seagoing gear, in preparation for " the drave."
But the stately step of old John Rintoul falters a little
on the stony road. Strange, solemn fancies come into his
mind, whether he will or no ; and, with a singular intense
excitement, he thinks he sees little figures of children
beckoning to him from the low black rocks, or out of the
tawny surf of the advancing sea. "Willie, Mary, little
Nelly," murmurs the old man, unawares; and then, grad-
ually wakening up, he passes his hand over his eyes, to
put away the mist out of which these little figures have
sprung ; but still there is something glistening under his
heavy folded eyelids, and his heart repeats, out of the deep
love and sorrow which cannot desert the dead infants of his
house, these names of his children who have "gone before."
Why does he think of them now ? Willie, had he lived,
would have been a man nearly forty years old to-day ; but
his father sees him, and yearns over him, in his little white
night-gown and close cap â the first-born, the beginning of
his strength. It is the living who have faded into shadows.
Even Patie here, whom they call the father's favourite at
home, becomes as indistinct and remote as John whom they
have left â and the old man's heart is with the little chil-
dren, the blossoms of his youth.
" It's the wean that's puts them in my head â it's the
wean that's put them in my head," says the old man half-
aloud, and his eyes are full of tears.
But Patie, meanwhile, with his heart wrapped in a soft
twilight of its own, walks silently by his father's side, a
very world apart from all his father's dreamings. The
love-charm is strong on Patie ; and all the songs that heart
of man has woven for itself, to give its youthful rapture
utterance, are chiming through his fascinated mind. Far
from him, and invisible, is the spiritual world from which
angels come to minister; for the earth, always young, thrills
JOHN RINTOUL. 217
with warm life to the youth's every breath and footstep,
and his heart beats high with sweet inarticulate joy, and
grows breathless with sweeter hope.
Father ! father ! little hands seem to clasp your fingers-
little gentle touches come upon you, and small white figures
beckon and voices call out of the night, out of the storm,
floating away like fairy music into the unseen sea. What
brings these heaven-departed children out of the Master's
presence, and, over all this lifetime of years, what brings
them here to-night ?
"And the sloop's no sailed yet â and my man and my
two sons to gang down the Firth this night," said Christian
Beatoun, John Kintoul's wife, as she stood at her door
looking out. " Ye needna speak to me, Ailie ; I ken of as
mony kind providences and preservations as ony man's
wife in the haill town ; but it's owre precious a freight â
far owre precious a freight. Ye're ill enough yoursel when
ye have ane in peril, and it's nae good, John or you either
telling me ; for do I no ken it's a clean tempting of Pro-
vidence to trust a haill family, and a' ae puir creature has
in the world, to ae boat 1 Eh, woman, it's easy speaking ;
but losing ane would be losing a', if it was the Lord's
pleasure to send such a judgment on me."
"Ye're meaning, ye can trust Him with ane, but ye
canna trust him with a', Kirstin," answered her sister-in-
law, somewhat severely. Ailie Pdntoul had all the harsher
features of her brother John, and was of less visible kind-
liness â a childless wife too, wanting the mother's manifold
But Kirstin only wrung her hands, and repeated, " Eh,
woman, it's easy speaking ! "
Her husband and her son were approaching just then the
little triangular corner in which her house stood â it was
out of the direct way to the shore, and the old man hesi-
tated at the angle of the street,
218 JOHN EINTOUL.
"I bade your mother fareweel an hour ago," he said,
half within himself, " and yet someway I canna pass the
door. She's been a guid wife to me this five-and-forty
year â Kirstin, poor woman ! I would like to see her face
again, whatever may hajDpen ; and if the Lord spares me
to come hame "
The old man turned the corner abruptly, all unobserved
by the happy absorbed Patie, who was still too much en-
grossed with his own fancies to perceive his father's.
"Is't you back again, John?" exclaimed Kirstin. "You'll
no be gaun to sail the night ? "
"I came for naething but a freit," said the old man;
"just a bairn ly fancy in my ain mind, and to bring Patie
to say fareweel to his mother. I'm for away this very
minute, Kirstin ; the ither man is sure to be waiting on us
in the sloop, and I've gien John my word to take her on to
Anster: he's to join us there the morn; ye'll see him before
he leaves the Elie. Now, my woman, fare-ye-weel ance
mair. I'll aye uphaud ye've been a guid wife to me,
Kirstin Beatoun, if it was the last words I had to say; and
the Lord gie ye your recompense in His ain time â though
I dinna need to tell you that such a thing as recompense
comesna frae our merits, but His mercies. I canna tell
what's come owre me the night ; my mind's aye ruining on
little Willie and Mary, and the rest of the bairns that's
departed. But fare-ye-weel, Kirstin, ance for a' â and pit
you aye your trust in the Lord, and wait to see what an
ill providence is to bring forth before you let your heart
repine ; noo, I maun away."
