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Title: John Burnet of Barns - A Romance
Author: Buchan, John, 1875-1940
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                          John Burnet of Barns

                              _A Romance_


                                   BY

                              JOHN BUCHAN



                                TORONTO:
                   THE COPP, CLARK COMPANY, LIMITED.
                                 1899.



                            Copyright, 1898
                              BY JOHN LANE



 Entered according to Act of the Parliament of Canada, in the year one
       thousand eight hundred and ninety-nine, by THE COPP CLARK
COMPANY, LIMITED, Toronto, in the Office of the Minister of Agriculture.



                            TO THE MEMORY OF
                               MY SISTER
                        VIOLET KATHARINE STUART



           [Greek: Astêr prìn mèn élampes eni zôoìsin Heôos,
             nun dè oanôn lámpeis Hesperos en phthiménois.]


          [Transcriber’s note: the above Greek was transcribed
         from a poor-quality scan, so may not be quite correct]



                                Contents


                            BOOK I—TWEEDDALE


CHAPTER

      I. THE ADVENTURE WHICH BEFELL ME IN THE WOOD OF DAWYCK
     II. THE HOUSE OF BARNS
    III. THE SPATE IN TWEED
     IV. I GO TO THE COLLEGE AT GLASGOW
      V. COUSINLY AFFECTION
     VI. HOW MASTER GILBERT BURNET PLAYED A GAME AND WAS CHECKMATED
    VII. THE PEGASUS INN AT PEEBLES AND HOW A STRANGER RETURNED FROM THE
         WARS
   VIII. I TAKE LEAVE OF MY FRIENDS
     IX. I RIDE OUT ON MY TRAVELS AND FIND A COMPANION


                       BOOK II—THE LOW COUNTRIES

      I. OF MY VOYAGE TO THE LOW COUNTRIES
     II. I VISIT MASTER PETER WISHART
    III. THE STORY OF A SUPPER PARTY
     IV. OUR ADVENTURE ON THE ALPHEN ROAD
      V. THE FIRST SUNDAY OF MARCH
     VI. THE FIRST MONDAY OF MARCH
    VII. I SPEND MY DAYS IN IDLENESS
   VIII. THE COMING OF THE BRIG SEAMAW
     IX. AN ACCOUNT OF MY HOME-COMING


                          BOOK III—THE HILLMEN

      I. THE PIER O’ LEITH
     II. HOW I RODE TO THE SOUTH
    III. THE HOUSE OF DAWYCK
     IV. HOW MICHAEL VEITCH MET HIS END
      V. I CLAIM A PROMISE, AND WE SEEK THE HILLS
     VI. THE CAVE OF THE COR WATER
    VII. HOW TWO OF HIS MAJESTY’S SERVANTS MET WITH THEIR DESERTS
   VIII. OF OUR WANDERINGS AMONG THE MOORS OF CLYDE
     IX. I PART FROM MARJORY
      X. OF THE MAN WITH THE ONE EYE AND THE ENCOUNTER IN THE GREEN
         CLEUCH
     XI. HOW A MILLER STROVE WITH HIS OWN MILL-WHEEL
    XII. I WITNESS A VALIANT ENDING
   XIII. I RUN A NARROW ESCAPE FOR MY LIFE
    XIV. I FALL IN WITH STRANGE FRIENDS
     XV. THE BAILLIES OF NO MAN’S LAND
    XVI. HOW THREE MEN HELD A TOWN IN TERROR
   XVII. OF THE FIGHT IN THE MOSS OF BIGGAR
  XVIII. SMITWOOD


                         BOOK IV—THE WESTLANDS

      I. I HEAR NO GOOD IN THE INN AT THE FORDS O’ CLYDE
     II. AN OLD JOURNEY WITH A NEW ERRAND
    III. THE HOUSE WITH THE CHIPPED GABLES
     IV. UP HILL AND DOWN DALE
      V. EAGLESHAM
     VI. I MAKE MY PEACE WITH GILBERT BURNET
    VII. OF A VOICE IN THE EVENTIDE
   VIII. HOW NICOL PLENDERLEITH SOUGHT HIS FORTUNE ELSEWHERE
     IX. THE END OF ALL THINGS



                          John Burnet of Barns



                            BOOK I—TWEEDDALE



                               CHAPTER I

          THE ADVENTURE WHICH BEFELL ME IN THE WOOD OF DAWYCK


I have taken in hand to write this, the history of my life, not without
much misgiving of heart; for my memory at the best is a bad one, and of
many things I have no clear remembrance.  And the making of tales is an
art unknown to me, so he who may read must not look for any great skill
in the setting down. Yet I am emboldened to the work, for my life has
been lived in stirring times and amid many strange scenes which may not
wholly lack interest for those who live in quieter days.  And above all,
I am desirous that they of my family should read of my life and learn
the qualities both good and bad which run in the race, and so the better
be able to resist the evil and do the good.

My course, by the will of God, has had something of a method about it,
which makes the telling the more easy.  For, as I look back upon it from
the vantage ground of time, all seems spread out plain and clear in an
ordered path.  And I would but seek to trace again some portion of the
way with the light of a dim memory.


I will begin my tale with a certain June morning in the year 1678, when
I, scarcely turned twelve years, set out from the house of Barns to the
fishing in Tweed.  I had escaped the watchful care of my tutor, Master
Robert Porter, the curate of Lyne, who vexed my soul thrice a week with
Cæsar and Cicero. I had no ill-will to the Latin, for I relished the
battles in Cæsar well enough, and had some liking for poetry; but when I
made a slip in grammar he would bring his great hand over my ears in a
way which would make them tingle for hours.  And all this, mind you,
with the sun coming in at the window and whaups whistling over the
fields and the great fish plashing in the river.  On this morn I had
escaped by hiding in the cheese-closet; then I had fetched my rod from
the stable-loft, and borrowed tackle from Davie Lithgow, the stableman;
and now I was creeping through the hazel bushes, casting, every now and
then, a glance back at the house, where the huge figure of my teacher
was looking for me disconsolately in every corner.

The year had been dry and sultry; and this day was warmer than any I
remembered.  The grass in the meadow was browned and crackling; all the
foxgloves hung their bells with weariness; and the waters were shrunken
in their beds.  The mill-lade, which drives Manor Mill, had not a drop
in it, and the small trout were gasping in the shallow pool, which in
our usual weather was five feet deep.  The cattle were _stertling_, as
we called it in the countryside; that is, the sun was burning their
backs, and, rushing with tails erect, they sought coolness from end to
end of the field. Tweed was very low and clear.  Small hope, I thought,
for my fishing; I might as well have stayed with Master Porter and been
thrashed, for I will have to stay out all day and go supperless at
night.

I took my way up the river past the green slopes of Haswellsykes to the
wood of Dawyck, for I knew well that there, if anywhere, the fish would
take in the shady, black pools.  The place was four weary miles off, and
the day was growing hotter with each passing hour; so I stripped my coat
and hid it in a hole among whins and stones.  When I come home again, I
said, I will recover it.  Another half mile, and I had off my shoes and
stockings and concealed them in a like place; so soon I plodded along
with no other clothes on my body than shirt and ragged breeches.

In time I came to the great forest which stretches up Tweed nigh to
Drummelzier, the greatest wood in our parts, unless it be Glentress, on
the east side of Peebles.  The trees were hazels and birches in the
main, with a few rowans, and on the slopes of the hill a congregation of
desolate pines.  Nearer the house of Dawyck were beeches and oaks and
the deeper shade, and it was thither I went.  The top of my rod struck
against the boughs, and I had some labour in steering a safe course
between the Scylla of the trees and the Charybdis of the long brackens;
for the rod was in two parts spliced together, and as I had little skill
in splicing, Davie had done the thing for me before I started.  Twice I
roused a cock of the woods, which went screaming through the shadow.
Herons from the great heronry at the other end were standing in nigh
every pool, for the hot weather was a godsend to them, and the trout
fared ill when the long thief-like bills flashed through the clear
water.  Now and then a shy deer leaped from the ground and sped up the
hill.  The desire of the chase was hot upon me when, after an hour’s
rough scramble, I came to the spot where I hoped for fish.


A stretch of green turf, shaded on all sides by high beeches, sloped
down to the stream-side.  The sun made a shining pathway down the
middle, but the edges were in blackest shadow.  At the foot a lone
gnarled alder hung over the water, sending its long arms far over the
river nigh to the farther side.  Here Tweed was still and sunless,
showing a level of placid black water, flecked in places with stray
shafts of light.  I prepared my tackle on the grass, making a
casting-line of fine horse-hair which I had plucked from the tail of our
own grey gelding.  I had no such fine hooks as folk nowadays bring from
Edinburgh, sharpened and barbed ready to their hand; but rough, homemade
ones, which Tam Todd, the land-grieve, had fashioned out of old needles.
My line was of thin, stout whipcord, to which I had made the casting
firm with a knot of my own invention.  I had out my bag of worms, and,
choosing a fine red one, made it fast on the hook.  Then I crept gently
to the alder and climbed on the branch which hung far out over the
stream.  Here I sat like an owl in the shade, and dropped my line in the
pool below me, where it caught a glint of the sun and looked like a
shining cord let down, like Jacob’s ladder, from heaven to the darkness
of earth.

I had not sat many minutes before my rod was wrenched violently
downwards, then athwart the stream, nearly swinging me from my perch.  I
have got a monstrous trout, I thought, and with a fluttering heart stood
up on the branch to be more ready for the struggle.  He ran up the water
and down; then far below the tree roots, whence I had much difficulty in
forcing him; then he thought to break my line by rapid jerks, but he did
not know the strength of my horse-hair.  By and by he grew wearied, and
I landed him comfortably on a spit of land—a great red-spotted fellow
with a black back.  I made sure that he was two pounds weight if he was
an ounce.

I hid him in a cool bed of leaves and rushes on the bank, and crawled
back to my seat on the tree.  I baited my hook as before, and dropped it
in; and then leaned back lazily on the branches behind to meditate on
the pleasantness of fishing and the hatefulness of Master Porter’s
teaching.  In my shadowed place all was cool and fresh as a May morning,
but beyond, in the gleam of the sun, I could see birds hopping sleepily
on the trees, and the shrivelled dun look of the grass.  A faint humming
of bees reached me, and the flash of a white butterfly shot, now and
then, like a star from the sunlight to the darkness, and back again to
the sunlight.  It was a lovely summer’s day, though too warm for our
sober country, and as I sat I thought of the lands I had read of and
heard of, where it was always fiercely hot, and great fruits were to be
had for the pulling.  I thought of the oranges and olives and what not,
and great silver and golden fishes with sparkling scales; and as I
thought of them I began to loathe hazel-nuts and rowans and
whortleberries, and the homely trout, which are all that is to be had in
this land of ours.  Then I thought of Barns and my kinsfolk, and all the
tales of my forbears, and I loved again the old silent valley of
Tweed—for a gallant tale is worth many fruits and fishes.  Then as the
day brightened my dreams grew accordingly.  I came of a great old house;
I, too, would ride to the wars, to the low countries, to Sweden, and I
would do great deeds like the men in Virgil.  And then I wished I had
lived in Roman times.  Ah, those were the days, when all the good things
of life fell to brave men, and there was no other trade to be compared
to war. Then I reflected that they had no fishing, for I had come on
nothing as yet in my studies about fish and the catching of them.  And
so, like the boy I was, I dreamed on, and my thoughts chased each other
in a dance in my brain, and I fell fast asleep.

I wakened with a desperate shudder, and found myself floundering in
seven feet of water.  My eyes were still heavy with sleep, and I
swallowed great gulps of the river as I sank.  In a second I came to the
surface and with a few strokes I was at the side, for I had early
learned to swim.  Stupid and angry, I scrambled up the bank to the green
glade.  Here a first surprise befell me.  It was late afternoon; the sun
had travelled three-fourths of the sky; it would be near five o’clock.
What a great fool I had been to fall asleep and lose a day’s fishing!  I
found my rod moored to the side with the line and half of the
horse-hair; some huge fish had taken the hook.  Then I looked around me
to the water and the trees and the green sward, and surprise the second
befell me; for there, not twelve paces from me, stood a little girl,
watching me with every appearance of terror.

She was about two years younger than myself, I fancied.  Her dress was
some rich white stuff which looked eerie in the shade of the beeches,
and her long hair fell over her shoulders in plentiful curls.  She had
wide, frightened blue eyes and a delicately-featured face, and as for
the rest I know not how to describe her, so I will not try.  I, with no
more manners than a dog, stood staring at her, wholly forgetful of the
appearance I must present, without shoes and stockings, coat or
waistcoat, and dripping with Tweed water.  She spoke first, in a soft
southern tone, which I, accustomed only to the broad Scots of Jean
Morran, who had been my nurse, fell in love with at once. Her whole face
was filled with the extremest terror.

"Oh, sir, be you the water-kelpie?" she asked.

I could have laughed at her fright, though I must have been like enough
to some evil spirit; but I answered her with my best gravity.

"No, I am no kelpie, but I had gone to sleep and fell into the stream.
My coat and shoes are in a hole two miles down, and my name is John
Burnet of Barns."  All this I said in one breath, being anxious to right
myself in her eyes; also with some pride in the last words.

It was pretty to see how recognition chased the fear from her face.  "I
know you," she said.  "I have heard of you.  But what do you in the
dragon’s hole, sir?  This is my place.  The dragon will get you without
a doubt."

At this I took off my bonnet and made my best bow.  "And who are you,
pray, and what story is this of dragons?  I have been here scores of
times, and never have I seen or heard of them."  This with the mock
importance of a boy.

"Oh, I am Marjory," she said, "Marjory Veitch, and I live at the great
house in the wood, and all this place is my father’s and mine.  And this
is my dragon’s den;" and straightway she wandered into a long tale of
Fair Margot and the Seven Maidens, how Margot wed the Dragon and he
turned forthwith into a prince, and I know not what else.  "But no harm
can come to me, for look, I have the charm," and she showed me a black
stone in a silver locket. "My nurse Alison gave it me.  She had it from
a great fairy who came with it to my cradle when I was born."

"Who told you all this?" I asked in wonder, for this girl seemed to
carry all the wisdom of the ages in her head.

"Alison and my father, and my brother Michael and old Adam Noble, and a
great many more—"  Then she broke off.  "My mother is gone.  The fairies
came for her."

Then I remembered the story of the young English mistress of Dawyck, who
had died before she had been two years in our country.  And this child,
with her fairy learning, was her daughter.

Now I know not what took me, for I had ever been shy of folk, and, above
all, of womankind.  But here I found my tongue, and talked to my new
companion in a way which I could not sufficiently admire. There in the
bright sun-setting I launched into the most miraculous account of my
adventures of that day, in which dragons and witches were simply the
commonest portents.  Then I sat down and told her all the stories I had
read out of Virgil and Cæsar, and all that I had heard of the wars in
England and abroad, and the tales of the countryside which the packmen
had told me.  Also I must tell the romances of the nettie-wives who come
to our countryside from the north—the old sad tale of Morag of the Misty
Days and Usnach’s sons and the wiles of Angus. And she listened, and
thanked me ever so prettily when I had done.  Then she would enlighten
my ignorance; so I heard of the Red Etin of Ireland, and the Wolf of
Brakelin, and the Seven Bold Brothers.  Then I showed her nests, and
gave her small blue eggs to take home, and pulled great foxgloves for
her, and made coronets of fern.  We played at hide-and-go-seek among the
beeches, and ran races, and fought visionary dragons.  Then the sun went
down over the trees, and she declared it was time to be going home.  So
I got my solitary fish from its bed of rushes and made her a present of
it.  She was pleased beyond measure, though she cried out at my hardness
in taking its life.

So it came to pass that Mistress Marjory Veitch of Dawyck went home
hugging a great two-pound trout, and I went off to Barns, heedless of
Master Porter and his heavy hand, and, arriving late, escaped a
thrashing, and made a good meal of the remnants of supper.



                               CHAPTER II

                           THE HOUSE OF BARNS


The house of Barns stands on a green knoll above the Tweed, half-way
between the village of Stobo and the town of Peebles.  Tweed here is no
great rolling river, but a shallow, prattling stream, and just below the
house it winds around a small islet, where I loved to go and fish; for
it was an adventure to reach the place, since a treacherous pool lay not
a yard below it.  The dwelling was white and square, with a beacon tower
on the top, which once flashed the light from Neidpath to Drochil when
the English came over the Border.  It had not been used for half a
hundred years, but a brazier still stood there, and a pile of rotten
logs, grim mementoes of elder feuds. This also was a haunt of mine, for
jackdaws and owls built in the corners, and it was choice fun of a
spring morning to search for eggs at the risk of my worthless life.  The
parks around stretched to Manor village on the one side, and nigh to the
foot of the Lyne Water on the other.  Manor Water as far as Posso
belonged to us, and many a rare creel have I had out of its pleasant
reaches.  Behind, rose the long heathery hill of the Scrape, which is so
great a hill that while one side looks down on us another overhangs the
wood of Dawyck.  Beyond that again came Dollar Law and the wild fells
which give birth to the Tweed, the Yarrow, and the Annan.

Within the house, by the great hall-fire, my father, William Burnet,
spent his days.  I mind well his great figure in the armchair, a mere
wreck of a man, but mighty in his very ruin.  He wore a hat, though he
seldom went out, to mind him of the old days when he was so busy at
hunting and harrying that he had never his head uncovered.  His beard
was streaked with grey, and his long nose, with a break in the middle
(which is a mark of our family), and bushy eyebrows gave him a fearsome
look to a chance stranger.  In his young days he had been
extraordinarily handsome and active, and, if all tales be true, no
better than he should have been.  He was feared in those days for his
great skill in night-foraying, so that he won the name of the "Howlet,"
which never left him.  Those were the high days of our family, for my
father was wont to ride to the Weaponshow with seven horsemen behind
him; now we could scarce manage four.  But in one of his night-rides his
good fortune failed him; for being after no good on the hills above
Megget one dark wintry night, he fell over the Bitch Craig, horse and
all; and though he escaped with his life, he was lamed in both legs and
condemned to the house for the rest of his days.  Of a summer night he
would come out to the lawn with two mighty sticks to support him, and
looking to the Manor Water hills, would shake his fist at them as old
enemies.  In his later days he took kindly to theology and learning,
both of which, in the person of Master Porter, dined at his table every
day.  I know not how my father, who was a man of much penetration, could
have been deceived by this man, who had as much religion as an ox.  As
for learning, he had some rag-tag scraps of Latin which were visited on
me for my sins; but in eating he had no rival, and would consume beef
and pasty and ale like a famished army.  He preached every Sabbath in
the little kirk of Lyne, below the Roman camp, and a woful service it
was.  I went regularly by my father’s orders, but I was the only one
from the household of Barns.  I fear that not even my attendance at his
church brought me Master Porter’s love; for I had acquired nearly as
much Latin as he possessed himself, and vexed his spirit at lesson-hours
with unanswerable questions.  At other times, too, I would rouse him to
the wildest anger by singing a profane song of my own making:

    "O ken ye his Reverence Minister Tam,
    Wi’ a heid like a stot and a face like a ram?"


To me my father was more than kind.  He was never tired of making plans
for my future.  "John," he would say, "you shall go to Glasgow College,
for you have the makings of a scholar in you.  Ay, and we’ll make you a
soldier, John, and a good honest gentleman to fight for your king, as
your forbears did before you."  (This was scarce true, for there never
yet was a Burnet who fought for anything but his own hand.)  "No damned
Whig for me.  Gad, how I wish I were hale in the legs to be off to the
hills with the Johnstones and Keiths.  There wouldna be one of the breed
left from Tweedwell to the Brig o’ Peebles."  Then he would be anxious
about my martial training, and get down the foils to teach me a lesson.
From this he would pass to tales of his own deeds till the past would
live before him, and his eyes would glow with their old fire.  Then he
would forget his condition, and seek to show me how some parry was
effected.  There was but one result; his poor weak legs would give way
beneath him.  Then I had to carry him to his bed, swearing deeply at his
infirmities and lamenting the changes of life.

In those days the Burnets were a poor family—a poor and a proud.  My
grandfather had added much to the lands by rapine and
extortion—ill-gotten gains which could not last.  He had been a man of a
violent nature, famed over all the South for his feats of horsemanship
and swordsmanship.  He died suddenly, of overdrinking, at the age of
fifty-five, and now lies in the kirk of Lyne beneath an effigy
representing the Angel Gabriel coming for his soul.  His last words are
recorded: "O Lord, I dinna want to dee, I dinna want to dee.  If ye’ll
let me live, I’ll run up the sklidders o’ Cademuir to a’ eternity."  The
folk of the place seldom spoke of him, though my father upheld him as a
man of true spirit who had an eye to the improvement of his house.  Of
the family before him I had the history at my finger-ends.  This was a
subject of which my father never tired, for he held that the genealogy
of the Burnets was a thing of vastly greater importance than that of the
kings of Rome or Judah.  From the old days when we held Burnetland, in
the parish of Broughton, and called ourselves of that ilk, I had the
unbroken history of the family in my memory.  Ay, and also of the great
house of Traquair, for my mother had been a Stewart, and, as my father
said often, this was the only family in the country bide which could
hope to rival us in antiquity or valour.

My father’s brother, Gilbert, had married the heiress of a westland
family, and with her had got the lands of Eaglesham, about the
headwaters of Cart.  His son Gilbert, my cousin, was a tall lad some
four years my senior, who on several occasions rode to visit us at
Barns.  He was of a handsome, soldierly appearance, and looked for an
early commission in a Scots company.  At first I admired him mightily,
for he was skilful at all sports, rode like a moss-trooper, and could
use his sword in an incomparable fashion.  My father could never abide
him, for he could not cease to tell of his own prowess, and my father
was used to say that he loved no virtue better than modesty.  Also, he
angered every servant about the place by his hectoring, and one day so
offended old Tam Todd that Tam flung a bucket at him, and threatened to
duck him in the Tweed; which he doubtless would have done, old as he
was, for he was a very Hercules of a man. This presented a nice problem
to all concerned, and I know not which was the more put out, Tam or my
father.  Finally it ended in the latter reading Gilbert a long and
severe lecture, and then bidding Tam ask his pardon, seeing that the
dignity of the family had to be sustained at any cost.

One other relative, though in a distant way, I must not omit to mention,
for the day came when every man of our name was proud to claim the
kinship. This was Gilbert Burnet, of Edinburgh, afterwards Divinity
Professor in Glasgow, Bishop of Salisbury, and the author of the famous
"Bishop Burnet’s History of his Own Times."  I met him often in after
days, and once in London he had me to his house and entertained me
during my stay.  Of him I shall have to tell hereafter, but now he was
no more than a name to me, a name which my father was fond of repeating
when he wished to recall me to gravity.

Tam Todd, my father’s grieve, who managed the lands about the house,
deserves more than a passing word.  He was about sixty years of age,
stooped in the back, but with long arms and the strength of a giant. At
one time he had fought for Gustavus, and might have risen high in the
ranks, had not a desperate desire to see his native land come upon him
and driven him to slip off one night and take ship for Leith.  He had
come to Peebles, where my father met him, and admiring his goodly
stature, took him into his service, in which Tam soon became as expert
at the breeding of sheep as ever he had been at the handling of a pike
or musket.  He was the best story-teller and the cunningest fisher in
the place, full of quaint foreign words, French, and Swedish, and High
Dutch, for the army of Gustavus had been made up of the riddlings of
Europe.  From him I learned to fence with the rapier, and a past-master
he was, for my father told how, in his best days, he could never so much
as look at Tam.  _Bon pied bon oeil_ was ever his watchword, and I have
proved it a good one; for, short though it be, if a man but follow it he
may fear nothing.  Also, he taught me a thing which has been most useful
to me, and which I will speak of again—the art of using the broadsword
or claymore, as the wild Highlanders call it.  My school was on a strip
of green grass beside Tweed, and here I have had many a tough encounter
in the long summer nights.  He made me stand with my back to the deep
pool, that I might fear to step back; and thus I learned to keep my
ground, a thing which he held to be of the essence of swordsmanship.

My nurse, Jean Morran, was the only woman body about the place.  She and
Tam did the cooking between them, for that worthy had learned the art
gastronomical from a Frenchman whose life he saved, and who, in
gratitude, taught him many excellent secrets for dishes, and stole ten
crowns.  She had minded me and mended my clothes and seen to my
behaviour ever since my mother died of a fever when I was scarce two
years old.  Of my mother I remember nothing, but if one may judge from
my father’s long grief and her portrait in the dining-hall, she had been
a good and a gentle as well as a most beautiful woman.  Jean, with her
uncouth tongue and stern face, is still a clear figure in my memory.
She was a kind nurse in the main, and if her temper was doubtful from
many sore trials, her cakes and sugar were excellent salves to my
wronged heart.  She was, above all things, a famous housewife, keeping
the place spotless and clean, so that when one entered the house of
Barns there was always something fresh and cool in the very air.

But here I am at the end of my little gallery, for the place was bare of
folk, and the life a lonely one. Here I grew up amid the woods and hills
and the clean air, with a great zest for all the little excellencies of
my lot, and a tolerance of its drawbacks.  By the time I had come to
sixteen years I had swam in every pool in Tweed for miles up and down,
climbed every hill, fished in every burn, and ridden and fallen from
every horse in my father’s stable.  I had been as far west as Tintock
Hill and as far south as the Loch o’ the Lowes.  Nay, I had once been
taken to Edinburgh in company with Tam, who bought me a noble
fishing-rod, and showed me all the wondrous things to be seen.  A band
of soldiers passed down the High Street from the Castle with a great
clanking and jingling, and I saw my guide straighten up his back and
keep time with his feet to their tread.  All the way home, as I sat
before him on the broad back of Maisie, he told me tales of his
campaigns, some of them none too fit for a boy’s ear; but he was carried
away and knew not what he was saying.  This first put a taste for the
profession of arms into my mind, which was assiduously fostered by my
fencing lessons and the many martial tales I read.  I found among my
father’s books the chronicles of Froissart and a history of the Norman
Kings, both in the English, which I devoured by night and day.  Then I
had Tacitus and Livy, and in my fourteenth year I began the study of
Greek with a master at Peebles.  So that soon I had read most of the
"Iliad" and all the "Odyssey," and would go about repeating the long,
swinging lines.  I think that story of the man who, at the siege of some
French town, shouted a Homeric battle-piece most likely to be true, for
with me the Greek had a like effect, and made me tramp many miles over
the hills or ride the horses more hard than my father permitted.

But this book-work was, after all, but half of my life, and that the
less memorable.  All the sights and sounds of that green upland vale are
linked for me with memories of boyish fantasies.  I used to climb up the
ridge of Scrape when the sun set and dream that the serried ranks of
hills were a new country where all was strange, though I knew well that
an hour of the morning would dispel the fancy.  Then I would descend
from the heights, and for weeks be so fiercely set on the sports of the
time of year that I had scarcely time for a grave thought.  I have often
gone forth to the lambing with the shepherds, toiled all day in the
brown moors, and at night dropped straight off to sleep as I sat in my
chair at meat.  Then there was the salmon-fishing in the late spring,
when the blood ran hot at the flare of the torches and the shimmer of
the spears, and I, a forlorn young fool, shivered in my skin as the keen
wind blew down the water.  There was the swing and crackle of the stones
in winter when the haughlands of Manor were flooded, and a dozen
brown-faced men came to the curling and the air rang with shouts and
laughter.  I have mind, too, of fierce days of snow when men looked
solemn and the world was so quiet that I whistled to keep me from
despondency, and the kitchen at Barns was like a place in an inn with
famishing men and dripping garments.  Then Tweed would be buried under
some great drift and its kindly flow sorely missed by man and beast.
But best I remember the loosening of winter, when the rains from the
moors sent down the river roaring-red, and the vale was one pageant of
delicate greenery and turbid brown torrent.

Often I would take my books and go into the heart of the hills for days
and nights.  This, my father scarce liked, but he never hindered me.  It
was glorious to kindle your fire in the neuk of a glen, broil your
trout, and make your supper under the vault of the pure sky.  Sweet,
too, at noonday to lie beside the wellhead of some lonely burn, and
think of many things that can never be set down and are scarce
remembered.  But these were but dreams, and this is not their chronicle;
so it behooves me to shut my ear to vagrom memories.

To Dawyck I went the more often the older I grew. For Marjory Veitch had
grown into a beautiful, lissom girl, with the same old litheness of body
and gaiety of spirit.  She was my comrade in countless escapades, and
though I have travelled the world since then I have never found a
readier or a braver.  But with the years she grew more maidenly, and I
dared less to lead her into mad ventures.  Nay, I who had played with
her in the woods and fished and raced with her as with some other lad,
began to feel a foolish awe in her presence, and worshipped her from
afar.  The fairy learning of her childhood was but the index of a
wistfulness and delicacy of nature which, to my grosser spirit, seemed
something to uncover one’s head before. I have loved her dearly all my
life, but I have never more than half understood her; which is a good
gift of God to most men, for the confounding of vanity.

To her a great sorrow had come.  For when she was scarce thirteen, her
father, the laird of Dawyck, who had been ever of a home-keeping nature,
died from a fall while hunting on the brow of Scrape.  He had been her
childhood’s companion, and she mourned for him as sorely as ever human
being mourned for another.  Michael, her only brother, was far abroad in
a regiment of the Scots French Guards, so she was left alone in the
great house with no other company than the servants and a cross-grained
aunt who heard but one word in twenty.  For this reason I rode over the
oftener to comfort her loneliness.



                              CHAPTER III

                           THE SPATE IN TWEED


The year 1683 was with us the driest year in any man’s memory.  From the
end of April to the end of July we had scarce a shower.  The hay-harvest
was ruined beyond repair, and man and beast were sick with the sultry
days.  It was on the last Monday of July that I, wearied with wandering
listlessly about the house, bethought myself of riding to Peebles to see
the great match at bowls which is played every year for the silver horn.
I had no expectation of a keen game, for the green was sure to be
well-nigh ruined with the sun, and men had lost spirit in such weather.
But the faintest interest is better than purposeless idleness, so I
roused myself from languor and set out.

I saddled Maisie the younger, for this is a family name among our
horses, and rode down by the Tweed side to the town.  The river ran in
the midst of a great bed of sun-baked gravel—a little trickle that a man
might step across.  I do not know where the fish had gone, but they,
too, seemed scared by the heat, for not a trout plashed to relieve the
hot silence. When I came to the Manor pool I stood still in wonder, for
there for the first time in my life I saw the stream dry.  Manor, which
is in winter a roaring torrent and at other times a clear, full stream,
had not a drop of running water in its bed; naught but a few stagnant
pools green with slime.  It was a grateful change to escape from the sun
into the coolness of the Neidpath woods; but even there a change was
seen, for the ferns hung their fronds wearily and the moss had lost all
its greenness.  When once more I came out to the sun, its beating on my
face was so fierce that it almost burned, and I was glad when I came to
the town, and the shade of tree and dwelling.

The bowling-green of Peebles, which is one of the best in the country,
lies at the west end of the High Street at the back of the Castle Hill.
It looks down on Tweed and Peebles Water, where they meet at the
Cuddie’s Pool, and thence over a wide stretch of landscape to the high
hills.  The turf had been kept with constant waterings, but,
notwithstanding, it looked grey and withered.  Here I found half the
men-folk of Peebles assembled and many from the villages near, to see
the match which is the greatest event of the month.  Each player wore a
ribband of a special colour.  Most of them had stripped off their coats
and jerkins to give their arms free play, and some of the best were
busied in taking counsel with their friends as to the lie of the green.
The landlord of the Crosskeys was there with a great red favour stuck in
his hat, looking, as I thought, too fat and rubicund a man to have a
steady eye.  Near him was Peter Crustcrackit the tailor, a little wiry
man with legs bent from sitting cross-legged, thin active hands, and
keen eyes well used to the sewing of fine work.  Then there were carters
and shepherds, stout fellows with bronzed faces and great brawny chests,
and the miller of the Wauk-mill, who was reported the best bowl-player
in the town.  Some of the folk had come down like myself merely to
watch; and among them I saw Andrew Greenlees, the surgeon, who had
tended me what time I went over the cauld.  A motley crowd of the odds
and ends of the place hung around or sat on the low wall—poachers and
black-fishers and all the riff-raff of the town.

The jack was set, the order of the game arranged, and the play
commenced.  A long man from the Quair Water began, and sent his bowl
curling up the green not four inches from the mark.

"Weel dune for Quair Water," said one. "They’re nane sae blind
thereaways."

Then a flesher’s lad came and sent a shot close on the heels of the
other and lay by his side.

At this, there were loud cries of "Weel dune, Coo’s Blether," which was
a name they had for him; and the fellow grew red and withdrew to the
back.

Next came a little nervous man, who looked entreatingly at the
bystanders as if to bespeak their consideration. "Jock Look-up, my
dear," said a man solemnly, "compose your anxious mind, for thae auld
wizened airms o’ yours ’ll no send it half-road."  The little man sighed
and played his bowl: it was even as the other had said, for his shot was
adjudged a _hogg_ and put off the green.

Then many others played till the green was crowded at one end with the
balls.  They played in rinks, and interest fell off for some little time
till it came to the turn of the two acknowledged champions, Master
Crustcrackit and the miller, to play against one another.  Then the
onlookers crowded round once more.

The miller sent a long swinging shot which touched the jack and carried
it some inches onward.  Then a bowl from the tailor curled round and lay
between them and the former mark.  Now arose a great dispute (for the
players of Peebles had a way of their own, and to understand their rules
required no ordinary share of brains) as to the propriety of Master
Crustcrackit’s shot, some alleging that he had played off the cloth,
others defending.  The miller grew furiously warm.

"Ye wee, sneck-drawin’ tailor-body, wad ye set up your bit feckless face
against a man o’ place and siller?"

"Haud your tongue, miller," cried one.  "Ye’ve nae cause to speak ill o’
the way God made a man."

Master Crustcrackit, however, needed no defender. He was ready in a
second.

"And what dae ye ca’ yoursel’ but a great, God-forsaken dad o’ a man,
wi’ a wame like Braid Law and a mouth like the bottomless pit for yill
and beef and a’ manner o’ carnal bakemeats.  You to speak abune your
breath to me," and he hopped round his antagonist like an enraged
fighting-cock.

What the miller would have said no one may guess, had not a middle-aged
man, who had been sitting on a settle placidly smoking a long white
pipe, come up to see what was the dispute.  He was dressed in a long
black coat, with small-clothes of black, and broad silver-buckled shoon.
The plain white cravat around his neck marked him for a minister.

"William Laverlaw and you, Peter Crustcrackit, as the minister of this
parish, I command ye to be silent.  I will have no disturbance on this
public green.  Nay, for I will adjudge your difference myself."

All were silent in a second, and a hush of interest fell on the place.

"But that canna be," grumbled the miller, "for ye’re nae great hand at
the bowls."

The minister stared sternly at the speaker, who sank at once into an
aggrieved quiet.  "As God has appointed me the spiritual guide of this
unworthy town, so also has He made me your master in secular affairs.  I
will settle your disputes and none other. And, sir, if you or any other
dare gainsay me, then I shall feel justified in leaving argument for
force, and the man who offends I shall fling into the Cuddie’s Pool for
the clearing of his brain and the benefit of his soul."  He spoke in a
slow, methodical tone, rolling the words over his tongue.  Then I
remembered the many stories I had heard of this man’s autocratic rule
over the folk of the good town of Peebles; how he, alien like to whig
and prelatist, went on his steadfast path caring for no man and snapping
his fingers at the mandates of authority.  And indeed in the quiet
fierce face and weighty jaws there was something which debarred men from
meddling with their owner.

Such was his influence on the people that none dared oppose him, and he
gave his decision, which seemed to me to be a just and fair one.  After
this they fell to their play once more.

Meantime I had been looking on at the sport from the vantage-ground of
the low wall which looked down on the river.  I had debated a question
of farriery with the surgeon, who was also something of a horse-doctor;
and called out greetings to the different players, according as I
favoured their colours.  Then when the game no longer amused me, I had
fallen to looking over the country, down to the edge of the water where
the small thatched cottages were yellow in the heat, and away up the
broad empty channel of Tweed.  The cauld, where salmon leap in the
spring and autumn, and which is the greatest cauld on the river unless
it be the one at Melrose, might have been crossed dryshod.  I began to
hate the weariful, everlasting glare and sigh for the clouds once more,
and the soft moist turf and the hazy skyline.  Now it was so heavily
oppressive that a man could scarce draw a free breath.  The players
dripped with sweat and looked nigh exhausted, and for myself the
sulphurous air weighed on me like a mount of lead and confused such wits
as I had.

Even as I looked I saw a strange thing on the river bank which chained
my languid curiosity.  For down the haugh, swinging along at a great
pace, came a man, the like of whom I had seldom seen.  He ran at a
steady trot more like a horse than a human creature, with his arms set
close by his sides and without bonnet or shoes.  His head swung from
side to side as with excessive weariness, and even at that distance I
could see how he panted.  In a trice he was over Peebles Water and had
ascended the bank to the bowling-green, cleared the low dyke, and stood
gaping before us.  Now I saw him plainer, and I have rarely seen a
stranger sight.  He seemed to have come a great distance, but no sweat
stood on his brow; only a dun copper colour marking the effect of the
hot sun.  His breeches were utterly ragged and in places showed his long
supple limbs.  A shock of black hair covered his head and shaded his
swarthy face.  His eyes were wild and keen as a hawk’s, and his tongue
hung out of his mouth like a dog’s in a chase.  Every man stopped his
play and looked at the queer newcomer.  A whisper went round the place
that it was that "fule callant frae Brochtoun," but this brought no news
to me.

The man stood still for maybe three minutes with his eyes fixed on the
ground as if to recover breath. Then he got up with dazed glances, like
one wakening from sleep.  He stared at me, then at the players, and
burst into his tale, speaking in a high, excited voice.

"I hae run frae Drummeller to bring ye word. Quick and get the folk out
o’ the waterside hooses or the feck o’ the toun ’ll be soomin’ to
Berwick in an ’oor."

No one spoke, but all stared as if they took him for a madman.

"There’s been an awfu’ storm up i’ the muirs," he went on, panting, "and
Tweed’s com in’ doun like a mill-race.  The herd o’ Powmood tellt me,
and I got twae ’oors start o’t and cam off here what I could rin.  Get
the folk out o’ the waterside hooses when I bid ye, wi’ a’ their gear
and plenishing, or there’ll no be sae muckle as a groat’s worth left by
nicht.  Up wi’ ye and haste, for there’s nae time to lose.  I heard the
roar o’ the water miles off, louder than ony thunderstorm and mair
terrible than an army wi’ banners.  Quick, ye auld doited bodies, if ye
dinna want to hae mourning and lamentation i’ the toun o’ Peebles."

At this, as you may believe, a great change passed over all.  Some made
no words about it, but rushed into the town to give the alarm; others
stared stupidly as if waiting for more news; while some were disposed to
treat the whole matter as a hoax.  This enraged the newsbearer beyond
telling.  Springing up, he pointed to the western sky, and far off we
saw a thick blackness creeping up the skyline.  "If ye’ll no believe
me," said he, "will ye believe the finger of God?"  The word and the
sight convinced the most distrusting.

Now Tweed, unlike all other rivers of my knowledge, rises terribly at
the first rain and travels slowly, so that Tweedsmuir may be under five
feet of water and Peebles high and dry.  This makes the whole valley a
place of exceeding danger in sultry weather, for no man knows when a
thunderstorm may break in the hills and send the stream down a raging
torrent.  This, too, makes it possible to hear word of a flood before it
comes, and by God’s grace to provide against it.

The green was soon deserted.  I rushed down to the waterside houses,
which were in the nearest peril, and in shorter time than it takes to
tell, we had the people out and as much of their belongings as were
worth the saving; then we hastened to the low-lying cottages on Tweed
Green and did likewise.  Some of the folk seemed willing to resist,
because, as they said, "Whae kenned but that the body micht be a leear
and they werena to hae a’ this wark for naething?"  For the great floods
were but a tradition, and only the old men had seen the ruin which the
spate could work.  Nevertheless, even these were convinced by a
threatening sky and a few words from the newsbearer’s trenchant tongue.
Soon the High Street and the wynds were thick with household belongings,
and the Castle Hill was crowded with folk to see the coming of the
flood.

By this time the grim line of black had grown over half the sky, and
down fell great drops of rain into the white, sun-baked channel.  It was
strange to watch these mighty splashes falling into the little stagnant
pools and the runlets of flowing water.  And still the close, thick heat
hung over all, and men looked at the dawnings of the storm with sweat
running over their brows.  With the rain came a mist—a white ghastly
haze which obliterated the hills and came down nigh to the stream.  A
sound, too, grew upon our ears, at first far away and dim, but
increasing till it became a dull hollow thunder, varied with a strange
crackling, swishing noise which made a man eery to listen to. Then all
of a sudden the full blast of the thing came upon us.  Men held their
breaths as the wind and rain choked them and drove them back.  It was
scarce possible to see far before, but the outlines of the gorge of
Neidpath fleeted through the drift, whence the river issued.  Every man
turned his eyes thither and strained them to pierce the gloom.

Suddenly round the corner of the hill appeared a great yellow wave
crested with white foam and filling the whole space.  Down it came
roaring and hissing, mowing the pines by the waterside as a reaper mows
down hay with a scythe.  Then with a mighty bound it broke from the
hill-barriers and spread over the haugh.  Now, the sound was like the
bubbling of a pot ere it boils.  We watched it in terror and admiration,
as it swept on its awful course.  In a trice it was at the cauld, and
the cauld disappeared under a whirl of foam; now it was on the houses,
and the walls went in like nutshells and the rubble was borne onward.  A
cry got up of "the bridge," and all hung in wonder as it neared the old
stonework, the first barrier to the torrent’s course, the brave bridge
of Peebles.  It flung itself on it with fiendish violence, but the stout
masonwork stood firm, and the boiling tide went on through the narrow
arches, leaving the bridge standing unshaken, as it had stood against
many a flood.  As we looked, we one and all broke into a cheer in honour
of the old masons who had made so trusty a piece of stone.

I found myself in the crowd of spectators standing next to the man who
had brought the tidings.  He had recovered his breath and was watching
the sight with a look half of interest and half of vexation. When all
was past and only the turbid river remained, he shook himself like a dog
and made to elbow his way out.  "I maun be awa’," he said, speaking to
himself, "and a sair job I’ll hae gettin’ ower Lyne Water."  When I
heard him I turned round and confronted him.  There was something so
pleasing about his face, his keen eyes and alert head, that I could not
forbear from offering him my hand, and telling him of my admiration for
his deed.  I was still but a boy and he was clearly some years my elder,
so I made the advance, I doubt not, with a certain shyness and
hesitancy.  He looked at me sharply and smiled.

"Ye’re the young laird o’ Barns," said he; "I ken ye weel though ye
maybe are no aquaint wi’ me. I’m muckle honoured, sir, and gin ye’ll
come Brochtoun-ways sometime and speir for Nicol Plenderleith, he’ll tak
ye to burns that were never fished afore and hills that never heard the
sound o’ a shot."

I thanked him, and watched him slipping through the crowd till he was
lost to view.  This was my first meeting with Nicol Plenderleith, of
whose ways and doings this tale shall have much to say.  The glamour of
the strange fellow was still upon me as I set myself to make my road
home.  I am almost ashamed to tell of my misfortunes; for after crossing
the bridge and riding to Manor Water, I found that this stream likewise
had risen and had not left a bridge in its whole course.  So I had to go
up as far as St. Gordians’ Cross before I could win over it, and did not
reach Barns till after midnight, where I found my father half-crazy with
concern for me and Tam Todd making ready to go and seek me.



                               CHAPTER IV

                     I GO TO THE COLLEGE AT GLASGOW


By this time I had grown a great stalwart lad, little above the middle
height, but broad and sinewy.  I had made progress in all manly sports
and could fling the hammer almost as far as the Manor blacksmith, while
in leaping and running I had few rivals among lads of my age.  Also I
was no bad swordsman, but could stand my own against all the wiles of
Tam Todd, and once even disarmed him to his own unspeakable disgust. In
my studies, which I pursued as diligently as I could with no teachers
and not over-many books, I had made some little advance, having read
through most of the Greek tragedians and advanced some distance in the
study of Plato; while in the Latin tongue I had become such an adept
that I could both read and write it with ease.

When I had reached the mature age of eighteen, who should come up into
our parts but my famous relative, Master Gilbert Burnet, the preacher at
St. Clement’s in London, of whom I have already spoken. He was making a
journey to Edinburgh and had turned out of his way to revive an old
acquaintance.  My father was overjoyed to see him and treated him to the
best the house could produce.  He stayed with us two days, and I
remember him still as he sat in a great armchair opposite my father,
with his broad velvet cap and grey, peaked beard, and weighty brows.
Yet when he willed, though for ordinary a silent man, he could talk as
gaily and wittily as any town gallant; so much indeed that my father,
who was somewhat hard to please, declared him the best companion he ever
remembered.

Before he left, Master Burnet examined me on my progress in polite
learning, and finding me well advanced, he would have it that I should
be sent forthwith to Glasgow College.  He exacted a promise from my
father to see to this, and left behind him, when he departed, letters of
introduction to many of the folk there, for he himself had, at one time,
been professor of divinity in the place.  As for myself, I was nothing
loth to go, and see places beyond Tweeddale and add to my stock of
learning; for about this time a great enthusiasm for letters had seized
me (which I suppose happens at some time or other to most men), and I
conceived my proper vocation in life to be that of the scholar.  I have
found in an old manuscript book a list of the titles of imaginary works,
editions, poems, treatises, all with my unworthy name subscribed as the
author.  So it was settled that I should ride to Glasgow and take
lodgings in the town for the sake of the college classes.

I set out one November morning, riding Maisie alone, for no student was
allowed to have a servant, nor any one below the degree of Master of
Arts. The air was keen and frosty, and I rode in high fettle by the
towns of Biggar and Lanark to the valley of the Clyde.  I lay all night
at Crossford in the house of a distant relative.  Thence the next day I
rode to Hamilton and in the evening came to the bridge of the Clyde at
Glasgow.  Then I presented myself to the Principal and Regents of the
college and was duly admitted, putting on the red gown, the badge of the
student class, than which I believe there is no more hideous habiliment.

The college in those days was poor enough, having been well-nigh ruined
by the extortions of Lord Middleton and his drunken crew; and it had not
yet benefited by the rich donations of the Reverend Zachary Boyd of the
Barony Kirk.  Still, the standard of learning in the place was
extraordinarily high, especially in dialectic and philosophy—a standard
which had been set by the famous Andrew Melville when he was a professor
in the place.  I have heard disputations there in the evenings between
the schoolmen and the new philosophers, the like of which could scarcely
be got from the length and breadth of the land.

Across the High Street were the college gardens and green pleasant
orchards where the professors were wont to walk and the scholars to have
their games. Through the middle ran the clear Molendinar Burn, so called
by the old Romans, and here I loved to watch the trout and young salmon
leaping.  There was a severe rule against scholars fishing in the
stream, so I was fain to content myself with the sight. For soon a
violent fit of home-sickness seized me, and I longed for the rush of
Tweed and the pleasant sweep of Manor; so it was one of my greatest
consolations to look at this water and fancy myself far away from the
town.  One other lad who came from Perthshire used to come and stand
with me and tell me great tales of his fishing exploits; and I did
likewise with him till we became great companions.  Many afternoons I
spent here, sometimes with a book and sometimes without one; in the fine
weather I would lie on the grass and dream, and in rough, boisterous
winter days I loved to watch the Molendinar, flooded and angry, fling
its red waters against the old stones of the bridge.

No one of us was permitted to carry arms of any kind, so I had to sell
my sword on my first coming to the town.  This was a great hardship to
me, for whereas when I carried a weapon I had some sense of my own
importance, now I felt no better than the rest of the unarmed crowd
about me.  Yet it was a wise precaution, for in other places where
scholars are allowed to strut like cavaliers there are fights and duels
all the day long, so that the place looks less like an abode of the
Muses than a disorderly tavern. Nevertheless, there were many manly
exercises to be had, for in the greens in the garden we had trials of
skill at archery and golf and many other games of the kind. At the first
mentioned I soon became a great master, for I had a keen eye from much
living among woods and hills, and soon there was no one who could come
near me at the game.  As for golf, I utterly failed to excel; and indeed
it seems to me that golf is like the divine art of poetry, the gift for
which is implanted in man at his birth or not at all.  Be that as it
may, I never struck a golf-ball fairly in my life, and I misdoubt I
never shall.

As for my studies, for which I came to the place, I think I made great
progress.  For after my first fit of home-sickness was over, I fell in
with the ways of the college, and acquired such a vast liking for the
pursuit of learning that I felt more convinced than ever that Providence
had made me for a scholar.  In my classes I won the commendation of both
professors; especially in the class of dialectic, where an analysis of
Aristotle’s method was highly praised by Master Sandeman, the professor.
This fine scholar and accomplished gentleman helped me in many ways, and
for nigh two months, when he was sick of the fever, I lectured to his
class in his stead.  We were all obliged to talk in the Latin tongue and
at first my speech was stiff and awkward enough, but by and by I fell
into the way of it and learned to patter it as glibly as a Spanish monk.

It may be of interest to those of my house that I should give some
account of my progress in the several studies, to show that our family
is not wholly a soldiering one.  In Greek I studied above others the
works of Plato, delighting especially in his Phaedo, which I had almost
by heart; Aristotle likewise, though I read but little of him in his own
tongue.  I completed a translation of the first part of Plato’s Republic
into Latin, which Master Sandeman was pleased to say was nigh as elegant
as George Buchanan’s.  Also I was privileged to discover certain notable
emendations in the text of this work, which I sent in manuscript to the
famous Schookius of Groningen, who incorporated them in his edition then
in preparation, but after the fashion of Dutchmen sent me no thanks.

As regards philosophy, which I hold the most divine of all studies, I
was in my first year a most earnest Platonic; nay, I went farther than
the master himself, as is the way of all little minds when they seek to
comprehend a great one.  In those days I went about in sober attire and
strove in all things to order my life according to the rules of
philosophy, seeking to free myself from all disturbing outside powers
and live the life of pure contemplation.  I looked back with unutterable
contempt on my past as a turbid and confused medley, nor did I seek
anything better in life than quiet and leisure for thought and study.
In such a condition I spent the first month of my stay at Glasgow.

Then the Platonic fit left me and I was all for Aristotle and the
Peripatetics.  Here, at last, thought I, have I got the _siccum lumen_,
which Heraclitus spoke of: and his distinct and subtle reasoning seemed
to me to be above doubt.  And indeed I have never wondered at the
schoolmen and others who looked upon Aristotle as having reached the
height of human wisdom, for his method is so all-embracing and
satisfying that it breeds wonder in the heart of any man; and it affords
so sure a bottom for thought that men become Aristotelians.

In the midsummer months I went down to Tweeddale again, where I
astonished my father and all in the place with my new learning, and also
grieved them. For I had no love for fishing or shooting; I would scarce
ride two miles for the pleasure of it; my father’s tales, in which I
delighted before, had grown tiresome; and I had no liking for anything
save bending over books.  When I went to Dawyck to see Marjory, she knew
not what had come over me, I was so full of whims and fancies.  "O
John," she said, "your face is as white as a woman’s, and you have such
a horrible cloak.  Go and get another at once, you silly boy, and not
shame your friends."  Yet even Marjory had little power over me, for I
heeded her not, though aforetime I would have ridden posthaste to
Peebles and got me a new suit, and painted my face if I had thought that
thereby I would pleasure her.

When the autumn came again I returned to college more inclined than ever
for the life of a scholar.  I fell to my studies with renewed zeal, and
would doubtless have killed myself with work had I not been nearly
killed with the fever, which made me more careful of my health.  And
now, like the weathercock I was, my beliefs shifted yet again.  For
studying the schoolmen, who were the great upholders of Aristotle, I
found in them so many contradictions and phantasies which they fathered
on their master that, after reading the diatribes of Peter Ramus and
others against him, I was almost persuaded that I had been grievously
misled.  Then, at last, I saw hat the fault lay not in Aristotle but in
his followers, who sought to find in him things that were beyond the
compass of his thought.  So by degrees I came round toward the new
philosophy, which a party in the college upheld. They swore by the great
names of Bacon and Galileo and the other natural philosophers, but I
hesitated to follow them, for they seemed to me to disdain all mental
philosophy, which I hold is the greater study. I was of this way of
thinking when I fell in one day with an English book, a translation of a
work by a Frenchman, one Renatus Descartes, published in London in the
year 1649.  It gave an account of the progress in philosophy of this
man, who followed no school, but, clearing his mind of all
presuppositions, instituted a method for himself.  This marked for me
the turning point; for I gave in my allegiance without hesitation to
this philosopher, and ever since I have held by his system with some
modifications.  It is needless for me to enter further into my
philosophy, for I have by me a written exposition of the works of this
Descartes with my own additions, which I intend, if God so please, to
give soon to the world.

For two years I abode at the college, thinking that I was destined by
nature for a studious life, and harbouring thoughts of going to the
university of Saumur to complete my studies.  I thought that my spirit
was chastened to a fit degree, and so no doubt it was, for those who had
feared me at first on account of my heavy fist and straightforward ways,
now openly scoffed at me without fear of punishment.  Indeed, one went
so far one day as to jostle me off the causeway, and I made no return,
but went on as if nothing had happened, deeming it beneath a wise man to
be distracted by mundane trifles.  Yet, mind you, in all this there was
nothing Christian or like unto the meekness of our Master, as I have
seen in some men; but rather an absurd attempt to imitate those who
would have lived very differently had their lot been cast in our hot and
turbid days.

