" Weel, ye see, I saw our owners this morning," said
Willie, looking round upon, and addressing in general
the interested company, while Katie span demurely with
the aspect of an initiated person, who knew it all, and
did not need to listen, " and they have a new brig build-
ing down at Leith, that's to be ca'ed the Flower of Fife.
Mr Mitchell the chief owner is a St Andrews man himsel
— so he said if I would be content to be maybe six weeks
128 KATIE STEWART.
or twa months ashore out o' employ, he would ship me
master o' the brig whenever she was ready for sea."
" Out o' employ ! " exclaimed Alick in consternation.
" I ken what ye mean, Alick, but nae fear o' that. So
I told the owner that I had my ain reasons for wanting
twa-three weeks to mysel, ashore, the now, and that I
would take his offer and thank him; so we shook hands
on the bargain, and ye may ca' me Captain, mother, when-
ever ye like."
" Ay, but no till the cutter's captain gies us leave,"
said Alick, hastily. " What glamour was owre ye, that
you could pit yoursel in such peril 1 Better sail mate for
a dizzen voyages mair, than be pressed for a common Jack
in a man-o'-war."
" Nae fear o' us," said Willie, gaily. " Never venture,
never win, Alick; and ye'll have a' to cross to Leith
before we sail, and see the Flower of Fife. I should take
Katie with me the first voyage, and then there would be
twa of them, miller."
" But, Willie, my man, ye've pitten yoursel in peril,"
said his mother, laying her feeble hand upon his arm.
" Ne'er a bit, mother — ne'er a bit. The cutter has
done nae mischief yet — she's neither stopped a ship nor
sent a boat ashore. If she begins to show her teeth, we'll
hear her snarl in time, and I'll away into Cupar, or west
to Dunfermline; nae fear o' me — we'll keep a look-out on
the Firth, and nae harm will come near us."
" If there was nae ither safeguard but your look-out on
the Firth, waes me ! " said his mother; " but ye're the
son o' a righteous man, Willie Morison, and ane o' the
props o' a widow. The Lord preserve ye — for I see ye'll
hae muckle need."
KATIE STEWART. 129
The next day was the Sabbath, and Willie Morison, with
his old mother leaning on his arm, reverently deposited
his silver half-crown in the plate at the door of West
Anster Church — an offering of thankfulness for the parish
poor. There had been various returns during the previous
week; a brig from the Levant, and another from Riga —
where, with its cargo of hemp, it had been frozen in all
the winter — had brought home each their proportion of
welcome family fathers, and young sailor men, like Willie
Morison himself, to glad the eyes of friends and kindred.
One of these was the son of that venerable elder in the
lateran, who rose to read the little notes which the thanks-
givers had handed to him at the door; and Katie Stewart's
eyes filled as the old man's slow voice, somewhat moved
by reading his son's name just before, intimated to the
waiting congregation before him, and to the minister in
the pulpit behind, also waiting to include all these in his
concluding prayer, that William Morison gave thanks for
his safe return.
And then there came friendly greetings as the congre-
gation streamed out through the churchyard, and the soft
hopeful sunshine of spring threw down a bright flickering
network of light and shade through the soft foliage on the
causewayed street; — peaceful people going to secure and
quiet homes — families joyfully encircling the fathers or
brothers for whose return they had just rendered thanks
out of full hearts, and peace upon all and over all, as
broad as the skies, and as calm.
But as the stream of people pours again in the afternoon
from the two neighbour churches, what is this gradual
130 KATIE STEWART.
excitement which manifests itself among them 1 Hark !
there is the boom of a gun plunging into all the echoes ;
and crowds of mothers and sisters cling about these young
sailors, and almost struggle with them, to hurry them
home. AYho is that hastening to the pier, with his staff
clenched in his hand, and his white " haffit locks"
streaming behind him 1 It is the reverend elder who to-
day returned thanks for his restored son. The sight of
him — the sound of that second gun pealing from the
Firth, puts the climax on the excitement of the people,
and now in a continuous stream from the peaceful church-
yard gates, they flow towards the pier and the sea.
