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THP: CELTIC MONTHLY.
I.') 5
sheilinfj on the hill, but would be back before
the ' Waterwitch ' set sail. So he sat conten-
tedly overhauling the brown net and examining
the floats. The boat rose and fell gently on
the swell. Donald Grant was playing the
" Barren Kocks of Aden " on his pipes out at
the point. The terns were lazily sunning
themselves on the Skerries, and a great solan
goose came flying over the blue sea from the
far shores of Skye. There was nothing at all
in Camusbeg that day to disturb the peace of
Ewan's heart as he sat in the stern of the
' Waterwitch ' and sang the song of the
biorlinn.
In the evening the boats began to go out
one by one — slowly slipping away from their
moorings with the brown sails spread to catch
the light westerly wind. As the ' Waterwitch '
passed the point the fisherman at the helm
lifted his j^eaked cap and waved it to a young
girl who was standing on the rocks, and shading
her eyes with her hand, as the long level rays of
the setting sun fell on her graceful form. She
returned the salute, and then sat down to watch
the boat being carefully steered between the
Skerries. At last it put about and was soon
out of sight. Then she rose and crossed the
rocks in the direction of Camusbeg, wondering
all the while if Ewau would bring back good
luck with him when he I'eturned from the
fishing on the third night. As she passed the
cottage at the head of the stone pier she saw
the Evening Star beginning to send its kindly
light across the waters of the quiet bay. And
the heart of Ailasa was full of rest.
* ;;: * -^
The third night came, and with it a gale of
easterly wind, such as had not been known for
years in Eilean Eona. It is remembered yet
as the night of the great wind. The day had
been sultry and oppressive with a red mist
hanging above the sea, and a silence like the
silence of death had settled down upon the
islands. It was at four o'clock in the day that
a low muttering sound was heard coming over
the glassy sea from the mountains of Torridon
and Applecross. The Coolins took up the
challenge and answered with a dull rumble.
An hour latei- the darkness came down like the
darkness of the winter night, and the first
drops of rain began to fall with a hissing sound
into the livid sea. Then the storm burst in all
its fury over the islands as it came roaring
across the water from Torridon, and all around
the shores of Eilean Kona, where in the morning
the sunlight had been lying warm on the rocks,
the tempest was lashing the seas into a fury of
spindrift and foam.
In the blinding rain Ailasa made her way up
to the cottage of Widow Mackenzie to sit with
her for an hour. When she entered she noticed
with a start that there was no lamp in the
window.
" It is a black night this Ailasa Macleod, and
it was good of you to think of coming to sit
with a lonely woman when the thunder will be
over the island."
" It is a black night indeed," answered the
girl. •' But have you forgotten to light the
lamp Misti'ess Mackenzie ? Ewan was saying
that he would be back on the third night, and
this will be the third night. Will he come
back to Camusbeg when the storm is over the
island ? "
" There is no man will be coming back to
Camusbeg in the face of such a gale. The lads
will run into Portree before the wind, and it is
in Portree that Ewan is tonight It is a
wasting of the oil to hght the two lamps. But
you are all trembling Ailasa? Is it the light-
ning that you are afraid of? " For just then a
crash of thunder broke over Eilean Rona, and
the flash of lightning that followed lit up
every corner of the little room.
"Oh no" replied the girl. "But it was
Ewan himself that promised to come back on
the third night, and it would be better if the
light was up when he comes in between the
Skerries."
"It is a foolish woman you are Ailasa
Macleod, for no man would venture out into
the sound. And it is I that will not put up a
light when there is no need to waste the good
oil."
So the storm raged all the night with a fury
that was like the fury of the black spirit let
loose upon the waters, but out of the darkness
that lay upon Eilean Rona there came no
guiding rays from the Evening Star.
It was late when Ailasa set out for home,
and the wind and rain beat cruelly upon her as
she crept along the shore in the dark. She
stopped now and again to recover her breath,
so strong was the wind against her, and all the
time that she stood she was thinking of Ewan.
She could hear the roar of the breakers on the
devils' Skerries, and as she listened she imagined
that she heard the cry of a night bird above the
din of the tempest. Then she suddenly held
her breath ! What was that '. Again she
listened. And there seemed to come out of the
wild night a long piteous cry — "Ailasa, Ailasa.'"
But when she listened a third time there was
nothing to be heard but the shrieking of the
wind and the deafening roar of the sea. It
was no voice. It was all her imagination.
Ewan was safe in Portree with the other boats.
So she continued to grope her way home
through the darkness of the terrible night, but
her heart was full of a great fear.

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