Dreams, by Fiona Macleod
That night the wind had a dreadful soughing in its
voice---a mournful voice that came along the rain-wet face of the hills, with a prolonged
moaning and sobbing.
Down in the big room, that was kitchen and sitting-room in one, where Gorromalt sat---for
he had risen from his bed, for all that he was so weak and giddy-there was darkness. His
wife had pleaded for the oil-lamp, because the shadows within and the wild wind
withoutthough, I am thinking most the shadows within her brain-filled her with dread; but
he would not have it, no, not a candle even. The peats glowed, red-hot; above them the
small narrow pine-logs crackled in a scarlet and yellow blaze.
Hour after hour went by in silence. There were but the three of us. Morag? Ah, did
Gorromalt think she would stay at Teenabrae, and Muireall near by, and in the clutch of
the death-frost, and she, her sister dear, not go to her? He had put the ban upon us, soon
as the blood was out of his brain, and he could half rise from his pillow. No one was to
go to see her, no one was to send word to her, no one was to speak of her.
At that, Aunt Elspeth had fallen on her knees beside the bed, and prayed to him to show
pity. The tears rained upon the relentless, heavy hand she held and kissed. "At the
least," she moaned, "at the least, let some one go to her, Archibald; at least a
word, only one word!"
"Not a word, woman, not a word. She has sinned, but that's the way o' women o' that
kind. Let her be. The wind'll blow her soul against God's heavy hand, this very night o'
the nights. It's not for you nor for me. But I'm saying this, I am: curse her, ay, curse
her again and again, for that she let the son of the stranger, the son of our enemy, who
would drive us out of the home we have, the home of our fathers, ay, back to the time when
no English foot ever trod the heather of Argyll, that she would let him do her this shame
and disgrace, her and me, an' you too, ay, and all of our blood, and the Strath too, for
that---ay, by God, and the clan, the whole clan!"
But though Gorromalt's word was law there, there was one who had the tide coming in at one
ear and going out at the other. As soon as the rainy gloom deepened into dark, she slipped
from the house; I wanted to go with her, but she whispered to me to stay. It was well I
did. I was able to keep back from him, all night, the story of Morag's going. He thought
she was in her bed. So bitter on the man was his wrath, that, ill as he was, he would have
risen, and ridden or driven over to Kilbrennan, had he known Morag was gone there.
Angus Macallum, Gorromalt's chief man, was with the horses in the stable. He tried to
prevent Morag taking out Gealcas, the mare, she that went faster and surer than any there.
He even put hand upon the lass, and said a rough word. But she laughed, I am told; and I
am thinking that whoever heard Morag laugh, when she was "strange," for all that
she was so white and soft, she with her hair o' sunlight, and the blue, blue eyes o' her
!---whoever heard that would not be for standing in her way.
So Angus had stood back, sullenly giving no help, but no longer daring to interfere. She
mounted Gealcas, and rode away into the dark, rainy night where the wind went louping to
and fro among the crags on the braes as though it were mad with fear or pain, and
complaining wild, wild---the lamentable cry of the hills.
Hour after hour we sat there. We could hear the roaring sound of Gorromalt Water as it
whirled itself over the linn. The stream was in spate, and would be boiling black, with
livid clots of foam flung here and there on the dripping heather overhanging the torrent.
The wind's endless sough came into the house, and wailed in the keyholes and the chinks.
Rory, the blind collie, lay on a mat near the door, and the long hair of his felt was
blown upward, and this way and that, by the ground-draught.
Once or twice Aunt Elspeth rose, and stirred the porridge that seethed and bubbled in the
pot. Her husband took no notice. He was in a daze, and sat in his flanked leathern
armchair, with his arms laid along the sides, and his down-clasping hands catching the red
gleam of the peats, and his face, white and set, like that of a dead man looking out of a
Once or twice, an hour or so before, when she had begun to croon some hymn, he had harshly
checked her. But now when she hummed, and at last openly sang the Gaelic version of
"The Lord's my Shepherd," he paid no heed. He was not hearing that, or anything
she did. I could make nothing of the cold bitterness that was on his face. He brooded, I
doubt not, upon doom for the man, and the son of the man, who had wrought him this evil.
His wife saw this, and so had her will at last. She took down the great Gaelic Bible, and
read Christ's words about little children. The rain slashed against the window-panes.
Beyond, the wind moaned, and soughed, and moaned. From the kennel behind the byre a
mournful howling rose and fell; but Gorromalt did not stir.
