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Title: Lochinvar - A Novel
Author: Crockett, S. R. (Samuel Rutherford)
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Lochinvar - A Novel" ***

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[Illustration:

                                        [Page 306

"WAT'S HAND MOSTLY ON HIS SWEETHEART'S SHOULDER"]



  LOCHINVAR

  A Novel


  BY

  S. R. CROCKETT
  AUTHOR OF "THE GRAY MAN" ETC.


  ILLUSTRATED

  BY T. DE THULSTRUP


  [Illustration]


  HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
  NEW YORK AND LONDON
  1898



BY S. R. CROCKETT.

    THE GRAY MAN. A Novel. Illustrated. Post 8vo, Cloth,


  HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS,
  NEW YORK AND LONDON.


Copyright, 1897, BY HARPER & BROTHERS.

_All rights reserved._



CONTENTS


   CHAPTER                                                        PAGE
           FOREWORD TO THE TALE                                      1
        I. FROM LIKING TO LOVE                                      18
       II. WHY KATE HATED LOCHINVAR                                 29
      III. THE BULL, THE CALF, AND THE KILLER                       38
       IV. THE DUEL AT THE INN OF BREDERODE                         46
        V. HAXO THE BULL INTERFERES                                 58
       VI. THE PRINCE OF ORANGE                                     68
      VII. MISTRESS MAISIE LENNOX, DIPLOMATIST                      74
     VIII. THE STREET OF THE BUTCHERY                               83
       IX. MY LORD OF BARRA                                         90
        X. THE DESCENT OF AVERNUS                                  100
       XI. THE HEARTS OF WOMEN                                     114
      XII. THE PRISON OF AMERSFORT                                 120
     XIII. MY LORD OF BARRA'S VOW                                  126
      XIV. MAISIE'S NIGHT QUEST                                    133
       XV. A NIGHT OF STORM                                        140
      XVI. THE BREAKING OF THE PRISON                              146
     XVII. JACK SCARLETT CALLS HIMSELF A FOOL                      155
    XVIII. A PERILOUS MEETING                                      164
      XIX. THE BATTLE OF THE DUNES                                 172
       XX. CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN                                     179
      XXI. THE GOOD SHIP _SEA UNICORN_                             187
     XXII. WISE JAN PETTIGREW                                      192
    XXIII. WISE JAN WAXES WISER                                    200
     XXIV. MADCAP MEHITABEL                                        206
      XXV. TRUE LOVE AND PIGNUTS                                   212
     XXVI. A BOAT IN SIGHT AT SULISCANNA                           219
    XXVII. THE TIDE-RACE OF SULISCANNA                             223
   XXVIII. JOHN SCARLETT COMES ASHORE                              230
     XXIX. WAT'S ISLE OF REFUGE                                    236
      XXX. WAT SWIMS THE WATER CAVERN                              243
     XXXI. BESS LANDSBOROUGH'S CATECHISM                           249
    XXXII. THE SURRENDER OF THE BELOVED                            256
   XXXIII. AN ANCIENT LOVE AFFAIR                                  262
    XXXIV. CAPTOR AND CAPTIVE                                      270
     XXXV. SKIRTING THE BREAKERS                                   279
    XXXVI. PASSAGE PERILOUS                                        286
   XXXVII. THE ISLE OF BLISS                                       292
  XXXVIII. MISFORTUNATE COLIN                                      302
    XXXIX. SATAN SPIES OUT PARADISE                                311
       XL. SERPENT'S EGGS                                          318
      XLI. LOVE THAT THINKETH NO EVIL                              324
     XLII. THE FIERY CROSS                                         331
    XLIII. COLL O' THE COWS                                        336
     XLIV. GREAT DUNDEE                                            343
      XLV. KILLIEKRANKIE                                           350
     XLVI. THE LEAGUER OF DUNKELD                                  359
    XLVII. THE GOLDEN HEART                                        365
   XLVIII. THE MASTER COMES HOME                                   373
     XLIX. THE CURATE OF DALRY                                     380
        L. LOCHINVAR KEEPS TRYST                                   386
       LI. THE BRIDE'S LOVING-CUP                                  391
      LII. CATCH THEM WHO CAN!                                     397
     LIII. WITHIN THE KING'S MERCY                                 402
           EPILOGUE OF SUPEREROGATION                              408



ILLUSTRATIONS


  "WAT'S HAND MOSTLY ON HIS SWEETHEART'S SHOULDER"      _Frontispiece_
                                                           _Facing p._
  "'I WILL TAKE MY OWN LOVE-TOKEN'"                                 32
  "SCARLETT THUNDERED ON THE PANELS WITH THE HILT OF HIS SWORD"     64
  "THE GENTLEMAN INSTANTLY ATTACKED THEM FURIOUSLY"                 90
  "THE MAN CARRIED HER EASILY THROUGH THE SURF"                    144
  "A COUPLE OF PISTOL-SHOTS RANG OUT LOUDLY"                       176
  "THE SELF-SATISFACTION FLICKERED OUT OF HIS FACE"                204
  "THEN THE SWIRLING TIDE-RACE TOOK HOLD OF HER"                   226
  "A GIGANTIC HIGHLANDER WITH A NAKED CLAYMORE BY HIS SIDE"        250
  "WAT PUSHED OFF IN THE SMALLER BOAT"                             284
  "STRIDING FORWARD FRANKLY AND GIVING A HAND TO EACH"             338
  "HE FELL INWARD AMONG THE WOUNDED"                               362
  "WITH HIS LOVE BETWEEN HIS ARMS"                                 398



LOCHINVAR

  FOREWORD TO THE TALE, TELLING WHAT BEFELL AT THE HOUSE OF BALMAGHIE
    IN THE YEAR OF GRACE 1685, AND HOW MY LADY WELLWOOD PARTED TWO
    YOUNG LOVERS


"Aye," said Mistress Crombie, house-keeper to Roger McGhie,
Laird of Balmaghie, a considerable house in the south-lying and
better-cultivated part of the wild lands of Galloway--"aye, indeed, ye
may well say it, Alisoun Begbie. It is a wondrous and most ungentle
thing when the doe seeks the hart--panting and brayin' for a man, as
the Guid Buik says. And saw ye ever sic feathers?--I declare they
nearly soopit the floor. My Lady Wellwood, or no my Lady Wellwood, I
trow she didna come ridin' by the hoose o' Balmaghie only to ask the
time o' day, upsetting besom that she is!"

During this harangue Alisoun Begbie was clattering about among her
bottles and dishes in the stone-flagged, slate-shelved still-room
which constituted her pantry. A few minutes before she had cried
mischievously out of the window to Lang Wat, the new under-gardener of
Balmaghie, to the effect that "siccan a guid-lookin' chiel should be
seen oftener about the house--but that she, Alisoun Begbie, was not
wanting anything to do with the likes of him. She could get plenty
of lads, and it was weel-kenned that the Glenkens' folk aye took up
wi' their ain folk at ony rate." But as soon as the "bauchles"[A]
of Mistress Crombie, the shrill-tempered house-keeper, were heard
scuffling up the stairs, Alisoun made a pretty warning face of
silence at Lang Wat, and tossed her head to intimate that some one
approached from behind; so that, without making any verbal answer,
the under-gardener resumed his occupation of the moment, which was
the pruning and grafting of sundry rose-bushes--the pride and care of
Mistress Kate McGhie, the "young leddy" of the great house of Balmaghie.

        [A] Certain heelless and shapeless slippers, characteristic
            of the district.

"Na, 'deed, Alisoun Begbie," cried Mistress Crombie once more, from
the cheek of the door, "believe me when I tell ye that sic a braw city
madam--and a widow forbye--doesna bide about an auld disjaskit rickle
o' stanes like the Hoose o' the Grenoch withoot haeing mair in her head
than just sending warnings to Clavers aboot the puir muirland folk,
that keep their misguided conventicles up ayont there, and pray a'
nicht in the lirks o' the hills and the black hags o' the peat-mosses."

"Aye, ye may say so, 'deed, mistress," agreed Alisoun, keeping an eye
upon the window of her pantry, through which she could see Lang Wat
bending his back among the rose-bushes. Spite of his good looks, he
had proved himself a singularly flinty-hearted fellow-servitor, and
ill to set to the wooing. But Alisoun had still hopes of him. She had
succeeded with some difficult--indeed, almost hopeless--cases in her
time, and the very unresponsive nature of the young Glenkens' gardener
stirred her ambition to brighter and more inviting glances, as well as
to gayer and ever daintier ribbons.

But in spite of both loving looks and lovers' knots, Lang Wat neither
succumbed nor yet appeared so much as conscious of her regard. Truly a
marvellous young man--such as had never come within the sphere of the
comely handmaiden's influence before.

"Weel, I'se warrant my lady needna set her cap at our maister," said
Alisoun Begbie, willing to agree with the powerful and cantankerous
house-keeper: "Na, Roger McGhie o' Balmaghie has his wits aboot him.
Surely it is a terrible thing when a woman so far forgets hersel' as to
set her cap for a man."

And pretty Alisoun glanced at the silver salver she was polishing, in
order to be sure that her silken snood was in its proper place, and
that the braids of her hair were drawn back smoothly and daintily from
her brow. Being reassured on these points, she resumed the salver with
renewed complaisance. Lang Wat was now standing meditatively outside,
quite near the house, and with his face turned towards her window. He
was leaning upon his spade; any moment he might look up. Pretty Alisoun
Begbie breathed upon the silver with a certain seductive pouting of her
lips, rubbed the place clear, breathed again upon it, and last of all
frowned alluringly at it--for the very excellent reason that one of her
former admirers had incautiously told her that such frowning became her
mightily. But in spite of all, Lang Wat remained rapt in abstractest
meditation. At which Alisoun Begbie tossed her head and frowned
again--not this time for picturesque reasons, but in good earnest.

"He micht at least have kissed his hand, the silly cuif!" she said,
half to herself, looking resentfully at the impervious under-gardener
of Balmaghie.

"What!" cried Mistress Crombie, "kissed his hand, indeed, ye
daft-speaking, licht-headed hizzie! I hope that my maister has
something else to do than to gang kissin' his hand to a' the
high-flyin' madams that likes to come aboot the hoose--wi' their auld
guidmen hardly cauld in their coffins, and as much paint on their
impudent faces as wad serve for the body o' a trail cart. Kiss his
hand to her, indeed! Na, na, set her up; a deal less than that will
serve her."

A stir was heard at the top of the stairs which led up from the
still-room, among the cool recesses of which this conversation had been
proceeding between Mistress Crombie and her favorite assistant.

"Dear sirs, that's the maister himsel', I declare," said the
house-keeper, looking cautiously up, "and dressed in his Sunday
breeks--mercy on us!--and his best coat wi' the new lace on the
collar, and the cuffs that I laid aside for the next burial or siclike
festivity. But--Lord preserve us!--here on a Wednesday he maun gang and
put them on! The man's surely gane clean mad. He shall sup sorrow like
sowens for this yet, and that will be seen."

"Maybe he has been kissin' mair than his ain hand," said Alisoun
Begbie, slyly. She was still smarting from her rebuke by the
house-keeper; besides which, Lang Wat would not look up.

Mistress Crombie started as if she had been stung.

"Save us!" she cried, "do ye think so? Then a' our good days aboot
the hoose o' the Balmaghie are numbered! Oh, the bonny place, where
I thocht to end my days wi' a guid maister and a kindly! Oh, women,
women--what hae ye no to answer for, upsettin' a' plans, stirrin' up a'
ill, pu'in' doon a' guid! Eh, Alisoun, but what a paradise the world
wad be wi' only men in it, and no a woman frae end to end o't--_forbye
mysel'_--whatna Gairden o' Eden wad that no make!"

But the eyes of Alisoun Begbie were fastened on a certain shaded
nook among the rose-bushes, wherein a pretty enough comedy was being
enacted; though, be it said, one little to the taste of the still-room
maid. Mistress Crombie, had she been observant, might have discovered
abundant cause to find fault with her maid's diligence and attention
to the details of her duty during the next half-hour. But luckily for
Alisoun Begbie, that good though suspicious lady had betaken herself
indignantly up-stairs. There, with haughty head tossing in the air and
a certain ominously aggrieved silence, she proceeded to meditate upon
the other details of her master's attire--his Sunday shoes with silver
buckles, his ribbons of pale blue at the knee, and especially the grand
new wig of the latest court fashion, which Colonel John Graham of
Claverhouse had brought all the way in his saddle-bag from Robin Rae's,
the periwig-maker in the Lawnmarket, the last time he rode to Edinburgh
to consult with the Lords of the Privy Council.

Now, what Alisoun Begbie watched behind the rosebushes was this:

She saw the under-gardener, "Lang Wat o' the Glenkens," as he was
called about the house, in close and kindly converse with Mistress Kate
McGhie, the only daughter of the house and heiress of her father's
wide estates. She had come, a tall and graceful maid attired in white,
lightfoot down a shady garden-path, the sunshine and the leaves
together flecking her white dress with wavering shadows, her dark,
shapely head thrown a little back, her chin tilted somewhat defiantly
in the air, and her broad summer hat a-swing in her left hand. Fitfully
she hummed a tune, but whenever she forgot the words (which was very
often) the song dropped, and, without the least break of continuity,
proceeded on its way as a whistle. And in either case the sounds
proceeded, so thought the under-gardener, from the prettiest and most
appetizing mouth in the world.

Indeed, as soon as Mistress Kate came within hearing distance of him,
Lang Wat promptly swept his broad bonnet from his head in salute, and
told her so. Which, when one thinks of it, was a considerable liberty
for an under-gardener to take.

But the lady received the compliment not amiss, being to all
appearance neither elated nor astonished. Was she not Kate McGhie of
Balmaghie, and had she not been accustomed to be told that she was
beautiful as long as she could remember? Consistent and continuous
admiration had become familiar to her as the air she breathed, and had
done her as little harm. It seemed to Kate as natural that she should
be assured that she was winsome as to be told that she had a good
appetite. And the information affected her equally in either case.
Since her very tenderest years there had been but one dissentient voice
in this chorus of universal love and admiration--a certain small boy
from the Glenkens, a laird's son, one Walter Gordon of Lochinvar, who
had come to the house of Balmaghie on a visit with his father, and had
enshrined his dissent in a somewhat memorable form.

For, by the common bruit of the country-side, the girl had been
denominated--while yet but a child with great hazel eyes that promised
dangerous things, and a tossing fleece of curls--the Pride of
Balmaghie. And the maid herself, when asked her name, was accustomed to
reply frankly:

      "I is little Kate McGhie--
      What everybody loves."

But this same Gordon lad from the Glenkens, scornful in the pride of
half a dozen years of superior age, never heard the phrase without
adding his own contemptuous disclaimer, "Little brute, _I_ don't love
her."

Nevertheless, the time came when the scorner recanted his renunciation.
And that time was now, under the garden trees of the house of Balmaghie
and the jealous eyes of Alisoun Begbie. For "Lang Wat o' the Glenkens,"
under-gardener to Roger McGhie of Balmaghie, was none other than Walter
Gordon, the young laird of Lochinvar, fallen into ill-odor with the
King's government--both in the matter of the wounding of my Lord of
Wellwood, and as being suspected of companying and intercommuning with
the wild Whigs of the hills. For the times bore hard on all such as
were of doubtful loyalty, and fines and confiscations were the least
those had to expect who refused to side openly with the blusterous
riders and galloping compellers of the King's forces. The blaze of
muskets in face of a stone wall, the ever-busy rope in the Grassmarket
of Edinburgh (where during two brisk years of the "Killing Time" the
hangman needed a new "tow" every month from the Town Council, and
the pay of an additional assistant whenever "he was overthrong with
the hanging of so many Westland men")--these and other symptoms of
troublous times sent many well-disposed and innocent folk into hiding.

But it was not alone the superior advantages of Balmaghie as a
hiding-place which had brought Wat Gordon of Lochinvar thither
in search of shelter. It might rather be the sweeping, darksome
under-curve of Kate McGhie's eyelashes, and the little specks of light
which swam and sparkled in the depths of her hazel eyes, like the
shredded gold in that rare liqueur which John Scarlett, the famous
master-at-arms, had brought back with him last year from Dantzig.

Not that Wat Gordon was very deeply or seriously in love. He dallied
and daintied with it rather. True--he thought about love and the making
of it night and day, and (for the time being) his ideal and liege lady
was the young mistress of the house of Balmaghie.

And Kate McGhie, knowing him for what he was, and being (unlike her
father, but like most of the women-folk of Scotland) a sympathizer
with the oppressed of the Covenant, showed no small kindness to the
under-gardener.

She was a maiden left much alone. She was at the age when love is still
an insubstantial, rosy dream, yet few youths of her own quality were
ever encouraged to come about her father's house. So that her pity and
her admiration were the more easily engaged on behalf of the handsome
and unfortunate young laird who told her at least ten times a day (when
he had the chance) that he was as willing as any Jacob to serve seven
years, and seven to the back of that, in the hope of such a Rachel. For
even before he began to do more than play with true love, Wat Gordon
had a gift of love-making which might have wiled a bird off a tree.

Yet, for all that, when he came to practise on Kate McGhie, he wiled
in vain. For the girl was buttressed and defended by a lifetime of
admiration from all who came about her--by her father's adoration, the
devotion of every man, woman, and child about the house of Balmaghie,
and, above all, by the repute of reigning beauty athwart all the
country-side. So, though she might think well enough of Wat Gordon,
that handsome exile from his heritages and lordships now in picturesque
hiding as her father's under-gardener, she was (so at least she told
herself) in no danger of permitting that liking to develop into any
feeling more dangerous or more exacting.

So these two fenced, each of them in their own way, right gallantly
with lightsome love; while the love that is not lightsome, but strong
as death, smiled out upon them from behind the rose-bushes, and lay in
wait for one and the other.

Presently, while they were yet talking and Alisoun Begbie still
carefully observant of them, the front door of the house of Balmaghie
opened wide, and the laird himself came down the steps looking a little
dashed and shamefaced, for Mistress Crombie had ushered him to the door
with ironic state and ceremony.

"Dootless your honor is on his way to pay duty to the King's
Commissioner at Kirkcudbright," she said, with pointed sarcasm which
the shy laird did not know well how to parry. "But ye hae forgotten
your pearl studs in your sark, and the wee hangie-swordie o' the court
that will no draw oot o' its scabbard, nor so muckle as hurt a flea."

"I thank you, mistress," said Roger, not daring to look at his too
faithful domestic, "but I go not so far afield as to see His Majesty's
Commissioner. 'Tis but the matter of a visitor whom we must expect this
forenoon. See that some collation is prepared for her."

"_Her!_" ejaculated Mistress Crombie, with an indescribable accent of
surprise, not unmingled with scorn. "_Her_--we are to hae the company
o' a great lady, nae doot. And this the first that your humble servant
and house-keeper has heard o' the matter! 'Collation,' quo' he? Whatna
dinner do ye think can be got ready between eleven and twa o' the clock
on a Wednesday, wi' a' the lasses at the washin' except Alisoun Begbie,
and nocht in the larder forbye twa pookit chuckie-hens, that came frae
the Boat Craft less than half an hour since?"

"But, surely, these will do very well," said Roger McGhie, with
increasing nervousness. "'Tis only my Lady of Wellwood, who rides over
from the Grenoch."

For in truth he had been afraid to mention the matter to Mistress
Crombie, and so had put off till it was too late--as the manner of men
is.

"I forgot to acquaint you with the fact before; it--ah--it altogether
escaped my memory," said he, beginning to pull his gloves on as he
descended the steps.

"But ye didna forget to put on your Sunday claes, Laird Balmaghie,"
cried the privileged domestic after him, sarcastically; "nor did your
best silken hose nor your silver buckles escape your memory! And ye
minded brawly to scent your ruffles wi' cinnamon and rosemary. Ye dinna
forget ony o' thae things--that were important, and maitters o' life
and death, as one might say. It only escaped your memory to tell your
puir feckless auld house-keeper to mak' ony provision for your dainty
dames and court leddies. Ou aye, it maitters little for the like o'
her--Marion Crombie, that has only served ye for forty year, and never
wranged ye o' a fardin's-worth. Dinna waste a thought on her, puir auld
woman, though she should die in a hedge-root, so long as ye can hae a
great repair o' powdered weemen and galloping frisk-me-denties to come
ridin' aboot your hoose."

But whatever else Mistress Crombie might have had to say to her master
was lost in the clatter of hoofs and the stir and bustle of a new
arrival.

Up the avenue came a bold horsewoman riding a spirited bay, reining
it like a man as she stayed her course on the river gravel before the
front door and sent the stones spraying from its fore-feet at the halt.
The new-comer wore a plumed hat and the riding-dress of red, which,
together with her warm sympathies with the "persecutors," caused my
Lady Wellwood to be known in the country-side as "The Scarlet Woman."
She was a handsome dame of forty, or mayhap a little more; but, save
for the more pronounced arching of her haughty nose and the rounding
curves of her figure, she might well have passed for ten or twelve
years younger.

The Laird of Balmaghie went eagerly forward to meet his visitor. He
took gratefully enough the hand which she reached to him a little
indulgently, as one might give a sweetmeat to a child to occupy its
attention. For even as he murmured his welcomes the lady's eyes
were certainly not upon her host, but on the erect figure of his
under-gardener, who stood staring and transfixed by the rose-bush which
he had been pruning.

"My Lady Wellwood," said Roger McGhie, "this is indeed an honor and a
privilege."

"Who may this youth be?" interrupted the lady, imperiously cutting
short his sober courtesies and pointing to Lang Wat of the Glenkens.

"It is but one of my gardeners; he has lately come about the house,"
answered Roger McGhie, "a well-doing carle enough and a good worker.
But hark ye, my lady, perhaps a wee overfond of Whiggery and such
strait-lacedness, and so it may be as well to give his name the go-by
when John Graham comes this way."

My Lady of Wellwood never took her eyes off the gardener's face.

"Come hither and help me to dismount," she said, beckoning with her
finger.

Wat Gordon went reluctantly enough, dragging one foot after the
other. He realized that the end had come to his residence among the
flower-closes of Balmaghie, and that he must e'en bid farewell to
these walks and glades as of Paradise, upon which, as upon his life,
the hazel eyes of Kate McGhie had lately rained such sweet influences.
Meanwhile the laird stood meekly by. The caprices of great court-ladies
were not in his province, but, having set out to humor them, he was not
to be offended by the favor shown his servitor. He had heard of such
things at Whitehall, and the memory rather kindled him than otherwise.
He felt all the new life and energy which comes of being transported
into a new world of new customs, new ideas, and even of new laxities.

Wat gave my Lady Wellwood his hand in the courtliest manner. The habit
and gait of the under-gardener seemed to fall from him in a moment at
the sound of that voice, low and languorous, with a thrill in it of
former days which it irked him to think had still power to affect him.

"You have not quite forgotten me, then, sweet lad of Lochinvar?" asked
the Duchess of Wellwood softly in his ear. For so in the days of his
sometime madness she had been wont to call him.

"No," answered Wat, sullenly enough, as he lifted her to the ground,
not knowing what else to say.

"Then meet me at the head of the wood on my way home," whispered the
lady, as she disengaged herself from his arm, and turned with a smiling
face to Roger McGhie.

"And this is your sweet daughter," she murmured, caressingly, to Kate,
who stood by with drooping eyelids, but who, nevertheless, had lost no
shade of the colloquy between Wat Gordon and her father's guest.

The Lady Wellwood took the girl's hand, which lay cold and unresponsive
in her plump white fingers. "A pretty maid--you will be a beauty one
day, my dear," she added, with the condescension of one who knows she
has as yet nothing to fear from younger rivals.

To this Kate answered nothing. For her flatterer was a woman. Had
the Duchess of Wellwood been a man and condescended to this sort of
left-handed praise, Kate would have flashed her eyes and said, "I have
not seldom been told that I am one already." Whereupon he would have
amended his sentence. As it was, Kate said nothing, but only hardened
her heart and wondered what the great court lady had found to whisper
to the man who, during these last months, had daily been avowing
himself her lover. And though Kate was conscious that her heart sat
secure and untouched on its virgin throne, it had, nevertheless, been
not unpleasant to listen to the lad. For of a surety Wat Gordon told
his tale wondrously well.

Roger McGhie conducted the lady gallantly through the garden walks
towards the house. But she had not gone far when she professed herself
overcome by the heat, and desired to be permitted to sit down on a
rustic seat. She was faint, she said; yet, even as she said it, the
keen eye of Kate McGhie noted that her color remained warm and high.

"A tass of water--nay, no wine," she called after the Laird of
Balmaghie; "I thank you for your courtesy."

And Kate's father hastened away a little stiffly to bring it. She knew
that his Sunday shoes irked him. It served him right, she thought. At
his age he ought to know better--but there remained the more important
matter of the under-gardener.

"Come and sit by me, pretty one," said the Lady Wellwood, cooingly, to
Kate.

The "pretty one" would infinitely rather have set herself down by the
side of an adder sunning itself on a bank than shared the woodland seat
with the bold horsewoman of Grenoch.

"Ah! sly one," she said, "I warrant you knew that your under-gardener
there, that handsome lad, was not the landward man he seemed."

She shook her finger reproachfully at her companion as she spoke.

Kate blushed hotly, and then straightway fell to despising herself
for doing it almost as much as she hated my lady for making her. Lady
Wellwood watched her covertly out of the corner of her eyes. She
cultivated a droop of the left eyelid on purpose.

"I know that he is proscribed, and has a price set on his head," Kate
said, quietly, looking after Wat with great indifference as he went
down the avenue of trees.

"And do you know why?" asked the duchess, somewhat abruptly.

"No," answered Kate, wondering at her tone.

"It was for wounding my late husband within the precincts of Holyrood,"
said Lady Wellwood.

But Kate McGhie's anger was now fully roused, and her answer ran
trippingly off her tongue.

"And was it for that service you spoke so kindly to him just now, and
bade him meet you at the head of the wood as you went home?"

The duchess stared a little, but her well-bred calmness was not ruffled.

"Even so," she said, placidly, "and for the further reason that Walter
Gordon was on his way to see _me_ on the night when it was his ill
fortune to meet with my husband instead."

"I do not believe it," cried the girl, lifting her head and looking
Lady Wellwood straight in the eyes.

"Ask him, then!" answered the duchess, with the calm assurance of forty
answering the chit of half her years. For at first sight my lady had
envied and hated the clear, blushful ivory of the girl's cheek and the
natural luxuriance of her close-tangled curls. And since all the art of
St. James's could not match with these, she was now getting even with
Kate in ways of her own.

The girl did not speak. Her heart only welled within her with
contradiction and indignation.

"Or if you will not do that, sit down half an hour hence and read your
book in the little arbor by the end of the avenue, and you will hear
news. Whether you may like it or not is another question. But, at
all events, you shall not have cause to say again that a Duchess of
Wellwood lied."

Kate rose and walked away without answering a word. She cared no jot
for Wat Gordon, so she told herself. He was nothing to her, save that
she desired his safety and had risked much to give him shelter. Yet
this Duchess of Wellwood--that woman of whom the gross popular tongue
whispered commonly the most terrible things! Had Lochinvar made love to
her? Was he to meet her at the end of the avenue? She could not believe
it. It was, indeed, no matter if he did. What did she care? Go to the
arbor, become an eavesdropper--not for any man alive, least of all
for Wat Gordon! Thank God, she had a tongue in her head, and was not
afraid to ask Wat Gordon, or any living soul, whatever she desired to
know.

But after a little hesitation she went up-stairs to her chamber, and,
denying herself the listening of the ear, she listened with her eyes
instead. For she watched my Lady Wellwood being helped into her saddle
right courteously by her father. She saw her looking down at him the
while with a glance professionally tender--a glance that lingered in
the memory by reason of the quiver of an eyelid and the pressure of a
soft, reluctant hand. And Roger McGhie bowed over her plump fingers as
though he had been bidding farewell to some angelic visitant.

For the first time in her life Kate McGhie despised her father. And,
lo! to hurt her heart yet more, and to convince her of the ultimate
falsity of all men, there was Wat, his tall figure overtopping the
hawthorn hedge, walking briskly in the direction of the pinewood at the
end of the avenue.

Kate went down-stairs with a set, still face. She would not cry. She
did not care. She was only bitterly disappointed with the whole race
of mankind, nothing more. They were all no better than so many blind
fools, ready to be taken in by a plausible tongue and a rolling eye. A
fine figure of a woman, and--Lord, where was the best of them?

But her Wat--and with the Duchess of Wellwood; she could not believe
it! Why, she might be his--well, hardly that--but his mother at the
very least.

Not that she cared; she had her work to think about; and Kate McGhie
went down to the little suckling lamb she had fed daily with warm milk
out of a wooden spoon, and which, though now almost of the greatness of
a full-grown sheep, still leaped and fawned upon her. She fetched her
pail and mixed pet Donald's mid-day meal.

Outside the garden wall the lamb was standing, bleating indignant
petitions, and there Katie McGhie fed him with a gradually swelling
heart. As the last drops disappeared into the moist black muzzle, Kate
put her arms about the woolly neck and sobbed aloud.

"Oh, Donald, Donald, my lamb, you are the only friend I have! I do
not love anybody else, and no one in the world loves me. But I am
not sorry--I am glad, and I will not cry. It is not that I love him,
Donald; but, oh! he might not have done it!"

That same evening Wat Gordon, as was his custom, came walking slowly
through the garden pleasaunce. Kate McGhie met him by the rose-bush he
had been pruning that morning.

"Is it true," she asked, looking at him bravely and directly, "that you
are in hiding because, when going to visit the Duchess of Wellwood, you
encountered her husband instead?"

"This much is true," answered Wat, promptly, "that while passing down
the Canongate one snowy night, my cousin, Will Gordon of Earlstoun, and
I were beset by a band of ruffians in the pay of the Duke of Wellwood,
and that in defending ourselves the Duke himself was hurt."

"And when you went out of your lodging that night, was it to walk with
your cousin or to visit my Lady of Wellwood in her boudoir?"

Wat Gordon took his breath hard. The manner of the question left him no
escape with honor. But he could not lie. And he would offer no excuse.

"I went out to visit my Lady Wellwood!" he said, very shortly.

Kate McGhie held out her hand.

"I bid you good-bye," she said; "you will find your ancient friend and
hostess at the Grenoch. There is nothing to detain you any longer about
the poor house of Balmaghie."

And so saying the girl turned on her heel and walked slowly through the
garden garth and past the pruned rose-bushes. She crossed the grassy
slope to the door and there disappeared, leaving Wat Gordon standing
silent, shamed, and amazed.



CHAPTER I

FROM LIKING TO LOVE


It was graying to the edge of dark upon one of the evenings towards
the end of April, in the year 1688, when Walter Gordon, of Lochinvar
in Galloway, and now for some time private in the Prince of Orange's
Douglas regiment of dragoons, strode up the stairs of his cousin Will's
lodging in the ancient Dutch city of Amersfort. The young man had
come straight from duty at the palace, and his humor was not exactly
gracious.

But Wat Gordon could not long remain vexed in spirit in the presence of
his cousin Will's wife, Maisie Lennox. Her still, sweet smile killed
enmity, even as spring sunshine kills the bite of frost. The little,
low-roofed Dutch room, panelled with oak, had its windows open towards
the sun-setting, and there in the glow of the west two girls were
sitting. At sight of them Walter Gordon stopped suddenly in the doorway
as he came bursting in. He had been expecting to see but one--his
cousin's young wife, into whose pretty ear of patientest sympathy
he might pour his fretful boyish disappointments and much-baffled
aspirations.

Mistress Maisie Lennox, now for half a year Will Gordon of Earlstoun's
wife (for by her maiden name she was still used to be called, and so
she signed herself, since it had not yet become the custom for a women
to take among her intimates the style of her husband's surname), sat on
a high-backed chair by the oriel window. She had the kind of sunny hair
which it is a pleasure to look upon, and the ripples of it made crisp
tendrils about her brow. Her face underneath was already sweetening
and gaining in reposefulness, with that look of matronhood which comes
early to patient, gracious women, who would yet venture much for the
man they love. And not once nor yet twice had Maisie Lennox dared all
for those whom she loved--as has, indeed, elsewhere been told.

But, all unexpected of the hasty visitor, there was yet another fair
girl looking up at him there in that quaint, dusky-shadowed room.
Seated upon a low chair, and half leaning across the knees of Mistress
Maisie, set wide apart on purpose, there reclined a maiden of another
temper and mould. Slender and supple she was as willow that sways by
the water-edges, yet returning ever to slim, graceful erectness like a
tempered blade of Damascus; above, the finest and daintiest head in the
world, profiled like Apollo of the Bow, with great eyes that were full
of alternate darkness and tenderness, of tears and fire; a perfectly
chiselled mouth, a thing which is rarer and more excellent than the
utmost beauty of splendid eyes--and sweeter also; a complexion not milk
and rose like that of Maisie Lennox, but of ivory rather, with the
dusky crimson of warm blood blushing up delicately through it. Such was
Kate McGhie, called Kate of the Dark Lashes, the only daughter of Roger
McGhie of Balmaghie, a well-reputed Galloway gentleman in the country
of Scotland.

As Walter Gordon came bursting in his impetuous fashion into his
cousin's room, his sword clashing about his feet and his cavalry spurs
jingling against his boot-heels, he was stopped dead by this most
pleasant sight. Yet all he saw was a girl with her head resting upon
her own clasped hands and reclining on her friend's knee, with her
elbows set wide apart behind her head--while Maisie's hand played, like
a daring swimmer in breaking surf, out and in among the soft crisps
of hair, which were too short to be waves and too long to be curls.
And this hair was of several curious colors, ranging from black in the
shadows through rich brown into dusky gold where the sun's light caught
it lovingly, as though he had already begun to set over the sand-dunes
into the Northern Sea. As Wat stood there, his fingers tingled to
touch. It seemed somehow a squandering of human happiness that only a
girl's hand should smooth that rich tangle and caress those clustering
curls.

Walter Gordon of Lochinvar had flung himself into the little room in
Zandpoort Street, ripe to pour his sorrows into the ear of Maisie
Lennox. Nor was he at all forgetful of the fact that the ear was an
exceedingly pretty one. Most devoutly he hoped that Will, his very
excellent cousin and Maisie's good husband, might have been kept late
at the religious exercises of the Regiment of the Covenant--as that
portion of the Scotch-Dutch auxiliary force was called which had been
mostly officered and recruited from among the more militant exiles and
refugees of the Scottish persecution.

But as Lochinvar came forward somewhat more slowly after his
involuntary start of surprise, his eyes continued to rest on those of
the younger girl, who remained thus reclined on her gossip's lap. She
had not moved at his entrance, but only looked at him very quietly from
under those shadowy curtains which had gained her the name of Kate
of the Dark Lashes. Then in a moment Wat set his hand to his breast
suddenly, as if a bullet had struck him upon the field of battle.

"Kate!" he cried, in a quick, hoarse whisper, as though the word had
been forced from him.

And for a long moment the young soldier stood still and speechless,
with his eyes still fixed upon the girl.

"Walter, mind you not my dearest friend and gossip Kate, and how in
old sad days in the dear far-away land we there underwent many things
together?" asked Maisie Lennox, looking up somewhat doubtfully from
her friend's face into that of Walter Gordon.

"I did not know--I had not heard--" were all the words that the young
squire of dames could find to utter.

"Also there were, if I remember aright," the young matron went on,
with that fatal blundering which sometimes comes to the kindest and
most quick-witted of women, "certain passages between you--of mutual
friendship and esteem, as it might be."

Then, with a single swift movement, lithe and instantaneous as that of
a young wild animal which has never known restraint, Kate of the Dark
Lashes rose to her feet.

"Walter Gordon of Lochinvar," she said, "is a Scottish gentleman. He
will never be willing to remember that which a lady chooses to forget."

But Lochinvar himself, readiest tongue in wit-play as well as keenest
blade when the steel clashed in sterner debate, on this occasion
spake never a word. For in that moment in which he had looked upon
Kate McGhie resting her beautiful head upon her clasped hands in her
friend's lap he had fallen from the safe heights of admiration into the
bottomless abysses of love.

While the pair were still standing thus face to face, and before Kate
sat down again in a more restrained posture on the low-cushioned
window-seat, Will Gordon strode in and set his musket in a corner. He
was habited simply enough in the dark gray of the Hill Folks' regiment,
with the cross of St. Andrew done in blue and white upon his breast.
His wife rose to kiss him as he entered, and then, still holding her by
the hand, he turned to the tall, slim girl by the window.

"Why, Kate, lass, how came the good winds to blow you hither from the
lands of mist over the sea?" he asked.

"Blasts of ill winds in Scotland, well I wot," said Kate McGhie,
smiling at him faintly and holding out her hand.

"Then the ill Scots winds have certainly blown us good here in
Holland," he answered, deftly enough, in the words of the ancient
Scottish proverb.

But the girl went on without giving heed to his kindly compliment.

"The persecution waxes ever hotter and hotter on the hills of the
south," she said, "and what with the new sheriffs, and the raging
of the red-wud Grier of Lag over all our country of Galloway, I saw
that it could not be long before my doings and believings brought
my easy-tempered father into trouble. So, as soon as I knew that, I
mounted me and rode to Newcastle, keeping mostly to the hills, and
avoiding the highways by which the king's soldiers come and go. There,
after some wearisome and dangerous waiting, I got a ship to Rotterdam.
And here I am to sorn upon you!"

She ended with a little gesture of opening her hands and flinging them
from her, which Wat Gordon thought very pretty to behold.

"You are as welcome to our poor soldier's lodging as though it had
been the palace of the stadtholder," answered William Gordon--with,
nevertheless, a somewhat perplexed look, as he thought of another
mouth to be fed upon the scanty and uncertain pay of a private in the
Scottish regiments of the prince.

While his cousin was speaking Wat Gordon had made his way round
the table to the corner of the latticed window farthest from Kate,
where now he stood looking thoughtfully upon the broad canal and the
twinkling lights which were beginning to mark out its banks.

"Why, Wat," cried his cousin Will, clapping him lovingly upon the
shoulder as he went past him to hang up his blue sash on a hook by
the window, "wherefore so sad-visaged, man? This whey face and dour
speechlessness might befit an erewhile Whig gardener of Balmaghie, with
his hod and mattock over his shoulder; but it sets ill with a gay rider
in Douglas's dragoons, and one high in favor in the prince's service."

Lochinvar shook off his cousin's hand a little impatiently. He wanted
nothing better than just to go on watching Kate McGhie's profile as it
outlined itself against the broad, shining reach of water. He marvelled
that he had been aforetime so blind to its beauty; but then these
ancient admirations in Scotland had been only lightness of heart and a
young man's natural love of love-making. But Walter Gordon knew that
this which had stricken him to the heart, as he came suddenly upon the
girl pillowing her head on her palms at Maisie's knee, was no mere
love-making. It was love.

"Who were on duty to-day at headquarters?" Wat asked, gruffly enough.

"Who but Barra and his barbarians of the Isles!" William Gordon made
answer.

Wat stamped his foot boyishly and impatiently.

"The prince shows these dogs overmuch of his favor," he said.

Will Gordon went to the chamber door and opened it. Then he looked back
at his wife.

"Come hither, sweetheart," he said. "It is pay-day, and I must e'en
give thee my wages, ere I be tempted to spend them with fly-by-night
dragoons and riotous night-rakes like our cousin here. Also, I must
consult thee concerning affairs of state--thy housewifery and the price
of candles belike!"

Obediently Maisie rose and followed him out of the room, gliding, as
was her manner, softly through the door like water that runs down a
mill-lade. Kate of the Dark Lashes, on the contrary, moved with the
flash and lightsome unexpectedness of a swallow in flight. Yet now she
sat still enough by the dusky window, looking out upon the twinkling
lights which, as they multiplied, began to be reflected on the waters
of the long, straight canal.

For a while Wat Gordon was content silently to watch the changeful
shapeliness of her head. He had never seen one set at just that angle
upon so charming a neck. He wondered why this girl had so suddenly
grown all wonderful to him. It was strange that hitherto he should have
been so crassly blind. But now he was perfectly content only to watch
and to be silent, so that it was Kate who first felt the necessity for
speech.

"This is a strange new land," she said, thoughtfully, "and it is little
wonder that to-night my heart is heavy, for I am yet a stranger in it."

"Kate," said Wat Gordon, in a low, earnest tone, leaning a little
nearer to her as she sat on the window-seat, "Kate, is there not, then,
all the more reason to remember old friends?"

"And have I not remembered?" answered the girl, swiftly, without
looking at him. "I have come from my father's house straight to Maisie
Lennox--I, a girl, and alone. She is my oldest friend."

"But are there, then, no others?" said the young man, jealously.

"None who have never forgotten, never slighted, never complained, never
faltered in their love, save only my sweet Maisie Lennox," returned the
girl, as she rose from her place and went towards the door, from behind
which came the soft hum of voices in friendly conference.

Wat took two swift steps forward as if to forestall her, but she
slipped past him, light as the shadow of a leaf windblown along the
wall, and laid her hand on the latch.

"Will not you let me be your friend once again after these weary
years?" he asked, eagerly.

The tall girl opened the door and stood a moment with the outline of
her figure cut slimly against the light which flooded the passage--in
which, as it grew dark, Maisie had lighted a tiny Dutch lamp.

"I love friends who never need to be friends _again_!" she said, in a
low voice, and went out.

Left to himself, Wat Gordon clinched his hands in the swiftly darkening
room. He strode back to the window pettishly, and hated the world.
It was a bad world. Why, for no more than a hasty word, a breath of
foolish speech, a vain and empty dame of wellnigh twice his age,
should he lose the friendship of this one girl in all the world? That
other to whom he had spoken a light word of passing admiration he had
never seen again, nor indeed wished to see. And for no more than this,
forsooth, he must be flouted by her whom his very soul loved! It was a
hard world, a bad world--of which the grim law was that a man must pay
good money, red and white, for that which he desires with his heart and
reaches out his hand to possess himself of.

Just then the street door resounded with the clang of impetuous
knocking. His cousin Will went down, and presently Wat heard the noise
of opening bars, and then the sough of rude, soldier-like speech filled
the stairway.

"Wat Gordon! Wat Gordon!" cried a voice which sounded familiar enough
to him, "come down forthwith! Here! I have brought you a letter from
your love!"

And Wat swore a vow beneath his breath to stop the mouth of the rascal
who knew no better than to shout a message so false and inopportune
in the ears of the girl of the dusky eyelashes. Nevertheless, he went
quickly to the landing and looked down.

A burly figure stood blocking the stairway beneath, and a ruddy face
gleamed upward like a moon out of a mist, as Maisie held the lamp
aloft. A voice, somewhat husky with too recent good living, cried,
"Lochinvar, here is a letter to you from the colonel. Great good may it
do you, but may the last drop in the cogie of him that sent it be the
sourest, for raising Davie Dunbar from the good company and the jolly
pint-stoup, to be splattered at this time of night with the dirty suds
of every greasy frow in all Amersfort!"

And the stout soldier dusted certain befouling drops from his military
coat with a very indignant expression.

"Not that the company was over-choice or the wine fit to be called
aught but poison. 'Mony littles mak' a mickle,' says the old Scots saw.
But, my certes, of such a brew as yon it micht be said 'mony mickles
make but little'! For an it were not for the filling up of your belly,
ten pints of their Amersfort twopenny ale is no more kenned on a man
than so much dishwashings!"

"Come your ways in and sit down, sergeant," said Mistress Maisie,
hospitably. For her hand was somewhat weary with holding the lamp
aloft, while Sergeant Davie Dunbar described the entertainment he had
just left. Meanwhile Wat had opened his scrap of gray official letter,
and appeared to stand fixed in thought upon the words which he found
written therein.

"What may be the import of your message, since you are grown suddenly
so solemn-jawed over it, Wat?" cried Davie Dunbar, going up to look
over his shoulder, while Maisie and Kate McGhie stood talking quietly
apart.

"I am bidden go on a quest into the wild country by the seashore, a
mission that in itself I should like well enough were it not that it
comes to me by the hand of Black Murdo of Barra."

Davie Dunbar whistled thoughtfully.

"When the corbie is from home, it's like to be an ill day for wee lame
lammies!" he said, sententiously. Wat Gordon cocked his guardsman's
cap at the words. He had set it on his head as he went down-stairs.

"I am Walter Gordon, of Lochinvar, and though that be for the nonce but
a barren heritage, I am also a gentleman-private in the prince's Scots
Dragoons, and I count not the Earl of Barra more than a buzzard-kite."

"I see well that ye are but a wee innocent lammie after all," retorted
Sergeant Dunbar; "little ye ken about the regimen of war if at the
outset of a campaign ye begin by belittling your enemy. I tell you,
Murdo of Barra has more brains under his Highland bonnet than all
your gay Douglas dragoons, from your swearing colonel to the suckling
drummer-boy--who no sooner leaves his mother's breast than he learns to
mouth curses and lisp strange oaths."

Wat Gordon shook his head with a certain unconvinced and dour
determination.

"I have been in wild places and my sword has brought me through, but
though I own that, I like not this commission--yet feared of Barra I am
not."

And he handed Davie Dunbar the paper. The sergeant read it aloud:

    "Walter Gordon, some time of Lochinvar, of the Prince's
    Scottish Dragoon Guards, you are ordered to obtain the
    true numeration of each regiment in the camp and city of
    Amersfort--their officering, the numbers of each company, and
    of those that cannot be passed by the muster officers, the
    tally of those sick with fever, and of those still recovering
    from it, the number of cannon on the works and where they are
    posted. These lists you are to transmit with your own hand to
    an officer appointed to receive them by His Highness the Prince
    at the Inn of Brederode by the Northern Sanddunes, who will
    furnish you with a receipt for them. This receipt you will
    preserve and return to me in token that you have fulfilled
    your mission. The officers of the regiments and the commanders
    of batteries have hereby orders to render you a correct and
    instant accompt.

  "(Signed) For the Stadtholder and the States-General,

                              "BARRA,

  "_Provost-Marshal of the City and Camp_."

William Gordon had come into the room while the sergeant was reading
the paper, and now stood looking at Walter's unusual commission.

"There will be murder done when you come to our colonel," he said, "and
ask him to tell you that the most part of his regiment is already in
hospital, and also how many of the rest are sickening for it."

But Wat Gordon stood up and tightened his sword-belt, hitching his
sword forward so that the hilt fell easily under his hand. Then he
flipped the mandate carelessly upon the widened fingers of his left
hand before sticking it through his belt.

"It is, at least, an order," he said, grandly, "and so long as I am in
the service of His Highness the Prince, my orders I will obey."

"And pray what else would you do, callant," interjected Sergeant David
Dunbar, "but obey your orders--so long, at least, as ye are sure that
the lad who bids ye has the richt to bid ye?"



CHAPTER II

WHY KATE HATED LOCHINVAR


It was the evening of the following day before Wat Gordon was ready
to start. It had taken him so long to obtain all the invaluable
information as to the strength of the armies of the States-General and
of their allies, which were collected at Amersfort in order to roll
back the threatened invasion of the King of France. Twice during the
day had he rushed into his cousin's lodging for a brief moment in order
to snatch a morsel of food, but on neither occasion had he been able
to catch so much as a glimpse of Kate. It was now the gloaming, and
the night promised to fall clear and chill. A low mist was collecting
here and there behind the clumps of bushes, and crawling low along the
surface of the canals. But all above was clear, and the stars were
beginning to come out in familiar patterns.

For the third and last time Wat made an errand up to his cousin's
rooms, even after his escort had arrived, and once more Maisie took him
gently by the hand, bidding him good-speed on his quest perilous. But
even while his cousin's wife was speaking the young man's eye continued
to wander restlessly. He longed rather to listen to upbraiding from
another voice, and, in place of Maisie's soft, willing kiss, to carry
away the farewell touch of a more scornful hand.

"Cousin," he said at last, reluctantly and a little shyly, "I pray you
say farewell for me to Mistress Kate, since she is not here to bid me
farewell for herself. In what, think you, have I offended her?"

"Nay, Wat," answered the gentle Maisie, "concerning that you must e'en
find means of judging for yourself on your return."

"But listen, Cousin Maisie, this venture that I go upon is a quest of
life or death to me, and many are the chances that I may not return at
all."

"I will even go speak with my gossip Kate, and see whether she will
come to bid you good prospering on your adventure and a safe return
from it."

And so saying Maisie passed from the room as silently as a white swan
swims athwart the mere. In a little while she returned with Kate,
who, beside her budding matronhood, seemed but a young lissom slip of
willow-wand.

"Here, Kate," said Maisie, as she entered holding her friend by the
hand, "is our cousin Wat, come in on us to bid farewell. He goes a far
road and on a heavy adventure. He would say good-bye to the friends who
are with him in this strange land before he departs, and of these you
are one, are you not, my Kate?"

As soon as Mistress Maisie loosened her hand the girl went directly to
the window-seat, where she stood leaning gracefully with her cheek laid
softly against the shutter. She turned a little and shivered at her
friend's pointed appeal.

"If Walter Gordon says it, it must be so," she answered, with certain
quiet bitterness.

Lochinvar was deeply stung by her words. He came somewhat nearer to
her, clasping his hands nervously before him, his face set and pale as
it had never been in the presence of an enemy.

"Kate," he said, "I ask you again, wherein have I so grievously
offended you that, on your coming to this land of exile, you should
treat me like a dog--yes, worse than a wandering cur-dog. It is true
that once long ago I was foolish--to blame, blackly and bitterly in the
wrong, if you will. But now all humbly I ask you to forgive me ere I
go, it may be to my death."

The girl looked at him with a strange light in her eyes--scorn, pity,
and self-will struggling together for the mastery.

At last, in a hard, dry voice, she said, "There is nothing to forgive.
If there had been I should have forgiven you. As it is, I have only
forgotten."

Maisie had left the room and there was deep silence in it and about,
save for the distant crying of the staid Dutch children late at
their plays on the canal-sides of Amersfort, and the clatter of the
home-returning wooden shoon on the pavemented streets. The young
man drew himself up till his height towered above the girl like a
watch-tower over a city wall. His eyes rested steadfastly on her the
while. She had a feeling that a desperate kind of love was in the air,
and that for aught she knew he might be about to clasp her fiercely
in his arms. And it had, perhaps, been well for both if he had, for
at that moment she raised her eyes and her heart wavered within
her. He looked so tall and strong. She was sure that her head would
come no higher upon his breast than the blue ribbon of his cavalry
shoulder-knot. She wondered if his arms would prove as strong as they
looked, if she suddenly were to find herself folded safe within them.

"Kate," he said, wistfully, coming nearer to her.

Now Wat Gordon ought not to have spoken. The single word in the silence
of the room brought the girl back to herself. Instinctively she put out
her hand, as though to ward off something threatening or overpowering.
The gulf yawned instantly between them, and the full flood-tide of Wat
Gordon's opportunity ebbed away as rapidly as it had flowed.

Yet when a moment later the girl lifted her long, dark lashes and
revealed her eyes shining shyly glorious beneath them, Wat Gordon gazed
into their depths till his breath came quick and short through his
nostrils, and a peal of bells seemed to jangle all out of tune in his
heart. He stood like some shy woodland beast new taken in a trap.

"Well?" she said, inquiringly, yet somewhat more softly than she had
yet spoken.

Wat clinched his fist. In that single syllable the girl seemed to lay
all the burden of blame, proof, explanation of the past upon him alone,
and the hopeless magnitude of the task cut him to the quick.

"Kate!" he cried, "I will not again ask you to forgive me; but if I do
not come back, at least believe that I died more worthily than perhaps
I have lived--though neither have I ever lived so as to shame you,
even had you seen me at my worst. And, ere I go, give me at least a
love-token that I may carry it with me till I die."

Kate's lips parted as though she had somewhat to answer if she would,
but she kept a faintly smiling silence instead, and only looked
casually about the room. A single worn glove lay on the top of a little
cabinet of dark oak. She lifted it and handed it to Wat. The young man
eagerly seized the glove, pressed it with quick passion to his lips,
and then thrust it deep into the bosom of his military coat. He would
have taken the hand which gave him the gift, but a certain malicious
innocence in the girl's next words suddenly dammed his gratitude at the
fountain-head.

"I have nothing of my own to give," she said, "for I have just newly
come off the sea. But this glove of Maisie's will mayhap serve as well.
Besides which, I heard her say yestreen that she had some time ago lost
its marrow in the market-place of Amersfort."

[Illustration: "'I WILL TAKE MY OWN LOVE-TOKEN'"]

With a fierce hand Wat Gordon tore the glove from his bosom and threw
it impulsively out of the window into the canal. Then he squared
his shoulders and turned him about in order to stride haughtily and
indignantly from the room.

But even as he went he saw a quaintly subtle amusement shining in the
girl's eyes--laughter made lovely by the possibility of indignant tears
behind it, and on her perfectest lips that quick petulant pout which
had seemed so adorable to him in the old days when he had laid so
many ingenious snares to bring it out. Wat was intensely piqued--more
piqued perhaps than angry. He who had wooed great ladies, and on whom
in the ante-chambers of kings kind damsels all too beautiful had smiled
till princes waxed jealous, was now made a mock of by a slim she-slip
compact of mischievous devices. He looked again and yet more keenly at
the girl by the window. Certainly it was so. Mischief lurked quaintly
but unmistakably under the demure, upward curl of those eyelashes.
A kind of still, calm fury took him, a set desperation like that of
battle.

"I will take my own love-token," he cried, striding suddenly over to
her.

And so, almost but not quite, ere Kate was aware, he had stooped and
kissed her.

Then, in an instant, as soon indeed as he had realized his deed, all
his courage went from him. His triumph of a moment became at once flat
despair, and he stood before her ashamed, abject as a dog that is
caught in a fault and trembles for the lash.

Without a word the girl pointed to the door. And such was the force
of her white anger and scorn upon him that Wat Gordon, who was about
to ride carelessly to face death as he had often done before, slunk
through it cowering and speechless.

Maisie was coming along the little boarded passage as he passed out.

"Farewell, cousin," she said to him. "Will you not bid me good-bye
again ere you go, if only for the old sake's sake?"

But Wat Gordon went past her as though he had not heard, trampling
stupidly down the narrow stairs like a bullock in the market-place, the
spring all gone out of his foot, the upstanding airy defiance fallen
away from his carriage.

Then in a moment more there came up from the street front the sound of
trampling horses and the ring of accoutrement, as three or four riders
set spurs to their horses and rode clattering over the cobbles towards
the city gates.

Maisie went quickly into the sitting-room to her friend.

"What have you been doing to my Wat?" she asked, grasping her tightly
by the arm. "Have you quarrelled with him?"

Kate was standing behind the shutter, looking down the street along
which the four riders were rapidly vanishing. At the corner where they
turned one of the horses shied and reared, bringing down its iron-shod
hoofs sharply on the pavement with a little jet of sparks, and almost
throwing its rider. Instinctively the girl uttered a little cry, and
set her hand against her side.

"What said Wat to you, dearest Kate," asked Maisie, again, altering
the form of her question, "that you sent him thus speechless and
dumfoundered away? He passed me at the stair-head as if he knew me not."

Finding Kate still absorbed and silent, Maisie sat down in her own
chair and waited. Presently, with a long sigh, the girl sank on her
knees beside her, and, taking her friend's hand, set it on her head.
With sympathetic and well-accustomed fingers Maisie, as was her custom,
softly smoothed and caressed the dark tangle of curls. She did not
utter a word till she heard a quick sob catch at the bottom of Kate's
throat. Then she spoke very low, leaning forward till she could lay
her cheek against the girl's brow.

"What said he? Tell me, dearest, if you can; tell your gossip, Maisie,"
she whispered.

It was a voice that not many could resist when it pleaded thus--most
like a dove cooing to its mate in the early summer mornings.

There fell a silence for a while in the little upper room; but Maisie
the wise one did not again speak. She only waited.

"Oh, I hate him!" at last said Kate McGhie, lifting her head with
centred intensity of expression.

Maisie smiled a little, indulgently, leaning back so that her friend's
dark eyes should not notice it. She smiled as one who is in the things
of love at least a thousand years older, and who in her day has seen
and tasted bread sweet and bread bitter.

"And certainly you do well to hate him, my Kate," this cunning Mistress
Maisie said, very gently, her hand continuing to run softly through the
meshes of Kate's curls; "nevertheless, for all that you are glad that
he kissed you."

The girl lifted her head as quickly from its resting-place as though
a needle had pricked her unawares. She eyed her friend with a grave,
shocked surprise.

"You were listening!" she said.

And the censure in her tone might have been that of a General Assembly
of the Kirk, so full of weighty rebuke was it.

"No, Kate," said her friend, quietly. "I was in the kitchen all the
time, putting the bone in the broth for William's supper. I heard
no single word of your talk. But, Kate, my lassie, I am not so very
ignorant concerning these things which you stand on the brink of. Come,
what had you been saying to him to provoke him to kiss you?"

"He but asked me for a love-token to take with him to the wars--which I
gave him, and how could I tell?" said the girl, a little plaintively.
Things had not gone as they ought, and now her own familiar friend was
about to blame her for it.

Maisie waited a moment discreetly, hoping that Kate would go on; but
she appeared to consider that she had said enough. She only pillowed
her head lower on her gossip's knee, and submitted contentedly to the
loving hand which caressed her ringlets.

"And you gave him the love-token?" queried her friend, quietly.

"I told him that I had nothing of my own to give him, because my
baggage had not yet arrived; and it chanced that I saw one of your old
marrowless gloves lying there on the cabinet--so I gave him that. I
thought," she added, plaintively, after a pause, "that it would do just
as well."

At which conclusion Maisie laughed helplessly, rocking to and fro; then
she checked herself, and began again. Kate raised her head and looked
at her in new surprise.

"You are the strangest girl!" at last Maisie said. "You have sundry
passages with a gallant youth. You smile not unkindly upon him. You
quarrel and are separated. After years you meet in a distant land. He
asks you for a gage to carry with him to the wars, a badge fragrant of
his lady and his love, and you give him--an odd glove of his cousin's
wife's. Truly an idea most quaint and meritorious!"

"And Maisie," said Kate, solemnly, looking up at her with her head
still on her hands, "would you believe it? He stamped his foot and
threw the glove out of the window there into the canal! He ought not to
have done that, ought he?"

"My Kate," said her friend, "do not forget that I am no longer a girl,
but a woman wedded--"

"Six months," interrupted Kate McGhie, a little mischievously.

"And when I see the brave lass with whom, in another and a dearer land,
I came through so many perils, in danger of letting foolish anger wrong
both herself and another, you will forgive me if I have a word to say.
I speak because I have come in peace to the goal of my own loving. Wat
loves you. I am sure of that. Can you not tell me what it is that you
have against him? No great matter, surely; for, though reckless and
headstrong beyond most, the lad is yet honest, up-standing, true."

Kate McGhie was silent for a while, only leaning her head a little
harder against the caressing hand.

Then, with her face bent down, she spoke, softly:

"In Scotland he loved _me_ not, but only the making of love. If so be
that Wat Gordon will love me here in the Lowlands of Holland, he must
do it like one that loves for death or life; not like a gay gallant
that makes love to every maid in town, all for dalliance in a garden
pleasaunce on a summer's day."

The girl drew herself up nearer to her friend's face. Maisie Lennox, on
her part, quietly leaned over and laid her cheek against Kate's. It was
damp where a cherry-great tear had rolled down it. Maisie understood,
but said nothing. She only pressed her gossip a little closer and
waited. In a while Kate's arms went gently round about her neck, and
her face drew yet a little nearer to the listening ear.

"Once," she whispered, "I feared that I was in danger of loving him
first and most--and that he but played with me. I feared it much," she
went on, with a little return of the low sob, which caused her friend's
arms to clasp themselves more tightly about her, "I feared that I might
learn to love him too soon. So that is the reason--why--_I hate him
now_!"



CHAPTER III

THE BULL, THE CALF, AND THE KILLER


Wat Lochinvar rode out of the city of Amersfort with anger humming
fierce in his heart, the Black Horseman riding pickaback behind him.
He paid little attention to the three cutthroat-looking knaves who had
been provided as his escort, till the outer port of the city gates
had closed behind him and the chill airs of the outlands, unwarmed by
friendly civic supper-fires, met him shrilly in the teeth.

He had been played with, tricked, betrayed, so he told himself. Never
more would he think of her--the light trifler with men's hearts. She
might gang her own wilful gait for him; but there was one thing he was
well assured of--never more would Wat Gordon trust any woman born of
woman, never speak a word of love to one of the fickle breed again. On
this he was resolved like steel. For him, henceforth, only the stern
elation of combat, the clatter of harness, the joy of the headlong
charge--point to point, eye to eye, he would meet his man, when neither
would be afraid of aught, save of yielding or craving a favor. From
that day forth his sword should be his love, his regiment his married
wife, his cause and king his family; while his faithful charger,
nuzzling against his breast, would bestow on him the only passionate
caresses he would ever know, until on some stricken field it was his
fate to fill a soldier's grave.

Almost could Walter Gordon have wept in his saddle to think of his
wrongs, and death seemed a sweet thing to him beside the fickle favors
of any woman. He bethought him of his cousin Will with something of a
pitying smile.

"Poor fool!" he said to himself; "he is married. He thinks himself
happy. How much better had it been to live for glory!"

But even as he battered himself into a conviction of his own rooted
indifference to the things of love, he began to wonder how long his
present adventure would detain him. Could he be back in time on
the morrow to hear the first trip of a light foot on the stairs in
Zaandpoort Street, as _she_ came from her sleeping-room, fresh as
though God had made her all anew that morning?

For this is a quality of the wisdom of man, that thinking upon a maid
ofttimes makes it vain--especially if the man be very brave or very
wise, and the maid exceeding fair. Gradually, however, the changing
clatter of the dozen hoofs behind Lochinvar forced itself upon his
hearing, and he remembered that he was not alone.

He turned to his followers, and, curbing his horse a little, waited for
them to come up. They ranged themselves two on one side of him and one
on the other. Lochinvar eyed them with surprising disfavor.

"You are surely the last scourings of the camp," he said, brusquely,
for it was too little his habit to beat about the bush; "what may you
have been doing with yourselves? You could not all three have been made
so unhallowedly ugly as that. After all, God is a good God, and kind to
the evil and to the good."

The fellow on Lochinvar's left was a great red-faced man with an
immense scar, where (as it appeared) one side of his face had been cut
away wellnigh to the cheek-bone--a wound which had healed unevenly in
ridges and weals, and now remained of a deep plum-color.

"What is your name?" said Lochinvar to this man.

"I am called Haxo the Bull," he answered, "and I am of the retinue of
my Lord of Barra."

"And how came you by your English?" asked Lochinvar.

"My mother always declared that my father was of that nation," answered
the man, readily enough.

"To conclude," continued Wat, who was impatient of further conference
with such rank knaves, "what might be your distinguished rank in the
service of my Lord of Barra?"

"I am his camp butcher," said the man, laying his hand on a long, keen
knife which swung at his belt on the opposite side from his sword.

"And these other two gentlemen, your honorable companions?" queried
Wat, indicating them over his shoulder with contemptuous thumb.

The hulking fellow of the scar made a gesture with his shoulders, which
said as plain as might be, "They are of age; ask themselves."

But the nearer of the two did not wait to be asked. He was a hairless,
flaccid-faced rogue of a pasty gray complexion, and even uglier than
the plum-colored Bull, with a certain intact and virgin hideousness of
his own.

"I, for my part, am called Haxo's Calf, and I am not ashamed of the
name!" he said.

And, thinking this an excellent jest, he showed a row of teeth like
those of a hungry dog when he snatches a bone from a comrade not his
equal in the fray.

"And, I doubt not, a fit calf of such a sire," quoth Lochinvar, looking
from one to the other.

"He is my apprentice, not my son--praise to the Virgin and all the
saints!" said Haxo, looking at the Calf quite as scornfully as Wat
himself.

Lochinvar now transferred his attention to the third. He wore a small
round cap on the top of his head, and his narrow and meagre forehead
ran back shining and polished to the nape of his neck. His lack-lustre
eyes were set curiously at different angles in his head. He had thin
lips, which parted nervously over black, gaping teeth, and his nose was
broken as if with a blow of a hammer.

"And is this gentleman also of Monsieur Haxo's gallant company, and in
the suite of his Excellency my Lord of Barra?"

Haxo nodded his head with some appreciation of Wat's penetration.

"He is, indeed," he said; "he is my chief slaughterman, and a prince at
his business."

"He is called 'The Killer,'" interjected the Calf, smacking his lips
with unction. "It is a good name for him."

Wat Gordon urged his horse onward with great and undisguised disgust.
To be sent on a dangerous mission with three such arrant rascals told
him the value that his employers set upon his life. And if he had
chanced at that moment to turn him about in his saddle, the evil smile
of triumph which passed simultaneously over the faces of his companions
might have told him still more.

The small cavalcade of four went clattering on through the dusky
coolness of night, across many small wooden bridges and over
multitudinous canals. It passed through villages, in which the
inhabitants were already snoring behind their green blinds the
unanimous antiphonal bass of the rustic just--though, as yet, it was
little past nine of the clock on the great kirk tower of Amersfort,
and in the city streets and in the camp every one was at the height of
merriment and enjoyment.

Wafts of balmy country scents blew across the by-ways along which they
went; and through the limpid gray coolness where the young leaves of
the sparse hedgerow trees brushed his face, Wat could see that he was
passing countless squares of parti-colored bloom. Miles of hyacinth,
crocus, and narcissus gardens stretched away on either hand beyond the
low, carefully cut Dutch hedges. Haxo the Bull rode first, showing them
the way to the inn of Brederode, silently, save that every now and then
he would cry a word over his shoulder, either to one of his ill-favored
retinue or to an unseen watcher at some lonely cross-road.

Wat followed sullenly and fiercely, without caring much about the
direction in which he was being taken. His mind, however, was
preternaturally busy, going carefully over all the points of his
interview with Kate, and very soon from the heights of justified
indignation he fell to accusing himself of rude stupidity.

"I fear she will never look kindly on me again," he said, aloud. "This
time I have certainly offended her forever."

And the thought troubled him more than all the traitorous Barras and
ill-conditioned Bull Haxos in the world.

A breath of perfume blew fresh across the way from a field of dark
purple bloom, and with an overpowering rush there came back to him the
sweet scent of Kate's hair as for a moment he had bent over her by the
window. He let the reins fall on his horse's neck, and almost cried
aloud in agony at the thought of losing so great a treasure.

"And shall I never see her more," he said, "never watch the responsive
blood spring redly to her cheek, never see the anger flash proudly in
her eye, never (were it but for once) touch the sweet tangle of her
hair?"

Wat's love-lorn melancholy might have driven him to further and yet
wilder utterance had he not been conscious of a slight metallic click
behind him, which certainly did not come from the hoofs of the horses.
He turned sharply at the sound and caught Haxo's Calf with a pistol
in his right hand, and the Killer with his long butcher's knife bare
and uplifted. Haxo himself was riding unconcernedly on in front. Wat
quickened the pace of his horse, and rode alongside the Bull.

"Sir Butcher," he said, calmly, "do your men behind there wish to have
their weapons ready in case of meeting the enemy, or do they perchance
desire to flesh them in my back? It may seem a trifling matter to
trouble you with, and of no great consequence, nevertheless I should
somewhat like to ascertain their intentions."

Haxo glanced behind him. The Calf and the Killer were closing in upon
Wat.

"Varlets," cried Haxo, in a terrible voice, "put your weapons in your
belts, ride wide apart and far behind, or I will send you both quick to
hell!"

The men fell asunder at the words, and for a mile or two only the
sound of the horses' feet pounding the hard paven road came to Wat's
ears. But he did not again return to that entrancing dream of Kate,
her beauty, and her hard-heartedness which had so nearly led to his
destruction. Yet, nevertheless, whatever he said or did, he remained
through all that followed conscious of his love for her, and for the
remainder of the night the desire of getting back to Amersfort in order
to see her sharpened every faculty and kept every sense on the alert.

More than once during the night Haxo endeavored to enter into
conversation, but Wat, indignant at the cowardly attempt on his life
(for so he was bound to consider it), waved him peremptorily aside.

"Do your duty without further words," he said; "lead on directly to the
inn of Brederode."

It was long past the gloaming, and already wearing nigh to the
watershed of the night, before the perfectly flat country of marsh and
polder through which they had been riding gave place to a district
in which the undulations of the surface were distinctly felt beneath
the horses' feet. Here, also, the hard-baked, dusty roads gave place
to softer and more loosely knit tracks of sand, on which the iron-shod
hoofs made no sound. They were, in fact, fast approaching that broad
belt of dunes which shuts off the rich, flower-covered nurseries
of Haarlem from the barren, heathy wastes along the borders of the
Northern Sea.

On their right they passed the dark walls of the castle of Brederode,
and pursued their way to the very edge of the lofty dunes, which at
this point are every year encroaching upon the cultivated fields.
Presently they came to a long, low, white building surrounded by dark
hedges, which in the coolness of the night sent out a pleasant odor of
young beech leaves. The court-yard was silent, the windows black. Not a
ray of light was visible anywhere.

Walter Gordon rode directly up to the door. He felt with his hand
that it stood open to the wall, and that a dark passage yawned before
him. Instinctively he drew back a little way to decide what he should
do. With an unknown house before him and a cut-throat crew behind, he
judged that he would be wiser to proceed with extreme caution.

"Keep wide from me at your peril," he cried, threateningly, to his
rascal company. The three horses backed simultaneously, and Haxo, his
Calf and his Killer, waited in an irregular semicircle, while Wat took
out of his pocket a tinder-box and from his holster a candle. There was
not a breath of air, and when Lochinvar lighted the taper the flame
mounted steadily upwards, so that he had no need even to shelter it
with his hand while the flame went down and then as slowly came again,
as all candles do when they are first lighted.

Wat glanced up at the sign of the Black Bull's Head, which was set in
rude caricature over the door of the inn. His mind wandered grimly to
the significance of that emblem in his own country, and to the many
good men and true who had dined with the Black Bull's head on the
table--and thereafter dined no more in this world. And to think that
he, Wat Gordon of Lochinvar, had brought the Bull with him, together
with the Bull-calf and the Killer, to keep him company to the Black
Bull of Brederode! He took the conceit as an omen, and gritted his
teeth to remember what an arrant gull he had been.

"I shall never see my love more," he said under his breath; "well,
never mind, Wat Gordon, lad--if die you must, there are some now alive
who will be in a similar plight ere you turn up your toes. And at all
events I am glad that I kissed her."

He dismounted and drew his sword.

"Stand still where you are," he cried to Haxo. "Advance an inch at your
peril till I give the word."

He looped his horse's rein to the iron hook at the cheek of the inn
door. Then he gripped his sword tighter, and said a prayer which ended
somewhat unorthodoxly:

"I wish I had that glove which I threw into the canal. For, after
all, she gave it to me. Also, her lips pout most adorably when she is
angered."

And this seemed strange enough information to give the Deity. But
without doubt its sincerity carried it further heavenward than many an
empty Credo. For the God who made love does not, like Jove, laugh at
lovers' vows.



CHAPTER IV

THE DUEL AT THE INN OF BREDERODE


So, thinking with all his might upon the adorable pout of his lady's
lips, that right loyal lover Walter Gordon strode, not without fear,
but all the braver for mastering it, into the dark passage which
stretched straight before him, gloomy as a sea cave at midnight. Doors
still blacker yawned on either side of him like the mouths of huge
cannon. He held his candle aloft, and paused a moment at each, striving
with all his might to penetrate the silence that reigned within. But
the faint circle of illumination hardly passed beyond the threshold.
Wat, as he held his breath and listened, only heard the rats scuttle
and the mice cheep in the oaken wainscoting.

It was with a feeling of chill water running icily down his back that
he passed each black cavern, glancing warily over his shoulder lest he
should catch the downward stroke of an arm in the doorway, or see the
candle-light flash on the deadly blade of the Killer's butchering knife.

It was nerve-shaking work. The sweat, chill as the clammy mist of the
night, began to pour down Wat's face, and his flesh grew prickly all
over as though he had been stuck full of pins.

Unless something happened, he felt that in another moment he must
shriek aloud. He stopped and listened. Somewhere near him he felt sure
he could distinguish the sound of breathing. It was not the heavy,
regular to-and-fro respiration of unconscious sleep, but rather the
quicker and shorter breathing of one who has recently undergone severe
exertion, and whose heart still runs fast ahead.

Wat stood and listened. The sound came from half-way up the stairs, out
of a room with a door which opened wider than the others, and which now
stood, gaping black and ominous, directly before him. Wat could hear
the sound of feet behind him, cautiously shuffling on the flags of the
doorway, and by this sign he knew that his three ruffians were there
waiting for him with the weapons of their trade naked and deadly in
their hands. He was trapped, taken between the brutal, dastard butchers
behind him and the unknown but more terrible breathers in the dark
above him.