How all this was changed and I veered round of a sudden to the opposite
I must hasten to tell.  One April day, towards the close of my second
year, I was going up the High Street toward the Cathedral with a great
parcel of books beneath my arm, when I heard a shouting and a jingling,
and a troop of horse came down the street.  I stood back into the
shelter of a doorway, for soldiers were wont to bear little love to
scholars, and I did not care to risk their rough jests. From this place
I watched their progress, and a gallant sight it was.  Some twenty men
in buff jerkins and steel headpieces rode with a fine clatter of bridles
and clank of swords.  I marked their fierce sun-brown faces and their
daredevil eyes as they looked haughtily down on the crowd as on lower
beings.  And especially I marked their leader.  He sat a fine bay horse
with ease and grace; his plumed hat set off his high-coloured face and
long brown curls worn in the fashion of the day; and as he rode he bowed
to the people with large condescension.  He was past in a second, but
not before I had recognized the face and figure of my cousin Gilbert.

I stood for some minutes staring before me, while the echoes of the
horses’ hooves died away down the street.  This, I thought, is the
destiny of my cousin, only two years my elder, a soldier, a gentleman, a
great man in his place; while I am but a nameless scholar, dreaming away
my manhood in the pursuits of a dotard.  I was so overwhelmed with
confusion that I stood gaping with a legion of thoughts and opposing
feelings running through my brain.  Then all the old fighting spirit of
my house rose within me. By Heaven, I would make an end of this; I would
get me home without delay; I would fling my books into the Clyde; I
would go to the wars; I would be a great cavalier, and, by the Lord, I
would keep up the name of the house!  I was astonished myself at the
sudden change in my feelings, for in the space of some ten minutes a
whole age had passed for me, and I had grown from a boy to some measure
of manhood. I came out from the close-mouth with my head in the air and
defiance against all the world in my eye.

Before I had gone five spaces I met the lad who had jostled me
aforetime, a big fellow of a raw-boned Ayrshire house, and before he
could speak I had him by the arm and had pulled him across the way into
the college gardens.  There I found a quiet green place, and plucking
off my coat I said, "Now, Master Dalrymple, you and I have a small
account to settle."  With that we fell to with our fists, and in the
space of a quarter of an hour I had beaten him so grievously that he was
fain to cry for mercy.  I let him go, and with much whimpering he slunk
away in disgust.

Then I went into the town and bought myself a new blade and a fine suit
of clothes—all with the greatest gusto and lightness of heart.  I went
to the inn where Maisie was stabled and bade them have her ready for me
at the college gate in an hour.  Then I bade good-bye to all my friends,
but especially to Master Sandeman, from whom I was loth to part.  I did
not fling my books into the Clyde as at first I proposed, but left
injunctions that they were to be sent by the carrier.  So, having paid
all my debts, for my father had kept me well appointed with money, I
waved a long farewell and set out for my own country.



                               CHAPTER V

                           COUSINLY AFFECTION


It was near midday before I started, so that night I got no farther than
the town of Hamilton, but lay at the inn there.  The next morning I left
betimes, thinking to reach Barns in the afternoon.  As I rode along the
green sward by the side of Clyde, the larks were singing in the sky and
the trout were plashing in the waters, and all the world was gay.  The
apple orchards sent their blossom across the road, and my hat brushed it
down in showers on my horse and myself, so that soon we rode in a mail
of pink and white.  I plucked a little branch and set it in my hat, and
sang all the songs I knew as I cantered along. I cried good-day to every
man, and flung money to the little children who shouted as I passed, so
that I believe if there had been many more boys on the road I would have
reached Tweeddale a beggar.  At Crossford, where the Nethan meets the
Clyde, I met a man who had been to the salmon-fishing and had caught a
big salmon-trout; and as I looked, my old love for the sport awoke
within me, and I longed to feel a rod in my hand.  It was good to be
alive, to taste the fresh air, to feel the sun and wind, and I cried a
plague on all close lecture-rooms and musty books.

At Lanark I had a rare dinner at the hostel there. The grey old inn had
excellent fare, as I knew of old, so I rode up to the door and demanded
its best.  It was blessed to see a man obey your words after for many
months being a servant of others.  I had a dish of well-fed trout and a
piece of prime mutton and as good claret, I think, as I have ever
tasted.  Then I rode over Lanark Moor to Hyndford and through the moor
of Carmichael and under the great shadow of Tintock.  Here the smell of
burning heather came to my nostrils, and so dear and homelike did it
seem that I could have wept for very pleasure.  The whaups and snipe
were making a fine to-do on the bent, and the black-faced sheep grazed
in peace.  At the top of the knowe above Symington I halted, for there
before my eyes were the blue hills of Tweeddale. There was Trehenna and
the hills above Broughton, and Drummelzier Law and Glenstivon Dod, and
nearer, the great Caerdon; and beyond all a long blue back which I knew
could be none other than the hill of Scrape which shadowed Dawyck and my
lady.

I came to Barns at three o’clock in the afternoon, somewhat stiff from
my ride, but elated with my home-coming.  It was with strange feelings
that I rode up the long avenue of beeches, every one of which I could
have told blindfold.  The cattle looked over the palings at me as if
glad to see me return. Maisie cocked up her ears at the hares in the
grass, and sniffed the hill air as if she had been in a prison for many
days.  And when I came to the bend of the road and saw the old
weatherbeaten tower, my heart gave a great leap within me, for we
Tweeddale men dearly love our own countryside, doubtless by reason of
its exceeding beauty.

As I rode up Tam Todd came out from the back, and seeing me, let fall
the water which he was carrying and ran to my side.

"Eh, Maister John," said he, "I’m blithe to see ye back, sae braw and
genty-like.  My airm’s fair like timmer wi’ stiffness for want o’ the
backsword play, and the troots in Tweed are turned as thick as peas for
want o’ you to haul them oot; and twae mornings last week there were
deer keekin’ in at the front-door as tame as kittlins.  There’s muckle
need o’ ye at hame."

He would have gone on in this strain for an hour, had I not cut him
short by asking for my father.

"Middlin’, just middlin’.  He misses ye sair. He’ll scarce gang
out-doors noo, but he’ll be a’ richt gin he sees ye again.  Oh, and I’ve
something mair to tell ye.  That wanchancy cousin o’ yours, Maister
Gilbert, cam yestreen, and he’ll be bidin’ till the deil kens when.
I’se warrant he’s at meat wi’ the auld maister the noo, for he cam in
frae the hills geyan hungry."

Now at this intelligence I was not over-pleased. My cousin was a great
man and a gentleman, but never at any time over-friendly to me, and I
knew that to my father he was like salt in the mouth.  I blamed the
ill-luck which had sent him to Barns on the very day of my home-coming.
I needs must be on my dignity in his company, for he was quick to find
matter for laughter, and it was hard that he should come at the time
when I longed so eagerly for the free ways of the house.  However, there
was no help for it, I reflected, and went in.

In the passage I met Jean Morran, my old nurse, who had heard the sound
of voices, and come out to see who the newcomer might be.  "Maister
John, Maister John, and is’t yoursel’?  It’s a glad day for the house o’
Barns when you come back"; and when I gave her the shawl-pin I had
brought her from Glasgow, she had scarce any words to thank me with. So,
knowing that my father would be in the dining-hall with his guest, I
opened the door and walked in unbidden.

My father sat at the head of the long oak table which had been scoured
to a light-brown and shone like polished stone.  Claret, his favourite
drink, was in a tankard by his elbow, and many wines decked the board.
Lower down sat my cousin, gallantly dressed in the fashion of the times,
with a coat of fine Spanish leather and small-clothes of some rich dark
stuff.  His plumed hat and riding cloak of purple velvet lay on the
settle at his side.  His brown hair fell over his collar and shoulders
and well set off his strong, brown face.  He sat after the fashion of a
soldier, on the side of his chair half-turned away from the table, and
every now and then he would cast a piece of meat to Pierce, my old
hound, who lay stretched by the fireplace.

My father turned round as I entered, and when he saw me his face glowed
with pleasure.  Had we been alone we should have met otherwise, but it
is not meet to show one’s feelings before a stranger, even though that
stranger be one of the family.  He contented himself with looking
eagerly upon me and bidding me welcome in a shaking voice.  I marked
with grief that his eye did not seem so keen and brave as before, and
that he was scarce able to rise from his chair.

My cousin half arose and made me a grand bow in his courtly fashion.

"Welcome, my dear cousin," said he.  "I am glad to see that your studies
have had little effect on your face."  (I was flushed with hard riding.)
"You look as if you had just come from a campaign.  But fall to.  Here
are prime fish which I can commend; and venison, also good, though I
have had better. Here, too, is wine, and I drink to your success, my
learned cousin"; and he filled his glass and drank it at a gulp.  He
spoke in a half-bantering tone, though his words were kindly.  I
answered him briskly.

"I had little thought to find you here, Gilbert, but I am right glad to
see you.  You are prospering mightily, I hear, and will soon be
forgetting your poor cousins of Barns"; and after a few more words I set
myself to give my father a history of my doings at Glasgow College.
Again, had we been alone, I should have told him my causes for leaving
and my wishes for my after life, but since my cousin was present, who
had ever a sharp tongue, I judged it better to say nothing.

I told my father all that I could think of, and then asked how he had
fared in my absence, for I had had but few letters, and what of note had
happened at Barns.

"Ay, John," he said, "I’m an old man.  I fear that my life here will be
short.  I scarce can get outside without Tam Todd to lean on, and I have
little sleep o’ nights.  And John, I could wish that you would bide at
home now, for I like to see you beside me, and you’ll have learned all
the folk of Glasgow have to teach you.  I once wished you a soldier, but
I am glad now that I let the thing blow by, for I would have cared
little to have you coming here but once in the six months, for a flying
visit."

"Nay, uncle," said my cousin, "you do not put the matter fairly.  For
myself, I believe there is none busier in Scotland than I, but, Gad, I
have always time to slip home to Eaglesham for a day or more. But my
father would care little though he never saw me but once in the year,
for each time I go back I get a long sermon on my conduct, with my
expenses for the year as a text, till I am fairly driven out of the
house for peace."

At this my father laughed.  "Ay, ay," said he, "that’s like my brother
Gilbert.  He was always a hard man at the siller.  Man, I mind when we
were both the terrors o’ the place, but all the while not a thing would
he do, if it meant the loss of a bodle. Pity but I had taken after him
in that, and John would have been better supplied to-day."

"Oh," I answered, "I have all I need and more."

Hereupon my cousin spoke with a sneer in his voice.  "A groat is enough
for a scholar, but the soldier must have a crown.  Your scholar, as
doubtless John can tell, is content if he have a sad-coloured suit, some
musty books, and a stoup of bad wine; but your fine gentleman must have
his horses and servants, and dress himself like his quality for all the
maids to stare at, and have plenty of loose silver to fling to the
gaping crowd; and he is a poor fellow indeed if he do not eat and drink
the best that each tavern can give.  As for me, I would as soon be a
clown in the fields as a scholar, with apologies to my cousin"; and he
made me another of his mocking bows.

I answered as gently as I could that gentrice did not consist in
daintiness of eating and drinking or boisterous display, and that in my
opinion nothing gave so fine a flavour to gentility as a tincture of
letters; but my father changed the conversation by asking Gilbert what
he had been after that day.

"’Faith, it would be hard to say," said he.  "I got a gun from that
long-legged, sour-faced groom and went up the big hill above the trees
to have a shot at something.  I killed a couple of hares and sprung an
old muirfowl; but the day grew warm and I thought that the wood would
make a pleasant shade, so I e’en turned my steps there and went to sleep
below a great oak, and dreamed that I ran a man through the bowels for
challenging my courage.  It was an ill-omened dream, and I expected to
meet with some mishap to account for it ere I got back, but I saw
nothing except a lovely girl plucking primroses by the water side.
Zounds, Jock, what a fool you must be never to have found out this
beauty!  She had hair like gold and eyes like sapphires.  I’ve seen many
a good-looking wench, but never one like her."

"And what did you do?" I asked, with my heart beating wildly.

"Do," he laughed.  "Your scholar would have passed in silence and
written odes to her as Venus or Helen for months; whereas I took off my
bonnet and made haste to enter into polite conversation.  But this girl
would have none of me; she’s a rose, I warrant, with a pretty setting of
thorns.  She tripped away, and when I made to follow her, became Madam
Fine-airs at once, and declared that her servants were within easy
reach, so I had better have a care of my conduct."

My father shot a sharp glance at me, and addressed my cousin.  "The maid
would be Marjory Veitch, old Sir John’s daughter, at Dawyck.  He, poor
man, has gone to his account, and her brother is abroad, so the poor
girl is lonely enough in that great house.  John and she have been
friends from the time they were children.  She has come here, too, and a
pretty, modest lass she is, though she favours her mother rather than
her father’s folk."

At this intelligence my cousin whistled long and low.  "So, so," said
he, "my scholar has an eye in his head, has he?  And Dawyck is not far
off, and—well, no wonder you do not care for the military profession.
Though, let me tell you, it is as well for the course of true love that
there are few cavaliers in this countryside, else Mistress Marjory might
have higher notions."

I answered nothing, for, though I loved Marjory well, and thought that
she loved me, I had never spoken to her on the matter; for from
childhood we had been comrades and friends.  So I did not care to reply
on a matter which I regarded as so delicate and uncertain.

My cousin was a man who grew sorely vexed by receiving no answer from
the object of his wit; and, perhaps on this account, he went further
than he meant in his irritation.  "Nay, John," he went on, "you’re but a
sorry fellow at the best, with your tags from the Latin, and your poor
spirit.  I am one of the meanest of His Majesty’s soldiers, but I can
outride you, I can beat you at sword-play, at mark-shooting, at all
manly sports.  I can hold my head before the highest in the land; I can
make the vulgar bow before me to the ground.  There are no parts of a
gentleman’s equipment in which I am not your better."

Now, had we been alone, I should not have scrupled to fling the lie in
his teeth, and offer to settle the matter on the spot.  But I did not
wish to excite my father in his feeble health, so I made no reply beyond
saying that events would show the better man. My father, however, took
it upon himself to defend me.  "Peace, Gilbert," he said.  "I will not
have my son spoken thus of in my own house.  He has as much spirit as
you, I’ll warrant, though he is less fond of blowing his own trumpet."
I saw with annoyance that my father plainly thought my conduct cowardly,
and would have been better pleased had I struck my cousin then and
there.  But I knew how cruelly excited he would be by the matter, and,
in his weakness, I feared the result.  Also, the man was our guest, and
my cousin.

When we rose from supper I assisted my father in walking to his chair by
the fire; for, though the weather was mild and spring-like, his blood
was so impoverished that he felt the cold keenly.  Then my cousin and
myself strolled out of doors to the green lawn, below which Tweed ran
low and silvery clear. I felt anger against him, yet not so much as I
would have felt towards another man, had he used the same words; for I
knew Gilbert to be of an absurd boasting nature, which made him do more
evil than he had in his heart.  Still my honour, or pride (call it what
you please), was wounded, and I cast about me for some way to heal it.

"Gilbert," I said, "we have both done much work to-day, so we are both
about equally wearied."

"Maybe," said he.

"But your horse is fresh, and a good one, as I know; and you are a good
horseman, as you say yourself.  You had much to say about my poor
horsemanship at supper.  Will you try a race with me?"

He looked at me scornfully for a minute.  "Nay, there is little honour
to be got from that.  You knew the ground, and your horse, for all I
know, may be swifter than mine.  It was not of horses I spoke, but of
the riders."

"In the race which I offer you," I answered, "we will both start fair.
Do you see yon rift in the hill beyond Scrape?  It is the Red Syke, a
long dark hole in the side of the hill.  I have never ridden there, for
the ground is rough and boggy, and I have never heard of a horseman
there since Montrose’s rising. Will you dare to ride with me to yonder
place and back?"

At this my cousin’s face changed a little, for he had no liking for
breaking his neck on the wild hills. And now, when I look back on the
proposal, it seems a mad, foolhardy one in very truth.  But then we were
both young and spirited, and reckless of our lives.

"Mount and ride," said he.  "I’ll be there and back before you are
half-road, unless, indeed, I have to carry you home."

Together we went round to the stables, and I saddled a black horse of my
father’s, for Maisie had already travelled far that day.  The Weasel, we
called him, for he was long and thin in the flanks, with a small head,
and a pointed muzzle.  He was viciously ill-tempered, and would allow no
groom to saddle him; but before I had gone to Glasgow I had mounted and
ridden him bareback up and down the channel of Tweed till he was
dead-beat, and I half-drowned and shaken almost to pieces.  Ever since
this escapade he had allowed me to do what I liked with him; and, though
I did not find him as pleasant to ride as the incomparable Maisie, yet I
knew his great strength and alertness.  My cousin’s horse was a good
cavalry charger, strong, but, as I thought, somewhat too heavy in the
legs for great endurance.

We mounted and rode together out among the trees to the fields which
bordered on the hills.  I was sore in the back when I started, but,
after the first half-mile, my sprightliness returned, and I felt fit to
ride over Broad Law.  My cousin was in an ill mood, for the sport was
not to his taste, though he felt bound in honour to justify his words.

The spur of Scrape, which we came to, was called, by the country people,
the Deid Wife, for there an Irish woman, the wife of one of Montrose’s
camp followers, had been killed by the folk of the place after the rout
at Philiphaugh.  We had much ado to keep our horses from slipping back,
for the loose stones which covered the face of the hill gave a feeble
foothold.  The Weasel took the brae like a deer, but my cousin’s heavy
horse laboured and panted sorely before it reached the top.  Before us
stretched the long upland moors, boggy, and cleft with deep ravines,
with Scrape on the right, and straight in front, six miles beyond, the
great broad crest of Dollar Law.  Here we separated, my cousin riding
forward, while I thought the road to the left would be the surer.  Clear
before us lay the Red Syke, an ugly gash, into which the setting sun was
beginning to cast his beams.

And now I found myself in a most perilous position. The Weasel’s feet
were light and touchy, and he stumbled among the stones and tall heather
till I had sore work to keep my seat.  My cousin’s horse was of a
heavier make, and I could see it galloping gallantly over the broken
ground.  I cheered my steed with words, and patted his neck, and kept a
tight hand on the rein.  Sometimes we slipped among the shingle, and
sometimes stumbled over rocks half-hid in brackens.  Then we passed into
a surer place among short, burned heather.  The dry twigs gave forth a
strange, creaking sound as the horse’s feet trod on them, and puffs of
grey dust and ashes, the sign of the burning, rose at every step.  Then,
beyond this, we went to a long stretch of crisp mountain grass, pleasant
for both horse and rider.  We splashed through little tumbling burns,
and waded through pools left by the spring rains.  But, of a sudden, the
ground grew softer, and even the Weasel’s light weight could not pass in
safety.  At one time, indeed, I reined him back just on the brink of a
treacherous well-eye, from which neither of us would have returned.  I
cast a glance at my cousin, who was still ahead; his heavy charger was
floundering wearily, and he lashed it as if his life were at stake. Then
we passed the green bog and came to a great peat-moss, full of hags,
where the shepherds had been casting peats.  Here the riding was more
difficult, for the holes whence the peats had come were often some five
feet deep, and it was no easy matter to get a horse out of that
treacherous black mud. The Weasel did gallantly, and only once did I
dismount, when his hind feet were too deeply sunk to permit him to leap.
Beyond me I saw my cousin, riding swiftly, for the middle of the moss,
as it chanced, was the firmest and evenest place.  We were now scarce a
hundred yards from the ravine of the Red Syke, and, even as I looked, I
saw him reach it, rest a second to give his horse breathing-space, and
then turn on his homeward way.

I came to the place a minute after, and having compassion on my brave
horse, I dismounted, and eased him of my weight for a little.  Then I
got on his back again and set off.  Gilbert I saw before me, riding, as
I thought, in the worst part, and with a fury that must tell sooner or
later on his heavy steed. I had scarce been a moment in the saddle,
when, so strange are the ways of horses, the Weasel became aware, for
the first time, of the other in front. Before, it had been a toil for
him, now it became a pleasure, a race, which it lay with his honour to
win.  He cocked up his wicked, black ears, put down his head, and I felt
the long legs gathering beneath me.  I cried aloud with delight, for now
I knew that no horse in Tweeddale could hope to match him when the mood
was on him.  He flew over the hags as if he had been in a paddock; he
leaped among the hard parts of the green bog, from tussock to tussock,
as skilfully as if he had known nothing but mosses all his days.  We
came up with Gilbert at the edge of the rough ground, lashing on his
horse, with his face flushed and his teeth set.  We passed him like the
wind, and were galloping among the rocks and brackens, while he was
painfully picking his steps.  A merciful providence must have watched
over the Weasel’s path that day, for never horse ran so recklessly.
Among slippery boulders and cruel jagged rocks and treacherous shingle
he ran like a hare.  I grew exultant, laughed, and patted his neck.  The
sun was setting behind us, and we rode in a broad patch of yellow light.
In a trice we were on the brow of the Deid Wife.  Down we went, slipping
yards at a time, now doubling along the side; sometimes I was almost
over the horse’s head, sometimes all but off the tail; there was never,
since the two daft lairds rode down Horsehope Craig, such a madcap ride.
I scarce know how I reached the foot in safety: but reach it I did, and
rode merrily among the trees till I came to the green meadowlands about
the house of Barns.  Here I dismounted and waited for my cousin, for I
did not care to have the serving-men laugh at him riding in after me.

I waited a good half-hour before he appeared.  A sorry sight he
presented.  His breeches and jerkin had more than one rent in them; his
hat was gone; and his face was flushed almost crimson with effort. His
horse had bleeding knees, and its shoulders shook pitifully.

"Pardon me, Gilbert," I said in a fit of repentance; "it was a foolish
thing in me to lead you such a senseless road.  I might have known that
your horse was too heavy for the work.  It was no fault of yours that
you did not come home before me.  I trust that we may forget our
quarrels, and live in friendship, as kinsmen should."

"Friendship be damned," he cried in a mighty rage.



                               CHAPTER VI

       HOW MASTER GILBERT BURNET PLAYED A GAME AND WAS CHECKMATED


That night I was too wearied and sore in body to sleep.  My mind also
was troubled, for I had made an enemy of my cousin, who, as I knew, was
not of a nature to forgive readily.  His words about Marjory had put me
into a ferment of anxiety.  Here was my love, bound to me by no promise,
at the mercy of all the gallants of the countryside.  Who was I, to call
myself her lover, when, as yet, no word of love had passed between us?
Yet, in my inmost heart, I knew that I might get the promise any day I
chose. Then thoughts of my cousin came to trouble me.  I feared him no
more than a fly in matters betwixt man and man; but might he not take it
into his head to make love to the mistress of Dawyck? and all maids
dearly love a dashing cavalier.  At length, after much stormy
indecision, I made up my mind.  I would ride to Dawyck next morn and get
my lady’s word, and so forestall Gilbert, or any other.

I woke about six o’clock; and, looking out from the narrow window, for
Barns had been built three hundred years before, I saw that the sky was
cloudless and blue, and the morning as clear as could be seen in spring.
I hastily dressed, and, getting some slight breakfast from Jean Morran,
saddled Maisie, who was now as active as ever, and rode out among the
trees.  I feared to come to Dawyck too early, so I forded Tweed below
the island, and took the road up the further bank by Lyne and Stobo.
All the world was bright; an early lark sang high in the heaven; merles
and thrushes were making fine music among the low trees by the river.
The haze was lifting off the great Manor Water hills; the Red Syke, the
scene of the last night’s escapade, looked very distant in the morning
light; and far beyond all Dollar Law and the high hills about Manorhead
were flushed with sunlight on their broad foreheads.  A great gladness
rose in me when I looked at the hills, for they were the hills of my own
country; I knew every glen and corrie, every water and little burn.
Before me the Lyne Water hills were green as grass with no patch of
heather, and to the left, the mighty form of Scrape, half-clothed in
forest, lay quiet and sunlit.  I know of no fairer sight on earth; and
this I say, after having travelled in other countries, and seen
something of their wonders; for, to my mind, there is a grace, a wild
loveliness in Tweedside, like a flower-garden on the edge of a moorland,
which is wholly its own.

I crossed Lyne Water by the new bridge, just finished in the year
before, and entered the wood of Dawyck.  For this great forest stretches
on both sides of Tweed, though it is greater on the side on which stands
the house.  In the place where I rode it was thinner, and the trees
smaller, and, indeed, around the little village of Stobo, there lies an
open part of some fields’ width.  At the little inn there, I had a
morning’s draught of ale, for I was somewhat cold with riding in the
spring air.  Then I forded Tweed at a place called the Cow Ford, and,
riding through a wide avenue of lime-trees, came in sight of the grey
towers of Dawyck.

I kept well round to the back, for I did not care that the serving-folk
should see me and spread tales over all the countryside.  I knew that
Marjory’s window looked sharp down on a patch of green lawn, bordered by
lime-trees, so I rode into the shadow and dismounted.  I whistled thrice
in a way which I had, and which Marjory had learned to know long before,
when we were children, and I used to come and beguile her out for long
trampings among the hills. To-day it had no effect, for the singing of
birds drowned my notes, so I had nothing left but to throw bits of bark
against her window.  This rude expedient met with more success than it
deserved, for in a minute I saw her face behind the glass.  She smiled
gladly when she saw me, and disappeared, only to appear again in the
little door beside the lilacs.  She had no hat, so her bright hair hung
loose over her neck and was blown about by the morning winds. Her cheeks
were pink and white, like apple-blossom, and her lithe form was clad in
a dress of blue velvet, plainly adorned as for a country maiden.  A
spray of lilac was in her breast, and she carried a bunch of
sweet-smelling stuff in her hands.

She came gladly towards me, her eyes dancing with pleasure.  "How soon
you have returned!  And how brave you look," said she, with many more
pretty and undeserved compliments.

"Ay, Marjory," I answered, "I have come back to Tweeddale, for I have
had enough of Glasgow College and books, and I was wearying for the
hills and Tweed and a sight of your face.  There are no maidens who come
near to you with all their finery. You are as fair as the spring lilies
in the garden at Barns."

"Oh, John," she laughed, "where did you learn to pay fine compliments?
You will soon be as expert at the trade as any of them.  I met a man
yesterday in the woods who spoke like you, though with a more practised
air; but I bade him keep his fine words for his fine ladies, for they
suited ill with the hills and a plain country maid."

At this, I must suppose that my brows grew dark, for she went on
laughingly.

"Nay, you are not jealous?  It ill becomes a scholar and a philosopher
as you are, Master John, to think so much of an idle word.  Confess,
sir, that you are jealous.  Why, you are as bad as a lady in a play."

I could not make out her mood, which was a new one to me—a mocking
pleasant raillery, which I took for the rightful punishment of my past
follies.

"I am not jealous," I said, "for jealousy is a feeling which needs an
object ere it can exist.  No man may be jealous, unless he has something
to be jealous about."

"John, John," she cried, and shook her head prettily, "you are
incorrigible.  I had thought you had learned manners in the town, and
behold, you are worse than when you went away.  You come here, and your
first word to me is that I am nothing."

"God knows," I said, "I would fain be jealous, and yet—"  I became
awkward and nervous, for I felt that my mission was not prospering, and
that I was becoming entangled in a maze of meaningless speech.  The
shortest and plainest way is still the best in love as in all things.

But I was not to be let off, and she finished my sentence for me.  "If
only you could find a worthy object for your feeling, you mean," she
said. "Very well, sir, since I am so little valued in your eyes, we will
speak no more on the matter."

"Marjory," I said, coming to the matter at once, "you and I have been
old comrades.  We have fished and walked together, we have climbed the
hills and ridden in the meadows.  I have done your bidding for many
years."

"True, John," she said with an accent of grudging reminiscence, "you
have dragged me into many a pretty pickle.  I have torn my dress on
rough rocks and soaked my shoes in bogs, all in your company.  Surely we
have had a brave time together."

"You met a man in the wood yesterday who would fain have made love to
you.  That man was my cousin Gilbert."

"Oh," she replied in a tone of mock solemnity and amused wonder, for I
had blurted out my last words like the last dying confession of some
prisoner. "Verily you are honoured in your cousinship, John."

"It is against him and such as him that I would protect you," I said.

"Nay," she cried, with an affected remonstrance. "I will have no
fighting between cousins on my account.  I will even defend myself, as
Alison did when the miller made love to her."

"O Marjory," I burst out, "will you not give me this right to defend
you?  We have been old companions, but it was only yesterday that I knew
how dearly I loved you.  I have had more cares since yester-night than
ever in my life.  We have been comrades in childhood; let us be comrades
on the rough paths of the world."

I spoke earnestly, and her face, which had been filled with mockery,
changed gently to something akin to tenderness.

"How little you know of women!" she cried. "I have loved you for years,
thinking of you at all times, and now you come to-day, speaking as if
you had scarce seen me before.  Surely I will bear you company in life,
as I have been your comrade at its beginning."

What followed I need scarce tell, since it is but part of the old comedy
of life, which our grandfathers and grandmothers played before us, and
mayhap our grand-children will be playing even now when our back is
turned.  Under the spring sky among the lilies we plighted our troth for
the years, and I entered from careless youth into the dim and resolute
region of manhood.

With a great joy in my heart I rode home.  I took the high way over the
shoulder of Scrape, for I knew that few folk ever went that road, and I
wished to be alone.  The birds were singing, the fresh clean air was
blowing on my face, and the primroses and wind-flowers made a gay carpet
under my horse’s feet.  All the earth seemed to partake in my gladness.
It was a good world, I thought, full of true hearts, fair faces, and
much good; and though I have seen much wickedness and sorrow in my day,
I am still of the same way of thinking.  It is a brave world; a royal
world for brave-hearted men.

When I came to Barns I found that my cousin had gone out an hour since
and left my father greatly wondering at my absence.  He sat in the chair
by the fireplace, looking more withered and old than I had ever seen
him.  My heart smote me for not staying at his side, and so I sat down
by him and told him many things of my doings in Glasgow, and how I
desired above all things to see the world, having had my fill of books
and colleges.  Then I told him what he had long guessed, of my love for
Marjory Veitch and the promise which she had given me.  He heard me in
silence, but when he spoke, his words were cheerful, for he had long
liked the lass.  He made no refusal, too, to the rest of my plans.  "You
shall go and see the world, John," he said, "and take my blessing with
you.  It ill becomes a young mettlesome lad in these stirring times to
lounge at home, when he might be wearing a steel breastplate in the
King’s Guards, or trying the manners of twenty nations.  Though I could
wish you to bide at home, for I am an old broken man with few pleasures,
and I love the sight of your face."

"Nay, I will never leave you," I said, "an you wish it.  I am young yet
and a boy’s road is a long road.  Time enough for all."

After this I went out to see if the Weasel had come to any mishap in the
last night’s ride.  I found him as stout as ever, so I saddled him and
rode away by the green haughlands up the valley of the Manor, for I
longed for motion and air to relieve my spirit: and coming home in the
afternoon, I found my cousin returned and sitting with my father in the
dining-hall.

He glanced sharply at me when I entered, and I saw by his looks that he
was in no good temper.  His heavy face was flushed and his shaggy
eyebrows were lowered more than their wont.

"Where have you been, Gilbert?" I asked.  "I found you gone when I came
back in the morning."

"I took my horse down to Peebles to the farrier. Its knees were sorely
hurt last night on your infernal hills."

Now I knew that this was a lie, for I had looked at his horse before I
went out in the morning, and its wounds were so slight that it would
have been mere folly to take him to a farrier; and Gilbert, I well knew,
was not the man to be in error where horses were concerned.  So I judged
that he had ridden in the contrary direction, and gone to Dawyck, and,
as I inferred from his sour looks, met with no good reception there.  I
could afford to be generous; I felt a sort of half-pity for his
discomfiture, and forbore to ask him any further questions.

We sat down to supper, he and I and my father, in a sober frame of mind.
I was full of my own thoughts, which were of the pleasantest; my cousin
was plainly angry with something or other; and my father, in his
weakness dimly perceiving that all was not right, set himself to mend
matters by engaging him in talk.

"You’re a good shot with the musket, they tell me, Gibbie," he said,
using the old name which he had called him by when he first came to
Barns as a boy, "and I was thinking that it would be a rare ploy for you
and John to go down the water to Traquair, where Captain Keith’s horse
are lying. He is an old friend of mine, and would be blithe to see any
of my kin.  They tell me he has great trials of skill in all exercises,
and that he has gathered half the gentry in the place about him."

"John," said my cousin in a scornful voice, "John is too busily employed
at Dawyck to care much for anything else.  A flighty maid is a sore
burden on any man."

"I would have you learn, Master Gilbert," I said angrily, "to speak in a
better way of myself and my friends.  You may be a very great gentleman
elsewhere, but you seem to leave your gentility behind when you come
here."

Now my cousin and I were of such opposite natures that I took most
things seriously, while he found matter for a jest in all—yet not in
full good-nature, but with a touch of acrid satire.

"Even a barn-door cock will defend his own roost. How one sees the truth
of proverbs!"

And then he added that which I will not set down, but which brought my
father and myself to our feet with flashing eyes and quivering lips.  I
would have spoken, but my father motioned me to be silent.

"Gilbert," he said, his voice shaking with age and anger, "you will
leave this house the morn.  I will have no scoundrelly fellow of your
kidney here.  You are no true nephew of mine, and God pity the father
that begat you."

My cousin smiled disdainfully and rose from his chair.  "Surely I will
go and at once when my hospitable uncle bids me.  The entertainment in
this damned hole is not so good as to keep me long.  As for you, Cousin
John," and he eyed me malignantly, "you and I will meet some day, where
there are no dotards and wenches to come between us.  Then I promise you
some sport.  Till then, farewell.  I will down to Peebles to-night and
trouble you no more."  With a wave of his hand he was gone, and five
minutes later we heard his horse’s hooves clatter over the stones of the
yard.

When he was gone his conduct came back to my father with a rush, and he
fell to upbraiding himself for his breach of hospitality and family
honour.  He would have me call Gilbert back, and when I showed him how
futile it was, fell into low spirits and repented in great bitterness.


Now the worst of this day’s business remains to be told.  For when I
looked at my father some time after I found him sunk in his chair with
his face as pale as death.  With the help of Jean Morran and Tam Todd I
got him to bed, from which he never rose, but passed peacefully away in
the fear of God two days later.  The heat into which he had been thrown
was the direct cause, and though I could not very well lay the thing to
my cousin’s charge when the man was already so far down the vale of
years, yet in my heart I set it against him.  Indeed from this day I
date my antagonism to the man, which before had been a mere boyish
rivalry.

I stayed with my father to the end.  Just before he died he bade me come
near and gave me his blessing, bidding me be a better gentleman than he
had been. We did not bury him in the Kirk of Lyne, for he had always
said he never could abide to lie within walls. but on a green flat above
Tweed, where the echo of the river and the crying of moorbirds are never
absent from his grave.



                              CHAPTER VII

  THE PEGASUS INN AT PEEBLES AND HOW A STRANGER RETURNED FROM THE WARS


Of my doings for some months after my father’s death I must tell
hastily.  I fell heir to the lands of Barns, and being of age entered at
once into my possession.  The place remained the same as in my father’s
time, the same servants and the same ways about the house.  I lived
simply as I had always lived, spending my days in seeing to the land, in
field sports, and some little study, for I had not altogether forsaken
the Muses.  But all the time I felt as one who is kept at home against
his will, being conscious of a restlessness and an inclination to travel
which was new to me, but which I doubt not is common to all young men at
this time of life.  I talked much with Tam Todd of the lands which he
had visited, and heard of the Dutch towns with their strange shipping,
their canals and orderly houses, and of the rough Norlanders, clad in
the skins of wild animals, who came down to the Swedish markets to
trade; of the soldiery of Germany and France and the Scots who had gone
over there to push their fortunes with their swords; and what I loved
best, of the salt sea with its boundless waste of waters and wild tales
of shipwreck.  Formerly I had been wont often to bid Tam sharply to hold
his peace when he entered on one of his interminable narrations; but now
I sat and drank in every word like a thirsty man.  It was the
winter-time, when the roads were often snowed up and all the folk of the
place gathered in the great kitchen at nights round the fire; so it was
the time for stories and we had our fill of them.

One blustering day, the first Monday, I think, after the New Year, when
the ice was beginning to melt from the burns and a wet, cold wind from
the north-west was blowing, I rode down to Peebles to settle some
matters about money with Saunders Blackett, who had managed my father’s
affairs and was now intrusted with mine.  All things were done to my
satisfaction; so bethinking myself that the way to Barns was cold and
long and that it was yet early in the afternoon, being scarce four
o’clock, I found myself thinking pleasantly of the warm inn-parlour of
the _Pegasus_, so thither I went.

The _Pegasus_ or "Peg" Inn stands at the corner of the Northgate and the
High Street, a black-gabled building, once the town-house of the Govans
of Cardrona, and still retaining marks of its gentility in the arms
carved above the door.  A great sign flapped in the wind, bearing on a
white ground a gorgeous representation of a winged horse soaring through
clouds. The landlord at this time was one Horsbrock, a portly,
well-looking man, who claimed to be kin to the Horsbrocks of that ilk
and held his chin two inches higher in consequence.  The place was famed
in all the country round for good wine and comfort.

I stabled my horse and, bidding the host bring me a bottle of Rhenish
(so fine a thing it is to have succeeded to lands and money), I went
into the low-ceilinged room where the company sat.  It was panelled in a
darkish wood, and hung round with old weapons, halberds and falchions
and what not, which glimmered brightly in the firelight.  A narrow
window gave it light, but now it sufficed only to show the grey winter
dusk coming swiftly on.  Around the fire sat some few of the men of
Peebles, warming themselves and discussing the landlord’s ale and the
characters of their neighbours.

They rose to give me welcome when I entered, for my name and family were
well known in the countryside.

"It’s awfu’ weather for man and beast, Laird," said an old man with a
bent back, but still hale and hearty in the face.  "A snawy winter I can
abide, and a wet yin, but drizzlin’, dreepin’, seepin’ weather wi’ a
wind that taks the heart out o’ ye is mair than my patience can stand."

"You have little need to speak, you folk," I said, "living in a
well-paved town with stones beneath your feet and nothing more to do
than go round a street corner all day.  Up at Barns, with Tweed swirling
in at the yard gate, and the stables flowing like a linn, and the wind
playing cantrips day and night in and out of the windows, you might
talk."

"Ay, but, good sir," put in a thin voice which came from a little man I
had seen at the bowling-green, "ye may thank the Lord for a roof abune
your heids and dry claes to put on, when sae many godly folks are hiding
like pelicans in the wilderness among the high hills and deep mosses.  I
bless the Lord that my faither, that sant o’ the Kirk, is not living in
thae evil times.  He was a man o’ a truly great spirit, and had he been
alive, I’se warrant he wad hae been awa to join them.  He was aye strong
on his conscience.  ’John Look-up’ so the godless called him. ’John
Look-up,’ said my mother, ’ye’ll never be pleased till we’re a’ joltin’
in a cairt to the Grassmarket o’ Edinburgh.  And a braw sicht ye’ll be,
hanging there like a hoodie-craw wi’ a’ your bairns aside ye.’  Ay,
these were often her words, for she had a sarcastic tongue."

"Jock Look-up, my man," said another, "I kenned your faither a’ his
days, and he was na the man to hang.  He lookit up and he lookit a’
ways.  He was yin whae could baith watch and pray.  Gin ye were mair
like him, ye wad be a mair thrivin’ man."

"Aboot the hill-folk," said the old man who had first spoken, drinking
his ale and turning up the measure to see that no more was left, "did ye
ever hear o’ my son Francie and what happened to him when he gaed awa to
Moffat wi’ ’oo’?  He gaed ower by Traquair and keepit the road till he
got to Moffat, for he had a horse that wasna ower sure o’ its feet on
the hills. But when he had it a’ sellt, whae does he meet in wi’ but
Wull Hislop the travelling packman, whae’s sair needing a beast.  So
Francie sells him his horse and comes aff hame walking ower the muirs.
He gaed up Moffat Water and ower the muckle hill they ca’
Corriefragauns, and got on nane sae bad till he cam to the awfu’ craigs
abune Loch Skene.  He was walking briskly, thinking o’ hame and the
siller in his pouch and how he wad win to Peebles that nicht, when he
saw afore him the awfu’est sicht that ever he had seen.  It was a man o’
maybe the same heicht as himsel, wi’ a heid of red hair, and nae claes
to speak o’, but just a kind o’ clout about his middle.  He began to
speak in an outlandish voice and Francie kenned at yince that he maun be
yin o’ thae Hieland deevils brocht doun to hunt up the Whigs.  He was
for Francie’s money, and he oot wi’ a big knife and flashed it up and
doun.  But this was no to Francie’s liking.  ’Put that doun, ye
ill-looking deevil,’ says he, ’ye’ll find I’m nane o’ your hill-folk,
but an honest man frae Peebles wi’ a nieve as hard as your heid’s saft,
and if ye dinna let me by, I’ll put ye in the loch as sure as my name’s
Francie Trummle.’  The body understood him brawly, and wi’ a grunt slunk
aff among the heather, and Francie had nae mair bother wi’ him.  But O!
it’s an awfu’ thing to think o’ men o’ your ain blood hunted and killed
wi’ thae foreign craturs. It maks me half-mindit to turn Whig mysel."

"Dinna fash yoursel, Maister Trummle," said a younger man, a farmer by
his looks, "ye’re better bidin’ in peace and quiet at hame.  The Lord
never meant folk to gang among hills and peat-bogs, unless after sheep.
It’s clean against the order o’ things. But there’s yae thing that
reconciles me to this Whig-hunting.  They’re maistly wast-country folk,
and wast-country folk are an ill lot, aye shoving their nebs where
they’re no want it.  There’s no mony Whigs in Tweeddale.  Na, na,
they’re ower canny."

Master Turnbull made as if he would have answered, when a clatter of
feet was heard in the passage, and the door opened.  Two men entered,
one a great swarthy fellow well known for his poaching escapades when
the salmon came up the water, and the other, Peter Crustcrackit the
tailor.  They did not enter in company, for Peter swaggered in with as
gallant an air as two bent legs and a small body could permit, while the
other slunk in with a half-apologetic look, glancing keenly round to see
who were the other occupants of the room.

"The ’Peg’ is honoured with your company tonight, I see," said Peter,
making a bow to me. "’Tis the finest gathering that I remember: the
Laird o’ Barns, worthy Maister Trumbull, myself, and my honoured freend,
Maister Simon Doolittle."

The black fisher lifted his face from the ale which the landlord had
brought.  "Your guid health, gentlemen.  I’m prood o’ your company,
though I’m no just fit for’t, since I’m no half an ’oor oot o’ the
Dookit Pool."

All eyes were turned to the speaker, and we saw that his clothes hung
limp and wet.

"And pray, how did you get there, Maister Doolittle? Was’t by the
working o’ Providence, or the wiles o’ sinfu’ man?"

"A mixture o’ baith.  I took a bit daunder up Tweed to the Castle Rock
to see how the water was rinnin’.  It’s been raither grimily for fishin’
o’ late. Ye a’ ken the rocks that they’re no exactly the sort o’ place
that a man wad choose for dancin’ a reel in tackety boots.  Weel, I was
admiring the works o’ God as manifested in a big, deep, swirlin’ hole,
when afore ever I kenned I was admirin’ the hole frae the middle o’t.  I
was gey near chokit wi’ Tweed water, but I wabbled a bit, and syne
grippit a birk and held on."

There was a pause and he took a draught of ale.

"Weel, I roared as loud as I could, and the auld runt whae bides i’ the
Castle heard me.  He cam doun and askit me what was wrang.  ’Wrang,’
says I.  ’If ye dinna ca’ ten feet o’ water and you no able to soom,
wrang, I just wis ye were here yoursel.’  So he gangs cannily back and
brings anither man to look at me; and the twae thocht for a while, and
then each grippit an airm and after a gey wammlin’ I got oot. I was
angry at their delay, for I couldna hae held on muckle langer, so I
kickit them baith an’ cam aff here. I’ve muckle need o’ yill, fur I feel
as if I had eaten ten pund o’ snaw."

"Come nearer the fire, Simon," said one.  "Ye’re a muckle tried man."

"I’m a’ that," said the brown-faced poacher, and relapsed into silence.

The lights were now lit in the streets of Peebles, as we could see by
the glimmer through the windows; but in our room no lamp was needed, for
the bright firelight was sufficient for a man to read a little book by.
The great shadows danced on the wall, bent and crooked into a thousand
phantasies; and the men by the fire nodded and spoke little.  Then the
old man Turnbull began an argument with the tailor about some clothes in
which he said he had been cheated; and Peter Crustcrackit, never a
quiet-tempered man, was rejoining with vigour.  I heard only fragments
of their talk, being taken up in dreaming of my future course, and when
I should go to see the world.

The mild-mannered man, him they called John Look-up, was sleeping in his
chair, and his jug of ale which he had emptied hung limply in his hand.
In a little it fell to the floor and rolled beneath his chair; but the
sleeper never stirred.  The poacher sat shrouded in vapour, which the
heat of the fire had brought out of his wet garments, and a mingled
smell of damp cloth and burning wood filled the room. The discordant
voices of the tailor and his antagonist rose and fell, now sinking to a
mumbled whisper, and now rising to sharp recrimination.  By and by they
came to an end of their dispute, and silence reigned undisturbed; and I
verily believe that in five minutes we should all have been sound
asleep, had not something occurred to rouse us.

This was no less than the entrance of another guest.  The door was flung
open and a man entered, swaggering with a great air and bearing into the
slumbrous place a breath of the outer world.  He was the finest man I
had ever seen, two inches and more taller than myself, who am not short,
and clean made as a greyhound.  His face was tanned a deep brown, and
bare save for a yellow moustachio on his upper lip.  His hair hung long
and fine over his shoulders, setting off the erect poise of his head.
He had removed his cloak and hat, and showed a dress of the height of
fashion; his cravat was of delicate foreign lace and the sash around his
middle of the finest silk.  But what I marked especially were his
features, the thin, straight nose, the well-bred chin, and the clear
eyes; but for a certain weakness in the jaw I should have called it the
handsomest face I had ever seen.  More, it was a face that wis familiar
to me. I had seen the like of it before; but where I could not tell, and
I cudgelled my brains to think of it.

"Ah, my faith," said the stranger, speaking with a foreign accent, "what
have we here?  A room-full of sleepy citizens.  Or drunk, egad, drunk, I
believe."

And he walked over to where Peter Crustcrackit sat nodding, and stared
in his face.  Now the noise wakened the rest; and Peter also, who
sitting up with a stupid air thought that he was still in the shop, and
cried hurriedly, "What d’ye lack, sir?  Silks or satins or plain
kersey," and ran into a recital of his wares.

The newcomer looked at him with an amused smile.  "It is not difficult
to tell your profession, my friend.  The ninth of a man."

Then he surveyed the rest of us in turn with his restless eyes, until
his look fell upon me.  He must have marked something about my
appearance distinct from the others, for he bowed and addressed me
politely.

"You are not one of these fellows, I think.  May I ask the favour of
your name?  I have been long absent from this country and have forgot
faces."

"You are welcome to it," said I.  "They call me John Burnet—of Barns," I
added, for the first time using my new-found title.

He crossed to my side in an instant and held out his hand.  "Your hand,
Master Burnet.  You and I should be well known to each other, for we
shall be near neighbours.  You may have heard of Michael Veitch of
Dawyck, him that was soldiering abroad. I am that same, returned like
the prodigal from far countries."

Now I knew where I had seen the face before.  It was but a coarse and
manly counterpart of Marjory’s, though I fancied that hers was still the
braver and stronger, if all were told.

"I have often heard of you," I said, "and I am glad to be the first to
bid you welcome to your own countryside.  These are some men of the
town, honest fellows, who come here for their evening ale."

"Your health, gentlemen," he cried, bowing to the company.  "Landlord,
bring ale and a bottle of your best Burgundy till I pledge these honest
fellows."

"Eh, sirs," I heard Peter Crustcrackit mutter under his breath, "sic an
invasion o’ gentles.  The Northgate o’ Peebles micht be the High Street
o’ Embro’, for a’ the braw folk that are coming tae’t. I maun think
aboot shifting my shop."

It would be well on for eight o’clock ere Master Veitch and I left the
_Pegasus_ to ride homeward.  The night was quieter and milder, and
overhead a patch of clear sky showed the stars.  He had with him two
serving-men who carried his belongings, but they rode some little
distance behind.  He was full of questions about Dawyck and his kinsfolk
there and the countryside around; so I must needs tell him something of
what had passed between Marjory and myself.  He seemed not ill-pleased.
"What," he cried, "little Marjory, who was scarce higher than my knee
when I left!  To think that she should have grown into a woman already!
And you say she is pretty?"

Which question gave me much opportunity for such talk as one must use
when he feels the littleness of words.

Then he must ask me about myself, of my father, of whose death he was
ignorant, and what I purposed to do.  "For I doubt," said he, "that you
will have but a dull time of it at Barns in that great desolate house.
It little befits an active man to pine at home like a mouse in a cell."

So from one thing to another, he had me to tell him of all my desires,
of how I longed above all things to travel and see the world; and he
spoke to me in such a fashion that ere we had come to the ford of Tweed
my intention was fixed to ride out like the Spanish Don to see what
might befall me.



                              CHAPTER VIII

                       I TAKE LEAVE OF MY FRIENDS


The next month was, I think, the busiest in my life.  For from the
evening of my meeting with Michael Veitch my mind was firmly made up to
go to travel abroad, and with this determination came all the countless
troubles which a man must meet before he can leave his home.  I was busy
night and day, now down at Peebles, now riding up Manor and all over the
Barns lands, seeing that all things were in right order ere my
departure.  I got together all the money I desired, and with drafts on
the Dutch bankers, which the lawyer folk in Edinburgh got for me, I was
in no danger of falling into poverty abroad.

On Tam Todd I laid the management of all things in my absence; and Tam,
much impressed by his responsibility, though it was a task which he had
really undertaken long before in the later years of my father’s life,
went about his work with a serious, preoccupied air, as of Atlas with
the world on his shoulders.  I had much ado in getting ready my baggage
for the journey, for I wished to take little, being confident that I
could buy all things needful abroad.  Jean Morran, on the other hand,
would have had me take half the plenishing of the house of Barns, from
linen sheets to fresh-kirned butter, for I could not persuade her to
think otherwise than that I was going into a desolate land among heathen
savages.

Then I had to visit many folk up and down Tweed to take farewell; and I
had so many letters given me to men of standing abroad, that, if I had
delivered them all, I should have had to spend more time than I cared.
One I valued more than any other—a letter written by Master Gilbert
Burnet, of London, to a professor in the university of Leyden—which I
hoped would bring me into the company of scholars. For I had changed my
original intention of going to the wars, first, because I found on
examination that, in my inmost heart, I had that hankering after
learning which would never be sated save by a life with some facilities
for study; second, because, now that I was the sole member of the house,
it behooved me to bide on the land and see to it, and any such thing as
soldiering would keep me away for too great a time. I sent, too, to the
College Library at Glasgow, for all the books on the Low Countries to be
had, and spent much profitable time reading of the history of the place,
and how the land lay.

During these days I was much in the company of the new master of Dawyck,
and a most delectable comrade I found him.  He had a vast stock of tales
and jests, collected in his travels, with which he would amuse his
friends; he was something of a scholar, and could talk learnedly when he
chose; and he was expert at all outdoor sports, pressing me hard at the
sword-play, in which I prided myself on my skill. He was of a free,
generous nature, and singularly courteous to all, high and low, rich and
poor alike. Yet, with all these excellencies, there was much that I
liked ill about him, for he was over-fond of resorting to the taverns at
Peebles, where he would muddle his wits in the company of his inferiors.
His life at Dawyck was none of the most regular, though, indeed, I have
little cause to blame him, being none so good myself; though the vice of
over-indulging in wine was one that Providence always mercifully kept me
from.

He came perhaps every third day to Barns to ride with me in the haugh,
and he would abide to supper-time, or even over night, making me fear
for Marjory’s peace of mind.  To his sister he was most dutiful and
kind, and I was glad to think that now the days might be more pleasant
for her with her brother in the house.  And it pleased me to think that
when I went abroad, my lady would be left in no bad keeping.

The days, the short January days, passed quickly over my head, and,
almost ere I knew, the time had come for my departure.  And now, when
the hour came so nigh, I felt some pain at the thought of leaving home
and my beloved countryside for unknown places; though, to tell the
truth, such thoughts were not ill to dispel by the contemplation of the
pleasures in prospect.  Yet it was with mingled feelings that I rode
over to Dawyck on a sharp Monday afternoon to bid Marjory farewell.

I found her in the low, dim room, looking to the west, where she was
wont to sit in winter.  A great fire crackled cheerily on the hearth,
and many little devices about the place showed a woman’s hand. Holly,
with scarlet berries, put colour into the sombre walls, and Marjory
herself, brighter than any flower, made the firelight dull in the
contrast; so fair she looked, as she greeted me, with her bright hair
and unfathomable eyes.

"I have come to see you for the last time, Marjory," I said; "to-morrow
I set out on my travels."

"I am vexed that you are going away," and she looked at me sadly; "it
will be lonely in Tweeddale without you."

"My dear lass, I will not be long.  Two years at the longest, and then I
will be home to you, and travel no more.  What say you, Marjory?"

"Your will be done, John.  Yet I would I could have gone with you."

"I would you could, my dear," I said.  "But that might scarce be.  You
would not like, I think, to sail on rough seas, or bide among towns and
colleges.  You love the woods too well."

"Wherever you were," said she, with her eyes drooped, "I would be
content to be."

"But Marjory, lass," I spoke up cheerfully, for I feared to make her
sad, "you would not like me to stay at home, when the world is so wide,
and so many brave things to be seen."

"No, no.  I have no love for folks who bide in the house like children.
I would have you go and do gallantly, and come home full of fine tales.
But where do you mean to go, and how will you pass your time?"

"Oh," said I, "I go first to Rotterdam, where I may reside for a while.
Then I purpose to visit the college at Leyden, to study; for I would
fain spend some portion of my time profitably.  After that I know not
what I will do, but be sure that I will be home within the two years.
For, though I am blithe to set out, I doubt not that I will be blither
to come back again."

