from Mrs Catanach overtake them.
Arrived in the street, Florimel restored his pipes to Duncan
- who, letting the dog go, at once proceeded to fill the bag -
and, instead of continuing her way to the harbour, turned back,
accompanied by Malcolm, Demon, and Lady Stronach's Strathspey.
"What a horrible woman that is!" she said with a shudder.
"Ay is she; but I doobt she wad be waur gien she didna brak oot
that gait whiles," rejoined Malcolm.
"How do you mean?"
"It frichts fowk at her, an' maybe sometimes pits 't oot o' her
pooer to du waur. Gien ever she seek to mak it up wi' ye, my leddy,
I wad hae little to say till her, gien I was you."
"What could I have to say to a low creature like that?"
"Ye wadna ken what she micht be up till, or hoo she micht set aboot
it, my leddy. I wad hae ye mistrust her a'thegither. My daddy has
a fine moral nose for vermin, an' he canna bide her, though he
never had a glimp o' the fause face o' her, an' in trowth never
spak till her."
"I will tell my father of her. A woman like that is not fit to live
amongst civilized people."
"Ye're richt there, my leddy; but she wad only gang some ither gait
amo' the same. Of coorse ye maun tell yer father, but she's no fit
for him to tak ony notice o'."
As they sat at breakfast, Florimel did tell her father. His first
emotion, however - at least the first he showed - was vexation
"You must not be going out alone - and at such ridiculous hours,"
he said. "I shall be compelled to get you a governess."
"Really, papa," she returned, "I don't see the good of having
a marquis for a father, if I can't go about as safe as one of the
fisher children. And I might just as well be at school, if I'm not
to do as I like."
"What if the dog had turned on you!" he said.
"If he dared!" exclaimed the girl, and her eyes flashed.
Her father looked at her for a moment, said to himself - "There
spoke a Colonsay!" and pursued the subject no further.
When they passed Mrs Catanach's cottage an hour after, on their
way to the harbour, they saw the blinds drawn down, as if a dead
man lay within: according to after report, she had the brute already
laid out like a human being, and sat by the bedside awaiting a
coffin which she had ordered of Watty Witherspail.
CHAPTER XXXIX: COLONSAY CASTLE
The day continued lovely, with a fine breeze. The whole sky and
air and sea were alive - with moving clouds, with wind, with waves
flashing in the sun. As they stepped on board amidst the little
crowd gathered to see, Lady Florimel could hardly keep her delight
within the bounds of so called propriety. It was all she could do
to restrain herself from dancing on the little deck half swept by
the tiller. The boat of a schooner which lay at the quay towed them
out of the harbour. Then the creature spread her wings like a bird
- mainsail and gaff topsail, staysail and jib - leaped away to
leeward, and seemed actually to bound over the waves. Malcolm sat
at the tiller, and Blue Peter watched the canvas.
Lady Florimel turned out to be a good sailor, and her enjoyment was
so contagious as even to tighten certain strings about her father's
heart which had long been too slack to vibrate with any simple
gladness. Her questions were incessant - first about the sails
and rigging, then about the steering; but when Malcolm proceeded
to explain how the water reacted on the rudder, she declined to
trouble herself with that.
"Let me steer first," she said, "and then tell me how things work."
"That is whiles the best plan," said Malcolm. "Jist lay yer han'
upo' the tiller, my leddy, an' luik oot at yon pint they ca' the
Deid Heid yonner. Ye see, whan I turn the tiller this gait, her
heid fa's aff frae the pint; an' whan I turn't this ither gait,
her heid turns till 't again: haud her heid jist aboot a twa yairds
like aff o' 't."
Florimel was more delighted than ever when she felt her own hand
ruling the cutter - so overjoyed indeed, that, instead of steering
straight, she would keep playing tricks with the rudder - fretting
the mouth of the sea palfrey, as it were. Every now and then Malcolm
had to expostulate.
"Noo, my leddy, caw canny. Dinna steer sae wull. Haud her steddy.
- My lord, wad ye jist say a word to my leddy, or I'll be forced
to tak the tiller frae her."
But by and by she grew weary of the attention required, and, giving
up the helm, began to seek the explanation of its influence, in a
way that delighted Malcolm.
"Ye'll mak a guid skipper some day," he said: "ye spier the richt
questions, an' that's 'maist as guid 's kennin' the richt answers."
At length she threw herself on the cushions Malcolm had brought
for her, and, while her father smoked his cigar, gazed in silence
at the shore. Here, instead of sands, low rocks, infinitively broken
and jagged, filled all the tidal space - a region of ceaseless rush
and shattered waters. High cliffs of gray and brown rock, orange
and green with lichens here and there, and in summer crowned with
golden furze, rose behind - untouched by the ordinary tide, but at
high water lashed by the waves of a storm.
