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Nor did Portlossie alone send out her boats, like huge seabirds
warring on the live treasures of the deep; from beyond the headlands
east and west, out they glided on slow red wing, - from Scaurnose,
from Sandend, from Clamrock, from the villages all along the coast,
- spreading as they came, each to its work apart through all the
laborious night, to rejoin its fellows only as home drew them back
in the clear gray morning, laden and slow with the harvest of the
stars. But the night lay between, into which they were sailing
over waters of heaving green that for ever kept tossing up roses
- a night whose curtain was a horizon built up of steady blue, but
gorgeous with passing purple and crimson, and flashing with molten

Malcolm was not one of those to whom the sea is but a pond for fish,
and the sky a storehouse of wind and rain, sunshine and snow: he
stood for a moment gazing, lost in pleasure. Then he turned to Lady
Florimel: she had thrown her daisies on the sand, appeared to be
deep in her book, and certainly caught nothing of the splendour
before her beyond the red light on her page.

"Saw ye ever a bonnier sicht, my leddy?" said Malcolm.

She looked up, and saw, and gazed in silence. Her nature was full
of poetic possibilities; and now a formless thought foreshadowed
itself in a feeling she did not understand: why should such a
sight as this make her feel sad? The vital connection between joy
and effort had begun from afar to reveal itself with the question
she now uttered.

"What is it all for?" she asked dreamily, her eyes gazing out on
the calm ecstasy of colour, which seemed to have broken the bonds
of law, and ushered in a new chaos, fit matrix of new heavens and
new earth.

"To catch herrin'," answered Malcolm, ignorant of the mood that
prompted the question, and hence mistaking its purport.

But a falling doubt had troubled the waters of her soul, and through
the ripple she could descry it settling into form. She was silent
for a moment.

"I want to know," she resumed, "why it looks as if some great thing
were going on. Why is all this pomp and show? Something ought to
be at hand. All I see is the catching of a few miserable fish! If
it were the eve of a glorious battle now, I could understand it
- if those were the little English boats rushing to attack the
Spanish Armada, for instance. But they are only gone to catch fish.
Or if they were setting out to discover the Isles of the West, the
country beyond the sunset! - but this jars."

"I canna answer ye a' at ance, my leddy," said Malcolm; "I maun
tak time to think aboot it. But I ken brawly what ye mean." Even
as he spoke he withdrew, and, descending the mound, walked away
beyond the bored craig, regardless now of the far lessening sails
and the sinking sun. The motes of the twilight were multiplying fast
as he returned along the shore side of the dune, but Lady Florimel
had vanished from its crest. He ran to the top: thence, in the dim
of the twilight, he saw her slow retreating form, phantom-like,
almost at the grated door of the tunnel, which, like that of a
tomb, appeared ready to draw her in, and yield her no more.

"My leddy, my leddy," he cried, "winna ye bide for 't?"

He went bounding after her like a deer. She heard him call, and
stood holding the door half open.

"It's the battle o' Armageddon, my leddy," he cried, as he came
within hearing distance.

"The battle of what?" she exclaimed, bewildered. "I really can't
understand your savage Scotch."

"Hoot, my leddy! the battle o' Armageddon 's no ane o' the Scots
battles; it's the battle atween the richt and the wrang, 'at ye
read aboot i' the buik o' the Revelations."

"What on earth are you talking about?" returned Lady Florimel in
dismay, beginning to fear that her squire was losing his senses.

"It's jist what ye was sayin,' my leddy: sic a pomp as yon bude to
hing abune a gran' battle some gait or ither."

"What has the catching of fish to do with a battle in the Revelations?"
said the girl, moving a little within the door.

"Weel, my leddy, gien I took in han' to set it furth to ye, I wad
hae to tell ye a' that Mr Graham has been learnin' me sin ever I
can min.' He says 'at the whole economy o' natur is fashiont unco
like that o' the kingdom o' haven: its jist a gradation o' services,
an' the highest en' o' ony animal is to contreebute to the life o'
ane higher than itsel'; sae that it's the gran' preevilege o' the
fish we tak, to be aten by human bein's, an' uphaud what's abune

"That's a poor consolation to the fish," said Lady Florimel.

"Hoo ken ye that, my leddy? Ye can tell nearhan' as little aboot
the hert o' a herrin' - sic as it has - as the herrin' can tell
aboot yer ain, whilk, I'm thinkin', maun be o' the lairgest size."

