castel there aff o' the cliff intill the watter, an' syne cam a
flash o' blue licht an' a rum'lin'. Efter that, a' was quaiet: it
was a' ower afore the priest wan athort the coortyaird an' up the
stair. For he crossed himsel' an' gaed straucht for the bridal
chaumer. By this time the yerl had come up, an' followed cooerin'
ahin' the priest.
"Never a horse was i' the transe; an' the priest, first layin' the
cross 'at hang frae 's belt agane the door o' the chaumer, flang
't open wi'oot ony ceremony, for ye 'll alloo there was room for
"An' what think ye was the first thing the yerl saw? - A great
hole i' the wa' o' the room, an' the starry pleuch luikin' in at
it, an' the sea lyin' far doon afore him - as quaiet as the bride
upo' the bed - but a hantle bonnier to luik at; for ilka steek that
had been on her was brunt aff, an' the bonny body o' her lyin' a'
runklet, an' as black 's a coal frae heid to fut; an' the reek 'at
rase frae 't was heedeous. I needna say the bridegroom wasna there.
Some fowk thoucht it a guid sign that he hadna cairried the body
wi' him; but maybe he was ower suddent scared by the fut o' the
priest's horse upo' the drawbrig, an' dauredna bide his oncome.
Sae the fower fut stane - wa' had to flee afore him, for a throu
gang to the Prence o' the Pooer o' the Air. An' yon's the verra hole
to this day, 'at ye was sae near ower weel acquaint wi' yersel',
my leddy. For the yerl left the castel, and never a Colonsay has
made his abode there sin' syne. But some say 'at the rizzon the
castel cam to be desertit a'thegither was, that as aften as they
biggit up the hole, it fell oot again as sure 's the day o' the year
cam roon' whan it first happened. They say, that at twal o'clock
that same nicht, the door o' that room aye gaed tu, an' that naebody
daur touch 't, for the heat o' the han'le o' 't; an' syne cam the
skreighin' an' the moanin', an' the fearsome skelloch at the last,
an' a rum'le like thun'er, an' i' the mornin' there was the wa' oot!
The hole's bigger noo, for a' the decay o' the castel has taen to
slidin' oot at it, an' doobtless it'll spread an' spread till the
haill structur vainishes; at least sae they say, my lord; but I
wad hae a try at the haudin' o' 't thegither for a' that. I dinna
see 'at the deil sud hae 't a' his ain gait, as gien we war a' fleyt
at him. Fowk hae threepit upo' me that there i' the gloamin' they
hae seen an' awsome face luikin' in upo' them throu' that slap i'
the wa'; but I never believed it was onything but their ain fancy,
though for a' 'at I ken, it may ha' been something no canny. Still,
I say, wha 's feart? The Ill Man has no pooer 'cep ower his ain
kin. We 're tellt to resist him an' he'll flee frae 's."
"A good story, and well told," said the marquis kindly. "Don't you
think so, Florimel?"
"Yes, papa," Lady Florimel answered; "only he kept us waiting too
long for the end of it."
"Some fowk, my leddy," said Malcolm, "wad aye be at the hin'er en'
o' a'thing. But for mysel', the mair pleased I was to be gaein'
ony gait, the mair I wad spin oot the ro'd till 't."
"How much of the story may be your own invention now?" said the
"Ow, nae that muckle, my lord; jist a feow extras an' partic'lars
'at micht weel hae been, wi' an adjective, or an adverb, or sic
like, here an' there. I made ae mistak' though; gien 't was you
hole yonner, they bude till hae gane doon an' no up the stair to
His lordship laughed, and, again commending the tale, rose: it was
time to re-embark - an operation less arduous than before, for in
the present state of the tide it was easy to bring the cutter so
close to a low rock that even Lady Florimel could step on board.