" John, you're meaning something,'* cried his wife, anx-
iously; "you're wanting to break some misfortune to me !"
" No me â no me ! " said the old man. " I'm no just
sure what I mean mysel ; but ye'll mind it, Kirstin, and
it'll come clear some time. Fare-ye-weel, Ailie â fareweel
to ye a'. I maun away to the sloop. I've sailed mony a
coarser night, and never thought twice about it."
JOHN PJNTOUL. 219
Saying this, with a prompt and ready step, as of one
whose mind was disburdened, John Rintoul went his way.
His wife followed him for a few steps, eagerly directing his
attention to the storm ; but the storm was checked by a
momentary lull, and the clouds breaking overhead gave a
glimpse of a tragic moon climbing these gloomy heights
from point to point. The sailor's wife received her son's
farewell with a relieved heart, and returned to the door,
from which she could watch them as they hastened to their
little vessel. She was too much accustomed to such de-
partures to think of remonstrating and weeping like the
impatient Euphie, and her fears were calmed by the lessen-
ing violence of both winds and waves.
The fire is trimmed, the hearth swept, the lamp, high and
remote, burns solitarily for its own forlorn enjoyment, over
the lofty mantel-shelf, and the little circle round the fire-
side is silent, listening with various musings to the subdued
sound of the wind without, and the murmur of the sea,
The baby has fallen asleep softly on the bosom of the
young mother ; she is bending her face over him, half in
shadow â rosy shadow, warm and glowing â and touching
gently with delicate fingers, now his little clenched hand,
now his downy infant cheek. The awe with which her
father-in-laAv's farewell filled her has faded from the lieht
heart of Euphie ; but she has fallen instead into the still-
ness of a dream.
A year ago Euphie Kaeburn dreamed romances â dreamed
distinct histories, full of joyous events, and words that
made her heart beat; and you almost could have read them
then in the absorbed eye glimmering under its drooped lid,
220 JOHN RINTOUL.
in the soft cheek flushing under the pressure of her sup-
porting hand, and in the hasty scarce- drawn breath of the
half-closed lips. But sweetly now the calm breath comes
and goes upon the baby's brow, and over all her fair face
lies such a shadow of repose, such a full unspeakable con-
tent, as might charm all fear and danger out of sight of
this new home. The little eyes are closed, the little lips
apart â one small hand clenched upon the baby's breast, the
other resting on the mother's â and Euphie's heart broods
over her child, dwelling here in love and rest unspeakable
â no longer busy with imagined scenes, or needing words
to give her gladness vent, but her whole being possessed
and overflowing with delicious quietness and repose.
And the father sits before the fire, leaning his elbow on
his knee, and his head on his hand, gradually lengthening
the tender looks he cast upon Euphie and her child, and
suffering himself to be slowly beguiled out of the uneasi-
ness which has already begun to disappear from his face.
It is not the storm that brings upon John Rintoul's brow
its look of troubled, restless fear ; for himself he would
heed the storm little, and it seems to be dying away into
a long sighing gale, whistling about the low strong walls,
and chafing the waters still, but powerless for the desperate
mischief which alone could make a sailor tremble. A dread
of something haunts himâ he cannot tell what, nor has it
any definite form â but in the silence he is constantly
hearing hasty footsteps, as of some one rushing to his door
with evil news, and two or three times has started out of
his reverie, with far-away sounds, as of voices in distress,
ringing into his very heart ; but the night goes on noise-
lessly, the awe and excitement lessen, everything remains
as it wasâ and softening thoughts and tender fancies, and
a sensation of something like the same sweet repose which
is upon Euphie, steals over the relaxing mind of John.