"How should you know anything about my heart, pray?" she asked,
with more amusement than offence.

"Jist by my ain," answered Malcolm.

Lady Florimel began to fear she must have allowed the fisher lad
more liberty than was proper, seeing he dared avow that he knew
the heart of a lady of her position by his own. But indeed Malcolm
was wrong, for in the scale of hearts, Lady Florimel's was far
below his. She stepped quite within the door, and was on the point
of shutting it, but something about the youth restrained her, exciting
at least her curiosity; his eyes glowed with a deep, quiet light,
and his face, even grand at the moment, had a greater influence
upon her than she knew. Instead therefore of interposing the door
between them, she only kept it poised, ready to fall to the moment
the sanity of the youth should become a hair's breadth more doubtful
than she already considered it.

"It's a' pairt o' ae thing, my leddy," Malcolm resumed. "The herrin
's like the fowk 'at cairries the mate an' the pooder an' sic like
for them 'at does the fechtin'. The hert o' the leevin' man's the
place whaur the battle's foucht, an' it's aye gaein' on an' on there
atween God an' Sawtan; an' the fish they haud fowk up till 't."

"Do you mean that the herrings help you to fight for God?" said
Lady Florimel with a superior smile.

"Aither for God or for the deevil, my leddy - that depen's upo'
the fowk themsel's. I say it hauds them up to fecht, an' the thing
maun be fouchten oot. Fowk to fecht maun live, an' the herrin'
hauds the life i' them, an' sae the catchin' o' the herrin' comes
in to be a pairt o' the battle."

"Wouldn't it be more sensible to say that the battle is between the
fishermen and the sea, for the sake of their wives and children?"
suggested Lady Florimel supremely.

"Na, my leddy, it wadna he half sae sensible, for it wadna justifee
the grandur that hings ower the fecht. The battle wi' the sea 's no
sae muckle o' an affair. An', 'deed, gien it warna that the wives
an' the verra weans hae themsel's to fecht i' the same battle o'
guid an' ill, I dinna see the muckle differ there wad be atween
them an' the fish, nor what for they sudna ate ane anither as the
craturs i' the watter du. But gien 't be the battle I say, there
can be no pomp o' sea or sky ower gran' for 't; an' it's a weel
waured (expended) gien it but haud the gude anes merry an' strong,
an' up to their work. For that, weel may the sun shine a celestial
rosy reid, an' weel may the boatie row, an' weel may the stars luik
doon, blinkin' an' luikin' again - ilk ane duin' its bonny pairt
to mak a man a richt hertit guid willed sodger!"

"And, pray, what may be your rank in this wonderful army?" asked
Lady Florimel, with the air and tone of one humouring a lunatic.

"I'm naething but a raw recruit, my leddy; but gien I hed my chice,
I wad be piper to my reg'ment."

"How do you mean?"

"I wad mak sangs. Dinna lauch at me, my leddy, for they're the best
kin' o' wapon for the wark 'at I ken. But I'm no a makar (poet),
an' maun content mysel' wi' duin' my wark."

"Then why," said Lady Florimel, with the conscious right of social
superiority to administer good counsel, - "why don't you work
harder, and get a better house, and wear better clothes?"

Malcolm's mind was so full of far other and weightier things that
the question bewildered him; but he grappled with the reference to
his clothes.

"'Deed, my leddy," he returned, "ye may weel say that, seein' ye
was never aboord a herrin' boat! but gien ye ance saw the inside
o' ane fu' o' fish, whaur a body gangs slidderin' aboot, maybe up
to the middle o' 's leg in wamlin' herrin,' an' the neist meenute,
maybe, weet to the skin wi' the splash o' a muckle jaw (wave), ye
micht think the claes guid eneuch for the wark - though ill fit,
I confess wi' shame, to come afore yer leddyship."

"I thought you only fished about close by the shore in a little
boat; I didn't know you went with the rest of the fishermen: that's
very dangerous work - isn't it?"

"No ower dangerous my leddy. There's some gangs doon ilka sizzon;
but it's a' i' the w'y o' yer wark."

"Then how is it you're not gone fishing tonight?"

"She's a new boat, an' there's anither day's wark on her afore we
win oot. - Wadna ye like a row the nicht, my leddy?"

"No, certainly; it's much too late."

"It'll be nane mirker nor 'tis; but I reckon ye're richt. I cam
ower by jist to see whether ye wadna like to gang wi' the boats a
bit; but yer leddyship set me aff thinkin' an' that pat it oot o'
my heid."