As they had now to beat to windward, Malcolm kept the tiller in
his own hand. But indeed, Lady Florimel did not want to steer; she
was so much occupied with her thoughts that her hands must remain
Partly to turn them away from the more terrible portion of her
adventure, she began to reflect upon her interview with Mrs Catanach
- if interview it could be called, where she had seen no one. At
first she was sorry that she had not told her father of it, and
had the ruin searched; but when she thought of the communication
the woman had made to her, she came to the conclusion that it was,
for various reasons - not to mention the probability that he would
have set it all down to the workings of an unavoidably excited
nervous condition - better that she should mention it to no one
but Duncan MacPhail.
When they arrived at the harbour quay, they found the carriage
waiting, but neither the marquis nor Lady Florimel thought of
Malcolm's foot, and he was left to limp painfully home. As he passed
Mrs Catanach's cottage, he looked up: there were the blinds still
drawn down; the door was shut, and the place was silent as the
grave. By the time he reached Lossie House, his foot was very much
swollen. When Mrs Courthope saw it, she sent him to bed at once,
and applied a poultice.
CHAPTER XLII: DUNCAN'S DISCLOSURE
The night long Malcolm kept dreaming of his fall; and his dreams
were worse than the reality, inasmuch as they invariably sent him
sliding out of the breach, to receive the cut on the rocks below.
Very oddly this catastrophe was always occasioned by the grasp of
a hand on his ankle. Invariably also, just as he slipped, the face
of the Prince appeared in the breach, but it was at the same time
the face of Mrs Catanach.
The next morning, Mrs Courthope found him feverish, and insisted
on his remaining in bed - no small trial to one who had never been
an hour ill in his life; but he was suffering so much that he made
In the enforced quiescence, and under the excitements of pain and
fever, Malcolm first became aware how much the idea of Lady Florimel
had at length possessed him. But even in his own thought he never
once came upon the phrase, in love, as representing his condition
in regard of her: he only knew that he worshipped her, and would
be overjoyed to die for her. The youth had about as little vanity
as could well consist with individual coherence; if he was vain at
all, it was neither of his intellectual nor personal endowments,
but of the few tunes he could play on his grandfather's pipes. He
could run and swim, rare accomplishments amongst the fishermen, and
was said to be the best dancer of them all; but he never thought
of such comparison himself. The rescue of Lady Florimel made him
very happy: he had been of service to her; but so far was he from
cherishing a shadow of presumption, that as he lay there he felt
it would be utter content to live serving her for ever, even when
he was old and wrinkled and gray like his grandfather: he never
dreamed of her growing old and wrinkled and gray.
A single sudden thought sufficed to scatter - not the devotion,
but its peace. Of course she would marry some day, and what then?
He looked the inevitable in the face; but as he looked, that face
grew an ugly one. He broke into a laugh: his soul had settled like
a brooding cloud over the gulf that lay between a fisher lad and
the daughter of a peer! But although he was no coxcomb, neither had
fed himself on romances, as Lady Florimel had been doing of late,
and although the laugh was quite honestly laughed at himself, it was
nevertheless a bitter one. For again came the question: Why should
an absurdity be a possibility? It was absurd, and yet possible:
there was the point. In mathematics it was not so: there, of two
opposites to prove one an absurdity, was to prove the other a fact.
Neither in metaphysics was it so: there also an impossibility and
an absurdity were one and the same thing. But here, in a region
of infinitely more import to the human life than an eternity
of mathematical truth, there was at least one absurdity which was
yet inevitable - an absurdity - yet with a villainous attendance
of direst heat, marrow freezing cold, faintings, and ravings, and
Had it been a purely logical question he was dealing with, he
might not have been quite puzzled; but to apply logic here, as he
was attempting to do, was like - not like attacking a fortification
with a penknife, for a penknife might win its way through the
granite ribs of Cronstadt - it was like attacking an eclipse with
a broomstick: there was a solution to the difficulty; but as the
difficulty itself was deeper than he knew, so the answer to it
lay higher than he could reach - was in fact at once grander and
finer than he was yet capable of understanding.
