snows of winter had saved from the whirling gales
of January. Underneath the brushwood and the lower boughs these lay in
brown, clotted masses, emitting a fugitive, indefinite odor, as though
the ghost of a dead year passed in that damp and lifeless effluence.
But along the frontiers of the woods there was an eddying dust of
leaves and small twigs, and part at least of the indeterminate rumor
which filled the air was caused by this frail lapping as of innumerable
minute wings.

In one of those leaf-quiet alleys, shrouded in a black-green darkness
save where in one spot the gloom was illumined into a vivid brown,
because of a wandering beam of light from a turret in the château, a
man stood. The head was forwardly inclined, the whole figure intent as
a listening animal. He and his shadow were as those flowers of darkness
whose nocturnal bloom may be seen of none save in the shadowy land of
dream.

When for a moment the wind-wavered beam of light fell athwart his
face--so dark and wild that he might well have been taken for a
nameless creature of the woods--he moved.

With a sudden gesture he flung his arms above his head. His shadow
sprang to one side with fantastic speed, leaping like a diver into the
gulf of darkness.

"Annaik," he cried, "Annaik, Annaik!"

The moan of the wind out of the sea, the confused noise of the wind's
wings baffling through the woods; no other answer than these, no other
sound.

"Annaik, Annaik!"

There was pain as of a wounded beast in the harsh cry of this haunter
of the dark; but the next moment it was as though the lost shadow had
leapt back, for a darkness came about the man, and he lapsed into the
obscurity as a wave sinks into a wave.

But, later, out of the silence came a voice.

"Ah, Annaik!" it cried, "ah, Annaik, forsooth! It is Annaik of Kerival
you are, and I the dust upon the land of your fathers--but, by the
blood of Ronan, it is only a woman you are; and, if I had you here it
is a fall of my fist you would be having--aye, the stroke and the blow,
for all that I love you as I do, white woman, aye, and curse you and
yours for that loving!"

Then, once again, there was silence. Only the screeching of the
wind among the leaves and tortured branches; only the deep roar of
the tempest at the heart of the forest; only the thunder of the sea
throbbing pulse-like through the night. Nor when, a brief while later,
a white owl, swifter but not less silent than a drift of vapor, swooped
that way, was there living creature in that solitary place.

The red-yellow beam still turned into brown the black-green of that
windy alley; but the man, and the shadow of him, and the pain of the
beast that was in him, and the cry of the baffled soul, the cry that
none might know or even guess--of all this sorrow of the night, nothing
remained save the red light lifting and falling through the shadowy
hair of what the poets of old called The Dark Woman ... Night.

Only, who may know if, in that warmth and glow within the House of
Kerival, some sudden menace from the outside world of life did not
knock at the heart of Annaik, where she, tall and beautiful in her
cream-white youth and with her mass of tawny hair, stood by Ynys,
whose dusky loveliness was not less than her own--both radiant in the
fire-light, with laughter upon the lips and light within their eyes.

Oh, flame that burns where fires of home are lit! and oh, flame that
burns in the heart to whom life has not said, Awake! and oh, flame that
smoulders from death to life, and from life to death, in the dumb lives
of those to whom the primrose way is closed! Everywhere the burning
of the burning, the flame of the flame; pain and the shadow of pain,
joy and the rapt breath of joy, flame of the flame that, burning,
destroyeth not till the flame is no more!

       *       *       *       *       *

It was the night of the home-coming of Alan. So long had Ynys and
Annaik looked forward to this hour, that now hardly could they believe
the witness of their eyes when with eager glances they scrutinized the
new-comer--their Alanik of old.

He stood before the great fire of logs. Upon his face the sharp,
damp breath of the storm still lingered, but in his eyes was a light
brighter than any dancing flame would cause, and in his blood a pulse
that leapt because of another reason than that swift ride through the
stormy woods of Kerival.

At the red and stormy break of that day Ynys had awaked with a song
of joy in her heart that from hour to hour had found expression in
bird-like carollings, little words and fugitive phrases which rippled
from her lips, the sunshine-spray from the fount of life whereon her
heart swam as a nenuphar on an upwelling pool. Annaik also had waked
at that dawn of storm. She had risen in silence, and in silence had
remained all day; giving no sign that the flame within her frayed the
nerves of her heart.

Throughout the long hours of tempest, and into that dusk wherein the
voice of the sea moved, moaning, across the land, laughter and dream
had alternated with Ynys. Annaik looked at her strangely at times, but
said nothing. Once, standing in the twilight of the dark-raftered room,
Ynys clasped her hands across her bosom and murmured, "Oh, heart be
still! My heaven is come." And in that hour, and in that place, she who
was twin to her--strange irony of motherhood, that should give birth in
one hour to Day and Night, for even as day and night were these twain,
so unlike in all things--in that hour and in that place Annaik also
clasped her hands across her bosom, and the words that died across the
shadow of her lips were, "Oh, heart be still! My hell is near."

And now he for whom both had waited stood, flooded in the red fire glow
which leaped from panel to panel, and from rafter to rafter, while,
without, the howling of the wind rose and fell in prolonged, monotonous
cadences,--anathemas, rather,--whirled through a darkness full of
bewilderment and terror.

As for Alan, it was indeed for joy to him to stand there, home once
more, with not only the savagery of the tempest behind him, but also
left behind, that unspeakably far-off, bewilderingly remote city of
Paris whence he had so swiftly come.

It is said of an ancient poet of the Druid days that he had the power
to see the lives of the living, and these as though they were phantoms,
separate from the body. Was there not a young king of Albainn who, in a
perilous hour, discovered this secret of old time, and knew how a life
may be hidden away from the body so that none may know of it, save the
wind that whispers all things, and the tides of day and night that bear
all things upon their dark flood?

King of Albainn, poet of the old time, not alone three youthful
dreamers would you have seen, there, in that storm-beset room. For
there you would have seen six figures standing side by side. Three of
these would have been Alan de Kerival, and Ynys the Dark, and Annaik
the Fair; and of the other three, one would be of a dusky-haired woman
with starry, luminous eyes; and one a pale woman with a wealth of tawny
hair, with eyes aflame, meteors in a desert place; and one a man,
young and strong and fair to see as Alan de Kerival, but round about
him a gloom, and through that gloom his eyes as stars seen among the
melancholy hills.

Happy laughter of the world that is always young--happy, in that we are
not all seers of old or kings of Albainn! For who, looking into the
mirrors of Life and seeing all that is to be seen, would look again,
save those few to whom Life and Death have come sisterly and whispered
the secret that some have discerned, how these twain are one and the
same.

Nevertheless, in that happy hour for him, Alan saw nothing of what Ynys
feared. Annaik had abruptly yielded to a strange gayety, and her swift
laugh and gypsy smile made his heart glad.

Never had he seen, even in Paris, women more beautiful. Deep-set as
his heart was in the beauty of Ynys, he found himself admiring that of
Annaik with new eyes. Truly, she was just such a woman as he had often
imagined when Ian had recited to him the ballad of the Sons of Usna or
that of how Dermid and Graine fled from the wrath of Fionn.

And they, too, looking at their tall cousin, with his wavy brown hair,
broad, low brows, gray-blue eyes, and erect carriage, thought him the
comeliest man to be seen in France; and each in her own way was proud
and glad, though one, also, with killing pain.



CHAPTER IV

THE DREAM AND THE DREAMERS


Soon after supper Annaik withdrew. Ynys and Alan were glad to be alone,
and yet Annaik's absence perturbed them. In going she bade good-night
to her cousin, but took no notice of her sister.

At first the lovers were silent though they had much to say, and in
particular Alan was anxious to know what it was that Ynys had alluded
to in her letter when she warned him that unforeseen difficulties were
about their way.

It was pleasant to sit in that low-roofed, dark old room, and feel the
world fallen away from them. Hand in hand they looked at each other
lovingly, or dreamed into the burning logs, seeing there all manner of
beautiful visions. Outside, the wind still moaned and howled, though
with less of savage violence, and the rain had ceased.

For a time Ynys would have no talk of Kerival; Alan was to tell all
he could concerning his life in Paris, what he had done, what he had
dreamed of, and what he hoped for now. But at last he laughingly
refused to speak more of himself, and pressed her to reveal what had
been a source of anxiety.

"You know, dear," she said, as she rose and leaned against the
mantel-piece, her tall figure and dusky hair catching a warm glow from
the fire--"you know how pitiable is this feud between my father and
mother--how for years they have seen next to nothing of each other;
how they live in the same house and yet are strangers? You know, too,
how more than ever unfortunate this is, for themselves, and for Annaik
and me, on account of our mother being an invalid, and of our father
being hardly less frail. Well, I have discovered that the chief, if not
indeed the only abiding source of misunderstanding is _you_, dear Alan!"

"But why, Ynys?"

"Ah, why? That is, of course, what I cannot tell you. Have you no
suspicion, no idea?"

"None. All I know is that M. de Kerival allows me to bear his name,
but that he dislikes, if, indeed, he does not actually hate me."

"There is some reason. I came upon him talking to my mother a short
time ago. She had told him of your imminent return.

"'I never wish to see his face,' my father cried, with fierce
vehemence; then, seeing me, he refrained."

"Well, I shall know all the day after to-morrow. Meanwhile, Ynys, we
have the night to ourselves. Dear, I want to learn one thing. What
does Annaik know? Does she know that we love each other? Does she know
that we have told each other of this love, and that we are secretly
betrothed?"

"She _must_ know that I love you; and sometimes I think she knows that
you love me. But ... oh, Allan! I am so unhappy about it.... I fear
that Annaik loves you also, and that this will come between us all. It
has already frozen her to me and me to her."

Alan looked at Ynys with startled eyes. He knew Annaik better than
any one did; and he dreaded the insurgent bitterness of that wild
and wayward nature. Moreover, in a sense he loved her, and it was for
sorrow to him that she should suffer in a way wherein he could be of no
help.

At that moment the door opened, and Matieu, a white-haired old servant,
bowing ceremoniously, remarked that M. le Marquis desired to see
Mamzelle Ynys immediately.

Ynys glanced round, told Matieu that she would follow, and then turned
to Alan. How beautiful she was! he thought; more and more beautiful
every time he saw her. Ah! fair mystery of love, which puts a glory
about the one loved; a glory that is no phantasmal light, but the
realized beauty evoked by seeing eyes and calling heart. On her face
was a wonderful color, a delicate flush that came and went. Again and
again she made a characteristic gesture, putting her right hand to her
forehead and then through the shadowy, wavy hair which Alan loved so
well and ever thought of as the fragrant dusk. How glad he was that she
was tall and lithe, graceful as a young birch; that she was strong and
kissed brown and sweet of sun and wind; that her beauty was old as the
world, and fresh as every dawn, and new as each recurrent spring! No
wonder he was a poet, since Ynys was the living poem who inspired all
that was best in his life, all that was fervent in his brain.

Thought, kindred to this, kept him a long while by the fire in deep
revery, after Ynys had thrilled him by her parting kisses and had gone
to her father. He realized, then, how it was she gave him the sense of
womanhood as no other woman had done. In her, he recognized the symbol
as well as the individual. All women shared in his homage because of
her. His deep love for her, his ever growing passion, could evoke from
him a courtesy, a chivalry, toward all women which only the callous or
the coarse failed to note. She was his magic. The light of their love
was upon every thing: everywhere he found synonyms and analogues of
"Ynys." Deeply as he loved beauty, he had learned to love it far more
keenly and understandingly, because of her. He saw now through the
accidental, and everywhere discerned the eternal beauty, the echoes of
whose wandering are in every heart and brain, though few discern the
white vision or hear the haunting voice.

And with his love had come knowledge of many things hidden from him
before. Sequences were revealed, where he had perceived only blind
inconsequence. Nature became for him a scroll, a palimpsest with daily
mutations. With each change he found a word, a clew, leading to the
fuller elucidation of that primeval knowledge which, fragmentarily,
from age to age has been painfully lost, regained, and lost again,
though never yet wholly irrecoverable.

Through this new knowledge, too, he had come to understand the supreme
wonder and promise, the supreme hope of our human life in the mystery
of motherhood. All this and much more he owed to Ynys, and to his love
for her. She was all that a woman can be to a man. In her he found
the divine abstractions which are the beacons of the human soul in
its obscure wayfaring--Romance, Love, Beauty. It was not enough that
she gave him romance, that she gave him love, that she was the most
beautiful of women in his eyes. When he thought of the one, it was to
see the starry eyes and to hear the charmed voice of Romance herself,
in the voice and in the eyes of Ynys: when he thought of Love it was to
hear Ynys's heart beating, to listen to the secret rhythms in Ynys's
brain, to feel the life-giving sun-flood that was in her pure but
intense and glowing passion.

Thus it was that she had for him that immutable attraction which a
few women have for a few men; an appeal, a charm, that atmosphere of
romance, that air of ideal beauty, wherein lies the secret of all
passionate art. The world without wonder, the world without mystery!
That, indeed, is the rainbow without colors, the sunrise without living
gold, the noon void of light.

To him, moreover, there was but one woman. In Ynys he had found her.
This exquisite prototype was at once a child of nature, a beautiful
pagan, a daughter of the sun; was at once this and a soul alive with
the spiritual life, intent upon the deep meanings lurking everywhere,
wrought to wonder even by the common habitudes of life, to mystery
even by the familiar and the explicable. Indeed, the mysticism which
was part of the spiritual inheritance come with her northern strain was
one of the deep bonds which united them.

What if both at times were wrought too deeply by this beautiful dream?
What if the inner life triumphed now and then, and each forgot the
deepest instinct of life, that here the body is overlord and the soul
but a divine consort? There are three races of man. There is the myriad
race which loses all, through (not bestiality, for the brute world is
clean and sane) perverted animalism; and there is the myriad race which
denounces humanity, and pins all its faith and joy to a life the very
conditions of whose existence are incompatible with the law to which we
are subject--the sole law, the law of Nature. Then there is that small
untoward clan, which knows the divine call of the spirit through the
brain, and the secret whisper of the soul in the heart, and forever
perceives the veils of mystery and the rainbows of hope upon our human
horizons; which hears and sees, and yet turns wisely, meanwhile,
to the life of the green earth, of which we are part; to the common
kindred of living things, with which we are at one--is content, in a
word, to live, because of the dream that makes living so mysteriously
sweet and poignant; and to dream, because of the commanding immediacy
of life.

As yet, of course, Alan and Ynys had known little of the vicissitudes
of aroused life. What they did know, foresee, was due rather to
the second-sight of the imagination than to the keen knowledge of
experience.

In Alan Ynys found all that her heart craved. She discovered this
nearly too late. A year before this last home-coming of her cousin,
she had been formally betrothed to Andrik de Morvan, the friend of her
childhood and for whom she had a true affection, and in that betrothal
had been quietly glad. When, one midwinter day, she and Alan walked
through an upland wood and looked across the snowy pastures and the
white slopes beyond, all aglow with sunlight, and then suddenly turned
toward each other, and saw in the eyes of each a wonderful light, and
the next moment were heart to heart, it was all a revelation.

For long she did not realize what it meant. On that unforgettable day,
when they had left the forest ridge and were near Kerival again, she
had sat for a time on one of the rude cattle-gates which are frequent
in these woodlands, while Alan had leant beside her, looking up
with eyes too eloquent, and speaking of what he dreamed, with sweet
stammering speech of new found love.

How she had struggled, mentally, with her duty, as she conceived it,
toward Andrik. She was betrothed to him; he loved her; she loved him
too, although even already she realized that there is a love which is
not only invincible and indestructible but that comes unsought, has no
need for human conventions, is neither moral nor immoral but simply
all-potent and thenceforth sovereign. To yield to that may be wrong;
but, if so, it is wrong to yield to the call of hunger, the cry of
thirst, the whisper of sleep, the breath of ill, the summons of death.
It comes, and that is all. The green earth may be another Endymion,
and may dream that the cold moonshine is all in all; but when the sun
rises, and a new heat and glory and passion of life are come, then
Endymion simply awakes.

It had been a sadness to her to have to tell Andrik she no longer loved
him as he was fain to be loved. He would have no finality, then; he
held her to the bond--and in Brittany there is a pledge akin to the
"hand-fast" of the north, which makes a betrothal almost as binding as
marriage.

Andrik de Morvan had gone to the Marquis de Kerival, and told him what
Ynys had said.

"She is but a girl," the seigneur remarked coldly. "And you are wrong
in thinking she can be in love with any one else. There is no one for
whom she can care so much as for you; no one whom she has met with whom
she could mate; no one with whom I would allow her to mate."

"But that matters little, if she will not marry me!" the young man had
urged.

"My daughter is my daughter, De Morvan. I cannot compel her to marry
you. I know her well enough to be sure that she would ignore any
command of this kind. But women are fools; and one can get them to do
what one wants, in one way if not in another. Let her be a while."

"But the betrothal!"

"Let it stand. But do not press it. Indeed, go away for a year. You are
heir to your mother's estates in Touraine. Go there, work, learn all
you can. Meanwhile, write occasionally to Ynys. Do not address her as
your betrothed, but at the same time let her see that it is the lover
who writes. Then, after a few months, confide that your absence is due
solely to her, that you cannot live without her; and that, after a
vain exile, you write to ask if you may come and see her. They are all
the same. It is the same thing with my mares, for which Kerival is so
famous. Some are wild, some are docile, some skittish, some vicious,
some good, a few flawless--but.... Well, they are all mares. One knows.
A mare is not a sphinx. These complexities of which we hear so much,
what are they? Spindrift. The sea is simply the sea, all the same. The
tide ebbs, though the poets reverse nature. Ebb and flow, the lifting
wind, the lifted wave; we know the way of it all. It has its mystery,
its beauty; but we don't really expect to see a nereid in the hollow of
the wave, or to catch the echo of a triton in the call of the wind. As
for Venus Anadyomene, the foam of which she was made is the froth in
poets' brains. Believe me, Annaik, my friend, women are simply women;
creatures not yet wholly tamed, but tractable in the main, delightful,
valuable often, but certainly not worth the tribute of passion and pain
they obtain from foolish men like yourself."

With this worldly wisdom Andrik de Morvan had gone home, unconvinced.
He loved Ynys; and sophistries were an ineffectual balm.

But as for Ynys, she had long made up her mind. Betrothal or no
betrothal, she belonged now only to one man, and that man, Alan de
Kerival. She was his and his alone, by every natural right. How could
she help the accident by which she had cared for Andrik before she
loved Alan? Now, indeed, it would be sacrilege to be other than wholly
Alan's. Was her heart not his, and her life with her heart, and with
both her deathless devotion?

Alan, she knew, trusted her absolutely. Before he went back to Paris,
after their love was no longer a secret, he had never once asked her to
forfeit any thing of her intimacy with Andrik, nor had he even urged
the open cancelling of the betrothal. But she was well aware his own
absolute loyalty involved for him a like loyalty from her; and she knew
that forgiveness does not belong to those natures which stake all upon
a single die.

And so the matter stood thus still. Ynys and Andrik de Morvan were
nominally betrothed; and not only the Marquis and the Marquise de
Kerival, but Andrik himself, looked upon the bond as absolute.

Perhaps Lois de Kerival was not without some suspicion as to how
matters were between the betrothed pair. Certainly she knew that Ynys
was not one who would give up any real or imagined happiness because of
a conventional arrangement or on account of any conventional duty.

In Alan, Ynys found all that he found in her. When she looked at him,
she wondered how she could ever have dreamed of Andrik as a lover,
for Alan was all that Andrik was not. How proud and glad she felt
because of his great height and strength, his vivid features with their
gray-blue eyes and spirituel expression, his wavy brown hair, a very
type of youthful and beautiful manhood! Still more she revered and
loved the inner Alan whom she knew so well, and recognized with a proud
humility that this lover of hers, whom the great Daniel Darc had spoken
of as a man of genius, was not only her knight, but her comrade, her
mate, her ideal.

Often the peasants of Kerival had speculated if the young seigneur
would join hands with her or with Annaik. Some hoped the one, some the
other; but those who knew Alan otherwise than merely by sight felt
certain that Ynys was the future bride.

"They are made for each other," old Jeanne Mael, the village authority,
was wont to exclaim; "and the good God will bring them together soon or
late. 'Tis a fair, sweet couple they are; none so handsome anywhere.
That tall, dark lass will be a good mother when her hour comes; an' the
child o' him an' her should be the bonniest in the whole wide world."

With that all who saw them together agreed.



CHAPTER V

THE WALKER IN THE NIGHT


It was an hour from midnight when Alan rose, opened a window, and
looked out. The storm was over. He could see the stars glistening like
silver fruit among the upper branches of the elms. Behind the great
cypress known as the Fate of Kerival there was a golden radiance, as
though a disk of radiant bronze were being slowly wheeled round and
round, invisible itself but casting a quivering gleam upon the fibrous
undersides of the cypress spires. Soon the moon would lift upward, and
her paling gold become foam-white along the wide reaches of the forest.

The wind had suddenly fallen. In this abrupt lapse into silence there
was something mysterious. After so much violence, after that wild,
tempestuous cry, such stillness! There was no more than a faint
rustling sound, as though invisible feet were stealthily flying along
the pathway of the upper boughs and through the dim defiles in the
dense coverts of oak and beech in the very heart of the woods. Only,
from hitherward of the unseen dunes floated a melancholy, sighing
refrain, the echo of the eddying sea-breath among the pines. Beyond the
last sands, the deep, hollow boom of the sea itself.

To stay indoors seemed to Alan a wanton forfeiture of beauty. The
fragrance of the forest intoxicated him. Spring was come, indeed.
This wild storm had ruined nothing, for at its fiercest it had swept
overhead; and on the morrow the virginal green world would be more
beautiful than ever. Everywhere the green fire of spring would be
litten anew. A green flame would pass from meadow to hedgerow, from
hedgerow to the tangled thickets of bramble and dog-rose, from the
underwoods to the inmost forest glades. Everywhere song would be to
the birds, everywhere young life would pulse, everywhere the rhythm
of a new rapture would run rejoicing. The miracle of spring would be
accomplished in the sight of all men, of all birds and beasts, of all
green life. Each, in its kind, would have a swifter throb in the red
blood or the vivid sap.

No, he could not wait. No, Alan added to himself with a smile, not even
though to sleep in the House of Kerival was to be beneath the same roof
as Ynys--to be but a few yards, a passage, a corridor away. Ah! for
sure, he could dream his dream as well out there among the gleaming
boughs, in the golden sheen of the moon, under the stars. Was there not
the silence for deep peace, and the voice of the unseen sea for echo
to the deep tides of love which surged obscurely in his heart? Yes, he
would go out to that beautiful redemption of the night. How often, in
fevered Paris, he had known that healing, either when his gaze was held
by the quiet stars, as he kept his hours-long vigil, or when he escaped
westward along the banks of the Seine, and could wander undisturbed
across grassy spaces or under shadowy boughs!

In the great hall of the Manor he found white-haired Matieu asleep in
his wicker chair. The old man silently opened the heavy oaken door,
and, with a smile which somewhat perplexed Alan, bowed to him as he
passed forth.

Could it be a space only of a few hours that divided him from his
recent arrival, he wondered. The forest was no longer the same. Then it
was swept by the wind, lashed by the rains, and was everywhere tortured
into a tempestuous music. Now it was so still, save for a ceaseless
faint dripping from wet leaves and the conduits of a myriad sprays
and branches, that he could hear the occasional shaking of the wings
of hidden birds, ruffling out their plumage because of the moonlit
quietudes that were come again.

And then, too, he had seen Ynys; had held her hand in his; had looked
in her beautiful, hazel-green eyes, dusky and wonderful as a starlit
gloaming because of the depth of her dear love; had pressed his
lips to hers, and felt the throbbing of her heart against his own.
There, in the forest-edge, it was difficult to realize all this. It
would be time to turn soon, to walk back along the sycamore-margined
Seine embankment, to reach the Tour de l'Ile and be at his post in
the observatory again. Then he glanced backward, and saw a red light
shining from the room where the Marquis de Kerival sat up late night
after night, and he wondered if Ynys were still there, or if she were
now in her room and asleep, or if she lay in a waking dream.

For a time he stared at this beacon. Then, troubled by many thoughts,
but most by his love, he moved slowly into one of the beech avenues
which radiated from the fantastic mediæval sun-dial at the end of the
tulip garden in front of the château.

While the moon slowly lifted from branch to branch a transient stir of
life came into the forest.

Here and there he heard low cries, sometimes breaking into abrupt
eddies of arrested song; thrushes, he knew, ever swift to slide their
music out against any tide of light. Once or twice a blackcap, in one
of the beeches near the open, sang so poignantly a brief strain that he
thought it that of a nightingale. Later, in an oak glade, he heard the
unmistakable song itself.

The sea sound came hollowly under the boughs like a spent billow.
Instinctively he turned that way, and so crossed a wide glade that
opened on the cypress alley to the west of the château.

Just as he emerged upon this glade he thought he saw a stooping figure
glide swiftly athwart the northern end of it and disappear among the
cypresses. Startled, he stood still.

No one stirred. Nothing moved. He could hear no sound save the faint
sighing of the wind-eddy among the pines, the dull rhythmic beat of the
sea falling heavily upon the sands.

"It must have been a delusion," he muttered. Yet, for the moment, he
had felt certain that the crouching figure of a man had moved swiftly
out of the shadow of the solitary wide-spreading thorn he knew so well,
and had disappeared into the darker shadow of the cypress alley.

