‘Oh dear!’ said my grandfather, in a choking voice. ’However shall we tell his wife? However shall we tell poor Mary?’
[Illustration: ‘HOW DID IT HAPPEN?’ I ASKED.]
‘How did it happen?’ I asked at length, as soon as I could speak.
‘He was getting a sack of flour on board, over yonder’ said one of the men in the boat, ’and it was awful thick and foggy, and he missed his footing on the plank, and fell in; that’s how it happened!’
‘Yes,’ said another man, ’and it seems he couldn’t swim, and there was no boat nigh at hand to help him. Joe Malcolmson was there and saw him fall in; but before he could call any of us, it was all over with him. We got him out at last, but he was quite gone; we fetched a doctor, and took him into a house near, and rubbed him, and did all we could; but it wasn’t of no good at all! Shall we bring him in?’
‘Wait a bit,’ said my grandfather; ’we must tell that poor girl first. Which of you will go and tell her?’
The men looked at each other and did not speak. At last one of them, who knew my grandfather a little, said, ’You’d better tell her, Sandy; she knows you, and she’ll bear it better than from strangers; we’ll wait here till you come back, and then we can bring him in.’
‘Well,’ said my grandfather, with a groan, ’I’ll go then! Come with me, Alick, my lad,’ said he, turning to me; ’but no, perhaps I’d better go by myself.’
So he went very slowly up towards the lighthouse, and I remained behind with the four men on the shore, and that silent form lying at the bottom of the boat.
I was much frightened, and felt as if it was all a very terrible dream, and as if I should soon wake up to find it had all passed away.
A CHANGE IN THE LIGHTHOUSE.
It seemed a long time before my grandfather came back, and then he only said in a low voice, ’You can bring him now, my lads; she knows about it now.’
And so the mournful little procession moved on, through the field and garden and court, to the Millars’ house, my grandfather and I following.
I shall never forget that night, nor the strange, solemn feeling I had then.
Mrs. Millar was very ill; the shock had been too much for her. The men went back in the boat to bring a doctor to the island to see her, and the doctor sent them back again to bring a nurse. He said he was afraid she would have an attack of brain-fever, and he thought her very ill indeed.
My grandfather and I sat in the Millars’ house all night, for the nurse did not arrive until early in the morning. The six children were fast asleep in their little beds. I went to look at them once, to see if my little Timpey was all right; she was lying in little Polly’s bed, their tiny hands fast clasped together as they slept. The tears came fast into my eyes, as I thought that they both had lost a father, and yet neither of them knew anything of their loss!