Eagerly running along by the edge of the rocks, at a
pace which, on another Sabbath, she would have thought
a desecration of the day, clinging to Willie Morison's
arm, and with an anxious heart, feeling her presence a
kind of protection to him, Katie Stewart hastens to the
Billowness. The grey pier of Anster is lined with anxious
faces, and here and there a levelled telescope, under the
care of some old shipmaster, attracts round it a still deeper,
still more eager, knot of spectators. The tide is out, and
venturous lads are stealing along the sharp low ranges of
rock, slipping now and then with incautious steps into the
little clear pools of sea-water which surround them ; for
their eyes are not on their own uncertain footing, but
fixed, like the rest, on that visible danger up the Firth,
in which all feel themselves concerned.
Already there are spectators, and another telescope on
the Billowness, and the whole range of " the braes " be-
tween Anstruther and Pittenweem is dotted with anxious
lookers-on ; and the far-away pier of Pittenweem, too, is
dark with its little crowd.
What is the cause 1 Not far from the shore, just where
that headland, which hides from you the deep indentation
KATIE STEWART. 131
of Largo Bay, juts out upon the Firth, lies a little vessel,
looking like a diminutive Arabian horse, or one of the aris-
tocratic young slight lads who are its officers, with high
blood, training, and courage, in every tight line of its
cordage, and taper stretch of its masts. Before it, arrested
in its way, lies a helpless merchant brig, softly swaying
on the bright mid-waters of the Firth, with the cutter's
boat rapidly approaching its side.
Another moment and it is boarded ; a very short inter-
val of silence, and again the officer — you can distinguish
him with that telescope by his cocked-hat, and the flash
which the scabbard of his sword throws on the water as
he descends the vessel's side — has re-entered the cutter's
boat. Heavily the boat moves through the water now,
crowded with pressed men — poor writhing hearts, whose
hopes of home-coming and peace have been blighted in a
moment ; captured, some of them in sight of their homes,
and under the anxious straining eyes of wives and child-
ren, happily too far off to discern their full calamity.
A low moan comes from the lips of that poor woman,
who, wringing her hands and rocking herself to and fro,
with the unconscious movement of extreme pain, looks
pitifully in Willie Morison's face, as he fixes the telescope
on this scene. She is reading the changes of its expres-
sion, as if her sentence was there ; but he says nothing,
though the very motion of his hand, as he steadies the
glass, attracts, like something of occult significance, the
agonised gaze which dwells upon him.
" Captain, captain ! " she cried at last, softly pulling
his coat, and with unconscious art using the new title —
"captain, is't the Traveller] Can ye make her out?
She has a white figurehead at her bows, and twa white
linos round her side. Captain, captain ! tell me for pity's
sake ! "
132 KATIE STEWART.
Another long keen look was bent on the brig, as slowly
and disconsolately she resumed her onward way.
" No, Peggie," said the young sailor, looking round to
meet her eye, and to comfort his companion, who stood
trembling by his side — " no, Peggie — make yourself easy;
it's no the Traveller."
The poor woman seated herself on the grass, and, sup-
porting her head on her hands, wiped from her pale cheek
tears of relief and thankfulness.
" God be thanked ! — and, oh ! God pity thae puir crea-
tures, and their wives, and their little anes. I think I
have the -hardest heart in a' the world, that can be glad
when there's such misery in sight."
But dry your tears, poor Peggie Eodger — brace up your
trembling heart again for another fiery trial ; for here
comes another white sail peacefully gliding up the Firth,
with a flag fluttering from the stern, and a white figure-
head dashing aside the spray which seems to embrace it
joyfully, the sailors think, as out of stormy seas it nears
the welcome home. With a light step the captain walks
the little quarter-deck — with light hearts the seamen
lounge amidships, looking forth on the green hills of Fife.
Dark grows the young sailor's face as he watches the un-
suspicious victim glide triumphantly up through the blue
water into the undreaded snare ; and 8 glance round, a
slight contraction of those lines in his face which Katie
Stewart, eagerly watching him, has never seen so strongly
marked before, tells the poor wife on the grass enough to
make her rise hysterically strong, and with her whole
might gaze at the advancing ship ; for, alas ! one can
doubt its identity no longer. The white lines on its side
— the white figurehead among the joyous spray — and the
Traveller dashes on, out of its icy prison in the northern har-
bour — out of its stormy ocean-voyage — homeward bound J
KATIE STEWART. 133
Homeward bound ! There is one yonder turning long-
ing looks to Anster's quiet harbour as the ship sails past;
carefully putting up in the coloured foreign baskets those
little wooden toys which amused his leisure during the
long dark winter among the ice, and thinking with in-
voluntary smiles how his little ones will leap for joy as
he divides the store. Put them up, good seaman, gentle
father ! — the little ones will be men and women before
you look on them again.