Aunt Elspeth looked at me despairingly. Poor old woman; ah, the misery and pain of it, the
weariness and long pain of starved hearts and barren hopes. Suddenly an idea came to her.
She rose again, and went over to the fire. Twice she passed in front of her husband. He
made no sign.
"He hates those things," she muttered to me, her eyes wet with pain, and with
something of shame, too, for admitting that she believed in incantations. And why not,
poor old woman? Sure there are stranger things than sian or rosad, charm or
spell; and who can say that the secret old wisdom is mere foam o' thought. "He hates
those things, but I am for saving my poor lass if I can. I will be saying that old ancient
eolas, that is called the Eolas an t-Snaithnean."
"What is that, Aunt Elspeth? What are the three threads?"
"That eolas killed the mother of my mother, dearie; she that was a woman out
of the isle of Benbecula."
"Killed her!" I repeated awe-struck.
" Ay; 'tis a charm for the doing away of bewitchment, and sure it is my poor Muireall
who has been bewitched. But my mother's mother used the eolas for the taking away
of a curse upon a cow that would not give milk. She was saying the incantation for the
third time, and winding the triple thread round the beast's tail, when in a moment all the
ill that was in the cow came forth and settled upon her, so that she went back to her
house quaking and sick with the blight, and died of it next day, because there was no one
to take it from her in turn by that or any other eolas."
I listened in silence. The thing seemed terrible to me then; no, no, not then only, but
now, too, whenever I think of it.
"Say it then, Aunt Elspeth," I whispered; it say it, in the name of the Holy
With that she went on her knees, and leaned against her chair, though with her face toward
her husband, because of the fear that was ever in her. Then in a low voice, choked with
sobs, she said this old eolas, after she had first uttered the holy words of the
"Chi suil thu,
Labhraidh bial thu;
Smuainichidh cridhe thu.
Tha Fear an
An t- A thair, am Mac, 's an Spiorad Naomh.
"Ceathrar a rinn do chron---
Fear agus bean,
Co tha gu
sin a thilleadh?
Tri Pearsannan no Trianaid ro-naomh,
An t-A thair, am Mac, 's an Spioraid Naomh.
"Tha mi 'cur fianuis gu Moire, agus
Ma 's e duine rinn do chron,
No le drock
No le droch chridhe,
Gu'm bi thusa, Muireall gu math,
Ri linn so a chur mu'n cuairt ort.
An ainm an A thar, a' Mhic, 's an Spioraid Naomh!"
("An eye will see you,
Tongue will speak of you,
Heart will think of you,
The Man of Heaven
The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
"Four caused your hurt---
Man and Wife,
Young man, and maiden.
Who is to frustrate that?
The three Persons of the most Holy Trinity,
The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
"I call the Virgin Mary and St. Briget to witness
That if your hurt was caused by man,
Or the evil eye,
Or a wicked
That you, Muireall, my daughter, maybe whole---
And this in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost!)
Just as she finished, and as she was lingering on the line,
"G'um bi thusa, Muireall gu math," Rory, the blind collie, rose,
whimpered, and stood with snarling jaws.
Strangely enough, Gorromalt heard this, though his ears had been deaf to all else, or so
it seemed, at least.
"Down, Rory! down, beast!" he exclaimed, in a voice strangely shrill and weak.
But the dog would not be still. His sullen fear grew worse. Suddenly he sidled and lay on
his belly, now snarling, now howling, his blind'eyes distended, his nostrils quivering,
his flanks quaking. My uncle rose and stared at the dog.
"What ails the beast?" he asked angrily, looking now at Rory, now at us.
"Has any one come in? Has any one been at the door?"
"No one, Archibald."
"What have you been doing, Elspeth?"
"Woman, I heard your voice droning at your prayers. Ah, I see--- you have been at
some of your sians and eolais again. Sure, now, one would be thinking you
would have less foolishness, and you with the greyness upon your years. What colas did
she say, lass?"
I told him. "Aw, silly woman that she is, the eolas an t-Snaithnean! madness
and folly! . . . Where is Morag?"
"In bed." I said this with truth in my eyes. God's forgiveness for that good
"And it's time you were there also, and you, too, Elspeth. Come now, no more of this
foolishness. We have nothing to wait for. Why are we waiting here?"
