“Duncan,” said Hamish, in a low whisper—for Macleod had gone below, and they thought he might be asleep in the small, hushed stateroom, “this is a strange-looking day, is it not? And I am afraid of it in this open bay, with an anchorage no better than a sheet of paper for an anchorage. Do you see now how strange-looking it is?”
Duncan Cameron also spoke in his native tongue; and he said,—
“That is true, Hamish. And it was a day like this there was when the Solan was sunk at her moorings in Loch Hourn. Do you remember, Hamish? And it would be better for us now if we were in Loch Tua, or Loch-na-Keal, or in the dock that was built for the steamer at Tiree. I do not like the look of this day.”
Yet to an ordinary observer it would have seemed that the chief characteristic of this pale, still day, was extreme and settled calm. There was not a breath of wind to ruffle the surface of the sea; but there was a slight, glassy swell, and that only served to show curious opalescent tints under the suffused light of the sun. There were no clouds; there was only a thin veil of faint and sultry mist all across the sky; the sun was invisible, but there was a glare of yellow at one point of the heavens. A dead calm; but heavy, oppressed, sultry. There was something in the atmosphere that seemed to weigh on the chest.
“There was a dream I had this morning,” continued Hamish, in the same low tones. “It was about my little granddaughter Christina. You know my little Christina, Duncan. And she said to me, ’What have you done with Sir Keith Macleod? Why have you not brought him back? He was under your care, grandfather.’ I did not like that dream.”
“Oh, you are becoming as bad as Sir Keith Macleod himself?” said the other. “He does not sleep. He talks to himself. You will become like that if you pay attention to foolish dreams, Hamish.”
Hamish’s quick temper leaped up.
“What do you mean, Duncan Cameron, by saying, ’as bad as Sir Keith Macleod?’ You—you come from Ross: perhaps they have not good masters there. I tell you there is not any man in Ross, or in Sutherland either, is as good a master, and as brave a lad, as Sir Keith Macleod—not any one, Duncan Cameron!”
“I did not mean anything like that, Hamish,” said the other, humbly. “But there was a breeze this morning. We could have got over to Loch Tua. Why did we stay here, where there is no shelter and no anchorage? Do you know what is likely to come after a day like this?”
“It is your business to be a sailor on board this yacht; it is not your business to say where she will go,” said Hamish.
But all the same the old man was becoming more and more alarmed at the ugly aspect of the dead calm. The very birds, instead of stalking among the still pools, or lying buoyant on the smooth waters, were excitedly calling, and whirring from one point to another.