Beyond the headland which they were fast nearing, the cliffs and
the sea met at half tide.
The moment they rounded it -
"Luik there, my lord," cried Malcolm, " - there's Colonsay Castel,
'at yer lordship gets yer name, I'm thinkin', an', ony gait, ane o'
yer teetles frae. It maun be mony a hunner year sin' ever Colonsay
baid intill 't!"
Well might he say so! for they looked but saw nothing - only cliff
beyond cliff rising from a white fringed shore. Not a broken tower,
not a ragged battlement invaded the horizon!
"There's nothing of the sort there!" said Lady Florimel.
"Ye maunna luik for tooer or pinnacle, my leddy, for nane will
ye see: their time's lang ower. But jist taik the sea face o' the
scaur (cliff) i' yer ee, an' traivel alang 't oontil ye come till
a bit 'at luiks like mason wark. It scarce rises abune the scaur
in ony but ae pairt, an' there it 's but a feow feet o' a wa'."
Following his direction, Lady Florimel soon found the ruin. The
front of a projecting portion of the cliff was faced, from the
very water's edge as it seemed, with mason work; while on its side,
the masonry rested here and there upon jutting masses of the rock,
serving as corbels or brackets, the surface of the rock itself
completing the wall front. Above, grass grown heaps and mounds,
and one isolated bit of wall pierced with a little window, like an
empty eyesocket with no skull behind it, was all that was visible
from the sea of the structure which had once risen lordly on the
crest of the cliff.
"It is poor for a ruin even!" said Lord Lossie.
"But jist consider hoo auld the place is, my lord! - as auld as the
time o' the sea rovin' Danes, they say. Maybe it's aulder nor King
Alfred! Ye maun regaird it only as a foondation; there's stanes eneuch
lyin' aboot to shaw 'at there maun hae been a gran' supperstructur
on 't ance. I some think it has been ance disconneckit frae the
lan', an' jined on by a drawbrig. Mony a lump o' rock an' castel
thegither has rowed doon the brae upon a' sides, an' the ruins may
weel hae filled up the gully at last. It's a wonnerfu' auld place,
"What would you do with it if it were yours, Malcolm?" asked Lady
"I wad spen' a my spare time patchin' 't up to gar 't stan' oot
agane the wither. It's crum'let awa' a heap sin' I min'."
"What would be the good of that? A rickle of old stones!" said the
"It's a growth 'at there winna be mony mair like," returned Malcolm.
"I wonner 'at yer lordship!"
He was now steering for the foot of the cliff. As they approached,
the ruin expanded and separated, grew more massy, and yet more
detailed. Still it was a mere root clinging to the soil.
"Suppose you were Lord Lossie, Malcolm, what would you do with it?"
asked Florimel, seriously, but with fun in her eyes.
"I wad win at the boddom o' 't first."
"What do you mean by that?"
"Ye'll see whan ye win in till 't. There 's a heap o' voutit places
inside yon blin' face. Du ye see yon wee bit squaur winnock? That
lats the licht in till ane o' them. There maybe vouts aneath vouts,
for them 'at ye can win intill 's half fu' o' yird an' stanes. I
wad hae a' that cleart oot, an syne begin frae the verra foondation,
diggin', an' patchin', an' buttressin', till I got it a' as soun'
as a whunstane; an' whan I cam to the tap o' the rock, there the
castel sud tak to growin' again; an' grow it sud, till there it
stude, as near what it was as the wit an' the han' o' man cud set
"That would ruin a tolerably rich man," said the marquis..
"Ony gait it's no the w'y fowk ruins themsel's nooadays, my lord.
They'll pu' doon an auld hoose ony day to save themsel's blastin'
poother. There's that gran' place they ca' Huntly Castel! -
a suckin' bairn to this for age, but wi' wa's, they tell me, wad
stan' for thoosan's o' years: wad ye believe 't? there's a sowlless
chiel' o' a factor there diggin' park wa's an' a grainery oot o'
't, as gien 'twar a quarry o' blue stane! An' what 's ten times
mair exterord'nar, there's the Duke o' Gordon jist lattin' the gype
tak 's wull o' the hoose a' his grace's ain forbears! I wad maist
as sune lat a man speyk ill o' my daddy!"
"But this is past all rebuilding," said his lordship. "It would be
barely possible to preserve the remains as they are."
"It wad be ill to du, my lord, ohn set it up again. But jist think
what a gran' place it wad be to bide in!"
The marquis burst out laughing.