After all, what did it matter? It could only be some poor fellow
poaching. With a smile, Alan remembered how often he had sinned
likewise. He would listen, however, and give the man a fright, for
he knew that Tristran de Kerival was stern in his resentment against
poachers, partly because he was liberal in certain woodland-freedom
he granted, on the sole condition that none of the peasants ever came
within the home domain.

Soon, however, he was convinced that he was mistaken. Deep silence
prevailed everywhere. Almost, he fancied, he could hear the soft fall
of the dew. A low whirring sound showed that a night-jar had already
begun his summer wooing. Now that, as he knew from Ynys, the cuckoo
was come, and that the swallows had suddenly multiplied from a score
of pioneers into a battalion of ever-flying darts; now that he had
listened to the nightingales calling through the moonlit woods and had
heard the love-note of the night-jar, the hot weather must be come at
last--that glorious tide of golden life which flows from April to June
and makes them the joy of the world.

Slowly he walked across the glade. At the old thorn he stopped, and
leaned a while against its rugged, twisted bole, recalling incident
after incident associated with it.

It was strangely restful there. Around him was the quiet sea of
moonlight; yonder, behind the cypresses and the pine-crowned dunes,
was the quiet sea of moving waters; yet, in the one, there was scarce
less of silence than in the other. Ah! he remembered abruptly, on just
such a night, years ago, he and Annaik had stood long there, hand in
hand, listening to a nightingale. What a strange girl she was, even
then! Well he recalled how, at the end of the song and when the little
brown singer had slipped from its bough, like a stone slung from a
sling, Annaik had laughed, though he knew not at what, and had all at
once unfastened her hair, and let its tawny bronze-red mass fall about
her shoulders. She was so beautiful and wild that he had clasped her
in his arms, and had kissed her again and again. And Annaik ... oh, he
remembered, half shyly, half exultantly ... she had laughed again, but
more low, and had tied the long drifts of her hair around his neck like
a blood-red scarf.

It gave him a strange emotion to recall all this. Did Annaik also think
of it ever, he wondered? Then, too, had they not promised somewhat to
each other? Yes ... Annaik had said: "One night we shall come here
again, and then, if you do not love me as much as you do now, I shall
strangle you with my hair: and if you love me more we shall go away
into the forest, and never return, or not for long, long; but if you do
not love me at all, then you are to tell me so, and I will----"

"What?" he had asked, when she stopped abruptly.

At that, however, she had said no more as to what was in her mind, but
had asked him to carve upon the thorn the "A" of her name and the "A"
of his into a double "A." Yes, of course, he had done this. Where was
it? he pondered. Surely midway on the southward side, for then as now
the moonlight would be there.

With an eagerness of which he was conscious he slipped from where he
leaned, and examined the bole of the tree. A heavy branch intervened.
This he caught and withheld, and the light flooded upon the gnarled
trunk.

With a start, Alan almost relinquished the branch. There, unmistakable,
was a large carven "A," but not only was it the old double "A" made
into a single letter, but clearly the change had been made quite
recently, apparently within a few hours. Moreover, it was now linked to
another letter. The legend ran: "_A & J_."

Puzzled, he looked close. There could be no mistake. The cutting was
recent. The "_J_," indeed, might have been that moment done. Suddenly
an idea flashed into his mind. He stooped and examined the mossed
roots. Yes, there were the fragments. He took one and put it between
his teeth; the wood was soft, and had the moisture of fibre recently
severed.

Who was "J"? Alan pondered over every name he could think of. He
knew no one whose baptismal name began thus, with the exception of
Jervaise de Morvan, the brother of Andrik, and he was married and
resident in distant Pondicherry. Otherwise there was but Jak Bourzak,
the woodcutter--a bent, broken-down old man who could not have cut
the letters for the good reason that he was unable to write and was
so ignorant that, even in that remote region, he was called Jak the
Stupid. Alan was still pondering over this when suddenly the stillness
was broken by the loud screaming of peacocks.

Kerival was famous for these birds, of which the peasantry stood in
superstitious awe. Indeed, a legend was current to the effect that
Tristran de Kerival maintained those resplendent creatures because
they were the souls of his ancestors, or such of them as before death
had not been able to gain absolution for their sins. When they were
heard crying harshly before rain or at sundown, or sometimes in the
moonlight, the hearers shuddered. "The lost souls of Kerival" became a
saying, and there were prophets here and there who foreboded ill for
Tristran the Silent, or some one near and dear to him, whenever that
strange clamor rang forth unexpectedly.

Alan himself was surprised, startled. The night was so still, no
further storm was imminent, and the moon had been risen for some time.
Possibly the peacocks had strolled into the cypress alley, to strut to
and fro in the moonshine, as their wont was in their wooing days, and
two of them had come into jealous dispute.

Still that continuous harsh tumult seemed rather to have the note of
alarm than of quarrel. Alan walked to the seaward side of the thorn,
but still kept within its shadow.

The noise was now not only clamant but startling. The savage screaming,
like that of barbaric trumpets, filled the night.

Swiftly the listener crossed the glade, and was soon among the
cypresses. There, while the dull thud of the falling seas was more than
ever audible, the screams of the peacocks were so insistent that he had
ears for these alone.

At the eastern end of the alley the glade broke away into scattered
pines, and from these swelled a series of low dunes. Alan could see
them clearly from where he stood, under the boughs of a huge yew, one
of several that grew here and there among their solemn, columnar kin.

His gaze was upon this open space when, abruptly, he started. A tall,
slim figure, coming from the shore, moved slowly inland across the
dunes.

Who could this walker in the dark be? The shadowy Walker in the Night
herself, mayhap; the dreaded soulless woman who wanders at dead of
night through forests, or by desolate shores, or by the banks of the
perilous _marais_.

Often he had heard of her. When any man met this woman, his fate
depended on whether he saw her before she caught sight of him. If she
saw him first, she had but to sing her wild, strange song, and he would
have to go to her; and when he was before her two flames would come out
of her eyes, and one flame would burn up his life as though it were dry
tinder, and the other would wrap round his soul like a scarlet shawl,
and she would take it and live with it in a cavern underground for a
year and a day. And on that last day she would let it go, as a hare is
let go a furlong beyond a greyhound. Then it would fly like a windy
shadow from glade to glade or from dune to dune, in the vain hope to
reach a wayside Calvary; but ever in vain. Sometimes the Holy Tree
would almost be reached; then, with a gliding swiftness, like a flood
racing down a valley, the Walker in the Night would be alongside the
fugitive. Now and again unhappy night-farers--unhappy they, for sure,
for never does weal remain with any one who hears what no human ear
should hearken--would be startled by a sudden laughing in the darkness.
This was when some such terrible chase had happened, and when the
creature of the night had taken the captive soul, in the last moments
of the last hour of the last day of its possible redemption, and rent
it this way and that, as a hawk scatters the feathered fragments of its
mutilated quarry.

Alan thought of this wild legend, and shuddered. Years ago he had been
foolhardy enough to wish to meet the phantom, to see her before she saw
him, and to put a spell upon her. For, if this were possible, he could
compel her to whisper some of her secret lore, and she could give him
spells to keep him scathless till old age.

But as, with fearful gaze, he stared at the figure which so leisurely
moved toward the cypress alley, he was puzzled by some vague
resemblance, by something familiar. The figure was that of a woman,
unmistakably; and she moved as though she were in a dream.

But who could it be, there, in that lonely place, at that hour of the
night? Who would venture or care....

In a flash all was clear. It was Annaik!

There was no room for doubt. He might have known her lithe walk, her
wildwood grace, her peculiar carriage; but before recognition of these
had come, he had caught a glimpse of her hair in the moonlight. It was
like burnished brass, in that yellow shine. There was no other such
hair in the world, he believed.

But ... Annaik! What could she be doing there? How had she been able to
leave the château; when had she stolen forth; where had she wandered;
whither was she going; to what end?

These and other thoughts stormed through Alan's mind. Almost--he
muttered below his breath--almost he would rather have seen the Walker
in the Night.

As she drew nearer he could see her as clearly as though it were
daylight. She appeared to be thinking deeply, and ever and again be
murmuring disconnected phrases. His heart smote him when he saw her,
twice, raise her arms and then wring her hands as if in sore straits of
sorrow.

He did not stir. He would wait, he thought. It might add to Annaik's
strange grief, if grief it were, to betray his presence. Again, was
it possible that she was there to meet some one--to encounter the "J"
whose initial was beside her own on the old thorn? How pale she was!
he noticed. A few yards away her dress caught; she hesitated, slowly
disengaged herself, but did not advance again. For the third time she
wrung her hands.

What could it mean? Alan was about to move forward when he heard her
voice:

"Oh, Alan, Alan, Alan!"

What ... had she seen him? He flushed there in the shadow, and words
rose to his lips. Then he was silent, for she spoke again:

"I hate her ... I hate her ... not for herself, no, no, no ... but
because she has taken you from me. Why does Ynys have you, all of you,
when I have loved you all along? None of us knew any thing--none, till
last Noël. Then we knew; only, neither you nor Ynys knew that I loved
you as a soul in hell loves the memory of its earthly joy."

Strange words, there in that place, at that hour; but far stranger
the passionless voice in which the passionate words were uttered.
Bewildered, Alan leaned forward, intent. The words had waned to a
whisper, but were now incoherent. Fragmentary phrases, irrelevant
words, what could it all mean?

Suddenly an idea made him start. He moved slightly, so as to catch the
full flood of a moonbeam as it fell on Annaik's face.

Yes, he was right. Her eyes were open, but were fixed in an unseeing
stare. For the first time, too, he noted that she was clad simply in
a long dressing-gown. Her feet were bare, and were glistening with the
wet they had gathered; on her lustrous hair, nothing but the moonlight.

He had remembered. Both Annaik and Ynys had a tendency to somnambulism,
a trait inherited from their father. It had been cured years ago, he
had understood. But here--here was proof that Annaik at any rate was
still subject to that mysterious malady of sleep.

That she was absolutely trance-bound he saw clearly. But what he should
do--that puzzled, that bewildered him.

Slowly Annaik, after a brief hesitancy when he fancied she was about to
awake, moved forward again.

She came so close that almost she brushed against him; would have done
so, indeed, but that he was hidden from contact as well as from sight
by the boughs of the yew, which on that side swept to the ground.

Alan put out his hand. Then he withdrew it. No, he thought, he would
let her go unmolested, and, if possible, unawaked: but he would follow
her, lest evil befell. She passed. His nerves thrilled. What was this
strange emotion, that gave him a sensation almost as though he had seen
his own wraith? But different ... for, oh--he could not wait to think
about that, he muttered.

He was about to stoop and emerge from the yew-boughs when he heard a
sound which made him stop abruptly.

It was a step; of that he felt sure. And at hand, too. The next moment
he was glad he had not disclosed himself, for a crouching figure
stealthily followed Annaik.

Surely that was the same figure he had seen cross the glade, the figure
that had slipped from the thorn?

If so, could it be the person who had cut the letter "J" on the bark of
the tree? The man kept so much in the shadow that it was difficult to
obtain a glimpse of his face. Alan waited. In a second or two he would
have to pass the yew.

Just before the mysterious pursuer reached the old tree, he stopped.
Alan furtively glanced to his left. He saw that Annaik had suddenly
halted. She stood intent, as though listening. Possibly she had awaked.
He saw her lips move. She spoke, or called something; what, he could
not hear because of the intermittent screaming of the peacocks.

When he looked at the man in the shadow he started. A moonbeam had
penetrated the obscurity, and the face was white against the black
background of a cypress.

Alan recognized the man in a moment. It was Jud Kerbastiou, the
forester. What ... was it possible: could _he_ be the "J" who had
linked his initial with that of Annaik?

It was incredible. The man was not only a boor, but one with rather
an ill repute. At any rate, he was known to be a poacher as well as a
woodlander of the old Breton kind--men who would never live save in the
forest, any more than a gypsy would become a clerk and live in a street.

It was said among the peasants of Kerival that his father, old Iouenn
Kerbastiou, the charcoal burner, was an illegitimate brother of the
late Marquis--so that Jud, or Judik, as he was generally called, was
a blood-relation of the great folk at the château. Once this had been
hinted to the Marquis Tristran. It was for the first and last time.
Since then, Jud Kerbastiou had become more morose than ever, and was
seldom seen among his fellows. When not with his infirm old father, at
the hut in the woods that were to the eastward of the forest-hamlet
of Ploumael, he was away in the densely wooded reaches to the south.
Occasionally he was seen upon the slopes of the Black Hills, but this
was only in winter, when he crossed over into Upper Brittany with a
mule-train laden with cut fagots.

That he was prowling about the home domain of Kerival was itself
ominous; but that in this stealthy manner he should be following Annaik
was to Allan a matter of genuine alarm. Surely the man could mean no
evil against one of the Big House, and one, too, so much admired, and
in a certain way loved, as Annaik de Kerival? And yet, the stealthy
movements of the peasant, his crouching gait, his patient dogging of
her steps--and this, doubtless, ever since _she_ had crossed the glade
from the forest to the cypresses--all this had a menacing aspect.

At that moment the peacocks ceased their wild miaulling. Low and clear,
Annaik's voice same thrillingly along the alley:

"_Alan! Alan! Oh, Alan, darling, are you there?_"

His heart beat. Then a flush sprang to his brow, as with sudden anger
he heard Jud Kerbastiou reply, in a thick, muffled tone:

"Yes, yes, ... and, and I love you, Annaik!"

Possibly the sleeper heard and understood. Even at that distance Alan
saw the light upon her face, the light from within.

Judik the peasant slowly advanced. His stealthy tread was light as that
of a fox. He stopped when he was within a yard of Annaik. "Annaik," he
muttered hoarsely, "Annaik, it was I who was out among the beeches in
front of the château while the storm was raging. Sure you must have
known it; else, why would you come out? I love you, white woman. I am
only a peasant ... but I love you, Annaik de Kerival, I love you--I
love you--I love you!"

Surely she was on the verge of waking! The color had come back to her
white face, her lips moved, as though stirred by a breath from within.
Her hands were clasped, and the fingers intertwisted restlessly.

Kerbastiou was so wrought that he did not hear steps behind him as Alan
moved swiftly forward.

"Sure, you will be mine at last," the man cried hoarsely, "mine, and
none to dispute ... ay, and this very night, too."

Slowly Jud put out an arm. His hand almost touched that of Annaik.
Suddenly he was seized from behind, and a hand was claspt firmly upon
his mouth. He did not see who his unexpected assailant was, but he
heard the whisper that was against his ear:

"If you make a sound, I will strangle you to death."

With a nod, he showed that he understood. "If I let go for the moment,
will you come back under the trees here, where she cannot see or hear
us?"

Another nod.

Alan relaxed his hold, but did not wholly relinquish his grip.
Kerbastiou turned and looked at him.

"Oh, it's _you_!" he muttered, as he followed his assailant into the
shadow some yards back.

"Yes, Judik Kerbastiou, it is I, Alan de Kerival."

"Well, what do you want?"

"What do I want? How dare you be so insolent, fellow? you, who have
been following a defenceless woman!"

"What have _you_ been doing?"

"I ... oh, of course I have been following Mlle. Annaik also ... but
that was ... that was ... to protect her."

"And is it not possible I might follow her for the same reason?"

"It is not the same thing at all, Judik Kerbastiou, and you know it. In
the first place you have no right to be here at all. In the next, I am
Mlle. Annaik's cousin, and----"

"And I am her lover."

Alan stared at the man in sheer amaze. He spoke quietly and assuredly,
nor seemed in the least degree perturbed.

"But ... but ... why, Kerbastiou, it is impossible!"

"What is impossible?"

"That Annaik could love _you_."

"I did not say she loved me. I said I was her lover."

"And you believe that you, a peasant, a man held in ill repute even
among your fellow-peasants, a homeless woodlander, can gain the love of
the daughter of your seigneur, of a woman nurtured as she has been?"

"You speak like a book, as the saying is, M. de Kerival." Judik uttered
the words mockingly, and with raised voice. Annaik, who was still
standing as one entranced, heard it: for she whispered again, "_Alan!
Alan! Alan!_"

"Hush, man! she will hear. Listen, Judik, I don't want to speak
harshly. You know me. Every one here does. You must be well aware that
I am the last person to despise you or any man because you are poor
and unfortunate. But you _must_ see that such a love as this of yours
is madness."

"All love is madness."

"Oh, yes; of course! But look you, Judik, what right have you to be
here at all, in the home domain, in the dead of night?"

"You love Ynys de Kerival?"

"Yes ... well, yes, I do love her; but what then? What is that to you?"

"Well, I love Annaik. I am here by the same right as you are."

"You forget. _I_ am welcome. You come by stealth. Do you mean for a
moment to say that you are here to meet Mlle. Annaik by appointment?"

The man was silent.

"Judik Kerbastiou!"

"Yes?"

"You are a coward. You followed this woman whom you say you love with
intent to rob her."

"You are a fool, Alan de Kerival."

Alan raised his arm. Then, ashamed, he let it fall.

"Will you go? Will you go now, at once, or shall I wake Mlle. Annaik,
and tell her what I have seen--and from what I believe I have saved
her?"

"No, you need not wake her, nor tell her any thing. I know she has
never even given me a thought."

Suddenly the man bowed his head. A sob burst through the dark.

Alan put his hand on his shoulder.

"Judik! Judik Kerbastiou! I am sorry for you from my heart. But go ...
go now, at once. Nothing shall be said of this. No one shall know any
thing. If you wish me to tell my cousin, I will. Then she can see you
or not, as she may wish."

"I go. But ... yes, tell her. To-morrow. Tell her to-morrow. Only I
would not have hurt her. Tell her that. I go now. _Adiou._"

With that Judik Kerbastiou lifted his shaggy head, and turned his great
black, gypsy-wild eyes upon Alan.

"She loves _you_," he said simply. Then he stepped lightly over the
path, passed between the cypresses, and moved out across the glade.
Alan watched his dark figure slide through the moonlight. He traversed
the glade to the right of the thorn. For nearly half a mile he was
visible; then he turned and entered the forest.

       *       *       *       *       *

An hour later two figures moved, in absolute silence, athwart the
sand-dunes beyond the cypress alley.

Hand in hand they moved. Their faces were in deep shadow, for the
moonlight was now obscured by a league-long cloud.

When they emerged from the scattered pines to the seaward of the
château, the sentinel peacocks saw them, and began once more their
harsh, barbaric screams.

The twain unclasped their hands, and walked steadily forward, speaking
no word, not once looking one at the other.

As they entered the yew-close at the end of the old garden of the
château they were as shadows drowned in night. For some minutes they
were invisible; though, from above, the moon shone upon their white
faces and on their frozen stillness. The peacocks sullenly ceased.

Once more they emerged into the moon-dusk. As they neared the ivied
gables of the west wing of the Manor the cloud drifted from the moon,
and her white flood turned the obscurity into a radiance wherein every
object stood forth as clear as at noon.

Alan's face was white as are the faces of the dead. His eyes did not
once lift from the ground. But in Annaik's face was a flush, and her
eyes were wild and beautiful as falling stars.

It was not an hour since she had wakened from her trance; not an hour,
and yet already had Alan forgotten--forgotten her, and Ynys, and the
storm, and the after calm. Of one thing he thought only, and that
was of what Daniel Darc had once said to him laughingly: "If the old
fables of astrology were true, your horoscope would foretell impossible
things."

In absolute silence they moved up the long flight of stone stairs that
led to the château; in absolute silence, they entered by the door which
old Matieu had left ajar; in silence, they passed that unconscious
sleeper; in silence, they crossed the landing where the corridors
diverged.

Both stopped, simultaneously. Alan seemed about to speak, but his lips
closed again without utterance.

Abruptly he turned. Without a word he passed along the corridor to the
right, and disappeared in the obscurity.

Annaik stood a while, motionless, silent. Then she put her hand to her
heart. On her impassive face the moonlight revealed nothing; only in
her eyes there was a gleam as of one glad unto death.

Then she too passed, noiseless and swift as a phantom. Outside, on the
stone terrace, Ys, the blind peacock, strode to and fro, uttering his
prolonged, raucous screams. When, at last, he was unanswered by the
peacocks in the cypress alley, his clamant voice no longer tore the
silence.

The moon trailed her flood of light across the earth. It lay upon the
waters, and was still a glory there when, through the chill quietudes
of dawn, the stars waned one by one in the soft graying that filtered
through the morning dusk. The new day was come.



CHAPTER VI

VIA OSCURA


The day that followed this quiet dawn marked the meridian of spring.
Thereafter the flush upon the blossoms would deepen; the yellow pass
out of the green; and a deeper green involve the shoreless emerald sea
of verdure which everywhere covered the brown earth, and swelled and
lapsed in endlessly receding billows of forest and woodland. Up to that
noon-tide height Spring had aspired, ever since she had shaken the dust
of snow from her primrose-sandals; now, looking upon the way she had
come, she took the hand of Summer--and both went forth as one, so that
none should tell which was still the guest of the greenness.

This was the day when Alan and Ynys walked among the green alleys of
the woods of Kerival, and when, through the deep gladness that was his
for all the strange, gnawing pain in his mind, in his ears echoed the
haunting line of Rimbaud, "Then, in the violet forest all a-bourgeon,
Eucharis said to me: 'It is Spring.'"

Through the first hours of the day Alan had been unwontedly silent.
Ynys had laughed at him with loving eyes, but had not shown any shadow
of resentment. His word to the effect that his journey had tired him,
and that he had not slept at all, was enough to account for his lack of
buoyant joy.

But, in truth, Ynys did not regret this, since it had brought a still
deeper intensity of love into Alan's eyes. When he looked at her, there
was so much passion of longing, so pathetic an appeal, that her heart
smote her. Why should she be the one chosen to evoke a love such as
this, she wondered; she, who was but Ynys, while Alan was a man whom
all women might love, and had genius that made him as one set apart
from his fellows, and was brow-lit by a starry fate?

And yet, in a sense she understood. They were so much at one, so like
in all essential matters, and were in all ways comrades. It would
have been impossible for each not to love the other. But, deeper than
this, was the profound and intimate communion of the spirit. In some
beautiful, strange way, she knew she was the flame to his fire. At that
flame he lit the torch of which Daniel Darc and others had spoken. She
did not see why or wherein it was so, but she believed, and indeed at
last realized the exquisite actuality.

In deep love, there is no height nor depth between two hearts, no
height nor depth, no length nor breadth. There is simply love.

The birds of Angus Ogue are like the wild-doves of the forest: when
they nest in the heart they are as one. And her life, and Alan's, were
not these one?

Nevertheless, Ynys was disappointed as the day went on, and her lover
did not seem able to rouse himself from his strange despondency.

Doubtless this was due largely to what was pending. That afternoon he
was to have his long anticipated interview with the Marquise, and
would perhaps learn what might affect his whole life. On the other
hand, each believed that nothing would be revealed which was not of the
past solely.

Idly, Ynys began to question her companion about the previous night.
What had he done, since he had not slept; had he read, or dreamed at
the window, or gone out, as had once been his wont on summer nights,
to walk in the cypress alley or along the grassy dunes? Had he heard
a nightingale singing in the moonlight? Had he noticed the prolonged
screaming of the peacocks--unusually prolonged, now that she thought of
it, Ynys added.

"I wonder, dear, if you would love me whatever happened--whatever I
was, or did?"

It was an inconsequent question. She looked up at him, half perturbed,
half pleased.

"Yes, Alan."

"But do you mean what you say, knowing that you are not only using a
phrase?"

"I have no gift of expression, dearest. Words come to me without their
bloom and their fragrance, I often think. But ... Alan, _I love you_."

"That is sweetest music for me, Ynys, my fawn. All words from you have
both bloom and fragrance, though you may not know it, shy flower. But
tell me again, do you mean what you say, _absolutely_?"

"Absolutely. In every way, in all things, at all times. Dear, how
could _any thing_ come between us? It is _possible_, of course, that
circumstances might separate us. But nothing could really come between
us. My heart is yours."

"What about Andrik de Morvan?"

"Ah, you are not in earnest, Alan!"

"Yes; I am more than half in earnest, Ynys, darling. Tell me!"

"You cannot possibly believe that I care, that I could care, for Andrik
as I care for you, Alan."

"Why not?"

"Why not? Oh, have you so little belief, then, in women--in me? Alan,
do you not know that what is perhaps possible for a man, though I
cannot conceive it, is _impossible_ for a woman. That is the poorest
sophistry which says a woman may love two men at the same time. That
is, if by love is meant what you and I mean. Affection, the deepest
affection, is one thing; the love of man and woman, as _we_ mean it, is
a thing apart!"

"You love Andrik?"

"Yes."

"Could you wed your life with his?"

"I could have done so ... but for you."

"Then, by your true heart, is there no possibility that he can in any
way ever come between us?"

"None."

"Although he is nominally your betrothed, and believes in you as his
future wife?"

"That is not my fault. I drifted into that conditional union, as you
know. But after to-day he and every one shall know that I can wed no
man but you. But why do you ask me these things, Alan?"

"I want to know. I will explain later. But tell me; could you be happy
with Andrik? You say you love him?"

"I love him as a friend, as a comrade."

"As an intimately dear comrade?"

