At night I went
to parties that were full of hidden heartbreak for lads of the local Argyle and
Sutherland Highlanders who were leaving at 4 o'clock in the mornings, clanging
down the cobbled streets in their iron-tipped boots. When they neared the dock
the blood-chilling pipes would blast through the predawn. After brave and
fearless farewells they would be gone across The Minch toward a future that led
I saw much of
Ilsa. Once we went on a long bicycle ride, taking our lunch and resting below
the sheltering rocks above the sheep meadows. Everyone said it was the most
glorious autumn in memory. I asked Ilsa what her plans were for the future. She
pointed off toward the Eye Peninsula, a green tongue with the sea's lacy edge
those four old houses down in the end," she replied, squinting her
sea-green eyes against the sun and her shiny black hair flashing in the wind
gusts. "Well, when I marry I want to live with my husband in that house
farthest out and be as good a wife as a woman can be forever and ever. In the
meantime, until you have to go to wherever you have to go, I would like to be
morning of this month, Lord Lochamilton came flapping into the hotel, frothing
lightly at the mouth and asking unanswerable questions. He avoided me
generally, except to turn a beastly scowl on me now and then because Reggie had
told him that I was a newspaper writer. In his younger days in London the press
had given lots of space to his flamboyant life, such as the time he and some
chums tried out the nonsinkable ocean-travel suit in a bathtub in Claridge's
and the water gushered its way down through the dining-room ceiling.
Lochamilton came in with a brace of beautiful salmon and some golden plover, a
gift for Reggie and the Sassenachs.
come over to the castle this afternoon," he flapped, and "we'll have a
jolly good shoot." He gave me a dirty look as if to say, "Of course, I
don't mean you."
"What is it,
Mibsy?" Reggie asked.
of 'em, lots of 'em, and some ducks," Lochamilton babbled.
When it was time
to go, Reggie insisted that I go along. I did reluctantly, only after Pierce
and Emery had insisted, too. When we got to the broken marshland back of the
castle, Reggie hung a bag of shells around my neck and Emery thrust a gun into
my hands. Soon I was in line along with six others, heading toward the marshy
ground. We had picked up Millicent and Ilsa, who walked behind, and their easy
girlish laughter added much to the affair, so far as I was concerned.
As we moved
forward I realized that the worst thing imaginable had happened. I was between
Mibsy and Captain Cathers, the No. 1 navy man. He was a solemn, no-nonsense sea
dog, and it was evident that here was a moment set up for me to do something