"It's too late now anyhow. Come tomorrow evening, and I'll see if
I can't go with you."

"I canna, my leddy - that's the fash o' 't! I maun gang wi' Blue
Peter the morn's nicht. It was my last chance, I'm sorry to say."

"It's not of the slightest consequence," Lady Florimel returned;
and, bidding him goodnight, she shut and locked the door.

The same instant she vanished, for the tunnel was now quite dark.
Malcolm turned with a sigh, and took his way slowly homeward along
the top of the dune. All was dim about him - dim in the heavens,
where a thin veil of gray had gathered over the blue; dim on
the ocean, where the stars swayed and swung, in faint flashes of
dissolving radiance, cast loose like ribbons of seaweed: dim all
along the shore, where the white of the breaking wavelet melted
into the yellow sand; and dim in his own heart, where the manner
and words of the lady had half hidden her starry reflex with a
chilling mist.


To the entertainment which the marquis and Lady Florimel had
resolved to give, all classes and conditions in the neighbourhood
now began to receive invitations - shopkeepers, there called
merchants, and all socially above them, individually, by notes, in
the name of the marquis and Lady Florimel, but in the handwriting
of Mrs Crathie and her daughters; and the rest generally, by the
sound of bagpipes, and proclamation from the lips of Duncan MacPhail.
To the satisfaction of Johnny Bykes the exclusion of improper
persons was left in the hands of the gatekeepers.

The thing had originated with the factor. The old popularity of
the lords of the land had vanished utterly during the life of the
marquis's brother, and Mr Crathie, being wise in his generation,
sought to initiate a revival of it by hinting the propriety of some
general hospitality, a suggestion which the marquis was anything but
loath to follow. For the present Lord Lossie, although as unready
as most men to part with anything he cared for, could yet cast
away magnificently, and had always greatly prized a reputation for

For the sake of the fishermen, the first Saturday after the
commencement of the home fishing was appointed. The few serious
ones, mostly Methodists, objected on the ground of the proximity
of the Sunday; but their attitude was, if possible, of still less
consequence in the eyes of their neighbours that it was well known
they would in no case have accepted such an invitation.

The day dawned propitious. As early as five o'clock Mr Crathie was
abroad, booted and spurred - now directing the workmen who were
setting up tents and tables; now conferring with house steward,
butler, or cook; now mounting his horse and galloping off to the
home farm or the distillery, or into the town to the Lossie Arms,
where certain guests from a distance were to be accommodated, and
whose landlady had undertaken the superintendence of certain of the
victualling departments; for canny Mr Crathie would not willingly
have the meanest guest ask twice for anything he wanted - so
invaluable did he consider a good word from the humblest quarter
- and the best labours of the French cook, even had he reverenced
instead of despising Scotch dishes, would have ill sufficed for the
satisfaction of appetites critically appreciative of hotch potch,
sheep's head, haggis, and black puddings.

The neighbouring nobility and landed gentlemen, the professional
guests also, including the clergy, were to eat with the marquis
in the great hall. On the grass near the house, tents were erected
for the burgesses of the burgh, and the tenants of the marquis's
farms. I would have said on the lawn, but there was no lawn proper
about the place, the ground was so picturesquely broken - in
parts with all but precipices - and so crowded with trees. Hence
its aspect was specially unlike that of an English park and grounds.
The whole was Celtic, as distinguished in character from Saxon.
For the lake-like lawn, for the wide sweeps of airy room in which
expand the mighty boughs of solitary trees, for the filmy gray blue
distances, and the far off segments of horizon, here were the tree
crowded grass, the close windings of the long glen of the burn,
heavily overshadowed, and full of mystery and covert, but leading
at last to the widest vantage of outlook - the wild heathery hill
down which it drew its sharp furrow; while, in front of the house,
beyond hidden river, and plane of treetops, and far sunk shore with
its dune and its bored crag and its tortuous caves, lay the great
sea, a pouting under lip, met by the thin, reposeful - shall I
say sorrowful? - upper lip of the sky.

A bridge of stately span, level with the sweep in front, honourable
embodiment of the savings of a certain notable countess, one end
resting on the same rock with the house, their foundations almost
in contact, led across the burn to more and more trees, their
roots swathed in the finest grass, through which ran broad carriage
drives and narrower footways, hard and smooth with yellow gravel.
Here amongst the trees were set long tables for the fishermen,
mechanics, and farm labourers. Here also was the place appointed
for the piper.