Yet his very desperation brought a compensating calmness. He pressed
his arm against his side, where, in an inner pocket, he carried the
papers he had come to deliver. He undid the button of his cloak, and
let it fall to the ground to clear his sword-arm. Then, bending forward
like a runner straining to obtain good pace at the start of a short
race, he went up the stairs steadily and warily till he had reached the
door of the room. His candle was almost blown out with the quickness
of his motion. It flickered low, and then caught again, as Wat stepped
nimbly within, and made the point of his sword circle about him to
clear himself a space against attack.

Then he looked around him. He found himself in a wide, low-ceilinged
room, with many small windows along the side. A curtain of arras
hung at one end, and a table stood in front of it--a hall of rustic
assembly, as it seemed. At the far side of the table from him and
between its edge and the curtain, calm as though it had been broad
day, sat a tall, thin man. He had red hair and a short red beard, both
liberally sprinkled with gray. His eyes were of a curious China blue,
pale and cold. He was clad in a French uniform, and a pair of pistols
and a drawn sword lay on the table before him.

The man sat perfectly still, with his elbows on the table and his chin
on the knuckles of the hands which were joined beneath his beard. His
eyes were alive, however, and surveyed Wat Gordon from head to foot.
The effect of this scrutiny upon the man in the chair was somewhat
surprising.

He started half-way to his feet, and so disturbed the table behind
which he sat that one of the pistols rolled off and fell underneath,
so that the butt appeared on the side nearest to Wat. At the noise the
arras behind was disturbed, and Lochinvar felt that unseen eyes were
watching and unseen ears listening behind its shelter.

Wat, on his side, was not less astonished. For at the first glance he
knew the man at the table.

"Jack--Jack Scarlett?" he stammered, half holding out and half
withholding his hand, as to a friend met unexpectedly in more than
doubtful circumstances. The man nodded without appearing to notice the
outstretched hand, and continued to look the young man over with the
pale, piercing eyes of blue.

"Then you are the officer of the prince appointed to receive my
despatches?" cried Wat, when words came back to him.

The man whom Wat had called Jack Scarlett shook his head.

"With another I might pretend it," he said, "but not with you, Lord of
Lochinvar. Now do I see that Barra plots deeper and yet more simply
than I had given his Highland brains credit for. I little knew that
the cavalier whom I was to meet to-night was Wat Gordon, mine ancient
scholar and good ally."

"It pleases you to speak riddles with your tongue, John," replied
Walter, "you that were wont to strike so strong and straight with the
blade of steel. You that know me well, mine old master of the fence, I
beseech to speak plainly and riddle to me no more."

Scarlett never took his blue eyes off Lochinvar's face as he spoke.

"We are here, my Lord of Lochinvar, in the matter of a most serious
conference," he said; "therefore, do not stand there fixed and
forwandered in the midst of the floor. Set your candle on a sconce and
be seated."

Wat shook his head.

"There are too many perils behind me and before," he replied; "I must
have light and room to guard my head ere I can sit or talk with you or
any man, seeing that my life is not my own so long as my commission
remains unfulfilled."

Scarlett knocked three times loudly on the board in front of him.

In a moment the arras stirred behind, and a man-at-arms appeared. He
was clad in a pale-blue uniform, unlike any that Wat had seen in the
army of the States-General.

"Bring lights," said Scarlett to him in French.

In a few minutes the room was fully illumined by the rays of half
a dozen candles set in a pair of silver candlesticks, each of them
holding three lights.

Then Scarlett pointed Wat to a chair.

"Surely you will do me the honor to be seated now," he said,
courteously.

Wat replied by picking up a cross-legged stool of black oak and setting
it down at the angle of the room, at the point most distant from the
arras, and also from the door by which he had entered. Then he sat down
upon it, still holding his sword bare in his right hand, and made the
point of it play with the toe of his buff leathern riding-boot, while
he waited impatiently for Scarlett to speak.

The man at the table had never once removed his eyes from Lochinvar's
face. Then in a quiet, steady, unhurried voice he began to speak:

"You have not forgotten, my Lord of Lochinvar--"

At the repetition of the title Walter stirred his shoulders a little
disdainfully.

"I say again, my Lord of Lochinvar has not forgotten--my lord has every
right to the title. It was given to his ancestors by the grandfather of
his present majesty--"

"His present majesty?" said Walter, looking up inquiringly.

"Aye," replied Scarlett, with some apparent heat, "His Most Gracious
Majesty James the Second, King of Great Britain and Ireland. Since when
did Walter Gordon of Lochinvar need to stand considering who has the
right to be styled his lawful king?"

And the keen, cold eyes glinted like steel blades in the candle-light.

"It was in fencing and not in loyalty that I took lessons from you,
John Scarlett," replied Lochinvar, haughtily, looking with level brows
at the red-bearded man across the table, who still leaned his chin on
the tips of his fingers. "I pray you, say out your message and be done."

"But this is my message," Scarlett went on, "which I was commanded to
deliver to the man whom I should meet here in the inn of Brederode. You
are the servant of King James, and his messages and commands are yours
to obey."

Wat Gordon bowed stiffly. "In so far," he said, "as they do not
conflict with my orders from my superior officers in the service of the
Prince of Orange, in whose army I am at present a humble soldier."

"You are indeed a soldier in the Scottish Guards, which were raised
in that country by permission of King James, and by him lent to his
son-in-law, the Stadtholder of Holland. But surely the commands of
your king are before all; before the mandates of Parliament, before the
commands of generals--aye, before even the love of wife and children."

And the sonorous words brought a fire into the cold eyes of the speaker
and an answering erectness into the pose of Wat Gordon, who had
hitherto been listening listlessly but watchfully as he continued to
tap the point of his riding-boot with his sword-blade.

"I have yet to hear what are the commands of his majesty the king,"
said Wat, lifting his hat at the name.

Scarlett tossed a sealed paper across the table, and as Wat rose to
take it he kept a wary eye on the two chief points of danger--the
division in the arras and the door, behind which, as he well knew, were
stationed those three worthy gentry of my Lord Barra's retinue, Haxo
the Bull, the Calf, and the Killer.

Wat took the paper with his left hand, broke the seal, and unfolded it
by shaking it open with a quick, clacking jerk. It read thus:

    _JAMES II., by the GRACE OF GOD, etc._

    _It is my command that John Scarlett, Lieutenant of the
    Luxemburg Regiment in the service of the King of France, obtain
    the papers relating to the numbers and dispositions of the
    troops of the States-General in the city and camp of Amersfort,
    which I have reason to believe to be in the possession of
    my trusty servant and loving Cousin, Walter Gordon, Lord of
    Lochinvar in Galloway._

    _At Whitehall, this 14 of Aprile, 1688._

                              _JAMES R._

Walter bent his knee, kissed the king's message, and, rising to his
feet, as courteously folded it and handed it back to Lieutenant
Scarlett.

"I am the king's subject, it is true," he said. "Moreover, the king is
anointed, and his word binds those to whom it is addressed. But I am
also the soldier of the Prince of Orange and of the States-General of
Holland. I eat their bread; I wear their uniform; I take their pay; to
them I have sworn the oath of allegiance. I am in this inn of Brederode
as a plain soldier, charged with orders given to me by my superior
officer, and I cannot depart from these orders while I live a free man
and able to carry them out."

"But the king--the king--?" sternly reiterated Scarlett, rising for the
first time to his feet, and clapping the palm of his hand sharply on
the table by way of emphasis.

"The king," replied Walter, in a voice deeply moved, "is indeed my
king. But he has no right to command a soldier to become a traitor,
nor to turn an honest man into a spy. He may command my life and my
fortunes. He may command my death. But, landless, friendless, and an
exile though I be, mine honor at least is mine own. I refuse to deliver
the papers with which I have been intrusted, or to be a traitor to the
colors under which I serve."

While Walter spoke Scarlett stood impatiently tapping the table with
the paper, which he had refolded.

"The request, at any rate, is nothing more than a formality," he said.
"You are here alone. Your three attendant rascals are, equally with
myself, in the pay of the King of France. They wait under arms at that
door--"

"Under butchers' knives, say rather!" interrupted Lochinvar, scornfully.

But Scarlett paid no heed to his words.

"If you will deliver up the papers cheerfully, according to the mandate
of your king, I have in my pocket a patent of nobility made out for the
man who should put them into my hand at the inn of Brederode--besides
the promise of pardons and restoration of heritages for all his friends
and associates at present lying outside the law in Scotland and
elsewhere. Think well, for much more than the present hangs upon your
answer. Life and death for many others are in it!"

Wat stood still without making any answer. With his left hand he turned
the dainty lace upon the cuff of his coat-sleeve carefully back. He
thought vaguely of his love whom he was renouncing to go to certain
death, of the friends whose pardon he was refusing. Most clearly of all
he bethought him of the old tower in the midst of the Loch of Lochinvar
under the heathery fell of lone Knockman. Then he looked straight at
the man before him.

"Jack Scarlett," he said, "it was you who taught me how to thrust and
parry. Then your hand was like steel, but your heart was not also hard
as the millstone. You were not used to be a man untrue, forsworn. God
knows then, at least, you were no traitor. You were no spy. You were
no murderer, though a soldier of fortune. You called me a friend, and
I was not ashamed of the name. I do not judge you even now. You may
have one conception of loyalty to the king we both acknowledge. I have
another. You are in the service of one great prince, and you are (I
believe it) wholly faithful to him. Do me the honor to credit that I
can be as faithful to my uniform, as careless of life, and as careful
of honor in the service of my master as you would desire to be in
yours."

Scarlett turned his eyes away. He felt, though he did not
yet acknowledge, the extraordinary force and fervor of the
appeal--delivered by Wat with red-hot energy, with a hiss in the swift
words of it like that which the smith's iron gives forth when it is
thrust into the cooling caldron.

Wat turned full upon him. The two men stood eye to eye, with only the
breadth of the table between them.

"Look you, Scarlett," Lochinvar said again, without waiting for his
reply. "You are the finest swordsman in the world; I am but your
pupil; yet here and now I will fight you to the death for the papers
if you will promise to draw off your men and give me free passage from
this place should I kill you or have you at my mercy. But I warn you
that you will have to kill me without any mercy in order to get the
documents from me."

Scarlett appeared to consider for a space.

"There is no risk, and, after all, it makes it less like a crime," he
said, under his breath. But aloud he only answered, "I will fight you
for the papers here and now."

Walter bowed his head, well pleased.

"That is spoken like my old Jack!" he said.

Lieutenant Scarlett went to the arras and threw it open with both
hands. It ran with brazen rings upon a bar in the Flemish manner.

"Clairvaux! Ferrand!" he cried.

And two young officers in gay uniforms immediately appeared.

"Gentlemen," he said, addressing them, "this is Walter Gordon, Lord of
Lochinvar. He has done me the honor to propose crossing swords with me
here in this room. If he should kill me or have me at his mercy he is
to be allowed free passage and outgate. Also he fights far from his
friends, and therefore one of you will be good enough to act as his
second."

The younger of the two officers, he who had answered to the name of
Ferrand, a tall, fair-haired Frenchman of the Midi, at once said, "I
shall consider it an honor to act as second to the Sieur of Lochinvar."

"In the event of my death you will consider these orders imperative,
and equally binding upon your honor as upon mine own," said John
Scarlett.

The two officers bowed.

"I think we should know the length of each other's swords by this
time," he said, looking at Wat; "there is therefore no need that our
seconds should measure them." For he had noted Walter's disinclination
to let his weapon leave his hand. So far as his own life was concerned,
Wat hoped little from this combat. But he desired greatly to die an
honorable death, with his face to a worthy enemy; for John Scarlett had
been in his time the greatest swordsman in Europe, and though Walter
was by far his ablest pupil in Scotland, yet at no time could he have
stood any chance in open field against his master.

So, as the swords felt one another after the salute, Wat set his teeth
and wondered how long it would last, and how much Kate would ever know.
There is little need to describe the fight at length. From the first
Scarlett contented himself with keeping his opponent's blade in play,
feeling it, humoring it, and, as it were, coaxing it into position.
And for some bouts Wat fought without any of that verve and lightning
versatility of fence which were his usual characteristics in action.
Something seemed to paralyze his powers and weigh down his sword-blade,
as though the quick and living steel had turned to lead in his hand.
It might be that the feeling of ancient pupilage had returned to him,
for to himself he seemed rather to be taking a lesson in the finesse
of defence than to be fighting against terrible odds for his life and
honor.

But suddenly a wonderful change came over him. A laugh was heard out in
the passage, in which stood Haxo the Bull and his satellites--a laugh
thin, acrid, unmistakable. It stung Wat to the roots of his heart.
For a moment he was in difficulty. The problem divided his mind even
between thrust and parry. There was no man whom he knew well whose
laugh rang like that. But even as he fought he remembered how once, in
the palace of the stadtholder, he had seen the prince come in leaning
upon the arm of a young, dark-haired man, whose meagre, hatchet face
was decorated, for all ornament, with a black mustache so scanty that
it seemed twisted of twenty hairs, and whose ends hung down, one on
either side of his lips, like a couple of rats' tails. This, and a
certain bitter, rasping laugh to which he had at once taken a dislike,
were all Wat remembered of that young man. But after the distinguished
party had passed in to supper he learned that the prince's companion
and confidant was one of his own nation, Murdo McAlister, Lord of
Barra and the Small Isles, and that he was one to whom the Prince of
Orange looked for counsel in all that did not touch the ecclesiastical
position of affairs of Scotland.

The laugh which rang out from the dark passage behind the Bull,
the Calf, and the Killer was the same which he had heard at the
supper-party of the stadtholder.

From that moment Wat knew that in no event had he now any chance for
his life. It mattered little whether or not he killed John Scarlett.
Barra would certainly have the papers. For he knew the man well enough
to know that, having taken such trouble to obtain the return of the
numbers and positions for his own traitorous purposes, he would never
let the bearer of them slip through his fingers. No oaths of his
own or another would serve to bind Murdo of the Isles in that which
concerned his schemes. Yet even in that moment of agony Wat could not
help wondering why Barra had taken so difficult and roundabout a way of
obtaining and transmitting a paper which it would have been perfectly
easy for him to have gained by means of his official position, and to
have forwarded to the King of France by more ordinary channels. But,
however this may be, certain it is that the laugh irritated Wat Gordon
strangely, and at the first sound of it he sprang towards Scarlett with
an energy and fierceness entirely unlike the lassitude with which he
had previously fought.

From that moment he forced the fighting, attacking with furious vigor
and astonishing rapidity, so that the great master-at-arms soon found
that even he had enough to do simply to stand it out on the defensive.
Yet Scarlett smiled, too, for he thought that this bout of youthful
fury would soon wear itself down, and that then he would easily enough
get in his favorite deadly thrust in quart, to which no answer had ever
yet been discovered.

But Walter never gave him time; for again the acrid laugh came from
the dark passage and set all the young man's blood tingling to put a
sword deep in the traitor's throat, and then, if need be, die with his
foot on his enemy's breast. He sped two thrusts one after the other so
swiftly that Scarlett, countering over-late for the first, had to leap
back in order to measure his distance for the second. In so doing his
foot slipped, and his blade, caught unexpectedly by Lochinvar's, went
ringing against the ceiling and fell on the floor. Walter's point was
at his breast the next moment.

"Yield!" said Walter; "I hold you to your word. You are at my mercy."

"I yield," said Scarlett. "It was well done. Never before in any land
was I thus vanquished in a fair fight."



CHAPTER V

HAXO THE BULL INTERFERES


Walter bowed and returned him his sword, holding it by the blade.

"And now, Lieutenant Scarlett," he said, "I desire to ride back to
Amersfort, and you, I doubt not, wish as eagerly to return whence you
came--by sea to Flanders, as I guess. I shall be grateful, therefore,
if you will draw off your company, and give an order that my horse be
brought to that door which is in possession of your own men."

At this moment Haxo the Bull stepped into the room.

"Not so fast by a great deal, master-fighter with windlestraws," he
cried. "If it have pleased this friend of yours and traitorous officer
of the King of France to make a public bargain upon the issue of a
private duel, that has nothing to do with me. There are many other
fights to be fought ere you leave this house with the papers safe
in your pocket. Listen," he continued, addressing the officers and
soldiers standing in the opposite doorway behind Lieutenant Scarlett:
"are you to lose your reward and be left without reason or remedy here
in the very heart of an enemy's country--your work undone, your doom
sealed? For if ye let him escape, this fellow will instantly set the
prince's horsemen or his swift Dutch ships upon your track. Better to
kill him and take his papers without delay, when rewards and promotions
will assuredly be yours on your return to your master."

It was easy to see that this harangue had not been the inspiration of
Haxo himself, for he delivered it, now trippingly and now haltingly,
like a schoolboy who does not know the meaning of his lesson. But yet
it was perfectly comprehensible to all in the room, and Wat could see
that the purport of it moved the officers and men greatly. The wide
archway behind the table from which the arras had been drawn back was
now thronged with faces.

Wat Gordon stood aside whistling an air softly, like one who waits for
a discussion to be concluded in which he has no interest. He had not so
much as looked at Haxo the Bull while he was speaking.

But John Scarlett grew redder and redder as he listened, and so soon
as the butcher was finished he started towards him so abruptly and
fiercely that that worthy gat himself incontinently behind the weapons
of his allies, the Calf and the Killer, with an alacrity which seemed
quite disproportionate to his physical condition.

"I am the commander here," Scarlett cried, "and I am bound by my
promise. I am determined to let this man go according to my word. Stand
back there!"

But the elder of the two French officers came forward.

He saluted Scarlett and addressed himself directly to him.

"Lieutenant Scarlett," he said, "I am your equal in rank though not
in standing. We were sent here under your orders to obtain certain
despatches of great importance to our general and to the coming
campaign. We shall therefore be compelled to take this man with us,
with all the papers in his possession, and to report your conduct to
the commander at headquarters."

His words appeared first to amuse and then to infuriate John Scarlett.

Striking suddenly at the triple candlestick on his right, he leaped
over the table, crying, "Down with the lights! I am with you, Wat
Gordon. Through the door and have at them out into the open. It is your
only chance."

Wat, whose sword was ready in his hand, struck sideways at the other
group of lights and sent them crashing to the floor. Most of these
went out at once in their fall, but one or two continued to burn for
a moment with a faint light as they lay among the trampling feet. Wat
threw himself at the doorway in which he had heard the laugh, and
through which Scarlett had preceded him a moment before. Wat could hear
that valiant sworder somewhere in front of him, striking good blows
and swearing, "Out with you, devil's brats!" at the top of his voice.
So when he reached the end of the passage he found at the outer door
Scarlett making brisk play with four or five men, who were endeavoring
to hem him into a narrow space where he should not have the liberty of
his sword-arm.

Wat ranged himself beside his late enemy, the two long blades began
to flicker fatally in the starlight, and the hurt men to cry out and
stagger away. Then quite unexpectedly the crowd in front broke and fled.

"Get on your horse, Wat!" Scarlett cried. "I can keep the door against
these loons of mine--at least till you are well out of the way."

There were two good horses, one on either side of the doorway--Wat's,
and that upon which Haxo had ridden. Wat sprang upon his own, and, with
a cut of his sword, Scarlett divided the halter. The horse wheeled and
set off at a gallop through the sand-hills. Yet he went reluctantly,
for, had it not been for the safety of his papers, Wat would gladly
have stayed and helped John Scarlett to engage the whole of the army of
France, with any number of Bulls and Killers in addition thereto.

For, as he vanished into the black night, he could hear John Scarlett
advising the first man who desired three feet of cold steel through
his vitals to step up and be accommodated. And as he turned eastward
towards Amersfort, riding beneath the silent bulk of the old castle of
Brederode, he heard again the clash of iron and the cry of pain which
he knew so well. He smiled a little grimly, and wished nothing better
than that his papers had been delivered, and he again at work at his
old master's elbow.

Presently, however, having, as it seemed to him, left all possibility
of pursuit behind, Wat put his horse into an easier pace, and rode
on by silent and unfrequented paths towards the east, judging his
direction by the stars--which had been an old study of his when it was
his hap to take to the heather in the black days of the Covenant in
Scotland.

As he went he became aware of the noise of a horse galloping swiftly
behind him. He drew his sword and stood on the defence, lest the sound
should betoken a new danger; but presently he heard a voice calling his
own name loudly:

"Wat Gordon! I say, Wat Gordon!"

It was the voice of Jack Scarlett, his late enemy and present deliverer.

He rode up beside Walter, very strange to look upon, clad in some suit
of white or pale blanket-color that glimmered in the dusk of the night.

"I gave half a dozen of the rascals that which it will be two days or
they get the better of, I'se warrant," he said, chuckling to himself;
"and then, thinking that mayhap I might not be welcome any longer in
the army of France, I e'en came my ways after you. As I rode I cast my
uniform and left my commission in the pocket of my coat. So I am but
poor masterless Jack Scarlett once more--a free comrade looking for a
regiment, and equipped with nothing but his thews and his long sword,
which, God be thanked, are both his own. Think ye the States-General
and the Yellow Prince have need of such as I?"

"And how now about the anointed king?" Wat could not help saying.

"The anointed king is safe in Whitehall, and can afford to wait till
Jack Scarlett is a little less hungry," answered the free-lance,
frankly.

Having been thus fortunate in obtaining the only two good horses about
the inn of Brederode (for the Frenchmen had come by sea to the little
port of Lis-op-Zee, and the horses of the Calf and the Killer were but
sorry jades), Scarlett had ridden all the way back without a challenge,
or so much as encountering any sound more threatening than the roopy
chuckle of disturbed poultry on the farm-house roosts as he clattered
by on his way.

As the two horsemen came nearer to the city, and the east began to
send up a fountain of rosy hues to mingle with the gray spaces of the
early morning, Wat could not help laughing at the figure his comrade
presented. The master-at-arms was attired simply and Spartanly in such
darned and patched underclothing as he had amassed during half a dozen
campaigns. These were not all of the same material nor color. They were
not, indeed, at all points strictly continuous, the native hide being
allowed to show itself through here and there, while only the long
sword belted about the waist and the cavalry boots remained to tell of
the well-seasoned man of wars and stratagems.

Jack Scarlett was noways offended at Wat's frank laughter. He even
glanced down at himself with a comically rueful air.

"I wish to the saints that I had met somebody else in this garb," he
said; "and then I own I could have laughed myself off my horse."

But, nevertheless, laugh he did, and that most heartily, like a
good-humored carle, at the figure of sin he cut in the morning light;
and specially he was delighted at the paralyzed astonishment of a lank,
hobbledehoy gooseherd who came trolloping along a path towards a canal
bridge, yawning so that his lower jaw and his head well-nigh dropped
apart. For at sight of the red-bearded man in the white sacking and
top-boots the wand-twirling yokel gave a yell sudden as the popping of
a cork, and forthwith fled, running fleet-foot along the edge of the
canal as though the devil himself had been tattering at his tail.

"This guiser's mode will never do to enter the city of Amersfort
withal!" quoth Scarlett, looking down at his own inconsequent
ragamuffin swathings.

And he paused to consider the problem, while Wat divided himself
between chuckling at his late enemy's dilemma, thinking what he would
say in his coming interview with Barra in the camp, and (what occupied
nine out of every ten minutes) wondering how Kate McGhie would receive
him in the street of Zaandpoort.

At last the man in the white bandagings had an idea. He clapped his
hand suddenly to his brow.

"What a dull dotard am I to forget Sandy Lyall!"

"I know," he continued in explanation, "a certain honest fool of a Scot
that hath wedded a wife of the country. He lives but a mile from here
and breeds young Flamands for the prince's armies, and ducks for the
Amersfort market. We will e'en go find him, and make him deliver of the
best in his wardrobe. For he and I count kin in some seventeenth or
eighteenth degree, though this is the first time I ever bethought me of
claiming it."

And with no more words John Scarlett turned his horse briskly down a
side lane, just as the sun was rising and beginning to shine ruddily
brown through the morning haze. The sails of a score of windmills
darted up suddenly black in the level rush of light, and every hissing
goose and waddling, matronly hen had a rosy side and a gray side,
together with an attenuated shadow which stretched up the dikes and
away across the polders.

Presently Scarlett and his companion, at the foot of a leafy by-lane,
came to the house of the Scot who had married the Flemish wife for the
very practical purposes described by Scarlett.

The madcap figure in white went forward to the door, while Wat remained
behind cackling helplessly with idiot laughter. Scarlett thundered on
the warped and sun-whitened deal of the panels with the hilt of his
sword. Then, receiving no response, he kicked lustily with his boots
and swore roundly at the unseen occupants in a dozen camp dialects.

During his harangues, sulky maledictions grumbled intermittently from
the house. Presently an upper window flew open, a splash of dirty
water fell souse on the warrior, and still more sadly bedraggled the
preposterous quixotry of his attire.

The temper of the master-at-arms was now strained to the
breaking-point. "Sandy Lyall," he cried--and to do him justice,
his voice was more full of sorrow than of anger--"Sandy Lyall, of
Pittenweem, listen to me, John Scarlett, gin ye dinna come doon this
minute and get me a suit o' claes, warm and dry, I'll thraw your dirty
Fifish neck--aye, like a twist of rotten straw at a rick-thatching."

But even this explicit malediction threatened to go by without effect.

But at long and last there looked out of the small diamond-paned window
from which the jar of water had fallen the head of a respectable enough
woman, who wore a red shawl wrapped round her coarse black hair in the
fashion of a nightcap.

[Illustration: "SCARLETT THUNDERED ON THE PANELS WITH THE HILT OF HIS
SWORD"]

"Decent woman," cried Jack Scarlett to her, "is your man at hame?"

But the woman, feather-bed sleep yet blinking heavily in her eyes,
threw up her hands and shrieked aloud at the unexpected apparition of
a man thus mountebanking before her window in white and incomplete
skin-tights.

Without articulate speech she withdrew her head and fled within.
Whereat Scarlett fell to louder knocking than before, exclaiming all
the while on the idleness, incapacity, and general uselessness of
such men of Fife as had married foreigneering sluts, and especially
threatening what he would do to the particular body and soul of Sandy
Lyall, sometime indweller in the ancient borough of Pittenweem.

"Never did I see such a man. The ill-faured wife o' him settin' her
head out o' a winnock-sole at five in the morning, and Sandy himsel'
lyin' snorkin' an' wamblin' in his naked bed like a gussy swine in a
stye! Lord, Lord, wait till I get my hands on him! I'll learn him to
keep honester men than himsel' waitin' on the loan of his Sabbath gear,
crawling partan o' the East Neuk that he is!"

"Aye, John Scarlett, man, but is that you, na?" drawled a quiet, sleepy
voice at the window. "Wha wad hae thocht on seeing you in mountebank's
cleading so early in the morning? Hae ye been at some play-actin' near
by? Ye dinna look as if you had gotten muckle for your pains. Come awa
ben, and I'll gar the wife rise an' get ye porridge--siclike porridge
as ane can get in this Guid-forsaken country, that is mair like
hen-meat than decent brose for Scots thrapples, to my thinkin'!"

"Sandy Lyall!" cried Scarlett, still much incensed, "hear to me! Come
down this instant and let me in! Gi'e me a pair o' trews, a coat, and
a decent cloak, and let me be gaun, for I am on an errand of great
importance which takes me before the Prince of Orange himsel' this very
morning, and it befits not a Scot and a soldier to appear before his
high mightiness in this costume."

"I'll come doon the noo, as fast as I can don my gear and truss my
points!" cried Sandy Lyall. "Ye were aye a rude man and unceevil a' the
days o' ye, John Scarlett. But I canna leave ony Scots lad to want for
a pair o' breeks and a cloak to cover his nakedness--or what amounts to
the same thing, as the monkey said when he sat down on the hot girdle
and gat up again before he was fairly rested."

And with these words, Sandy Lyall, of Pittenweem, in the shire of Fife,
slowly descended, his feet sounding portentously on the wooden ladder.
The door opened, and there was the master of the dwelling standing with
outstretched hand, bidding his compatriots welcome to his house. The
action would have disarmed a Cossack of Russia. It quenched the anger
of John Scarlett like magic.

"Aye, man, an' hoo's a' wi' ye?" he said, as it is the custom for all
Scots to say when they forgather with one another in any land under the
sun.

After turning out of one drawer and another various articles of his
wife's attire, which were clearly not intended (as Sandy remarked)
"for breeks to a grown man like John Scarlett," the master of the
house at last managed to array his friend somewhat less unsuitably in
a coat of dark-blue Rotterdam cloth, adorned with tails, which on his
thinner figure clapped readily together in a military manner; a pair of
breeches of tanned leather went very well with the boots and sword-belt
of buff, which were all that remained to Scarlett of his fine French
uniform. The master-at-arms surveyed himself with no small satisfaction.

"For a Fifer, ye are a man of some discernment," he said; "and your
duds fit me no that ill. They maun hae been made for ye when ye were
younger, and altogether a better-lookin' figure o' a man!"

"Aye; they were cutted oot for me when I was coortin'--no this ane,"
Sandy Lyall explained, indicating his present wife with a placid,
contemptuous thumb, "but a braw, weel-tochered lass oot o' the pairish
o' Sant Andros. But she wadna hae me because I cam' frae Pittenweem.
She said I smelled o' fish-creels."

"And what, Master Lyall, might have brought you to Flanders?" asked
Wat, who had been waiting as patiently as he might while his companion
arrayed himself.

He thought that this otiose burgher of Pittenweem must be a strange
subject for the religious enthusiasm which was mostly in these days the
cause of a man's being exiled from his native country.

"Weel," returned Sandy, with immense and impressive gravity, checking
off the details upon the palm of one hand with the index-finger of the
other, "ye see the way o't was this: There was a lass, and there was a
man, and there was me. And the man and me, we baith wanted the lass--ye
comprehend? And the lass didna want but ane o' us. And that ane wasna
me. So I gied the man a clour, and he fell to the grund and didna get
up. And the lass she gaed and telled. So that was the way that I left
my native land for conscience' sake."

Wat marvelled at the simple, quiet-looking man who had so strenuously
arranged matters to his satisfaction before leaving his love and the
land of his birth.

"Aye, but that wasna the warst o' it," Sandy Lyall went on, "for,
a' owin' to that lang-tongued limmer, I had to leave ahint me as
thrivin' a cooper's business as there was in a' the heartsome toon o'
Pittenweem--aye, and as mony as half a score o' folk owin' me siller!
But I owed ither folk a deal mair, and that was aye some consolation."



CHAPTER VI

THE PRINCE OF ORANGE


In a long, low, narrow room in the palace of the stadtholder in the
city of Amersfort, sat Murdo, Lord of Barra and the Small Isles. The
head of a great though isolated western clan, he had detached himself
from the general sentiments of his people with regard to religion and
loyalty. First his father and then he himself had taken the Covenanting
side in the national struggle--his father through interest and
conviction, the son from interest alone. Both, however, had carried
with them the unquestioning loyalty of their clan, so that it became
an important consideration to any claimant for the throne of Britain
who desired quietness in the north to have on his side the McAlisters,
Lords of Barra and the Small Isles.

The Prince of Orange had given to both father and son a welcome and
a place of refuge when the storm of persecution shook even the wild
Highlands and the government was granting to its more zealous adherents
letters of fire and sword for the extirpation of suspected clans, and
especially for the encouragement of the well-affected by the plunder of
rebels and psalm-singers.

Now, in acknowledgment of this timely succor and safe harborage, Barra
had, ever since his father's death, given his counsel to the prince on
many matters concerning Scotland. Yet, though Murdo McAlister had been
used, he had never been fully trusted by William of Orange, nor yet by
those wise and farseeing men who stood closest about him. Something
crafty in Barra's look, something sinister in his eye, kept those who
knew him best from placing complete confidence in him. And there were
those who made no difficulty about declaring that Murdo of Barra had a
foot in either camp, and that, were it not for the importance of the
information sent from Holland to the court of James the Second, my
Lord of Barra could very well return home, and enjoy his long barren
moorlands and wave-fretted heritages in unvexed peace.

It was yet early morning when Wat and John Scarlett stood before my
Lord of Barra in the palace room which he occupied as provost-marshal
of the city and camp. They saluted him civilly, while his cold,
viperish eye took in the details of their attire with a certain chill
and insolent regard, which made Wat quiver from head to foot with
desire to kill him.

To judge by the provost-marshal's reception, he might never have seen
either of them before. Yet Lochinvar was as certain as that he lived
that it was his laugh which had jarred upon him in the passage behind
Haxo in the inn of Brederode, and which had been the means of bringing
the combat to a close. Yet he, too, must have ridden fast and far since
the fight at the inn, if Wat's vivid impression had any basis in fact.

"Your business with me?" inquired Barra, haughtily, looking straight
past them into the blank wall behind.

"You know my business," said Walter, abruptly. "I carried out your
orders in collecting information with regard to the number of the
troops, the position of the regiments, and the defences of the camp and
city. This report I was ordered to deliver to an officer of the prince
privately--in order, as I was informed, not to offend those dignitaries
of the city and others who hated the war and wished ill-success to
the prince's campaigns. I set out, therefore, last evening with three
of your retainers, supplied for the purpose by you, to the inn of
Brederode. There I was met, not by an accredited servant of the prince,
but by an officer of the French king, who endeavored first by promises
and then by force to obtain the papers from me; and now I have brought
back the reports safely to Amersfort, to lay them before the prince
in person, and, at the same time, to tax you with double-dealing and
treachery."

Barra listened with an amused air.

"And pray, whom do you expect to delude with this cock-and-bull story?"
he said. "Not, surely, the prince, in whose company I was till a late
hour last night; and not surely myself, who never in my life either
issued or heard of any such preposterous order."

"I demand to see the prince, to whom I shall speak my mind," reiterated
Walter, still more curtly.

"You shall see the inside of a prison in a few moments," returned
Barra, with vicious emphasis. But ere he could summon an officer the
inner door opened, and there entered a dark, thin, sallow-faced man,
with brilliant, hollow-set eyes, who walked with his head a little
forward, as if he had gone all his life in haste.

It was the Prince of Orange himself, dressed in his general's uniform,
but without decorations or orders of any kind.

Barra rose at his entrance and remained standing.

"Pray sit down," said the prince to him, "and proceed with your
conversation with these gentlemen of your country."

"I was about," said Barra, deferentially, "to commit to prison this
soldier of the Douglas Dragoon regiment for a most insolent slander
concerning myself, and also for collecting information as to the
condition of our forces with intent to communicate it to the enemy.
There is, indeed, an officer of the King of France with the man at
this very moment, but in disguise."

The prince turned his bright keen eyes upon Wat and Scarlett in turn.

"And you, sir! what have you to say?" he asked, quietly.

Whereupon, nothing daunted, Wat told his plain tale, and showed the
order which he had received from Sergeant Davie Dunbar, signed with
Barra's name.

"I never wrote the order, and never heard of it," said Barra, who
stood, calmly contemptuous, at the prince's elbow.

"Call Sergeant David Dunbar!" ordered the prince.

It was a few minutes before that stanch soldier arrived. In the mean
time, the prince turned his attention to Scarlett.

"You are an officer of the King of France?" he said, with an ominous
gleam in his eye as he spoke of his arch-enemy.

"I had that honor," replied Scarlett, "till early this morning, when it
was my fortune to help this ancient friend of mine out of a difficulty
into which I had led him. Moreover, being a gentleman, I could not
remain in such a service nor serve with subordinates who knew not the
sacredness of a soldier's pledge. I am, therefore, once more a free
man, and my sword is at the disposal of any honorable prince who will
accept of it."

"You were a celebrated master-of-arms in Scotland, were you not?" asked
the prince.

"If your highness is good enough to say so," said Scarlett, bowing.
"And also in France, the first in estimation in the army of the Prince
of Condé."

"And you understand the drilling and mustering of raw levies?" asked
the Prince of Orange, with some eagerness in his tone.

"There are a dozen regiments in the French service at this moment
who are exceedingly well aware of that, your highness," replied John
Scarlett, with a somewhat peculiar smile.

"Come to me this day week at the camp," said the prince, abruptly,
after remaining a moment in deep thought.

"Sergeant David Dunbar!" announced an officer of the prince's retinue.

And in a moment that sturdy Scot stood before the stadtholder
exceedingly flustered by his sudden summons, and cudgelling his brains
to think why he should be sent for so early in the day by his general.

"You took an order the night before last to this gentleman's quarters?"
said the prince. "From whom did you receive that order, and what speed
did you make with your mission?"

"I received the letter from one whom I knew as a servant of my Lord of
Barra--one Haxo, a butcher in the camp. 'Make haste,' he bade me, 'this
is from my lord to the Scot who dwells in the street of Zaandpoort,
the dragoon called Walter Gordon of Lochinvar, serving in Douglas's
regiment.' So I went there willingly enough, and eke with speed, the
more by token that I knew Wat Gordon and his cousin well, as also Will
Gordon's wife, who is a wise, sober-like lass of Galloway, and can cook
most excellent suppers."

"That will serve, sergeant," said William of Orange. "There is some
mistake or double-dealing here which I shall doubtless discover in good
time. Come to me both together at the camp this day week at the hour of
noon, and I will have further conference with you in my tent. You are
at liberty to join your regiment, and take your friend with you."

Thereupon Walter went to the prince, and, bending on his knee,
presented him with the despatches which, in the inn of Brederode, he
had guarded with his life.

The prince took them without a word of thanks or commendation, and
thrust them into the breast of his coat as carelessly as though they
had been so much waste paper.

For the soldier-prince, who had never known fear in his life, took
courage in others as a matter of course.

And so my Lord Barra was left alone in the office of the
provost-marshal, looking blackly across his table after Wat and
Scarlett as they followed the prince from the room.



CHAPTER VII

MISTRESS MAISIE LENNOX, DIPLOMATIST


When they reached the outer air, Wat drew a long breath. He was still
alive and still a soldier of the States-General, and now at last he had
a whole week's time to think uninterruptedly of Kate. But first of all
he must see her. He was for starting off in the direction of Zaandpoort
Street, but the thoughts of his companion were thirsty thoughts.

"I declare," he cried, "my throat is parched like an Edinburgh
ash-backet on these accursed roads. Let us go to a change-house and
slake our thrapples with a draught of Hollands and water. 'Tis the poor
best that the country affords."

But Wat had other things than Hollands in his mind--the distracting
ripple of Kate's hair, and the way she had of holding the fingers of
one hand on her side when she stood for a moment pensive.

He searched in his belt for a silver thaler, and gave it to Scarlett.

"Go drink, and meet me at the camp to-morrow," he said. Then he
strode away towards the street of Zaandpoort, leaving his companion
alternately looking at the broad unclipped silver piece in his hand,
and staring after him in astonishment.

"The young fool is either mad or in love," confided Scarlett to the
world at large; "but he has not forgotten how to draw a good blade--so
he cannot be so very deeply in love as yet!"

Wat started out boldly and bravely enough, but so soon as he reached
the lilac-bushes which were planted at the foot of the dam of
Zaandpoort he began to feel his shyness returning trebly upon him.
He had not been afraid during the night when he stood surrounded by
assassins and enemies. Joyously and lightheartedly he had crossed
swords with the greatest master-of-arms in Europe. But now, when he
was at the foot of a little wooden stairway, the thought of a simple,
slim-figured girl at the top of it caused the hot blood to tingle in
his cheek, and little helpless pulses to throb and sting in his palms.
Gladly would he have turned and fled. His hands had grown suddenly
great and dirty. His military coat appeared so frayed and draggled with
the night dews and the accidents of the way that he dared not venture
in such a guise into the presence of the lady of his dreams.

But it chanced that Will Gordon, his cousin, had been shaving at a
small mirror which he had set against a twisted chimney-stack on the
roof, both because it was a fine morning and because in the lodging in
the street of Zaandpoort the chambers were small.

"Welcome back, Wat!" he cried, craning his neck over the parapet, and
wiping the soap from the razor upon the high stone coping. "Went your
night-ride to rights?"

"It went most mightily to wrongs!" cried Wat, as cheerfully.

"Nevertheless, in spite of it you are here, safe and sound. Come up,
man, therefore, and tell us the tale. My little lass will doubtless
have something fragrant for breakfast in a moment."

Whereupon he cried lustily down to Maisie, his wife, who was at the pan
in the kitchen: "Put on a full platterful more. Here is our adventurer
returned with a torn coat, a piteous tale, and a right hungry stomach!"

There was clearly no escape now, so Wat, with his heart in his boots,
strode as manfully as he could up the stair which he had been wont to
climb but a day or two before with such complete and careless lack of
thought.

When he opened the outer door, a cheerful smell of morning cookery took
him gratefully by the nostrils, for the long ride and brisk adventure
had quickened his appetite.

"Hither, cousin mine!" cried a light and pleasant voice from the
kitchen.

"And welcome home again!" Maisie added, as he appeared in the doorway.

She had both her hands busy with eggs and flour about the cooking-pan.

"I cannot shake hands with you, Wat," she said, "but to spite William I
will give you a nice kiss."

And she came straight to him where he stood balancing himself
uncertainly just within the threshold. Wat hesitated for the smallest
part of a second.

"Do it quickly, or the eggs will be spoiled," she said, standing on
tiptoe with her floury hands behind her.

"A kiss is worse spoiled by haste than ever an egg can be," said Wat,
as with the kindly pressure of her lips his words and his confidence
began to come back to him.

At his first entering in he had seen Kate stand at the other side of
the fire from Maisie, but now he looked in vain for her. Yet she had
not left the room. Only at the first word of kissing she had entrenched
herself behind a great oaken settle and on the farther side of a wide
Dutch table, where, with her head bent upon an earthenware bowl, she
began to prepare a salad with the most absolute attention and studious
care.

Having kissed Maisie most dutifully, Wat went forward to offer his hand
to Kate. She gave hers to him quickly, and yet, as it seemed to him,
reluctantly also. Instinctively she kept a chair between them as she
did so.

"See, it is all over with oil and chopped lettuce," she said, looking
plaintively at her hand, as though Wat had been personally responsible
for the defilement.

Maisie was at the farther end of the room, bending over her saucepans.
Wat leaned quickly across the table to Kate.

"Are you glad I have come back?" he asked, in a low voice.

"You had a fine morning for your ride," she replied, looking down
at the salad and mixing the ingredients with the most scrupulous
exactitude.

Wat straightened himself instantaneously as if on parade, and stalked
with much dignity to the end of the room at which Maisie was still busy.

And this caused him to miss a singular look which Kate cast after
him, a look of mingled pity and entreaty, wholly wasted on the square
shoulders and erect head, but from which, had Wat caught it, he might
have learned that though it may sometimes be well to appear proud with
a girl, nevertheless, if you love her, not too soon and not too often.

Presently Will Gordon came bustling down to breakfast, having cleaned
his accoutrements and adorned himself with such sober trappings as
were permitted by the Spartan taste of the Covenanting regiment.
Will had still that noisily cheerful self-consciousness which always
characterizes the very young husband doing the unaccustomed honors of
his house.

"Sit down and be welcome, Wat, lad," he cried, "and tell us all the
tale of your journeying."

And so at the table which Maisie had covered with plain coarse Dutch
linen, very unlike the fine cloths which she had left behind her
in Scotland, the four sat down. It was a heartsome meal, and after
a little while Lochinvar began to tell his tale, giving himself
little honor, making nothing of the danger, and dwelling much on the
ridiculous aspect of Haxo the Bull, his ill-favored Calf, and his
bald-headed Killer.

As the tale proceeded Will kept up a constant fire of interjections,
such as "That was well thought on!" "Bravely! my lad!" and "Well done,
Glenkens!" But presently Maisie left her seat, and came round to sit
beside Wat as he began to tell of entering alone at midnight into the
dark house of Brederode with the unknown danger before and the three
traitors behind. All the time Kate sat still, saying nothing and eating
nothing, her lips a little open and tremulous, and her dark eyes
shining with a light in them like a sunbeam in the still water of a sea
cave.

And when it came to the telling of the combat, and the little chance of
life that he had, it so fared that Wat raised his eyes to Kate's, and
lo! tears were running silently down her face and falling unregarded on
her white gown.

In a moment more she had risen and left the table, slipping like a
gleam of light into the next room.

Maisie looked up with much astonishment as she caught the waft of the
girl's gown.

"Why, Kate!" she exclaimed, and without another word sped after her.
When she reached the little room where Kate slept, she found the girl
standing by the window, leaning her head against the thin curtain. She
kept her back to her friend, and did not turn round at her entrance.
Maisie carefully closed the door and went up quickly to Kate. Silently
she put her arm about the slim and supple waist.

"I--I am not crying--I am not indeed!" said Kate, a little indignantly,
putting her hand on her friend's wrist as if to push it away.

"No--no, of course you are not," said Maisie, making (to say the least
of it) an affirmation the truth of which was not wholly obvious. For
the girl's tears dropped steadily upon her white gown, a great one even
falling warm upon Maisie's hand at her waist, while all her slender
body was shaken with sobs.

"It was only--" Kate began, and then stopped.

Maisie sighed as she sat down on the white bed, which, as was its
occupant's custom, had been made up with military precision quite an
hour before. She drew Kate down beside her gently till the girl's head
rested on her shoulders.

"There, there, my lamb," she whispered, soothingly, when at last Kate
found what most she wanted--a soft and comfortably sympathetic surface
to cry upon. Maisie's hand passed lightly over the shapely head with
its straying and enticing thatch of dark love-locks, and her voice
crooned and cooed over her friend like a dove over its mate in the
nest. Then for a long time she continued to hush the girl in her arms,
as if she had been but a little ailing child.

Once there came the sound of a foot heavily masculine in the passage,
and a hand was laid on the latch. Kate made a motion to rise and dry
her face, but Maisie's arms held her tight.

"Go away, William! Go away at once!" she cried, with instant change of
tone, her voice ringing out in such imperious fashion that Will Gordon,
her husband, fled back to the sitting-room, feeling that he had just
saved himself on the brink of some absolutely fatal mistake.

Yet all the while Maisie offered her friend not a word of sympathy,
only the comforting of silent understanding, the touch of loving lips
and hands, and the pressure of loving arms. Kate (she said to herself)
would tell her what she wished at her own time. Maisie had a woman's
tact and did not press for an explanation of a girl's wayward moods, as
even the wisest of men would have done on such an occasion.

"Oh, he might have been killed," at last Kate's words came in a rushing
whisper, as she lifted her face a little higher on Maisie's shoulder.
"And I had sent him away so cruelly. And when he came back I never
told him that I was glad to see him, Maisie. I snatched away my hand."
She added the last words as if that indefensible action had only
crowned a long series of enormities.

"Well," answered her friend, smiling very lovingly down at her, "he is
not gone yet. Come back and say it now. I dare say he will forgive you,
if you look at him like that."

But Kate only sadly shook her head, a little reproachfully that such
a revolutionary proposal should come from one of Maisie's pretended
sympathy and understanding.

"How can I go back?" she said, hopelessly. "They _saw_ me crying, and
they would sit and look at me all the time--like--like--" (and Kate
paused while she searched the universe for a comparison to express the
most utter and abject stupidity) "well, just like men."

Yet she sighed and turned her face a little more inward towards
Maisie's shoulder. "No, decidedly," she said, as if after all she had
been considering the question; "I cannot go back."

Maisie loosened her arms from about Kate's neck. "Then you shall not,
sweeting," she said, with determination, as if a coercive army had been
at hand; "lie you still there and I will get them away. Trust me, they
shall know no more than it is good for men to know."

And she nodded her head to express the limited capacity of mankind,
and the absolute necessity that there was for the wiser portion of the
race to maintain them in a condition of strictly defined and diplomatic
ignorance.

Before she went out of the bedroom Maisie set by the girl's side a
small bottle of the sweet-scented water of Cologne, one which Wat
himself had brought back from his last campaign. "He carried that
nearly a year in his haversack," Maisie said, irrelevantly, as she set
the vial within reach of Kate's hand. "I will go send him to take a
bath. He must have ridden both hard and fast to be back from Brederode
by six o'clock in the morning."

"You will not tell them," whispered the girl, faintly, catching at
Maisie's hand as she went out, "nor let him think that I am--foolish?"

"Trust to me," said Maisie Lennox, nodding her head and smiling
serenely back as she went out.

In the sitting-chamber she found the two young men still at the table
talking together. They stopped with badly assumed masculine ease as
she entered. Since Will's rebuff at the chamber door they had sat
conversing in perfunctory and uncomfortable sentences, their ears
directed towards the door like those of a dog that hears an unkenned
foot on the stair, their attention anywhere but upon the subject
concerning which they were speaking.

Maisie began at once in the hushed and important tone of the messenger
fresh from the seat of war. "Kate could not sleep last night for the
noise of the wooden sabots upon the street outside. She has had a
headache all this morning, and I ought not to have let her listen to
Wat's tale of horrors--"

"I trust I did not--" Wat began, suddenly conscience-stricken.

"No, no," said Maisie, motioning him to sit down, "it was all my fault,
not yours at all--I should have bethought me in time. She will be quite
well after she has slept. Be sure you remember to walk quietly with
your great boots," she added, looking viciously at her husband.

At this hint Wat rose to go. In doing so he accidentally pushed his
stiff wooden chair back from the table with a loud creak, and then
abjectly recoiled from Maisie's face of absolute horror.

He sat down again disconsolately. Will Gordon and he cast a pathetic
look at each other. Their place was obviously not here. So one after
the other they bent and pulled off their heavy foot-gear, while Maisie
watched them with uplifted finger of the most solemnizing caution. Then
very softly the two men stole down the stairs, carrying their boots in
their hands.

Maisie listened till they were fairly out of the house. Then she went
directly to Kate's door. She opened it and set her head within. There
was an expression of almost heavenly peace and serenity upon her face.
The consciousness of infinite well-doing dwelt upon it.

"It is all right!" she said, "they will never so much as guess why.
They went out like lambs--carrying their boots under their arms!" And
again Maisie nodded her head with smiling encouragement.

And yet diplomatists are usually selected from among men.



CHAPTER VIII

THE STREET OF THE BUTCHERY


It was still quite early one crisp morning when Kate McGhie set out
to do her marketing. Ever since the first few days after her arrival
in the city of Amersfort, she had been intrusted with this duty--both
because she desired to do something to help her friend and gossip
Maisie with her household cares, and also because, being a laird's
daughter, she was more learned in the accomplishments of foreign
tongues than the daughter of Anton Lennox of the Duchrae.

The sun shone on her face and touched lovingly the small straying
curls of her hair, as Kate stood at the outer door of the lodgings
in Zaandpoort Street. She was drawing on a pair of gloves which made
a difficulty about the matter, and needed to be repeatedly coaxed
with that adorable pout which Wat loved. She was clad from head to
foot in doublet and pleated skirt of gray Scots cloth, woven both of
them by that very worthy man and elder in the Kirk, William Edgar of
Rhonehouse. She wore also a flat, broad bonnet; and the ribbon of the
blue snood, which, in token of maidenhood, bound her hair, was tied in
a dainty love-knot behind her ear.

The rebellious gloves were a pair of Spanish gauntlets of untanned
leather, and she was calculating what she could buy for the silver
florin, which comprised all the united resources of the Zaandpoort
establishment for the day. She allowed the slightest sigh to escape
her of regret for the easier finances of Balmaghie, where neither her
father nor she herself ever knew aught of the providing till the dishes
were on the table, so completely did the ancient house-keeper of Roger
McGhie keep the matter in her own responsible but exceedingly jealous
hands.

"This experience of marketing will teach you many things you do not
know," said Maisie, the newly married wife, darkly. "It would indeed be
a pretty pass if when you came to be married you did not know a leg of
beef from a shoulder of mutton."

Yet, in spite of Maisie's words, there was no great chance, in the
ordering of the domestic economy of Zaandpoort Street, of getting
first-hand information upon the subject of such expensive and
formidable dainties as these.

For the pay of a gentleman-private in the Covenanter's regiment did not
allow of extragavances, even when it was supplemented by certain small
sums brought safely over from Scotland by the hand and favor of more
recent exiles.

But Kate McGhie had not come to live upon Will and Maisie as a
dependant. She would be, she declared to her hostess, neither sorner
nor idler; for she had brought with her certain moneys of her own, and
her father in Scotland had promised to send her more at such times
as he got the chance of a douce Scottish merchant coming to the Low
Countries in search of Dutch tobacco and Flemish cloth.

It was, therefore, with the light, free step of one who is a partner
in the concern that Kate took her way towards the market-place of
Amersfort. She carried a small white wicker-basket over her right arm,
and in her left hand she held the skirt of her kirtle as she went
alertly stepping over the puddles and gutters in the streets, and
even overleaping the backs of sundry slumbering dogs with a quick
and dainty disdain which became her well. The soldier lads hurrying
by with despatches turned their heads to watch her as she passed; and
the brisk merchant 'prentices, going to their counting-houses at six
in the morning (as was the custom of the time and place), risked their
master's reprimand to stand awhile and gaze as she tripped out of
sight, careless in her maiden freedom alike of the gold braid of the
officer and the broadcloth of the merchant.

At last Kate arrived in the wide square, into which looked down the
hundred windows of the historical townhall of Amersfort, one of the
most famous in Netherlandish history. She at once penetrated fearlessly
into that babel of discord, and, disregarding the proffered attentions
of the first noisy stall-keepers, she swept past them and threaded her
way steadily to the favored and regular recipients of her custom, who
by honest dealing and courtesy had already established their right to
her confidence.

Pretty enough it was to see the practical intentness with which she
examined the portions of meat and bundles of vegetables submitted to
her judgment. How sagely and charmingly, and eke with what an air
of wisdom, did she not listen to these voluble explanations, one
word in ten of which she might possibly understand. Then, holding up
three or four slender white fingers, she would indicate the number of
infinitesimal copper coins which she was willing to pay for the article.

Whereat the vendor would laugh, and reject the offer with a sadly
resigned air, as much as to say that doubtless such a noble young lady
must needs have her jest with a poor man. And when, in her turn, Kate
would smile sweetly and persistently, or even as a last resort pretend
to go on to another stall, then presently and swiftly the bargain
would be completed upon her own terms, and to the ample profit and
satisfaction of the merchant.

Thus drawing all eyes upon her as she went by, trim and dainty from
head to foot, graceful from the proud setting of her head on the
swan-like neck to the turn of the slender ankle, this tall young
Scots maid passed, light-foot, heart-whole, and fearless, through the
discursive clamor of the market-place. Verily, a most pleasant sight
for the eyes of men and women to behold.

And amongst others, my Lord of Barra watched her this day, not by any
means for the first time. For though he had left his bed betimes and
come down to the market-place of the city, ostensibly in order to
observe the mood of the turbulent and often rebellious town--in reality
he had left the palace solely for the purpose of watching for the
slight form and swiftly gracious carriage which pertained to the latest
arrival among the exiles from his own country. Nevertheless, he did
not try to speak to her. Murdo of Barra had wisdom enough to wait till
by chance or stratagem he could compass an effective entrance upon the
stage of her life. On the very first day of her sojourn in Amersfort
he had taken the trouble to find out all that was known about her
among the Scottish refugees. And without any great difficulty he had
discovered a man from Galloway who had informed him how that this maid
was not only the sole heiress to the broad acres of Balmaghie, but also
a true-blue daughter of the Covenants, and one who had quarrelled with
her father and all her kin for the sake of the banner of the Bible and
the Sword.

Barra shrugged his shoulders.

"For such a lip and such a waist the king himself might venture to
subscribe as many covenants as there are, and yet cry out for more!"

So it came to pass that, as often as Kate McGhie visited the morning
bustle of the thronging market-place of Amersfort, so often there could
be seen on the skirts of the crowd a tall, dark man in a close-fitting
suit of black velvet, with ribbon-bows of the new flat shape at the
knees, and the orange-colored hose and cloak of the prince's household.
He seemed mainly to be watching the delivering of the customs-dues by
the incoming merchants, but also to be keeping a wary eye upon the
chaffering crowd in the interests of law and order, as indeed became a
provost-marshal.

But, in spite of all, his eye never for a moment lost sight of the
slim, graceful figure, nor of the gray cap and eagle's feather which
told of another country and a warmer blood than that which flowed so
placidly in the veins of the honest burghers' wives who did their
serenely contentious marketing at Kate McGhie's elbow.

It was nigh upon the stroke of seven when the girl emerged with
heightened color and quickened breath at the far end of the
market-place. Her basket had grown heavy upon her rounds, and the long,
green purse was weighty now with copper coin, instead of holding a
single knob of silver at one end.

Straight in front of Kate lay an alley which promised to conduct her by
a nearer way to the shaded canal bank, from which diverged the street
of Zaandpoort, where already Maisie would be waiting for her return
with the daily stores.

Kate struck fearlessly into the opening. It was a narrow and steep lane
which led abruptly upward from the market-place. The houses, with their
beetle-browed swallow-nests' balconies, almost met overhead, while the
lower stories were taken up with crowded booths containing the humblest
merchandise. Dirty children swarmed in the gutters. Fierce, battered,
scowling faces of men looked out of sullen doorways, and scarred and
disfigured women showed their heads, fiercely or inquiringly, at the
rag-stuffed holes which served for windows.

At a curious elbow in this street of the Butchery (as was its
well-befitting name) Kate paused, startled a little at her strange
surroundings. She looked anxiously about her. The girl had never been
in this part of the town before, and she began to wish that she had
taken her usual circuitous route homeward by the main streets and the
canal bank.

But even while she looked uncertainly about, several fellows of the
baser sort disengaged themselves from various low doorways and strolled
towards her. Instantly Kate gripped the handle of her basket a little
tighter, and, keeping well in the middle of the street, endeavored to
pass the men by with great unconcern.

The first pair, who were indeed none other than our friends of the
inn of Brederode, the Calf and the Killer, divided to let her pass.
And Kate, having swept between them with her head high, found herself
almost in the arms of Haxo the Bull, who held his hands wide to
intercept her, laughing the while, as though she had been a poor beast
that wished to escape from his shambles.

"Gently, my pretty one," he said, cocking his scarred and brutal head
to the side to look at her, "'tis not so often that we have such
dainty, high-stepping maids come to visit us here in the Street of the
Butchery; and when they do, it is the custom of the country that they
pay toll ere they depart."

And he would have laid a heavy hand on her shoulder; but Kate started
back so quickly and fiercely that Haxo thought that she was about to
draw a weapon upon him. With a well-executed feint she pretended to
pass him on the right hand, then, light as a swallow, she made a dart
past on his left, and, lifting her kirtle wellnigh to her knee, she ran
swiftly up the street. But from a dark alley in front two other men
emerged and intercepted her, while from behind Haxo and his myrmidons
closed in upon her, running with all their might.

Seeing that it was impossible for her to escape by flight, Kate
set down her basket at her feet and drew forth the keen little
hunting-knife which she always wore in her garter. Then she set her
back to the nearest wall, and resolved that it should go ill with the
first who dared to lay a hand upon her.

"Fairly and softly, beauty," cried Haxo, insinuatingly, as he came
up panting, "we mean you no harm, lady. But you must know that it is
the custom of the Street of the Butchery that every stranger must pay
toll to us. And for you the toll is of the sweetest, and will cost
you naught but what you have plenty store of. I' faith! when did the
tasting of such lips as yours do harm to any man!"

And Haxo's smile as he spoke became an entire infernal epic.

He drew cautiously closer, and as he brought his hideous, greasy face,
stamped with all pollution, nearer to hers, Kate drew back her hand
ready to strike at him desperately with the knife. But as she did so,
the snaky hand of the Killer grasped her wrist like a vise, while the
Calf leaned over her shoulder and with his right hand took away the
weapon. Kate was left completely at their mercy.

"Help! Help!" she shouted, desperately, and the cry of pity and appeal
rang vainly up and down the street. A few of the battered drabs of
women leaned listlessly out of the windows, scarcely amused by the
horse-play of Haxo and his companions. They saw so many much more
terrible things every night and day in the Street of the Butchery.



CHAPTER IX

MY LORD OF BARRA


"Help! Help! For God's sake, help!" again cried Kate. And the
lamentable cry was at once a prayer to God and an appeal to man.

Very pitiful her voice sounded, and she thought, "Oh, if Wat Gordon
were only here, I should not have been treated so!" Alas! it was the
more unfortunate for both that Wat at that moment stood on guard at the
city entrance of the camp of Amersfort.

But just as Haxo put his arm about her waist, a loud, clear voice
higher up the street cried with authority, "Hold, rascals, what would
you with the lady?"

"That is no business of yours!" instantly replied one of the men who
had come up last.

Kate looked up hopefully. She saw at the corner of the street a tall,
soldierly man clad in black velvet and wearing an orange cloak,
evidently an officer of the prince's household. He had his sword bare
in his hand, and seeing her manifest distress, he ran towards her
eagerly, his shoulder-ribbons waving as he came.

[Illustration: "THE GENTLEMAN INSTANTLY ATTACKED THEM FURIOUSLY"]

The fellows about her shrank back and drew their short sailors'
"whingers." But the gentleman instantly attacked them furiously with
his long sword, for Haxo and his companions had fled at the first sound
of Barra's voice, while the two who had arrived later were engaging
Kate's deliverer. Their short swords, however, were no match for the
officer's cavalry blade. The weapon of one presently clattered upon the
pavement while his comrade ran off down an alley, holding his side
as if he had been wounded.

Then, putting his left arm firmly about her, and holding his sword bare
in the other, Kate's rescuer urged her to mount quickly up the street.

"They may return," he said; "they may bring others with them, my lady,
in which case I might not be able to protect you, or even to serve you
otherwise than by dying for you, which very gladly I would do."

Now Kate desired much to walk by herself, finding the arm about her
waist discomposing, and having also the market-basket to carry; but
it seemed at the time a thing impossible to say to a man who had just
saved her life--or, at the least, had preserved her from the hands of
many cruel ruffians.

In this manner they reached in safety the wider spaces of the upper
streets, where Kate gladly saw the town's officers marching hither and
thither with their halberds ported and their pistols in their belts.

Then she disengaged herself deftly from her protector's circling arm.

"I thank you, sir," she said, very gratefully, "for your so great and
timely kindness to me. I shall never forget it; nor yet will my father,
whose name is Roger McGhie of Balmaghie, in the country of Scotland,
ever forget your gentle courtesy to his daughter in the land of her
exile."

The stranger doffed his bonnet and bowed low.

"I also am of your nation, fair mistress," said he. "In my own country
I am called Murdo, Lord of Barra and the Small Isles; but now it is
mine honor alone that is great, for I also am an exile for truth's
sake, and must serve a foreign master, as you see."

And he touched with a certain noble humility his orange cloak and the
prince's badge and motto that were upon it.

Kate bowed in turn, and her eyes expressed a warmer interest than she
had yet shown.

"My Lord of Barra," she said, "I have heard of you and of your
distinguished services and position. I am the more grateful to one so
noble for protecting a poor maid and an exile from insult."

"It is my privilege and my very great good fortune," said he, again
lifting his hat with more than ordinary deference. "Let us walk
together to your home; you lodge with your cousin of Earlstoun, do you
not?"

"Yes; but how may my Lord Barra know of that?" said Kate, in some
bewilderment.

Her companion smiled complacently.

"Though I be but an exile, yet, by the prince's special favor, I am set
in charge of the good behavior of this turbulent city, wherein it is my
duty to know everything. This morning it chanced that I was on a tour
of inspection in the worst and most dangerous parts, when it was my hap
to be able to render you a very slight service."

Barra called a porter and bade him carry Kate's basket and walk
behind them; but this that proud lass would not allow, whereupon the
provost-marshal dismissed the man with a movement of his hand. And so
in earnest talk the pair approached the entering in of the street of
Zaandpoort.

It so happened that Wat Gordon, released from his duty in the camp, had
hastened homeward as fast as he could, hoping that he might be in time
to help Kate with the preparation of the vegetables, and in especial
with the salad; for it had become his utmost pleasure to do for her the
most common and menial offices. As he arrived at the end of the street
he saw Kate coming towards him, apparently lost in friendly intercourse
with a tall officer of the prince's household. He stood transfixed.

Presently she paused at the door and, looking across, she saw him.

"Wat!" she cried, eagerly, "come hither!"

For she wished to tell him of her adventure.

But facing about and standing straight as an arrow, Walter Gordon
(being an exceedingly foolish person) saluted the officer in the orange
cloak and marched past as though he had not heard. Whereat Kate,
mightily offended at his rudeness, asked my Lord of Barra to do her
friend Mistress Maisie Gordon and herself the honor of entering their
poor rooms.

"For it is not needful that those who are of the same country and cause
should stand on punctilios."

So because of the pride of this stiff-necked Wat, my Lord of Barra
found footing in the street of Zaandpoort; for pride ofttimes breeds
more and worse things than many sins called deadlier.

       *       *       *       *       *

Before Scarlett and Wat issued forth from the presence of the prince
on the day appointed for the interview, Wat had received a commission
in his own regiment, while Scarlett was nominated instructor to the
newly formed companies of exiles, called first Buchan's and afterwards
Egerton's Foot.

In addition to all this, Wat had not forgotten to represent to the
prince the case of his cousin Will, and had reminded him of the great
services he had rendered the cause in Scotland; to which William of
Orange had listened with seeming pleasure, but with regard to Will
Gordon's promotion in the corps of the Covenant he had made no promises.

It was, nevertheless, with a proud and happy heart that Wat returned
to his cousin's lodgings in the street of Zaandpoort. He had seen the
prince and found him well disposed. Even his enemy Barra had been able
to do nothing against him, and if their feet were already climbing the
lower rungs of the ladder of fortune, he felt that in some measure it
was owing to his courage and address.

All that day Wat's heart kept time to a new and unwonted tune. The
streets had never seemed so smiling, the faces of the children never so
mirthful. The commonwealth of things was manifestly in excellent repair
that afternoon in the city of Amersfort. Lochinvar hummed a jaunty
marching-stave as he strode towards the low door in Zaandpoort Street,
while his heart beat fast to think that in a moment more he would be
looking into those wondrous eyes whose kindness or cruelty had now
become to him as life or death.

As he went a little softly up the stairs, he heard above a noise of
cheerful converse. An unknown man's voice spoke high and clear among
the others. The lighter tones of women intermingled with it, pleasantly
responsive. For a moment those within did not in the instancy of
their discourse hear Wat's summons. At last Maisie opened the door,
astonished that any one should knock at inner chamber-port, and as Wat
entered he saw, sitting in his own accustomed place, his hat on the
table, his sword unslung for ease, his enemy the Lord of Barra. The
provost-marshal was talking easily and familiarly to Kate, who sat on
the low window-seat leaning a little forward, with interest written
clearly on every line of her face. She was nursing her knee between her
clasped palms with that quaint and subtle grace which had often gone
to Wat's heart. Her dark eyes rested, not upon his incoming, of which
she appeared to be for the moment unconscious, but upon the face of the
speaker.

Wat and Barra submitted (it could not be called more) to Maisie's
introduction--Wat with sullen blackness of countenance and the
slightest inclination of his head, Barra with smiling patience, as
though by the very irony of circumstances it had chanced to him to be
introduced to his stable-boy.

Kate rose and took Wat's hand a moment in kindly fashion, though with
eyes a little downcast, being not yet ready quite to forget his
rudeness upon the street. But immediately she went back to her seat in
order to listen to the conclusion of the story which Barra had been
relating. It concerned the loyalty of the Highland clans to their
chiefs, and as Barra told of their sacrifices, a genuine pleasure
lightened in his dark face, his eyes glittered, and a new life breathed
through his whole form. For pride in the loyalty of his clan was the
selfish man's one enthusiasm.

Maisie sat down with her sewing close to where Wat stood moping and
bending his brows, and, noting his brow of constraint and gloom, she
set herself lovingly to cheer him.

"We have had good news to-day," she said, smiling pleasantly at
him--"news that William does not know yet. See!" she added, handing
him a parchment from the table with heightened color, for she had been
married but six months, and her William was the pivot on which the
universe revolved.

It was a commission as captain in the Covenant regiment in favor of
William Gordon, called younger, of Earlstoun. Wat continued to look at
it in amazement. It was what he had asked for from William of Orange
that day without obtaining an answer.

"My Lord of Barra had it from the prince's own hand. He says that the
stadtholder has long marked the address of my husband, and hath only
delayed to reward it lest the short space he has been with the colors
should arouse the jealousy of his comrades."

A spark of fury burned up suddenly in Wat's eyes.

"Is the paper genuine, think you?" he asked, loudly enough for all to
hear.

Maisie looked up quickly, astonished, not so much at his words as by
the fierce, abrupt manner of his speech.

"Genuine!" she said, in astonishment. "Why, my Lord Barra brought it
himself. It is signed by his own hand and issued in the name of the
prince. Why do you ask if it be genuine?"

"I ask," cried Lochinvar, in the same fiercely offensive tone, "because
the only document which I have ever seen bearing that signature and
issued in the name of the prince was a forgery, and as such was
repudiated two days later by my Lord of Barra."

The words rang clearly and unmistakably through the room. Doubtless
Barra heard them, and Kate also, for a deep flush of annoyance mounted
slowly to her neck, touched with rose the ivory of her cheek, and faded
out again, leaving her with more than her former paleness. But Barra
never stopped a moment in the full, easy current of his narration.
He continued to let fall his sentences with precisely the same cool,
untroubled deliberation, fingering meanwhile the prince's signet-ring,
which he habitually wore on his hand. Kate almost involuntarily moved a
little nearer to him and fixed her eyes the more earnestly on his face,
because she felt that Wat's words were a deliberate insult intended for
her deliverer of the preceding day.

Wat on his part pushed his chair noisily back from the table, and
rapped nervously and defiantly with his knuckles on the board.

"There is not a man in my wild western isles," Barra's voice was heard
going on, evenly and calmly, "who would not die for his chief, giving
his life as readily as a platter of drammoch--not a poor unlearned
cotter who would not send his family to the death to save the honor of
the clan from the least stain, or the life of the chief from any shadow
of danger. The true clansman can do anything for his chief--"

"Except tell the truth," burst in Walter Gordon, fiercely.

Barra paused a moment and looked calmly at the interrupter. Then,
turning a little more squarely to Kate and his hostess, he continued
his speech without betraying the least annoyance.

"He will do anything for his chief which does not involve the loss of
his honor and his standing in the clan."

"Does this your noble Highland honor include treachery, spying, and
butchery?" cried Wat, now speaking directly to his enemy.

"It includes good manners in a lady's presence, sir," said Barra,
calmly.

"Do these your clansmen of honor and courtesy wear butchers' knifes in
their belts, and go by the name of Haxo the Bull, the Calf, and the
Killer?"

Barra spread his hands abroad with a French gesture of helplessness
which was natural to him, and which expressed his inability to
comprehend the vagaries and fancies of a person clearly out of his
mind. Then, without betraying the least annoyance, he turned suavely to
Kate, and began to tell her of the new ambassadors from Austria who,
with a great retinue, had that day arrived at the court of the Prince
of Orange.

Wat rose with his hand on his sword. "Cousin Maisie," he said, "I am
not a man of politic tricks nor specious concealments. I give you fair
warning that I know this man. I tell him to his face that I denounce
him for a traitor, a conspirator, a murderer. I find Murdo of Barra a
guest in this house, and I do what I can to protect those I love from
so deadly an acquaintance--the very shadow of whose name is death."

"Protect! You forget, Cousin Walter," returned Maisie, indignantly,
standing up very white and determined--"you forget that I have a
husband who is entirely able to protect me. And you forget also that
this is his house, not yours. Moreover, if you cannot suffer to meet
my friends here as one guest meets another, it is entirely within your
right to go where you will only meet with those of whom you are pleased
to approve."

Here Walter snatched suddenly at the bonnet which had been lying on the
floor: but the indignant little lady of the house in Zaandpoort Street
had not yet said all her say.

"And, moreover," she said, "so long as I am mistress of a hovel,
neither you nor any other shall intrude your brawls and quarrels upon
those whom I choose to invite to my house."

"You choose between us, then?" cried Wat, holding his head high, his
face as colorless as a sheet of paper.

"If you desire to put it so--yes. I choose between a man of courtesy
and a silly, hectoring boy. I choose, cousin mine, not to give you the
right to select my guests for me."

Wat turned to Kate. The blood had now ebbed from his lips, and left
them gray. His eyes seemed in a short tale of moments to have sunk deep
into his face.

"And you?" he said, more calmly than before, looking at the maid of his
love.

The girl trembled like a leaf on an autumn gossamer; nevertheless, she
answered firmly enough: "I am but a guest in this house, but so long as
I abide here the friends of my hostess are my friends!"

Wat Gordon bowed low with stateliest courtesy, first to his cousin
Maisie, then to Kate McGhie, and lastly to his rival.