"Alan, do not let us misunderstand each other. There can only be
one supreme comrade for a woman, and that is the man whom she loves
supremely. Every other affection, the closest, the dearest, is as
distinct from that as day from night."

"If by some malign chance you and Andrik married--say, in the event of
my supposed death--would you still be as absolutely true to me as you
are now?"

"What has the accident of marriage to do with truth between a man and a
woman, Alan?"

"It involves intimacies that would be a desecration otherwise. Oh,
Ynys, do you not understand?"

"It is a matter of the inner life. Men so rarely believe in the hidden
loyalty of the heart. It is possible for a woman to fulfil a bond and
yet not be a bondswoman. Outer circumstances have little to do with the
inner life, with the real self."

"In a word, then, if you married Andrik you would remain absolutely
mine, not only if I were dead, but if perchance the rumor were untrue
and I came back, though too late?"

"Yes."

"Absolutely?"

"Absolutely."

"And you profoundly know, Ynys, that in no conceivable circumstances
can Andrik be to you what I am, or any thing for a moment approaching
it?"

"I do know it."

"Although he were your husband?"

"Although he were my husband."

The worn lines that were in Alan's face were almost gone. Looking into
his eyes Ynys saw that the strange look of pain which had alarmed her
was no longer there. The dear eyes had brightened; a new hope seemed to
have arisen in them.

"Do you believe me, Alan, dear?" she whispered.

"If I did not, it would kill me, Ynys."

And he spoke truth. The bitter sophistications of love play lightly
with the possibilities of death. Men who talk of suicide are likely to
be long-livers; lovers whose hearts are easily broken can generally
recover and astonish themselves by their heroic endurance. The human
heart is like a wave of the sea; it can be lashed into storm, it can
be calmed, it can become stagnant--but it is seldom absorbed from the
ocean till in natural course the sun takes up its spirit in vapor.
Yet, ever and again, there is one wave among a myriad which a spiral
wind-eddy may suddenly strike. In a moment it is whirled this way and
that; it is involved in a cataclysm of waters; and then cloud and sea
meet, and what a moment before had been an ocean wave is become an idle
skyey vapor.

Alan was of the few men of whom that wave is the symbol. To him, death
could come at any time, if the wind-eddy of a certain unthinkable
sorrow struck him at his heart.

In this sense, his life was in Ynys's hands as absolutely as though he
were a caged bird. He knew it, and Ynys knew it.

There are a few men, a few women, like this. Perhaps it is well that
these are so rare. Among the hills of the north, at least, they may
still be found; in remote mountain valleys and in lonely isles, where
life and death are realized actualities and not the mere adumbrations
of the pinions of that lonely fugitive, the human mind, along the
endless precipices of Time.

Alan knew well that both he and Ynys were not so strong as each
believed. Knowing this, he feared for both. And yet, there was but
one woman in the world for him--Ynys; as for her, there was but one
man--Alan. Without her, he could do nothing, achieve nothing. She was
his flame, his inspiration, his strength, his light. Without her, he
was afraid to live; with her, death was a beautiful dream. To her, Alan
was not less. She lived in him and for him.

But we are wrought of marsh-fire as well as of stellar light. Now, as
of old, the gods do not make of the fairest life a thornless rose. A
single thorn may innocently convey poison; so that everywhere men and
women go to and fro perilously, and not least those who move through
the shadow and shine of an imperious passion.

For a time, thereafter, Alan and Ynys walked slowly onward, hand in
hand, each brooding deep over the thoughts their words had stirred.

"Do you know what Yann says, Alan?" Ynys asked in a low voice, after
both had stopped instinctively to listen to a thrush leisurely
iterating his just learned love carol, where he swung on a greening
spray of honeysuckle under a yellow-green lime. "Do you know what Yann
says?... He says that you have a wave at your feet. What does that
mean?"

"When did he tell you that, Ynys, mo-chree?"

"Ah, Alan, dear, how sweet it is to hear from your lips the dear Gaelic
we both love so well! And does that not make you more than ever anxious
to learn all that you are to hear this afternoon?"

"Yes ... but that, that Ian Macdonald said; what else did he say?"

"Nothing. He would say no more. I asked him in the Gaelic, and he
repeated only, 'I see a wave at his feet.'"

"What Ian means by that I know well. It means I am going on a far
journey."

"Oh, no, Alan, no!"

"He has the sight upon him, at times. Ian would not say that thing, did
he not mean it. Tell me, my fawn, has he ever said any thing of this
kind about _you_?"

"Yes. Less than a month ago. I was with him one day on the dunes near
the sea. Once, when he gave no answer to what I asked, I looked at him,
and saw his eyes fixt. 'What do you see, Yann?' I asked.

"'I see great rocks, strange caverns. Sure, it is well I am knowing
what they are. They are the Sea-caves of Rona.'

"There were no rocks visible from where we stood, so I knew that Ian
was in one of his visionary moods. I waited, and then spoke again,
whisperingly:

"'Tell me, Ian MacIain, what do you see?'

"'I see two whom I do not know. And they are in a strange place, they
are. And on the man I see a shadow, and on the woman I see a light. But
what that shadow is, I do not know; nor do I know what that light is.
But I am for thinking that it is of the Virgin Mary, for I see the
dream that is in the woman's heart, and it is a fair wonderful dream
_that_.'

"That is all Yann said, Alan. As I was about to speak, his face changed.

"'What is it, Ian?' I asked.

"At first he would answer nothing. Then he said: 'It is a dream. It
means nothing. It was only because I was thinking of you and Alan
MacAlasdair.'"

"Oh, Ynys!"--Alan interrupted with an eager cry--"that is a thing
I have long striven to know; that which lies in the words 'Alan
MacAlasdair.' My father, then, was named Alasdair! And was it Rona, you
said, was the place of the Sea-caves? Rona ... that must be an island.
The only Rona I know of is that near Skye. It may be the same. Now,
indeed, I have a clew, lest I should learn nothing to-day. Did Ian say
nothing more?"

"Nothing. I asked him if the man and woman he saw were you and I,
but he would not speak. I am certain he was about to say yes, but
refrained."

For a while they walked on in silence, each revolving many speculations
aroused by the clew given by the words of "Yann the Dumb." Suddenly
Ynys tightened her clasp of Alan's hand.

"What is it, dear?"

"Alan, some time ago you asked me abruptly what I knew about the
forester, Judik Kerbastiou. Well, I see him in that beech-covert
yonder, looking at us."

Alan started. Ynys noticed that for a moment he grew pale as foam. His
lips parted, as though he were about to call to the woodlander: when
Judik advanced, making at the same time a sign of silence.

The man had a wild look about him. Clearly, he had not slept since he
and Alan had parted at midnight. His dusky eyes had a red light in
them. His rough clothes were still damp; his face, too, was strangely
white and dank.

Alan presumed that he came to say something concerning Annaik. He did
not know what to do to prevent this, but while he was pondering, Judik
spoke in a hoarse, tired voice:

"Let the Lady Ynys go back to the château at once. She is needed there."

"Why, what is wrong, Judik Kerbastiou?"

"Let her go back, I say. No time for words now. Be quick. I am not
deceiving you. Listen ..." and with that he leaned toward Alan, and
whispered in his ear.

Alan looked at him with startled amaze. Then, turning toward Ynys, he
asked her to go back at once to the château.



CHAPTER VII

"DEIREADH GACH COGAIDH, SITH" (THE END OF ALL WARFARE, PEACE)


Alan did not wait till Ynys was out of sight, before he demanded the
reason of Judik's strange appearance and stranger summons.

"Why are you here again, Judik Kerbastiou? What is the meaning of this
haunting of the forbidden home domain? And what did you mean by urging
Mlle. Ynys to go back at once to the château?"

"Time enough later for your other questions, young sir. Meanwhile come
along with me, and as quick as you can."

Without another word the woodlander turned and moved rapidly along a
narrow path through the brushwood.

Alan saw it would be useless to ask further questions at the moment;
moreover, he was now vaguely alarmed. What could all this mystery
mean? Could an accident have happened to the Marquis Tristran? It was
hardly likely, for he seldom ventured into the forest, unless when the
weather had dried all the ways: for he had to be wheeled in his chair,
and, as Alan knew, disliked to leave the gardens or the well-kept yew
and cypress alleys near the château.

In a brief while, however, he heard voices. Judik turned, and waved to
him to be wary. The forester bent forward, stared intently, and then
beckoned to Alan to creep up alongside.

"Who is it? What is it, Judik?"

"Look!"

Alan disparted a bough of underwood which made an effectual screen. In
the glade beyond were four figures.

One of these he recognized at once. It was the Marquis de Kerival. He
was, as usual, seated in his wheeled chair. Behind him, some paces to
the right, was Raif Kermorvan, the steward of Kerival. The other two
men Alan had not seen before.

One of these strangers was a tall, handsome man, of about sixty. His
close-cropped white hair, his dress, his whole mien, betrayed the
military man. Evidently a colonel, Alan thought, or perhaps a general;
at any rate an officer of high rank, and one to whom command and
self-possession were alike habitual. Behind this gentleman, one of the
most distinguished and even noble-looking men he had ever seen, and
again some paces to the right, was a man, evidently a groom, and to all
appearances an orderly in mufti.

The first glance revealed that a duel was imminent. The duellists, of
course, were the military stranger and the Marquis de Kerival.

"Who is that man?" Alan whispered to Kerbastion. "Do you know?"

"I do not know his name. He is a soldier--a general. He came to Kerival
to-day; an hour or more ago. I guided him through the wood, for he and
his man had ridden into one of the winding alleys and had lost their
way. I heard him ask for the Marquis de Kerival. I waited about in the
shrubbery of the rose garden to see if ... if ... some one for whom
I waited ... would come out. After a time, half an hour or less, this
gentleman came forth, ushered by Raif Kermorvan, the steward. His man
brought around the two horses again. They mounted, and rode slowly
away. I joined them, and offered to show them a shorter route than that
which they were taking. The General said they wished to find a glade
known as Merlin's Rest. Then I knew what he came for, I knew what was
going to happen." "What, Judik?"

"Hush! not so loud. They will hear us! I knew it was for a duel. It was
here that Andrik de Morvan, the uncle of him whom you know, was killed
by a man--I forget his name."

"Why did the man kill Andrik de Morvan?"

"Oh, who knows? Why does one kill any body? Because he was tired of
enduring the Sieur Andrik longer; he bored him beyond words to tell, I
have heard. Then, too, the Count, for he was a count, loved Andrik's
wife."

Alan glanced at Judik. For all his rough wildness, he spoke on occasion
like a man of breeding. Moreover, at no time was he subservient in his
manner. Possibly, Alan thought, it was true what he had heard: that
Judik Kerbastiou was by moral right Judik de Kerival.

While the onlookers were whispering, the four men in the glade had
all slightly shifted their position. The Marquis, it was clear, had
insisted upon this. The light had been in his eyes. Now the antagonists
and their seconds were arranged aright. Kermorvan, the steward, was
speaking slowly: directions as to the moment when to fire.

Alan knew it would be worse than useless to interfere. He could but
hope that this was no more than an affair of honor of a kind not meant
to have a fatal issue; a political quarrel, perhaps; a matter of
insignificant social offence.

Before Raif Kermorvan--a short, black-haired, bull-necked man, with
a pale face and protruding light blue eyes--had finished what he had
to say, Alan noticed what had hitherto escaped him: that immediately
beyond the glade, and under a huge sycamore, already in full leaf,
stood the Kerival carriage. Alain, the coachman, sat on the box, and
held the two black horses in rein. Standing by the side of the carriage
was Georges de Rohan, the doctor of Kerloek, and a personal friend of
the Marquis Tristran.

Suddenly Kermorvan raised his voice.

"M. le Général, are you ready?"

"I am ready," answered a low, clear voice.

"M. le Marquis, are you ready?"

Tristran de Kerival did not answer, but assented by a slight nod.

"Then raise your weapons, and fire the moment I say 'thrice.'"

Both men raised their pistols.

"You have the advantage of me, sir," said the Marquis coldly, in a
voice as audible to Alan and Judik as to the others. "I present a good
aim to you here. Nevertheless, I warn you once more that you will not
escape me ... this time."

The General smiled; scornfully, Alan thought. Again, when suddenly
he lowered his pistol and spoke, Alan fancied he detected if not a
foreign accent, at least a foreign intonation.

"Once more, Tristran de Kerival, I tell you that this duel is a crime;
a crime against me, a crime against Mme. la Marquise, a crime against
your daughters, and a crime against...."

"That will do, General. I am ready. Are you?"

Without further word the stranger slowly drew himself together. He
raised his arm, while his opponent did the same.

"_Once! Twice! Thrice!_" There was a crack like that of a cattle-whip.
Simultaneously some splinters of wood were blown from the left side of
the wheeled chair.

The Marquis Tristran smiled. He had reserved his fire. He could aim now
with fatal effect

"It is murder!" muttered Alan, horrified; but at that moment the
Marquis spoke. Alan leaned forward, intent to hear.

"_At last!_" That was all. But in the words was a concentrated longing
for revenge, the utterance of a vivid hate.

Tristran de Kerival slowly and with methodical malignity took aim.
There was a flash, the same whip-like crack.

For a moment it seemed as though the ball had missed its mark. Then,
suddenly, there was a bubbling of red froth at the mouth of the
stranger. Still, he stood erect.

Alan looked at the Marquis de Kerival. He was leaning back, deathly
white, but with the bitter, suppressed smile which every one at the
château knew and hated.

All at once the General swayed, lunged forward, and fell prone.

Dr. de Rohan ran out from the sycamore, and knelt beside him. After a
few seconds he looked up.

He did not speak, but every one knew what his eyes said. To make it
unmistakable, he drew out his handkerchief and put it over the face of
the dead man.

Alan was about to advance when Judik Kerbastiou plucked him by the
sleeve.

"Hst! M'sieur Alan! There is Mamzelle Ynys returning! She will be here
in another minute. She must not see what is there."

"You are right, Judik. I thank you."

With that he turned and moved swiftly down the leaf-hid path which
would enable him to intercept Ynys.

"What is it, Alan?" she asked, with wondering eyes, the moment he was
at her side. "What is it? Why are you so pale?"

"It is because of a duel that has been fought here. You must go back at
once, dear. There are reasons why you...."

"Is my father one of the combatants? I know he is out of the château.
Tell me quick! Is he wounded? Is he dead?"

"No, no, darling heart! He is unhurt. But I can tell you nothing more
just now. Later ... later. But why did you return here?"

"I came with a message from my mother. She is in sore trouble, I fear.
I found her, on her couch in the Blue Salon, with tears streaming down
her face and sobs choking her."

"And she wants me ... now?"

"Yes. She told me to look for you, and bring you to her at once."

"Then go straightway back, dear, and tell her that I shall be with her
immediately. Yes, go--go--at once."

But by the time Ynys had moved into the alley which led her to the
château, and Alan had returned to the spot where he had left Judik,
rapid changes had occurred.

The wheeled chair had gone. Alan could see it nearing the South Yews;
with the Marquis Tristran in it, leaning backward and with head erect.
At its side walked Raif Kermorvan. He seemed to be whispering to the
Seigneur. The carriage had disappeared; with it Georges de Rohan, the
soldier orderly, and, presumably, the dead man.

Alan stood hesitant, uncertain whether to go first to the Marquise,
or to follow the man whom he regarded now with an aversion infinitely
deeper than he had ever done hitherto; with whom, he felt, he never
wished to speak again, for he was a murderer, if ever man was, and,
from Alan's standpoint, a coward as well. Tristran de Kerival was the
deadliest shot in all the country-side, and he must have known that,
when he challenged his victim, he gave him his death sentence.

It did not occur to Alan that possibly the survivor was the man
challenged. Instinctively he knew that this was not so.

Judik suddenly touched his arm.

"Here," he said; "this is the name of the dead man. I got the servant
to write it down for me."

Alan took the slip of paper. On it was: "_M. le Général Carmichael_."



CHAPTER VIII

THE UNFOLDING OF THE SCROLL


When Alan reached the château he was at once accosted by old Matieu.

"Mme. la Marquise wishes to see you in her private room, M'sieu Alan,
and without a moment's delay."

In a few seconds he was on the upper landing. At the door of the room
known as the Blue Salon he met Yann the Dumb.

"What is it, Ian? Is there any thing wrong?"

In his haste he spoke in French. The old islander looked at him, but
did not answer.

Alan repeated his question in Gaelic.

"Yes, Alan MacAlasdair, I fear there is gloom and darkness upon us all."

"Why?"

"By this an' by that. But I have seen the death-cloth about Lois nic
Alasdair bronnach for weeks past. I saw it about her feet, and then
about her knees, and then about her breast. Last night, when I looked
at her, I saw it at her neck. And to-day, the shadow-shroud is risen to
her eyes."

"But your second-sight is not always true, you know, Ian. Why, you told
me when I was here last that I would soon be seeing my long dead father
again, and, more than that, that I should see him, but he never see me.
But of this and your other dark sayings, no more now. Can I go in at
once and see my aunt?"

"I will be asking that, Alan-mo-caraid. But what you say is not true.
I have never yet 'seen' any thing that has not come to pass; though I
have had the sight but seldom, to Himself be the praise." With that Ian
entered, exchanged a word or two, and ushered Alan into the room.

On a couch beside a great fireplace, across the iron brazier of which
were flaming pine-logs, an elderly woman lay almost supine. That she
had been a woman of great beauty was unmistakable, for all her gray
hair and the ravages that time and suffering had wrought upon her
face. Even now her face was beautiful; mainly from the expression of
the passionate dusky eyes which were so like those of Annaik. Her long,
inert body was covered with a fantastic Italian silk-cloth whose gay
pattern emphasized her own helpless condition. Alan had not seen her
for some months, and he was shocked at the change. Below the eyes, as
flamelike as ever, were purplish shadows, and everywhere, through the
habitual ivory of the delicate features, a gray ashiness had diffused.
When she held out her hand to him, he saw it as transparent as a fan,
and perceived within it the red gleam of the fire.

"Ah, Alan, it is you at last! How glad I am to see you!" The voice was
one of singular sweetness, in tone and accent much like that of Ynys.

"Dear Aunt Lois, not more glad than I am to see you"--and, as he spoke,
Alan kneeled at the couch and kissed the frail hand that had been held
out to him.

"I would have so eagerly seen you at once on my arrival," he resumed,
"but I was given your message--that you had one of your seasons of
suffering, and could not see me. You have been in pain, Aunt Lois?"

"Yes, dear, I am dying."

"Dying! Oh, no, no, no! You don't mean _that_. And besides----"

"Why should I not mean it? Why should I fear it, Alan? Has life meant
so much to me of late years that I should wish to prolong it?"

"But you have endured so long!"

"A bitter reason truly!... and one too apt to a woman! Well, enough of
this. Alan, I want to speak to you about yourself. But first tell me
one thing. Do you love any woman?"

"Yes, with all my heart, with all my life, I love a woman."

"Have you told her so? Has she betrothed herself to you?"

"Yes."

"Is it Annaik?"

"Annaik ... Annaik?"

"Why are you so surprised, Alan? Annaik is beautiful; she has long
loved you, I am certain; and you, too, if I mistake not, care for her?"

"Of course, I do; of course I care for her, Aunt Lois. I love her. But
I do not love her as you mean."

The Marquise looked at him steadily.

"I do not quite understand," she said gravely. "I must speak to you
about Annaik, later. But now, will you tell me who the woman is?"

"Yes. It is Ynys."

"_Ynys!_ But, Alan, do you not know that she is betrothed to Andrik de
Morvan?"

"I know."

"And that such a betrothal is, in Brittany, almost as binding as a
marriage?"

"I have heard that said."

"And that the Marquis de Kerival wishes that union to take place?"

"The Marquis Tristran's opinion, on any matter, does not in any way
concern me."

"That may be, Alan; but it concerns Ynys. Do you know that I also wish
her to marry Andrik; that his parents wish it; and that every one
regards the union as all but an accomplished fact?"

"Yes, dear Aunt Lois, I have known or presumed all you tell me. But
nothing of it can alter what is a vital part of my existence."

"Do you know that Ynys herself gave her pledge to Andrik de Morvan?"

"It was a conditional pledge. But, in any case, she will formally
renounce it."

For a time there was silence.

Alan had risen, and now stood by the side of the couch, with folded
arms. The Marquise Lois looked up at him, with her steadfast, shadowy
eyes. When she spoke again she averted them, and her voice was so low
as almost to be a whisper.

"Finally, Alan, let me ask you one question. It is not about you and
Ynys. I infer that both of you are at one in your determination to take
every thing into your own hands. Presumably you can maintain her and
yourself. Tristran--the Marquis de Kerival--will not contribute a franc
toward her support. If he knew, he would turn her out of doors this
very day."

"Well, Aunt Lois, I wait for your final question?"

"It is this. _What about Annaik?_"

Startled by her tone and sudden lifted glance, Alan stared in silence;
then recollecting himself, he repeated dully:

"'What about Annaik?' ... Annaik, Aunt Lois, why do you ask me about
Annaik?"

"She loves you."

"As a brother; as the betrothed of Ynys; as a dear comrade and friend."

"Do not be a hypocrite, Alan. You know that she loves you. What of your
feeling toward _her_?"

"I love her ... as a brother loves a sister ... as any old playmate and
friend ... as ... as the sister of Ynys."

A faint, scornful smile came upon the white lips of the Marquise.

"Will you be good enough, then, to explain about last night?"

"About last night?"

"Come, be done with evasion. Yes, about last night. Alan, I know that
you and Annaik were out together in the cypress avenue, and again, on
the dunes, after midnight; that you were seen walking hand in hand; and
that, stealthily, you entered the house together."

"Well?"

"Well! The inference is obvious. But I will let you see that I know
more. Annaik went out of the house late. Old Matieu let her out.
Shortly after that you went out of the château. Later, you and she came
upon Judik Kerbastiou prowling about in the woods. It was more than an
hour after he left you that you returned to the château. Where were you
during that hour or more?"

Alan flushed. He unfolded his arms; hesitated; then refolded them.

"How do you know this?" he asked simply.

"I know it, because...."

But before she finished what she was about to say, the door opened and
Yann entered.

"What is it, Ian?"

"I would be speaking to you alone for a minute, Bantighearna."

"Alan, go to the alcove yonder, please. I must hear in private what
Yann has to say to me."

As soon as the young man was out of hearing, Yann stooped and spoke in
low tones. The Marquise Lois grew whiter and whiter, till not a vestige
of color remained in her face, and the only sign of life was in the
eyes. Suddenly she made an exclamation.

Alan turned and looked at her. He caught her agonized whisper: "_Oh, my
God!_"

"What is it--oh, what is it, dear Aunt Lois?" he cried, as he advanced
to her side.

He expected to be waved back, but to his surprise the Marquise made no
sign to him to withdraw. Instead, she whispered some instructions to
Yann and then bade him go.

When they were alone once more, she took a small silver flagon from
beneath her coverlet and poured a few drops upon some sugar.

Having taken this, she seemed to breathe more easily. It was evident,
at the same time, that she had received some terrible shock.

"Alan, come closer. I cannot speak loud. I have no time to say more to
you about Annaik. I must leave that to you and to her. But lest I die,
let me say at once that I forbid you to marry Ynys, and that I enjoin
you to marry Annaik, and that without delay."

A spasm of pain crossed the speaker's face. She stopped, and gasped
for breath. When at last she resumed, it was clear she considered as
settled the matter on which she had spoken.

"Alan, I am so unwell that I must be very brief. And now listen. You
are twenty-five to-day. Such small fortune as is yours comes now into
your possession. It has been administered for you by a firm of lawyers
in Edinburgh. See, here is the address. Can you read it? Yes?... Well,
keep the slip. This fortune is not much. To many, possibly to you, it
may not seem enough to provide more than the bare necessities of life,
not enough for its needs. Nevertheless, it is your own, and you will be
glad. It will, at least, suffice to keep you free from need if ever
you fulfil your great wish to go back to the land of your fathers, to
your own place."

"That is still my wish and my hope."

"So be it! You will have also an old sea castle, not much more than a
keep, on a remote island. It will at any rate be your own. It is on an
island where few people are; a wild and precipitous isle far out in the
Atlantic at the extreme of the Southern Hebrides."

"Is it called Rona?" Alan interrupted eagerly.

Without noticing, or heeding, his eagerness, she assented.

"Yes, it is called Rona. Near it are the isles of Mingulay and Borosay.
These three islands were once populous, and it was there that for
hundreds of years your father's clan, of which he was hereditary chief,
lived and prospered. After the evil days, the days when the young King
was hunted in the west as though a royal head were the world's desire,
and when our brave kinswoman, Flora Macdonald, proved that women as
well as men could dare all for a good cause--after those evil days the
people melted away. Soon the last remaining handful were upon Borosay;
and there, too, till the great fire that swept the island a score of
years ago, stood the castle of my ancestors, the Macdonalds of Borosay.

"My father was a man well known in his day. The name of Sir Kenneth
Macdonald was as familiar in London as in Edinburgh; and in Paris he
was known to all the military and diplomatic world, for in his youth he
had served in the French army with distinction, and held the honorary
rank of general.

