The two women-folk, with whom he was most nearly brought into contact, were quite convinced that his stay in London had in nowise altered the buoyant humor and brisk activity of Keith Macleod. Castle Dare awoke into a new life on his return. He was all about and over the place accompanied by the faithful Hamish; and he had a friendly word and smile for every one he met. He was a good master: perhaps he was none the less liked because it was pretty well understood that he meant to be master. His good-nature had nothing of weakness in it. “If you love me, I love you,” says the Gaelic proverb; “otherwise do not come near me.” There was not a man or lad about the place who would not have adventured his life for Macleod; but all the same they were well aware that the handsome young master, who seemed to go through life with a merry laugh on his face, was not one to be trifled with. This John Fraser, an Aberdeen man, discovered on the second night after Macleod’s return to Castle Dare.
Macleod had the salmon-fishing on this part of the coast, and had a boat’s crew of four men engaged in the work. One of these having fallen sick, Hamish had to hire a new hand, an Aberdeenshire man, who joined the crew just before Macleod’s departure from London. This Fraser turned out to be a “dour” man; and his discontent and grumbling seemed to be affecting the others, so that the domestic peace of Dare was threatened. On the night in question old Hamish came into Macleod’s conjoint library and gun-room.
“The fishermen hef been asking me again, sir,” observed Hamish, with his cap in his hand. “What will I say to them?”
“Oh, about the wages?” Macleod said, turning round.
“Well, Hamish, I don’t object. Tell them that what they say is right. This year has been a very good year; we have made some money; I will give them two shillings a week more if they like. But then, look here, Hamish—if they have their wages raised in a good year, they must have them lowered in a bad year. They cannot expect to share the profit without sharing the loss too. Do you understand that, Hamish?”
“Yes, Sir Keith, I think I do.”
“Do you think you could put it into good Gaelic for them?”
“Then tell them to choose for themselves. But make it clear.”
“Ay, Sir Keith,” said Hamish. “And if it was not for that —— man, John Fraser, there would be no word of this thing. And there is another thing I will hef to speak to you about, Sir Keith; and it is John Fraser, too, who is at the bottom of this, I will know that fine. It is more than two or three times that you will warn the men not to bathe in the bay below the castle; and not for many a day will any one do that, for the Cave bay it is not more as half a mile away. And when you were in London, Sir Keith, it was this man John Fraser he would bathe in the bay below the castle in the morning, and he got one or two of the others to join him; and when I bade him go away, he will say that the sea belongs to no man. And this morning, too—”