"I trust you may not learn in those far-away places to look down on
Tweeddale and the simple folks here. I doubt you may, John; for you are
not a steadfast man," and, at this, she laughed and I blushed, for I
thought of my conduct at Glasgow.

"Nay, nay," I answered; "I love you all too well for that.  Though the
Emperor of Cathay were to offer me all his treasure to bide away, I
would come back.  I would rather be a shepherd in Tweeddale than a noble
in Spain."

"Brave words, John," she cried, "brave words! See you hold to them."

Then after that we fell to discussing Michael, and his ways of amusing
himself; and I bade Marjory tell her brother to look in now and then at
Barns to see how Tam Todd fared.  Also I bade her tell him that it was
my wish that he should hunt and fish over my lands as much as he
pleased.  "And see you keep him in order," I added, laughing, "lest he
slip off to the wars again."

"Oh, John," she said, with a frightened look, "do not speak so.  That is
what I fear above all things, for he is restless, even here, and must
ever be wandering from one place to another."

"Tut, my dear," I said; "Michael, be sure, is too honest a man to leave
you again, when I am off, once I have left you in his care.  Have no
fear for him.  But we are getting as dull as owls, and it is many days
since I heard your voice.  I pray you sing me a song, as you used to do
in the old days. ’Twill be long ere I hear another."

She rose and went without a word to her harpsichord and struck a few
notes.  Now Marjory had a most wonderful voice, more like a linnet’s
than aught else, and she sang the old ballads very sweetly.  But to-day
she took none of them, but a brisk martial song, which pleased me
marvellously well.  I will set down the words as she sang them, for I
have hummed them many a time to myself:

    "Oh, if my love were sailor-bred
      And fared afar from home,
    In perilous lands, by shoal and sands,
      If he were sworn to roam,
    Then, O, I’d hie me to a ship,
      And sail upon the sea,
    And keep his side in wind and tide
      To bear him company.

    "And if he were a soldier gay,
      And tarried from the town,
    And sought in wars, through death and scars,
      To win for him renown,
    I’d place his colours in my breast,
      And ride by moor and lea,
    And win his side, there to abide,
      And bear him company.

    "For sooth a maid, all unafraid,
      Should by her lover be,
    With wile and art to cheer his heart,
      And bear him company."


"A fine promise, Marjory," I cried, "and some day I may claim its
fulfilment.  But who taught you the song?"

"Who but the Travelling Packman, or, maybe, the Wandering Jew?" she
said, laughingly; and I knew this was the way of answer she used when
she would not tell me anything.  So, to this day, I know not whence she
got the catch.

Then we parted, not without tears on her part, and blank misgivings on
my own.  For the vexed question came to disturb me, whether it was not
mere self-gratification on my part thus to travel, and whether my more
honourable place was not at home.  But I banished the thoughts, for I
knew how futile they were, and comforted my brave lass as best I could.

"Fare thee well, my love," I cried, as I mounted my horse, "and God
defend you till I come again"; and, whenever I looked back, till I had
passed the great avenue, I saw the glimmer of Marjory’s dress, and felt
pricked in the conscience for leaving her.



                               CHAPTER IX

             I RIDE OUT ON MY TRAVELS AND FIND A COMPANION


It was on a fine sharp morning, early in February, that I finally bade
good-bye to the folk at Barns and forded Tweed and rode out into the
world.  There was a snell feel in the air which fired my blood, and made
me fit for anything which Providence might send.  I was to ride Maisie
as far as Leith, where I was to leave her with a man at the
Harbour-Walk, who would send her back to Tweeddale; for I knew it would
be a hard thing to get passage for a horse in the small ships which
sailed between our land and the Low Countries at that time of year.

At the Lyne Water ford, Michael Veitch was waiting for me.  He waved his
hat cheerfully, and cried, "Good luck to you, John, and see that you
bide not too long away."  I told him of a few things which I wished him
to see to, and then left him, riding up the little burn which comes down
between the Meldon hills, and whither lies the road to Eddleston Water.
When I was out of sight of him, I seemed to have left all my home behind
me, and I grew almost sorrowful.  At the top of the ridge I halted and
looked back.  There was Barns among its bare trees and frosted meadows,
with Tweed winding past, and beyond, a silvery glint of the Manor coming
down from its blue, cold hills.  There was Scrape, with its long slopes
clad in firs, and the grey house of Dawyck nestling at its foot.  I saw
the thin smoke curling up from the little village of Lyne, and Lyne Kirk
standing on its whin-covered brae, and the bonny holms of Lyne Water,
where I had often taken great baskets of trout.  I must have stayed
there, gazing, for half an hour; and, whenever I looked on the brown
moors and woods, where I had wandered from boyhood, I felt sorrowful,
whether I would or no.

"But away with such thoughts," I said, steeling my heart.  "There’s many
a fine thing awaiting me, and, after all, I will be back in a year or
two to the place and the folk that I love."  So I went down to the
village of Eddleston whistling the "Cavalier’s Rant," and firmly
shutting my mind against thoughts of home.  I scarce delayed in
Eddleston, but pushed on up the valley, expecting to get dinner at the
inn at Leadburn, which stands at the watershed, just where the county of
Edinburgh touches our shire of Tweeddale.  The way, which is a paradise
in summer, was rugged and cold at this season.  The banks of the stream
were crusted with ice, and every now and then, as I passed, I raised a
string of wild duck, who fled noisily to the high wildernesses.

I came to Leadburn about eleven o’clock in the forenoon, somewhat cold
in body, but brisk and comforted in spirit.  I had Maisie stabled, and
myself went into the hostel and bade them get ready dinner.  The inn is
the most villainous, bleak place that I have ever seen, and I who write
this have seen many.  The rooms are damp and mouldy, and the
chimney-stacks threaten hourly to come down about the heads of the
inmates.  It stands in the middle of a black peat-bog, which stretches
nigh to the Pentland Hills; and if there be a more forsaken countryside
on earth, I do not know it.  The landlord, nevertheless, was an active,
civil man, not spoiled by his surroundings; and he fetched me an
excellent dinner—a brace of wild-fowl and a piece of salted beef, washed
down with very tolerable wine.

I had just finished, and was resting a little before ordering my horse,
when the most discordant noise arose in the inn-yard; and, going to the
window, I beheld two great, strong serving-men pulling a collie by a
rope tied around the animal’s neck.  It was a fine, shaggy
black-and-white dog, and I know not what it could have done to merit
such treatment.  But its captors had not an easy task, for it struggled
and thrawed at the rope, and snarled savagely, and every now and then
made desperate sallies upon the hinder-parts of its leaders.  They
cursed it, not unnaturally, for an ill-conditioned whelp, and some of
the idlers, who are usually found about an inn, flung stones or beat it
with sticks from behind.  Now I hate, above all things, to see a beast
suffer, no matter how it may have deserved it; so I had it in my mind to
go down and put a stop to the cruelty, when some one else came before
me.

This was a very long, thin man, with a shock of black hair, and a
sunburnt face, attired in a disorder of different clothes—a fine, though
tarnished coat, stout, serviceable small-clothes, and the coarsest of
shoes and stockings.  He darted forward like a hawk from a corner of the
yard, and, ere I could guess his intentions, had caught the rope and let
the dog go free.  The beast ran howling to seek shelter, and its
preserver stood up to face the disappointed rascals. They glared at him
fiercely, and were on the point of rushing on him, had not something in
his demeanour deterred them.

"Oh," said he, in a scornful voice, "ye’re fine folk, you Leidburn folk.
Braw and kindly folk. Graund at hangin’ dowgs and tormentin’ dumb
beasts, but like a wheen skelpit puppies when ye see a man."

"Ye meddlin’ deevil," said one, "whae askit ye to come here?  The dowg
was an ill, useless beast, and it was time it was hangit."

"And what d’ye ca’ yoursel?" said the stranger. "I ken ye fine, Tam
Tiddup, for a thievin’, idle vaigabond, and if every useless beast was
hangit, there wadna be yin o’ ye here."

This made them grumble, and a stone was thrown, but still something in
the easy, dauntless air of their enemy kept them back.

"But I’m no the man to let a dowg gang free wi’oot giein’ some kind o’
return.  Ye’re a’ brave men, dour warlike men, and I’ve nae doot unco
keen o’ a fecht.  Is there no some kind o’ green bit hereaways whaur I
could hae a fling wi’ yin o’ ye?  I’ll try ye a’ in turn, but no to mak
ill-feelin’, I’ll tak the biggest yin first.  Will ye come, ye muckle
hash?" he said suddenly, addressing the tallest of the number.

Now the man addressed had clearly no stomach for fight, but he was tall
and stout, and stood in fear of the ridicule of his companions, and
further, he doubtless thought that he would have an easy victory over
the lean stranger, so he accepted with as good a show of readiness as he
could muster.

"Come on, ye flee-up-i’-the-air, and I’ll see if I canna pit thae
fushionless airms o’ yours oot o’ joint."

I heard them appoint a flat place beside the burn, just on the edge of
the bog, and watched them trooping out of the yard.  The rabble went
first, with a great semblance of valour, and the brown-faced stranger,
with a sardonic grin on his countenance, stepped jauntily behind.  Now I
dearly love a fight, but yet I scarce thought fit to go and look on with
the rest; so I had Maisie saddled, and rode after them, that I might
look like some chance passer-by stopping to witness the encounter.

When I came up to the place, there were already some thirty men
collected.  It was a green spot by the side of the Hawes burn, with the
frost not lifted from the grass; and in the burn itself the ice lay
thick, for it flows sluggishly like all bogland waters, The place was
beaten down as if folk were used to go there, and here the men made a
ring about their champion, some helping him to unbuckle his belt, some
giving advice about how to close with his adversary.  The adversary
himself stood waiting their pleasure with the most unconcerned air,
whistling "The Green Holms o’ Linton," and stamping his feet on the
ground to keep himself warm.

In a little the two were ready, and stood facing each other on the cold
moor.  A whistling wind came in short blasts from the hills, and made
their ears tingle, and mine also, till I wished that I were one of the
two to have some chance of warming my blood. But when once the fight
began, I thought little more of the cold.

The countryman gripped the stranger round the middle and tugged
desperately to throw him.  Up and down, backwards and forwards they
went, kicking up in their struggle pieces of turf and little stones.
Once they were all but in the water, but the stranger, seeing his peril,
made a bold leap back and dragged the other with him.  And now I feared
that it was going to go hard with the succourer of distressed dogs; for
his unwieldy opponent was pressing so heavily upon him that I expected
every moment to see him go down.  Once I caught sight of his face, and,
to my surprise, it was calm as ever; the very straw he had been chewing
before being still between his teeth.

Now the fight took another turn; for my friend, by an adroit movement,
slipped below the other’s arms, flung himself backwards, just as I have
seen a tumbler do at a fair at Peebles, and before the other knew his
design, stood smiling before him.  The man’s astonishment was so great
that he stood staring, and if the stranger had used his advantage, he
might have thrown him there and then.  By and by he recovered and came
on, swearing and wrathful.  "Ye’ve slippit awa’ yince, ye ether, but
I’ll see that ye’ll no dae’t again;" and with his sluggish blood roused
to some heat, he flung himself on his foe, who received him much as a
complacent maid receives the caresses of a traveller.  The fellow
thought his victory certain, and put out all his strength; but now, of a
sudden, my friend woke up.  He twisted his long arms round his
adversary, and a mighty struggle began.  The great, fat-bellied man was
swaying to and fro like a basket on a pack-horse; his face grew purple
and pale at the lips, and his body grew limper and weaker.  I expected
to see a good fight, but I was disappointed; for before I knew, they
were on the edge of the pool, tottered a second, and then, with a mighty
crunching and splashing, bounded through the thin ice into the frosty
water.

A great brown face, with draggled, black hair, followed closely by a red
and round one, appeared above the surface, and two dripping human beings
dragged themselves to the bank.  The teeth of both chattered like a
smith’s shop, but in the mouth of one I espied a yellowish thing, sorely
bitten and crumbled.  It was the piece of straw.  A loud shout greeted
their appearance, and much laughter.  The one slunk away with his
comrades, in no very high fettle, leaving the other shaking himself like
a water-dog on the grass.

I found the stranger looking up at me, as I sat my horse, with a glance
half-quizzical and half-deprecatory. The water ran down his odd clothes
and formed in pools in the bare places of the ground.  He shivered in
the cold wind, and removed little fragments of ice from his coat.  Then
he spoke.

"Ye’ll be the Laird o’ Barns settin’ oot on your traivels?"

"Good Lord!  What do you know of my business?" I asked, and, as I looked
at him, I knew that I had seen the face before.  Of a sudden he lifted
his arm to rub his eyebrows, and the motion brought back to me at once a
vision of excited players and a dry, parched land, and a man perplexedly
seeking to convince them of something; and I remembered him for the man
who had brought the news to Peebles of the rising of Tweed.

"I know you," I said.  "You are the man who came down with news of the
great flood.  But what do you here?"

"Bide a wee and I’ll tell ye.  Ye’ll mind that ye tellt me if ever I was
in need o’ onything, to come your way.  Weel, I’ve been up Tweed, and
doun Tweed, and ower the hills, and up the hills, till there’s nae mair
places left for me to gang.  So I heard o’ your gaun ower the seas, and
I took it into my heid that I wad like to gang tae.  So here I am, at
your service."

The fellow’s boldness all but took my breath away. "What, in Heaven’s
name, would I take you with me for?" I asked.  "I doubt we would suit
each other ill."

"Na, na, you and me wad gree fine.  I’ve heard tell o’ ye, Laird, though
ye’ve heard little o’ me, and by a’ accoonts we’re just made for each
ither."

Now if any other one had spoken to me in this tone I should have made
short work of him; but I was pleased with this man’s conduct in the
affair just past, and, besides, I felt I owed something to my promise.

"But," said I, "going to Holland is not like going to Peebles fair, and
who is to pay your passage, man?"

"Oh," said he, "I maun e’en be your body-servant, so to speak."

"I have little need of a body-servant.  I am used to shifting for
myself.  But to speak to the purpose, what use could you be to me?"

"What use?" the man repeated.  "Eh, sir, ye ken little o’ Nicol
Plenderleith to talk that gait. A’ the folk o’ Brochtoun and Tweedsmuir,
and awa’ ower by Clyde Water ken that there’s no his match for rinnin’
and speelin’ and shootin’ wi’ the musket; I’ll find my way oot o’ a hole
when a’ body else ’ill bide in’t.  But fie on me to be blawin’ my ain
trumpet at siccan a speed.  But tak me wi’ ye, and if I’m no a’ I say,
ye can cry me for a gowk at the Cross o’ Peebles."

Now I know not what possessed me, who am usually of a sober, prudent
nature, to listen to this man; but something in his brown, eager face
held me captive, and his powerful make filled me with admiration. He was
honest and kindly; I had had good evidence of both; and his bravery was
beyond doubting.  I thought how such a man might be of use to me in a
foreign land, both as company and protection.  I had taken a liking to
the fellow, and, with our family, such likings go for much.
Nevertheless, I was almost surprised at myself when I said:

"I like the look of you, Nicol Plenderleith, and am half-minded to take
you with me as my servant."

"I thank ye kindly, Laird.  I kenned ye wad dae’t.  I cam to meet ye
here wi’ my best claes for that very reason."

"You rascal," I cried, half laughing at his confidence, and half angry
at his audacity.  "I’ve a good mind to leave you behind after all.  You
talk as if you were master of all the countryside.  But come along; we
will see if the landlord has not a more decent suit of clothes for your
back if you are going into my service.  I will have no coughing,
catarrhy fellows about me."

"Hech," muttered my attendant, following, "ye micht as weel expect a
heron to get the cauld frae wadin’ in the water, as Nicol Plenderleith.
Howbeit, your will be done, sir."

From the landlord at the inn I bought a suit of homespun clothes which,
by good fortune, fitted Nicol; and left his soaked garments as part
payment. Clad decently, he looked a great, stalwart man, though somewhat
bent in the back, and with a strange craning forward of the neck,
acquired, I think, from much wandering among hills.  I hired a horse to
take him to Edinburgh, and the two of us rode out of the yard, followed
by the parting courtesies of the host.

Of our journey to Edinburgh, I have little else to tell.  We came to the
town in the afternoon, and went through the streets to the port of
Leith, after leaving our horses at the place arranged for.  I was
grieved to part from Maisie, for I had ridden her from boyhood, and she
had come to know my ways wondrous well.  We found a vessel to sail the
next morn for Rotterdam, and bargained with the captain for our passage.
When all had been settled, and we had looked our fill upon the harbour
and the craft, and felt the salt of the sea on our lips, we betook
ourselves to an inn, _The Three Herrings_, which fronted the quay, and
there abode for the night.



                       BOOK II—THE LOW COUNTRIES



                               CHAPTER I

                   OF MY VOYAGE TO THE LOW COUNTRIES


We were aboard on the next morning by a little after daybreak, for the
captain had forewarned me, the night before, that he purposed to catch
the morning tide.  To one inland-bred, the harbour of Leith was a sight
to whet the curiosity,  There were vessels of all kinds and sizes,
little fishing smacks with brown, home-made sails, from Fife or the
Lothian coast towns, great sea-going ships, many with strange, foreign
names on their sides, and full of a great bustle of lading and unlading.
There was such a concourse of men, too, as made the place like a
continuous horse-fair.  Half a dozen different tongues jabbered in my
ear, of which I knew not one word, save of the French, which I could
make a fair shape to speak, having learned it from Tam Todd, along with
much else of good and bad.  There were men in red cowls like Ayrshire
weavers, and men in fur hats from the North, and dark-skinned fellows,
too, from the Indies, and all this motley crew would be running up and
down jabbering and shrilling like a pack of hounds. And every now and
then across the uproar would come the deep voice of a Scots skipper,
swearing and hectoring as if the world and all that is in it were his
peculiar possession.

But when we had cleared the Roads of Leith and were making fair way down
the firth, with a good north-westerly breeze behind us, then there was a
sight worth the seeing.  For behind lay Leith, with its black masts and
tall houses, and at the back again, Edinburgh, with its castle looming
up grim and solemn, and further still, the Pentlands, ridged like a saw,
running far to the westward.  In front I marked the low shore of Fife,
with the twin Lomonds, which you can see by climbing Caerdon, or Dollar
Law, or any one of the high Tweedside hills.  The channel was as blue as
a summer sky, with a wintry clearness and a swell which was scarce great
enough to break into billows.  The Kern, for so the vessel was called,
had all her sail set, and bounded gallantly on her way. It was a
cheerful sight, what with the sails filling to the wind, and men passing
hither and thither at work with the cordage, and the running seas
keeping pace with the vessel.  The morning fires were being lit in the
little villages of Fife, and I could see the smoke curling upwards in a
haze from every bay and neuk.

But soon the firth was behind us, and we passed between the Bass rock
and the May, out into the open sea.  This I scarcely found so much to my
liking.  I was inland-bred, and somewhat delicate in my senses, so, soon
I came to loathe the odour of fish and cookery and sea-water, which was
everywhere in the vessel.  Then the breeze increased to a stiff wind,
and the Kern leaped and rocked among great rolling billows.  At first
the movement was almost pleasing, being like the motion of a horse’s
gallop in a smooth field.  And this leads me to think that if a boat
were but small enough, so as to be more proportionate to the body of
man, the rocking of it would be as pleasing as the rise and fall of a
horse’s stride.  But in a great, cumbrous ship, where man is but a
little creature, it soon grows wearisome.  We stood well out to sea, so
I could but mark the bolder features of the land.  Even these I soon
lost sight of, for the whole earth and air began to dance wofully before
my eyes.  I felt a dreadful sinking, and a cold sweat began to break on
my brow.  I had heard of the sea-sickness, but I could not believe that
it was this.  This was something ten times worse, some deadly plague
which Heaven had sent to stay me on my wanderings.

I leaned over the side of the ship in a very disconsolate frame of mind.
If this was all I was to get on my journey, I had better have stayed at
home.  I was landward-bred, and knew naught of boats, save one which Tam
Todd had made as a ferry across the Tweed, and which was indeed more
like a meal-chest than aught else.  In it we were wont to paddle across
when we were fearful of wetting our shoon.  But this rolling, boisterous
ship and turgid seas were strange to me, and I fear I fell monstrous
sick.

Nicol Plenderleith had disappeared almost as soon as he came aboard, and
I saw him deep in converse with the sailors.  When we had cleared the
Forth he came back to me, as I leaned disconsolately against the
bulwarks, and asked me how I did.  His lean, brown face was not a whit
changed by the rocking of the ship; indeed, if he had been astraddle the
Saddleback in a gale he would not have been perturbed. When he saw my
plight he ran below and brought brandy.

"Here, sir, tak some o’ this.  It’s tasty at a’ times, but it’s mair
than tasty the noo, it’s halesome."

"Nicol," I groaned, "if I never gee home again, I look to you to tell
the folk in Tweeddale.  It’s terrible to die here of this villainous
sickness, for I shall certainly die if it continues.  Will it never
cease?"

"I’ve been speirin’ at the captain and by a’ accounts we’re no at the
warst o’t.  He says it’s juist like the backs o’ Leith.  If ye win by
the Fisherraw ye’ll meet your death i’ the Kettle Wynd, and, if by any
chance ye’re no killed there, ye’ll be dune for i’ the Walk.  He was
speaking o’ the stinks o’ the place and no the folk, for they’re
peaceable eneuch, puir bodies.  ’Weel,’ says he, ’it’s the same here.
It’s ill for some folk to win by the Forth, but it’s waur i’ the open
sea, and when it comes to the Dutch waters, it’s fair awfu’.’  I wis,
Laird, ye maunna dee."

This was poor consolation, and had I not formed some guess of my
servant’s manners, I should have been downhearted enough; but there was
a roguish twinkle in his eye, and, even as he spoke, his mouth broadened
to a grin.  I heard him humming the lines of an old ditty which I
supposed to have some reference to my state:

    Tam o’ the Linn and a’ his bairns
    Fell into the fire in ilk ither’s airms.
    "Eh," quoth the binmost, "I have a het skin."
    "It’s hetter below," quo’ Tam o’ the Linn.


But, sure enough, the captain’s prophecy did not come true.  For in a
little the waves grew calmer, and my sickness left me.  ’Tis true that
soon we entered troubled waters once more, but I was fortified with
experience, and some measure of brandy, and so could laugh defiance at
the powers of the sea.

The wind throughout our course was fair in our favour, so we made the
journey in shorter time than I had dared to hope for.  On the morning of
the third day a dense mist shut us in so that the captain was much
confused and angered.  But on the wind’s rising, the fog rolled back,
and we went on our way once more.  Early in the afternoon we sighted the
mouth of the Maas, and the tall lines of shipping which told of the
entrance to Rotterdam.  You may imagine that all this was very strange
to me, I who had lived only among hills and rough woods, and had seen
the sea but once, and that afar off.  ’Twas a perpetual wonder to me to
see the great sails moved up and down according to the airt of the wind,
and the little helm guiding the great ship.  As I have said, I soon got
over all sickness, and was as hale as ever, so that on the last two days
of the voyage I ever look back as upon a time of great pleasure.

But if my wonder was great in the open seas, ’twas still greater once we
had entered the Dutch river.  It was all so unlike my own land that the
home-sickness which travellers tell of had almost taken hold of me.
There were all manner of ships—some little coasting vessels, others,
huge merchantmen which brought home the wares of the Indies and the
Americas. There was such a jabbering, too, in Dutch, of which tongue I
knew naught, that I longed to hear one good, intelligible word of Scots,
for which cause I kept my servant near me.  By and by we neared the
quay, and saw the merchants’ great red storehouses standing in long
line, and the streets of the city running back from the river.  Here we
came to an anchor.  Our journey was over, and I had to bid farewell to
captain and vessel and go ashore.

It is not to be expected that I should seek to describe what is known to
nigh everyone in these days when a man thinks nothing of crossing to
France or Holland on any pretext or in any weather.  From such,
therefore, by word of mouth let he who desires it seek information; for
myself, I have enough to do to write down the main acts of my life.

One thing I noted—that the air was somewhat soft and damp, lacking, to
my mind, the acrid strength of the air of Tweeddale, or even of the
Lothians.  But all the streets were clean swept and orderly; the folk
well-groomed and well-looking; and the trees by the riverside gave a
pleasant surprise to one accustomed to the grim, grey, narrow streets of
the North.  I made my way by the help of an inquisitive Scots tongue and
the French language to a decent hostelry in the Grooce Markt just
opposite the statue (but lately erected) of the great Erasmus.  This
pleased me much, for to be near even the poor bronze figure of so great
a man seemed to lend to the place an air of learning.  I employed myself
profitably in reading the Latin inscriptions; the others I could make no
more of than the rudest ploughboy in Scotland.

Both Nicol and I were up betimes in the morning, that we might get the
coach for Leyden, which started almost from the door of our inn.  I
solemnly set down my testimony that the ale in that same house is the
most villainous in the world, for it made us both dismal and oppressed,
a trouble which did not leave us till we had taken our seats in the
diligence and the horses were starting.

Of the events of that day’s journey how shall I tell?  Leyden is a day’s
length from Rotterdam to the north, through a land flat as a
girdle-cake.  The horses were lumbering, sleepy brutes, and the driver
scarce any better, for every now and again he would let them come to the
walk for long distances, and then, suddenly awaking to the fact that he
must get to his destination before night, get up and shout wildly, and
feebly flick their backs with his whip. I had much ado to keep Nicol
from trying to take the reins from his hands, and, certainly, if that
firebrand had once taken them, we should have awakened the quiet
countryside, and, God helping us, might even have awakened the driver.
I knew nothing of the country, and heard but vaguely the names shouted
out by the guard of the coach; yet, somehow or other, the name of
Ryswick clung to my memory, and I remembered it well when, long after,
at that place the treaty was signed which closed the war.  But at that
time the great duke was plain Master Churchill, and there was no thought
of war between our land and France.  The place was so new to my eyes
that I rebelled against its persistent flatness and dull, dead
water-courses; but soon I came to acknowledge a kind of prettiness in
it, though ’twas of a kind far removed from the wild loveliness of
Tweedside.  The well-ordered strips of trees, the poplars like sentinels
around the homesteads, the red-roofed homesteads themselves, with their
ricks and stables, had a homely and habitable look, and such of the folk
as we saw by the roadside were as sleek and stolid as their land. I
could not think of the place as a nursery of high and heroical virtues,
but rather of the minor moralities of good-sense and good-nature.

It was late in the afternoon when we came to Leyden, and rattled down
the rough street to the market-place, which was the stopping-place of
the coach.  This was a town more comely and conformable to my eye than
the greater city of Rotterdam. For here the streets were not so even,
the houses not so trim, and the whole showing a greater semblance of
age.  There were many streams and canals crossed by broad, low bridges.
It was a time of great mildness, for the season of the year.  The place
had all that air of battered age and historic worth which I have
observed in our own city of Edinburgh.  Even as I looked on it my mind
was full of memories of that terrible siege, when the folk of Leyden
held out so stoutly against the black Spaniards, till their king
overthrew the dykes and saved the town by flooding the land.

It was my first concern to secure lodgings, since I purposed to spend no
little portion of my time here for the next two years; and, as I had
been directed by my kinsman, Dr. Gilbert Burnet, I sought the house of
one Cornelius Vanderdecker, who abode in a little alley off the
Breedestraat.  Arrived there, I found that the said Cornelius had been
in a better world for some fifteen months, but that his widow, a
tranquil Dutchwoman, with a temper as long as a Dutch canal, was most
willing to lodge me and treat me to the best which the house could
afford.  We speedily made a bargain in bad French, and Nicol and I were
installed in rooms in the back part of the house, overlooking a long
garden, which ended in one of the streams of water which I have spoken
of.  It was somewhat desolate at that time, but I could see that in
summer, when the straight trees were in leaf, the trim flower-beds and
the close-cropped lawn would make the place exceeding pretty.  I was
glad of it, for I am country-bred and dearly do I love greenery and the
sight of flowers.

I delayed till the next morning, when I had got the soil of travel from
my clothes and myself once more into some semblance of sprightliness,
ere I went to the college to present my letters and begin my schooling.
So after the morning meal, I attired myself in befitting dress and put
Nicol into raiment suiting his rank and company; and set out with a
light heart to that great and imposing institution, which has been the
star of Europe in philosophy and all other matters of learning.  I own
that it was with feelings of some trepidation that I approached the
place.  Here had dwelt Grotius and Salmasius and the incomparable
Scaliger.  Here they had studied and written their immortal books; the
very place was still redolent of their memories.  Here, too, unless my
memory deceived me, had dwelt the Frenchman, Renatus Descartes, who had
first opened a way for me from the chaos of the schoolmen to the
rectitude of true philosophy.  I scarcely dared to enroll my unworthy
name in the halls of such illustrious spirits.  But I thought on my name
and race, and plucked up heart thereupon to knock stoutly at the gates.
A short, stout man opened to me, clad in a porter’s gown, not unlike the
bedellus in the far-away college of Glasgow, but carrying in his hand a
black staff, and at his belt a large bunch of keys.  It came upon me to
address him in French, but remembering that this was a place of
learning, I concluded that Latin was the more fitting tongue, so in
Latin I spoke.

"I am a stranger," I said, "from Scotland, bearing letters for Master
Sandvoort and Master Quellinus of this place.  I pray you to see if they
can grant me an audience."

He faced round sharply, as if this were the most ordinary errand in his
life, and went limping across the inner courtyard till he disappeared
from view behind a massive column.  He returned shortly and delivered
his message in a very tolerable imitation of the language of Cæsar.

"Their worships, Master Sandvoort and Master Quellinus, are free from
business for the present, and will see you in their chambers."  So
bidding Nicol stay in the courtyard, lest he should shame me before
these grave seniors (though ’twas unlikely enough, seeing they knew no
Scots), I followed the hobbling porter through the broad quadrangle, up
a long staircase adorned with many statues set in niches in the wall, to
a landing whence opened many doors.  At one of them my guide knocked
softly, and a harsh voice bade us enter.  "This is Master Sandvoort," he
whispered in my ear, "and I trust he be not in one of his tantrums.  See
ye speak him fair, sir."

I found myself in a high-panelled room, filled with books, and with a
table in front of a fireplace, whereat a man sat writing.  He wore a
skullcap of purple velvet, and the ordinary black gown of the doctor.
His face was thin and hard, with lines across the brow and the heaviness
below the eye which all have who study overmuch.  His hair was turning
to grey, but his short, pointed beard was still black.  He had very
shaggy eyebrows, under which his sharp eyes shone like the points of a
needle.  Such was Master Herman Sandvoort, professor of the Latin
language in the ancient college of Leyden.

His first question to me was in the Latin.

"What tongue do you speak?"

I answered that I was conversant with the English, the French, and the
Latin.

"Your letters, pray," he asked in French, and I took them from my pocket
and gave them to him.

"Ah," he cried, reading aloud, "you desire to study in this university,
and improve your acquaintance with certain branches of letters and
philosophy. So be it.  My fee is five crowns for attendance at my
lectures.  I will not abate one tittle of it.  I will have no more poor
students come cringing and begging to be let off with two.  So
understand my terms, Master Burnette."

I was both angry and surprised.  Who was this man to address me thus?

"I pray you to finish the letter," I said curtly.

He read on for a little while, then he lifted his head and looked at me
with so comical an expression that I had almost laughed.  Before, his
face had been greedy and cold; now it was worse, for the greed was still
there, but the coldness had vanished and left in its place a sickly look
of servility.

"Pardon me, pardon me, good Master Burnette; I was in a great mistake.
I had thought that you were some commoner from the North, and, God
knows, we have plenty of them.  I pray you forget my words.  The college
is most honoured by your presence, the nephew, or is it the son, of the
famous Doctor Burnette.  Ah, where were my eyes—the lord of much land,
so says the letter, in the valley of the Tweed.  Be sure, sir, that you
can command all the poor learning that I have at my disposal.  And if
you have not already found lodging, why if you will come to my house, my
wife and daughters will welcome you."

I thanked him coldly for his invitation, but refused it on the ground
that I had already found an abode. Indeed, I had no wish to form the
acquaintance of Vrow Sandvoort and her estimable daughters.  He gave me
much information about the hours of the lectures, the subjects which he
proposed to treat of, and the method of treatment; nor would he let me
depart before I had promised to dine at his house.

Outside the door I found the porter waiting for me.  He led me across
the hall to another door, the room of Master Quellinus, the professor of
Greek.

Here I found a different reception.  A rosy-cheeked little man, with a
paunch as great as a well-fed ox, was sitting on a high chair, so that
his feet barely touched the ground.  He was whistling some ditty, and
busily mending his finger-nails with a little knife.

"Why, whom have we here?" he cries out, when he saw me; "another
scholar, and a great one. Why, man, what do you at the trade, when you
might be carrying a musket or leading a troop of pikemen?"

I was tempted to answer him in his own way.

"And what do you," I asked, "at the trade, when you might be the chief
cook to the French king, with power to poison the whole nobility?"

He laughed long and loudly.  "Ah, you have me there, more’s the pity.
But what though I love my dinner?  Did not Jacob the patriarch, and
Esau, the mighty Esau, though I have little credit by the ensample?  But
come, tell me your name, for I begin to love thee.  You have a shrewd
wit, and a pleasing presence.  You may go far."

I gave him my letters, and when he had read them, he came down from his
perch and shook me by the hand.

"You are a Scot," he said.  "I never knew any Scot but one, and he was
hanged on a tree for robbing the Burgomaster’s coach.  I was a lad at
school, and I mind me ’twas rare sport.  So I have a kindly feeling for
your nation, though may God send you a better fate than that one.  But
what do you seek to learn?  Greek?  Faugh, there is no Greek worth a
straw, save Anacreon, and he is not a patch upon our moderns, on
François Villon of Paris, whose soul God rest, and our brave Desportes.
Philosophy?  Bah! ’Tis all a monstrous fraud.  I have sounded all the
depths of it, and found them but shallows. Theology?  Tush!  You will
learn more theology in an inn in the Morschstraat than in all the
schools.  Such are my beliefs.  But God has compelled me for my sins to
teach the Hellenic tongue to a perverse generation at the small sum of
five crowns.  We study the Republic of Plato, and I trust you may find
some profit.  You will dine with me.  Nay, I will take no denial.
To-night, in my house, I will show you how a quail should be dressed.  I
have the very devil of a cook, a man who could dress a dry goatskin to
your taste.  And wine!  I have the best that ever came from the
Rhineside and escaped the maw of a swinish Teuton.  You will come?"

I could only escape by promising, which I did with a good grace, for if
there was little profit in Master Quellinus’s company, there was much
pleasure.



                               CHAPTER II

                      I VISIT MASTER PETER WISHART


The life at the college of Leyden was the most curious that one could
well conceive; yet ere I had been there a week, I had begun heartily to
like it. The students were drawn from the four corners of Europe:
Swedes, great men with shaggy beards and invincible courage; neat-coated
Germans, Dutchmen by the score, and not a few Frenchmen, who were the
dandies of the place.  We all gathered of a morning in the dusky
lecture-hall, where hung the portraits of the great scholars of the
past, and where in the cobwebbed rafters there abode such a weight of
dust that a breeze coming through the high windows would stir it and
make the place all but dark.  Nor had I fault to find with the worthy
professors, for I found soon that Master Sandvoort, though a miserly
churl, had vast store of Latin, and would expound the works of Cornelius
Tacitus in a fashion which I could not sufficiently admire.  His
colleague, too, who was the best of good fellows in the seclusion of his
house, in his lecture-room was dignified and severe in deportment. You
never saw such a change in a man.  I went on the first morning expecting
to find little but buffoonery; and lo! to my surprise, in walks my
gentleman in a stately gown, holding his head like an archduke’s; and
when he began to speak, it was with the gravest accents of precision.
And I roundly affirm that no man ever made more good matter come out of
Plato.  He would show wherein he erred and wherein he was wiser than
those who sought to refute him; he would weigh with the nicest judgment
the _variae lectiones_ on each passage; and he would illustrate all
things with the choicest citations.  In truth, I got a great wealth of
good scholarship and sound philosophy from my squire of bottle and
pasty.

I was not the only Scot in Leyden, as I soon discovered; for forbye that
I had letters to Master Peter Wishart, who taught philosophy in the
college, there abode in the town Sir James Dalrymple, afterwards my Lord
Stair, the great lawyer, and sometime a professor in my old college,
whose nephew I had so cruelly beaten before I bade farewell to Glasgow.
He was a man of a grave deportment, somewhat bent with study, and with
the look of exceeding weight on his face which comes to one who has
shared the counsel of princes.  There were also not a few Scots lords of
lesser fame and lesser fortune, pensioners, many of them, on a foreign
king, exiles from home for good and evil causes.  As one went down the
Breedestraat of a morning he could hear much broad Scots spoke on the
causeway, and find many fellow-countrymen in a state ill-befitting their
rank. For poverty was ever the curse of our nation, and I found it
bitter to see ignoble Flemings and Dutch burghers flaunting in their
finery, while our poor gentlemen were threadbare.  And these folk, too,
were the noblest in the land, bearing the proudest names, descendants of
warriors and statesmen—Halketts of Pitfirran, Prestons of Gorton,
Stewarts, Hays, Sinclairs, Douglases, Hamiltons, and Grahams. It was
their fathers and grandfathers who had won the day at Rijnemants, under
Sir Robert Stuart, when, says Strada, "Nudi pugnant Scoti multi."  They
had fought to the death on the Kowenstyn dyke when Parma beleaguered
Antwerp.  And in all the later wars they took their share—Scotts of
Buccleuch, Haigs of Bemersyde, Erskines, Grants, and Kilpatricks.  In
the Scots brigade in Holland had served John Graham of Claverhouse, as
some will have it, the greatest soldier of our age.  I saw nothing of
him, for while I was in the Low Lands he was already riding in the
western hills, shooting and hanging and dealing martial law to herds and
weavers. But I saw often the gallant figure of that Colonel Hugh Mackay
who met Claverhouse in that last and awful fight in the Highland pass
when the mountaineers swept on the lowlanders like a winter storm, and
who marched to his death long after on the field of Steinkirk, and fell
with the words on his lips, "The will of the Lord be done."  This
valiant soldier had made the Scots brigade into some semblance of that
doughty regiment which Lord Reay commanded under the great Gustavus.  He
had driven out all the foreign admixture, and, by keeping it to Scotsmen
of gentle blood, rendered it well-nigh invincible.  But the pay was
poor, and they who entered it did so for the sake of honour and for no
notions of gain.

But though it cheers me yet to tell of such fellows, and though it
pleased me vastly to meet them in that distant land, it is not of such
that I must write.  As I have said, forbye attending the two classes of
Greek and Latin, I resorted to the lectures of Master Wishart, who
hailed from Fife, and had taught philosophy with much success among the
Hollanders for some twenty years.  He was well acquainted with my
family, so what does he do but bid me to his house at Alphen one
Saturday in the front of March.  For he did not abide in Leyden, never
having loved the ways of a town, but in the little village of Alphen,
some seven miles to the northeast.

I accepted his bidding, for I had come there for no other cause than to
meet and converse with men of learning and wisdom; so I bade Nicol have
ready the two horses, which I had bought, at eleven o’clock in the
forenoon.  One of the twain was a bay mare, delicately stepping, with
white pasterns and a patch of white on her forehead.  The other was the
heavier, reserved for Nicol and what baggage I might seek to carry,
black and deep-chested, and more sedate than his comrade.

It was a clear, mild day when we set out, with no trace of frost, and
but little cold.  The roads were dry underfoot, and the horses stepped
merrily, for they were fresh from long living indoors.  The fields on
either side were still bleak, but the sowers were abroad, scattering the
seeds of the future harvest. The waters that we passed were alive with
wild-fowl, which had wintered in the sea-marshes, and were now coming up
to breed among the flags and rushes of the inland lakes.  The tender
green was sprouting on the trees, the early lark sang above the furrows,
and the whole earth was full of the earnest of spring.

Alphen is a straggling line of houses by a canal. They are all well
sized, and even with some pretension to gentility, with long gardens
sloping to the water, and shady coverts of trees.  Master Wishart’s
stood in the extreme end, apart from the rest, low-built, with a doorway
with stuccoed pilasters.  It was a place very pleasant to look upon, and
save for its flatness, I could have found it in my heart to choose it
for a habitation.  But I am hill-bred, and must have rough, craggy land
near me, else I weary of the finest dwelling.  Master Wishart dwelt
here, since he had ever a passion for the growing of rare flowers, and
could indulge it better here than in the town of Leyden.  He was used to
drive in every second day in his great coach, for he lectured but three
times a week.

A serving-man took my horse from me, and, along with Nicol, led them to
the stable, having directed me where, in the garden, I should find my
host.  I opened a gate in a quickset hedge, and entered upon the most
beautiful pleasure-ground that I had ever beheld.  A wide, well-ordered
lawn stretched straitly down to the very brink of the canal, and though,
as was natural at that season of the year, the grass had not come to its
proper greenness, yet it gave promise of great smoothness and verdure.
To the side of this, again, there ran a belt of low wood, between which
and the house was a green all laid out into flower beds, bright even at
that early time with hyacinths and jonquils.  Below this the low wood
began again, and continued to the borders of the garden, full of the
most delightsome alleys and shady walks. From one of these I heard
voices, and going in that direction, I came of a sudden to a handsome
arbour, at the side of which flowered the winter-jasmine, and around the
door of which, so mild was the day, some half-dozen men were sitting.

My host, Master Wishart, was a short, spare man, with a long face
adorned with a well-trimmed beard. He had the most monstrous heavy brows
that I have ever seen, greater even than those of our Master Sandeman,
of whom the students were wont to say that his eyebrows were
heather-besoms.  His eyes twinkled merrily when he spoke, and but for
his great forehead no one might have guessed that he stood in the
presence of one of the most noted of our schoolmen.

He rose and greeted me heartily, bidding me all welcome to Alphen,
saying that he loved to see the sight of a Scots face, for was he not an
exile here like the Jews by the waters of Babylon?  "This is Master John
Burnet of Barns," said he, presenting me to a very grave and comely man
some ten years my senior, "who has come all the way from Tweedside to
drink at our Pierian Spring."  The other greeted me, looked kindly at me
for a second, and then asked me some question of my family; and finding
that a second cousin of his own on his mother’s side had once married
one of my race, immediately became very gracious, and condescended to
tell me his opinions of the land, which were none so good.  He was, as I
did not know till later, Sir William Crichtoun of Bourhope; that Sir
William who in after times was slain in the rout at Cromdale when the
forces of Buchan and Cannon were caught unawares on the hillside.

I had leisure now to look around me at the others, and a motley group
they were.  There was Quentin Markelboch, the famous physician of
Leyden, who had been pointed out to me in the street some days before, a
little, round-bellied man with an eye of wondrous shrewdness.  There was
likewise Master Jardinius, who had lectured on philosophy at one time in
the college, but had now grown too old for aught save sitting in the sun
and drinking Schiedam—which, as some said, was no great pity.  But the
one I most marked was a little, fiery-eyed, nervous man, Pieter van
Mieris by name, own cousin to the painter, and one who lived for nothing
else than to fight abstruse metaphysical quarrels in defence of
religion, which he believed to be in great peril from men of learning,
and, but for his exertions on its behalf, to be unable to exist.  It was
he who first addressed me.

"I have heard that the true religion is wondrous pure in your land,
Master Burnet, and that men yet worship God in simple fashion, and
believe in Him without subtleties.  Is that so, may I beg of you to tell
me?"

"Ay," I answered, "doubtless they do, when they worship Him at all."

"Then the most pernicious heresy of the pervert Arminius has not yet
penetrated to your shores, I trust, nor Pelagianism, which, of old, was
the devil’s wile for simple souls?"

"I have never heard of their names," I answered bluntly.  "We folk in
Scotland keep to our own ways, and like little to import aught foreign,
be it heresy or strong ale."

"Then," said my inquisitor triumphantly, "you are not yet tainted with
that most vile and pernicious heresy of all, with which one Baruch
Spinoza, of accursed memory, has tainted this land?"

I roused myself at the name, for this was one I had heard often within
the past few weeks, and I had a great desire to find out for myself the
truth of his philosophy.

"I am ashamed to confess," I said, "that I have read none of his
writings, that I scarcely know his name.  But I would be enlightened in
the matter."

"Far be it from me," said the little man earnestly, "to corrupt the
heart of any man with so pernicious a doctrine.  Rather close thy cars,
young man, when you hear anyone speak his name, and pray to God to keep
you from danger.  ’Tis the falsest admixture of the Jewish heresy with
the scum of ancient philosophy, the vain imaginings of man stirred up by
the Evil One.  The man who made it is dead, and gone to his account, but
I would that the worthy magistrates had seen fit to gibbet him for a
warning to all the fickle and light-minded.  Faugh, I cannot bear to
pollute my mouth with his name."

And here a new voice spoke.

"The man of whom you speak was so great that little minds are unable to
comprehend him.  He is dead, and has doubtless long since learned the
truth which he sought so earnestly in life.  I am a stranger, and I
little thought to hear any Hollander speak ill of Baruch Spinoza, for
though God, in his mercy, has given many good gifts to this land, He has
never given a greater than him.  I am no follower of his, as they who
know me will bear witness, but I firmly believe that when men have grown
wiser and see more clearly, his name will shine as one of the lights of
our time, brighter, may be, even than the great Cartesius."

The speaker was but newly come, and had been talking with my host when
he heard the declamation of Master van Mieris.  I turned to look at him
and found a tall, comely man, delicately featured, but with a chin as
grim as a marshal’s.  He stood amid the crowd of us with such an easy
carriage of dignity and breeding that one and all looked at him in
admiration. His broad, high brow was marked with many lines, as if he
had schemed and meditated much.  He was dressed in the pink of the
fashion, and in his gestures and tones I fancied I discerned something
courtier-like, as of a man who had travelled and seen much of courts and
kingships.  He spoke so modestly, and withal so wisely, that the unhappy
Pieter looked wofully crestfallen, and would not utter another word.

A minute later, finding Master Wishart at hand, I plucked him by the
sleeve.

"Tell me, who is that man there, the one who spoke?"

"Ah," said he, "you do not know him, perhaps you do not know his name;
but be sure that when you are old you will look back upon this day with
pleasure, and thank Providence for bringing you within sight of such a
man.  That is the great Gottfried Leibnitz, who has been dwelling for a
short space in London, and now goes to Hanover as Duke Frederick’s
councillor."

But just at this moment all thoughts of philosophy and philosophers were
banished from my mind by the sudden arrival of a new guest.  This was no
other than the worthy professor of Greek, Master Quellinus, who came in
arrayed in the coarsest clothes, with a gigantic basket suspended over
his shoulders by a strap, and a rod like a weaver’s beam in his hand. In
truth the little man presented a curious sight. For the great rod would
not stay balanced on his shoulders, but must ever slip upward and
seriously endanger the equipoise of its owner.  His boots were very wide
and splashed with mud, and round the broad-brimmed hat which he wore I
discerned many lengths of horsehair.  My heart warmed to the man, for I
perceived he was a fellow-fisherman, and, in that strange place, it was
the next best thing to being a fellow Scot.

He greeted us with great joviality.  "A good day to you, my masters," he
cried; "and God send you the ease which you love.  Here have I been
bearing the heat and burden of the day, all in order that lazy folk
should have carp to eat when they wish it. Gad, I am tired and wet and
dirty, this last beyond expression.  For Heaven’s sake, Master Wishart,
take me where I may clean myself."

The host led the fisherman away, and soon he returned, spruce and
smiling once more.  He sat down heavily on a seat beside me.  "Now,
Master Burnet," says he, "you must not think it unworthy of a learned
Grecian to follow the sport of the angle, for did not the most famous of
their writers praise it, not to speak of the example of the Apostles?"

I tried hard to think if this were true.

"Homer, at any rate," I urged, "had no great opinion of fish and their
catchers, though that was the worse for Homer, for I am an angler
myself, and can understand your likings."

"Then I will have your hand on it," said he, "and may Homer go to the
devil.  But Theocritus and Oppian, ay, even Plato, mention it without
disrespect, and does not Horace himself say ’Piscemur’?  Surely we have
authority."

But this was all the taste I had of my preceptor’s conversation, for he
had been walking all day in miry ways, and his limbs were tired: nor was
I surprised to see his head soon sink forward on his breast; and in a
trice he was sleeping the sleep of the just and labouring man.

And now we were joined by a newcomer, no less than Mistress Kate
Wishart, as pretty a lass as you will see in a day’s journey.  She had
been nurtured by her father amid an aroma of learning, and, truly, for a
maid, she was wondrous learned, and would dispute and cite instances
with a fine grace and a skill which astonished all.  To me, who am
country-bred and a trifle over-fastidious, she seemed a thought pedantic
and proud of her knowledge; but what is hateful in a hard-featured woman
is to be pardoned in a fresh lass.  Her father brought me to her and
presented me, which she acknowledged with a courtsey which became her
mightily; but I spoke not two words to her, for the old man led me away
down one of the alleys among the trees.

"Kate’ll look after thae auld dotterels," said he, speaking in the
broadest Scots; "I brocht her out that I micht get a word wi’ ye my
lane, for I’m fair deein’ for news frae the auld country.  First of a’,
how is Saunders Blackett at Peebles?  Him and me were aince weel
acquant."  And when I had told him, he ran off into a string of
inquiries about many folk whom I knew, and whom he once had known, which
I answered according to my ability.

"And now," he says, "I’ve bidden twa-three o’ the officers o’ the Scots
brigade to supper the nicht, so ye’ll see some guid Scots physiogs after
thae fosy Dutchmen.  Ye’ll maybe ken some o’ them."

I thanked him for his consideration, and after I had answered his many
questions, we returned to the others, whom I found busily arguing some
point in divinity, with Mistress Kate very disgusted in their midst.

"Gang intil the house wi’ my dochter, John," said Master Wishart, and,
giving her my arm, I did as I was bid, while the others straggled after
in twos and threes.



                              CHAPTER III

                      THE STORY OF A SUPPER PARTY


My first thought on entering the supper-room was one of amazement.  The
owner of the house, whom I had taken to be a man of simple tastes, here
proved himself to be a very Caliph for magnificence. Many choice
paintings looked down at us from the sides, richly framed, and fitting
into recesses in the panelled walls.  The floor was laid with
bright-dyed rugs and carpets of Venetian stuff, and the chairs and
couches were of finely carven wood.  The whole was lit with a long line
of waxen candles in silver sconces, which disputed the sovereignty with
the departing daylight.  But the choicest sight was the table which was
laden, nay heaped, with rich dishes and rare meats, while in the glass
and metal flagons the wine danced and flamed.  I was of country-bred
habits, and the display at first all but took the breath from me; indeed
it was not a little time ere I could take my eyes from it and turn them
on the assembled guests.

Those who had not been present in the garden were gathered at the lower
end of the room, whither the master of the place betook himself to greet
them. I marked two or three of the burgher folk by their dress and
well-filled bellies, contrasting strangely with the lean figure of a
minister who stood among them clothed in some decent, dark stuff, and
wearing white bands ostentatiously.  There were also some of the
officers in the Scots regiment, at least of that portion of it which was
then lying at Leyden.  Their dress was sober compared with the richness
of such soldiery as I had seen in my own land, but against the attire of
the citizens, it was gaudiness itself.

I found myself sitting close to the head of the table, on the right hand
of my host, betwixt a portly doctor of laws and my worthy Master
Quellinus. This latter was now all but recovered from his fatigue,
having slept soundly in the arbour.  He was in a high good humour at the
sight of the many varied dishes before him, and cried out their merits
to me in a loud, excited tone, which made my cheeks burn.  "There," he
cried, "there is the dish I love above all others.  ’Tis hashed venison
with young herbs, and sour wine for a relish.  Ah, I have already
enjoyed it in anticipation.  In a few seconds I shall have enjoyed it in
reality.  Therefore I argue I have gained two pleasures from it, whereas
men of no imagination have but one.  And, God bless my eyes! do I see a
plate of stewed eels over there before that thick man in the brown coat?
Gad!  I fear he will devour them all himself, for he looks to have
capacity and judgment.  Plague take him, I am in a very torment of
anxiety.  Prithee, my good John, seek out a servant and bid him bring it
over here."  I know not how far he might have gone, had not all talking
been put an end to by the minister arising and saying a lengthy Latin
grace.  In the midst of it I stole a glance at my neighbour, and his
face wore so comical an expression of mingled disgust and eagerness that
I could scarcely refrain from laughing.  But all did not conduct
themselves so well, for there was a great disputation going on among
some of the regiment which much hindered the effect of the minister’s
Latin. Indeed, I believe had he spoken another dozen words, the patience
of some would have gone altogether.

"Now," said Master Wishart from the head of the table, "I trust,
gentlemen, that ye may find the entertainment to your liking.  Fall to
heartily, for this weather gives a keen edge to the appetite. _Occupet
extremum scabies_, as Horatius hath it; which being translated into the
vulgar idiom is ’Deil tak the hin-most.’  Know you that proverb, John?
Come, Master Quellinus, set to, man, ye’ve had a serious day’s work, and
our fleshly tabernacles will not subsist on nothing," adding in an
undertone to me, "though it’s little pressing ye need, for to press ye
to eat is like giving a shog to a cairt that’s fa’in ower the Castle
Rock."

I paid little heed to Master Quellinus’s conversation, which ran chiefly
on viands, or to that of my left-hand neighbour, whose mouth was too
full for words.  But I found great entertainment in watching the faces
and listening to the speech of some of the other guests.  The table was
wide and the light dim, so that I had much ado to make out clearly those
opposite me.  I marked Mistress Kate, very daintily dressed, talking
gaily to some one at her side.

