“Forgotten who you are!” Ogilvie exclaimed; and then he looked round to see that Hamish and Sandy the red-haired were at a convenient distance. “Do you know this, Macleod? A man never yet was in love with a woman without the woman being instantly aware of it.”
Macleod glanced at him quickly; then turned away his head again, apparently watching the gulls wheeling high over the sea—black spots against the glow of the sunset.
“That is foolishness,” said he. “I had a great care to be quite a stranger to her all the time I was in London. I myself scarcely knew—how could she know? Sometimes I thought I was rude to her, so that I should deceive myself into believing she was only a stranger.”
Then he remembered one fact, and his downright honesty made him speak again.
“One night, it is true,” said he—“it was the last night of my being in London—I asked a flower from her. She gave it to me. She was laughing at the time. That was all.”
The sunset had gone away, and the clear northern twilight was fading too, when young Ogilvie, having bade good-bye to Lady Macleod and her niece Janet, got into the broad-beamed boat of the fishermen, accompanied by his friend. There was something of a breeze, and they hoisted a lugsail so that they should run out to meet the steamer. Donald the piper lad was not with them; Macleod wanted to speak to his friend Ogilvie as he was leaving.
And yet he did not say anything of importance. He seemed to be chiefly interested in finding out whether Ogilvie could not get a few days’ leave, about Christmas, that he might come up and try the winter shooting. He was giving minute particulars about the use of arsenic paste when the box of skins to be despatched by Hamish reached London; and he was discussing what sort of mounting should be put on a strange old bottle that Janet Macleod had presented to the departing guest. There was no word of that which lay nearest his heart.
And so the black waves rolled by them; and the light at the horizon began to fade; and the stars were coming out one by one; while the two sailors forward (for Macleod was steering) were singing to themselves:
“Fhir a bhata (na
Fhir a bhata (na horo eile)
Fhir a bhata (na horo eile)
Chead soire slann leid ge thobh a theid u!”
that is to say,
A hundred farewells to you wherever you may go!”
And then the lugsail was hauled down, and they lay on the lapping water; and they could hear all around them the soft callings of the guillemots and razor-bills, and other divers whose home is the heaving wave. And then the great steamer came up and slowed; and the boat was hauled alongside and young Ogilvie sprang up the slippery steps.
“Good-bye, Ogilvie! Come up at Christmas.”
The great bulk of the steamer soon floated away, and the lugsail was run up again, and the boat made slowly back for Castle Dare. “Fhir a bhata!” the men sung; but Macleod scarcely heard them. His last tie with the South had been broken.