But was not this a fine, fair scene that Miss Gertrude White saw around her when they came in sight of the river and Erith pier?—the flashes of blue on the water, the white-sailed yachts, the russet-sailed barges, and the sunshine shining all along the thin line of the Essex shore. The moment she set foot on the pier she recognized the Umpire lying out there, the great white mainsail and jib idly flapping in the summer breeze: but there was no one on deck. And she was not afraid at all; for had he not written in so kindly a fashion to her; and was she not doing much for his sake too?
“Will the shock be great?” she was thinking to herself. “I hope my bonnie Glenogie is not so ill as that; for he always looked like a man. And it is so much better that we should part good friends.”
She turned to Hamish.
“There is no one on the deck of the yacht, Hamish,” said she.
“No, mem,” said he, “the men will be at the end of the pier, mem, in the boat, if you please, mem.”
“Then you took it for granted I should come back with you?” said she, with a pleasant smile.
“I wass thinking you would come to see Sir Keith, mem,” said Hamish, gravely. His manner was very respectful to the fine English lady; but there was not much of friendliness in his look.
She followed Hamish down the rude wooden steps at the end of the pier; and there they found the dingy awaiting them, with two men in her. Hamish was very careful of Miss White’s dress as she got into the stern of the boat; then he and Colin Laing got into the bow; and the men half paddled and half floated her along to the Umpire—the tide having begun to ebb.
And it was with much ceremony, too, that Hamish assisted Miss White to get on board by the little gangway; and for a second or two she stood on deck and looked around her while the men were securing the dingy. The idlers lounging on Erith pier must have considered that this was an additional feature of interest in the summer picture—the figure of this pretty young lady standing there on the white decks and looking around her with a pleased curiosity. It was some little time since she had been on board the Umpire.
Then Hamish turned to her, and said, in the same respectful way,
“Will you go below, mem, now? It iss in the saloon that you will find Sir Keith; and if Christina iss in the way, you will tell her to go away, mem.”
The small gloved hand was laid on the top of the companion, and Miss White carefully went down the wooden steps. And it was with a gentleness equal to her own that Hamish shut the little doors after her.
But no sooner had she quite disappeared than the old man’s manner swiftly changed. He caught hold of the companion hatch, jammed it across with a noise that was heard throughout the whole vessel; and then he sprang to the helm, with the keen gray eyes afire with a wild excitement.