But no sooner had she spoken than there was a sudden sound in the night that caused her heart to jump. All over them and around them, as it seemed, there was a wild uproar of wings; and the clear sky above them was darkened by a cloud of objects wheeling this way and that, until at length they swept by overhead as if blown by a whirlwind, and crossed the clear moonlight in a dense body. She had quickly clung to him in her fear.
“It is only the jackdaws—there are hundreds of them,” he said to her; but even his voice sounded strange in this hollow building.
For they had now entered by the open doorway; and all around them were the tall and crumbling pillars, and the arched windows, and ruined walls, here and there catching the sharp light of the moonlight, here and there showing soft and gray with a reflected light, with spaces of black shadow which led to unknown recesses. And always overhead the clear sky with its pale stars; and always, far away, the melancholy sound of the sea.
“Do you know where you are standing now?” said he, almost sadly. “You are standing on the grave of Macleod of Macleod.”
She started aside with a slight exclamation.
“I do not think they bury any one in here now,” said he, gently. And then he added, “Do you know that I have chosen the place for my grave? It is away out at one of the Treshnish islands; it is a bay looking to the west; there is no one living on that island. It is only a fancy of mine—to rest for ever and ever with no sound around you but the sea and the winds—no step coming near you, and no voice but the waves.”
“Oh Keith, you should not say such things: you frighten me!” she said, in a trembling voice.
Another voice broke in upon them, harsh and pragmatical.
“Do you know, Sir Keith,” said Mr. White, briskly, “that the moonlight is clear enough to let you make out this plan? But I can’t get the building to correspond. This is the chancel, I believe; but where are the cloisters?”
“I will show you,” Macleod said; and he led his companion through the silent and solemn place, her father following. In the darkness they passed through an archway, and were about to step out on to a piece of grass, when suddenly Miss White uttered a wild scream of terror and sank helplessly to the ground. She had slipped from his arm, but in an instant he had caught her again and had raised her on his bended knee, and was calling to her with kindly words.
“Gertrude, Gertrude!” he said. “What is the matter? Won’t you speak to me?”
And just as she was pulling herself together the innocent cause of this commotion was discovered. It was a black lamb that had come up in the most friendly manner and had rubbed its head against her hand to attract her notice.
“Gertrude, see! it is only a lamb! It comes up to me every time I visit the ruins; look!”