He and she and the cousin Janet—Mr. White had some letters to answer, and had stayed at home—were in the stern of the gig, and they were being rowed along the coast below the giant cliffs of Gribun. Certainly if Miss White had confessed to being a little nervous, she might have been excused. It was a beautiful, fresh, breezy, summer day; but the heavy Atlantic swell, that slowly raised and lowered the boat as the men rowed along, passed gently and smoothly on, and then went booming and roaring and crashing over the sharp black rocks that were quite close at hand.
“I think I would soon get over my fear of the sea,” she said, gently.
Indeed, it was not that that was most likely to impress her on this bright day—it was the awful loneliness and desolation of the scene around her. All along the summit of the great cliffs lay heavy banks of cloud that moved and wreathed themselves together, with mysterious patches of darkness here and there that suggested the entrance into far valleys in the unseen mountains behind. And if the outer surface of these precipitous cliffs was brightened by sunlight, and if there was a sprinkling of grass on the ledges, every few minutes they passed the yawning archway of a huge cavern, around which the sea was roaring with a muffled and thunderous noise. He thought she would be interested in the extraordinary number and variety of the sea-birds about—the solemn cormorants sitting on the ledges, the rock-pigeons shooting out from the caves, the sea-pyots whirring along the rocks like lightning-flashes of color, the lordly osprey, with his great wings outstretched and motionless, sailing slowly in the far blue overhead. And no doubt she looked at all these things with a forced interest; and she herself now could name the distant islands out in the tossing Atlantic; and she had in a great measure got accustomed to the amphibious life at Dare. But as she listened to the booming of the waves around those awful recesses; and as she saw the jagged and angry rocks suddenly appear through the liquid mass of the falling sea: and as she looked abroad on the unknown distances of that troubled ocean, and thought of the life on those remote and lonely islands, the spirit of a summer holiday forsook her altogether, and she was silent.
“And you will have no fear of the beast when you go into Mackinnon’s cave,” said Janet Macleod to her, with a friendly smile, “because no one has ever heard of it again. Do you know, it was a strange thing? They saw in the sand the footprint of an animal that is not known to any one about here; even Keith himself did not know what it was—”
“I think it was a wild-cat,” said he.
“And the men they had nothing to do then; and they went all about the caves, but they could see nothing of it. And it has never come back again.”
“And I suppose you are not anxious for its coming back?” Miss White said.
“Perhaps you will be very lucky and see it some day, and I know that Keith would like to shoot it, whatever it is.”