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and there turned and looked up its southern slope, she was still
nowhere to be seen. The old highland stories of his grandfather
came crowding to mind, and, altogether human as she had appeared,
he almost doubted whether the sea, from which he had thought he
rescued her, were not her native element. The book, however, not
to mention the shoes and stockings, was against the supposition.
Anyhow, he had seen a vision of some order or other, as certainly
as if an angel from heaven had appeared to him, for the waters of
his mind had been troubled with a new sense of grace and beauty,
giving an altogether fresh glory to existence.

Of course no one would dream of falling in love with an unearthly
creature, even an angel; at least, something homely must mingle
with the glory ere that become possible; and as to this girl, the
youth could scarcely have regarded her with a greater sense of
far offness had he known her for the daughter of a king of the sea
- one whose very element was essentially death to him as life to
her. Still he walked home as if the heavy boots he wore were wings
at his heels, like those of the little Eurus or Boreas that stood
blowing his trumpet for ever in the round open temple which from
the top of a grassy hill in the park overlooked the Seaton.

"Sic een!" he kept saying to himself; "an' sic sma' white han's!
an' sic a bonny flit! Eh hoo she wad glitter throu' the water in
a bag net! Faith! gien she war to sing 'come doon' to me, I wad
gang. Wad that be to lowse baith sowl an' body, I wonner? I'll see
what Maister Graham says to that. It's a fine question to put till
'im: 'Gien a body was to gang wi' a mermaid, wha they say has nae
sowl to be saved, wad that be the loss o' his sowl, as weel's o'
the bodily life o' 'im?"'


The sea town of Portlossie was as irregular a gathering of small
cottages as could be found on the surface of the globe. They faced
every way, turned their backs and gables every way - only of the
roofs could you predict the position; were divided from each other
by every sort of small, irregular space and passage, and looked
like a national assembly debating a constitution. Close behind the
Seaton, as it was called, ran a highway, climbing far above the
chimneys of the village to the level of the town above. Behind this
road, and separated from it by a high wall of stone, lay a succession
of heights and hollows covered with grass. In front of the cottages
lay sand and sea. The place was cleaner than most fishing villages,
but so closely built, so thickly inhabited, and so pervaded with
"a very ancient and fishlike smell," that but for the besom of the
salt north wind it must have been unhealthy. Eastward the houses
could extend no further for the harbour, and westward no further for
a small river that crossed the sands to find the sea - discursively
and merrily at low water, but with sullen, submissive mingling when
banked back by the tide.

Avoiding the many nets extended long and wide on the grassy sands,
the youth walked through the tide swollen mouth of the river, and
passed along the front of the village until he arrived at a house,
the small window in the seaward gable of which was filled with a
curious collection of things for sale - dusty looking sweets in
a glass bottle; gingerbread cakes in the shape of large hearts,
thickly studded with sugar plums of rainbow colours, invitingly
poisonous; strings of tin covers for tobacco pipes, overlapping each
other like fish scales; toys, and tapes, and needles, and twenty
other kinds of things, all huddled together.

Turning the corner of this house, he went down the narrow passage
between it and the next, and in at its open door. But the moment
it was entered it lost all appearance of a shop, and the room with
the tempting window showed itself only as a poor kitchen with an
earthen floor.

"Weel, hoo did the pipes behave themsels the day, daddy?" said the
youth as he strode in.

"Och, she'll pe peing a coot poy today," returned the tremulous
voice of a grey headed old man, who was leaning over a small peat
fire on the hearth, sifting oatmeal through the fingers of his left
hand into a pot, while he stirred the boiling mess with a short
stick held in his right.

It had grown to be understood between them that the pulmonary
conditions of the old piper should be attributed not to his internal,
but his external lungs - namely, the bag of his pipes. Both sets
had of late years manifested strong symptoms of decay, and decided
measures had had to be again and again resorted to in the case of
the latter to put off its evil day, and keep within it the breath
of its musical existence. The youth's question, then, as to
the behaviour of the pipes, was in reality an inquiry after the
condition of his grandfather's lungs, which, for their part, grew
yearly more and more asthmatic: notwithstanding which Duncan MacPhail
would not hear of resigning the dignity of town piper.

"That's fine, daddy," returned the youth. "Wull I mak oot the
parritch? I'm thinkin ye've had eneuch o' hingin' ower the fire
this het mornin'."