"Not long before my mother's death he came back to our lonely home in
Borosay, bringing with him a kinsman of another surname, who owned
the old castle of Rona on the Isle of the Sea-caves, as Rona is often
called by the people of the Hebrides. Also there came with him a young
French officer of high rank. After a time I was asked to marry this
man. I did not love him, did not even care for him, and I refused. In
truth ... already, though unknowingly, I loved your father--he that was
our kinsman and owned Rona and its old castle. But Alasdair did not
speak; and, because of that, we each came to sorrow.

"My father told me he was ruined. If I did not marry Tristran de
Kerival, he would lose all. Moreover, my dying mother begged me to save
the man she had loved so well and truly, though he had left her so much
alone.

"Well, to be brief, I agreed. My kinsman Alasdair was away at the time.
He returned on the eve of the very day on which I was suddenly married
by Father Somerled Macdonald. We were to remain a few weeks in Borosay
because of my mother's health.

"When Alasdair learned what had happened he was furious. I believe he
even drew a riding whip across the face of Tristran de Kerival. Fierce
words passed between them, and a cruel taunt that rankled. Nor would
Alasdair have any word with me at all. He sent me a bitter message, but
the bitterest word he could send was that which came to me: that he and
my sister Silis had gone away together.

"From that day I never saw Silis again, till the time of her death.
Soon afterward our mother died, and while the island-funeral was being
arranged our father had a stroke, and himself died, in time to be
buried along with his wife. It was only then that I realized how more
than true had been his statements as to his ruin. He died penniless.
I was reminded of this unpleasant fact at the time, by the Marquis de
Kerival; and I have had ample opportunity since for bearing it in vivid
remembrance.

"As soon as possible we settled all that could be settled, and left for
Brittany. I have sometimes thought my husband's love was killed when he
discovered that Alasdair had loved me. He forbade me even to mention
his name, unless he introduced it; and he was wont to swear that a
day would come when he would repay in full what he believed to be the
damning insult he had received.

"We took with us only one person from Borosay, an islander of Rona. He
is, in fact, a clansman both of you and me. It is of Ian I speak, of
course; him that soon came to be called here Yann the Dumb. My husband
and I had at least this to unite us: that we were both Celtic, and had
all our racial sympathies in common.

"I heard from Silis that she was married and was happy. I am afraid
this did not add to my happiness. She wrote to me, too, when she
was about to bear her child. Strangely enough, Alasdair, who, like
his father before him, was an officer in the French army, was then
stationed not far from Kerival, though my husband knew nothing of this
at first. My own boy and Silis's were born about the same time. My
child died; that of Silis and Alasdair lived. You are that child.
No ... wait, Alan ... I will tell you his name shortly.... You, I say,
are that child. Soon afterward, Silis had a dangerous relapse. In her
delirium she said some wild things; among them, words to the effect
that the child which had died was hers, and that the survivor was
mine--that, somehow or other, they had been changed. Then, too, she
cried out in her waywardness--and, poor girl, she must have known then
that Alasdair had loved me before he loved her--that the child who
lived, he who had been christened Alan, was the child of Alasdair and
myself.

"All this poor delirium at the gate of death meant nothing. But in some
way it came to Tristran's ears, and he believed. After Silis's death I
had brought you home, Alan, and had announced that I would adopt you. I
promised Silis this, in her last hour, when she was in her right mind
again; also that the child, you, should be brought up to speak and
think in our own ancient language, and that in all ways you should grow
up a true Gael. I have done my best, Alan?"

"Indeed, indeed you have. I shall never, never forget that you have
been my mother to me."

"Well, my husband never forgave that. He acquiesced, but he never
forgave. For long, and I fear to this day, he persists in his belief
that you are really my illegitimate child, and that Silis was right
in thinking that I had succeeded in having my own new-born babe
transferred to her arms, while her dead offspring was brought to me,
and, as my own, interred. It has created a bitter feud, and that is
why he hates the sight of you. That, too, Alan, is why he would never
consent to your marriage with either Ynys or Annaik."

"But you yourself urged me a little ago to ... to ... marry Annaik."

"I had a special reason. Besides, I of course know the truth. In his
heart, God knows, my husband cannot doubt it."

"Then tell me this: is my father dead also, as I have long surmised?"

"No ... yes, yes, Alan, he is dead."

Alan noticed his aunt's confusion, and regarded her steadily.

"Why do you first say 'no' and then 'yes'?"

"Because...."

But here again an interruption occurred. The portière moved back, and
then the wide doors disparted. Into the salon was wheeled a chair, in
which sat the Marquis de Kerival. Behind him was his attendant; at his
side, Kermorvan the steward. The face of the seigneur was still deathly
pale, and the features were curiously drawn. The silky hair, too,
seemed whiter than ever, and white as foam-drift on a dark wave were
the long thin hands which lay on the lap of the black velvet shooting
jacket he wore.

"Ah, Lois, is this a prepared scene?" he exclaimed in a cold and
sneering voice, "or, has the young man known all along?"

"Tristan, I have not yet told him what I now know. Be merciful."

"Alan MacAlasdair, as the Marquise here calls you,--and she ought to
know,--have you learned yet the name and rank of your father?"

"No."

"Tell him, Lois."

"Tristran, listen. All is over now. Soon I, too, shall be gone. In
the name of God I pray you to relent from this long cruelty, this
remorseless infamy. You know as well as I do that our first-born is
dead twenty-five years ago, and that this man here is truly the son of
Silis, my sister. And here is one overwhelming proof for you: _I have
just been urging him to marry Annaik._"

At that Tristran the Silent was no longer silent. With a fierce laugh
he turned to the steward.

"I call you to witness, Raif Kermorvan, that I would kill Annaik, or
Ynys either for that matter, before I would allow such an unnatural
union. Once and for all I absolutely ban it. Besides.... Listen, you
there with your father's eyes! You are sufficiently a Gael to feel that
you would not marry the daughter of a man who killed your father?"

"God forbid!"

"Well, then, God does forbid. Lois, tell this man what you know."

"Alan," began the Marquise quaveringly, her voice fluttering like
a dying bird, "the name of your father is ... is ... Alasdair ...
Alasdair Carmichael!"

"_Carmichael!_"

For a moment he was dazed, bewildered. When, recently, had he heard
that name?

Then it flashed upon him. He turned with flaming eyes to where the
Marquis sat, quietly watching him.

"Oh, my God!" That was all. He could say no more. His heart was in his
throat.

Then, hoarse and trembling, he put out his hands.

"Tell me it is not true! Tell me it is not true!"

"_What_ is not true, Alan Carmichael?"

"That that was he who died in the wood yonder."

"That was General Alasdair Carmichael."

"My father?"

"Your father!"

"But, you devil, you murdered him! I saw you do it! You knew it was
he--and you killed him. You knew he would not try to kill you, and you
waited; then, when he had fired, you took careful aim and killed him!"

"You reiterate, my friend. These are facts with which I am familiar."

The cool, sneering tone stung Alan to madness. He advanced menacingly.

"Murderer, you shall not escape!"

"A fitting sentiment, truly, from a man who wants to marry my daughter!"

"Marry your daughter! Marry the daughter of my father's murderer! I
would sooner never see the face of woman again than do this thing."

"Good! I am well content. And now, young man, you are of age; you have
come into your patrimony, including your ruined keep on the island of
Rona; and I will trouble you to go--to leave Kerival for good and all."

Suddenly, without a word, Alan moved rapidly forward. With a light
touch he laid his hand for a moment on the brow of the motionless man
in the wheeled chair.

"There! I lay upon you, Tristran de Kerival, the curse of the newly
dead and of the living! May the evil that you have done corrode your
brain, and may your life silt away as sand, and may your soul know the
second death!"

As he turned to leave the room he saw Kerbastiou standing in the
doorway.

"Who are you, to be standing there, Judik Kerbastiou?" demanded the
steward angrily.

"I am Rohan de Kerival. Ask this man here if I am not his son. Three
days ago the woman who was my mother died. She died a vagrant, in the
forest. But, nigh upon thirty years ago, she was legally married to
the young Marquis Tristran de Kerival. I am their child."

Alan glanced at the man he had cursed. A strange look had come into his
ashy face.

"Her name?" was all Tristran the Silent said.

"Annora Brizeux."

"You have proofs?"

"I have all the proofs."

"You are only a peasant, I disown you. I know nothing of you or of the
wanton that was your mother."

Without a word Judik strode forward and struck him full in the face. At
that moment the miraculous happened. The Marquise, who had not stood
erect for years, rose to her full height.

She, too, crossed the room.

"Alan," she cried, "see! He has killed me as well as your father," and
with that she swayed, and fell dead, at the feet of the man who had
trampled her soul in the dust and made of her blossoming life a drear
and sterile wilderness.


BOOK SECOND

_THE HERDSMAN_



CHAPTER IX

RETROSPECTIVE: FROM THE HEBRID ISLES


At the end of the third month after that disastrous day when Alan
Carmichael knew that his father had been slain, and before his
unknowing eyes, by Tristran de Kerival, a great terror came upon him.

       *       *       *       *       *

On that day itself he had left the Manor of Kerival. With all that
blood between him and his enemy he could not stay a moment longer in
the house. To have done so would have been to show himself callous
indeed to the memory of his father.

Nor could he see Ynys. He could not look at her, innocent as she was.
She was her father's child, and her father had murdered his father.
Surely a union would be against nature; he must fly while he had the
strength.

When, however, he had gained the yew close he turned, hesitated, and
then slowly walked northward to where the long brown dunes lay in a
golden glow over against the pale blue of the sea. There, bewildered,
wrought almost to madness, he moved to and fro, unable to realize all
that had happened, and with bitter words cursing the malign fate which
had overtaken him.

The afternoon waned, and he was still there, uncertain as ever, still
confused, baffled, mentally blind.

Then suddenly he saw the figure of Yann the Dumb, his friend and
clansman, Ian Macdonald. The old man seemed to understand at once that,
after what had happened, Alan Carmichael would never go back to Kerival.

"Why do you come to see me here, Ian?" Alan had asked wearily.

When Ian began, "_Thiginn gu d'choimhead_ ... I would come to see you,
though your home were a rock-cave," the familiar sound of the Gaelic
did more than any thing else to clear his mind of the shadows which
overlay it.

"Yes, Alan MacAlasdair," Ian answered, in response to an eager
question, "whatever I know is yours now, since Lois nic Choinneach is
dead, poor lady; though, sure, it is the best thing she could be having
now, that death."

As swiftly as possible Alan elicited all he could from the old man; all
that there had not been time to hear from the Marquise. He learned what
a distinguished soldier, what a fine man, what a true Gael, Alasdair
Carmichael had been. When his wife had died he had been involved in
some disastrous lawsuit, and his deep sorrow and absolute financial
ruin came to him at one and the same moment. It was at this juncture,
though there were other good reasons also, that Lois de Kerival had
undertaken to adopt and bring up Silis's child. When her husband
Tristran had given his consent, it was with the stipulation that Lois
and Alasdair Carmichael should never meet, and that the child was not
to learn his surname till he came into the small fortune due to him
through his mother.

This and much else Alan learned from Ian. Out of all the pain grew a
feeling of bitter hatred for the cold, hard man who had wrought so much
unhappiness, and were it not for Ynys and Annaik he would, for the
moment, have rejoiced that, in Judik Kerbastiou, Nemesis had appeared.
At his first mention of the daughters, Ian had looked at him closely.

"Will you be for going back to that house, Alan MacAlasdair?" he asked,
and in a tone so marked that, even in his distress, Alan noticed it.

"Do you wish me to go back, Ian?"

"God forbid! I hear the dust on the threshold rising at the thought."

"We are both in an alien land, Ian."

"_Och is diombuan gach cas air tìr gun eòlas_--Fleeting is the foot in
a strange land," said the islander, using a phrase familiar to Gaels
away from the isles.

"But what can I do?"

"Sure you can go to your own place, Alan MacAlasdair. There you can
think of what you will do. And before you go I must tell you that your
father's brother Uilleam is dead, so that you have no near kin now
except the son of the brother of your father, Donnacha Bàn as he is
called--or was called, for I will be hearing a year or more ago that
he, too, went under the wave. He would be your own age, and that close
as a month or week, I am thinking."

"Nevertheless, Ian, I cannot go without seeing my cousin Ynys once
more."

"You will never be for marrying the daughter of the man that murdered
your father?" Ian spoke in horrified amaze, adding, "Sure, if that
were so, it would indeed mean that they may talk as they like of this
southland as akin to Gaeldom, though that is not a thought that will
bring honey to the hive of my brain;--for no man of the isles would
ever forget _there_ that the blood of a father cries up to the stars
themselves."

"Have you no message for me, from ... from ... her?"

"Ay," answered the old islesman reluctantly. "Here it is. I did not
give it to you before, for fear you should be weak."

Without a word, Alan snatched the pencilled note. It had no beginning
or signature, and ran simply: "My mother is dead, too. After all that
has happened to-day I know we cannot meet. I know, too, that I love
you with all my heart and soul; that I have given you my deathless
devotion. But, unless you say 'Come,' it is best that you go away at
once, and that we never see each other again."

At that, Alan had torn off the half sheet, and written a single word
upon it.

It was "_Come._"

This he gave to Ian, telling him to go straightway with it, and hand
the note to Ynys in person. "Also," he added, "fulfil unquestioningly
every thing she may tell you to do or not to do."

An hour or more after Ian had gone, and when a dark, still gloaming
had begun, he came again, but this time with Ynys. He and she walked
together; behind them came four horses, led by Ian. When the lovers
met, they had stood silent for some moments. Then Ynys, knowing what
was in Alan's mind, asked if she were come for life or death.

"I love you, dear," was his answer; "I cannot live without you. If you
be in truth the daughter of the man who slew my father, why should his
evil blood be our undoing also? God knows but that even thus may his
punishment be begun. All his thoughts were upon you and Annaik."

"Annaik is gone."

"Gone! Annaik gone! Where has she gone?"

"I know nothing. She sent me a line to say that she would never sleep
in Kerival again; that something had changed her whole life; that
she would return three days hence for our mother's funeral; and that
thereafter she and I would never meet."

In a flash Alan saw many things; but deepest of all he saw the working
of doom. On the very day of his triumph Tristran de Kerival had lost
all, and found only that which made life more bitter than death.
Stammeringly now, Alan sought to say something about Annaik; that there
was a secret, an unhappiness, a sorrow, which he must explain.

But at that Ynys had pointed to the dim gray-brown sea.

"There, Alan, let us bury it all there; every thing, every thing!
Either you and I must find our forgetfulness there, or we must drown
therein all this terrible past which has an inexplicable, a menacing
present. Dear, I am ready. Shall it be life or death?"

"Life."

That was all that was said. Alan leaned forward, and tenderly kissing
her, took her in his arms. Then he turned to Ian.

"Ian mac Iain, I call you to witness that I take Ynys de Kerival as
my wife; that in this taking all the blood-feud that lies betwixt us
is become as nought; and that the past is past. Henceforth I am Alan
Carmichael, and she here is Ynys Carmichael."

       *       *       *       *       *

At that, Ian had bowed his head. It was against the tradition of his
people; but he loved Ynys as well as Alan, and secretly he was glad.

Thereafter, Alan and Ynys had mounted, and ridden slowly southward
through the dusk; while Ian followed on the third horse, with, in rein,
its companion, on which were the apparel and other belongings which
Ynys had hurriedly put together.

They were unmolested in their flight. Indeed, they met no one, till, at
the end of the Forest of Kerival, they emerged near the junction with
the high-road at a place called Trois Chênes. Then a woman, a gypsy
vagrant, insisted disaster would ensue if they went over her tracks
that night without first doing something to avert evil. They must cross
her hand with silver, she said.

Impatient as he was, Alan stopped, and allowed the gypsy to have her
will.

She looked at the hand Ynys held out through the obscurity, and almost
immediately dropped it.

"Beware of crossing the sea," she said. "I see your death floating on a
green wave."

Ynys shuddered, but said nothing. When Alan put out his hand the woman
held it in hers for a few seconds, and then pondered it intently.

"Be quick, my good woman," he urged, "we are in a hurry."

"It will be behind the shadow when we meet again," was all her reply:
enigmatical words, which yet in his ears had a sombre significance. But
he was even more perturbed by the fact that, before she relinquished
his hand, she stooped abruptly and kissed it.

As the fugitives rode onward along the dusky high-road, Alan whispered
to Ynys that he could not forget the gypsy; that in some strange way
she haunted him; and even seemed to him to be linked to that disastrous
day.

"That may well be," Ynys had answered, "for the woman was Annaik."

       *       *       *       *       *

Onward they rode till they came to Haut-Kerloek, the ancient village
on the slope of the hill above the little town. There, at the Gloire
de Kerival they stopped for the night. Next morning they resumed their
journey, and the same afternoon reached St. Blaise-sur-Loise, where
they knew they would find the body of General Alasdair Carmichael.

And it was thus that, by the strange irony of fate, Alasdair
Carmichael, who had never seen his son, who in turn had unknowingly
witnessed his father's tragic death, was followed to the grave-side by
that dear child for whom he had so often longed, and that by Alan's
side was the daughter of the man who had done so much to ruin his
life and had at the last slain him. At the same hour, on the same
day, Lois de Kerival was laid to her rest, with none of her kith and
kin to lament her; for Tristran the Silent was alone in his austere
grief. Two others were there, at whom the Curé looked askance: the rude
woodlander, Judik Kerbastiou, and another forest estray, a gypsy woman
with a shawl over her head. The latter must have known the Marquise's
charity, for the good woman wept quietly throughout the service of
committal, and, when she turned to go, the Curé heard a sob in her
throat.

It took but a brief while for Alan to settle his father's few affairs.
Among the papers he found one addressed to himself: a long letter
wherein was set forth not only all necessary details concerning Alan's
mother and father, but also particulars about the small fortune that
was in keeping for him in Edinburgh, and the lonely house on the lonely
Isle of Rona among the lonely Hebrides.

In St. Blaise Alan and Ynys went before the civil authorities, and were
registered as man and wife. The next day they resumed their journey
toward that exile which they had in view.

Thereafter, slowly, and by devious ways, they fared far north. At
Edinburgh Alan had learned all that was still unexplained. He found
that there would be enough money to enable Ynys and himself to live
quietly, particularly at so remote a place as Rona. The castle or
"keep" there was unoccupied, and had, indeed, long been untenanted save
by the widow-woman Kirsten Macdonald, Ian's sister. In return for this
home, she had kept the solitary place in order. All the furniture that
had been there, when Alasdair Carmichael was last in Rona, remained. In
going thither, Alan and Ynys would be going home.

The westward journey was a revelation to them. Never had there been so
beautiful a May, they were told. They had lingered long at the first
place where they heard the sweet familiar sound of the Gaelic. Hand in
hand, they wandered over the hill-sides of which the very names had a
poignant home-sweetness; and long, hot hours they spent together on
lochs of which Lois de Kerival had often spoken with deep longing in
her voice.

As they neared the extreme of the mainland, Alan's excitement deepened.
He spoke hardly a word on the day the steamer left the Argyle coast
behind, and headed for the dim isles of the sea, Coll and Tiree; and
again on the following day Ynys saw how distraught he was, for, about
noon, the coast-line of Uist loomed, faintly blue, upon the dark
Atlantic horizon.

At Loch Boisdale, where they disembarked, and whence they had to sail
the remainder of their journey in a fishing schooner, which by good
fortune was then there and disengaged, Ian was for the first time
recognized. All that evening Alan and Ynys talked with the islesmen;
Alan finding, to his delight, his Gaelic was so good that none for a
moment suspected he had not lived in the isles all his life. That of
Ynys, however, though fluent, had a foreign sound in it which puzzled
the admiring fishermen.

It was an hour after sunrise when the _Blue Herring_ sailed out of
Loch Boisdale, and it was an hour before sunset when the anchor dropped
in Borosay Haven.

On this night Alan perceived the first sign of aloofness among his
fellow Gaels. Hitherto every one had been cordial, and he and Ynys
had rejoiced in the courtesy and genial friendliness which they had
everywhere encountered.

But in Balnaree ("Baille'-na-Righ"), the little village wherein was
focussed all that Borosay had to boast of in the way of civic life, he
could not disguise from himself that again and again he was looked at
askance.

Rightly or wrongly he took this to be resentment because of his having
wed Ynys, the daughter of the man who had murdered Alasdair Carmichael.
So possessed was he by this idea that he did not remember how little
likely the islanders were to know aught concerning Ynys, or indeed any
thing beyond the fact that Alasdair MacAlasdair Rhona had died abroad.

The trouble became more than an imaginary one when, on the morrow, he
tried to find a boat for the passage to Rona. But for the Frozen Hand,
as the triple-peaked hill to the south of Balnaree was called, Rona
would have been visible; nor was it, with a fair wind, more than an
hour's sail distant.

Nevertheless, every one to whom he spoke showed a strange reluctance.
At last, in despair, he asked an old man of his own surname why there
was so much difficulty.

In the island way, Sheumas Carmichael replied that the people on
Elleray, the island adjacent to Rona, were incensed.

"But incensed at what?"

"Well, at this and at that. But for one thing they are not having
any dealings with the Carmichaels. They are all Macdonalds, there,
Macdonalds of Barra. There is a feud, I am thinking; though I know
nothing of it; no, not I."

"But Seumas mac Eachainn, you know well yourself that there are almost
no Carmichaels to have a feud with! There are you and your brother, and
there is your cousin over at Sgòrr-Bhan on the other side of Borosay.
Who else is there?"

To this the man could say nothing. Distressed, Alan sought Ian and
bade him find out what he could. He, also, however, was puzzled and
even seriously perturbed. That some evil was at work could not be
doubted; and that it was secret boded ill.

Ian was practically a stranger in Borosay because of his long absence.
But though this, for a time, shut him off from his fellow islanders,
and retarded his discovery of what strange reason accounted for the
apparently inexplicable apathy shown by the fishermen of Balnaree,--an
apathy, too, so much to their own disadvantage,--it enabled him, on the
other hand, to make a strong appeal to the clan-side of the islanders'
natures. After all, Ian mac Iain mhic Dhonuill was one of them, and
though he came there with a man in a shadow (though this phrase was not
used in Ian's hearing), that was not his fault.

Suddenly Ian remembered a fact that he should have thought of at once.
There was the old woman, his sister Kirsten. He would speak of her, and
of their long separation, and of his desire to see her again before he
died.

This made a difficult thing easy. Within an hour a boat was ready
to take the travellers to the Isle of the Caves--as Rona was called
locally. Before the hour was gone, they, with the stores of food and
other things they had been advised to take with them, were slipping
seaward out of Borosay Haven.

The moment the headland was rounded the heights of Rona came into
view. Great gaunt cliffs they are, precipices of black basalt; though
on the south side they fall away in grassy declivities which hang a
greenness over the wandering wave forever sobbing round that desolate
shore. But it was not till the Sgòrr-Dhu, a conical black rock at the
southeast end of the island, was reached that the stone keep, known as
Caisteal-Rhona, came in sight.

It stands at the landward extreme of a rocky ledge, on the margin of
a green _airidh_. Westward is a small dark-blue sea loch, no more
than a narrow haven. To the northwest rise sheer the ocean-fronting
precipitous cliffs; northward, above the green pasture and a stretch of
heather, is a woodland-belt of some three or four hundred pine-trees.
It might well be called I-monair, as Aodh the Islander sang of it; for
it is ever echoing with murmurous noises. If the waves dash against it
from the south or east, a loud crying is upon the faces of the rocks;
if from the north or north-east, there is a dull iteration, and amid
the pines a continual soughing sea voice. But when the wind blows from
the south-west, or the huge Atlantic billows surge out of the west,
Rona is a place filled with an indescribable tumult. Through the whole
island goes the myriad echo of a hollow booming, with an incessant
sound as though waters were pouring through vast hidden conduits in the
heart of every precipice, every rock, every bowlder. This is because of
the arcades of which it consists, for from the westward the island has
been honeycombed by the sea. No living man has ever traversed all those
mysterious, winding sea galleries. Many have perished in the attempt.
In the olden days the Uisteans and Barrovians sought refuge there from
the marauding Danes and other pirates out of Lochlin; and in the time
when the last Scottish king took shelter in the west many of his
island followers found safety among these perilous arcades.

Some of them reach to an immense height. These are filled with a pale
green gloom which in fine weather, and at noon or toward sundown,
becomes almost radiant. But most have only a dusky green obscurity, and
some are at all times dark with a darkness that has seen neither sun
nor moon nor star for unknown ages. Sometimes, there, a phosphorescent
wave will spill a livid or a cold blue flame, and for a moment a vast
gulf of dripping basalt be revealed; but day and night, night and day,
from year to year, from age to age, that awful wave-clamant darkness
prevails unbroken.

To the few who know some of the secrets of the Passages, it is
possible, except when a gale blows from any quarter but the north,
to thrid these dim arcades in a narrow boat, and so to pass from the
Hebrid Seas to the outer Atlantic. But to one unaware of the clews
there might well be no return to the light of the open day; for in that
maze of winding galleries and dim, sea-washed, and forever unlitten
arcades, there is only a hopeless bewilderment. Once bewildered, there
is no hope; and the lost adventurer will remain there idly drifting
from barren corridor to corridor, till he perish of hunger and thirst,
or, maddened by the strange and appalling gloom and the unbroken
silence,--for there the muffled voice of the sea is no more than a
whisper,--he leap into the green waters which forever slide stealthily
from ledge to ledge.