"I shall have the honor of sending you a communication in the morning,"
he said, looking the councillor of the prince between the eyes.

Barra sat still on his chair, looking Wat over with the same calmly
amused contempt he had shown throughout. "Ah," he replied, nodding his
head, "perhaps it might be as well to let the--the application come in
the usual way--through my chamberlain."

And he was still smiling as Wat Gordon strode down the stairs with
anger burning coldly white on his face, and all hell raging in his
heart.

Barra turned to Kate to continue his story, but her place was vacant.
The girl had inexplicably vanished from the room before Wat's foot had
even passed the threshold. She lay now on the little white bed in her
own room, her whole frame shaken with sobs, and the hot, bitter tears
raining down on the pillow.

Then, for the first time, she knew in her own heart that she was face
to face with great unreasoning love, which could neither be banished
nor disowned.

"Oh, why," she sobbed, "was he so foolish and wicked? Why did Maisie
grow of a sudden so hard and cruel to him? Why must things turn out
thus deadly wrong, when they might just as easily have gone right?"

She buried her face in the pillow, and whispered her conclusion to the
fine linen of its coverture upon which her tears were falling.

"Yet I love him--yes, I love him more than ever for it!" she said, and
sank her head deeper, as if to hide her love from her own most secret
sight.



CHAPTER X

THE DESCENT OF AVERNUS


Wat staggered a little as he walked down the street of Zaandpoort. He
felt somewhat like a bullock that has been felled, yet which for the
moment escapes with life. The air had grown suddenly thin and cold,
as it had been difficult to breathe. He drew his cloak about him and
shivered.

"Well," he raged, "that at least is ended! They have done with me--made
their choice. I that stood by them in many bad, old days am cast off
for a rogue and a scoundrel--because, forsooth, he is an earl and a
prince's councillor. Were I but come to my rights, they would not
treat me thus! But, because I am only poor Wat Gordon of the Douglas
Regiment, I must be grateful for any dog's treatment."

As Wat grew to believe his own silly windy words, he held his head
a little higher. And into the poor, angry, foolish boy's heart the
devil cast his baited hook. Pride took hold of Wat, and the thought of
revenge.

"But, after all, am I not Walter Gordon of Lochinvar," he said, as he
strode along, heeding none, "a gentleman at least, and now, in spite of
them all, an officer also? If mine own folk and kin think nothing of me
in the little lodgings of Zaandpoort Street, I can show them that there
are places more famous, where others will make Wat Gordon welcome for
his own sake."

At that moment a shouting reveller ruffling it along the street
recalled to his mind that he was in the neighborhood of the famous
Hostelry of the Coronation, where nightly during the stay of the
army at Amersfort all the young bloods of the allied forces met, and
where (it was reported) brightest eyes shone across the wine goblet,
and daintiest feet danced upon the polished floors. The Inn of the
Coronation was held by mine host Sheffell. A score of times it had been
closed by the city fathers, but, nevertheless, always with more or less
carefully concealed intent of winking hard at its immediate reopening.

And all this was because the burgomeister and magnates of Amersfort
looked upon the Inn of the Coronation as a safety-valve for the riotous
blades of the city and camp.

"For," said the former to the more sapient of his corporation when
he could be private with them, "if the young kerls go not to the
Coronation and meet with their like--well, we are men and fathers. Like
is it that we may have matters on our hands that shall trouble us more
deeply. Worse were it if the rascals came rattling their spurs and
tagging at the tails of our daughters and our wives."

So the sleep of mine host Sheffell, of the Hostel of the Coronation,
was not disturbed by the fear of the city council.

Towards this famous (or, as it might be, infamous) house, therefore,
Wat turned his steps. Often the men of his regiment had offered to
conduct him thither, but till now Wat had steadfastly refused, with the
laugh which meant that he had to do with metal more attractive. For in
a camp it does not do to obtain a repute for a too ostentatious virtue.

But to-night Wat Gordon buckled his sword a little tighter, belted
his silken orange sash closer about his new officer's coat, swung his
cloak back in a more becoming fashion, twirled his mustache, passed his
fingers lightly through his crisp, fair curls, and strode with jingle
of huge cavalry spurs into the Hostel of the Coronation, through whose
portals (safe it is to say) no more proper or desirable young man had
passed that night.

Great Sheffell himself was on the watch, and greeted the young officer
with profoundest courtesy. Wat vouchsafed him hardly a nod, but marched
straight into a great crowded room, which hummed about him, riant with
gay noise and the spangle of silver and glass.

The main guest-chamber of the Coronation was a long, fairly wide,
white-panelled room, divided at the sides into more private
compartments by curtains hung upon rows of pillars. The more favored
guests sat at small tables in the alcoves, and were waited on by girls
attired in scarlet blouse and short embroidered silk kirtle, whose
dainty hose of orange and black twinkled underneath as they passed
deftly to and fro with glass and platter.

As soon as Wat entered, and began to thread his way through the
laughing press, he found himself greeted from this table and that,
and many were the invitations showered upon him to make one of some
jocund company. But Wat only shook his head smilingly, and made his way
steadily to the head of the room as if he had some appointment to keep
there.

Nevertheless, he sat down listlessly enough at an unoccupied table, and
a pretty maid, in a dress daintier and fresher than that of the other
attendants, instantly stood beside him with her hands clasped modestly
before her.

"I wait my lord's commands," she said, in excellent French.

Without giving the matter any consideration, Wat ordered a bottle
of old Rhenish, and sat back to contemplate the scene at his ease.
Officers of every regiment in the services of the States-General and
of its allies were there, young attachés of the embassies, stray
princelings of the allied German duchies; while scattered among these
were to be seen a parti-colored crowd of ladies with flower-decked
hair, lavish of shoulder, opulent of charm.

Presently the pretty maid brought Wat his bottle of Rhenish, ancient
and cobwebbed. She decanted it carefully, standing close by his
shoulder, so that a subtle suggestion of feminine proximity affected
the young man strangely. She poured out a full measure of the scented
vintage into a huge green glass on which tritons gambolled and
sea-nymphs writhed.

"You have, perchance, no one to drink with you?" she said, giving him a
glance out of her large and lustrous eyes.

"Truly," replied Wat, "I am alone!"

And the sadness of his life seemed to culminate in a kind of mimic and
desperate isolation as he spoke.

"Then," said the girl, "may I not drink first to your beautiful eyes,
my captain, and then, if you will, to our better acquaintance?"

She lifted the glass to her lips, tasted it as a bird does, and
presented it to Walter with the daintiest gesture.

"Your name?" he said, looking at her with a certain tolerant and almost
passive interest.

"I am called 'the Little Marie!'" she smiled; "I have been wellnigh a
week in the Hostel of the Coronation, and not yet have I seen any to
compare with you, my lord captain of the fair locks."

With a certain childish abandon, and a freedom still more than half
innocent, Marie seated herself upon the arm of the great chair into
which Wat had thrown himself upon his entrance. Her dainty foot dangled
over the carven finial, almost touching the ribbons at Walter's knee
with its silver buckled slipper of the mode of Paris. Marie's hand
rested lightly on the small curls at the back of his neck, till Walter
grew vaguely restive under the caressing fingers. Yet because he was in
a great and thronged room humming with company, where none took any
notice of him or his companion, each being intent on playing out his
own game, the uneasy feeling soon passed away.

Only now and again, as the Rhenish sank in the bottle and the hand of
the Little Marie took wider sweeps and paused more caressingly among
his blonde hair, a thought awoke not unpleasantly in Wat's bosom.

"They have cast me out of their home and friendship. They have
preferred a traitor. But I will let them see that there is pleasure in
the world yet."

And his arm went of its own accord about the waist of the Little Marie.

       *       *       *       *       *

It seemed to be but a moment after (though it might have been an
hour) that Wat looked up. A hush had fallen suddenly upon the briskly
stirring din of the Hostel of the Coronation. Walter's eyes instantly
caught those of a man attired in the uniform of the provost-marshal of
the city. There was a cold smile of triumph on the face which met his.
It was Barra, and he touched with his arm the man who stood beside him.
Wat turned a little to look past the curtain which partly surrounded
his table and alcove, and there, over the wide gauzy sleeves of the
Little Marie, he encountered the grave and reproachful regard of his
cousin, William Gordon of Earlstoun.

Wat started to his feet with a half-formed idea of going forward to
explain something, he knew not what. But ere he had disengaged himself
from the great chair, on the arm of which perched the Little Marie,
an angry thought, born of pride and fostered by the heady antiquity
of the cobwebbed Rhenish, drew him back again into his place. A kind
of desperate defiance chilled him into a blank and sudden calmness,
which boded no good either to himself or to any who should oppose
him. Besides which, the circumstances were certainly difficult of
explanation.

"They cast me out, and then immediately they follow after to spy upon
me. Shall I utter a word of excuse only to be met with the sneer of
unbelief? Am I not an officer of dragoons? Also, am I not of age, and
able to choose my company as well as they? As Wat Gordon never was a
prayer-monger, so neither will he now be a hypocrite."

He glanced not uncomplaisantly at the Little Marie, who hummed a
careless tune and swung her pretty foot against his knee, happily
unconscious of his trouble. Perhaps the Rhenish had taken her back
again to the green slopes about her native village, and to her more
innocent childhood.

"Another bottle of wine," he cried, with a heady kind of half-boyish
defiance.

"But you have not yet finished this," she answered. "Nor, indeed," she
added, with a roguish smile, "even paid for it."

Wat threw a pair of gold pieces on the table.

"One for the wine and one to buy you a new pair of buckled shoes,
Little Marie," he said.

"Then for luck you must drink out of the one I wear," she said, and
forthwith she poured a thimbleful of the wine into the shoe, which she
deftly slipped from the foot which had swung by his ribbon-knot of
blue-and-white.

"Pledge me!" she cried, daring him to a match of folly, and she held
the curious beaker close to his chin. Wat was conscious that his cousin
stood grave and stern by the door, and that on Barra's face there
hovered a strangely satisfied smile. But something angry and hot within
him drove him recklessly deeper and deeper. He had no pleasure in the
thing. It was as apples of Sodom in his mouth, exceeding bitter fruit;
but at least he knew that he was cutting every tie that bound him to
the street of Zaandpoort--to those who had despised and rejected him.

He lifted the shoe of the Little Marie in the air.

"To the owner of the prettiest foot in the world!" he cried, and
pledged her.

Four men who had come in after my Lord of Barra now sat themselves
down at the table nearest to Wat. The Little Marie, having recovered
her slipper and wiped it coquettishly with the tassels of Wat's sash,
somewhat reluctantly went away to bring the second bottle of Rhenish.

During her absence Lochinvar remained behind, blowing with all his
might upon the dying coals of his anger, and telling himself that
he had done nothing worthy of reproach, when suddenly John Scarlett
plumped himself down into the chair opposite him. He had been in the
inn all the time, but only now he had come near Walter Gordon.

"Lochinvar," he said, "'tis a sight for sore eyes to see you here! What
has happened to the Covenant that you have left the prayer-meeting and
come to the Hostel of the Coronation?"

"Jack," cried Wat, "you know me better than that. Never was Walter
Gordon a great lover of the Covenant all the days of his life."

"You ran gayly enough with the hare, then, at any rate!" answered John
Scarlett, provokingly.

"Nay," replied Wat, "I was hunted by the pack, it is true, but that was
because of the dead stroke I gave His Grace the Duke of Wellwood."

"And the beginning of that--was it not some matter of doctrine or of
the kirk?" asked Scarlett, though he knew the truth well enough.

The Rhenish had been mounting to Wat's head, and his heart had grown
gay and boastful.

"Nay," he cried; "very far indeed from that. 'Twas rather a matter of
the favors of my lady the Duchess."

One of the men at the next table looked quickly over at Wat's
words, and, indeed there seemed to be but little talk among them.
Contrariwise, they sat silently drinking their wine, and as it had
been, listening to the talk of Wat Gordon and his companion.

Presently the Little Marie came daintying and smiling back with the
wine, deftly weaving her way among the revellers, and as she went by
the neighboring table one of the men at the side on which she tried to
pass made free to set his arm about her.

"Change about, my lass," he said; "'tis the turn of this table to
have your pretty company. By my faith, they have given us a maid as
plain-visaged as a Gouda cheese."

The Little Marie gave a quick cry, and Wat half started to his feet and
laid his hand upon his sword; but Scarlett dropped a heavy palm upon
his shoulder and forced him back again into his seat. In a moment the
girl had adroitly twisted herself from the clutch of the man, and, in
addition, had left the marks of her nails on his cheek.

"Take that, my rascal," she cried, "and learn that spies have no
dealings with honest maids."

"Good spirit, i' faith!" said Scarlett, nodding his head approvingly;
but the Little Marie, coming to them with heightened color and angry
eyes, did not again set herself on the arm of Wat Gordon's chair.
Instead she drew a high stool to the side of the table, midway between
Wat and Scarlett. Then she placed her arm upon the table-cloth, and
leaned her chin upon the palms of her hands.

"Abide by us," said Walter, who could not bear that so fair and light a
thing should be left to the ill-guided mercies of such a mangy pack as
were drinking at the next table.

The second supply of Rhenish, with the capable assistance of Scarlett,
sank apace in its tall flask, and at each glass Wat's voice mounted
higher and higher. He could be heard all over the room declaiming upon
the merits of Scottish men, offering to defend with his life the virtue
and beauty of Scottish maids, or in case none should be willing to call
these in question, then he was equally ready to draw sword on behalf of
the dignity and incorruptibility of Scottish judges.

The guest-room of the Coronation was for a while disposed to listen
with amused wonder. Presently the four men at the table near Wat
became five. The new-comer proved to be a short-necked, red-faced,
deeply-scarred man, dressed in the uniform of the provost-marshal's
guards. The wine in Wat's brain prevented him for the time from
recognizing his ancient enemy, Haxo the Bull; but Haxo the Bull
nevertheless it was.

Scarlett was now most anxious to get Wat away in safety. There was also
a gleam of almost piteous appeal in the eyes of the Little Marie.

"My captain," she said, bending over and laying her hand on his sleeve,
"it is high time for you to go to your quarters; you can come and see
me again in the morning if you will."

For Wat was now talking louder than ever, and beating for emphasis upon
the table with his hand.

"And I repeat that whoever casts a slur upon the virtue and beauty of a
Scots maid has to settle accounts with Wat Gordon of Lochinvar--"

The men at the nearest table had also begun talking loudly, and the
voice of Haxo pierced the din.

"I tell you the girl is safely my master's meat, and she is a dainty
filly enough. Her name is Kate McGhie, and she is a land-owner's
daughter somewhere in the barren land of Scots. My lord bought
her good-will quickly enough with a gay present for herself and a
commission for her gossip's loutish husband--trust Barra for that. He
is never laggard in his affairs with women."

Wat Gordon was on his feet in an instant. The Little Marie
instinctively shrank aside from the white fierce face which she
encountered. It looked like the countenance of some one whom she had
never seen. The young man fairly spurned the table at which he had
been sitting, and with a single spring he was over the next and at the
breast of Haxo the Bull.

"Villain, you lie in your throat," he shouted, "and I will kill you for
your lie! 'Tis false as the lying tongue which I will presently tear
out of your foul mouth!"

The four men rose simultaneously and drew, some of them their swords
and the others their daggers. Wat would instantly have been stabbed
among them but that the Little Marie, dashing forward like a hawk,
threw her arms about the nearest of his foes, for a minute pinioning
his hands to his side.

Then Scarlett, with a sweep of his sword, leaped on the table in the
midst of them, crying "Fair play! Stand back there, all of you who do
not want to be spitted!"

Presently, finding Wat's grasp relax on his throat as he reached for
his weapon, Haxo shook himself free and drew the hanger which, in
honor of his advancement, he wore instead of his butcher's knife. Wat
had neither room nor yet time to draw his long sword; but with quick
baresark fury he caught up by the leg the heavy oaken chair on which
Haxo had been sitting, and twirling it over his head like a staff,
he struck the brawny butcher with the carved back of it fair on the
temple, almost crushing in his cheek. The Bull dropped to the floor
without a groan.

Then there ensued a battle fierce and fell in that upper corner of
the great room of the Coronation. There Wat stood at bay with the
oaken chair in his hand, while Scarlett's long sword turned every
way, and even the Little Marie, long unaccustomed to courtesy, showed
her fidelity to the salt of kindness she had tasted. She crouched low
behind the fighters, almost on her knees, and waited for a chance to
strike upward with the dagger she held in her hand. But the long room
swarmed black with their foes. The remaining four had already been
reinforced by half a dozen others, and the way to the door seemed
completely blocked. Then it was that Scarlett raised the rallying cry,
"Scots to me! Hither to me, blue bonnets all!"

And through the press were thrust the burly shoulders of Sergeant Davie
Dunbar and two of his comrades. All might now have gone differently
but for the madness working in the brain of Wat of Lochinvar. For the
insult to his sweetheart's good name, uttered by Haxo, had made him
resolve to kill every man at the table who had heard the blasphemous
slander.

"Arrest him!" the provost-marshal's men cried. "He has murdered Haxo!"

"Die, rogues and liars all!" shouted Wat, rushing at them in yet
fiercer wrath.

And without further parley he brought his chair down upon the shoulder
of the nearest, who sank on his face stunned with the mighty blow.

"Good Scots to the rescue!" cried Scarlett, as was his custom engaging
two men at a time with his point and easily keeping them in play.

So in this fashion, Wat leading and striking all down in his way with a
kind of desperate fury, Scarlett and Davie Dunbar, with the other two
Scots, pressing as closely after him as they could, the small compact
band made its way steadily and slowly towards the outgate of the Hostel
of the Coronation.

"Lord help us all!" cried the more terrified of their opponents; "let
us get out of the way of these praying blue bonnets when they are
angered."

For the floor began to be sprinkled with groaning men who had dropped
from the blades of the outlanders, and with stunned and maimed men
stricken down by the fierce vigor of Wat's barbaric onslaught.

Yet, in spite of all, it was a long time before the steadfast five
could force their way to the street.

By this time Wat held his chair by its only surviving leg, and the
blades of the small Scots phalanx dripped blood into their own basket
hilts. The street without was packed with townspeople, and even the
watch could not make way to apprehend them. When the Scots finally came
forth into the night it might, indeed, have gone very ill with them
had it not been that a patrol of Frisian horse chanced to pass at that
moment in front of the Hostel of the Coronation.

To them Scarlett cried out in their own country speech (with which he
was somewhat acquainted), "Help, there, for certain true soldiers of
the prince cruelly beset by townsfolk!"

Now this was the very wisest word he could have spoken. For whatever
private discontents they might cherish, all the soldiers of the camp
were of the faction of their general when it came to choosing between
the Prince of Orange and the turbulent and rebellious municipality of
Amersfort. The patrol swiftly opened out, and presently enclosed the
five Scots between their files. Thus they were able to pass safely
through the howling mob, which, however, made ugly rushes at them as
they went.

Presently they came to the headquarters of the portion of the force
domiciled in the city.

Wat, who for a time had been entirely sobered by the fierce excitement
of battle, now again felt his head reel with the sudden, sharp chill of
the night air.

Yet when the prisoners were confronted with the officer of the night,
he at once stepped forward and, without hesitation, assumed the sole
responsibility for the affair.

"I fear I have slain a man--or, mayhap, more than one," he said; "but
these, my friends, have had no part in the quarrel. They but assisted
me to fight my way out."

"Your name and regiment, sir?" said the officer in charge, civilly
enough.

"I am Walter Gordon, captain in Douglas's regiment of Dragoons,"
replied Walter, readily enough.

"Let Captain Gordon be taken to the military prison and there kept in
the safest cell," interrupted the clear, high voice of Barra. He had
entered unobserved, having followed the patrol along the street. The
officer of the night saluted the high councillor of the prince and
present provost-marshal of the camp and city of Amersfort.

Walter was therefore promptly delivered to the officer and file who had
been sent to escort him, and in a moment he went out with them into the
night.

"Were they souljers or civilians ye murthered, for sure?" asked the
officer, as they marched along the street. He spoke the pleasant tongue
of Ireland in a soft, far-reaching whisper.

"Townsfolk," returned Wat; "all except one hulking scoundrel of a
provost-marshal's man!"

"More power to ye," said the Irishman, promptly. "Give me the grip of
your hand--and, by my sowl, I'll give ye a chance to run for it at the
next corner."

But Wat declined the obliging offer of the good-hearted Irishman.

"I thank you with all my heart," he said. "It is kindly meant. But I
prefer to stand my trial. Things can't be worse with me than they are!"

"Faith, it's you that knows, my son," said the Irishman; "but to
Patrick Ryan's thinking a long hempen necktie, swung elegantly over a
beam, might make things a deal worse for ye!"

And in a minute more the iron gate of the military prison of Amersfort
had shut-to upon Wat Gordon.



CHAPTER XI

THE HEARTS OF WOMEN


Barra and Will Gordon returned together to the lodgings in the street
of Zaandpoort. There was a sinister look of inexpressible triumph on
the dark face of my Lord of Barra. When they reached home Will Gordon
threw himself silently, face downward, on the oak settle; for there
arose in his heart the memory of those days, not so long ago, when he
and Wat had slept under one plaid among the heather on the moors of
Scotland. And the tears stood in his eyes for the thing which he had
seen that night.

On their way back Barra had bubbled over with laughing sneers at the
downfall of his immaculate and virtuous cousin, but Will Gordon had
paced along sad and silent by his side. Ancient loyalty kept him
without words, yet in his heart he condemned Lochinvar most bitterly,
far more intensely indeed even than Barra.

Maisie and Kate were sitting busily sewing at their delicate white
seams when the two men entered. The little Dutch lamp had been
carefully trimmed, and the whole room radiated cosiest comfort. As was
her wont, Kate's place was by the window, where she sat looking at
her work, keeping a somewhat cold and white face steadfastly upon the
monotonous business of needle and thread.

Maisie sat sad and a little reminiscent of recent tears by the lamp.
Her eyes were moist, and she did not look at all in the direction of
Barra and her husband, as they entered.

A sense of strain in the air paralyzed conversation after the first
greetings had been interchanged. These were loud and eager on the side
of Barra, almost inaudible on the part of Kate and Maisie; and as for
Will Gordon, he lay where he had flung himself so suddenly down upon
the long oaken couch.

"Adventures are to the adventurous, and to-night we have adventured
indeed," at last began my Lord of Barra, speaking directly to his
hostess. "Your husband, with much kindness, accompanied me on my rounds
of inspection, and, among other curious discoveries, it was made
entirely plain to us why our polite acquaintance Lochinvar was in such
a hurry to leave us."

Barra paused with a certain pleasure and appreciation of his own wit
in his voice. But no one spoke in the room. Will Gordon, indeed, gave
an inarticulate groan and plunged heavily over upon the settle with
his face to the wall. Maisie turned her back a little more upon the
speaker, while Kate bent lower upon her sewing, as if the dim light had
suddenly made it harder for her to see the stitches.

"And if you hesitate to believe the extraordinary things I have to tell
you, my friend here, Captain Gordon of the Covenanting regiment, will
tell you where, in the discharge of my duty as provost-marshal of the
camp, it was our business to penetrate, and in what company and in what
circumstances we found your cousin of Lochinvar."

"We do not want to hear. It was all our fault!" said Maisie, turning
suddenly full upon the speaker. Unconsciously to himself, Barra had
been using a somewhat pompous and judicial tone, as though he were
pronouncing judgment upon a hardened offender.

At Maisie's words, the provost-marshal instantly sat erect in his
chair. He was exceedingly astonished. A few hours before he had seen
these two women stern almost to severity over a mere breach of good
manners. He could not imagine that now they would not utterly reject
and condemn such a reprobate as Wat Gordon had proved himself to be. He
felt that he must surely have been misunderstood, so he proceeded to
make his meaning clear.

"But I tell you plainly, my ladies," Barra continued, still more
impressively, "that your husband and I found your cousin of Lochinvar
at the Hostel of the Coronation, of which you may have heard--there
spending his living with harlots, flaunting their endearments in a
public place, and afterwards brawling with the meanest and rudest boors
of the camp."

"And I do not wonder!" cried Maisie Lennox, emphatically, "after the
way he was used in this house, which ought to have been a home to him.
William Gordon, I wonder how, as a Christian man, you could permit your
cousin to be so used!" she continued, fiercely turning upon her husband
and bursting into tears.

Will Gordon groaned inarticulately from the settle. He had not
been present at the time, but he knew well that with women such a
transparent subterfuge would avail him nothing.

"Why, Maisie," he began, speaking from the depths of the pillow, "did
not you yourself--"

"I do not think," said Barra, looking over to Will, "that your wife
understands that the Hostel of the Coronation is, of all the haunts of
sin in this city of Amersfort, the vilest and the worst. The man who
would make his good name a byword there is certainly unfit to have the
honor of admission into a circle so gracious, into society so pure as
that in which I first found him. I speak as the censor of the morals of
the army, and also as one who has suffered many things for conscience'
sake and in order to deserve the praise of them that do well."

Kate looked up for the first time since Will and Barra had come in.

As the latter finished speaking he noticed that her eyes were very
dark, and yet at the same time very bright. The black of the pupil
had overspread the iris so that the whole eye at a distance appeared
as dark as ink, but deep within the indignant light of a tragic love
burned steadily, like a lamp in the night.

The girl spoke quickly and clearly, as if the words had been forced
from her.

"Had I been so used at the only place I called 'home,' when I was a
stranger in a strange land, I tell you all I should have gone straight
to the Hostel of the Coronation--or worse, if worse might be!" she
cried, indignantly.

"And so also would I!" cried Maisie, with still greater emphasis,
sticking her needle viciously into the table and breaking it as she
spoke.

The settle creaked as Will Gordon leaped to his feet.

"Silly women, ye ken not what ye say!" he said, sternly. "Be wise and
plead rather with the man in whose hands our cousin's very life may
lie, for the deeds of this black night."

"His life--his life!" cried, instantly, Maisie and Kate together.

The latter rose to her feet, letting all her white bravery of
seamstressing slip unheeded to the ground. Maisie, on her part, turned
a pale and tear-stained face eagerly up to her husband.

"Yes," said Barra, swiftly, eager to tell the story first, "it is
true--his life; for Walter Gordon, being in company at the place I have
mentioned with a light woman, brawled and insulted those who sat near
him, offering to assert and defend her virtue at the sword's point.
Then when he was withstood and threatened with arrest by my officers,
as their duty was, he turned fiercely upon them and upon others, the
supporters of law and order, and now he lies in prison awaiting trial
for _murder_!"

Kate caught the table with her hand at the last terrible word, which
Barra hissed out with concentrated fury and hatred.

"Is this true?" she said, in a low voice, making a great effort to
regain her calmness. She turned to Will Gordon as she spoke.

"Nay," said Will, "indeed I know nothing of the cause of the quarrel.
But certain it is that there has been a most fierce brawl, and that in
the affray certain men have been grievously wounded, if not killed."

"And is our Wat in prison?" demanded Maisie, fiercely.

"He lies in the military prison of the city awaiting his trial by
court-martial!" replied the provost.

Maisie turned her about and caught her husband by the braid of his coat.

"Go you to him at once--you must! Tell him it is all our fault--we have
been unhappy and to blame, Kate and I--ask him to forgive."

And, being overwrought and strained, she put her head down on Will
Gordon's breast and wept aloud.

Kate went to her and took her hand gently. And to her Maisie instantly
turned, setting her husband aside with a pathetic little gesture of
renunciation, as something which has been proven untrustworthy. Then,
still leaning on Kate's shoulder, she passed slowly from the room.
As Kate McGhie opened the door she flashed one glance, quick with
measureless anger and contempt, back upon the two men who stood gazing
after her. Then she passed out.

There was a long silence between the provost-marshal and his host after
the women had disappeared.

At last Barra broke in upon the awkward pause with a laugh of scorn
which ended with something like a sigh.

"Oh, women! women," he cried. "From what pits will ye not dig the clay
to make you your gods!"

"He had been our friend so long, and in such bitter passes and
desperate ventures," said Will Gordon, excusingly, speaking of Wat in a
hushed voice almost as one would speak of the dead.

Barra shrugged his shoulders to intimate that the whole sex was utterly
impossible of comprehension.

"Nevertheless, you will give our poor cousin your best word and offices
to-morrow?" Will Gordon went on, anxiously.

"I shall see the prince in person," answered Barra, promptly, "and
I shall make my endeavor to arrange that the prisoner shall not be
tried by court-martial--so that nothing summary may take place, and no
sentence be hastily or vindictively carried out."

Will Gordon blanched at the word "summary," which in the severely
disciplined army of the States-General had but one meaning.

He conducted his guest to the door in silence. The moonlight was
casting deep shadows in the high-gabled street of Zaandpoort and
glittering on the pole-axes and muskets of the provost's guard who
stood without, stamping their feet impatiently and waiting the
appearance of their leader.

"Till to-morrow, then!" said Will Gordon, as he parted.

"Till to-morrow!" replied the provost-marshal, more heartily than he
had yet spoken, giving him his hand.

But as he walked down the street towards the camp he smiled a smile
from under the thin, drooping mustache which showed his teeth. They
glittered white in the moonlight like a dog's.



CHAPTER XII

THE PRISON OF AMERSFORT


The prison of the city of Amersfort stood at the corner of one of its
most ancient streets, and the military portion of it exposed a long
scarped wall to the public, broken only by a single line of small
windows triply barred with iron stanchions of the thickness of a man's
wrist. These windows were only separated from the street by a low wall
and a strong but wide-meshed railing of wrought iron. In the large room
of the jail, where only those prisoners were kept who were detained
for slight offences, or who awaited trial, the unglazed squares of the
window were large enough to admit of a pole and small basket being
protruded, so that it should hang within reach of the passers-by. One
of the inmates was appointed to stand with this curious fishing-rod in
his hand, and the plaintive wail, "Remember the poor prisoners of the
prince!" resounded all day along the ancient thoroughfare.

But Wat was too important a guest to be placed in this common room.
By special direction of the provost-marshal he had a cell assigned to
him in a tower only a few yards above the level of the street. His
apartment had two windows, one of which being in the belly of the tower
looked up and down the thoroughfare. He could see the passengers as
they went to and fro, and if any had cared to stop he might even have
spoken with them.

Wat paid little attention to the street for the first day or two
which he passed in the cell. Mostly he sat on the low pallet bed with
his head sunk deeply in his hands. He gave himself up completely to
melancholy thoughts. During the first day he had expected every hour
to be brought before a military tribunal. But the fact that the day
passed without incident more discomposing than the visits of the
turnkey with his scanty meals informed Wat that he was not to be tried
by any summary method of jurisdiction, though in the angry state of the
feelings of the army against the townsfolk of Amersfort, and especially
smouldering hatred of the provost-marshal's men, this would doubtless
have been Wat's best chance.

But his mortal enemy did not wish to run the risk of seeing his rival
set free with but some slight penalty, and, being in a position of
great influence, he had his will. Day by day passed in the prison, each
wearier and grayer than the other. Finally, Wat took to his barred
windows and watched the stream of traffic. As the poignancy of his
regret dulled to a steady ache, he became deeply interested in the
boys who sported in the gutters and sailed ships of wood and paper in
every spate and thunder-shower. He watched for the rosy-cheeked maids,
with their black, clattering sabots, who paused a moment to adjust
their foot-gear with a swish of pleated skirts and a glimpse of dainty
ankle; and then, having once stopped, stood a long time gossiping with
their plain-visaged, flat-capped, broad-breeched lovers. Above all, Wat
loved the vagrant dogs that wandered lazily about the shady corners and
fought one another like yellow, whirling hoops in the dust.

Often he would leave his meagre meal untouched in order to watch them.
One dog in particular interested him more than all the human beings
in the Street of the Prison. He was a long, thin-bodied beast of a
yellowish-gray color, of no particular ancestry, and certainly without
personal charms of any kind, save as it might be those incident to
phenomenal and unredeemed ugliness.

To this ignoble hound Wat daily devoted a large proportion of his dole
of bread. It amused him to entice the beast each day nearer to the
railings, and then, while other stouter and better-favored animals were
for the moment at a distance, Wat would deftly propel a pellet of bread
to this faithful attendant. At first, the pariah of the Street of the
Prison suspected a trap. For during an eventful life he had on several
occasions been taken in with pepper balls and second-hand mustard
plasters by the brisk young men of the hospitals and of the Netherlands
trading companies.

Now it chanced that while Wat thus played good Samaritan to a cur of
the gutter, two women stood at the outer gate of the prison. It was not
the first occasion they had been there, nor yet the first time they had
been denied entrance.

Maisie and Kate, with women's generosity and swift repentance, still
blaming themselves deeply for their hastiness, had gone to inquire for
Lochinvar early on the morning after he had been put in prison.

But neither by persuasions nor yet with all their little store of
money could they buy even a moment's interview. The jailer's orders
were too imperative. Some one high in authority had given the sternest
injunctions that no one was to be allowed to see the prisoner on any
pretext. Will had accompanied them on one occasion in his new officer's
uniform, and even discovered in the chief turnkey an old comrade of
Groningen. But it was vain. Strict obedience to his instructions was
the keeper's life, as well as his bread and his honor. Simply, he dared
not, he said, permit any to see that particular prisoner.

But, had they known it, there was a way of access to Wat. As they came
out of the prison gates they met Barra. The provost-marshal, with a
gloomy countenance, informed them that the prince took a very serious
view of the affair of their cousin. However, he was in hopes that the
sentence, though severe and exemplary, would not in any case be death.
Probably, however, it might involve a very long period of imprisonment.

"The prince and his council have resolved that an example must be made.
There have been, they say, far too many of these brawls in the army. It
is such occurrences which breed ill-blood betwixt the soldiers and the
townsfolk."

"But in that case," said Maisie, "why not persuade the prince to make
an example of somebody else--not, surely, of our cousin Wat?"

Barra shrugged his shoulders.

"I am afraid," he said, softly, "that we cannot always arrange matters
so that the penalties shall fall on shoulders whose sufferings will
not hurt us. But you, dear ladies, can wholly trust me to use all my
influence, so that your friend may soon find himself again at liberty."

Thus talking, they had turned to the right, and were now walking down
the Street of the Prison. Maisie went a little ahead with her hand on
her husband's arm, thinking that perhaps if Kate were left to herself
she might be able to move the provost-marshal to kindlier purposes.
Barra lingered as much as he could, in order to separate Kate and
himself as widely as possible from the pair in front.

They passed close to Wat's window, and the prisoner watched them go by
with black despair in his heart.

As they reached the gloomy angle of the prison, Barra indicated, with a
wave of his hand, a remarkable gargoyle in the shape of a devil's head,
frowning from the battlements of the gray, beetling tower. Through the
closed bars of his window Wat noticed the gesture, as Barra intended
that he should.

"My God!" he cried aloud, to the deaf walls, "he has brought her this
way to gloat with her over my prison-house!"

And he flew at the bars of his window, striking and shaking them till
his hands were bruised and bleeding.

"Let me get out! God in heaven! Let me get out--that I may kill him!"
he cried, in the madness of agony.

But the bars resisted his utmost endeavor. Not so much as a particle of
mortar stirred, and after spending all his strength in vain, Wat fell
back on his hard pallet utterly exhausted, and lay there for hours in a
vague and dazed unconsciousness.

The sullen, tranced hours verged towards evening, and Wat still lay
motionless.

The keeper had twice been to his cell with food. But finding on the
occasion of his second visit the previous supply of bread and water
untouched, he had merely laid down the small loaf of black bread which
was served out to the prisoners every night, and so departed.

At intervals a low voice seemed to steal into Wat's cell through the
silence of the prison.

"A friend would speak with you--a friend would speak with you."

The words came up from the street beneath. At the third or fourth
repetition Wat rose wearily and, with a dull and hopeless heart, went
to the window whence he was wont to feed the dog with pellets of bread
in the morning. A girl, small and slim of body, plainly attired in a
black dress, stood directly underneath. Wat was about to turn back
again to his couch, thinking that the summons could not have been
intended for him, when the maid eagerly beckoned him to remain.

"Do you not remember me?" she said; "I am the Little Marie. I have
never gone back to the Hostel of the Coronation. I have been very
wicked. I know I have brought you here. I know that you cannot forgive
me; but tell me something--anything that I may do for you?"

"It is not at all your fault that I am here," replied Wat Gordon,
"only that of my own mad folly. Do not reproach yourself, nor trouble
yourself, I pray you. There is nothing at all that you can do for me--"

"No one you love to whom I could carry a message--a letter?" The girl
looked wistfully up at him as she said this. "I would deliver it so
safely, so secretly."

A little before, Wat would gladly, eagerly indeed, have accepted the
offer, and sent her at once to the street of Zaandpoort, in spite of
his dismissal. But now his eyes had seen.

"Nay, Little Marie," he said, smiling sadly. "There is no one whom I
love, no one who cares in the least to hear of me or of my welfare."

The girl stood still, plucking at the lace on her black sleeve, and
looking down.

"Run home now, Little Marie," said Wat, kindly. "I am glad you have
left the Hostel of the Coronation. Do not go back there any more."

The girl stood still in her place beneath the window.

At last she said, without looking up, "There is one whom you do not
love, who cares much that you are in prison and alone!"

"And who may that be, Marie--old Jack Scarlett, mayhap?"

The girl looked up for a moment--a sudden, flashing look through
blinding tears.

"Only bad-hearted Little Marie--that would die for you!" she said,
brokenly.

And without caring even to wipe away her tears, she walked slowly
down the midst of the Street of the Prison, seeing no one at all, and
answering none of the greetings that were showered upon her.



CHAPTER XIII

MY LORD OF BARRA'S VOW


Kate stood at her favorite window, looking down upon five little boys
playing barley break in a solemn plantigrade Dutch fashion in the dust
of Zaandpoort Street by the canal. Opposite her stood Barra. He was
dressed in his customary close-fitting suit of black velvet, and his
slim waist was belted by the orange sash of a high councillor, while
by his side swung a splendid sword in a scabbard of gold. A light cape
of black velvet was about his shoulders, and its orange lining of fine
silk drooped gracefully over his arm.

"Listen to me, dear lady," he was saying. "I am a soldier, and not
a courtier. I have not glozing words to woo you with. No more than
a plain man's honest words. I love you, and from that I shall never
change. At present I can offer you but a share of the exile's bitter
bread. But when the prince comes to his own, there shall be none in
broad Scotland able to count either men or money with Murdo, Earl of
Barra and of the Small Isles."

"My Lord Barra," said Kate, "I thank you for your exceeding courtesy.
I feel your surpassing condescension. But I cannot marry you now nor
yet again. If I loved you at all I should be proud and glad to take you
by the hand and walk out of the door with you into the wide world--for
you renouncing friends, fame, wealth, all, as if they were so many dead
leaves of the autumn. But since I do not and cannot love you, believe
that the proffer of great honor and rank can never alter my decision.
This, indeed, I have told you before."

"Well do I know," answered the high councillor, "that you have spoken,
concerning me, words hard and cruel to be borne. But that was before
either of us understood the depth of my devotion--before you knew
that I desired, as I seek for salvation, to make you scarcely less in
honor than the queen herself, among those isles of the sea, where true
hearts abide. The cause of our religion is great. Help me to make of
our Scotland a land of faith and freedom. Love me for the sake of the
cause, Kate, if not for mine own most unworthy sake."

"The cause is indeed still great and precious to me. I have been
honored to suffer the least things for it. Nevertheless the cause is
not to be served by one doing wrong, but by many doing right. You
are--I believe it--an honorable man, my Lord Barra. You will serve
your master faithfully till that good day comes when Scotland shall
again have freedom to worship under kirk-rigging or roof-tree, or an it
liketh her under the broad span of the sky."

"But you carry in your heart the image of a traitor," said Barra, a
little more fiercely--"a double traitor, one whom I have seen false
both to his country and to you. Know you that only my bare word stands
between your lover and death?"

"I know not whether Walter Gordon be dead or alive," replied Kate,
gently. "I say not that I love him, nor yet that he loves me. I do not
know. But I say that if he does love me, in the only way I care to be
loved, he would rather die a thousand deaths than that, in order to
preserve his life, his true love should wed a man whom she cares not
for either as lover or as husband."

"Then you will not love me?" said he, bending his head towards her as
if to look into her soul.

"I cannot, my Lord Barra," she made him answer; "love comes not
like a careful man-servant. It runs not like a well-trained dog at
the sounding of a whistle. One cannot draw back the arras of the
heart and say to love, 'Hither and speedily!' The wind bloweth, say
the preachers, where it listeth. And so love also comes not with
observation. Rather, like a thunderstorm, it bears victoriously up
against the wind. For just when the will is most set against love, then
it takes completest possession of the heart."

"Could you have loved me," he asked, more calmly, "if you had known no
other? If the other existed not?"

"That I know not," said Kate. "All my life long I have never loved
man or woman where I wanted to love, or was bid to love. Whether,
therefore, in this case or that one could have loved serves no purpose
in the asking. Nor, indeed, can it be answered. For the only issue is,
that of a surety I love you not. And do you, my lord, of your most
gentle courtesy, take that answer as one frankly given by an honest
maid, and so depart content. There are in this land and in our own
country a thousand fairer, a thousand worthier than I."

"Kate," said Barra, more intently and tenderly than he had yet spoken,
"some day, and in some isle of quiet bliss where all evil and untoward
things are put behind us, I will yet make you love me. For never have
I thus set all my fancy on any woman before. And by the word of Murdo,
Lord of Barra, none but you will I wed, and, by the honor of my clan,
no other shall have you but I!"

He held out his hand. Kate, desiring him to go, gave him hers a little
reluctantly. He bent to it and kissed it fervently.

"On this hand I swear," he said, slowly and solemnly, "that while I
live it shall be given in marriage to none other, but shall be mine
alone. By the graves that are green on the Isle of Ashes and by the
honor of the thirty chieftains of Barra--I swear it."

Kate took her hand quickly again to her.

"Ye have taken a vain oath, my lord," she said, "for marriage and the
giving of a hand are not within the compulsion of one, but are the
agreement of two. And if this hand is ever given to a man my heart
shall go with it, or else Kate McGhie's marriage-bed shall be her
resting-grave!"

       *       *       *       *       *

It was but two years since the Little Marie had carried her first
basket of flowers to the streets of Brussels. From an ancient farm nigh
to the city she had come, bringing with her her fresh complexion, her
beauty, her light, swift, confident, easily influenced spirit.

Then, while yet a child, she had been hunted down, petted, betrayed,
and forsaken by the man who, being on a visit to Brussels, had first
been attracted by her childish simplicity. It chanced that in the dark
days of her despair she had found her way to Amersfort, and finally
to the Hostel of the Coronation. She had been there but a bare week
when Wat came into her life, and his words to the girl were the first
of genuine, unselfish kindness she had listened to in that abode of
smiling misery and radiant despair.

As a trampled flower raises its head after a gentle rain, so her
scarcely dulled childish purity reawakened within her, and with it--all
the more fiercely that it came too late--the love that suffereth all
things and upbraideth not. Marie was suddenly struck to the heart by
the agony of her position. She might love, but none could give her back
true love in return. Her soul abode in blank distress after the fray
had been quelled and Walter led away to prison. Without speech to any
at the inn of the Coronation, Marie fled to the house of a decent woman
of her own country, who undertook the washing and dressing of fine
linen--dainty cobweb frilleries for the ladies of the city, and stiffer
garmentry for the severe and sober court of the Princess of Orange.

For love had been a plant of swift growth in the lush and ill-tended
garden of the girl's heart. Constantly after this both dawn and dusk
found her beneath Wat's window. Marie contrived a little basket
attached to a rope, which he let down from the window in the swell
of the tower. She it was who instructed Wat how to make the first
cord of sufficient length and strength by ravelling a stocking
and replaiting the yarn. In this fashion Marie brought to Wat's
prison-cell such fruits as the warehouses of the Nederlandish companies
afforded--strange-smelling delicacies of the utmost Indies, and early
dainties from gardens nearer home. Linen, too, fresh and clean, she
brought him, and flowers--at all of which, for the consideration of a
dole of gold, the jailer winked, so that Wat's heart was abundantly
touched by the pathetic devotion of the girl. Scarce could she be
induced to accept the money which Wat put into her basket when he let
it down again. And even then Marie took the gold only that she might
have the means of obtaining other delicacies for Wat--such as were
beyond the reach of purchase out of the meagre stipend she received
from the laundress of fine linen with whom her working-days were spent.

More seldom did Marie come to the Street of the Prison in the evening
after the work of the day was done. For there were many who knew her
moving to and fro in these early summer twilights, so that she feared
that her mission might be observed and Wat moved to another cell, out
of reach of the Street of the Prison.

But one afternoon of sullen clouds and murky weather, when few people
were abroad upon the streets of Amersfort, Marie sickened of the hot
steamy atmosphere of the laundry and the chatter of the maids of the
quarter, in which she was allowed to have no part. She finished her
work earlier than the others--perhaps for that reason--and stole
quietly away to the tower of Wat's prison, where it jutted out over the
cobble-stones of the pavement.

Wat was at his post, looking out, as usual, upon the slackening traffic
and quickening pleasure-seeking of the street. He was truly glad to see
the girl, and greeted her appearance with a kind smile.

"I had not expected you till the morning," he said. "But I have lived
on the freshness of your flowers all day. I have also had my cell
washed. Black Peter, my jailer, was inclined to be complaisant to me
this morning. It is his birthday, he says."

Wat smiled as he said it. For he had bestowed one of his few remaining
coins upon Peter; which, ever since, that worthy had been swallowing
to his good health in the shape of pure Hollands. Indeed, at this
moment there came from below the rollicking voice of jolly Black Peter,
singing a song which ran through a catalogue of camp pleasures and
soldierly delights, such as certainly could not all have been enjoyed
within the grim precincts of the prison of Amersfort.

"You are sure that there is no friend I can take a message to?" asked
the Little Marie, for the fiftieth time; "no beloved mistress to whom I
can carry a letter?"

"None," said Wat, smiling sadly. "But there," he continued, pointing
quickly across the Street of the Prison at a man hurrying out of sight,
"is one whom, an it please you, you may take note of. I am not able
to show you a friend. But yonder goes my heart's enemy. There at the
corner--the dark man in the suit of velvet, with the orange-lined cloak
and the sword hilted with gold."

The Little Marie darted across the street in a moment, and threaded
her way deftly among the boisterous traffic of the huxters' stalls.
Presently she came back. There was a new and dangerous excitement in
her eye.

"I know him," she said; "it is my Lord Barra, the provost-marshal. He
is your enemy, you say. It is well. But he was my enemy before he was
yours. Sleep sound," she continued, looking up at him with an eye as
clear and peaceful as a cloistered nun's. "Take no thought for your
enemy, but only, ere you sleep, say a prayer to your Scottish God for
the sinful soul of the Little Marie that loves you better than her
life."



CHAPTER XIV

MAISIE'S NIGHT QUEST


In the street of Zaandpoort, upon a certain evening, it had grown early
dark. The sullen, sultry day had broken down at the gloaming into a
black and gurly night of rain, which came in fierce dashes, alternating
with fickle, veering flaws and yet stranger lulls and stillnesses.
Anon, when the rain slackened, the hurl of the storm overhead could be
heard, while up aloft every chimney in Amersfort seemed to shriek aloud
in a different key. Maisie had gone down an hour ago and barred the
outer door with a stout oaken bolt, hasping the crossbar into its place
as an additional precaution. She would sit up, she said, till William
returned from duty, and then she would be sure to hear him approach.
On a still night she could distinguish his footsteps turning out of
the wide spaces of the Dam into the echoing narrows of the street of
Zaandpoort.

She and Kate sat between the newly lighted lamp and the fire of wood
which Maisie had insisted on making in order to keep out the gusty
chills of the night. A cosier little upper-room there was not to be
found in all Amersfort.

But there had fallen a long silence between the two. Maisie, as usual,
was thinking of William. It troubled her that her husband had that
day gone abroad without his blue military overcoat, and she declared
over and over that he would certainly come home wet from head to foot.
Kate's needle paused, lagged, and finally stopped altogether. Her
dark eyes gazed long and steadily into the fire. She saw a black and
gloomy prison-cell with the wind shrieking into the glassless windows.
She heard it come whistling and hooting through the bars as though
they were infernal harp-strings. And she thought, at once bitterly and
tenderly, of one who might be even then lying upon the floor without
either cloak or covering.

A sharp, hard sob broke into Maisie's pleasant revery. She went quickly
over to the girl, and sat down beside her.

"Be patient, Kate," she said; "it will all come right if you bide a
little. They cannot kill him, for none of the men who were wounded are
dead--though for their own purposes his enemies have tried to make the
prince believe so."

Kate lifted her head and looked piteously at Maisie.

"But even if he comes from prison, he will never forgive me. It was my
fault--my fault," she said, and let her head fall again on Maisie's
shoulder.

"Nay," said Maisie; "but I will go to him and own to him that the fault
was mine--tell him that he was not gone a moment before I was sorry and
ran after him to bring him back. He may be angry with me if he likes;
but, at least, he shall understand that you were free from blame."

But this consolation, perhaps because it was now repeated for the
fiftieth time, somehow failed to bring relief to Kate's troubled heart.

"He will never come back, I know," she said; "for I sent him away! Oh,
how I wish I had not sent him away! Why--why did you let me?"

Maisie's mouth dropped to a pathetic pout of despair. It was so much
easier comforting a man, she thought, than a girl. Now, if it had been
William--

But at that moment a loud and continuous knocking was heard at the
outer door, which had been so carefully barred against the storm.

"It is my dear!" cried Maisie, jumping eagerly to her feet, "and I had
not heard his footstep turn into the street."

And she looked reproachfully at Kate, as though in this instance she
had been entirely to blame.

"It is the first time that I ever missed hearing that," she said, and
ran quickly down the stairs. As she threw open the fastenings a noisy
gust of wind rioted in, and slammed all the doors with claps like
thunder.

"William!" she cried, "dear lad, forgive me; I could not hear your foot
for the noise of the wind, though I was listening. Believe me that--"

But it was the face of an unknown man which confronted her. He was clad
in a blue military mantle, under which a uniform was indistinctly seen.

"Your pardon, madam," he said, looking down upon her, "are you not
Mistress Gordon, the wife of Captain William Gordon, of the regiment of
the Covenant?"

"I am indeed his wife," said Maisie, with just pride; "what of him?"

"I am bidden to say that he urgently requires your presence at the
guard-house."

Maisie felt all the warm blood ebb from about her heart. But she only
bit her lip, and set her hand hard over her breast.

"He is ill--he is dead!" she panted, scarcely knowing what she said.

"Nay," said the man, "not ill, and not dead. But he sends you word that
he needs you urgently."

"You swear to me that he is not dead?" she said, seizing him fiercely
by the wet cuff of his coat. For the man had laid his hand upon the
edge of the wind-blown door to keep it steady as he talked, or perhaps
in fear lest it should be shut in his face before his errand was
accomplished.

Without waiting for another word besides the man's reiterated
assurance, Maisie fled up-stairs, and telling Kate briefly that her
husband needed her and had sent for her to the guard-room, she thrust a
sheathed dagger into her bosom, and ran back down to the outer door.

"Bide a moment, and I will come with you!" cried Kate, after her.

"No, no," answered Maisie, "stay you and keep the house. I shall not be
long away. Keep the water hot against William's return."

So saying, she shut the outer door carefully behind her, and hurried
into the night.

Maisie had expected that the man who had brought the message would
be waiting to guide her, but he had vanished. The long street of
Zaandpoort was bare and dark from end to end, lit only by the lights
within the storm-beaten houses where the douce burghers of Amersfort
were sitting at supper or warming their toes at an early and unwonted
fire.

Then for the first time it occurred to Maisie that she did not know
whether her husband would be found at the guard-house of the palace, or
at that by the city port, where was the main entrance to the camp. She
decided to try the palace first.

With throbbing heart the young wife ran along the rain-swept streets.
She had thrown her husband's cloak over her arm as she came out, with
the idea of making him put it on when she found him. But she was glad
enough, before she had ventured a hundred paces into the dark, roaring
night, to drawn it closely over her own head and wrap herself from head
to foot in it.

As she turned out upon the wide spaces of the Dam of Amersfort, into
which Zaandpoort Street opened, she almost ran into the arms of the
watch. An officer, who went first with a lantern, stopped her.

"Whither away so fast and so late, maiden?" he said; "an thou give not
a fitting answer we must have thee to the spinning-house."

"I am the wife of a Scottish officer," said Maisie, nothing daunted.
"And he being, as I think, taken suddenly ill, has sent for me by a
messenger, whom in the darkness I have missed."

"Your husband's name and regiment?" demanded the leader of the watch,
abruptly, yet not unkindly.

"He is called William Gordon," she said, "and commands to-night at the
guard-house. He is a captain in the Scots regiment, called that of the
Covenant."

The officer turned to his band.

"What regiments are on guard to-night?"

"The Scots psalm-singers at the palace--Van Marck's Frisians at the
port of the camp," said a voice out of the dark. "And if it please you,
I know the lady. She is a main brave one, and her husband is a good
man. He carried the banner at Ayrsmoss, a battle in Scotland where many
were slain, and after which he was the only man of the hill folk left
alive."

"Go with her, thou, then," commanded the officer, "and bring her in
safety to her husband. It is not fitting, madam, that you should be
on the streets of the city at midnight and alone. Good-night and good
speed to you, lady. Men of the city guard, forward!"

And with that the watch swung briskly up the street, the light of their
leader's lantern flashing this way and that across the darkling road,
as it dangled in his hand or was swayed by the fitful wind.

It seemed but a few minutes before Maisie's companion was challenging
the soldiers of the guard at the palace.

"Captain William Gordon? Yea, he bides within," said a stern-visaged
sergeant, in the gusty outer port. "Who might want him at this time of
night?"

"His wife," said the soldier of the watch, indicating Maisie with his
hand.

The sergeant bent his brows, as if he thought within him that this was
neither hour nor place for the domesticities. Nevertheless, he opened
an inner door, saluted upon the threshold, spoke a few words, and
waited.

Will Gordon himself came out almost instantly in full uniform. One
cheek was somewhat ruddy with sitting before the great fire, which cast
pleasant gleams through the doorway into the outer hall of the guard.

"Why, Maisie!" he cried, "what do you here, lassie?"

He spoke in the kindly Scots of their Galloway Hills.

Maisie started back in apprehensive astonishment.

"Did you not send for me, William? A messenger brought me word an hour
ago, or it may be less, that you needed me most urgently. I thought you
had been sick, or wounded, at the least. So I spared not, but hasted
hither alone, running all the way. But I came on the watch, and the
officer sent this good man with me."

Will Gordon laughed.

"Some one hath been playing April-fool overly late in the day. If I
catch him I will swinge him tightly therefor. He might have put thee in
great peril, little one."

"I had a dagger, William," said Maisie, determinedly, putting her hand
on her breast; "and had I a mind I could speak bad words also, if any
had dared to meddle with me."

"Well, in a trice I shall be relieved," he said. "Come in by the fire.
'Tis not exactly according to the general's regulations. But I will
risk the prince coming on such a night--or what would be worse, Mr.
Michael Shields, who is our regimental chaplain and preceptor-general
in righteousness."

Presently they issued forth, Maisie and her husband walking close
together. His arm was about her, and the one blue military cloak proved
great enough for two. They walked along, talking right merrily, to the
street of Zaandpoort. At the foot of the stair they stopped with a gasp
of astonishment. The door stood open to the wall.

"It hath been blown open by the wind," said Will Gordon.

They went up-stairs, Maisie first, and her husband standing a moment to
shake the drops of rain from the cloak.

"Kate, Kate, where are you?" cried Maisie, as she reached the
landing-place a little out of breath, as at this time was her wont.

But she recoiled from what she saw in the sitting-room. The lamp
burned calmly and steadily upon its ledge. But the chairs were mostly
overturned. The curtain was torn down, and flapped in the gusts through
the window, which stood open towards the canal. Kate's Bible lay
fluttering its leaves on the tiles of the fireplace. The floor was
stained with the mud of many confused footmarks. A scrap of lace from
Kate's sleeve hung on a nail by the window. But in all the rooms of
the house in the street of Zaandpoort there was no sign of the girl
herself. She had completely vanished.

Pale to the lips, and scarce knowing what they did, Will Gordon and his
wife sat down at opposite sides of the table, and stared blankly at
each other without speech or understanding.



CHAPTER XV

A NIGHT OF STORM


I will now tell the thing which happened to Kate in the house in
Zaandpoort Street that stormy night when for an hour she was left alone.

When Maisie went out, Kate heard the outer door shut with a crash as
the wind rushed in. The flames swirled up the wide chimney in the
sitting-room, whereupon she rose and drew the curtain across the inner
door. Then she went to the wood-box and piled fresh fagots about the
great back-log, which had grown red and smouldering. For a long time
after she had finished she knelt looking at the cheerful blaze. She
sighed deeply, as if her thoughts had not been of the same complexion.
Then she rose and went to the window which looked out upon the canal.
It was her favorite musing-place. She leaned her brow against the
half-drawn dimity curtain, and watched the rain thresh the waters till
they gleamed gray-white in the sparkle of the lights along the canal
bank. A vague unrest and uncertainty filled her soul.

"Wat, Wat!" she whispered, half to herself. "What would I not give if I
might speak to you to-night--only tell you that I would never be hasty
or angry with you again!"

And she set her hand upon her side as though she had been suddenly
stricken by a pain of some grievous sort. Yet not a pang of sharp
agony, but only a dull, empty ache, lonely and hungry, was abiding
there.

"How he must hate me!" she said. "It was my fault that he went away
in anger. He would never have gone to that place had we not first been
cruel to him here."

And in his cell, listening dully, to the tramp of the sparse passers-by
coming up to his window through the tumultuous blowing of all the horns
of the tempest, Wat was saying to himself the same thing: "How she must
hate me--thus to walk with him and let him point a scornful hand at my
prison window."

But in the street of Zaandpoort, the lonely girl's uneasiness was fast
deepening into terror.

Suddenly Kate lifted her head. There was surely a slight noise at the
outer door. She had a vague feeling that a foot was coming up the
stair. She listened intently, but heard nothing save the creaking
of doors within and the hurl of the tempest without. A thought came
sharply to her, and her heart leaped palpably in her breast. Could it
possibly be that Wat, released from prison, had come directly back to
her? Her lips parted, and a very lovely light came into her eyes, as of
late was used to do when one spoke well of Wat Gordon.

She stood gazing fixedly at the door, but the sound was not repeated.
Then she looked at the place where he had stood on the threshold that
first night when he came bursting in upon them--the time when he saw
her lie with her head low in Maisie's lap.

"Dear Wat!" she said softly, over and over to herself--"dear, dear Wat!"

But alas! Wat Gordon was lying stretched on his pallet in the round
tower of the prison of Amersfort; while without another maid called to
him in the drenching rain, which love did not permit her to feel. He
could neither hear the tender thrill in his true love's voice, nor yet
respond to the pleading of her once proud heart, which love had now
made gentle. He heard nothing but the roar of the wind which whirled
away towards the North Sea, yelling with demon laughter as it shook
his window bar, and shouted mocking words over the sill.

But all suddenly, as Kate looked again through the window, she became
aware that certain of the lights on the canal edge were being blotted
out. Something black seemed to rise up suddenly before the window.
The girl started back, and even as she stood motionless, stricken
with sudden fear, the window was forcibly opened, and a man in a long
cloak, and wearing a black mask, stepped into the room. Kate was too
much astonished to cry out. She turned quickly towards the door with
intent to flee. But before she could reach it two men entered by it,
masked and equipped like the first. None of the three uttered a word of
threatening or explanation; they only advanced and seized her arms. In
a moment they had wrapped Kate in a great cloak, slipped a soft elastic
gag into her mouth, and carried her towards the window. The single
wild cry which she had time to utter before her mouth was stopped was
whirled away by a gust yet fiercer than any of those which all night
had ramped and torn their way to the sea betwixt the irregular gables
and twisted chimney-stalks of the ancient street of Zaandpoort.

The man who had entered first through the window now received her in
his arms. He clambered down by a ladder which was set on the canal
bank, and held in its position by two men. Yet another man stood ready
to assist, and so in a few moments Kate found herself upon a horse,
while the man who had come first through the window mounted behind her
and kept about her waist an arm of iron strength. By this time Kate was
half unconscious with the terror of her position. She knew not whither
she was being taken, and could make no guess at the identity of her
captors.

She could, indeed, hear them talking together, but in a language which
she could not understand and which she had never before heard. The
gag in her mouth did not greatly hurt her, but her arms were tightly
fastened to her sides, and her cramped position on the saddle in front
of her captor became, as the miles stretched themselves out behind
them, an exquisitely painful one.

With the beating of the horses' hoofs the cloak gradually dropped from
her eyes, so that Kate could discern dark hedge-rows and occasional
trees drifting like smoke behind them as they rode. The lightning
played about in front, dividing land and sky with its vivid pale-blue
line. Then the thunder went roaring and galloping athwart the universe,
and lo! on the back of that, the black and starless canopy shut down
blacker than ever. Once through the folds of the cloak Kate saw a field
of flowers, all growing neatly together in squares, lit up by the
lightning. Every parallelogram stood clear as on a chess-board. But
the color was wholly gone out of them, all being subdued to a ghastly
pallor by the fierce brilliance of the zigzag flame.

To the dazed and terrified girl hours seemed to pass, and still the
horses did not stop. At last Kate could feel, by the uneven falling of
the hoofs and by the slower pace of the beasts, that they had reached
rougher country, where the roads were less densely compacted than in
the neighborhood of the traffic of a city.

Then, after a little, the iron of the horseshoes grated sharply on the
pebbles of the sea-shore. Men's voices cried harshly back and forth,
lanterns flashed, snorting horses checked themselves, spraying the
pebbles every way from their forefeet--and presently Kate felt herself
being lifted down from the saddle. So stiff was she with the constraint
of her position that, but for the support of the man who helped her
down, she would have fallen among the stones.

The lightning still gleamed fitfully along the horizon. The wind was
blowing off shore, but steadily and with a level persistence which one
might lean against. The wild gustiness of the first burst of the storm
had passed away, and as the pale lightning flared up along the rough
edges of the sea, which appeared to rise above her like a wall, Kate
could momentarily see the slanting masts of a small vessel lying-to
just outside the bar, her bowsprit pointing this way and that, as she
heaved and labored in the swell.

"You are monstrously late!" a voice exclaimed, in English, and a dark
figure stood between them and the white tops of the nearer waves.

Kate's conductor grunted surlily, but made no audible reply. The man
in whose arms she had travelled, as in bands of iron, now dismounted
and began to swear at the speaker in strange, guttural, unintelligible
oaths.

"We are here to wait for my lord!" cried the man who had lifted Kate
from the saddle. He stood by her, still holding her arm securely.

His voice had a curious metallic ring in it, and an odd upward
intonation at the close of a sentence which remained in the memory.

"Indeed!" replied the voice which had first spoken; "then we, for our
part, can stop neither for my lord nor any other lord in heaven or on
earth. For Captain Smith of Poole has weighed his anchor, and waits
now only the boat's return to run for Branksea, with the wind and the
white horses at his tail. Nor is he the man to play pitch-and-toss out
there very long, even for his own long-boat and shipmates, with such a
spanking blow astern of the _Sea Unicorn_."

"My lord will doubtless be here directly. His horse was at the door ere
we left," again answered the metallic voice with the quirk in the tail
of it.

"We will e'en give him other ten minutes," quoth the sailor,
imperturbably.

[Illustration: "THE MAN CARRIED HER EASILY THROUGH THE SURF"]

And he stood with his ship's watch in his hand, swinging his lantern
up and down in answer to some signal from the ship, too faint for
ordinary eyes to catch across the whip and swirl of the uneasy waves.

But he was spared any long time of waiting; for a man in uniform rode
up, whose horse, even in the faint light, showed evident signs of
fatigue.

"You are to proceed on board at once with your charge. My lord has
been stricken down by an assassin. He lies in the palace of Amersfort,
dangerously but not fatally hurt. Nevertheless, you are to carry out
his directions to the letter, and at the end of your journeying he or
his steward will meet you, and you shall receive the reward."

"That will not do for Captain Smith," cried the sailor, emphatically.
"He must have the doubloons in hand ere a soul of you quit the coast."

The man who had held Kate in his arms during her night-ride turned
sharply about.

"Quit your huxtering! I have it here!" cried he, indignantly, slapping
his pocket as he spoke.

"Run out the boat!" shouted the man, promptly, and half a dozen sailors
squattered mid-thigh in the foam and swelter of the sea.

"Now, on board with you this instant!" he cried, as one accustomed to
command where boats and water were in question.

Then the man with the money took Kate again in his arms and carried her
easily through the surf to where the men held the leaping craft. One
by one the dripping crew and passengers scrambled in, and presently,
with four stout fellows bending at the long oars, the boat gathered way
through the cold gray waves of the bar towards the masts of the ship
which tossed and heaved in the offing.



CHAPTER XVI

THE BREAKING OF THE PRISON


Black Peter Hals stood grumbling and snarling at the door of the
prison of Amersfort. It was almost sundown, and the outer city ports
were closed at that hour. A crowd of merrymakers had just passed on
their way to sup at a dancing-tavern. They had cried tauntingly to him
as they went by, and the laughing, loose-haired girls had beckoned
tantalizingly with their hands.

"Come, thou grizzled old bunch of keys," cried one of them, in a
voice that tinkled like a bell, "learn to be young again for an hour.
So shalt thou cheat both Father Time, and eke Jack Ketch, thy near
kinsman."

"I am waxing old, indeed, when Bonnibel taunts me unscathed," muttered
Peter Hals, grimly, to himself, as he watched them out of sight; "it is
true there are gray hairs in my poll. But, Lord knows, I have yet in me
the fire of youth. My natural strength is noneways abated. I can stand
on my feet and swig down the sturdy Hollands with any man--aye, even
with a city councillor at a feast of the corporation. But I rust here
and mildew in this God-forsaken prison. 'Tis six o'clock of a morning,
open the doors! Seven o'clock, take about the breakfast! Ten o'clock,
comes a jackanapes spick-and-span officer for inspection! Two o'clock,
a dozen new prisoners, and no cells to put them in! Six o'clock, supper
and complaints! Then click the bolts and rattle the keys--to bed,
sleep, and begin all the pother over again on the morrow! Pshaw!--a
dog's life were livelier, a-scratching for fleas. They at least bite
not twice on the same spot."

Thus Black Peter Hals, discontentedly ruffling his gray badger's
cockscomb on the steps of the prison of Amersfort.

As he watched, a dainty slip of a maid came up the street with a
pitcher of coarse blue delft on her shoulder. In the by-going she
raised her eyes to those of Peter Hals. It was but a single long
glance, yet it sent his ideas every way in a fine scatter, and eke
Peter's hand to his mustache that he might feel whether it were in
order.

At this moment a dog ran against the girl, and the pitcher clattered to
the ground, where it broke into a thousand pieces.

The maid stopped, clasped her hands pitifully, and burst into tears.

"It is all your fault," she cried, looking up at the keeper of the
prison.

Peter ran down the steps and took her by the hand.

"Do not weep, sweet maid," he said, "I will buy thee a pitcher ten
times better, and fill it with the best of white wine or the choicest
oil, only do not cry your pretty eyes all red."

The girl stole a shy glance at Black Peter.

"Are you of the servants of the prince?" said she, bashfully looking at
the orange facing of his tunic.

Black Peter erected himself a little and squared out his chest. It was
the first time that his grim prison uniform had been so distinguished.

"I am indeed the keeper of this castle of the prince," he said, with
dignity.

"It is a fine castle, in truth," said the maid, looking at it up and
down and crossways, with blue, wide-open, most ingenuous eyes.

"You come from the country, perhaps?" asked Peter. For such innocence
was wellnigh impossible to any maid of the city.

"Aye," said the girl, "I have come from La Haye Sainte in the Flemish
country of the West, where they speak French. So, therefore, I do not
know your customs nor yet your speech very well. I bide with my aunt in
the street but one to the right. I was sent to bring home a gallon of
white wine in a new pitcher. And now it is spilled--all with looking up
at you, Sir Officer, standing at the gate of your tower."

And she sped another glance at the castle-keeper from under the dark,
seductive lashes of her almond eyes.

Black Peter stroked his mustache. It was certainly a risk, but, after
all, there was no likelihood that the new provost-marshal would make
that night the first of his visitations. Indeed, it was by no means so
certain that there had been as yet any provost appointed, after the sad
accident which had happened to my Lord of Barra--"whom," said Black
Peter, "may Abraham take to his bosom. For he had no mercy on poor
men, who could not get their sleep for his surprises and inspections.
A meddlesome Scots crow, all in his rusty black, ever croaking of duty
and penalties, as if he were the hangman of Amersfort calling a poor
hussy's crimes at the cart-tail."

"Come thou in by, my girl," said Black Peter, "and in a trice, if so
be you can tell me the name of the shop, I will get thee a new pitcher
full of wine, better far than the first. Deign to wait with me but a
moment here in the castle-hall, where there is a fine fire of sea-coal
and none save ourselves to sit by it."

"I know not if my aunt would approve," said the maid, uncertainly.
"But, after all, you are most wondrously like my brother, who is a
baker of bread at La Haye Sainte. Ah," she continued, clasping her
hands, innocently, "at this time o' night he will be unharnessing
Herminius (that is our market-dog) and bringing in the white flour and
the brown flour and the little parcel of salt."

So poignant was the recollection that the maid was compelled to put her
hands to her eyes and begin to sob.

"Weep not," said Black Peter, coming down and putting one hand on her
shoulder, and with the other drawing gently her fingers from her face,
"I will be as your brother. Deign but to step within my castle, and I
will send a servant for the jar of wine. You shall only bide with me a
matter of ten short minutes, sufficient to tell me of the good brother
and of Herminius, your market-dog."

The pretty country girl let her eyes slowly rise to his face, and again
the bewitching innocence of the appeal sent Peter's hand complacently
to his beard. He stroked it as he regarded her.

"This is what it is to have a way with women. It hath been like this
all my life," he confided to himself, with a sigh.

"Then I will come with you," she said, suddenly, "and that gladly, for
you are wonderfully like my brother John. His beard also is handsome
and of the fine tissue. It is the very moral of yours."

Peter led the way up the steps.

Then he inquired from his new acquaintance the name of the wine-shop
and the brand of the wine.

He put his hand to his side and rattled a little alarm shaped like a
triangle. In a trice a young beardless youth appeared, all whose body
incessantly wriggled and squirmed, like a puppy's which fears the rod
or desires the milk-pail.

"Here, restless one!" cried Black Peter Hals, "go swiftly to the Inn of
the Gouda Cheese, and bring from thence a jar of the wine of Hochheim.
And, hark ye, also a couple of bottles of Hollands of the best brands.
Here is money for thee to pay for all."

He went to the door with the wriggler.

"Now, do you understand?" he said, in a loud tone. And then, under his
breath, he added, "Come not too soon back. An you so much as show your
ugly face here for an hour and a half, with the buckle of a belly-band
I will thrash the soul out of your miserable, whimpering body."

"I would as lief stop by the fire and watch," said the object, casting
a sheep's-glance at the country-maid, who stood warming her toes, one
pretty foot held up to the blaze; "if, perchance, it might be Mynheer
Peter's desire to refresh himself at the sign of the Gouda Cheese for
an hour, as is his custom of a night."

"Out with thee, wastrel!" cried Peter, angrily, kicking him down the
steps; "and mind, come not back for an hour on the peril of your life,
and the flaying off of thy skin in handbreadths."

So saying, Peter went back into the wide stone hall. He found his
dainty new friend sweeping up the fireplace and setting the sticks for
kindling in order at the back.

"We always do it so in our village," she said, simply, "but the men in
cities and in great castles like this have, of course, no time for such
trifles."

"What is your name, pretty maiden?" asked Peter, standing up beside her
as she knelt and swept vigorously, raising a rare dust--and, to any
eyes but those of a man, doing the work most awkwardly.

"I am called 'the Little Marie,'" said the girl, demurely, "but, of
course, among those who are not my friends I am called by another name."

"Then I will call you 'the Little Marie'!" said Black Peter, in high
delight, "and never so much as ask that other name, which is but for
strangers."

He went to a cupboard in the wall which was labelled in large letters
"Holy Bibles and Catechisms for the Use of the Prisoners." The jailer
opened this most respectable and necessary receptacle, and took from
it a square black bottle, short-necked and square-shouldered, a few
hard biscuits such as seamen use, and two large, wide-mouthed glasses
of twisted Venetian glass.