"No, sir," answered Duncan. "She'll pe perfectly able to make ta
parritch herself, my poy Malcolm. Ta tay will tawn when her poy
must make his own parritch, an' she'll be wantin' no more parritch,
but haf to trink ta rainwater, and no trop of ta uisgebeatha to
put into it, my poy Malcolm."

His grandson was quite accustomed to the old man's heathenish
mode of regarding his immediate existence after death as a long
confinement in the grave, and generally had a word or two ready
wherewith to combat the frightful notion; but, as he spoke, Duncan
lifted the pot from the fire, and set it on its three legs on the
deal table in the middle of the room, adding:

"Tere, my man - tere's ta parritch! And was it ta putter, or ta
traicle, or ta pottle o' peer, she would be havin' for kitchie tis
fine mornin'?"

This point settled, the two sat down to eat their breakfast; and
no one would have discovered, from the manner in which the old
man helped himself, nor yet from the look of his eyes, that he was
stone blind. It came neither of old age nor disease - he had been
born blind. His eyes, although large and wide, looked like those
of a sleep walker - open with shut sense; the shine in them was
all reflected light - glitter, no glow; and their colour was so
pale that they suggested some horrible sight as having driven from
them hue and vision together.

"Haf you eated enough, my son?" he said, when he heard Malcolm lay
down his spoon.

"Ay, plenty, thank ye, daddy, and they were richt weel made,"
replied the lad, whose mode of speech was entirely different from
his grandfather's: the latter had learned English as a foreign
language, but could not speak Scotch, his mother tongue being

As they rose from the table, a small girl, with hair wildly
suggestive of insurrection and conflagration, entered, and said,
in a loud screetch - "Maister MacPhail, my mither wants a pot o'
bleckin', an' ye're to be sure an' gie her't gweed, she says."

"Fery coot, my chilt, Jeannie; but young Malcolm and old Tuncan
hasn't made teir prayers yet, and you know fery well tat she won't
sell pefore she's made her prayers. Tell your mother tat she'll pe
bringin' ta blackin' when she comes to look to ta lamp."

The child ran off without response. Malcolm lifted the pot from
the table and set it on the hearth; put the plates together and the
spoons, and set them on a chair, for there was no dresser; tilted
the table, and wiped it hearthward - then from a shelf took down
and laid upon it a bible, before which he seated himself with an air
of reverence. The old man sat down on a low chair by the chimney
corner, took off his bonnet, closed his eyes and murmured some
almost inaudible words; then repeated in Gaelic the first line of
the hundred and third psalm -

O m' anam, beannuich thus' a nis

- and raised a tune of marvellous wail. Arrived at the end of the
line, he repeated the process with the next, and so went on, giving
every line first in the voice of speech and then in the voice
of song, through three stanzas of eight lines each. And no less
strange was the singing than the tune - wild and wailful as the
wind of his native desolations, or as the sound of his own pipes
borne thereon; and apparently all but lawless, for the multitude
of so called grace notes, hovering and fluttering endlessly around
the centre tone like the comments on a text, rendered it nearly
impossible to unravel from them the air even of a known tune.
It had in its kind the same liquid uncertainty of confluent sound
which had hitherto rendered it impossible for Malcolm to learn more
than a few of the common phrases of his grandfather's mother tongue.

The psalm over, during which the sightless eyeballs of the singer
had been turned up towards the rafters of the cottage - a sign
surely that the germ of light, "the sunny seed," as Henry Vaughan
calls it, must be in him, else why should he lift his eyes when
he thought upward? - Malcolm read a chapter of the Bible, plainly
the next in an ordered succession, for it could never have been
chosen or culled; after which they kneeled together, and the old
man poured out a prayer, beginning in a low, scarcely audible voice,
which rose at length to a loud, modulated chant. Not a sentence,
hardly a phrase, of the utterance, did his grandson lay hold
of; but there were a few inhabitants of the place who could have
interpreted it, and it was commonly believed that one part of his
devotions was invariably a prolonged petition for vengeance on
Campbell of Glenlyon, the main instrument in the massacre of Glenco.

He could have prayed in English, and then his grandson might have
joined in his petitions, but the thought of such a thing would
never have presented itself to him. Nay, although, understanding
both languages, he used that which was unintelligible to the lad,
he yet regarded himself as the party who had the right to resent
the consequent schism. Such a conversation as now followed was no
new thing after prayers.