From Ian mac Iain Alan had heard of such an isle, though he had not
known it to be Rona. Now, as he approached his wild, remote home he
thought of these death-haunted corridors, avenues of the grave as they
are called in the "Cumha Fhir-Mearanach Aonghas mhic Dhonuill--the
Lament of mad Angus Macdonald."

When, at last, the unwieldy brown coble sailed into the little haven it
was to create unwonted excitement among the few fishermen who put in
there frequently for bait. A group of eight or ten was upon the rocky
ledge beyond Caisteal-Rhona, among them the elderly woman who was
sister to Ian mac Iain.

At Alan's request, Ian went ashore in advance, in a small punt. He
was to wave his hand if all were well, for Alan could not but feel
apprehensive on account of the strange ill-will that had shown itself
at Borosay.

It was with relief that he saw the signal when, after Ian had embraced
his sister, and shaken hands with all the fishermen, he had explained
that the son of Alasdair Carmichael was come out of the south, and
with a beautiful young wife, too, and was henceforth to live at
Caisteal-Rhona.

All there uncovered and waved their hats. Then a shout of welcome went
up, and Alan's heart was glad, and that of Ynys. But the moment he
had set foot on land he saw a startled look come into the eyes of the
fishermen--a look that deepened swiftly into one of aversion, almost of
fear.

One by one the men moved away, awkward in their embarrassment. Not one
came forward with outstretched hand, nor said a word of welcome.

At first amazed, then indignant, Ian reproached them. They received his
words in ashamed silence. Even when with a bitter tongue he taunted
them, they answered nothing.

"Giorsal," said Ian, turning in despair to his sister, "what is the
meaning of this folly?"

But even she was no longer the same. Her eyes were fixed upon Alan
with a look of dread and indeed of horror. It was unmistakable, and
Alan himself was conscious of it, with a strange sinking of the heart.
"Speak, woman!" he demanded. "What is the meaning of this thing? Why do
you and these men look at me askance?"

"God forbid!" answered Giorsal Macdonald with white lips; "God forbid
that we look at the son of Alasdair Carmichael askance. But...."

"But what?"

With that the woman put her apron over her head and moved away,
muttering strange words.

"Ian, what is this mystery?"

It was Ynys who spoke now, for on Alan's face was a shadow, and in his
eyes a deep gloom. She, too, was white, and had fear in her eyes.

"How am I for knowing, Ynys-nighean-Lhois? It is all a darkness to me
also. But I will find out."

That, however, was easier for Ian to say than to do. Meanwhile, the
brown cobble tacked back to Borosay, and the fishermen sailed away to
the Barra coasts, and Alan and Ynys were left solitary in their wild
and remote home.

But in that very solitude they found healing. From what Giorsal hinted,
they came to believe that the fishermen had experienced one of those
strange dream-waves which, in remote isles, occur at times, when whole
communities will be wrought by the selfsame fantasy. When day by day
went past, and no one came nigh them, at first they were puzzled and
even resentful, but this passed and soon they were glad to be alone.
Only, Ian knew that there was another cause for the inexplicable
aversion that had been shown. But he was silent, and he kept a patient
watch for the hour that the future held in its dim shroud. As for
Giorsal, she was dumb; but no more looked at Alan askance.

And so the weeks went. Occasionally, a fishing smack came with the
provisions for the weekly despatch of which Alan had arranged at Loch
Boisdale, and sometimes the Barra men put in at the haven, though they
would never stay long, and always avoided Alan as much as was possible.

In that time Alan and Ynys came to know and love their strangely
beautiful island home. Hours and hours at a time they spent exploring
the dim, green winding sea galleries, till at last they knew the main
corridors thoroughly. They had even ventured into some of the narrow
snake-like passages, but never for long, because of the awe and dread
these held, silent estuaries of the grave.

There, too, they forgot all the sorrow that had been theirs, forgot the
shadow of death which lay between them. They buried all in the deep sea
of love that was about the rock of their passion. For, as of another
Alan and another woman, the _mirdhei_ was upon them: the dream-spell of
love.

Day by day, with them as with that Alan and Sorcha of whom they had
often heard, their joy had grown, like a flower moving ever to the sun;
and as it grew the roots deepened, and the tendrils met and intertwined
round the two hearts, till at last they were drawn together and became
one, as two moving rays of light will converge into one beam, or the
song of two singers blend and become as the song of one.

As the weeks passed the wonder of the dream became at times a brooding
passion, at times almost an ecstasy. Ossian and the poets of old speak
of a strange frenzy that came upon the brave; and, sure, there is a
_mircath_ of another kind now and again in the world, in the green,
remote places at least. Aodh the islander, and Ian-Ban of the hills,
and other dreamer-poets know of it--the _mirdhei_, the passion that is
deeper than passion, the dream that is beyond the dream. This that was
once the fair doom of another Alan and Sorcha, of whom Ian had often
told him with hushed voice and dreaming eyes, was now upon himself and
Ynys.

They were Love to each other. In each the other saw the beauty of the
world. Hand in hand they wandered among the wind-haunted pines, or
along the thyme and grass of the summits of the precipices; or they
sailed for hours upon the summer seas, blue lawns of moving azure,
glorious with the sun-dazzle and lovely with purple cloud-shadows and
amethystine straits of floating weed; or, by noontide, or at the full
of the moon, they penetrated far into the dim, green arcades, and were
as shadows in a strange and fantastic but ineffably sweet and beautiful
dream.

Day was lovely and desirable to each, for day dreamed to night; and
night was sweet as life because it held the new day against its dark,
beating heart. Week after week passed, and to Ynys as to Alan it was as
the going of the gray owl's wing, swift and silent.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then it was that, on a day of the days, Alan was suddenly stricken with
a new and startling dread.



CHAPTER X

AT THE EDGE OF THE SHADOW


In the hour that this terror came upon him Alan was alone upon the
high slopes of Rona, where the grass fails and the moor purples at an
elevation of close on a thousand feet above the sea.

The day had been cloudless since sunrise. The immeasurable range of
ocean expanded like the single petal of an azure flower; all of one
unbroken blue save for the shadows of the scattered isles and for the
fugitive amethyst where floating weed suspended. An immense number of
birds congregated from every quarter. Guillemots and skuas and puffins,
cormorants and northern divers, everywhere darted, swam, or slept
upon the listless sea, whose deep suspiration no more than lifted a
league-long calm here and there, to lapse insensibly, even as it rose.
Through the not less silent quietudes of air the sea-gulls swept with
curving flight, and the narrow-winged terns made a constant shimmer.
At remote altitudes the gannet motionlessly drifted. Oceanward the
great widths of calm were rent now and again by the shoulders of the
porpoises which followed the herring trail, their huge, black revolving
bodies looming large above the silent wave. Not a boat was visible
anywhere; not even upon the most distant horizons did a brown sail
fleck itself duskily against the skyward wall of steely blue.

In the great stillness which prevailed, the noise of the surf beating
around the promontory of Aonaig was audible as a whisper; though even
in that windless hour the indescribable rumor of the sea, moving
through the arcades of the island, filled the hollow of the air
overhead. Ever since the early morning Alan had moved under a strange
gloom. Out of that golden glory of midsummer a breath of joyous life
should have reached his heart, but it was not so. For sure, there
is sometimes in the quiet beauty of summer an air of menace, a
breath, a suspicion, a dream-premonition, of suspended force--a force
antagonistic and terrible. All who have lived in these lonely isles
know the peculiar intensity of this summer melancholy. No clamor of
tempestuous wind, no prolonged sojourn of untimely rains, and no long
baffling of mists in all the drear inclemencies of that remote region,
can produce the same ominous and even paralyzing gloom which sometimes
can be born of ineffable peace and beauty. Is it that in the human soul
there is mysterious kinship with the outer soul which we call Nature;
and that in these few supreme hours which come at the full of the year
we are, sometimes, suddenly aware of the tremendous forces beneath and
behind us, momently quiescent?

Standing with Ynys upon a grassy headland, Alan had looked long at
the dream-blue perspectives to the southward, seeing there at first
no more than innumerable hidden pathways of the sun, with blue-green
and silver radiance immeasurable, and the very breath and wonder
and mystery of ocean life suspended as in a dream. In the hearts of
each deep happiness brooded. Perhaps it was out of these depths that
rose the dark flower of this sudden apprehension that came upon him.
It was no fear for Ynys, nor for himself, not for the general weal:
but a profound disquietude, a sense of inevitable ill. Ynys felt the
tightening of his hand; and saw the sudden change in his face. It was
often so with him. The sun-dazzle, at which he would look with endless
delight, finding in it a tangible embodiment of the fugitive rhythms of
cosmic music which floated everywhere, would sometimes be a dazzle also
in his brain. In a moment a strange bewilderment would render unstable
those perilous sands of the human brain which are forever laved by
the strange waters of the unseen life. When this mood or fantasy, or
uncalculable accident occurred, he was often wrought either by vivid
dreams, or creative work, or else would lapse into a melancholy from
which not even the calling love of Ynys would arouse him. When she
saw in his face and in his eyes this sudden bewildered look, and knew
that in some mysterious way the madness of the beauty of the sea had
enthralled him, she took his hand and moved with him inland. In a
brief while the poignant fragrance from the trodden thyme and short
hill-grass, warmed by the sun, rose as an intoxication. For that hour
the gloom went. But when, later, he wandered away from Caisteal-Rhona,
once more the sense of foreboding was heavy upon him. Determined to
shake it off, he wandered high among the upland solitudes. There a cool
air forever moved even in the noons of August; and there, indeed, at
last, there came upon him a deep peace. With joy his mind dwelled over
and over again upon all that Ynys had been and was to him; upon the
depth and passion of their love; upon the mystery and wonder of that
coming life which was theirs and yet was not of them, itself already no
more than an unrisen wave or an unbloomed flower, but yet as inevitable
as they, but dowered with the light which is beyond where the mortal
shadows end. Strange, this passion of love for what is not; strange,
this deep longing of the woman--the longing of the womb, the longing
of the heart, the longing of the brain, the longing of the soul--for
the perpetuation of the life she shares in common with one whom she
loves; strange, this longing of the man, a longing deep-based in his
nature as the love of life or the fear of death, for the gaining from
the woman he loves this personal hostage against oblivion. For indeed
something of this so commonplace, and yet so divine and mysterious
tide of birth, which is forever at the flow upon this green world, is
due to an instinctive fear of cessation. The perpetuation of life is
the unconscious protest of humanity against the destiny of mortality.
Thoughts such as these were often with Alan now; often, too, with Ynys,
in whom, indeed, all the latent mysticism which had ever been a bond
between them had latterly been continually evoked. Possibly it was the
mere shadow of his great love; possibly it was some fear of the dark
way wherein the sunrise of each new birth is involved; possibly it was
no more than the melancholy of the isles, that so wrought him on this
perfect day. Whatsoever the reason, a deeper despondency prevailed
as noon waned into afternoon. An incident, deeply significant to him,
in that mood, at that time, happened then. A few hundred yards away
from where he stood, half hidden in a little glen where a fall of
water made a continual spray among the shadows of the rowan and birch,
was the bothie of a woman, the wife of Neil MacNeill, a fisherman of
Aonaig. She was there, he knew, for the summer pasturing, and even as
he recollected this, he heard the sound of her voice as she sang down
somewhere by the burnside. Moving slowly toward the corrie, he stopped
at a mountain ash which overhung a deep pool. Looking down, he saw the
woman, Morag MacNeill, washing and peeling potatoes in the clear brown
water. And as she washed and peeled, she sang an old-time shealing
hymn of the Virgin-Shepherdess, of Michael the White, and of Coluaman
the Dove. It was a song that, far away in Brittany, he had heard Lois,
the mother of Ynys, sing in one of those rare hours when her youth
came back to her with something of youth's passionate intensity. He
listened now to every word of the doubly familiar Gaelic, and when
Morag finished the tears were in his eyes, and he stood for a while as
one entranced.[A]

  [Footnote A: This hymn is taken down in the Gaelic and translated by
  Mr. Alexander Carmichael of South Uist.]

    "A Mhicheil mhin! nan steud geala,
    A choisin cios air Dragon fala,
    Air ghaol Dia' us Mhic Muire,
    Sgaoil do sgiath oirnn dian sinn uile,
    Sgaoil do sgiath oirnn dian sinn uile.

    "A Mhoire ghradhach! Mathair Uain-ghil,
    Cohhair oirnne, Oigh na h-uaisle;
    A rioghainn uai'reach! a bhuachaille nan treud!
    Cum ar cuallach cuartaich sinn le cheil,
    Cum ar cuallach cuartaich sinn le cheil.

    "A Chalum-Chille! chairdeil, chaoimh,
    An ainm Athar, Mic, 'us Spioraid Naoimh,
    Trid na Trithinn! trid na Triath!
    Comraig sinne, gleidh ar trial,
    Comraig sinne, gleidh ar trial.

    "Athair! A Mhic! A Spioraid Naoimh!
    Bi'eadh an Tri-Aon leinn, a la 's a dh-oidhche!
    'S air chul nan tonn, no air thaobh nam beann,
    Bi'dh ar Mathair leinn, 's bith A lamh fo'r ceann,
    Bi'dh ar Mathair leinn, 's bith A lamh fo'r ceann."


    [Thou gentle Michael of the white steed,
    Who subdued the Dragon of blood,
    For love of God and the Son of Mary,
    Spread over us thy wing, shield us all!
    Spread over us thy wing, shield us all!

    Mary Beloved! Mother of the White Lamb,
    Protect us, thou Virgin of nobleness,
    Queen of beauty! Shepherdess of the flocks!
    Keep our cattle, surround us together,
    Keep our cattle, surround us together.

    Thou Columba, the friendly, the kind,
    In name of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit Holy,
    Through the Three-in-One, through the Three,
    Encompass us, guard our procession,
    Encompass us, guard our procession.

    Thou Father! thou Son! thou Spirit Holy!
    Be the Three-One with us day and night.
    And on the crested wave, or on the mountain side,
    Our Mother is there, and her arm is under our head,
    Our Mother is there, and her arm is under our head.]

After she had ceased Alan found himself repeating whisperingly, and
again and again:

    "Bi'eadh an Tri-Aon leinn, a la 's a dh-oidhche!
    'S air chul nan tonn, no air thaobh nam beann."

Suddenly the woman glanced upward, perhaps because of the shadow that
moved against the green bracken below. With a startled gesture she
sprang to her feet. Alan looked at her kindly, saying with a smile,
"Sure, Morag nic Tormaid, it is not fear you need be having of one who
is your friend." Then, seeing that the woman stared at him with an
intent gaze, wherein was terror as well as surprise, he spoke to her
again.

"Sure, Morag, I am no stranger that you should be looking at me with
those foreign eyes." He laughed as he spoke, and made as though he were
about to descend to the burnside. Unmistakably, however, the woman did
not desire his company. He saw that with the pain and bewilderment
which had come upon him whenever the like happened, as so often it had
happened since he had come to Rona.

"Tell me, Bean Neil MacNeill, what is the meaning of this strangeness
that is upon you? Why do you not speak? Why do you turn away your
head?"

Suddenly the woman flashed her black eyes upon him.

"Have you ever heard of _am Buchaille Bàn--am Buchaille Buidhe_?"

He looked at her in amaze. _Am Buchaille Bàn!_ ... The fair-haired
Herdsman, the yellow-haired Herdsman! What could she mean? In days gone
by, he knew, the islanders had, in the evil time after Culloden, so
named the fugitive Prince who had sought shelter in the Hebrides; and
in some of the runes of an older day still the Saviour of the World
was sometimes so called, just as Mary was called _Bhuachaille nan
treud_--Shepherdess of the Flocks. But as Alan knew well, no allusion
to either of these was intended.

"Who is the Herdsman of whom you speak, Morag?"

"Is it no knowledge you have of him at all, Alan MacAlasdair?"

"None. I know nothing of the man, nothing of what is in your mind. Who
is the Herdsman?"

"You will not be putting evil upon me because that you saw me here by
the pool before I saw you?"

"Why should I, woman? Why do you think that I have the power of the
evil eye? Sure, I have done no harm to you or yours, and wish none. But
if it is for peace to you to know it, it is no evil I wish you, but
only good. The Blessing of Himself be upon you and yours and upon your
house."

The woman looked relieved, but still cast her furtive gaze upon Alan,
who no longer attempted to join her.

"I cannot be speaking the thing that is in my mind, Alan MacAlasdair.
It is not for me to be saying that thing. But if you have no knowledge
of the Herdsman, sure it is only another wonder of the wonders, and God
has the sun on that shadow, to the Stones be it said."

"But tell me, Morag, who is the Herdsman of whom you speak?"

For a minute or more the woman stood regarding him intently. Then
slowly, and as with difficulty, she spoke:

"Why have you appeared to the people upon the isle, sometimes by
moonlight, sometimes by day or in the dusk? and have foretold upon one
and all who dwell here black gloom and the red flame of sorrow?--Why
have you, who are an outcast because of what lies between you and
another, pretended to be an emissary of the Son--ay, for sure, even,
God forgive you, to be the Son himself?"

Alan stared at the woman in blank amaze. For a time he could utter no
word. Had some extraordinary delusion spread among the islanders, and
was there in the insane accusation of this woman the secret of that
inexplicable aversion which had so troubled him?

"This is all an empty darkness to me, Morag. Speak more plainly, woman.
What is all this madness that you say? When have I uttered aught of
having any mission, or of being other than I am? When have I foretold
evil upon you or yours, or upon the isles beyond? What man has ever
dared to say that Alan MacAlasdair of Rona is an outcast? and what sin
is it that lies between me and another of which you know?"

It was impossible for Morag MacNeill to doubt the sincerity of the man
who spoke to her. She crossed herself, and muttered the words of a
_sian_ for the protection of the soul against the demon powers. Still,
even while she believed in Alan's sincerity, she could not reconcile it
with that terrible and strange mystery with which rumor had filled her
ears. So, having nothing to say in reply to his eager questions, she
cast down her eyes and kept silence.

"Speak, Morag, for Heaven's sake! Speak if you are a true woman; you
that see a man in sore pain, in pain, too, for that of which he knows
nothing, and of the ill of which he is guiltless!"

But, keeping her face averted, the woman muttered simply: "I have no
more to say." With that she turned and moved slowly along the pathway
which led from the pool to her hillside bothie.

With a sigh, Alan turned and moved across the moor. What wonder, he
thought, that deep gloom had been upon him that day? Here, in the
woman's mysterious words, was the shadow of that shadow.

Slowly, brooding deep over what he had heard, he traversed the
Mona-nan-Con, as the hill-tract there was called, till he came to the
rocky wilderness known as the Slope of the Caverns.

There for a time he leaned against a high bowlder, idly watching a few
sheep nibbling the short grass which grew about the apertures of some
of the many caves which disclosed themselves in all directions. Below
and beyond, he saw the illimitable calm beauty of the scene; southward
with no break anywhere; eastward, a sun-blaze void; south-westward,
the faint, blue film of the coast of Ulster; westward, the same
immeasurable windless expanse. From where he stood he could just hear
the murmur of the surge whispering all round the isle; the surge that,
even on days of profoundest calm, makes a murmurous rumor among the
rocks and shingle of the island shores. Not upon the moor side, but
in the blank hollows of the caves around him he heard, as in gigantic
shells, the moving of a strange and solemn rhythm: wave haunted-shells
indeed, for the echo that was bruited from one to the other came from
beneath, from out of those labyrinthine corridors and dim, shadowy
arcades, where through the intense green glooms the Atlantic waters
lose themselves in a vain wandering.

For long he leaned there, revolving in his mind the mystery of Morag
MacNeill's words. Then, abruptly, the stillness was broken by the sound
of a dislodged stone. So little did he expect the foot of a fellow that
he did not turn at what he thought to be the slip of a sheep. But when
upon the slope of the grass, just beyond where he stood, a dusky blue
shadow wavered fantastically, he swung round with a sudden instinct of
dread.

And this was the dread which, at the end of the third month after he
and Ynys had come to Rona, was upon Alan Carmichael.

For there, standing quietly by another bowlder, at the mouth of another
cave, stood a man who was in all appearance identical with himself.
Looking at this apparition, he beheld one of the same height as
himself, with hair of the same hue, with eyes the same, and features
the same, with the same carriage, the same smile, even the same
expression. No, it was there, and there alone, that a difference was.

Sick at heart, Alan wondered if he looked upon his own wraith. Familiar
as he was with the legends of his people, it would be no strange thing
to him that there, upon the hillside, should appear the phantasm of
himself. Had not old Ian MacIain--and that, too, though far away in a
strange land--seen the death of Lois Macdonald moving upward from her
feet to her knees, from her knees to her waist, from her waist to her
neck and, just before the end, how the shroud darkened along the face
until it hid the eyes? Had he not often heard from her, from Ian, of
the second self which so often appears beside the living when already
the shadow of doom is upon him whose hours are numbered? Was this,
then, the reason of what had been his inexplicable gloom? Was he indeed
at the extreme of life; was his soul amid shallows, already a rock upon
a blank, inhospitable shore? If not, who or what was this second self
which leaned there negligently; looking at him with scornfully smiling
lips, but with intent, unsmiling eyes.

Then, slowly, there came into his mind this thought: How could a
phantom, that was itself intangible, throw a shadow upon the grass,
as though it were a living corporeal being? Sure, a shadow there was
indeed. It lay between the apparition and himself. A story heard in
boyhood came back to him; instinctively he stooped and lifted a stone
and flung it midway into the shadow.

"Go back into the darkness," he cried, "if out of the darkness you
came; but, if you be a living thing, put out your hands!"

The shadow remained motionless; though when Alan looked again at his
second self, he saw that the scorn which had been upon the lips was now
in the eyes also. Ay, for sure, that was scornful laughter that lay
in those cold wells of light. No phantom that; a man he, even as Alan
himself. His heart pulsed like that of a trapped bird, but, even in the
speaking, his courage came back to him.

"Who are you?" he asked in a low voice that was strange even in his own
ears.

"Am Buchaille", replied the man in a voice as low and strange. "I am
the Herdsman."

A new tide of fear surged in upon Alan. That voice, was it not his
own; that tone, was it not familiar in his ears? When the man spoke,
he heard himself speak; sure, if he were am Buchaille Bàn, Alan, too,
was the Herdsman--though what fantastic destiny might be his was all
unknown to him.

"Come near," said the man, and now the mocking light in his eyes was
lambent as cloud-fire--"come near, oh, Buchaille Bàn!"

With a swift movement Alan leapt forward, but as he leaped his foot
caught in a spray of heather and he stumbled and nigh fell. When he
recovered himself, he looked in vain for the man who had called him.
There was not a sign, not a trace of any living being. For the first
few moments he believed it had all been a delusion. Mortal being did
not appear and vanish in that ghostly way. Still, surely he could not
have mistaken the blank of that place for a speaking voice, nor out
of nothingness have fashioned the living phantom of himself? Or could
he? With that, he strode forward and peered into the wide arch of
the cavern by which the man had stood. He could not see far into it,
but so far as it was possible to see, he discerned neither man nor
shadow of man, nor any thing that stirred; no, not even the dust of a
bearnan-Bride, that grew on a patch of grass a yard or two within the
darkness, had lost one of its aërial pinions. He drew back, dismayed.
Then, suddenly, his heart leapt again, for, beyond all question, all
possible doubt, there, in the bent thyme, just where the man had stood,
was the imprint of his feet. Even now the green sprays were moving
forward.



CHAPTER XI

MYSTERY


An hour passed, and Alan Carmichael still stood by the entrance to
the cave. So immovable was he that a ewe, listlessly wandering there
in search of cooler grass, lay down after a while, drowsily regarding
him with her amber-colored eyes. All his thought was intent upon the
mystery of what he had seen. No delusion this, he was sure. That was a
man whom he had seen. It might well have been some one whom he did not
know, though that were unlikely, of course, for on so small an island,
inhabited by less than a score of crofters, it was scarcely possible
for one to live there for many weeks and not know the name and face of
every soul upon the isle. Still, a stranger might have come. Only, if
this were so, why should he call himself the Herdsman? There was but
one herdsman on Rona, and he Angus MacCormic, who lived at Einaval on
the north side. In these outer isles, the shepherd and the herdsman
are appointed by the community, and no man is allowed to be one or the
other at will, any more than to be _maor_ or _constabal_. Then, too,
if this man were indeed herdsman, where was his _imir ionailt_, his
browsing tract? Looking round him, Alan could perceive nowhere any
fitting pasture. Surely no herdsman would be content with such an _imir
a bhuchaille_--rig of the herdsman--as that rocky wilderness where the
soft green grass grew in patches under this or that bowlder, on the
sun side of this or that mountain ash. Again, he had given no name,
but called himself simply _Am Buchaille_. This was how the woman Morag
had spoken; did she indeed mean this very man, and if so what import
lay in her words? But far beyond all other bewilderment for him was
that strange, that indeed terrifying likeness to himself; a likeness
so absolute, so convincing, that he knew he might himself easily have
been deceived, had he beheld the apparition in any place where it was
possible that a reflection could have misled him.

Brooding thus, eye and ear were both intent for the faintest sight or
sound. But, from the interior of the cavern, not a breath came. Once,
from among the jagged rocks high on the west slope of Ben Einaval
he fancied he heard an unwonted sound: that of human laughter, but
laughter so wild, so remote, so unmirthful, that fear was in his heart.
It could not be other than imagination, he said to himself; for in that
lonely place there was none to wander idly at that season, and none
who, wandering, would laugh there, solitary.