"Well, to tell you the truth, my dear Mistress Kate, this land of yours
is not very much to my liking.  To be sure a soldier is contented
wherever his duty calls him, but there is no fighting to be done, and
the sport is not what I have found it elsewhere.  I am in such a
devilish strict place that, Gad, I cannot have a game with a fat citizen
without having to listen to a rigmarole of half an hour’s duration on
the next morning.  There is so much psalm-singing in the place that an
honest gentleman can scarcely raise a merry song without having his
voice stopped by half a dozen sour-faced knaves.  ’Faith, I wish I were
back in my own land, where there is some work for a cavalier.  There is
but one thing that I should except," and he bowed low to his neighbour,
"the women, who are as beautiful as the men-folk are hideous.  Though,
in truth, I believe that the most lovely of them all is a countrywoman
of my own"; and again he made her a fine bow.

The voice and the tone were strangely familiar, but for the life of me,
I could not give them a name. I could only note that the man was a big,
squarely-made fellow, and that he seemed to be in a mind to make love to
his host’s daughter.  She made some blushing reply to his compliments,
and then, as luck would have it, a servant set a light between us, and
the faces of both were revealed clearly to me.

I sat bolt upright in my chair with sheer astonishment. For there,
dressed in the habiliments of the Scots regiment, and bearing himself
with all his old braggadocio, sat my cousin Gilbert.

Then I remembered how I had heard that he had gone abroad to some
foreign service, partly to escape the consequences of some scrapes into
which he had fallen, partly to get rid of his many debts.  And here he
was, coming to the one place in Europe to which I had chosen to go, and
meeting me at the one table which I had chosen to frequent.  In that
moment I felt as if the man before me were bound up in some sinister way
with my own life.

Almost at the same instant he turned his eyes upon me, and we stared in
each other’s face.  I saw him start, bend his head toward his companion
and ask some question.  I judged it to be some query about my name and
doings, for the next moment he looked over to me and accosted me with a
great semblance of hilarity.

"What," he cries.  "Do I see my cousin John? I had not dared to hope for
such a welcome meeting. How came you here?"  And he asked me a string of
questions.

I answered shortly and with no great cordiality, for I still remembered
the doings in Tweeddale, and my heart was still sore in the matter of my
father’s death.  Forbye this, Gilbert spoke with not a little covert
scorn in his tone, which I, who knew his ways well, was not slow to
detect.  It nettled me to think that I was once more to be made to
endure the pleasantries of my cousin.

"And how goes all in Tweeddale, my dear cousin?" said he.  "I condole
with you on your father’s death.  Ah, he was a good man indeed, and
there are few like him nowadays.  And how does Tam Todd, my friend, who
has such a thick skull and merciless arm?  And ah, I forgot!  Pray
forgive my neglect. How is fair Mistress Marjory, the coy maid who would
have none of my courtesies?"

The amazing impudence of the fellow staggered me.  It almost passed
belief that he should speak thus of my father whose death had lain so
heavily at his door.  This I might have pardoned; but that at a public
table he should talk thus of my love irritated me beyond measure.  I
acted as I do always when thus angered: I gave him a short answer and
fell into a state of moody disquietude.

Meanwhile my cousin, with all the gallantry in the world, kept
whispering his flatteries into the pretty ears of Mistress Kate.  This
was ever Gilbert’s way. He would make love to every tavern wench and
kiss every village lass on his course.  ’Twas a thing I never could do.
I take no credit for the omission, for it is but the way God makes a
man.  Whenever I felt in the way to trying it, there was always
Marjory’s face to come before my eyes and make me think shame of myself.

As I sat and watched these twain I had no eyes for any other.  The very
sight of Gilbert brought back to me all my boyhood in Tweedside, and a
crowd of memories came surging in upon me.  I fancied, too, that there
was something of Marjory in the little graceful head at my cousin’s
elbow, and the musical, quick speech.  I felt wretchedly jealous of him,
God knows why; for the sight of him revived any old fragments which had
long lain lurking in the corners of my mind; and as he chatted gaily to
the woman at his side, I had mind of that evening at Barns when I, just
returned from Glasgow college, first felt the lust of possession.  I sat
and moodily sipped my wine.  Why had I ever left my own land and
suffered my lady to be exposed to manifold perils? for with the first
dawnings of jealousy and anger came a gnawing anxiety.  I had never felt
such a sickness for home before, and I cursed the man who had come to
ruin my peace of mind.  Yet my feeling toward my cousin was not that of
hatred; indeed I could not refrain from a certain pity for the man, for
I discerned in him much noble quality, and was he not of my own blood?

"Come now," I heard Mistress Kate simper, "I do not believe that tale of
anyone, and above all, of him; for a soberer does not live.  Fie, fie,
Master Gilbert, I took you for a more generous man."

"On my faith, my dear, it is true," replied my cousin.  "For all his
docile looks, he is as fond of a game as the rest of us."

Now I guessed that my frolicsome cousin had been traducing me to the
fair Kate, and I grew not a little hot.  But his next word changed my
heat into fierce anger.  For my cousin continued:

"What saith the Latin poet?" and he quoted a couplet from Martial—a jest
at the usual amusements of the seemingly decent man.

I know not where he had got hold of it, for he was no scholar; but it
was full of the exceeding grossness which is scarcely to be found
outside that poet.  He thought, I could guess, that the girl understood
no Latin, but, as I knew, she had a special proficiency in that tongue.
She understood the jest only too well.  A deep blush grew over her face
from her delicate throat to the very borders of her hair.  ’Twas just in
such a way that Marjory had looked when I first told her my love; ’twas
in such a fashion she had bade me farewell.  The thought of her raised a
great storm of passion in my heart against anyone who would dare thus to
put a woman to shame.  I strove hard to curb it, but I felt with each
second that it would overmaster me.

"Well, John, what think you of my Latinity?" asked my cousin from over
the table.

"I think, I think," I cried, "that you are a damned scurrilous fellow, a
paillard, a hound; ’fore God, Gilbert, I will make you smart for this,"
and, ere I well knew what I did, I had seized my glass and hurled it at
his head.

It struck him on the cheek, scratching the skin, but doing little hurt.

In a trice he was on his feet with his hand at his sword.  One half the
table rose and stared at the two of us, while Master Wishart left the
head and came rushing to the back of my chair.  As for myself, I felt
such desperate shame at my conduct that I knew not what to do.  I had
now made a fool of myself in downright earnest.  I felt my cheek
tingling and flaming, but I could do naught but look before me.

Then my cousin did a thing which gave him great honour, and completed my
shame; for bridling his anger, as I saw with a mighty effort, he said
calmly, though his arms were quivering with rage:

"I would ask you to be more careful in your use of glasses.  See, yours
has flown right over to me and played havoc with my cheek.  ’Faith, it
is no light duty to sup opposite you, _mon ami_.  But, indeed,
gentlemen," and he bowed to the company, "’twas but an unfortunate
mischance."

At this all sat down again, and scarce five minutes after, Gilbert rose
to leave, and with him the other gentlemen of his regiment.  Master
Wishart bade him sit down again, for the night was yet young, but my
cousin would not be persuaded.  He nodded carelessly to me, kissed his
hand to pretty Mistress Kate, and swaggered out.

I sat dazed and meditative.  I was raw to many things, but I knew well
that Gilbert was not the man to sit down under such an affront.  He had
shielded me for his own reasons, of which I guessed that family pride
was not the least; but he would seek a meeting with all dispatch.  And,
in truth, I was not averse to it, for I had many accounts to settle with
my dear cousin.  I fell to thinking about the details of the matter.  In
all likelihood he would come on the Monday, for the Sabbath was a day of
too strict propriety in this land as in my own, to allow of the settling
of any such business.  Well, come when he might, I should be ready; and
I rose from the table, for the sooner I was back in Leyden, the better.

I took farewell of my host, and he could not refrain from whispering in
my ear at parting: "Jock, Jock, my man, ye’ve made a bonny mess o’t.
Ye’ll hae to fecht for it, and see ye dae’t weel."

Nicol was waiting at the gate with the horses, and, together, we turned
on our homeward way.



                               CHAPTER IV

                    OUR ADVENTURE ON THE ALPHEN ROAD


We rode in silence for maybe half a mile, while I turned over the events
of the evening in my mind and tried to find some way out of the
difficulties in which, by my own folly, I found myself placed.  Nicol
looked steadfastly before him and said never a word. By and by I found
the desire for some one to speak with so overpowering that I up and
asked him if he had heard aught of the events of the evening.

"Ay, sir," said he, "I heard ye had some kind o’ stramash, but that was
a’.  I trust ye’re weel oot o’t."

"Have you heard of my cousin Gilbert?" I asked.

"The wastland lad wha used to come aboot the Barns?  Oh, aye!  I’ve
heard o’ him."

"I flung a glass at his face to-night," said I.

"I hope, sir, that he flung anither at yoursel’?" he asked anxiously.

"No.  He swallowed the insult and left soon after. He is not the man to
let me off so easily."

"Whew," said Nicol, "but that’s bad.  Wad ye mind, Laird, if I rode on
afore ye?"

"Why?" I asked.

"Cousins and sodger-folk are kittle cattle," said he.  "I wadna wonder
noo but that Maister Gilbert were ahint a dyke.  I’ve heard tell o’ some
o’ his pliskies in his ain land, and he’s no the lad to let a midge
stick in his throat."

I drew up my horse angrily.

"Nicol," I cried, "you are intolerable.  My cousin is a gentleman of
birth, and do you think he is the man to kill from a dyke-side?  Fie on
you, you have the notions of a common roost-robber."

"Weel, away then, my lord," cries he.  "So be it; but I’ve little faith
in your Gilberts for a’ their gentrice.  I ken their breed ower weel.
But I maun ride afore ye, for there are some gey rough bits on the road,
and I’m a wee bit mair sure in the saddle than yoursel, wi’ a’ respect
to your lairdship."

So the wilful fellow must needs ride before me, looking sharply to the
right and left as though we were in far Muscovy instead of peaceful
Holland.

As for me, I felt in no humour to listen to my servant’s tales or do
aught than think dolefully on my own matters.  The sight of my cousin
and of Mistress Kate had made me sore sick for home, and I could have
found it in my heart once and again to take ship at the next sailing for
Leith.  But these thoughts I choked down, for I felt that they were
unbecoming to any man.  Yet I longed for Marjory as never lover longed
for his mistress.  Her bright hair was ever before my sight, and her
last words on that February evening rang always in my head.  I prayed to
God to watch over her as I rode through the stiff poplars on the way to
Leyden.

As for my quarrel, I cared not a straw for Gilbert and his ill-will, it
having never been my nature to be timorous toward men.  Nay, I looked
forward to meeting him with no little pleasure, for it had long been an
open question which of the twain was best at the sword-play.

"Maister John," said Nicol, suddenly turning round, "I saw twae men
creeping roond thae scrunts o’ trees.  I wis they maunna be after ony
ill."  We were by this time nearing a black, inhospitable part of the
land, where the road ran across a moor all covered with ferns and rushes
and old trunks of trees.

"Ride on," said I; "if we turned for every man that crosses the path, we
should never leave our own threshold."

He did as he was ordered, and our horses being put to the canter,
covered the ground gallantly, and our stirrup-chains clinked in the
silent night.

Suddenly, to my amazement, I saw Nicol fling himself back in the saddle
while his horse stumbled violently forward.  It was one of the most
ingenious feats of horsemanship that I have ever witnessed. The beast
stood quivering, his ears erect with fright, while I rode alongside.

"For God’s sake, sir, take care," Nicol cried. "There’s some damned
thing ower the road, and if I hadna been on the watch it wad hae been a’
ower wif yae guid man.  Watch, for ye may get a shot in your belly any
meenute."

Now, as it chanced, it was that lively canter which saved us, for the
rogues who had set the trap had retired a good way, not expecting us so
early.  At the sound of the stumble they came rushing up from among the
fern, and, ere I knew, a pistol shot cracked past my ears, and another
and another.

Two went wide; one hit my horse on the ear and made him unmanageable, so
that I sat there with my beast plunging and kicking, at the mercy of
whosoever had a fourth pistol.

Nicol spoke not a word, but turning his horse, dashed forward in the
direction whence the shots had come.  As it fell out, it was the best
thing that anyone could have done, for the robbers, not expecting any
such assault, were preparing to fire again.  As it was, the forefeet of
the horse took one villain on the chest, knocking him senseless and
well-nigh trampling the life out of him.  A second gripped Nicol by the
sleeve, and attempted to drag him from the saddle; which plan would
doubtless have succeeded had not my servant, pulling the pistol (which
was not loaded) from his holsters, presented it at the man’s head with
such effect that the fellow in fear of his life let go and fled across
the moor.

By this time I had reduced my own animal to something like submission.
I rode after Nicol and came up just in time to see the third man of the
band (there were but three; for doubtless they trusted to their trap for
unhorsing if not stunning us) engaged in a desperate struggle.  Nicol
had him by the throat with one hand and was endeavouring to squeeze the
breath out of him, while he in turn had his opponent by the other arm,
which he was twisting cruelly. Had my servant been on foot the matter
would soon have ended, for the throat fared badly which those long wiry
hands once encircled; but being on horseback he dared not lean forward
lest he should lose his seat.  My appearance settled it; for the robber,
freeing himself at one desperate leap, made off at the top of his speed,
leaving his pistols behind him. There remained but the one whom Nicol’s
horse had deprived of his senses.

Unfortunately the blow had not been a very severe one, for he was not
long in coming to himself. There was some water in a little stagnant
pool near at hand which Nicol dashed in his face, and in a little the
man opened his eyes and looked up.

At the sight of us he started, and the events of the past half hour came
back to his memory.  Then a look of sullen, obstinate anger came into
his face, and he lay still, waiting for events to take their course.

"Who are you?" I asked.

He made no answer.

I repeated the question several times, and still the man kept his
silence.

"Ye donnert scoondrel," cried Nicol, "tell us whae ye are, or ye’ll hang
the morn on the gallows-hill at Leyden."

Still the fellow would not speak.

"Let’s tie him up," said Nicol, "and I’ll ride wi’ him on the horse
afore me.  He’ll get justice when we win to the toun."

But this was not my policy.  I had other things to think of than
bringing marauders to trial.  A sudden thought struck me.

"I will try him another way," said I to Nicol. "Do you stand aside."

The man lay on the ground where my servant’s horse had thrown him, with
a belt round his legs, and his arms knotted together.  I went up to him,
and stood over.

"Do you know who I am?" I asked sternly, in as tragic a voice as I could
assume.

The man stared sulkily, but did not speak.

"You fool," I cried, "do you think that thus you will circumvent me?
Know that I am the great doctor, Joannes Burnetus of Lugdunum, skilled
in all arts of earth and heaven, able to tell divinations and
prophecies, learned in all magic and witchery.  I know all that thou
hast done since thy birth, and thy father and grandsire before thee, all
the wickedness which shall entitle thee to eternal damnation in that
place which the Devil is even now preparing for thee.  Yea, I can tell
thee the very death which thou shalt die——"

"Stop, stop," cried the fellow, "O most learned sir, spare me.  I know
thou knowest all things.  I confess my sins, and oh, I promise you I
shall mend my ways.  Stop, I pray."

"There is still one ray of hope for thee," said I, "but I cannot give my
word that thou shalt ever gain it, for thou hast advanced too far in sin
already.  But yet thou mayest escape, and there is but one way to set
about it—namely, to tell me of all thy wickedness. I adjure thee, by the
sacred sign _Tekel_, which the Chaldaeans used of old; by _Men_, which
was the sign of the Egyptians; by the _Eikon_ of the Greeks; by the
_Lar_ of the Romans.  I summon thee by the holy names of God,
_Tetragrammaton, Adonay, Algramay, Saday, Sabaoth, Planaboth, Pantbon,
Craton, Neupmaton, Deus, Homo, Omnipotens_; by _Asmath_, the name of the
Evil One, who is lord over thee and my slave—I summon thee to tell me
all thy deeds."

The man was frightened past all telling.  He tried to crawl to my knees,
and began a recital of all manner of crimes and peccadilloes, from his
boyhood till the present hour.  I listened without interest.

"Had any Scot a part with thee in this night’s work?" I asked.

"No, there was none.  There were but Bol and Delvaux beside myself, both
Dutch born and bred."

My mind was lightened.  I never really believed my cousin to have had
any part in such a matter, but I was glad to know it for truth.

"You may go now," I said, "go and repent, and may God blast thee with
all his fire if thou turnest thy hand to evil again.  By the bye, thy
name?  I must have it from thy own lips."

"Jan Hamman, your lordship," said he.

"Well, God pity thee, Jan Hamman, if ever I lay my hand on thee again.
Be off now."

He was off in a twinkling, running for his very life. Nicol and I
remounted, and rode onward, coming to Leyden at the hour of one on the
Sabbath morning—a thing which I much regretted.



                               CHAPTER V

                       THE FIRST SUNDAY OF MARCH


I slept late on the next morning, so that it was near nine o’clock ere I
was up and dressed.  By the time that I broke my fast I had had some
leisure to reflect upon the events of the preceding night and the
consequences which should ensue.  Nicol came to me as soon as the meal
was over, and together we sat down to consult.

"This is the Sabbath, your honour," said Nicol, "so ye may consider
yoursel’ free for the day at ony rate."

"Not so free," said I, for I knew my cousin Gilbert.  "The men I’ve to
deal with have no more respect for the Lord’s day than you have for a
Popish fast, so we must put that out of account."

"Weel, weel," said Nicol, "if that’s sae it maun be sae.  Will ye gang
oot wi’ him the day?"

"No," said I, "not that I am caring for the day, for you mind the
proverb, ’the better the day the better the work,’ but, being in a
foreign land, I am loth to break with the customs of my country.  So
we’ll keep the Sabbath, Nicol my lad, and let Gilbert whistle."

Now I would not have him who may read this narrative think, from my
conduct on this occasion, that I was whiggishly inclined, for, indeed, I
cared naught about such little matters.  I would have a man use the
Sabbath like any other day, saving that, as it seems to me, it is a day
which may profitably be used for serious reading and meditation.  But I
was ever of a curious disposition, liking to be always in mind of
Tweeddale and the folk there, so that I kept the Sabbath during my life
abroad as strictly as a covenanting minister on the moors of Ayr.

"Weel, Laird, that means ye’ll no see the body though he comes," said
Nicol, "and, God help me, if ye dae that there’ll be a terrible stramash
at the street door.  I’se warrant auld Mistress Vanderdecker ’ll get her
ribs knockit in if she tries to keep them oot."

"They can make all the noise they please," said I hotly, "but if it
comes to that the two of us are as good as their bit officers.  I ask
for nothing better than to take some of the pride out of Gilbert’s
friends with the flat of my sword.  Then if they come to-day and are
refused entrance, they will come back to-morrow, and all will be well."

"Then what am I to dae?  When the bodies come to the door, I’m to say,
’His lordship’s compliments, but his lordship’s busy keeping the Sabbath
in his upper chamber, and if ye will come back the morn he’ll look into
your claims.’  ’Faith, it’s awfu’ like auld Sanders Blackett, the lawyer
at Peebles, when I gaed to him seeking the law o’ the miller o’ Rachan.
It was about nine o’clock yae winter’s nicht when I got there, and
Sanders was at supper.  He stappit his heid oot o’ the window and, says
he, ’Gang awa’, my man, and come back the morn.  I’m busy takin’ the
books.’  But I saw by the een o’ him that he was daein’ nae siccan
thing.  ’Oh,’ says I, ’if ye ca’ kippered saumon and schnapps the books,
I’m content.  I’ll just come in and help ye to tak them tae.’  But he
says verra angry, ’Go away, ye impious man, lest the judgment of Heaven
light upon you.  I’ve godly Maister Clovenclaws assisting me in the
solemn ordinance.’  ’Awa’ wi’ your Clovenclaws,’ says I, ’I’ve come ten
mile to speak wi’ ye, and I’ll no gang hame wi’oot it.’  But I was just
thinkin’ I would have to gang back after a’, when a voice comes frae the
inside, ’Sanders, ye limb o’ the deil, whaur’s the sugar?’  I kenned
Maister Clovenclaws’ voice ower weel, so Sanders begins to think that it
wadna dae to let it be telled a’ ower the toun that him and the minister
had been birling at the wine thegither. So ’Come in, Maister
Plenderleith,’ says he verra cannily, and in I gaed, and sic a nicht’s
drinking I never saw.  I put Sanders in his bed, honest man, about twae
o’clock i’ the morning, and syne Clovenclaws and me gaed at it till
daylicht.  I wantit to see the body below the table afore I gaed, and he
wantit to see me, so we sat at it till I was fain to drap for very
decency’s sake.  So what does the man dae but lift me on his shouther
and walk as straucht ower to the manse as if he were new oot o’ his bed;
and there he gied me some guid advice about no presumin’ to contend wi’
my superiors, and let me oot at a back door.  ’Faith, it was an awfu’
time."

"You will say to them that I am busy with other work, and that I will be
glad to see them to-morrow about the matter they know of.  Most like
they will go away quietly, and if they do not it will be the worse for
their own skins.  You take my meaning?"

"I’ll dae your orders, sir, to the letter," said Nicol, and I was well
aware that he would.

I got my books out and set to work to read the gospel of John in Greek
for my spiritual benefit, but I made little speed.  This was mainly the
fault of Nicol, who every few minutes came into the little room where I
sat, on some feigned errand.  I soon divined the reason, for the same
chamber contained a great window, whence one might view the whole length
of the narrow street wherein the house was situate, and even some little
portion of the great Breedestraat at the head.  It was plain that my
servant was not a little concerned on my account.

"Are ye sure that your honour’s guid wi’ the small-swird?" he asked
mournfully.  "If this room were a wee bit braider and the day no what it
is I micht gie ye a lesson."

I did not know whether to laugh or to be angry. "Why, you rascal," I
cried, "do you know anything of these matters?  There are many better
swordsmen than I in the world, but I think I am more than a match for
you."

"Weel," said Nicol modestly, "I’ve gien some folk a gey fricht wi’ the
swird, but let that be.  I’ll be blithe if ye get the better o’ him and
a waefu’ man I’ll be if he kills ye.  Lord, what ’ll I dae?  I’ll hae to
become a sodger in this heathen land, or soom hame, whilk is a thing I
am no capable o’."  And he began to sing with a great affectation of
grief:

    The craw killed the pussie O,
    The craw killed the pussie O,
    The wee bit kittlin’ sat and grat
    In Jennie’s wee bit hoosie O.

—in which elegant rhyme the reader will observe that my cousin stood for
the crow, I for the pussie, and my servant for the kittlin’.

I laughed; but it is not seemly to stand by while your own servant sings
a song which compares you to a cat, so I straightway flung a Greek
lexicon at his head, and bade him leave the room.  I much regretted the
act, for it was my only copy of the book, Master Struybroek’s, and the
best obtainable, and by the fall some leaves came out, and one, [Greek:
_polypenthés_] to [Greek: _polypous_], has not been renewed to this day.

After Nicol had gone I amused myself by looking out of the window and
watching the passers-by.  Some, sober Dutch citizens with Bibles beneath
their arms and their goodly persons habited in decent black, were
striding solemnly to church, while their wives and children came more
slowly behind.  Others of the lighter sort were wandering aimlessly on
no purpose but their own pleasure, but all I marked were dressed out in
their finest clothes.  What I noted most of all was the greater colour
in the streets than we have in our own land.  For there, you will see
little but blacks and drabs and browns, while here the women were often
gaily arrayed in bright tints which gave a pleasing look to the
causeway.

I had not sat long when I noted two gentlemen coming down the alley from
the Breedestraat, very finely clad, and with a great air of distinction
in their faces.  They kept the causeway in such a fashion that all whom
they met had to get into the middle of the road to let them pass.  I
half guessed their errand, the more as the face of one of them seemed to
me familiar, and I fancied that he had been one of the guests at the
supper at Alphen.  My guess was confirmed by their coming to a halt
outside the door of my lodging and attentively considering the house.
Meantime all their actions were plain to my view from the upper window.

One of them stepped forward and knocked loudly. Now I had bidden Nicol
be ready to open to them and give my message.  So I was not surprised
when I heard the street door opened and the voice of my servant
accosting the men.

I know not what he said to them, but soon words grew high and I could
see the other come forward to his comrade’s side.  By and by the door
was slammed violently, and my servant came tearing upstairs.  His face
was flushed in wrath.

"O’ a’ the insolent scoondrels I ever met, thae twae are the foremost.
They wadna believe me when I telled them ye were busy.  ’Busy at what?’
says the yin.  ’What’s your concern?’ says I.  ’If ye dinna let us up to
see your maister in half a twinkling,’ says the ither, ’by God we’ll
make ye.’  ’Make me!’ says I; ’come on and try it.  If it wasna for your
mither’s sake I wal tie your necks thegither.’"

"Nicol," I said, "bring these men up.  It will be better to see them."
My intention changed of a sudden, for I did not seek to carry my
finicking too far.

"I was thinkin’ sae, your honour," said Nicol, "but I didna like to say
it."

So in a little the two gentlemen came up the stairs and into my room,
where I waited to receive them.

"Gentlemen," said I, "I believe you have some matter to speak of with
me."

"Why do you keep such scoundrelly servants, Master Burnet?" said one,
whom I knew for Sir James Erskine of Tullo.

"Your business, gentlemen," I said, seeking to have done with them.
They were slight men, whom I could have dropped out of the window; most
unlike the kind of friends I should have thought my cousin Gilbert would
have chosen.

"Well, if you will have our business," said the elder, speaking sulkily,
"you are already aware of the unparalleled insult to which a gentlemen
of our regiment was subjected at your hands?"

"Oh, yes," I said gaily, "I had forgotten.  I broke Gilbert’s head with
a wine-glass.  Does he want to ask my pardon?"

"You seem to take the matter easily, sir," said one severely.  "Let me
tell you that Master Gilbert Burnet demands that you meet him at once
and give satisfaction with your sword."

"Right," I cried, "I am willing.  At what hour shall it be?  Shall we
say seven o’clock to-morrow’s morning?  That is settled then?  I have no
second and desire none.  There is the length of my sword. Carry my
compliments to my cousin, and tell him I shall be most pleased to
chastise him at the hour we have named.  And now, gentlemen, I have the
honour to wish you a very good day," and I bowed them out of the room.

They were obviously surprised and angered by my careless reception of
their message and themselves. With faces as flushed as a cock’s comb
they went down stairs and into the street, and I marked that they never
once looked back, but marched straight on with their heads in the air.

"Ye’ve gien thae lads a flee in their lug," said Nicol.  "I wish ye may
gie your cousin twae inches o’ steel in his vitals the morn."

"Ah," said I, "that is a different matter.  These folk were but
dandified fools.  My cousin is a man and a soldier."

The rest of the day I spent in walking by myself in the meadows beyond
the college gardens, turning over many things in my mind.  I had come to
this land for study, and lo! ere I well knew how, I was involved in
quarrels.  I felt something of a feeling of shame in the matter, for the
thing had been brought on mainly by my over-fiery temper.  Yet when I
pondered deeply I would not have the act undone, for a display of
foolish passion was better in my eyes than the suffering of an insult to
a lady to pass unregarded.

As for the fight on the morrow I did not know whether to await it with
joy or shrinking.  As I have said already, I longed to bring matters
between the two of us to a head.  There was much about him that I liked;
he had many commendable virtues; and especially he belonged to my own
house.  But it seemed decreed that he should ever come across my path,
and already there was more than one score laid up against him in my
heart.  I felt a strange foreboding of the man, as if he were my
_antithesis_, which certain monkish philosophers believed to accompany
everyone in the world.  He was so utterly different from me in all
things; my vices he lacked and my virtues; his excellencies I wanted,
and also, I trust, his faults.  I felt as if the same place could not
contain us.

If I conquered him, the upshot would be clear enough.  He could not
remain longer in Leyden. His reputation, which was a great one, would be
gone, and he would doubtless change into some other regiment and retire
from the land.  If, again, he had the vantage of me, I had no reputation
to lose, so I might remain where I pleased.  So he fought with something
of a disadvantage.  It was possible that one or other might be killed;
but I much doubted it, for we were both too practised swordsmen to
butcher like common cutthroats.  Nevertheless, I felt not a little
uneasy, with a sort of restlessness to see the issue of it all—not fear,
for though I have been afraid many times in my life it was never because
of meeting a man in fair combat.

Toward evening I returned to my lodging and devoted the remainder of the
day to the study of the books of Joshua and Judges for the comforting of
my soul.



                               CHAPTER VI

                       THE FIRST MONDAY OF MARCH


Nicol wakened me before dawn and I made haste to get ready.  I looked to
see that my sword was in fit condition, for it was a stout
cut-and-thrust blade of the kind which speedily takes the rust.  Then
having taken a draught of strong ale to brace my nerves for the
encounter, I left the house and set off with my servant for the college
gardens.

The morning was clear and fresh.  The sun had not yet fully arisen, but
it was light enough to see two hundred yards before me.  A sharp wind
fluttered my cloak, and sent a thrill of strength through me, for it
minded me of the hill breezes which were wont to blow on the heights of
Scrape.  There was scarce anyone stirring save a few drowsy burghers
whom it behoved to be attending to their business in the early morn.  I
kept my cloak well over my face, for I did not relish the notion of
being recognised by anyone on my errand.

Now, from the college gardens there stretches down to the great canal a
most beautiful pleasaunce, all set with flower beds and fountains.
Beyond this, again, is a more rugged land—a grove with great patches of
grass in it, and here it was that gentlemen of the Scots regiment were
wont to settle their differences. The morning had been chosen as the
time when it was less likely that some interloping busybody might
interrupt us.

I cannot tell how I felt as I walked through the cool morning air among
the young herbs and trees which still bore the dew upon them.  It minded
me so keenly of the mornings at home in Tweeddale, when I was used to
rise before daylight and go far up Tweed with my rod, and bring back, if
my luck were good, great baskets of trout.  Now I was bound on a
different errand.  It was even possible that I might see my own land no
more.  But this thought I dismissed as unworthy of one who would be
thought a cavalier.

In time we came to the spot which the others had fixed on.  There I
found my men already waiting me; my cousin stripped to his sark and
small-clothes, with his blade glimmering as he felt its edge; his
companions muffled up in heavy cloaks and keeping guard over Gilbert’s
stripped garments.  They greeted me shortly as I came up, so without
more ado I took off my coat and vest, and gave them into my servant’s
keeping.  Then going up co my opponent I took his hand.

"Let there be no malice between us, Gilbert," said I.  "I was rash
maybe, but I am here to give account of my rashness."

"So be it, cousin," he said, as he took my hand coldly.

We both stepped back a pace and crossed swords, and in a trice we had
fallen to.

My first thought, and I am not ashamed to confess it, when I felt my
steel meet the steel of my foe, was one of arrant and tumultuous fear.
I had never before crossed swords with anyone in deadly hatred; and in
my case the thing was the harder, for the feeling against my cousin was
not so violent a passion as to make me heedless of aught else.  Before
me, behind the back of my antagonist, the thick underwood was already
filled with the twittering of birds, and a great feeling of longing came
upon me to get well through with the affair and escape death.  For now a
feeling which I had not reckoned with came to oppress me—the fear of
death.  Had my wits been more about me, I might have reflected that my
cousin was too good a swordsman to kill me and lay himself open to many
penalties.  But my mind was in such a confusion that I could think of
naught but an overwhelming danger.

Howbeit, in a little this fit passed, and once more I was myself.
Gilbert, for what reason I know not, fenced swiftly and violently.  Blow
came upon blow till I scarce could keep my breath.  I fell at once upon
the defensive, and hazarded never a cut, but set all my powers to
preserving my skin.  And in truth this was no easy task, for he had
acquired a villainous trick of passing suddenly from the leg-cut to the
head-stroke, so that more than once I came not up to guard in time and
had his sword almost among my hair.  I could not guess what he meant by
this strategy, for I had ever believed that a man who began in a hot-fit
ended in a languor.  He sought, I doubt not, to speedily put an end to
the encounter by putting forth his greater strength, hoping to beat down
my guard or bewilder me with the multiplicity of his flourishes.

Now this conduct of my opponent had an effect the very counter of what
he proposed.  I became completely at my ease; indeed, I swear I never
felt more cool in my life.  This has ever been the way with me, for I
have always been at my best in the extremest perils.  Oftentimes when
things went very sore with me, I was at a loss and saw no way of escape;
but let them get a little worse and I was ready to meet them.  So now I
was on the watch to frustrate every moment, and since no man can fight
rapidly and fight well, I kept him at bay till he deemed it prudent to
give up this method.

But now when he came down to slow, skilful fence I found my real danger.
We were well matched, as had been proved in many a harmless encounter on
the turf by the Tweed.  I was something lighter, he somewhat stronger in
the arm and firmer in the body; but taking us all in all we were as
equal a pair as ever crossed swords.  And now there was an utter
silence; even the birds on the trees seemed to have ceased. The others
no longer talked.  The sharp clatter and ring of the swords had gone,
and in its place was a deadly _swish—swish_, which every man who has
heard it dreads, for it means that each stroke grazes the vitals. I
would have given much in that hour for another inch to my arm.  I put
forth all my skill of fence.  All that I had learned from Tam Todd, all
that I had found out by my own wits was present to me; but try as I
would, and I warrant you I tried my utmost, I could not overreach my
opponent.  Yet I fenced steadily, and if I made no progress, I did not
yield my ground.

With Gilbert the case was otherwise.  His play was the most brilliant I
had ever seen, full of fantastic feints and flourishes such as is the
French fashion. But I could not think that a man could last for ever in
this style, since for one stroke of my arm there were two of his and
much leaping from place to place. But beyond doubt he pressed me close.
Again and again I felt his steel slipping under my guard, and it was
only by a violent parry that I escaped.  One stroke had cut open my
sleeve and grazed my arm, but beyond this no one of us had suffered
hurt.

But soon a thing which I had scarcely foreseen began to daunt me.  I was
placed facing the east, and the rising sun began to catch my eyes.  The
ground was my own choosing, so my ill-luck was my own and no fault of
Gilbert’s.  But it soon began to interfere heavily with my play.  I
could only stand on guard.  I dared not risk a bold stroke, lest, my
eyes being dazzled by the light, I should miscalculate the distance.  I
own I began to feel a spasm of fear.  More than one of my opponent’s
strokes came within perilous nearness.  The ground too was not firm, and
my foot slid once and again when I tried to advance.  To add to it all
there was Gilbert’s face above the point of the swords, cold, scornful,
and triumphant.  I began to feel incredibly weak about the small of the
back, and I suppose my arm must have wavered, for in guarding a
shoulder-cut I dropped my point, and my enemy’s blade scratched my left
arm just above the elbow.  I staggered back with the shock of the blow,
and my cousin had a moment’s breathing-space.  I was so obviously the
loser in the game, that Gilbert grew merry at my expense.

"Well, John," he cried, "does’t hurt thee? My arm is somewhat rougher
than Marjory’s."

There seems little enough in the words, yet I cannot tell how that taunt
angered me.  In the mouth of another I had not minded it, but I had a
way of growing hot whenever I thought of my cousin and my lady in the
same minute of time.  It called to my mind a flood of bitter memories.
In this encounter, at any rate, it was the saving of me.  Once more I
was myself, and now I had that overmastering passionate hate which I
lacked before.  When I crossed swords again I felt no doubt of the issue
and desired only to hasten it.  He on his part must have seen something
in my eyes which he did not like, for he ceased his flourishes and fell
on defence.

Then it was that the real combat of the day commenced.  Before it had
been little more than a trial of skill, now it was a deadly and
determined battle.  In my state of mind I would have killed my foe with
a light heart, however much I might have sorrowed for it after.  And now
he began to see the folly of his conduct in the fore-part of the fight.
I was still fresh and stout of arm; he was a little weary and his
self-confidence a little gone.

"By God, Gilbert, you will eat your words," I cried, and had at him with
might and main.

I fenced as I had never fenced before, not rashly, but persistently,
fiercely, cunningly.  Every attempt of his I met and foiled.  Again and
again I was within an ace of putting an end to the thing, but for some
trifling obstacle which hindered me.  He now fought sullenly, with fear
in his eyes, for he knew not what I purposed concerning him.  I warrant
he rued his taunt a hundred times in those brief minutes.

At last my opportunity came.  He made a desperate lunge forward, swung
half round and exposed his right arm.  I thrust skilfully and true.
Straight through cloth and skin went my blade, and almost ere I knew I
had spitted him clean through the arm just above the elbow.  The sword
dropped from his helpless hand.

I had put forth too much strength, for as he stumbled back with the
shock of the wound I could not check my course, but staggered heavily
against him and together we rolled on the ground.

In a second I was on my feet and had drawn out my weapon.  With lowered
point I awaited his rising, for he was now powerless to continue.

"Well," said I, "have you had satisfaction?"

He rose to his feet with an ugly smile.  "Sufficient for the present,
cousin John," said he.  "I own you have got the better of me this time.
Hi, Stephen, will you lend me a kerchief to bind this cursed wound?"

One of his companions came up and saw to his wants.  I made to go away,
for there was no further need of my presence, but my cousin called me
back.

"Farewell, John," he said.  "Let us not part in anger, as before.
Parting in anger, they say, means meeting in friendship.  And, ’faith, I
would rather part from you in all love and meet you next in wrath."

"Farewell," I said carelessly as I departed, though I was amazed to hear
a man with a pierced arm speak so lightly.  Courage was not a quality
which my cousin had to seek.  So I left him in high good humour with
myself, much pleased at my own prowess, and sensible that all immediate
annoyance from that quarter was at an end.

Little man knows what God hath prepared for him. Had it not been for his
defeat, Gilbert had not left Holland, and my greater misfortunes had
never happened.  And yet at that hour I rejoiced that I had rid myself
of a torment.

Nicol was awaiting me, and soon I was arrayed in my coat once more, for
the air was shrewdly cold. My servant was pale as I had never seen him
before, and it was clear that he had watched the combat with much
foreboding.

"Eh, Maister John," he cried, "ye’re a braw fechter.  I never likit ye
half as weel.  I thocht a’ was up whiles, but ye aye cam to yoursel’ as
sprig as a wull-cat.  Ye’re maybe a wee thing weak i’ the heid-cuts,
though," he added.  "I’ll hae to see to ye.  It’s no what ye micht ca’
profitable to be aye proddin’ a man in the wame, for ye may prick him a’
ower and him no muckle the waur.  But a guid cleavin’ slash on the harns
is maist judeecious.  It wad kill a stirk."

It was still early and we had breakfasted sparely, so we sought a tavern
of good repute, _The Three Crows_, and made a hearty meal, washing it
down with the best Rhenish.  I was so mightily pleased with my victory,
like a child with its toy, that I held my head a full inch higher, and
would yield the causeway to no man.  I do believe if M. Balagny or the
great Lord Herbert had challenged me I would not have refused.

Some three days later I had sure tidings that my cousin had sailed for
Leith and was thought to have no design of returning.



                              CHAPTER VII

                      I SPEND MY DAYS IN IDLENESS


Summer came on the heels of spring, and the little strip of garden below
my windows grew gay as the frock of a burgher’s wife on a Sunday.  There
were great lines of tulips, purple and red and yellow, stately as kings,
erect as a line of soldiers, which extended down the long border nigh to
the edge of the water.  The lawn was green and well trimmed and shaded
by the orderly trees.  It was pleasant to sit here in the evenings, when
Nicol would bring out the supper-table to the grass, and we would drink
our evening ale while the sun was making all the canal a strip of beaten
gold.  Many folk used to come of an evening, some of them come to the
university on the same errand as myself, others, Scots gentlemen out of
place and out of pocket, who sought to remedy both evils by paying court
to the Stadtholder.  Then we would talk of our own land and tell tales
and crack jests till the garden rang with laughter.  I could well wish
those times back, if I could bring with them the _forte latus, nigros
angusta fronte capillos, dulce loqui, ridere decorum_.  But fie on me
for such discontent! Hath not God given good gifts for age as well as
youth—aye, perhaps in greater abundance?

I pursued my studies in the ancient literatures and philosophy with much
diligence and profit.  Nevertheless, there was much to turn my
attention, and I doubt if I did not find the folk around me the more
diverting objects of study.  I lived in an air of theology and
philosophy and statecraft, hearing discussions on these and kindred
matters all the day long.  There were many of my own countrymen in the
place, who are notoriously the most contentious of mankind: so that I
could scarcely walk down any street without hearing some violent
disputation in my own tongue. As for the other people of the place, I
found them both civil and hospitable.

The routine of my days was as regular as clockwork, for it was always
part of my method to apportion my day equally among my duties.  In the
morning, immediately upon rising, I went to Master Sandvoort’s lecture
on the Latin tongue.  Then I broke my fast in the little tavern, _The
Gray Goose_, just at the south entrance to the college.  It was a clean,
well-fitted place, where was found the fattest landlord and the best ale
in Holland.  Then at the hour of ten in the forenoon I went to listen to
the eloquence of Master Quellinus.  Having returned thence to my lodging
I was wont to spend the time till dinner in study. Thereafter I walked
in the town, or resorted to the houses of my friends, or read in the
garden till maybe four o’clock, when it was my custom to go to the
dwelling of Sir William Crichtoun (him whom I have spoken of before),
and there, in the company of such Scots gentlemen as pleaded to come, to
pass the time very pleasantly.  From these meetings I had vast profit,
for I learned something of the conduct of affairs and the ways of the
world, in the knowledge of which I had still much to seek.  Then home
once more to study, and then to bed with a clear conscience and great
drowsiness.

But there were several incidents which befell during this time, and
which served to break the monotony of my life, which merit the telling.
Firstly, towards the end of September who should come to visit me but my
kinsman, Gilbert Burnet of Salisbury, a scholar shrewd and profound, a
gentleman of excellent parts, and the devoutest Christian it has ever
been my lot to fall in with.  He was just returning from his journey to
Italy, whereof he has written in his work, "Some Letters to T.H.R.B.
Concerning his Travels in Italy and Holland."  It was one afternoon as I
sat in the arbour that Nicol came across the green followed by an
elderly man of grave and comely appearance.  It was to my great joy that
I recognised my kinsman. He had alighted in Leyden that morning and
proposed to abide there some days.  I would have it that he should put
up at my lodgings, and thither he came after many entreaties.  During
his stay in the city he visited many of the greater folk, for his fame
had already gone abroad, and he was welcome everywhere.  He was a man of
delightful converse, for had he not travelled in many lands and mixed
with the most famous? He questioned me as to my progress in letters and
declared himself more than satisfied.  "For, John," said he, "I have met
many who had greater knowledge, but none of a more refined taste and
excellent judgment.  Did you decide on the profession of a scholar I
think I could promise you a singular success. But indeed it is absurd to
think of it, for you, as I take it, are a Burnet and a man of action and
one never to be satisfied with a life of study.  I counsel you not to
tarry too long in this foreign land, for your country hath sore need of
men like you in her present distress."  Then he fell to questioning me
as to my opinions on matters political and religious.  I told him that I
was for the church and the king to the death, but that I held that the
one would be the better of a little moderation in its course, and that
the other had fallen into indifferent hands.  I told him that it grieved
my heart to hear of my own countrymen pursued like partridges on the
mountains by some blackguard soldiers, and that when I did return, while
deeming it my duty to take the part of the king in all things, I would
also think it right to hinder to the best of my power the persecution.
In this matter he applauded me.  It pained him more than he could tell,
said he, to think that the church of his own land was in such an ill
condition that it did not trust its friends.  "What in Heaven’s name is
all this pother?" he cried.  "Is a man to suffer because he thinks one
way of worshipping his God better than another?  Rather let us rejoice
when he worships Him at all, whether it be at a dyke-side or in the
King’s Chapel."  And indeed in this matter he was of my own way of
thinking. When finally he took his leave it was to my great regret, for
I found him a man of kindly and sober counsels.

Yet his visit had one result which I had little dreamed of, for it led
me to show greater friendliness to such of the Scots covenanters as were
refugees in the town.  I learned something of their real godliness and
courage, and was enabled to do them many little services.  In
particular, such letters as they wished to write to their friends at
home I transmitted under my own name and seal, since all communication
with Holland was highly suspected unless from a man of approved loyalty.

The other matter which I think worth noting was the acquaintance I
formed with a Frenchman, one M. de Rohaine, a gentleman of birth, who
was in great poverty and abode in a mean street off the Garen Markt.
The way in which I first met him was curious.  I was coming home late
one evening from Master Swinton’s house, and in passing through a little
alley which leads from near the college to the Garen Markt, I was
apprised of some disturbance by a loud noise of tumult.  Pushing forward
amid a crowd of apprentices and fellows of the baser sort, I saw a
little man, maybe a tailor or cobbler from his appearance, with his back
against a door and sore pressed by three ruffians, who kept crying out
that now they would pay him for his miserly ways.  The mob was clearly
on their side, for it kept applauding whenever they struck or jostled
him.  I was just in the act of going forward to put an end to so unequal
a combat, when a tall grave man thrust himself out of the throng and
cried out in Dutch for them to let go.  They answered with some taunt,
and almost before I knew he had taken two of the three, one in either
hand, and made their heads meet with a sounding crack.  I was hugely
delighted with the feat, and broke forward to offer my help, for it soon
became clear that this champion would have to use all his wits to get
out of the place.  The three came at him swearing vehemently, and with
evil looks in their eyes.  He nodded to me as I took my stand at his
side.

"Look after the red-beard, friend," he cried.  "I will take the other
two."

And then I found my hands full indeed, for my opponent was tough and
active, and cared nothing for the rules of honourable warfare.  In the
end, however, my training got the mastery, and I pinked him very
prettily in the right leg, and so put him out of the fight.  Then I had
time to turn to the others, and here I found my new-found comrade sore
bested.  He had an ugly cut in his forehead, whence a trickle of blood
crawled over his face.  But his foes were in a worse case still, and
when word came at the moment that a body of the guard was coming they
made off with all speed.

The man turned and offered me his hand,

"Let me thank you, sir, whoever you may be," said he.  "I am the Sieur
de Rohaine at your service."

"And I am Master John Burnet of Barns in Scotland," said I.

"What," he cried, "a Scot!"  And nothing would serve him but that I must
come with him to his lodging and join him at supper.  For, as it seemed,
he himself had just come from Scotland, and was full of memories of the
land.

I found him a man according to my heart.  When I spoke of his gallantry
he but shrugged his shoulders. "Ah," said he, "it was ever my way to get
into scrapes of that kind.  Were I less ready to mix in others’ business
I had been a richer and happier man to-day," and he sighed.

From him I learned something more of the condition of my own land, and
it was worse even than I had feared.  M. de Rohaine had had many strange
adventures in it, but he seemed to shrink from speaking of himself and
his own affairs.  There was in his eyes a look of fixed melancholy as of
one who had encountered much sorrow in his time and had little hope for
more happiness in the world.  Yet withal he was so gracious and noble in
presence that I felt I was in the company of a man indeed.

If I were to tell all the benefit I derived from this man I should fill
a volume and never reach the end of my tale.  Suffice it to say that
from him I learned many of the tricks of sword play, so that soon I
became as nigh perfect in the art as it was ever in my power to be.  I
learned too of other lands where he had been and wars which he had
fought; and many tales which I have often told at home in Tweeddale I
first heard from his lips.  I was scarce ever out of his company, until
one day he received a letter from a kinsman bidding him return on urgent
necessity.  He made his farewells to me with great regret, and on
parting bade me count on his aid if I should ever need it.  From that
day to this I have never cast eyes on his face or heard tidings of him,
but I herewith charge all folk of my family who may read this tale, if
ever it be their fortune to meet with one of his name or race, that they
befriend him to the best of their power, seeing that he did much
kindness to me.

So the summer passed with one thing and another, till, ere I knew,
winter was upon us.  And I would have you know that winter in the Low
Countries is very different from winter with us among the hills of
Tweed.  For here we have much mist and rain and a very great deal of
snow; also the cold is of a kind hard to endure, since it is not of the
masterful, overbearing kind, but raw and invidious.  But there the frost
begins in late autumn and keeps on well till early spring.  Nor was
there in my experience much haze or rain, but the weather throughout the
months was dry and piercing.  Little snow fell, beyond a sprinkling in
the fore-end of January.  Every stream and pond, every loch and canal
was hard and fast with ice, and that of the purest blue colour and the
keenest temper I have ever seen.  All the townsfolk turned out to
disport themselves on the frozen water, having their feet shod with
runners of steel wherewith they performed the most wondrous feats of
activity.  The peasant-girls going to market with their farm produce
were equipped with these same runners, and on them proceeded more
quickly than if they had ridden on the highroad.

Often, too, during the winter, there were festivals on the ice, when the
men arrayed in thick clothes and the women in their bravest furs came to
amuse themselves at this pastime.  I went once or twice as a spectator,
and when I saw the ease and grace of the motion was straightway smitten
with a monstrous desire to do likewise.  So I bought a pair of runners
and fitted them on my feet.  I shall not dwell upon my immediate
experiences, of which indeed I have no clear remembrance, having spent
the better part of that afternoon on the back of my head in great bodily
discomfort.  But in time I made myself master of the art and soon was
covering the ice as gaily as the best of them.  I still remember the
trick of the thing, and five years ago, when the floods in Tweed made a
sea of the lower part of Manor valley, and the subsequent great frost
made this sea as hard as the high-road, I buckled on my runners and had
great diversion, to the country folks’ amazement.

In all this time I had had many letters from Marjory, letters writ in a
cheerful, pleasant tone, praying indeed for my return, but in no wise
complaining of my absence.  They were full of news of the folk of
Tweedside, how Tam Todd was faring at Barns, and what sport her brother
Michael was having in the haughlands among the wild-duck.  I looked
eagerly for the coming of those letters, for my heart was ever at
Dawyck, and though I much enjoyed my sojourning in Holland, I was yet
glad and willing for the time of departure to arrive.  In January of the
next year I received a bundle of news written in the gayest of spirits;
but after that for three months and more I heard nothing.  From this
long silence I had much food for anxiety, for though I wrote, I am sure,
some half-dozen times, no reply ever came.  The uneasiness into which
this put me cast something of a gloom over the latter part of the
winter.  I invented a hundred reasons to explain it.  Marjory might be
ill; the letters might have gone astray; perhaps she had naught to tell
me.  But I could not satisfy myself with these excuses, so I had e’en to
wait the issue of events.

It was not till the month of April that I had news from my love, and
what this was I shall hasten to tell.



                              CHAPTER VIII

                     THE COMING OF THE BRIG SEAMAW


It was the third day of April, a day so cool and mild that every one who
could was in the open air, that I sat in the little strip of garden
behind my lodging, reading the Symposium of Plato in the light of
certain digests of Master Quellinus.  The beds of hyacinth, yellow and
blue and red, were flaunting before my eyes, and down by the water’s
edge the swallows were twittering and skimming.  The soft spring wind
fluttered the leaves of my book and stirred my hair, so that I found it
hard indeed to keep my attention fixed. Some yards behind me Nicol sat
cleaning a fishing-rod, for in the idle days he amused himself with
trying his skill among the sleepy streams.  He was whistling some bars
of "Leezie Lindsay," and the tune, which I had often heard in Tweeddale,
put me much in mind of home and inclined my heart violently to the place
I had left.  So soon I found my Plato lying listlessly on my lap, and my
thoughts far away over sea.

Just now, I knew, would be the lambing-time in the Tweed hills, and all
the valleys would be filled with the noise of sheep.  The shepherds,
too, would be burning the bent, and the moors sending up wreaths of
pungent smoke.  I minded the smell so well that I almost fancied it was
in my nostrils in place of the moist perfume of hyacinth and violet.  At
Barns, Tam Todd would be seeing to the young trees and fishing in the
full streams.  At Dawyck, Marjory would be early abroad, plucking the
spring flowers and bringing in armfuls of apple-blossom to deck the
rooms.  The thought of Marjory gave me sudden discomfort.  I reflected
for the thousandth time that I had heard nothing of her for months, and
I fell to wondering greatly at her silence.  By and by, what with
thinking of home and of her and chafing at her neglect, I found myself
in a very pretty state of discontentment.

It was just then that I heard a voice behind me, and turning round saw
Nicol approaching in company with another.  The stranger was a man of
remarkable appearance.  He was scarcely the middle height, but his
breadth across the shoulders was so great that he seemed almost
dwarfish.  He had arms of extraordinary length, so long that they
reached almost to his knees, like the Tartars in Muscovy that I have
read of.  His square, weather-beaten face was filled with much good
humour, and the two eyes which looked out from beneath his shaggy brows
were clear and shrewd.

"This is Maister Silas Steen o’ the brig Seamaw," said Nicol, making an
introduction, "whae has come from Scotland this morning, and says he has
letters wi’ him for you."  Having delivered himself, my servant
retreated, and left the newcomer alone with me.

"You’ll be Master John Burnet of Barns?" said he, looking at me sharply.

"The same, at your service," said I.

"It’s just a bit letter for you," and he dived into his pocket and
produced a packet.

I took it hastily, for I had some guess who was the writer.  Nor was I
wrong, for one glance at the superscription told me the truth.  And this
is how it ran:


"_For Master John Burnet in the house of Mistress Vanderdecker near the
Breedestraat, at Leyden_.

"DEAR JOHN: I have not written thee for long, and I trust that thereby I
have not given thee trouble. I am well and happy, when this leaves me,
though desiring thy return.  I trust your studies are to your
satisfaction.  Tam Todd, from the Barns, was over yestreen, and gave a
good account of all things there."


Then came a pause, and the writing was resumed in a hurried, irregular
hand.


"I am not free to write my will.  O John, dear John, come back to me.  I
am so unhappy.  I cannot survive without thee another day" (this latter
word had been scored out and _month_ put in its place). "I am in
dreadful perplexity.  Come quick.

"MARJORY."


You may imagine into what state of mind the reading of this letter threw
me.  My lady was in trouble, that was enough for me, and she desired my
aid.  I guessed that the letter had been written stealthily and that
some trouble had been found in its conveyance, for it bore the marks of
much crumpling and haste.  I could make no conjecture as to its meaning,
and this doubt only the more increased my impatience.

"From whom did you get this?" I asked.

