smoke would do without it, the vicinity of this little sister-
hood of quiet seaports ; but the hum of life in the Elie is
so calm to-night, that you only feel your solitude upon the
braes, where the low wild rose-bushes look up to you from
the very borders of the grass, and dewdrops glisten among
the leaves — the more absolute and unbroken. Sometimes
a passing footstep and passing whistle, or voices pertaining
to the same, pursue their measured way upon the high-
road behind the hawthorn hedge ; but no one passes here
upon the braes, and these two are entirely alone.
A one-and-twenty years' lease of the Girnel farm, with
all its fertile slopes and capabilities — a pretty balance in
the Cupar bank to make the same available — a person
vigorous and young — a face which the Fife belles have not
disdained to turn back and throw a second glance upon,
and a pleasant consciousness of all these desirable endow-
ments — what should make Colin Hunter fear ? And he
does not fear. In this half light, looking lovingly into
the full face of Agnes Raeburn, he begins to feel himself
justified for making choice of her. Made choice of her he
has, beyond all question, to his own considerable astonish-
ment ; for Colin knows very well that "there are maidens
256 JOHN RINTOUL.
in Scotland more lovely by far;" but at present, as her
eyelash droops upon her cheek — as the eye glances up in
quick arrested looks under it — as the colour comes and
goes, like flitting sunshine, the lover is satisfied. There is
a charm in the sweet air, which lifts the curls upon her
cheek — a charm in the sweet sound which encircles them
on every side, and in the languid dreamy sky and the
slow floating moon. Himself is charmed, his whole soul
through, with all the fairy influences of new love. Other
flirtations has Colin known, more than were good for the
freshness of his heart ; but his heart is fresh at its depths,
and answers now, with a shy warmth and fascinated thrill,
to the voice, unheard before, which calls its full affections
But it is only a shiver, chill and painful, which shakes
the slight figure of Agnes; and her hand, if she gave it
him now, would fall marble- cold into his. Her eyes —
those wandering furtive glances, which he thinks are only
shy of meeting his earnest look — stray far beyond him into
the vacant air, where they have almost conjured up a visi-
ble forbidding presence to say nay to his unwelcome suit ;
and her blushes are fever-gleams of unwilling submission,
flushes of fear and restless discomfort, and of the generous
tenderness which grieves to give another pain. For Agnes,
remembering mournfully that she had vowed to reject her
earliest wooer, now shrinks from the position which she
once dreamed of exulting in, and cannot make a heartless
triumph of the true affection which in her grief has come
to afflict her, like an added misfortune. She is grateful
for it in her heart — even a little proud of it in her most
secret and compunctious consciousness — and would rather
delay and temporise a little to soften her denial, than
inflict the pain which unawares she exaggerates, and
flatters herself by making greater than it would be. And
her mother, too, plagues her sadly in behalf of this wooer*
JOHN RINTOIJL. 257
and she herself is aware that even pretty Euphie had few
such proposals in her power as this, which would make
herself mistress of the plentiful homestead at the Grirnel ;
and Agnes, who only wants peace, and to be left alone
to pursue the current of her own sad musings, will
rather suffer anything to be implied by her silence, than
rudely break it with the peremptory words which alone
would suffice to dismiss a wooer so much conscious of his
" Have you naething to say to me, Nancy Eaeburn 1
Woman, ye shall keep as mony maids as ye like, and have
a silk gown for every month in the year ; for what do I
care for silk gowns, or satin either, compared to my bonnie
" I'm no bonnie ; it's Euphie you're meaning," said
Agnes, with a sigh ; " if you want me because I'm bonnie,
you're mista'en, Mr Hunter — it's my sister — it's no me."
" Ye may leave my ain een to judge that ! " cried Colin,
exultingly; "but if ye were as black as Bessie Mouter,
instead of just your ain wiselike sel, I'm for you, and nae
other, whatever onybody likes to say."
" You're for me, are you ? I dinna ken what the lads
are turning to," said Agnes, roused into some of her old
pride and pique; "as if we had naething to do but be
thankful, and take whaever offered ; but I would have folk
ken different of me."