He came back with all these in his arms, and set them down together on
the table. "Now," he said, coaxingly, "sit you down, Little Marie, and
I will bring some water from the pitcher behind the door there. A glass
of fine Hollands will keep out the chills of this night, for the wind
is both shrewd and snell."

"Let me bring the water!" cried the Little Marie, gayly, clapping
her hands ingenuously. "This is just like keeping house to John, my
brother. Did I tell you his beard was like yours? See, I will stroke
it. Even so does it fall so gracefully on brother John's breast!"

And as she tripped away with the tall jug in her hand to the pail
behind the door, the jailer devoutly hoped that it would be much more
than an hour and a half before his deputy should return.

The Little Marie was a long time in finding the proper water-pail, and
it was not till Peter was half across the floor on his way to assist
her that she appeared, carrying the beaker of water in one hand and a
small earthenware cup in the other.

      "A big, big jug for the mickle great cat,
        And a little wee jug for the kitten."

So she chanted, to the tune of a Flanders nursery rhyme. Then she
laughed merrily. And the amorous Black Peter, subdued to the soles of
his boots, vowed that he had never heard anything half so prettily
witty in all his life.

Then the Little Marie poured out a full tumbler of the Hollands and
water from the jug which she had brought for him, and also adjusted a
tiny portion for herself.

"Milk for the kitten," she said; "taste it," and she offered to feed
him with a spoonful--"nice, nice--is it not, brother John?"

And brother John smiled and tasted.

"Now drink, great black cat!" she commanded, stamping her foot. And,
nothing loath, Peter drank her health--once, twice, and thrice. He
would have come about the table to mix another, and, mayhap, to take
the Little Marie by the waist. But even as he rose he began to see a
flock of Little Maries, and he put his hand hard on the oaken settle.

"I think I will sit down," he said; "drink thou to my health, Little
Marie!" And with his eyes drooping with leaden sleep, Peter watched a
regiment of country girls drinking his health out of tall green glasses
with twisted stems. The last words his ears caught, ere the drowsy,
lisping ocean of infinite sleep swelled up and drowned everything,
were, "Kittens' milk, brother John--only nice sweet milk for pretty
innocent kittens."

And then Black Peter's chin sank on his breast.

       *       *       *       *       *

So soon as the jailer's head fell and his eyes finally closed, an
instantaneous change passed over the face of the Little Marie. The
wayward mirth and provocation died out of it. A haggard, anxious
expression came into her eyes. She ran forward and grasped the bundle
of keys that swung at Peter's girdle. She tried with all her might
to pull them away, but they were locked to a strong steel band which
passed about his waist.

The girl stood a moment in despair. Then she thrust a quick hand
into all his pockets and pulled out many trifles such as men
carry--love-tokens, buttons, coins, and the like, mixed with ends of
string and stray scraps of tobacco.

These she flung down instantly. She was at her wits' end. But suddenly
she saw peeping out from under the beard which had reminded her of
brother John's, a tiny bit of yellow chain. She ran her hand along it,
and out of Black Peter's bosom there leaped a key.

Without the loss of a moment Marie fitted it into the padlock which
secured the great bunch to his waistband of steel. In another instant
they were in her possession. Then, opening the door on the left, which
had been left unlocked, when she brought the water-pitcher, she sped
down the passage in the direction of the round tower, in which she knew
Wat to be confined.

But when she thought that she must be approaching the place, she found
a number of cell-doors. Marie felt that it would not do to make any
mistake. Once more her quick wits aided her, as they had already done
that night to some purpose.

"Visiting rounds!" she cried, in a hoarse voice, as she had heard the
guard do at the posts; "the name of the prisoner detained within?"

But she had tried quite a dozen before she heard the welcome sound of
Wat Gordon's voice, speaking from the pallet on which he had been lying
thinking of Kate, weary and sleepless.

Swiftly she tried key after key. The fourth grated in the lock and
stuck. But the Little Marie thrust the stem of a larger key through the
handle, and, setting her knee to the panel and putting all her strength
into her hands, she turned the wards of the lock. The door swung to the
wall of its own accord, and there lay Wat on his bed.

He leaped to his feet with a startled exclamation when he saw her.

"Marie!" he cried, "what do you here?"

"Hush!" she said, "I am here to save you. Come!"

And carefully locking the door of the cell behind them, they stole
along the passage. Black Peter still slept in the outer hall, nodding
and swaying stertorously on the settle, and there was no other sound
save the breathing of the resting prisoners. Without, the street was
still, Peter's lieutenant being busy carrying out his instructions at
the excellent Hostel of the Cheese of Gouda.

Marie opened the huge bolted door, closed and locked it, threw the key
into the canal, and the pair glided silently and unmolested down the
street.

"Have you anywhere to go where you will be safe?" asked Marie.

"Nowhere," said Wat. "I should indeed like to find my comrade, John
Scarlett, but if he be not in his lodgings, I dare not go to the camp
to seek him."

"Come with me," said Little Marie. "I will hide you safe and bring your
friend to you. For I also am your friend, though you think it not--and,
indeed, care not even if you did believe it."

"But indeed, and in God's truth, I do count you my friend," said Wat;
"for who but you, Little Marie, during all these black days, has so
much as thought upon poor Wat Gordon?"

At his kind words Marie bent her head, and for the first time in
her life her heart was filled with the fresh spring-water of purest
pleasure. And what wonder if a little of it overflowed into her eyes?



CHAPTER XVII

JACK SCARLETT CALLS HIMSELF A FOOL


Wat and his companion passed along the deserted streets of Amersfort,
keeping carefully to those which were darkest and least frequented.
For a space neither spoke. But as they were crossing a wide, deserted
square, the Little Marie broke the silence with a startling speech.

"I think by this time he will be dead," she said, simply, as though she
had said that it rained.

"Think _who_ will be dead?" queried Wat, stopping instantly and facing
her.

"Why, your enemy!" replied the Little Marie, calmly; "but let us go on
lest the watch should come by and stop us."

"My enemy!" exclaimed Walter, putting his hand to his brow like one
bewildered.

"Aye," said Marie, "the man you showed me and told me was your
enemy--the dark man called Barra, the provost-marshal. I, the Little
Marie, struck him in the side with a knife as he was mounting his horse
to ride away--methinks I know whither. At any rate, it was on an evil
quest. He rides on no others. Did I not tell you that he was my enemy
before he was yours?"

"Struck my Lord Barra--with a knife, Marie?" stammered Wat. His slow
Northern blood had not dreamed of such swift vengeance.

"Aye," said the girl, anxiously; "did I not do right? He was mine
enemy, true. He it was who first brought me hither, left me friendless
in this city of Satan, made me that which men think me. But had that
been all his fault he might have lived. After all, that sin was mine as
well as his. I struck him because he was your enemy, and because you
hated him. Did I not well?"

"Marie," said Wat, very soberly, "you and I are as good as dead for
this. Did any see you strike?"

"Aye, marry, there were," she replied, carelessly; "but I was well
wrapped about in a red cloak and wore the cap and ear-plates of a
peasant woman of Frisia. There were several that stood curiously about
as I went near to hand him my petition at his own door. But what with
the night, the reeling of the torches, and the instant confusion, none
put out a hand to stay me as I went away. And I think he will surely be
dead by this!"

She spoke the words dispassionately, like one who has done an
unpleasing duty and has no further concern nor stake in the matter.

Instinctively their feet had turned into the street of Zaandpoort.
Wat's heart suddenly leaped within him. He had come to see the house
where he had been happy for a few hours. He would look just once
upon the window whence his love had often looked forth, and at that
other within which her dear head would even now be lying, shedding
soft dishevelled curls distractingly over the pillow--ah! the
heart-sickness! To think that never should he see it thus, never now
lay his own close beside it, as in wild visions of the night he had
often dreamed of doing.

But there shone a light from the living-room of Will Gordon's lodging.
Shadows moved restlessly across the blind. The house in Zaandpoort
Street was still awake and stirring.

Wat took a sudden resolution. He would risk all, and for the last time
look upon the woman he adored, even though he knew she loved him not.

"Hide here a moment, Marie," Wat said to his companion; "over there in
the dark of the archway. This is the house of my cousin, a soldier from
my own country of Scotland. I would bid him farewell before I go."

The young girl looked wistfully at him, and laid her hand quickly on
her heart.

"Ah, it is the house of your love--I know it," she said, sadly and
reproachfully; "and you have said so often that none loved you--that
none cared for you."

Wat smiled the pale ghost of a smile, unseen in the darkness of the
night.

"It is true that once on a time I loved one dwelling in this house. But
she loved me not--"

"It is impossible," moaned Marie. "I know that she must have loved
you--"

"No, she loved me not," answered Wat; "but, as I think, she loved the
man whom you--"

Wat stepped back into shadow, and Marie clutched his cloak with a
nervous hand. It was Will Gordon who came down the stairs. Haggered,
unshaven, looking straight before him with set eyes, he was not the
same man who had come so cosily back from the guard-room of the palace
the night before with his wife upon his arm.

Wat advanced a pace out of the dark of the arch. He held out his hand.

"Will," he said, "with you I quarrelled not. And I think that if your
wife, who used to be so stanchly my friend, knew my broken heart, she,
too, would forgive my hasty words, and be ready to understand evil
appearances that were no more than appearances."

But Will Gordon did not take the outstretched hand which Wat held a
moment in the air and then dropped sadly to his side.

"Tell me first," he said, "where you have hidden our Kate, and what
you have to do with the killing of my Lord of Barra? After that I will
either take your hand or set my sword in your heart."

"Will Gordon!" cried Wat, starting back, "was it for this that we two
kept Wellwood's men at bay under the arch at Holyrood? For this that we
lay shoulder to shoulder on the chill moors, that in these latter days
you should charge me with crimes of which I know nothing? Hidden Kate?
Why, is not Kate here, behind the glass of that window? Does she not
sleep soundly, recking nothing of evil or the sorrow of others, upon
her bed? Is not her maiden heart as ever free and careless--"

"Wat, I believe you, lad," said Will; "it was a hasty and ill-conceived
thought of mine. I know you love us all overmuch to bring harm to our
lassie. But, certainly, Kate is lost--has been carried off--and now
they are seeking her everywhere, charging her, forsooth, with the
slaying of my Lord Barra."

At the last words Wat laughed a little scornful laugh.

He had not yet taken in the terrible import of the news concerning
Kate's loss. But it seemed a foolishly monstrous thing that even in
jest she should be charged with the death of Barra, while not ten yards
behind him, in the dark of the arched doorway, stood the Little Marie,
with her dagger scarcely dry in her garter.

Then, after a moment, Will's first words suddenly came back to him, as
if they had been echoed from the tall buildings which stood about them.

"You do not mean it--Kate gone?" he said, dully, and without
comprehension; "it is impossible. Who so wicked in all this land as to
have done the thing?"

Then Will told him all the tale of the false message and of their
home-coming.

"It is Barra's trick--what other?" Wat said, at once; "I saw that he
loved her--if such a poisonous reptile can love. But I thought not that
even he could devise her wrong, else had I slain him on the spot."

Wat meditated a little while in silence. "Did Kate tell you if he had
spoken aught to her of love?"

"He offered her the most honorable marriage, and yet greater things
when the prince should come to his own. But she would have none of
him," replied Will Gordon.

"It is enough," cried Wat. "Certainly this is an affair of my lord's.
Dead or alive, I will trace out his plots till I find his trail. It may
be, after all, but a matter of Haxo the Bull, his Calf, and his Killer.
Give me no more than a sword and pistols, and my belt with the gold
that is in your strong-box."

"Will you not come up with me, Wat?" said Will Gordon. "Come, cousin."

"Nay," said Wat, "there is not time. It is but now that I have escaped
from their prison. In an hour there will be the hue-and-cry, and then
they will surely search your house. I must be far on the sea-road by
daybreak. Only furnish me with necessities, cousin mine, and let me
go. My humblest service to your wife--but tell her not till after I am
gone!"

Will Gordon went back up the stairs. Presently he was down again
with the weapons, with enough and to spare of ammunition, a loaf of
wheaten bread, a flask of wine, and the broad leathern belt with the
gold-pieces, which slipped down like a weighty serpent as he laid it in
Wat's hands. The money had been kept sacred for just such an emergency.

The cousins bade each other a kindly adieu in the fashion of other and
happier times, and then Will Gordon returned sadly to his wife.

Wat stepped back to the shelter where he had left Marie, but she was
not to be seen. He looked every way and called softly; but the girl had
vanished.

"It is perhaps as well!" he said, the Scot's prudence within him
warring with his gratitude towards the girl who had twice risked her
life for him without thought of reward.

He took his way alone across the broad squares and over the canals
to Jack Scarlett's lodgings. There was a light in the window as he
approached. He knocked gently, and a gruff voice ordered him to come
in, or else (as an equally satisfactory alternative) to proceed
incontinently to quite other regions.

Wat entered, and there, seated upon the side of his bed, he found
Scarlett with one boot off and the other still upon his foot. His eyes
were set in his head, and a kindly, idiotic smile was frozen on his
face.

At the sight of Wat, pale as death, with his clothes frayed and
disarranged with his long sojourn in prison, Scarlett started up. With
a vigorous wave of his hand he motioned his visitor away.

"Avaunt! as the clerks say. Get away, briskly, or I will say the Lord's
Prayer at thee (that's if I can remember it). Come not near a living
man. Wat Gordon in the flesh with a long sword was bad enough; but Wat
Gordon dead, with an unshaven chin and clothed out of a rag-shop, is
a thousand times worse. Alas, that it should come so soon to this! I
am shamed to be such a shaveling in my cups! Yet of a truth I drank
only seven bottles and a part of an eighth. This comes of being a poor
orphan, and being compelled to drink the most evil liquor of this
unfriendly country!"

"Scarlett," said Wat, seriously, "listen to me. I am going on a long
quest. Will you come with me? I need a companion now as a man never
needed comrade before! Mine enemy has stolen my love, and I go to find
her!"

"Away--get away!" cried Scarlett. "I want not to die yet awhile. I
desire time to repent--that is, when I grow old enough to repent. There
is Sergeant Hilliard over there at the end of the passage," he went on,
eagerly, as if a famous idea had struck him, "his hair is gray, if you
like, and he has a most confounded gout. He will gladly accompany you.
Be advised, kind ghost. Have the goodness to cross the stairway to
Hilliard. Remember, I was ever thy friend in life, Wat Gordon!"

"Beshrew your tipsy, idiot soul," thundered Wat, rising in a towering
passion; "have you drunk so much that you know not a living man from
one dead and damned? I will teach thee the difference, and that
sharply."

And with that he went over to the bedside, and banged Scarlett's head
soundly against the rafters of the garret, exclaiming at every thump
and crash, "I pray you, Jack Scarlett, say when you are convinced that
Wat Gordon is flesh and blood, and not an airy ghost."

It did not take much of this most potent logic to persuade the
ghost-seer that he had to do with Wat Gordon in his own proper and
extremely able-bodied person.

"Enough!" he cried; "hold your hands, Wat. Could you not have said as
much at first, and not stood gaping there like a week-old corpse done
up in a winding-sheet?"

"Thou donnert ass!" cried Wat. "Will you come with me on my quest, or
will you bide on here in Amersfort among putty-souled huxters teaching
shambling recruits how to stand upon their legs?"

"Of a truth, Buchan's knaves are indeed most hopeless. Yet whither can
I go? I know not of a better service," said Scarlett, shaking his head
doubtfully.

"But the adventure, man," cried Wat; "think of the adventure over seas,
through continents, upon far islands, all in quest of a true lass that
hath been trapped by devils, and may be treated most uncivilly. It
makes me mad!"

"All these are most extremely well for you, Wat Gordon of Lochinvar.
You are a younger man, and these bones of mine like well to lie on a
soft bed at my age. Also, and chiefly, the lass is your lass, and not
mine. Were you to find her to-morrow, what should I get out of all the
errant jackassery in the world?"

"John Scarlett," cried Wat, nodding his head, solemnly, "thy heart
is grown no better than a chunk of fat lard. There is no spirit in
thee any more. Go, turn over on thy side and snore, till it be time
to go forth once more to drill thy rotten sheep's regiment. God kens,
'tis all you are good for now, to be bell-wether to such a shuffling,
clod-hopping crew. 'Keep your head up! Fall not over your musket! Prod
up that man in the rear! I pray you do not hold your gun as if it were
a dandling baby! March!' Pshaw! John Scarlett, is that the life for a
man or for a puddle-rolling pig of the stye?"

Scarlett appeared to consider. He looked at the nails in the sole of
his boot with an air of grave deliberation, as if they could help him
to a decision.

"'Tis true, in truth most truly true," he said, "it is a dog's life.
But, after all, there is ever the chance of war."

"War? And will not I give thee wars to fill thy belly, and leave
something over for stuffing to thy calves?" cried Wat. "Why, man, thy
sword will never be in its sheath--fighting, seeking, spying, we will
overpass land and sea, hiding by heather and hill, creeping down by the
bonny burnside to win our speckled breakfasts out of the pools--"

"Tush, man," answered Scarlett, pettishly, "for all you know, your Kate
may be shut up in the next street. And besides, as I said, after all,
she is your lass, not mine."

Wat stepped back with a fine gesture of renunciation.

"Well," he said, "has it come to this? Never did I think to see the
day when Jack Scarlett--old Jack Scarlett of the wrist-of-steel--would
turn sheep and be afraid to set his shoulder to Wat Gordon's, or even
to cross blades with him, as he did the other night in the Inn of
Brederode. But old Jack has become no better than a gross, rotten,
grease-lined crock, and--Lord, Lord, such a flock as he leads on parade
after him!"

"S'blood! I will e'en break thy head, Wat, an' thou cease not thy
cackle. Now I will come with thee just to prove I am no sheep. No,
nor craven either. But only the greatest and completest old fool that
ever held a commission from a brave prince and one of the few good
paymasters in Europe."

With this Jack Scarlett rose, and did upon him his cloak and all his
fighting-gear with an air grave and sullen, as though he were going to
his own beheading. Then he searched all his drawers and pockets for
money--which, in spite of the vaunted excellence of the paymaster's
department, appeared to be somewhat scarce with the master-at-arms.
Presently he announced himself as ready.

His decision took this shape:

"This is the excellentest fool's-errand in the world, and I the greater
fool to go with another fool upon it. Lead on, Wat Gordon."

So, grumbling and muttering, he followed Wat down the stairs.

"And now," said Scarlett, "pray, have you so much as thought upon our
need of horses?"

"Nay," said Wat, "I have thought of naught but getting out of prison,
finding a friend, and winning back my lass."

"Aye, marry," grunted Scarlett, "thy lass! Mickle hast thou thought
of taking thy fool comrade away from the best pay-roll and the most
complaisant landlady he has found these thirty years."



CHAPTER XVIII

A PERILOUS MEETING


At the corner of the square, as they were turning under the shadow
of the cathedral, a smallish, slender youth came running trippingly
towards them.

"You want horses," he said to Wat; "there are three of them ready
waiting over there in the dark of the trees beyond the canal yonder."

"And who are you, my skip-jack manling," said Scarlett, "that makes so
free with your horses in this country of donkeys?"

"A friend!" said the boy, sliding away from the rasp in the voice of
the master-at-arms.

Something familiar in gait and manner struck Wat through the disguise
of the unfamiliar dress.

"It is the Little Marie!" he said, gladly enough. "What do you here in
this attire?"

The slim figure had slipped round to Wat's side and now laid a soft,
small hand on his.

"I have come to help you to escape. I have three horses waiting
for you, and I have discovered that the password for the night is
'Guelderland.'"

"And the horses," queried Wat, "whence came they?"

"Ne'er inquire too carefully so that they be good ones," quoth Scarlett
the campaigner.

"I took the loan of them from the stables of the Inn of the Coronation.
I know of one who will see them safe home," said Marie.

"Is their hire paid for?" asked Wat the Scot.

"Faith, aye," said Jack Scarlett; "I myself have paid the fat old
villain Sheffell for them over and over again. Let us go on. It skills
not to be too nice in distinctions when one argues under the shadow of
the gallows. The rascal shall have his horses back safe enough when we
are done with them."

They went by unfrequented ways, following their slim, alert guide down
by-ways that echoed under their feet, by quiet, evil-smelling streets
vocal with night-raking cats, past innumerable prowling dogs with their
backs chronically arched at the shoulders, half in general defiance of
their kind, and half with bending over baskets of domestic rubbish.

They came after a while to the shade of the little wood beyond the
great canal; and there, sure enough, tied to the green-sparred wooden
box, which in Dutch fashion had been put round some of the trees of
rarer sort, were three horses, all busily employed trying to crop the
herbage to the limit of their several tethers.

"And the third?" queried Scarlett, looking at them. "Whose leg goes
across the saddle of the third?"

"I come with you," said Marie, hastily and anxiously; "believe me, I
can guide you to a little haven where are ships wherein you may reach
your own land--or, at least, if it please you, escape safely out of
this country of enemies."

"And who may you be, my pretty little young man with the babe's face,
and where gat you the spirit that makes you speak so brisk and bold?"

Marie looked at Wat through the dim light as though to beseech him to
answer for her.

Said Wat, overcoming a natural touch of shyness and reluctance, "This
is the friend of mine who got me out of prison, and who was kind to me
beyond all thanks when I abode therein. She is only 'the Little Marie,'
whom you remember at the Hostel of the Coronation. After that night
she went back there no more."

"She!" cried Scarlett; "_she_, did he say? 'Only the Little Marie,'
quotha! Well, that is a good deal for a Scot of the Covenant, one that
for lack of other helpers will have to company with the Hill-wanderers,
so far as I can see, when he goes back to his own land."

"Aye," said Wat, dryly, "but we are not back yet."

"I kenned," returned Scarlett, every whit as dryly, "that we were on
one love-quest. But had I kenned that we were on two of them at once,
the devil a foot would I have stirred out of my good lodgings, or away
from the bield of that excellent and truly buxom householder, the Frau
Axel."

So far they had spoken in Scots, but the Little Marie, listening with
tremulous eagerness to the tone of their conversation, laid her hand
wistfully on Scarlett's arm.

"Fear not," she said in French, "I will never be a burden to you, nor
yet troublesome. I am to stay with you only till you are clear of your
difficulties. I can help you even as I helped him, for I know whither
the maiden you seek has been taken. And when you are on the track of
the robbers, then, so quickly as may be, the Little Marie will return
to her own place."

Scarlett did not give back a single word of good or bad. As his manner
was, he only grunted abruptly--yet, as it had been, not ill-pleased.

"Time we were in the saddle, at all events," he said; "that is, if we
are to pass the posts ere the coming of the day."

Presently, therefore, the three found themselves riding towards the
city gate. Scarlett rode first to show his uniform--that of the new
corps of which he was master-at-arms. He wore also the ribbon of the
order he had received from the prince conspicuously displayed, if it
so happened that the watch should shed the light of a lantern upon them.

"Halt!" duly cried the sentinel at the port of the camp. "Who goes
there?"

"The nephew of the colonel, my Lord Buchan," said Scarlett, "going to
the camp under escort and accompanied by his tutor."

"Advance and give the password," said the sentry, mechanically.

"Guelderland!" said Scarlett, as carelessly as though he had been
passing posts all night and was tired of the formula.

The sentry, dreaming of a maid with plates of gold at her temples,
among the far-away canals of Friesland, fell back and permitted the
three horsemen to pass without so much as wasting a glance upon them.
The gates closed behind and the white tents glimmered vaguely in front
of them. They turned aside, however, from the camp, keeping cautiously
along to the right as they rode, in order to skirt the wall of the
city. In this way they hoped to reach the open country without being
again accosted; for it was entirely within the range of possibility
that the password which had served them so well inside the city might
be worse than useless without the walls of Amersfort.

Nevertheless, they passed the last of the white tents without challenge.

As soon as the camp was left behind Marie came to the front, and,
without apology or explanation, led the way, diving into darkling roads
and striking across fields by unseen bridle-paths without the least
hesitation.

Meanwhile Wat and Scarlett, riding close behind her, talked over
their plans. Kate (they decided) was in the power of Barra. She had
been carried off against her will. So much they were sure of. Barra,
however, was clearly not with her, having been wounded at the moment
of his setting out by the knife of the Little Marie. Therefore, for
the time being at least, Kate was saved the greater dangers of his
presence. Also, his men would certainly keep her safe enough. The only
question was in what direction Kate had been carried off.

"I can help you with that also," said the girl, to whom their quest
had been explained, letting her horse drop back beside Wat's, "for
yester-even there came a certain well-refreshed sailor-man of my
village to the Street of the Prison. He served, he said, in a ship
called the _Sea Unicorn_, and she waited only the signal of my Lord
Barra to weigh her anchor. 'Goes my lord to Scotland?' I asked him.
'Nay,' he laughed, 'at least not directly and not alone. But he brings
a fair wench for company to him, and that without asking her leave, as
the Lords of Barra do all. Captain Smith is well paid for the venture,
and to every man of us there is good white drink-money.' So after I
heard that I was determined to set my knife deeper in my lord for the
poor lass's sake, that she might never taste his tender mercies as I
myself had done."

"And heard you whither the ship was to sail, Marie?" asked Wat,
listening with great attention to her tale.

"Nay, my captain," she replied; "of that the man knew little, save
where she was to put down her anchors and wait, which was off the town
of Lis-op-Zee, to which presently we ride. But Captain Smith had sworn
to go first to his home at Poole, whatever might be his freight. And
the sailor believed that he would keep his word."

"That suits Jack Scarlett excellently," said his companion; "for to
go on a quest after runaway maids to the kingdom of the blessed Louis
the Great is of a certainty to have my neck stretched, on account of
the somewhat hasty manner in which I relinquished the service of his
Most Christian Majesty. And Scotland, though mine own land, has overly
many waspish sectaries and rough-riding malignants for old Jack to be
wholly comfortable therein."

"Then England and Poole it shall be," said Wat, confidently. "You shall
see!"

"But have you considered, my friend, that England is a somewhat large
mark to hit in the white and bring up in Poole Harbor at the first
offer?" said Scarlett. "How shall one know that he is within a hundred
miles or more of his aim?"

"Hearken," said Wat. "'Tis usually Jack Scarlett that is ready with
plans, eager and fretful with encouragements. Upon his own adventures
he fairly sweats alternatives, but on this occasion of mine he does
naught but grumble. There is yet time for him to turn about and betake
him to his greasy sheepfold. 'Guelderland' will even yet admit him in
time for the morning muster of the fleecy ones."

Scarlett laughed good-naturedly, like one who will not take offence
even when offence is meant.

"I am not in love, you see," he said. "It is love that is fertile of
stratagems. I am but an old, wizened apple-jack. But so was it not
ever. The days have been--ah, lad, the days have been!--when Jack
Scarlett did not ride hot-foot after another man's lass."

"Hear my idea," said Wat, paying little heed to him. "We may hit or
miss, it is true, but in any case the ship would be a small one, and
most likely she would run for the nearest point of safety. Yet not
directly across, for all the narrow seas are patrolled by the English
vessels, because deadly jealousy of the Dutch still rankles deep in
the heart of the king for the defeats he had of them in the days when
he was Lord High Admiral of the Fleet, and attended to his mistresses'
lapdogs instead of his duty."

Scarlett moved uneasily. There was, he knew, in most countries such a
thing as a navy, but ships and rolling Jack Tars little concerned a
soldier, save to transport him to his campaigning ground.

It was brightening to the morning as they came in sight of the high
dunes of land that shut off the Northern Sea. Behind them, with the
gables of its houses already threatened by the encroaching waves of
sand, nestled the little village of Lis-op-Zee. A few fishing-boats
were drawn up into a swallow's nest of a harbor, and beyond league on
league stretched the desolate dunes, through which the river Lis felt
its tortuous way among the sand-hollows to the wider levels of the sea.

Wat and Scarlett, with their attendant, were about to ride directly and
without challenge through the street of the village towards the harbor,
when a man came staggering out of a narrow entry betwixt two of the
taller houses, so suddenly that the horse of the Little Marie almost
knocked him down.

It was already the gray light of dawn, and the man, who was clad in
swash-buckler array of side-breeches and broad hat, with many swords
and pistols a-dangle at his belt, set his hand on his breast tragically
and cried, "I thank the saints of the blessed Protestant religion that
I have escaped this danger. For if I had been run over by that thing
upon the horse there, before the Lord I should never have known what
had struck me!"

"Get out of the way!" thundered Scarlett, savagely, for he was in no
mood for miscellaneous fooling; "lie down under a bush, man, and learn
to take thy liquor quietly."

The man turned instantly with a new swagger in his attitude and a
straightening of his shoulders to a sort of tipsy attention. "And who,
Sir Broad-Stripe, made you burgomeister of the town of Lis-op-Zee? Or
may you by chance be his highness the prince in person, or his high
councillor my Lord Barra, that you would drive good, honest gentlemen
before you like cattle on the streets of this town?"

"Out, fellow!" shouted Scarlett, furiously, drawing his sword; "leave
me to settle with him," he added, over his shoulder. Wat and Marie rode
by at the side, but the man still stood and barred Scarlett's path.

Now Jack Scarlett was not exactly, as we have reason to know, a man
patient to a fault. So on this occasion he spurred his horse straight
at his opponent and spread him instantly abroad in the dust, sprawling
flat upon his back on the highway.

"Help! Hallo, Barra's men! Here is a comrade ill-beset!" cried the
rascal, without, however, attempting to rise.

And out of the houses on either side there came running a little cloud
of men, all armed with swords and pistols hastily snatched, and with
their garments in various stages of disarray.

Wat gave one look behind and then turned to his companion, holding his
head down the while that the pursuers might not recognize him.

"Come on, thou fool, Scarlett," he cried, "we have started Barra's
whole nest of wasps--there come Haxo and the rest. God help us if they
have seen us!"

Scarlett turned also. But it was too late--the mischief was done.

"Stop them!" came the thunderous bellow of Haxo the Bull. "These
are the fellows who outflouted and overbore us at the Inn of the
Coronation."

So without waiting to parley, Wat and Scarlett, with the Little Marie
well abreast of them, set spurs to their horses and rode as hard as
they could gallop through the fringing woods of Lis and the sweet and
flowery May glades out upon the desolate sand-hills of Noorwyk, hoping
to hit upon some dell or cleft among these vast waves of sand, where
they might keep themselves safe till their enemies should tire of the
search and return to the city.



CHAPTER XIX

THE BATTLE OF THE DUNES


Haxo and his forces were not in a condition to follow too closely after
the three. The chance medley for which they had pined was come, and
that without their seeking. The rascals had gone out to do one part
of their master's will. The shipping of a lass over-seas was no doubt
a pretty piece of work enough, and would be well paid for; but the
slaying of Wat Gordon and Jack Scarlett, their ancient adversaries of
the Hostel of the Coronation, was a job ten times more to the fit of
their stomachs.

Thus it was with Haxo and his immediate followers.

But the fatigues of the evening and the good liquor of Lis-op-Zee had
rendered most of the chief butcher's men somewhat loath to leave their
various haunts and hiding-places. Moreover, their horses were stabled
here and there throughout the village, so that Wat and his companions
had a good start of a quarter of an hour ere Haxo, furious and foaming
with anger at the delay, and burning with the desire for revenge, could
finally start in pursuit with his entire company.

It was now a dewy morning, a morning without clouds, and the sparse,
benty grass on the sand-hills was still spangled with diamond points
innumerable. The sun rose over the woods through which they had passed,
and its level, heatless rays beat upon the crescent over-curl of the
sand-waves as on the foam of a breaker when it bends to the fall.

"See you any stronghold where we may keep ourselves against these
rascals, if they manage to attack us?" cried Wat, from the hollow up to
Scarlett, who had the higher ground.

"Pshaw!" he returned, "what need to speak of escape? They will follow
the track of the horses as easily as a road with finger-posts. Find us
they will. Better that we should betake us to some knowe-top, where, at
least, we can keep a defence. But I see not even a rickle of stones,
where we might have some chance to stand it out till the nightfall."

By the advice of Scarlett they dismounted from their horses, and taking
their weapons they left their weary beasts tethered to a blighted stump
of a tree which the sands had surrounded and killed. Here the animals
were to some extent concealed by the nature of the ground, unless the
pursuers should approach very near or ascend the summits of the highest
ridges in the neighborhood.

The young girl had all along betrayed no anxiety, nor showed so much as
a trace of emotion or fatigue.

"It was in such a country as this I dwelt in my youth," she said,
quietly, "and I understand the ways of the dunes."

So without question on their part she led them forward carefully and
swiftly on foot, keeping ever to that part of the ridge where the benty
grass had bound the sands most closely together. Now they ascended
so as to take the loose sandy pass between two ridges. Again they
descended into the cool bottoms where the sun had not yet penetrated,
and where a bite of chill air still lingered in the shadows, while the
dew lay thick on the coarse herbage and slaked the surface of the sand.

The sun had fully risen when, still led by the girl, they issued
out upon the outermost sea edge, and heard the waves crisping and
chattering on a curving beach of pebble. The ruins of an ancient
watch-tower crowned a neighboring hillock. Doubtless it had been a
redoubt or petty fortalice against the Spaniards, built in the old
days of the Beggars. It was now almost ruinous, and at one point the
wall threatened momentarily to give way. For the wind had undermined
the shifting foundations, and part of the masonry seemed actually to
overhang the narrow defile of sand and coarse grass through which the
little party passed.

"Think ye that tower anywise defensible?" asked Marie, pointing up at
it with her finger.

Without answering at once, Scarlett climbed up to the foot of the wall
and, skirting it to the broken-down gateway, he entered.

"It will make about as notable a defence as half a dozen able-bodied
pioneers might throw up in an hour with their spades. But we are too
like the Beggars who built it to be very nice in our choosing," said
Scarlett, smiling grimly down upon his two companions from the decaying
rampart.

Walter scrambled up beside him, and the Little Marie, lithe as a cat,
was over the crumbling wall as soon as any of them. They found the
place wholly empty, save that in one corner there was a rudely vaulted
herdsman's shelter, wherein, by moving a door of driftwood, they could
see sundry shovels and other instruments of rustic toil set in the
angle of the wall.

"I see not much chance of holding out here," said Wat. "They can storm
the wall at half a dozen points."

"True," said Scarlett, "most true--yet for all that, here at least we
cannot be shot at from a distance as we sit helpless on the sand, like
rabbits that come hotching out of a wood at even-tide to feed on the
green. We are not overlooked. We have a spring of water--which is not
an over-common thing on these dunes and so near the sea. I tell you the
Beggars knew what they were about when they planted their watch-tower
down in such a spot."

In this manner Scarlett, the grumbler of the night, heartened his
companions as soon as ever it came nigh the grips of fighting.

Then the men took out the shovels and the other tools, and set about
putting the defences in some order, replacing the stones which had
fallen down, and clearing out little embrasures, where one might lie
tentily with a musket and take aim from shelter. While Wat and Scarlett
were busy with these works of fortification, the Little Marie ran down
into the dells again, looking wonderously feat and dainty in her boy's
costume.

Scarlett, the old soldier, glanced more than once approvingly after her.

"'Tis just as well that the lady-love has not yet been found--or I
should not envy you the explanation you would assuredly be called upon
to make," said he, smiling over to Wat as he built and strengthened his
defences.

Instinctively Wat squared himself, as though his mattock had been a
sword and he saluting his general.

"Ye ken me little, John Scarlett," he replied, "if you know not that I
would not touch the lass for harm with so much as the tip of my little
finger."

"Doubtless, doubtless," said Scarlett, dryly, "yet it would astonish
me mightily if even that would satisfy your Mistress Kate of the
Lashes--aye, or in troth if such extreme continence greatly pleasures
the lass herself!"

To this Wat disdained any answer, but went on piling the sand and
setting the square stones in order.

Presently the Little Marie came running very fast along the bottom of
the dells, which hereabouts wimpled mazily in and out with nooks and
cunning passages everywhere, so that they constituted the excellentest
places in the world for playing hide-and-seek. Taking both her hands,
which she stretched up to him, Wat pulled the girl lightly over the new
defences, and when she was a little recovered from her race, she told
them that the enemy could be seen scouting by twos and threes along the
edge of the forest, and even venturing a little way towards them into
the sandy waste of the dunes. But they had not as yet found the horses,
nor begun to explore the sandy hollows where an ambush might lie hidden
behind every ridge.

"It is Haxo the Bull who leads them," she said, "for the others are
none so keen on the work. But he goes among them vaunting and prating
of the brave rewards which his master will give, and how the State also
will pay largely for the capture of the traitor and prison-breaker."

"How near by did you see him?" asked Wat.

"He was within twenty paces of me as I lay behind a bush of broom," she
said, "and had it not been for the men who were with him, and the fear
that they might have marked me down as I ran, I had given him as good
as I gave his master."

And with the utmost calmness the Little Marie unslung the dags or
horse-pistols from her side, and took out the long keen dagger with
which she had wounded Barra as he mounted at his own door to ride after
his prisoner.

So, perched on this shadeless shelter they waited hour after hour,
while the sun beat pitilessly down on them. The heat grew sullenly
oppressive. A dizzy, glimmering haze quivered over the sand-hills, and
made it difficult to see clearly more than a few hundred yards in any
direction.

Wat and Scarlett desired the girl to rest a while under the shadow of
the rude hut in the corner.

[Illustration: "A COUPLE OF PISTOL-SHOTS RANG OUT LOUDLY"]

"But then I could not watch for the coming of your enemies, my
captain," she said, as if that settled the matter.

And when Wat repeated his request, Marie looked so unhappy that they
had perforce to allow her to stand on guard equally with themselves.

And indeed, as it proved, it was the Little Marie whose sharp eyes
first saw their opponents tracking stealthily along the sandy bottoms
between them and the forest. The pursuers seemed to be ten or twelve in
number, and they came scouting cautiously here and there through the
hollows, running briskly to the tops of the higher dunes, and looking
eagerly all about them for the footprints of men or horses in the
looser sand.

Before Scarlett or Wat could stop her--indeed, before either of them
so much as suspected her intention, the Little Marie had climbed over
the wall on the side farthest from the enemy but nearest to the sea.
In a moment she had run deftly down among the ruts and hiding-places
of the dells. With wonderful skill she threaded her way towards the
approaching miscreants, without letting them catch a single glimpse of
her. Indeed, even from their watch-tower on the top of the dune, it was
as much as Wat and Scarlett could do to keep her in sight through the
wavering glimmer of the heated air.

Presently, as they lay behind their defences, each in his own rude
shelter, Wat and Scarlett could see her crouch low in a little cuplike
depression upon the height of a dune overlooking the track by which the
enemy must come. The girl lay motionless, with her body flat to the
ground, like a cat which makes ready for the pounce; and they could see
the sun of the afternoon wink on the steel barrels of her pistols as on
dewy holly leaves.

Soon the vanguard of Haxo's little army came scouting and scenting
along. The men kept signalling and crying, keeping touch with one
another and making believe to search the wilderness of sand and bent
with marvellous exactitude and care.

The foremost of them had just passed the hillock on the top of which
Marie lay when "Crack! crack!" a couple of pistol-shots rang out loudly
on the slumberous air. One man pitched heavily forward on his face,
while another and younger man spun round like a rabbit, bent himself
double, clawed convulsively at the sand, and then slowly collapsed
across the path.

The scattered trackers here and there about the mounds and hollows
stood rooted to the ground with vague alarm at the sight. Some of them,
indeed, put their heads down and ran up the hill of sand from which
the shots had come. But when they reached the summit all they saw was
the reek of burned powder lazily dispersing in the hot haze of the
afternoon, while upon the dune's extremest edge were the marks of a
pair of elbows in the sand, where Marie had reclined as she took aim.

But of their dangerous assailant they found no further trace. For
immediately upon firing Marie had snatched her pistols and descended
into the winding lane of sand at the back of the dune. Then, being
perfectly acquainted with her line of communication, and mindful ever
to keep upon the shady side, she glided from shelter to shelter with
the silence and skill of one bred to such guerilla warfare.

Haxo and his party were manifestly discouraged by their misfortune, and
still more by the immunity of their unseen foe. What had happened once
might very well happen again. Nevertheless, trusting to their numbers,
they came on with still more infinite pains, Haxo himself climbing a
high dune and crying directions to his men how they were to advance by
this pass and that dell, in which from his post of vantage he could be
certain that no enemy lurked.



CHAPTER XX

CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN


Marie had made good her retreat till she halted within a few hundred
yards of the little fort where Wat and Scarlett kept their watch.
Here she lay crouched behind a bush of broom which had escaped the
general destruction as the shifting sand advanced, and which had made
good its position by associating itself with stubborn clumps of pink
and sea-holly. For these are both brave, self-helpful plants, and can
bind the sand together with their own proper roots without the aid of
bent-grass. Behind this ambuscade Marie crouched, and Wat would have
descended to her assistance but that Scarlett forcibly withheld him.

"Lie still, man; can ye not bide and watch? It is as bonny as a painted
picture. Think you that our muckle clumsy bodies could run and hide
as featly? I trow not! Let the lass do her own ways. She has, indeed,
a very pretty notion of war--aye, far better than many of our boasted
generals, and nigh hand as good as the prince himself. For, to my
thinking, there is more generalship in delaying and harassing the
advance of a superior force than in defeating an equal number with
trumpets, drums, and all the paraphernalia of war."

So, in obedience to Scarlett, and also because the girl's quick
manoeuvres at once astonished and fascinated him, Wat abode still
where he was. But his eyes were chained to the slight form of the
Little Marie, who lay behind the broom perfectly plain to them from
their fortress eminence, but wholly hidden from the line of the
enemy's advance. It seemed an unconscionable time before the pursuers
came near, because on this occasion they took the utmost precautions
to avoid surprise; and it was not till Haxo himself had ascended the
knoll within thirty feet of where the girl lay that the foremost of the
approaching skirmishers came within range.

But Marie was either so careless of her life or so sure of the line of
her retreat that she appeared to pick and choose deliberately among her
enemies. The persons of many of them were doubtless well known to her,
and it is possible that she had private scores to pay off while thus
fighting the battles of Wat and Scarlett.

Presently one of her pistols spoke again and a third man fell wounded.
Haxo stood up to mark the spot from which the reek of the powder
floated lazily into the air, and as he did so, Marie, wheeling about
on her elbows, steadied her weapon on the edge of the sand between the
broom-bush and the sea-holly. It cracked, and Haxo, with a cry of anger
and pain, clapped his hand upon his ankle, for all the world like a boy
that runs barefoot and whose toe meets a stone unexpectedly.

But this time it was impossible for Marie to conceal the line of her
flight. She had to make a considerable detour to the right; for, in
order to pick her men, she had allowed some of the enemy to pass her
by, and these now bent hastily round to intercept her. The rest,
following Haxo's frenzied directions as he leaped and swore with the
pain of his hurt, pursued with might and main, getting glimpses of her
as she ran. For on this occasion Marie took no care whatever to keep to
the bottoms, but on the contrary chose the hardest surface and the most
direct road for the shore, as though she had been fleeing to a boat
which lay in waiting at the sea edge.

It was soon obvious that this was the idea of the pursuers, for those
on the left who had passed her place of ambush exerted themselves to
reach the shingle of the beach by the narrow and deep defile in front
of the wall of the fort. They paused occasionally to fire, and cheered
and shouted all the time in order to encourage one another--which
doubtless they were much in need of, for it must have been most
discomfortable to see their comrades dropping here and there about them
without so much as the pleasure of getting a shot at the assailant.

Then for the first time Wat and Scarlett perceived whither Marie was
leading the enemy. Ever as she came nearer she raised her arm and waved
them to be ready. But with what they were to be ready did not appear,
unless with their pistols, to have a chance at the rascals as they
passed under the wall. Yet it was not a place favorable for pistol
practice, because at that point the wall was broken down and fully
thirty feet of it completely undermined and tottering to its fall.

"The wall, the wall! Push down the wall!" cried Marie, as she came
almost underneath it.

It was Scarlett who first grasped her idea. Wat on his part was too
much astonished at the daring and address of this girl to be capable of
more than a vague, gaping wonderment.

"Quick, Wat!" cried Scarlett; "it must be the overhanging wall she
means. See you not that these fellows, being ignorant of our presence,
it is a thousand chances to one that for ease of road and haste to get
before the lass to keep her away from the sea, they will take the path
through the ravine and pass immediately underneath the wall?"

"And what of that?" asked Wat.

"What of that? Why, man, what is come of your ancient contrivance, your
wise shifts, your forethought? How will you ever find your love if your
wits are so moidered, before ever ye leave this dull Dutch country?"

"Faith, and I see it not yet," cried Wat, looking over at the chase
more bewildered than ever.

"Why, she means that we are to push the wall over upon them when they
come, I'll wager," said Scarlett.

"And so destroy our only defences; it is, indeed, a wise ploy!" cried
Wat, scornfully.

"Hush, man, and come help. We may annihilate the whole crew at a blow,"
said the old soldier, who had no petty scruples about ways and means;
"an enemy dead is a friend the more, however he come by his end."

Scarlett and Wat stole to the wall and peeped cautiously over. The
ill-laid and mouldered stones tottered even as they leaned against
them; one or two rattled into the defile as they looked down. The heads
of the pursuers were just appearing at the entrance of the dell. One
of them was training his piece to shoot it off at the girl, who ran
lightly as at a frolic a hundred yards in front.

Without a suspicion of danger the assailants came posting along.

"Now, with all your might!" cried Scarlett, when he saw the villains
exactly underneath. He could plainly descry the same four men who had
sat about the table in the Hostel of the Coronation, and some of the
others also who had flocked in thither to join the fray.

So without further word Wat and Scarlett set their thews to the wall;
and between them, panting with the long chase and grimed with powder,
where the touchhole had spat up in her face, the Little Marie threw
herself on the parapet to help on the catastrophe with all her feeble
strength.

The wall swayed in a piece and quivered a moment on the verge ere it
fell with a prodigious crash upon the straggling file of men in the
deep defile below. A hoarse, confused cry was heard, running up, as the
pursuers too late recognized their danger, into a shriek of agony. Then
a thick cloud of dust and sand arose, which prevented those in the
redoubt from seeing the effect of their stratagem. Presently from the
gap they could see a few limping stragglers disentangle their disabled
bodies from the ruins, and make haste to put as much space as possible
between themselves and the unseen dangers which beset them on every
side on these wide, unwholesome dunes.

The Little Marie stood erect in the breach. She held her pistols in her
hand and marked down the survivors as they ran.

"Let them go, Marie," cried Wat; "they are powerless to harm us now!"

Wat's heart was a little turned to pity by the wholesale destruction
wrought beneath his eyes by the falling of the wall; but Marie's eyes
only glistened the more brightly with excitement and the light of
battle.

"But they are _your_ enemies, my captain!" said Marie, evidently
surprised at his words. Then very coolly she went on loading her
pistols.

"Stand down, Marie," cried Wat, "or they will surely do you an injury.
I saw a man's head behind yon highest dune."

"I care not so be they kill me outright. I do not want to be only
wounded," answered the Little Marie, laughing recklessly. Nevertheless,
she began obediently to descend.

Wat's warning came too late. Haxo himself, full of bitterness and
foaming with the desire for vengeance, had managed to limp near enough
to witness the destruction of his men in the defile. While the girl was
priming her pistols, he had taken careful aim. Now he fired.

Marie gave a low, quick cry and put her hand to her breast to feel
where the wound was. Then she steadied herself and attempted to go on
with the preparation of her pistol.

But with a little moan of pain she sank back into Wat's arms, who
gently laid her down in the shade of the wall. Scarlett brought her
water in the brim of his broad hat. He sprinkled it on her face. A
brief examination showed that Haxo's bullet had struck the girl an inch
above the left breast. Scarlett and Wat looked squarely at each other.
The significance of that single glance was not lost on the Little Marie.

A bright look of manifest joy instantly overspread her face.

"I am glad--very glad," she said, fighting a little with her utterance;
"lift me up so that I may tell you. I am glad that I am to die. Yes,
I know it. I wished nothing else. I tried so hard to die to-day, my
captain, fighting your enemies; for I knew that I should never see you
again, that you would sail away without a thought for the Little Marie
who wrought so hard to take you out of prison. I knew that you were
going to seek one whom you love, and that I could not come with you.
But now I can keep you--keep you all, till it is time for me to go
away."

She put an arm up about Wat's neck as he bent over her and drew his
head down.

"Only this once," she said, smiling. "Even _she_ would not be angry,
for she has all--I nothing. And it is right--right--oh! so right. For
you could not love the Little Marie--wife and mother she could not be;
her life had been wicked--yet her heart was not all bad. And oh! but
she loved you--yes, she loved you so dear. She could not help that--nor
could you, my captain. Forgive Marie for loving you. But, then, you
should not have spoken so graciously to the poor girl to whom none ever
spoke kindly or gently."

Wat bent over the girl.

"You have, indeed, been brave and good," he said; "we truly love you
for what you have done. Presently we will take you to a kindly house
where you shall be nursed--"

"Nay, my captain," she whispered, smiling up at him gladly, "it is
kind--yes, most sweet to hear you speak thus. But it is better that the
Little Marie should die out here with your arm about her, and before
the sun of this happy day goes quite down. Ah, if she had stayed in the
fields always she might have been better, purer, perhaps--who knows?
But then she had never known you, my captain. Maybe it is better as it
is. At least, it is good to have known one true man."

She was silent a space. Wat tried hard to remember a prayer. Scarlett
whistled a marching tune under his breath to keep from angry,
rebellious weeping. The dying girl spoke again.

"Do not quite forget the Little Marie," she said; "her heart would not
have been all bad--if only you had been there sooner to teach her how
to be good."

She smiled up at him with eyes over which a pale, filmy haze was
gathering. She put her hand a little farther about his neck and so
brought her face nearer to his.

"Did I not lead them well?" she said, eagerly and gladly; "tell
me--even _she_ could not have done it better! Ah! love, but this is
passing sweet," she went on, more slowly and plaintively; "it is good
to be held up thus, and to watch death coming to me so softly, almost
sweetly. Dear, just say once that what I did was well done, and that no
one at all could have done it better for you."

"None has ever done so much for me, none so given all for me, as you
have done, Little Marie!" murmured Wat, his tears dropping down on the
pale face of the girl--who, if she had sinned greatly, had also greatly
loved.

"It is true, and I am glad," she said again, "even your love of loves
herself could do no more than die for you!"

Her smile fixed itself. Her eyes grew hazier, but their long, still
look stayed intently and happily upon Wat's face. Murmuring a prayer,
he bent and kissed the fair brow that was now growing cold as marble.
At the touch of his lips a light, as from a paradise beyond, flamed up
for a moment in the girl's eyes. Her smile grew infinitely sweeter, and
the rigid lines of pain about the mouth relaxed.

"My captain--O my captain!" she whispered, sweetly as a little child
that closes its eyes and nestles into sleep upon a loving shoulder.



CHAPTER XXI

THE GOOD SHIP _SEA UNICORN_


Kate McGhie was safe on board the _Sea Unicorn_, Captain Smith--a
vessel English by ownership and manning, but which, for purposes which
need not at this point be too closely defined, presently flew the Three
Castles of the famous free city of Hamburg, though that fact would
not materially have benefited any one on board had one of the British
fleet from the Medway overhauled Captain Smith. For on board the _Sea
Unicorn_ there was much contraband of war, clearly intended for the
sustenance and equipment of the enemies of his Majesty King James, both
in the West of England and also more particularly in Scotland.

As Kate was being taken up the side, she could hear above all the sea
noises the voice of a man in angry monologue. Captain Zachariah Smith,
of the good town of Poole, was exceedingly wrathful at the delay. But
in spite of his anger the work of the deck went forward as well as it
might on so small a vessel, when everything creaked and tumbled in the
dancing jabble of the cross seas. For the wrath of Captain Smith for
the most part passed off in angry words, and did not, as was usual in
the merchant service of the time, very promptly materialize itself in
the form of a handspike. There was considerable difficulty in getting
the boat alongside on account of the swell, and Kate was handed up
like a piece of delicate goods. The man upon whose saddle she had been
carried held her up lightly poised on his hand, and as the side of the
plunging ship descended and the boat lurched upward, simultaneously
half a dozen arms, rough but not untender, were outstretched to receive
her. In a moment more she found herself safe on the deck of the _Sea
Unicorn_.

"Ah, my lassie, come your ways," said a voice, which, simply because it
was the voice of a woman, made Kate almost cry out with pleasure. It
was a pleasant enough voice, too, and had something in the tone of it
which seemed an excellent guarantee of the good intentions of its owner.

A tall, well-formed, rosily colored woman of forty or fifty stood by
the mast, keeping her hand on a rope to steady herself as the vessel
lunged and dipped her stem viciously into the trough of the waves.

"This is an uncanny and unheartsome journey for ye, my lassie," said
the woman, "but it's an auld proverb that we maun a' do as things will
do wi' us."

Kate ran to her as soon as her feet were free on the deck and caught
her by the hand.

"You will help me--you will save me!" she said, looking up at the buxom
woman with an agony of apprehension in her eyes. For it was a great
thing after a night of terror and darkness, and after the enforced and
unwelcome company of ungentle men, for the lonely girl to find a woman,
and one so seemingly kindly of face and manner.

"Help ye, lassie! That will surely Betsy Landsborough do. Have no fear
of that. They shall never steer ye gin ye like it not. That dour man
o' mine has his orders frae the chief, belike, and in the mean time
ye'll hae to bide wi' us. But there shall none hurt or molest ye, while
Betsy, the wife of Alister, can win at them wi' her ten finger-nails."

"You speak like a Lowland woman," said Kate, ten minutes afterwards,
when they found themselves in the little cabin in the stern of the
ship. Kate was an excellent sailor, so that the plunging of the _Sea
Unicorn_ did not seriously affect her. By-and-by the heaving moderated
as the ship turned tail to the land and sped away before a strong
southeasterly wind towards the shores of England. Owing to the heavy
sea it had been found utterly impossible to get the long-boat on board,
and Captain Smith had reluctantly sent it back, to be cared for in the
little port of Lis till his return.

The cabin of the _Sea Unicorn_ was a narrow place, but it was dainty
enough in its appointments, and the two small white berths were covered
with white linen of wonderful softness.

Now the bitterest and most immediate of Kate's anxiety was over. She
knew that for the present at least she was a prisoner in the hands of
kindly people, and with one of her own sex on board. So it seemed as if
she could not let her companion out of her sight.

"You have not yet told me why you speak like a Lowland woman," Kate
said again to her new friend.

Betsy Landsborough had not heard the first time, being busied with the
arrangement of various articles of dress in a dark closet by the side
of the cabin.

"'Deed aye," she answered, "and what for no? Would ye hae me speak like
thae muckle ill-favored sons 'o the peat-creel because for my sins are
o' the Highland Host carried me away frae bonny Colmonel in Carrick in
the year '79. Ever since which sorrowful day I have been the wife o'
Alister McAlister, the tacksman of the Isle Suliscanna, near half-road
across the Atlantic."

"Is your husband on board?" asked Kate.

"Aye, that he is; ye'll hae maybe seen mair o' him than ye like. For it
was him that gat the chief's orders to bring ye here wi' him. He wad no
hae muckle to say till ye. He is none ower gleg with the tongue at the
best o' times. It was a year and a half before he understood mair o'
my talk than juist 'Come here!' 'Gang there!' 'Stand oot o' the road o'
me, or else I'll ding the head aff ye!'"

Kate smiled a little at the friendly sounding and natural accent of the
Ayrshire woman, and though her path was still as dark as night before
her, and she knew not whither she was being taken, a load consciously
lifted from about her heart as she listened.

"But can you tell me," she returned, "by whose orders and for what
purpose I have been stolen cruelly away from my friends and set on this
vessel, going I know not where?"

"By whose orders I can tell ye, and welcome. It is by the orders o' the
chief o' the McAlisters. Why, lass, it is something to be proud of. The
Lord of Barra, the chief himsel', is fell fond o' ye, and, I doubt not,
has ta'en ye awa' that ye may settle doon to island ways and be ready,
when he gets his new coronet, to be a brave Lady of the Isles."

"But I will never marry my Lord Barra--no, nor any man but the man I
love!" cried Kate, indignantly.

"Hoot, toot, gently and daintily, my lassie; that is even what I said
mysel', when yon great rawboned stot first took me wi' him, never
speerin' my leave. Dinna ye ken that no a Lord o' Barra has ever gotten
a wife for five hunder years, but by the auld and honored Highland
fashion o' takin' her first an' coortin' her after? Haith! there's mony
a mislippened lass that wishes she had that way o't. For mony is the
ane wha mairries for love and gets the butter and the comfits first,
but in the afterings finds that right bitter in the belly which had
been so sweet in the mouth."

And with this Sabine wisdom Betsy Landsborough vanished with a flourish
of lifted petticoats up the ladder, which on the small _Sea Unicorn_
served to communicate between the cabin and the deck.

The ship still sped on her course, and Kate sat below thinking of
her strange adventure, which yet seemed so little and so natural to
the wild, lawless folk among whom she found herself. Captain Smith
incessantly prowled the deck and looked eagerly for Branksea Island,
and still more anxiously for the lights of one of his Majesty's swift
cruisers from the Nore. So in the mean time we will let the _Sea
Unicorn_ cut a furrow out of sight across the long heaving billows of
the seas, while we go back to accompany Wat Gordon in his search for
his lost love. Difficult and almost hopeless as the quest seemed, Wat's
heart was wholly true and loyal. He never swerved from his resolve to
search the world and to endure all manner of hardness till he died,
rather than that he should not find his love. Whereat, as often as
he put the matter into words, Jack Scarlett swore under his breath,
and more than ever regretted (he stated it on his honor as a soldier)
the best paymaster and the most complaisant landlady he had known for
twenty years.



CHAPTER XXII

WISE JAN PETTIGREW


Gently, very gently, they laid in the earth the body of the Little
Marie, and Wat Gordon said the prayer over her he could not remember
before when she lay a-dying. It was a prayer to the Lord who takes
reckoning with the intents of the heart as well as with the deeds of
the body.

Under the shelter of a great dune they laid her, digging the grave as
deep as they could, using the same tools with which they had intrenched
the citadel she had helped them so well to defend. They laid her on the
landward side, under a huge cliff of sand, so that as the winds blew
and the sand wave advanced, it might bury her deeper and ever deeper
till the trumpet of the archangel should blow _reveille_ upon the morn
of final judgment.

"And then," said Scarlett, with conviction, "I had liefer take my
chance with Marie, the sinner, than with Barra or Kersland, those
precious and well-considered saints."

Wat Gordon said not a word. But he stood a longer space than for his
own safety he ought, leaning upon the long handle of his spade and
looking at the fresh, moist sand which alone marked the grave of the
Little Marie in the waste.

The defeat which had befallen the forces of Haxo was final enough,
for among the rank and file there was not the least desire to pursue
the conflict for its own sake. And, moreover, the death of so many
of their companions was sufficient to intimidate the survivors. Yet
Wat and Scarlett were by no means free from danger. For one thing,
both Haxo and the fugitives from the party of their assailants were
perfectly acquainted with their identity, and the fact of Wat's being
an escaped prisoner of the State was quite enough to bring upon them
more legitimate though not less dangerous enemies.

By following circuitous and secluded paths, Wat and Scarlett found
their way to a wooden shed on the verges of the cultivated land. The
lower floors were evidently used in the winter for cattle, but the
upper parts were still half full of hay, long and coarse, cut from the
polders which lay at the back of the dunes.

Here among the rough, fragrant, pleasant hay the two men lay down, and
Wat fell instantly asleep--the training of his old days in the heather
returning to him, and in combination with the fatigues and anxieties of
the night and morning, causing him to forget the manifold dangers of
his position. Scarlett, having apparently left sleep behind him with
his drowsy regiment, occupied himself dourly in making up the account
of the pays still due to him by the paymaster of his corps, shaking his
head and grumbling as each item was added to the formidable column, not
a solitary stiver of which he could ever hope to receive.

It was again growing dusk when Wat awoke, much refreshed by his sleep.
He found Scarlett leaning on his elbow and watching him with grim
amusement.

"I suppose," he said, "once I was a fool and fathoms deep in love
as well as you. But I do not believe that ever I slept in this
fashion--saying over and over, 'Kate, dear Kate,' all the time, in a
voice like a calf bleating for a milk-pail on the other side of the
gate."

Wat turned his head and pretended not to hear. He was in no mood to
barter windy compliments with Jack Scarlett, who on his part loved
nothing better, save only wine and a pretty woman. The grave of the
girl who had died for love of him was too new under the dunes of Lis;
the fate of his own true-love too dark and uncertain.

So soon, therefore, as it grew dusk enough, Wat and Scarlett betook
themselves without further speech down to the little harbor, to see
what might be obtained there in the way of a boat to convey them out of
Holland. At first they had some thought of getting a fisherman to land
them at Hamburg, whence it would be easy enough to take passage either
to England or to Scotland, as they might decide.

The town of Lis was small, and its harbor but a shallow basin into
which at high-water half a dozen fishing-boats at most might enter.
There were few people about the long, straggling, shoreward street,
and there was none of the cheerful bustle and animation characteristic
of a Dutch town at evening. For many of the men were away serving in
the armies of the States-General, and most of the others were at the
fishing off the banks of Texil. In the harbor itself they saw nothing
to suit their purpose, and none at whom to ask a question. Nor did so
much as a dog bark at them.

But on the shingle outside of the harbor, at a place where a ledge of
rock ran up out of the sea, with the waves gently washing one side of
it, there was drawn up a ship's boat of moderate dimensions, and beside
it, seated on the stern with his legs dangling over the painted name,
lounged a curious-looking individual, smoking a short, small-bowled
pipe. He was a youth, of years numbering somewhere between eighteen
and thirty--of the sleek-faced, beardless sort that does not change
much for twenty years. The most boundless self-sufficiency marked his
appearance and attitude. When he saw Wat and Scarlett approach he rose
lazily, stretched his long, lank legs, turned his back on them in a
marked manner, and gazed seaward from under the level palm of his hand.

"I bid you good-evening," said Scarlett, saluting Sir Stork as politely
as if he had been the stadtholder of Lis; "can you tell us if in this
town there are any boats that may be hired to take certain passengers
to Rotterdam?"

For they thought it well, in any bargaining, to give out that city as
their port, and to change the destination after they had got to sea--by
persuasion or by force of arms, if necessary.

"That do I not," replied the unknown, promptly, in good English, though
Scarlett had spoken in Dutch.

"But the boat upon which you are leaning?" pursued Scarlett, "is she
not a vessel which a man may hire for a just price?"

The lad took three draws of his pipe in a consequential way before
answering. He tapped the bowl meditatively on his thigh.

"This boat," he said, at length, "of which I am in charge, is the
property of Captain Smith, of the _Sea Unicorn_, a distinguished
English merchantman, burgess of the town of Poole--and I am responsible
for her safekeeping till such time as she can be conveyed to that town."

"It is indeed both an onerous and an honorable task," quoth Scarlett,
"and one that could only be intrusted to a man of sense and
probity--and I am sure from your appearance that you are both."

Wat Gordon was getting tired of this bandying of words, and showed
symptoms of breaking in. But as the youth looked seaward Scarlett dug
his companion in the side with his elbow, in token that he was to be
silent. Old Jack had an idea.

"Captain Smith was perhaps overtaken by the late storm," he said,
warily, "and so compelled to leave his long-boat behind him?"

"Aye, and Wise Jan Pettigrew (for so I am nominated in all Poole
and Branksea) was left in charge of it," said the youth, with proud
consequence. "An important cargo was taken out to the _Sea Unicorn_ in
this boat, I warrant, and one that will bring a high price when Captain
Smith comes to reckon charges with the owner of that pretty thing."

"Ah, Wise Master Jan Pettigrew, but you carry as pretty a wit and as
shrewd a tongue in that head of yours as I have met with for many a
day," said Scarlett, in a tone of high admiration.

"So--so," said Jan Pettigrew, complacently crossing his legs again on
the boat and taking deeper and deeper whiffs of his refilled pipe.

"Aye, marry! a shrewd tongue and a biting. And whither might this
treasure be going?" asked Wat, with more anxiety on his face than he
ought to have shown. Scarlett darted an angry glance at him, and the
tallowy youth, taking his pipe out of his mouth and holding it in his
hand, regarded him with slowly dawning suspicion.

"The matter is naturally a secret of my noble employer's," he replied,
with dignity, "and of Captain Smith's. It has not been communicated to
me with the idea of my retailing it to any chance idler on the beach
who happens to come asking insolent questions."

"Certainly you are right, and very well said, Master Pettigrew,"
said Scarlett, with admiration. "Wat, my lad, that settles you, I am
thinking. The gentleman has his secrets, and he means to keep them. And
mightily prudent of him, too. But as to this boat," he went on, "your
master cannot mean you to take her along the coast by yourself all the
way to meet him in Hamburg?"

"My master has not gone to Hamburg," cried Jan Pettigrew, "but first
of all to his own town of Poole, or at least to a place near by, which
is also a secret with himself and with those who have the honor to
serve him, and in whom he reposes confidence."

Scarlett once more glanced round reprovingly at Wat.

"Ah, let this be a lesson to you, young sirrah," he said; "see how
carefully and yet how politely this gentleman can keep his master's
secrets? Truly, this is a fellow to be trusted."

Wise Jan Pettigrew puffed and blew upon his pipe with such swelling
importance, that finally he choked and went off into a fit of coughing
which threatened to end him once for all. For he was but loosely hung
together, of bilious complexion, and with a weak, hollow chest. But
all the time of his coughing he was struggling to tell something which
pleased him, choking at once with laughter and with the reek which had
gone the wrong way when Scarlett tickled his vanity with flattering
words.

"_Oo-hoo_," he cried, chokingly, "and the cream of the
joke--_oo-hoo_--is that the captain, being a widower, is sure to fall
in love with the lass himself. And at Poole town, when his madcap
daughter comes aboard at Branksea, as she ever does, I warrant it that
she makes the fur to fly. Would that I had been there to see! 'Twill be
a rare lillibullero! She'll pipe up Bob's-a-dying!"

Wat's eyes gleamed like a flame, but Scarlett darted a side-look under
his brows at him, so swift and fierce that he started back and was
silent. "For the love of God," the look said, "hold your fool's tongue
and let me finish what I have begun."

"Master Jan Pettigrew," quoth Scarlett, still more seductively, "you
are a man after my own heart. Fain would I go a little cruise, as it
might be for pleasure, with a man of your wit and discretion. I tell
thee what--Captain Smith cannot be back for a long season. Now we two
are anxious to go on a little pleasure-trip to England. There is a mast
in the boat. The wind and weather are fair. We have both of us got
good Dutch guilders in our pouches. You, like other brave campaigners,
have, I doubt not, both sore need of such and a bonny young lass of
your own in Poole, or elsewhere, to spend them upon. Why should not we
three put the boat's head towards England this fine brisk night, with
the wind in our quarter, and boldly steer our way thither? Would it not
surprise Captain Smith greatly and make much for your advancement if
he should see his long-boat come sailing in after him safe and sound?
And how famous would Master Jan Pettigrew be then! Why, every coastwise
ship-master would be eager to give him a fine vessel to command, on the
strength of such a deed of seamanship!--while all the maids would go
wild for his favor, and the home-staying lads would run crazy for very
green envy for him."

As Scarlett spoke the pursing of Jan Pettigrew's mouth gradually
slackened and the corners widened, till his countenance became in truth
a finely open one--most like that of the monk-fish when he lies at the
bottom of the sea with his jaws wide for sticklebacks and codlings to
venture within. At the picture of his triumphant return his dull eyes
glistened, and when Scarlett spoke of his fortune among the maids, he
slid down from the boat and slapped his thigh.

"Ods fegs, I'll risk it--I have more than half a mind. But"--he
scratched his head and hesitated--"the provisions for such a
cruise--they will cost much?"

He looked cunningly at Scarlett, who motioned with his hand behind him
to Wat. Lochinvar slid an arm about his waist and undid his belt, from
which he took a couple of gold pieces. These he put into Scarlett's
beckoning palm.

"The provisions, sayest thou?" quoth Scarlett, deftly jerking one
of these into his pocket. "Have no care for that. Here is one piece
of gold for you--go into the village of Lis and buy whatever may be
necessary for our voyage. And," he continued, "there is no need to tell
a man of the understanding of Jan Pettigrew that, when talking to the
yokels of Lis, we are only going a little voyage to the Banks to catch
the saith and limber-cod."

Scarlett rubbed his finger along the side of his nose with such
contagious cunning that Jan also rubbed his and leered back at him in
as knowing a manner.

"Trust Wise Jan," he said; "not a word shall they know from me--I am as
deep in counsel as a draw-well. There is no bucket can draw aught from
my mind unless my will be the rope to pull it up withal."

"Haste you, then," said Scarlett; "speak not to the people at all, for
safety's sake, but come back quickly with the provender. And in the
mean time my friend and I will fill the casks and beakers with water,
so that we may be ready to start as soon as you return."



CHAPTER XXIII

WISE JAN WAXES WISER


Jan Pettigrew started with the gold piece in his hand to get the
provisions in the town of Lis-op-Zee. So soon as he was out of sight
Wat Gordon was in the long-boat hunting about like a terrier dog. His
eye had caught the least touch of bright color among the rubbish in
the stern of the boat. He was on his knees presently, holding a bit
of ribbon in his fingers which in hue appeared like the stone called
aquamarine, or, as one would say, blue and green at the same time. He
pressed it with passion to his lips.

"It is my love's!" he cried. "It is most surely hers. Thrice I saw her
wear it about her beautiful neck! She must have sat in this boat not so
many hours since."

"And what else do you suppose I have been getting out of that
incredible lout, all the while you were staring at this bit of ribbon
and trying to get in your silly word and spoil everything?" said
Scarlett, testily. For sleeplessness and his companion's impatience had
certainly been trying to the temper.

But Wat continued to cherish his ribbon to the exclusion of all else.
He had had but little to feed his affection upon, poor lad, ever since
he had been clapped behind iron bars--and, indeed, not so very much
before that.

Wat and Scarlett carried the cask and beakers to a spring which they
found in an old overgrown garden not far from the harbor. They made a
convenient stretcher by removing part of the rough decking from the
bottom of the long-boat, and carrying the vessels to and fro upon
that. They had hardly returned for the last time when they descried
Wise Jan Pettigrew coming back along the shore with a whole army of
helpers at his tail, carrying parcels and packages innumerable. He was
in the full tide of discourse to them.

"Ye see, lads," he was saying, as he came up, "my father was a man from
Amersfort that came to England; and desiring to settle there, he had
dealings with my mother, who was a farmer's daughter in the county of
Dorset. And in due time he married her--yes, in good sooth, he married
her, and that is why I am called Jan Pettigrew. For my father must have
me called Jan. He would hear of nothing else. Whereat my mother, not to
be beaten, swore that some part of my name should carry with it a good
old English smell. So Jan Pettigrew I was christened, of my mother's
surname, with my father standing by and never daring so much as to say
a word!"

The louts of Lis were chuckling and nudging each other with suppressed
laughter, for it was obvious that Wise Jan Pettigrew had been looking
most unwisely upon the Hollands when it gave its color aright in the
cup. However, they hastened to plant their parcels and stores in the
long-boat, and meantime they gazed with wide-open eyes at Wat and
Scarlett.

"These honest gentlemen," said the wise and reticent Jan, "are for the
fishing. Oh yes, they are for the fishing"--his finger went to his
nose--"you all understand, lads, the fishing. Then when we come back to
Lis here to make a declaration to the burgomeister of the number and
weight of the fine fish we have taken on the Banks, why, there will be
drink at the Three Castles for every honest fellow here!"

He would have said more, but Scarlett, growing suddenly tired of his
clatter, tumbled him unceremoniously into the boat, and cried out to
the men of Lis:

"Here's good silver for whoever will give us a hand that the boat may
be launched--silver to drink the health of the prince this very night
at the inn of Lis in sound, stark Hollands!"

The men and boys, hearing this, gave a rousing cheer, and setting
their strength to the long-boat of the _Sea Unicorn_, they rattled it
down the pebbles and out into the heave and murmur of the incoming
tide. Scarlett ran his hands through the pockets of Jan Pettigrew's
clothing, and handed all the small silver which he found there--a round
handful--to the tallest of the 'prentice lads.

"There," he said, "drink the prince's health, and if there be any over,
drink to the health of Captain Smith of the _Sea Unicorn_, and of all
his crew and passengers."

And at this liberal and comprehensive toast the lads on shore again
cheered, as men with drink in prospect will cheer at anything.

There was still a rousing breeze astern, and making Jan Pettigrew
keep awake so that he might at least direct them in the necessary
manoeuvres, Wat and Scarlett proceeded to erect the mast and unbend
the sail with ignorant, unseamanlike hands. But after a little, under
guidance, they did featly enough, so that the distance widened, and
they saw with delight the shores of Holland drop back and the solemn,
waffing windmills stand up in a long row out of the polder.