For already the echoes are startled, and the women
here on shore shiver and wring their hands as the cutter's
gun rings out its mandate to the passenger ; and looking
up the Firth you see nothing but a floating globe of
white smoke, slowly breaking into long streamers, and
almost entirely concealing the fine outline of the little
ship of war. The challenged brig at first is doubtful —
the alarmed captain does not understand the summons ;
but again another flash, another report, another cloud of
white smoke, and the Traveller is brought to.
There are no tears on Peggie Eodger's haggard cheeks,
but a convulsive shudder passes over her now and then,
as, with intense strained eyes, she watches the cutter's
boat as it crosses the Firth towards the arrested brig.
"God ! an' it were sunk like lead!" said a passionate
voice beside her, trembling with the desperate restraint
of impotent strength.
" God help us ! — God help us ! — cursena them," said
the poor woman, with a hysteric sob. " Oh, captain,
captain ! gie me the glass ; if they pit him in the boat,
I'll ken Davie — if naebody else would, I can — gie me
He gave her the glass, and himself gladly turned away,
trembling with the same suppressed rage and indignation
which had dictated the other spectator's curse.
134 KATIE STEWART.
"If ane could but warn them wi' a word," groaned
Willie Morison, grinding his teeth — "if ane could but
lift a finger ! But to see them gang into the snare like
innocents in the broad day — Katie, it's enough to pit a
man mad ! "
But Katie's pitiful compassionate eyes were fixed on
Peggie Eodger — on her white hollow cheeks, and on the
convulsive steadiness with which she held the telescope
in her hand.
" It's a fair wind into the Firth — there's anither brig
due. Katie, I canna stand and see this mair ! "
He drew her hand through his arm, and unconsciously
grasping it with a force which at another time would
have made her cry with pain, led her a little way back
towards the town. But the fascination of the scene was
too great for him, painful as it was, and far away on the
horizon glimmered another sail.
"Willie !" exclaimed Katie Stewart, "gar some o' the
Sillerdyke men gang out wi' a boat — gar them row down
by the coast, and then strike out into the Firth, and
warn the men."
He grasped her hand again, not so violently. " Bless
you, lassie ! and wha should do your bidding but mysel 1
but take care o' yoursel, Katie Stewart. What care I for
a' the brigs in the world if onything ails you? Gang
hame, or "
" I'll no stir a fit till you're safe back again. " I'll
never speak to ye mair if ye say anither word. Be canny
— be canny — but haste ye away."
Another moment and Katie Stewart stands alone by
Peggie Eodger's side, watching the eager face which seems
to grow old and emaciated with this terrible vigil, as if
these moments were years ; while the ground flies under
the bounding feet of Willie Morison, and he answers the
KATIE STEWART. ]35
questions Avbicli are addressed to him, as to his errand,
only while himself continues at full speed to push east-
ward to Cellardyke.
And the indistinct words which he calls back to his
comrades, as he " devours the way," are enough to send
racing after him an eager train of coadjutors ; and with
his bonnet off, and his hands, which tremble as with
palsy, clasped convulsively together, the white-haired
Elder leans upon the wall of the pier, and bids God bless
them, God speed them, with a broken voice, whose utter-
ance comes in gasps and sobs ; for he has yet another son
upon the sea.
Meanwhile the cutter's boat has returned from the
Traveller with its second load; and a kind bystander
relieves the aching arms of poor Peggie Rodger of the
telescope in which now she has no further interest.
" Gude kens — Gude kens," said the poor woman slowly,
as Katie strove to comfort her. " I didna see him in the
boat ; but ane could see naething but the wet oars flash-
ing out of the water, and blinding folk's een. What am
I to do 1 Miss Katie, what am I to think 1 They maun
have left some men in the ship to work her. Oh ! God
grant they have ta'en the young men, and no heads of
families wi' bairns to toil for. But Davie's a buirdly
man, just like ane to take an officer's ee. Oh, the Lord
help us ! for I'm just distraught, and kenna what to do."
A faint cheer, instantly suppressed, rises from the point
of the pier and the shelving coast beyond ; and yonder
now it glides along the shore, with wet oars gleaming out
of the dazzling sunny water, the boat of the forlorn hope.