"A grand place for gulls and kittiwakes and sea crows!" he said. "But
where is it, pray, that a fisherman like you gets such extravagant
notions? - How do you come to think of such things?"
"Thoucht's free, my lord. Gien a thing be guid to think, what for
sudna a fisher lad think it? I hae read a heap aboot auld castles
an' sic like i' the history o' Scotlan', an' there's mony an auld
tale an' ballant aboot them. - Jist luik there, my leddy: ye see
yon awfu' hole i' the wa,' wi' the verra inside o' the hill, like,
rushin' oot at it? - I cud tell ye a fearfu' tale aboot that same."
"Do let us have it," said Florimel eagerly, setting herself to
"Better wait till we land," said the marquis lazily.
"Ay, my lord; we're ower near the shore to begin a story. - Slack
the mainsheet, Peter, an' stan' by the jib - doonhaul - Dinna
rise, my leddy; she'll be o' the grun' in anither meenute."
Almost immediately followed a slight grating noise, which grew
loud, and before one could say her speed had slackened, the cutter
rested on the pebbles, with the small waves of the just turned tide
flowing against her quarter. Malcolm was overboard in a moment.
"How the deuce are we to land here?" said the marquis.
"Yes!" followed Florimel, half risen on her elbow, "how the deuce
are we to land here?"
"Hoot, my leddy!" said Malcolm, "sic words ill become yer bonny
The marquis laughed.
"I ask you how we are to get ashore?" said Florimel with grave
dignity, though an imp was laughing in the shadows of her eyes.
"I'll sune lat ye see that, my leddy," answered Malcolm; and
leaning over the low bulwark he had her in his arms almost before
she could utter an objection. Carrying her ashore like a child -
indeed, to steady herself, she had put an arm round his shoulders
- he set her down on the shingle, and turning in the act, left her
as if she had been a burden of nets, and waded back to the boat.
"And how, pray, am I to go?" asked the marquis. "Do you fancy you
can carry me in that style?"
"Ow na, my lord! that wadna be dignifeed for a man. Jist loup upo'
As he spoke he turned his broad shoulders, stooping.
The marquis accepted the invitation, and rode ashore like a schoolboy,
They were in a little valley, open only to the sea, one boundary of
which was the small promontory whereon the castle stood. The side
of it next them, of stone and live rock combined, rose perpendicular
from the beach to a great height; whence, to gain the summit, they
had to go a little way back, and ascend by a winding path till they
reached the approach to the castle from the landward side.
"Noo, wad na this be a gran' place to bide at, my lord?" said
Malcolm, as they reached the summit - the marquis breathless,
Florimel fresh as a lark. "Jist see sic an outluik! The verra place
for pirates like the auld Danes! Naething cud escape the sicht o'
them here. Yon's the hills o' Sutherlan'. Ye see yon ane like a
cairn? that's a great freen' to the fisher fowk to tell them whaur
they are. Yon's the laich co'st o' Caithness. An' yonner's the
north pole, only ye canna see sae far. Jist think, my lord, hoo
gran' wad be the blusterin' blap o' the win' aboot the turrets,
as ye stude at yer window on a winter's day, luikin oot ower the
gurly twist o' the watters, the air fu' o' flichterin snaw, the
cloods a mile thick abune yer heid, an' no a leevin cratur but yer
ain fowk nearer nor the fairm toon ower the broo yonner!"
"I don't see anything very attractive in your description," said
his lordship. "And where," he added, looking around him, "would be
"What cud ye want wi' a gairden, an' the sea oot afore ye there?
The sea's bonnier than ony gairden. A gairden's maist aye the same,
or it changes sae slow, wi' the ae flooer gaein' in, an' the ither
flooer comin' oot, 'at ye maist dinna nottice the odds. But the
sea's never twa days the same. Even lauchin' she never lauchs twise
wi' the same face, an' whan she sulks, she has a hunner w'ys o'
"And how would you get a carriage up here?" said the marquis.
"Fine that, my lord. There's a ro'd up as far's yon neuk. An' for
this broo, I wad clear awa the lowse stanes, an' lat the nait'ral
gerse grow sweet an' fine, an' turn a lot o' bonny heelan' sheep
on till't. I wad keep yon ae bit o' whuns, for though they're rouch
i' the leaf; they blaw sae gowden. Syne I wad gether a' the bits
o' drains frae a' sides, till I had a bonny stream o' watter aff
o' the sweet corn lan', rowin' doon here whaur we stan', an' ower
to the castel itsel', an' throu' coort an' kitchie, gurglin' an'
rinnin', an' syne oot again an' doon the face o' the scaur, splashin'
an' loupin' like mad. I wad lea' a' the lave to Natur' hersel'.