"Now for England and Kate!" cried Wat, as though they had already found
both.

Jan Pettigrew, who had become noisier and more oracular, so soon as he
found himself on the lift and heave of the sea, and the boat began to
cradle buoyantly among the short waves, cried out to Wat and Scarlett
to set the foresail. This Wat attempted to do, but, though he found the
small triangular sail readily enough, he could neither attach it to
the bowsprit nor yet bend it properly.

Then Jack Scarlett did a thing which exceedingly astonished Master
Jan. That wise youth was lying in the stern-sheets, with his pipe in
his hand, content to issue commands, and laughing and sneering at the
landsmen's awkward manner of executing them.

When he had ordered them for the third time to bend the foresail,
Scarlett turned on him and very curtly bade him do it himself and look
spry. Jan, the self-satisfied one, could scarce believe his ears. He
felt astounded, his pipe went out, his jaw began to fall and his mouth
to open as it had done while he listened to Scarlett's eloquence on the
shore.

But Scarlett was in a different mood this time. He simply repeated his
advice in a louder tone.

Then Wise Jan Pettigrew grew sulky and pointedly declined, asserting
that he had not come upon this particular cruise for the purpose of
pulling ropes with two greenhorns to do it for him. As the words left
his mouth he felt something cold touch his right temple. He turned
rapidly, and the movement brought his entire cheek against the cold
bell mouth of a horse-pistol. The self-satisfaction flickered out of
his face. His gin-reddened cheek whitened to chalk, and he began to
tremble violently in all his limbs.

"Get up and bend the foresail without a word more!" quoth Scarlett,
sternly, "and remember for the remainder of this cruise you will do
very precisely as you are bid."

Jan, being upon compulsion really wise, instantly and without a murmur
complied. In a minute the foresail was properly bent and also a little
square-sail in the stern--which last had a great effect in steadying
the boat in the cross winds which were now whipping the tops off the
waves and driving the spray over the boat, as they sat under the
shelter of the windward side.

Presently Scarlett began to explain the situation to Jan Pettigrew. He
told him that though he must be ready to work the boat in all matters
of seamanship, yet both of the others would assist him to the best of
their ability. He must, however, be willing to go where they wished and
to obey their orders. In the event of their cruise being successful
he was to receive ten gold pieces. And even if it were not, in the
event of his proving faithful and silent, he should have five for his
pains--which was a great deal more than he would have received on many
voyages from Captain Smith of the _Sea Unicorn_.

At first Jan lay sulkily enough in the bow of the boat and pretended to
pay no attention to Scarlett's words. But presently he grumbled, "How
can I or any man take a boat to England without so much as a compass or
a chart?"

"That is not my business," said Scarlett; "it is surely a strange
seaman that cannot keep a boat to its course for a few miles by the
stars. All I know is that if you do it not I shall be compelled
most reluctantly to blow your brains out, and let your carcass drop
overboard to feed the fishes."

[Illustration: "THE SELF-SATISFACTION FLICKERED OUT OF HIS FACE"]

He pronounced this in so matter-of-fact a voice that the lad came
instantly aft, and began to search carefully in the side lockers and
drawers. Two of these were locked and had to be opened with the blade
of Scarlett's dagger. Wat cut away part of the wood round the wards of
the lock, into which aperture Jan inserted an iron spike that lay in
the bottom of the boat, whereupon the locks gave sharply in both cases.
In one compartment was a small compass, and in the other a sheaf of
charts.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the morning broke on the third day of their cruise a long, low
island was in sight immediately in front. Then a flat coast with
rolling country stretched away behind, with many woods shining
palely green, and looking newly washed as the morning sun sucked the
night dews from the leaves. An ancient castle stood gray and stern on
the left, and far to the right the tower of a noble church took the sun
and gleamed like the white sail of a ship.

Wise Jan Pettigrew, who had long since composed himself to all his
duties and become the devoted slave of Jack Scarlett (whom his eyes
followed with a kind of rapt adoration), pointed with his finger.

"Branksea!" he cried, with pride both in voice and gesture.

And indeed he had some reason for self-congratulation. For the cross
channel voyage in an open boat, together with a long trip down the
coast, had not often been so successfully undertaken.

Keeping the boat well to the left, they rounded a low spit of shingle
and turned in sharply towards a tiny landing-place, from which a neat
path extended up into the woods.

A flag was flying among the trees and making a splash of brave color
among the greenery.



CHAPTER XXIV

MADCAP MEHITABEL


The long-boat grated on the beach and Wise Jan was the first ashore.
Scarlett and Wat disembarked in more leisurely fashion, and stretched
themselves luxuriously after their long and cramped boat voyage.

They were employing themselves in taking out of the stern such articles
as they had stowed there, when a challenging voice rang out clear and
high from the woods above.

"Jan Pettigrew! Jan Pettigrew!" it cried, "what do you here with our
long-boat? Why are you not in the Low Countries, making love to the
little Dutch maids with faces like flat-irons?"

"No, they ain't neither," cried Wise Jan, apparently not at all
astonished, making a face in the direction of his unseen querist;
"they're a sight better-looking than you be--and they comb their hair!"

He looked apologetically at Scarlett.

"Heed her not," he said, in a low voice, "'tis but crosspatch Mehitabel
Smith, our master's daughter. He has spoilt her by sparing of the wand
to beat her with when she was young, and now that she is grown--and
well grown, too--she will be forever climbing trees and crying uncivil
words to decent folk as they go by, and all, as she counts it, for
merriment and mischief-making."

"Ah, Jan! Wise Jan Pettigrew," the voice went on, "Jan that drank the
cow's milk and gave the calf water, because it was better for its
stomach--you are right early astir. And who are the brisk lads with
you? I know not that my father will be pleased to see strangers on
Branksea. Hold up your head, Jan, and learn to answer a lady civilly.
You have surely forgot or mislaid all the manners you ever had. Shut
your mouth, Jan--I do advise it; and do not, I pray you, so mump with
your chin and wamble with your legs!"

"Madcap!" cried Jan, stung by the pointed allusions to his defects of
person, "my legs are as straight as yours be, and serve me well, albeit
I wrap them not, as women do, in clouts and petticoats. And at least
if my legs are crooked and my jaw slack my eyes are straight set in my
head."

"And if eyes do look two ways," retorted the voice out of the unseen,
"'tis only with trying to keep them on the antics of both Jan
Pettigrew's legs at once; for your knees do so knock together like
Spanish castanets, and your legs so jimble-jamble in their sockets,
that 'tis as good as a puppet-with-strings dancing at the fair just to
watch 'em!"

Jan looked still more apologetically at Scarlett.

"I am black ashamed," he said; "but, after all, she means no harm by
it. She has never had any one to teach her religion or good manners,
but has run wild here on Branksea among the goats and the ignorant
sailormen."

"I hear thee, Wise Jan," cried the voice again; "tell no lying tales on
your betters, or I in my turn will tell the tale of how Wise Jan went
to Portsmouth--how the watch bade him go in and bathe, because that the
lukewarm town's-water was good for warts. And when he had gone in, glad
at heart to hear the marvel, being exceedingly warty, the watch stole
his clothes, and then put him a week in Bridewell for walking of the
streets without them in sight of the admiral's mother-in-law!"

"'Tis a lie!" shouted Jan, looking up from the boat, out of which he
had carefully extracted all the various belongings he had brought
with him; "a great and manifest lie it is! It was, as all men know,
for fighting with six sailormen of the fleet that I was shut up in
Bridewell."

"Wise Jan, Wise Jan, think upon what parson says concerning the day of
judgment!" replied the voice, reproachfully. "For if thus you deny your
true doings and confess them not, you will set all the little devils
down below to the carrying of firewood to be ready against the day of
your hanging."

Wise Jan did not deign to reply. He resigned the unequal wordy fray,
and taking a back-load of stuff on his shoulders, he led the way up the
neatly gravelled path, which wound from the little wooden landing-stage
into the green and arching woods.

As Scarlett and Wat followed after and looked about them with much
interest, a tall maid, clad in a blue skirt and figured blouse, and
with her short tangles of hair blowing loose about her ears, dropped
suddenly and lightly as a brown squirrel upon the path before them.
Whereat Wat and Scarlett stopped as sharply as if a gun had been loosed
off at them; for the girl had handed herself unceremoniously down
from among the leaves, and there she stood right in their path, as
little disconcerted as if that were the customary method of receiving
strangers upon the Isle of Branksea.

"I bid you welcome, gentlemen," she said, bowing to them like a
courteous boy of the court. Indeed, her kirtle was not much longer than
many a boy's Sunday coat, and her hair, cropped short and very curly,
had a boy's cap set carelessly upon the back of it.

Scarlett stared vaguely at the pleasant apparition.

"The Lord have mercy!" he said, as if to himself; "is this another of
them? 'Tis indeed high time we found that runaway love."

But Wat Gordon, to whom courtesy to women came by nature, placed
himself before the old soldier. He had his cap in his hand and bowed
right gracefully. Scarlett might cozen Wise Jan an he liked; but he,
Wat Gordon, at least knew better how to speak to a woman than did any
ancient Mustache of the Wars.

"My Lady of the Isle," he said, in the manner of the time, "I thank you
for your most courteous and unexpected welcome. We are two exiles from
Holland, escaping from prison. This good gentleman of yours has helped
us to set our feet again upon the shores of Britain, and in return we
have aided him to restore his master's property."

The girl listened with her head at the side, like a bird making up its
mind whether or not to fly. When Wat was half-way through with his
address she yawned.

"That is a long sermon and very dull," she said; "one might almost as
well have been in church. Come to breakfast."

So, much crestfallen, Wat followed meekly in the wake of Scarlett,
whose shoulders were shaking at the downfall of the squire of dames.
At the corner of the path, just where it opened out upon a made road
of beaten earth, Jack Scarlett turned with the obvious intention of
venturing a facetious remark, but Wat met him in the face with a snarl
so fierce that for peace' sake he thought better of it and relapsed
into covertly smiling silence.

"If you crack so much as one of your rusty japes upon me, Jack
Scarlett, I declare I'll set the point of my knife in your fat back!"
he said, viciously.

And for the rest of the way Scarlett laughed inwardly, while Wat
followed, plodding along sullenly and in an exceedingly evil temper.

The house to which they went was a curious one for the time and
country. It was built wholly of wood, with eaves that came down five
or six feet over the walls, so that they formed a continuous shelter
all about the house, very pleasant in hot weather. A wooden floor,
scrubbed very white and with mats of foreign grasses and straw upon
it, went all around under these wide eaves. Twisted shells, shining
stones, and many other remarkable and outlandish curiosities were set
in corners or displayed in niches.

At the outer door the girl turned sharply upon them.

"My name is Mehitabel Smith," she said, "and this is my father's house.
I like your looks well enough, but I would also know your degree and
your business. For Branksea is for the nonce in my keeping, and that
you have come with Wise Jan Pettigrew is no recommendation--since,
indeed, the creature takes up with every wastrel and run-the-country he
can pick up."

Wat had not got over the rebuff of his first introduction, and sulkily
declined to speak; but Scarlett hastened to assure Mistress Mehitabel
of the great consideration Wat and he enjoyed both at home and abroad.

"And for what were you in prison in Holland?" she said. "Was _he_ in
prison?" she continued, without waiting for any answer, looking at Wat.

Scarlett nodded. He had it on the tip of his tongue to say that it had
been owing to a brawl in a tavern. But at the last moment, seeing Wat's
dejected countenance, he made a little significant gesture of drawing
his hand across his throat.

"High-treason--a hanging or heading matter!" he answered, nodding his
head very gravely.

The girl looked at Wat with a sudden access of interest.

"Lord, Lord, I would that I lived in Holland! High-treason, and at his
age!" she exclaimed. "What chances must he not have had!"

Without further questioning concerning antecedents and character, she
led the way within. They passed through a wide hall, and down a gallery
painted of a pleasant pale green, into a neat kitchen with windows that
opened outward, and which had a brick-built fireplace and a wide Dutch
chimney at the end. Brass preserving pans, shining skillets, and tin
colanders made a brave show, set in a sort of diminishing perspective
upon the walls.

"Now if ye want breakfast ye must e'en put to your hand and help me
to set the fire agoing, Gray Badger!" she cried, suddenly, looking at
Scarlett. "Go get water to the spring. It is but a hundred yards beyond
that oak in the hollow. And you, young Master High Treason, catch hold
of that knife and set your white, high-treasonable hands to slicing the
bacon."



CHAPTER XXV

TRUE LOVE AND PIGNUTS


Mehitabel Smith calmly went to the inner door, and reaching down a
linen smock, she slipped it on over her head and fastened it in with
a belt at the waist. Wat and Scarlett moved meekly and obediently to
their several duties, and the business of breakfast-making went gayly
forward.

When Wat returned from the side-table with the bacon sliced, Mehitabel
Smith had the frying-pan ready and a fire of brushwood crackling
merrily beneath it.

"Do you not think," she said, without looking at him, being busy
buttering the bottom of the pan, "that fish and bacon go well together
when one is hungry? For me, I am always hungry on Branksea. Were you
ever hungry in prison?"

Wat muttered something ungracious enough, which might have been taken
as a reply to either question, but the girl went on without heeding
his answer. She sprinkled oatmeal over half a dozen fresh fish, and
presently she had them making a pleasant, birsling sound in the pan,
shielding her eyes occasionally with her hand when they spattered.

"You must have been very happy in prison?" she said.

And for the first time she looked directly at him for an answer. Wat
was astonished.

"Happy!" he said, "why, one does not expect to be very happy in a Dutch
prison, or for that matter in any other. Prisons are not set up to add
to folks' happiness that ever I heard."

"But what experiences!" she cried; "what famous 'scapes and chances
of adventure! To be in prison at your age (you are little more than
a lad), and that for high-treason! Here on Branksea one has no such
advantages. Only ships and seamen, pots of green paint, and hauling up
and down the flag, or, at best, ninnies that think they ought to make
love to you, because, forsooth, you are a girl. Ah, I would rather be
in prison a thousand years!"

Wat watched her without speaking as she moved nimbly and with a certain
deft, defiant ease about the sprucely painted kitchen.

"Do you believe in love? I don't!" she said, unexpectedly, turning the
fish out on a platter and lifting the pan from the fire to prepare it
for the bacon which Wat had been holding all the time in readiness for
his companion.

"Yes, I do believe in love," said Wat, soberly, as though he had been
repeating the Apostles' Creed. He thought of the little tight curls
crisping so heart-breakingly about the ears of his love, and also of
the grave which had been dug so deep under the sand-hills of Lis. There
was no question. He believed with all his heart in love.

The girl darted a swiftly inquiring glance at him. But her suspicions
were allayed completely by Wat's downcast and abstracted gaze. He was
not thinking at all of her. She gave a sigh, half of relief and half of
disappointment.

"Oh yes," she returned, quickly, "fathers and mothers, godfathers and
godmothers, tutors and governors--that sort of love. But do you believe
in love really--the love they sing about in catches, and which the lads
prate of when they come awooing?"

Wat nodded his head still more soberly. "I believe in true love," he
said.

"Oh, then, I pray you, tell me all about her!" cried Mehitabel Smith,
at once laying down the fork with which she had been turning the bacon,
and sitting down to look at Wat with a sudden increase of interest.

Scarlett came in a moment after and sniffed, with his nose in the air;
then he walked to the pan in which the bacon was skirling.

"It seems to me that the victual is in danger of burning," he said. "I
think next time it were wiser for the Gray Badger to fry the pan, and
for those that desire to talk--ah! of high-treason--to go and fetch the
water."

Mehitabel started up and began turning the bacon quickly.

"A touch of the pan gives flavor, I have ever heard," she said,
unabashed; "and if you like it not, Gray Badger, you can always stick
to the fish."

When breakfast was over, Scarlett and Wise Jan were ordered to wash the
dishes. This they proceeded to do, clattering the platters and rubbing
them with their towels awkwardly, using their elbows ten times more
than was necessary. Scarlett worked with grim delight, and Jan with
many grumblings. Then, having seen them set to their tasks, Mistress
Mehitabel made Wat lift a pair of wooden buckets, scrubbed very white,
and accompany her to the spring. She went first along the narrow path
to show him the way. She had taken off her cooking-smock, and was again
in the neat kirtle of dark blue cloth, which showed her graceful young
figure to advantage.

When they reached the well, Mehitabel appeared to be in no hurry to
return. She sat down, and to all appearance lost herself in thought,
leaning her chin upon her hand and looking into the water.

"There was a lass here but yester-morn, no further gone," she said,
"who believed in love. She gave me this, and bade me show it to the man
that should come after her also believing in love."

She held out a small heart of wrought gold with letters graven upon it.
Wat leaped forward and snatched it out of her hand.

"It is hers--Kate's. I have seen it a thousand times about her neck.
She wore it ever upon the ribbon of blue."

And he pressed the token passionately to his lips. Mehitabel Smith
looked on with an interested but entirely dispassionate expression.

"I wonder," she said, presently, "if it is as good to be in love as to
sit in the tree-tops and eat pignuts?"

But Wat did not hear her; or, hearing, did not answer.

"It is Kate's--it is hers--hers. It has rested on her neck. She has
sent it to me," he murmured. "She knew that I would surely compass the
earth to seek her--that so long as life remained to me I should follow
and seek her till I found her."

"Faith!" said Mehitabel, "I do believe this is the right man. He has
the grip of it better than any I ever listened to. If he so kiss the
gift, what would he not do to the giver?"

"Tell me," said Wat, looking eagerly and tremulously at her, "what said
she when she gave you the token?--in what garb was she attired?--was
her countenance sad?--were they that went with her kind?"

"Truly and truly this is right love, and no make-believe," said the
girl, clapping her hands; "never did I credit the disease before, but
ever laughed at them that came acourting with their breaking hearts and
their silly, sighing ardors. But this fellow means it, every word. He
has well learned his lover's hornbook. For he asks so many questions,
and has them all tumbling over one another like pigs turned out of a
clover pasture."

Wat made a little movement of impatience.

"I pray you be merciful, haste and tell me--for I have come far and
suffered much!"

The pathetic ring in his voice moved the wayward daughter of Captain
Smith of the _Sea Unicorn_.

"I will tell you," she answered, more seriously, "but in my own way.
It was, I think, this lass of yours that sat here in the house-place
and talked with me but four-and-twenty hours agone. She looked not in
ill health but pale and anxious, with dark rings about her eyes. Those
that were about her were kind enough, but watched her closely day and
night--for that was the order of their master. But I am sure that the
Lowland woman who was with her would, in an evil case, prove a friend
to your love."

"And whither have they taken her?" asked Wat, anxiously.

Mehitabel Smith looked carefully every way before she attempted to
answer.

"The name of the place I cannot tell at present. It is an island,
remote and lonely, in the country of the Hebridean Small Isles; but I
heard my father say that it bore somewhere near where the Long Island
hangs his tail down into the ocean."

"She has gone in your father's ship, then?" asked Wat.

"Aye, truly," said Mehitabel Smith; "but your lass is to be taken
off the _Sea Unicorn_ at some point on the voyage, and thence to her
destination in a boat belonging to the islanders. I heard the head man
of them so advising my father."

As the girl went on with her tale, Wat began to breathe a little more
freely. He had feared things infinitely worse than any that had yet
come to pass. He was now on the track, and, best of all, he had the
token which Kate had sent to him, in her wonderful confidence that he
would never cease from seeking her while life lasted to him.

Mehitabel watched him quietly and earnestly. At last she said, a little
wistfully, "I think, after all, it must be better than eating pignuts.
I declare you are fonder of that lass than you are of yourself."

Wat laughed a lover's laugh of mellowest scorn. Mehitabel went on. "And
I suppose you want to be with her all the time. You dream about her
hair and the color of her eyes; you will kiss that bit of gold because
she wore it about her neck. That is well enough for you. But to my
thinking this love is but a sort of midsummer madness. For it is better
to sleep sound than to dream; any golden guinea is worth more than that
tiny heart on a ribbon, and would buy infinitely more cates--while it
is best of all to sit heart-free among the topmost branches of the
beeches and whistle catches while the sea-wind cradles you on the bough
and the leaves rustle you to sleep like a lullaby. What, I pray you, is
this love of yours to that?"

"That you will know one day," said Wat, sagely nodding his head, "and
it may not be long, for your eyes are looking for love, and in love
what one looks for that one finds. Hearken, I have stood one against
fifty for the sake of my love. Willingly and gladly I have left land,
rank, friends, future; I have made them all no more than broken toys
that I might win my love. I count my life itself but a little thing,
scarce worth the offering, all for her sake!"

"And is it because you hope to be so happy with her that you do all
these things?" asked Mehitabel, now perfectly sober and serious, and
clearly anxious to comprehend the matter.

"Nay," answered Wat, in a low voice, "to be happy may indeed come to
us--pray God it may, and speedily. But to prove one's love as a man
proves the edge of his sword, to do somewhat great for the beloved, to
be something worthier, higher, better, to make your love glad and proud
that she loves you, and that she possesses your love--these are greater
aims than merely selfishly to be happy."

Mehitabel sighed as she rose.

"I suppose it must be so," she said, "but it is a great and weary
mystery. Moreover, I have yet to see the man I would choose before
a plate of early strawberries. And, anyway, pignuts, dug out of the
ground and eaten on the tree-tops, are right excellent good!"



CHAPTER XXVI

A BOAT IN SIGHT AT SULISCANNA


There was one spot on Suliscanna, the island to which she had been
brought, that Kate especially loved. It was where the great Lianacraig
precipice, a thousand feet of hard rock, curiously streaked with the
green of serpentine and the white of the breeding and roosting ocean
birds, sank sheer into the foam-fringed emerald wash of the sea.

At the eastward end of the vast wall there began a beach of pure white
sand, curving round in a clean sickle-sweep for a mile and a half to
the mural face of the cliffs of Aoinaig, which served for its northern
gateway.

To this wide strand, with its frowning guardian watch-towers of tall
cliff on either side, Kate came every day, week in and week out,
during the first months of her isolation. She took her way thither
from the low, thatched hut of Mistress Alister McAlister, in which she
dwelt in a cleanliness and comfort more reminiscent of Carrick than
characteristic of the neighboring houses of Suliscanna. The cattle did
not occupy the first apartment in the house of Mistress McAlister.
The floor did not, as was commonly the case, rise gradually towards
the roof upon a rich deposit of "peat-coom" and general _débris_,
solidified by the spent water of the household and the trampling of
many feet.

The house in which Kate dwelt on Suliscanna was paved with flags of
slate, which Alister and his wife had put in position, to the great
scandal of the entire island--including the minister of the Small
Isles himself, who preached most powerfully against the practice as
pampering to poor human vanity, and causing foolish people to grasp at
worldly state and pomp, and so neglect the glories of another and a
better world.

But Mistress McAlister had her answer ready to that.

"I am of opinion," she retorted, when the sermon was reported to her,
"that Alister and me will no be left strange and friendless up yonder
on the streets of gold, just because we happen to prefer clean stanes
to dirty peat and fish-banes here below."

And for this pointed rejoinder Mistress McAlister was debarred the
table of communion.

"I'm no carin'," she said. "There's guid and godly ministers in my ain
country that has suffered mickle for godliness. What matters it if I do
suffer a wee here for cleanliness? The one is sib to the other, they
say. And wha kens but after all it may help one's eternal interest to
bide away from sic a kirk as they have here?--no' a wiselike word nor a
solemn reproof from the beginning to the end of the exercises!"

This bright morning Kate stood alone on the white fringe of sand. She
shaded her eyes with her hand as she looked at the far blue hills of
the main-land, and often she sighed heavily.

For weeks she had watched for a boat to come. She had cast every bottle
she could obtain on the island into the race of the tide which passed
Lianacraig, each with a message enclosed telling of her place of
seclusion. Now she could only pace the shore and wait.

"He _will_ come," she said to herself, with a limitless faith. "I am
sure he loves me, and that he will find me. Prison bars could not
contain him, nor dangers daunt him. I know he will follow and find me.
God make it soon--before the other comes."

Her mind went back to the cold, sinister eyes of my Lord of Barra, and
she shuddered even in the hot sunshine.

"Then would the danger begin," she said; "for though all these folks
are kind to me, yet not even the minister nor Betsy Landsborough would
stir a hand to save me from the chief. Such a marriage is customary.
It is the way of the clan. The Lords of Barra have ever chosen their
brides in this fashion, they say. I am here alone on an island without
boats. The chief has ordered it so. None are allowed to approach or
land on Suliscanna till the master comes to claim the captive and the
slave."

The girl's wonderful dark eyes had mysterious depths in them as she
went over in her heart the perils and difficulties of her unknown
future.

"But never, while I live, will I be untrue to him whom I love. If I
cannot be his, at least I shall never be another's. And if they try to
force me to that which I loathe--thank God there is always a way out!
Gladly would I die rather than that any other should take the place
that is his alone--my king, my husband!"

She spoke the last words very softly, but her eyes looked wistfully out
towards the far hills beyond the sea, over which she waited for him to
come. Then she blushed red from neck to brow at the sound of her own
whisper. She even turned her about swiftly to see that none had heard,
and that no bird of the air could carry the matter.

But only the sea-swallows circled widely above, along the black wet
skerries the gulls wailed, and the silly moping guillemots sat in
rows upon the rocks of Lianacraig. All were intent upon their own
concerns that bright morning, and up among the tiny green crofts she
saw Mistress McAlister, a lowland sunbonnet on her head, flashing
in and out of her door in that lively and sprightly fashion which
distinguished her movements from the solid sloth characteristic of even
the busiest moments of the other good-wives of Suliscanna.

Kate paced the shore, and thought within herself the still assured
thoughts of one whose mind is made up about the main issue, and who can
afford quietly to consider concerning matters less important.

The sea was very still this day about Suliscanna. The white surf-rim
round the great cliffs was hardly to be noted. The gap-toothed caves
which pierce them were still. The roaring and hissing of the "bullers"
were not heard. Only in front of the island to landward the tides
swayed and ran like a mill-race, where the ledges rose black and
dripping from the deep, and the currents from the ocean swirled onward,
or sucked back through the narrows in dangerous whirlpools and strange
leaping hillocks of sea-water.

Kate stood wondering at their beauty, without the least idea that these
oily swirls and boiling hummocks of smooth green water were among the
most dangerous sea perils to be met with all the way from Pentland to
Solway.

Suddenly her eyes lit on a dark speck far away out upon the bright
plain. It might have been the head of a swimming seal, or the black
razor-edge of a large skerry showing over the rush of the tide. But,
as she watched, the dot grew blacker and larger. A boat was certainly
approaching the island. Kate stood trembling. For the issue meant life
and death to her. It might be her tyrant come to claim his captive. It
might be her saviour come to save.



CHAPTER XXVII

THE TIDE-RACE OF SULISCANNA


Kate McGhie stood looking across the boiling, hillocky water of the
Suck of Suliscanna in the direction of the boat, which moment by moment
blackened and grew larger, rising steadily towards her out of the east.
The day was so still, the tide so smooth as it swept inshore after
passing the oily "bullers" of the roost, that she had no idea of the
world of danger those in the adventurous bark had to pass before her
prow could grate on the white sand of the landing-beach between the
opposing headlands of Aionaig and Lianacraig.

Kate's heart beat strangely, almost painfully. It was wonderful, she
thought, that men should undergo perils and cross a world's seas for a
simple girl's sake. Yet there was pleasure, too, in the thought; for
somehow she knew that those who approached loved her and came from far
seeking her good.

"It is he--it is surely he!" so her soul chanted its glad triumph
within her. "Did I not say that he could break prison-bands and come to
find me--that he would overpass unruly seas only to look on my face?
Has any maid in the world a lover true like mine? And he will break my
prison also and take me away. And with him I am ready to go to the ends
of the earth, fearlessly as though he had been my mother."

Poor lassie! Little she knew the long, weary travel she had before her
ere it could come to that.

But even as she watched she became conscious of a quick stir and
movement among the usually so indolent islanders behind her. Hardly she
dared to lift her eyes from the approaching boat, which came on with
a little square sail rigged on a temporary mast as long as the wind
held, and then with flashing dips of rhythmic oars whenever the breeze
dropped away.

The voices of the men of Suliscanna crying harshly to each other among
the craig-heads and cliff-edges high above her sounded to Kate's ears
like a louder brawling of the sea-fowl. The sound had an edge on it,
shrill, keen, and bitter as the east wind in mid-January. Yet there was
something in it, too, of new. The girl had heard the like of it before,
at the kennels of Cumlodan, when the bloodhounds for the Whig-tracking
were waiting to be fed, and springing up with their feet on the bars.

"Eh, sirs me! Guid help the poor souls that are in that boat; they
will either gang doon bodily to feed the fish, or else be casten up in
gobbets the size o' my neive upon the shore!" cried the voice of Mrs.
McAlister at Kate's elbow.

"They can never weather it, and if they do they are naught advantaged,
after all. For the men of the isle are that worked upon with the fear
of my lord, and his threat to clean them off the isle of Suliscanna,
like a count off a bairn's slate, if they let the lass escape, that
they declare they will slay the poor lads so soon as ever they set foot
on the land, if, indeed, they ever win as far."

In her agitated preoccupation the tall woman from Ayrshire had let her
hair fall in a bushy mass over her back, as it was her habit to do in
the evenings after supper when preparing for bed. She kept working
at it nervously while she watched, twisting up its comely masses
in order to fix them in their places with bone pins; and, anon, as
the boat tacked shorter and shorter to avoid this hidden peril and
that, pulling them out and letting it fall again in wavy coils, so
overpowering had become her agitation.

Suddenly startled by a peculiar wavering cry from the hill, she took
Kate's hand and ran with her along the path which led to the rocks of
Lianacraig.

"Ye will never be for thinking," Bess Landsborough said to the girl
as they ran, "that this is him that likes ye--the lad ye left in the
Tolbooth irons in Holland, gotten free and come after ye?"

But Kate only clasped her friend's hand tighter and answered nothing.

"Poor lass! poor lass!" she said. "Ye believe that your lad would do as
muckle for you after a' that has come and gane between ye. But lads are
not what they were in my young days! Pray God that ye may be mistaken,
for gin this be your lad come seeking ye, I fear he is as good as dead
either from the sharp rocks of Suliscanna or from the sharper knives of
the wild McAlisters."

From the southern ridge of the headland of Lianacraig Kate and her
companion could look almost directly down upon the gambols of the
treacherous Suck of Suliscanna. The boat lay clear to their sight upon
the surface of the sea--two men in her, one sitting with the rope of
the sheet in his hand, and the other at the stern with an oar to turn
her off from the hidden dangers, as the seething run of the tidal
currents brought her head on to some sunken reef or dangerous skerry.
Sometimes, ere the voyagers could tack or turn in their unsailorlike
fashion, a white spurt of foam would suddenly spring up under their
very bows as a swell from the Atlantic lumbered lazily in, or again a
backdraw of the current would swirl upward from some submarine ledge
and raise a great breaking pyramid of salt-water on a spot where a
moment before there had been only the smooth hiss of water moving very
swiftly.

The islanders, who alone realized the terrible danger of the two in
the boat, lay for the most part wholly silent, some on the cliff's
immediate edge, and others behind little sodded breastworks which had
been erected, partly to keep the wind off, when, as now, they kept
watch from their posts of observation, and partly for the drying of
their winter's fuel.

Mistress McAlister indicated the eager gazers with her elbows.

"See the Heelantmen," she said; "they are a' up there! Lord, what
Christians! The verra minister is amang them himsel'--they canna help
it. The spirit is on them ever since langsyne the Spaniard's ship
drave in, and brocht a' that peltry of mahogany aumries and wrought
cupboards, and forbye the queer fashions of knitting that the sailor
folk of the crew learned them after they wan ashore. But they learn
little from them that's shipwrecked on Suliscanna noo. For them
that's no deid corpses before they come to land get a bit clour wi' a
stane that soon puts them oot o' conceit wi' a' this world o' sin and
suffering."

Kate's face was white and drawn, but she hardly noticed the woman's
fell prophecies.

For all the while the two men in the boat were laboring hard, fighting
tensely for life, and every eye on the island was upon them. They had
reached one of the smoothest and therefore most dangerous places,
when suddenly the black back of a skip-jack dolphin curved over like
a mill-wheel beside the boat, and a hoarse shout went up from the
islanders of Suliscanna, who lay breathlessly waiting the event on the
rocks of Lianacraig.

"It's a' by wi' the poor lads noo!" said Bess McAlister, "a' but the
warsle in the water and the grip o' the saut in their thrapples! The
deil's ain beast is doon there watching for them."

[Illustration: "THEN THE SWIRLING TIDE-RACE TOOK HOLD OF HER"]

"God help my Wat!" sobbed Kate, half to herself and half to the
Divinity--who, as the Good Book says, can do wonders in the great
waters.

"Aye, 'deed, lass, as ye say, God help him! He never had mair need. The
dead-fish are louping for him and the other with him."

Just at this moment Kate uttered a cry and clasped her hands, for the
boat was heaved up from the side nearest the cliffs on the summit of a
toppling pyramid of water. The mast fell over, and the whole breadth
of the sail hugged the surface of the sea. Then the swirling tide-race
took hold of her and sucked her under. In a smooth sea, without a
particle of wind, the two men went down within cry of the rocks of
Suliscanna, and not a hand could be stretched out to save them. Only
now and then something black, a wet, air-filled blob of the sail, the
surge-tossed back of a man, or the angle of the boat, showed dark for a
moment upon the surface of the pale water, and then was carried under,
all racing northward in the grip of the angry tide current.

Kate McGhie had fallen on her knees.

"God forgive his sins and take me soon to him!" she said.

"Wheest, lass! Nae Papist prayers in my hearin'," said Mrs. McAlister
in her ear. "Gin that be your lad, he's dead and gane. And that's a
hantle better than dying on the gully-knives of the McAlisters."

At the sight of the disaster beneath them on the wrinkled face of
the water, all the islanders had leaped suddenly erect behind their
shelters and craggy hiding-places. Each man stood with his head thrown
forward in an attitude of the most intent watchfulness. And once
when the stern of the boat cocked up, and a man's arm rose like the
fin of a fish beside it for a moment, every son of Alister expelled
the long-withholden air from his lungs in a sonorous "Hough!" which
indicated that in his opinion all was over. Instantly the islanders of
Suliscanna collected here and there, at likely places along the shore,
into quick-gathering knots and clusters which dissolved as quickly.
They discussed the disaster from every point of view. The minister was
specially active, going about from group to group.

"We must e'en submit," he was saying; "it is the will of God. And,
after all, though both men and boat had been cast ashore, it is little
likely that they would have had anything worth lifting on them. They
were just poor bodies that by misadventure have been cast away in a
fog, and would have no other gear about them save the clothes on their
backs."

But Alister McAlister was of another mind.

"Work like this is enough to make an unbeliever out of a God-fearing
man," he affirmed to his intimates, "to see what Providence will
permit--a good fishing-boat with a mast and sail in the charge of two
landward men that did not even know where to let her go to pieces, so
that Christians and men of sense might get some good of her. For the
fools let her sink plumb down in the Suck of Suliscanna, instead of
driving her straight inshore against the hill of Aoinaig, whence she
would have come safe as weed-drift to our very feet."

And there were more of Alister's opinion than of the minister's, whose
spiritual consolation was discounted, at any rate, by the fact that he
was officially compelled to speak well of Providence.

But before long there was another sound on the Isle of Suliscanna. Away
on the edge of the bay, under the cliffs, a group of men was to be seen
grappling some object which repeatedly slipped from their poles between
two long shore-skirting reefs. It lay black and limp in the water, and
again and again, breaking from their hands, it returned to the push of
the tide in the narrow gut with a splash of flaccid weight.

"Lord, what's yon they hae gotten?" cried Mistress McAlister, as soon
as she had seen the figures of the men collecting about the thing, like
carrion-crows gathering about a dead sheep on the hill. "Thank God, my
Alister loon is away south'ard on the heuchs of Lianacraig!"

She stood on tiptoe and looked for the flash of the killing knife or
the dull crash of the stone with which commonly the wreckers insured
silence and safety when any came alive ashore along with wreckage of
price from the great waters.

The heads of the men were all bent inward, but Bess Landsborough saw no
threatening movement of their arms nor yet any signs of a struggle.

She would have drawn Kate away from the scene, but the girl by her side
suddenly wrenched herself free, and, plucking up her skirts in her
hands, ran hot-foot for the northern shore.



CHAPTER XXVIII

JOHN SCARLETT COMES ASHORE


Kate's sojourn on the island had given her back all her girlish spring
of carriage and swift grace of movement. Fleet and light as a goat she
sped over the short turf and threaded the sharp shark's fins of the
black basaltic ridges, her eyes fixed upon the shifting groups on the
shore.

Was her love lying there dead before her, or at least in utmost danger
of his life? The men stood so close together, all looking inward
and downward, that Kate was among them before any one saw her come.
She cleft a way through the shouldering press, and there on the wet
pebbles of the beach, dragged just a few yards from the shore on which
a back-draught from the smooth glides and rattling currents of the
tide-race of Suliscanna had cast him, lay the body of John Scarlett.

Kate gave a sharp cry, half of disappointment and half of relief. Her
love it was not; but his friend it was. And if this were John Scarlett,
where would Wat Gordon be by this time--of a surety lying deep in the
green heave of some far-reaching "gloop," or battered against the cruel
cliffs of the "goës," into which the surges swelled and thundered,
throwing themselves in bootless assault upon the perpendicular cliffs,
and fretting their pure green arches into delicatest gray lace of foam
and little white cataracts which came pouring back into the gloomy
depths along every crevice and over every ledge.

John Scarlett lay with his broad chest naked and uncovered, for his
coat and waistcoat had already become centres of two separate quarrels,
shrill and contentious as the bickerings of sparrows over the worm
which they hold by either end and threaten to rend in pieces.

Patterns of muskets and sword-blades were wrought upon the
veteran's breast in a fashion which was then common to all men of
adventuring--land travellers and seafarers alike. The old soldier's
arms and breast were a mass of scars and cicatrices, both from his many
public campaigns and from his innumerable excursions upon the field of
private honor.

"This has been a man indeed," said one of the men that stood by;
"many a knife has been tried on that skin, and many, I warrant, gat
deeper holes and deadlier cuts than these in the making of this pretty
patchwork."

"He is an enemy of the chief, that is beyond a doubt," said another;
"for he is not a man of the isles, and our Lord Murdo forbade the
coming of any else. It will be safer to stick him with a gully-knife
before he comes to, lest a worst thing happen us."

And it is likely that this amiable intention might have become the
finding and conclusion of the meeting, but that at that moment Kate
pierced the throng and threw herself down on the salt, clammy pebbles
at John Scarlett's head. She put her hand upon his heart, but could not
feel it beat. Before long she was reinforced by Mrs. McAlister, who
arrived panting. She swept the men unceremoniously aside with her arm,
and addressed them in their own tongue, in words which carried insult
and railing in the very sound of them.

The two women had not worked long at the chill, sea-tossed body of the
master-at-arms before John Scarlett opened his eyes and looked about
him.

"Bess Landsborough!" he said, without manifesting the least surprise,
"what for did ye no' meet me at the kirk stile of Colmonel, where I
trysted wi' ye?"

"John Scarlett!" cried Mrs. McAlister, "I declare in the name o' a'
that's holy, Jack Scarlett, the King's Dragoon--what in the world
has brocht ye here, lying bare and broadcast on the cauld stanes of
Suliscanna?"

"I cam' seekin' you, Bess," said John Scarlett, easing himself up on
his elbow with a grimace of pain. "I heard in Colmonel that ye had
kilted your coats o' green satin and awa' wi' John Hielandman. So I
e'en cam' round this gate to see if ye had tired o' him."

"And I see that, dead or alive, ye can lie as gleg as ever--certes,
there never was a dragoon that was single-tongued, since Satan made
the first o' that evil clan oot o' the red cinders of hell!" answered
Mistress McAlister, vigorously.

"Weel, Bess, it skills little," replied Scarlett, rising slowly to
a sitting posture. "But if ye would prevail on these honest men to
withdraw a little and not glower at my nakedness, as if they had never
in their lives before cast eyes on a man that has had a wash, it is
greatly grateful I will be, and forgive you that little mislippen about
the tryst."

As John Scarlett turned himself about, he pressed Kate's hand sharply
to intimate that he desired her to pretend complete ignorance of
his person and purpose. But the fear which now had become almost a
certainty, that she had seen her lover go down in the tide-race of
Suliscanna, dominated her heart. She was scarce conscious of the
meeting of John Scarlett and his ancient sweetheart, but continued
to gaze steadily and with straining eyes out upon the smooth and
treacherous swirls of the Suck.

"Have ye a cloak or a plaid, Bess, that I may gird myself with it, and
go decently to my quarters--unless these gentlemen still desire to
finish me here?" asked Scarlett, calmly.

Whereat the wife of Alister drew a plaid of rough brown wool from the
shoulders of the man nearest to her and cast it about him. By this time
Scarlett had managed to stand upon his feet, and even to walk a few
steps along the pebbles of the shore. All Suliscanna was now gathered
about the new-comer, and on the skirts of the crowd the minister and
Alister stood apart with bent brows in anxious consultation.

"It is the chief's order!" said the minister. "We will have to answer
for it with our lives if we do not ward him safely."

"In the vaults of the tower will be the best and securest place,"
answered Alister.

Then, with no more words spoken, Alister McAlister stepped up to his
wife, and, seizing her by the arm, said, "This is chief's business--do
as I bid you, now!"

And Mrs. McAlister knew that the time had come for her to obey. For
well as she could make the burly _dhuine wassail_ do her bidding when
the business was his own or hers, Bess never put her general supremacy
to the test by offering resistance to her husband's will when the clan
or the chief were in question.

"Tell the Lowland man," said Alister, looking his wife straight in the
eyes, "that it is the order of the chief that he be warded till we hear
what is to be done with him. We did not ask him to come to Suliscanna,
and we must see that he does not invite himself quietly away again now
that he is here. He is to bide in the tower at our house-end, and ye
can boil him Lowland brose as muckle as ever he can sup, since ye seem
to be so well acquainted with his kind of folk."

When Mistress McAlister had interpreted this to John Scarlett, the
old campaigner gave the brown plaid a twirl about his shoulders, and
crying, "Content--lead on!" accepted the situation with a soldier's
philosophy.

The ancient tower of Suliscanna, in which Scarlett presently found
himself, was no extensive castle, but simply a half-ruinous block-house
constructed for defence by some former lords of the isle. The upper
part was a mere shell in which Alister's wild goats were sometimes
penned, when for some herdsman's purpose they had been collected in the
vicinity of the huts by the expectation of the spare crystals of salt
when the pans were drawn. But underneath there was a vaulted dungeon
still strong and intact. This subterranean "strength" possessed a door
of solid wood--a rare thing in Suliscanna--brought at some remote
period from the main-land; for, save drif-twood, there is no plant
thicker-stemmed than the blackberry to be found on all these outermost
islands of the sea. This door was secured by a ponderous lock, the
bolt of which ran into the stone for nearly two feet, while the wood
of which it was composed was studded with great iron nails and covered
with hide like a targe. It was the sole article of value which had been
left in the ancient tower when my lord's new house was built farther up
the hill.

The tower stood at the summit of the first ascent of the island,
close beside the cottage of Alister McAlister--of which, indeed, very
characteristically and economically, it formed the gable-end. Heather
bloomed close up to the door of it, and looked into the dungeon at
every narrow peep-hole, so that when Scarlett set his head to one of
these he found himself staring into a fairy forest of rose and green,
in which the muir-fowl crouched and the grasshoppers chirred.

John Scarlett found that during the time he had been conferring with
the representative of the Lord of the Small Isles and his wife Bess
upon the pebbles of the beach, a bed of fragrant heather tops had been
made for him by the clansmen in this arched and airy sleeping-place.
Alister went in with him, glanced comprehensively around, and nodded.

"Now you will be comfortable and make yourself at home," the action
said. And John Scarlett smiled back at his taciturn jailer. For indeed,
except the stone seat which ran round the vault, and the new-laid
bed of heather tops in the corner, the available accommodations of
the Tower of Suliscanna consisted exclusively of an uneven area of
hard-beaten earthen floor made visible by the light of half a dozen
narrow port-holes, which looked in different directions out upon the
moor and through the gable against the dark wall of Bess Landsborough's
house.

Alister locked the dungeon door by turning the huge key with a spar of
driftwood thrust through the head of it like the bar of a capstan. Then
he called to him a shaggy gillie and bade him watch the door on the
peril of his head. Whereupon the red-headed Gael grinned obediently,
pulled himself an armful of heather, and effectually double-locked the
door by stretching himself across the entrance with his hand on his
dirk and his sword naked by his side.



CHAPTER XXIX

WAT'S ISLE OF REFUGE


But there were two men in the ill-fated boat when she so heedlessly
rushed into the strange and dangerous outer defences of my Lord Barra's
warded Isle of Suliscanna. What had become of the other?

Wat Gordon of Lochinvar was not drowned--it is hardly necessary to
say so much. For had his body been lying in some eddy of the swirling
waters about the outer reef of the Aoinaig narrows, this narrative
of his history could not have been written. And of his life with its
chequered good and bad, its fine instincts, clear intents, and halting
performances, there would have been left no more than a little swarded
mound in the bone-yard of dead and forgotten mariners.

When their boat overset among the whirlpools and treacherous water
volcanoes of the Suck of Suliscanna, Wat Gordon had been sculling at
the stern. And when the water swallowed him, pulling him down as though
he had been jerked through a trap-door by the arm of some invisible
giant--or, more exactly, drawn slowly under by the tentacle of the
dread Kraken of these Northern seas--he kept a tight grip on the oar
with which he had been alternately steering and propelling the boat, as
Jack Scarlett cried him his orders from the bows.

Wat Gordon had been born in the old tower of Lochinvar, in the midst of
that strange, weird, far-withdrawn moorland loch, set amid its scanty
pasture-meadows of sour bent-grass and its leagues of ambient heather.
As a boy he had more often gone ashore by diving from his window or
paddling out from the little stone terrace than by the more legitimate
method of unhooking the boat from its iron lintel and pulling himself
across to the main-land. But this was a different kind of swimming, for
here in the tumble and tumultuous swirl of angry waters Wat was no more
than a plaything tossed about, to be tantalized with the blue sky and
the summer sea, and then again to be pulled under and smothered in the
seething hiss of the Suck of Suliscanna.

Nevertheless, Wat found space to breathe occasionally, and as he was
driven swiftly towards the north along the face of the great Lianacraig
precipices and close under them he clutched his oar tighter, holding it
under his arm and leaning his chest upon it. So close to the land was
he that he voyaged quite unseen by the watchers on the cliffs above,
who supposed that he had gone down with the boat. But the current had
seized him in its mid-strength, and after first sweeping him close
inshore it was now hurrying him northward and westward of the isle,
under the vast face of the mural precipice in which the cliffs of
Lianacraig culminated. The boat had cleared itself of its mast and
sail, and Wat could see that she floated, upturned indeed, but still
becking and bowing safely on the humps and swirls of the fierce tidal
current which swept both master and vessel along, equally derelict and
at its mercy.

The whole northern aspect of the Isle of Suliscanna is stern and
forbidding. Here the cliffs of Lianacraig break suddenly down to
the sea in one great face of rock many hundreds of feet in height.
So precipitous are they that only the cragsmen or the gatherer of
seabirds' eggs can scale their crests of serrated rock even from the
south, or look down upon the little island of Fiara, the tall southern
cliffs of which correspond humbly to the mightier uprising of the
precipices of Lianacraig upon the larger isle. But Fiara has for ages
been set in the whirl of the backwater which speeds past its greater
neighbor on either side, and has taken advantage of its position to
thrive upon the waste of its rival. For the tide-race of the Suck,
which sets past Suliscanna with such consuming fury, sweeps its prey,
snatched in anger from the cliffs and beaches of Suliscanna, and
spreads it in mud and sand along the lower northern rocks of Fiara. So
that this latter island, instead of frowning out grimly towards the
Pole, extends green and pastoral on the other side of the deep strait
and behind its frowning southward front of rocks.

At this time Fiara was wholly without inhabitant, and remained as it
had come from the shaping hand of the tides and waves. And so mainly it
abides to this day. The islanders of Suliscanna had indeed a few sheep
and goats upon it, the increase of which they used to harvest when my
Lord of Barra's factor came once a year in his boat to take his tithes
of the scanty produce of their barren fortress isle.

It was, then, upon the northern shore of this islet of Fiara that Wat,
exhausted with the stress and the rough, deadly horseplay of the waves,
was cast ashore still grasping his oar. He landed upon a long spit
of sand which stretched out at an obtuse angle into the scour of the
race, forming a bar which was perpetually being added to by the tide
and swept away again when the winds and the waters fought over it their
duels to the death in the time of storm.

Thus Wat Gordon found himself destitute and without helper upon
this barren isle of Fiara. His companion he had seen sink beneath
the waves, and he well knew that it was far out of the power of the
soldier Scarlett to reach the shore by swimming. Also he had seen him
entangled in the cordage of the sail. So Wat heaved a sigh for the
good comrade whom he had brought away from the solvent paymasters and
the excellently complaisant landladies of Amersfort, to lay his bones
for his sake upon the inhospitable shores of Suliscanna--and, what was
worse, without advantage to the quest upon which they had ventured
forth with so much recklessness.

Wat knew certainly that his love was upon that island of Suliscanna.
For months he had carefully traced her northward. With the aid of
Madcap Mehitabel he had been able to identify the spot at which the
chief's boat had taken off Captain Smith's passenger, and a long series
of trials and failures had at last designated Suliscanna as the only
possible prison of his love.

So soon as he was certain of this he had come straight to the spot
with the reckless confidence of youth, only to see his hopes shattered
upon the natural defences of the isle, before ever he had a chance to
encounter the other enemies whom, he doubted not, Barra had set to
guard the prison of Kate of the Dark Lashes.

But even in his sad and apparently hopeless plight the knowledge that
his love was near by stimulated Wat's desire to make the best of his
circumstances.

First of all he set himself the task of exploring the islet, and of
discovering if there was any way by which he could reach that other
island, past which he had been carried by the current of the race, and
on which he hoped to find his love.

From the summit of the south-looking crags of Fiara which he ascended,
he could look up at a perpendicular face of vast and gloomy cliffs.
Lianacraig fronted him, solid and unbroken on either side as far as
he could see. That lower part of it on which the surf fretted and the
swell thundered was broken by caves and openings--none of them, save
one, of any great size.

But that one made a somewhat notable exception. It was a gateway,
wide and high, squarely cut in the black front of the precipice,
into which one might have driven two carriages, with all their horses
and attendants, abreast, and yet have left room to spare on either
side. The swell which pulsed along the narrow strait between Fiara and
Suliscanna, regular as the beating of a strong man's heart, was lost
within its wide maw, and did not as elsewhere come pouring back again
in tessellated foam, white as milk curdled in a churn. The square
tunnel to which this was the imposing entrance evidently penetrated far
into the rock, and communicated with some larger cavity deep within.

The rest of the isle, which had so unexpectedly become Wat's
prison-house, was cut on its northerly aspect into green flats of
sparse grass, terminating in sweet sickle-sweeps of yellow sand, over
which the cool, green luxury of the sea lapped with a gliding motion.
And as Wat looked down upon them from above he saw lights wavering and
swaying over the clean-rippled floor, and could fancy that he discerned
the fishes wheeling and steering among the bent rays and wandering
shadows that flickered and danced like sunshine through thick leaves.

So Wat stood a long time still upon the topmost crest of Fiara,
printing its possibilities upon his heart.

Two hundred yards across the smooth, unvexed strait, which slept
between its two mighty walls of rock, rose the giant cliffs of
Lianacraig, with the ocean-swell passing evenly along their base from
end to end--smooth, green steeps of water, dimpled everywhere into
knolls and valleys. Seabirds nested up there by thousands. Gillemots
sat solemnly in rows like piebald bottles of black and white.
Cormorants stood on the lower skerries, shaking their wings for hours
together as if they had been performing a religious rite. And here with
his gorgeous beak, like a mummer's mask drawn over his ears for sport,
waddled the puffin--the bird whose sad fate it is, according to the
rhyme, to be forever incapable of amorous dalliance. For have not half
a dozen generations been told in rhyme how

      "Tammy Norrie o' the Bass
      Canna kiss a bonny lass?"

But as Wat looked for a moment away from the white-spotted, lime-washed
ledges of Suliscanna to the green-fringed, sandy shores of his own
island, he saw that in the water to the north which sent him off at
a run. Long ere he reached the beach he had recognized the boat from
which John Scarlett and he had been capsized, bobbing quietly up and
down at the entrance of the bay.

The rebound or "back-spang" of the current from some hidden reef to the
northward had turned the boat aside, even as it had done Wat himself
with his oar, and there the treasure was almost within his reach. Wat's
clothing was still damp from his previous immersion, so that it was no
sacrifice to slip it off him and swim out to the boat. Then, laying his
hand on the inverted stern, he managed easily enough to push her before
him to a shelving beach of sand, where presently, by the aid of a spar
of driftwood, he turned her over. To his great joy he found that the
little vessel was still fairly water-tight and apparently uninjured,
in spite of her rough-and-tumble steeple-chase with the white horses
of the Suck of Suliscanna. Wat opened the lockers and saw, as he had
expected, that the pistols and powder were useless. But he found, too,
Scarlett's sword and his own trusty blade, together with a dagger, all
of which he had the satisfaction of polishing there and then with fine
sand held in the palm of his hand.

Then he swung his sword naked to his belt, and felt himself another man
in an instant.

The lockers also contained a pair of hams of smoked bacon, which had
suffered no damage from the water, and which, so far as sustenance
went, would at least serve to tide him over a week or two should he be
compelled to remain so long upon the isle.

Nevertheless, when Wat sat down to consider his position and plans, he
felt that difficulties had indeed closed impenetrably upon him.

Yet he wasted no time in idle despondency. Lochinvar was of other
mettle. He believed his love to be on the island close to him--it might
be in the power of his enemy himself, certainly in the hands of his
emissaries. John Scarlett, his trusty comrade, was equally surely lost
to him. Nevertheless, while his own life lasted, he could not cease
from seeking his love, nor yet abandon the quest on which he had come.

So, using the dagger for both knife and cooking apparatus, he cut and
ate a slice of the smoked bacon. Then he quenched his thirst with
a long drink out of a delicious spring which sent a tiny thread of
crystal trickling down the rocks towards the northern strand of Fiara.



CHAPTER XXX

WAT SWIMS THE WATER CAVERN


Whereupon, refreshed and invigorated, Wat proceeded to reconnoitre. He
set about his inquiries with the utmost circumspection and caution,
for it occurred to him that if Barra's first line of defence--that of
the whirls and glides of the Suck of Suliscanna--had proved itself so
effective, it was likely that he had made other dispositions equally
dangerous in the event of that line being forced. Wat Gordon pushed his
boat into the water and clambered on board. But he soon found that,
damaged and water-logged as she was, she would move but sluggishly
through the water, and must prove but little under command in any
seaway. It was manifestly impossible therefore for Wat, with his single
sculling oar, to venture out again into the tide-race which threshed
and tore its way past the eastern side of the island.

Wat's harbor of refuge was on the northern shore, in the safest nook of
the little sandy haven in which he had first brought his boat ashore.
He was resolved, so soon as it should grow a little dusk, that he would
endeavor to turn the angle of his small isle, and see if by any means
he could find a landing-place along the western side of Suliscanna.
When, therefore, the sun had dipped beneath the sea-line, and the
striped rose and crimson of the higher clouds faded to gray, Wat
slipped into his boat and pushed off. He guided her slowly, sculling
along the inner side of the sandy reef which protected the northern bay
of Fiara.

As Wat sailed farther to the west he could hear the surf hammering in
the caves which look towards the Atlantic--a low, continuous growl
of sound, mostly reverberating like the distant roaring of many wild
beasts, but occasionally exploding with a louder boom as a full-bodied
green roller from mid-ocean fairly caught the mouth of a cave, for a
moment gagged and compressed the imprisoned air within it, and then
sent it shooting upward through some _creux_ or gigantic blow-hole in a
burst of foam and white water which rose high into the air. The wonder
and solemnity of this ceaseless artillery at the hour of evening,
and with the Atlantic itself lying like a sea of glass outside,
impressed the landwardborn Wat greatly. For he had never before dwelt
in the midst of such sea-marvels, nor yet upon the shores of such a
rock-bound, wave-warded prison as this inhospitable isle of Suliscanna.

The heavy boat slowly gathered way under the pressure of the broad
oar-blade wielded by Wat's very vigorous young arms. And all went well
while he kept the inner and protected side of the reef, but so soon as
he had begun to clear the lofty cliffs of Suliscanna, and to bethink
himself of attempting to cross the belt of turbid and angry waters
interposed between the quiet inner haven and the cool, green lift of
the ocean waves without, the boat stuck in the sand and heeled over,
first with an oozy glide, and then with a sharper "rasp," as though
the knife-edge of a basalt reef were masked beneath. Her head fell
sharply away, and the waves coming over the bar in brown-churned foam
threatened every moment to swamp her.

Wat felt the depth of the water with his oar, and promptly leaped
overboard. His feet sank dangerously into the slushy ooze of the bank,
but the boat, relieved of his weight, rose buoyantly on the swell,
and Wat, clasping his hands about her prow, was dragged clear, and
presently, drenched and dripping for the third time that day, he found
himself aboard again.

Clearly there was nothing further to be obtained by persevering in that
direction, at least with a boat so unwieldy as that in which Scarlett
and he had come over from the main-land. So Wat resolved to try if he
could not find a smooth and safe passage by hugging the shore of Fiara,
thus avoiding the sweep of the tide-race, and in the end reaching the
still, deep strait lying between the rocks of his isle and the huge,
lowering cliffs of Lianacraig, which so tantalizingly shut out from his
view all that he wished to see of the spot on which, as he believed,
his love waited for him.

Full of this thought, Wat turned the prow of the boat and struck
confidently along the shore, past the bay where he had first brought
the derelict ashore, and on towards the projecting eastern ness of
Suliscanna. But here there was no projecting bar, and Wat promptly
found himself in the same uneasy, boiling swirl which had so
disastrously ended his former voyage. Nevertheless, he persevered for
some distance, for indeed he saw no other way of reaching the southern
isle. But suddenly, not ten yards in front of his boat, appeared the
turbulent, arched back of a yet more furious tide-race. The prow of the
boat was snatched around in an instant; two or three staggering blows
were dealt her on the quarter as she turned tail. The oar was almost
dragged from his hand, and in another moment Wat found himself floating
in the smooth water at the tail of the reef, not far from where he had
started. He almost laughed, so suddenly and completely had the proof
been afforded him that there was no outgate east or west for a heavy
craft so undermanned as his was.

It was with a heavy heart, therefore, that Wat had perforce to give up
the boat as a means of reaching the southern island. After his defeat
he went ashore and sat gloomily watching the pale lilac light of the
evening fade from the rocks above the narrow strait. Beneath him the
waters of the deep sound were still, and only beat with a pleasant,
clappering sound on the rocks. A quick and desperate resolve stirred in
Wat's heart.

He stripped himself of his upper clothes, and, leaving all but his
shirt and his knee-breeches among the rocks, he bound these upon his
head, fastening them with his soldier's belt under his chin.

Then, without pausing a moment to give his resolution time to cool, he
dropped into the water and swam straight across the narrow, rock-walled
strait towards the black rampart line of the cliffs of Lianacraig.

He was well aware that he had taken his life in his hand, for from the
side of the sea these grim crags had apparently never been scaled by
human foot. But Wat had another idea than climbing in his mind. As he
had watched the waves glide without sound or rebound into the great
square arch which yawned in the midst of the rocky face, a belief had
grown into certainty within him that the passage must be connected with
another arm of the sea at the farther side of the cliffs. With quick,
characteristic resolve he determined to discover if this supposition
were correct. He found no difficulty in swimming across the narrow
strait of Fiara, in spite of a curious dancing undertow which now threw
him almost out of the water, and anon mischievously plucked him by the
feet as if to drag him bodily down to the bottom. Presently, however,
he found himself close underneath the loom of the cliffs, and the great
black archway, driven squarely into their centre, yawned above him.

By this time Wat's eyes had become somewhat accustomed to the darkness,
and he could make out that the line where the sea met the rocks was
brilliantly phosphorescent, and that this pale green glimmer penetrated
for some distance into the dark of the rock-cut passage.

Wat did not hesitate a moment, but whispering "_For her sake!_" he
pushed, with a full breast-stroke, straight into the midst of that
sullen, brooding blackness and horror of unsteady water. Outside in
the sound he had been conscious of the brisk, changeful grip of winds
fretting the water, the swift pull of currents fitful as a woman's
lighter fancies, the flash of iridescent silver foam defining and yet
concealing the grim cliff edges. But inside there was nothing but the
blackness of darkness, made only more apparent by a pervading greenish
glimmer which, perhaps because it existed more in the eyes of the
swimmer than in the actual illumination of the cavern, revealed nothing
tangible, but on the contrary seemed only to render the gloom more
tense and horrible.

But Wat had made up his mind and was not to be turned aside. He would
follow this sea-pass to its end--even if that end should bring death
to himself. For at all hazards he was resolved to break a way to his
sweetheart, if indeed she yet lived and loved him.

The silence of the cave was remarkable. Wat could feel as he swam the
slow, regular pulse-beat of the outer ocean-swell which passed up
beneath him, and which at each undulation heaved him some way towards
the roof. But he could hear no thundering break as it arched itself
on the clattering pebbles or broke on the solid rock bottom as it
would have done if the cavern had come soon to an end. He oared his
way therefore in silence through the midst of the darkness, keeping
his place in the centre of the tunnel by instinct, and perhaps also
a little by the faint glimmer of phosphorescence which pursued him
through the cave.

The way seemed endless, but after a while, though the wall of rock
continued to stand up on either hand, it grew perceptibly lighter
overhead. Wat chanced to look downward between his arms as he swam. A
disk of light burned in the pure water beneath him. He turned on his
back and glanced up, and there, at the top of an immense black cleft
with perpendicular walls, lo! the stars were shining. Without knowing
it he had come out of the tunnelled cavern into one of the "goës" or
narrow fiords which cut into the Lianacraig fortress of basalt to its
very foundations.

The passage still kept about the same width, and the water within it
heaved and sighed as before, but the rock wall seemed gradually to
decrease in height as Wat went on. Also the direction of the "goë"
changed every minute, so that Wat had to steer his way carefully in
order to avoid striking upon the jutting, half-submerged rocks at the
corners.

Presently the passage ended, and Wat came out again on a broader
stretch of water, over which the free, light breezes of the night
played chilly. He found himself quite close to the beach of Suliscanna.
There was a scent of peat-reek and cheerful human dwellings in the
air--of cattle also, the acrid tang of goats, and, sweetest of all to
a shipwrecked man, the indescribable kindly something by which man
advertises his permanent residence to his fellows amid all the world of
inhuman things.

After the darkness of the "goë" it seemed almost lucid twilight here,
and Wat could see a black tower relieve itself against the sky, darker
than the intense indigo padding in which the stars were set that
moonless night. He stood on shore and rubbed himself briskly all over
with the rough cloth of his knee-breeches before clothing himself in
them. Then he donned the shirt and belt which he had brought over with
him on his head by way of that perilous passage through the rocky
gateway of Suliscanna, whose virgin defences had probably never been
violated in such a manner before.

Being now clothed and in the dignity of his right mind, Wat cautiously
directed his way upward towards the bulk of a tower which he saw loom
dark above him.



CHAPTER XXXI

BESS LANDSBOROUGH'S CATECHISM


As he went his unshod feet sometimes rasped on the sharp edges of
slaty rocks, and anon trod with a pleasantly tickling sensation on
the shaggy bull's-fell of the inland heather. Wat drew his breath
instinctively shorter and more anxiously, not so much from any
increased consciousness of danger as because he knew that at last he
trod the isle whereon his love lay asleep, all unconscious of his
living presence so near her.

Climbing steadily, he surmounted the steep slope, and came to the angle
of the castle wall. Here Wat peered stealthily round. A fire of peat,
nearly extinct, smoked sulkily in front of an arched doorway which led
underneath the masonry, and stretched out with his bare feet towards
it, and barring all passage into the vault, lay a gigantic Highlander
with a naked claymore by his side. It was Alister McAlister on guard
over his prisoner.

Wat drew back. "Surely," he thought, "it cannot be in this morose
dungeon that they have shut my love?"

At the thought he grasped the dagger which was his sole weapon, and
glanced at the prostrate form of the unconscious sentinel, with the
tangled locks thrown back from the broad brow.

"Never yet did Wat Gordon slay a sleeping man," he muttered, somewhat
irresolutely, and took a backward step to consider the matter. But at
that instant a thick plaid was thrown over his head and he was pulled
violently to the ground. Limber Wat twisted like an eel and struck at
his assailant with his dagger. But a hand clasped his arm and a voice
whispered in his ear, "Down with your blade, man. I am a friend. If ye
love Kate McGhie, you endanger both her life and yours by the least
noise."

The plaid was unwound from about his head, and in the dim light Wat
could see that he stood beside the door of a cabin, so low as hardly
to be distinguishable from the bowlders upon the moor, being as
shapelessly primitive and turf-overgrown as they. Beside him crouched a
woman of middle age, apparently tall and well-featured.

"Wheest, laddie," she whispered, "hae ye the heart o' gowd that the
lassie left for ye wi' that daft hempie, Mehitabel Smith?"

Wat slipped the love-token from under his shirt and let the woman touch
it. It was chill and damp with the crossing of the salt strait.

"Aye, lad, surely ye are the true lover, and Bess Landsborough is no'
the woman to wrang ye," said the wife of Alister. "But mind ye, there
are mony dangers yet to encounter. Your friend that was casten oot o'
your bit boatie among the Bores o' the Suck is safe-warded yonder in
the tower, and that is my man Alister that ye swithered whether to put
your gully-knife intil or no."

Wat hastened to disclaim any such fell intent.

[Illustration: "A GIGANTIC HIGHLANDER WITH A NAKED CLAYMORE BY HIS
SIDE"]

"Wi' laddie, was I no watchin' ye?" said the woman, "and did I no see
the thocht in the verra crook o' your elbow? Bess Landsborough has
companied ower lang wi' men o' war no' to ken when they are playin'
themselves, and when the death o' the heart rins like wildfire alang
the shoother blade, doon the strong airm, and oot at the place where
the fingers fasten themselves round the blue steel. Sma' blame till ye!
But lest ye should be ower greatly tempted, I e'en threw the plaidie
ower ye to gie ye time to consider better. For, after a', Alister's
my ain man, and a kind man to me. And forbye, stickin' a knife atween
puir Alister's ribs wad no hae advantaged you a hair, nor yet helped
ye to your bit lass--no, nor even assisted that ill-set skelum Jock
Scarlett to win clear oot o' his prison hole."

The woman took Wat by the hand.

"Come this side the hoose," she said; "I want a word wi' you. Bess
Landsborough is takin' some risks the nicht, and she maun ken what
mainner o' lad she is pittin' her windpipe in danger for."

She drew him round the low, turf-roofed house to the end farthest from
the castle. Here stood a peat stack, or rather a mound of the large
surface "turves" of the country, for there are no true peat-mosses upon
Suliscanna.

Alister's wife crouched upon her heels in the black shelter of the
stack, and drew Wat down beside her.

"Now," she said, "what brocht ye here this night, and where did ye come
frae?"

"I came seeking Kate McGhie, the lass that I have followed over a
thousand miles of land and sea," answered Wat, promptly, "and also to
discover what had become of my friend whose name you have mentioned,
John Scarlett, he who was with me when our boat overset near the
island."

"To seek your lass and your friend, says you," answered the woman, "a
good answer and a fair; but whilk o' them the maist? Ye are cauld and
wat. Ye will hae soomed frae some hidie-hole in the muckle cliffs they
name Lianacraig, I doot na. Was it your lass or your friend that ye
thocht on when ye took life in hand and cam' paddling like a pellock
through the mirk? Was it for the sake o' your love or your comrade
that ye were gangin' to slit the hass of Alister McAlister, decent
red-headed son o' a cattle-thief that he is?"

"For both of them," said Wat, stoutly; "I am much beholden to John
Scarlett. He set out on this most perilous adventure over seas at
a word from me, and without the smallest prospect of advantage to
himself."

"I doubt it not," said Bess Landsborough; "it was the little sense
o' the cuif all the days of him, that he would ever do more for his
comrade than for his lass. And that is maybe the reason annexed to Bess
Landsborough's being here this day, a Heelantman's wife on the cauld,
plashy isle o' Suliscanna. But, laddie, listen to me. I am no gaun to
let the bonny bit young thing that I hae cherished like my ain dochter
mak' the same mistake as I made langsyne. Tell me, laddie, as God sees
ye, what yin ye wad leave ahint ye, gin ye could tak' but yin o' them
and ye kenned that death wad befall the ither?"

"I would take Kate McGhie, though ye hanged old Jack Scarlett as high
as Haman," quoth Wat, instantly.

"Fairly and soothly, my man," said the woman, in his ear. "There is
no need to rair it as if ye were at a field-preachin' on the wilds of
Friarminion. Quietly, quietly; tell me, in brief, what ye wad do for
your friend and what for your lass?"

"For my friend I will tell you," said Wat--"though I know not what
gives you the right to ask--for my friend I would do all that a man
may--face my friend's foes, help his well-wishers till I had not a rag
to share, stand shoulder to shoulder with him, and never ask the cause
of his quarrel; share the crust and divide the stoup, die and be buried
in one hole with him at the last."

"Aye," said Bess, "that is spoken like a soldier, and well spoken, too.
Ye mean it, lad, and ye wad do it, too. But for your lass--"

"For her," said Wat, lowering his voice, solemnly, "for the lass I
love, is it? I will rather tell you what I have done already. For
her I have gone mad. I have flung my chances by handfuls into the
sea. At sight of a single scornful glint of her eye I ran headlong to
destruction; at a harsh word from her I had almost thrown away life
and honor both. For a kindly word I have set my head in the dust under
her foot. I have cherished in my deepest heart no pride, no will, no
ambition that I would not have made a stepping-stone of, that her foot
might tread upon it."

Wat paused for breath amid the rush of his words ere he went on:

      "'I could not love thee, dear, so much,
          Loved I not honor more,'

somewhat thus runs the catch. But the man that made that kenned
nothing of love. For I would make all the honor of men no more than a
straw-wisp to feed the flames to warm the feet of my love withal. To
'die for her' is a pretty saying, and forever in the mouth of every
prating fool whenever he comes anigh a woman; but I would smile under
the torture of the boot and abide silently the Extreme Question only to
preserve her heart from a single pang."

"Would you give her up to another if you knew that it was for her good?"

"A thousand times no!" Wat was beginning, furiously, when his companion
put her hand over his mouth.

"If ye dinna hunker doon beside me, and learn to be still, ye will
e'en see her ye think so muckle o' the bride o' my Lord o' Barra, and
that, too, on the morn of a day when ye will be learning to dance a new
quick-step oot o' the tower window up on the heuch there."

"I know," said Wat, speaking more low, and answering as if to himself
her former question, "that it is within the power of the love of woman,
when it is purest and noblest, to be able to give up that which they
love to another, if they judge that it is for the beloved's good. But
they that think such surrender to be the essence of the highest love
of men ken nothing at all about the matter. For me, I would a thousand
times rather clasp my love in my arms and leap with her over the crags
of Lianacraig, than see her given to any other. And I would sooner set
the knife into her sweet throat with mine own hand than that Barra
should so much as lay a finger upon her."

"And your friend?" said Bess Landsborough. She was smiling in the dark
as if she were well pleased.

"Jack Scarlett I love," replied Wat, "but not for him did I break
prison, overpass the hollow seas, and lay my life like a very little
thing in the palm of a maiden's hand."

"It is well," said Bess Landsborough, with a sigh. "That is the true
lilt of the only love that is worth the having. The heart beats just so
when there comes into it the love that contents a woman--the love that
is given to but few to find in this weariful, unfriendly, self-seeking
warld."

She rose to her feet and looked eastward.

"In an hour and a half at the outside ye maun be on your road, lad,
back to your hidie-hole. I ask ye not where that may be. But gin
Alister McAlister sleeps soundly ye shall speak with your friend--while
I, Bess Landsborough, a decent married woman frae the pairish o'
Colmonel, keep watch and ward at the chaumer door ower the pair o' ye."

She took him again by the hand, laid her finger a moment soberly on his
lip, and then led him about the house to a low door, through which she
entered and drew Wat Gordon after her, bowing his head almost to the
level of his waist in the act of following his guide.

