‘Twenty minutes past six,’ said my grandfather, looking at his watch.
‘Past six!’ she repeated. ‘Why, Jem’s very late!’
‘Yes,’ said my grandfather; ’I’ll go down to the pier, and have a look out.’
But he came back soon, saying it was impossible to see anything; the fog was so thick, he was almost afraid of walking over the pier. ’But he’s bound to be in at seven, he said (for that was the hour the lighthousemen were required to be on the island again), ’so he’ll soon be up now.’
The clock moved on, and still Jem Millar did not come. I saw Mrs. Millar running to her door every now and then with her baby in her arms, to look down the garden path. But no one came.
At last the clock struck seven.
‘I never knew him do such a thing before!’ said my grandfather, as he rose to go down to the pier once more.
WAITING FOR THE BOAT.
Poor Mrs. Millar went out of her house, and followed my grandfather down to the pier. I waited indoors with little Timpey, straining my ears to listen for the sound of their footsteps coming back again.
But the clock struck half-past seven, and still no sound was to be heard. I could wait no longer; I wrapped the child in a shawl, and carried her into the Millars’ house, and left her under the care of Mrs. Millar’s little servant. And then I ran down, through the thick, smothering fog, to the pier.
My grandfather was standing there with Mrs. Millar. When I came close to them he was saying, ’Cheer up, Mary, my lass; he’s all right; he’s only waiting till this mist has cleared away a bit. You go home, and I’ll tell you as soon as ever I hear his boat coming. Why, you’re wet through, woman; you’ll get your death of cold!’
Her thin calico dress was soaked with the damp in the air, and she was shivering, and looked as white as a sheet. At first she would not be persuaded to leave the pier; but, as time went on, and it grew darker and colder, she consented to do as my grandfather told her, and he promised he would send me up to the lighthouse to tell her as soon as Jem arrived.
When she was gone, my grandfather said ’Alick, there’s something wrong with Jem, depend upon it! I didn’t like to tell her so, poor soul! If we only had the boat, I would go out a bit of way and see.’
We walked up and down the pier, and stopped every now and then to listen if we could hear the sound of oars in the distance, for we should not be able to see the boat till it was close upon us, so dense had the fog become.
‘Dear me,’ my grandfather kept saying anxiously, ‘I wish he would come!’
My thoughts went back to the bright sunny morning when Jem Millar had started, and we had heard him singing, as he went, those two lines of the hymn,—
’On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.’