His disjointed meditations were interrupted quite by the entrance
of the man to whom alone of all men he could at the time have given
a hearty welcome. The schoolmaster seated himself by his bedside,
and they had a long talk. I had set down this talk, but came to the
conclusion I had better not print it: ranging both high and wide,
and touching on points of vital importance, it was yet so odd, that
it would have been to too many of my readers but a Chimera tumbling
in a vacuum - as they will readily allow when I tell them that it
started from the question - which had arisen in Malcolm's mind so
long ago, but which he had not hitherto propounded to his friend
- as to the consequences of a man's marrying a mermaid; and that
Malcolm, reversing its relations, proposed next, the consequences
of a man's being in love with a ghost or an angel.
"I'm dreidfu' tired o' lyin' here i' my bed," said Malcolm at length
when, neither desiring to carry the conversation further, a pause
had intervened. "I dinna ken what I want. Whiles I think its the
sun, whiles the win', and whiles the watter. But I canna rist. Haena
ye a bit ballant ye could say till me Mr Graham? There's naething
wad quaiet me like a ballant."
The schoolmaster thought for a few minutes, and then said, "I'll
give you one of my own, if you like, Malcolm. I made it some twenty
or thirty years ago."
"That wad be a trate, sir," returned Malcolm; and the master,
with perfect rhythm, and a modulation amounting almost to melody,
repeated the following verses:
The water ran doon fine the heich hope heid, (head of the valley)
Wi' a Rin, burnie, rin;
It wimpled, an' waggled, an' sang a screed
O' nonsense, an' wadna blin, (cease)
Wi' its Rin, burnie, rin.
Frae the hert o' the warl', wi' a swirl an' a sway,
An' a Rin, burnie, rin,
That water lap clear frae the dark till the day,
An' singin' awa' did spin,
Wi' its Rin, burnie, rin.
Ae wee bit mile frae the heich hope held,
Wi' a Rin, burnie, rin,
'Mang her yows an' her lambs the herd lassie stude
An' she loot a tear fa' in,
Wi' a Rin, burnie, rin.
Frae the hert o' the maiden that tear drap rase,
Wi' a Rin, burnie rin;
Wearily clim'in' up narrow ways,
There was but a drap to fa' in,
Sae slow did that burnie rin.
Twa wee bit miles frae the heich hope heid,
Wi' a Rin, burnie, rin,
Doon creepit a cowerin' streakie o' reid,
An' meltit awa' within,
Wi' a Rin, burnie, rin.
Frae the hert o' a youth cam the tricklin' reid,
Wi' a Rin, burnie, rin;
It ran an' ran till it left him deid,
An' syne it dried up i' the win',
An' that burnie nae mair did rin.
Whan the wimplin' horn that frae three herts gaed
Wi' a Rin, burnie, rin,
Cam to the lip o' the sea sae braid,
It curled an' grued wi' pain o' sin -
But it took that burnie in.
"It's a bonny, bonny sang," said Malcolm; "but I canna say I
a'thegither like it."
"Why not?" asked Mr Graham, with an inquiring smile.
"Because the ocean sudna mak a mou' at the puir earth burnie that
cudna help what ran intill 't."
"It took it in though, and made it clean, for all the pain it
couldn't help either."
"Weel, gien ye luik at it that gait!" said Malcolm.
In the evening his grandfather came to see him, and sat down by his
bedside, full of a tender anxiety which he was soon able to alleviate.
"Wownded in ta hand and in ta foot!" said the seer: "what can it
mean? It must mean something, Malcolm, my son."
"Weel, daddy, we maun jist bide till we see," said Malcolm cheerfully.
A little talk followed, in the course of which it came into Malcolm's
head to tell his grandfather the dream he had had so much of the
first night he had slept in that room - but more for the sake of
something to talk about that would interest one who believed in
all kinds of prefigurations, than for any other reason.