Wat was rejoiced to know that he was about to see Jack Scarlett, both
because he had thought him dead in the tide-race, and also that
together they might devise some plan of escape for themselves and for
the delivery of Kate from her durance. At an inner door his guide
halted and listened long and earnestly. The chamber in which they stood
was dark save for the red ashes of a turf fire in the centre. Bess
Landsborough tapped lightly on the inner door and opened it quietly.
Then she took Wat by the shoulder and pushed him in.

"Ye said your 'Carritches'[B] to me, and ye said them weel, or, my
faith, 'tis not here ye should have found yoursel' this nicht! Gang in
there, lad, and say the 'Proofs' and the 'Reasons Annexed.'"

        [B] Catechism.

Wat, greatly puzzled, stepped within. He found himself in a small room,
dark save when the dying fire of peat in the outer chamber threw red
glimmers into it.

"Jack--Jack Scarlett!" whispered Wat, astonished that the old soldier
did not greet him.

"He must be very sound asleep!" he thought.



CHAPTER XXXII

THE SURRENDER OF THE BELOVED


But something in the air of the chamber struck to the heart--something
different, subtle, unfamiliar, dazing. As his eyes grew accustomed to
the gloom, he saw the figure of a girl lying on a couch of heather over
which was thrown a rug made of the skins of wild animals. The face was
turned from him, but the girl was not asleep, for he could see that
quick, helpless sobs shook her frame, and that her attitude betokened
the abandonment of despair. Wat Gordon's heart leaped within him and
then stood still, when he realized that for the first time in his life
he stood within the chamber of his love.

At the noise of the opening door the girl slowly turned her head, and
her eyes fell on the figure of Wat. The young man sank on his knees a
little way from the couch. The girl continued to gaze at him without
speech, and as for Wat, he could find no fitting words. He strove for
utterance, but his tongue was dry to the roots, and the roof of his
mouth parched like leather.

Presently Kate sat up with a world of wonder and fear on her face. She
was wrapped about the shoulders in a great shawl of fleecy wool, such
as a hundred years ago the shipwrecked mariners of the Spanish Armada
had taught these northern islanders to knit. Beneath it, here and
there, appeared the white glimmer of fine linen cloth, such as could
only come from the lint wheels of the Lowlands.

The girl's lips were parted, and her eyes, great and black, appeared so
brilliant that the shining of them seemed to lighten all her face there
in that dim place.

"Wat," she said, "you have come back to me! I knew you would, and I am
not afraid. I knew you would come if you could and speak once to me.
For you are mine in all worlds, and you gave your life for me. It is
but a dream, I know--but ah, such a sweet dream!"

She held out her arms towards him with such wonderful pity that Wat,
kneeling on the floor, could not move; and words he found none to
utter, so marvellous did her speech seem to him.

"It is a dream," she repeated, in a voice full of hushed awe, "I know
it. And it is a very gracious God that hath sent it to me this first
night of my loss. I saw my lad go down in the deep, hurrying waters--my
love, my love, and now he will never know that I loved him!"

"Kate," whispered Wat, hoarsely, and with a voice which he knew not
for his own--"Kate, it is indeed I--myself, in the flesh. I have come
to save you. I did not die. I did not drown. It is I, Wat Gordon, your
own lad, come to kiss your hand, to carry you safe through a world of
enemies."

The girl leaned forward and looked towards him wistfully and intently.
She was shaken from head to foot with strange tremors. Love, fear, and
most delicious shame strove together within her maiden's heart.

"If indeed you be Walter Gordon in the flesh, I thank the Lord for your
safety. But go, for here you are in terrible danger every moment. I
have said, I know not what. I was asleep, and when I awoke I saw you,
and thought that I yet dreamed a dream."

Wat reached over and took her hand. He bent his head to it reverently
and kissed it.

"Sweet love," he whispered, "have no fear. In a little while I shall be
away. I must go from you ere the dawn comes. But your friend and mine,
your hostess of the isle, brought me to this dear and sacred place,
thinking me not unworthy. She waits at the door. In a little space the
light will come and the island men awake. Then I must take my life in
my hand and be far away before the day. But rest assured, I am at all
times near enough to watch over you, my beloved."

Wat looked steadfastly and adoringly at Kate, and lo! the tears were
running silently down her face and falling on the pillow. He drew a
little nearer to her.

"Love," he said, softly, "you have forgiven me. You forgave me long
ago, did you not? I loved you over much. That was the reason. See," he
whispered, pulling his gold heart from about his neck, "this is the
token that you forgave me." And he bent and kissed it before putting it
back again in his bosom.

She raised her eyes to his. They shone upon him with a strange light
that had never been kindled in them before. The light of a great love
shone out of the wonderful deeps of them, beaconing the way clear into
the haven of her heart. It was the maiden's look of gladness he saw
there--the joy that she had kept herself for the beloved--so that now
at last she can give him all.

"Oh, Wat--dear, dear Wat," she whispered, "I love you; I cannot choose
but love you. I cannot be proud with you any more. I am so tired of
being proud. For my heart has cried out for you to come to me this
weary, weary while. I have been so long alone--without any one--without
you."

And she made a little virginal gesture of pain which sent Wat's arms
about her in a moment. He could not answer her in words.

But he was wiser, for instead their lips drew together. He kept his
eyes on hers as their faces closed each on the other. His head reeled
with the imagined sweetness. He seemed to remember nothing but her
eyes, and how they were ocean-deep and world-large. He felt that he
could plunge into them as into the sea from an overhanging cliff.

But just ere their lips met Kate suddenly dropped her head against his
breast.

"Wat!" she whispered, intensely, "tell me--you heard what I said when
I thought you had come to me in a dream--that--that I loved you and
wanted you to return to me? You will never think less of me, never love
me less for my words, nor for letting you love me thus?"

Wat Gordon laughed a low, secure, satisfied laugh deep down in his
throat. He had forgotten the watchful woman at the door, the waking
enemies without, the coming dawn swiftly striding towards Suliscanna
from the east, the long, dangerous passage of the sea-cavern, the
perils innumerable that lay about them both. He loved, and he held his
love all securely in his arms. She questioned of his love, and he felt
that he could answer her.

"My love," he whispered, "I love you so that all things--life, death,
eternity--are the same to me. Nothing weighs in the scale when set to
balance you. I loved you, Kate, when I thought you must hate me for
my folly and wickedness. How shall I love you now, when your sweetest
words of this night are writ in fire on my heart? But all is one--I
love you, and I love you, and I love you!"

The girl sighed the satisfied sigh of one who listens to that which she
desires to hear and knows that she will hear, yet who for very love's
sake must needs hear it again and yet again.

And her arms also went tremblingly about him, and they twain that had
been sundered so long, kissed their first kiss--the kiss of surrender
that comes but once, and then only to the pure and worthy. The dewy
warmth and fragrance of her lips, the heady rapture of the unexpected
meeting so thrilled his heart and dominated his senses that broad day
might well have stolen upon them and found the lovers so, "the world
forgetting, by the world forgot."

But the voice of Bess Landsborough from the doorway caused them to
start suddenly apart with a shock of loss like the snapping of a limb.
Yet it was a kindly voice, and one full of infinite sympathy for those
who, like Wat and Kate, were ready to count all things well lost for
love.

"My lad," she said, gently, "ye maun e'en be tramping. In an hour or
so the sun will be keekin' ower the hills of the east, and gin ye
tarry your lass will mourn a lover. There are more days than one, and
nights longer than this short one of summer. Trust your love to me.
Bess Landsborough chose a strange way of love hersel', but she keeps
a kindly heart for young folk, and you twa silly bairnies shall not
lippen to her in vain. Come your ways, lad."

And Wat would have gone at her word. For the hope of the future had
possession of him, and, besides, his head was dazed and moidered with
the first taste of love's sweetness.

But the girl raised herself a little and held out her arms.

"Bid me good-night just this once," she said, "and tell me again that
you love me."

So Wat took his sweetheart in his arms. There seemed no words that he
could say which would express the thoughts of his heart at that moment.

"I love you--God knows _how_ I love you!" was all that he found to say.
And then, "God keep my little lass!"

There came a strange hush in his ears, and the next moment he found
himself outside, breasting the cool airs of the night as if they had
been the waves of the tide-race, and listening to the voice of Bess
Landsborough, which carried no more meaning to his ears than if it had
been the crying of a seagull rookery upon the rocks of Lianacraig.

"Come back to-night and I will meet you at the shore-side," was all
that disentangled itself from the meaningless turmoil of his guide's
words. For the fragrance of his love's lips was yet on his, and he was
wondering how long the memory of it would stay with him.

Without even waiting to take off his clothes, Wat pushed out into the
channel of the sea-passage. He swam as easily and unconsciously as
though he had been floating in some world of dreams, in which he found
himself finned like a fish. And when he came to himself he was lying
under the shelter of his boat in the cove of his own green islet of
Fiara, trying to recall the look that he had seen in his love's eyes in
the gloom of Bess Landsborough's guest-chamber. But though he buried
his head in his hands, and laid his hands on the sand to shut out the
sky and the shining breakers, he could not recall the similitude of it.
Only he knew that it had been most wonderful, and that his eyes had
never seen anything like it before.



CHAPTER XXXIII

AN ANCIENT LOVE AFFAIR


When Wat awoke on the island and stirred his cramped limbs, on which
the sun had already dried his wet clothes, in the warm and briskly
stirring airs of the summer morning, he could hardly believe in the
reality of his experiences of the night. One by one he remembered the
passage of the cave, the Highland sentinel sleeping by his dying fire,
his new and kindly protector, Bess Landsborough. Then last of all,
and suddenly overflowing all his heart with mighty love (even as a
volcano, Askja or Vatna, pours without warning its burning streams over
icy provinces), the meeting with his love in the dusky undercloud of
night rushed upon his memory and filled all his soul with a swift and
desperate joy.

What wonder that the sweet, low voice he had heard call him "love" out
of the darkness should in the broad common day scarce seem real to poor
Wat Gordon of Lochinvar? He had passed through so many things to hear
it. Also, ever since the death of Little Marie, he knew the accent of
the voice that speaks not for the sake of "making love," but which
unconsciously and inevitably reveals love in every syllable.

Wat had made love in his time, and ladies of beauty and repute not a
few--my Lady Wellwood among the number--had made love to him. But he
knew the difference now.

For love which must needs be "made" bears always the stamp of
manufacture. True love, on the other hand, is a city set on a hill; it
cannot be hid, and this is why the love-glance of a maiden's eye so
eternally confutes the philosophers, and ofttimes lays the lives of the
mighty, for making or marring, in the hollow of very little hands.

The day that succeeded this night adventure was a long one both for Wat
and Kate. For the girl had been even less prepared for the astonishing
event of the night than Wat himself. Providence, by the hand of
Mistress Alister McAlister, had certainly worked strangely. Indeed, the
only person wholly unmoved was that lady herself. She bustled about
the flags of her kitchen, slapping them almost contemptuously with
her broad bare feet, busy as a bee with her baking and brewing, like
the tidy, thrifty, "eident"[C] Ayrshire good-wife that she was. Not a
glance at Kate revealed that she had been instrumental in opening a new
chapter in two lives only the night before.

        [C] Diligent.

When, midway through the forenoon, Alister brought his bulky body to
the door-step, his loving wife drove him off again to the gateway of
the tower with an aphorism which is held of the highest repute in the
parish of Colmonel:

"Na, na, come na here for your brose--e'en get your meal o' meat where
ye work your wark!"

And the stoop-shouldered giant coolly retreated without a word of
protest, merely helping himself as he went out to a double handful of
oatmeal from his wife's bake-board, for all the world like a theftuous
school-boy, who keeps the while one eye on the master. With this he
took his way to the spring which trickled down by the castle wall. And
there, very deliberately and philosophically, he proceeded to make
himself a dish of cold "drammoch" on the smooth surface of a stone
which the water had hollowed.

"And mony is the hungry mouth that would be glad of it," said he, by
way of grace after meat. For Alister was of the excellent and approven
opinion that a dinner of herbs by the dikeside is better than a banquet
of Whitehall with the sauce of an angry woman's tongue for seasoning
thereto.

But when Bess Landsborough brought the prisoner his farles of cake and
cool buttermilk (for it was "kirning day"), she took out also a handful
of crisp bannocks for her husband. These she thrust under his nose
with the sufficient and comprehensive monosyllable, "Hae!" And Alister
accepted the act as at once honorable amend and judicious apology.

Nor was Alister behindhand in courtesy. For though the silent jailer
did not utter a single word either to his wife or his prisoner, he drew
his _skean dhu_ and cut a whang from the sweet-milk cheese which he
kept by him. To this he added a horn of strong island spirit, which of
a surety proved very much to the taste of the late master-at-arms to
their several Highnesses Louis, King of France, and William of Orange,
Stadtholder of the Netherlands.

Thereafter, with consideration particularly delicate, he withdrew out
of earshot and sat on a knoll before the castle, leaving his wife to
talk at leisure to her ancient sweetheart. For Alister McAlister was
a man without jealousy. He knew that he could keep his wife, even as
he kept his head in battle, with the little wee point of his knife and
the broad, broad blade of his claymore. And as for ancient sweethearts,
what cared he for a peck of them? Bess Landsborough might have had a
score of lovers in the 'Lowlands low'; yet had she not chosen to leave
them all and follow him up the braes--aye, and over the sea straits,
threading the ultimate islands till at last she had come to this
barren holding of rock, scantily felted down with heather and peat, on
the isle of Suliscanna?

But, on the other hand, Scarlett was not the man to lose his time, in
spite of bonds and imprisonments.

"Ye are as weel-faured as ever, Bess. Ye were aye a bonny blithesome
lass a' the days o' ye!" said he, complacently, as he munched his
farles of cake and took sup about of usquebaugh from the horn and
buttermilk from the pail.

"Havers!" said Mistress McAlister, "ye are an auld eneuch man to ken
that ye canna blaw twice in my lug wi' the same flairdies. Ye forget
I hae heard ye at that job before. And it lasted--hoo lang? Just e'en
till your company rade awa' frae Girvan to Kirkcudbright, and then ye
took up with Maggie Nicholson, the byre-lass o' Bombie, the very second
week that ever ye were there! And telled her, I dare say, that she was
weel-faured, blithe, and a bonny woman!"

"I see ye haena forgotten how to belie them that ye tried to break the
hearts o', Bess Landsborough," said Scarlett, without, however, letting
his broken heart interfere with a very excellent appetite. "Ye weel ken
that ye sent me frae the door o' the Laggan wi' my tail atween my legs
like a weel-lickit messan, and twa o' your ill-set cronies lookin' on
at my shaming, too."

"I'm thinkin', my man John," retorted Bess Landsborough, "that ye had
better say as little as ye can aboot that ploy. For the lasses were
Mirren Semple o' the Auld Wa's and Meg Kennedy o' Kirriemore, that
had come in the afternoon to keep me company. And as we sat talking
ower ae thing after anither, we spak' amang ithers o' you, my braw
trooper--Sergeant John Scarlett, no less, that rode so gallantly with
the colors in his hand. And by this and that we had it made clear that
ye had been for making up to a' the three o' us at once! An' so we
compared your tricks. How ye had gotten doon on your knees and telled
us that ye loved us best o' a' the world. Ye had kissed oor hands--at
least, mine and Meg Kennedy's. But your favorite fashion was to take
the skirts o' oor gouns and kiss the hem o' them, swearin' that ye wad
raither kiss the border o' oor cloaks than the mouth o' the grandest
woman in Scotland. (A' the three o' us!) Then ye asked for a curl cut
off aboon our brows--at least, frae mine and Mirren Semple's. For Meg
Kennedy never had sic a thing in her life, but had aye flat, greasy
hair, sleekit like a mowdiewart[D] hingin' by the neck in a trap on a
wat day. And her ye telled that ye couldna bide hair that wadna keep
smooth, but was aye a'kinked and thrawn into devalls and curliewigs.
Oh, sic a bonny, true-speakin', decent, mensefu' callant as the three
o' us made ye oot to be! So when we had ye gye-and-weel through-hands,
wha should ride up to the door but my gay lad himsel', this same braw
cavalier. So Mirren and Meg and me, we gaed oot ontil the step and
telled ye what we thocht o' ye. Ow aye, ye were a puir disjaskit cuif
that day, Sergeant John Scarlett, for a' your silver spurs and your red
sodjer's coat!"

        [D] Mole.

John Scarlett laughed loud and long at the record of his iniquities,
but his abasement, if at the time as profound as Bess Landsborough made
it out to be, had certainly completely passed away. For he cried out:
"What a grand memory ye hae for the auld times, Bess! I warrant ye, ye
couldna gang ower the points o' Effectual Calling as briskly, nor yet
the kings o' Judah and Israel that ye learned on the Sabbath forenichts
by the lowe o' the Colmonel peats!"

"But eneuch o' havers," said Bess; "ken ye that yon braw lad o' yours
is safe and hearty? Mair than that, he met wi' his bonny lass yestreen.
Baith o' them kens what love is--a thing that ye never kenned, no, nor
will ken to your dying day, John Scarlett."

"Aweel, aweel," replied Scarlett, placably, "at ony rate I am desperate
glad that Wat's won oot o' the brash o' the mony waters safe and
sound; and as for love, if I kenned nocht aboot it, at least I hae had
experience o' some gye fair imitations in my time, that did well eneuch
for a puir perishing mortal like me."

       *       *       *       *       *

On the other hand, Wat on his isle of Fiara had been exceedingly
busy all that day. He had chosen a shallow cavern on the most remote
northern shore of Fiara, dry and open like the entrance-hall of a
house, and into it he had carried a large quantity of fresh and
blooming heather, sufficient for the most luxurious couch in the world.
This he arranged in a little sheltered alcove to the right of the main
chamber, and pleased himself with the simple arrangements, talking to
himself all the time.

"By this path she can go down to the sea without being observed. Into
this basin I can lead the water that trickles over the rock, so that
she may wash on chill or rainy mornings."

He broke off with a quick, nervous laugh at his own thoughts.

"I am speaking as if we were always to dwell together on this island.
But the sooner we get away the better it will be for both of us."

Yet, somehow, the imagination of his heart played about this idea
of the seclusion of two on the isle of Fiara. For the escape itself
Wat had his plans already laid. He knew that Kate was a strong
swimmer--indeed, far his own superior at the art. Once in the old
days she had beaten him hollow when but a half-grown girl, swimming
two miles on the broad spaces of Loch Ken without a sign of fatigue.
Scarlett was a more difficult problem. For the stout soldier had always
held all that concerned the water in sovereign contempt, and Wat could
see no way of conveying him safely across to the northern island. Yet
it was essential for their escape that he should be taken thither, and
that at the same time with Kate. For the islanders might be inclined
to make short work of their remaining prisoner if they found that the
maid, so straitly committed to their charge, had been spirited away.

So before committing himself for the second time to the strange
water-gate which led to his beloved, Wat had all the details of his
plot arranged. He resolved to make the attempt on the first night when
the new moon should be far enough advanced to throw a faint light
over the water and temper the darkness of the rock passage. He could
construct of driftwood a raft large enough to carry those necessaries
with which Bess Landsborough could furnish him out of her scanty stores
without attracting attention. The raft would also be at least a partial
support for Scarlett. Wat resolved to arrange the method of escape with
Bess that very night, and obtain from her the cord before returning.
When Wat emerged from the long passage it was perfectly dark. Not even
a single star was to be seen. More than once had he scraped himself
painfully on the concealed rocks and on the sides of the cavern; upon
which he grumbled to himself as even a man in love will do, for he knew
that he would feel these hurts very much more acutely on the morrow.

"This will not do at all for Scarlett, though Kate might manage well
enough by keeping close to my shoulder," he said, shaking his head,
which dripped with the salt-water, for the first break across the sound
to the archway had been through a pretty briskly running jabble of
spray.

But when Wat came out on the sea-front of Suliscanna he saw an unusual
sight. Torches thronged in single file down the pathways. They flashed
and crowded about the landing-place, passing and repassing each other.
A boat-load of men was just disembarking in the nearer bay; while yet
another was dropping down the slack of the ebb, coming from the south
of the island and striking in for the shore exactly at the proper
moment, like men who knew every turn of the currents.

Wat could hear the clatter of many voices.

Swimming silently and showing no more than the dark thatch of his hair
over the water, he approached nearer. He might have been a seal for all
the mark he made on the water.

As the torches gathered thicker about the landing-place, Wat could see
the flash of arms as one gentleman and another disembarked. Presently
a figure in black stepped ashore, and was greeted with a loud shout of
welcome and acclaim by the islanders. Wat's heart sank within him, for
he recognized his arch-enemy, and he knew that the difficulties of his
task would now be infinitely increased. For my Lord of Barra it was
indeed, who had at last come to claim his captive. And there behind
him, like a hulking lubber-fiend, strode the burly, battered figure of
Haxo the Bull, with the Calf and the Killer in close attendance.



CHAPTER XXXIV

CAPTOR AND CAPTIVE


Nevertheless, such a panoply is love that Wat's heart did not fail him.
He waited till the flare of torches and the tumult of men's voices had
withdrawn up the hill over which my Lord of Barra took his way to the
house which he occupied during his infrequent visits to the island--a
rude strength of stone consisting merely of three or four chambers
which had been built after the castle on the rocks below had fallen
into disrepair.

Wat swam ashore, keeping well to the right of the landing-place, where
two or three men were still busied about the boats, securing them with
ropes and getting out what bits of property had been left in them.
Wat could not but feel a cold chill strike through his heart when
he remembered that the possession of these boats by the islanders,
together with their perfect knowledge of all the different states of
the tide, would render his position upon the islet of Fiara infinitely
more dangerous.

"All the more reason," quoth undaunted Wat, "for us to make the attempt
this very night."

So, keeping as before to the short heather above the paths, he made his
way silently upward towards Scarlett's dungeon and the dwelling of his
love.

He found Bess Landsborough eagerly waiting for him. She dragged him
sharply away from the cottages.

"Gang back," she whispered, shaking him almost roughly, as though he
were to blame; "ken ye not that the chief has come and there will no'
be a sober man on the island this nicht? Even my Alister, if he were
to come across ye before morning, would think no more of sticking a
knife in ye than of breaking the back of a foumart[E] with a muckle
stane."

        [E] Weasel.

"I know that," said Wat, with composure, "and that is the reason why I
am going to take both Kate and Scarlett with me to-night."

"The laddie's fair raving," said the woman; "the thing's clear
impossible. It canna be dune. Ye will hae to wait--some nicht when they
are a' sleepin', maybe."

"I'm not going back alive without Kate McGhie," said Wat. "I cannot
leave her with the cruel ravisher, Murdo of Barra--"

"Hoot, laddie," said Bess, "the chief will no' do the lassie ony harm.
He's ben the hoose wi' her the noo."

Wat, who had been crouching behind a rock beside Bess Landsborough, at
once sprang up and took his dagger bare in his hand. He was setting off
in the direction of the hut with the intention of breaking in upon the
colloquy of captive and captor, when Bess sprang on him and pulled him
down with all the weight of her body about his neck and exerting the
utmost strength of her brawny arms.

"Deil's in the laddie! He gangs aff like a spunk o' pooder laid on
a peat. The laird's but talkin' wi' the lass in the kitchen, wi' my
man Alister sittin' on the dresser, and half the rascaldom o' the Low
Countries (well are they designate!) waiting at the door. A word or twa
will do your lass little harm, unless she is o' the weak mind, and my
lord can persuade her to marry him by the guile of his tongue."

Wat grunted contemptuously. This was the last thing he was afraid of.

"I want," he said, "whatever arms ye can furnish me with, some food of
any portable sort--and a rope."

"Save us, laddie!" said Bess, holding up her hands; "ye might just as
lief ask me this nicht for the Earldom of Barra."

"I must have them," said Wat, firmly, "if I have to forage for them
myself."

"Aweel, I can but do my best," said the woman from Colmonel,
resignedly; "but I kenna where I shall get them."

Very cautiously they made their way back to the cottage of Alister.

"Wheesht!" said Bess; "lie cowered behind that stone. They are on their
road away. For this nicht surely your lass will be left at peace."

"And after that it will not matter," said Wat, looking cautiously over
the edge of the bowlder, "for either we will be safe out of this evil
isle, or else she and I will be where Barra and his devils can trouble
us no more."

When Bess and Wat reached the dwelling of the son of Alister, they
found it fallen strangely silent and dark. Bess went in boldly and
promptly. Presently her voice was heard in high debate, and after a
pause her husband, as if driven with ignominy from his own house,
stumbled past Wat, and began clambering like a cat up the steep rock
to the castle dungeon as easily as if he had been walking on a grass
meadow by a water-side.

No sooner was he safe out of the way than the door of the hut opened
circumspectly.

"Here!" said the mistress of the dwelling, in a far-reaching whisper.

Wat went up to the door-step. Bess Landsborough put out a hand, guided
him through the murky intricacies of her outer room, and pushed him
into that in which he had met his love the evening before.

Kate was sitting fully dressed on her bed with her head in her hands.
She looked up with a sharp little cry as he entered.

"Kate," he whispered, "it is I--Wat."

Whereat she ran to him with a sob of relief that was very sweet to
hear, and nestled with her head on his broad shoulder.

"Oh, thank God you have come! All will now be well."

Wat did not feel so sure of that, but, nevertheless, he caressed the
clustering curls and held his love to his bosom, murmuring little
meaningless words which Kate felt were better to listen to than much
wisdom.

Presently Bess Landsborough brought Wat a pair of pistols, a double
flask of powder, and a bagful of bullets.

"We must see about getting John Scarlett out of his prison," she said.
"I have the victuals all ready. There is a rope behind the dike at the
corner that looks to the sea. But ye had better get John Scarlett out
first, and then ye can all three lend a hand at the carrying--save us!
What's that?"

Bess Landsborough sprang sharply out of the inner room to the door
which gave upon the moor.

"Hide ye, Wat Gordon," she said; "here comes some one to visit us."

Kate made Wat lie down between the compacted heather of her couch
and the outer wall of the hut. Then she threw a coverlet deftly over
him. Wat grasped his dagger bare in his right hand to be ready in any
emergency, but his left found a way almost of its own accord through
the heather, till in the darkness it rested in Kate's as she sat on the
edge of the bed.

"My Lord of Barra," they heard Bess Landsborough say, without, "have
ye forgotten aught? We thought you gone to repose yourself after your
journey."

"Go find your husband and bring him hither, mistress!" commanded the
stern voice of Barra.

"It's no' very like that Bess will gang far frae hame to seek her man,
or ony ither man; there's mair than eneuch men in Bess's hoose this
nicht!" said Mistress McAlister, under her breath. But with apparent
obedience she went out--only, however, to ensconce herself immediately
behind the door. She wanted, she said to herself, to "see their twa
backs oot o' the kitchen without bloodshed."

Barra advanced boldly to the inner door which opened into Kate's
chamber. He paused a moment and knocked lightly. The girl sat still
and silent, but her hand gripped that of Wat closer to her side with
a quick, instinctive thrill, which made that very true lover clutch
his dagger and curse the man that could so wring with terror his sweet
maid's heart.

"May I have a moment's private audience with you, Mistress Kate?" said
Barra, from the outer room.

Kate did not answer a word.

The master of the island swung back the door and revealed his tall,
slender figure, in his usual dress of simple black, standing in the
doorway of the outer room. He stooped his head and entered as he did
so. The girl instinctively moved a little nearer to Wat and clasped his
hand more firmly. A little stifled cry escaped her. Wat cleared his
dagger-hilt and made ready to spring upon his enemy. My Lord of Barra
in all his checkered life had never been nearer death than he was at
that moment. For Wat Gordon was deciding exactly where he would strike
his first blow.

"I did not come again hither to alarm you," said Barra, "but that
I might more fully vindicate myself alone with you than I could do
in the presence of so many witnesses. That which I have done--your
transporting from Holland and your seclusion here--I have done with
full warrant and justification, not hastily nor yet without due
authority."

"I know of no authority," said Kate, at last, speaking firmly, "which
could warrant the seizure of a maid who never harmed or offended you,
the carrying her off gagged and bound like a felon, sailing with her
to another country, and there interning her upon a lonely isle till it
should please you to come for her, like a jailer to a captive."

"My lady," said Barra, not without a certain respect in his voice,
"I am well aware that I cannot expect you to take my word, for the
circumstances are not ripe for me to tell you all. But I ask you to
believe that neither disrespect nor passion, nor yet any selfish
jealousy, prompted me to these so strange expedients. But on the
contrary, a genuine desire for your happiness, and the direct request
of those most deeply interested and intimately connected with you."

"And who may they be?" asked Kate, looking at him contemptuously; "I
know none who have the right to give you leave to carry off a young
maid from her friends at dead of night, with as little ceremony or
mercy as Reynard does a gray goose out of the farmer's yard."

"Your father and your mother--are not they authority enough?" answered
Barra.

The girl gazed at him in cold disdain.

"My father," she said, "never in his life crossed my will by word
or deed. It was, indeed, by his permission and with his help that I
went to Holland. And as for my mother, she has been dead and in her
resting-grave these twenty years!"

"Nevertheless I had the permission and encouragement of the noble
lady, your mother, in that which I have done, though I admit that of
your father was a little more belated. That is what I wanted to say.
You do not believe me, I am aware, and I am not able at present more
particularly to unriddle the mystery. Nevertheless, rest assured that a
Lord of Barra does not lie. I bid you good-night. Is it permitted to
kiss your hand? Well, then, with all humble duty and observance, I kiss
mine to you."

With that Barra bowed and went out backward through the narrow door, as
if he had been ushering himself out of a queen's presence-chamber.

In the kitchen he passed Bess Landsborough, who opened on him with a
voluble tale of how she had sought her husband high and low without any
success, and how it was to be supposed that, like the rest, he had gone
to drink his Lordship's health at the muckle house over the hill.

But Barra went by her without a word, and the mistress of Alister
McAlister was left speaking to the empty air. She suddenly ceased as he
disappeared in the dark, and turned for sympathy to Wat and Kate in the
inner room.

"Siccan manners!" she said, indignantly; "they wadna set a Colmonel
brood-sow--to gae by a decent woman like that muckle dirt, and yin,
too, that had just gane on an errand for him. It's true I gaed nae
farther than the back o' the door, but at ony rate he kenned nae
better, and cam' back wi' news for his high michty chiefship. It's fair
scandalous, that's what it is! Wha hae we here this shot? I declare my
hoose is as thrang as a sacrament scailing, when the folk are flocking
to the drinking-booths at Stanykirk holy fair."

The visitor on this occasion proved to be her husband Alister. He was
already somewhat flushed of cheek and wild of eye.

He paused unsteadily in the middle of the kitchen and flung down a
great key on the table.

"Take care of that till the morn's morn," he said. "I would maybe loss
it. I am going out to drink till I be drunk."

And with this simple declaration of policy he strode out as he had
come.

As soon as he had gone, Bess threw a damp turf over the clear peat fire
on the hearth of the outer kitchen, which in a trice raised a dense
smoke and rendered everything within dark and gloomy.

"Come awa'," she said, putting her head into the room where Kate, her
heart beating wildly with the joy of reprieve and the presence of her
beloved, was clinging to Wat's arm, as he stood on the floor with his
dagger still ready and bare in his hand. "Haste ye and come away," she
said; "there'll be time and to spare when ye get him safe to yourself,
my lass, for a hale world o' cuikin' and joein'."

Wat and Kate came out quickly and Bess shut the door behind them.
Outside the sharp air off the Atlantic chilled them like a drench of
well-water on a summer's day, breathing keenly into their lungs after
the close atmosphere of the hut.

They made their way up the steep to the castle. Across the door of the
vault where John Scarlett was confined lay the prostrate body of a
Celt, inert and stertorous.

Mistress McAlister stirred him with her foot, and then turned him
completely over.

"As I thocht," she said, "it is just Misfortunate Colin. It will be
an ill day for him the morn. But he is aye in the way o' mischances,
onyway. He canna keep clear o' them. If a stane were to slip frae a
rock tap in a' the isle, it is on Colin it wad light. If a rope break
at the egg-harvest, 'tis Colin that's at the end o' the tow. I think a
pity o' him, too--for barrin' the drink and the ill luck, he's a decent
soul. But it juist canna be helpit."

So with that Bess undid the door with the key which Alister had thrown
upon the table, and then carefully tucked it into the waist-belt of
Colin the Misfortunate.

"It's a peety," she said; "but after a' it is a deal mair faceable and
natural that the like o' this should hae happened to Colin than to ony
ither man in the isle."

Jack Scarlett lay on his bed of heather tops, wrapped in his plaid, and
slept the sleep of the easy of conscience.

"What's a' the tirrivee?"[F] he growled, when Wat shook him. "Get up
and escape--what's the terrible fyke and hurry? Disturbin' a man in
his first sleep. Surely, ye could either hae comed afore he fell ower
or let him hae his sleep oot. A man's health is afore a'thing when it
comes to my time o' life. And it is no havers and nonsense--far frae't!
But ye hae no consideration, Wat Gordon--never had, ever since I kenned
ye."

        [F] Unnecessary disturbance.

So, growling and grumbling as was his wont, old Jack gathered his
belongings together with soldierly practicality, pocketing the remains
of his evening's meal, and bringing all sorts of treasures out of
numberless hiding-places here and there about his dungeon.

"Now I am at your service," he said, as he stood erect.



CHAPTER XXXV

SKIRTING THE BREAKERS


As the party filed out of the low dungeon door, each of them of
necessity stepped over the prostrate body of Misfortunate Colin. The
fates that sport with destiny had offered him up a sacrifice to the
wrath of his chief, in order that luckier men might go scatheless.

"It micht just as weel hae been Alister, my man!" said Bess; "for he
will be as drunk as the lave, or maybe a kennin waur! But then Alister
has been a fortunate man a' his days--no' like that puir tyke there
that never supped meal porridge but he choked himsel' wi' the spoon!"

It was a night clear and infinite with stars when the four--Kate,
Wat, Scarlett, and Bess--took up each their share of the arms and
provisions, which the last-named had provided in the shelter of
the dike. The air was still. There was no sound save the ceaseless
soughing whisper of the mighty salt river as it rushed northward past
the isle--the strange pervading sound of the Suck gurgling afar like
the boiling of a pot. Only at intervals and from a distance came the
shouting of choruses and the loud "_Hooch!_" of some reveller yet in
the active stages of drinking long life and prosperity to the returned
chieftain.

As soon as they had passed the ridge and left the village behind them,
Wat paused for a consultation.

"'Tis little use," he said, "to think of making a raft at this time
of night. Yet certain it is that we must be clear of the isle by the
morning--that is, if one of us is to remain alive."

"I for ane am gaun to bide on Suliscanna!" said Mistress McAlister.

"There is but one way that I can think of," continued Wat, not heeding
her; "there are two boats at the landing-place. I saw the men unloading
them when I landed to-night. Now we could not take the larger of these
into the tide-race, but if the tide be favorable we might seize the
smaller and pilot it through the sea-cavern, by which I came hither, to
my hiding-place on the isle of Fiara."

Jack Scarlett nodded silent assent as he listened to Wat's suggestion.
The night-air had restored all his confidence, and he felt ready for
anything. So on the darksome ridge overlooking the landing-place the
two women were left to consume their souls with impatience, while Wat
and Scarlett, with their daggers in their hands, stole stealthily down
to effect their desperate capture.

The boats lay together on the inner side of a little stone breakwater.
They were not drawn up on the beach, but secured stem and stern with
ropes, and floated in the gentle undulation of the tide. Wat and
Scarlett strained their eyes into the darkness for a sight of any
watch. But spite of the stars, the night was too impenetrable for them
to distinguish the presence of any human being on board.

Wat dropped into the water, having left his powder and shot, together
with the pistols, in the care of Scarlett. He swam a few strokes out to
the boat and listened. In the larger he could clearly distinguish the
breathing of two men. The other appeared to be entirely empty. Promptly
Wat cut the cord which secured the stem, and let that boat fall away
and swing round with her head towards the shore. Then beckoning
Scarlett, whose figure he could discern black against the sand of the
beach, Wat stepped on board. Scarcely was he over the side when his
foot trod on the soft body of a man. Wat was on him in a moment and had
the fellow by the throat. But the helpless gurgle of his respiration,
and the pervading smell of Hollands which disentangled itself from
every part of his person, convinced Wat that he had nothing to fear
from the crew of this boat.

There remained the other and larger, which was anchored farther out
in the water of the little harbor. Cautiously Wat lifted the small
double-pronged anchor, which still held their first prize. Scarlet
waded in and was helped over the side. The tide swept them slowly round
towards the larger vessel in which Wat had heard the breathing of men.
Presently their boat went groaning and wheezing against the side-planks
of her companion. Wat promptly and silently secured his position with
the five-pronged boat-anchor which he had kept beside him for the
purpose.

Scarlett and he were on board in a moment, and Wat found himself in
the heat of a combat with a man who struck at him with a bar of iron
as he came over the side. But the striker's companion did not move to
his assistance, and with Wat's hand at his throat and Scarlett's knee
on his breast, resistance was very brief indeed. A lantern was burning
inside a small coil of ropes. This Wat folded in the cloak with which
the sleepy-headed watch had been covering themselves in the bottom of
the boat, and let a ray of its light fall on the faces of his captives.
Both were known to him. They were the Calf and the Killer, the two
inevitable scoundrels of Haxo the Bull's retinue.

"What shall we do with these fellows?" said Wat, looking up,
disgustedly.

"Sink them with the boat," said Scarlett, promptly.

Wat shook his head. They lay so still and they looked so helpless--even
the Killer, who had struck at Wat, was now resting his head on the
thwart in perfect unconsciousness.

"We must get the drunken scoundrels ashore somehow," said Wat.

"We will tie them together with the rope, turn them over the side,
and haul them ashore with the slack," said Scarlett; "and if it
chance to break, why, so much the better." Without another word the
master-at-arms set to work, packing the Calf and the Killer together as
if they had been a couple of trussed chickens, exploring their pockets
for plunder as he did so.

"Let the poor rascals' wallets alone, Jack!" cried Wat, indignantly.

"Nay, lad," quoth Scarlett, with imperturbable philosophy, possessing
himself as he spoke of a clasp-knife and a flagon of strong waters,
"the art of forage and requisition from the enemy is of the very
essence of war, as the great Condé used often to say."

Presently Scarlett paid out the spare rope to Wat, who took it ashore
with him. The bodies dropped without a splash into the water, and Wat,
aided by the current, soon brought them to land and hauled them out of
the water on to the pebbles. Then came Scarlett with a couple of balls
of tow for plugging seams, which he thrust with gusto into their mouths.

"That will keep things safe," he said. "I trust neither of these good
gentlemen is afflicted with a cold in his head, or else he might be
liable to choke, and so find himself in warmer and drier quarters at
his awaking!"

But the Calf and the Killer lay like brothers in each other's arms,
breathing gently and equably.

There remained but the man on the first and smaller boat. Wat climbed
back to him. He had not stirred. Then Lochinvar let a single ray of the
Killer's lantern fall on his face. He whistled softly at what he saw,
and beckoned Scarlett. It was none other than Wise Jan Pettigrew who
lay there, overcome by the potency of the spirits supplied by the Chief
of Suliscanna.

Wat now went back to the women. He found them where they had been left,
and Kate hurried forward.

"You are not hurt, Wat?" she said, anxiously, taking him by the hand,
"nor Scarlett?"

"No," said Wat; "but we must hasten to the boats. We have taken them
both safely."

So the two women accompanied him down to the harbor. Scarlett had
meanwhile been getting all the useful cargo out of the larger boat, and
by this time he had it piled up promiscuously about the unconscious
body of Wise Jan.

Before Kate went aboard the elder woman clung to her and kissed her in
the darkness.

"My lassie, are ye feared?"

"Feared?" said Kate, "why should I be afraid; am I not all his? I would
not be feared to go to the world's end with him."

Bess Landsborough sighed as if that did not greatly improve the case,
but she only said: "God keep you, my lassie, and let me see you soon
again. I declare ye hae grown to be the very light o' my e'en ever
since I took ye first to my arms in the cabin o' the _Sea Unicorn_."

It was the plan of Wat and Scarlett to take both boats as far out to
sea as possible, to scuttle one there, and then to make trial of the
dangerous passage of the sea-cave with the smaller and more easily
handled vessel.

The tide was now on the strong ebb, and there was a smart swirl of
current setting through the narrow entrance of the harbor. Wat cut the
rope of the larger boat which alone secured her to the shore.

"God in heaven bless you, good friend of ours!" said Wat, stooping to
kiss the rough brave woman who had so loyally helped them, "till we can
all be happy together in our own country."

"Na," she said, "fare ye weel forever; I hae to bide by Alister, my
man. I shall see your faces nae mair. O, my bairn, my bairn!"

And the heartsome, snell--tongued, tender woman turned away with the
tears falling fast upon the bosom of her gown.

Wat pushed off in the smaller boat, with the larger towing behind, and,
being empty, standing much higher out of the water. The current caught
them. The next moment the hiss of the ebb under their counter sank to
silence. The talking sound of the ripples along their sides ceased. The
boats were going out with the tide, and Wat had nothing to do but sit
and guide them.

It was wonderful how clear it was outside, even a short distance away
from the loom of the land. They kept close in to the shore, and at
first the ebb seemed to favor them, for they made way rapidly, drifting
towards the mouth of the goë by which they must enter the water-cavern,
and attempt that dangerous passage through to the isle of Fiara.

By keeping close in shore they found themselves in a sort of canal of
deep water, at least fifty feet across, beyond which the tide and the
underlying rocks strove together on the edge of the Suck, throwing up
short foam-crested waves as on a sand-bar.

Wat was now about to attempt a dangerous feat. It was manifestly
impossible that they could tow the larger boat through the narrows of
the goë. And yet to leave it on the beach was simply to put facilities
for pursuit into the hands of men inflamed to the highest degree by the
thought of revenge and the anger of their chief, as well as perfectly
acquainted with every state of the tide and at home in the swirl of the
multitudinous currents.

[Illustration: "WAT PUSHED OFF IN THE SMALLER BOAT"]

Wat had resolved to destroy the larger boat on the edge of the
tide-race, so that even if she did not sink at once she would be
carried far past the island of Suliscanna. He therefore put the
skiff in which he and Scarlett were rowing boldly in the direction of
the broken water of the tide-race. He well knew the danger, yet for the
sake of their future safety on Fiara he resolved to risk it.

The tide fairly thundered as it tore northward, and when they drew near
to it time and again Scarlett glanced apprehensively over his shoulder.
A thin, misty drizzle of spray as from a water-fall began to fall on
their faces. Right ahead of them appeared the foam-flecked back of the
Suck, like a river in spate rushing out into the smooth waters of a
lake. They could see the breakers ahead of them flashing palely white
in the starlight, and hear the bullers crying aloud to each other along
the shore.

Suddenly Wat stopped rowing.

"Back water, Jack!" he cried. "I am going into the big boat astern
to scuttle her. Hand me the mallet. I must loosen that Portsmouth
sea-lawyer." This was a long cross-headed plug which stopped up a hole
in the boat's bottom, and which commonly was concealed from sight by
the planks covering the bilge at the stern.

Two blows were sufficient to make the "Portsmouth lawyer" quit his
grip. The plug had apparently only been adjusted that day, and had
indeed never been properly driven home. But Wat was not content
with this. He seized the axe which he found on board, and drove it
vigorously through the planking of the sides, low down below the
water-line, till the salt-water came bubbling up. Then he hauled in the
rope by which the boat was attached to the lighter skiff in which Kate
and Scarlett sat. As the prow of the scuttled boat touched the stern of
the other, Wat stepped on board with the hatchet in his hand. Then with
a sharply trenchant "chip" he severed the tow-rope, and the doomed boat
instantly fell away towards the white line of the breakers which they
had so perilously skirted.



CHAPTER XXXVI

PASSAGE PERILOUS


"Now let us get out of this," said Scarlett, who had grown palpably
uneasy. "One cooling experience of the Suck of Suliscanna is enough for
me."

Their smaller boat came about just in time. They could see the derelict
snatched like a feather and whirled away by the rush of imperious
water. The noise of the roaring of the Suck became almost deafening.
To seaward they still caught glimpses of their late consort, rolling
this way and that amid numberless jets and hillocks of sparkling and
phosphorescent water. Now she ascended with a dancing motion. Anon
the fountains of the deep boiled and hissed and curled over her as
she lumbered on to her doom. Then as she gradually took in water she
lurched more and more heavily, till at last they saw her stern stand
black against the sky, for a moment shutting out the stars, as she
filled and sank.

"Handsomely done! Now straight for the entrance of the water-cave, and
ho for the isle of Fiara!" cried Wat, who began with every stroke to
feel himself drawing clear of the multiplied dangers of the night. Yet
the most difficult part of the passage was still to come.

All the while Kate sat silent and watchful in the stern. Wat and
Scarlett were at the oars. Scarlett used the unconscious Jan for an
excellent stretcher as he laid himself to his work. So strong was the
north current even there that they had to pull hard for a moment or two
lest they should be carried past the goë which formed the entrance to
the water-cavern through which they must pass to their city of refuge.

"There!" at last cried Wat, indicating the dark break in the cliff-line
with a certain pride, as they came almost level with the mouth of the
passage, and saw vast sombre walls rising solemnly on either side of
that black lane of sea-water, sown with phosphorescent sparks, which
stretched before them.

Presently they were shut within, as it had been by the turning of a
wrist. The stars went out above. The waters slept. The air was still as
in a chamber. The soughing roar of the Suck of Suliscanna died down to
a whisper and then was heard no more.

"Stand up, Jack, and paddle for your life!" commanded Wat. He had often
enough crossed Loch Ken in this manner, after having read Captain John
Smith's Adventures in Virginia with profit and pleasure.

"'Fore the prince!" cried Scarlett, indignantly; "I had just learned
one way of it, sitting with my nose to the rear-guard, which as soon as
I can make shift to do without the oar taking me in the stomach--lo, I
am sharply turned about and bidden begin all over again with my face to
the line of advance!"

"Stop talking--get up and do it!" cried Wat, impatiently; "grumble when
we get through. This is no sham fight on the common of Amersfort with
the white-capped young frows sitting on benches at their knitting."

Obediently Scarlett rose, grasped his oar short in his hands, and
imitated as best he could in the darkness Wat's long sweeping stroke
past the side of the boat, as he stood and conned the passage from the
stem.

The tunnel seemed long to Wat, who had formerly swum it swiftly enough
with thoughts of Kate singing in his head. The dark dripping walls
on either side of them stretched on interminably. Ever a denser dark
seemed to envelop them. The gloom and weight of rocks above them shut
them in. They had dived, as it seemed, into the very earth-bowels as
soon as ever the boat swam noiselessly into the arched blackness of the
water-cavern.

"Now take your oar by the middle and stand by to push off if we come
too near to the rocks on either side," commanded Wat, from the prow.

"Aye, aye, sir," cried Scarlett, taking good-humoredly the sailor's
tone and using words he had heard on his sea voyages. "Belay the
binnacle and part the ship's periwig abaft the main-mast!"

He muttered the last part of the sentence below his breath, and Wat,
who straddled in the narrow angle of the stem, peering eagerly ahead
and paddling to either side, was far too anxious to give heed.

Suddenly the boat bumped heavily on a hidden obstacle. Scarlett went
forward over a thwart and his oar fell overboard, and doubtless the
latter would have floated away but for Kate's ready hand, which rescued
it and brought it aboard, dripping sea-water from blade to handle.

"Let me help," she said; "I can see very well in the dark."

"Agreed," answered Scarlett, with infinite relief. "Old Jack is noways
fond of butting at his enemies with a steering-oar in a rabbit-hole."

So he took Kate's place in the stern, while the girl stood erect and
picked the words of command from Wat--sometimes even venturing to
advise him when with her more delicate perceptions she felt, more
than saw, that they were approaching the shadowy-green phosphorescent
glimmer where the water floor met the walls of the cave.

No sooner had they struck than a cloud of sea-fowl flew out about them,
their wings beating in their faces, and the birds themselves stunning
them with deafening cries. But presently, with protesting calls and
roopy whistlings, the evicted inhabitants settled back again to their
roosting-places.

As they went on the boat began to feel the incoming heave of the outer
swell. A new freshness, too, came to them in the air which blew over
the low island of Fiara straight into the great archway out of which
they were presently floating.

So with Wat and his sweetheart standing erect paddling the boat,
they passed out of the rock-fast gloom into the heartsome clatter
of the narrow Sound of Fiara. On either side of it the cliffs rose
measurelessly above them, and Fiara itself was a blue-black ridge
before them. But Wat had crossed the strait too often to have any fear,
so bidding Kate sit down, he settled the oars in the rowlocks to cross
the stronger current to be expected there.

Presently, and without further difficulty, they came to the little
indentations in the rock, almost like rudely cut steps, where Wat had
slipped into the water to swim across when first he made his venture
towards Suliscanna.

"Here we will disembark the stores," said he.

And Scarlett was safely put ashore to receive them as Wat handed them
out, while Kate held the boat firmly with the boat-hook to the side
of the little natural pier. Then the still unconscious Jan was tossed
behind a bowlder to sleep off his strong waters, with as scant ceremony
as if he had been a bale of goods.

"Now, Kate," said Wat when all had been landed.

The girl took Scarlett's hand and lightly leaped ashore. Her eyes
served her better in the dark than those of either of the men.

But a new danger occurred to Wat.

"We cannot leave the boat here," he said; "it might be driven away,
or, what is worse, spied from the top of the tall rocks of Lianacraig.
Listen, Scarlett. I am going to paddle it across to the cave, anchor
it out there in a safe place, and swim back. I shall not be away many
minutes. Look to Kate till I return."

"Better say 'Kate, look to old blind Jack!'" muttered Scarlett. "He is
good for nought in this condemnable dark but to stumble broadcast and
bark his poor bones. But I'll take my regimental oath the lass sees
like a marauding grimalkin at midnight."

Wat was half-way across the strait or thereby by the time Scarlett had
finished, and again the darkness of the great rock-shaft swallowed him
up. Being arrived within the archway, he searched about for a recess
wide enough to let the boat swing at her stem and stern anchors without
knocking her sides against the rock. He was some time in finding one,
but at last a fortunate essay to the left of the entrance conducted him
into a little landlocked dock just large enough for his purpose. Here
he concealed and made fast his prize before once more slipping into the
water to return to the island of Fiara. Wat swam back with a glad and
thankful heart. He had now brought both his sweetheart and his friend
to the isle of safety--safety which for the time at least was complete.
He had a vessel on either side of his domains, and the enemy on the
larger island possessed no boat which would enable them to reach his
place of shelter--that is, supposing them as ignorant as the Suliscanna
islanders of the wondrous rock-passage underneath Lianacraig. Truly he
had much reason to be proud of his night's work.

Kate was standing ready to give him her hand as he drew himself out
of the water upon the rocks. He could see her slender figure dark
against the primrose flush of the morn. But he wasted no time either
in love-making or salutations. They must have all their stores carried
over the southern beach by daybreak, and safely housed from wind and
weather in the rocky hall where Wat had arranged the couch of heather
tops.

So without a word Kate and Wat loaded themselves happily and
contentedly with the gifts of their late kind hostess--a bag of meal,
home-cured hams, a cheese, together with stores of powder and shot
for their pistols. They could see the figure of the master-at-arms
stumbling on in front of them, and could hear, borne faintly back on
the breeze, the sound of his steady grumbling.

Wat and Kate smiled at each other through the dusk, and the kindred
feeling and its mutual recognition cheered them. The night had been
anxious enough, but now the morning was coming and they could look on
each other's faces. So they plodded on as practically and placidly as
if they had been coworkers of an ancient partnership, sharers of one
task, yoke-fellows driving the same plough-colter through the same
furrow.

When they had arrived at the northern side of the island, Wat showed
his companions where to stow the goods in the large open hall of rock,
at the sheltered end of which he had arranged Kate's sleeping-chamber.
The place was not indeed a cave, but only a large opening in an old sea
cliff, which had been left high and dry by the gradual accumulation
of the sand and mud brought down by the tide-race of the Suck. The
entrance was completely concealed by the birches and rowan bushes which
grew up around it and projected over it at every angle, their bright
green leaves and reddening berries showing pleasantly against the dark
of the interior.

Wat immediately started off again to make one final trip, to see that
nothing had been left at the southern landing-place. Finding nothing,
he came back much elated so thoroughly to have carried through his
purposes in the space of a summer's night, and at last to have both
Kate and Scarlett safe with him on the isle of Fiara.

As for Wise Jan, he was left to sleep in peace behind the bowlder by
the landing-place till his scattered senses should return.



CHAPTER XXXVII

THE ISLE OF BLISS


Under the double shelter of the great cliffs of Lianacraig and the
lower but more effectual barrier of the ridge which runs across the
little island of Fiara in the direction of its greatest length, Wat
and his love abode for a season in great peace. Scarlett accepted
the situation with the trained alacrity of a soldier of fortune. He
built camp-fires of the drift-wood of the shore, allowing the smoke to
dissipate itself along the walls of the cliffs upon dark nights, and
using only charred and smokeless wood on the smaller cooking-fires of
the day.

He also took Wise Jan under his sway and rigid governance, so that,
very much to his own surprise, that youth found himself continually
running here and there at the word of command, as unquestioningly as
if he had been a recruit of a newly formed regiment under the drastic
treatment of the famous master-at-arms.

At first Kate felt the strangeness of being left upon a lonely island
with none of her own sex to speak to or give her countenance. But she
was a girl of many experiences in a world which was then specially hard
and cruel to lonely women.

While yet a child she had seen houses invaded by rude soldiery. She
had fled from conventicle with the clatter of hoofs and the call of
trumpet telling of the deadly pursuit behind her. Even the manner of
her capture and her confinement on this distant isle told a plain tale
of suffering endured and experience gained. Hers had been, largely by
her own choice, no sheltered life passed in the bieldy howe of common
things. She had met sorrow and difficulty before, face to face, eye to
eye, and was ready so to encounter them again.

But to be on the island of Fiara in daily contact with her lover, to
gain momentarily in knowledge of her own affection, to feel the bonds
which bound her to this one man continually strengthen, were some of
the new experiences of these halcyon days.

Wat and Kate walked much under the shelter of that wall of rocks which
stood a hundred yards back from the sandy northern shore of the island.
Here they were screened from observation in every direction save
towards the north, and that way the sea was clear to the Pole. Blue and
lonely it spread before them, the waves coming glittering and balancing
in from the regions of ice and mist, as sunnily and invitingly as
though they had been the billows of the Pacific arching themselves in
thunder upon a strand of coral.

Here the two walked at morn and even, discussing, among other things,
their loves, their former happenings, the strange ways of Providence:
most of all their future, which, indeed, looked dark enough at the
present, but which, nevertheless, shone for them with a rosy glow of
hope and youth. There are no aspirants more sure of success than the
young who, strong in the permanence of mutual affection, take hands
and look towards the rising sun. All happens to those who know how to
wait, especially if they have the necessary time before them. If they
be young, the multitude of the coming years beckons them onward, and so
their hearts be true and worthy, the very stars in their courses will
fight for them. The hatreds and prejudices which oppose them lose their
edge; their opponents, being of those that go down the slope to the
dark archway of death, pass away within and are seen no more. But the
young true-lovers remain. And lo! in a moment there is nothing before
them but the plain way to walk in--the sweetness of a morning still
young, a morning without clouds, the sweeter for the night and the long
and weary way they have come together, hand in loving hand.

"Kate," said Wat, "tell me when you first knew that you loved me."

They were walking on the sand, across which the evening shadows were
beginning to lengthen over the intricate maze of ripple-marks, and when
each whorled worm-casting was gathering a little pool of blue shadow on
its eastern side.

The girl clasped her hands behind her back and gazed abstractedly away
to the sunsetting, her shapely head turned a little aside as though she
were listening to the voice of her own heart and hearing its answer too
keenly to dare give it vent in words.

"I think," said she, at last, very slowly--"I think I began to love you
on the night when I saw you first, after I had come across the seas to
Holland."

"What!" cried Lochinvar, astonished at her answer; "but then you were
more hard and cruel to me than ever--would not even hear me speak, and
sent me away unsatisfied and most unhappy."

Kate gave Wat a glance which said for a sufficient answer, had he
possessed the wit to read it: "I was a woman, and so afraid of my own
heart--you a man, and therefore could not help revealing yours."

"It was then," she answered, aloud, "that I first felt in my own breast
the danger of loving you. That made me afraid--yes, much afraid."

"And why were you afraid, dear love?" Wat questioned, softly.

"Because in love a woman has to think for herself, and for him who
loves her, also. She sees further on. Difficulties loom larger to her.
They close in upon her soul and fright her. Then, also, she has to
watch within, lest--lest--"

Here the girl stopped and gazed away pensively to the north. She did
not finish her sentence.

"Lest what, Kate?" urged Wat, softly, eager for the ending of her
confession, for the revelation of the maiden's heart was sweet to him.

"Lest her own heart betray her and open its gates to the enemy," she
answered, very low.

She walked on more sharply for a space. She was still thinking, and Wat
had the sense not to interrupt her meditation.

"Yet the chief matter of her thought," she went on, "the thought of
the girl who is wooed and is in danger of loving, is only to keep the
castle so long--and then, when she is sure that the right besieger
blows the horn without the gate, she leaps up with joy to draw the
bolts of the doors, to fling them wide open, to strike the flag that
waves aloft. Then, right glad at heart, she runs to meet her lord in
the gateway, with the keys of her life in her hands."

She turned herself suddenly about with a lovely expression of trust in
her eyes, and impulsively held out both her own hands.

"Take them," she said, "my lord!"

And Wat Gordon took the girl's hands in his, and falling on his knee he
kissed them very tenderly and reverently.

Then he rose, and keeping her left hand still in his right, they walked
along silently for a time into the sunset, their eyes wet because of
the sound of their hearts crying each to each, and the shining of love
glowing richer than the rose of the west on their faces.

It was Wat who spoke first.

"Love," he said, "you will never change when the days darken? You will
stand firm when you hear me spoken against, when you cannot thus
hearken to my voice pleading with you, when there is none to speak well
of me?"

"My lad, was it not then that I loved you most," she replied, very
gently, "when men spoke evil things in my ears, and told me how that
you were unworthy, unknightly, untrue? Was it not even then that my
heart cried out louder than ever, 'I will believe my king before them
all--before the hearing of my friend's ears, the seeing of my mother's
eyes, before the sworn word on the tongue of my father?'"

"Ah, love," said Wat, "it is sweet, greatly sweet, to listen to the
speaking of your heart."

And well might he say it, for it was, indeed, a lovely thing to hear
the throb of faith run rippling through her voice like the sap of the
spring through the quickening forest trees.

"But," he added, with quickly returning melancholy, "doubtless there
are dark days before us, of which, however, we now know the worst.
Will my Kate be sufficient for these things? We have heard what Barra
says--bewitched by what cantrip I know not; but certain it seems that
your father hath ta'en him a new wife, and she hath so worked on his
spirit that he would now deliver you to our enemy over there, on the
isle from which I took you. Suppose that all things went against us,
Kate, and that I was never more than a wanderer and an outcast; suppose
your father ordered, your friends compelled, your own heart told you
tales of our love's hopelessness, or others carried to you evil things
of me--would you be strong enough to keep faith, Kate, to hold my hand
firmly as you do now, and having done all, still be able to stand?"

The girl looked at her lover a little sadly while he was speaking, as
if he had, indeed, a far road to travel ere he could win to the inmost
secret of a girl's heart.

"Wat Gordon," she said, "know you not that there is but one kind of
love? There are not two. The love of the wanton that grasps and takes
only is no love--but light-o'-love. The love that flinches back into
shelter because the wind blows is not love; nor yet that which hides
itself, afraid when the lift darkens or when the thunder broods and the
bolt of heaven is hurled."

There came a kind of awful sweetness on his love's face as she stood
looking up at him which made Wat Gordon tremble in his turn. By his
doubts he had jangled the deepest chords of a heart. He stood in the
presence of things mightier than he had dreamed of. Yet his fear was
natural. He knew himself to be true as God is true. But then he had
everything to gain--this woman who held his hand all things to lose,
everything to endure.

Kate went on, for strong words were stirring in her heart, and the
mystery of a mighty love brooded over the troubled waters of her soul
like the mystery of the seven stars in God's right hand.

"But one kind of love," she said, in a low, hushed voice, which Wat
had to incline his ear to catch. And there came also a crooning rhythm
into her utterance, as if she were inspired and spake prophecies. "How
says the Writing? 'Love suffereth long and is kind.' So at least the
preachers expound it. There is no self in love. Self dies and is buried
as soon as soul has looked into soul through the windows of the eyes,
as soon as heart has throbbed against naked heart, and life been taken
into life. Dead and buried is Self, and over his head the true-lovers
set up a gravestone, with the inscription: 'Love seeketh not her
own--is not easily provoked--thinketh no evil.'"

"Oh love," groaned Wat, "if I could but believe it! But all things are
so grievously against me. I can only bid you wait, and after all there
may be but an exile's fate to share with you, a barren, unfruitful
lordship; while there are those, great and powerful, who could set the
coronet on your brow."

The girl let his hand drop. She stood looking a long while to seaward.
Then with sudden, quick resolve, she turned and faced him. She lifted
her hands and laid them on his shoulders, keeping him at the full
stretch of her arms so that she might look deep down into his heart.

"I am not angry with you, Wat," she said, softly and slowly, "though I
might be. Why will you let me fight this battle alone? Why must I have
faith for both of us? Surely in time you will understand and believe.
Hear me, true lad," she put her hands a little farther over his
shoulders and moved an inch nearer him; "you make me say things that
shame me. But what can I do? I only tell you what I would be proud to
tell all the world, if it stood about us now as it shall stand on the
great Day of Judgment. I would rather drink the drop and bite the crust
by the way-side with you, Wat Gordon; rather be an outcast woman among
the godless gypsy-folk with you--aye, without either matron's ring to
clasp my finger or maiden's snood to bind my hair--than be a king's
wife and sit on a throne with princesses about me for my tire-women."

She had brought her face nearer to his as she spoke, white and drawn
with her love and its expression. Now when she had finished she held
him for a moment fixed with her eyes, as it were nailing the truth
she had spoken to his very soul. Then swiftly changing her mood, she
dropped her arms from his shoulders and moved away along the beach.

Wat hastened after her and walked beside her, watching her. He strove
more than once to take her hand, but she kept it almost petulantly
away from him. The tears were running down her cheeks silently and
steadily. Her underlip was quivering. The girl who had been brave for
two, now shook like a leaf. They came to the corner of the inland cliff
of Fiara, which had gradually withdrawn itself farther and farther up
the beach, as the tide-race swept more and more sand along the northern
front of the inland. A rowan-tree grew out of a cleft. Its trunk
projected some feet horizontally before it turned upward. Kate leaned
against it and buried her face in her hands.

Wat stood close beside her, longing with all his nature to touch her,
to comfort her; but something held him back. He felt within him that
caressing was not her mood.

"Hearken, sweet love," he said, beseechingly, clasping his hands over
each other in an agony of helpless desire; "I also have something to
say to you."

"Oh, you should not have done it," she said, looking at him through
her streaming tears; "you ought not to have let me say it. You should
have believed without needing me to tell you. But now I have told you,
I shall never be my own again; and some day you will think that I have
been too fond, too sudden--"

"Kate," said Wat, all himself again at her words, and coming
masterfully forward to take her by the wrists. He knelt on one knee
before her, holding her in his turn, almost paining her by the
intensity of his grasp. "Kate, you shall listen to me. You blame me
wrongly; I have not indeed, to-day, told you of _my_ faith, of _my_
devotion, of the certainty of _my_ standing firm through all the
darkness that is to come. And I will tell you why."

"Yes," said the girl, a little breathlessly; "tell me why."

"Because," said Wat, looking straight at her, "you never doubted these
things even once. You knew me better, aye, even when you flouted me,
set me back, treated me as a child, even when others spoke to you of
my lightness, told you of my sins and wrong-doings. I defy you, Kate
McGhie," he continued, his voice rising--"I defy you to say that there
ever was a moment when you honestly doubted my love, when you ever
dreamed that I could love any but you--so much as an instant when the
thought that I might forget or be false to you had a lodgment in your
heart. Kate, I leave it to yourself to say."

This is the generous uncandor which touches good women to the heart.
For Wat was not answering the real accusation she had brought against
him--that he had not believed her, but had continued to doubt her in
the face of her truest words and most speaking actions.

"Ah, Wat," she said, surrendering at once, "forgive me. It is true. I
did not ever doubt you."

She smiled at him a moment through her tears.

"I knew all too well that you loved me--silly lad," she said; "I saw in
your eyes what you thought before you ever told me--and even now I have
to prompt you to sweet speeches, dear Sir Snail!"

At this encouragement Wat would gladly have drawn her closer to him,
but the girl began to walk back towards their heather-grown shelter.

"Yet I care not," she said. "After all, 'tis a great thing to get one's
follies over in youth. And you are my folly, lad--a grievous one, it
is true, but nevertheless one that now I could ill do without. Nay,"
she went on, seeing him at this point ready to encroach, "not that
to-night, Wat. All is said that needs to be said. Let us return."

And so they walked soberly and silently to the wide-halled chamber
recessed in the ancient sea-cliff. Kate paused ere they entered, and
held her face up with a world of sweet surrender in it for Wat to kiss
at his will.

"Dear love," she said, softly, "I beseech you do not distrust me any
more. By this and by this, know that I am all your own. Once you made
me say it. Now of mine own will I do it."

She spoke the last words shyly; then swiftly, as one that takes great
courage on the edge of flight:

"Bend down your ear, laddie," she said, and paused while one might
count a score.

Wat listened keenly, afraid that his own heart should beat too loud for
him to catch every precious word.

"I love you so that I would gladly die to give you perfect happiness
even for a day," she whispered.

And she vanished within, without so much as bidding him good-night.



CHAPTER XXXVIII

MISFORTUNATE COLIN


The completeness of the peace and content which reigned on Fiara was
only equalled by the fierceness of the storm of passion and hellish
anger which broke over Suliscanna on the day after the chief's arrival.
It was already late in the forenoon when a messenger, haggard and half
blind with terror and the dying out of the drink in his brain, brought
to the house of the chief the news of the destruction of the boats and
the flight of the prisoners.

Barra rose to his feet. His hand instinctively groped for a dagger, and
not finding it, he struck the man to the ground with his clinched fist.
During the night he had probably been the only sober man on the island.
When he went out he found a pale and terror-stricken population.
Women peered anxiously at him from their hovels or scudded among the
scattered bowlders on the hill, with children tagging wearily after
them and clinging to their skirts.

As he came near the landing-place a woman skirled suddenly from the
back of a rock. The wild voice startled him. It was like the crying of
the death-keen.

"Who is that?" demanded Barra of his nearest henchman.

"'Tis the wife of the watchman, Misfortunate Colin," replied Alister
McAlister, who this morning had somehow accomplished the gravity of
a judge on circuit. He had been all night in attendance outside the
chief's door--so that, although he had carried out his declared
intentions to the letter, he was yet wholly guiltless of the damning
negligence which the Lord of Barra was now about to investigate and
punish.

Presently the Calf and the Killer were discovered, sleeping the sleep
of the greatly intoxicated. They still lay with Wat's rope about them,
clasped in fraternal arms, their breaths combining to make one generous
steam of Hollands gin. Misfortunate Colin lay as he had fallen, with
the keys of the dungeon tucked under his belt. The chief turned him
over with his foot.

"Nail him up to that door by the hands and feet!" he ordered, briefly,
looking at the man with cold, malevolent eyes.

A woman's shriek rang out, and like a mænad she came flying down the
hill, loose-haired, wild-eyed, and flung herself down, grovelling
bestially at Barra's feet.

"Mercy, master of life and death!" she cried, clasping him firmly by
the knees; "all misfortunes fall on my man. And this is not his fault.
All the island was even as he is."

"But all the island had not the charge of a prisoner," cried Barra.

Then without further question men approached to seize the man of fated
fortunes, and he would doubtless have been immediately crucified on the
door which he had failed to guard but for the interference of Mistress
McAlister.

She came fearlessly forth from her adjacent dwelling, clad in her
decent white cap and apron, looking snod and wiselike as if she had
been going to the Kirk of Colmonel on a sacrament Sabbath. Even as
Barra looked at her he was recalled to himself. To him she represented
that civilization from which he had so recently come, and which looked
askance on the wild vengeances that were expected and even thought
proper among the clansmen of Suliscanna.

"My lord," she said, "there was one man lang syne that was crucified
with nails for the sins of the people. Be kinder to poor Colin. Tie him
up with ropes, lest his blood be on your head, and ye win not within
the mercy of the Crucified."

Now though when abroad he made a pretence of religious fervor for
political purposes, in reality Barra was purely pagan and cared nothing
for Bess's parable. Nevertheless, he acknowledged tacitly the force of
an outside civilization and another code of justice, speaking to him in
the person of the woman from Ayrshire.

"Tie him up with ropes," he commanded, abruptly.

And so in a trice the Misfortunate Colin was secured to the door of
the dungeon of which he had proved himself so inefficient a guard, his
arms fixed by the wrists to the corners of it, and his heavy, drunken
head rolling loosely from side to side upon his breast. His wife knelt
at his feet, but without daring so much as to touch him with a finger.
Round his neck swung the keys, the emblem of his broken trust. As for
the Calf and the Killer, they were flung, bound as they were, into the
dungeon, where upon awaking their seeming fraternal amity suddenly gave
way, and they bit and butted at each other to the extent of their bonds
with mutual recriminations and accusations of treachery.

Barra surveyed carefully every trace which had been left of the manner
of the prisoners' escape. But for the present, at least, he could come
to no conclusion, save that they had escaped in a boat, probably with
the help of Wise Jan. He judged also that, thanks to this excellent
navigator, the fugitives were by this time far beyond the reach of his
present vengeance. Nevertheless he left nothing untried. He climbed
the heights of Lianacraig and looked out seaward and northward. But he
could see nothing upon the black ridge of the central cliffs of Fiara,
and nothing in the gloomy strait which separated it from the opposite
rock-wall of Suliscanna. All in that direction was warded by the race
of the Suck, ridging dangerously on either side and tailing away to the
north in a jabble of confused water.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile, upon Fiara Wise Jan ran his errands and gathered his
drift-wood under the orders of the master-at-arms, while Wat and Kate,
content to dwell together in an innocent garden of Eden, a garden
from which the serpent was for the moment excluded, walked hand in
hand under the shelter of the long central cliff-line of the isle on
which they had found shelter. The history of their love's growth was
a constant marvel to them, and their chief interest and happiness now
lay in unravelling the why and the wherefore of each incident in their
pasts. How at such a time one thought this--how at such another they
both thought the same identical thing--though one was interned in a
Dutch prison and the other tossing on the waters of the North Sea. Now
that they were fully assured as to their mutual loves--for even Wat had
ceased to doubt, if not to marvel--they had time and to spare for the
comparison of their feelings in the past, and for the most exhaustive
examination of their possibilities in the future.

"Tell me a tale," commanded Kate, as they sat together on the
projecting part of the trunk of the rowan-tree set in the angle of the
cliff.

"Which tale?" asked Wat, promptly, as if there were only two in the
world--as indeed there were, for them. Kate sighed at the impossibility
of having both at once--the wondrous tale of their past, and the yet
more wondrous and aureate tale of their future.

"Tell me how you first loved me, and when, and why, and how much?" she
said, since perforce she had to choose one.

Then Wat, delving always further and further into the past, produced
instance after instance to prove that ever since he had seen her, known
her, hearkened to her voice, there had not been a moment when he had
not loved her.

And Kate, resting the dusky tangle of her soft curls on his shoulder,
sighed again and again with a nestling bliss to listen to tale so sweet.

"You have forgotten about what you thought coming up the stairs in
Zaandpoort Street," she would correct. For she knew the track of the
story-teller by heart, and like a child with a favorite fairy tale, she
resented omissions almost as much as she suspected the genuineness of
additions.

"Now tell me more about seeing me lying on Maisie's lap with hands
clasped behind my head. And about what you thought then."

And so most innocently she would put her hands in the very position it
was Wat's duty to describe, which naturally for some moments disturbed
his ideas and interfered with the continuity of the history.

But as soon as they turned homeward they became, after their manner,
severely practical.

"Kate," said Wat, as they walked together--Wat's hand mostly on his
sweetheart's shoulder, after the manner of school-boys that are
comrades--"'tis high time we were taking thought for our escape. Each
day makes the coming of the ship to carry off Barra and his retinue a
nearer possibility."