A small, picked, chosen company bend to the oars, and
Willie Morison is at the helm, warily guiding the little
vessel over the rocks, as they shelter themselves in the
shadow of the coast. On the horizon the coming sail
136 KATIE STEWART.
flutters nearer, nearer — and up the Firth yonder there is
a stir in the cutter as she prepares to heave her anchor
and strike into the mid-waters of the broad highway
which she molests.
The sun is sinking lower in the grand western skies,,
and beginning to cast long, cool, dewy shadows of every
headland and little promontory over the whole rocky
coast ; but still the Firth is burning with his slanting
fervid rays, and Inchkeith far away lies like a cloud
upon the sea, and the May, near at hand, lifts its white
front to the sun — a Sabbath night as calm and full of
rest as ever natural Sabbath was; and the reverend Elder
yonder on the pier uncovers his white head once more,
and groans within himself, amid his passionate prayers
for these perilled men upon the sea, over the desecrated
Nearer and nearer wears the sail, fluttering like the
snowy breast of some sea-bird in prophetic terror; and
now far off the red fishing-boat strikes boldly forth into
the Firth with a signal-flag at its prow.
In the cutter they perceive it now ; and see how the
anchor swings np her shapely side, and the snowy sail
curls over the yards, as with a bound she darts forth from
her lurking-place, and, flashing in the sunshine like an
eager hound, leaps forth after her prey.
The boat — the boat ! With every gleam of its oars the
hearts throb that watch it on its way; with every bound
it makes, there are prayers — prayers of the anguish which
will take no discouragement — pressing in at the gates of
heaven ; and the ebbing tide bears it out, and the wind
droops its wings, and falls becalmed upon the coast, as if
repenting it of the evil service it did to those two hapless
vessels which have fallen into the snare. Bravely on as
the sun grows lower — bravely out as the fluttering stranger
KATIE STEWART. 137
sail draws nearer and more near — and but one other strain
will bring them within hail.
But as all eyes follow these adventurers, another flash
from the cutter's side glares over the shining water ; and
as the smoke rolls over the pursuing vessel, and the loud
report again disturbs all the hills, Katie's heart grows
sick, and she scarcely dares look to the east. But the
ball has ploughed the water harmlessly, and yonder is the
boat of rescue — yonder is the ship within hail ; and some
one stands up in the prow of the forlorn hope, and shouts
and waves his hand.
It is enough. " There she goes — there she tacks ! "
cries exulting the man with the telescope, " and in half
an hour she'll be safe in St Andrews Bay."
But she sails slowly back — and slowly sails the impa-
tient cutter, with little wind to swell her sails, and that
little in her face ; while the fisher-boat, again falling close
inshore with a relay of fresh men at the oars, has the ad-
vantage of them both.
And now there is a hot pursuit — the cutter's boat in
full chase after the forlorn hope ; but as the sun disap-
pears, and the long shadows lengthen and creep along the
creeks and bays of the rocky coast so well known to the
pursued, so ill to the pursuer, the event of the race is soon
decided ; and clambering up the first accessible landing-
place they can gain, and leaving their boat on the rocks
behind them, the forlorn hope joyously make their way
" And it's a' Katie's notion, and no a' morsel o' mine,"
says the proud Willie Morison. But alas for your stout
heart, "Willie ! — alas for the tremulous startled bird which
beats against the innocent breast of little Katie Stewart,
for no one knows what heavy shadows shall veil the end-
ing of this Sabbath-day.
138 KATIE STEWART.
The mild spring night has darkened, but it is still early,
and the moon is not yet up. The worship is over in John
Stewart's decent house, and all is still within, though the
miller and his wife still sit by the "gathered" fire, and
talk in half whispers about the events of the day, and the
prospects of " the bairns." It is scarcely nine yet, but it
is the reverent usage of the family to shut out the world
earlier than usual on the Sabbath ; and Katie, in con-
sideration of her fatigue, has been dismissed to her little
chamber in the roof. She has gone away not unwillingly,
for, just before, the miller had closed the door on the slow,
reluctant, departing steps of Willie Morison, and Katie is
fain to be alone.
Very small is this chamber in the roof of the Milton
which Janet and Katie used to share. She has set down
her candle on the little table before that small glass in
the dark carved frame, and herself stands by the window,
which she has opened, looking out. The rush of the burn
fills the soft air with sound, into which sometimes pene-
trates a far-off voice, which proclaims the little town still
awake and stirring ; but save the light from Robert Moul-
ter's uncurtained window — revealing a dark gleaming link
of the burn before the cot-house door — and the reddened
sky yonder, reflecting that fierce torch on the May, there
is nothing visible but the dark line of fields, and a few
faint stars in the clouded sky.