At that moment Rory became worse than ever. I thought the poor blind beast would take some
dreadful fit. Foam was on his jaws ; his hair bristled. He had sidled forward, and
crouched low. We saw him look again and again toward the blank space to his right, as if,
blind though he was, he saw some one there, some one that gave him fear, but no
longer a fierce terror. Nay, more than once we saw him swish his tail, and sniff as though
recognisingly. But when he turned his head toward the door his sullen fury grew, and
terror shook upon every limb. It was now that Gorromalt was speaking.
Suddenly the dog made a leap forward---a terrible bristling wolf he seemed to me, though
no wolf had I ever seen, or imagined any more fearsome, than Rory, now.
He dashed himself against the door, snarling and mouthing, with his snout nosing the
narrow slip at the bottom.
Aunt Elspeth and I shook with fear. My uncle was death-white, but stood strangely
brooding. He had his right elbow upon his breast, and supported it with his left arm,
while with his right hand he plucked at his beard.
"For sure," he said at last, with an effort to seem at ease; "for sure the
dog is fëy with his age and his blindness." Then, more slowly still, "And if
that were not so, it might look as though he had the fear on him, because of some one who
strove to come in."
"It is Muireall," I whispered, scarce above my breath.
"No," said Aunt Elspeth, and the voice of her now was as though it had come out
of the granite all about us, cold and hard as that. "No! Muireall is already in the
We both turned and looked at her. She sat quite still, on the chair betwixt the fire and
the table. Her face was rigid, ghastly, but her eyes were large and wild.
A look first of fear, then almost of tenderness, came into her husband's face.
"Hush, Elspeth," he said, " that is foolishness."
"It is not foolishness, Archibald," she resumed in the same hard, unemotional
voice, but with a terrible intensity. "Man, man, because ye are blind, is there no
sight for those who can see?"
"There is no one here but ourselves."
But now Aunt Elspeth half rose, with suppplicating arms:
"Muireall! Muireall! Muireall. O muirnean, muirnean!"
I saw Archibald Campbell shaking as though he were a child and no strong man. "Will
you be telling us this, Elspeth," he began in a hoarse voice---"will you be
telling me this: if Muireall is in the room, beyond Rory there, who will be at the door?
Who is trying to come in at the door?"
"It is a man. I do not know the man. It is a man. It is Death, maybe. I do not know
the man. "O Muirnean, mo muirnean!"
But now the great, gaunt black dog---terrible in his seeing blindness he was to me---began
again his savage snarling, his bristling insensate fury. He had ceased a moment while our
voices filled the room, and had sidled a little way toward the place where Aunt Elspeth
saw Muireall, whining low as he did so, and swishing his tail furtively along the
I know not what awful thing would have happened. It seemed to me that Death was coming to
all of us.
But at that moment we all heard the sound of a galloping horse. There was a lull in the
wind, and the rain lashed no more like a streaming whistling whip. Even Rory crouched
silent, his nostrils quivering, his curled snout showing his fangs.
Gorromalt stood, listening intently.
"By the living God," he exclaimed suddenly, his eyes like a goaded
bull's---"I know that horse. Only one horse runs like that at the gallop. 'Tis the
grey stallion I sold three months ago to the man at Drumdoon---ay, ay, for the son of the
man at Drumdoon! A horse to ride for the shooting---good horse for the hills---that was
what he wanted! Ay, ay, by God, a horse for the son of the man at Drumdoon! It's the grey
stallion: no other horse in the Straths runs like that---d'ye hear? d'ye hear? Elspeth,
woman, is there hearing upon you for that? Hey, tlot-a-tlot, tlot-a-tlot,
tlot-tiot-tiot-tlot, tlot-a-tlot, tlot-tlot-tiot! I tell you, woman, it's the grey
stallion I sold to Drumdoon: it's that and no other! Ay,by the Sorrow, it's Drumdoon's son
that will be riding here!"
By this time the horse was close by. We heard his hoofs clang above the flagstones round
the well at the side of the house. Then there was a noise as of scattered stones, and a
long, scraping sound: then silence.
Gorromalt turned and put his hand to the door. There was murder in his eyes, for all the
smile, a grim, terrible smile, that had come to his lips.
Aunt Elspeth rose and ran to him, holding him back. The door shook. Rory the hound tore at
the splinters at the base of the door, his fell again bristling, his snarling savagery
horrible to hear. The pine-logs had fallen into a smouldering ash. The room was full of
gloom, though the red, sullen eye of the peatglow stared through the obscurity.
"Don't be opening the door! Don't be opening the door!" she cried, in a thin,
"What for no, woman? Let me go! Hell upon this dog---out o' the way, Rory---get back!