" And so do I ken different," said the undiscouraged
suitor ; " but I'm no a fisher lad, or an Elie sailor, with
naething but a blue jacket and a captain's favour, and
years to wait for a house aboon my head. I've a weel-
plenished steading to bring ye hame to, Nancy, my
darlin' ; and ye'll no look up into my face, and tell me in
earnest that there's ony other man standing between you
He had scarcely spoken the words when, with a low
258 JOHN RINTOUL.
affrighted cry, Agnes turned from him and fled. It was
not that her actual eyes beheld the vision which her fancy
was labouring to realise. It was not that Patie Rintoul
himself, in the flesh or in the spirit, interposed his reprov-
ing face between her and her new wooer. She could not
tell what it was ; but her strong imagination overpowered
her, and, in sudden dread and terror not to be expressed,
she turned homeward without a pause.
Left to himself, young Colin of the Girnel stood for a
few minutes lost in amazement. Then he followed the
flying figure, already far advanced, before him on the
darkening way; but, suddenly drawing back as he saw
some one approach in the opposite direction, the young
farmer leaped over a convenient stile, and made his way
into the highroad, whistling a loud whistle of defiance —
" Shall I like a fuil, quo' he,
For a haughty hizzie dee ?
She may gang — to France for me ! "
He concluded his song aloud as he went loftily upon his
way ; and next week Colin was deep in a flirtation with
the daughter of his nearest neighbour, but it would not
do; and he was learning to be sentimental, for the
benefit of pensive Agnes Raeburn, before another seven
days were out.
"I'm no that ill — no to complain of," said Kirstin
Beatoun; "I can aye do my day's wark, and that's a
great comfort; and, indeed, when I think o't, I'm better
than mony a younger woman — for naething ails me — I
have aye my health."
JOHN EINTOUL. 259
"I'm sure it's a wonder to see you," said the sym-
pathising neighbour. "Mony a time I say to my sister
Jenny, ' Woman, can ye no keep up a heart ! There's
Kirstin Beatoun lost her man and her youngest laddie in
ae night — enough to take life or reason, or maybe baith ;
but just see to her how she aye bears up. It's a miracle
to me every day.' "
"Ay," said Kirstin, quietly, "so it is, Marget ; but the
Lord gies a burden to be borne, no to be cast off and re-
jected; and I'm waiting on His will, whate'er it may be.
I'm no to gang out of this at my ain hand, though mony
a time I may be wearied enough, or have a sair enough
heart, to lay down my head with good-will ; but I'm wait-
ing the Lord's pleasure. He'll bid me away at His ain
" Eh, Kirstin, woman, it's as guid as a sermon to hear
ye," said the reverential Marget; "but our Jenny says it's
a' the difference of folk's feelings, and that ane takes a
trouble light by what anither does. But I say to Jenny,
'Ye'll no tell me that it's because Kirstin Beatoun has
lost feeling — it's because she's supported, woman;' and
I'm just the mair convinced after speaking to yoursel.
It's tellt in the toun for a truth that the auld man said
something awfu' comforting, just as if he kent what was
gaun to happen, the night he was lost. Many a ane has
askit me, thinking ye might have telled me, being such
close neighbours ; but ye' re aye sae muckle your lane, and
the door shut ; and I hadna the face to chap at a shut door
and ask the question plain. Is't true, Kirstin 1 "
" Kirstin, can ye no come in and shut the door ? I hate
to hear folk clavering," said a harsh voice from within.
" It's my guidsister, Ailie Pdntoul," said Kirstin, relieved
by the interruption.
"Eh, it's that awfu' Mrs Plenderleath," said the inquisi-
tive neighbour ; " but that's my little Tammie greeting. I
260 JOHN EINTOUL.
left him in the cradle just to ask how ye were this lang
time, seeing ye at the door; but I maun away noo."
And as she went away, Kirstin stood still on her own
threshold for some minutes. The flush of summer was
over, and its fervent air was growing cool. Perhaps it
was because she breathed it so seldom that the freshness
of the air was unusually grateful to her to-day — perhaps
she lingered only to reduce herself into her usual com-
posure ; for the incautious touch of the passing gossip had
raised into wild and vivid life the grief which it was her
daily work to curb and subdue.
Within, seated, as always, by the fireside, opposite the
empty arm-chair, Ailie Eintoul was wiping some burning
tears from her cheek, when Kirstin entered to resume her
seat by the wheel.
" I wish there was but some lawful contrivance to shut
the mouths of fuils ! " exclaimed Ailie, passionately; " what
has the like of that idle woman to do with a trouble like
ours ? "
" She meant nae ill — it's just a way they have. I mind
of doing the same mysel, before I kent the ills of this life
for my ain hand," said Kirstin, who had already begun
with her usual monotonous steadiness to turn the wheel.