But the houses in Anster are not yet closed or silent.
In the street which leads past the town-house and church
of "West Anster to the shore, you can see a ruddy light
streaming out from the window upon the causew T ay, the
KATIE STEWART. 139
dark churchyard wall, and overhanging trees. At the fire
stands a comely young woman, lifting " a kettle of
potatoes" from the crook. The "kettle" is a capacious
pot on three feet, formed not like the ordinary " kail-pat,"
but like a little tub of iron; and now, as it is set down
before the ruddy fire, you see it is full of laughing
potatoes, disclosing themselves, snow-white and mealy,
through the cracks in their clear dark coats. The mother
of the household sits by the fireside, with a volume of
sermons in her hand; but she is paying but little atten-
tion to the book, for the kitchen is full of young sailors,
eagerly discussing the events of the day, and through the
hospitable open door others are entering and departing,
with friendly salutations. Another such animated com-
pany fills the house of the widow Morison, "aest the town,"
for still the afternoon's excitement has not subsided.
But up this dark leaf-shadowed street, in which we
stand, there comes a muffled tramp, as of stealthy foot-
steps. They hear nothing of it in that bright warm
kitchen — fear nothing, as they gather round the fire, and
sometimes rise so loud in their conversation that the
house-mother lifts her hand, and shakes her head, with
an admonitory, " Whisht, bairns ; mind, its the Sabbath-
Behind backs, leaning against the sparkling panes of
the window, young Robert Davidson speaks aside to
Lizzie Tosh, the daughter of the house. They were
"cried" to-day in West Anster kirk, and soon will have
a blithe bridal — " If naething comes in the way," says
Lizzie, with her downcast face; and the manly young
sailor answers, "Nae fear."
" Nae fear ! " But without the stealthy steps come
nearer; and if you draw far enough away from the open
door to lose the merry voices, and have your eyes no
140 KATIE STEWART.
longer dazzled with the light, you will see dim figures
creeping through the darkness, and feel that the air is
heavy with the breath of men. But few people care
to use that dark road between the manse and the church-
yard at night, so no one challenges the advancing party,
or gives the alarm.
Lizzie Tosh has stolen to the door : it is to see if the
moon is up, and if Robert will have light on his home-
ward walk to Pittenweem ; but immediately she rushes in
again, with a face as pale as it had before been blooming,
and alarms the assembly. " A band of the cutter's men :
— an officer, with a sword at his side. Bin, lads, rin,
afore they reach the door."
But there is a keen, eager face, with a cocked-hat sur-
mounting it, already looking in at the window. The
assembled sailors make a wild plunge at the door ; and
while a few escape under cover of the darkness, the cutter's
men have secured, after a desperate resistance, three or
four of the foremost. Poor fellows ! You see them stand
without, young Robert Davidson in the front, his broad
bronzed forehead bleeding from a cut he has received in
the scuffle, and one of his captors, still more visibly
wounded, looking on him with evil, revengeful eyes : his
own eye, poor lad, is flaming with fierce indignation and
rage, and his broad breast heaves almost convulsively.
But now he catches a glimpse of the weeping Lizzie, and
fiery tears, which scorch his eyelids, blind him for a mo-
ment, and his heart swells as if it would burst. But it
does not burst, poor desperate heart ! until the appointed
bullet shall come, a year or two hence, to make its pulses
quiet for ever.
A few of the gang entered the house. It is only " a but
and a ben;" and Lizzie stands with her back against the
door of the inner apartment, while her streaming eyes now
KATIE STEWART. 141
and then cast a sick, yearning glance towards the prisoners
at the door — for her brother stands there as well as her
"What for would ye seek in there?" asked the
mother, lifting up her trembling hands. " What would
ye despoil my chaumer for, after ye've made my hearth-
stane desolate. If ye've a licence to steal men, ye've nane
to steal gear. Ye've done your warst : gang out o 'my
house, ye thieves, ye locusts, ye "
" We'll see about that, old lady," said the leader ;
— " put the girl away from that door. Tom, bring the
The little humble room within was neatly arranged. It
was their best, and they had not spared upon it what orna-
ment they could attain. Shells far travelled, precious for