"I could fery well wish, Malcolm, my son," said the old man, "tat
you would be learnin' to speak your own lancuach. It is all fery
well for ta Sassenach (Saxon, i.e., non-Celtic) podies to read ta
Piple in English, for it will be pleasing ta Maker not to make tem
cawpable of ta Gaelic, no more tan monkeys; but for all tat it's
not ta vord of God. Ta Gaelic is ta lancuach of ta carden of Aiden,
and no doubt but it pe ta lancuach in which ta Shepherd calls his
sheep on ta everlastin' hills. You see, Malcolm, it must be so,
for how can a mortal man speak to his God in anything put Gaelic?
When Mr Craham - no, not Mr Craham, ta coot man; it was ta new
Minister - he speak an' say to her: 'Mr MacPhail, you ought to
make your prayers in Enclish,' I was fery wrathful, and I answered
and said: 'Mr Downey, do you tare to suppose tat God doesn't prefer ta
Gaelic to ta Sassenach tongue!' - 'Mr MacPhail,' says he, 'it'll
pe for your poy I mean it How's ta lad to learn ta way of salvation
if you speak to your God in his presence in a strange tongue? So I
was opedient to his vord, and ta next efening I tid kneel town in
Sassenach and I tid make begin. But, ochone! she wouldn't go; her
tongue would be cleafing to ta roof of her mouth; ta claymore would
be sticking rusty in ta scappard; for her heart she was ashamed to
speak to ta Hielan'man's Maker in ta Sassenach tongue. You must pe
learning ta Gaelic, or you'll not pe peing worthy to pe her nain
son, Malcolm."

"But daddy, wha's to learn me?" asked his grandson, gayly.

"Learn you, Malcolm! Ta Gaelic is ta lancuach of Nature, and wants
no learning. I nefer did pe learning it, yat I nefer haf to say to
myself 'What is it she would be saying?' when I speak ta Gaelic;
put she always has to set ta tead men - that is ta vords - on
their feet, and put tem in pattle array, when she would pe speaking
ta dull mechanic English. When she opens her mouth to it, ta Gaelic
comes like a spring of pure water, Malcolm. Ta plenty of it must
run out. Try it now, Malcolm. Shust oppen your mouth in ta Gaelic
shape, and see if ta Gaelic will not pe falling from it."

Seized with a merry fit, Malcolm did open his mouth in the Gaelic
shape, and sent from it a strange gabble, imitative of the most
frequently recurring sounds of his grandfather's speech.

"Hoo will that du, daddy?" he asked, after jabbering gibberish for
the space of a minute.

"It will not be paad for a peginning, Malcolm. She cannot say
it shust pe vorts, or tat tere pe much of ta sense in it; but it
pe fery like what ta pabes will say pefore tey pekin to speak it
properly. So it's all fery well, and if you will only pe putting
your mouth in ta Gaelic shape often enough, ta sounds will soon
pe taking ta shape of it, and ta vorts will be coming trough ta
mists, and pefore you know, you'll pe peing a creat credit to your
cranfather, my boy, Malcolm."

A silence followed, for Malcolm's attempt had not had the result
he anticipated: he had thought only to make his grandfather laugh.
Presently the old man resumed, in the kindest voice:

"And tere's another thing, Malcolm, tat's much wanting to you: you'll
never pe a man - not to speak of a pard like your cranfather -
if you'll not pe learning to play on ta bagpipes."

Malcolm, who had been leaning against the chimney lug while his
grandfather spoke, moved gently round behind his chair, reached
out for the pipes where they lay in a corner at the old man's side,
and catching them up softly, put the mouthpiece to his lips. With
a few vigorous blasts he filled the bag, and out burst the double
droning bass, while the youth's fingers, clutching the chanter
as by the throat, at once compelled its screeches into shape far
better, at least, than his lips had been able to give to the crude
material of Gaelic. He played the only reel he knew, but that with
vigour and effect.

At the first sound of its notes the old man sprung to his feet and
began capering to the reel - partly in delight with the music, but
far more in delight with the musician, while, ever and anon, with
feeble yell, he uttered the unspellable Hoogh of the Highlander, and
jumped, as he thought, high in the air, though his failing limbs,
alas! lifted his feet scarce an inch from the floor.

"Aigh! aigh!" he sighed at length, yielding the contest between
his legs and the lungs of the lad - "aigh! aigh! she'll die happy!
she'll die happy! Hear till her poy, how he makes ta pipes speak
ta true Gaelic! Ta pest o' Gaelic, tat! Old Tuncan's pipes 'll not
know how to be talking Sassenach. See to it! see to it! He had put
to blow in at ta one end, and out came ta reel at the other. Hoogh!
hoogh! Play us ta Righil Thulachan, Malcolm, my chief!"