"From a great, thin, swart man, who brought it to me at Leith, and bade
me deliver it.  I came post haste from Rotterdam this day."

I ran over in my mind the serving-folk at Dawyck, and could think of
none such.  Then, like a flash, I remembered Tam Todd.  This doubly
increased my fears.  If Marjory could get no porter for her message save
one of my own servants, then the trouble must be at Dawyck itself.

I can find no words for the depths of my anxiety. To think of Marjory in
sorrow and myself separated by leagues of land and sea well-nigh drove
me distracted.  There and then I resolved on my course.

"Your ship is at Rotterdam?" I asked.

"Yes," said the captain.

"When does she sail?"

"To-morrow night, when the cargo is on board."

"I’ll give you twenty pieces of gold if you’ll sail to-night."

The captain shook his head.  "It canna be done," he cried; "my freight
is lace and schiedam, worth four times twenty pieces, and I canna have a
voyage for naething."

"Listen," said I, "I am in terrible perplexity. I would give you a
hundred, if I had them; but I promise you, if you bring me safely to the
port of Leith, they shall be paid.  Ride back to your vessel and ship
all the stuff you can, and I will be with you at eleven o’clock this
night, ready to sail."

The fellow shook his head, but said nothing.

"Man, man," I cried, "for God’s sake, I implore you.  It’s a matter to
me of desperate import.  See, there are your twenty pieces, and I’ll
give you my bond for eighty, to be paid when we win to Leith."

"Tut, Master Burnet," said he, "I will not be taking your money.  But
I’m wae to see you in trouble.  I’ll take you over the nicht for the
twenty pieces, and if I lose on the venture, you can make it up to me.
It’s safer carrying you and running straight for the pier, than carrying
schiedam and dodging about the Bass.  And I’m not a man that need count
his pennies.  Forbye, I see there’s a lady in the case, and I deem it my
duty to assist you."

I was at first astonished by the man’s ready compliance, but when I saw
that he was sincere, I thanked him to the best of my power.  "Be sure I
shall not forget this service, Captain Steen," said I; "and if it is
ever in my power to serve you in return, you may count on me.  You will
take some refreshment before you go;" and, calling Nicol, I bade him see
to the stranger’s wants.

Meantime it behooved me to be up and doing if I was to sail that night.
I knew not what to think of the news I had heard, for, as I thought upon
the matter, it seemed so incredible that aught could have gone wrong
that I began to set it all down to mere loneliness and a girl’s humours.
The strangeness of the letter I explained with all the sophistry of
care.  She did not wish to disturb me and bring me home before my time.
This was what she meant when she said she was not free to write her
will.  But at the end her desolateness had overmastered her, and she had
finished with a piteous appeal.  Even so I began to reason, and this
casuistry put me in a more hopeful frame of mind.  It was right that I
should go home, but when I got there I should find no cause for fear.
But there was much to be done in the town and the college ere I could
take my departure.  So when I had paid all the monies that I owed, and
bidden farewell to all my friends (among whom Sir William Crichtoun and
Master Quellinus were greatly affected), I returned to my lodgings.
There I found Nicol in great glee, preparing my baggage.  He was
whistling the "Lawlands of Holland," and every now and then he would
stop to address himself.  "Ye’re gaun hame," I heard him saying, "ye’re
gaun hame to the hills and the bonny water o’ Tweed, and guid kindly
Scots folk, after thae frostit Hollanders, and fine tasty parritsh and
honest yill after the abominable meats and drinks o’ this stawsome hole.
And ye’d better watch your steps, Nicol Plenderleith, my man, I’m
tellin’ ye, and keep a calm sough, for there’s a heap o’ wark to be
dune, and some o’ it geyan wanchancy."

"Good advice, Nicol," said I, breaking in upon him; "see that you keep
to it."

"Is that you, Maister John?  Ye’ll be clean high aboot gaun back.  Ye’ll
hae seen a’ that’s to be seen here, for after a’ it’s no a great place.
And ye maun mind and put a bottle o’ French brandy in your valise, or
you’ll be awfu’ oot on the sea.  I think it’s likely to be coorse on the
water."

I took my servant’s advice, and when all was done to my liking, I walked
down to the college gate for one last look at the place.  I was in a
strange temper—partly glad, partly sad—and wholly excited.  When I
looked on the grey, peaceful walls, breathing learning and repose, and
thought of the wise men who had lived there, and the great books that
had been written, and the high thoughts that had been born, I felt a
keen pang of regret.  For there was at all times in me much of the
scholar’s spirit, and I doubted whether it had not been better for me,
better for all, had I chosen the life of study.  I reflected how little
my life would lie now in cloisters and lecture halls, in what
difficulties I would soon be plunged and what troublous waters I might
be cast upon.  My own land was in a ferment, with every man’s hand
against his brother; my love might be in danger; of a surety it looked
as if henceforward quiet and gentleness might be to seek in my life.  I
own that I looked forward to it without shrinking—nay, with a certain
hopeful anticipation; but I confess also that I looked at the past and
all that I was leaving with a certain regret.  Indeed, I was born
between two stools; for, while I could never be content to stay at home
and spend my days among books, on the other hand, the life of unlettered
action was repugnant.  Had it been possible, I should have gladly dwelt
among wars and tumults with men who cared not for these things alone,
and could return, when all violence was at an end, to books and study
with a cheerful heart.  But no man has the making of the world, and he
must even fit himself to it as he finds it.  Nor do I think it
altogether evil to have many desires and even many regrets, for it keeps
a man’s spirit active, and urges him on to valiant effort.  Of this I am
sure, that contentment is the meanest of the virtues.

As I left the place there was a cool, grey haze over all the gardens and
towers—mellow and soft and lucid. But to the north, where lay the sea,
there was a broken sky, blue, with fitful clouds passing athwart. It
seemed, as it were, the emblem of my life—the tranquil and the
unsettled.  Yet in the broken sky there was a promise of sunshine and
brilliance, which was not in the even grey; and this heartened me.

So at four that evening we mounted horse and rode forth by the way we
had come, and ere the hour of eleven were on the wharf at Rotterdam,
sniffing the distant smell of the sea.



                               CHAPTER IX

                      AN ACCOUNT OF MY HOME-COMING


Captain Steen met me on deck and greeted me heartily.  "There’s a brisk
wind from the sou’-east," said he, "which should speed us well;" and
soon, amid creaking of cordage and flapping of sails, we dropped down
the estuary and set our face sea-wards. There was something of a squall
of rain which beat on us till we were fairly beyond the Dutch coast; but
after that it drew down to the west, and when I awoke the next morn, the
sky was blue and sunshiny, and the soft south wind whistled gaily in the
rigging.

Of my voyage home I do not purpose to tell at length.  On it I met with
none of the mishaps which I had encountered before, so the brandy was
wholly needless.  Indeed, I found the greatest pleasure in the journey;
the motion of the ship gave me delight; and it was fine to watch the
great, heaving deserts before and behind, when the sun beat on them at
mid-day, or lay along them in lines of gold and crimson at the
darkening.  The captain I found a friendly, talkative man, and from him
I had much news of the state of the land whither I was returning.  Nor
was it of such a sort as to elate me, for it seemed as if, in the short
time I had been away, things had taken many steps to the devil.  The
truth of the matter, I fancy, was that when I left Tweeddale I was
little more than a boy, with a boy’s interests, but that now I had grown
to some measure of manhood and serious reflection.

But my time during the days of our sailing was in the main taken up with
thoughts of Marjory.  The word I had got still rankled in my mind, and I
puzzled my brain with a thousand guesses as to its purport.  But as the
hours passed this thought grew less vexatious, for was not I on my way
home, to see my love once more, to help her in perplexity, and, by God’s
help, to leave her side never again?  So anxiety was changed by degrees
to delight at the expectation of meeting her, and, as I leaned over the
vessel’s edge and looked at the foam curling back from the prow, I had
many pleasing images in my fancy.  I would soon be in Tweeddale again,
and have Scrape and Dollar Law and Caerdon before my eyes, and hear the
sing-song of Tweed running through the meadows. I thought of golden
afternoons in the woods of Dawyck, or the holms of Lyne, of how the
yellow light used to make the pools glow, and the humming of bees was
mingled with the cry of snipe and the song of linnet.  As I walked the
deck there were many pictures of like nature before me.  I thought of
the winter expeditions at Barns, when I went out in the early morning to
the snow-clad hills with my gun, with Jean Morran’s dinner of cakes and
beef tightly packed in my pocket; and how I was wont to come in at the
evening, numb and frozen, with maybe a dozen white hares and duck over
my shoulder, to the great fire-lit hall and supper.  Every thought of
home made it doubly dear to me.  And more than all else, there was my
lady awaiting me, looking for the sight of my horse’s head at the long
avenue of Dawyck.  An old catch, which wandering packmen used to sing,
and which they called "The North Countree," ran in my head; and, as I
looked over the vessel’s bowsprit, I found myself humming:

    "There’s an eye that ever weeps, and a fair face will be fain
    When I ride through Annan Water wi’ my bonny bands again."


Then I fell to thinking of the house of Barns, and of the many things
which I should do were I home. There was much need of change in the
rooms, which had scarce been touched for years.  Also I figured to
myself the study I should make, and the books which were to fill it.
Then out of doors there was need of planting on the hillsides and
thinning in the haughlands; and I swore I should have a new cauld made
in Tweed, above the island, for the sake of the fishing.  All this and
more should I do "when I rode through Annan Water wi’ my bonny bands
again."

We left Rotterdam on the evening of one day, and sailed throughout the
day following; and since we had a fair wind and a stout ship, about noon
on the next we rounded the Bass and entered the Forth.  I was filled
with great gladness to see my native land once more, and as for my
servant, I could scarce prevail upon him to keep from flinging his hat
into the sea or climbing to the masthead in the excess of his delight.
The blue Lomonds of Fife, the long ridge of the Lammermoors, and the
great battlements of the Pentlands were to me like honey in the mouth,
so long had I been used to flat lands.  And beyond them I saw the line
of the Moorfoots, ending in Dundreich, which is a hill not five miles
from the town of Peebles.

About three of the clock we entered Leith Roads and awaited the signals
for admission.  "The Seamaw lies at the wast harbour for usual," said
the captain, "but there’s something wrong thereaways the day, so we maun
e’en run into the east."  So, soon amid a throng of barques at anchor
and small boats moving to and fro among them, we steered our course, and
in a very little lay against the grey, sea-washed walls of the east
quay.  There we landed, after bidding farewell to the captain; and as my
feet touched the well-worn cobblestones, and I smelt the smell of tar
and herrings, I knew my own land.  The broad twang of the fishermen, the
shrill yatter of the fishwives, the look of the black, red-tiled houses,
and the spires of the kirks—all was so Scots that it went straight to my
heart, and it was with a cheerful spirit that, followed by my servant, I
made for the inn of _The Three Herrings_, where I purposed to sleep the
night ere I rode to Tweeddale on the morrow.  So much for man’s devices:
this was to be to me the last day of quiet life for many months.  But as
I briskly strode along the Harbour Walk, little I foresaw of the dangers
and troubles which awaited my coming.



                          BOOK III—THE HILLMEN



                               CHAPTER I

                           THE PIER O’ LEITH


When I came to the door of _The Three Herrings_, I presented an imposing
sight, with Nicol at my side and two sailors at my back with my baggage.
The landlord, who was taking the afternoon air against the wall, made me
a civil greeting, and placed his hostel at my service, opining that I
was a stranger of consequence just come from abroad.  So bidding my
servant settle with the men, I followed my host upstairs to a room where
a fire was burning and some refreshment laid on the table.  From below
came the clink of glasses and the snatch of a song.  The sun poured in
at the open window; a girl in the street was singing the "Fishwives’
Rant"; and all the world seemed in gay spirits.

An excellent supper was brought, on which I fell like a hawk, for the
sea air had sharpened my hunger, and landward dishes are better than the
meat of a ship.  I bade the landlord let no one enter save my servant,
for that I desired to be alone.  Then I fell to summing up my monies,
and various calculations of a like nature, which it was proper to make
on my return; and, finally, I pushed away my chair from the table, and,
filling my glass, gave myself up to pleasing fancies.

It was near the darkening, as I saw from the window which opened on the
back yard, and which at that hour was filled with the red glow of
sunset.  The chimneys on the tall houses rose like spikes into the still
air, and somewhere in the place a bell was ringing for I know not what.
Below in the room I heard many mingled voices, and a high imperious tone
as of one accustomed to authority.  I guessed that some body of soldiers
was filling the tap-room.  I was in a fine, contented frame of mind,
well pleased with the present, and looking cheerfully forward to the
morrow.  By and by I began to wish for Nicol’s presence and to wonder at
his long absence.

I was just approaching a state of irritation with my servant when the
door was softly opened and the defaulter appeared.  His face struck me
with surprise, for, whereas for usual it was merry and careless, it was
now filled with grave concernment.  He closed the latch quietly behind
him, and then slipped the bolt, locked the door, and pocketed the key.

I stared in silent amazement.

"If it comes to the warst," he said, "we can fecht for ’t."

"What fooling is this?" said I.  "Tell me at once, and have done with
it.

"It’s nae fooling, Laird, as ye’ll be finding oot. Sit still, for I’ve a
long story to tell ye."  And, having first listened for a noise from
below, he began his news, while I listened in much trepidation.

"I paid the men as ye tellt me, and syne I gaed doun to my cousin’s shop
i’ the Rope-Walk, just to speir if they were a’ weel; and then I cam’
back to the inn, thinking to get a bit quiet gless a’ by mysel’ i’ the
chimley corner.  But when I gaed into the room I fand it filled wi’
muckle sodger folk, drinking and sweering like deevils.  And the first
man I clappit eyes on was yin Jock Cadder, whae was yince a freend o’
mine, so sitting doun aside Jock, I fell into crack.

"Weel, I hadna been there mony meenutes when I hears a loud voice frae
the ither end calling for a song.  And anither voice answered, no sae
loud, but weak and thin.  I jumpit up in my seat, for the voices were
weel kenned to me.  And there I saw at the ither end o’ the table your
wanchancy cousin the Captain, sitting glowrin’ wi’ his muckle een and
playing wi’ his gless.  And aside him was nae ither than Maister Michael
Veitch, him o’ Dawyck, but no like what he used to be, but a’ red aboot
the een, and fosy aboot the face, like a man that’s ower fond o’ the
bottle."

My heart leaped with a sudden terror at the news. What on earth was
Marjory’s brother doing on the Pier o’ Leith in the company of my most
bitter foe? A great sense of coming ill hung over me as Nicol went on.

"Weel, I was astonished; and speaking quiet in Jock Cadder’s ear, I asks
him what it meant, and what the twae were daein’ here.  And this is what
I heard from him, for Jock never jaloused I had aught to dae wi’ ye, but
thocht I was aye the same auld hide-i’-the-heather I had been afore.
’When our Captain cam back frae furrin pairts,’ says he, ’he gangs off
to Tweeddale, your ain countryside, for it seems there’s a lassie there
he’s awfu’ fond o’.  She’s the dochter o’ auld Veitch o’ Dawyck, rich,
and, by a’ accoont, terrible bonny.  But she’s trysted to the Captain’s
cousin, Burnet o’ Barns, whae has been in Holland for mair nor a year.
It’s weel kenned that Maister Gilbert Burnet, when he gets a ploy intil
his heid, never stops till he wins his purpose; so he sets himsel’ to
mak love to the lass.  And he couldna dae this unless he were weel in
favour wi’ her brother Michael, so he begins by winnin’ him ower to his
side.  Noo Michael Veitch (that’s him up there) was aye uncommon fond o’
wine and yill o’ a’ description, so the Captain leads him on and on by
drinkin’ wi’ him at a’ times, till noo the man is fair helpless. But
this wasna a’, for if John Burnet cam hame and fund this gaun on, he wad
mak a rare camsteery, and, by a’ accoont, he’s a stieve dour chiel.  So
Maister Gilbert, whae’s high in favour wi’ the Privy Council, gangs and
tells them o’ some daeings o’ his cousin’s abroad, o’ some hobnobbing
and plotting wi’ rebels and outlawed folk, and sending treasonable
letters to this land under his name; so he gets a warrant for the lad’s
arrest as sune as he sets foot on Scots earth—and a’body kens what that
means, that he’ll no be troubled muckle mair wi’ his cousin in this
warld. That’s the reason we’re doun here the day.  We’ve had word that
he’s coming ower i’ the Seamaw, whilk lies at the wast harbour.  We’ve
been sending doun word thae last ’oors, but she’s no in there yet, and
’ill no be noo till the morn.’

"That was what Jock Cadder tellt me, and I warrant I was in a fine
fricht.  It was clear the Captain had nae mind o’ me, for he lookit twae
or three times my way, and never changed his face.  I slips oot the door
wi’oot being noticed, and cam up here wi’ a’ speed to tell ye the tale.
So, Laird, ye’re in a close hole, and there’s just some auld wooden
planking atween you and the Tolbooth."

I cared little for the Tolbooth or anything else. One thing, and one
alone, claimed all my attention. My whole soul was filled with a terror
of anxiety, of mad jealousy, and desperate fear for my lady’s sake. This
was the cause of the letter, this the cause of her silence.  I ground my
teeth in helpless fury, and could have found it in my heart to rush down
to Gilbert and choke the life in his throat.  I was so appalled by the
monstrousness of the thing that I could scarce think.  My own danger was
nothing, but that Marjory should be the sport of ruffians—the thing
overpowered me.  It was too fearsome, too monstrous.

One thing was clear—that I must go to her at once.  If Gilbert Burnet
was on the Pier o’ Leith, Marjory Veitch at Dawyck would be quit of his
company.  Were I once there I could see her, and, perchance, save her.
I cannot write down my full trepidation.  My fingers clutched at my
coat, and I could scarce keep my teeth from chattering.  It was no
fright that did it, but an awful sickening anxiety preying on my vitals.
But with an effort I choked down my unrest, and centred all my thoughts
on the present. Were I only in Tweeddale I might yet find a way out of
the trouble.  But woe’s me for the change in my prospects!  I had come
home thinking in the pride of my heart to be welcomed by all and to cut
a great figure in my own countryside; and lo, I found myself an outlawed
man, whose love was in peril, and whose own craig was none so sure.  The
sudden reversion all but turned my wits.

I walked to the window and looked down.  The night was now dark, but
below a glimmer from the taproom window lit the ground.  It was a court
paved with cobblestones from the beach, where stood one or two waggons,
and at one end of which were the doors of a stable.  Beyond that a
sloping roof led to a high wall, at the back of which I guessed was a
little wynd.  Once I were there I might find my way through the back
parts of Leith to the country, and borrow a horse and ride to Tweeddale.
But all was hazardous and uncertain, and it seemed as if my chance of
safety was small indeed.  I could but try, and if I must perish, why
then so it was fated to be.

"Nicol," said I, "bide here the night to keep off suspicion, and come on
as soon as you can, for the days have come when I shall have much need
of you."

"There’s but ae thing to be dune, to tak to the hills, and if ye gang
onywhere from the Cheviots to the Kells, Nicol Plenderleith ’ill be wi’
ye, and ye need hae nae fear.  I ken the hills as weel as auld Sawtan
their maister himsel’.  I’ll e’en bide here, and if ye ever win to
Dawyck, I’ll no be lang ahint ye. Oh, if I could only gang wi’ ye!  But,
by God, if ye suffer aught, there’ll be some o’ His Majesty’s dragoons
that’ll dree their wierd."  My servant spoke fiercely, and I was much
affected at the tenderness for me which it betokened.

"If I never see you again, Nicol, you’ll watch over Marjory?  Swear,
man, swear by all that’s sacred that you’ll do my bidding."

"I swear by the Lord God Almighty that if ye come to ony scaith, I’ll
send the man that did it to Muckle Hell, and I’ll see that nae ill comes
ower Mistress Marjory.  Keep an easy mind, Laird; I’ll be as guid as my
word."

Without more ado I opened the window and looked out.  My servant’s talk
of taking to the hills seemed an over-soon recourse to desperate
remedies.  Could I but remove my sweetheart from the clutches of my
rival, I trusted to prove my innocence and clear myself in the sight of
all.  So my thoughts were less despairing than Nicol’s, and I embarked
on my enterprise with good heart.  I saw the ground like a pit of
darkness lie stark beneath me.  Very carefully I dropped, and, falling
on my feet on the cobblestones, made such a clangour beneath the very
taproom window that I thought the soldiers would have been out to grip
me.  As it was, I heard men rise and come to the window; and, crouching
far into the lee of the sill, I heard them talk with one another.  "Tut,
tut, Jock," I heard one say, "it is nothing but a drunken cadger come to
seek his horse.  Let be and sit down again."  When all was quiet I stole
softly over to the other side, that I might scale the wall and reach the
wynd, for I dare not pass through the open close into the Harbour Walk
lest I should be spied and questioned by the soldiers who were ever
lounging about.

But some fortunate impulse led me to open the stable door.  A
feebly-burning lantern hung on a peg, and there came from the stalls the
noise of horses champing corn.  They were the raw-boned hacks of the
soldiers, sorry beasts, for the increase of the military in the land had
led to a dearth of horses.  But there was one noble animal at the right,
slim of leg and deep of chest, with a head as shapely as a maiden’s. I
rushed hotly forward, for at the first glance I had known it for my own
mare Maisie, the best in all Tweeddale.  A fine anger took me again to
think that my cousin had taken my steed for his own mount.  I had sent
it back to Barns, and, forsooth, he must have taken it thence in spite
of the vigilant Tam Todd.  But I was also glad, for I knew that once I
had Maisie forth of the yard, and were on her back, and she on the
highway, no animal ever foaled could come up with her.  So I gave up all
my designs on the wall, and fell to thinking how best I could get into
the Harbour Walk.

There was but one way, and it was only a chance. But for me it was neck
or nothing, my love or a tow in the Grassmarket; so I tossed my plumed
hat, my sword, and my embroidered coat on a heap of hay, tore open my
shirt at the neck, put a piece of straw between my lips, and soon was a
very tolerable presentment of an ostler or farrier of some kind.  So
taking Maisie’s bridle—and at my touch she thrilled so that I saw she
had not forgotten me—I led her boldly across the court, straddling in my
walk to counterfeit some fellow whose work was with horses.  My heart
beat wildly as I went below the archway and confronted the knots of
soldiers, who, sitting on a low bench or leaning against the wall, were
engaged in loud talk and wrangling.

"Ho, you, fellow, where are you going with the Captain’s horse?" cried
one.  I knew by his tone that the man was a Southron, so I had little
fear of detection.

"I’m gaun to tak it to the smiddy," said I, in my broadest speech.  "The
Captain sent doun word to my maister, Robin Rattle, in the Flesh Wynd,
that the beast was to be ta’en doun and shod new, for she was gaun far
the neist day.  So I cam up to bring it."

The man looked satisfied, but a question suggested itself to him.

"How knew you the one, if you were never here before?"

"It was the best beast i’ the place," I said simply; and this so put his
mind at rest that, with a gratuitous curse, he turned round, and I was
suffered to go on unmolested.

Down the Harbour Walk I led her, for I dared not mount lest some stray
trooper recognised the mare and sought to interrogate me.  Very quietly
and circumspectly I went, imitating a stableman by my walk and carriage
as I best knew how, till in ten minutes I came to the end, and, turning
up the Fisherrow, came into Leith Walk and the borders of Edinburgh.



                               CHAPTER II

                        HOW I RODE TO THE SOUTH


The night was full of wind, light spring airs, which rustled and
whistled down every street and brought a promise of the hills and the
green country. The stars winked and sparkled above me, but I had no mind
to them or aught else save a grey house in a wood, and a girl sitting
there with a heavy heart. ’Faith, my own was heavy enough as I led
Maisie through the West Vennel, shunning all but the darkest streets,
for I knew not when I might be challenged and recognised, losing my way
often, but nearing always to the outskirts of the town.  Children
brawled on the pavement, lights twinkled from window and doorway, the
smell of supper came out of chink and cranny.  But such things were not
for me, and soon I was past all, and near the hamlet of Liberton and the
highway to Tweeddale.

Now there was safety for me to mount, and it was blessed to feel the
life between my knees and the touch of my mare’s neck.  By good luck I
had found her saddled and bridled, as if some careless, rascally groom
had left her untouched since her arrival.  But I would have cared little
had there been no equipment save a bridle-rope.  I could guide a horse
on the darkest night by the sway of my body, and it was not for nothing
that I had scrambled bareback about the hills of Barns.  Maisie took the
road with long, supple strides, as light and graceful as a bird.  The
big mass of Pentland loomed black before me; then in a little it fell
over to the right as we advanced on our way.  The little wayside
cottages went past like so many beehives; through hamlet and village we
clattered, waking the echoes of the place, but tarrying not a moment,
for the mare was mettlesome, and the rider had the best cause in the
world for his speed. Now this errand which seems so light, was, in
truth, the hardest and most perilous that could be found. For you are to
remember that I was a man proscribed and all but outlawed, that any
chance wayfarer might arrest me; and since in those troubled times any
rider was suspected, what was a man to say if he saw one dressed in
gentleman’s apparel, riding a blood horse, coatless and hatless?  Then,
more, all the way to Peebles lay through dangerous land, for it was the
road to the southwest and the Whigs of Galloway, and, since the Pentland
Rising, that part had been none of the quietest.  Also it was my own
country, where I was a well-kenned man, known to near everyone, so what
might have been my safety in other times, was my danger in these.  This,
too, was the road which my cousin Gilbert had travelled from Barns, and
well watched it was like to be if Gilbert had aught to do with the
matter.  But the motion of my mare was so free, the air so fine, the
night so fair, and my own heart so passionate, that I declare I had
forgotten all about danger, and would have ridden down the High Street
of Edinburgh, if need had been, in my great absence of mind.

I was recalled to my senses by a sudden warning. A man on horseback
sprang out from the shelter of a plantation, and gripped my bridle.  I
saw by the starlight the gleam of a pistol-barrel in his hand.

"Stop, man, stop! there’s nae sic great hurry. You and me ’ill hae some
words.  What hae ye in your pouches?"

Now I was unarmed, and the footpad before me was a man of considerable
stature and girth.  I had some remnants of sense left in me, and I
foresaw that if I closed with him, besides the possibility of getting a
bullet in my heart, the contest would take much time, and would have an
uncertain ending.  I was fairly at my wit’s end what with hurry and
vexation, when the thought struck me that the law and military which I
dreaded, were also the terror of such men as this.  I made up my mind to
throw myself on his mercy.  Forbye, being a south-country man, the odds
were great that my name would be known to him.

"I have no money," I said, "for I came off this night hot-speed, with a
regiment of dragoons waiting behind me.  I am the Laird of Barns, in
Tweeddale, and this day an outlaw and a masterless man.  So I pray you
not to detain me, for there’s nothing on me worth the picking.  I have
not a groat of silver, and, as you see, I ride in my shirt."

"Are ye the Laird o’ Barns?" said the man, staring. "Man, I never kent
it or I wadna hae been sae unceevil as to stop ye.  Be sure that I’m wi’
ye, and sae are a’ guid fellows that likena thae langnebbit dragoons and
thae meddlesome brocks o’ lawyers in Embro.  Gang your ways for me.  But
stop, ye’ve nae airms.  This ’ill never dae.  Tak yin o’ my pistols, for
I’ll never miss it.  And see, gin ye tak my advice and gin ye’re gaun to
Barns, gang off the Peebles road at Leadburn, and haud doun by the
Brochtoun and Newlands ways, for a’ the way atween Leadburn and Peebles
is hotchin’ wi’ sodgers and what-ye-may-ca’-thems.  Guid e’en to ye, and
a safe journey."  The man rode off and almost instantly was lost to my
sight; but his act gave me assurance that there was still some good left
in the world, though in the most unlikely places.

And now I saw before me the black woods of Rosslyn and Hawthornden, and
in the near distance the roofs of the clachan of Penicuik.  There I knew
danger would await me, so taking a random turning to the right, I struck
towards the hills in the direction of Glencorse.  The place was rough
and moory, and full of runlets of water, but Maisie was well used to
such land, for it was no worse than the haughs of Manor, and level turf
compared with the brow of the Deid Wife or the shoulder of Scrape.  So
in a little, when the lights of Penicuik were well on the left, I came
to the Hawes Burn, which passes the Inn of Leadburn, and tracking it
downward, came to the bald white house which does duty for a hostel.

I dared not enter, though I was wofully thirsty, but kept straight on to
the crossroads where the two paths to Tweeddale part asunder.  One—the
way by which I had gone when I set out on my travels—goes over the moor
and down by the springs of the Eddleston Water, through the village of
that name, and thence down the vale to Peebles.  The other, longer and
more circuitous, cuts straight over the rough moorlands to the little
village of Newlands, then over much wild country to Kirkurd, and the
high hills which hem in the hamlet of Broughton, whence it is but five
miles to the house of Dawyck. It is a road which I have always hated as
being dismal and wild beyond any of my knowledge, but now I was glad to
be on it, for every step brought me nearer to my love.

The country, in the main, is desolate heather and bog, with here and
there a white cot-house where dwells a shepherd.  Of late I hear that
many trees have been planted and the bogs are being drained, but at the
time I speak of, all was still in its virginal wildness.  The road, by a
good chance, is dry and easy to find, else there had been difficulties
awaiting me.  The night was clear and sharp, and a bright moon made the
path as plain as daylight.  I found time to curse that moon whenever I
neared human dwellings, and to bless it heartily when I was in the
desert morasses again.

In a little I saw a hilltop which, by its broad, flat shape I knew for
the Black Mount, which lies above the village of Dolphinton on the way
to the west country.  This is a landmark of great note in the
countryside, and now I could guess my whereabouts. I made out that I
must be scarce two miles from the jumble of houses lining the highway
which is named Kirkurd, at which spot the road fords the deep, sullen
stream of Tarth.  Now this same Tarth a little way down flows into the
Lyne, which enters Tweed almost opposite the house of Barns.  At other
times I had ridden the path down its side, for it is many miles the
shorter way.  But I knew well that Barns would be watched like the
courtyard of the Parliament House, and I durst not for my life venture
near it.  I deemed it unprofitable to run the risk of capture for the
sake of an hour or two saved.  So after passing Kirkurd, I held straight
on over the black moors which lie towards the watershed of the Broughton
burn.

Now by good luck I had dismounted just after the bridge and buckled
Maisie’s girth tight and eased the saddle, for I suspected that now I
was entering the more dangerous country.  The issue showed that I had
guessed rightly, for just at the sharp turn of the road over the Hell’s
Cleuch burn, I came near to my end. I was riding carelessly at a rapid
pace through the thick wood of pines which cloaks the turn, when
suddenly, ere ever I knew, I was into the middle of a detachment of
horse riding leisurely in the sime direction.

I do not well know how I acted, save that my pistol went off in the
mellay, and I saw a man clap his hand to his shoulder in a vast hurry
and swear freely. Half a dozen hands were stretched to my bridle, half a
dozen pistols covered me at once.  Now I had no leave to use my hands,
my pistol I had fired, so I was wholly at their mercy.  What happened I
can only guess, for I was in too great a flurry to have any clear
remembrance of the thing.  I was conscious of striking one man fiercely
on the cheek with my empty pistol, and of kicking another on the shins
with all my might.  But my sudden appearance had startled the horses so
thoroughly that all the soldiers’ time was taken up in curbing them, so
they had no leisure to take aim at me.  A dozen shots cracked around me,
all going high into the air, and in a second I was through them and on
the highroad beyond, some twenty paces in advance.

But by this time they were getting their horses under, and I felt that
there was no time to be lost if I wished to see many more days on the
earth.  I patted Maisie’s neck, which to a beast of her spirit was the
best encouragement, and set myself to a race for life.  I kicked off my
great boots to ease her, and then, leaning forward, began the trial of
speed. Behind me I heard shouting and the beat of horses getting into
their stride.  Before me was the long, thin highway, and black hills,
and endless peatmosses.  I had half a mind to leave the road and ride
for the hills, where I made sure no man of them could ever follow me.
But I reflected that this would shut for me the way to Dawyck, and I
should have to lie hid in these regions for weeks, for when my path was
once seen they would guard it more closely.  My only chance was to
outstrip them and so keep the country open before me.

Now began the most terrible and desperate race that I was ever engaged
in.  I had tried my cousin Gilbert and beaten him on the side of Scrape;
now his men were taking revenge for that episode in good earnest.  At
this time I was no more than out of pistol shot, and though I kept this
interval, and all their balls fell short, it was an unpleasing thing to
be riding with shots behind you, any one of which, for all you knew,
might lodge in your spine.  So I strained every nerve to increase the
distance.

Maisie responded gallantly to my call.  I felt her long, supple swing
below me and the gathering of her limbs.  I began to glory in the
exhilaration of the thing, and my spirits rose at a bound.  The keen,
cool air blew about my face, the moonlight danced on the mare’s neck,
and the way in front was a long strip of light.  Sometimes I could not
tell whether or not I was dreaming.  Sometimes I thought I was back in
Holland asleep in the garden, and that all this shifting pageant of
light and scenery, these cries and shots behind, and this long, measured
fall of hooves were but the process of a dream.  I experienced the most
acute enjoyment, for all heavy cares for the future were driven away by
the excitement of the chase.  It was glorious, I thought, and I cared
not a straw for the loss of place and fortune if the free life of the
open air and the hills was to be mine.  It was war to the hilt between
my cousin and myself; both had flung away the scabbards; but I would
master him yet and show him which was the better man.  He should learn
that John Burnet was never so strong as when he was most sorely pressed.

But this braggadocio exhilaration soon passed, and in its place came
some measure of forethought.  I reflected that though I might distance
my pursuers and win to Dawyck, I would surely be tracked, and so bring
misfortune on my mistress and myself.  I had as yet no clear plans for
the future.  I had already all but burned my boats, for this night’s
work was like to get me into trouble on its own account.  The wild
notion of fleeing to the hills and trusting to God for the rest
commended itself to me more and more. But one thing I must do—abide at
Dawyck till such time as Nicol should be able to join me.  I had the
most perfect trust in him; I had proved him a hundred times, and I knew
well that if mortal man could do aught to mend my fortunes, he could do
it.  So with this thought I matured a plan for the present.  I must put
forth all my speed and win clean away from my pursuers.  Now at
Broughton there was an inn, where abode an honest man, one Joshua
Watson, who had oft had dealings with me in the past.  He was an old
retainer of my house, and I knew that he would see his roof and gear in
a blaze before his eyes ere he would see any harm come to a laird of
Barns.  To him I purposed to go and hide till the dragoons had passed.
They had not recognised me, I knew, for they were not men of our
countryside; and if left to themselves, would keep the highway to
Moffat, and have never a thought of turning aside into Tweeddale.

I whispered something to Maisie, and the good mare set herself to the
task.  She was still unjaded, for I had used her to long wanderings, and
she had not forgotten the lesson.  I listened to her steady, rhythmical
breath and the measured beat of her hooves, and I thanked Heaven that I
had chanced on her.  At first they were maybe an eighth of a mile
behind.  Soon the distance increased, little by little at first, then by
more and more as my mare got into her long gallop and their coarse
beasts began to tire.  We passed the little lonely cot of Lochurd,
nestling under great green hills where the sheep bleat and the plovers
cry alway.  Then on by the lonely bog where men came once to dig marl
and left a monstrous wide pit, filled with black water and with no
bottom. I paused for a second to let Maisie drink from a burn which
comes down from the Mount Hill.  Soon we were at the turning where the
road to Biggar and the West goes off from the highway.  Here I stopped
to listen for a moment.  Far off and faint I heard the noise of my
pursuers, and judged they were near a mile distant.  Then off again; and
now the road inclines downward, and as one rises over the crest of brae,
which the shepherds call the Ruchill End, there bursts on the sight all
the vast circle of hills, crowded and piled together, which marks the
course of Tweed. Down the little glen of Broughton I rode, while the
burn made music by the highway, and it was hard to think that death
awaited a little behind.  Soon the moors sank into fields, trees and
cottages appeared, a great stone mill rose by the water, and I clattered
into the village of Broughton.

The place was asleep, and, as I drew up at the inn, but one light was
apparent.  I hammered rudely at the door till the landlord came, sleepy
and yawning, and bearing a candle in his hand.  At the sight of me he
started, for my danger was known over all Tweeddale.  In a few words I
told him of my pursuit and my request.  He was a man of sparing speech,
and, saying nothing, he led me to the barn and showed me a hole in a
great bank of straw.  Maisie he took to the stable.  "Ha’e nae fear," he
said.  "Trust me, I’ll settle the hash o’ thae gentry."

Sure enough, I had not been two minutes in the place when I heard voices
and the sound of horses, and creeping to the narrow, unglazed window,
saw the dragoons draw up at the inn-door.  Much shouting brought down
the landlord, who made a great show of weariness, and looked like one
just aroused from sleep.

"Heard you or saw you any man pass on horseback about five minutes
syne?" they asked.

"I daresay I did," said he.  "At ony rate, I heard the sound o’ a horse,
and it’s verra likely it was on the Moffat road.  There’s a hantle o’
folk pass by here at a’ ’oors."

"Ye’re sure he didna come in here?" they said again.  "We’ll search the
house to see."

"Weel," said the landlord, "ye can dae as ye like, but it seems a gey
fule’s errand.  I tell ye it’s lang past midnight, and we’ve a’ been
asleep here, and naebody could hae gotten in unless I had opened the
door, for I hae a’ the keys.  But come and look, gentlemen, and I’ll
fetch ye some yill."

They drank the ale, and then seemed to think better of their purpose,
for they remounted.  "He’ll be aff to the hills at the heid o’ Tweed,"
they said. "He would never, gin he had ony sense, gang doun Tweeddale,
where there’s nae hiding for man or beast."  So with many wanton oaths
they set off again at a lazy gallop.



                              CHAPTER III

                          THE HOUSE OF DAWYCK


I knew well that I had little time to lose, and that what must be done
must be done quickly.  So as soon as the tails of them were round the
hillside, I came out from my hiding-place and mounted Maisie once more.
I thanked the landlord, and with a cry that I would remember him if I
ever got my affairs righted again, I turned sharply through the burn and
down the path to Peebles.  It was touch or miss with me, for it was
unlikely that the highway between the west country and the vale of
Peebles would be freed from the military.

Yet freed it was.  It may have been that the folk of Tweedside were
little caring about any religion, and most unlike the dour carles of the
Westlands, or it may have been that they were not yet stirring.  At any
rate I passed unmolested.  I struck straight for the ridge of Dreva, and
rounding it, faced the long valley of Tweed, with Rachan woods and
Drummelzier haughs and the level lands of Stobo.  Far down lay the
forest of Dawyck, black as ink on the steep hillside.  Down by the Tweed
I rode, picking my way very carefully among the marshes, and guarding
the deep black moss-holes which yawned in the meadows. Here daybreak
came upon us, the first early gleam of light, tingling in the east, and
changing the lucent darkness of the moonlit night to a shadowy grey
sunrise.  Scrape raised his bald forehead above me, and down the glen I
had a glimpse of the jagged peaks of the Shieldgreen Kips, showing sharp
against the red dawn.  In a little I was at the avenue of Dawyck, and
rode up the green sward, with the birds twittering in the coppice, eager
to see my love.

The house was dead as a stone wall, and no signs of life came from
within.  But above me a lattice was opened to catch the morning air.  I
leapt to the ground and led Maisie round to the stables which I knew so
well.  The place was deserted; no serving-man was about; the stalls
looked as if they had been empty for ages.  A great fear took my heart.
Marjory might be gone, taken I knew not whither.  I fled to the door as
though the fiend were behind me, and knocked clamorously for admittance.
Far off in the house, as it were miles away, I heard footsteps and the
opening of doors.  They came nearer, and the great house-door was opened
cautiously as far as possible without undoing the chain; and from within
a thin piping inquired my name and purpose.

I knew the voice for the oldest serving-man who dwelt in the house.

"Open, you fool, open," I cried.  "Do you not know me?  The Laird of
Barns?"

The chain was unlocked by a tremulous hand.

"Maister John, Maister John," cried the old man, all but weeping.  "Is’t
yoursel’ at last?  We’ve had sair, sair need o’ ye.  Eh, but she’ll be
blithe to see ye."

"Is your mistress well?" I cried with a great anxiety.

"Weel eneuch, the puir lass, but sair troubled in mind.  But that’ll a’
be bye and dune wi’, noo that ye’re come back."

"Where is she?  Quick, tell me," I asked in my impatience.

"In the oak room i’ the lang passage," he said, as quick as he could
muster breath.

I knew the place, and without more words I set off across the hall,
running and labouring hard to keep my heart from bursting.  Now at last
I should see the dear lass whom I had left.  There was the door, a
little ajar, and the light of a sunbeam slanting athwart it.

I knocked feebly, for my excitement was great.

"Come," said that voice which I loved best in all the world.

I entered, and there, at the far end of the room, in the old chair in
which her father had always sat, wearing the dark dress of velvet which
became her best, and with a great book in her lap, was Marjory.

She sprang up at my entrance, and with a low cry of joy ran to meet me.
I took a step and had her in my arms.  My heart was beating in a mighty
tumult of joy, and when once my love’s head lay on my shoulder, I cared
not a fig for all the ills in the world.  I cannot tell of that meeting;
even now my heart grows warm at the thought; but if such moments be
given to many men, there is little to complain of in life.

"O John," she cried, "I knew you would come.  I guessed that every
footstep was yours, coming to help us.  For oh! there have been such
terrible times since you went away.  How terrible I cannot tell you,"
and her eyes filled with tears as she looked in mine.

So we sat down by the low window, holding each other’s hands, thinking
scarce anything save the joy of the other’s presence.  The primroses
were starring the grass without, and the blossom coming thick and fast
on the cherry trees.  So glad a world it was that it seemed as if all
were vanity save a dwelling like the Lotophagi in a paradise of
idleness.

But I quickly roused myself.  It was no time for making love when the
enemy were even now at the gates.

"Marjory, lass," I said, "tell me all that has been done since I went
away."

And she told me, and a pitiful tale it was—that which I had heard from
Nicol, but more tragic and sad.  I heard of her brother’s ruin, how the
brave, generous gentleman, with a head no better than a weathercock, had
gone down the stages to besotted infamy.  I heard of Gilbert’s masterful
knavery, of his wooing at Dawyck, and how he had despoiled the house of
Barns.  It seemed that he had spent days at Dawyck in the company of
Michael Veitch, putting my poor Marjory to such a persecution that I
could scarce bide still at the hearing of it.  He would importune her
night and day, now by gallantry and now by threats.  Then he would seek
to win her favour by acts of daring, such as he well knew how to do.
But mostly he trusted to the influence of her brother, who was his aider
and abetter in all things. I marvelled how a gentleman of family could
ever sink so low as to be the servant of such cowardice. But so it was,
and my heart was sore for all the toils which the poor girl had endured
in that great, desolate house, with no certain hope for the future.  She
durst not write a letter, for she was spied on closely by her
tormentors, and if she had bade me return, they well knew I would come
with the greatest speed, and so in knowing the time of my arrival, would
lay hands on me without trouble.  The letter which reached me was sealed
under her brother’s eyes and the postscript was added with the greatest
pains and sent by Tam Todd, who sat at Barns in wrath and impotence.
Truly things had gone wrong with a hearty good-will since I had ridden
away.

But the matter did not seem much better now that I had returned.  I was
an outlawed man, with no dwelling and scarce any friends, since the men
of my own house were either hostile or powerless to aid. My estates were
a prey to my enemies.  I had naught to trust to save my own good fortune
and a tolerably ready sword, and, to crown all, my love was in the
direst danger.  If she abode at Dawyck the bitter persecution must be
renewed, and that the poor maid should suffer this was more than I could
endure.  I had no fear of her faithfulness, for I knew of old her
steadfast heart and brave spirit, but I feared my cousin as I feared no
other on earth.  He cared not a fig for the scruples of ordinary men,
and he was possessed of a most devilish cunning, before which I felt
powerless as a babe.  Yet I doubtless wronged him by suspicion, for,
after all, he was a Burnet, and fought openly as a man of honour should.
But he had a gang of marauding ruffians at his heels, and God alone knew
what might happen.

At all events, I must wait till what time my servant Nicol should arrive
from Leith.  I had no fear of his failing, for he had the readiest wit
that ever man had, and I verily believe the longest legs.  He should be
at Dawyck ere noonday, when he should advise me as to my course.  Nor
was there any immediate danger pressing, for so long as Gilbert abode at
Leith he could not come to Dawyck, and unless our schemes grievously
miscarried, he could not yet have been apprised of my escape.  Moreover,
the soldiers to whom I had given the slip the night before, could as yet
have no inkling either of my identity or my present harbour.  So for the
meantime I was safe to meditate on the future.

Marjory, woman-like, was assured that now I had come back her sorrows
were at an end.  She would hear nothing of danger to be.  "Now that you
are here, John," she would say, "I am afraid of nothing. I do not care
if Gilbert return and plague me a thousandfold more; I shall well
support it if I know that you are in the land.  It is for you I fear,
for what must you do save go to the hills and hide like the hillmen in
caves and peatbogs?  It is surely a sad use for your learning, sir."

So the morning passed so quickly that I scarce knew it.  We went
together to a little turret-room facing the north and fronting the broad
avenue which all must pass who come to the house; and here we waited for
the coming of Nicol.  I felt a fierce regret as I looked away over the
woods and meadows to the little ridge of hills beyond which lay Barns,
and saw the fair landscape all bathed in spring sunshine.  It was so
still and peaceful that I felt a great desire to dwell there with
Marjory in quiet, and have done forever with brawling and warfare.  I
had come home from the Low Countries with a longing for the plain
country life of Tweeddale, such as I had been bred to.  I was prepared
in heart to get ready my fishing-rods and see to my guns, and begin
again my long-loved sports.  But harsh fate had decreed otherwise, and I
was to fare forth like a partridge on the mountains, and taste the joys
of the chase in a new manner. But at the thought my spirits rose again.
I would love dearly to play a game of hide-and-go-seek with my cousin
Gilbert, and so long as I had my sword and my wits about me, I did not
fear.  My one care was Marjory, and this, in truth, was a sore one.  I
cursed my cousin right heartily, and all his belongings, and vowed, deep
down in my heart, to recompense him some day for all his doings.

It is true that all this while it lay open to me to brazen it out before
His Majesty’s Council, and try to clear my name from guilt.  But as the
hours passed this method grew more distasteful to me.  There I should be
in a strange place among enemies and scenes of which I knew nothing.
Innocent though I might be, it was more than likely that I should find
myself worsted.  More, it seemed the gallanter thing to contest the
matter alone among the hills, a fight between soldiers, with no solemn
knaves to interfere. So by this time I had all but resolved on the
course which my servant had first advised.

About twelve of the clock we saw a long figure slinking up the avenue,
keeping well in the shade of the trees, and looking warily on all sides.
I knew my man, and going down to the door, I set it open, and waited for
his coming.  Nor did I wait long. When he saw me he changed his walk for
a trot, and came up breathing hard, like a hound which has had a long
run.  I led him into the dining-hall, and Marjory prepared for him food
and drink.  Never a word spoke he till he had satisfied his hunger.
Then he pushed back his chair, and looking sadly at my lady, shook his
head as though in dire confusion.

"A bonny bigging, Maister John," he said, "but ye’ll sune hae to leave
it."

"That’s a matter on which I have waited for your coming," said I, "but I
would hear how you fared since I left you."

"I’ve nae guid news," he said sadly, "but such as they are ye maun e’en
hear them."

And this was the tale he told.



                               CHAPTER IV

                     HOW MICHAEL VEITCH MET HIS END


"When you had gone oot," began Nicol, "I just waited till I heard your
footsteps gang oot o’ the yaird. Syne I gaed dounstairs to the landlord,
whae is a decent, comfortable kind o’ man wi’ no muckle ill aboot him.
I telled him that my maister was terrible unweel, and on no accoont maun
be disturbit, but that he maun hae the room to himsel’ for the nicht.
The man was verra vexed to hear aboot ye.  ’Sae young a chiel,’ says he,
’it’s awfu’.’  So I got my will, and I kenned I wad be troubled by nae
folk comin’ and speirin’ aboot the place.  There was nae reason why I
shouldna gang awa’ and leave the lawin’, but I had a kind o’ irkin’ to
get anither glisk o’ the sodgers, so I e’en gaed into the room aside
them.

"They were noo mair uproarious than afore.  Nane were drunk, for ’faith,
the Captain wasna the man to let his men dae that, but a’ were geyan
wild and carin’ little aboot their language.  The Captain sits at the
heid o’ the table sippin’ his toddy wi’ that dour stieve face o’ his
that naething could move, and that ye think wad be ashamed to sae muckle
as lauch. But Maister Veitch wasna like him.  He was singin’ and roarin’
wi’ the loudest, and takin’ great wauchts frae the bowl, far mair than
was guid for him.

"By and by he gets up on his feet.

"’A health to the Captain,’ he says.  ’Drink, lads, to the welfare o’
that most valiant soldier and gentleman, Captain Gilbert Burnet.  Ye a’
ken the errand ye’re come on, to lay hands on a rebel and take him to
his proper place, and I drink to your guid success in the matter.’  And
he lifts up his glass and spills some o’ it ower the table.

"At this there was a great uproar, and they a’ rose wi’ their glasses
and cried on the Captain.  He sat a’ the while wi’ a sort o’ scornfu’
smile on his face, as if he were half-pleased, but thocht little o’ the
folk that pleased him.

"’I thank you,’ he says at last.  ’I thank you all, my men, for your
good will.  We have done well together in the past, and we’ll do better
in time to come.  I will prove to the rebel folk o’ this land that
Gilbert Burnet will make them obey.’

"’Faith, Gilbert,’ says Maister Veitch, ’hae ye no the grace to speak o’
your verra guid friend?  I think ye’re beholden to me for a hantle o’
your success.’

"The Captain looks at him wi’ a glint o’ guid humour.  ’No more,
Michael,’ says he, ’than the cook owes to the scullion.  You do my dirty
work.’

"’Dirty work, quotha,’ cried Maister Veitch, who was hot and flustered
with wine.  ’I wouldna tak that from any other than yoursel’, Gilbert,
and maybe no from you.’

"’Take it or not, just as you please,’ said the Captain, scornfully.
’It’s no concern o’ mine.’

"This angered the other, and he spoke up fiercely:

"I am of as guid blood as yoursel’, Gilbert Burnet.  Is a Tweeddale
gentleman no as guid as a bit westland lairdie?"

"’Faith, that is too much,’ says the Captain. ’Michael, I’ll make you
answer for this yet.’  So he sat with lowered brows, while Maister
Veitch, to a’ appearance, had forgotten the words he had spoken.

"In a little the Captain dismisses the men to their sleeping-quarters,
and the pair were left alone, save for mysel’, whae being in the dark
shadows near the door escaped the sicht o’ a’.  The two gentlemen sat at
the board eyeing each other with little love.  By and by Gilbert speaks.

"Ye called me a bit westland lairdie no long syne, Maister Veitch, if
ye’ll be remembering.’

"The ither looks up.  ’And what if I did?’ says he.  ’Is’t no the fact?’

"’That it’s no the fact I have a damned good mind to let you see,’ says
the ither.

"Michael looks at him askance.  ’This is a gey queer way to treat your
friends.  I’ve done a’ in my power to aid you in a’ your pliskies.  I’ve
turned clean against the Laird o’ Barns, who never did me ony ill, a’
for the sake o’ you.  And forbye that, I’ve done what I could to further
your cause wi’ my sister, who is none so well inclined to you.  And this
is a’ the thanks I get for it, Gilbert?’

"I saw by the dour face o’ the Captain that he was mortal thrawn.

"’And a’ the thanks ye are likely to get,’ says he.  ’Is’t no enough
that a man o’ my birth and fame should be willing to mate wi’ one o’
your paltry house, a set o’ thieves and reivers wi’ no claim to honour
save the exaltation o’ the gallows-rope?  Gad, I think it’s a mighty
favour that I should be so keen to take the lass from among you.’

"’By Heaven, that is too much to swallow!’ said Maister Michael, as some
sparks o’ proper feeling rose in him at last; and he struggled to his
feet.

"The Captain also rose and looked at him disdainfully.

"’What would you do?’ said he.

"’This,’ said the other, clean carried wi’ anger; and he struck him a
ringing lick on the face.

"Gilbert went back a step, and (for his honour I say it) kept his wrath
doun.

"’That’s a pity,’ says he; ’that was a bad action o’ yours, Michael, as
ye’ll soon ken.  I’ll trouble ye to draw.’

"I hae felt vexed for mony folk in my life, but never for yin sae muckle
as puir Maister Veitch.  He reddened and stumbled and plucked his sword
from its sheath.  He was dazed wi’ wine and drowsiness, but his enemy
made nocht o’ that.

"They crossed swirds and I watched them fall to.  I was terrible feared,
for I saw fine that the yin was as angry as a bull, the ither as
helpless as a sheep. It was against a’ decency to let sic a thing gang
on, so I ran forrit and cried on them to stop.  ’D’ye no see the man’s
fair helpless?’ I cried out; but they never seemed to hear me, but went
at it as hard as ever.

"At first baith fought nane sae bad, for baith were braw swordsmen, and
even in sic a plight Michael’s skill didna desert him.  Gilbert, too,
was quieter than was to be expectit.  But of a sudden a wild fury seized
him.  ’I’ll teach ye to speak ill o’ me and my house,’ he cried in a
voice like thunder, and cam on like a storm o’ hail.

"Michael fell back and tried to defend himsel’. But the puir lad was sae
dazed and foundered that frae the first he had nae chance.  His blade
wabbled at every guaird, and he never risked a cut.  It was just like a
laddie gettin’ his paiks frae a maister and keepin’ off the clouts wi’
yae airm.

