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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

62                  MEMOIRS  OF AN  ISLET

where the rock clapped its black head above the swell,
with the tall iron barrack on its spider legs, and the trun.'"
cated tower, and the cranes waving their arms, and the
smoke of the engine-fire rising in the mid-sea. An ugly
reef is this of the Dhu Heartach ; no pleasant assemblage
of shelves, and pools, and creeks, about which a child
might play for a whole summer without weariness, like
the Bell Rock or the Skerryvore, but one oval nodule of
black-trap, sparsely bedabbled with an inconspicuous
fucus, and alive in every crevice with a dingy insect
between a slater and a bug. No other life was there but
that of sea-birds, and of the sea itself, that here ran like
a mill-race, and growled about the outer reef for ever
and ever and again, in the calmest weather, roared ant
spouted on the rock itself. Times were different upon
Dhu Heartach when it blew, and the night fell dark, and
the neighbour lights of Skerryvore and Rhu-vai were
quenched in fog, and the men sat prisoned high up in
their iron drum, that then resounded with the lashing ol
the sprays. Fear sat with them in their sea-beleaguered
dwelling ; and the colour changed in anxious faces when
some greater billow struck the barrack, and its pillars
quivered and sprang under the blow. It was then that
the foreman builder, Mr. Goodwillie, whom I see before
me still in his rock-habit of undecipherable rags, would
get his fiddle down and strike up human minstrelsy amid
the music of the storm. But it was in sunshine only thai
I saw Dhu Heartach ; and it was in sunshine, or the yet
lovelier summer afterglow, that the steamer would return
to Earraid, ploughing an enchanted sea ; the obedient
lighters, relieved of their deck cargo, riding in her wake
more quietly; and the steersman upon each, as she rose
on the long swell, standing tall and dark against the
shining west.

ii

But it was in Earraid itself that I delighted chiefly.
The lighthouse settlement scarce encroached beyond its
fences ; over the top of the first brae the ground was all
virgin, the world all shut out, the face of things unchanged