That was about the only incident of note, and little was made of it, that disturbed the monotony of life at Castle Dare at this time. But by and by, as the days passed, and as eager eyes looked abroad, signs showed that the beautiful summer-time was drawing near. The deep blue came into the skies and the seas again; the yellow mornings broke earlier. Far into the evening they could still make out the Dutchman’s Cap, and Lunga, and the low-lying Coll and Tiree, amidst the glow at the horizon after the blood-red sunset had gone down. The white stars of the saxifrage appeared in the woods; the white daisies were in the grass. As you walked along the lower slopes of Ben-an-Sloich, the grouse that rose were in pairs. What a fresh green this was that shimmered over the young larches! He sent her a basket of the first trout he caught in the loch.
The wonderful glad time came nearer and nearer. And every clear and beautiful day that shone over the white sands of Iona and the green shores of Ulva, with the blue seas all breaking joyfully along the rocks, was but a day thrown away that should have been reserved for her. And whether she came by the Dunara from Greenock, or by the Pioneer from Oban, would they hang the vessel in white roses in her honor, and have velvet carpetings on the gangways for the dainty small feet to tread on? and would the bountiful heavens grant but one shining blue day for her first glimpse of the far and lonely Castle Dare? Janet, the kind-hearted, was busy from morning till night; she herself would place the scant flowers that could be got in the guests’ rooms. The steward of the Pioneer had undertaken to bring any number of things from Oban; Donald, the piper-lad, had a brand-new suit of tartan, and was determined that, short of the very cracking of his lungs, the English lady would have a good salute played for her that day. The Umpire, all smartened up now, had been put in a safe anchorage in Loch-na-Keal; the men wore their new jerseys; the long gig, painted white, with a band of gold, was brought along to Dare, so that it might, if the weather were favorable, go out to bring the Fair Stranger to her Highland home. And then the heart of her lover cried, “O winds and seas, if only for one day, be gentle now! so that her first thoughts of us shall be all of peace and loveliness, and of a glad welcome, and the delight of clear summer days!”
And now—look! The sky is as blue as the heart of a sapphire, and the sea would be as blue too, only for the glad white of the rippling waves. And the wind is as soft as the winnowing of a sea-gull’s wing; and green, green, are the laughing shores of Ulva. The bride is coming. All around the coast the people are on the alert—Donald in his new finery; Hamish half frantic with excitement; the crew of the Umpire down at the quay; and the scarlet flag fluttering from the top of the white pole. And behold!—as the cry goes along that the steamer is in sight, what is this strange thing? She comes clear out from the Sound of Iona; but who has ever seen before that long line running from her stem to her top-mast and down again to her stern?