But Agnes, the youngest of them all, rocks faintly back
JOHN TJNTOUL. 221
and forward in her chair with the restless motion of anxiety,
and clasps her hands tightly together till the pressure is
painful, and fixes her vacant eyes, now upon the window,
now upon the fire, with wandering abstraction, starting to
every whistle of the wind, but entirely wrapt and unaware
of things nearer to her side. Agnes is slightly formed
and rather tall, with grave blue eyes, very different from
Euphie's, and an abundance of dusky hair of no decided
colour ; and no one has ascribed character or position to
Agnes through all her twenty years. She has been an
average good girl, doing the usual offices of their humble
life â helping her mother, admiring and serving Euphie,
having her own little quarrels and jealousies, and to all
appearance knowing no emotions deeper than a little won-
der, and perhaps a little wounded feeling, at finding herself,
among all her young companions, the only one loverless
and unfollowed. To tell truth, Agnes Raeburn has nour-
ished considerable pique, and felt herself greatly injured,
ruminating over this. Her pride could not bear the ne-
glect easily, and she did not at all appreciate the advantage
of being fancy free â at least, of being unsought ; but a
change has befallen her, and never was imperious beauty
more haughty in her reception of humble suitor than Agnes
has been to Patie Rintoul to-day.
Not that she objects to the bashful homage of Patie, or
is at all displeased with his shy glances and reverent at-
tendance ; but Agnes has registered a vow, in the intense
pride of being neglected, and is resolute to cast off and
reject peremptorily her first wooer, whoever he may be.
But her heart is heavy, restless, agitated, she cannot tell
why ; and she sways herself in her chair, and wrings her
hands witli unconscious, involuntary emotion. Her mind
is constantly going back to the old man's leave-taking,
turning his words into every conceivable shape, and draw-
ing all manner of indefinite dreads and terrors out of the
222 JOHN EINTOUL.
tremor of the voice so little given to faltering, and from
the glistening of the deep eyes so little used to tears. And
it is, after all, a wild, imaginative, impulsive mind, which
has dwelt so quietly these twenty years under Samuel
llaeburn's roofâ and but a touch is necessary to send it
away on an unknown erratic course, and to fill it with all
the thronging possibilities and suppositions of fancy. The
dark night â the wild sea â the waters sweeping over the
little deck â the sails springing wild from their fastenings
â the sloop plunging among the furious waves â and Agnes
presses her hand on her heart, to still the cry that is burst-
ing from its depths as this picture grows before her. The
warm firelight dies away from her eyes â she can only see
the ghastly glimmer of the moon on the broken water, and
how the surf curls over the glistening rocks, like the foam-
ing lip of a ravenous beast snarling on its prey.
"It's aye bonnie days in April," said Euphie, as her
baby, waking from his sleep, roused herself from her
happy dreaming over him : " if ye werena so set on your
am will, ane might ask ye never to sail till April, John."
"The sooner we're away, the sooner we'll be hame,
Euphie, my woman," said the laconic John.
Euphie shook her head impatiently. "Ane kens nae-
thing about it, when ane's a young lassie," she said, with
a mixture of petulance and importance. " It's a' very
easy to be phrasing and fleeching then â but when ane's
a married wife, and ought to ken about a' the affairs of
the family as weel as ony man in the town, and have a
right to ane's judgment as weel, the guidman shakes his
head â set him up ! â and gives a laugh in your face, as
guid as to say, ' Haud ye still, bairnie ; / ken, and it's
nae business of yours.' If I was just like you, Agnes,
this night, I would never take a man if I lived a hundred
years ! "
But John, not unused to such little ebullitions, only
JOHN RINTOUL. 223
stretched out his great finger to be enclosed in the baby's
vigorous clasp, and laughed at his impatient wife.
" Naebody has ony call to laugh at Euphie," said
Agnes, on all occasions the sworn defender of every cap-
rice of her sister. " Euphie' s aye had her am May a' her
days â and it's ill your part to gang against her, John
Rintoul ! "
"Hear reason, woman!" exclaimed the startled John;
" when do ever I gang against her ? for a' she's the most
provoking fairy that ever threw glamour in a man's een.
Had her ain way 1 â and I would like to ken wha it is
that has my way too, as muckle as if I Mas a wee doggie
rinning in a string 1 "
" See, man, there's your son," said Euphie, thrusting
the infant into his father's mighty arms. The argument
was irresistible, and John, with a growl of delight,
gathered in the little mass of white muslin to his breast,
and looked the happiest man in the world.
But Agnes Eaeburn sank back into her corner, breath-
less with fearful fanciesâ though now her greatest strain
of excited listening caught no longer, except in a shrill
but not uncheerful whistle, the sound of the calmed wind.