"And then he let his sword drop, whether wi’ weariness or no I canna
tell, and stood glowrin’ afore him.  The Captain never stopped.  I dinna
think he ettled it, for when he began I think he didna mean mair than to
punish him for his words.  But now he lunged clean and true.  Nae sword
kept it aff, nae coat o’ mail wardit it, but deep into Michael’s breast
it sank.  Wi’ yae groan he fell back, and the breath gaed frae his body.

"I could hardly contain mysel wi’ rage and sorrow. At first I was for
rinnin’ forrit and throttlin’ the man, but I got a glimpse o’ his face,
and that keepit me. It was dark as a thunder-clud, and regret and
unquenched anger lookit oot o’ his een.

"’This is a black business,’ he says to himsel’, ’a black damnable
business.  God knows I never meant to kill the fool.’  And he began to
walk up and down wi’ his heid on his breast.

"I felt that I had seen eneuch.  My whole hert was sick wi’ the peety o’
the thing, and forbye it was time for me to be going if I was ever to
win to Tweedside. So I slips frae the house, which was still quiet, for
naebody kenned o’ the deed, and far away somewhere I heard the lilt o’ a
sodger’s song.  I sped doun the Harbour Walk and syne into Embro’, as
though the deil were ahint me.  When I won to Auchendinny it was aboot
three in the mornin’, and I made a’ the haste I could.  I think I maun
hae run a’ the road frae there to Leidburn.  Then I took ower the Cloch
hills and doun by Harehope and the Meldons.  I crossed Lyne abune the
Brig, and came doun Stobo burn, and here I am.  I never met a soul for
good or ill, so the land’s quieter thereaways than folk make it oot.
But doun by the Eddleston Water there’s a geyan nest o’ sodgers, so
ye’ve nae time to lose, Laird, if ye wad win to the hills."

When I turned to Marjory at the close of this tale she was weeping
silently; yet there was little bitterness in her tears.  Her brother
had, after all, made a better end than one could have guessed from his
life. Indeed, I had small cause to feel kindness to him, for he had
betrayed his trust, and had been the author of all the ills which had
come upon my mistress. But for her sake I was sad.

"Marjory," I said, "I have many scores to settle with my cousin, for all
his life he has done me ill, and the time will come when I shall pay
them.  I will add this to the others.  Be assured, dear, that your
brother shall not be unavenged."

And Marjory dried her tears, and from that hour spake never a word of
Michael.  But I knew well that deep in her heart remained an abiding
sorrow which chastened the gaiety of her spirits.



                               CHAPTER V

                I CLAIM A PROMISE, AND WE SEEK THE HILLS


And now I set myself resolutely to think out something that might be the
saving of my life and my love.  I was in a perilous case, for when
Gilbert found that I had escaped him, he would come on forthwith to
Dawyck, and, in all likelihood, be here ere nightfall.  One thing was
clear—that I could not bide myself nor leave Marjory to his tender
mercies. The hills for me; and for her—ah, that was the rub in the
matter!

At last I made out some semblance of a plan. On the edge of Douglasdale,
in the shire of Lanark, dwelt William Veitch at the house of Smitwood,
the uncle of the dead Sir John, an old man well fallen in the vale of
years.  He was unmolested by all, being a peaceable soldier who had
served God and the king in his day, and now thought of nothing save
making a good ending.  He would gladly take the lass, I knew, and
shelter her till such time as I should come and take her again.  Nor
would Gilbert follow her thither, for no word should come to his ear of
her destined harbour, and he knew naught of the place nor the
relationship.  The plan came upon me with such convincing force that I
took no other thought on the matter.  Nicol should be left there both as
a guard of the place—and who so vigilant?—and as some means of
communication between me and my mistress.  For my own part, when once I
had seen my lass safely sheltered, I should take to the hills with a
light heart.  I should love to be free and careless among the wide
moors, and try my wits in a fair contest against my sweet cousin.

I told the thing to Nicol and he gladly agreed. Then I sought out
Marjory, who had gone to make some preparations for my flight, and found
her talking gravely to the old man, the only remaining servant. I drew
her to the little oak parlour.

"Marjory, lass," I said, "I am but new come home, and I little thought
to have to take flight again so soon.  Do you mind ere I went to the Low
Countries I came here to bid you farewell, and you sang me a song?"

"I mind it well," said she.

"Have you a remembrance of the air, my dear? How did it go?" and I
whistled a stave.

"Ay, even so.  You have a good ear, John."

"I think, too, that I have mind of a verse or so," said I.  "There was
one which ran like this:

    "’And if he were a soldier gay
      And tarried from the town,
    And sought in wars, through death and scars,
      To win for him renown,

    I’d place his colours in my breast
      And ride by moor and lea,
    And win his side, there to abide
      And bear him company.’

Was it not so?"

"Yes," she said, smiling; "how well you remember, John."

"And there was a refrain, too," I went on.

    "’For sooth a maid, all unafraid,
      Should by her lover be,
    With wile and art to cheer his heart,
      And bear him company.’"


Marjory blushed.  "Why do you remind me of my old song?" she said.  "It
pains me, for I used to sing it ere the trouble came upon us, and when
we were all as happy as the day was long."

"Nay," I said, "it is a song for the time of trouble.  It was your
promise to me, and I have come to claim its fulfilment.  I am for the
hills, Marjory, and I cannot leave you behind.  Will you come and bear
me company?  I will take you to Smitwood, where even the devil and my
cousin Gilbert could not follow you.  There you will be safe till I come
again when this evil time is past, for pass it must.  And I will go to
the hills with a blithe heart, if once I knew you were in good keeping."

"Oh, John, to be sure I will follow you," she said, "even to the world’s
end.  I will fare among rough hills and bogs if I may but be near you.
But I will go to Smitwood, for most terribly I dread this place."

So it was all brought to a conclusion, and it but remained to make ready
with all speed and seek the uplands.  We trusted ourselves wholly to
Nicol’s guidance, for he knew the ways as he knew his own name, and had
a wide acquaintance with the hillmen and their hiding-places.  On him it
lay to find shelter for us on the road and guide us by the most
unfrequented paths.  So we set about the preparing of provisions and
setting the house in order.  The old man, who was the sole servant
remaining, was left in charge of the place against our uncertain return.
For myself I should have taken but one horse, Marjory’s roan mare, and
tramped along on foot; but Nicol bade me take Maisie, for, said he,
"I’ll tak ye by little-kenned ways, where ye may ride as easy as walk;
and forbye, if it cam to the bit, a horse is a usefu’ cratur for rinnin’
awa on.  I could trot fine on my feet mysel’, but though ye’re a guid
man at the sma’-swird, Laird, I doubt ye’d no be muckle at that."  The
words were wise, so I saddled Maisie and prepared to ride her to
Smitwood, and there leave her.

It was, I think, about three hours after midday when we were ready to
start on our journey.  A strange cavalcade we formed—Marjory on the
roan, dressed plainly as for the hills, and with a basket slung across
the saddlebow, for all the world like a tinker’s pannier; I myself on
Maisie, well-mounted and armed, and Nicol on foot, lean and ill-clad as
ever.  It was not without a pang that we set out, for it is hard to
leave the fair and settled dwellings of home for haphazard lodging among
rough morasses.  Marjory in especial could scarce refrain from tears,
while I own that as I looked down the vale and saw the woods of Barns
and the green hills of Manor, I could have found it in me to be
despondent.

But once we left the valley and began to ascend the slopes, our spirits
returned.  It was an afternoon among a thousand, one such as only April
weather and the air of the Tweed valley can bring.  The sky was
cloudless and the wind sharp, and every hill and ridge in the great
landscape stood out clear as steel. The grass was just greening beneath
our feet, the saugh bushes were even now assuming the little white
catkins, and the whole air was filled with a whistling and twittering of
birds.  We took our road straight through the pine wood which clothes
the western slopes of Scrape.  The ground was velvet-dry, and the deer
fled swiftly as we neared their coverts.  It was glorious to be abroad
and feel the impulse of life stirring everywhere around.  Yet I could
not keep from the reflection that at this very time the day before I had
been nearing the port of Leith in the Seamaw, expecting nothing save a
pleasant homecoming, and thereafter a life of peace.  Truly in one short
day and night I had led a somewhat active life, and now was fleeing from
the very place I had most longed to return to.

Soon we left the woods and came out on the heathery brow of Scrape, and
crossing it, entered the deep glen where the burn of Scrape flows to
join the Powsail.  The heather had been burned, as is the custom here in
the early spring, and great clouds of fine white dust rose beneath the
hooves of our horses. A dry crackling of twigs and the strident creak of
the larger roots as they grated on one another, filled our ears.  Then
once more we ascended, high and ever higher, over rocks and treacherous
green well-eyes and great spaces of red fern, till we gained the brow of
the hill which they call Glenstivon Dod, and looked down into the little
glen of Powsail.

We crossed the lovely burn of Powsail, which is the most beautiful of
all Tweedside burns, since the water is like sapphire and emerald and
topaz, flashing in every ray like myriad jewels.  Here we watered our
horses, and once more took the hills.  And now we were on the wild ridge
of upland which heads the glens of Stanhope and Hopecarton and Polmood,
the watershed ’twixt the vales of Tweed and Yarrow. Thence the sight is
scarce to be matched to my knowledge in the south country of Scotland.
An endless stretching of hills, shoulder rising o’er shoulder, while
ever and again some giant lifts himself clean above his fellows, and all
the while in the glen at our feet Tweed winding and murmuring.

I asked Nicol what was the purpose of our journey, for this was by no
means the shortest way to Douglasdale and Smitwood.  He answered that to
go straight to our destination would be to run our heads into the lion’s
mouth.  He purposed that we should go up Tweed to a hiding-place which
he knew of on the Cor Water, and then make over by the upper waters of
the Clyde and the Abington moors to the house of Smitwood.  These were
the more deserted and least accessible places, whereas the villages and
lowlands around the skirts of the hills were watched like the High
Street of Edinburgh.

In a little we passed the wild trough where the Stanhope Burn flows
toward Tweed.  It was now drawing toward the darkening, and the deep,
black glen seemed dark as the nether pit.  Had we not had a guide to
whom the place was familiar as his own doorstep, we should soon have
been floundering over some craig.  As it was, our case was not without
its danger.  It is not a heartening thing to go stumbling on hilltops in
the dusk of an April evening, with black, horrific hill-slopes sinking
on all sides. Marjory grew frightened, as I knew by the tightened clutch
at her horse’s rein, and her ever seeking to draw nearer me, but like
the brave lass that she was, she breathed never a word of it.  Every now
and then an owl would swoop close to our faces, or a great curlew dart
out of the night with its shrill scream, and vanish again into the dark.
It was an uncanny place at that hour, and one little to be sought by
those who love comfort and peace.  But the very difficulty of the way
gladdened us, for it gave us assurance that we would be unmolested by
wayfaring dragoons.  By and by stars came out and the moon rose,
glorious and full as on the night before, when I had ridden from Leith.
Then it served to light my course to Dawyck, now to guide me from it.

We were now descending a steep hillside, all rough with _sklidders_, and
coming to the Water of Talla, which we forded at a shallow a little
below the wild waterfall called Talla Linns.  Even there we could hear
the roar of the cataract, and an awesome thing it was in that lonely
place.  But we tarried not a minute, but urged our horses up a desperate
ravine till once more we were on the crest of the hills.  And now a
different land was around us.  Far to the right, where the Talla joins
the Tweed, we could mark the few lights of the little village of
Tweedsmuir.  The higher hills had been left behind, and we were on a
wide expanse of little ridges and moor which the people of Tweedside
call "The Muirs," and which extends from the upper Clyde waters to the
source of the Annan and the monstrous hills which line its course.  I
had been but once before in the place, in the winter time, when I was
shooting the duck which come here in great plenty.  To me, then, it had
seemed the bleakest place in God’s creation, but now, under the silver
moonlight, it seemed like a fantastic fairyland, and the long, gleaming
line of Tweed like the fabled river which is the entrance to that happy
domain.

We were now near our journey’s end, and in the very heart of the moors
of Tweed.  The night was bright with moonlight, and we went along
speedily. Soon we came to a narrow upland valley, walled with
precipitous green hills.  Here Nicol halted.

"There’ll be watchers aboot," he said, "and our coming ’ill hae been
tellt to the folk in the cave. We’d better gang warily."  So we turned
our horses up the glen, riding along the narrow strip of meadowland
beside the burn.  I had heard of the place before, and knew it for the
Cor Water, a stream famous for trout, and at this time, no less renowned
among the hillmen as a hiding-place.  For in the steep craigs and screes
there were many caves and holes where one might lie hid for months.

Soon we came to a steep, green bank, and here we drew rein.  Nicol
whistled on his fingers, with a peculiar, piercing note like a whaup’s
cry.  It was answered by another from the near neighbourhood. Again
Nicol whistled with a different pitch, and this time a figure came out
as from the hillside, and spoke.

"Whae are ye," he said, "that come here, and what do ye seek?  If ye
come in the Lord’s name, welcome and a night’s lodging await ye.  If no,
fire and a sword."

"I’m Nicol Plenderleith," said my servant, "as weel ye ken, John
Laidlaw.  And these are twae gentlefolk, whose names are no convenient
to be mentioned here, for hillsides hae ears.  If ye come near, I’ll
whisper it in your lug."

The man approached and appeared well-satisfied. He bade us dismount and
led the horses off, while we waited.  Then he returned, and bidding us
follow, led the way up a steep gully which scarred the hillside.  In a
little he stopped at an out-jutting rock, and crept round the corner of
it.  At the side next the hill was an opening large enough to allow a
man of ordinary stature to pass, and here he entered and motioned us to
follow.



                               CHAPTER VI

                       THE CAVE OF THE COR WATER


The place we found ourselves in was a narrow passage, very lofty and
very dark, and with countless jags of rough stone on all sides to
affront the stranger. Some few paces led us into a wider place, lit by
some opening on the hillside, for a gleam as of pale moonlight was all
about it.  There stood a sentinel, a tall, grave man, dressed in coarse
homespun, and brown of the face.  Through this again we passed into
another straitened place, which in a little opened into a chamber of
some magnitude.

When I grew accustomed to the candle-light, I made out that it was a
natural cave in the whinstone rocks, maybe thirty feet in height, square
in shape, and not less than thirty feet long.  The black sides were
rough and crusted, and hung in many parts with articles of household
gear and warlike arms.  But the place was less notable than the people
who were sitting there, and greeted us as we entered.  In the midst was
a table of rough-hewn wood, whereon lay the remnants of a meal.  Lit
pine-staves cast an eerie glow over all things, and in the light I saw
the faces of the company clear.

On a settle of stone covered with a sheep’s fleece sat an old man, large
of limb and tall, but bent and enfeebled with age.  His long hair fell
down almost to his shoulders; his features as the light fell upon them
were strong, but his eyes were sightless and dull as stone.  He had a
great stick in his hand which he leaned on, and at our entrance he had
risen and stared before him into vacancy, conscious of some new
presence, but powerless to tell of it.  Near him, along by the
table-side, were two men of almost like age, square, well-knit fellows,
with the tanned faces of hillmen.  I guessed them to be shepherds or
folk of that sort who had fled to this common refuge. Beyond these again
stood a tall, slim man of a more polished exterior than the rest; his
attitude had something of grace in it, and his face and bearing
proclaimed him of better birth.  Forbye, there were one or two more,
gaunt, sallow folk, such as I had learned to know as the extreme
religionists.  These were busy conversing together with bowed heads and
earnest voices, and took no heed of our arrival.  To add to all, there
were two women, one with a little child, clearly the wives of the
shepherds.

Our guide went forward to the man who stood by the wall and whispered
something to him.  In an instant he came to us, and, bowing to Marjory,
bade us welcome.  "We are glad to see you here, Master Burnet," said he.
"I am rejoiced to see the gentlemen of the land coming forth on the side
of the Covenant.  It is you and such as you that we need, and we are
blithe to give you shelter here as long as you care to bide with us.  It
is a queer thing that two men of the same house should be engaged in
this business on different sides."

Here one of the others spoke up.

"I trust, Master Burnet, ye have brought us good news from the Lawlands.
We heard that ye had great converse with the godly there, and we will be
glad to hear your account of how the guid cause prospers over the
water."

Now I felt myself in a position of much discomfort.  The cause of my
outlawry had clearly got abroad, and here was I, credited with being a
zealous religionist and a great man among the Scots exiles in Holland.
Whereas, as I have already said, I cared little for these things, being
not of a temper which finds delight in little differences of creed or
details of ecclesiastical government, but caring little in what way a
man may worship his Maker.  Indeed, to this day, while I can see the
advantage of having fixed rites and a church established, I see little
use in making a pother about any deviation.  So I now found myself in an
unpleasing predicament.  I must avow my utter ignorance of such matters
and my worldly motives for thus seeking shelter, and in all likelihood,
win the disfavour of these folk, nay, even be not suffered to remain.

"I thank you for your welcome," said I, "but I must hasten to set
matters right between us.  I am not of your party, though it is my
misfortune to have to seek safety among the hills.  It is true I have
been in the Low Countries, but it was for the purposes of study and
seeing the world, and not for the sake of religion.  If I must speak the
truth, when I abode there I had little care of such things, for they
were never in my way.  Now that I am returned and find myself a
fugitive, I am not a whit more concerned with them.  My misfortunes
arise from the guile of a kinsman, and not from my faith.  So there you
have my predicament."

I made the declaration crudely and roughly, for the necessity was urgent
upon me of making it very plain at the outset.  Another man would have
been repelled or angered, but this man had the penetration to see
through my mask of callousness that I was not ill-disposed to his cause.

"It is no matter," he said.  "Though you were the most rabid malignant,
we would yet give you shelter.  And, indeed, though you may not be of
our way of thinking in all matters, yet I doubt not you are with us on
the essentials.  Forbye, you are a gentleman of Tweeddale, and it would
be queer if you werena right-hearted, Master John Burnet."

Some one of the disputants grumbled, but the others seemed heartily to
share in this opinion, and bidding us sit down, they removed our
travelling gear, and set food before us.  Our appetites were sharp with
the long hill journey, and we were not slow in getting to supper.
Meanwhile the long man to whom we had first spoken busied himself with
serving us, for in that desert place every man was his own servant.
Afterwards Marjory went to the women, and soon won their liking, for the
heart would be hard indeed which was not moved by her pretty ways and
graces.

When I had done I sat down on the settle with the rest, and the fire
which burned in a corner of the cave was made up, and soon the place was
less dismal but a thousandfold more fantastic.  I could scarce keep from
thinking that it was all a dream; that my landing, and midnight ride,
and Nicol’s news, and my perilous predicament were all figments of the
brain. I was too tired to have any anxiety, for I would have you
remember that I had ridden all the night and most of the day without a
wink of sleep, besides having just come off a sea voyage.  My eyelids
drooped, and I was constantly sinking off into a doze. The whole place
tended to drowsiness; the shadows and the light, the low hum of talk,
the heavy air, for the outlet for smoke was but narrow.  But the man I
have spoken of came and sat down beside me and would engage me in talk.

"I do not think you know me, Master Burnet," said he; "but I knew your
father well, and our houses used to be well acquaint.  I am one o’ the
Carnwath Lockharts, that ye may hae heard o’.  My name is Francis
Lockhart o’ the Beltyne."

I knew him when he uttered the words, for I had often heard tell of him
for a gallant gentleman who had seen service under Gustavus and in many
Low Country wars.  I complimented myself on his acquaintance, which
kindness he proceeded to repay. So we fell to discussing many things—men
I had known in Leyden, men I had known in Tweeddale, together with the
more momentous question of the future of each of us.  I gave him a full
account of my recent fortunes, that he might have wherewith to
contradict any rumours as to my reasons for taking to the hills.  He in
turn spoke to me of his life, and his sorrow at the fate of his land.
The man spoke in such unfeigned grief, and likewise with such a
gentleman-like note of fairness, that I felt myself drawn to him.  It
was while thus engaged that he spoke a word which brought upon him the
condemnation of one of the ethers.

"Oh," said he, "I would that some way might be found to redd up thae
weary times and set the king richt on his throne, for I canna but
believe that in this matter loyalty and religion go hand in hand; and
that were James Stewart but free from his wanchancy advisers there would
be less talk of persecuting."

At this one of the others, a dark man from the West, spoke up sharply.
"What do I hear, Maister Lockhart?  It’s no by ony goodwill to James
Stewart that we can hope to set things richt in thae dark times.  Rather
let our mouths be filled with psalms and our hands with the sword-hilt,
and let us teach the wanton and the scorner what manner o’ men are bred
by the Covenant and the Word."

The speech was hateful to me, and yet as I looked in the dark, rugged
face of the man I could not keep from liking it.  Here, at any rate, was
a soul of iron.  My heart stirred at his words, and I could have found
it in me to cast in my lot even with such as these, and bide the bent
with naught but a good sword and faith in God.  Howbeit, it was well I
made no such decision, for I was never meant for one of them.  I ever
saw things too clearly, both the evil and the good; and whereas this
quality hinders from swift and resolute action, it yet leads more
plainly to a happy life.

Then the old man, him whom I have spoken of, beckoned to me with his
staff and bade me come and sit by him.  He looked so kinglike even in
his affliction that I thought on the old blind king Oedipus in the Greek
play.

"Ye kenna me, John Burnet, but weel ken I you.  Often in the auld days
your father and me had gey ploys hunting and fechting roond a’ the muirs
o’ Tweed.  He was a guid man, was Gilbert, and I hear he had glimpses o’
grace in the hinner end."

"Maybe," said I, being in perplexity, for from the grace that he spoke
of, my father had ever been far.

"Ay, and I was sair vexed I saw him so little. For he had to bide at
hame for the last years, and I was aye busied wi’ other work.  Yeddie o’
the Linns was never an idle man, and less than ever in thae days."

At the mention of his name a flood of recollection came in upon me.  I
minded how I had heard of the son of Lord Fairley, a great soldier who
had won high renown in the wars abroad: and how he had returned a
melancholy man, weighed down with the grave cares of religion, and gone
to the wilds of Tweed to a hut just above the Linns of Talla, where he
spent his days in prayer and meditation.  The name of Yeddie o’ the
Linns, as he was called among the shepherds and folk of these parts,
became an equivalent for high-hearted devotion.  Then when the wars
began tales of him grew over the countryside. In stature he was all but
gigantic, famed over half the towns of France for feats of strength, and
no evil living had impaired his might.  So at the outbreak of the
persecution he had been a terror to the soldiers who harried these
parts.  The tale ran of the four men whom he slew single-handed at the
Linns, hemming them in a nook of rocks, and how often he had succoured
fugitives and prisoners, coming like an old lion from the hills and
returning no one knew whither. There was also the tale of his blinding
by a chance splinter from a bullet-shot, and how he had lived among the
caves and hills, dangerous even in his affliction.  Had I but known it,
this cave was his finding, and half the retreats in Tweeddale and
Clydesdale were known to him.  But now he was an old man, who had long
left his youth, and his strength had all but gone from him.  He sat
alone in his great darkness, speaking little to the inmates or the
chance comers, save when he knew them for gentlemen of birth; for though
he might risk his life for the common people, he had no care to
associate with them, being of the old Kirkpatricks of that ilk, as proud
a house as is to be found in the land.

"You are not of us," he said suddenly.  "I heard you say a moment agone
that you had no share in the inheritance of Jacob, but still chose to
dwell among the tents of sin."

"Nay," I said very gently, for he was very old and of noble presence,
"do not speak thus.  Surely it is no sin to live at peace in the good
earth in honour and uprightness, and let all nice matters of doctrine go
by, esteeming it of more importance to be a good man and true than a
subtle disquisitioner—thinking, too, that all such things are of little
moment and change from age to age, and that to concern one’s self much
with them is to follow vain trifles.  For the root of the whole matter
is a simple thing on which all men are agreed, but the appurtenances are
many, and to me at least of such small significance that I care for them
not at all.  I do not mind how a man worship his Maker, if he have but
real devoutness. I do not care how a church is governed if the folk in
it are in very truth God’s people."

"You speak well, my son," said he, "and at one time I should have gone
with you.  Nor do I set any great value by doctrine.  But you are young
and the blood is still rich in your veins and the world seems a fair
place, with many brave things to be achieved.  But I am old and have
seen the folly of all things, how love is only a delusion and honour a
catchword and loyalty a mockery.  And as the things of earth slip away
from me, and the glory of my strength departs, I see more clearly the
exceeding greatness of the things of God.  And as my eyes cease to be
set on earth, I see more nearly the light of that better country which
is an heavenly.  So I love to bide in these dark moors where the pomp of
the world comes not, among men of grave conversation, for I have leisure
and a fitting place to meditate upon the things to come."

"It may be," said I, "that some day I also be of your way of thinking.
At present the world, though the Devil is more loose in it than I love,
seems to me so excellent that I would pluck the heart of it before I
condemn it.  But God grant that I may never lose sight of the beauty of
His kingdom."

"Amen to that," said the old man very reverently.

Truly, my thoughts on things were changing. Here was I in the very
stronghold of the fanatics, and in the two chief, the old man and Master
Lockhart, I found a reasonable mind and lofty purpose. And thus I have
ever found it, that the better sort of the Covenanters were the very
cream of Scots gentlefolk, and that ’twas only in the _canaille_ that
the gloomy passion of fanatics was to be found.

Meantime Nicol, who cared for none of these things, was teaching the
child how to play at the cat’s garterns.



                              CHAPTER VII

        HOW TWO OF HIS MAJESTY’S SERVANTS MET WITH THEIR DESERTS


The next morn broke fair and cloudless, and ere the sun was up I was
awake, for little time must be lost if we sought to win to Smitwood ere
the pursuit began.  The folk of the cave were early risers, for the need
for retiring early to rest made them so; and we broke our fast with a
meal of cakes and broiled fish almost before daylight.  Then I went out
to enjoy the fresh air, for it was safe enough to be abroad at that
hour.  Nothing vexed the still air on the green hillside save the
flapping peewits and the faint morning winds.

Marjory meantime ran out into the sunshine with all the gaiety in the
world.  She was just like a child let loose from school, for she was
ever of a light heart and care sat easily upon her.  Now, although we
were in the direst peril, she was taking delight in spring, as if we
were once again children in Dawyck, catching trout in the deep pools of
the wood.  She left me to go out from the little glen, which was the
entrance to the cave, into the wider dale of the Cor Water, which ran
shallow between lone green braes. I heard her singing as she went down
among the juniper bushes and flinty rocks, and then it died away behind
a little shoulder of hill.

So I was left to my own reflections on the plight in which I found
myself.  For the first time a sort of wounded pride began to vex me.
Formerly I had thought of nothing save how to save my own head and keep
my love from my enemy, and cared not, if in the effecting of it, I had
to crouch with the fox and be chased by the basest scum of the land.  I
cared not if I were put out of house and home and outlawed for years,
for the adventurous spirit was strong within me.  But now all my old
pride of race rose in rebellion at the thought that I was become a
person without importance, a houseless wanderer, the spoil of my
enemies.  It made me bitter as gall to think of it, and by whose aid my
misfortune had been effected.  A sort of hopeless remorse came over me.
Should I ever win back the place I had lost?  Would the Burnets ever
again be great gentlemen of Tweeddale, a power in the countryside,
having men at their beck and call?  Or would the family be gone forever,
would I fall in the wilds, or live only to find my lands gone with my
power, and would Marjory never enter Barns as its mistress?  I could get
no joy out of the morning for the thought, and as I wandered on the
hillside I had little care of what became of me.

Now at this time there happened what roused me and set me once more at
peace with myself.  And though it came near to being a dismal tragedy,
it was the draught which nerved me for all my later perils. And this was
the manner of it.

Marjory, as she told me herself afterwards, had gone down to the little
meadows by the burnside, where she watched the clear brown water and the
fish darting in the eddies.  She was thus engaged, when she was aware of
two horsemen who rode over the top of the glen and down the long hill on
the other side.  They, were almost opposite before she perceived them,
and there was no time tor flight.  Like a brave lass she uttered no
scream, but stood still that they might not see her.  But it was of no
avail. Their roving eyes could not miss in that narrow glen so fair a
sight, and straightway one called out to the other that there was a girl
at the burnside.

Now had the twain been out on an ordinary foray it would have gone hard
indeed with us.  For they would have turned aside to search out the
matter, and in all likelihood the hiding-place would have been
discovered.  But they had been out on some night errand and were
returning in hot haste to their quarters at Abington, where their
captain had none too gentle a temper.  So they contented themselves with
shouting sundry coarse railleries, and one in the plenitude of his
greathearted ness fired his carbine at her.  Without stopping further
they rode on.

The bullet just grazed her arm above the wrist, cutting away a strip of
dress.  She cried out at the pain, but though frightened almost to
death, she was brave enough to bide where she was, for if she had run
straight to the cave it would have shown them the hiding-place.  As soon
as they passed out of view she came painfully up the slope, and I who
had heard the shot and rushed straightway to the place whence it came,
met her clasping her wounded wrist and with a pitiful white face.

"O Marjory, what ails you?" I cried.

"Nothing, John," she answered; "some soldiers passed me and one fired.
It has done me no harm. But let us get to shelter lest they turn back."

At her words I felt my heart rise in a sudden great heat of anger.  I
had never felt such passion before. It seemed to whelm and gulf my whole
being.

"Let me carry you, dear," I said quietly, and lifting her I bore her
easily up the ravine to the cave.

When I got her within our shelter there was a very great to-do.  The
women ran up in grief to see the hurt, and the men at the news of the
military wore graver faces.  Master Lockhart, who was something of a
surgeon, looked at the wound.

"Oh," he says, "this is nothing, a scratch and no more.  It will be well
as ever to-morrow.  But the poor maid has had a fright which has made
her weak. I have some choice French brandy which I aye carry with me for
the fear of such accidents.  Some of that will soon restore her."

So he fetched from some unknown corner the bottle which he spake of, and
when her lips had been moistened, Marjory revived and declared her
weakness gone.  Now my most pressing anxiety was removed, which up till
this time had been harassing me sore. For if my lady were to be hurt in
this unfriendly place, what hope of safety would there be for either?
When I saw that the wound was but trifling, the anger which had been
growing in my heart side by side with my care, wholly overmastered me.
All my pride of house and name was roused at the deed.  To think that
the lady who was the dearest to me in the world should be thus
maltreated by scurrilous knaves of dragoons stirred me to fury.  I well
knew that I could get no peace with the thought, and my inclination and
good-judgment alike made me take the course I followed.

I called to Nicol, where he sat supping his morning porridge by the
fire, and he came to my side very readily.

"Get the two horses," said I quietly, that none of the others might hear
of my madness, "one for me and one for yourself."  Now the beasts were
stabled in the back part of the cave, which was roomy and high, though
somewhat damp.  The entrance thereto lay by a like rift in the hillside
some hundred yards farther up the glen.  When I had thus bidden my
servant I sauntered out into the open air and waited his coming with
some impatience.

I asked him, when he appeared, if he had the pistols, for he had a great
trick of going unarmed and trusting to his fleet legs and mother wit
rather than the good gifts of God to men, steel and gunpowder. "Ay,
laird, I hae them.  Are ye gaun to shoot muirfowl?"

"Yes," said I, "I am thinking of shooting a muirfowl for my breakfast."

Nicol laughed quietly to himself.  He knew well the errand I was on, or
he would not have consented so readily.

I knew that the two dragoons had ridden straight down the Cor Water
glen, making for the upper vale of Tweed and thence to the Clyde hills.
But this same glen of Cor is a strangely winding one, and if a man leave
it and ride straight over the moorland he may save a matter of two
miles, and arrive at the Tweed sooner than one who has started before
him.  The ground is rough, but, to one used to the hills, not so as to
keep him from riding it with ease.  Also at the foot of the burn there
is a narrow nick through which it thrusts itself in a little cascade to
join the larger stream; and through this place the road passes, for all
the hills on either side are steep and stony, and offer no foothold for
a horse.  Remembering all these things, a plan grew up in my mind which
I hastened to execute.

With Nicol following, I rode aslant the low hills to the right and came
to the benty tableland which we had travelled the day before.  The sun
was now well up in the sky, and the air was so fresh and sweet that it
was pure pleasure to breathe it.

After maybe a quarter-hour’s stiff riding we descended, and keeping well
behind a low spur which hid us from the valley, turned at the end into
the glen-mouth, at the confluence of the two waters. Then we rode more
freely till we reached the narrows which I have spoke of, and there we
halted.  All was quiet, nor was there any sound of man or horse.

"Do you bide there," said I to my servant, "while I will wait here.  Now
I will tell you what I purpose to do.  The two miscreants who shot
Mistress Marjory are riding together on their way to their quarters.
One will have no shot in his carbine; what arms the other has I cannot
tell; but at any rate we two with pistols can hold them in check.  Do
you cover the one on the right when they appear, and above all things
see that you do not fire."

So we waited there, sitting motionless in our saddles, on that fair
morning when all around us the air was full of crying snipe and
twittering hill-linnets. The stream made a cheerful sound, and the
little green ferns in the rocks nodded beneath the spray of the water.
I found my mind misgiving me again and again for the headstrong prank on
which I was entered, as unworthy of one who knew something of better
things.  But I had little time for self-communings, for we had scarce
been there two minutes before we heard the grating of hooves on the
hill-gravel, and our two gentlemen came round the corner not twenty
yards ahead.

At the sight of us they reined up and stared stock still before them.
Then I saw the hands of both reach to their belts, and I rejoiced at the
movement, for I knew that the arms of neither were loaded.

"Gentlemen," said I, "it will be at your peril that you move.  We have
here two loaded pistols. We are not soldiers of His Majesty, so we have
some skill in shooting.  Let me assure you on my word that your case is
a desperate one."

At my words the one still looked with a haughty, swaggering stare, but
the jaw of the other dropped and he seemed like a man in excess of
terror.

"To-day," I went on, "you shot at a lady not half an hour agone.  It is
for this that I have come to have speech with you.  Let us understand
one another, my friends.  I am an outlawed man and one not easy to deal
with.  I am the Laird of Barns—ah, I see you know the name—and let this
persuade you to offer no resistance."

One of the twain still stood helpless.  The other’s hand twitched as if
he would draw his sword or reach to his powder-flask, but the steely
glitter of our barrels and my angry face deterred him.

"What do you want with us?" he said in a tone of mingled sulkiness and
bravado.  "Let me tell you, I am one of His Majesty’s dragoons, and
you’ll pay well for any ill you do to me.  I care not a fig for you, for
all your gentrice.  If you would but lay down your pop-guns and stand
before me man to man, I would give you all the satisfaction you want."

The fellow was a boor but he spoke like a man, and I liked him for his
words.  But I replied grimly:

"I will have none of your bragging.  Go and try that in your own stye,
you who shoot at women.  I will give you as long as I may count a
hundred, and if before that you have not stripped off every rag you have
on and come forward to me here, by God I will shoot you down like the
dogs you are."

And with this I began solemnly to count aloud.

At first they were still rebellious, but fear of the death which glinted
to them from the barrels of the pistols won the mastery.  Slowly and
with vast reluctance they began to disrobe themselves of belt and
equipments, of coat and jackboots, till they stood before me in the mild
spring air as stark as the day they were born.  Their faces were heavy
with malice and shame.

"Now," said I to Nicol, "dismount and lay on to these fellows with the
flat of your sword.  Give me your pistol, and if either makes resistance
he will know how a bullet tastes.  Lay on, and do not spare them."

So Nicol, to whom the matter was a great jest, got down and laid on
lustily.  They shouted most piteously for mercy, but none they got till
the stout arm of my servant was weary.

"And now, gentlemen, you may remount your horses.  Nay, without your
clothes; you will ride more freely as you are.  And give my best
respects to your honourable friends, and tell them I wish a speedy
meeting."

But as I looked in the face of one, him who had been so terror-stricken
at the outset, I saw that which I thought I recognised.

"You, fellow," I cried, "where have I seen you before?"

And as I looked again, I remembered a night the year before on the
Alphen road, when I had stood over this very man and questioned him on
his name and doings.  So he had come to Scotland as one of the foreign
troops.

"I know you, Jan Hamman," said I.  "The great doctor Johannes Burnetus
of Lugdunum has not forgotten you.  You were scarcely in an honest trade
before, but you are in a vast deal less honest now.  I vowed if ever I
met you again to make you smart for your sins, and I think I have kept
my word, though I had the discourtesy to forget your face at first
sight. Good morning, Jan, I hope to see you again ere long. Good
morning, gentlemen both."

So the luckless pair rode off homeward, and what reception they met with
from their captain and their comrades who shall say?

Meanwhile, when they were gone for some little time, Nicol and I rode
back by a round-about path. When I began to reflect, I saw the full
rashness of my action.  I had burned my boats behind me with a
vengeance.  There was no choice of courses before me now.  The chase
would be ten times hotter against me than before, and besides I had
given them some clue to my whereabouts.  You may well ask if the danger
to my love were not equally great, for that by this action they would
know at least the airt by which she had fled.  I would answer that these
men were of Gilbert’s own company, and one, at least, of them, when he
heard my name, must have had a shrewd guess as to who the lady was.  My
cousin’s love affairs were no secret.  If the man had revealed the tale
in its entirety, his own action must necessarily have been exposed, and
God help him who had insulted one whom Gilbert cared for.  He would have
flayed the skin from him at the very mention.

To my sober reason to-day the action seems foolhardy in the extreme, and
more like a boyish frolic than the work of a man.  But all I knew at the
time, as I rode back, was that my pride was for the moment soothed, and
my heart mightily comforted.



                              CHAPTER VIII

               OF OUR WANDERINGS AMONG THE MOORS OF CLYDE


If there had been haste before in our journey there was the more now,
when in a few hours the countryside would be alive with our foes.  I
hurriedly considered in my mind the course of events.  In three hours’
riding the soldiers, all stark as they were, would come to Abington, and
in three more the road to Douglasdale would be blocked by a dozen
companies. It was no light thing thus to have set the whole hell’s byke
in Clydesdale buzzing about my ears.

We were not long in reaching the cave.  Here to my joy I found Marjory
all recovered from her fright, and the wound hurting her no more than a
pin’s scratch.  When I spoke of immediate progress she listened gladly
and was for setting out forthwith.  I did not tell her of the soldiers’
discomfiture, for I knew that she would fall to chiding me for my
foolhardiness, and besides she would have more dismal fears for my
future if she knew that I had thus incensed the military against me.

It was with much regret that I bade farewell to Master Lockhart and the
old man; nor would they let me go without a promise that if I found
myself hard pressed at any time in the days to come I would take refuge
with them.  I was moved by the sight of the elder, who laying his hand
on my lady’s head, stroked her fair golden hair gently and said, "Puir
lass, puir lass, ye’re no for the muirs.  I foresee ill days coming for
ye when ye’ll hae nae guid sword to protect ye.  But lippen weel to the
Lord, my bairn, and He’ll no forsake ye."  So amid the speaking of
farewells and well-wishes we rode out into the green moors.

How shall I tell of that morning ride?  I have seen very many days in
April now, for I am a man aging to middle life, but never have I seen
one like that. The sky was one sheet of the faintest blue, with delicate
white clouds blown lightly athwart it.  The air was so light that it
scarce stirred the grass, so cool that it made our foreheads as crisp
and free as on a frosty winter’s day, so mild that a man might have
fancied himself still in the Low Lands.  The place was very quiet save
for a few sounds and these the most delectable on earth—the cries of
sheep and the tender bleating of young lambs, the rise and fall of the
stream, the croon of rock pigeons, and the sterner notes of curlew and
plover.  And the grass was short and lawnlike, stretching in wavy ridges
to the stream, seamed with little rush-fringed rills and patched with
fields of heath.  Only when we gained the edge had we any view of
country, and even then it was but circumscribed.  Steep fronting hills,
all scarred with ravines; beyond, shoulders and peaks rising ever into
the distance, and below us the little glen which holds the head waters
of Tweed.

We crossed the river without slacking rein, for the water scarce reached
above our horses’ pasterns.  And now we struck up a burn called the
Badlieu, at the foot of which was a herd’s shieling.  The spirit of the
spring seemed to have clean possessed Marjory and I had never seen her
so gay.  All her past sorrows and present difficulties seemed forgotten,
and a mad gaiety held her captive.  She, who was for usual so demure,
now cast her gravity to the winds, and seemed bent on taking all the
joys of the fair morning.  She laughed, she sang snatches of old songs,
and she leaped her horse lightly over the moss-trenches.  She stooped to
pluck some early white wind-flowers, and set some in her hair and some
at her saddle-bow.

"Nay, John," she cried, "if you and I must take to the hills let us do
it with some gallantry.  It is glorious to be abroad.  I would give
twelve months of sleepy peace at Dawyck for one hour of this life. I
think this must be the Garden of Perpetual Youth in the fairy tale."

The same mad carelessness took hold on me also. Of a sudden my outlook
on the world changed round to the opposite, and the black forebodings
which had been ever present to distress me, seemed to vanish like dew
before the sun.  Soon I was riding as gaily as she; while Nicol, as he
ran with great strides and unfaltering breath, he too became
light-hearted, though to tell the truth care was not a commodity often
found with him.

Soon we had climbed the low range which separates the Clyde glen from
the Tweed and turned down the narrow ravine of the burn which I think
they call Fopperbeck, and which flows into the Evan Water. Now it would
have been both easier and quieter to have ridden down the broad, low
glen of the Medlock Water, which flows into Clyde by the village of
Crawford.  But this would have brought us perilously near the soldiers
at Abington, and if once the pursuit had begun every mile of distance
would be worth to us much gold.  Yet though the danger was so real I
could not think of it as any matter for sorrow, but awaited what fate
God might send with a serene composure, begotten partly of my habitual
rashness and partly of the intoxication of the morn.

We kept over the rocky ravine through which the little river Evan flows
to Annan, and came to the wide moorlands which stretch about the upper
streams of Clyde.  Here we had a great prospect of landscape, and far as
eye could see no living being but ourselves moved in these desolate
wastes.  Far down, just at the mouth of the glen where the vale widens
somewhat, rose curling smoke from the hamlet of Elvanfoot, a place soon
to be much resorted to and briskly busy, since, forbye lying on the
highway ’twixt Edinburgh and Dumfries, it is there that the by-path goes
off leading to the famous lead mines, at the two places of Leadhills and
Wanlockhead.  But now it was but a miserable roadside clachan of some
few low huts, with fodder for neither man nor beast.

As we rode we looked well around us, for we were in an exceeding
dangerous part of our journey.  To the right lay Abington and the lower
Clyde valley, where my sweet cousin and his men held goodly fellowship.
Even now they would be buckling saddle-straps, and in two hours would be
in the places through which we were now passing.  To the left was the
long pass into Nithsdale, where half a score of gentlemen did their best
to instil loyalty into the Whigs of the hills.  I hated the land to that
airt, for I had ever loathed the south and west countries, where there
is naught but sour milk and long prayers without a tincture of gentrice
or letters.  I was a man of Tweeddale who had travelled and studied and
mingled among men.  I had no grudge against sheltering with the
Tweedside rebels, who were indeed of my own folk; but I had no stomach
for Nithsdale and Clydesdale rant and ill fare.  Had not necessity
driven me there I vow I should never have ventured of myself; and as I
rode I swore oftentimes that once I were free of my errand I would seek
my refuge in my own countryside.

And now we were climbing the long range which flanks the Potrail Water,
which is the larger of the twin feeders of Clyde.  Now we turned more to
the north, and skirting the wild hills which frown around the pass of
Enterkin, sought the upper streams of the Duneaton Water.  I cannot call
to mind all the burns we crossed or the hills we climbed, though they
have all been told to me many a time and again.  One little burn I
remember called the Snar, which flowed very quietly and pleasantly in a
deep, heathery glen.  Here we halted and suffered our horses to graze,
while we partook of some of the food which the folk of the Cor Water had
sent with us.  Now the way which we had come had brought us within seven
miles of the dragoons’ quarters at Abington, for it was necessary to
pass near them to get to Douglasdale and Smitwood.  But they had no clue
to our whereabouts, and when they set forth against us must needs ride
first to the Tweed valley.

Here in this narrow glen we were in no danger save from some chance
wandering soldier.  But this danger was the less to be feared, since if
Gilbert had any large portion of his men out on one errand he would be
sure to set the rest to their duties as garrison.  For my cousin had no
love for lax discipline, but had all the family pride of ordering and
being obeyed to the letter.  So we kindled a little fire by the
stream-side, and in the ashes roasted some eggs of a muirfowl which
Nicol had picked up on the journey; and which with the cheese and the
cakes we had brought made a better meal than I might hope for for many
days to come.  We sat around the fire in the dry heather ’neath the
genial sun, thanking God that we were still alive in the green world and
with few cares save the frustrating of our foes.  Marjory was somewhat
less cheerful than in the morning, partly from the fatigue of riding,
which in these waste places is no light thing, and partly because
anxiety for my safety and sorrow at our near parting were beginning to
oppress her.  For herself, I verily believe, she had no care, for she
was brave as a lion in the presence of what most women tremble at.  But
the loneliness of a great house and the never-appeased desire for
knowledge of my safety were things which came nearer so rapidly that I
did not wonder she lost her gaiety.

"Oh, what will you do alone in these places?" she said.  "If you had but
one with you, I should be comforted.  Will you not let Nicol accompany
you?"

Now when my lady looked at me with melting eyes and twined her hands in
her eagerness, it was hard to have to deny her.  But I was resolved that
my servant should abide at Smitwood to guard her and bring me tidings if
aught evil threatened.

"Nay, dear," I said, "that may not be.  I cannot have you left with an
old man who is helpless with age and a crew of hireling servants.  I
should have no heart to live in the moors if I had not some hope of your
safety.  Believe me, dear, I can very well defend myself.  My skill of
hillcraft is as good as any dragoon’s, and I have heard folk say that I
am no ill hand with a sword.  And I know the countryside like the palm
of my own hand, and friends are not few among these green glens.  Trust
me, no ill will come near me, and our meeting will be all the merrier
for our parting."

I spoke heartily, but in truth I was far from feeling such ease of mind.
For my old cursed pride was coming back, and I was beginning to chafe
against the beggarly trade of skulking among the moors when I had a fine
heritage for my own, and above all when I was a scholar and had thoughts
of a peaceful life.  I found it hard to reconcile my dream of a
philosophic life wherein all things should be ordered according to the
dictates of reason, with the rough and ready times which awaited me,
when my sword must keep my head, and my first thought must be of meat
and lodging, and cunning and boldness would be qualities more valuable
than subtle speculation and lofty imagining.

In a little we were rested and rode on our way. Across the great moors
of Crawfordjohn we passed, which is a place so lonely that the men in
these parts have a proverb, "Out of the world and into Crawfordjohn."
We still kept the uplands till we came to the springs of a burn called
the Glespin, which flows into the Douglas Water.  Our easier path had
lain down by the side of this stream past the little town of Douglas.
But in the town was a garrison of soldiers—small, to be sure, and
feeble, but still there—who were used to harry the moors around
Cairntable and Muirkirk.  So we kept the ridges till below us we saw the
river winding close to the hill and the tower of Smitwood looking out of
its grove of trees. By this time darkness was at hand, and the last
miles of our journey were among darkening shadows.  We had little fear
of capture now, for we were on the lands of the castle, and Veitch of
Smitwood was famed over all the land for a cavalier and a most loyal
gentleman.  So in quiet and meditation we crossed the stream at the
ford, and silently rode up the long avenue to the dwelling.



                               CHAPTER IX

                          I PART FROM MARJORY


"I’ve travelled far and seen many things, but, Gad, I never saw a
stranger than this.  My niece is driven out of house and home by an
overbold lover, and you, Master Burnet, come here and bid me take over
the keeping of this firebrand, which, it seems, is so obnoxious to His
Majesty’s lieges."

So spake the old laird of Smitwood, smiling.  He was a man of full
eighty years of age, but still erect with a kind of soldierly bearing.
He was thin and tall, and primly dressed in the fashion of an elder day.
The frosty winter of age had come upon him, but in his ruddy cheek and
clean-cut face one could see the signs of a hale and vigorous decline.
He had greeted us most hospitably, and seemed hugely glad to see Marjory
again, whom he had not set eyes on for many a day.  We had fallen to
supper with keen appetite, for the air of the moors stirs up the
sharpest hunger; and now that we had finished we sat around the
hall-fire enjoying our few remaining hours of company together.  For
myself I relished the good fare and the warmth, for Heaven knew when
either would be mine again.  The high oak-roofed chamber, hung with
portraits of Veitches many, was ruddy with fire-light. Especially the
picture in front of the chimney by Vandyke, of that Michael Veitch who
died at Philiphaugh, was extraordinarily clear and lifelike. Master
Veitch looked often toward it; then he took snuff with a great air of
deliberation, and spoke in his high, kindly old voice.

"My brother seems well to-night, Marjory.  I have not seen him look so
cheerful for years."  (He had acquired during his solitary life the
habit of talking to the picture as if it were some living thing.)  "I
can never forgive the Fleming for making Michael hold his blade in so
awkward a fashion.  Faith, he would have been little the swordsman he
was, if he had ever handled sword like that.  I can well remember when I
was with him at Etzburg, how he engaged in a corner two Hollanders and a
Swiss guard, and beat them back till I came up with him and took one off
his hands."

"I have heard of that exploit," said I.  "You must know that I have just
come from the Low Countries, where the names of both of you are still
often on men’s lips."

The old man seemed well pleased.

"Ah," he said, "so you have come from abroad. In what place did you
bide, may I enquire?"

"In the town of Leyden," said I, "for my aim was no more than to acquire
learning at the college there.  But I foregathered with many excellent
Scots gentlemen from whom I heard the talk of the camp and the state."

"Say you so?  Then what do you here?  Did you return on the single
errand of protecting my fair niece?  But stay!  I am an old man who
cares not much for the chatter of the country, but I have heard—or am I
wrong?—that you were not of the true party, but leaned to the Whigs?"

"Nay," I cried, "I beseech you not to believe it.  God knows I am a
king’s man out and out, and would see all whigamores in perdition before
I would join with them.  But fate has brought me into a strange mixture
of misfortunes.  I land at Leith, expecting nothing save a peaceful
homecoming, and lo!  I find my cousin waiting with a warrant for my
arrest.  I am accused of something I am wholly innocent of, but I cannot
prove it; nay, there is evidence against me, and my enemies in the
Council are all-powerful.  Moreover, if I suffer myself to be taken,
Marjory is at the mercy of my foes.  I take the only course; give the
dragoons the slip, and ride straight to Tweeddale, escort her to a house
where she will be safe and unknown; and when this is done take to the
hills myself with a light heart.  They are too ill-set against me for my
setting any hope in going to Edinburgh and pleading my case.  Was there
any other way?"

"None," said Master Veitch, "but it is a hard case for yourself.  Not
the hiding among the moors; this is a noble trade for any young man of
spirit.  But the consorting with the vile fanatics of these deserts must
go sore against your heart."

Now I, who had just come from the folk of the Cor Water, had no such
dread of the hillmen, but I forebore to say it.  For Master Veitch had
been brought up in one school, those men in another.  Both were blind to
the other’s excellencies; both were leal-hearted men in their own ways.
It is a strange providence that has so ordered it that the best men in
the world must ever remain apart through misunderstanding.

"But to come to my errand," said I.  "I have brought you your niece for
protection.  You are a king’s man, a soldier, and well known in the
countryside.  It is more than unlikely that any troops will come nigh
you.  Nor is it possible that the maid can be traced hither.  I ask that
you suffer her to abide in the house, while I take myself off that there
be the less danger.  And O, I beseech you, do not refuse me.  She is
your own flesh and blood.  You cannot deny her shelter."

The old man’s face darkened.  "You take me for a strange kinsman, Master
Burnet," he said, "if you think I would refuse my best aid to a
kinswoman in distress.  Do you think that you are the sole protector of
my house?"

I bowed before his deserved rebuke.

"But for certain.  Marjory may abide here as long as she will," he added
cheerfully.  "We will do our best to entertain her, though I am too old
to remember well the likings of girls.  And if anyone comes seeking her
on errand of no good, by God, he will learn that William Veitch has not
lost the use of his arm.

"May I ask," said I, "that my servant be allowed to stay?  He knows the
hills as scarce any other living man, he is faithful, and clever as you
would hardly believe were I to tell you.  With him in the house I should
have no fear for its safety."

"So be it," said the old man; "I will not deny that my servants are not
so numerous nor so active that another would not be something of an
improvement. Has he any skill in cooking?"  This he asked in a
shamefaced tone, for old as he was he had not lost his relish for good
fare.

"I will ask him," said I, and I called Nicol from the servants’
quarters.

"Your master gives me a good account of you," said the cracked voice of
the laird of Smitwood, "and I would fain hope it true.  I wished to
interrogate you about—ah, your powers—ah, of cooking pleasing dishes,"
and he waved his hand deprecatingly.

"Oh, your honour, I am ready for a’ thing," said Nicol.  "Sheep’s heid,
singit to a thocht, cockyleeky and a’ kind o’ soup, mutton in half a
dozen different ways, no to speak o’ sic trifles as confections.  I can
cook ye the flesh o’ the red deer and the troots frae the burn, forbye
haggis and brose, partan pies and rizzard haddies, crappit-heids and
scate-rumpies, nowt’s feet, kebbucks, scadlips, and skink.  Then I can
wark wi’ custocks and carlings, rifarts, and syboes, farles, fadges, and
bannocks, drammock, brochan, and powsowdie."

"That will do, you may go," said the old man, rubbing his hands with
glee.  "By my word, a genuine Scots gastronome, skilled in the ancient
dishes of the land.  I anticipate a pleasing time while he bides here."

It was long ere the worthy gentleman could get over his delight in the
project of my servant’s presence.  Even after he had gone he sat and
chuckled to himself, for he was known among his friends to have a fine
taste for dainties.  Meantime, the light was dying out of doors, and
more logs were laid on the fire, till it crackled and leaped like a live
thing.  I have ever loved the light of a wood-fire, for there is no more
heartsome thing on earth than its cheerful crackle when one comes in
from shooting on the hills in the darkening of a winter’s day.  Now I
revelled in the comfort of it, since on the morrow I would have no other
cheer than a flaming sunset.