"I kenna reel, strathspey, nor lilt, but jist that burd alane,

"Give tem to me, my poy!" cried the old piper, reaching out a hand
as eager to clutch the uncouth instrument as the miser's to finger
his gold; "hear well to me as I play, and you'll soon be able to
play pibroch or coronach with the best piper between Cape Wrath
and ta Mull o' Cantyre."

He played tune after tune until his breath failed him, and an exhausted
grunt of the drone - in the middle of a coronach, followed by an
abrupt pause, revealed the emptiness of both lungs and bag. Then
first he remembered his object, forgotten the moment he had filled
his bag.

"Now, Malcolm," he said, offering the pipes to his grandson; "you
play tat after."

He had himself of course, learned all by the ear, but could hardly
have been serious in requesting Malcolm to follow him through such
a succession of tortuous mazes.

"I haena a memory up to that, daddy; but I s' get a hand o' Mr
Graham's flute music, and maybe that'll help me a bit. - Wadna ye
be takin' hame Meg Partan's blackin' 'at ye promised her?"

"Surely, my son. She should always be keeping her promises." He
rose, and getting a small stone bottle and his stick from the corner
between the projecting inglecheek and the window, left the house,
to walk with unerring steps through the labyrinth of the village,
threading his way from passage to passage, and avoiding pools and
projecting stones, not to say houses, and human beings. His eyes,
or indeed perhaps rather his whole face, appeared to possess an
ethereal sense as of touch, for, without the slightest contact in
the ordinary sense of the word, he was aware of the neighbourhood
of material objects, as if through the pulsations of some medium
to others imperceptible. He could, with perfect accuracy, tell the
height of any wall or fence within a few feet of him; could perceive
at once whether it was high or low or half tide, and that merely
by going out in front of the houses and turning his face with its
sightless eyeballs towards the sea; knew whether a woman who spoke
to him had a child in her arms or not; and, indeed, was believed
to know sooner than ordinary mortals that one was about to become
a mother.

He was a strange figure to look upon in that lowland village,
for he invariably wore the highland dress: in truth, he had never
had a pair of trowsers on his legs, and was far from pleased that
his grandson clothed himself in such contemptible garments. But,
contrasted with the showy style of his costume, there was something
most pathetic in the blended pallor of hue into which the originally
gorgeous colours of his kilt had faded - noticeable chiefly on
weekdays, when he wore no sporran; for the kilt, encountering, from
its loose construction, comparatively little strain or friction,
may reach an antiquity unknown to the garments of the low country,
and, while perfectly decent, yet look ancient exceedingly. On
Sundays, however, he made the best of himself, and came out like
a belated and aged butterfly - with his father's sporran, or
tasselled goatskin purse, in front of him, his grandfather's dirk
at his side, his great grandfather's skene dhu, or little black
hafted knife, stuck in the stocking of his right leg, and a huge
round brooch of brass - nearly half a foot in diameter, and, Mr
Graham said, as old as the battle of Harlaw - on his left shoulder.
In these adornments he would walk proudly to church, leaning on
the arm of his grandson.

"The piper's gey (considerably) brokken-like the day," said one of
the fishermen's wives to a neighbour as he passed them - the fact
being that he had not yet recovered from his second revel in the
pipes so soon after the exhaustion of his morning's duty, and was,
in consequence, more asthmatic than usual.

"I doobt he'll be slippin' awa some cauld nicht," said the other:
"his leevin' breath's ill to get."

"Ay; he has to warstle for't, puir man! Weel, he'll be missed, the
blin' body! It's exterordinor hoo he's managed to live, and bring
up sic a fine lad as that Malcolm o' his."

"Weel, ye see, Providence has been kin' till him as weel 's ither
blin' craturs. The toon's pipin' 's no to be despised; an' there's
the cryin', an' the chop, an' the lamps. 'Deed he's been an eident
(diligent) cratur - an' for a blin' man, as ye say, it's jist

"Div ye min' whan first he cam' to the toon, lass?"

"Ay; what wad hinner me min'in' that? It's nae sae lang."

"Ma'colm 'at's sic a fine laad noo, they tell me wasna muckle bigger
nor a gey haddie (tolerable haddock)."