" It's turned out a fine, light, quiet night after all,"
said John Rintoul, as he went to the door with his wife's
young sister. It was so ; but to the excited eyes of
Agnes the broad white moonlight, and black depths of
shadow, had something weird and fearful still. Not a
creature stirred along the whole extent of the shore ; and
224 JOHN RINTOUL.
the slowly - retiring waters in the bay, and their own
voices, as they said good night, were the sole interrupting
sounds of the deep stillness, unless when now and then a
sudden gust of wind rang like a pistol-shot among the
There was no escort needed for the few steps of the
familiar way, and, only pausing a moment to glance again
upon the sky, which was not quite so promising to a
second look, John Rintoul closed the door, and put up
the simple, ineffectual bar which professed to secure it.
Hurrying on, a black shadow in the moonlight, Agnes ran
softly past her father's door â past the few remaining
houses, till she reached the farthest point of the bay, and
breathlessly climbed the high bank to look out upon the
sea. Some wild terror of seeing the wreck, even there
below her feet, possessed her for an instant ; but there
was nothing but the slowly-vanishing foam, lying white
upon the rocks, and the water ebbing gradually, with now
and then a desperate backward leap, dashing spray into
her very face. The sky was wild and troubled ; the moon
flying aghast and terrified, as she could fancy, through
those black mists which hovered round her, trembling
before the heavy pursuing clouds, which hurried upon her
track ; and the water was still heaving and swelling in its
broad channel â a sea to make a landsman shiver. Agnes,
born to look upon its different moods without fear,
trembled not for it. She could see there was nothing to
appal a stout heart, even in the restless swell and dashing-
spray of the dark Firth before her. But with all her
imaginative soul, she shivered and recoiled from the for-
lorn wan light and terrible blackness â the ghastly and
dismal colouring of the night. The wind came creeping
about her feet in her exposed standing-ground â creeping
with furtive stealth, till it seized her like a secret traitor,
and had nearly thrown her down over the steep headland
JOHN EINTOUL. 225
into the surf below ; and Agnes drew back with super-
stitious dread, her heart beating quick against her breast,
and her frame thrilling all over with terror. But as far as
her anxious eye could reach, up and down the Firth, there
was nothing visible but the broad white moonlight and
the dark water ; not a sail or a mast, to break the depths
of black silvered air, between the sea and the sky.
" The sloop's safe in Anster harbour long ago," said
Agnes to herself ; " and if it's no, there's mony men been
in mair peril. It's nae concern of mine. Eh, but Kirstin
Beatoun ! she would never haud up her head again if ill
came to John."
And Agnes stole away home, persuading herself that
Kirstin Beatoun, and no other, was uppermost in her
benevolent thoughts ; and suffering herself now to tremble
with anxiety and fear, and suggest consolations to her
own heart, which her own heart refusing to accept, yet
could not blame ; for she thought of the men in peril, the
households that might be desolate, and shut her ears,
even while her breast heaved, with a long hysterical
sob, at some strange fairy whisper of the name of Patie
The evening was ended in Samuel Raeburn's house, and
his wife had taken off her cap with the edged borders, and
put on a plain, unadorned muslin one, and was secretly
untying her apron under her shawl, and making other
preparations for rest. The kitten â which all day long
had tormented Mrs Raeburn, ever on the watch for her
clue, and remorselessly weaving its thread round all the
chairs in the family apartment â now lay confidingly at
the house-mother's foot, overcome with sleep, like a tired
child ; and watchful greymalkin stalked about the corners,
with fierce moustache and stealthy footstep, assuring her-
self, with savage complacence, of the coming darkness,
which should call her victims forth to meet their fate.
226 JOHN RINTOUL.
The shutter was up upon the window, the fire gathered,
and Samuel Raeburn himself loosed his heavy shoes by
the fireside, and bade the goodwife " take heed to that
monkey Nanny, that she never was out again so late at
" Deed, I wouldna have grudged her to bide with
Euphie a' night, and the puir thing left her lane," an-
swered the mother, whose fondness had made a spoiled
child of John Rintoul' s pretty wife.
" But John's there himsel, mother," said Agnes.