So we sat around the hearth and talked of many things till the evening
was late.  The old man fell to the memories of former folk, and told us
tales of our forbears as would have made them turn in their graves could
they have heard them.  Of my house he had scarce a good word to speak,
averring that they were all ’scape-the-gallows every one, but gallant
fellows in their way.  "There was never a Burnet," he cried, "who would
scruple to stick a man who doubted his word, or who would not ride a
hundred miles to aid a friend.  There were no lads like the Burnets in
all the countryside for dicing and feasting and riding breakneck on the
devil’s errand.  But, Gad, if they were stubborn as bulls when they were
down themselves, they were as tender as women to folk in trouble."

"There’s one of their name like to be in trouble for many days to come,"
said I.

"Meaning yourself?  Well, it will do you no ill. There’s naught better
for a young man than to find out how little the world cares whether he
be dead or alive.  And, above all, you that pretend to be a scholar, it
will ding some of the fine-spun fancies out of your head.  But for the
Lord’s sake, laddie, dinna get a bullet in your skull or you’ll have me
with all my years taking the field to pay back them that did it."  He
spoke this so kindly that I was moved to forget the first half of his
words through the excellency of the second.  In truth I much needed the
rough lessons of hardship and penury, for at that time I was much puffed
up in a self-conceit and a certain pride of letters as foolish as it was
baseless.

"I must be off in the morning before the dawning, for I have to be on
the hills ere the soldiers get abroad. I must beg of you not to disturb
yourself, Master Veitch, for my sake, but just to bid them make ready
for me some provisions; and I will slip off ere the household be awake.
It is better to say farewell now than to have many sad leave-takings at
the moment of departure.  I have no fear of my journey, for my legs are
as good as any man’s and I can make my hands keep my head.  Also, my
mind is easy since I know that Marjory is safe here."

"Then I will even bid you good-bye, John," said he, "for I am an old man
and keep early hours. If you will follow me I will take you to your
chamber.  Alison will take you to the old room, Marjory, where you have
not been since you were a little lass scarce up to my knee."  And with
obvious intent he walked out.

"God keep you, John," my dear lass whispered on my shoulder.  "I will
never cease to think of you.  Ana oh, be not long in coming back."

And this was the last I saw of my lady for many days.



                               CHAPTER X

   OF THE MAN WITH THE ONE EYE AND THE ENCOUNTER IN THE GREEN CLEUCH


I promise you I slept little that night, and it was with a heavy heart
that I rose betimes and dressed in the chill of the morning.  There was
no one awake, and I left the house unobserved, whistling softly to keep
up my spirits.

Just without, someone came behind me and cried my name.  I turned round
sharply, and there was my servant Nicol, slinking after me for all the
world like a collie-dog which its master has left at home.

"What do you want with me?" I cried.

"Naething," he groaned sadly.  "I just wantit to see ye afore ye gaed.
I am awfu’ feared, sir, for you gaun awa’ yoursel’.  If it werena for
Mistress Marjory, it wad be a deal mair than your word wad keep me frae
your side.  But I cam to see if there was nae way o’ gettin’ word o’ ye.
My leddy will soon turn dowie, gin she gets nae sough o’ your
whereabouts.  Ye’d better tell me where I can get some kind o’ a
letter."

"Well minded!" I cried.  "You know the cairn on the backside of Caerdon
just above the rising of Kilbucho Burn.  This day three weeks I will
leave a letter for your mistress beneath the stones, which you must
fetch and give her.  And if I am safe and well every three weeks it will
be the same. Good day to you, Nicol, and see you look well to the charge
I have committed to you."

"Guid day to you, sir," he said, and I protest that the honest fellow
had tears in his eyes; and when I had gone on maybe half a mile and
looked back, he was still standing like a stone in the same spot.

At first I was somewhat depressed in my mind. It is a hard thing thus to
part from one’s mistress when the air is thick with perils to both.  So
as I tramped through the meadows and leaped the brooks, it was with a
sad heart, and my whole mind was taken up in conjuring back the pleasant
hours I had spent in my lady’s company, the old frolics in the wood of
Dawyck, the beginnings of our love-making, even the ride hither from the
Cor Water.  Yesterday, I reflected, she was with me here; now I am alone
and like to be so for long.  Then I fell to cursing myself for a fool,
and went on my way with a better heart.

But it was not till I had crossed the wide stream of the Douglas Water
and begun to ascend the hills, that I wholly recovered my composure.
Before, I had been straggling in low meadows which do not suit my
temper, since I am above all things hill-bred and a lover of dark
mountains.  So now on the crisp spring grass of the slopes my spirits
rose.  Was not I young and strong and skilled in the accomplishments of
a man?  The world was before me—that wide, undiscovered world which had
always attracted the more heroic spirits.  What hardship was there to
live a free life among the hills, under the sunshine and the wind, the
clouds and the blue sky?

But my delight could never be unmixed though I tried.  After all, was I
free?  I felt of a sudden that I was not one half equipped for a gipsy,
adventurous life.  I was tied down to custom and place with too many
ties.  I came of a line of landed gentlemen. The taint of possession, of
mastery and lordship over men and land, was strong in me.  I could not
bring me to think of myself as a kinless and kithless vagabond, having
no sure place of abode.  Then my love of letters, my learning, my
philosophy, bound me down with indissoluble bands.  To have acquired a
taste for such things was to have unfitted myself for ever for the life
of careless vagabondage.  Above all there was my love; and ever, as I
went on, my thoughts came home from their aërial flights and settled
more and more in a little room in a house in a very little portion of
God’s universe.  And more and more I felt myself a slave to beloved
tyrants, and yet would not have been free if I could.

It was always thus with me when alone: I must fall to moralising and
self-communing.  Still perhaps the master feeling in my mind was one of
curiosity and lightheartedness.  So I whistled, as I went, all the old
tunes of my boyhood which I was wont to whistle when I went out to the
hills with my rod and gun, and stepped briskly over the short heather,
and snapped my fingers in the face of the world.

Now I dared not go back to Tweeddale by the way by which I had come, for
the Clyde valley above Abington would be a hunting-ground of dragoons
for many days.  There was nothing for it but to make for the lower
waters, ford the river above Coulter, and then come to Tweeddale in the
lower parts, and thence make my way to the Water of Cor.  Even this
course was not without its dangers; for the lower glen of Tweed was
around Dawyck and Barns, and this was the very part of all the land the
most perilous to me at the moment.  To add to this, I was well at home
among the wilder hills; but it was little I knew of Clydesdale below
Abington, till you come to the town of Lanark.  This may at first seem a
trifling misfortune, but in my present case it was a very great one. For
unless a man knows every house and the character of its inmates he is
like to be in an ill way if close watched and threatened.  However, I
dreaded this the less, and looked for my troubles mainly after I had
once entered my own lands in Tweeddale.

At the time when the sun rose I was on a long hill called Craigcraw,
which hangs at the edge of the narrow crack in the hills through which
goes the bridle-road from Lanark to Moffat.  I thought it scarce worth
my while to be wandering aimlessly among mosses and craigs when
something very like a road lay beneath me; so I made haste to get down
and ease my limbs with the level way.  It was but a narrow strip of
grass, running across the darker heath, and coiling in front like a
green ribbon through nick or scaur or along the broad brae-face.

Soon I came to the small, roofless shieling of Redshaw, where aforetime
lived a villain of rare notoriety, with whose name, "Redshaw Jock," Jean
Morran embittered my childhood.  I thought of all these old pleasing
days, as I passed the bare rickle of stones in the crook of the burn.
Here I turned from the path, for I had no desire to go to Abington, and
struck up a narrow howe in the hills, which from the direction I guessed
must lead to the lower Clyde. It was a lonesome place as ever I have
seen.  The spring sunshine only made the utter desolation the more
apparent and oppressive.  Afar on the hillside, by a clump of rowan
trees, I saw the herd’s house of Wildshaw, well named in its remote
solitude.  But soon I had come to the head of the burn and mounted the
flat tableland, and in a little came to the decline on the other side,
and entered the glen of the Roberton Burn.

Here it was about the time of noon, and I halted to eat my midday meal.
I know not whether if was the long walk and the rough scrambling, or the
clean, fresh spring air, or the bright sunshine, or the clear tinkle of
the burn at my feet, or the sense of freedom and adventurous romance,
but I have rarely eaten a meal with such serene satisfaction.  All this
extraordinary day I had been alternating between excessive gaiety and
sad regrets.  Now the former element had the mastery, and I was as
hilarious as a young horse when he is first led out to pasture.

And after a little as I sat there my mirth grew into a sober joy.  I
remembered all the poets who had sung of the delights of the open air
and the unshackled life.  I laughed at my former feeling of shame in the
matter.  Was there any ignominy in being driven from the baseness of
settled habitation to live like a prince under God’s sky?  And yet, as I
exulted in the thought, I knew all too well that in a little my feelings
would have changed and I would be in the depths of despondency.

In less than an hour I had turned a corner of hill and there before me
lay the noble strath of Clyde. I am Tweedside born and will own no
allegiance save to my own fair river, but I will grant that next to it
there is none fairer than the upper Clyde.  Were it not that in its
lower course it flows through that weariful west country among the dull
whigamores and Glasgow traders, it would be near as dear to me as my own
well-loved Tweed.  There it lay, glittering in light, and yellow with
that strange yellow glow that comes on April waters.  The little scrubs
of wood were scarce seen, the few houses were not in the picture;
nothing caught the eye save the giant mouldings of the hills, the severe
barren vale, and the sinuous path of the stream.

I crossed it without any mishap, wading easily through at one of the
shallows.  There was no one in sight, no smoke from any dwelling; all
was as still as if it were a valley of the dead.  Only from the upper
air the larks were singing, and the melancholy peewits cried ever over
the lower moorlands.  From this place my course was clear; I went up the
prattling Wandel Burn, from where it entered the river, and soon I was
once more lost in the windings of the dark hills.  There is a narrow
bridle-path which follows the burn, leading from Broughton in Tweeddale
to Abington, so the way was easier walking.

And now I come to the relation of one of the strangest adventures of
this time, which as often as I think upon it fills me with delight.  For
it was a ray of amusement in the perils and hardships of my wanderings.

A mile or more up this stream, just before the path begins to leave the
waterside and strike towards the highlands, there is a little green
cleuch, very fair and mossy, where the hills on either side come close
and the glen narrows down to half a hundred yards. When I came to this
place I halted for maybe a minute to drink at a pool in the rocks, for I
was weary with my long wanderings.

A noise in front made me lift my head suddenly and stare before me.  And
there riding down the path to meet me was a man.  His horse seemed to
have come far, for it hung its head as if from weariness and stumbled
often.  He himself seemed to be looking all around him and humming some
blithe tune. He was not yet aware of my presence, for he rode
negligently, like one who fancies himself alone.  As he came nearer I
marked him more clearly.  He was a man of much my own height, with a
shaven chin and a moustachio on his upper lip.  He carried no weapons
save one long basket-handled sword at his belt.  His face appeared to be
a network of scars; but the most noteworthy thing was that he had but
one eye, which glowed bright from beneath bushy brows.  Here, said I to
myself, is a man of many battles.

In a moment he caught my eye, and halted abruptly not six paces away.
He looked at me quietly for some seconds, while his horse, which was a
spavined, broken-winded animal at best, began to crop the grass. But if
his mount was poor, his dress was of the richest and costliest, and much
gold seemed to glisten from his person.

"Good day, sir," said he very courteously.  "A fellow-traveller, I
perceive."  By this time I had lost all doubt, for I saw that the man
was no dragoon, but of gentle birth by his bearing.  So I answered him
readily.

"I little expected to meet any man in this deserted spot, least of all a
mounted traveller.  How did you come over these hills, which if I mind
right are of the roughest?"

"Ah," he said, "my horse and I have done queer things before this," and
he fell to humming a fragment of a French song, while his eye wandered
eagerly to my side.

Suddenly he asked abruptly: "Sir, do you know aught of sword-play?"

I answered in the same fashion that I was skilled in the rudiments.

He sprang from his horse in a trice and was coming towards me.

"Thank God," he cried earnestly, "thank God. Here have I been thirsting
for days to feel a blade in my hands, and devil a gentleman have I met.
I thank you a thousand times, sir, for your kindness. I beseech you to
draw."

"But," I stammered, "I have no quarrel with you."

He looked very grieved.  "True, if you put it in that way.  But that is
naught between gentlemen, who love ever to be testing each other’s
prowess. You will not deny me?"

"Nay," I said, "I will not," for I began to see his meaning, and I
stripped to my shirt and, taking up my sword, confronted him.

So there in that quiet cleuch we set to with might and main, with vast
rivalry but with no malice.  We were far too skilled to butcher one
another like common rufflers.  Blow was given and met, point was taken
and parried, all with much loving kindness.  But I had not been two
minutes at the work when I found I was in the hands of a master.  The
great conceit of my play which I have always had ebbed away little by
little.  The man before me was fencing easily with no display, but every
cut came near to breaking my guard, and every thrust to overcoming my
defence. His incomprehensible right eye twinkled merrily, and
discomposed my mind, and gave me no chance of reading his intentions.
It is needless to say more.  The contest lasted scarce eight minutes.
Then I made a head-cut which he guarded skilfully, and when on the
return my blade hung more loose in my hand he smote so surely and well
that, being struck near the hilt, it flew from my hand and fell in the
burn.

He flung down his weapon and shook me warmly by the hand.

"Ah, now I feel better," said he.  "I need something of this sort every
little while to put me in a good humour with the world.  And, sir, let
me compliment you on your appearance.  Most admirable, most creditable!
But oh, am I not a master in the craft?"

So with friendly adieux we parted.  We had never asked each other’s name
and knew naught of each other’s condition, but that single good-natured
contest had made us friends; and if ever I see that one-eyed man again
in life I shall embrace him like a brother. For myself, at that moment,
I felt on terms of good-comradeship with all, and pursued my way in a
settled cheerfulness.



                               CHAPTER XI

              HOW A MILLER STROVE WITH HIS OWN MILL-WHEEL


I lay that night on the bare moors, with no company save the birds, and
no covering save a dry bush of heather.  The stars twinkled a myriad
miles away, and the night airs blew soft, and I woke in the morning as
fresh as if I had lain beneath the finest coverlet on the best of linen.
Near me was a great pool in a burn, and there I bathed, splashing to my
heart’s content in the cold water.  Then I ate my breakfast, which was
no better than the remnants of the food I had brought away with me the
day before from Smitwood; but I gulped it down heartily and hoped for
something better.  There will be so much complaining, I fear, in my tale
ere it is done, that I think it well to put down all my praise of the
place and the hours which passed pleasingly.

By this time I was on a little plateau, near the great black hill of
Coomb Dod, a place whence three streams flow—the Camps Water and the
Coulter Water to the Clyde, and the burn of Kingledoors to Tweed.  Now
here had I been wise I should at once have gone down the last-named to
the upper waters of Tweed near the village of Tweedsmuir, whence I might
have come without danger to the wilder hills and the Cor Water
hiding-place.  But as I stayed there desire came violently upon me to go
down to the fair green haughlands about the Holmes Water, which is a
stream which rises not far off the Kingledoors burn, but which flows
more to the north and enters Tweed in the strath of Drummelzier not
above a few miles from Barns itself and almost at the door of Dawyck.
There I knew was the greater danger, because it lay on the straight line
between Abington and Peebles, a way my cousin Gilbert travelled often in
those days.  But I was not disposed at that moment to think of
gradations of danger; and indeed, after my encounter on the previous
afternoon, I was in a haphazard, roystering mood, and would have asked
for nothing better than a chance of making holes in my cousin or his
company.

Now in Holmes Water glen there dwelled many who would receive me gladly
and give me shelter and food if I sought it.  There were the Tweedies of
Quarter and Glencotho, kin to myself on the mother’s side, not to speak
of a score of herds whom I had dealings with.  But my uppermost reason
was to see once more that lovely vale, the fairest, unless it be the
Manor, in all the world.  It is scarce six miles long, wide at the
bottom and set with trees and rich with meadows and cornland, but
narrowing above to a long, sinuous green cleft between steep hills.  And
through it flows the clearest water on earth, wherein dwell the best
trout—or did dwell, for, as I write, I have not angled in it for many
days.  I know not how I can tell of the Holmes Water.  It tumbles clear
and tremulous into dark brown pools.  In the shallows it is like
sunlight, in the falls like virgin snow. And overall the place hangs a
feeling of pastoral quiet and old romance, such as I never knew
elsewhere.

Midday found me in the nick of the hill above Glencotho debating on my
after course.  I had it in my mind to go boldly in and demand aid from
my kinsman.  But I reflected that matters were not over-pleasant between
us at the time.  My father had mortally offended him on some occasion
(it would be hard to name the Tweedside gentleman whom my father had not
mortally angered), and I could scarce remember having heard that the
quarrel had been made up.  I knew that in any case if I entered they
would receive me well for the honour of the name; but I am proud, and
like little to go to a place where I am not heartily welcome.  So I
resolved to go to Francie Smails, the herd’s, and from him get direction
and provender.

The hut was built in a little turn of the water beneath a high bank.  I
knocked at the door, not knowing whether some soldier might not come to
it, for the dragoons were quartered everywhere.  But no one came save
Francie himself, a great, godly man who lived alone, and cared not for
priest or woman. He cried aloud when he saw me.

"Come in by," he says, "come in quick; this is nae safe place the noo."

And he pulled me in to the hearth, where his mid-day meal was standing.
With great good-will he bade me share it, and afterward, since he had
heard already of my case and had no need for enlightenment thereon, he
gave me his good counsel.

"Ye maunna bide a meenute here," he said. "I’ll pit up some cauld braxy
and bread for ye, for it’s a’ I have at this time o’ year.  Ye maun get
oot o’ the glen and aff to the hills wi’ a’ your pith, for some o’
Maister Gilbert’s men passed this morn on their way to Barns, and
they’ll be coming back afore nicht.  So ye maun be aff, and I counsel ye
to tak the taps o’ the Wormel and syne cross the water abune the Crook,
and gang ower by Talla and Fruid to the Cor.  Keep awa’ frae the Clyde
hills for ony sake, for they’re lookit like my ain hill i’ the lambin’
time; and though it’s maybe safer there for ye the noo, in a wee it’ll
be het eneuch.  But what are ye gaun to dae?  Ye’ll be makkin’ a try to
win ower the sea, for ye canna skip aboot on thae hills like a paitrick
for ever.

"I do not know," said I; "I have little liking for another sea journey,
unless all else is hopeless.  I will bide in the hills as long as I can,
and I cannot think that the need will be long.  For I have an inkling,
and others beside me, that queer things will soon happen."

"Guid send they dae," said he, and I bade him good-bye.  I watched him
striding off to the hill, and marvelled at the life ne led.  Living from
one year’s end to another on the barest fare, toiling hard on the barren
steeps for a little wage, and withal searching his heart on his long
rounds by the canon of the book of God.  A strange life and a hard, yet
no man knows what peace may come out of loneliness.

Now had I taken his advice I should have been saved one of the most
vexatious and hazardous episodes of my life.  But I was ever
self-willed, and so, my mind being set on going down the Holmes vale, I
thought nothing of going near the Wormel, but set off down the bridle
way, as if I were a King’s privy councillor and not a branded exile.

I kept by the stream till patches of fields began to appear and the
roofs of the little clachan.  Then I struck higher up on the hillside
and kept well in the shade of a little cloud of birk trees which lay
along the edge of the slope.  It was a glorious sunny day, such as I
scarce ever saw surpassed, though I have seen many weathers under many
skies.  The air was as still and cool as the first breath of morning,
though now it was mid-afternoon.  All the nearer hills stood out
clear-lined and silent; a bird sang in the nigh thicket; sheep bleated
from the meadow, and around the place hung the low rustle of the life of
the woods.

Soon I came to a spot above the bend of the water near the house called
Holmes Mill.  There dwelt my very good friend the miller, a man blessed
with as choice a taste in dogs as ever I have seen, and a great Whig to
boot—both of which tricks he learned from a Westland grandfather.
Lockhart was his name, and his folk came from the Lee near the town of
Lanark to this green Tweedside vale.  From the steading came the sound
of life.  There was a great rush of water out of the dam.  Clearly the
miller was preparing for his afternoon’s labours.  The wish took me
strongly to go down and see him, to feel the wholesome smell of grinding
corn, and above all to taste his cakes, which I had loved of old.  So
without thinking more of it, and in utter contempt for the shepherd’s
warning, I scrambled down, forded the water, and made my way to the
house.

Clearly something was going on at the mill, and whatever it was there
was a great to-do.  Sounds of voices came clear to me from the
mill-door, and the rush of the water sang ever in my ears.  The miller
has summoned his family to help him, thought I: probably it is the
lifting of the bags to the mill-loft.

But as I came nearer I perceived that it was not a mere chatter of
friendly tongues, but some serious matter.  There was a jangling note, a
sound as of a quarrel and an appeal.  I judged it wise therefore to keep
well in the shadow of the wall and to go through the byre and up to the
loft by an old way which I remembered—a place where one could see all
that passed without being seen of any.

And there sure enough was a sight to stagger me. Some four soldiers with
unstrung muskets stood in the court, while their horses were tethered to
a post. Two held the unhappy miller in their stout grip, and at the back
his wife and children were standing in sore grief.  I looked keenly at
the troopers, and as I looked I remembered all too late the shepherd’s
words.  They were part of my cousin’s company, and one I recognised as
my old friend Jan Hamman of the Alphen Road and the Cor Water.

The foremost of the soldiers was speaking.

"Whig though you be," said he "you shall hae a chance of life.  You look
a man o’ muscle.  I’ll tell you what I’ll dae.  Turn on the sluice and
set the mill-wheel gaun, and then haud on to it; and if you can keep it
back, your life you shall hae, as sure as my name’s Tam Gordon.  But gin
you let it gang, there’ll be four bullets in you afore you’re an hour
aulder, and a speedy meeting wi’ your Maker.  Do you wish to mak the
trial?"

Now the task was hopeless from the commencement, for big though a man
be, and the miller was as broad and high a man as one may see in
Tweeddale, he has no chance against a mill-race.  But whether he thought
the thing possible or whether he wanted to gain a few minutes’ respite
from death, the man accepted and took off his coat to the task.  He
opened the sluice and went forward to the wheel.

Soon the water broke over with a rush and the miller gripped a spoke
like grim death.  For a moment the thing was easy, for it takes some
minutes for the water to gather body and force.  But in a little it
became harder, and the sinews on his bare arms began to swell with the
strain.  But still he held on valiantly and the wheel moved never an
inch.  Soon the sweat began to run over his face, and the spray from the
resisted water bespattered him plentifully.  Then the strain became
terrible.  His face grew livid as the blood surged to his head, his
eyeballs stood out, and his arms seemed like to be torn from their
sockets. The soldiers, with the spirit of cruel children, had forgot
their weapons, and crowded round the wheel to see the sport.

I saw clearly that he could not hold out much longer, and that unless I
wanted to see a friend butchered before my eyes I had better be up and
doing.  We were two resolute men; I armed and with considerable skill of
the sword, he unarmed, but with the strength of a bull.  The most
dangerous things about our opponents were their weapons.  Could I but
get between them and their muskets we could make a fight for it yet.

Suddenly as I looked the man failed.  With a sob of weariness he loosed
his hold.  The great wheel caught the stream and moved slowly round, and
he almost fell along with it.  His tormentors laughed cruelly, and were
about to seize him and turn back, when I leaped from the loft window
like some bolt from a clear sky.

My head was in a whirl and I had no thought of any plan.  I only knew
that I must make the venture at any cost, or else be branded in my soul
as a coward till my dying day.

I fell and scrambled to my feet.

"Lockhart," I cried, "here man, here.  Run."

He had the sense to see my meaning.  Exhausted though he was, he broke
from his astonished captors, and in a moment was beside me and the
weapons.

As I looked on them I saw at a glance where our salvation lay.

"Take these two," I said, pointing to the muskets.  "I will take the
others."

I cleared my throat and addressed the soldiers. "Now, gentlemen," said
I, "once more the fortune of war has delivered you into my hands.  We,
as you perceive, command the weapons.  I beg your permission to tell you
that I am by no means a poor shot with the musket, and likewise that I
do not stick at trifles, as doubtless my gallant friend Master Hamman
will tell you."

The men were struck dumb with surprise to find themselves thus taken at
a disadvantage.  They whispered for a little among themselves.
Doubtless the terrors of my prowess had been so magnified by the victims
in the last escapade to cover their shame that I was regarded as a
veritable Hector.

"Are you the Laird of Barns?" said the leader at last, very politely.

I bowed.

"Then give us leave to tell you that we are nane sae fond o’ the
Captain, your cousin," said he, thinking to soothe me.

"So much the worse for my cousin," said I.

"Therefore we are disposed to let you gang free."

"I am obliged," said I, "but my cousin is my cousin, and I tolerate no
rebellion toward one so near of blood.  I am therefore justified,
gentlemen, in using your own arms against you, since I have always
believed that traitors were shot."

At this they looked very glum.  At last one of them spoke up—for after
all they were men.

"If ye’ll tak the pick o’ ony yin o’ us and stand up to him wi’ the
sma’-sword, we’ll agree to bide by the result."

"I thank you," I said, "but I am not in the mood for sword exercise.
However, I shall be merciful, though that is a quality you have shown
little of. You shall have your horses to ride home on, but your arms you
shall leave with me as a pledge of your good conduct.  Strip,
gentlemen."

And strip they did, belt and buckler, pistol and sword.  Then I bade
them go, not without sundry compliments as one by one they passed by me.
There were but four of them, and we had all the arms, so the contest was
scarcely equal.  Indeed my heart smote me more than once that I had not
accepted the fellow’s offer to fight.  The leader spoke up boldly to my
face.

"You’ve gotten the better o’ us the noo, but it’ll no be long afore
you’re gettin’ your kail through the reek, Master John Burnet."

At which I laughed and said ’twas a truth I could not deny.



                              CHAPTER XII

                       I WITNESS A VALIANT ENDING


They had scarce been five minutes gone when the full folly of my action
dawned upon me.  To be sure I had saved the miller from death, but I had
now put my own neck in the noose.  I had given them a clue to my
whereabouts: more, I had brought the hunt down on lower Tweeddale, which
before had been left all but unmolested.  It was war to the knife.  I
could look for no quarter, and my only chance lay in outstripping my
pursuers.  The dragoons dared not return immediately, for four unarmed
soldiers would scarcely face two resolute men, fully armed and strongly
posted.  They could only ride to Abington, and bring the whole hornets’
nest down on my head.

Another reflection had been given to me by the sight of these men.  In
all likelihood Gilbert had now returned and resumed the chief command of
the troop, for otherwise there would have been no meaning in the journey
to Dawyck and lower Tweeddale which these fellows had taken.  And now
that my dear cousin had come back I might look for action. There was now
no more any question of foolish and sluggish soldiery to elude, but a
man of experience and, as I knew well, of unmatched subtlety.

The miller was for thanking me on his knees for my timely succour, but I
cut him short.  "There is no time," said I, "for long thanks.  You must
take to the hills, and if you follow my advice you will hold over to the
westlands where your friends are, and so keep the pursuit from
Tweeddale, which little deserves it.  As for myself, I will go up the
Wormel, and hide among the scrogs of birk till evening.  For the hills
are too bare and the light too clear to travel by day.  To be kenspeckle
in these times is a doubtful advantage."

So without more ado I took myself off, crossed the fields with great
caution, and going up a little glen in the side of the big hill, found a
very secure hiding-place in the lee of a craig among a tangle of hazel
bushes. I had taken some food with me from the mill to provision me
during my night journey, and now I used a little of it for my afternoon
meal.  In this place I lay all the pleasant hours after midday till I
saw the shadows lengthen and the sun flaming to its setting over the
back of Caerdon.  Then the cool spring darkness came down on the earth,
and I rose and shook myself and set out on my way.

I shall ever remember that long night walk over hill and dale to the Cor
Water for many reasons. First, from the exceeding beauty of the night,
which was sharp and yet not cold, with a sky glittering with stars, and
thin trails of mist on the uplands. Second, from the exceeding roughness
of the way, which at this season of the year makes the hills hard for
walking on.  The frost and snow loosen the rocks, and there are wide
stretches of loose shingle, which is an accursed thing to pass over.
Third, and above all, for the utter fatigue into which I fell just past
the crossing of Talla.  The way was over the Wormel and the Logan Burn
hills as far as Kingledoors. There I forded Tweed and struck over the
low ridge to Talla Water.  Thence the way was straight, and much the
same as that which I had come with Marjory.  But now I had no such dear
escort, and I give my word that my limbs ached and my head swam
oftentimes ere I reached my journey’s end.

It was early dawning when I crossed the last ridge and entered the Cor
Water valley.  There was no sign of life in that quiet green glen, a
thing that seemed eerie when one thought that somewhere in the hill in
front men were dwelling.  I found that short as had been my absence I
had almost forgotten the entrance to the cave, and it was not without
difficulty that I made out the narrow aperture in the slate-grey rock,
and entered.

In the first chamber all was dark, which struck me with astonishment,
since at five o’clock on a good spring day folk should be stirring.  But
all was still, and it was not till I had come into the second chamber,
which, as I have told, was the largest in the place, that there were any
signs of life.  This was illumined in the first instance by a narrow
crevice in the rock which opened into a small ravine.  The faint
struggling light was yet sufficient to see with, and by its aid I made
out the old man who had spoken with me on that first night of my
journey.

He was sitting alone, staring before him as is the way with the blind,
but at the sound of my steps he rose slowly to his feet.  One could see
that the natural acuteness of his hearing was little impaired by years.
I paused at the threshold and he stood listening; then he sank back in
his seat as if convinced it was no enemy.

"Come in, John Burnet," he said, "I ken you well.  How have you fared
since you left us?  I trust you have placed the maid in safe keeping."

I had heard before of that marvellous quickness of perception which they
possess who have lost some other faculty; but I had never yet had
illustration of it.  So I was somewhat surprised, as I told him that all
as yet was well, and that my lady was in good hands.

"It is well," said he; "and, Master Burnet, I fear you have come back to
a desolate lodging.  As ye see, all are gone and only I am left.
Yestreen word came that that had happened which we had long expected.
There was once a man among us whom we cast out for evil living.  He has
proved the traitor and there is no more safety here.  They scattered
last night, the puir feckless folk, to do for themselves among the moors
and mosses, and I am left here to wait for the coming of the enemy."

"Do you hold your life so cheap," I cried, "that you would cast it away
thus?  I dare not suffer you to bide here.  I would be a coward indeed
if I did not take care of you."

A gleam of something like pleasure passed over his worn face.  But he
spoke gravely.  "No, you are too young and proud and hot in blood.  You
think that a strong arm and a stout heart can do all.  But I have a work
to do in which none can hinder me. My life is dear to me, and I would
use it for the best. But you, too, are in danger here; the soldiers may
come at any moment.  If you go far to the back you’ll find a narrow way
up which you can crawl. It’ll bring ye out on the back side of the hill.
Keep it well in mind, lad, when the time comes.  But now, sit ye down,
and give us your crack.  There’s a heap o’ things I want to speir at ye.
And first, how is auld Veitch at Smitwood?  I once kenned him well, when
he was a young, ’prising lad; but now I hear he’s sair fallen in years
and gien ower to the pleasures of eating and drinking."

I told him all of the laird of Smitwood that I could remember.

"It would be bonny on the muirs o’ Clyde in this weather.  I havena been
out o’ doors for mony a day, but I would like fine to feel the hill-wind
and the sun on my cheek.  I was aye used wi’ the open air," and his
voice had a note of sorrow.

To me it seemed a strange thing that in the presence of the most deadly
danger this man should be so easy and undisturbed.  I confess that I
myself had many misgivings and something almost approaching fear.  There
was no possibility of escape now, for though one made his way out of the
cave when the soldiers came, there was little hiding on the bare
hillside.  This, of course, was what the old man meant when he bade me
stay and refused to go out of doors. It was more than I could do to
leave him, but yet I ever feared the very thought of dying like a rat in
a hole.  My forebodings of my death had always been of an open, windy
place, with a drawn sword and more than one man stark before me.  It was
with downcast eyes that I waited for the inevitable end, striving to
commend my soul to God and repent of my past follies.

Suddenly some noise came to the quick ear of the old man, and he stood
up quivering.

"John," he cried, "John, my lad, gang to the place I told ye.  Ye’ll
find the hole where I said it was, and once there ye needna fear."

’Twas true, I was afraid, but I had given no signs of fear, and he had
little cause to speak of it.  "Nay," I said haughtily, "I will not move
from your side.  It were a dastardly thing to leave you, and the two of
us together may account for some of the fiends.  Besides there is as
much chance of life here as out on the braeside, where a man can be seen
for miles."

He gripped me fiercely by the arm so that I almost cried out for pain,
and his voice came shrill and strange.  "Gang where I tell ye, ye puir
fool.  Is this a time for sinfu’ pride o’ honour or mettle?  Ye know not
what evil is coming upon these men.  Gang quick lest ye share it also."

Something in his voice, in his eye, overcame me, and I turned to obey
him.

As I went he laid his hand on my head.  "The blessing o’ man availeth
little, but I pray God that He be ever near you and your house, and that
ye may soon hae a happy deliverance from all your afflictions. God bless
and keep ye ever, and bring ye at the end to His ain place."

With a heart beating wildly between excitement and sorrow I found the
narrow crevice, and crept upward till I came to the turning which led to
the air. Here I might have safely hid for long, and I was just on the
point of going back to the old man and forcing him to come with me to
the same place of refuge, when I heard the sound of men.

From my vantage-ground I could see the whole cave clearly and well.  I
could hear the noise of soldiers fumbling about the entrance, and the
voice of the informer telling the way.  I could hear the feet stumbling
along the passage, the clink of weapons, and the muttered words of
annoyance; and then, as I peered warily forth, I saw the band file into
the cave where sat the old man alone.  It was as I expected: they were
some twenty men of my cousin’s company, strangers to me for the most:
but what most occupied my thoughts was that Gilbert was not with them.

"By God, they’re off," said the foremost, "and nothing left but this
auld dotterel.  This is a puir haul.  Look you here, you fellow,"
turning to the guide, "you are a liar and a scoundrel, and if your thick
hide doesna taste the flat o’ my sword ere you’re five hours aulder, my
name’s no Peter Moriston. You," this to the old man, "what’s your name,
brother well-beloved in the Lord?"

At their first coming he had risen to his feet and taken his stand in
the middle of the cave, by the two great stone shafts which kept up the
roof, for all the word like the pillars in some mighty temple.  There he
stood looking over their heads at something beyond, with a strange,
almost pitying smile, which grew by degrees into a frown of anger.

"Ye’ve come here to taunt me," said he, "but the Lord has prepared for
you a speedy visitation. Puir fools, ye shall go down quick to the
bottomless pit like Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and none shall be left to
tell the tale of you.  Ye have led braw lives.  Ye have robbed the widow
and the fatherless, ye have slain by your numbers men ye darena have
come near singly, ye have been the devil’s own braw servants, and, lads,
ye’ll very soon get your wages.  Ye have made thae bonny lands o’
Tweedside fit to spew ye forth for your wickedness.  And ye think that
there is nae jealous God in Heaven watching ower you and your doings and
biding His time to repay.  But, lads, ye’re wrang for yince.  The men ye
thocht to take are by this time far from ye, and there is only one left,
an auld feckless man, that will no bring muckle credit to ye.  But God
has ordained that ye shall never leave here, but mix your banes to a’
time wi’ the hillside stanes.  God hae pity on your souls, ye that had
nae pity on others in your lives."

And even as I watched, the end came, sudden and awful.  Stretching out
his great arms, he caught the two stone shafts and with one mighty
effort pushed them asunder.  I held my breath with horror.  With a roar
like a world falling the roof came down, and the great hillside sank
among a ruin of rock.  I was blinded by dust even in my secure seat, and
driven half-mad with terror and grief.  I know not how I got to the air,
but by God’s good providence the passage where I lay was distinct from
the cave, and a rift in the solid rock.  As it was, I had to fight with
falling splinters and choking dust all the way.  At last—and it seemed
ages—I felt free air and a glimmer of light, and with one fresh effort
crawled out beneath a tuft of bracken.

And this is why at this day there is no cave at the Cor Water, nothing
but the bare side of a hill strewn with stones.

When I gained breath to raise myself and look around, the sight was
strange indeed.  The vast cloud of dust was beginning to settle and the
whole desolation lay clear.  I know not how to tell of it.  It was like
some battlefield of giants of old time.  Great rocks lay scattered amid
the beds of earth and shingle, and high up toward the brow of the hill
one single bald scarp showed where the fall had begun.

A hundred yards away, by his horse’s side, gazing with wild eyes at the
scene, stood a dragoon, doubtless the one whom the ill-fated company had
set for guard.  I hastened toward him as fast as my weak knees would
carry me, and I saw without surprise that he was the Dutchman, Jan
Hamman, whom I had already met thrice before.  He scarce was aware of my
presence, but stood weeping with weakness and terror, and whimpering
like a child.  I took him by the shoulder and shook him, until at last I
had brought him back to his senses, and he knew me.

"Where are they gone?" and he pointed feebly with his finger to the
downfall.

"To their own place," I said, shortly.  "But tell me one word.  Where is
your captain, Gilbert Burnet, that he is not with you to-day?"

The man looked at me curiously.

"He is gone on another errand, down Tweed toward Peebles."

Then I knew he was seeking for Marjory high and low and would never rest
till he found her.

"I will let you go," said I to the man, "that you may carry the tidings
to the rest.  Begone with you quick.  I am in no mood to look on such as
you this day."

The man turned and was riding off, when he stopped for one word.  "You
think," he said, "that I am your enemy and your cousin’s friend, and
that I serve under the captain for his own sweet sake.  I will tell you
my tale.  Three years ago this Captain Gilbert Burnet was in Leyden, and
there also was I, a happy, reputable man, prosperous and contented, with
the prettiest sweetheart in all the town.  Then came this man.  I need
not tell what he did.  In a year he had won over the silly girl to his
own desires, and I was a ruined man for evermore.  I am a servant in his
company who worked my fall.  Remember then that the nearer I am to
Gilbert Burnet the worse it will fare with him."  And he rode off, still
pale and shivering with terror.

I mused for some time with myself.  Truly, thought I, Gilbert has his
own troubles, and it will go hard with him if his own men turn against
him. And I set it down in my mind that I would do my best to warn him of
the schemes of the foreigner. For though it was my cousin’s own
ill-doing that had brought him to this, and my heart burned against him
for his villainy, it was yet right that a kinsman should protect one of
the house against the plots of a common soldier.



                              CHAPTER XIII

                   I RUN A NARROW ESCAPE FOR MY LIFE


This was in April, and now the summer began to grow over the land.  The
days grew longer and the air more mild, the flowers came out on the
hills, little mountain pansies and eyebright and whortleberry, and the
first early bells of the heath; the birds reared their young and the air
was all filled with the cries of them; and in the streams the trout grew
full-fleshed and strong.

And all through these days I lay close hid in the wilds, now in one
place, now in another, never wandering far from Tweeddale.  My first
hiding was in a narrow glen at the head of the Polmood Burn in a place
called Glenhurn.  It was dark and lonesome, but at first the pursuit was
hot after me and I had no choice in the matter.  I lived ill on the fish
of the burn and the eggs of wildfowl, with what meal I got from a
shepherd’s house at the burn foot.  These were days of great
contemplation, of long hours spent on my back in the little glen of
heather, looking up to the summer sky and watching the great clouds
fleeting athwart it.  No sound came to disturb me, I had few cares to
vex me; it was like that highest state of being which Plotinus spoke of,
when one is cumbered not with the toils of living.  Here I had much
grave communing with myself on the course of my life, now thinking upon
it with approval, now much concerned at its futility.  I had three very
warring moods of mind.  One was that of the scholar, who would flee from
the roughness of life.  This came upon me when I thought of the
degradation of living thus in hiding, of sorting with unlettered men, of
having no thoughts above keeping body and soul together.  The second was
that of my father’s son, whose pride abhorred to flee before any man and
hide in waste places from low-born soldiers and suffer others to devour
my patrimony.  But the third was the best, and that which I ever sought
to keep with me.  It was that of the gentleman and cavalier who had a
wide, good-humoured outlook upon the world, who cared not for houses and
lands, but sought above all things to guard his honour and love.  When
this was on me I laughed loud at all my misfortunes, and felt brave to
meet whatever might come with a light heart.

In this place I abode till near the middle of the month of June.  Twice
I had gone to the cairn on Caerdon and left a letter, which I wrote with
vast difficulty on fragments of paper which I had brought with me, and
received in turn Marjory’s news.  She was well and in cheerful spirits,
though always longing for my return.  The days passed easily in
Smitwood, and as none came there she was the better hidden.  I wrote my
answers to these letters with great delight of mind, albeit much
hardship.  The ink in the inkhorn which I had always carried with me
soon became dry, and my pen, which I shaped from a curlew’s feather, was
never of the best.  Then after the writing came the long journey,
crouching in thickets, creeping timorously across the open spaces,
running for dear life down the hill-slopes, until I came at length to
the cairn on Caerdon, and hid the letter ’neath the grey stones.

But about mid June I bethought me that I had stayed long enough in that
lonely place and resolved to move my camp.  For one thing I wished to
get nearer Barns, that I might be within reach of my house for such
provisions as I required.  Also there were signs that the place was no
longer safe.  Several times of late I had heard the voice of soldiers on
the moors above my hiding, and at any moment a chance dragoon might
stray down the ravine.  So late one evening about midsummer I bade adieu
to the dark Glenhurn, and took off across the wild hills to the lower
vale of Tweed.

The place I chose was just at the back of Scrape, between that mountain
and a wild height called the Pyke-stone hill.  It was a stretch of
moss-hags and rough heather, dry as tinder at this time, but, as I well
knew, in late autumn and winter a treacherous flow.  Thither I had been
wont to go to the duck-shooting in the months of November and February,
when great flocks of mallard and teal settled among the pools.  Then one
has to look well to his feet, for if he press on eager and unthinking,
he is like to find himself up to the armpits.  But if he know the way of
the thing, and walk only on the tufted rushes and strips of black peat,
he may take the finest sport that I know of.  Here then I came, for the
place was high and lonesome, and with a few paces I could come to the
top of the Little Scrape and see the whole vale of Tweed from
Drummelzier to Neidpath.  I had the less fear of capture, for the place
was almost impassable for horses; also it was too near the house of
Barns to be directly suspected, and the country below it was still loyal
and with no taint of whiggery.

Here then I settled myself, and made a comfortable abode in a dry
burn-channel, overarched with long heather.  The weather was unusually
warm and dry, the streams were worn to a narrow thread of silver
trickling among grey stones, and the hot sun blazed from morn to night
in a cloudless sky.  The life, on the whole, was very pleasing.  There
was cold water from a mossy well hard by when I was thirsty.  As for
food, I made at once an expedition to the nearest cottage on my lands,
where dwelt one Robin Sandilands, who straightway supplied all my needs
and gave me much useful information to boot.  Afterwards he came every
second day to a certain part of the hill with food, which he left there
for me to take at my convenience.  Hence the fare was something better
than I had had in my previous hiding-place.  Also it was a cheerful
life.  Up there on the great flat hill-top, with nothing around me but
the sky and the measureless air, with no noises in my ear but the
whistle of hill-birds, with no view save great shoulders of mountain,
the mind was raised to something higher and freer than of old.  Earthly
troubles and little squabbles and jealousies seemed of less account.
The more than Catonian gravity of these solemn uplands put to flight all
pettiness and small ambition.  It has been an immemorial practice in our
borderland that those of ruined fortunes, broken men, should take to the
hills for concealment, if need be, and in any case for satisfaction.
Verily twelve months of that pure air would make a gentleman of a knave,
and a hero of the most sordid trader.

However, ere June had merged in July, I found myself in want of some
companion to cheer my solitude.  I would have given much for some
like-minded fellow-wayfarer, but since that might not be had I was fain
to content myself with a copy of Plotinus, which I had got with all the
difficulty in the world from the house of Barns.  It happened on a warm
afternoon, when, as I lay meditating as was my wont in the heather, a
great desire came upon me for some book to read in.  Nothing would do
but that I must straightway set out for Barns at the imminent peril of
my own worthless life.  It was broad daylight; men were working in the
fields at the hay; travellers were passing on the highway; and for all I
knew soldiers were in the house.  But with a mad recklessness I ventured
on the quest, and, entering the house boldly, made my way to the library
and was choosing books. Then I was startled by the noise of approaching
steps, and seizing hastily the first volume I could lay hands on, set
off for the hills at the top of my speed.  The visit had renewed old
recollections, and I spent a bitter evening reflecting upon my altered
position.

But toward the end of August, when the nights grew longer and the
sunsets stormy, a change came over the weather.  The Lammas floods first
broke the spell of the drought, and for three clear days the rain fell
in torrents, while I lay in my hole, cold and shivering.  These were
days of suffering and hunger, though I shrink from writing of them and
have never told them to anyone.  On the fourth I made an incursion down
to my own lands to the cottage of my ally.  There I heard evil news.
The soldiers had come oftener than of late and the hunt had been
renewed.  The reward on my head had been doubled, and with much sorrow I
had the news that the miller of Holmes Mill had been taken and carried
to Edinburgh.  In these dim grey days my courage fell, and it took all
the consolations of philosophy, all my breeding and manly upbringing to
keep up my heart.  Also it became more difficult to go at the three
weeks’ end to the cairn on Caerdon with the letter for Marjory.

It was, as far as I remember, for I did not keep good count, on the
second day of September, that I set out for Caerdon on my wonted errand.
I had had word from Robin Sandilands that the countryside was perilous;
but better, I thought, that I should run into danger than that my lady
should have any care on my account.  So I clapped the written letter in
my pocket and set out over the hills in a fine storm of wind.

I went down the little burn of Scrape, which flows into Powsail about a
mile above the village of Drummelzier.  Had I dared I would have crossed
the low lands just above the village, and forded Tweed at Merlin’s
Grave, and so won to Caerdon by Rachan and Broughton.  But now it
behooved me to be cautious, so I kept straight over the hills; and,
striking the source of a stream called Hopecarton, followed it to where
it joined the river in the Mossfennan haughs. All the time the wind
whistled in my teeth and the sharpest of showers bit into my skin.  I
was soon soaked to the bone, for which I cared very little, but pushed
steadfastly on through the rapidly-rising waters of Tweed, and scrambled
up the back of the Wormel. Here it was stiff work, and my legs ached
mightily ere I reached the top and flung myself on the damp heather to
spy out the Holmes valley.

All seemed quiet.  The stream, now changed from its clearness to a muddy
brown, was rolling on its way though the fields of stubble.  The few
houses smoked in peace.  The narrow road was empty of travellers....
Without hesitation I ran down the slopes, caring not to look
circumspectly to the left and right....

I had not run far till something before me brought me to a halt and sent
me flat among the grass.  Just below the house of Quarter, coming from
the cover of the trees, were half a score of soldiers.

My first thought was to turn back and give up the project.  My second,
to go forward and find a way to cross the valley.  Happily the foliage
was still there, the heath was still long, the grass was dense: a man
might succeed in crossing under cover.

With a beating heart I crawled through the heather to the rushes beside
a little stream.  This I followed, slowly, painfully, down to the
valley, looking sharply at every bare spot, and running for dear life
when under cover of bank or brae.  By and by I struck the road, and
raised myself for a look.  All was quiet. There was no sign of any man
about, nothing but the beating of the rain and the ceaseless wind.  It
was possible that they had gone down the vale, and were by this time out
of sight.  Or maybe they had gone up the water on their way to the moors
of Clyde.  Or still again they might have gone back to the house of
Quarter, which they doubtless loved better than the rainy out-of-doors.
In any case they were not there, and nothing hindered me from making a
bold sally across the open.

I rose and ran through the corn-field, cleaving my way amid the thick
stubble.  The heavy moisture clung to my soaked clothes and the sweat
ran over my face and neck, but I held straight on till I gained the
drystone dyke at the other side and scrambled across it.  Here I fell
into the stream and was soaked again, but the place was not deep and I
was soon through.  Now I was direct beneath the house, but somewhat
under the cover of the trees; and still there was no sign of man and
beast.  I began to think that after all my eyes had deceived me, and
taken nowt for dragoons.  Such a trick was not impossible; I had found
it happen before at the winter’s shooting. With this pleasing hope I
straightened my back and ran more boldly up the planting’s side till I
gained the moorlands above.  Here I paused for a second to enjoy my
success and look back upon the house.

Suddenly something cracked in the thicket, and a voice behind me cried,
"Stop.  Gang another step and I fire."  So the cup of safety was dashed
from my lips at the very moment of tasting it.

I did not obey, but dashed forward to the high moors with all my speed.
It was conceivable that the men were unmounted and their horses stabled,
in which case I might get something of a lead.  If not, I should very
soon know by the clear convincing proof of a shot in my body.

My guess was right, and it was some little time ere I heard the cries of
pursuers behind me.  I had made straight for the top of the ridge where
the ground was rough for horses, and I knew that they could not follow
me with any speed.  I was aye a swift runner, having been made long and
thin in the shanks and somewhat deep-chested.  I had often raced on the
lawn at Barns with my cousin for some trifling prize. Now I ran with him
again, but for the prize of my own life.

I cannot tell of that race, and to this day the thought of it makes my
breath go faster.  I only know that I leaped and stumbled and ploughed
my way over the hillside, sobbing with weariness and with my heart
almost bursting my ribs.  I never once looked behind, but I could
measure the distance by the sound of their cries.  The great, calm face
of Caerdon was always before me, mocking my hurry and feebleness. If I
could but gain the ridge of it, I might find safety in one of the deep
gullies.  Now I had hope, now I had lost it and given myself up for as
good as dead.  But still I kept on, being unwilling that anyone should
see me yield, and resolving that if I needs must die I would stave it
off as long as might be.

In the end, after hours—or was it minutes?—I reached the crest and
crawled down the other side. They were still some distance behind and
labouring heavily.  Near me was a little ravine down which a slender
trickle of flood-water fell in a long cascade. I plunged down it, and
coming to a shelter of overlapping rock crawled far in below, and
thanked God for my present safety.

Then I remembered my errand and my letter.  I clapped my hand to my
pocket to draw it forth.  The place was empty—the letter was gone.  With
a sickening horror I reflected that I had dropped it as I ran, and that
my enemies must have found it.



                              CHAPTER XIV

                     I FALL IN WITH STRANGE FRIENDS


I lay there, still with fright and anxiety, while the wind roared around
my hiding-place, and the noise of the horses’ feet came to my ears.  My
first thought was to rush out and meet them, engage the company and get
the letter back by force.  But a moment’s reflection convinced me that
this was equal to rushing on my death.  There was nothing for it but to
bide where I was, and pray that I might not be discovered.

The noise grew louder, and the harsh voices of the men echoed in the
little glen.  I lay sweating with fear and I know not what foreboding,
as I heard the clatter of hooves among the slates and the heavy tread of
those who had dismounted and were searching every tuft of heather.  I
know not to this day how I escaped.  It may be that their eyes were
blinded with mist and rain; it may be that my hiding-place was securer
than I thought, for God knows I had no time to choose it; it may be that
their search was but perfunctory, since they had got the letter; it may
be that they thought in their hearts that I had escaped ever the back of
Caerdon and searched only to satisfy their leader.  At any rate, in a
little all was still, save for the sound of distant voices, and with
vast caution and great stiffness of body I drew myself from the hole.

I have rarely felt more utterly helpless and downcast. I had saved my
skin, but only by a hairbreadth, and in the saving of it I had put the
match to my fortunes.  For that luckless letter gave the man into whose
hands it might fall a clue to Marjory’s whereabouts. It is true that the
thing was slight, but still it was there, and ’twas but a matter of time
till it was unravelled.  All was up with me.  Now that I was thus
isolated on Caerdon and the far western ridges of the Tweedside hills I
could have little hope of getting free, for to return to safety I must
cross either Holmes Water, which was guarded like a street, or the lower
Tweed, which, apart from the fact that it was in roaring flood, could no
more be passed by me than the gates of Edinburgh.  But I give my word it
was not this that vexed me; nay, I looked forward to danger, even to
capture, with something akin to hope.  But the gnawing anxiety gripped
me by the throat that once more my poor lass would be exposed to the
amenities of my cousin, and her easy, quiet life at Smitwood shattered
forever.  An unreasoning fit of rage took me, and I dashed my foot on
the heather in my hopeless vexation.  I cursed every soldier, and damned
Gilbert to the blackest torments which my heart could conjure.

But rage, at the best, is vain and I soon ceased.  It was indeed high
time that I should be bestirring myself. I could not stay where I was,
for in addition to being without food or decent shelter, I was there on
the very confines of the most dangerous country.  Not two miles to the
north from the place where I lay the hills ceased, and the low-lying
central moorlands succeeded, which, as being a great haunt of the more
virulent Whigs, were watched by many bands of dragoons.  If my life were
to be saved I must get back once more to the wild heights of the upper
Tweed.

I climbed the gully and, keeping lower down the hill, made for the
mountain, named Coulter Fell, which is adjacent to Caerdon.  I know not
why I went this way, save through a fantastic idea of getting to the
very head of the Holmes Water and crossing there.  Every step I took led
me into more perilous ground, for it took me farther to the westward.
It was my sole chance, and in the teeth of the wind I wrestled on over
the long heather and grey sklidders, slipping and stumbling with
weariness and dispirit. Indeed I know not if anything could have
sustained me save the motto of my house, which came always to my mind.
_Virescit vulnere virtus_!  The old proud saw cheered my heart
wondrously.  I shall not shame my kin, said I to myself; it shall never
be said that misfortune did aught to one of my name save raise his
valour.

