“There is a drop of rain!” she exclaimed; and she suddenly sprang to her feet. The skies were black overhead. “Oh, dear me!” she said, “how thoughtless of us to leave your poor cousin Janet in that open boat, and a shower coming on! Please give me your hand now, Keith. And you must not take all these things so seriously to heart, you know; or I will say you have not the courage of a feeble woman like myself. And do you think the shower will pass over?”
“I do not know,” said he, in a vague way, as if he had not quite understood the question; but he took her hand, and in silence guided her down to the rocks, where the boat was ready to receive them.
And now they saw the strange transformation that had come over the world. The great troubled sea was all of a dark slate-green, with no glad ripples of white, but with long-squally drifts of black; and a cold wind was blowing gustily in; and there were hurrying clouds of a leaden hue tearing across the sky. As for the islands—where were they? Ulva was visible, to be sure, and Colonsay—both of them a heavy and gloomy purple; and nearer at hand the rock of Errisker showed in a wan, gray light between the lowering sky and the squally sea; but Lunga, and Fladda, and Staffa, and Iona, and even the long promontory of the Ross of Mull, were all hidden away behind the driving mists of rain.
“Oh you lazy people!” Janet Macleod cried, cheerfully—she was not at all frightened by the sudden storm. “I thought the wild beast had killed you in the cave. And shall we have luncheon now, Keith, or go back at once?”
He cast an eye towards the westward horizon and the threatening sky: Janet noticed at once that he was rather pale.
“We will have luncheon as they pull us back,” said he, in an absent way, as if he was not quite sure of what was happening around him.
He got her into the boat, and then followed. The men, not sorry to get away from these jagged rocks, took to their oars with a will. And then he sat silent and distraught, as the two women, muffled up in their cloaks, chatted cheerfully, and partook of the sandwiches and claret that Janet had got out of the basket. “Fhir a bhata,” the men sang to themselves; and they passed under the great cliffs, all black and thunderous now; and the white surf was springing over the rocks. Macleod neither ate nor drank; but sometimes he joined in the conversation in a forced way; and occasionally he laughed more loudly than the occasion warranted.
“Oh yes,” he said, “oh yes, you are becoming a good sailor now, Gertrude. You have no longer any fear of the water.”
“You will become like little Johnny Wickes, Miss White,” the cousin Janet said, “the little boy I showed you the other day. He has got to be like a duck in his love for the water. And, indeed, I should have thought he would have got a fright when Keith saved him from drowning; but no.”
“Did you save him from being drowned?” she said, turning to him. “And you did not tell me the story?”