Kate sighed as she looked on the long barrier of the northern breakers
whitening the horizon, and then at the mellow floods of peaceful light
which poured in from the west, where the seabirds were circling and
diving.

"And leave all this," she said, wistfully, "and you?"

"Nay, no need to leave me--if you will stay with me," quoth Wat,
cheerfully; "but to come with me to mine own land, to be my love and my
queen."

"And what would you do with me there?" she said, looking up at him.
"Would not you be an outlaw, and I no better than an encumbrance while
you remain in hiding?"

"I think not that the pursuit is so keen as it was before the king
began to protect those of his own religion," answered Wat. "I believe
we should find that the worst of the shower had slacked. And then there
is always the old tower in the middle of the loch. Since my mother's
death no one has dwelt in it. We would be sure of a shelter there."

Kate shook her head wistfully, like one with the same desires but
better knowledge.

"Wat, my dear," she made him answer, "you speak by the heart, and it
is my heart also, God knows; but now I must speak a word or two by the
head. You and I must e'en bide a wee and wait. It is better so. I will
not be a charge on you. If I am not welcome at home, why, there is
always sweet Grizel McCulloch at the Ardwell to whom I can go. She will
gladly give me a hiding-place and a bite for company's sake till the
blast goes by. If all speak the truth in Holland where we come from, it
will not be long ere the king has filled up the measure of his folly."

"In that case I might have to fight for the fool and his folly both,"
said Wat, quietly.

"Aye, there it is!" cried Kate; "a lass in her heart cares nought for
king or prince when once she has given herself to love. But a man will
hold to his own way of it, and put in peril his happiness and the
happiness of another in order to have the right shade of color set upon
the cushions of the throne."

Wat smiled at her yet more gently.

"In Holland," he said, "I fought for the prince and was true to him;
but it is another matter here, where we are under the rule and sway of
the anointed king of the ancient Scottish name."

"Ah, well, Wat," said Kate, "that is not my thought of it, as well
you know. But I do not love you so little, lad, that I could think
the less of you for standing by your colors, even though with your
own eyes ye have seen that king make of Scotland little better than a
hunting-field."

"James Stuart is my king as surely as Kate McGhie is my love," said
Wat, mighty gravely. "I argue as little about one as the other."

Kate touched his arm gently.

"Dear love--no," she said. "Do not let us dispute any more. You are
you, and so you love me true. You shall fight for what king you will,
only keep safe your heart and life for me--for they are all I have."

They had reached the great chamber in the cliff which lay open to the
north, and in which Jack Scarlett already had his cooking-fire of
charcoal alight for the evening meal. A hundred yards from the entrance
there met them a sweet and appetizing smell of fresh sea-fish broiling
in the ashes. For Wise Jan lay most of his spare time fishing out on a
jutting rock, where the swirl of the Suck sent a back-spang of current
careering anglewise along the northern edge of the Fiara.

"Jack," said Wat, as they came in, "I think that we should get away
from the island as soon as we can."

"And has it taken you all this time to come to that conclusion?" cried
old Jack, without looking up, plowtering discontentedly in the red
embers with a burned stick.

"The new moon will now give us nearly three hours' light--enough for
our purpose," said Wat, "and Wise Jan here can help us to put our old
boat in readiness."

"Why not the new and brave one you hid in the water-passage? I suppose
it is there in safety still?" said Scarlett.

"Aye," replied Wat, "but unless you want to be cast away the second
time in the tumble of the Suck, you will most carefully leave that boat
alone; for the current races by at either end, and except for those
who have spent their lives in piloting their way through the intricate
passages of the reefs and know their every glide and swirl, it is
impossible to reach the open sea from the Sound of Suliscanna."

"How then?" grumbled Scarlett, for these things of the sea were not in
his province, and he resented the reference of any question to him.
"Let those that stomach cold salt-water agree about the road over it.
My parish begins when there is solid earth beneath my feet."

Wat answered him clearly, scoring the points on his fingers as he made
them.

"First we have the old boat, which on my first coming hither I found
floating in the northern bay and brought ashore. Well, we must get Jan
to rig her with the mast out of the larger boat in the water-cave, and
equip her with the oars out of that also. Then, since the Suck sweeps
past us on the east, and there is a strong tide-race to the west, we
must steer our way directly out from the northern shore of Fiara,
which is indeed the only direction in which the sea is anyway clear.
We shall keep steadily on till we find the waters to the east calm and
practicable, for the fretting of the tide on the shoreward skerries
cannot last long out on the open sea."

Scarlett nodded his head. It was all right, he thought. He was ready to
adventure in any direction which did not involve another wrestle with
the unfriendly and unwholesome Suck of Suliscanna.

"This very night," quoth Wat, to close the discussion, "will I swim
over and bring back the needful things for our departure in the boat
itself. It is a pity, indeed, that we cannot take her with us."

Kate looked at him with wonderful changeful eyes, a lingering regard
that dwelt tenderly on him. She said nothing with her tongue, but her
eyes spoke for her. They were of the tenderest brown immediately about
the dark pupils, then of a clear hazel, which merged into the most
sweet and translucent gray, like the first dawn of a May morning.

"Take care of yourself for me," they said; "you are all my earthly
treasure."

For this is the universal language of loving women's eyes in times of
danger, ever since Eve clave to her husband in the night solace outside
the wall of Paradise, and they twain became one flesh.



CHAPTER XXXIX

SATAN SPIES OUT PARADISE


As he had expected, Wat found the boat safely anchored in its rocky
haven, where the water lay dead and still as in a tank. He drew himself
on board, dripping salt-water all over the inside from his lithe body
and scanty clothing. He was busying himself loosening the oars and
mast, which had been tied along the side, when he heard, faintly but
unmistakably, the sound of a human voice speaking.

At first Wat, busy with his work, paid no heed. He supposed it must be
Scarlett talking to Wise Jan, and idly wondered why he spoke so loud.
But in a moment he remembered that the rocks of Fiara and the deep
Sound lay between him and his companions.

Yet quite clearly and continuously some one was certainly speaking, and
at no great distance either. As before, the cave was not quite dark,
for the moon had risen, and the boat lay close by the entrance which
gave upon the Sound. Wat hastened to climb up on one of the rocky walls
which formed the edge of the tiny haven in which the vessel floated.
The water-way which constituted the floor of the cave slept black
beneath, a long, almost invisible heave passing up from without, which
was just the great Atlantic Sea breathing in its sleep. But so smooth
were these undulations that hardly a swish on the projections of the
walls told of their passage. Outward from where Wat stood the great
lane of water gradually brightened to the huge square of the sea-door.
Inward it grew blacker and more gloomy, till the young man's eye could
not trace it farther into the solemn bosom of the rock. It was out of
this inner gloom that the voice was proceeding.

Presently the single voice became two, and Wat could hear the words
of one speaker, who spoke low and almost delicately, and then of
another who more gruffly and briefly replied. From the darkness of the
inner cavern a new sound was borne to Wat's ear--the panting of men
in exertion, and the little splash made by the swimmer as he changes
position, or when a wavelet, running diagonally, laps against his
breast. It is an unmistakable sound, and yet it is no louder than the
plunge of a leaping fish that falls back again into the water.

Wat lay motionless on his ledge. He had lifted the moorings from the
stern of the boat in the rock basin behind him, and he could hear
that she had swung round and that her timbers were rasping gently
against the stone pier. Wat prayed that the swimmers might not hear the
noise. The uneasy water pavement of the cavern swayed beneath him with
measured undulations, glimmering with that pale phosphorescence which
is the deceiving ghost of true illumination. Yet it was light enough
for Wat to observe the heads of the men who swam, as they emerged into
its glow out of the perfect darkness of the inner cave.

There was one who led, swimming a good half-dozen strokes in advance of
the others.

"We cannot be far from the north gate now, surely," said a voice, which
Wat instantly recognized as that of Barra, "if the _cailleach_ hath
told the truth and her man did really find his way to the island of
Fiara by this passage."

The man who swam in the middle of the three who followed Barra only
grunted in reply. Wat could see the shapeless round of his head but
dimly; nevertheless, he knew that it was the featureless, scarred
visage of Haxo the Bull which glared like a death's-head above the
water in the wake of his arch-enemy. And he had no doubt that on either
side of him swam the Calf and the Killer, the other members of that
noble trinity.

The heads on the water grew smaller and blacker as they passed him, and
the men swam on towards the outer entrance of the cave. Presently they
came underneath the great span of the arch. Wat could see Barra drag
himself out of the water and clamber on a rocky point which jutted out
into the Sound. The three followers lifted themselves after him, and
sank on the rocks in attitudes of fatigue. But Barra stood erect, his
slim figure so black against the dim moonlight without that he might
have been wearing his court suit of sable velvet, although actually he
was naked to the waist.

So there on the pinnacle he stood, gazing silently on the sleeping isle
of Fiara, even as Satan might have gazed (so Wat Gordon thought) on the
garden--close to that first delicious Paradise in which all unconscious
Adam wandered with his Eve.

Long he stood thus, fixed in contemplation, revolving evilest thoughts
and intents, his three attendant fiends crouched behind him in a
shapeless mass upon the dark rocks, none of them daring to interrupt
his musings.

Then quite abruptly Barra descended and plunged once more into the
water. Lochinvar in his turn stood erect and made ready to follow him,
for he feared that his enemies were about to cross the Sound and attack
on the instant the little company waiting his own return under the
cliffs of the northern shore.

But he heard Barra say, "It is enough for to-night. Let us return to
the harbor. The _cailleach_ spoke the truth."

Then without further speech between them, the four men swam past him
and disappeared, faint wreathings and smears of phosphorescence
trailing after them out of the gloom into which they had vanished.

Wat drew a long breath as they were lost to sight. He knew that he had
been assisting at one of the last scenes in Barra's complete and minute
exploration of the isle--every cave and passage, every entrance to
and outgate from it. It was just such an undertaking as he might have
expected from a man so resolute as Barra, with a retinue as desperate
as Haxo the Bull, his Calf, and his Killer.

Now, indeed, he was aware that there was no time to be lost in getting
away from this isle of Fiara, which had brought him so many happy
hours. Adam knew that the spoiler had looked upon his demi-Paradise,
and that Eve herself was in danger.

Wat waited a while before he dared to bring out the boat and row across
the Sound to the place where Scarlett and Kate were waiting for him. He
found Scarlett philosophically seated with his back against a rock, but
Kate moved uneasily about upon the shore, clasping her hands in great
anxiety.

"O Wat," she said, "my dear, my dear, I thought some ill chance had
befallen you. Wellnigh had I come to seek you, but for your command to
bide with Scarlett."

"And it is indeed well, Kate," he answered, smiling a little, "that you
were thus mindful of my words."

Then Wat told them all that he had seen and heard, till even Scarlett
was impressed by the imminence of their needs. So without delaying a
moment the three took such burdens as they could carry, and set out to
cross the ridge of Fiara to the place where Wise Jan Pettigrew waited
beside their first boat with everything ready to push off. But before
they left the boat which Wat had brought out of the water-cavern, Wat
bade Scarlett help him to load her with stones from the beach.

With a mallet he knocked out the plug under the stern seat, and, as
before, sunk her in mid-channel. Then he swam ashore, and followed Kate
and Scarlett over to the northern side of the island.

The moon was just dipping below the horizon when, with Kate in the
stern and Wise Jan handling the boat to a marvel, they left the
beautiful island behind them.

Kate drew in a long breath, and her hand rested a moment on Wat's in
the darkness. It was the isle of her first assurance and her dawning
happiness. No place could ever be quite the same to her. There it
lay, Fiara, the Isle of Bliss, looming gray against the dark, solemn,
bird-haunted front of Lianacraig. Should she ever see it more? There
was the dear rowan-tree at the angle of the wall where they had so
often sat, and there was the sweet sickle-sweep of white sand by which
they had so often walked. A little farther over the dusk and sleeping
Sound was Suliscanna, on which stood Bess Landsborough's house, and
that smoky inner room where her love had first taken her to his heart,
coming to her like a vision out of the night.

But to all Kate's questionings there came back no answer save the
hoarse threatening growl of the Suck of Suliscanna arching itself
angrily to the right, the gentle flap of the small sheet above, and the
talking clatter of the wavelets below the stem as they glided away out
into the night.

Behind them the surf was roaring on the rocks which, like the black
fins of sharks, jutted, toothed and threatening, from the tail-end of
the Suck of Suliscanna. There came also a chill sough of wind from
the west, and with it, rising as it were from the ocean depths, the
dead sea-mist, which swelled and eddied about the boat of our four
travellers. Presently the bright reflection of the stars on the crest
of each coming wave, as Wat lay in the stern and watched, dimmed
itself. The twinkling rays were shorn. Their diffused sparkling first
dulled to a point, and then became extinguished altogether as the
voyagers were enveloped in the gray uncanny smother.

It was their first touch of ill-luck. Since Wat and Scarlett had left
Holland on their quest, save for their shipwreck all had gone well
with them. But now, on the verge of success, they were caught by the
sea-mist, and in that place of dangerous currents and deadly rocks
they had to submit to be carried they knew not where, nor yet into
what unseen dangers of the deep. Wise Jan set his hand high over the
side, and the sea-fog ran visibly through his fingers like water in a
mill-race. Evidently they were moving fast in some direction, and the
current was carrying them swiftly and strongly onward without their
being able to alter or amend their destination.

Wat went astern and sat beside Kate. Wise Jan had taken down the sail.
It was useless to them till they could see in what direction they were
being carried. Scarlett grumbled steadily and inarticulately amidships;
but Wat and Kate sat with their hands locked in each other's, silent
all through the night.

The morn came slowly. The salt, steamy vapor rolled and swirled
about them, brightening and darkening with alternate threat and
promise--both, however, equally illusive.

It was broad day when the lift of heaven suddenly cleared. The sun
looked slantways in upon them, opening a way into the heart of the
mist, like a rapier thrust by a master's wrist. The clouds dispersed
before the clear shining, as though it needed but that single stab
to prick the airy bladder of their pretension. The wreaths of vapor
trailed themselves away, breaking into steamy garlands and flat patches
with scalloped edges as they went. The blue sky stooped over on either
side and hooked itself permanently on to the blue sea-floor.

And lo! there they were at the south end of Suliscanna, and there was
the schooner _Sea Unicorn_ just coming out from her anchorage under
full sail within two hundred yards of them.

It was no use to row or to set the sail. Our three were so taken with
deadly apprehension that they sat quite still as the vessel approached.
The captain hailed them from his station by the helm, but neither Wat
nor Scarlett had the heart to reply. A boat was lowered, and in a few
moments Wat and Kate were being received on board the _Sea Unicorn_, of
Poole, by Captain Smith, her owner and master.

And there before them, as they looked across the deck from the side
up which they had come, were seated three people--a man of stately
presence, gray-headed and erect, a lady of doubtful years and charms
not wholly departed--and Barra.

The old man rose and came forward towards Kate with a strange
expression of apology and appeal on his face.

"Kate, my lass!" said he.

"My father!" cried the girl, taking, however, no step towards him, but
keeping her hold of Wat Gordon's hand.

But Wat was staring at the lady who sat beside Barra.

"My Lady Wellwood!" he said, in utter astonishment.

Barra smiled his thin, acrid, unmoved smile.

"You mistake, sir," he said; "not now my Lady Wellwood, but the fair
bride of Roger McGhie and the very charming mistress of his mansion of
Balmaghie."



CHAPTER XL

SERPENT'S EGGS


For a little we must leave both the narrow, sea-barriered, rock-girt
bounds of Suliscanna and the flat, hard-won, and yet more hardly kept
fields and polders of the Netherlands for the moorish pastures, the
green, changeful woodlands, the flowery water-meadows of Balmaghie. It
is necessary at this point to take a cast back in our story and tell of
the strange things which have befallen Roger McGhie since we saw him at
our tale's beginning, making his farewells by the stirrup-leather of my
Lady Wellwood.

It was perhaps natural that the laird of Balmaghie, delicate of body,
retiring of habit, a recluse from the society of roaring bears like Lag
and Baldoon, who were his immediate neighbors, should succumb readily
enough to the fascinations of my Lady Wellwood. It is not so obvious,
on the other hand, why she found pleasure in the company of Roger
McGhie.

It may be that the caustic kindliness, the flavor of antique chivalry,
which had compelled to more than liking the unwonted heart of John
Graham of Claverhouse, also had power to fascinate the widow of the
Duke of Wellwood. That title had been one of the late king's making,
and in the absence of heirs direct, it had lapsed immediately on the
death of the king's minister and administrator in Scotland, while the
original impoverished earldom of Wellwood had gone back to a kinsman
remotely collateral. So my lady never forgot that she was not "the
dowager" merely, but still, in the face of all--Susannah, first and
only Duchess of Wellwood.

Nevertheless, to her credit, perhaps, as a woman of discernment,
she married Roger McGhie, and that though far younger, richer, and
gallanter men stood ready at her call. But the needy king and his
new ministry had stripped her estates of most that her husband had
so painfully gathered. Little was left her but the barren heritages
of Grenoch--where, indeed, was heather enough and granite to spare,
but where crops were few and scanty, and where even meadow-hay had a
fashion of vanishing in the night whenever the Dee water took it into
its head to sweep through the narrow Lane, raising the loch till it
overflowed the low-lying meads nearly to the house-door of Grenoch
itself.

Then, on the other hand, the acres of Balmaghie were undoubtedly broad,
the finances of the laird unhurt by government exactions, and the house
of Balmaghie a wide and pleasant place compared with the little square
block-house of the Grenoch, sitting squatly like a moorhen's-nest on
its verge of reedy loch.

So the Lady Susannah became, not long after Kate betook herself to
Holland, the mistress of Balmaghie; but from some feeling of restraint
or shame Roger McGhie had hitherto carefully kept the matter from his
daughter, whose sentiments in the matter he had good reasons to suspect.

It had not seemed the least of the attractions of the house of
Balmaghie to my lady that at the time of her marriage it wanted the
presence of the girl who till now had been its mistress. And she
resolved that, once out, Kate should abide so--that is, till the time
came when a match politically and socially suitable could be found
for the girl, and also a home not too near the well-trimmed garden
pleasances of Balmaghie.

So when Murdo McAlister, Lord of Barra, arrived at the dismantled
fortalice of Thrieve as the guest of my Lord Maxwell, and word
was brought that the exile desired an audience with "the lady of
Balmaghie," the duchess listened complacently enough to the words of
the Lord of Barra and the Small Isles. The courtier dwelt much on the
changes which were so sure to come, the favor of the king's son-in-law,
his own great position in Holland, and the yet greater to be attained
when his Dutch master should take over the throne of Britain.

And we may be sure that my Lord of Barra spoke well. Calmly he told
of the dangerous position of the young maid in Holland; lightly he
referred to his own "rescue" of her in the Street of the Butchery--of
which, indeed, Kate had herself given an account in one of her rare
letters to her father from the city of Amersfort. He told how she was
quartered unsuitably with private soldiers and their wives. But there
he trod on dangerous ground, for in a moment the laird took up his
parable against him.

"Lochinvar and young Earlstoun may indeed be private soldiers in
Dutchdom," said Roger McGhie, bluntly, "but do not forget that they are
very good Galloway gentlemen here."

"Then," said Barra, "they had been greatly the better of remembering it
in the Low Country. I speak with some heat, for I carry here in my side
the unhealed wound dealt me in revenge by the knife of a girl of the
streets whom Wat Gordon of Lochinvar took with him in his flight."

And still pale from his long illness, my Lord Barra in his dress of
black velvet certainly appeared a most interesting figure to my lady of
Balmaghie, who had a natural eye for such.

Then, taking courage from her evident sympathy, he went on to tell how
with the help of Captain Smith of the _Sea Unicorn_, a respectable
magistrate of the county of Dorset, he had again "rescued" Kate McGhie
from her perilous position; how he had aided her to escape to the home
of a lowland woman of good family, the wife of one of his own vassals,
on the safe and suitable island of Suliscanna, to which place he asked
the favor of the company, of "Her Grace"--he desired pardon--of the
Lady Balmaghie and her husband.

Whereupon, with voluble good-will from the lady and a certain dry and
silent acquiescence from Roger McGhie, my Lord of Barra obtained his
request. And so behold them sitting together when the _Sea Unicorn_
overhauled the tide-driven boat of our young adventurers, and the
treacherous sea-mists delivered Kate and her lover into the hands of
the enemies of their loves.

"You are very welcome on board the ship _Sea Unicorn_," said Barra,
bowing to the pair as they stood hand-in-hand on the deck.

Wat could not utter a word, so appalling a hopelessness pressed upon
his spirit, such blank despair tore like an eagle at his heart.

But the lady of Balmaghie smiled upon him, even as of old her Grace the
Duchess of Wellwood had done. Then she shook her head with coquettish
reproach.

"Ah, Lochinvar," she cooed, "what is this we have heard of you? You
come on board the _Sea Unicorn_ off the isle of Suliscanna with one
fair maid; you left the city of Amersfort with another. I fear me you
have as little as ever of the grace of constancy. But after all, young
men, alas! still will be young men. And indeed the age is noways a
constant one!"

And my lady sighed as if the fatal gifts of constancy and continence
had been the ever-present blights of her own life.

Then, suddenly as the lightning that shines from east to west, it
flashed upon Wat how foolish he had been not to tell Kate all the story
of the Little Marie. He realized now how easily, nay, how inevitably,
all that had happened at the prison and among the sand-dunes might be
used to his hurt. So, flushing to the temples, he stood silent.

Kate turned to her lover. A happy light of confidence shone in her eye.

"Tell my lady," she said, "that in her eagerness to think well of you
according to her lights, she has given ear to false rumors. Tell her
that it was to rescue me from the cruel treachery of my Lord Barra that
you broke the prison bars and came over land and sea to take me out of
his hands."

Barra smiled subtly, looking keenly at Wat from under the drooping
eyelids of his triangular eyes, which glittered like the points of
bayonets.

"It is indeed true," said Wat, at last, forcing himself to speak, "that
I--that I escaped out of prison and traced this maid over land and
sea till I found her a captive on the island of Suliscanna. It was my
intention--"

"To return her to her father's care, no doubt," said Barra, dropping
his words carefully, like poison into a bowl.

"To beseech her to wed with me so soon as I should reach the
main-land," said Wat, bravely.

A change came over the countenance of my Lady Wellwood at the words.
Though she had married Roger McGhie, it was not in her nature to let
any former gallant cavalier escape her snares, nor yet to permit her
plans of great political alliances in the future, based upon the girl's
union with Barra, to be brought to naught.

But again the sneering voice of Barra cut the embarrassing silence.

"It was, then, I doubt not, in the company of this lady, whose hand you
hold, that you drugged the jailer of Amersfort, broke the prison, and
escaped. It was this lady who, being well acquainted with the purlieus
of that temple of harlotry, the Hostel of the Coronation, stole three
horses from Sheffell, the landlord, and rode with you and your boon
companion Scarlett--a man false to as many services as he has sworn
allegiance to--out to the sand-dunes of Lis, where you and she abode
till you found a passage to England. In all this you had, doubtless,
the companionship and assistance of no other woman than this lady, whom
with such noble and honorable condescension you now desire to marry.
She it was (declare it briefly, true swain) who lied for you, stole for
you, fought for you, abode with you, died for you--as the catch has it,
'all for love and nothing for reward.'"

At the close of Barra's speech Kate turned to Wat.

"Tell them," she said, "that there was no such woman with you."



CHAPTER XLI

LOVE THAT THINKETH NO EVIL


Wat stood silent, his face turning slowly from red to ashen white.
What an arrant fool he had been, not to tell her all in those sweet
hours on the island of Fiara--a score of Little Maries had mattered
nothing to her then. Then everything would have been plain and easy.
His conscience was indeed perfectly clear. But, partly because with the
willing forgetfulness of an ardent lover he had forgotten, and partly
because he had shrunk from marring with the name of another those
precious hours of blissful communion of which he had hitherto enjoyed
so few, he had neglected to tell Kate the tale. He saw his mistake now.

"Tell them, Wat," urged Kate, confidently, "tell them all."

"Aye, tell them all," repeated Barra, grimly, between his teeth, "tell
them all your late love did for you, beginning with the favors of which
your cousin Will and I were witnesses in the gilded room of the Hostel
of the Coronation. Begin at the bottom--with the lady's shoe and the
toast you drank out of that most worthy cup!"

Wat still stood silent before them. Kate dropped his hand perplexed,
looking into his tragic face with bewildered, uncomprehending eyes.

"Why, Wat, what is the matter, dear love--tell them everything,
whatever it is. Do not fear for me," whispered Kate, her true, earnest
eyes, full of all faith and love, bent upon him without doubt or
question.

"I cannot," he said, hoarsely, at last; "I ought to have told you
before--it is so difficult now. But I will tell you all--there is no
shame in it when all is told. No, do not take my hand till I have
finished."

Then quite clearly and briefly Wat recounted all that had happened
to the Little Marie--not sparing himself in the matter of the Inn of
the Coronation, where he had been found by Will Gordon and Barra, but
chiefly insisting upon the noble self-sacrifice of the girl and her
death, welcome and sweet to her because of her love and repentance.

But the tale was told on board the _Sea Unicorn_ under a double burden
of difficulty. For the teller was conscious that he ought long ago to
have confessed all this to his love; and then the story itself, simple
and beautiful in its facts, was riddled and blasted by the bitter
comments of Barra, and tinctured to base issues by his blighting sneers.

As Wat went on Kate drooped her head on her breast and clasped her
hands before her. Even the love-light was for the moment dimmed in her
proud eyes, but only with indignant tears, that her love should so be
put to shame before those whom she would have given her life to see
compelled to hold him in honor.

The heavy weight of unbelief against which he felt himself pleading in
vain, gradually proved too much for Wat Gordon. He stopped abruptly and
flung his hand impatiently out.

"I cannot go on," he said; "my words are not credited--of what use is
it?"

"As you say, my Lord Lochinvar, of what use is it?" sneered
Barra. "_That_ you know best yourself. You were asked a plain
question--whether the maid who accompanied you on the first part of
your wondrous Ulysses wanderings was the same with whom you arrived on
board the _Sea Unicorn_. To that plain question you have only returned
a very crooked answer. Have you nothing else that you can say to finish
the lie in a more workmanlike fashion?"

"Jack Scarlett--Scarlett, come hither!" Wat cried, suddenly.

And the master-at-arms, who very characteristically had gone forward to
berth with the sailors, came aft as the men on deck passed the word for
him.

"Will you tell this lady," said Wat, "what you know of my acquaintance
with the Little Marie?"

Whereupon, soberly and plainly, like a soldier, John Scarlett told his
tale. But for all the effect it had upon the listeners he might just as
well have spoken it to the solan-geese diving in the bay. Wat saw the
unbelief settle deeper on the face of Roger McGhie, and the very demon
of jealousy and malice wink from under the eyelids of my Lady Wellwood.

"I have a question to ask you, my noble captain of various services,"
said Barra, "a question concerning this girl and your gallant
companion. What did you first think when this Marie joined you with
the horses--in page's dress, as I have heard you say--and what when
she told you that she had stabbed your friend's enemy and hers to the
death?"

"I thought what any other man would think," answered Scarlett,
brusquely.

"And afterwards among the sand-dunes of Lis you discovered that all
this devotion arose merely from noble, pure, unselfish, platonic love?"

The old soldier was more than a little perplexed by Barra's phrases,
which he did not fully understand.

"Yes," he answered at last, with a hesitation which told more against
his story than all he had said before.

Barra was quick to seize his advantage.

"You see how faithfully these comrades stick to each other--how
touching is such fidelity. The intention is so excellent, even when
truth looks out in spite of them through the little joins in the
patchwork."

"God!" cried Scarlett, fiercely. "I would I had you five minutes at
a rapier's end for a posturing, lying knave--a pitiful, putty-faced
dog! I cannot answer your words, though I know them to be mere
tongue-shuffling. But with my sword--yes, I could answer with that!"

Barra pointed to his side.

"Had your friend--your friend's friend, I should say--not had me at her
dagger's end, I should have been most honored. But the lady has spoilt
my attack and parry for many a day. Nevertheless, I suffered in a good
cause. For without that our general lover had hardly been allowed to
enjoy the Arcadian felicities of the sand-dunes of Lis, nor yet his
more recent, and I doubt not as agreeable, retirement to the caves and
sea-beaches of my poor island of Fiara."

"You are the devil," cried Scarlett, writhing in fury. "But I shall
live to see you damned one day!"

But Barra only smiled as he turned to confer apart a while with Roger
McGhie and my lady.

Kate walked to the bulwarks and looked over. Wat stood his ground on
the spot on which he had told his story; but Scarlett, as soon as he
had finished, stalked away with as much dignity as upon short notice he
could import into a pair of very untrustworthy sea-legs.

When the conference was over it was Roger McGhie who spoke, very
quietly and gently, as was ever his ancient wont.

"Kate, my lass," he said, "I have never compelled you to aught all my
life--rather it hath been the other way, perhaps too much. And I will
not urge you now. Do you still wish to forsake your father for this
man, whose tale you have heard--a tale which, whatever of truth may
be in it, he hath certainly hid from you as long as possible? Or will
you return to your own home with me, your father, and with this noble
lady, to whom I give you as a daughter?"

Kate stood clasping her hands nervously and looking from one to the
other of them.

But it was to Wat that she spoke.

"My true-love, I do not distrust you--do not think that," she said,
with her lips pale and trembling, her color coming and going. "I
believe every word in spite of them all. Aye, and shall always believe
you. For, indeed, I cannot do otherwise and live. But oh, my lad" (here
for the first time she broke into a storm of sobs), "if you had only
trusted me--only told me--I should not have cared. She could not help
loving you--but it was I whom you loved all the while."

Wat came nearer to her. She gave him her hand again.

"Nevertheless, for this time I must go with my father, since he bids
me. But be brave, Wat, dear lad," she went on; "I believe in you
always. The good days will come, and good day or bad day, remember that
I shall be ready for you whenever you call me to come to you!"

In a moment they were in each other's arms.

"I will come!" whispered Wat Gordon in her ear; "if I be alive, as God
sees me, I will come to you when and where you need me."

Roger McGhie had turned his back on them. My lady's eyes glittered with
malice and jealousy, but only my Lord Barra found a word to say.

"Most touching!" he sneered, "much more so indeed than facts--but
perhaps hardly so convincing."

       *       *       *       *       *

Kate had gone below. The others still remained upon the deck. The _Sea
Unicorn_ was heading directly for the main-land.

Barra pointed to the blue hills which were slowly changing into gray
olive on the lower slopes as the ship neared the land.

"We are honored," he said, "with the company of so brave a lover and
one so successful. But we would not keep him from other conquests. So,
since I, Murdo of Barra, do not use the daggers of harlots, nor yet
the crumbling walls of towers, to crush those who hate me, I give you,
sir, your liberty, which I hope you will use wisely, in order that you
may retrieve a portion of that honor which by birth is yours. I will
set your companion and yourself on shore at the nearest point of land
without any conditions whatsoever."

Wat bowed. He did not pay much attention. He was thinking rather of
Kate's last words. Barra went over to the captain and entered into
earnest talk with him.

It was the turn of the lady of Balmaghie. She came over to where Wat
was standing by the side of the ship.

"You thought me beautiful once, or at least you told me so, Lochinvar,"
she said, laying her hand on his.

"I think you as beautiful to-day as ever I thought you," answered Wat,
with a certain weary diplomacy. If the Mammon of Unrighteousness must
have the care of the Beloved, it might be as well to make a friend of
Mammon.

"Yet you have sought other and younger loves"--she purred her words
softly at him--"you have been unfaithful to the old days when it was
not less than heaven for you to kiss my hand or to carry my fan."

"Unfaithful!" said Wat, laughing a little hard laugh; "yet your
ladyship hath twice been wedded to men of your own choice, whilst I
remain lonely, a wanderer, companionless."

"You will ever be welcome at the House of Balmaghie," she said, laying
her hand on his.

Wat looked up eagerly. It was not an invitation he had looked for from
the duchess on this side the grave.

"Ever most welcome," repeated my lady, looking tenderly at him.
"Indeed, gladly would I endeavor to comfort you if ever you come to us
in sore trouble."

Wat turned away disappointed. He would certainly look for his
consolation from another source, if ever he came within reach of the
House of Balmaghie.

"I thank you, my lady," said Wat. "At present my heart is too heavy to
permit me more fully to express my gratitude."

He spoke the words mechanically, without setting a meaning to them. He
listened to his own lips speaking as if they had been another's, and
wondered what they found to say.

It was the afternoon when at last the boat was lowered to put Wat and
Scarlett ashore. They were already stepping across the deck to the
ship's side when Kate appeared at the top of the ladder which led up
from the cabin. She walked straight to where Wat was standing and held
out both her hands.

"I am yours; remember, I shall ever be ready," she said, quite clearly.

"And I," he said, more softly, "will come to you were it across the
world. Only in your hour of need send me once again the heart of gold
for a sign."

And he took her token from his neck, touched it with his lips, and gave
it back to her.

"Till you need me, keep it!" he said, and so stooped and kissed her on
the forehead before them all.

Then, without looking back, he followed Scarlett down the ladder into
the boat.



CHAPTER XLII

THE FIERY CROSS


Wat and Scarlett found themselves landed in a country which to all
intents was one both savage and hostile. It was not indeed Barra's
country, but the danger was scarcely less on that account. They were
strangers and Sassenach. Wat carried gold in his belt, more than many
a Highland chief had ever seen at one time in his life--gold which at
Perth or Inverness could be exchanged for a prince's wealth of swords
and daggers, pistols and fighting-gear.

It was in a little land-locked bay that they were disembarked. Great
slaty purple mountains stretched away to the north; a range of lower
hills, cut down to the roots by the narrow cleft of a pass, warded
the bay to the east; while to the south the comrades looked out
on a wilderness of isles and islets, reefs and spouting skerries,
which foamed and whitened as the black iron teeth of the rock showed
themselves, and the slow swell of the Atlantic came lumbering and
arching in.

Wat and Scarlett sat down on the shore, which stretched away lonely and
barren for miles on either side of them. They watched the boat return
to the ship, as she lay with her sails backed, and shivering in the
wind, waiting only for the crew to come on board before sailing for the
south.

A slight figure could be seen immediately above the bulwark on the
land side. Wat rose to his feet and waved his hand. The white speck
signalled a reply, and Kate McGhie, the maid of his love, carried the
heart of gold away with her to the lands of the south, and the spaces
of the sea widened every moment between the truest lovers the world
held.

Scarlett and Wat sat a long time watching the ship dwindling into a
mere tower of whiteness in the distance, the seas closing bluer and
bluer about her, and the whole universe growing lonely behind her,
wanting the Beloved.

At last Scarlett spoke.

"Lad, have ye had enough of adventures," he said, more sadly than
was his wont, "or are ye as keen after them as ever? It seems that
we have now put ourselves in every man's ill graces, so far as I can
see. Whether James or William bear the gree to us signifies not a jot;
for if James, then the first king's man that comes across us holds
you for the old outlawry in the matter of wounding my Lord Wellwood,
and me for taking your side when I brought you the king's letter to
Brederode; and if William wear the crown, lo, for prison-breaking and
manslaughter--aye, and for desertion of his army, both you and poor
silly John Scarlett are alien and outlaw in all the realms of the
Dutchman. I tell you we are doomed at either end of the stick, Wat, my
man."

"And faith, I care not much," quoth Wat, watching with wistful eyes
the _Sea Unicorn_ vanishing with the one thing that was dear to him on
earth.

"Care or no care," said Scarlett, "it is time for us to be on our feet!"

So Wat, rising obediently, kissed his hand behind his companion's back
to the white tower which was now sinking in the utmost south.

As soon almost as the two adventurers had left the sand and shingle
of the shore, they found themselves upon the short heather of certain
rough, moorish foothills. No house pleasantly reeking was to be
discerned--not so much as a deer nor even a wandering sheep in that
wide, wild place.

So Wat and Scarlett fared forth straight to the east, keeping mostly
parallel with the shores of a fine loch, which stretched inward in the
direction of the notch in the hills which they had seen from their
landing-place.

It was towards evening when the two friends came to the summit of a
little knoll and stood looking down upon a curious scene. Beneath them,
scattered among the _débris_ of some prehistoric landslip, lay a small
Highland village--if village it could be called--of which each house
or hut was built against the side of a great bowlder or rock fallen
from the hill-side. The cottages were no better than rude shelters of
turf and stone, roofed with blackened heather and scattered at every
conceivable angle, as if they had been dredged forcibly out of the
bottom of a reluctant pepper-pot and had taken root where they fell.

In the centre, however, was a kind of open space--not levelled nor
cleared of turf and stones, but with all its primeval rocks sticking
through the scanty turf, blackened and smoothed by the rubbing they had
received from the fundamental parts of innumerable generations of goats
and children.

In this space a dozen men in rude kilts and plaids of ancient faded
tartan were collected, arguing and threatening with as much apparent
fierceness as though some one of them was to be killed during the next
five minutes. A small army of women hovered on the outskirts and made
independent forays into the affray, catching hold of this and that
other valiant discourser, and, if she got the right hold and purchase,
swinging him forthwith out of the turmoil--only, however, to return to
it again as soon as her grasp relaxed.

There was, therefore, a centre of disturbance of which the elements
were entirely male--while contemporary, and on the whole concentric,
with it revolved a number of smaller cyclones, of which the elements
were about equally male and female. Fists were shaken here and there in
all of them, and voices rose loud and shrill. But from the heart of the
darker and more permanent quarrel in the centre there came at intervals
the threatening gleam of steel, as this one and that other stooped and
flashed the _skein dhu_, plucked out of his garter, defiantly in the
face of his opponent.

In the very midst Wat could see a thick-set man who carried over his
shoulder a couple of ash-plants rudely tied together. This contrivance
was of small dimensions, and the sharpened ends were burned black and
further stained with blood and what looked like red wax.

The man who carried it had no other weapon--if this could be called a
weapon--which appeared as harmless as a boy's sword of lath. Yet as
the little man thrust it towards this one and that, the strong men
of the circle shrank back instantly with the greatest alarm, shaking
their heads and girning their teeth, as Scarlett said, "like so many
wull-cats on a dike."

There seemed to be no end to this bloodless but threatening quarrel,
which blackened and scattered for all the world like a swarm of bees
whirling abroad on a July day, when the good-wives run beneath with
iron pots and clattering skellets to settle the swarm ere it has time
to leave the farm-town. But suddenly out of one of the largest and most
distinguished of the houses--one not much, if anything, inferior to a
Galloway "swine ree"--there issued a tall, dark man, who walked with an
air, swinging his tartans and rattling the gold tassel on the basket
hilt of his claymore.

He made straight for the thickest of the quarrel, and so soon as he
arrived there he knocked this disputant one way and hurled another
that, like a schoolmaster unexpectedly descending upon unruly boys.
And it was ludicrous to see these stalwart Highlandmen sprawling on
the ground, holding their ears, which had been smitten so suddenly and
with such a mighty buffeting; for the fierceness on their faces when
first they felt the blow faded into instant desire to get out of the
way--even culminating in a kind of satisfied good-humor so soon as they
set eyes on their chastiser, as though it were not less than an honor
to be smitten by such a hand.

In ten seconds the quarrel was no more, and the very men who had warred
and debated were to be seen most valiantly retiring behind their wives'
petticoats out of reach of the chilling eye-glances and hard-buckled
fists of the tall, dark peacemaker.

He, on his part, strode directly to where stood the little man with the
blackened cross of ash-plants, and, taking this article unceremoniously
out of his hand, he thrust it into those of the nearest bystander, and
pointed with his hand in the direction of the knoll on which Wat and
Scarlett had their station.

As he did so it was evident that he observed their presence for the
first time, and his hand dropped quickly to his side.



CHAPTER XLIII

COLL O' THE COWS


Then, almost before Wat and Scarlett had time to draw their swords
and stand on the defensive, they in their turn became the centre of
all the noise in the village. Steel flashed in plenty all about, and
half a score of wild men crouched and "hunkered" round them waiting
for the chance to spring. But with Walter Gordon and Jack Scarlett
standing back to back, each with a long sword in one hand and a pistol
in the other, it was not easy for the most alert to find an unprotected
opening.

Meanwhile the tall, dark man, who had the manifest air of a chief,
walked leisurely towards them and stood looking on at the affray.

"Sir!" cried Wat, "call off your men, and permit us to explain our
presence."

But the man vouchsafed not a word in reply, only stood and looked over
the heads of his men at Scarlett's legs.

"Why, man!" he cried, at length, "ye should be for the Good Cause; ye
have gotten the King of France's boots on!"

"Aye," said Scarlett, instantly dropping his point; "certainly we are
for the Good Cause. Truly, also, I have the King of France's boots on,
and that with good reason, for when I left France I was officer in His
Majesty's Luxembourg regiment."

Which, indeed, was very true, but certain other things had happened in
between.

The tall man seemed pleased at his own acute observation. He called off
his men with a single stern word, which sounded almost like a bidding
given to a dog to lie down.

"But what seek you in my country?" he asked them.

Now Scarlett would have given something to know in what country he was,
and still more to know who was the owner of it; but not knowing either,
he had to do the best he could with the limited information at his
disposal.

"We are here," he said, laying his finger meaningly on his lip, "on the
part of his Majesty the King of France, for the furtherance of the Good
Cause."

And he added, under his breath, "And a precious deal would I give to
know for certain what in this instance the Good Cause is!"

For indeed it seemed not likely that Louis was fomenting any rebellion
against the arms of King James, who, when Wat and Scarlett left the
harbor of Lis-op-Zee, ruled unquestioned at Whitehall.

But Scarlett's diplomatic answer was accepted without reserve.

"Friends of the true king and officers of his Christian Majesty of
France are ever friends of Keppoch's," he cried, striding forward
frankly and giving a hand to each.

Scarlett felt a strong desire to whistle as the chief revealed himself.

"Coll o' the Cows!" he muttered, softly; "we are indeed in the gled's
claws this day."

For Coll o' the Cows was the wildest chief as well as the most noted
cattle-lifter beyond the Highland line, and though now apparently
standing for "the Good Cause" (whatever that might be), he had all his
life hitherto stood entirely for the very excellent cause of his own
vested right to drive other folks' cattle and eat other folks' beef.

"Doubtless you will have seen my Lord Dundee?" said Keppoch to
Scarlett, whom, very evidently, he considered the leading spirit of the
two.

Wat pricked up his ears.

"Is Colonel Graham here?" he said, looking inquiringly at the chief.

Keppoch frowned, and for the first time looked a little suspicious.

"Ye must have come over the line but lately," he said, "if ye know not
that my Lord Dundee hath broken with Duke Hamilton's Cat Convention,
and is now raking the highlands for levies as a servant lass rakes the
night-coals to light her morning fires."

"Indeed ye may say so, for we have within the hour been landed from the
ship which gave us passage from France--landed upon the shore at the
mouth of your fine loch there," replied Scarlett, pointing westward
with his hand.

The brow of Coll o' the Cows instantly cleared.

"It is true; I see by your boots ye have been in the salt-water coming
ashore." For his pursuit of cattle seemed manifestly to have sharpened
his faculty of observation.

"We have to be careful these ill days," he said, "when one cannot
tell whether a man is for the Good Cause or for the Dutch thief that
cocks his dirty orange plumes so bravely on the road 'twixt Torbay and
London."

Observing their evident interest, he went on with his information. It
is good in a wild country to be the first bearer of great tidings.

[Illustration: "STRIDING FORWARD FRANKLY AND GIVING A HAND TO EACH"]

"We have e'en just sent the fiery cross on to the country o' the
Camerons. Some o' my lads were no that carin' aboot carrying it, for
there has been a bit nimble-going feud betwixt us, and it is the
Camerons' turn to make the score even."

"And how was the matter settled?" asked Wat, with curious interest.

"Och!" said Keppoch, "I just gied the fiery cross to Duncan o'
Taliskier. He is no to say a very right son of Ian at any rate. Ye see,
his mother was a woman from the north--from the country of the Grants.
And as for the father o' him, faith, there was nane kenned to rights
wha he was--even hersel'. But for a' that, Duncan o' Taliskier is
wonderful handy to keep about a house for jobs o' this kind."

"It is indeed excellently invented," said Scarlett, approvingly, "for I
learned long ago that 'always sacrifice your worst troops--your allies
if you can'--is an ancient and well-considered military maxim."

The chief went on: "You will be wondering what Keppoch does here on
the edge of this country o' Camerons? Faith, ye may well wonder! But
there's a bit plantation of McDonald's over the hill there, and though
they have taken Lochiell's name they find it for the good of their
healths to pay a bit cess to Keppoch--just as the peetifu' burgher
bodies of Inverness do; for money a loon is feared o' Colin--Guid kens
what for."

Wat and Scarlett nodded. They were too completely ignorant of the
niceties of the state of society into the midst of which they were cast
to venture on any reply.

"But ye shall not bide here," said Keppoch; "ye are instantly to come
your ways with me to Keppoch, my head place, where my castle is. This
bit townie here is well enough, but it is not fit for the like of
gentlemen that have been in France even to set their feet within."

So in a little while Wat and Scarlett found themselves following Coll
o' the Cows and his ragged regiment towards "Keppoch, my head place,
where my castle is."

First there went a dozen or so of small, black-felled, large-horned
cattle, mostly young, which constantly put their heads over their
shoulders and looked back towards the pastures they had left, routing
and roaring most excruciatingly. Then came a round dozen of Keppoch's
men urging them on, sometimes with the flat of the scabbard and
sometimes pricking them with the naked points of their claymores.

On the hills above skirmished an irregular force of small light men and
half-naked lads. Keppoch pointed them out to his companions.

"Yonder goes my flying column," he said, cunningly, "for so it is
designated in the books of war. Keppoch is not an ignorant man--far
from it, as ye shall know ere ye win clear of him. He did not go to the
schools of Edinburgh for the best part of three winters for nothing.
That was where he learned the English so well--frae the 'prentice lads
o' the Lawnmarket--fair good drinkers they are, too, and as ready wi'
their nieves as the prettiest gentleman with his blade."

He considered a little, as if measuring his own qualifications.

"Maybe ye wunda juist say that I am what ye might call a learned man,
nor do I set myself up for an authority on law and doctrine, like Black
Ewan owerby at Lochiell. But at least, for every good milch cow in his
byres there are ten in mine, and never a Sassenach bonnet-laird comes
to Keppoch to claim them. So ye see, so muckle education has not been
thrown away on me."

At this moment three hungry-looking loons came down the side of a
glen, wading waist-deep among the heather, and driving a small, shaggy
Highland cow before them, little bigger than a lowland sheep.

"Ah, good lads," he cried, "plaided men, carriers of the buckler, where
gat ye that ane?"

The nearest man cried something that sounded like

"Deil-a-mony-mae!" whereat Keppoch laughed and nodded his head.

The small cow joined the herd, and was soon racing up the long glen
towards the north. But the incident was not ended, for before they had
gone far over the heather a woman came tearing down the hill-side, and
flinging herself down at Keppoch's feet, she clasped him by the legs
and kissed the hem of his tartan in an agony of supplication.

"Some blood-feud," thought Wat, as he listened to the frenzied
outpouring of appeal. Keppoch stood awkwardly enough, listening at
first frowningly, and then with some signs of yielding in his brow, the
sight of which made the woman yet more earnest.

After a moment's thought he looked up and cried some direction to the
clansmen who followed the cattle ahead of them. The little red cow was
turned and came uncertainly along the glen, sometimes roaring back to
the herd and at other times casting up her head to look for her own
well-noted landmarks. As soon, however, as she saw the woman, the cow
ran to her like a dog and nuzzled a wet foam-flecked mouth into her
mistress's bosom.

The woman again clasped Keppoch's hand, kissing it over and over
and calling down blessings upon him. Then right briskly she took
the heather, skipping along the side of the hill with a light
well-accustomed foot, the little red cow following her as closely as a
dog, leaping runnels of water and skirting perilous screes on the way
to her native pastures.

"What might all this be?" asked Scarlett.

Keppoch looked rather shamefaced, like a man expecting to do a good
deed by stealth who suddenly finds it fame.

"Och," said he, "it was just a widow woman that had a bit coo, and some
o' my lads met the coo. And the coo it cam' after them, and the widow
woman she cam' after the coo; and then, puir body, she asked me if I
was a Christian man, and I said, 'No; I was a McDonald.' And she said
that so was she. So because she was a McDonald, I gied the puir woman
back her coo. It wasna a guid coo, ony way. But she was very gratefu'.
She said she was gaun to be mairried again, and that the man--an Appin
Stewart, greedy hound!--wadna hae her without the coo."



CHAPTER XLIV

GREAT DUNDEE


At Keppoch the months passed slowly enough for our two exiles. They
heard no news from the south--of Barra nothing, no word of Kate McGhie.
The country about them was in a constant ferment--gatherings here and
there on behalf of King James; false reports about the doings of the
Hamiltonians and Conventiclers in Edinburgh; reports that the Westland
Whigs were marching to exterminate the lads of the glens, in revenge
for the doings of the Highland Host. They had sworn (so the tale ran)
to take back to Ayrshire and Galloway the booty of the "Seventy-nine,"
which still constituted the best part of the plenishings of most
Highland cottages to the north of the lands of Breadalbane and McCallum
More.

It was hard to wait in blank ignorance; but Wat knew that his best hope
of coming to his own again, and so to the winning of his love, was to
abide the chances of war, and by good service to the king to deserve
the restoration of his fiefs and heritages.

Luckily for the two outlaws, no French officers came to Keppoch, nor
any, indeed, who knew either Scarlett or Wat, otherwise their lives
had not been worth an hour's purchase. But as week after week went
by, they became great favorites with McDonald, and were taken on
several occasions to see Sir Ewan Cameron of Lochiell--a wise, silent,
benignant man, who at first said little, but contented himself with
watching them silently and subtly from under his eyebrows.

"I remember your father," he said, suddenly flashing a look on Wat.

"You remember my father?" repeated Wat, eagerly; "I did not know he had
ever been in the Highlands."

"Nor was he," said Lochiell; "it was in Edinburgh, when his head was
cocked up on the Nether Bow, that I mind him--and a fine, wiselike;
honest-seeming head it was."

The young man straightened himself fiercely, suspecting an intention to
insult him.

"Na, na," said Lochiell, smilingly; "that's where every honest man's
head ought to land at the last. James Graham's was there afore your
father's, and mine, I doubt not, will follow one day. But they will
send Keppoch's black puddock-stool tied up in a poke to fricht the
bairns of Inverness."

"Ye are acquaint with my Lord Dundee, they tell me?" was Lochiell's
next question.

"Aye," said Wat, "and well acquaint--though I know not how he would
receive me now. Yet many a time have I ridden blithely enough at his
side when I was a lad, until I had the misfortune to be outlawed and
attainted by the Privy Council--"

"What was that for--not ony maitter o' religion and godliness, I hope?
Nae sic Whiggery about a brisk lad like you, surely?" said Keppoch.

"It was for the small matter of sticking a sword into a man or two
belonging to my Lord Duke of Wellwood," interrupted Scarlett, "and
maybe for helping his Grace himself to an ounce of lead--"

"Hoot!" cried Keppoch, "John Graham will never steer ye for ony sic
cause. He is great on the drill and discipline, but as to the richtin'
o' a bit private misunderstanding, that surely is every gentleman's ain
business."

"That was not the view the Council took of the matter," said Wat,
smiling.

"Oh, they wad doubtless be o' the ither man's clan, or his connections
and well-wishers in some shape--ye couldna blame them. They wad do the
best they could for their side, nae doot," answered Keppoch.

And Lochiell listened to all with a gravely smiling face, like a man
well pleased.

At Keppoch there was one day a muster and a show of weapons, after
which came sword-play and fighting with the Lochaber axe, assault with
targe and without targe--all of which Wat and Scarlett watched with
infinite zest and unwearied amusement.

When it was well over, and all the champions from the glens had
performed before the chief and Lochiell (who were then in great
amity), Keppoch invited Wat to try a bout with him. Wat professed his
inexperience with the heavier blade of the claymore, but asked to be
permitted to retain his own lighter and finer "Andrea"--which, indeed,
had scarcely ever left his side since he recovered it in the locker of
the boat from which he had been cast ashore on the isle of Fiara.

So before long, weapon in hand, the huge black chieftain faced
Lochinvar, towering over him like a son of Anak, his very sword casting
a shadow like a weaver's beam.

They saluted in form and fell-to.

Clash! The blades met, and almost immediately Keppoch swept his sword
in a full cut at Wat's shoulder. The young man measured his distance,
stepped aside, and the next moment his Andrea pricked Keppoch's side
below the arm. It was a mere touch with the point, but had the blade
stood a handbreadth in the giant's body, as it might have done, the
sons of Ian would have needed another chief.

Coll o' the Cows was more than a little astonished; but thinking the
matter some accidental chance which could not be repeated, he professed
his readiness to proceed.

"Man," cried Lochiell, who had been attentively watching the combat,
"not Coll o' the Cows, but Coll o' the Corbies ye would have been if
that laddie had liked. For oh, man, ye would hae been deid as Dugald
More, and the clan looking for a tree to hang the young man on by this
time."

With this most disabling thought in his mind to warn him from a too
complete victory, Wat once more guarded, and for a long time contented
himself with keeping off the furious strokes of the chief's assault,
as easily, to all appearance, as a roof turns aside the pelting of a
summer shower. Then, as Keppoch took breath a moment, his first fury
having worn itself out, Wat attacked in his turn, and, puzzling his
opponent, as was his wont, with the lightning swiftness of his thrust
and recovery, caught his claymore deftly near the hilt, and in a moment
it was flying out of his fingers.

Keppoch gazed after his weapon with as much surprise as if a hand had
been reached out of the blue sky to snatch it from his grasp.

"God!" he cried, "but ye are a most mighty sworder--ne'er a one like ye
within the Highland line. Who was your master at the play?"

Wat pointed to where old Jack Scarlett sat smiling complacently beside
Lochiell.

"There is my teacher," he said, "and at my best I am but a bairn with a
windlestraw in my master's hands."

Scarlett wagged his beard at Keppoch's evident consternation.

"No, no," he said, "I am old and stiff. Do not believe him. Why, lad,
ye beat me the last time I tried ye with that same trick, though indeed
I myself had taught it ye at the first."

"But I was vexed for the lad," he added under his breath, "and maybe I
did not just try my best."

Of course after this nothing would serve the chiefs but that Wat and
Scarlett must fight a long bout with the blunted point, which presently
they did amid tremendous excitement.

"Oich! Oich!" shouted the clansmen, jumping in the air and yelling at
every good stroke and lightning parry.

"Bone o' Dugald More--what heevenly fechtin'!" cried Keppoch. "I
declare I am like to greet--me that hasna grat since the year sixty,
when Ian Mackintosh of Auchnacarra died afore I could kill him. Oh, for
the like o' you twa to lead a foray intil the country of the Lochiell
Camerons--_I mean the Appin Stewarts, foul fa' them!_ We wad gang in
the daytime. For oh! it wad be a peety that sic bonny sword-play should
be wasted in killing folk in the nicht season."

And the tears actually streamed from the eye of Black Colin as he
watched the swords clash and click, meeting each other sweetly and
willingly like trysted lovers.

"This is worth a' the kye frae Achnasheen to Glen Urquhart," he cried.
"Ah, that was a stroke! 'Tis better than ganging to a kirk!"

More than once Wat nearly got home. But old Jack, standing a little
stiffly on his legs and biting at a bit of sour-grass, always turned
the point an inch aside at the critical moment. At last came the
opening, and the master's return flew like lightning. Wat's blade was
forced upward in spite of his lowered wrist, and lo! Scarlett's point
stood against the third button of his coat as steadily as a master in a
school points at the blackboard with his ferule.

A great shout went up from the throng. The hands of both combatants
were shaken. Keppoch's defeat was avenged. Such swordsmanship had never
before been seen by any son of Ian. The reputation of both master and
pupil was made on the spot. Lochiell and Keppoch vied with each other
in civilities, and the event became a daily one--but after this with a
pair of foils, which the master-at-arms deftly manufactured.

In many such ways the months passed, and the spring came again with
delicate green kindling along the watercourses, as the birch began to
cast her tresses to the winds, and the grass tufts fought hard with the
conquering heather.

But upon a day late in the month of May the party at Keppoch was broken
by a sudden definite call. Three horsemen rode up to the door one
blazing noontide. Scarlett and Keppoch were playing cards, the chief
eagerly and noisily, Scarlett with the dogged use-and-wont of a hundred
camps. Wat Gordon was cleaning his arms and accoutrements in the hall;
for though they two had landed with little save the swords by their
sides--now, thanks to their quality as swordsmen, and also somewhat
to the weight of the gold in Wat's belt (which had so nearly been the
death of him in the Suck of Suliscanna), they had been equipped with
all the necessities of war.

The first of the three riders who entered into the hall of Keppoch
was no other than my Lord Dundee. He looked thirty years older than
when Wat had seen him last riding by in the gloaming to the house of
Balmaghie--grayer, more wearied, sadder, too, with his face drawn and
pale in spite of the sun and the wind.

He greeted Keppoch courteously but without great cordiality, glanced
his eye once over Jack Scarlett, and seemed to take his quality in a
moment--gravely saluting the good soldier of any rank and all ranks.
Then he looked about him slowly.

"Why, Lochinvar!" he cried, astonished, "what wind hath blown you
here--not recruiting for the Prince of Orange, I hope, nor yet trying
to cut my favor with Keppoch?"

"Nay," said Wat, "but, if an outlaw and an exile may, ready as ever to
fight to the death for King James."

"Why, well said," answered my Lord Dundee, smiling, "yet, if I remember
rightly, I think you owed his Majesty not so much favor."

"In the matter of the Privy Council and my Lord Wellwood?" said Wat,
shrugging his shoulders. "As to that, I took my risks like another. And
if I had to pay the piper--why, it was at least no one but myself who
called the tune."

"Not my lady--my late Lady Wellwood, I mean?" said Dundee, glancing at
him with the pale ghost of mirthfulness on his face.

Wat shook his head.

"Of my own choice I took the barred road, and wherefore should I
complain that I had to settle the lawing when I came to the toll-gates?
But at least I am glad that you bear me no grudge, my lord," said Wat,
"for doubtless, after all, it was a matter of the king's justice."

"Grudge!" cried one of those who were with the viscount, "it had been a
God's blessing if you had stood your weapon a hand-breadth out on the
other side of his Grace of Wellwood when you were about it."

Whereupon, with no further word, Dundee and Keppoch retired to confer
apart; and that night, when the viscount rode away from the house, his
three followers had become four. For Wat Gordon rode by his side as in
old days on the braes of Garryhorn before any of these things befell.
But Jack Scarlett abode still with Keppoch and Lochiell to help them to
bring their clansmen into the field.



CHAPTER XLV

KILLIEKRANKIE


The July morning wakened broad and fair. The swifts circled in widening
sweeps about the castle of Blair. Wat Gordon slept in the hall, wrapped
in his plaid--a gift from Keppoch. The McDonald lay that night with
his own men out on the lea, but many of the younger chiefs of Dundee's
levy, McLean of Duart and Donald of Sleat, were also encamped round the
hall.

It was after four of the clock when a hand touched Wat's shoulder. He
looked up alert on the instant with the trained wakefulness of the
soldier. His eyes met those of the Lord Dundee, who, without a word,
strode slowly up the stairs.

Wat rose and followed his general, making his toilet with a single
shake of the plaid over his shoulder. Presently they stood together
on the battlements, where Dundee leaned his elbow on the highest part
of the wall and looked to the east. The sun was just rising between
Ben-y-Gloe and Ben-y-Vrackie.

Dundee stood a long time looking round him before he spoke. Wat kept in
the background, standing modestly by the edge of the tiles, where they
went crow-stepping up to the rigging. He dared not intrude upon the
thoughts or plans of his commander.

At last Dundee pointed with his hand, sweeping it over the sward
beneath, which was black with Highlanders, all squadded according
to their clans. Most of them still lay in their plaids, scattered
broadcast as if they had been slain on the field of battle, with their
claymores held in their arms as a mother holds a favorite child. But
here and there a few early foragers were already busy gathering birch
and dwarf oak to build the morning camp-fires, while down by the river,
where the lowland cavalry were picketed, many blue columns of smoke
arose.

"A bonny sight!" said the general, slowly. "Aye, a bonny sight! Three
thousand men that are men, and not a feared heart nor an unwilling
blade among them. And yet," he added, a little sadly, "if I were away,
all that would break and vanish like yon white cloud crawling on the
shoulder of Ben Vrackie."

He pointed to where the morning mist was trailing itself in quickly
dissolving wreaths and vanishing wisps over the mountain.

"Aye, like the mist they came, and like the mist they will go--if I
be not here the morrow's morn to lead them. Lochiell is wise indeed.
He would command us all with skill and fortitude. But then, how Glen
Garry and Keppoch would cock their bonnets at that! Sandy McLean there
might hold the clansmen and take them to Edinburgh, yet Sandy is not
chief even of his own clan, but an apple-cheeked lad, who thinks only
of taking the eyes of maidens. Grown babes all of them--yet men whom I
have welded into a weapon of strength to fight the king's warfare."

"Think you the enemy will attack us this day?" said Wat, with the
deference of a young soldier to an elder, whose favor, though great,
may not be presumed upon.

"They will come, indeed," said the general, "but it is we that shall
attack. I would it had been a day or two later. For the Western men
are not come in, and Lochiell hath not yet half his tail behind
him. Nevertheless, 'twill serve. Mackay I mind of old--in the Dutch
provinces--a good drill-sergeant that fights by the book; but a brave
man--yes, a very brave man."

For as an unquestioned beauty is the first to acknowledge beauty in
others, so John Graham could readily allow courage to his opponents.

Yet this morning a constant melancholy seemed to overspread the
beautiful countenance that had been the desire of women, the fear or
adoration of men. In his converse with Lochinvar not a trace remained
of that haughtiness which had so often distinguished his dealings with
other men, nor yet of that relentlessness which he himself had so often
mistaken for the firmness of military necessity.

Wat's bosom swelled within him as he looked on that host of plaided
men. He seemed to see Scotland swept to the Solway, and the king coming
home in triumph to his own again. The old tower of Lochinvar rose up
before him. He thought proudly of building up again the broken-down
walls, and for his love's sake setting the lordship of Lochinvar once
more among its peers. It would be passing sweet to walk with her by the
hill-side and look down upon their home, with the banner once again
floating at the staff, and the hum of serving-men about it.

"It is indeed a most noble sight!" he cried, in rapture.

Dundee glanced at him, and marked the heightened color of the lad with
kindly, tolerant favor. He thought he spoke of the mustered clans.

"Aye, glorious--truly," said he. "But build not on sand. Ere ten days
be past, if these lads of the mist find not plunder, Clan Ronald will
be off to spoil Clan Cameron, and Keppoch, the Wild Cat, will be at the
throat of Clan Mackintosh. I have welded me a weapon which, tempered to
the turning of a steel blade this morning, may be but a handful of sand
when the wind blows off the sea by to-morrow at this time."

He stood silent a while, and his face grew fixed and stern as when he
gave orders in battle.

"To-day I draw sword for a king that dared not draw sword for
himself--for a house that has ever used its mistresses well and its
soldiers ill. Let us make no mistake. You and I, Wat, go out this day
on a great venture, and on our heads it is. We have a true soldier to
fight. For you and I have seen William of Orange, and in this the day
of our distress we shall have no help from our friends, save these
three hundred Irish kerns with their bent pikes and their bows and
arrows, no better than bairns that shoot crows among the corn."

He shrugged his shoulders and lifted his graceful body erect.

"So be it! After all, it is not my business. Enough for me that I do
the king's will and walk straightly among so many that go crookedly.
To-night I will end it if I can, and drive the Dutchman to his own
place. But if not--why, then, it shall end me. I know, I know," he went
on, quickly, as if Walter had reminded him of something, "I have a
wife and a bairn down there. I am a man as other men. I would fain see
Jean Cochrane, clad in white, passing here and there among the walks
of the garden, gathering flowers, and the youngling toddling about her
feet--were it but for once, before this night I bid the war-pipes blow
at the setting of the sun."

He turned towards the lands of the south where he had earned much
hatred and deadly fear.

"It may be, as they say, that I have ridden overharshly on the king's
service, and trodden on some whom I might have lifted with my hand.
But, God wot, it was ever the king's service and not mine own! I ever
judged it better that there should be a little timeous bloodletting
than that a whole people should perish. But now I see that the king and
I were not wise. For a war that stirs up folk's religion never comes to
an end. And, for all the good I did, I might just as well never have
set foot in Galloway or the south. But enough; 'tis over now, and
there remains--three thousand claymores and an empty title! Well, we
shall find out to-day whether kings are indeed anointed, as they say.
Ah, Wat, the sun is high, the light broad and fair on Athol braes.
But ere it fades, you and I may find out many things that priest and
presbyter could not unriddle to us."

He made as if to descend from the castle wall, but took a second
thought.

"Bid the bugle sound!" he ordered, quickly changing his tone. "Invite
the chiefs to a council. Send Dunfermline to me--and go yourself and
get some breakfast."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was almost at the way-going of the day. The sons of the mist
crouched low among the heather and watched the Saxon soldiers
struggling up through the dark and narrow glen. King William's men were
weary and sore driven, for they had been there under the sun's fierce
assault since noon that day.

So near were the clansmen to their foes that they could distinguish
the uniform and accoutrement of each regiment as it straggled slowly
out under the eyes of the general and formed on the little green shelf
overhanging the deep cleft of the Garry.

Wat stood with Dundee upon the crest of the hill above. The general had
fallen silent, but a look of eager expectancy lit his face.

"I have them," he said, low, to himself; "it is coming right. We shall
balance accounts with the Dutchman ere it be dark."

To him came Keppoch, pale to the lips with rage.

"This is no war, my lord-general," he said, "they are through the pass
and you hold us here in check! Why, with the rocks of the hill-side my
single clan could have annihilated them--swept them in heaps into the
black pools of the Garry."

My Lord Dundee smiled a tolerant smile, as a mother might at the
ignorance of a wayward, fretful child.

"Bide ye, Keppoch," he said, kindly, "ye shall have your fill of that
work--but we must not make two mouthfuls of this Orange. Our advantage
is great enough. We shall meet them on plain field, and, ere we be
done with them, ye shall walk across the Garry upon their dead bodies,
bootless and in dry socks, if it please you."

Presently the Lowland army had dribbled itself completely out of the
pass and stood ranked, regiment by regiment, awaiting the onset. Mackay
had done all that skill and silence could do in such a desperate case,
for the men of the mountains had all the choice of the ground and of
the time for attack.

Clan by clan Dundee set his men on the hill crests, solidly phalanxed,
but with wide gaps between the divisions--a noble array of great names
and mighty chiefs--McLean, Clan Ranald, Clan Cameron, Glengarry,
Stewarts of Athol and Appin, men of the king's name from east and west.
Well might Dundee have forgotten his melancholy mood of the morning.

The sun touched the western hills, halved itself, and sank like a
swiftly dying flame. The blue shadows strode eastward with a rush. The
gray mist began to fill the deep glen of the Garry.

"Ready!" cried the general.

The war-pipes blared. The plaided men gave a shout that drowned the
pibrochs, and the clans were ready for the charge.

From beneath arose a response, a faint, wavering cry, without faith or
cohesion.

"Ah," cried Lochiell, "have at them now! That is not the cry of men who
are going to conquer!"

Dundee raised his hand and the chiefs watched for it to fall. It fell.

"Claymore!" shouted Lochiell, who had been standing like a pillar at
the head of his clan.

Keppoch, wild with the joy of battle, instantly fired his gun from
where he stood, and throwing his brand into the air, he caught it by
the hilt as he too gave the order to charge.

Slowly at first, but quickening their pace as they neared the foe, the
clans came down. They held their fire till they were within a hundred
yards of the enemy, grimly enduring without reply three separate
volleys from the disciplined ranks of the Lowland army. They paused a
moment and fired a wild, irregular volley. Then, with the unanimous
flash of drawn swords in the air, the whole wild array charged down
with a yell upon the triple line of the enemy.

Wat rode by the side of the general; for Dundee charged with the van,
exposing himself in the very front of danger. Half way down the slope
the old colonel of horse noticed that the Lowland cavalry were not
following. He turned in his saddle, lifted his sword, and waved the
squadrons on.

"For the king! Charge!" he cried, pointing with the blade to the
serried line of Mackay's regiments below.

But at that moment there came another withering volley from the English
line, threshing the hill-side like hail. A bullet struck Dundee under
the uplifted arm. Instinctively he shifted his bridle hand, and set
himself grimly to the charge again; but the quickly growing pallor of
his face and the slackness of his grasp told the tale of a terrible
wound.

Lochinvar had scarce time to dismount and receive his general in his
arms before Dundee fainted and his head fell on Wat's shoulder. His
charger galloped on, leading the regiment into action, as though he
felt that his master's part had devolved on him.

In an instant the assault swept past them, and Wat and the wounded
soldier were left as it had been alone on the field. Here and there a
clansman, stricken by a bullet, strove to rise and follow the onset of
his clan. He would stumble a few yards, and then throw up his hands and
fall headlong. But up from the river edge there came a hell of fiercely
mingled sounds. At the first glance at the wound Wat saw there was no
hope. Looking over the pale set features of the general, as he lay
reclined in his arms, he could see the thin English lines fairly swept
away. One or two regiments seemed to have been missed, standing idly at
their arms, like forgotten wheat in a corner of an ill-reaped field;
but for the rest, clansmen and red soldiers alike had passed out of
sight.

Presently the dying commander opened his eyes.

"My lord," said Wat, softly, "how is it with you?"

"Nay, rather, how goes the day?" said Dundee, with an eager look.

"Well for the king," answered Wat.

"Then," replied John Graham, "if it be well with him it is the less the
matter for me."

With that he laid his head back on Wat's breast contentedly. He seemed
to wander somewhat in his thoughts, speaking fast and disorderly.

"Maybe I was in the wrong--in the wrong. Yet I did it for the king's
good. But I was sore vexed for the wife and bairns. And yet the carrier
suffered it very unconcernedly, and said he was glad to die--which I
can well believe. Maybe he, too, had done well for his king."

His mind dwelt much upon far-off, unhappy things. Anon he seemed to see
some terrible tragedy, for he put his hand before his face as if to
shut out a painful sight.

"Enough of that, Westerha'," he said, in a grieved tone, "this serves
no good end."

Then at the last there came a smile breaking over his face, and he
lifted his hand lightly and gently like one who dandles something
tender and easily broken.

"'Tis a fine bairn, Jean," he said, pleasantly, "ye may well be proud
o' the babe. I wish I could bide wi' you. They might have left me
alone this ae nicht. But I must mount and ride. Fare ye weel, Jean, my
lass--braw lass and bonny wife ye ever were to me. I must e'en bit and
saddle, for I hae a far gate and a gloomy road to travel this night!"

So with no more than this farewell to his wife and young bairn, the
hope of the Stuarts, the scourge of the Covenant, the glory of the
Grahams, lay dead on the clean-reaped field of victory.



CHAPTER XLVI

THE LEAGUER OF DUNKELD


The leaders of the Highland army knew not for a while whether most to
rejoice in the victory which the clans had won for the king, or to
grieve for the terrible price which had been paid for it. The army of
General Mackay had indeed been swept out of existence. The succors from
the distant clans were daily pouring in. Scarlett had arrived with four
hundred more of Lochiell's claymores. Ardnamurchan and Morven sent
stalwart levies. The way seemed clear to Edinburgh, from whence there
came tidings of stricken dismay among the followers of Hamilton, that
mighty prince, and where only the Wild Whigs of the West stood firm,
patrolling the city and keeping ill-doers in such fear as they had not
known since Cromwell encamped betwixt the braes of Canaan and the swamp
of Little Egypt.

But Great Dundee was dead, and that balanced all.

For able as were many of the chiefs, and well exercised in their clan
warfare, there was not one of them, save it might be Lochiell, who was
not jealous of every other.

And Colonel Cannon of the Irish levies, who by virtue of the king's
commission held the nominal command, was a man who possessed the
confidence of none.

So Wat Gordon, going from clan to clan on the morning after the battle,
found nothing but bickering and envies among the victors--how this one
had obtained a greater share of the spoil than another, how Glengarry
was threatening to cut off Lochiell for the ancient soreness betwixt
them, and also because of some supposed favor of position on the day of
battle.

"Tut, man," said Lochiell to his vaporing adversary, good-naturedly
clapping him on the shoulder, "if you lads of the Garryside are so
fighting keen, and as full of hot blood as you say, I doubt not but
that a day or two will give you another opportunity of letting out a
little of it against the common enemy."