Duncan sat moodily silent for some time, and then, with a great heave
of his broad chest, lifted up his head, like one who had formed a
resolution, and said:
"The hour has come. She has long peen afrait to meet it, put it has
come, and Allister will meet it. - She 'll not pe your cran'father,
He spoke the words with perfect composure, but as soon as they were
uttered, burst into a wail, and sobbed like a child.
"Ye'll be my ain father than?" said Malcolm.
"No, no, my son. She'll not pe anything that's your own at aal!"
And the tears flowed down his channelled cheeks.
For one moment Malcolm was silent, utterly bewildered. But he
must comfort the old man first, and think about what he had said
"Ye're my ain daddy, whatever ye are!" he said. "Tell me a' aboot
"She 'll tell you all she 'll pe knowing, my son, and she nefer
told a lie efen to a Cawmill."
He began his story in haste, as if anxious to have it over, but had
to pause often from fresh outbursts of grief. It contained nothing
more of the essential than I have already recorded, and Malcolm
was perplexed to think why what he had known all the time should
affect him so much in the telling. But when he ended with the bitter
cry - "And now you'll pe loving her no more, my poy: my chilt, my
Malcolm!" he understood it.
"Daddy! daddy!" he cried, throwing his arms round his neck and
kissing him, "I lo'e ye better nor ever. An' weel I may!"
"But how can you, when you 've cot none of ta plood in you, my
son?" persisted Duncan.
"I hae as muckle as ever I had, daddy."
"Yes, put you 'll tidn't know."
"But ye did, daddy."
"Yes, and inteet she cannot tell why she 'll pe loving you so much
herself aal ta time!"
"Weel, daddy, gien ye cud lo'e me sae weel, kennin' me nae bluid's
bluid o' yer ain - I canna help it: I maun lo'e ye mair nor ever,
noo' at I ken 't tu. - Daddy, daddy, I had nae claim upo' ye, an'
ye hae been father an' gran'father an' a' to me!"
"What could she do, Malcolm, my poy? Ta chilt had no one, and she
had no one, and so it wass. You must pe her own poy after all! And
she 'll not pe wondering put. - It might pe. - Yes, inteed not!"
His voice sank to the murmurs of a half uttered soliloquy, and as
he murmured he stroked Malcolm's cheek.
"What are ye efter noo daddy?" asked Malcolm.
The only sign that Duncan heard the question was the complete
silence that followed. When Malcolm repeated it, he said something
in Gaelic, but finished the sentence thus, apparently unaware of
the change of language:
" - only how else should she pe lovin you so much, Malcolm, my
"I ken what Maister Graham would say, daddy," rejoined Malcolm, at
a half guess.
"What would he say, my son? He's a coot man, your Maister Graham.
- It could not pe without ta sem fathers, and ta sem chief."
"He wad say it was 'cause we war a' o' ae bluid - 'cause we had
a' ae father."
"Oh yes, no toubt! We aal come from ta same first paarents; put tat
will be a fery long way off, pefore ta clans cot tokether. It 'll
not pe holding fery well now, my son. Tat waas pefore ta Cawmills."
"That's no what Maister Graham would mean, daddy," said Malcolm.
"He would mean that God was the father o' 's a', and sae we cudna
help lo'in' ane anither."
"No; tat cannot pe right, Malcolm; for then we should haf to love
eferybody. Now she loves you, my son, and she hates Cawmill of
Clenlyon. She loves Mistress Partan when she'll not pe too rude to
her, and she hates tat Mistress Catanach. She's a paad woman, 'tat
she'll pe certain sure, though she'll nefor saw her to speak to
her. She'll haf claaws to her poosoms."
"Weel, daddy, there was naething ither to gar ye lo'e me. I was
jist a helpless human bein', an' sae for that, an' nae ither rizzon,
ye tuik a' that fash wi' me! An' for mysel', I'm deid sure I cudna
lo'e ye better gien ye war twise my gran'father."