Captain Plenderleath was away on a Jong voyage, and
had not been home since his brother-in-law's loss. Ailie
was quite alone ; and moved, as she had been, by the death
of her nearest and most congenial relative, this silent daily
visit to the silent Kirstin seemed almost the only interest
of her life. They had nothing to speak of, these two
forlorn women; but Kirstin span unceasingly, sending a
drowsy, not uncheerful hum through the still apartment ;
and Ailie, fronting her brother's vacant chair, played with
the folded handkerchief which she held in her slightly
trembling hands. Many years' use and wont had made
Ailie content with the almost necessary idleness — the want
JOHN EINTOUL. 261
of all family industries — to which her abundant means
and her childlessness compelled her; and thus the richer
woman wanted the homely solace which steadied Kirstin
Beatoun's heart into daily endurance of her greater
" I have been thinking owre a' he said," said Ailie at
last. " Mony's the day I have gane owre every word, ane
by ane, and how he lookit, and the tear I saw in his ee.
Kirstin, do ye mind what he said 1 "
"Do /mind 1 ?" But Kirstin did not raise her head to
enforce the distinct emphasis of her question. " ' To wait
to see what the Lord would bring out of a dark providence
before I let my heart repine.' Guid kens, I little thought
that night what providence it was that hung owre me and
mine ; and I am waiting, Ailie, woman ; I'm no complain-
ing ! I'm striving to do my day's duty, and keep my
heart content before the Lord, and wait for His good time.
There can come naething but good out of His will, for a'
it's whiles hard to haud up your head under the blow ; but
I'm no repining, Ailie ; the Lord forbid I should repine.
I'm waiting His pleasure night and day."
And Kirstin hastily put up her hand to intercept a few
hot burning tears; and then, through the silence that
followed, the drowsy hum of the wheel resumed its voice
hurriedly, and went on without a pause.
"I'm looking to earth, and you're looking to heaven,"
said Ailie, some time after. " You're waiting on to be
released and loot away out of this world, Kirstin Beatoun ;
I'm marvelling what the Lord meant by the dark word of
prophecy He put into His servant's mouth at such an awfu'
time. He didna ken, puir man, that he was as near heaven
then as Moses when he gaed up the hill to die before the
Lord ; but I ken of nae prophet that served God mair con-
stant than your man did, Kirstin, and I'll no believe the
the Lord loot him waste his breath — and him so little to
262 JOHN RINTOUL.
spend ! — upon words that had nae meaning. You're no to
heed me, if I'm like to disturb you with what I say ; but
I've mair faith than to think that — I canna think that.
There was mair in't than just to submit, and take humbly
what God sends. Ye' 11 no think / would gang against
that, but it has anither meaning, Kirstin Beatoun ; and
though he didna ken himsel what that was, and you dinna
ken, and what's mair, I canna see, I'll no believe, for a
that, but that something will come of what he said ; for it
wouldna be like the Lord to let His servant's words fall to
the ground after putting them in his mouth, as if they
were but a fuil's idle breath, and no the last testimony of
a righteous man."
" I never was guid at doctrine, Ailie," said Kirstin ; " I
never was guid at keeping up a question the way I've seen
him and you. I have had owre muckle to do with bairns
and cares and the troubles of this life, to be clever at argu-
ing or inquiring, or ony such things. And now, if I have
even owre muckle time to turn my thought to the like, I'm
feared for beginning, Ailie ; for ever since I've striven sair
to tether my mind down to the day's spinning or the hour's
wark, and never lookit behind or before mair than I could
help. I ken my man's gane, that was my comfort a' my
best days; and I ken my darlin' laddie's gane, that was
the desire of my heart ; and I ken, forby, that for a' sae
dreadfu' a calamity it is, it's the Lord's sending, and I
maun aye bless His name ; and so I'm no for bringing in
ony perplexin' thoughts, Ailie, for it would be an awfu'
thing for a woman of my years, that's gane through sae
muckle, to lose reason and judgment at the last."
And as Kirstin continued her sjunning, the wheel trem-
bled with spasmodic motion, as again and again she put up
her hand to check the falling tears.
But Ailie, feverish and excited, dried hers off hastily
with her folded handkerchief, and, turning it over and
JOHN R1NTOUL. 263
over in her trembling fingers, brooded on her mystery.