It was with an effort that Alan at last determined to probe the
mystery. Stooping, he moved cautiously into the cavern, and groped his
way along a narrow ledge which led, as he thought, into another larger
cave. But this proved to be one of the innumerable hollow corridors
which intersect the honeycombed slopes of this Isle of Caves. To wander
far in these lightless passages would be to court inevitable death.
Long ago, the piper whom the Prionnsa-Ban, the Fair Prince, loved to
hear in his exile,--he that was called Rory McVurich,--penetrated one
of the larger hollows to seek there for a child that had idly wandered
into the dark. Some of the clansmen, with the father and mother of
the little one, waited at the entrance to the cave. For a time there
was silence; then, as agreed upon, the sound of the pipes was heard,
to which a man named Lachlan McLachlan replied from the outer air.
The skirl of the pipes within grew fainter and fainter. Louder and
louder Lachlan played upon his _chantar_; shriller and shriller grew
the wild cry of the _feadan_; but for all that, fainter and fainter
waned the sound of the pipes of Rory McVurich. Generations have come
and gone upon the isle, and still no man has heard the returning air
which Rory was to play. He may have found the little child, but he
never found his backward path, and in the gloom of that honeycombed
hill he and the child and the music of the pipes lapsed into the same
stillness. Remembering this legend, familiar to him since his boyhood,
Alan did not dare to venture farther. At any moment, too, he knew he
might fall into one of the innumerable crevices which opened into the
sea-corridors hundreds of feet below. Ancient rumor had it that there
were mysterious passages from the upper heights of Ben Einaval, which
led into the intricate heart mazes of these perilous arcades. But for
a time he lay still, straining every sense. Convinced at last that the
man whom he sought had evaded all possible quest, he turned to regain
the light. Brief way as he had gone, this was no easy thing to do. For
a few moments, indeed, Alan lost his self-possession, when he found a
uniform dusk about him, and could scarce discern which of the several
branching narrow corridors was that by which he had come. But following
the greener light, he reached the cave, and soon, with a sigh of
relief, was upon the sun-sweet warm earth again.

How more than ever beautiful the world seemed to him; how sweet upon
the eyes were cliff and precipice, the wide stretch of ocean, the
flying birds, the sheep grazing on the scanty pastures, and, above all,
the homely blue smoke curling faintly upward from the fisher crofts on
the headland east of Aonaig!

Purposely he retraced his steps by the way of the glen. He would see
the woman, Morag MacNeill again, and insist on some more explicit word;
but when he reached the burnside once more, the woman was not there.
Possibly she had seen him coming, and guessed his purpose; half he
surmised this, for the peats in the hearth were brightly aglow, and
on the hob beside them the boiling water hissed in a great iron pot
wherein were potatoes. In vain he sought, in vain called. Impatient
at last he walked around the bothie and into the little byre beyond.
The place seemed deserted. The matter, small as it was, added to his
profound disquietude. Resolved to sift the mystery, he began to walk
swiftly down the slope. By the old shealing of Cnoc-na-Monie, now
forsaken, his heart leaped at sight of Ynys coming to meet him. At
first he thought he would say nothing of what had happened. But with
Ynys his was ever an impossible silence, for she knew every change
in his mind as a seaman knows the look of the sky and sea. Moreover,
she had herself been all day oppressed by something of the same
inexplicable apprehension.

When they met, she put her hands on his shoulders and looked at him
lovingly with questioning eyes. Ah! he found rest and hope in those
deep pools of quiet light whence the dreaming love rose comfortingly to
meet his own yearning gaze.

"What is it, Alan, mo-ghray; what is the trouble that is upon you?"

"It is a trouble, Ynys, but one of which I can speak little, for it is
little I know."

"Have you heard or seen aught that gives you fear?"

"I have seen a man here upon Rona whom I have not seen or met before,
and it is one whose face is known to me, and whose voice too, and one
whom I would not meet again."

"Did he give you no name, Alan?"

"None."

"Whence did he come? Whither did he go?"

"He came out of the shadow, and into the shadow he went."

Ynys looked steadfastly at her husband; her wistful gaze searching deep
into his unquiet eyes, and thence from feature to feature of the face
which had become strangely worn, for all the joy that lay between them.

But she said no more upon what he had told her.

"I, too, Alan mo rùn, have heard a strange thing to-day. You know old
Marsail Macrae? She is ill now with a slow fever, and she thinks that
the shadow which she saw lying upon her hearth last Sabbath, when
nothing was there to cause any shadow, was her own death, come for her,
and now waiting there. I spoke to the old woman comfortingly, but she
would not have peace, and her eyes looked at me strangely.

"'What is it, Marsail?' I asked at last. To which she replied
mysteriously:

"'Ay, ay, for sure, it was I who saw you first.'

"'Saw me first, Marsail?'

"'Ay, you and Alan MacAlasdair.'

"'When and where was this sight upon you that you speak of?'

"'It was one month before you and he came to Rona.'

"This startled me, and I asked her to tell me her meaning. At first, I
could make little of what was said, for she muttered low, and moved her
head idly this way and that; moaning in her pain. But on my taking her
hand, she looked at me again; and then, apparently without an effort,
told me this thing:

       *       *       *       *       *

"'On the seventh day of the month before you came--and by the same
token it was on the seventh day of the month following that you and
Alan MacAlasdair came to Caisteal-Rhona--I was upon the shore at
Aonaig, listening to the crying of the wind against the great precipice
of Biolacreag. With me were Roderick Macrea and Neil MacNeill, Morag
MacNeill, and her sister Elsa; and we were singing the hymn for those
who were out on the wild sea that was roaring white against the cliffs
of Berneray; for some of our people were there, and we feared for them.
Sometimes one sang, and sometimes another. And sure, it is remembering
I am, how, when I had called out with my old wailing voice:

    "'Boidh an Tri-aon leinn, a la 's a dh-oidche;
    'S air chul nan tonn, no air thaobh nam beann.

    [Be the Three-in-One with us day and night;
    On the crested wave, when waves run high.]

"'I had just sung this, and we were all listening to the sound of it
caught by the wind and whirled up against the black face of Biolacreag,
when suddenly I saw a boat come sailing quite into the haven. I called
out to those about me, but they looked at me with white faces, for no
boat was there, and it was a rough, wild sea it was in that haven.

"'And in that boat I saw three people sitting, and one was you, Ynys
nighean Lhois, and one was Alan MacAlasdair, and one was a man who had
his face in shadow, and his eyes looked into the shadow at his feet. I
knew not who you were, nor whence you came, nor whether it was for Rona
you were, nor any thing at all; but I saw you clear, and I told those
about me what I saw. And Seumas MacNeill, him that is dead now, and
brother to Neil here at Aonaig, he said to me, "Who was that whom you
saw walking in the dusk the night before last?" "Alasdair MacAlasdair
Carmichael," answered one at that. Seumas muttered, looking at those
about him, "Mark what I say, for it is a true thing; that Alasdair
Carmichael of Rona is dead now, because Marsail here saw him walking in
the dusk when he was not upon the island; and now, you Neil, and you
Roderick, and all of you will be for thinking with me that the man and
the woman in the boat whom Marsail sees now will be the son and the
daughter of him who has changed."

"'Well, well, it is a true thing that we each of us thought that
thought, but when the days went and nothing more came of it, the memory
of the seeing went too. Then there came the day when the cobble of
Aulay MacAulay came out of Borosay into Caisteal-Rhona haven. Glad we
were to see the face of Ian mac Iain again, and to hear the sob of joy
coming out of the heart of Kirsten, his sister: but when you and Alan
MacAlasdair came on shore, it was my voice that then went from mouth
to mouth, for I whispered to Morag MacNeill who was next me, that you
were the twain that I had seen in the boat.'

       *       *       *       *       *

"Well, Alan," Ynys added, with a grave smile, "I spoke gently to old
Marsail, and told her that after all there was no evil in that seeing,
and that for sure it was nothing at all, at all, to see two people in
a boat, and nothing coming of that, save happiness for those two, and
glad content to be here, with hope like a white swallow nesting for aye
under the eaves of our house.

"Marsail looked at me with big eyes.

"'It is no white swallow that builds there, Ynys Bean Alan,' she said.

"But when I asked her what she meant by that, she would say no more.
No asking of mine would bring the word to her lips; only she shook
her head and averted her gaze from my face. Then, seeing that it was
useless, I said to her:

"'Marsail, tell me this: was that sight of yours the sole thing that
made the people here on Rona look askance at Alan MacAlasdair?'

"For a time she stared at me with the dim, unrecognizing eyes of those
who are ill and in the shadow of death; then, suddenly they brightened,
and she spoke:

"'It is not all.'

"'Then what more is there, Marsail Macrae?'

"'That is not for the saying. I have no more to say. Let you, or your
man, go elsewhere; that which is to be, will be. To each his own end.'

"'Then tell me this at least,' I asked; 'is there peril for Alan or for
me in this island?'

"But from that moment Marsail would say no more, and indeed I saw that
a swoon was upon the old woman, and that she heard not or saw not."

After this, Ynys and Alan walked slowly home together, hand in hand,
both silent and revolving in their mind as in a dim dusk, that mystery
which, vague and unreal at first, had now become a living presence, and
haunted them by day and night.



CHAPTER XII

IN THE GREEN ARCADES


"In the shadow of pain, one may hear the footsteps of joy." So runs a
proverb of old.

It was a true saying for Alan and Ynys. That night they lay down in
pain, their hearts heavy with the weight of some burden which they
felt and did not know. On the morrow they woke to the rapture of a
new day--a day of absolute beauty, when the stars grew pale in the
cloudless blue sky before the uprising of the sun, while the last vapor
lifted a white wing from the sea, and a dim spiral mist carried skyward
the memory of inland dews. The whole wide wilderness of ocean was of
living azure, aflame with gold and silver. Around the promontories of
the isles the brown-sailed fish-boats of Barra and Berneray, of Borosay
and Seila, moved blithely hither and thither. Everywhere the rhythm of
life pulsed swift and strong. The first sound which had awakened the
sleepers was of a loud singing of fishermen who were putting out from
Aonaig. The coming of a great shoal of mackerel had been signalled, and
every man and woman of the near isles was alert for the take. The first
sign had been the swift congregation of birds, particularly the gannets
and skuas. And as the men pulled at the oars, or hoisted the brown
sails, they sang a snatch of an old-world tune, wont to be chanted at
the first coming of the birds when spring-tide is on the flow again.

    "Bui' cheas dha 'n Ti thaine na Gugachan
    Thaine 's na h-Eoin-Mhora cuideriu,
    Cailin dugh ciaru bo 's a chro!
    Bo dhonn! bo dhonn! bo dhonn bheadarrach!
    Bo dhonn a ruin a bhlitheadh am baine dhuit
    Ho ro! mo gheallag! ni gu rodagach!
    Cailin dugh ciaru bo 's a chro--
    Na h-eoin air tighinn! cluinneam an ceol!"

    [Thanks to the Being, the Gannets have come.
    Yes! and the Great Auks along with them.
    Dark-haired girl!--a cow in the fold!


    Brown cow! brown cow! brown cow, beloved ho!
    Brown cow! my love! the milker of milk to thee!
    Ho ro! my fair-skinned girl--a cow in the fold,
    And the birds have come!--glad sight, I see!]

Eager to be of help, Alan put off in his boat and was soon among the
fishermen, who in their new excitement were forgetful of all else than
that the mackerel were come, and that every moment was precious. For
the first time Alan found himself no unwelcome comrade. Was it, he
wondered, because that, there upon the sea, whatever of shadow dwelled
about him on the land was no longer visible?

All through that golden noon, he and the others worked hard. From isle
to isle went the chorus of the splashing oars and splashing nets; of
the splashing of the fish and the splashing of gannets and gulls; of
the splashing of the tide leaping blithely against the sun-dazzle, and
the innumerous rippling wash moving out of the west--all this blent
with the loud, joyous cries, the laughter, and the hoarse shouts of the
men of Barra and the adjacent islands. It was close upon dusk before
the Rona boats put into the haven of Aonaig again; and by that time
none was blither than Alan Carmichael, who in that day of happy toil
had lost all the gloom and apprehension of the day before, and now made
haste to Caisteal-Rhona to add to his joy by a sight of Ynys in their
home.

When, however, he got there, there was no Ynys to see. "She had gone,"
said Kirsten Macdonald, "she had gone out in the smaller boat midway in
the afternoon, and had sailed around to Aoidhu, the great scaur which
ran out beyond the precipices at the south-west of Rona."

This Ynys often did; and, of late, more and more often. Ever since she
had come to the Hebrid Isles, her love of the sea had deepened, and
had grown into a passion for its mystery and beauty. Of late, too,
something impelled to a more frequent isolation; a deep longing to
be where no eye could see, and no ear hearken. Those strange dreams
which, in a confused way, had haunted her mind in her far Breton home,
came oftener now and more clear. Sometimes, when she had sat in the
twilight at Kerival, holding her mother's hand and listening to tales
of that remote North to which her heart had ever yearned, she had
suddenly lost all consciousness of the speaker, or of the things said,
and had let her mind be taken captive by her uncontrolled imagination,
till in spirit she was far away, and sojourned in strange places,
hearing a language that she did not know, and yet which she understood,
and dwelt in a past or a present which she had never seen and which yet
was familiar.

Since Ynys had known she was with child, this visionariness had been
intensified, this longing had become more and more a deep need. Even
with Alan she felt at times the intrusion of an alien influence. If
in her body was a mystery, a mystery also was in her brain and in her
heart.

Alan knew this, and knowing, understood. It was for gladness to him
that Ynys should do as she would; that in these long hours of solitude
she drank deep of the elixir of peace; and that this way of happiness
was open to her as to him. Never did these isolations come between
them; indeed they were sometimes more at one then than when they were
together, for all the deep happiness which sustained both upon the
strong waters of their love.

So, when Alan heard from Kirsten that Ynys had sailed westward, he
was in no way alarmed. But when the sun had set, and over the faint
blue film of the Isle of Tiree the moon had risen, and still no sign
of Ynys, he became restless and uneasy. Kirsten begged him in vain to
eat of the supper she had prepared. Idly he moved to and fro along the
rocky ledge, or down by the pebbly shore, or across the green _airidh_;
eager for a glimpse of her whom he loved so passing well.

At last, unable longer to endure a growing anxiety, he put out in his
boat, and sailed swiftly before the slight easterly breeze which had
prevailed since moonrise. So far as Aoidhu, all the way from Aonaig,
there was not a haven anywhere, nor even one of the sea caverns which
honeycombed the isle beyond the headland. A glance, therefore, showed
him that Ynys had not yet come back that way. It was possible, though
unlikely, that she had sailed right round Rona; unlikely because in
the narrow straits to the north, between Rona and the scattered islets
known as the Innse-mhara, strong currents prevailed, and particularly
at the full of the tide, when they swept north-eastward, dark and swift
as a mill-race.

Once the headland was passed and the sheer precipitous westward cliffs
loomed black out of the sea, he became more and more uneasy. As yet,
there was no danger; but he saw that a swell was moving out of the
west, and whenever the wind blew that way the sea arcades were filled
with a lifting, perilous wave, and escape from them was difficult
and often impossible. Out of the score or more great corridors which
opened between Aoidhu and Ardgorm, it was difficult to know into which
to hazard entry in quest of Ynys. Together they had examined all of
them. Some twisted but slightly; others wound sinuously till the green,
serpentine alleys, flanked by basalt walls hundreds of feet high, lost
themselves in an indistinguishable maze.

But that which was safest, and wherein a boat could most easily make
its way against wind or tide, was the huge, cavernous corridor known
locally as the Uamh-nan-roin, the Cave of the Seals.

For this opening Alan steered his boat. Soon he was within the wide
corridor. Like the great cave at Staffa, it was wrought as an aisle
in some natural cathedral; the rocks, too, were fluted columnarly and
rose in flawless symmetry as though graven by the hand of man. At the
far end of this gigantic aisle, there diverges a long, narrow arcade,
filled by day with the green shine of the water, and by night, when
the moon is up, with a pale froth of light. It is one of the few where
there are open gateways for the sea and the wandering light, and, by
its spherical shape, almost the only safe passage in a season of heavy
wind. Half-way along this arched arcade a corridor leads to a round
cup-like cavern, midway in which stands a huge mass of black basalt, in
shape suggestive of a titanic altar. Thus it must have impressed the
imagination of the islanders of old, for by them, even in a remote day,
it was called Teampull-nan-Mhara, the Temple of the Sea. Owing to the
narrowness of the corridor, and to the smooth, unbroken walls which
rise sheer from the green depths into an invisible darkness, the Strait
of the Temple is not one wherein to linger long, save in a time of calm.

Instinctively, however, Alan quietly headed his boat along this narrow
way. When, silently, he emerged from the arcade, he could just discern
the mass of basalt at the far end of the cavern. But there, seated in
her boat, was Ynys; apparently idly adrift, for one oar floated in the
water alongside, and the other suspended listlessly from the tholes.

His heart had a suffocating grip as he saw her whom he had come to
seek. Why that absolute stillness, that strange, listless indifference?
For a dreadful moment he feared that death had indeed come to her in
that lonely place where, as an ancient legend had it, a woman of old
time had perished, and ever since had wrought death upon any who came
thither solitary and unhappy.

But at the striking of the shaft of his oar against a ledge, Ynys gave
a low cry and looked at him with startled eyes. Half rising from where
she crouched in the stern, she called to him in a voice that had in it
something strangely unfamiliar.

"I will not hear!" she cried. "I will not hear! Leave me! Leave me!"

Fearing that the desolation of the place had wrought upon her mind,
Alan swiftly moved toward her. The very next moment his boat glided
along hers. Stepping from the one to the other, he kneeled beside her.

"_Ynys-ghaolaiche_, Ynys, my darling, what is it? what gives you dread?
There is no harm here. All is well. Look! See, it is I, Alan; Alan,
whom you love! Listen, dear; do you not know me; do you not know who I
am? It is I, Alan; Alan who loves you!"

Even in that obscure light he could clearly discern her pale face, and
his heart smote him as he saw her eyes turn upon him with a glance wild
and mournful. Had she indeed succumbed to the sea madness which ever
and again strikes into a terrible melancholy one here and there among
those who dwell in the remote isles? But even as he looked, he noted
another expression come into the beautiful eyes, and almost before he
realized what had happened, Ynys's head was on his breast, and she
sobbing with a sudden gladness and passion of relief.

The dusk deepened swiftly. In those serpentine arcades darkness grows
from hour to hour, even on nights when the moon makes the outer sea a
blaze of silver fire. But sweet it was to lie there in that solitary
place, where no sound penetrated save the low, soughing sigh of ocean,
audible there only as the breath of a sleeper: to lie there in each
other's arms, and to feel the beating of heart against heart, knowing
that whether in the hazard of life or death, all was well, since they
two were there and together.

For long Ynys could say no word. And as for Alan--too glad was he to
have her again, to know that she lived indeed, and that his fear of the
sea madness was an idle fantasy; too glad was he to urge her to speak,
when her recovered joy was still sweet in her heart. But at last she
whispered to him how that she had sailed westward from Caisteal-Rhona,
having been overcome by the beauty of the day, and longing to be among
those mysterious green arcades where thought rose out of the mind
like a white bird and flew among shadows in strange places, bringing
back with it upon its silent wings the rumor of strange voices, and
oftentimes singing a song of what ears hear not. Deeply upon the two
had lain the thought of what was to be; the thought of the life she
bore within her, that was the tangible love of her and of Alan, and yet
was so strangely and remotely dissociate from either. Happy in happy
thoughts, and strangely wrought by vague imaginings, she had sailed
past precipice after precipice, and so at last into the Strait of the
Temple. Just before the last light of day had begun to glide out of
the pale green water, she had let her boat drift idly alongside the
Teampull-Mhara. There, for a while, she had lain, drowsily content,
dreaming her dream. Then, suddenly her heart had given a leap like a
doe in the bracken, and the pulses in her veins swung like stars on a
night of storm.

For there, in that nigh unreachable and forever unvisited solitude was
the figure of a man. He stood on the summit of the huge basalt altar,
and appeared to have sprung from out the rock, or, himself a shadowy
presence, to have grown out of the obscure unrealities of the darkness.
She had stared at him, fascinated, speechless.

When she had said this Ynys stopped abruptly, for she felt the
trembling of Alan's hand.

"Go on," he said hoarsely, "go on. Tell me all!"

To his amaze, she did not seem perturbed in the way he had dreaded when
she began to tell what she had seen.

"But did you notice nothing about him, Ynys ... about his face, his
features?"

"Yes. His eyes filled me with strange joy."

"With joy? Oh, Ynys! Ynys! do you know whom--_what_--it was you saw? It
was a vision, a nothingness, a mere phantom; and that phantom was ...
was ... myself!"

"You, Alan! Oh, no, Alan-aghray! dear, you do not know whom I saw--nor
do I, though I know it was not you!"

"We will talk of this later, my fawn," Alan muttered. "Meanwhile, hold
on to this ledge, for I wish to examine this mass of rock that they
call the Altar."

With a spring he was on the ledge. Then, swift and sure as a wild-cat,
he scaled the huge bowlder.

Nothing; no one! There was not a trace of any human being. Not a bird,
not a bat; nothing. Moreover, even in that slowly blackening darkness
he could see that there was no direct connection between the summit or
side with the blank, precipitous wall of basalt beyond. Overhead there
was, so far as he could discern, a vault. No human being could have
descended through that perilous gulf.

Was the island haunted? he wondered, as slowly he made his way back to
the boat. Or had he been startled into some wild fantasy, and imagined
a likeness where none had been? Perhaps, even, he had not really seen
any one. He had read of similar strange delusions. The nerves can soon
chase the mind into the dark zone wherein it loses itself.

Or was Ynys the vain dreamer? That, indeed, might well be, and she
with child, and ever a visionary. Mayhap she had heard some fantastic
tale from Morag MacNeill or from old Marsail Macrae; the islanders had
_sgeul_ after _sgeul_ of a wild strangeness.

In silence he guided the boats back into the outer arcade, where a
faint sheen of moonlight glistered on the water. Thence, in a few
minutes, he oared that wherein he and Ynys sat, with the other fastened
astern, into the open.

When the moonshine lay full on her face, he saw that she was thinking
neither of him nor of where she was. Her eyes were heavy with dream.

What wind there was blew against their course, so Alan rowed
unceasingly. In silence they passed once again the headland of Aoidhu;
in silence they drifted past a single light gleaming in a croft near
Aonaig--a red eye staring out into the shadow of the sea, from the
room where the woman Marsail lay dying; and in silence their keels
grided on the patch of shingle in Caisteal-Rhona haven.

But when, once more, Alan found himself with Ynys in the safe quietudes
of the haven, he pressed her eagerly to give him some clear description
of the figure she had seen.

Ynys, however, had become strangely reticent. All he could elicit from
her was that the man whom she had seen bore no resemblance to him,
except in so far as he was fair. He was taller, slimmer, and seemed
older.

He thought it wiser not to speak to her on what he himself had seen, or
concerning his conviction that it was the same mysterious stranger who
had appeared to both.



CHAPTER XIII

THE MESSAGE


For days thereafter Alan haunted that rocky, cavernous wilderness where
he had seen the Herdsman.

It was in vain he had everywhere sought to find word of this mysterious
dweller in those upland solitudes. At times he believed that there was
indeed some one upon the island of whom, for inexplicable reasons, none
there would speak; but at last he came to the conviction that what he
had seen was an apparition, projected by the fantasy of overwrought
nerves. Even from the woman, Morag MacNeill, to whom he had gone with
a frank appeal that won its way to her heart, he learned no more than
that an old legend, of which she did not care to speak, was in some way
associated with his own coming to Rona.

Ynys, too, never once alluded to the mysterious incident of the green
arcades which had so deeply impressed them both; never, that is,
after the ensuing day which followed, when, simply and spontaneously,
she told Alan that she believed that she had seen a vision. When he
reminded her that she had been convinced of its reality, Ynys answered
that for days past she had been dreaming a strange dream, and that
doubtless this had possessed her so that her nerves played her false,
in that remote and shadowy place. What this dream was she would not
confide, nor did he press her.

But as the days went by and as no word came to either of any unknown
person who was on the island, and as Alan, for all his patient
wandering and furtive quest, both among the upland caves and in the
green arcades, found absolutely no traces of him whom he sought, the
belief that he had been duped by his imagination deepened almost to
conviction.