"He's her own poy!" cried the piper, much comforted; and his hand
sought his head, and lighted gently upon it. "Put, maype," he went
on, "she might not haf loved you so much if she hadn't peen tinking
sometimes - "
He checked himself. Malcolm's questions brought no conclusion to
the sentence, and a long silence followed.
"Supposin' I was to turn oot a Cawmill?" said Malcolm, at length.
The hand that was fondling his curls withdrew as if a serpent had
bit it, and Duncan rose from his chair.
"Wass it her own son to pe speaking such an efil thing?" he said,
in a tone of injured and sad expostulation.
"For onything ye ken, daddy - ye canna tell but it mith be."
"Ton't preathe it, my son!" cried Duncan in a voice of agony, as
if he saw unfolding a fearful game the arch enemy had been playing
for his soul. "Put it cannot pe," he resumed instantly, "for ten
how should she pe loving you, my son?"
"'Cause ye was in for that afore ye kent wha the puir beastie was."
"Ta tarling chilt! she could not haf loved him if he had peen a
Cawmill. Her soul would haf chumped pack from him as from ta snake
in ta tree. Ta hate in her heart to ta plood of ta Cawmill, would
have killed ta chilt of ta Cawmill plood. No, Malcolm! no, my son!"
"Ye wadna hae me believe, daddy, that gien ye had kent by mark o'
hiv (hoof) an' horn, that the cratur they laid i' yer lap was a
Cawmill - ye wad hae risen up, an' lootin it lie whaur it fell?"
"No, Malcolm; I would haf put my foot upon it, as I would on ta
young fiper in ta heather."
"Gien I was to turn oot ane o' that ill race, ye wad hate me, than,
daddy - efter a'! Ochone, daddy! Ye wad be weel pleased to think
hoo ye stack yer durk throu' the ill han' o' me, an' wadna rist
till ye had it throu' the waur hert. - I doobt I had better up
an' awa', daddy, for wha' kens what ye mayna du to me?"
Malcolm made a movement to rise, and Duncan's quick ears understood
it. He sat down again by his bedside and threw his arms over him.
"Lie town, lie town, my poy. If you ket up, tat will pe you are a
Cawmill. No, no, my son! You are ferry cruel to your own old daddy.
She would pe too much sorry for her poy to hate him. It will pe
so treadful to pe a Cawmill! No, no, my poy! She would take you to
her poosom, and tat would trive ta Cawmill out of you. Put ton't
speak of it any more, my son, for it cannot pe. - She must co now,
for her pipes will pe waiting for her."
Malcolm feared he had ventured too far, for never before had his
grandfather left him except for work. But the possibility he had
started might do something to soften the dire endurance of his
His thoughts turned to the new darkness let in upon his history and
prospects. All at once the cry of the mad laird rang in his mind's
ear: "I dinna ken whaur I cam frae!"
Duncan's revelation brought with it nothing to be done - hardly
anything to be thought - merely room for most shadowy, most unfounded
conjecture - nay, not conjecture - nothing but the vaguest of
castle building! In merry mood, he would henceforth be the son of
some mighty man, with a boundless future of sunshine opening before
him; in sad mood, the son of some strolling gipsy or worse - his
very origin better forgotten - a disgrace to the existence for
his share in which he had hitherto been peacefully thankful.
Like a lurking phantom shroud, the sad mood leaped from the field
of his speculation, and wrapped him in its folds: sure enough he was
but a beggar's brat - How henceforth was he to look Lady Florimel
in the face? Humble as he had believed his origin, he had hitherto
been proud of it: with such a high minded sire as he deemed his
own, how could he be other? But now! Nevermore could he look one
of his old companions in the face! They were all honourable men;
he a base born foundling!
He would tell Mr Graham of course; but what could Mr Graham say to
it? The fact remained. He must leave Portlossie.