"No, no, Archibald! Wait! Wait!"
Then a strange thing happened.
Rory ceased, sullenly listened, and then retreated, but no longer snarling and bristling.
Gorromalt suddenly staggered.
"Who touched me just now?" he asked in a hoarse whisper.
No one answered.
"Who touched me just now? Who passed? Who slid past me?" His voice rose almost
to a scream.
Then, shaking off his wife, he swung the door open.
There was no one there. Outside could be heard a strange sniffling and whinnying. It was
the grey stallion.
Gorromalt strode across the threshold.
Scarcely had I time to prevent Aunt Elspeth from falling against the lintel in a corner,
yet in a moment's interval I saw that the stallion was riderless.
"Archibald!" wailed his wife faintly out of her weakness. "Archibald, come
back! Come back!"
But there was no need to call. Archibald Campbell was not the man to fly in the face of
God. He knew that no mortal rider rode that horse to its death that night. Even before he
closed the door we heard the rapid, sliding, catching gallop. The horse had gone: rider or
riderless I know not.
He was ashy-grey. Suddenly he had grown quite still. He lifted his wife, and helped her to
her own big leathern arm-chair at the other side of the ingle.
"Light the lamp, lass," he said to me, in a hushed, strange voice. Then he
stooped and threw some small pine-logs on the peats, and stirred the blaze till it caught
tered edges. the dry splintered edges.
Rory, poor blind beast, came wearily and with a low whine to his side, and then lay down
before the warm blaze.
"Bring the Book," he said to me.
I brought the great leather-bound Gaelic Bible, and laid it on his knees.
He placed his hand in it, and opened at random.
"With Himself be the word," he said.
"Is it Peace?" asked Aunt Elspeth in a tremulous whisper.
"It is Peace," he answered, his voice gentle, his face stern as a graven rock.
And what he was this, where his eye chanced upon as read he opened at the place where is
the Book of the Vision of Nahum the Elkoshite:
"What do ye imagine against the Lord? He will make a
After that there was a silence. Then he rose, and told me
to go and lie down and sleep; for, on the morrow, after dawn, I was to go with him to
where Muireall was.
I saw Aunt Elspeth rise and put her arms about him. They had peace. I went to my room, but
after a brief while returned, and sat,
in the quietness there, by the glowing peats, till dawn.
The greyness came at last; with it, the rain ceased. The wind still soughed and wailed
among the corries and upon the rocky braes; with low moans sighing along the flanks of the
near hills, and above the stony watercourse where the Gorromalt surged with swirling foam
and loud and louder tumult.
My eyes had closed in my weariness, when I heard Rory give a low growl, followed by a
contented whimper. Almost at the same moment the door opened. I looked up, startled.
It was Morag.
She was so white, it is scarce to be wondered at that I took her at first for a wraith.
Then I saw how drenched she was, chilled to the bone too. She did not speak as I led her
in, and made her stand before the fire, while I took off her soaked dress and shoes. In
silence she made all the necessary changes, and in silence drank the tea I brewed for her.
"Come to my room with me," she whispered, as with quiet feet we crossed the
stone flags and went up the wooden stair that led to her room.
When she was in bed she bade me put out the light and lie down beside her. Still silent,
we lay there in the darkness, for at that side of the house the hill-gloom prevailed, and
moreover the blind was down-drawn. I thought the weary moaning of the wind would make my
very heart sob.
Then, suddenly, Morag put her arms about me, and the tears streamed warm about my neck.
Hush, Morag-aghray, hush, mo-rùn," I whispered in her ear. "Tell me what it is,
dear! Tell me what it is! "
"Oh, and I loved him so! I loved him!"
"I know it, dear; I knew it all along."
I thought her sobs would never cease till her heart was broken, so I questioned her again.
"Yes," she said, gaspingly, "yes, I loved him when Muireall and I were in
the South together. I met him a month or more before ever she saw him. He loved me, and I
promised to marry him: but I would not go away with him as he wished: for he said his
father would never agree. And then he was angry, and we quarrelled. And I---Oh! I was
glad, too, for I did not wish to marry an Englishman or to live in a dreary city; but . .
. but . . . and then he and Muireall met, and he gave all his thought to her; and she her
love to him."
" And now?"
"Now? . . . Now Muireall is dead."
"Dead? O Morag, dead? Oh, poor Muireall that we loved so! But did you see her?
Was she alive when you reached her?