Ailie Eintoiil had lived much and long alone — many slow
solitary hours, when the little world, which recognised her
as by no means either inactive or uninfhiential in its con-
cerns, was busied with dearer and more private household
duties, had passed in unbroken quietness over the childless
wife, whose husband was far upon the sea, whose little
maid was more than able for all her domestic work, and to
whom the cherished china, and far-travelled shells of her
best room, gave only a brief occupation. Of considerable
intellect, too, and a higher strain of mind than the com-
mon, Ailie remembered the 'Gentle Shepherd' and country
romances of her youth with compunction, and knew no
literature but the Bible. The noble narratives of the Old
Testament were her daily fare, read with interest always
thrilling and vivid ; and, living among Hebrew kings and
prophets, whose every action was miraculously directed,
miraculously rewarded or punished, it was not strange that
Ailie forgot often how God mantles under even a sublimer
veil and silence the providence, as certain and unfailing,
which deals with us to-day. But her brother, always ven-
erated, had taken his place now, in her imagination, among
the highest seers and sages ; and Ailie waited for the elu-
cidation of his prophecy with trembling enthusiast faith.
" / gang and come to the sea and to the shore; and Euphie
grows less a lassie, and mair a sober wife, fit for the like of
me ; and little Johnnie wins to his feet, and cries Daddy
when he sees me at the door ; and my mother is used to
264 JOHN RINTOUL.
her burden ; and poor little Nancy gets a spark in her ee
again ; but there never comes change to you"
And John Rintoul leant his back against the wall of his
little room in the roof, and contemplated with grave com-
posure the rude piece of wood in his hand.
No; there came no change upon it : there they remained,
these fatal characters, branding the name of John Rintoul
on the broken surface, as they had branded it on the car-
ver's heart a year ago, when he found it on the beach. The
rusted nails and jagged edge had not crumbled or broken ;
and still, through all these peaceful months, a terrible tale
spoke in their voiceless silence; still they were the sole
token of the shipwreck — the sole memento upon his mother-
earth of the fate of old John Rintoul.
The John Rintoul who now looked so sadly on his name
was prospering again as his sober carefulness deserved. A
good sailor and a trustworthy man people did not fail to
discover him to be, and trusted he was accordingly. No
longer mate, but captain, his schooner was to sail again in
a day or two ; and Euphie, rich with the savings of two
previous voyages, had exhausted her time and industry to
make the captain's appearance worthy of his exalted rank ;
for though the property was lost, it was still impossible to
deny that the captain of a schooner " out of Leith " was a
greater man than the skipper of a little Elie sloop, even
though the sloop was half his own.