As for Ynys, day after day, soft veils of dream obscured the bare
realities of life. But she, unlike Alan, became more and more convinced
that what she had seen was indeed no apparition. Whatever lingering
doubt she had was dissipated on the eve of the night when old Marsail
Macrae died. It was dusk when word came to Caisteal-Rhona that Marsail
felt the cold wind on the soles of her feet. Ynys went to her at once,
and it was in the dark hour which followed that she heard once more and
more fully the strange story which, like a poisonous weed, had taken
root in the minds of the islanders. Already from Marsail she had heard
of the Prophet, though, strangely enough, she had never breathed word
of this to Alan, not even when, after the startling episode of the
apparition in the Teampull-Mhara, she had, as she believed, seen the
Prophet himself. But there in the darkness of the low, turfed cottage,
with no light in the room save the dull red gloom from the heart of the
smoored peats, Marsail, in the attenuated, remote voice of those who
have already entered into the vale of the shadow, told her this thing.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Yes, Ynys, wife of Alan MacAlasdair, I will be telling you this
thing before I change. You are for knowing, sure, that long ago
Uilleam, brother of him who was father to your man, had a son? Yes,
you know that, you say, and also that he was called Donnacha Bàn?
No, mo-run-geal, that is not a true thing that you have heard, that
Donnacha Bàn went under the wave years ago. He was the seventh son,
and was born under the full moon; 'tis Himself will be knowing whether
that was for or against him. Of these seven none lived beyond childhood
except the two youngest, Kenneth and Donnacha. Kenneth was always frail
as a February flower, but he lived to be a man. He and his brother
never spoke, for a feud was between them, not only because that each
was unlike the other and that the younger hated the older because thus
he was the penniless one--but most because both loved the same woman.
I will not be telling you the whole story now, for the breath in my
body will soon blow out in the draught that is coming upon me; but
this I will say to you: darker and darker grew the gloom between these
brothers. When Kirsteen Macdonald gave her love to Kenneth, Donnacha
disappeared for a time. Then, one day, he came back to Borosay, and
smiled quietly with his cold eyes when they wondered at his coming
again. Now, too, it was noticed that he no longer had an ill-will
upon his brother, but spoke smoothly with him and loved to be in his
company. But, to this day, no one knows for sure what happened. For
there was a gloaming when Donnacha Bàn came back alone, in his sailing
boat. He and Kenneth had sailed forth, he said, to shoot seals in the
sea arcades to the west of Rona; but in these dark and lonely passages,
they had missed each other. At last he had heard Kenneth's voice
calling for help, but when he had got to the place, it was too late,
for his brother had been seized with the cramps, and had sunk deep into
the fathomless water. There is no getting a body again that sinks in
these sea galleries. The crabs know that.

"Well, this and much more was what Donnacha Bàn told to his people.
None believed him; but what could any do? There was no proof; none had
ever seen them enter the sea caves together. Not that Donnacha Bàn
sought in any way to keep back those who would fain know more. Not
so; he strove to help to find the body. Nevertheless, none believed;
and Kirsteen nic Dugall Mòr least of all. The blight of that sorrow
went to her heart. She had death soon, poor thing! but before the cold
grayness was upon her, she told her father, and the minister that was
there, that she knew Donnacha Bàn had murdered his brother. One might
be saying these were the wild words of a woman; but, for sure, no one
said that thing upon Borosay or Rona, or any of these isles. When all
was done, the minister told what he knew, and what he thought, to the
Lord of the South Isles, and asked what was to be put upon Donnacha
Bàn. 'Exile forever,' said the Chief, 'or if he stays here, the doom of
silence. Let no man or woman speak to him or give him food or drink; or
give him shelter, or let his shadow cross his or hers.'

"When this thing was told to Donnacha Bàn Carmichael, he laughed at
first; but as day slid over the rocks where all days fall, he laughed
no more. Soon he saw that the Chief's word was no empty word; and
yet he would not go away from his own place. He could not stay upon
Borosay, for his father cursed him; and no man can stay upon the
island where a father's curse moves this way and that, forever seeking
him. Then, some say a madness came upon him, and others that he took
wildness to be his way, and others that God put upon him the shadow of
loneliness, so that he might meet sorrow there and repent. Howsoever
that may be, Donnacha Bàn came to Rona, and, by the same token, it
was the year of the great blight, when the potatoes and the corn came
to naught, and when the fish in the sea swam away from the isles.
In the autumn of that year there was not a soul left on Rona except
Kirsten Macdonald and the old man Ian, her father, who had guard of
Caisteal-Rhona for him who was absent. When, once more, smoke rose
from the crofts, the rumor spread that Donnacha Bàn, the murderer, had
made his home among the caves of the upper part of the isle. None knew
how this rumor rose, for he was seen of none. The last man who saw
him--and that was a year later--was old Padruic McVurich, the shepherd.
Padruic said that, as he was driving his ewes across the north slope of
Ben Einaval in the gloaming, he came upon a silent figure seated upon a
rock, with his chin in his hands, and his elbows on his knees--with the
great, sad eyes of him staring at the moon that was lifting itself out
of the sea. Padruic did not know who the man was. The shepherd had few
wits, poor man! and he had known, or remembered, little about the story
of Donnacha Bàn Carmichael, so, when he spoke to the man, it was as to
a stranger. The man looked at him and said:

"'You are Padruic McVurich, the shepherd.'

"At that a trembling was upon old Padruic, who had the wonder that this
stranger should know who and what he was.

"'And who will you be, and forgive the saying?' he asked.

"'_Am Faidh_--the Prophet,' the man said.

"'And what prophet will you be, and what is your prophecy?' asked
Padruic.

"'I am here because I wait for what is to be, and that will be for the
birth of a child that is to be a king.'

"And with that the man said no more, and the old shepherd went silently
down through the hillside gloaming, and, heavy with the thoughts that
troubled him, followed his ewes down into Aonaig. But after that
neither he nor any other saw or heard aught of the shadowy stranger;
so that all upon Rona felt sure that Padruic had beheld no more than a
vision. There were some who thought that he had seen the ghost of the
outlaw Donnacha Bàn; and mayhap one or two who wondered if the stranger
that had said he was a prophet was not Donnacha Bàn himself, with a
madness come upon him; but at last these rumors went out to sea upon
the wind, and men forgot. But, and it was months and months afterward,
and three days before his own death, old Padruic McVurich was sitting
in the sunset on the rocky ledge in front of his brother's croft,
where then he was staying, when he heard a strange crying of seals. He
thought little of that; only, when he looked closer, he saw, in the
hollow of the wave hard by that ledge, a drifting body.

"_Am Faidh--Am Faidh!_" he cried; "the Prophet, the Prophet!"

At that his brother and his brother's wife ran to see; but it was
nothing that they saw. "It would be a seal," said Pol McVurich; but at
that Padruic had shook his head, and said no, for sure, he had seen
the face of the dead man, and it was of him whom he had met on the
hillside, and that had said he was the Prophet who was waiting there
for the birth of a king.

"And that is how there came about the echo of the thought, that
Donnacha Bàn had at last, after his madness, gone under the green wave
and was dead. For all that, in the months which followed, more than one
man said he had caught a glimpse of a figure high up on the hill. The
old wisdom says that when Christ comes again, or the Prophet who will
herald Christ, it will be as a herdsman on a lonely isle. More than
one of the old people on Rona and Borosay remembered that _sgeul_ out
of the _seanachas_ that the tale-tellers knew. There were some who
said that Donnacha Bàn had never been drowned at all, and that he was
this Prophet, this Herdsman. Others would not have that saying at all,
but believed that the mysterious herdsman was indeed Am Buchaille Bàn,
the Fair-haired Shepherd, who had come again to redeem the people out
of their sorrow. There were even those who said that the Herdsman who
haunted Rona was no other than Kenneth Carmichael himself, who had not
died, but had had the mind-dark there in the sea caves where he had
been lost, and there had come to the knowledge of secret things, and so
was at last _Am Faidh Chriosd_."

       *       *       *       *       *

A great weakness came upon the old woman when she had spoken thus
far. Ynys feared that she would have breath for no further word, but
after a thin gasping, and a listless fluttering of weak hands upon
the coverlet, whereon her trembling fingers plucked aimlessly at the
invisible blossoms of death, she opened her eyes once more and stared
in a dim questioning at her who sat by her bedside.

"Tell me," whispered Ynys, "tell me, Marsail, what thought it is that
is in your own mind?"

But already the old woman had begun to wander, though Ynys did not know
this.

"For sure, for sure," she muttered, "_Am Faidh_ ... _Am Faidh_ ... an'
a child will be born ... an' a king he will be, an' ... that will be
the voice of Domhuill, my husband, I am hearing ... an' dark it is, an'
the tide comin' in ... an'----"

Then, sure, the tide came in, and if in that darkness old Marsail
Macrae heard any voice at all, it was that of Domhuill who years agone
had sunk into the wild seas off the head of Barra.

An hour later, with tears still in her eyes, Ynys walked slowly home
through the cloudy night. All she had heard came back to her with a
strange familiarity. Something of this, at least, she had known before.
Some hints of this mysterious Herdsman had reached her ears. In some
inexplicable way his real or imaginary presence there upon Rona seemed
a preordained thing for her. All that dreaming mysticism, which had
wrought so much of beauty and wonder into her girlhood in Brittany,
had expanded into a strange flower of the imagination--a flower whose
subtle fragrance affected her inward life. Sometimes she had wondered
if all the tragic vicissitudes which happened at Kerival, with the
strange and dreamlike life which she and Alan had led since, had so
wrought upon her that the unreal became real, and the actual merely
phantasmal; for now she felt more than ever assured that some hidden
destiny had controlled all this disastrous mischance, had led her and
Alan there to that lonely island.

She knew that the wild imaginings of the islanders had woven the legend
of the Prophet, or at any rate of his message, out of the loom of the
longing and the deep nostalgia whereon is woven that larger tapestry,
the shadow-thridden life of the island Gael. Laughter and tears,
ordinary hopes and pleasures, and even joy itself, and bright gayety,
and the swift, spontaneous imagination of susceptible natures--all
this, of course, is to be found with the island Gael as with his
fellows elsewhere. But every here and there are some who have in
their minds the inheritance from the dim past of their race, and are
oppressed as no other people are oppressed by the gloom of a strife
between spiritual emotion and material facts. It is the brains of
dreamers such as these which clear the mental life of the community;
and it is in these brains are the mysterious looms which weave the
tragic and sorrowful tapestries of Celtic thought. It were a madness
to suppose that life in the isles consists of nothing but sadness or
melancholy. It is not so, or need not be so, for the Gael is a creature
of shadow and shine. But whatever the people is, the brain of the Gael
hears a music that is sadder than any music there is, and has for its
cloudy sky a gloom that shall not go, for the end is near, and upon the
westernmost shores of these remote isles, the Voice--as has been truly
said by one who has beautifully interpreted his own people--the Voice
of Celtic Sorrow may be heard crying, "_Cha till, cha till, cha till mi
tuille_"--I will return, I will return, I will return no more.

Ynys knew all this well; and yet she too dreamed her Celtic
dream--that, even yet, there might be redemption for the people. She
did not share the wild hope which some of the older islanders held,
that Christ himself shall come again to redeem an oppressed race; but
might not another saviour arise, another redeeming spirit come into the
world? And if so, might not that child of joy be born out of suffering
and sorrow and crime; and if so, might not that child be born of her?

With startled eyes she crossed the thyme-set ledge whereon stood
Caisteal-Rhona. Was it, after all, a message she had received from him
who appeared to her in that lonely cavern of the sea; was he indeed _Am
Faidh_, the mysterious Prophet of the isles?



CHAPTER XIV

THE LAUGHTER OF THE KING


What are dreams but the dust of wayfaring thoughts? Or whence are they,
and what air is upon their shadowy wings? Do they come out of the
twilight of man's mind; are they ghosts of exiles from vanished palaces
of the brain; or are they heralds with proclamations of hidden tidings
for the soul that dreams?

It was a life of dream that Ynys and Alan lived; but Ynys the more,
for, as week after week went by, the burden of her motherhood wrought
her increasingly. Ever since the night of Marsail's death, Alan had
noticed that Ynys no longer doubted but that in some way a special
message had come to her, a special revelation. On the other hand, he
had himself swung back to his former conviction, that the vision he
had seen upon the hillside was, in truth, that of a living man. From
fragments here and there, a phrase, a revealing word, a hint gleaming
through obscure allusions, he came at last to believe that some one
bearing a close, and even extraordinary, resemblance to himself lived
upon Rona. Although upon the island itself he could seldom persuade any
one to speak of the Herdsman, the islanders of Seila and Borosay became
gradually less reticent. He ascertained this, at least: that their fear
and aversion, when he first came, had been occasioned by the startling
likeness between him and the mysterious being whom they called Am
Buchaille Bàn. On Borosay, he was told, the fishermen believed that
the _aonaran nan chreag_, the recluse of the rocks, as commonly they
spoke of him, was no other than Donnacha Bàn Carmichael, survived there
through these many years, and long since mad with his loneliness and
because of the burden of his crime. It was with keen surprise that Alan
learned how many of the fishermen of Borosay and Berneray, and even
of Barra, had caught a glimpse of the outcast. It was this relative
familiarity, indeed, that was at the root of the fear and aversion
which had met him upon his arrival. Almost from the moment he had
landed in Borosay, the rumor had spread that he was indeed no other
than Donnacha Bàn, and that he had chosen this way, now both his father
and Alasdair Carmichael were dead, to return to his own place. So like
was Alan to the outlaw who had long since disappeared from touch with
his fellow men, that many were convinced that the two could be no other
than one and the same. What puzzled him hardly less was the fact that,
on the rare occasions when Ynys had consented to speak of what she had
seen, the man she described bore no resemblance to himself. From one
thing and another, he came at last to the belief that he had really
seen Donnacha Bàn, his cousin; but that the vision of Ynys's mind was
born of her imagination, stimulated by all the tragedy and strange
vicissitudes she had known, and wrought by the fantastic tales of
Marsail and Morag MacNeill.

By this time, too, the islanders had come to see that Alan MacAlasdair
was certainly not Donnacha Bàn. Even the startling likeness no longer
betrayed them in this way. The ministers and the priests laughed at the
whole story and everywhere discouraged the idea that Donnacha Bàn could
still be among the living. But for the unfortunate superstition that
to meet the Herdsman, whether the lost soul of Donnacha Bàn or indeed
the strange phantom of the hills of which the old legends spoke, was to
meet inevitable disaster; but for this, the islanders might have been
persuaded to make such a search among the caves of Rona as would almost
certainly have revealed the presence of any who dwelt therein.

But as summer lapsed into autumn, and autumn itself through its golden
silences waned into the shadow of the equinox, a quiet happiness came
upon both Alan and Ynys. True, she was still wrought by her strange
visionary life, though of this she said little or nothing; and, as
for himself, he hoped that with the birth of the child this fantastic
dream life would go. Whoever the mysterious Herdsman was--if he indeed
existed at all except in the imaginations of those who spoke of him
either as the Buchaille Bàn, or as the _aonaran nan chreag_--Alan
believed that at last he had passed away. None saw him now: and even
Morag MacNeill, who had often on moonlight nights caught the sound of a
voice chanting among the upper solitudes, admitted that she now heard
nothing unusual.

St. Martin's summer came at last, and with it all that wonderful,
dreamlike beauty which bathes the isles in a flood of golden light, and
puts upon sea and land a veil as of ineffable mystery.

One late afternoon Ynys, returning to Caisteal-Rhona after an
unexplained absence of several hours, found Alan sitting at a table.
Spread before him were the sheets of one of the strange old Gaelic
tales which he had ardently begun to translate. She took up the page
which he had just laid down. It was from the _Eachdaireachd Challum
mhic cruimein_, and the last words that Alan had translated were these:

"And when that king had come to the island, he lived there in the
shadow of men's eyes; for none saw him by day or by night, and none
knew whence he came or whither he fared; for his feet were shod with
silence, and his way with dusk. But men knew that he was there, and all
feared him. Months, even years, tramped one on the heels of the other,
and perhaps the king gave no sign, but one day he would give a sign;
and that sign was a laughing that was heard somewhere, be it upon the
lonely hills, or on the lonely wave, or in the heart of him who heard.
And whenever the king laughed, he who heard would fare ere long from
his fellows to join that king in the shadow. But sometimes the king
laughed only because of vain hopes and wild imaginings, for upon these
he lives as well as upon the strange savors of mortality."

       *       *       *       *       *

Ynys read the page over and over; and when Alan saw how she brooded
upon it, he regretted that he had left it for her to see.

He the more regretted this when he learned that that very afternoon she
had again been among the sea caves. She would not say what she had
seen or heard, if indeed she had heard or seen any thing unusual. But
that night she woke suddenly, and taking Alan by the hand, made him
promise to go with her on the morrow to the Teampull-Mhara.

In vain he questioned her as to why she asked this thing. All she
would say was that she must go there once again, and with him, for
she believed that a spirit out of heaven had come to reveal to her a
wonder. Distressed by what he knew to be a madness, and fearful that it
might prove to be no passing fantasy, Alan would fain have persuaded
her against this intention. Even as he spoke, however, he realized
that it might be better to accede to her wishes, and, above all, to be
there with her, so that it might not be one only who heard or saw the
expected revelation.

And it was a strange faring indeed, that which occurred on the morrow.
At noon, when the tide was an hour turned in the ebb, they sailed
westward from Caisteal-Rhona. It was in silence they made that strange
journey together; for, while Alan steered, Ynys lay down in the hollow
of the boat, with her head against his knees, and he saw that she
slept, or at least lay still with her eyes closed.

When, at last, they passed the headland and entered the first of the
sea arcades, she rose and sat beside him. Hauling down the now useless
sail, he took an oar and, standing at the prow, urged the boat inward
along the narrow corridor which led to the huge sea cave of the Altar.

In the deep gloom--for even on that day of golden light and beauty the
green air of the sea cave was heavy with shadow--there was a deathly
chill. What dull light there was came from the sheen of the green water
which lay motionless along the black basaltic ledges. When at last the
base of the Altar was reached, Alan secured the boat by a rope passed
around a projecting spur; and then lay down in the stern beside Ynys.

"Tell me, dear, what is this thing that you expect to hear or see?"

She looked at him strangely for a while, but, though her lips moved,
she said nothing.

"Tell me, dear," he urged again, "who is it you expect to see or hear?"

"_Am Buchaille Bàn_," she answered, "the Herdsman."

For a moment he hesitated. Then, taking her hand in his, and raising it
to his lips, he whispered in her ear:

"Dearest, all this is a vain dream. There is no Herdsman upon Rona. If
ever there was a man there who lived solitary--if ever, indeed, there
was an _aonaran nan chreag_--he is dead long since. What you have seen
and heard has been a preying upon you of wild thoughts. Think no more
of this vision. We have both suffered too much, and the knowledge of
what is behind us has wrought upon us too hardly. It is a mistake to be
here, on Rona, now. Ynys, darling, you and I are young, and we love;
let us leave this melancholy isle--these melancholy isles--and go back
into the green, sunny world wherein we had such joy before; yes, let
us even go back to Kerival; anywhere where we may live our life with
joy and glad content--but not here, not in these melancholy, haunted
isles, where our dreams become more real than our life, and life
itself, for us at least, the mere shadow of being. Ynys, will you come?
Will you go?"

"All shall be as you will, Alan--_afterward_. But first, I must wait
here till our child is born, for I have heard that which is a message.
And one part of that message concerns you and me; and one concerns
others. And that which concerns you and me is that in this way, in this
child, to be born here in this place, lies the redemption of that evil
by which your father was slain by my father. It is not enough that you
and I have forgotten the past; the past remains. What we cannot do,
or no man or woman can do, the powers that are beyond the grave can
accomplish. Not our love, not even ours, can redeem that crime. But if,
born of us, one will come, who will be dowered with our love and free
from the blood shadow which lies upon us, then all will be well and the
evil shall be done with forever more. But also, has not the Prophet
said that one shall be born upon this island who will redeem his
oppressed people? And this Prophet, Alan, I have seen and heard. Never
have I seen his face aright, for it has ever been in the shadow; but I
have heard his voice, for he has spoken to me, and what he has said is
this: that in the fulness of time the child I shall bear will be he of
whom men have dreamed in the isles for ages past. Sure, dear, you and I
must be believing that thing, since he who tells it is no mere erring
_Faidh_, but himself an immortal spirit."

Alan looked at the speaker in amaze. There could be no question of
her absolute sincerity; for the beautiful face was lit with a strange
light, and in her eyes was a proud gleam of conscious sacrifice. That
it was all a madness, a fantasy, he knew well. Long ago had Lois de
Kerival spoken of the danger that lay for Ynys; she being the inheritor
of a strange brooding spirit which belonged to her people. Now, in this
remote place, the life of dream and the life of reality had become one;
and Ynys was as a drifted ship among unknown seas and mists.

But on one point he believed he might convince her.

"Why do you speak of the Herdsman as a spirit, Ynys? What proof have
you of this? If you or I have seen any one at all, be sure it is a
mortal man and no spirit; nay, I know who it must be, if any one it
is, for throughout the isles men say that Donnacha Bàn, the son of the
brother of my father, was an outlaw here, and has lived long among the
caves."

"This man," she said quietly, "is not Donnacha Bàn, but the Prophet of
whom the people speak. He himself has told me this thing. Yesterday I
was here, and he bade me come again. He spoke out of the shadow that is
about the Altar, though I saw him not. I asked him if he were Donnacha
Bàn, and he said 'No.' I asked him if he were _Am Faidh_, and he said
'Yes.' I asked him if he were indeed an immortal spirit, and herald of
that which was to be, and he said 'Even so.'"

For a long while after this, no word was spoken betwixt the twain. The
chill of that remote place began to affect Ynys, and she shivered
slightly at times. But more she shivered because of the silence which
prevailed, and because that he who had promised to be there gave
no sign. Sure, she thought, it could not be all a dream; sure, the
Herdsman would come again.

Then, at last, turning to Alan, she said, "We must come on the morrow;
for to-day he is not here."

"No, dear; never, never shall we come here again. This is for the last
time. Henceforth, we shall dwell here in Rona no more."

"You will do this thing for me, Alan, that I ask?"

"I will do what you ask, Ynys."

"Then take this written word, and leave it upon the top of the great
rock there that is called the Altar."

With that she placed in his hand a slip of paper whereon she had
already written certain words. What they were, Alan could not discern
in that shadowy light; but, taking the slip in his hand, he stepped
on the black ledges at the base of the Altar, and slowly mounted the
precipitous rock.

Ynys watched him till he became himself a shadow in that darkness. Her
heart leaped when suddenly she heard a cry fall to her out of the gloom.

"Alan, Alan!" she cried, and a great fear was upon her when no answer
came; but at last, with passionate relief, she heard him clambering
slowly down the perilous slope of that obscure place. When he reached
the ledge, he stood still, regarding her.

"Why do you not come into the boat, Alan?" she asked.

"Dear, I have that to tell you which will let you see that I spoke
truth."

She looked at him with parted lips, her breath coming and going like
that of a caged bird.

"What is it, Alan?" she whispered.

"Ynys, when I reached the top of the Altar, and in the dim light that
was there, I saw the dead body of a man lying upon the rock. His head
was lain back so that the gleam from a crevice in the cliff overhead
fell upon it. The man has been dead many hours. He is a man whose
hair has been grayed by years and sorrow, but the man is he who is of
my blood; he whom I resemble so closely; he that the fishermen call
_aonaran nan chreag_; he that is the Herdsman."

Ynys made no reply; still she looked at him with large, wondering eyes.

"Ynys, darling, do you not understand what it is that I say? This man,
that they call the Buchaille Bàn--this man whom you believe to be the
Herdsman of the old legend--is no other than Donnacha Bàn, he who years
and years ago slew his brother and has been an exile ever since on this
lonely island. How could he, then, a man as I am, though with upon him
a worse blood-shadow than lies upon us--how could he tell you aught of
what is to be? What message could he give you that is himself a lost
soul?

"Would you be for following a herdsman who could lead you to no fold?
This man is dead, Ynys; and it is well that you brought me here to-day.
That is a good thing, and for sure God willed it. Out of this all our
new happiness may come. For now we know what is this mysterious shadow
that has darkened our lives ever since we came to Rona. Now we have
knowledge that it was no mere phantom I saw upon the hillside; and now
also we know that he who told you these strange, wild things of which
you speak was no prophet with a message from the world of the spirit,
but a man wrought to madness, a man who for all these years had lived
his lonely, secretive life upon the hills, or among these caves of the
sea. Come, then, dear, and let us go hence. Sure, at the last, it is
well that we have found this way. Come, Ynys, we will go now and never
come here again."

He looked eagerly for her assenting eyes. With pain in his heart,
however, he saw that the dream--the strange, inexplicable fantasy--had
not yet gone out of them. With a sigh, he entered the boat and took her
hand.

"Let us go," she said, and that was all.

Slowly Alan oared the boat across the shadowy gulf of the cave, along
the narrow passage which led therefrom, and out into the pale green
gloom of the arched arcade wherein the sight and sound of the sea made
a music in his ears.

But the short November day was already passing to its end. All the sea
westward was aflame with gold and crimson light, and in the great dome
of the sky a wonderful radiance lifted above the paleness of the clouds
whose pinnacled and bastioned heights towered in the south-west.

A faint wind blew eastwardly; so, raising the sail, Alan made it fast
and then sat down beside Ynys. But she, rising, moved along the boat to
the mast, and leaned there with her face against the setting sun.

Idly they drifted onward. Deep silence prevailed betwixt them; deep
silence was all about them, save for the endless, inarticulate murmur
of the sea, the splash of low waves against the rocks of Rona, and the
sigh of the surf at the base of the basalt precipices.

And this was their homeward sailing on that day of revelation; Ynys,
with her back against the mast, and her face irradiated by the light of
the setting sun; he, steering, with his face in shadow.

On a night of rain and amid the rumor of tempest, three weeks later,
Ynys heard the Laughter of the King, when the child who was to be the
bearer of so fair a destiny lay by her side, white and chill as the
foam thrown up for a brief while upon the rocks by the unheeding sea.


