“DEAR GERTRUDE,—To-morrow morning I leave Dare. I have made up your letters, etc., in a packet; but as I would like to see Norman Ogilvie before going farther south, it is possible that we may run into the Thames for a day; and so I have taken the packet with me, and, if I see Ogilvie, I will give it to him to put into your hands. And as this may be the last time that I shall ever write to you, I may tell you now there is no one anywhere more earnestly hopeful than I that you may live a long and happy life, not troubled by any thinking of what is past and irrevocable. Yours faithfully, KEITH MACLEOD.”
So there was an end of correspondence. And now came this beautiful morning, with a fine northwesterly breeze blowing, and the Umpire, with her mainsail and jib set, and her gray pennon and ensign fluttering in the wind, rocking gently down there at her moorings. It was an auspicious morning; of itself it was enough to cheer up a heart-sick man. The white sea-birds were calling; and Ulva was shining green; and the Dutchman’s Cap out there was of a pale purple-blue; while away in the south there was a vague silver mist of heat lying all over the Ross of Mull and Iona. And the proud lady of Castle Dare and Janet, and one or two others more stealthily, were walking down to the pier to see Keith Macleod set sail; but Donald was not there—there was no need for Donald or his pipes on board the yacht. Donald was up at the house, and looking at the people going down to the quay, and saying bitterly to himself, “It is no more thought of the pipes, now, that Sir Keith has, ever since the English lady was at Dare; and he thinks I am better at work in looking after the dogs.”
Suddenly Macleod stopped, and took out a pencil and wrote something on a card.
“I was sure I had forgotten something, Janet,” said he. “That is the address of Johnny Wickes’s mother. We were to sent him up to see her some time before Christmas.”
“Before Christmas!” Janet exclaimed; and she looked at him in amazement. “But you are coming back before Christmas, Keith!”
“Oh, well, Janet,” said he carelessly, “you know that when one goes away on a voyage it is never certain about your coming back at all, and it is better to leave everything right.”
“But you are not going away from us with thoughts like those in your head, surely?” the cousin said. “Why, the man from Greenock says you could go to America in the Umpire; and if you could go to America, there will not be much risk in the calmer seas of the South. And you know, Keith, auntie and I don’t want you to trouble about writing letters to us; for you will have enough trouble in looking after the yacht; but you will send us a telegram from the various places you put into.”
“Oh yes, I will do that,” said he somewhat absently. Even the bustle of departure and the brightness of the morning had failed to put color and life into the haggard face and the hopeless eyes.