And Captain Rintoul of the Janet and Mary, with his
easy voyages, his increasing means, and his pleasant home,
was a man to be envied ; and his grief had faded out of
present intensity into a little additional gravity, and a
general softening of character. Perhaps he was cast at
first in a mould less stern, but certainly he was now set-
tling into a gentler, milder, and less forcible person, than
Kirstin Beatoun, carefully abstaining from mention of
JOHN RINTOUL. 265
this day, as the first melancholy anniversary of her loss,
and sedulously counting, with white and trembling lips,
the hanks of yarn revolving on her wheel, bravely strove
against the long restrained and gnawing grief which almost
overpowered her now. Finding it impossible to work, she
rose at last hastily, and began with considerable bustle to
"redd up the house," already only too well arranged and
orderly. Then she went out to the little yard behind, and
did some necessary work in it, shutting her eyes with a
strong pang and spasm at crossing her threshold; her very
sight at first was blinded with the broad dazzling sunshine
rejoicing over the sea. By-and-by her son came to her, to
take her away a long fatiguing inland walk to see some
country friends ; and it came to an end at last — the longest
of all long days — and the first year of her widowhood was
Ailie Eintoul in her own house, and in her own chamber
— secretly, with some fear of wrong-doing to interrupt its
fervent devotions — fasted all day long, and humbled her-
self, weeping and crying for some interpretation of her
brother's prophecy. Ailie was not quite convinced that
her fasting was lawful ; but it was a fast kept in secret,
unknown even to little Mary, her small serving-maiden,
who was no sufferer thereby; and when the night fell, Mrs
Plenderleath slept with a text of promise in her heart,
Her heart was very true, very earnest and sincere, if not
always perfectly sober in its vehement wishes ; and when
these words of Holy Writ came in suddenly upon her mind,
as the moon came on the sea, who shall say she did wrong
to accept them with a great throb of thankfulness and
wonder, as a very message from the heavens 1
And Agnes Eaeburn stood upon the point, watching the
waters under the moonlight as they rolled in, in soft rip-
ples, over the sands of Elie bay. Very different from last
year's ghastly gleam and death-like shadow were the mono-
266 JOHN RINTOUL.
beams of to-night. Soft hazy clouds, tinted in sober grey
and brown, and edged with soft white downy borders,
flitted now and then across the mild young moon, breaking
into polished scales of silver sometimes, like armour for the
hunter-goddess of heathen fables — sometimes caught up,
as if by fairy fingers, into wreaths and floating draperies,
glistening white like bridal silk ; underneath, the sky was
blue, pale, and clear and peaceful ; and the Firth lay under
that, looking up with loving eyes to reflect a kindred
colour. No such thing as storm, or prophecy of storm,
troubled the lightened horizon, out of which, now and then
— the air was so clear — you could see a sail come steadily,
as out of another world ; and the water came rippling up,
with gentle breaks and hesitations, now and then crowding
back, wave upon wave, like timid children, before they
started for a long race, flashing up among the rocks to
Agnes Raeburn's feet.
And it is true that the light has come again to Nancy's
eyes, the colour to her cheek. Youth and health and daily
work have been too many for her visionary sorrow. She
is pensive to-night, as, full of softening memories, she
thinks of the storm which she came here to see ; pensive,
but not afflicted, for autumn and winter are over and gone :
the spring comes again with all its happier influences, and
her heart is tender, but her heart is healed.
Young Colin Hunter has been tracing her steps; his
patience is nearly worn out now with its long stretch of
endurance, and the caprice and waywardness of his lady-
love ; and in the darkening gloaming he steals after her to
the point, a little jealous of her motive for wandering there,
but quite unconscious that this is the day on which the
sloop was lost.
" Are you gaun to gie me my answer, Nancy 1 " says
Colin, with a little impatience. " Here have I been cast
about, like a bairn's ba', from one hand to anither — Seeching
JOHN MNTOUL. 267
at you — leeing to your mother — courting a'body belonging
to you, for little less than a year. Am I gaun to get my
answer, Nancy? Will ye take me, or will ye no?"
But Agnes has no inclination to answer so point-blank a
question. She herself was sufficiently explicit at one time,
and Colin bore all her impatient refusals bravely, and held
to his suit notwithstanding. Now, his attentions have be-
come a habit to Agnes, and she does not quite like the idea
of losing them at once and suddenly, though still she is
very far from having made up her mind to the terrible Yes
which he demands.
" I wish ye wouldna fash me night and day," said Agnes.
" I gied ye your answer lang ago, if you would only take it
and leave me at peace."
And as she spoke her heart smote her ; for anything in-
sincere or untrue, in whatever degree, was sadly unsuitable
to the solemn sentiment connected with this place and
" Do ye think a spirit can ever come back 1 " said Agnes,
lowering her voice. "Do ye think if ane departed by
a violent end, and wanted to let his friends ken, that
he could have means to do it 1 I saw something ance
" What did ye see 1 " asked Colin, hastily, for she made
a sudden pause.
She was shy of telling — never had told it, indeed, to her
nearest friends ; but Agnes has her heart softened, opened,
and does not know what a dangerous sign it is to give her
" The night the sloop w r as lost," said Agnes, speaking
very low, and only with difficulty refraining from a burst
of tears, " late at night, when every creature was sleeping,
I saw a man's figure cross along the shore. It was terrible
bright moonlight, so that I could see as clear as day, and
the haill town was still, and no a whisper in the air ; but I
268 JOHN ItfNTOUL.
saw the figure moving, and heard the step, straight on —
and now I mind it — straight towards Kirstin Beatoun's
" The night the sloop was lost ? " said Colin — and then
he added, with a gay burst of laughter, " Keep up your
heart, Nancy ; it was nae appearance — woman, it was me !"
"You!" Agnes Eaeburn suddenly turned very pale,
and recoiled from him with a start.
"I had seen my bonnie lassie just that day — I mind it
as weel as if it had been yestreen — and I came east the
shore at twelve o'clock at night to see the house she was
in ; so you see it was your ain true sweetheart, Nancy, and
naething to be feared for, after all."
Trembling and shivering, cold and pale, Agnes began to
cry quietly, with a hysterical weakness, and turned to go
tk You're no to be vexed now — I've said naething to vex
ye," said her suitor, hastening to press upon her a support
from which she shrank. " I'll no fash ye the night ony
mair, and, to let ye see how forbearing I am, I'll no fash