It wad be a gran' place, my lord! An' whan ye was tired o' 't, ye
cud jist rin awa' to Lossie Hoose, an' hide ye i' the how there for
a cheenge. I wad like fine to hae the sortin' o' 't for yer lordship."
"I daresay!" said the marquis.
"Let's find a nice place for our luncheon, papa, and then we can
sit down and hear Malcolm's story," said Florimel.
"Dinna ye think, my lord, it wad be better to get the baskets up
first?" interposed Malcolm.
"Yes, I think so. Wilson can help you."
"Na, my lord; he canna lea' the cutter. The tide's risin, an' she's
ower near the rocks."
"Well, well; we shan't want lunch for an hour yet, so you can take
"But ye maun taik kent, my lord, hoo ye gang amo' the ruins.
There's awkward kin' o' holes aboot thae vouts, an' jist whaur ye
think there's nane. I dinna a'thegither like yer gaein' wantin'
"Nonsense! Go along," said the marquis.
"But I'm no jokin'," persisted Malcolm.
"Yes, yes; we'll be careful," returned his master impatiently, and
Malcolm ran down the hill, but not altogether satisfied with the
CHAPTER XL: THE DEIL'S WINNOCK
Florimel was disappointed, for she longed to hear Malcolm's tale.
But amid such surroundings it was not so very difficult to wait.
They set out to have a peep at the ruins, and choose a place for
From the point where they stood, looking seawards, the ground sunk
to the narrow isthmus supposed by Malcolm to fill a cleft formerly
crossed by a drawbridge, and, beyond it, rose again to the grassy
mounds in which lay so many of the old bones of the ruined carcass.
Passing along the isthmus, where on one side was a steep descent to
the shore of the little bay, and on the other the live rock hewn
away to wall, shining and sparkling with crystals of a clear irony
brown, they next clambered up a rude ascent of solid rock, and
so reached what had been the centre of the seaward portion of the
castle. Here they came suddenly upon a small hole at their feet,
going right down. Florimel knelt, and peeping in, saw the remains
of a small spiral stair. The opening seemed large enough to let
her through, and, gathering her garments tight about her, she was
halfway buried in the earth before her father, whose attention had
been drawn elsewhere, saw what she was about. He thought she had
fallen in, but her merry laugh reassured him, and ere he could
reach her, she had screwed herself out of sight. He followed her in
some anxiety, out, after a short descent, rejoined her in a small
vaulted chamber, where she stood looking from the little square
window Malcolm had pointed out to them as they neared the shore.
The bare walls around them were of brown stone, wet with the drip
of rains, and full of holes where the mortar had yielded and stones
had fallen out. Indeed the mortar had all but vanished; the walls
stood and the vaults hung chiefly by their own weight. By breaches
in the walls, where once might have been doors, Florimel passed
from one chamber to another and another, each dark, brown, vaulted,
damp, and weather eaten, while her father stood at the little
window she had left, listlessly watching the two men on the beach
far below landing the lunch, and the rippled sea, and the cutter
rising and falling with every wave of the flowing tide.
At length Florimel found herself on the upper end of a steep sloping
ridge of hard, smooth earth, lying along the side of one chamber,
and leading across to yet another beyond, which, unlike the rest,
was full of light. The passion of exploration being by this time
thoroughly roused in her, she descended the slope, half sliding, half
creeping. When she thus reached the hole into the bright chamber,
she almost sickened with horror, for the slope went off steeper,
till it rushed, as it were, out of a huge gap in the wall of the
castle, laying bare the void of space, and the gleam of the sea
at a frightful depth below: if she had gone one foot further, she
could not have saved herself from sliding out of the gap. It was
the very breach Malcolm had pointed out to them from below, and
concerning which he had promised them the terrible tale. She gave
a shriek of terror, and laid hold of the broken wall. To heighten
her dismay to the limit of mortal endurance, she found at the very
first effort, partly, no doubt, from the paralysis of fear, that
it was impossible to reascend; and there she lay on the verge of
the steeper slope, her head and shoulders in the inner of the two
chambers, and the rest of her body in the outer, with the hideous
vacancy staring at her. In a few moments it had fascinated her so
that she dared not close her eyes lest it should leap upon her.
The wonder was that she did not lose her consciousness, and fall
at once to the bottom of the cliff.
Her cry brought her father in terror to the top of the slope.
"Are you hurt, child?" he cried, not seeing the danger she was in.
"It's so steep, I can't get up again," she said faintly.
"I'll soon get you up," he returned cheerily, and began to descend.
