“If the equinoctials were to begin now,” said Duncan Cameron, “this is a fine place to meet the equinoctials! An open bay, without shelter; and a ground that is no ground for an anchorage. It is not two anchors or twenty anchors would hold in such ground.”
Macleod appeared; the man was suddenly silent. Without a word to either of them—and that was not his wont—he passed to the stern of the yacht. Hamish knew from his manner that he would not be spoken to. He did not follow him, even with all this vague dread on his mind.
The day wore on to the afternoon. Macleod, who had been pacing up and down the deck, suddenly called Hamish. Hamish came aft at once.
“Hamish,” said he, with a strange sort of laugh, “do you remember this morning, before the light came? Do you remember that I asked you about a brass-band that I heard playing?”
Hamish looked at him, and said, with an earnest anxiety,
“Oh, Sir Keith, you will pay no heed to that! It is very common; I have heard them say it is very common. Why, to hear a brass-band, to be sure! There is nothing more common than that. And you will not think you are unwell merely because you think you can hear a brass-band playing.”
“I want you to tell me, Hamish,” said he, in the same jesting way, “whether my eyes have followed the example of my ears, and are playing tricks. Do you think they are bloodshot, with my lying on deck in the cold? Hamish, what do you see all around?”
The old man looked at the sky, and the shore, and the sea. It was a marvellous thing. The world was all enshrouded in a salmon-colored mist: there was no line of horizon visible between the sea and the sky.
“It is red, Sir Keith,” said Hamish.
“Ah! Am I in my senses this time? And what do you think of a red day, Hamish? That is not a usual thing.”
“Oh, Sir Keith, it will be a wild night this night! And we cannot stay here, with this bad anchorage!”
“And where would you go, Hamish—in a dead calm?” Macleod asked, still with a smile on the wan face.
“Where would I go?” said the old man, excitedly. “I—I will take care of the yacht. But you, Sir Keith; oh! you—you will go ashore now. Do you know, sir, the sheiling that the shepherd had? It is a poor place; oh yes; but Duncan Cameron and I will take some things ashore. And do you not think we can look after the yacht? She has met the equinoctials before, if it is the equinoctials that are beginning. She has met them before; and cannot she meet them now? But you, Sir Keith, you will go ashore.”
Macleod burst out laughing, in an odd sort of fashion.
“Do you think I am good at running away when there is any kind of danger, Hamish. Have you got into the English way. Would you call me a coward too? Nonsense, nonsense, nonsense, Hamish! I—why, I am going to drink a glass of the coal-black wine, and have done with it. I will drink it to the health of my sweetheart, Hamish!”