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A Cry Across The Black Water
by [?]

With Rosemary for remembrance,

And Rue, sweet Rue, for you

It was at the waterfoot of the Ken, and the time of the year was June.

“Boat ahoy!”

The loud, bold cry carried far through the still morning air. The rain had washed down all that was in the sky during the night, so that the hail echoed through a world blue and empty.

Gregory Jeffray, a noble figure of a youth, stood leaning on the arch of his mare’s neck, quieting the nervous tremors of Eulalie, that very dainty lady. His tall, alert figure, tight-reined and manly, was brought out by his riding-dress. His pose against the neck of the beautiful beast, from which a moment before he had swung himself, was that of Hadrian’s young Antinous.

“Boat ahoy!”

Gregory Jeffray, growing a little impatient, made a trumpet of his hands, and sent the powerful voice, with which one day he meant to thrill listening senates, sounding athwart the dancing ripples of the loch.

On the farther shore was a flat white ferry-boat, looking, as it lay motionless in the river, like a white table chained in the water with its legs in the air. The chain along which it moved plunged into the shallows beside him, and he could see it descending till he lost it in the dusky pool across which the ferry plied. To the north, Loch Ken ran in glistening levels and island-studded reaches to the base of Cairnsmuir.

“Boat ahoy!”

A figure, like a white mark of exclamation moving over green paper, came out of the little low whitewashed cottage opposite, and stood a moment looking across the ferry, with one hand resting on its side and the other held level with the eyes. Then the observer disappeared behind a hedge, to be seen immediately coming down the narrow, deep-rutted lane towards the ferry-boat. When the figure came again in sight of Gregory Jeffray, he had no difficulty in distinguishing a slim girl, clad in white, who came sedately towards him.

When she arrived at the white boat which floated so stilly on the morning glitter of the water, only just stirred by a breeze from the south, she stepped at once on board. Gregory could see her as she took from the corner of the flat, where it stood erect along with other boating gear, something which looked like a short iron hoe. With this she walked to the end of the boat nearest him. She laid the hoe end of the instrument against a chain that ran breast-high along one side of the boat and at the stern plunged diagonally into the water. His mare lifted her feet impatiently, as though the shoreward end of the chain had brought a thrill across the loch from the moving ferry-boat. Turning her back to him, the girl bent her slim young body without an effort; and, as though by the gentlest magic, the ferry-boat drew nearer to him. It did not seem to move; yet gradually the space of blue water between it and the shore on which the whitewashed cottage stood spread and widened. He could hear the gentle clatter of the wavelets against the lip of the landing-drop as the boat came nearer. His mare tossed her head and snuffed at this strange four-footed thing that glided towards them.

Gregory, who loved all women, watched with natural interest the sway and poise of the girlish figure. He heard the click and rattle of the chain as she deftly disengaged her gripper-iron at the farther end, and, turning, walked the deck’s length towards him.

She seemed but a young thing to move so large a boat. He forgot to be angry at being kept so long waiting, for of all women, he told himself, he most admired tall girls in simple dresses. His exceptional interest arose from the fact that he had never before seen one manage a ferry-boat.