As the hour drew near, the guests came trooping in at every entrance.
By the sea gate came the fisher folk, many of the men in the blue
jersey, the women mostly in short print gowns, of large patterns
- the married with huge, wide filled caps, and the unmarried with
their hair gathered in silken nets: - bonnets there were very
few. Each group that entered had a joke or a jibe for Johnny Bykes,
which he met in varying, but always surly fashion - in that of
utter silence in the case of Duncan and Malcolm, at which the former
was indignant, the latter merry. By the town gate came the people
of Portlossie. By the new main entrance from the high road beyond
the town, through lofty Greekish gates, came the lords and lairds,
in yellow coaches, gigs, and post chaises. By another gate, far up
the glen, came most of the country folk, some walking, some riding,
some driving, all merry, and with the best intentions of enjoying
themselves. As the common people approached the house, they were
directed to their different tables by the sexton, for he knew

The marquis was early on the ground, going about amongst his guests,
and showing a friendly offhand courtesy which prejudiced every one
in his favour. Lady Florimel soon joined him, and a certain frank
way she inherited from her father, joined to the great beauty her
mother had given her, straightway won all hearts. She spoke to
Duncan with cordiality; the moment he heard her voice, he pulled
off his bonnet, put it under his arm, and responded with what I can
find no better phrase to describe than a profuse dignity. Malcolm
she favoured with a smile which swelled his heart with pride
and devotion. The bold faced countess next appeared; she took the
marquis's other arm, and nodded to his guests condescendingly and
often, but seemed, after every nod, to throw her head farther back
than before. Then to haunt the goings of Lady Florimel came Lord
Meikleham, receiving little encouragement, but eager after such
crumbs as he could gather. Suddenly the great bell under the highest
of the gilded vanes rang a loud peal, and the marquis having led
his chief guests to the hall, as soon as he was seated, the tables
began to be served simultaneously.

At that where Malcolm sat with Duncan, grace was grievously foiled
by the latter, for, unaware of what was going on, he burst out,
at the request of a waggish neighbour, with a tremendous blast, of
which the company took advantage to commence operations at once,
and presently the clatter of knives and forks and spoons was the
sole sound to be heard in that division of the feast: across the
valley, from the neighbourhood of the house, came now and then a
faint peal of laughter, for there they knew how to be merry while
they ate; but here, the human element was in abeyance, for people
who work hard, seldom talk while they eat. From the end of an
overhanging bough a squirrel looked at them for one brief moment,
wondering perhaps that they should not prefer cracking a nut
in private, and vanished - but the birds kept singing, and the
scents of the flowers came floating up from the garden below, and
the burn went on with its own noises and its own silences, drifting
the froth of its last passion down towards the doors of the world.

In the hall, ancient jokes soon began to flutter their moulted
wings, and musty compliments to offer themselves for the acceptance
of the ladies, and meet with a reception varied by temperament
and experience: what the bold faced countess heard with a hybrid
contortion, half sneer and half smile, would have made Lady Florimel
stare out of big refusing eyes.

Those more immediately around the marquis were soon laughing over
the story of the trick he had played the blind piper, and the
apology he had had to make in consequence; and perhaps something
better than mere curiosity had to do with the wish of several of
the guests to see the old man and his grandson. The marquis said
the piper himself would take care they should not miss him, but he
would send for the young fellow, who was equally fitted to amuse
them, being quite as much of a character in his way as the other.

He spoke to the man behind his chair, and in a few minutes Malcolm
made his appearance, following the messenger.

"Malcolm," said the marquis kindly, "I want you to keep your eyes
open, and see that no mischief is done about the place."

"I dinna think there's ane o' oor ain fowk wad dee ony mischeef,
my lord," answered Malcolm; "but whan ye keep open yett, ye canna
be sure wha wins in, specially wi' sic a gowk as Johnny Bykes at
ane o' them. No 'at he wad wrang yer lordship a hair, my lord!"

"At all events you'll be on the alert," said the marquis.

"I wull that, my Lord. There's twa or three aboot a'ready 'at I
dinna a'thegither like the leuks o'. They're no like country fowk,
an' they're no fisher fowk. It's no far aff the time o' year whan
the gipsies are i' the w'y o' payin' 's a veesit, an' they may ha'
come in at the Binn yett (gate), whaur there's nane but an auld
wife to haud them oot."