" Euphie wouldna hear of him sailing on so coarse a
night, and he stayed to please her ; and auld John and
Patie, and Andrew Dewar, are away to Anster with the
"And what ailed the skipper to gang wi' her too?"
said Samuel. "/ never agreed to trust my gear and my
boat to auld John. Ye may say he's an elder. I wouldna
gie a prin for your kirk-officers ; and if he was a' the kirk-
session, or the haill Assembly to boot, is that to say he's
studied navigation and a' the sciences, and is fit to have
such a charge ? What business has John Rintoul to waste
his guid time (specially when it belongs to me as weel as
to himsel) for a woman's havers 1 I never got biding at
hame to please my wife ; and if I'm no as guid a man ony
" Ye never tried, Samuel," interrupted his wife, in a tone
of admonition. " A man can do mony a thing when he
likes to try â and I'll no say I ever was just like Euphie
mysel; but the night's as quiet noo as need be, and nae fears
o' the sloop ; and the best place for you is just your bed.
Do ye think onybody ever catched auld John Rintoul in a
public, wearing out baith body and spirit wi' thae weary
politics ? A hantle guid they'll ever do the like of us !
And it's naething but the pride of a bow from Sir Robert,
and being fleeched and made o' at election times, because
JOHN RINTOUL. 227
you're a bailie, that gars ye heed them. Ye needna tell
me â I just ken mysel."
" Guidwife, hold your peace ! " said Samuel, authorita-
tively. "It's no to be expected the like of you should
understand, and I'll no fash to explain ; though it's weel
kent in the toun that few men could do it better, if I was
so disposed. I'm gaun to my bed (no for your bidding,
but for my ain pleasure) ; and if I hear as muckle as a
mouse stir by the time the clock chaps ten, I ken what
So saying, and throwing his heavy boots into a corner
with defiance, Samuel Eaeburn went wisely to bed.
So did the mother very speedily, after some confidential
complainings to Agnes; and Agnes, who dared not make
even her own heart her confidante, crept away to her own
little bed to pray confused bewildered prayers for men at
sea, and listen with cold tremor and shivering while her
casement shook and rattled as if some hand without was
on its framework, and wild sighs flitted past the window
upon the fitful wind.
There was a strong vein of superstition in this fanciful
and visionary mind, and Agnes trembled to see some
unknown figure crossing the street in the broad moonlight
before she went to rest,- and hid her head, and shook with
dread, when the mysterious creaks and unexplainable sounds
of midnight stirred in the silent house. There seemed to
her some strange presence abroad, pervading everything
with a terrible brooding awe and silentness ; and all her
life long she never forgot the feverish dreams and wakings
of that March night.
228 JOHN RINTOUL.
A fresh boisterous March morning succeeded this night of
so many mysterious fears and so little apparent danger ;
and after their early breakfast, John Eintoul took tender
leave of his wife and his mother, who had come to bid him
farewell, and set out upon the Anster road. No one, not
even Agnes, remembered, under the clear sunshine, the
terrors of the previous night. The morning light laughed
out a joyous defiance of dangers visionary and actual â
ghostly presence and ghostly sound fled before it, mocked
and discomfited ; and the Firth, heaving and swelling over
all its broad waters still, champed at its bit only like a high-
blooded horse, which the brave bright day, open-eyed and
dauntless, reined with a firm and vigorous hand, exulting
in the restive resisting might which its own higher strength
could keep in curb so well.
" I neeclna bid ye fareweel, Euphie," said John. " I
wouldna say but I may come west and stay anither night
at hame before the sloop's ready to sail, and ye' 11 come to
Anster the morn, if ye get nae word before, and see us
gang down the Firth. It's a grand wind â the sloop will
flee before it like a bird."
And so he went away â the wind was in his face, freshen-
ing his cheeks into glowing colour, as he turned round
again and again to wave another good-bye to them. His
road was along the shore â along the range of "braes"
which made a verdant lining to the rocky coast â and he
went on with a light heart, resolved upon a pleasant sur-
prise to Euphie, whose face his peradventure of returning
at night had brightened into such flattering gladness.
The close green springy turf of the braes was drenched
with rain and spray, its grass blades all glittering and
JOHN PJNTOUL. 229
trembling under the sunshine. Humble little cowering
plants of gowans put up a pale deprecating bud here and
there, propitiating the favour of the rude elements; and
the low wild rose-bushes, full of brown budded leaves, which
should yet make that seaside road fragrant in summer-
time, caught at John Rintoul's feet as he passed, like im-
portunate beggars asking help or sympathy ; but the gay
exhilarating rush of the waves on the shore, the sparkling
of the light in the broad water, with its many tints and