“And where are we going, Hamish,” says Colin Laing, in the Gaelic, “when we leave this place?”
“When you are told, then you will know,” says Hamish.
“You had enough talk of it last night in the cabin. I thought you were never coming out of the cabin,” says the cousin from Greenock.
“And if I have a master, I obey my master without speaking,” Hamish answers.
“Well, it is a strange master you have got. Oh, you do not know about these things, Hamish. Do you know what a gentleman who has a yacht would do when he got into Gravesend as we got in last night? Why, he would go ashore, and have his dinner in a hotel, and drink four or five different kinds of wine, and go to the theatre. But your master, Hamish, what does he do? He stays on board, and sends ashore for time-tables and such things; and what is more than that, he is on deck all night, walking up and down. Oh yes; I heard him walking up and down all night, with the yacht lying at anchor!”
“Sir Keith is not well. When a man is not well he does not act in an ordinary way. But you talk of my master,” Hamish answered, proudly. “Well, I will tell you about my master, Colin—that he is a better master than any ten thousand masters that ever were born in Greenock, or in London either. I will not allow any man to say anything against my master.”
“I was not saying anything against your master. He is a wiser man than you, Hamish. For he was saying to me last night, ’Now, when I am sending Hamish to such and such places in London, you must go with him, and show him the trains, and cabs, and other things like that.’ Oh yes, Hamish, you know how to sail a yacht; but you do not know anything about towns?”
“And who would want to know anything about towns? Are they not full of people who live by telling lies and cheating each other?”
“And do you say that is how I have been able to buy my house at Greenock,” said Colin Laing, angrily, “with a garden, and a boathouse, too?”
“I do not know about that,” said Hamish; and then he called out some order to one of the men. Macleod was at this moment down in the saloon, seated at the table, with a letter enclosed and addressed lying before him. But surely this was not the same man who had been in these still waters of the Thames in the by-gone days—with gay companions around him, and the band playing “A Highland Lad my Love was born,” and a beautiful-eyed girl, whom he called Rose-leaf, talking to him in the quiet of the summer noon. This man had a look in his eyes like that of an animal that has been hunted to death, and is fain to lie down and give itself up to its pursuers in the despair of utter fatigue. He was looking at this letter. The composition of it had cost him only a whole night’s agony. And when he sat down and wrote it in the blue-gray dawn, what had he not cast away?
“Oh no,” he was saying now to his own conscience, “she will not call it deceiving! She will laugh when it is all over—she will call it a stratagem—she will say that a drowning man will catch at anything. And this is the last effort—but it is only a stratagem: she herself will absolve me, when she laughs and says, ’Oh, how could you have treated the poor theatres so?’”