His mind went on brooding, speculating, devising. The evening sunk
into the night, but he never knew he was in the dark until the
housekeeper brought him a light. After a cup of tea, his thoughts
found pleasanter paths. One thing was certain: he must lay himself
out, as he had never done before, to make Duncan MacPhail happy.
With this one thing clear to both heart and mind, he fell fast
CHAPTER XLIII: THE WIZARD'S CHAMBER
He woke in the dark, with that strange feeling of bewilderment
which accompanies the consciousness of having been waked: is it that
the brain wakes before the mind, and like a servant unexpectedly
summoned, does not know what to do with its master from home? or
is it that the master wakes first, and the servant is too sleepy
to answer his call? Quickly coming to himself, however, he sought
the cause of the perturbation now slowly ebbing. But the dark into
which he stared could tell nothing; therefore he abandoned his eyes,
took his station in his ears, and thence sent out his messengers.
But neither, for some moments, could the scouts of hearing come
upon any sign.
At length, something seemed doubtfully to touch the sense-the
faintest suspicion of a noise in the next room - the wizard's
chamber: it was enough to set Malcolm on the floor.
Forgetting his wounded foot and lighting upon it, the agony it
caused him dropped him at once on his hands and knees, and in this
posture he crept into the passage. As soon as his head was outside
his own door, he saw a faint gleam of light coming from beneath
that of the next room. Advancing noiselessly, and softly feeling
for the latch, his hand encountered a bunch of keys depending from
the lock, but happily did not set them jingling. As softly, he
lifted the latch, when, almost of itself, the door opened a couple
of inches, and, with bated breath, he saw the back of a figure he
could not mistake - that of Mrs Catanach. She was stooping by the
side of a tent bed much like his own, fumbling with the bottom hem
of one of the check curtains, which she was holding towards the
light of a lantern on a chair. Suddenly she turned her face to the
door, as if apprehending a presence; as suddenly, he closed it,
and turned the key in the lock. To do so he had to use considerable
force, and concluded its grating sound had been what waked him.
Having thus secured the prowler, he crept back to his room, considering
what he should do next. The speedy result of his cogitations was,
that he indued his nether garments, though with difficulty from
the size of his foot, thrust his head and arms through a jersey,
and set out on hands and knees for an awkward crawl to Lord Lossie's
It was a painful journey, especially down the two spiral stone
stairs, which led to the first floor where he lay. As he went,
Malcolm resolved, in order to avoid rousing needless observers, to
enter the room, if possible, before waking the marquis.
The door opened noiselessly. A night light, afloat in a crystal
cup, revealed the bed, and his master asleep, with one arm lying
on the crimson quilt. He crept in, closed the door behind him,
advanced halfway to the bed, and in a low voice called the marquis.
Lord Lossie started up on his elbow, and without a moment's
consideration seized one of a brace of pistols which lay on a table
by his side, and fired. The ball went with a sharp thud into the
thick mahogany door.
"My lord! my lord!" cried Malcolm, "it's only me!"
"And who the devil are you?" returned the marquis, snatching up
the second pistol.
"Malcolm, yer ain henchman, my lord."
"Damn you! what are you about then? Get up. What are you after
there - crawling like a thief?"
As he spoke he leaped from the bed, and seized Malcolm by the back
of the neck.
"It's a mercy I wasna mair like an honest man," said Malcolm, "or
that bullet wad hae been throu' the hams o' me. Yer lordship's a
wheen ower rash."
"Rash! you rascal!" cried Lord Lossie; "when a fellow comes into
my room on his hands and knees in the middle of the night! Get up,
and tell me what you are after, or, by Jove! I'll break every bone
in your body."
A kick from his bare foot in Malcolm's ribs fitly closed the
"Ye are ower rash, my lord!" persisted Malcolm. "I canna get up.
I hae a fit the size o' a sma' buoy!"
"Speak, then, you rascal!" said his lordship, loosening his hold,