Wat, eager as ever to put the great controversy to the arbitrament of
battle, raged impotently, while Major Cannon wheeled and manoeuvred the
Irishmen through their drills, and carried on his miserable squabblings
with the chiefs--whom, in spite of their mutual dislikes and clan
jealousies, Dundee had held in leash with such a firm yet delicate hand.

Oftentimes, as day after day was wasted, Lochinvar felt that if only he
could throw himself on the enemy, in order, if it might be to cut a way
single-handed towards his love--even though he should be slain in the
first hundred yards--such an end would be better than this unceasing
plundering among allies and bickering between friends.

Nevertheless, the numbers of the Highland army kept up, though
the ranks were in a continual state of flux. As for Scarlett, the
master-at-arms was driven to distraction by the hopelessness of
teaching the clansmen anything.

Things were daily passed over which, had Dundee been above-ground,
would in five minutes have brought out a firing party and ended a man's
days against a stone dike.

Worst of all, while these precious days, when the whole force ought to
have been advancing, were thus idly slipping by, the delay gave the
government time to play its strongest card. The fury and enthusiasm of
the clans was now for the first time to be brought face to face with
an enthusiasm fiercer, because stiller, than their own--with a courage
equally great, but graver, sterner, and, best of all, disciplined by
years of trial and persecution.

The Cameronians, known throughout Scotland as the "Seven Thousand,"
had garrisoned Edinburgh during the fierce, troublous months of the
Convention. When there was no other force in the country, they had
stood between the kingdom and anarchy. And now, when at last the
government of William was becoming better established, twelve hundred
men of the Blue Banner formed themselves into a regiment--all stern,
determined, much-enduring veterans, who had brought from their Westland
homes a hatred of the Highlanders sharpened by memories of the Great
Raid, when for months the most barbarous and savage clans had been
quartered on the West and South, till the poor folk of Galloway and Ayr
were fairly eaten up, and most of their hard-won gear vanished clean
away into the trackless deserts of the North.

Now, in the anxious days that succeeded Killiekrankie, eight hundred of
this Cameronian regiment had been ordered to Dunkeld, which was rightly
supposed to be the post of danger. The other four hundred of the
regiment had been sent to garrison Badenoch and to keep the West quiet;
so that the young Covenanting commander, Cleland--a youth not yet in
his twenty-eighth year--had but two-thirds of his regiment with him.

But such men as they were!--none like them had been seen under arms
since, the Ironsides of Cromwell went back to their farm-steadings and
forges.

It was no desirable stronghold which they were set to keep. Indeed,
after a small experience of Dunkeld the other regiments which had been
sent under Lord Cardross to assist in driving back the enemy gladly
departed for Perth. The town, they said, was completely indefensible.
It was commanded on all sides by heights, even as Killiekrankie had
been. The streets could readily be forced at a dozen points, and then
every man would die miserably, like rats in a hole.

"Even so," said Cleland, calmly, to my Lord Cardross, "but I was bidden
to hold this town and no other, and here I and those with me will bide
until we die."

And, as is not the case with many a valiant commander's boast, he made
his words good.

It was a very considerable army which gathered about the devoted
Cameronians--not less than five thousand victorious clansmen--under a
leader of experience, if not of well-proven parts.

Wat was still with Lochiell, and Scarlett, in deep disgust at Keppoch's
miscellaneous plunderings, drew his sword also with the same chief.

By early morning the town was completely surrounded and the attack
began. But the brave band of Wild Whigs of the West stuck dourly to
their outposts, and for an hour or more their little handfuls defied
behind the walls of town-yards and ruinous petty enclosures, all the
assaults of the clansmen. At last these inconsiderable outer defences
were driven in, the whole regiment was shut up in the cathedral and in
an adjoining house of many unglazed windows, which was standing roofed
but unfinished close at hand.

Here the grim men of the South, doggedly saying their prayers behind
their clinched teeth, met and turned every assault, taking aim at their
assailants with the utmost composure and certainty.

[Illustration: "HE FELL INWARD AMONG THE WOUNDED"]

Clan after clan charged down upon those crumbling walls. Rush after
rush of plaided men melted before that deadly storm of bullets. Thrice
Wat, in the thick of Lochiell's men, dashed at the defences. Thrice
was he carried back by the wave of tartan which recoiled from the
reeking muskets of the men of the Covenant.

Glengarry fell wounded. The McDonalds broke. Then, in the nick of
time, the McLeans dashed into the thick of the fight and had almost
won the wall when young Cleland, rushing across the court to meet them
in person, was struck by two bullets--one through his head, the other
in his side. In spite of his agony, he set his hand to his brow and
staggered towards the interior of the church, crying, "Have at them,
lads! all is well with me!" This he said in order to conceal his wound
from his men. But he fell dead or ever he reached the door.

The lead for the muskets began to give out. But in a moment there were
men on the roof of the new building stripping off the metal, while
others beneath were melting it and thrusting the bullets, yet warm from
the "cams," into their hotter barrels, or cutting the sheets of lead
into rough slugs to fire at the enemy.

So, relentlessly, hour by hour the struggle went on. Ever, as the
attacks failed, fresh clans tried their fierce courage in emulous
assault, firing once, throwing away their guns, and then charging home
with the claymore.

But these Cameronians were no levies roughly disciplined and driven
in chains to the battlefield. Men of the moors and the moss-hags were
they--good at the prayer, better at the musket, best of all with the
steady eye which directed the unshaken hand, and the quiet heart within
dourly certain of victory and of the righteousness of its cause.

Clan by clan, the very men who had swept Mackay's troops into the
Garry fell back shattered and dismayed from the broken defences of the
Hill Folk. In vain the war-pipes brayed; in vain a thousand throats
cried "Claymore!" In vain Lochiell's men drove for the fourth time
desperately at the wall. From within came no noise, save the clatter
of the musket-shots running the circuit of the defences, or the dull
thud as a man fell over in the ranks or collapsed like a shut telescope
in his place--not a groan from the wounded, as men stricken to death
drew themselves desperately up to get a last shot at the enemies of
Christ's Cause and Covenant, that they might face God contentedly with
their duty done and all their powder spent.

Left almost alone in the fierce ebb of the fourth assault, Wat had
gained the top of the wall when a sudden blow on the head stunned him.
He fell inward among the wounded and dying men of the defenders and
there lay motionless, while outside the last charge of the baffled
clansmen broke on the stubborn hodden gray of the Cameronian regiment,
vainly as the water of the ninth wave breaks on the cliffs that look
out to the Atlantic.

The chiefs still tried to rally their men. Cannon offered to lead them
again to the assault in person. But it might not be.

"We can fight men," they said, as they fell back, sullenly, "but these
are devils incarnate."



CHAPTER XLVII

THE GOLDEN HEART


When Wat Gordon opened his eyes, he looked into a face he knew right
well.

"Faith, Will, is it time to get up already?" he said, thinking his
cousin and he were off together on some ploy of ancient days--for a
morning's fishing on the hills above Knockman, mayhap.

For his cousin Will it was indeed who stood before him, clad in the
worn and smoke-begrimed uniform of the Regiment of the Covenant.

"Wat, Wat, how came you here, lad?" cried Will Gordon.

A gleam of his ancient wilfulness beaconed a moment in Wat's eye.

"Why--over the wall there," he said. "I was in somewhat of a hurry and
I had not time to go round by the gate and tirl at the pin."

And with that something buzzed drowsily in his ears like a prisoned
blue-bottle, and he fainted again.

Lucky it was for Wat Gordon that Sir Robert Hamilton did not command
the regiment, and that the dead Cleland had instilled his humane
principles into those under him. For the officers merely ordered their
prisoner to be carried along with their own wounded to a convenient
house in the town, and there to be warded till he should be well enough
to be remitted to Edinburgh.

To this hospital Will Gordon came to see him often, and give him what
heartening he might; but it was not till the seventh day, when Wat
showed some promise of early recovery, that Will, with a mighty serious
face, showed him a trinket in the palm of his hand.

"Ken ye that?" he asked.

"'Tis Kate's token that she was to send me if she needed me. Where got
ye it, Will?"

And even as he spoke these words Wat was half out of bed in his
eagerness; but Will took him in his arms with gentle firmness and
pressed him back upon the pillow.

"Bide a wee," he said; "ye will do no good that way. Ye are far too
weak to travel, and there is a strong guard at the door. Listen! I got
the gold heart from Kate herself, and she bade me tell you that if ye
could not come to her by the tenth day of September, ye would never
need to come at all."

"What means that message, Will? Tell me truly," said Wat, white to the
lips, yet sitting up calmly in spite of his deadly weakness and the
curious singing drone in his ears.

"They have worked upon her to weariness, I think," said Will, a little
sadly; "worked upon her with tales of your unfaithfulness, which, to
do her justice, she would scorn to believe--told her that her father's
very life depends upon the marriage, because of the old friendship and
succor he had from Claverhouse; wearied her out, till the lass knows
not which way to turn. And so she has consented to be wedded to my Lord
Barra on the tenth of September. But, as Maisie judges, our Kate will
die rather than marry any man she hates."

Wat leaped out of bed and began to dress himself.

"Let me go, Will--let me alone! Hands off! Do not touch me, or I will
strike you on the face. Only ten days--and so far to go! But I will
fight my way through. I am strong and well, I tell you--"

And with that Will Gordon laid him back again upon the bed like a child.

"Wat," he said, "I am with you in this, since Kate loves you and Maisie
bids me. (You have never asked of her welfare, but no matter.) I have
gotten Jack Scarlett here by me in the town. We will arrange your
escape and get you horses. But you must be a deal stronger than you are
ere you are ready to travel, and at least you must abide here yet three
days."

"Three days, Will; 'tis plainly impossible! I should die stark raving
mad of the waiting and anxiety. Better let me go, Will, this very
night."

And almost for very weariness and the sense of powerlessness in the
grip of fate, Wat could have wept; but a thought and a resolve steadied
him.

From that moment he began, as it were obediently, to talk of
indifferent things; and Will humored him, well pleased that it should
be so. Ere he departed, Will said, "I will bring Scarlett to your
window to-night. Do you speak with him for a moment and let him go."

Wat smilingly promised, and went on to tell of his winter adventures
among the clans, as if they were all he thought about.

"Good-night, and a sweet sleep to you, Wat, lad!" said Will Gordon.
"In three days, I promise you, you shall ride forth, well mounted and
equipped."

And so, smiling once more on his cousin, he went down the stair.

Then Wat Gordon laid his head on the pillow as obediently as a child.

But he only kept it there till his cousin was out of the room and he
heard his footsteps die down the street. In a trice he was out of bed
and trying all the fastenings of the windows of his room. He was alone
in his dormitory, but on either side of him were rooms containing
wounded men of the Cameronians, to whom night nurses came and went, so
that it behooved him to be wary.

One of the windows was barred with iron outside, while the sash of the
other was fixed and would not open at all.

Wat threw open the barred window as far as he could and shook the iron
lattice. It held firm against his feeble strength, but upon a more
minute examination the stanchions seemed only to be set in plaster.

"That's better; but I wish Jack Scarlett would come!" murmured Wat, as
he staggered back to his bed. He kissed his hand towards the South with
something of his old air of gallant recklessness.

"On the tenth I shall be with you, dear love, to redeem my pledge, or
else--"

But before his lips could frame the alternative he had fainted on the
floor.

Scarlett came to Lochinvar's window when the night was darkest, a
little before midnight.

"Wat," he cried, softly; "Wat Gordon!"

Wat was already at the lattice and promptly reached his hand out to his
ancient comrade.

"Jack," he whispered, hoarsely, "for God's sake get me out of this
hole! They would shut me up here for three days, till she is married to
the devil Barra. And she has sent me the token--the heart of gold. I
have it here. You mind it was to be the fiery cross betwixt us two? She
is needing me and I must go. Break down the window bars, good Jack, and
let me out."

"But your cousin says that you are not fit to travel, that you will
never reach Galloway unless you have some rest before you go. Besides,
it will take some time to purchase horses for the long journey--"

"I cannot wait, Jack," interrupted Wat, fiercely; "I shall die here
in three days if I stay. How can I wait with the greedy talons of the
monster drawing nearer to my lass? See, Jack, I have thirty guineas
in my belt. I will leave twenty of them in any horse's stall in the
stables. And, God knows! it is not the officers of the Cameronian
regiment who have horses worth half so much. Try the bars, good Jack,
and let me out."

Scarlett endeavored to reason with him, to dissuade him from the
venture for that night at least.

"To-morrow, Lochinvar; only one night--we shall wait but to see what
to-morrow brings."

"Scarlett, look you here," Wat said, earnestly, his face gleaming
ghastly through the lattice in the steely glint of stars. "You know
whether or not I am a man of my word. I have a dagger here--hid in the
leather of my boot. Now if you do not help me to escape to-night, 'fore
the Lord, Jack, I will let out my soul or the morning--and my blood
will be on your head."

He leaned out till his agony-wet brow touched the bars. His fingers
clutched and shook them in his desperation.

"Well," said Scarlett, half to himself, "I will e'en do it, since it
must be so. But it will prove a sorry job for us all. 'Tis but taking
the poor laddie's life in another way."

So, vanishing for a tale of minutes, which seemed hours to the pale,
wounded, half-frenzied figure at the window, he returned with a
"geleck" or iron crow-bar, with which he promptly started work on
the lime and plaster of the stanchions. It was not long before he
loosened one and then another. Once or twice he had to cower down in
order to escape the lanterns of the patrol--for, unlike the clans, the
Cameronians kept excellent watch; but in half an hour his task was
completed.

"The Lord forgie me, laddie, for this!" he said, as he helped Wat out,
and felt the palms of his hands burning hot, while his body was shaking
with feverish cold.

"Now help me to get a horse!" said Wat, as soon as they stood in safety
under the ruined walls of the cathedral. "There are the stables of the
officers' horses. Come, let us go over yonder."

"It's a rope's end at ony rate," said Scarlett; "old Jack has been at
mony ploys, but he never was a horse-thief before!"

"How did we get away from the city of Amersfort, tell me, Jack?" said
Wat, with a touch of his ancient humor, being pleased at getting his
will.

"Ah, but then a woman did the stealing for love, as you do now. It
is different with me, that have no love to steal for--or to die for,
either," he added, sadly.

Wat put his hand affectionately on the shoulder of the old free-lance.

"Even so do you steal, old bear," he said, gently patting him; "you do
it for love of me."

"I declare," quoth Scarlett, with relief in his voice, "I believe I
do. Guid kens what there is aboot ye, laddie, that makes both lassies
and auld grizzle-pates run their heads into holes and their necks into
tow-ropes for the love o' ye!"

The stables had been left completely unguarded, for it was the
officers' boast that they desired not any greater safety than their
men. Cleland, indeed, had once ordered all the officers' horses to be
brought out and shot, just because some of the soldiers complained that
the officers had a greater chance of escape than they.

Since that time the horses had been permitted to remain in the not too
zealous care of the grooms, who fulfilled their duty by sleeping in the
town at a distance from their charges.

Even the very stable door was unlocked, and as they opened it the
horses were heard restlessly moving within.

"Any of Keppoch's gay lads might make a haul very easily this nicht,"
said Scarlett, as they entered.

"I saw Keppoch and many another pretty fighter get his bellyful over
there by the walls the other day," said Wat, grimly, as he proceeded
coolly to make his selection by the sense of touch alone.

When he had done this, Scarlett and he saddled the chosen beast and led
him out, having previously tied stable rags over his iron-shod feet to
keep them from clanking on the pavement. Making a detour, they soon
gained the river, which they skirted cautiously till they were a mile
from the town. Then Wat mounted without the assistance of his companion.

"God help ye, laddie; ye will never win near your lass, I fear me. But
ye can try. And that is aye the best o't in this world. That it is for
us mortals to do the trying, and for God to finish ilka job to His ain
liking."

With which sage reflection he gave Wat his sword, his pistols and
ammunition, together with some bread for the journey--looking at which
last, Wat felt that he could as soon eat his horse's tail.

"Hae!" said the master-at-arms, "ye will be the better o' that or ye
come to the end o' the Lang Wood. I have plenty more by me."

Wat laughed.

"You cannot deceive a desperate man," he said, "nor yet lie to him.
Well do I know that this is every bite you have in the world."

"Listen, Wat," said the free-lance. "I have found me a decent woman
that has ta'en a liking to me, and she has ta'en me in. I'm weel
provided for. Tak' them, laddie, tak' them. Ye will need them mair nor
me."

Saying which Scarlett started promptly on the back track to the town,
crying as he went: "God speed ye, laddie; I'll never set een on ye
mair!"

So with a sob in his throat and a feeling as if he were riding on
empty air, Wat Gordon turned the head of the officer's charger (by a
strange and fitting chance it was his cousin Will's), and set his
chest to the current of the river, at the place where the tracks on the
shoaling gravel and the chuckling of the shallow river over its pebbles
indicated a ford.

So our true hero, ill, fevered, desperate, in the stark grip with
death, started on his almost impossible quest--without an idea or a
plan save that he must ride into the blank midnight to save his love,
or die for her.



CHAPTER XLVIII

THE MASTER COMES HOME


And what in all the annals of romantic adventure could be found more
utterly hopeless than Wat Gordon's quest? He was doubly outlawed.
For not only had James Stuart proclaimed him outlaw, but he had been
out with the enemies of the Prince of Orange, now King William the
Third of Great Britain and Ireland. He had fought at Killiekrankie
and Dunkeld. He had ridden through all the north country at Dundee's
bridle-rein. He was a fugitive from a military prison in the prince's
own province of the Netherlands. He possessed but ten golden guineas
in the world. His ancestral tower of Lochinvar was little better than
a dismantled fortalice. And then as to his quest, he went to seek his
love in her home, to rescue her from among her friends, and from the
midst of the retainers of her father's estate, and those more numerous
and reckless riders who had come with my lady the duchess from the
Grenoch. Doubtless, also, my Lord of Barra would bring with him a great
attendance of his friends. The chances against Lochinvar's success were
infinite. Another man would have given up in despair, but in the mind
of Wat Gordon there was only one thought: "She called me and I will go
to her. Though I am traitor and outlaw alike to the king-over-the-water
and the prince at Whitehall, proscribed alike by white rose and orange
lily, I am yet all true to Kate and to love."

The desperate, unutterable details of that great mad journey can never
be written down. For even Wat himself, in after-days, scarce remembered
how, when one horse was wearied, he managed to exchange it for another
and ride on--sometimes salving his conscience by leaving to the
owner one of his dwindling golden guineas; or how he was attacked by
footpads and escaped, having cut down one and frightened the other into
delivering over (in trust, as it were, for King James) every stiver of
his ill-gotten gains--poor crazed Wat meanwhile tossing his fevered
head and wavering a pistol before the knave's astonished eyes as he
bade him stand and deliver.

"'Tis a lesson to you," said Wat, didactically; "ye will thank me for
it one day when ye lie down to die a clean-straw death instead of
dancing your last on a gallows, with the lads crying your dying speech
beneath your very feet as ye dangle over the Grass-market."

How he won through with bare life Wat never knew; nor yet with what
decent householders he had negotiated exchange of horses without their
consent. For long years afterwards, whenever Wat was a little feverish,
scraps of conversations used to return to him, and forgotten incidents
flashed clear upon him, which he knew must have happened during these
terrible last days ere, with the homing instinct of a wounded animal
chased desperately by the hunters, he reached the little gray tower
of Lochinvar set lonely in the midst of its moorland loch. Sometimes
on the Edinburgh street in after-years he stumbled unexpectedly on a
face he recognized. A countryman newly come into market would set his
hands on his hips and stare earnestly up at him. Then Wat would say
to himself, "There goes a creditor of mine; I wonder if I gave him a
better horse than I took, or if he wants to claim the balance now."

But who in the great lord of Parliament could spy out the white-faced,
desperate lad--half-hero, half-highwayman--whose supple sword flashed
like the waving of a willow wand, and whose cocked pistol was in his
fingers at the faintest hint of opposition?

It was evening of a great, solemn, serene September day when Wat
reached the edges of the loch, upon the little island in the midst
of which stood the ancestral tower of his forebears. There was no
smoke going up from its chimneys. The water slept black from the very
margin, deeply stained with peat. The midges danced and balanced; the
moor-birds cried; the old owl hooted from the gables; the retired stars
twinkled reticently above, just as they had done in Wat's youth. A
strange fancy came over him. He had come home from market at Dumfries.
Presently his father would cry down to him from his chamber what was
the price of sheep on the Plainstones that day, and if that behindhand
rascal, Andrew Sim of Gordieston, had paid his rent yet. His mother--

Ah! but wait; he had no father! He had seen his father's head over the
port of Edinburgh, and something, he could not remember what, happened
after that. Had he not buried his mother in the green kirkyard of
Dalry? What, then, had he come home for? There was some one he loved in
danger--some one with eyes deep as the depths of the still and gloomy
waters that encircled Lochinvar.

Ah, now he remembered--the heart, Kate's heart of gold! It was safe
in his bosom. Ten days' grace when he left his cousin Will! But had
he ridden five days or fifty? Sometimes it seemed but one day, and
sometimes an eternity, since he rode away from Jack Scarlett at the
ford above Dunkeld.

What was that noise? An enemy? Wat clutched his sword instinctively.
No, nothing more than his poor horse, the last incarnation of his
cousin Will's charger, with which he had left the stables of Dunkeld.

The poor beast had tried to drink of the peaty brew of the loch, but
what with the fatigue and the rough riding, it had fallen forward,
with its nose in the shallows, and now lay breathing out its last in
rattling gasps.

Wat stooped and patted the flaccid neck as the spasms relaxed and it
rolled to the side.

"Poor thing--poor thing--ye are well away. Maybe there is a heaven for
horses also, where the spirit of the beast may find the green eternal
pastures, where the rein does not curb and the saddle leather never
galls."

So saying Wat divested himself of his arms and upper clothing. He
rolled them up, and put them with the saddle and equipment of his dead
horse in the safe shelter of a moss-hag. Then, with a last kiss to the
gold heart, he dropped silently into the water and swam out towards the
island on which the old block-house stood.

Five minutes later Walter Gordon, Lord of Lochinvar, white as death,
dripping from head to foot as if the sea had indeed given up its dead,
stood on the threshold of the house of his fathers. The master had come
home.

The little gray keep on its lonely islet towering above him seemed not
so high as of old. It was strangely shrunken. The isle, too, had grown
smaller to his travelled eye--probably was so, indeed, for the water
had for many years been encroaching on the narrow insulated policies of
the tower of Lochinvar.

There to his right was the granite "snibbing-post," to which the boat
was usually tied. The pillar had, he remembered, a hole bored through
the head of it with a chip knocked out of the side--for making which
with a hammer he had been soundly cuffed by his father. And there was
the anchored household boat itself, nodding and rocking a little under
the northern castle wall, where it descended abruptly into the deeps of
the loch.

Wat stood under the carved archway and clattered on the door with a
stone picked from the water-side. For the great brass knocker which he
remembered had been torn off, no doubt during the troubles which had
arisen after Wat himself had been attainted for the wounding of his
Grace the Duke of Wellwood.

It was long indeed ere any one came to answer the summons, and
meanwhile Wat stood, dripping and shaking, consumed with a deadly
weakness, yet conscious of a still more deadly strength. If God would
only help him ever so little, he thought--grant him but one night's
quiet rest, he could yet do all that which he had come so fast and so
far to accomplish.

At last he heard a stir in the tower above. A footstep came steadily
and lightly along the stone passages. The thin gleam of a rushlight
penetrated beneath the door, and shed a solid ray through the great
worn key-hole. The bolts growled and screeched rustily, as if
complaining at being so untimely disturbed. The door opened, and there
before Wat stood a sweet, placid-browed old lady in the laced cap and
stomacher of the ancient days.

"Jean!" he cried, "Jean Gordon, here is your laddie come hame." He
spoke just as he had done more than twenty years ago, when many a time
he had fallen out with his mother, and betaken himself to the sanctuary
of Jean's Wa's by the side of the Garpel Glen.

For Jean Gordon it was, the recluse of the Holy Linn, his cousin Will's
ancient nurse and kinswoman, and to them both the kindliest and most
lovely old maid in the world.

"Wi' laddie, laddie, what has gotten ye? Ye are a' white and shakin',
dripping wet, too; come ben and get a change and let me put ye to your
bed."

"What day of the month is this?" cried Wat, eagerly, even before he had
crossed the threshold.

"Laddie, what should auld Jean Gordon ken aboot times and seasons?
Nocht ava--ye couldna expect it. But there is a decent man in the
kitchen that mayhap can tell ye--Peter McCaskill, the Curate o'
Dalry, puir body. He was sorely in fear of being rabbled by the Hill
Folk, so he cam' his ways here, silly body. There's no' a man in the
country-side wad hae laid hand on him--if he would just say his prayer
withoot the book, gie his bit sermon, and stop havering aboot King
Jamie--at least, till he comes to his ain again."

Thus gossiping to keep up Wat Gordon's spirits, the ancient dame led
the way down the passages, with a foot that was yet light upon the
heather, though seventy years scarcely counted up all her mortal span.

"Clerk McCaskill," cried Jean, "ye'll mind Maister Walter? Rise up and
welcome him! For it is in his hoose that ye are sheltered, and, indeed,
his very ale that ye are drinkin' at this moment."

Peter McCaskill rose to his feet and held out his hand to Wat. He was
dressed apparently in the same ancient green surtout he had worn in the
year of Bothwell--a garment which seemed never to get any worse, nor
yet to drop piecemeal from his shoulders with age, but to renew itself
from decade to decade in a decrepit but evergreen youth.

"I am rejoiced to see you in your ain castle, my lord," said the
curate, ceremoniously. Then, catching sight of the pale, desperate
face, he exclaimed, in a different tone, "Preserve us, laddie, what has
ta'en ye? Hae ye slain a man to his wounding--a young man to his hurt?
Are the dead-runners on your track?"

For, indeed, Wat stood like a wild thing, hard beset by the hunters,
which at the last has turned to bay in its lair.

But Wat put aside all questionings with a wave of his hand, a movement
which had something of his old, swift recklessness in it, as of the
days when they named him the Wildcat of Lochinvar.

"Tell me the day of the month," he gasped, as he stood there in the
midst of the floor before the fire of logs which burned on the irons
of the house-place, swaying a little on his feet, and ever checking
himself like a man drunken with wine.

The curate took a little calendar from his pocket--a record of saints'
days and services, but interspersed with the reckonings of ale-houses
and the scores of cock-fightings.

"'Tis the eve of the eighth day of September," he said, moistening his
plump thumb to turn over the leaf that he might not be mistaken in the
month.

"Thank God, I have yet two days!" cried Wat, and fell forward upon the
shoulder of the curate.



CHAPTER XLIX

THE CURATE OF DALRY


Peter McCaskill received the weight deftly, as though he had been
accustomed all his life to be charged down upon without a moment's
notice by unconscious men.

"Easy does it, my lord," he said; "ye will soon be better. He's been
owertaken, ye see--a wee drappie does it on an empty stomach," he
explained to Jean Gordon. "Often hae I warned my folk--aye, even frae
the pulpit, the very horns o' the altar, as it were--no' to tak' drink
on an empty stomach!"

"Empty fiddlestick! Lay the laddie here!" cried Jean Gordon; "do ye no'
see that the lad is deein' on his feet? He hasna seen drink for weeks,
I'll wager--no, nor Christian meat either, by a' appearances."

She stopped to take off his boots. The soaked remnants of the sole came
away in her hand.

"Mercy!" she cried, "the poor lad maun hae been in sore want. Tak' haud
o' him soothly and tentily, Peter."

And so the kindly old lady, peering closely with her dim, short-sighted
eyes, and the burly, red-gilled curate undressed Wat Gordon gently, and
laid him in the bed on which his mother had died--the flanking pillars
of which were hacked with the swords of the troopers from Carsphairn
who had come to seek him after the sentence of outlawry.

"Peety me!" said Jean Gordon, "what will we do wi' the puir laddie?
I'll get him some broth gin he can tak' them."

So, in a trice, Wat, having come a little to himself, was sitting up
and taking "guid broth o' the very best, wi' a beef-bane boiled to
ribbons intil't," as Jean Gordon nominated the savory stew, while she
sat on the bed and fed him in mouthfuls with the only silver spoon
Grier of Lag had left in the once well-plenished house of Lochinvar.

Wat sat fingering his gold heart and looking about him. He seemed like
a man who has risen to the surface and finds himself unexpectedly in a
boat after a nightmare experience of death in perilous deeps of the sea.

"Is there a horse about the house?" queried Wat, presently, looking at
Jean Gordon out of his hollow, purple-rimmed eyes.

She thought that he still dreamed or doted.

"A horse, my laddie!" she cried. "How should there be a horse aboot
the house of Lochinvar? The stables were never so extensive that I
heard o'; and, troth, Rob Grier o' Lag, deil's lick-pot that he is,
has no' left mony aboot the estates. There's a plough-horse ower by
Gordiestoun, if that's what ye want."

And in her heart she said, "It's a lee, Guid forgie me. But onything to
pacify the lad and get him asleep."

"I ken the best horse in a' this country-side," said the curate, going
back to his ale as if nothing had happened, "and that's muckle Sandy
Gordon's chairger ower at the Earlstoun. He's roarin' at the Convention
in Edinburgh, I'se warrant, and he'll no' need 'Drumclog.' Gin ye hae a
notion of the beast, I can borrow him for ye."

Wat started up with eager eyes.

"On the morning of the tenth have the horse at the loch-side, and I
shall be forever bound and obligated to ye."

The curate nodded his head like one that grants the smallest and
easiest favor.

"It shall be done; by six o' the clock Drumclog will be there, or my
name is not Peter Mac--Eh! what is't, woman?" he exclaimed, turning a
little testily to Jean Gordon, who for the last minute had been nudging
him vehemently with her elbow to be quiet. "I'll no' haud my tongue
for a bletherin' auld wretch. I hae held my tongue ower often in this
pairish. Gin the lad wants a horse, e'en let him hae a horse. It is ane
o' the best symptoms that I ken o'. I mind weel, yince, when I was a
laddie like him and in love--"

But the reminiscence of Peter McCaskill's early love was not destined
to be recorded, at least in this place, for Jean Gordon took the matter
into her own hands and pushed the indignant curate out of the room. But
even as he went he turned in the doorway and said, "Bide ye still in
your bed the day, laddie. Ye shall find muckle Sandy Gordon's horse,
Drumclog, at the west landing on the mornin' o' the tenth."

"Deil a fear o' ye," muttered Jean Gordon; "ye'll lie doucely and
quietly in your bed till Jean gies ye leave to rise--tenth or no tenth!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Then sleep descended like a brown hissing cloud upon the tortured soul
and weary body of Wat Gordon, and deep, dreamless, billowy oblivion
held him till the morrow. It was ten of the clock when he awoke, with a
frenzied start, demanding how long he had slept.

Jean Gordon, in whose hands was the morning porridge-spurtle (and, as
it were, the care of all the churches), tried the method of sarcasm.

"Weel, laddie," she said, "ye juist cam' here yestreen, and gin
yesterday was the eighth, as Peter telled ye, ye will maybe be able to
mak' oot that this will be the ninth. And come off the dead-cauld flags
this instant with your bare feet, and you in a pour of sweat. There's
nae sense ava in the callant! What are ye in sic a fyke for aboot the
tenth and the tenth? Are the eleventh and the twelfth no' as guid days?
Did the same Lord no' make them a'?"

Wat went back obediently to bed.

"Mind," he said, "if you are lying to me, you shall fry in hell-fire
for that lie. For a man's life and soul are on your truth."

"The boy's fair dementit," cried Jean; "what for should auld Jean
Gordon lee to him? Tell me your trouble, laddie," she said, going
nearer to him. "For I've had trouble o' my ain a' my life, and weel I
ken there are few things so evil that they canna be mended--that is, if
ye are minded to stroke them the richt way o' the hair."

At this point Peter McCaskill was heard shuffling along the passage,
but Jean was over quick for him. She rose and very promptly and
unceremoniously shut the door in his face.

"Gae 'way wi' ye the noo, Peter," she said, peremptorily; "tak' the
fish-pole and fetch in a fry o' trouts for the breakfast. Ye'll get
naething else to eat gin ye dinna."

"Noo, laddie," she said, sitting down beside Wat, with a world of
sympathetic invitation in her voice, "tell me a' your heart's trouble."

So, with a great sense of relief, Wat told the tale to the old lady,
whose own love-trouble of fifty years before had kept her maiden all
her life.

As he spoke, Jean stroked the hand which hung over the edge of the bed.

"Laddie, my laddie!" were all the articulate words she said, but she
soothed Wat with a little, low, continuous murmur of sound as he
fretted and fumed at his helplessness.

"Ye shall get your lass--fear ye not that," she said, when he had
finished. "I hae heard o' the wedding. They say the lass does naething
but bide in her chamber and greet. She has fallen away to a shadow.
But be that as it may, there is a great repair o' folk to the house o'
Balmaghie. I saw a heap o' the queer, daftlike folk o' the north riding
by, wi' feathers in their checked bonnets, and tartan trews on their
hurdies--aye, trews of bonny tartan claith--ye never saw the like. But
ye shall hae your lass, were it only to spite the menseless crew. Peter
and me will help ye to her."

In what manner Jean Gordon was to help him Wat Gordon knew not--nor,
for the matter of that, Peter McCaskill either--save by getting
him the loan of his cousin Sandy's horse, and even that might be a
Highlandman's loan--taken without the asking. But Wat said nothing,
only laid him down contentedly, while Jean Gordon set off to provide
the breakfast she had so abruptly denied to the curate.

Presently Peter came in with his trouts, for in the loch of Lochinvar
the spotted beauties were infinitely less shy and infrequent than in
later days they have become.

"_Benedictus benedicat!_" quoth Peter, who knew his Latin by ear, and
sat him down.

"That's a daft, heathen-like grace," said Jean. "I shouldna wonder gin
the folks did rabble ye and tear your white clouts ower your head, if
ye gied them balderdash like that in the pulpit."

The curate smiled a wry, discomfortable smile at the prophecy, but
nevertheless he proceeded to take his breakfast with some fortitude,
looking up occasionally to see that the trouts did not burn as they
made a pleasant skirling noise in the pan.

"There's nocht like a loch trout newly catched, in a' this bonny God's
warld," he said. "I wonder how men can be haythens and ill-doers when
there's sic braw loch trout in Gallowa'! And burn trout are just as
guid--in fact, there's some that actually prefers them!"

All this day Jean Gordon might have been heard in solemn confabulation
with the curate, while Wat lay and listened to the din of their voices,
sometimes uplifted in controversy, sometimes hushed in gossip, but ever
coming to him pleasantly dulled and harmonized through the thick walls
and long echoing passages of the house of Lochinvar. It was a windy day
also, and the water sang him a lullaby of his childhood, as it lapped
and swished all about him, with a noise like the leafy boughs of trees
brushing against the foundations of his ancient castle.

"To-morrow! To-morrow! To-morrow!" said Wat, over and over to himself.
"To-morrow my die will be cast for life or death."



CHAPTER L

LOCHINVAR KEEPS TRYST


The morning of the tenth came--still, uncolored below, rising to
grayish-blue above, rose-rimmed only along the eastern horizon. The
reapers were out in the high fields about Gordonstoun by daybreak,
with their crooked reaping-hooks in their hands, busily grasping the
handfuls of grain and cutting them through with a pleasant "risp" of
sound. Cocks crowed early that morning, for they knew it was going to
be a day of fervent heat. It would be as well, therefore, to have the
pursuit of slippery worm and rampant caterpillar over betimes in the
dawning. Then each chanticleer could stand in the shade and scratch
himself applausively with alternate foot all the hot noontide, while
his wives clucked and nestled in the dusty holes along the banks,
interchanging intimate reflections upon the moral character of the
giddier and more skittish young pullets of the farmyard.

But long after the sun had risen Wat Gordon lay asleep. Jean Gordon
had a suit of clothes lying ready brushed for him on a chair--frilled
linen, lace so cobwebby and fine, that it seemed to be spun from the
foam of the loch after a storm. His father's sword swung by a belt of
faded scarlet leather from the oaken angle of the nearest chair-back.

"I'll gie him half an hour yet," said she; "Peter will no' be here wi'
Sandy Gordon's muckle horse before that time."

The minutes passed slowly. Jean opened the window of the tower, and
the fresh air of the moorland stole in. Wat Gordon lay on his pillow
knitting his brows and working his hands as if in grips with some
deadly problem that lacked a solution.

"Puir lad, puir lad, whatna kittle thing love is!" murmured the old
lady; "it works us, it drives us, and it harls us. It grieves us and
gars us greet. And yet, what wad life be without it and the memory o't!
And 'tis Jean Gordon that should ken, for she has lived sixty years on
the memory o' ae bonny month o' maist heavenly bliss."

At last she bent over him, hearing a loud and piercing whistle from the
shore of the loch.

"My lamb, my lamb!" she whispered, fondly, "rise ye, for your love's
sake. Here are your claes. Gang forth like a bridegroom rejoicing in
your strength. Ye shallna gang menseless this day, though ye hae to
ride on another man's horse. The time will come when ye shall hae mony
braw plenished stables o' your ain."

Obediently Wat rose, and put the fine clothes on him with a kind of
wonder. He was still pale and wan, and his body was wasted by suffering
and recent privation. Nevertheless, he felt his head clear, and there
was an elastic ease in all his sinews.

"To-day," he said to himself, gladly--"to-day I cast the die for love
or death."

The curate came for him in the boat, and Jean Gordon accompanied them.

"I am loath to part," she said; "it was aye a kindly Galloway custom
to convoy the lad ye liked best, and Guid kens that's Wat Gordon o'
Lochinvar."

"What do three horses there?" asked Wat, as they rowed the boat over to
the landing-place, where a black charger and two humbler shelties were
tethered close together among the dwarf moorland birches.

"'Tis a grand day for pleasuring," said Jean, "and Peter and me have
made it up to ride together to the Three Thorns o' Carlinwark by the
end o' the loch. There ye will find us gin ye need us. Ye will hae to
ride that gate onyway, gin ye win clear o' the house o' Balmaghie with
life and good fortune."

Wat mounted his cousin's horse Drumclog, a mighty black of rare paces,
which, in spite of his size, on firm ground could distance any steed in
the stewartry--aye, and as far as to Gretna on the border-side.

Now when Wat Gordon turned to ride away, sitting erect on his black
horse, there came a light of almost maiden's love into Jean Gordon's
eye.

"Never was there bride couched beside bridegroom like him!" she
exclaimed, proudly. "Win her or lose her, it will be the height o'
pride to the young lass all her life long, that on a day she had such a
lover to venture all for her sake."

And indeed, despite the wild eye, sunk in its rim of darkest purple,
despite the hollow cheek and pale face of his wandering, well might
she say it. For no such cavalier as Walter Gordon, Lord of Lochinvar
and Gordonstoun, that day took the eyes of ladies in all broad
Scotland. Doubly outlawed as he was--rebel, landless, friendless,
penniless--there was yet something about the lad which carried hearts
before him as the wind carries dandelion spray. And many a high dame
and many a much-courted maiden had left her all that day to have
followed him through the world at a waft of his right hand.

A coat of fine blue cloth set Walter Gordon well. A light cape of the
same was bound over it, having a broad, rough hem of gold. His father's
sword swung by his side. The sash and star of King James's order shone
on his breast as the wind blew back his cloak. Knee-breeches of corded
leather and cavalier's riding-boots completed his attire, while a
broad hat, white-feathered for loyalty and trimmed with blue and gold,
was on his head.

"Aye, there gangs the leal heart," said Jean Gordon, wiping her dim
eyes that she might watch him the longer; "there gangs the bonny
laddie. There rides Wat Gordon, the only true lover--the lad that is
ready to lay doon his life for his dear, lightly as a man sets on the
board an empty cup after that he has drunken. Wae's me that sax inches
o' steel in the back, or a pistol bullet at ten paces, should have
power to lay a' that beauty low in the dust!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The holms and woodland spaces of Balmaghie were indeed a sight to see
that glorious morn of the tenth of September, in the year of Christ,
His Grace, 1689. There was scarce accommodation in the wide stables of
the mansion for the horses of the guests. The very byres were crowded
with them. The kye were milked on the edge of the wood to give the
horses stalling-room in their places. As for Mistress Crombie, she was
nearly driven out of her wits by the foreign cooks whom the new lady of
the house had brought with her--some of them from Edinburgh and some
of them all the way from London itself--to do justice to the great
occasion.

Alisoun Begbie had a host of assistants. Every gentleman's house in the
neighborhood had supplied its quota--given willingly, too, for there
was no saying how soon the time might come to solicit an equivalent,
either from the social kindness of the great lady of Balmaghie, or from
the important political influence of the bridegroom, Murdo, Lord of
Barra and the Small Isles.

Down the moorland road, by the side of which the humblebees were
droning in the heather bushes, and the blithe blackcock spreading his
wings and crowing as if the spring had come again, yet another guest
was riding to the wedding--and one, too, arrayed in the wedding
garment.

Wat Gordon of Lochinvar flashed like a dragon-fly in gay apparel
above the lily-clad pools of Loch Ken. But he had no invitation--no
"Haste-to-the-Wedding"--unless, perhaps, the little heart of gold
which he carried in his breast could be accounted such a summons. He
rode slowly, often walking his horse long distances, like one who is
not anxious to arrive over early at an important meeting-place. After
he had passed the Bridge of New Galloway, and had ridden, to the
astonishment and delight of those early astir in the ancient borough
town, down the long, straggling, pig-haunted street, he dismounted and
allowed his horse to walk by the loch-side, and even at intervals to
crop the sweet grasses of the road-side.

Yet it was from no consuming admiration of the supreme beauties of that
fair pathway that Wat Gordon lagged so long upon it that September
morn. To no purpose the loch rippled its deepest blue for him. In vain
the heather ran back in league on league of red and purple bloom to
the uttermost horizon, that Bennan frowned grimly above, and that the
Black Craig of Dee fulfilled the promise of its name in gloomy majesty
against the western sky. For Wat Gordon kept his pale face turned
anxiously on his charger.

"Ah, Drumclog," he said, thinking aloud, "thou art a Whig's horse, but
if ever thou didst carry a cavalier on a desperate quest, it is surely
this fair morning. Speed to thy legs, nimbleness to thy feet, for thou
carriest more than the life of one this day."



CHAPTER LI

THE BRIDE'S LOVING-CUP


But just at the weary traverse across the moor of the Bennan, after
the shining levels of Loch Ken were left behind, and before the sylvan
quietnesses of the Lane of Grenoch had been encountered, Wat Gordon
came suddenly on a troop of cavalry that rode northward, tinkling spur
and jingling bit. So long had the country folk of Galloway been in the
habit of fleeing at the sound, that, as the troop advanced, riding
easily, heads were hastily popped out of the whitewashed cottages of
Mossdale, where it sits blithely on the brae. There came a rush of
white-headed bairns; then a good-wife who took the heather rather more
reluctantly, like a motherly hen disturbed from off her comfortable
nest; and then, last of all, followed the good-man, keeping well behind
the yard dike, and driving the family pig before him. For this picture,
in sixteen hundred and eighty-nine, affords the exact estimate of the
character and conduct of his Majesty's dragoons, which the experience
of thirty years had taught the moorland folk of Galloway.

Yet, in the present pacified state of the country, these were doubtless
troopers in the service of King William, and the old bad, days gone
forever--that is, from the point of view of the good-man of Mossdale.
Nevertheless, with such a pig, that worthy man considered that it was
well to run no risks.

But it was otherwise with Wat Gordon of Lochinvar. He had fought at
Killiekrankie, and had twice been outlawed by the government of King
William.

"Halt!" cried the officer in command to him; "whither away, riding so
gayly, young sir?"

"To the wedding at Balmaghie," Wat replied, tossing his lace kerchief,
as if he had been a gallant shedding perfume over the Mall under the
eyes of the maids-in-waiting.

"Your name and possessions?" continued the officer, noways inclined to
be impressed by butterfly graces.

"I am Gordon of Gordonstoun--a kinsman of Alexander Gordon of
Earlstoun, to whose house I presume you are going," replied Wat,
subtly. "This is, indeed, my cousin's war-horse on which I ride, if so
be any of you are acquainted with him."

"Aye, by my faith, that do I all too well," said one of the troopers;
"the uncanny devil came nigh to taking my arm off the other morning
between his teeth, when I would have shifted him out of his stall to
make room for the horse of your honor."

"Well done, Drumclog!" said Wat, leaning over and patting his neck, as
easily as if he had been a councillor of the king himself, instead of a
rebel twice attainted and mansworn.

"A good Cameronian horse," smiled the officer. "I thank you, laird of
Gordonstoun, for your courteous answers. I would not keep you a moment
from the bridal to which you go. Gay footing to you! I would it were
mine to lead the dance this night with the maids of Balmaghie, and to
drink the bride's stirrup-cup this morning."

"Aye," said Wat, "it is indeed good to drink the loving-cup from the
bride's fair hands. 'Tis to taste it that I go. I have risen from a
sick bed to do it."

"So my eyes tell me, brave lad," said the officer. "I trust your
illness has not been grievous?"

"Nothing but what the bright eyes of a maid have power to cure!" cried
Wat, looking back and waving his hand.

"Faith, right gallantly said," replied the officer; "with a tongue so
attuned to compliment I will not detain thee a moment. 'Twere a pity
such speeches should be wasted on a troop of his Majesty's dragoons."

So with a courteous wave of his hand the young captain swept northward,
followed by his clanking troopers. And as he went little did he know
his own escape from death, or guess that Wat Gordon, fingering at his
sword and pistols so daintily and featly as he sat his horse, had in
his mind the exact spot where the bullet would strike if it had chanced
that any in the troop knew him for a rebel. For that light grip and
easy swing of the sword indicated nothing less than a desperate resolve
to cut his way singly through a whole command, rather than be stopped
on his way to the bridal of Kate McGhie and my Lord of Barra.

A group of retainers stood irregularly about the outer gate of
Balmaghie when Wat rode up. They greeted him with honor, one after
another sweeping the ground with their plumed hats as they swerved
aside to let him pass. But the ancient gardener stood open-mouthed, as
if trying to recall a memory or fix a puzzling resemblance.

As Lochinvar rode through the glinting dewy woodlands he saw youths and
damsels parading the glades in couples--keeping, however, their faces
carefully towards the house for the signal that the bride was coming.
Already the bridegroom had arrived with his company, and, indeed, most
of them were even now in the hall drinking prosperity and posterity to
the wedding.

"Haste you, my lord!" cried one malapert damsel to Wat, as he rode past
a group of chattering minxes, "or you will be too late to win your
loving-cup of luck from the hands of the bride, ere she goes to don her
veil."

To her Wat Gorden bowed with his gayest air, and so passed by. The
company was just coming out of the hall as he rode up. There, first of
all, was my lady. Behind her came Roger McGhie, looking wan and frail,
but carrying himself with his old dignity and gentle courtesy. And
there, talking gayly to my lady, was Murdo, Lord of Barra, now proud
and elate, having come to the height of his estate and with the cup of
desire at his lip.

These three stopped dead when they saw the gay rider on the black
horse, reining his steed at the foot of the steps of the house of
Balmaghie. For a space they stood speechless. But the master of the
house, Roger McGhie, it was who spoke first.

"'Tis a marvel and a pleasure to see you here, my Lord Lochinvar, on
this our bridal day--a welcome guest, indeed, if you come in peace to
the house which once gave you shelter in time of need."

"Or come you to visit your ancient friends, who have not wholly cast
you off, Lochinvar, though you have forgotten them?" added my lady,
dimpling with a pleasure more than half malicious, on the broad terrace
above him.

But Murdo of Barra said no word, as he stood on the upper steps gnawing
his thin mustache, and talking aside to his groomsman as though that
which was happening below were but some trifling matter which concerned
him not.

"Light down and lead the dance, my lord," said Roger McGhie,
courteously. "None like you, they say, can tread a measure, none so
readily win a lady's favor--so runs the repute of you."

"I thank you, Balmaghie," answered Wat, courteously; "but I came
without invitation, without summons, to ask but that last favor--the
loving-cup of good luck from the bride's fair hands ere I ride to meet
my fate. For I must needs ride fast and far this day."

"It is well and knightly asked, and shall be granted," said Roger
McGhie. "Bid Kate bring hither a loving-cup of wine for my Lord of
Lochinvar, who bides her coming at the hall-door."

Black Murdo of Barra moved his hand impatiently.

"Let a bridesmaid fetch it," he said. "The bride is doubtless at her
dressing and brooks not to be disturbed."

"Give me but the moment, and to you I leave the rest," said Walter
Gordon, looking up at him with the light of a desperate challenge
shining clear in his eye.

Then the maidens of the bridal standing about whispered eagerly to each
other.

"Ah, that were a bridegroom, indeed! See him sit in the saddle like a
god--fitter for our bonny Kate than yon black, scowling Murdo."

Then out through the open doorway of the hall there came a vision of
delight. The young bride came forth, clad in white, daintily slender,
divinely fair. Not yet had she assumed her bridal veil. In simple white
she moved, her hair rippling in sunlit curls to her neck, her maiden
snood still for the last time binding it up. A silver beaker brimmed
with the red claret wine in her hand. And as she came bearing it in,
the wedding guests opened a way for her to pass, murmuring content and
admiration. Barra stepped forward as if to relieve her of the burden,
but she passed him by as though she had not seen him.

Presently she stood at the side of Wat Gordon's charger, which looked
back at her over his shoulder as though he, too, marvelled at her
beauty.

The true-lovers were met for the last time.

"Would that they need never part!" said a wise bridesmaid, leaning over
and whispering to her mate. For their story was known, and all the
young were very pitiful.

"Amen to that! Look at Murdo, how black and gash he glowers at them!"
said her companion.

Wat Gordon took the cup and held it high in one brown gauntlet, still
keeping the hand that gave it in his other.

"I pledge the bride--the bride and her own true-love!" he said, loud
enough for all to hear.

Then he drank and leaned towards Kate as though to return the cup with
courteous salutation.

None heard the word he whispered. None save she who loved him can ever
know, for Kate has not revealed it. But the word was spoken. The word
was heard. A moment only the bride's eyes sought her lover's. The next
his arm was about her waist, and her foot left the gravel with a spring
airy as a bird's first morning flight. The reins were gathered in Wat's
hand, his love was safe on the saddle before him. The spurs were set in
Drumclog's dark flanks, the brave horse sprang forward, and before ever
so much as a cry could go up from that watching assembly, Wat Gordon
was riding straight for Dee water with his love between his arms.



CHAPTER LII

CATCH THEM WHO CAN!


For a space that concourse of marriage guests stood frozen with
surprise and wonder. Then a hoarse cry arose from Black Murdo and his
friends. With one accord they rushed for the stables; but some groom,
eager to enjoy his holiday untrammelled at the wedding, had locked the
doors. The key could not be found. The door must be broken down. Then
what a cursing, shouting, striking of scullions ensued, Black Murdo in
the midst raging like a fiend!

But all the while Kate was in the arms of her love, and the brave horse
went rushing on, stealing mile after mile from the confusion of their
foes. They were past the water of Dee, fording by the shallows of
Threave, before ever a man of their pursuers was mounted at Balmaghie.
On they rode towards the green-isleted loch of Carlinwark, at whose
northern end they were trysted to meet with the curate and Jean Gordon.

Soon Carlinwark's dappled square of blue gleamed beneath them as they
surmounted the Wizard's Mount and looked down upon the reeking chimneys
of cottages lying snugly in the bield of the wooded hollow. Never
slackening their speed on the summit, they rushed on--Drumclog going
down hill among the rabbit-holes and thorn bushes as swiftly and surely
as on level pavemented city street.

And there at last, by the Three Thorns of a thousand trysts, stood the
curate of Dalry, Peter McCaskill, and Jean Gordon by his side with a
blue cloak over her arm. A little way behind them could be seen the
brawny blacksmith of Carlinwark, Ebie Callan, his sledge-hammer in one
hand and the bridle-rein of a chestnut mare in the crook of his left
arm.

There was as yet no sight or sound of pursuit behind them when they
stayed Drumclog.

"Hurrah!" said the curate, standing before Wat and Kate in his white
cassock and holding his service-book in his hand. "Are your minds made
up? There is little time to lose, 'Dearly beloved, forasmuch,' and so
on--Walter Gordon of Lochinvar, do you take this woman whom you now
hold by the hand (take her by the hand, man)"--so on and on he mumbled,
rustling rapidly over the leaves of his book--"before these witnesses?
And do you, Katherine McGhie, take this man?--very well then--'whom God
hath joined....' There, that is finished, and 'tis as good a job as
if it had been done by the Dean of Edinburgh. They cannot break Peter
McCaskill's marrying work except with the dagger. And as to that, you
must ride to save your skin, Wat, my lad."

"Mount upon this good steed, my lady," said the blacksmith to Kate;
"she will carry you to Dumfries like the wind off the sea. She is
faster than anything this side of the border."

And after she had mounted, with Ebie Callan's gallant assistance, Jean
Gordon cast the blue cloak about her.

"See and draw the hood decently about your head when ye come to the
town-end o' Dumfries," she cried.

[Illustration: "WITH HIS LOVE BETWEEN HIS ARMS"]

"And," said the curate, "mind ye, Black Murdo has a double post-relay
of horses prepared for his bride and himself all the road to York,
where the king is. Ebie has been ten days away through these outlandish
parts layin' them doon. So ye can just say when ye get to the White
Horse in the Vennel: 'The horses for my Lord of Barra and his lady,'
and there ye are! In the town of Dumfries they do not know Black
Murdo frae Black Satan--nor care. And now away wi' ye! I hear them
coming, but ye'll cheat them yet. There's nocht in the stables o'
Balmaghie that can catch you and your bonny lady if ye keep clear o'
moss-holes."

The pursuers were just topping the hill when the black and the chestnut
were again put to their speed, and then, with a wave of the hand
from Kate, and shake of his chevron-glove from Wat, the lovers were
off on their long and perilous ride. The curate stood looking after
them a moment; then, pulling his surplice over his head, he waved it
frantically, like a giant kerchief, murmuring the while: "The blessing
o' the Almighty and Peter McCaskill be on ye baith!"--which was all the
benediction that closed the marriage service of Wat Gordon and Kate
McGhie.

Jean Gordon had turned aside to wipe her eyes, and the blacksmith
stood staring after them with his mouth wider open than ever. As the
pair surmounted the tangled hill of whins behind the little village
of Causewayend, Wat looked down a moment from the highest part, but
without checking his horses, in order to note the positions of his
pursuers. Seeing this, the blacksmith became suddenly fired with
enthusiasm. He lifted the mighty sledge which he had brought out in his
hand and twirled it about his head.

"To the black deil wi' a' that wad harm ye or mar ye, ye bonny pair!"
he shouted.

This was Ebie Callan's formula of blessing, and quite as serviceable in
its way as that of the curate.

But at that moment a horseman, coming at a hand gallop down the hill,
broke through the thicket and rushed at speed between the Three Thorns
almost upon Peter McCaskill and the smith. His horse reared and shied
at the waving surplice and the threatening hammer, whereupon the rider
went over the pommel of his saddle and crashed all his length on the
hard-beaten path. When he regained his footing, lo! it was Black Murdo
of Barra himself, and very naturally he rose in the fiercest of tempers.

He drew his sword and would have rushed upon the curate, but that the
blacksmith stepped in front with his sledge-hammer.

"Haud up, my man!" he exclaimed, peremptorily, as if the Lord of Barra
had been a kicking horse he had set himself to shoe; "stand back gin
ye dinna want your pow cracked like a hazel-nut. Mind ye, Ebie Callan
never missed a chap wi' the fore-hammer in his life!"

At this point Peter McCaskill suddenly flapped his surplice in the face
of Barra's horse, which flourished its heels and cantered away to meet
its companions.

For by this time the other pursuers were beginning to come up, and,
seeing that nothing could be gained by delay, Barra called to one of
these, whose horse he took, and, delaying till a more convenient season
any vengeance on Ebie Callan, once more set off in pursuit.

"Praise the Lord, they hae gotten a grand start. There's no' yin o'
the vermin will come within a mile o' oor Wat on this side o' Dumfries
whatever," affirmed the curate.

"And what's mair," added the smith, "if he gets the horses I laid doon
for my lord, he will ride into Carlisle with no' a McGhie or black
hieland McAlister within miles o' him."

"Except the McGhie on the chestnut," said Peter McCaskill.

"And even she's a Gordon noo, if ye hae as good skill in your welding
trade as I hae in mine," replied Ebie Callan, turning away to his
smithy bellows.

       *       *       *       *       *

It cannot be told at length, in this already over-long chronicle,
in what manner Wat and Kate rode into Dumfries far ahead of their
pursuers, or how they mounted on the horses prepared for Barra and his
countess and went out amid the cheering of the populace. Nor is there
room to relate how at each post they found, as Ebie had foretold,
horses ever fresh and fresh, innkeepers obsequious, hostlers ready to
delay all pursuers for a gold piece in hand as they rode off. Neither
does it matter to the conclusion of the tale (which cannot long be
delayed, though there would be pleasure in the prolonging of it) how
they were assaulted by footpads at Great Salkeld; how Wat's blade
played like summer lightning among them to the scatterment of the
rascals; how Kate shot off a pistol and harmed nobody; how they rested
three hours at Long Marten, and how Wat kept watch while Kate slept
on the long, brown heath of the fell betwixt Stainmoor and the Nine
Standards at the entering in of Yorkshire.

These make a tale by themselves which ought to be told one day--but by
a tale-teller unbreathed by a longer race than even that from the house
of Balmaghie to the court which King William was holding in the city of
York.

It is sufficient to say that without once being sighted by their
pursuers after they topped the hill beyond Carlinwark, Lochinvar and
Kate, with thankful hearts, caught their first glimpse of the towers of
York Cathedral, hull down in the broad plain, like the masts of a ship
at sea.



CHAPTER LIII

WITHIN THE KING'S MERCY


As they came nearer to the city they began to pass groups of country
folk, all hastening in to see the glories of the court. For the king
had come so far from his capital to receive the homage of his northern
province, before departing to Ireland on the great campaign which was
to make him unquestioned monarch of the kingdoms three.

Soon Wat and Kate reached the ancient bar which spanned the northern
road by which they had ridden.

"Whither-away so fast?" cried the sentinel to them.

"From Scotland to see the king!" said Wat, confidently, giving the man
the salute in a manner only practised by the regiments in Holland.

"You are of his Highness's Scot regiments?" cried a much-surprised
voice from the low doorway.

"Of the Douglas Dragoons," replied Wat, over his shoulder.

"Pass--a gallant corps!" returned the officer of the guard, who
had been watching, giving Wat back his salute in form, but,
notwithstanding, keeping his eyes fixed upon Kate, whose head shone
like a flower out of the blue deeps of the cape in which the rest of
her beauty was shrouded.

As they rode more slowly on, several distinct streams of people all
setting in one direction told them without need of question in what
place the king held his court. There were many strange folk to be
seen about the ancient city that day. In front of the cathedral were
encamped the king's Laplanders, each armed with a great two-handed
sword, nearly as long as the owner (for they were little men of their
stature), and wearing bear-skins over their black armor.

The splendid uniforms of the prince's body-guard were also to be seen
here and there. But it was not till they entered the wide grassy court
of the castle that the full splendor of the scene was revealed to them.

Again and again they were challenged, but Wat's confident reply, "From
Scotland to see the king!" together with his knowledge of the military
etiquette in the Dutch army (and perhaps also in some measure the
beauty of his companion), insured him a free and courteous passage on
every occasion.

As they rode into the court-yard of the castle the king was just coming
out of a pavilion which had been erected to receive him. The gentlemen
of his body-guard, in orange uniforms, and with brilliant armor upon
their breasts, lined the square. The dignitaries of the province stood
more uncertainly about.

Walter and Kate rode straight up to within twenty yards of the king.
Then Wat dismounted and took his wife by the hand. She vaulted lightly
to the ground. So, hand-in-hand, the pair of runaway lovers stood
before the king.

William of Orange was a man valiant by nature. He had no fear of
assassination. And so on this occasion he put aside one or two
assiduous courtiers who would have interposed between him and Lochinvar.

Wat stood with his hat in his hand waiting for the king to put a
question. But William of Orange was silent. It was the custom of his
house that they never spoke the first word.

"Have I your highness's leave to speak?" said Wat, at last.

William looked him all over with his eagle eye.

"I have seen you before," he said; "you are the Scots officer who
brought me the papers concerning the forces at Amersfort."

Wat bowed, and at once began his speech to the king.

"Your highness," he said, "I am not here to ask a pardon for myself,
but to claim your courteous protection for this lady--who is my wife."

The circle of dames and damsels who elbowed and rustled behind William
at this point manifested the greatest interest. Kate had let the hood
of her cloak fall from her head, and now stood, with the simple white
of her bridal dress, unsoiled even after her long journey, showing
beneath it.

"I will speak freely to your highness," said Wat, "asking no boon for
myself. I am Walter Gordon of Lochinvar, in Galloway. Twice I am your
outlaw--once according to the law of King James have I been an exile
from my native land."

He spoke clearly and firmly, like one who will hide nothing.

The king bowed slightly, showing no more interest or animation than if
he had been listening to the light gossip of the court.

"Because we two loved each other, I have carried off a bride from your
councillor of state, my Lord Barra, that I might make her my wife. I
escaped from your prison of Amersfort in order that I might rescue my
love. I fought at Killiekrankie and Dunkeld--fought for King James,
that I might win a way to her. For myself, therefore, I ask no mercy,
and I expect none. But with confidence and unbound heart I place this
lady, my wife, under the protection of your highness, a prince just
and clement--so that whatever happens she may not fall into the power
of her enemy and mine, the Lord Barra, from whom and from death I have
saved her this day!"

"And how did you save her?" said William, looking at him level-eyed, as
one man looks at another whom he knows to be also a man.

"I went to the wedding to drink the bride's last loving-cup, and when
the bride came to the hall-door to speak with me I looked in her eyes
once. Then I took her on my saddle-bow and rode away from among them
all," said Wat, simply.

A little cheer fluttered out among the courtiers at this conclusion,
and the ladies clapped their hands as at a play.

The king silenced them with a wave of his hand.

"And you expect--?" said William, and paused, questioningly.

"I expect nothing, Prince of Orange," said Wat, boldly. "But I resolved
to come to you and tell you the worst. For I would rather have your
justice than any other man's mercy--especially that of the men who rule
for you in Scotland."

The king shrugged his shoulders.

"Aye," he said. "I am with you there. I wish that stiff-necked country
of yours were a thousand miles off and Duke Hamilton the king of it."

"You fought by my side at Calmthout, did you not?" he said, suddenly,
bending his piercing eyes on the young man.

Wat bowed, with a sudden access of pleasure shining on his face.

"And you saved the colors at Louvain," the king added.

Wat continued to hold his head down. William's memory was marvellous.

"You also brought the papers, relative to the manning and armament of
the camp, out of the inn of Brederode, wresting them from the French
spies at the risk of your life. And I made you an officer for it."

He paused again, still smiling. Never was there a brave man so nobly
clement as William of Orange.

"If I pardon you the double treason--and the prison-breaking," he
added, a little thoughtfully, "will you command again for me--not a
company this time, but a regiment?"

It was an offer noble, generous, worthy of the greatest prince.

The courtiers and the great folks assembled gave a shout, which was not
checked this time.

The king still stood silent, smiling, expectant, confident of Wat's
answer.

"My general, and your most noble highness," began Lochinvar, slowly,
"but lately it would have been the greatest honor of my life to command
a regiment in the service of the Prince of Orange. But I cannot command
one in the service of William, King of England."

"Think again," said the king, who understood him. "I have regiments
over seas as well as in England."

"But they might be needed here, and I could not desert my colors a
second time for loyalty, as once I did for love."

"What, then, do you desire?" said the king, shortly, looking manifestly
disappointed.

"Only your highness's most noble clemency," replied Wat, gravely; "the
right to live quietly in mine own ancient tower, under the protection
of your just and equal laws, giving my word of honor, if you will,
never again to bear arms during your highness's life."

"You have it, my Lord Lochinvar," said the king. "Gallantly you have
won your bride. Wear her on your breast and keep her safe with the
strength of your arm. I have lost me a good soldier and she has gotten
her a good man."

Kate ran forward with a charmingly girlish gratitude, and, kneeling,
kissed the king's hand.

She looked about her to where Lochinvar stood. There was entreaty and
command in her eye.

"It is the first thing I have ever asked of you as your wife!" she
said, in a low voice.

For a moment he resisted. Then Wat came forward, since his love had
called him, and, bending his knee, he said, "I kiss your hand, most
noble, most generous prince."

"Rise, my Lord Lochinvar," replied the king; "keep your castle and
your ancient loyalty, till your lands, and abide in peace within your
borders. I shall see that neither council nor councillor stir you. And
as for my Lord of Barra, I have bidden him to confine himself to his
own islands. He is no more councillor of mine. I have at last found the
truth concerning the matter of the inn at Brederode."

So, with a wave of his hand, the king passed away. A great king he was,
though even in that hour Wat had named him no more than prince. Then,
as soon as he was gone, a swarm of courtiers surrounded Wat, and the
ladies took Kate off to make much of her. For so great a marvel as the
open carrying away of a bride on her marriage day, with her own free
will and consent, had not been heard of in any land.

But when all was over, my Lord of Barra rode in, anxious and jaded with
hard spurring; but the king turned his back on him.

"I know my friends at last," he said. "Let me not see your face again,
my Lord Barra. Ye have my leave to abide in your isles, if ye will."

But instead Barra betook himself forthwith to France, where he was
received into great honor as a consistent favorer of the true king. He
was killed at Steenkirk, as was fitting, leading a charge. For though a
traitor, Murdo of Barra was a brave man.



EPILOGUE OF SUPEREROGATION

BEING CHAPTER FIFTY-FOURTH, AND LAST


Peace and silence cinctured the ancient tower of Lochinvar like the
blue circle of the vault of heaven. Kate and Wat were walking the
battlements. It was a narrow promenade, but they kept the closer
together. From the gable chimneys immediately above them the blue
perfumed reek of a peat fire went up straight as a monument. In the
kitchen Jean Gordon and her tow-headed servitor, Mall, were preparing
the evening meal. There, at the foot of the loch, could be seen Jack
Scarlett switching his long fishing-pole, his boat and his figure
showing black against the bright lake.

Wat shaded his face with his hand and looked under it, for the sun shot
his rays slantwise.

"What is the matter with old Jack?" he said; "yonder he goes, pulling
as hard as he can for the shore. I see two people sitting on a
heather-tussock by the landing-place."

When Kate had looked once swiftly, she clapped her hands. "'Tis Maisie
and Will!" she cried, merrily. "Oh, I wonder if they have brought the
babe?"

"The babe?" said her husband, "wherefore should they bring the babe,
carrying him all the way from Earlstoun?"

"I should never let him out of my arms," cried Kate, "if I had such a
boy."

She stopped somewhat suddenly and changed the subject.

"Look," she said, pointing with her finger, "Jack is showing them his
fish. It is as well that he seems to have a good, taking in his basket;
for, faith! there is little in the house but salted black-faced mutton."

Long before the boat could approach near enough to the tower to render
conversation possible, Kate and Maisie were crying out unintelligible
greetings one to the other, while with his hand on her skirts Will
Gordon endeavored to induce his wife to sit down, lest she should
overbalance herself and fall out of the boat.

Kate ran down the narrow turret stairs to the landing-place, whereupon
Wat followed hastily, lest she should throw herself bodily into the
water. The boat touched the wooden fenders, and the next moment the two
women were in each other's arms. The men shook hands gravely, but said
nothing, after their kind. Jack Scarlett took up his string of fish and
departed kitchenward without a word, keeping his eyes studiously on the
ground.

Meanwhile the two women were sobbing quietly and contentedly, each on
her friend's shoulder.

Then Will Gordon must needs turn and endeavor to cheer them with the
eternal masculine tact.

"Why, lassies," he said, with loud joviality, "what can there be to
cry about now, when everything has fallen out so well after all our
troubles?"

His wife turned to him fiercely.

"You great gaby!" she cried, pointedly, "get into the house and leave
us alone. Can you not see we are just glad?"

"Yes--glad and happy!" corroborated Kate. "What silly things men be!"

Wat and Will slunk off without a word. They did not so much as smile
at the manner of the gladness of women. Even when they were safe in
the square, oak-panelled hall, they seemed to have little to say to
each other, except as to the crops on Gordonstoun and concerning the
planting of trees at Will's new house of Afton.

Presently the women came back, whereupon, for no obvious reason, Wat
and Will immediately plucked up heart and became suddenly voluble.

"Wat," said Kate, daring him to a refusal with her eyes, "I am going
over to Earlstoun to-morrow to see the baby."

"What!" cried her husband, "why not fetch it here to-night? I will lead
an expedition to bring it this very moment, and Scarlett and Will shall
be my officers."

"_It_, indeed, you--you _man_!" cried Kate, contemptuously. "Why, you
could not be trusted with him."

"We might break it," said Will Gordon, quietly, "or it might even cry,
and then what should we do? Better is it that we should all return to
the Earlstoun to-morrow. Sandy and Jean have gone to Afton for a while."

And so it was arranged, perhaps because of the last-mentioned fact.

But Kate cried out impetuously, after a silence of five minutes: "I do
not believe that I can wait till to-morrow to see the lovely thing."

"No, nor I either!" said Maisie, grievingly. She let her eyes rest a
moment reproachfully on her husband, to convey to him that it was all
his fault.

The two men looked at each other. Their glances of mutual sympathy said
each to each: "This it is to be wedded."

"Well," said Wat, more cheerfully, like a man who knows it is vain to
fight against his destiny, "let us all go there together to-night."

The women sprang up and clapped their hands.

"Scarlett," cried Kate, "ferry us across in the boat at once."

"What may be the great hurry?" he said. "The trouts are frying fine."

"We are going back to Earlstoun," said Kate, with decision in her tone.

"Is the auld hoose on fire, or what's a' the red-hot haste?" called
Scarlett, from the kitchen, where he was superintending the sprinkling
of oatmeal on the trouts--a delicate operation.

"Man, the bairn may be greeting!" said Will Gordon; whereat Wat Gordon
suddenly laughed aloud--and then just judgment seemed about to descend
upon them. But their several wives looked at each other to decide
which should be the executioner. "After all," said the four eyes, as
they took counsel, "is it worth it?" It was enough that they were
_men_--nothing could be expected of that breed when it came to a matter
of the finer feelings.

Jean Gordon came anxiously panting up the stairs.

"You will be the better o' your suppers afore ye gang ony sic roads at
this time of night," she said, determinedly.

So in a trice the trouts were brought in, and Scarlett sat down along
with Lochinvar and his guests, for such was the sweet and honorable
custom of the tower.

Then in the beauty of a late and gracious gloaming, they rowed over
softly to the blossoming heather of the loch-side, and took their
way by two and two up the hill. The two women walked on in front in
whispered sibylline converse, sometimes looking over their shoulders
to insure that their husbands did not encroach too closely upon the
mysteries.

At the top of the hill Wat and Kate with one instinct stopped a moment
and looked down upon the peace of their moorland home. Jack Scarlett
was dragging a rod across the loch from the stern of the returning
boat. Jean Gordon and Mall, her maid, were setting the evening fire
to "keep in" till the morning. The topmost chimney still gave forth a
faint blue "pew" of peat-reek, which went straight up into the still
night air and was lost among the thickening spear-points of the stars.

Kate took her husband's arm.

"Are you sorry, Wat?" she said, with something like the dew of tears in
her voice, "that you gave up the command of a regiment to come to this
quiet place--and to me?"

In the hearing of his cousin Wat only smiled at her question, but
privately he took possession of his wife's hand, and kept it in his
all the way as they went down the hill, till they came through the
Earlstoun wood past the tree in which Sandy had hidden so long. But
at the well-house gate Kate suddenly dropped Wat's hand, and she and
Maisie darted simultaneously towards the great doorway of Earlstoun.

Their husbands stood petrified.

"There is baby crying, after all! Did I not tell you?" cried Kate and
Maisie together, looking reproachfully at each other as they ran.

Wat and Will were left alone by the curb of the well-house of
Earlstoun; they clasped hands silently in the dusk of the gloaming and
looked different ways. And though they did not speak, the grip of their
right hands was at once a thanksgiving and a prayer.


THE END


[Illustration: MAP _of the_ ISLANDS _of_ SULISCANNA & FIARA]



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Transcribers' Notes:


Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not
changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected; occasional unbalanced
quotation marks retained.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.

Page 84: "extragavances" probably is a misprint for "extravagances".

Page 245: "eastern ness" was printed as two words.





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