BOOK THIRD

_THE BEAUTY OF THE WORLD_



CHAPTER XV

THE BEAUTY OF THE WORLD


When, once more, the exquisite mystery of spring came upon the world,
there was a not less wonderful rebirth in the heart of Ynys.

With the coming of that child upon whom such high hopes had been
set--its birth, still and quiet as a snowdrop fallen before an icy wind
upon the snow which nurtured it--all the fear of a mysterious Nemesis,
because of her union with Alan despite the shadow of tragic crime which
made that union ominous of evil destiny; all the vague forebodings
which had possessed her ever since she left Kerival; and, at the last,
all the mystic elation with which her mind had become a winged and
wandering spirit, passed from her.

The gloom of that northern winter was tonic to them both. As soon as
her weakness was past, and once more she was able to go about with
Alan, her old joyousness returned. In her eyes it was almost as though
the islanders shared her recovered happiness. For one thing, they
no more avoided her and Alan. With the death of the man who had so
long sustained a mysterious existence upon Rona, their superstitious
aversion went; they ceased to speak of _Am Buchaille Bàn_ and, whether
Donnacha Bàn had found on Rona one of the hidden ways to heaven or had
only dallied upon one of the byways to hell, it was commonly held that
he had paid his death-eric by his lonely and even appalling life of
unredeemed solitude. Now that there was no longer any possibility of
confusion between the outcast who had come to his tragic end, among the
sea caves of Rona, and his kinsman who bore to him so extraordinary a
resemblance, a deep sense of the injustice that had been done to Alan
Carmichael prevailed among the islanders. In many ways they showed
their regret; but most satisfactorily, so far as Alan was concerned, by
taking him as one of themselves; as a man no longer under the shadow
of doom or in any way linked to a disastrous fate.

True, there were still some of the isle folk on Borosay and Barra who
maintained that the man who had been found in the sea cave, whether
Donnacha Bàn or some other, had nothing to do with the mysterious
Herdsman, whose advent, indeed, had long been anticipated by a
section of the older inhabitants. It was only seven years since Murdo
Macphail--better known as Murdo-Bronnach-namhara, Brown Murdoch of
the Sea, from his habit of preaching to the islanders from where he
stood waist-deep in the water--had prophesied that the Herdsman who
was Shepherd of Israel would indeed come again, and that within seven
years. And had he not added that if the Fair Lonely One were not
accepted of the people, there would be deep sorrow for one and all, and
a bitter wrong upon all the isles of the west?

These murmurers now shook their heads and whispered often. Of a truth,
they said, the Herdsman was come as foretold, and Alan Carmichael
was blind indeed not to see that Ynys, his wife, had received a
vision, and, because of her silence, been punished in the death of her
first-born.

But with the white growth of winter, the pleasant, familiar intercourse
that everywhere prevailed wrought finally against the last threadbare
fabric of superstition. Before the glow of the peats the sadness and
gloom slowly dissipated. It was a new delight to both Alan and Ynys to
find that the islanders could be so genial and almost gay, with a love
of laughter and music and grotesque humor which, even in the blithe
little fishing haven of Ploumaliou, they had never seen surpassed.

The cold months passed for them in a quiet content. That could not be
happiness upon which was the shadow of so much pain; but there was
something akin to it in the sweet serenity which came like calm after
storm.

Possibly they might have been content to remain in Rona; to find in
the island their interest and happiness. Ynys, indeed, often longed
to leave the place where she had been so sadly disillusioned; and yet
she did not urge that the home at Caisteal-Rhona should be broken up.
While they were still in this state of quiet suspense, news came that
affected them strangely.

They had had no word from Kerival since they left, but one windy March
day a boat from Borosay put into the haven with letters from Alan's
agents in Edinburgh. Among them was one from the Abbé Cæsar de La
Bruyère, from Kerloek. From this Alan learned strange news.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the very day that he and Ynys had left Kerival, Annaik had
disappeared. None knew where she had gone. At first it was thought
that Judik Kerbastiou had something to do with her absence, but two
days after she had gone he was again at Kerival. The house was a place
of anarchy. No one knew whom to obey; what to do. With the Marquise
Lois in her grave, with both Ynys and Annaik mysteriously absent and
apparently with no intention to return, and with Tristran the Silent
more morosely taciturn than his wont, and more than ever an invalid,
with all this it was difficult for those in authority to exact the
habitual duties. But in addition to this there were the imperious
claims of Judik Kerbastiou, emphasized by his refusal to be addressed
by any other name than the Sieur Jud de Kerival.

When, suddenly, and while quietly dictating a letter, the Marquis
Tristran died, it seemed at last as though Judik's triumph had come.
For a brief while he was even addressed as M. le Marquis. But on
the noon following that day he had a rude awakening. A notary from
Ploumaliou arrived with the family lawyers, and produced a written and
signed confession on the part of the woman whom he had called mother,
that he was not her child at all, that her own child was dead, and
that Kerbastiou was really a forest foundling. As if this were not
enough, the notary also proved, even to the conviction of Judik, that
the written marriage testimony from the parish books was an impudent
forgery.

So the man who had made so abrupt and dramatic an appearance on the
threshold of Kerival had, in the very moment of his triumph, to retreat
once more to his obscurity as a homeless woodlander.

The sole heirs now were Annaik and Ynys, but of neither was any thing
known. The difficulty was partially solved by the abrupt appearance of
Annaik on the day of the second conclave.

For a time thereafter all went well at Kerival. Then rumor began to
spread mysterious whispers about the Lady Annaik. She would see none of
her neighbors, whether from far or near, and even the Sieur de Morvan
and his kith or kin were denied. Then, too, she disappeared for days at
a time. Some thought she went to Ploumaliou or Kerloek, some that she
had gone as far away as Rennes or St. Brieuc, and a few even imagined
the remote Paris to be her goal. None dreamed that she had gone no
further than the forest of Kerival.

But as the autumn waned, rumors became more explicit. Strange things
were said of Annaik de Kerival. At last the anxious Curé of Ploumaliou
took it upon himself to assure all who spoke to him about the Lady of
Kerival that he had good reason to believe she was privately married.
This, at least, drew some of the poison out of the gossip that had
arisen.

Then a day came when the Lady Annaik dismissed the servants at Kerival,
and left none in the house save an old gardener and his wife. She was
going away for a time, she said. She went, and from that day was not
seen again.

Then came, in the Abbé Cæsar de La Bruyère's letter, the strangest part
of the mystery.

Annaik, ever since the departure of Alan and Ynys, had been living the
forest life. All her passionate sylvan and barbaric instincts had been
suddenly aroused. For the green woods and the forest ways she suffered
an intolerable nostalgia. But over and above this was another reason.
It seemed, said the Abbé Cæsar, that she must have returned the rude
love of Judik Kerbastiou. However this might be, she lived with him for
days at a time, and he himself had a copy of their marriage certificate
made out at a registrar's in a remote little hill-town in the Montagnes
Noires.

This union with the morose and strange Judik Kerbastiou had not been
known to any of the peasants until her trouble came to her. When the
day was near she did not return to Kerival, but kept to the gypsy tent
which she shared with Judik. After the birth of the child, every one
knew, and every one marvelled. It was a madness: that was what all
said, from Kerloek to Ploumaliou.

But neither the union nor the child brought happiness to these twain,
so much at one in their woodland life, so hopelessly alien in all else.
One day a man named Iouenn Kerbac'h, passing by the tent where Judik
and Annaik had taken shelter from a violent thunder-storm, overheard a
savage upbraiding on the part of Kerbastiou. Annaik was his wife, it
was true--so he cried--but a wife who had in nothing short of madness
renounced every thing, and now would claim nothing of her own nor allow
him to claim aught; a wife whom he loved with another madness, and yet
hated because she was so hopelessly remote from himself; a wife who
had borne a child, but a child that had nothing of the gypsy eyes and
swarthy darkness of Judik Kerbastiou, but was fair, and with skin as
white and eyes as blue as those of Alan de Kerival.

It was this, and the terrible words that were said, which made Iouenn
Kerbac'h hurry onward, dreading to listen further. Yet nothing that he
overheard gave him so strange a fear as the laugh with which Annaik
de Kerival greeted a savage, screaming threat of death, hurled at her
because of her silence after the taunting accusation he had made ...
had made, and defied her to refute.

None heard or saw Annaik Kerbastiou after that day, till the night of
the evening when Judik came into Haut-Kerloek and went straight to
Jehan Rusgol, the Maire.

When asked what he had come for he had replied simply: "The woman
Annaik is dead." It was commonly thought that he had killed her, but
there was no evidence of this, and the end of the inevitable legal
procedure was the acquittal of the woodlander. From that day the man
was rarely seen of his fellows, and even then, for the most part, only
by charcoal-burners and others who had forest business. A few peasants
knew where his hut was, and now and again called to speak with him, or
to drink a cup of cider; but oftener than not he was absent, and always
with the child. The boy had survived his mother's death, and in some
strange way had suddenly become so dear to Judik Kerbastiou that the
two were inseparable.

This, then, was the tidings which startled Alan and Ynys out of their
remote quiescence.

The unexpected news, coupled with the urgent request that both should
return to Kerival, if only for a brief while, so as to prevent the
property falling into absolute ruin, came as a whip upon Alan's mind.
To all he said Ynys agreed, and was even glad to leave Rona and return
to Brittany.

       *       *       *       *       *

So it was that, with the first days of April, they bade farewell to Ian
and his sister, whom they left at Caisteal-Rhona, which was henceforth
to be their home, and to all upon the island, and set forth in a
fishing smack for Borosay.

It was not till the last of the precipices of Rona was lost to view
behind the south headland of Borosay that Ynys clearly realized the
deep gladness with which she left the lonely Isle of the Caves. That it
would have been impossible for her to live there long she was now well
assured; and for Alan, too, the life was not suitable. For the north,
and for the islands, they would ever have a deep feeling, almost sacred
in its intensity; but all that had happened made living there a thing
difficult and painful for them, and moreover each, though Ynys most,
missed that green woodland beauty, the ceaseless forest charm, which
made the very memory of Kerival so fragrant.

They went away, then, not as travellers who fare far with no thought of
return, but rather as pilgrims returning homeward from a shrine sacred
to them by profound and intimate associations.

That was, indeed, for them a strange home-going. From the first there
was something dreamlike, unreal, about that southward flight; in the
long sail across Hebrid seas, calm as glass until the south headlands
of Mull were passed, and then storm-swept; in the rapid journey across
Scotland and through England; and in the recrossing of that narrow sea
which had once seemed to them a gulf of ultimate division.

But when once more they saw the grotesque bulbous spire of Ploumaliou
rising above the sand-dunes by which, from St. Malo, they approached
the dear, familiar country, all this uncertainty went from them. With
light hearts they realized it was indeed true; that they were free at
last of a life for which they were now unfitted, and that the lost
threads in the maze had been found.

By their own wish the home-coming was so private that none knew of
it save the doctor, the Curé, the lawyer who accompanied them from
Ploumaliou, and the old gardener and his wife. As they neared the
château from the north, Alan and Ynys alighted from the dishevelled
carriage which was the sole vehicle of which Ploumaliou could boast. M.
Auriol could drive on alone; for themselves, they chose to reach their
home by the dunes and scattered pines, and thence by the yew close
behind the manor-house.

The day was windless and of a serene beauty. Ever since noon the few
clouds, suspensive in the azure flood like islets of snow, had waned
till they were faint and light as blown swan's-down, then filmy as
vapor lifted against the sun, and at last were no more visible; there
had been the same unfathomable depths of azure, through which the
tides of light imperceptibly ebbed from the zenith. The sea, too, was
of a vivid though motionless blue, save where luminous with a white
sheen or wrought with violet shadows and straits of amethyst. Upon the
land lay a golden peace. A richer glow involved the dunes, where the
pine-shadows cast long, motionless blue shapes. As, hand in hand, Ynys
and Alan moved athwart the pine glade whence they could pass at once
either westward into the cypress alley or eastward through the yew
close, they stopped instinctively. Beyond them rose the chimneys and
gables of the House of Kerival, strangely still and remote, for all
their familiar look. What a brief while ago it seemed since he and she
had walked under these pines, wrought by the first ecstasy of their
virginal love. Then, those who now lay quiet in the darkness of the
earth were alive; Lois de Kerival, with her repressed, passionate heart
still at last; the Marquis Tristran, with the young grass growing soft
and green over his bitterness; Alasdair Carmichael, with the echo of
the island waves stilled under the quiet bells of the little church
which guarded the grave-yard of St. Blaise; and Annaik--poor lost waif
of beautiful womanhood, submerged forever in the green woods she loved
so well, and sleeping so sound a sleep at last in an unmarked hollow
beneath an ancient tree in some obscure glade or alley.

A shadow was in Alan's eyes--a deeper shadow than that caused by
thought of the dead who lay heedless and listless, at once so near and
such depths away--a deeper shadow than that cast by memory of the crime
which overlay the past.

As his eyes wandered to the cypress alley, his heart knew again a
pain almost beyond endurance; a pain that only the peace of Rona had
translated into a strong acquiescence in the irrevocable past--a pain
become less haunting under the stress of all which had happened in
connection with the Herdsman, till it knew a bitter resurrection when
Alan came to read of the tragic fate of the woman who had loved him.

Through some wayward impulse Ynys abruptly asked him to go with her
through the cypress alley, so that they should approach the château
from the forest.

Silently, and with downcast eyes, he walked by her side, his hand
still in hers. But his thoughts were with the dead woman, on the
bitter hazard of love, and on what lay, forever secret, between Annaik
and himself. And as he communed with himself, in an austere pain of
remembrance, he came to see more and more clearly that in some strange
way the Herdsman episode, with all involved therein, was no arbitrary
chance in the maze of life, but a definite working out of destiny. None
could ever know what Annaik had foretold, had known, on that terrible
night when the silence of the moonlit peace was continuously rent by
the savage screams of the peacocks; nor could any other than himself
discern, against the dark tapestries of what veiled his inner life, the
weaving of an inextricable web.

It was difficult for him to believe that she was dead--Annaik, who had
always been so radiantly, superbly alive. Now there was dust upon that
wonderful bronze hair; darkness upon those lambent eyes; no swift pulse
beating in the red tide in the veins; a frost against the heart. What
a burden it had carried, poor heart! "Oh, Annaik, Annaik!" he muttered
below his breath, "what a hard wayfaring because of a passion crucified
upon the bitter tree of despair; what a fierce, silent, unwavering
tyranny over the rebellious voices crying unceasingly from every nerve,
or swept this way and that on every stormy tide of blood."

That Annaik who loved the forest so passing well, and in whom the green
fire of life flamed consumingly, should no longer be alive to rejoice
in the glory of spring, now once again everywhere involving the brown
earth and the purple branches, was an almost unrealizable thing. To
walk in that cypress alley once more; to cross that open glade with its
single hawthorn; to move in the dark green shadow of that yew close; to
do this and remember all that Annaik had suffered, and that now she lay
quiet and beyond all pain or joy to touch her, was to Alan a thought
almost too poignant to be borne.

It was with an effort he answered Ynys when she spoke, and it was in
silence that they entered the house which was now their home, and
where--years ago, as it seemed--they had been young and happy.

But that night he sat alone for a time in the little room in the tower
which rose from the east wing of Kerival--the room he had fitted up as
an observatory, similar, on a smaller scale, to that in the Tour de
l'Ile where he had so deeply studied the mystery of the starry world.
Here he had dreamed many dreams, and here he dreamed yet another.

For out of his thoughts about Annaik and Ynys arose a fuller, a deeper
conception of Womanhood. How well he remembered a legend that Ynys had
told him on Rona: a legend of a fair spirit which goes to and fro
upon the world, the Weaver of Tears. He loves the pathways of sorrow.
His voice is low and sweet, with a sound like the bubbling of waters
in that fount whence the rainbows rise. His eyes are in quiet places,
and in the dumb pain of animals as in the agony of the human brain:
but most he is found, oftenest are the dewy traces of his feet, in the
heart of woman.

Tears, tears! They are not the saltest tears which are on the lids of
those who weep. Fierce tears there are, hot founts of pain in the mind
of many a man, that are never shed, but slowly crystallize in furrows
on brow and face, and in deep weariness in the eyes; fierce tears,
unquenchable, in the heart of many a woman, whose brave eyes look
fearlessly at life; whose dauntless courage goes forth daily to die,
but never to be vanquished.

In truth the Weaver of Tears abides in the heart of Woman. O Mother of
Pity, of Love, of deep Compassion! with thee it is to yearn forever
for the ideal human; to bring the spiritual love into fusion with
human desire; endlessly to strive, endlessly to fail; always to hope
in spite of disillusion; to love unswervingly against all baffling
and misunderstanding, and even forgetfulness! O Woman, whose eyes are
always stretched out to her erring children, whose heart is big enough
to cover all the little children in the world, and suffer with their
sufferings, and joy with their joys! Woman, whose other divine names
are Strength and Patience, who is no girl, no Virgin, because she has
drunk too deeply of the fount of Life to be very young or very joyful.
Upon her lips is the shadowy kiss of death; in her eyes is the shadow
of birth. She is the veiled interpreter of the two mysteries. Yet what
joyousness like hers, when she wills; because of her unwavering hope,
her inexhaustible fount of love?

So it was that, just as Alan had long recognized as a deep truth how
the spiritual nature of man has been revealed to humanity in many
divine incarnations, so he had come to believe that the spiritual
nature of woman has been revealed in the many Marys, sisters of the
Beloved, who have had the keys of the soul and the heart in their
unconscious keeping. In this exquisite truth he knew a fresh and vivid
hope. Was it all a dream that Ynys had dreamed, far away among the
sea arcades of Rona? Had the Herdsman, the Shepherd of Souls, indeed
revealed to her that a child was to be born who would be one of the
redeemers of the world? A Woman Saviour, who would come near to all of
us, because in her heart would be the blind tears of the child, and the
bitter tears of the man, and the patient tears of the woman; who would
be the Compassionate One, with no end or aim but compassion--with no
doctrine to teach, no way to show, but only deep, wonderful, beautiful,
inalienable, unquenchable compassion?

For, in truth, there is the divine, eternal feminine counterpart to the
divine, eternal male, and both are needed to explain the mystery of the
dual Spirit within us--the mystery of the Two in One, so infinitely
stranger and more wonderful than that triune life which the blind
teachers of the blind have made a rock of stumbling and offence out of
a truth clear and obvious as noon.

We speak of Mother Nature, but we do not discern the living truth
behind our words. How few of us have the vision of this great brooding
Mother, whose garment is the earth and sea, whose head is pillowed
among the stars; she who, with Death and Sleep as her familiar shapes,
soothes and rests all the weariness of the world, from the waning leaf
to the beating pulse; from the brief span of a human heart to the
furrowing of granite brows by the uninterrupted sun, the hounds of rain
and wind, and the untrammelled airs of heaven.

Not cruel, relentless, impotently anarchic, chaotically potent, this
Mater Genetrix. We see her thus, who are flying threads in the loom she
weaves. But she is patient, abiding, certain, inviolate, and silent
ever. It is only when we come to this vision of her whom we call
Isis or Hera or Orchil, or one of a hundred other names, our unknown
Earth-Mother, that men and women will know each other aright, and go
hand in hand along the road of Life without striving to crush, to
subdue, to usurp, to retaliate, to separate.

Ah, fair vision of humanity to come! man and woman side by side, sweet,
serene, true, simple, natural, fulfilling Earth's and Heaven's behests;
unashamed, unsophisticated, unaffected, each to each and for each;
children of one mother, inheritors of a like destiny, and, at the last,
artificers of an equal fate.

Pondering thus, Alan rose and looked out into the night. In that great
stillness, wherein the moonlight lay like the visible fragrance of the
earth, he gazed long and intently. How shadowy, now, were these lives
that had so lately palpitated in this very place; how strange their
silence, their incommunicable knowledge, their fathomless peace!

Was it all lost ... the long endurance of pain, the pangs of sorrow? If
so, what was the lesson of life? Surely, to live with sweet serenity
and gladness, content against the inevitable hour. There is solace of a
kind in the idea of a common end, of that terrible processional march
of life wherein the myriad is momentary, and the immeasurable is but a
passing shadow. But, alas! it is only solace of a kind; for what heart
that has beat to the pulse of love can relinquish the sweet dream of
life, and what coronal can philosophy put upon the brows of youth in
place of eternity?

No, no! of this he felt sure. In the Beauty of the World lies the
ultimate redemption of our mortality. When we shall become at one with
nature, in a sense profounder even than the poetic imaginings of most
of us, we shall understand what now we fail to discern. The arrogance
of those who would have the stars as candles for our night, and the
universe as a pleasaunce for our thought, will be as impossible as the
blind fatuity of those who say we are of dust, briefly vitalized, that
shall be dust again, with no fragrance saved from the rude bankruptcy
of life, no beauty raised up against the sun to bloom anew.

It is no idle dream, this; no idle dream that we are a perishing clan
among the sons of God, because of this slow waning of our joy, of our
passionate delight in the Beauty of the World. We have been unable to
look out upon the shining of our star, for the vision overcomes us; and
we have used veils which we call "scenery," "picturesqueness," and the
like--poor, barren words that are so voiceless and remote before the
rustle of leaves and the lap of water; before the ancient music of the
wind, and all the sovran eloquence of the tides of light. But a day may
come--nay, shall surely come--when indeed the poor and the humble shall
inherit the earth; they who have not made a league with temporal evils,
and out of whose heart shall arise the deep longing, that shall become
universal, of the Renewal of Youth.

       *       *       *       *       *

Often, in the days that followed their return to Kerival, Alan and Ynys
talked of these hopes and fears. And, gradually, out of the beauty
of the spring, out of the intensity of the green fire of life which
everywhere flamed in the brown earth, on the hills, in the waters, in
the heart and brain of man, in the whole living, breathing world, was
born of them a new joy. They were as the prince and princess of the
fairy tales, for whom every thing was wonderful. Hand in hand they
entered into the kingdom of youth. It was theirs, thenceforth; and all
the joy of the world.

To live, and love, and be full of a deep joy, a glad content, a
supporting hope! What destiny among the stars fairer than this?

They would be harbingers of joy. That was what they said, one to
another. They would be so glad with sweet life that others would
rejoice; out of their strength they would strengthen, out of their joy
they would gladden, out of their peace they would comfort, out of their
knowledge they would be compassionate.

Nor was their dream an unfulfilled vision. As the weeks slipped into
months, and the months lapsed into years, Alan and Ynys realized all
that it is possible for man and woman to know of happiness. Happiness,
duties, claims held them to Kerival; but there they lived in fair
comradeship with their fellows, with the green forest, with all that
nature had to give them for their delight through wind and wave,
through shadow and shine, through changing seasons and the exquisite
hazard of every passing hour.

To them both, too, came the added joy which they feared had been
forfeited at Rona. When Ynys felt the child's hands on her breast,
she was as one transformed by a light out of heaven. Alan, looking at
mother and child, understood, with all his passion for the intimate
wonder and mystery of nature, the deeper truth in the words of one of
the greatest of men ... "the Souls of the Living are the Beauty of the
World."

That sometimes a shadow fell was inevitable. None ever so dusked the
sun-way of Alan's mind as when, remote in the forest of Kerival, he
came upon the unkempt figure of Judik Kerbastiou, often carrying upon
his shoulder a little child whose happy laughter was sweet to hear, in
whose tawny hair was a light such as had gleamed in Annaik's, and whose
eyes were blue as the north seas and as Alan's were.

Often, too, Alan, alone in his observatory, where he was wont to
spend much of his time, knew that strange nostalgia of the mind for
impossible things. Then, wrought for a while from his vision of green
life, and flamed by another green fire than that born of the earth,
he dreamed his dream. With him, the peopled solitude of night was a
concourse of confirming voices. He did not dread the silence of the
stars--the cold remoteness of the stellar fire.

In that other watch-tower in Paris, where he had spent the best hours
of his youth, he had loved that nightly watch of the constellations.
Now, as then, in the pulse of the planets he found assurances which
Faith had not given him. In the vast, majestic order of that nocturnal
march, that diurnal retreat, he had learned the law of the whirling
leaf and the falling star; of the slow, æon-delayed comet and of the
slower wane of solar fires. Looking with visionary eyes into that
congregation of stars, he realized, not the littleness of the human
dream but its divine impulsion. It was only when, after long vigils
into the quietudes of night, he turned his gaze from the palaces of the
unknown, and thought of the baffled, fretful swarming in the cities of
men, that his soul rose in revolt against the sublime ineptitude of
man's spiritual leaguer against destiny.

Destiny--_An Dan_--it was a word familiar to him since childhood,
when first he had heard it on the lips of old Ian Macdonald. And
once, on the eve of the Feast of Paschal, when Alan had asked Daniel
Darc what was the word which the stars spelled from zenith to nadir,
the astronomer had turned and answered simply, "_C'est le Destin_."
But Alan was of the few to whom this talismanic word opens lofty
perspectives, even while it obscures those paltry vistas which we deem
unending and dignify with vain hopes and void immortalities.


THE END

  Transcriber's Note

  Variations in spelling, punctuation and hyphenation have been retained
  except in obvious cases of typographical errors.

  Italics are shown thus _italic_.





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