"No, but she was alone. And now, listen. Here is a thing I have to tell you. When
Ealasaid Cameron, that was my mother's mother, was a girl, she had a cruel sorrow. She had
two sisters whom she loved with all her heart. They were twins, Silis and Morag. One day
an English officer at Fort William took Silis away with him as his wife; but when her
child was heavy within her she discovered that she was no wife, for the man was already
wedded to a woman in the South. She left him that night. It was bitter weather, and
midwinter. She reached home through a wild snowdrift. It killed her; but before she died
she said to Morag, 'He has killed me and the child.' And Morag understood. So it was that
before any wind of spring blew upon that snow, the man was dead."
When Morag stopped here, and said no more, I did not at first realise what she meant to
tell me. Then it flashed upon me.
"O Morag, Morag!" I exclaimed, terrified. "But, Morag, you do not
. . . you will not. . . ."
"Will not?" she repeated, with a catch in her voice.
"Listen," she resumed suddenly after a long, strained silence. "While I lay
beside my darling Muireall, weeping and moaning over her, and she so fair, with such
silence where the laughter had always been, I heard the door open. I looked up: it was
" 'You are too late,' I said. I stared at the man who had brought her, and me, this
sorrow. There was no light about him at all, as I had always thought. He was only a man as
other men are, but with a cold, selfish heart and loveless eyes.
" 'She sent for me to come back to her,' he answered, though I saw his face grow
ashy-grey as he looked at Muireall and saw that she was dead.
" 'She is dead, Jasper Morgan.'
" 'Dead . . . Dead?'
" 'Ay, dead. It is upon you, her death. Her you have slain, as though with your
sword that you carry: her, and the child she bore within her, and that was yours.'
"At that he bit his lip till the blood came.
" 'It is a lie,' he cried. 'It is a lie, Morag. If she said that thing, she
" 'Why do you laugh, Morag?' he asked, in a swift anger.
"Once more I laughed.
" 'Why do you laugh like that, girl?'
"But I did not answer. 'Come,' I said, 'come with me. I have something to say to you.
You can do no good here now. She has taken poison, because of the shame and the sorrow.'
" 'Poison!' he cried, in horror; and also, I could see in the poor, cowardly mind of
him, in a sudden sick fear.
"But when I rose to leave the room he made ready to follow me. I kissed Muireall for
the last time. The man approached, as though to do likewise. I lifted my riding-whip. He
bowed his head, with a deep flush on his face, and came out behind me.
"I told the inn-folk that my father would be over in the morning. Then I rode slowly
away. Jasper Morgan followed on his horse, a grey stallion that Muireall and I had often
ridden, for he was from Teenabrae farm.
"When we left the village it was into a deep darkness. The rain and the wind made the
way almost impassable at times. But at last we came to the ford. The water was in spate,
and the rushing sound terrified my horse. I dismounted, and fastened Gealcas to a tree.
The man did the same.
" 'What is it, Morag?' he asked in a quiet, steady voice---'Death?'
" 'Yes,' I said. 'Death.'
"Then he suddenly fell forward, and snatched my hand, and begged me to forgive him,
swearing that he had loved me and me only, and imploring me to believe him, to love him,
to . . . Ah, the hound!
" But all I said was this:
" 'Jasper Morgan, soon or late I would kill you, because of this cruel wrong you did
to her. But there is one way: best for her . . . best for me . . . best for you.'
" 'What is that?' he said hoarsely, though I think he knew now. The roar of the
Gorromalt Water filled the night.
" 'There is one way. It is the only way . . . Go!'
"He gave a deep, quavering sigh. Then without word he turned, and walked straight
into the darkness."
Morag paused here. Then, in answer to my frightened whisper, she added simply:
"They will find his body in the shallows, down by Drumdoon. The spate will carry it
After that we lay in silence. The rain had begun to fall again, and slid with a soft,
stealthy sound athwart the window. A dull light grew indiscernibly into the room. Then we
heard someone move downstairs. In the yard, Angus, the stableman, began to pump water. A
cow lowed, and the cluttering of hens was audible.
I moved gently from Morag's side. As I rose, Maisie passed beneath the window on her way
to the byre. As her wont was, poor wild wildered lass, she was singing fitfully. It was
the same ballad again. But we heard a single verse only.
"For I have killed a man," she
"A better man than you to wed:
I slew him when he clasped my head,
And now he sleepeth with the dead."
Then the voice was lost in the byre, and in he sweet,
familiar lowing of the kine. The new day was come.