"Oh, papa!" she cried, "don't come a step nearer. If you should
slip, we should go to the bottom of the rock together. Indeed,
indeed, there is great danger! Do run for Malcolm."
Thoroughly alarmed, yet mastering the signs of his fear, he enjoined
her to keep perfectly still while he was gone, and hurried to the
little window. Thence he shouted to the men below, but in vain,
for the wind prevented his voice from reaching them. He rushed from
the vaults, and began to descend at the first practicable spot he
could find, shouting as he went.
The sound of his voice cheered Florimel a little, as she lay
forsaken in her misery. Her whole effort now was to keep herself
from fainting, and for this end, to abstract her mind from the
terrors of her situation: in this she was aided by a new shock,
which, had her position been a less critical one, would itself have
caused her a deadly dismay. A curious little sound came to her,
apparently from somewhere in the dusky chamber in which her head
lay. She fancied it made by some little animal, and thought of the
wild cats and otters of which Malcolm had spoken as haunting the
caves; but, while the new fear mitigated the former, the greater
fear subdued the less. It came a little louder, then again a little
louder, growing like a hurried whisper, but without seeming to
approach her. Louder still it grew, and yet was but an inarticulate
whispering. Then it began to divide into some resemblance of
articulate sounds. Presently, to her utter astonishment, she heard
herself called by name.
"Lady Florimel! Lady Florimel!" said the sound plainly enough.
"Who's there?" she faltered, with her heart in her throat hardly
knowing whether she spoke or not.
"There's nobody here," answered the voice. "I'm in my own bedroom
at home, where your dog killed mine."
It was the voice of Mrs Catanach, but both words and tone were
Anger, and the sense of a human presence, although an evil one,
restored Lady Florimel's speech.
"How dare you talk such nonsense?" she said.
"Don't anger me again," returned the voice. "I tell you the truth.
I'm sorry I spoke to your ladyship as I did this morning. It was
the sight of my poor dog that drove me mad."
"I couldn't help it. I tried to keep mine off him, as you know."
"I do know it, my lady, and that's why I beg your pardon."
"Then there's nothing more to be said."
"Yes, there is, my lady: I want to make you some amends. I know
more than most people, and I know a secret that some would give
their ears for. Will you trust me?"
"I will hear what you've got to say."
"Well, I don't care whether you believe me or not: I shall tell
you nothing but the truth. What do you think of Malcolm MacPhail,
"What do you mean by asking me such a question?"
"Only to tell you that by birth he is a gentleman, and comes of an
"But why do you tell me?" said Florimel. "What have I to do with
"Nothing, my lady - or himself either. I hold the handle of the
business. But you needn't think it's from any favour for him. I
don't care what comes of him. There's no love lost between him and
me. You heard yourself this very day, how he abused both me and my
poor dog who is now lying dead on the bed beside me!"
"You don't expect me to believe such nonsense as that!" said Lady
There was no reply. The voice had departed; and the terrors of her
position returned with gathered force in the desolation of redoubled
silence that closes around an unanswered question. A trembling
seized her, and she could hardly persuade herself that she was not
slipping by slow inches down the incline.
Minutes that seemed hours passed. At length she heard feet and
voices, and presently her father called her name, but she was too
agitated to reply except with a moan. A voice she was yet more
glad to hear followed - the voice of Malcolm, ringing confident
"Haud awa', my lord," it said, "an' lat me come at her."
"You're not going down so!" said the marquis angrily. "You'll slip
to a certainty, and send her to the bottom."
"My lord," returned Malcolm, "I ken what I'm aboot, an' ye dinna.
I beg 'at ye'll haud ootby, an' no upset the lassie, for something
maun depen' upon hersel'. Jist gang awa' back into that ither vout,
my lord. I insist upo' 't."
His lordship obeyed, and Malcolm, who had been pulling off his
boots as he spoke, now addressed Mair.
"Here, Peter!" he said, "haud on to the tail o' that rope like grim
deith. - Na, I dinna want it roon' me; it's to gang roon' her.
But dinna ye haul, for it micht hurt her, an' she'll lippen to me
and come up o' hersel."
"Dinna be feart, my bonny leddy: there's nae danger - no ae grain.
With the rope in his hand, he walked down the incline, and kneeling
by Florimel, close to the broken wall, proceeded to pass the rope
under and round her waist, talking to her, as he did so, in the
tone of one encouraging a child.
"Noo, my leddy! Noo, my bonny leddy! Ae meenute, an' ye're as safe's
gien ye lay i' yer minnie's lap!"
"I daren't get up, Malcolm! I daren't turn my back to it! I shall
drop right down into it if I do!" she faltered, beginning to sob.