"Well, well," said the marquis, who had no fear about the behaviour
of his guests, and had only wanted a colour for his request of
Malcolm's presence. "In the meantime," he added, "we are rather
short handed here. Just give the butler a little assistance - will

"Willin'ly, my lord," answered Malcolm, forgetting altogether, in
the prospect of being useful and within sight of Lady Florimel,
that he had but half finished his own dinner. The butler, who
had already had an opportunity of admiring his aptitude, was glad
enough to have his help; and after this day used to declare that
in a single week he could make him a better servant than any of the
men who waited at table. It was indeed remarkable how, with such
a limited acquaintance with the many modes of an artificial life,
he was yet, by quickness of sympathetic insight, capable not only
of divining its requirements, but of distinguishing, amid the
multitude of appliances around, those fitted to their individual

It was desirable, however, that the sitting in the hall should not
be prolonged, and after a few glasses of wine, the marquis rose, and
went to make the round of the other tables. Taking them in order,
he came last to those of the rustics, mechanics, and fisher folk.
These had advanced considerably in their potations, and the fun
was loud. His appearance was greeted with shouts, into which Duncan
struck with a paean from his pipes; but in the midst of the tumult,
one of the oldest of the fishermen stood up, and in a voice accustomed
to battle with windy uproars, called for silence. He then addressed
their host.

"Ye'll jist mak 's prood by drinkin' a tum'ler wi' 's, yer lordship,"
he said. "It's no ilka day we hae the honour o' yer lordship's

"Or I of yours," returned the marquis with hearty courtesy. "I will
do it with pleasure - or at least a glass: my head's not so well
seasoned as some of yours."

"Gien your lordship's hed hed as mony blasts o' nicht win', an' as
mony jaups o' cauld sea watter aboot its lugs as oors, it wad hae
been fit to stan' as muckle o' the barley bree as the stievest o'
the lot, I s' warran'."

"I hope so," returned Lord Lossie, who, having taken a seat at
the end of the table, was now mixing a tumbler of toddy. As soon
as he had filled his glass, he rose, and drank to the fishermen
of Portlossie, their wives and their sweethearts, wishing them a
mighty conquest of herring, and plenty of children to keep up the
breed and the war on the fish. His speech was received with hearty
cheers, during which he sauntered away to rejoin his friends.

Many toasts followed, one of which, "Damnation to the dogfish,"
gave opportunity to a wag, seated near the piper, to play upon the
old man's well known foible by adding, "an' Cawmill o' Glenlyon;"
whereupon Duncan, who had by this time taken more whisky than
was good for him, rose, and made a rambling speech, in which he
returned thanks for the imprecation, adding thereto the hope that
never might one of the brood accursed go down with honour to the

The fishermen listened with respectful silence, indulging only in
nods, winks, and smiles for the interchange of amusement, until
the utterance of the wish recorded, when, apparently carried away
for a moment by his eloquence, they broke into loud applause. But,
from the midst of it, a low gurgling laugh close by him reached Duncan's
ear: excited though he was with strong drink and approbation, he
shivered, sunk into his seat, and clutched at his pipes convulsively,
as if they had been a weapon of defence.

"Malcolm! Malcolm, my son," he muttered feebly, "tere is a voman
will pe laughing! She is a paad voman: she makes me cold!"

Finding from the no response that Malcolm had left his side,
he sat motionless, drawn into himself, and struggling to suppress
the curdling shiver. Some of the women gathered about him, but he
assured them it was nothing more than a passing sickness.

Malcolm's attention had, a few minutes before, been drawn to two
men of somewhat peculiar appearance, who, applauding louder than
any, only pretended to drink, and occasionally interchanged glances
of intelligence. It was one of these peculiar looks that first
attracted his notice. He soon discovered that they had a comrade
on the other side of the table, who apparently, like themselves,
had little or no acquaintance with any one near him. He did not
like either their countenances or their behaviour, and resolved to
watch them. In order therefore to be able to follow them when they
moved, as he felt certain they would before long, without attracting
their attention, he left the table and making a circuit took up
his position behind a neighbouring tree. Hence it came that he was
not, at the moment of his need, by his grandfather's side, whither
he had returned as soon as dinner was over in the hall.

Meantime it became necessary to check the drinking by the counter
attraction of the dance. Mr Crathie gave orders that a chair should

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