"But the auld man was an auld man than, though nae doobt he's unco'
failed sin syne."

"A dochter's bairn, they say, the laad."

"Ay, they say, but wha kens? Duncan could never be gotten to open
his mou' as to the father or mither o' 'im, an' sae it weel may be
as they say. It's nigh twenty year noo, I'm thinkin' sin he made's
appearance. Ye wasna come frae Scaurnose er' than."

"Some fowk says the auld man's name's no MacPhail, an' he maun
hae come here in hidin' for some rouch job or ither 'at he's been
mixed up wi'.

"I s' believe nae ill o' sic a puir, hairmless body. Fowk 'at maks
their ain livin', wantin' the een to guide them, canna be that far
aff the straucht. Guid guide 's! we hae eneuch to answer for, oor
ainsels, ohn passed (without passing) jeedgment upo ane anither."

"I was but tellin' ye what fowk telled me," returned the younger

"Ay, ay, lass; I ken that, for I ken there was fowk to tell ye."


As soon as his grandfather left the house, Malcolm went out also,
closing the door behind him, and turning the key, but leaving it
in the lock. He ascended to the upper town, only, however, to pass
through its main street, at the top of which he turned and looked
back for a few moments, apparently in contemplation. The descent to
the shore was so sudden that he could see nothing of the harbour
or of the village he had left - nothing but the blue bay and
the filmy mountains of Sutherlandshire, molten by distance into
cloudy questions, and looking, betwixt blue sea and blue sky, less
substantial than either. After gazing for a moment, he turned again,
and held on his way, through fields which no fence parted from the
road. The morning was still glorious, the larks right jubilant,
and the air filled with the sweet scents of cottage flowers. Across
the fields came the occasional low of an ox, and the distant sounds
of children at play. But Malcolm saw without noting, and heard
without seeding, for his mind was full of speculation concerning
the lovely girl, whose vision appeared already far off: - who might
she be? whence had she come? whither could she have vanished? That
she did not belong to the neighbourhood was certain, he thought; but
there was a farm house near the sea town where they let lodgings;
and, although it was early in the season, she might belong to some
family which had come to spend a few of the summer weeks there;
possibly his appearance had prevented her from having her bath
that morning. If he should have the good fortune to see her again,
he would show her a place far fitter for the purpose - a perfect
arbour of rocks, utterly secluded, with a floor of deep sand, and
without a hole for crab or lobster.

His road led him in the direction of a few cottages lying in
a hollow. Beside them rose a vision of trees, bordered by an ivy
grown wall, from amidst whose summits shot the spire of the church;
and from beyond the spire, through the trees, came golden glimmers
as of vane and crescent and pinnacled ball, that hinted at some
shadowy abode of enchantment within; but as he descended the slope
towards the cottages the trees gradually rose and shut in everything.

These cottages were far more ancient than the houses of the town,
were covered with green thatch, were buried in ivy, and would
soon be radiant with roses and honeysuckles. They were gathered
irregularly about a gate of curious old ironwork, opening on the
churchyard, but more like an entrance to the grounds behind the
church, for it told of ancient state, bearing on each of its pillars
a great stone heron with a fish in its beak.

This was the quarter whence had come the noises of children, but
they had now ceased, or rather sunk into a gentle murmur, which
oozed, like the sound of bees from a straw covered beehive, out
of a cottage rather larger than the rest, which stood close by the
churchyard gate. It was the parish school, and these cottages were
all that remained of the old town of Portlossie, which had at one
time stretched in a long irregular street almost to the shore.
The town cross yet stood, but away solitary on a green hill that
overlooked the sands.

During the summer the long walk from the new town to the school
and to the church was anything but a hardship: in winter it was
otherwise, for then there were days in which few would venture the
single mile that separated them.

The door of the school, bisected longitudinally, had one of its
halves open, and by it outflowed the gentle hum of the honeybees
of learning. Malcolm walked in, and had the whole of the busy scene
at once before him. The place was like a barn, open from wall to
wall, and from floor to rafters and thatch, browned with the peat
smoke of vanished winters. Two thirds of the space were filled
with long desks and forms; the other had only the master's desk,
and thus afforded room for standing classes. At the present moment
it was vacant, for the prayer was but just over, and the Bible class
had not been called up: there Alexander Graham, the schoolmaster,
descending from his desk, met and welcomed Malcolm with a kind
shake of the hand. He was a man of middle height, but very thin;
and about five and forty years of age, but looked older, because

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