Out there on the dark and moving waters the great steamer was slowly drawing near the open boat; and as she came up, the vast hull of her, seen against the starlit sky, seemed a mountain.
“Now, Donald,” Macleod called out, “you will take the dog—here is the string; and you will see he does not spring into the water.”
“Yes, I will take the dog,” muttered the boy, half to himself. “Oh yes, I will take the dog; but it is better if I was going with you, Sir Keith, than any dog.”
A rope was thrown out, the boat dragged up to the side of the steamer, the small gangway let down, and presently Macleod was on the deck of the large vessel. Then Oscar was hauled up too, and the rope flung loose, and the boat drifted away into the darkness. But the last good-bye had not been said, for over the black waters came the sound of pipes once more, the melancholy wail of “Macintosh’s Lament.”
“Confound that obstinate brat!” Macleod said to himself. “Now he will go back to Castle Dare and make the women miserable.”
“The captain is below at his supper, Sir Keith,” said the mate. “Will you go down to him?”
“Yes, I will go down to him,” said he; and he made his way along the deck of the steamer.
He was arrested by the sound of some one crying, and he looked down, and found a woman crouched under the bulwarks, with two small children asleep on her knee.
“My good woman, what is the matter with you?” said he.
“The night is cold,” she said in the Gaelic, “and my children are cold; and it is a long way that we are going.”
He answered her in her own tongue.
“You will be warmer if you go below; but here is a plaid for you, anyway;” and with that he took the plaid from round his shoulders and flung it across the children, and passed on.
That was the way of the Macleods of Dare. They had a royal manner with them. Perhaps that was the reason that their revenues were now far from royal.
And meanwhile the red light still burned in the high windows of Castle Dare, and two women were there looking out on the pale stars and the dark sea beneath. They waited until they heard the plashing of oars in the small bay below, and the message was brought them that Sir Keith had got safely on board the great steamer. Then they turned away from the silent and empty night, and one of them was weeping bitterly.
“It is the last of my six sons that has gone from me,” she said, coming back to the old refrain, and refusing to be comforted.
“And I have lost my brother,” said Janet Macleod, in her simple way. “But he will came back to us, auntie; and then we shall have great doings at Castle Dare.”