When I reached the head of the ridge I thought that the way was clear
before me and that I had outdistanced my pursuers.  I stood up boldly on
the summit and looked down on the Holmes Water head.  The next minute I
had flung myself flat again and was hastening to retrace my steps.  For
this was what I saw. All up the stream at irregular intervals dragoons
were beating the heather in their quest for me.  Clearly they thought
that I had made for the low ground. Clearly, also, there was no hope of
escape in that quarter.

With a heavy heart I held along the bald face of the great Coulter Fell.
I know no more heartless mountain on earth than that great black scarp,
which on that day flung its head far up into the mist.  The storm, if
anything, had increased in fury.  Every now and then there came a burst
of sharp hail, and I was fain to shelter for a moment by lying on the
earth.  Very circumspectly I went, for I knew not when through the wall
of mist a gleam of buff coats or steel might meet me.  In such a
fashion, half-creeping, half running, I made my way down the hills which
flank the Coulter Water, and came at length to the range of low hills
which look down upon Biggar and the lowlands of Clyde.

I struggled to the top and looked over into the misty haughs.  The day
was thick, yet not so thick that I could not see from this little
elevation the plain features of the land below.  I saw the tail trees of
Coulter House and the grey walls and smoking chimney. Beyond was the
road, thick in mud, and with scarce a traveller.  All seemed quiet, and
as I looked a wild plan came into my head.  Why should I not go through
the very den of the lion?  What hindered me from going down by the marsh
of Biggar and the woods of Rachan, and thence to my hiding-place?  It
was the high roads that were unwatched in these days, and the byways
which had each their sentinel.

But as I looked again the plan passed from my mind.  For there below,
just issuing from the gateway of Coulter House, I saw a man on
horseback, and another, and still another.  I needed no more.  A glance
was sufficient to tell me their character and purport.  Gilbert verily
had used his brains to better advantage than I had ever dreamed of.  He
had fairly outwitted me, and the three airts of north and south and west
were closed against me.

There still remained the east, and thither I turned. I was shut in on a
triangle of hill and moorland, some three miles in length and two in
breadth.  At the east was the spur of hill at the foot of the Holmes
Water and above the house of Rachan.  If I went thither I might succeed
in crossing the breadth of the valley and win to the higher hills.  It
was but a chance, and in my present weakness I would as soon have laid
me down on the wet earth and gone to sleep.  But I forced myself to go
on, and once more I battled with the snell weather.

I do not very well remember how I crossed the Kilbucho glen, and
stumbled through the maze of little streams and sheep drains which cover
all the place.  I had no more stomach for the work than an old dog has
for coursing.  To myself I could give no reason for my conduct save a
sort of obstinacy which would not let me give in.  At a place called
Blendewing I lay down on my face and drank pints of water from the
burn—a foolish action, which in my present condition was like to prove
dangerous.  In the pine-wood at the back of the shieling I laid me down
for a little to rest, and when once more I forced myself to go on, I was
as stiff as a ship’s figure-head.  In this state I climbed the little
hills which line the burn, and came to the limit of the range above the
place called Whiteslade.

It was now about two o’clock in the afternoon, and the storm, so far
from abating, grew every moment in fierceness.  I began to go hot and
cold all over alternately, and the mist-covered hills were all blurred
to my sight like a boy’s slate.  Now, by Heaven, thought I, things are
coming at last to a crisis.  I shall either die in a bog-hole, or fall
into my cousin’s hands before this day is over.  A strange perverted joy
took possession of me.  I had nothing now to lose, my fortunes were so
low that they could sink no farther; I had no cause to dread either
soldier or weather.  And then my poor silly head began to whirl, and I
lost all power of anticipation.

To this day I do not know how I crossed the foot of the Holmes
valley—for this was what I did.  The place was watched most jealously,
for Holmes Mill was there, and the junction of the roads to the upper
Tweed and the moors of Clyde.  But the thing was achieved, and my next
clear remembrance is one of crawling painfully among the low birk
trees-and cliffs on the far side of the Wormel.  My knees and hands were
bleeding, and I had a pain in my head so terrible that I forgot all
other troubles in this supreme one.

It was now drawing towards evening.  The grey rain-clouds had become
darker and the shadows crept over the sodden hills.  All the world was
desert to me, where there was no shelter.  Dawyck and Barns were in the
hands of the enemy.  The cave of the Cor Water was no more.  I had
scarce strength to reach my old hiding-place in the hags above Scrape,
and if I did get there I had not the power to make it habitable.  A
gravelled and sanded couch with a heathery roof is pleasant enough in
the dry weather, but in winter it is no better than a bog-hole.

Nevertheless I slid down the hill as best I could and set myself to
crossing the valley.  It was half-filled with water pools which the
flood had left, and at the far side I saw the red, raging stream of
Tweed. I remember wondering without interest whether I should ever win
over or drown there.  It was a matter of little moment to me.  The fates
had no further power to vex me.

But ere I reached the hillfoot I saw something which gave me pause,
reckless though I had come to be.  On the one hand there was a glimpse
of men coming up the valley—mounted men, riding orderly as in a troop.
On the other I saw scattered soldiers dispersing over the haughland.
The thought was borne in upon me that I was cut off at last from all
hope of escape.  I received the tidings with no fear, scarcely with
surprise.  My sickness had so much got the better of me that though the
heavens had opened I would not have turned my head to them. But I still
staggered on, blindly, nervelessly, wondering in my heart how long I
would keep on my feet.

But now in the little hollow I saw something before me, a glimpse of
light, and faces lit by the glow. I felt instinctively the near presence
of men. Stumbling towards it I went, groping my way as if I were
blindfold.  Then some great darkness came over my brain and I sank on
the ground.



                               CHAPTER XV

                     THE BAILLIES OF NO MAN’S LAND


The next period in my life lies still in my mind like a dream.  I have a
remembrance of awaking and an impression of light, and strange faces,
and then all was dark again.  Of those days my memory is a blank; there
is nothing but a medley of sickness and weariness, light and blackness,
and the wild phantoms of a sick man’s visions.

When I first awoke to clear consciousness, it was towards evening in a
wild glen just below the Devil’s Beef Tub at the head of the Annan.  I
had no knowledge where I was.  All that I saw was a crowd of men and
women around me, a fire burning and a great pot hissing thereon.  All
that I heard was a babel of every noise, from the discordant cries of
men to the yelping of a pack of curs.  I was lying on a very soft couch
made of skins and cloaks in the shade of a little roughly-made tent.
Beyond I could see the bare hillsides rising shoulder on shoulder, and
the sting of air on my cheek told me that it was freezing hard.  But I
was not cold, for the roaring fire made the place warm as a baker’s
oven.

I lay still and wondered, casting my mind over all the events of the
past that I could remember.  I was still giddy in the head, and the
effort made me close my eyes with weariness.  Try as I would I could
think of nothing beyond my parting from Marjory at Smitwood.  All the
events of my wanderings for the moment had gone from my mind.

By and by I grew a little stronger, and bit by bit the thing returned to
me.  I remembered with great vividness the weary incidents of my flight,
even up to its end and my final sinking.  But still the matter was no
clearer.  I had been rescued, it was plain, but by whom, when, where,
why?  I lay and puzzled over the thing with a curious mixture of
indifference and interest.

Suddenly a face looked in upon me, and a loud strident voice cried out
in a tongue which I scarce fully understood.  The purport of its words
was that the sick man was awake and looking about him.  In a minute the
babel was stilled, and I heard a woman’s voice giving orders.  Then some
one came to me with a basin of soup.

"Drink, lad," said she; "ye’ve had a geyan close escape but a’ is richt
wi’ ye noo.  Tak this and see how ye feel."

The woman was tall and squarely built like a man; indeed, I cannot think
that she was under six feet. Her face struck me with astonishment, for I
had seen no woman for many a day since Marjory’s fair face, and the
harsh commanding features of my nurse seemed doubly strange.  For dress
she wore a black hat tied down over her ears with a ’kerchief, and
knotted in gipsy fashion beneath her chin.  Her gown was of some
dark-blue camlet cloth, and so short that it scarce reached her knees,
though whether this fashion was meant for expedition in movement or
merely for display of gaudy stockings, I know not.  Certainly her
stockings were monstrously fine, being of dark blue flowered with
scarlet thread, and her shoon were adorned with great buckles of silver.
Her outer petticoat was folded so as to make two large pockets on either
side, and in the bosom of her dress I saw a great clasp-knife.

I drank the soup, which was made of some wild herbs known only to the
gipsy folk, and lay back on my couch.

"Now, sleep a wee, lad," said the woman, "and I’ll warrant ye’ll be as
blithe the morn as ever."

I slept for some hours, and when I awoke sure enough I felt mightily
strengthened.  It was now eventide and the camp-fire had been made
larger to cook the evening meal.  As I looked forth I could see men
squatting around it, broiling each his own piece of meat in the ashes,
while several cauldrons sputtered and hissed on the chains.  It was a
wild, bustling sight, and as I lay and watched I was not sorry that I
had fallen into such hands.  For I ever loved to see new things and
strange ways, and now I was like to have my fill.

They brought me supper, a wild duck roasted and coarse home-made bread,
and a bottle of very tolerable wine, got I know not whence unless from
the cellars of some churlish laird.  I ate it heartily, for I had fasted
long in my sickness, and now that I was recovered I had much to make up.

Then the woman returned and asked me how I did. I told her, "Well," and
thanked her for her care, asking her how I had been rescued and where I
was. And this was the tale she told me.

She was of the clan of the Baillies, the great gipsies of Tweeddale and
Clydesdale, offshoots of the house of Lamington, and proud as the devil
or John Faa himself.  They had been encamped in the little haugh at the
foot of the Wormel on the night of my chase. They had heard a cry, and a
man with a face like death had staggered in among them and fainted at
their feet.  Captain William Baillie, their leader, of whom more anon,
had often been well-entreated at Barns in my father’s time, and had
heard of my misfortunes.  He made a guess as to who I was and ordered
that I should be well looked after.  Meantime the two companies of
soldiers passed by, suspecting nothing, and not troubling to look for
the object of their search, who all the while was lying senseless
beneath a gipsy tent.  When all was safe they looked to my condition,
and found that I was in a raging fever with cold and fatigue.  Now the
gipsies, especially those of our own countryside, are great adepts in
medicine, and they speedily had all remedies applied to me.  For three
weeks I lay ill, delirious most of the time, and they bore me with them
in a litter in all their wanderings.  I have heard of many strange
pieces of generosity, but of none more strange than this—to carry with
much difficulty a helpless stranger over some of the roughest land in
Scotland, and all for no other motive than sheer kindliness to a house
which had befriended them of old.  With them I travelled over the wild
uplands of Eskdale and Ettrick, and with them I now returned to the
confines of Tweeddale.

"The Captain’s awa’ just noo," added she, "but he’ll be back the morn,
and blithe he’ll be to see ye so weel."

And she left me and I slept again till daybreak.

When I awoke again it was morning, just such a day as the last, frosty
and clear and bright.  I saw by the bustle that the camp was making
preparations for starting, and I was so well recovered that I felt fit
to join them.  I no longer needed to be borne like a child in a litter,
but could mount horse and ride with the best of them.

I had risen and gone out to the encampment and was watching the activity
of man and beast, when one advanced from the throng toward me.  He was a
very tall, handsome man, dark in face as a Spaniard, with fine curling
moustachios.  He wore a broad blue bonnet on his head, his coat was of
good green cloth and his small-clothes of black.  At his side he carried
a sword and in his belt a brace of pistols, and save for a certain
foreign air in his appearance he seemed as fine a gentleman as one could
see in the land.  He advanced to me and made me a very courtly bow,
which I returned as well as my still-aching back permitted me.

"I am glad you are recovered, Master John Burnet," said he, speaking
excellent English, though with the broad accent which is customary to
our Scots lowlands.  "Permit me to make myself known to you. I have the
honour to be Captain William Baillie at your service, captain of the
ragged regiment and the Egyptian guards."  All this he said with as fine
an air as if he were His Majesty’s first general.

At the mention of his name I called to mind all I had heard of this
extraordinary man, the chief of all the south-country gipsies, and a
character as famous in those days and in those parts as Claverhouse or
my lord the King.  He claimed to be a bastard of the house of Lamington,
and through his mother he traced descent, also by the wrong side of the
blanket, to the Gay Gordons themselves.  Something of his assumed
gentrice showed in his air and manner, which was haughty and lofty as
any lord’s in the land.  But in his face, among wild passions and
unbridled desires, I read such shrewd kindliness that I found it in my
heart to like him.  Indeed, while the tales of his crimes are hawked at
every fair, the tales of his many deeds of kindness are remembered in
lonely places by folk who have cause to bless the name of Baillie.  This
same captain had indeed the manners of a prince, for when he bought
anything he was wont to give his purse in payment, and indignantly
refuse to receive change of any kind.  It is only fair to add that the
money was not got by honest means, but by the plunder of the rich and
churlish.  Yet though his ways were roguish his acts were often most
Christian-like and courteous, and there were worse men in higher places
that this William Baillie.  More, he was reputed the best swordsman in
all Scotland, though, as being barred from the society of men of birth
and education, his marvellous talent was seldom seen.  He was of the
most indomitable courage and self-possession, and even in the court,
when on his trial, he spoke fearlessly to his judges.  I do not seek to
defend him; but to me and mine he did a good deed and I would seek to be
grateful.  When long afterwards he was killed in a brawl in the alehouse
of Newarthill, I heard the tidings with some sorrow, for he died
bravely, though in an ignoble quarrel.

He now informed me with great civility of the incidents of my escape and
sickness.  When I thanked him he waved me off with a great air.

"Tut, tut," said he, "that is a small matter between gentlefolk.  I have
often had kindness from your father, and it is only seemly that I should
do my best for the son.  Besides, it is not in my nature to see a man so
sore pressed by the soldiery and not seek to deliver him.  It is a
predicament I have so often been in myself."

A horse was brought for me, a little wiry animal, well suited for hills
and sure-footed as a goat.  When I felt myself in the saddle once again,
even though it were but a gipsy hallion, I was glad; for to one who has
scrambled on his own feet for so many days, a horse is something like an
earnest of better times. Captain Baillie bade me come with him to
another place, where he showed me a heap of gipsy garments. "It is
necessary," said he, "if you would ride with us that you change your
appearance.  One of your figure riding among us would be too kenspeckle
to escape folk’s notice.  You must let me stain your face, too, with the
juice which we make for our bairns’ cheeks.  It will wash off when you
want it, but till that time it will be as fast as sunburn."  So taking a
crow’s feather and dipping it in a little phial, he with much skill
passed it over my whole face and hands. Then he held a mirror for me to
look, and lo and behold, I was as brown as a gipsy or a Barbary Moor. I
laughed loud and long at my appearance, and when I was bidden put on a
long green coat, the neighbour of the captain’s, and a pair of stout
untanned riding-boots, I swear my appearance was as truculent as the
roughest tinker’s.

Thus accoutred we set out, the men riding in front in pairs and threes,
the women behind with donkeys and baggage shelties.  It was a queer
picture, for the clothing of all was bright-coloured, and formed a
strange contrast with the clear, chilly skies and the dim moor.  There
was no fear of detection, for apart from the company that I was with, my
disguise was so complete that not even the most vigilant dragoon could
spy me out.  Our road was that which I had already travelled often to my
own great weariness—down Tweed by Rachan and the Mossfennan haughs. I
had no guess at our destination; so when at Broughton we turned to the
westward and headed through the moss towards the town of Biggar, I was
not surprised.  Nay, I was glad, for it brought me nearer to the west
country and Smitwood, whither I desired to go with the utmost speed.
For with my returning health my sorrows and cares came back to me more
fiercely than ever.  It could not be that my cousin should find out
Marjory’s dwelling-place at once, for in the letter there was no clear
information; only indefinite hints, which in time would bring him there.
The hope of my life was to reach the house before him and rescue my
love, though I had no fixed plan in my mind and would have been at a
sore loss for aid.  Nevertheless, I was quieter in spirit, and more
hopeful.  For, after all, thought I, though Gilbert get my lass, he yet
has me to deal with, and I will follow him to the world’s end ere I let
him be.



                              CHAPTER XVI

                  HOW THREE MEN HELD A TOWN IN TERROR


It was towards evening, a dark November evening, that we came near the
little town of Biggar.  The place lies on a sandy bank raised from the
wide moss which extends for miles by the edge of the sluggish stream.
It is a black, desolate spot, where whaups and snipe whistle in the back
streets, and a lane, which begins from the causeway, may end in a pool
of dark moss-water.  But the street is marvellous broad, and there, at
the tail of the autumn, is held one of the greatest fairs in the
lowlands of Scotland, whither hawkers and tinkers come in hordes, not to
speak of serving-men and serving-lasses who seek hire. For three days
the thing goes on, and for racket and babble it is unmatched in the
countryside.

We halted before the entrance to the town on a square of dry in the
midst of the water-way.  The weather had begun to draw to storm, and
from the east, great masses of rolling cloud came up, tinged red and
yellow with the dying sun.  I know not how many the gipsies were, but,
with women and children, they were not less in number than ninety or a
hundred.  They had with them a great quantity of gear of all kinds, and
their animals were infinite. Forbye their horses and asses, they had
dogs and fowls, and many tamed birds which travelled in their company.
One sight I yet remember as most curious. A great long man, who rode on
a little donkey, had throughout the march kept an ugly raven before him,
which he treated with much kindness; and on dismounting lifted off with
assiduous care.  And yet the bird had no beauty or accomplishment to
merit his good-will.  It is a trait of these strange people that they
must ever have something on which to expend their affection; and while
the women have their children, the men have their pets.  The most grim
and quarrelsome tinker will tend some beast or bird and share with it
his last meal.

When the camp was made, the fire lit, and the evening meal prepared, the
men got out their violins and bagpipes, and set themselves to enliven
the night with music.  There in the clear space in front of the fire
they danced to the tunes with great glee and skill.  I sat beside the
captain and watched the picture, and in very truth it was a pleasing
one.  The men, as I have said, were for the most part lithe and tall,
and they danced with grace.  The gipsy women, after the age of twenty,
grow too harsh-featured for beauty, and too manly in stature for
elegance.  But before that age they are uniformly pretty.  The free,
open-air life and the healthy fare make them strong in body and
extraordinarily graceful in movement. Their well-formed features, their
keen, laughing black eyes, their rich complexions, and, above all, their
masses of coal-black hair become them choicely well. So there in the
ruddy firelight they danced to the quavering music, and peace for once
in a while lay among them.

Meanwhile I sat apart with William Baillie, and talked of many things.
He filled for me a pipe of tobacco, and I essayed a practice which I had
often heard of before but never made trial of.  I found it very
soothing, and we sat there in the bield of the tent and discoursed of
our several wanderings.  I heard from him wild tales of doings in the
hills from the Pentlands to the Cumberland fells, for his habits took
him far and wide in the country.  He told all with the greatest
indifference, affecting the air of an ancient Stoic, to whom all things,
good and evil alike, were the same.  Every now and then he would break
in with a piece of moralising, which he delivered with complete gravity,
but which seemed to me matter for laughter, coming, as it did, after
some racy narrative of how he vanquished Moss Marshall at the shieling
of Kippertree, or cheated the ale-wife at Newbigging out of her score.

On the morrow all went off to the fair save myself, and I was left with
the children and the dogs.  The captain had judged it better that I
should stay, since there would be folk there from around Barns and
Dawyck, who might penetrate my disguise and spread the tidings.
Besides, I knew naught of the tinker trade, and should have been sorely
out of place.  So I stayed at home and pondered over many things,
notably my present predicament.  I thought of all my old hopes and
plans—to be a scholar and a gentleman of spirit, to look well to my
lands and have a great name in the countryside, to study and make books,
maybe even to engage in Parliament and State business.  And what did I
now?  Travelling in disguise among tinkers, a branded man, with my love
and my lands in danger, nay all but lost.  It was this accursed thought
that made the bitterest part of my wanderings.

I was in such a mood when a servant came from a farmhouse near to get
one of the gipsies to come and mend the kitchen pot.  As I was the only
one left, there was nothing for it but to go.  The adventure cheered me,
for its whimsicality made me laugh, and laughter is the best antidote to
despair.  But I fared very badly, for, when I tried my ’prentice hand at
the pot, I was so manifestly incapable that the good-wife drove me from
the place, calling me an idle sorner, and a lazy vagabond, and many
other well-deserved names.  I returned to the camp with my ears still
ringing from her cuff, but in a more wholesome temper of mind.

The greater part of the others returned at the darkening, most with
well-filled pockets, though I fear it was not all come by honestly; and
a special feast was prepared.  That gipsy meal was of the strangest yet
most excellent quality.  There was a savoury soup made of all kinds of
stewed game and poultry, and after that the flesh of pigs and game
roasted and broiled.  There was no seasoning to the food save a kind of
very bitter vinegar; for these people care little for salt or any
condiment.  Moreover, they had the strange practice of grating some hard
substance into their wine, which gave it a flavour as if it had been
burned in the mulling.

The meal was over and I was thinking of lying down for the night, when
William Baillie came back. I noted that in the firelight his face was
black with anger.  I heard him speak to several of his men, and his tone
was the tone of one who was mastering some passion.  By and by he came
to where I sat and lay down beside me.

"Do you wish to pleasure me?" he said, shortly.

"Why, yes," I answered; "you have saved my life and I would do all in my
power to oblige you, though I fear that just now my power is little."

"It’s a’ I want," said he, leaving his more correct speech for the broad
Scots of the countryside.  "Listen, and I’ll tell ye what happened the
day at the fair. We tinker-folk went aboot our business, daein’ ill to
nane, and behavin’ like dacent, peaceable, quiet-mainnered men and
women.  The place was in a gey steer, for a heap o’ Wast-country trash
was there frae the backs o’ Straven and Douglasdale, and since a’ the
godly and reputable folk thereaways hae ta’en to the hills, nane but the
rabble are left.  So as we were gaun on canny, and sellin’ our bits o’
things and daein’ our bits o’ jobs, the drucken folk were dancin’ and
cairryin’ on at the ither end.  By and by doun the Fair come a drucken
gairdener, one John Cree. I ken him weel, a fosy, black-hertit scoondrel
as ever I saw.  My wife, whom ye know, for it was her that lookit after
ye when ye were sick, was standin’ at the side when the man sees her.
He comes up to her wi’ his leerin’, blackgairdly face, and misca’s her
for a tinkler and a’ that was bad, as if the warst in our tribe wasna
better than him.

"Mary, she stands back, and bids him get out or she wad learn him
mainners.

"But he wadna take a tellin’.  ’Oh, ho, my bawbee joe,’ says he, ’ye’re
braw and high the day. Whae are you to despise an honest man?  A wheen
tinkler doxies!’  And he took up a stane and struck her on the face.

"At this a’ our folk were for pittin’ an end to him there and then.  But
I keepit them back and bade them let the drucken ful be.  Syne he gaed
awa’, but the folk o’ the Fair took him up, and we’ve got nocht but
ill-words and ill-tongue a’ day.  But, by God! they’ll pay for it the
morn."  And the captain looked long and fiercely into the embers.

"I hae a plan," said he, after a little, "and, Master Burnet, I want ye
to help me.  The folk of the fair are just a wheen scum and riddlings.
There are three o’ us here, proper men, you and myself and my son
Matthew.  If ye will agree to it we three will mount horse the morn and
clear oot that fair, and frichten the folk o’ Biggar for the next
twalmonth."

"What would you do?" said I.

"I hae three suits," he said, "o’ guid crimson cloth, which I got frae
my grandfather and have never worn.  I have three braw horses, which cam
oot o’ England three year syne.  If the three o’ us mount and ride
through the fair there will be sic a scattering as was never heard tell
o’ afore i’ the auld toun.  And, by God, if that gairdener-body doesna
gang wud wi’ fricht, my name’s no William Baillie."

Now, I do not know what madness prompted me to join in this freak.  For
certain it was a most unbecoming thing for a man of birth to be perched
on horseback in the company of two reckless tinkers to break the king’s
peace and terrify His Majesty’s lieges of Biggar.  But a dare-devil
spirit—the recoil from the morning’s despondency—now held me.  Besides,
the romance of the thing took me captive; it was as well that a man
should play all the parts he could in the world; and to my foolish mind
it seemed a fine thing that one who was a man of birth and learning
should not scruple to cast in his lot with the rough gipsies.

So I agreed readily enough, and soon after went to sleep with weariness,
and knew nothing till the stormy dawn woke the camp.

Then the three of us dressed in the crimson suits, and monstrously fine
we looked.  The day was dull, cloudy, and with a threat of snow; and the
massing of clouds which we had marked on the day before was now a
thousandfold greater.  We trotted out over the green borders of the bog
to the town, where the riot and hilarity were audible.  The sight of the
three to any chance spectator must have been fearsome beyond the common.
William Baillie, not to speak of his great height and strange dress, had
long black hair which hung far below his shoulders, and his scarlet hat
and plume made him look like the devil in person.  Matthew, his son, was
something smaller, but broad and sinewy, and he sat his horse with an
admirable grace.  As for myself, my face was tanned with sun and air and
the gipsy dye, my hair hung loosely on my shoulders in the fashion I
have always worn it, and I could sit a horse with the best of them.

When we came near the head of the street we halted and consulted.  The
captain bade us obey him in all and follow wherever he went, and above
all let no word come from our mouth.  Then we turned up our sleeves
above the elbows, drew our swords and rode into the town.

At the first sight of the three strange men who rode abreast a great cry
of amazement arose, and the miscellaneous rabble was hushed.  Then, in a
voice of thunder, the captain cried out that they had despised the
gipsies the day before, and that now was the time of revenge.  Suiting
the action to the word he held his naked sword before him, and we
followed at a canter.

I have never seen so complete a rout in my life. Stalls, booths, tables
were overturned, and the crowd flew wildly in all directions.  The
others of the tribe, who had come to see the show, looked on from the
back, and to the terrified people seemed like fresh assailants.  I have
never heard such a hubbub as rose from the fleeing men and screaming
women. Farmers, country-folk, plowmen mingled with fat burgesses and the
craftsmen of the town in one wild rush for safety.  And yet we touched
no one, but kept on our way to the foot of the street, with our drawn
swords held stark upright in our hands.  Then we turned and came back;
and lo! the great fair was empty, and wild, fearful faces looked at us
from window and lane.

Then, on our second ride, appeared at the church gate the minister of
the parish, a valiant man, who bade us halt.

"Stop," saul he, "you men of blood, and cease from disturbing the town,
or I will have you all clapt in the stocks for a week."

Then the captain spoke up and told him of the wrong and insult of the
day before.

At this the worthy man looked grave.  "Go back to your place," he said,
"and it shall be seen to.  I am wae that the folk of this town, who have
the benefit of my ministrations, set no better example to puir heathen
Egyptians.  But give up the quarrel at my bidding.  ’Vengeance is mine,
and I will repay,’ saith the Lord."

"But haply, sir," said I, "as Augustine saith, we may be the Lord’s
executors."  And with this we turned and rode off, leaving the man
staring in open-mouthed wonder.



                              CHAPTER XVII

                   OF THE FIGHT IN THE MOSS OF BIGGAR


When we came to the camping-place it was almost deserted.  The people
had all gone to the fair, and nothing was to be seen save the baggage
and the children.  The morning had grown wilder and a thin snow was
falling, the earnest of a storm.  The mist was drawing closer and
creeping over the boglands. I minded an old saying of Tam Todd’s,
"Rouk’s snaw’s wraith," and I looked for a wild storm with gladness, for
it would keep the dragoon gentry at home and prohibit their ill-doing.

But just in front at the border of the fog and at the extremity of the
dry land, the captain saw something which made him draw up his horse
sharply and stare. Then he turned to Matthew, and I saw that his face
was flushed.  "Ride a’ your pith, man," he said, "ride like the wind to
the toun, and bid our folk hurry back.  Nae words and be off."  And the
obedient son galloped away to do his bidding.

He gripped me by the arm and pulled me to the side.  "Ye’ve guid een,"
he said.  "D’ye see that ower by the laigh trees?"  I looked and looked
again and saw nothing.

"Maybe no," he said, "ye haena gipsy een; but in half an’ oor we’ll a’
ken what it means.  It’s the Ruthvens wi’ the Yerl o’ Hell.  I ken by
their red-stripit breeks and their lang scythe-sticks.  Ye maun ken that
for lang we’ve had a bluid-feud wi’ that clan, for the Baillies are aye
gentrice and hae nae trokins wi’ sic blaggard tinklers.  We’ve focht
them yince and twice and aye gotten the better, and noo I hear that
little Will Ruthven, that’s him that they ca’ the Yerl o’ Hell for his
deevilry, has sworn to fecht us till there’s no a Baillie left to keep
up the name.  And noo they’ve come.  ’Faith there’ll be guid bluid spilt
afore thae wratches learn their lesson."

The news struck me with vast astonishment and a little dismay.  I had
often longed to see a battle and now I was to be gratified.  But what a
battle!  A fight between two bloodthirsty gipsy clans, both as wild as
peat-reek, and armed with no more becoming weapons than bludgeons,
cutlasses, and scythe-blades. More, the event would place me in a hard
position. I could not fight.  It would be too absurd for words that I
should be mixed up in their mellays.  But the man at my side expected me
to aid him.  I owed my life to him, and with these folk gratitude is
reckoned one of the first of the virtues.  To refuse William Baillie my
help would be to offer him the deepest unkindness.  Yet I dismissed the
thought at once as preposterous.  I could no more join the fight than I
could engage in a pothouse or stable brawl.  There was nothing for it
but to keep back and watch the thing as a silent spectator.

In a little I began to see the band.  It would number, as I guessed,
some hundred and ten, with women and children.  The captain, as he
looked, grew fierce with excitement.  His dark eyes blazed, and his brow
and cheeks were crimson.  Ever and anon he looked anxiously in the
direction of the town, waiting for the help which was to come.  As the
foe came nearer he began to point me out the leaders.  "There’s Muckle
Will," he cried, "him wi’ the lang bare shanks, like the trams o’ a
cairt.  He’s the strongest and langest man frae the Forth to Berwick.
My God, but it’ll be a braw fellow that can stand afore him.  And
there’s Kennedy himsel’, that sonsy licht-coloured man.  They say he’s
the best wi’ the sma’-sword in a’ Nithsdale, but ’faith, he’s me to
reckon wi’ the day.  And there’s that bluidy deil, Jean Ruthven, whae
wad fecht ony man in braid Scotland for a pund o’ ’oo’.  She’s as guid
as a man, and they say has been the death o’ mair folk than the Yerl
himsel’.  But here come our ain men.  Come on, Rob and Wat, and you,
Mathy, gang wide to the right wi’ some.  It’s a great day _this_.  Nae
wee cock-fecht, but a muckle lang deidly battle."  And the man’s face
was filled with fierce joy.

Meanwhile both the forces had taken up their position opposing one
another, and such a babel of tinkler yells arose that I was deafened.
Each side had their war-cry, and, in addition, the women and children
screamed the most horrible curses and insults against the enemy.  Yet
the battle was not arrayed in haphazard fashion, but rather with some
show of military skill.  The stronger and bigger men of the clan with
the captain himself were in the middle.  On the right and left were
their sons, with a more mixed force, and below all the women were drawn
up like harpies, looking well-nigh as fierce and formidable as the men.

"You’ll come to the front wi’ me, Maister Burnet," said the captain.
"Ye’re a guid man o’ your hands and we’ll need a’ we can get i’ the
middle."

"No," said I, "I cannot."

"Why?" he asked, looking at me darkly.

"Tut, this is mere foolery.  You would not have me meddling in such a
fray?"

"You think we’re no worthy for you to fecht wi’," he said, quietly, "we,
that are as guid as the best gentlemen i’ the land, and have saved your
life for ye, Master John Burnet.  Weel, let it be.  I didna think ye wad
hae dune it."  Then the tinker blood came out.  "Maybe you’re feared,"
said he, with an ugly smile.

I turned away and made no answer; indeed, I could trust myself to make
none.  I was bitterly angry and unhappy.  All my misfortunes had drawn
to a point in that moment.  I had lost everything.  A fatal mischance
seemed to pursue me.  Now I had mortally offended the man who had saved
my life, and my outlook was drear enough.

I had been looking the other way for a second, and when I turned again
the fray had begun.  The Earl, with a cutlass, had engaged the captain,
and the wings, if one may call them by so fine a word, had met and
mingled in confusion.  But still it was not a general mellay, but rather
a duel between the two principal combatants.  The little man with the
short sword showed wondrous agility, and leaped and twisted like a
tumbler at a fair.  As for the Baillie, he had naught to do but keep him
at a distance, for he was both better armed and better skilled.  As he
fought he let his eye wander to the others and directed them with his
voice.  "Come up, Mathy lad," he would cry. "Stand weel into them, and
dinna fear the lasses." Then as he saw one of his own side creeping
behind the Earl to strike a back blow, he roared with anger and bade him
keep off.  "Let the man be," he cried.  "Is’t no eneuch to hae to fecht
wi’ blaggards that ye maun be blaggards yoursel’?"

But in a little the crowd closed round them and they had less room for
play.  Then began a grim and deadly fight.  The townspeople, at the word
of the tinkers fighting, had left the fair and come out in a crowd to
witness it.  It was a sight such as scarce a man may see twice in his
lifetime.  The mist rolled low and thick, and in the dim light the wild,
dark faces and whirling weapons seemed almost monstrous. Now that the
death had begun there was little shouting; nothing was heard save the
rattle of the cutlasses, and a sort of sighing as blows were given and
received.  The bolder of the women and boys had taken their place, and
at the back the little children and young girls looked on with the
strangest composure.  I grew wild with excitement, and could scarce keep
from yelling my encouragements or my warnings; but these had no thought
of uttering a word. Had there been a cloud of smoke or smell of powder
it would have seemed decent, but this quietness and clearness jarred on
me terribly.  Moreover, the weapons they fought with were rude, but
powerful to inflict deep wounds, being all clubs and short swords and
scythe-blades fixed on poles.  Soon I saw ghastly cuts on the faces of
the foremost and blood-splashes on brow and cheek.  Had there been
horses it would not have seemed so cruel, for there would have been the
rush and trample, the hot excitement of the charge and the recoil.  But
in the quiet, fierce conflict on foot there seemed nothing but murder
and horror.

At first the battle was fought in a little space, and both sides stood
compact.  But soon it widened, and the wings straggled out almost to the
edge of the bog-water.  The timid onlookers fled as from the plague, and
I, in my station in the back, was in doubts whether I should bide still
or no.  But in front of me were the girls and children, and I thought if
I could do naught else I might bide still and see to them.  For the
horns of the Ruthven’s company (which was far the larger) threatened to
enclose the Baillies, and cut off their retreat.  Meantime the mist had
come down still closer and had given that decent covering which one
desires in a bloody fray. I could scarce see the front ranks of our
opponents, and all I could make out of my friends was the captain’s
bright sword glinting as he raised it to the cut.

But that soon happened which I had feared.  For the Ruthvens, enclosing
our wings, had all but surrounded us, since the captain had put the
weaker there and left all the more valiant for the centre. Almost before
I knew I saw one and another great gipsy rush around and make towards
the girls who had not joined the battle.  In that moment I saw the
bravest actions which it has ever been my lot to see.  For these slim,
dark-haired maids drew knives and stood before their assailants, as
stout-hearted as any soldiers of the King’s guard.  The children raised
a great cry and huddled close to one another.  One evil-looking fellow
flung a knife and pierced a girl’s arm....  It was too much for me.  All
my good resolutions went to the wind, and I forgot my pride in my anger.
With a choking cry I drew my sword and rushed for him.

After that I know not well what happened.  I was borne back by numbers,
then I forced my way forward, then back I fell again.  At first I fought
calmly, and more from a perverted feeling of duty than any lust of
battle.  But soon a tinker knife scratched my cheek, and a tinker
bludgeon rattled sorely against my head.  Then I grew very hot and
angry.  I saw all around me a crowd of fierce faces and gleaming knives,
and I remember naught save that I hurled myself onward, sword in hand,
hewing and slashing like a devil incarnate.  I had never drawn blade in
overmastering passion before, and could scarce have thought myself
capable of such madness as then possessed me.  The wild moss-trooping
blood, which I had heired from generations of robber lords, stood me in
good stead.  A reckless joy of fight took me.  I must have seemed more
frantic than the gipsies themselves.

At last, I know not how, I found my way to the very front rank.  I had
been down often, and blood was flowing freely from little flesh wounds,
but as yet I was unscathed.  There I saw William Baillie laying about
him manfully, though sore wounded in the shoulder.  When he saw me he
gave me a cry of welcome.  "Come on," he cried, "I kenned ye wad think
better o’t.  We’ve muckle need o’ a guid man the noo."  And he spoke
truth, for anything more fierce and awesome than the enemy I have never
seen.  The Earl of Hell was mangled almost to death, especially in the
legs and thighs.  The flesh was clean cut from the bone of one of his
legs, and hung down over the ankles, till a man grew sick at the sight.
But he was whole compared with his daughter, Jean Ruthven, who was the
chief’s wife. Above and below her bare breasts she was cut to the bone,
and so deep were the gashes that the movement of her lungs, as she
breathed, showed between the ribs.  The look of the thing made me ill
with horror.  I felt giddy, and almost swooned; and yet, though white as
death, she fought as undauntedly as ever.  I shunned the sight, and
strove to engage her husband alone, the great fair-haired man, who, with
no weapon but a broken cutlass, had cleared all around him.  I thrust at
him once and again and could get no nearer for the swing of his mighty
arms. Then the press behind, caused I suppose by the Ruthvens at the
back, drove me forward, and there was nothing for it but to grapple with
him.  Our weapons were forced from our hands in the throng, and, with
desperate energy, we clutched one another. I leaped and gripped him by
the neck, and the next instant we were both down, and a great,
suffocating wave of men pressed over us.  I felt my breath stop, and yet
I kept my grip and drew him closer.  All was blackness around, and even
as I clutched I felt a sharp thrill of agony through my frame, which
seemed to tear the life from my heart, and I was lost to all.



                             CHAPTER XVIII

                                SMITWOOD


That I am alive to this day and fit to write this tale, I owe to William
Baillie.  He saw me fall and the press close over me, and, though hard
beset himself, he made one effort for my salvation.  "Mathy," he cried,
"and Tam and Andra, look after your man and get him up," and then once
more he was at death-grips.  They obeyed his bidding as well as they
might, and made a little ring in the centre around me, defending me with
their weapons.  Then they entwined us and lifted me, senseless as I was,
to the light and air.  As for Kennedy, he was heavy and florid, and his
life had gone from him at the first overthrow.

I do not know well how I was got from the fray. I think I would have
been killed, had not the Ruthvens, whose best men were wounded, given
way a little after.  Their trick of surrounding the enemy, by spreading
wide their wings, was not wise and met with sorry success.  For it left
their middle so weak, that when Kennedy and the valiant Earl had been
mastered, there remained no resistance.  So when my friends made haste
to push with me to the back they found their path none so hard.  And
after all that there was nothing but confusion and rout, the one side
fleeing with their wounded, the other making no effort to pursue, but
remaining to rest and heal their hurts.

As I have said, I was unconscious for some time, and when I revived I
was given a sleeping draught of the gipsies’ own making.  It put me into
a profound slumber, so that I slept for the rest of the day and night
and well on to the next morning.  When I awoke I was in a rough cart
drawn by two little horses, in the centre of the troop who were hurrying
westward.  I felt my body with care and found that I was whole and well.
A noise still hummed in my head and my eyes were not very clear, as
indeed was natural after the fray of the day before.  But I had no sore
hurt, only little flesh scratches, which twinged at the time, but would
soon be healed.

But if this was my case it was not that of the rest of the band.  The
battle had been like all such gipsy fights—very terrible and bloody, but
with no great roll of dead.  Indeed, on our side we had not lost a man,
and of the enemy Kennedy alone had died, who, being a big man and a
full-blooded, had been suffocated in his fall by the throng above him.
It was just by little that I had escaped the same fate, for we two at
the time had been in death-grips, and had I not been thin and hardy of
frame, I should have perished there and then.  But the wounds were so
terrible on both sides that it scarce seemed possible that many could
ever recover.  Yet I heard, in after days, that not one died as a result
of that day’s encounter.  Even the Earl of Hell and his daughter Jean
recovered of their wounds and wandered through the country for many
years. But the sight of the folk around me on the march was very
terrible.  One man limped along with a great gash in his thigh in which
I could have placed my open hand.  Another had three fingers shorn off,
and carried his maimed and bandaged hand piteously.  Still a third lay
in the cart with a breast wound which gaped at every breath, and seemed
certain ere long to bring death.  Yet of such strength and hardihood was
this extraordinary people that they made light of such wounds, and swore
they would be healed in three weeks’ time.  Perhaps this tenacity of
life is due in some part to their excellent doctoring, for it is certain
that these folk have great skill in medicaments, and with
herb-concoctions, and I know not what else, will often perform wondrous
cures.  I have my own case as an instance—where first I was restored
from a high fever by their skill, and, second, from a fit of suffocation
far more deadly.

The storms of the day before had passed and a light frost set in which
made the air clear and sharp and the countryside plain even to the
distances.  We were passing under the great mass of Tintock—a high,
hump-backed hill which rises sheer from the level land and stands like a
mighty sentinel o’er the upper Clyde valley.  We travelled slow, for the
wounded were not fit to bear much speed, and many of the folk walked to
suffer the horses to be yoked to the carts.  After a little I espied the
captain walking at the side, with his shoulder and cheeks bandaged, but
as erect and haughty as ever.  Seeing that I was awake, he came over
beside me and asked very kindly after my health. His tenderness toward
me was as great as if I had been his son or nearest blood-kin.  When I
told him that I was well and would get down and walk beside him, he said
that that would be a most unbecoming thing and would never do, but that
he would have a horse brought me from the back.  So a horse was brought,
an excellent black, with white on its fetlocks, and I mounted; and
despite some little stiffness, found it much to my liking.

He told of the end of the battle and all the details of its course.  He
was in the highest spirits, for though his folk were sore wounded, they
had yet beaten their foes and sent them off in a worse plight than
themselves.  Above all he was full of a childish vanity in his own
prowess.  "Saw you that muckle bullion, Kennedy, Master Burnet?  I gied
him some gey licks, but I never could win near eneuch to him for his
muckle airm.  You grippit him weel and he’ll no bother us mair.  His ain
folk ’ll keep quiet eneuch aboot the affair, I’ll warrant, so we may
look to hear naething mair aboot it.  I’m thinking tae, that the Yerl
’ll no seek to come back my gate again.  I tried to mak him fecht like a
gentleman, but faith, he wadna dae’t.  He just keepit cuttin’ at my
shanks till I was fair wild, and telled some o’ our ain folk to tak the
legs frae the body wi’ a scythe-stick.  I haena seen a fecht like it
since that at the Romanno Brig fifteen years syne, atween the Faas and
the Shawes, when they were gaun frae Haddington to Harestane. Our folk
wad hae been in’t if they hadna come’t up ower late and juist seen the
end o’t."

"And will you have no farther trouble about the matter?" I asked.  "If
the justice gets word of it will you not suffer?"

"Na, na," he said, with conviction, "nae fear. Thae things dinna come to
the lugs o’ the law.  We didna dae ony hairm except to oorsels, and
there’s nane o’ us killed save Kennedy whae dee’d a naitural death, so
there can be nae word aboot that.  Forbye, how’s the law to grip us?"
And he turned on me a face full of roguish mirth which looked oddly
between the bandages.  "If they heard we were at Biggar Moss yae day and
cam after us, afore the morn we wad be in the Douglas Muirs or the
Ettrick Hills. We’re kittle cattle to fash wi’.  We gang slow for
ordinar, but when aucht presses we can flee like a flock o’ stirlins."

"Then where are you going?" I asked.

"Where, but to Lancrick," he said.  "There’s a fair comes on there
Monday three days, and the muir is grand beddin’.  I didna ask your will
on the maitter, for I kenned a’ places the noo were muckle the same to
ye, provided they were safe and no ower far away frae the wast country."

"That’s true enough," I said, thinking sadly of Marjory and my miserable
plight.  I had not told Baillie anything of my story, for I did not care
to commit it to such ears.  But I was glad that we travelled in this
airt, for I had still in my heart a wild hope that by some fortunate
chance I should be in time to save my love.

About midday we came to Lanark Moor, where the baggage and shelties, as
well as most of the women and children, were left behind to find an
encampment. As for us, we pushed on to the town to see what was doing
and hear some news of the countryside.  I had no fear of detection, for
in my new guise I passed for the veriest gipsy in the land.  I was still
clothed in my suit of crimson, but the fight had made it torn in many
places, and all smirched with mire and bog-water.  Also, my face was not
only stained with the captain’s dye, but the storms and dust of the
encounter had deepened its colour to the likeness of an Ethiop. I had
not a rag left of gentility, save maybe the sword which still swung at
my side.  In this fashion I rode by Baillie’s elbow in a mood neither
glad nor sad, but sunk in a sort of dogged carelessness.  The entrance
to the town was down a steep path from the moor, for the place is built
above the gorge of Clyde, yet something lower than the surrounding
moorlands. Far on all sides I had a view of the wide landscape, from the
rugged high hills of Tweeddale and the upper Clyde to the lowlands in
the west which stretch to Glasgow and the sea.

But when we came to the town there was a great to-do, men running about
briskly and talking to one another, old women and young gossiping at
house and close doors, and the upper windows filled with heads. There
was a curious, anxious hum throughout the air, as if some great news had
come or was coming ere long.  I forgot for a moment my position and
leaned from the saddle to ask the cause of a man who stood talking to a
woman at the causeway side.  He looked at me rudely.  "What for d’ye
want to ken, ye black-faced tinkler?  D’ye think it’ll matter muckle to
you what king there is when you’re hangit?"  But the woman was more
gracious and deigned to give me some sort of answer.  "There’s word o’
news," she said.  "We kenna yet what it is, and some think ae thing and
some anither, but a’ are agreed that it’ll make a gey stramash i’ the
land.  A man cam ridin’ here an hour syne and has been closeted wi’ the
provost ever since.  Honest man, his heid ’ll be fair turned if there’s
onything wrung, for he’s better at sellin’ tatties than reddin’ the
disorders o’ the state."  And then the man by her side bade her hold her
peace, and I rode on without hearing more.

By and by we came to the market-place where stands the ancient cross of
Lanerick, whereat all proclamations are made for the Westlands.
Straight down from it one looks on the steep braes of Kirkfieldbank and
the bridge which the Romans built over the river; and even there the
murmur of the great falls in Clyde comes to a man’s ear.  The place was
thronged with people standing in excited groups, and the expression on
each face was one of expectancy.  Folk had come in from the country
round as on some errand of enquiry, and the coats of a few of the
soldiery were to be discerned among the rest.  But I had no fear of
them, for they were of the lowlands regiment, and had no knowledge of
me.  The sight of us, and of myself in especial, for Baillie had changed
his garb, caused some little stir in the crowd and many inquisitive
looks.

The captain came up to me.  "There’s dooms little to be dune here," he
cried; "the place is in sic a fever, I canna think what’s gaun to
happen.  We may as weel gang back to the muirs and wait till things
quiet doun."

"I know not either," said I, and yet all the time I knew I was lying,
for I had some faint guess at the approach of great tidings, and my
heart was beating wildly.

Suddenly the crowd parted at the farther end and a man on a wearied grey
horse rode up toward the cross. He held a bundle of papers in his hand,
and his face was red with hurry and excitement.  "News," he cried
hoarsely, "great news, the greatest and the best that the land has heard
for many a day."  And as the people surged round in a mighty press he
waved them back and dismounted from his horse.  Then slowly and
painfully he ascended the steps of the cross and leaned for a second
against the shaft to regain his breath.  Then he stood forward and cried
out in a loud voice that all in the market-place might hear. "I have
ridden post-haste from Edinbro’ with the word, for it came only this
morn.  James Stewart has fled from the throne, and William of Orange has
landed in the South and is on his way to London. The bloody house has
fallen and the troubling of Israel is at an end."

At that word there went through the people a sound which I shall never
forget as long as I live—the sigh of gratitude for a great deliverance.
It was like a passing of a wind through a forest, and more terrible to
hear than all the alarums of war.  And then there followed a mighty
shout, so loud and long that the roofs trembled, and men tossed bonnets
in air and cried aloud and wept and ran hither and thither like madmen.
At last the black cloud of the persecution had lifted from their land,
and they were free to go and tell their kinsmen in hiding that all
danger was gone for ever.

As for myself, what shall I say?  My first feeling was one of utter joy.
Once more I was free to go whither I liked, and call my lands my own.
Now I could overmaster my cousin and set out to the saving of my lass.
Indeed I, who am a king’s man through and through, and who sorrowed in
after days for this very event, am ashamed to say that my only feeling
at the moment was one of irrepressible gladness.  No one, who has not
for many months been under the shadow of death, can tell the blessedness
of the release. But even as I joyed, I thought of Marjory, and the
thought recalled me to my duty.

"Have you a fast horse?" I said to the captain.

He looked at me in amazement, for the tidings were nothing to him, and
in my face he must have read something of my tale.

"You mean—" he said.

"Yes, yes," said I; "it means that I am now safe, and free to save
another.  I must be off hot-foot. Will you lend me a horse?"

"Take mine," said he, "it’s at your service, and take my guidwill wi’
ye."  And he dismounted and held out his hand.

I mounted and took his in one parting grip.  "God bless you, William
Baillie, for an honest man and a gentleman," and I was off without
another word.

It must have been a strange thing for the people of Lanark to see me on
that day, as they ran hither and thither to tell the good tidings.  For,
in all my savage finery, I dashed up the narrow street, scattering folk
to the right and left like ducks from a pond, and paying no heed to a
hundred angry threats which rang out behind me.  In a little I had
gained the moor, and set my face for Douglasdale and my lady.  Smitwood
was but ten miles away and the path to it easy. In a short hour I should
be there, and then—ah, then, it could not be otherwise, it must be, that
Marjory should be there to greet me, and be the first to hear my brave
news.

I passed over the road I had come, and had no time to reflect on the
difference in my condition from two hours agone, when abject and
miserable I had plodded along it.  Now all my head was in a whirl, and
my heart in a storm of throbbing.  The horse’s motion was too slow to
keep pace with my thoughts and my desires; and I found me posting on
ahead of myself, eager to be at my goal.  In such wild fashion I rode
over the low haughlands of Clyde, and forded the river at a deep place
where it flowed still and treacherous among reeds, never heeding, but
swimming my horse across, though I had enough to do to land on the other
side.  Then on through the benty moorlands of Douglas-side and past the
great wood of the Douglas Castle.  My whole nature was centred in one
great desire of meeting, and yet even in my longing I had a deadly
suspicion that all might not be well—that I had come too late.

Then I saw the trees and the old house of Smitwood lying solemn among
its meadows.  I quickened my horse to fresh exertion.  Like a whirlwind
he went up the avenue, making the soft turf fly beneath his heels.  Then
with a start I drew him up at the door and cried loudly for admittance.

Master Veitch came out with a startled face and looked upon me with
surprise.

"Is Marjory within?" I cried, "Marjory!  Quick, tell me!"

"Marjory," he replied, and fell back with a white face.  "Do you seek
Marjory?  She left here two day’s agone to go to you, when you sent for
her.  Your servant Nicol went after her."

"O my God," I cried, "I am too late;" and I leaned against my horse in
despair.



                         BOOK IV—THE WESTLANDS



                               CHAPTER I

            I HEAR NO GOOD IN THE INN AT THE FORDS O’ CLYDE


For a second I was so filled with despair at Master Veitch’s news that
my mind was the veriest blank and I could get no thought save that
bitterest of all—that my lady was gone.  But with a great effort I
braced myself to action.

"And what of my servant Nicol?" I asked, and waited breathlessly for the
answer.

"Oh, he was away on the hills seeking ye, Master Burnet.  When he got no
word Marjory was in sic a terror that nothing would suffice her but that
he maun off to Tweeddale and seek every heather-buss for word of ye.  He
hadna been gone twae days when half-a-dozen men, or maybe more, came wi’
horse and a’ and a letter frae you yoursel, seekin’ the lass.  They said
that a’ was peaceably settled now, and that you had sent them to fetch
her to meet you at Lanerick. I hadna a thocht but that it was a’ richt
and neither had the lass, for she was blithe to gang.  Next day, that
was yestreen, here comes your servant Nicol wi’ a face as red as a
sodger’s coat, and when he finds Marjory gone he sits down wi’ his heid
atween his hands and spak never a word to any man.  Then aboot the
darkening he gets up and eats a dinner as though he hadna seen meat for
a twal’month.  Then off he gangs, and tells na a soul where he was
gaun."  The old man had lost all his fine bearing and correct speech,
and stood by the door shivering with age and anxiety.

A whirlwind of thoughts passed through my mind. Now that the old order
was at end, Gilbert’s power had gone with it, and he was likely to find
it go hard with him soon.  There was but one refuge for him—in his own
lands in the west, where, in his great house of Eaglesham or his town
dwelling in Glasgow, he might find harborage; for the very fact that
they were in the stronghold of the Whigs made them the more secure.
Thither he must have gone if he had any remnant of wit, and thither he
had taken my lady. And with the thought my whole nature was steeled into
one fierce resolve to follow him and call him to bitter account.  My
first fit of rage had left me, and a more deadly feeling had taken its
place.  This earth was too narrow a place for my cousin and me to live
in, and somewhere in these Westlands I would meet him and settle
accounts once and for all.  It was not anger I felt, I give you my word.
Nay, it was a sense of some impelling fate behind driving me forward to
meet this mm, who had crossed me so often.  The torments of baffled love
and frustrated ambition were all sunk in this one irresistible impulse.

I clambered on my horse once more, and a strange sight I must have
seemed to the gaping servants and their astonished master.

"I am off on the quest," I cried, "but I will give you one word of news
ere I go.  The king has fled the land, and the Dutch William goes to the
throne."  And I turned and galloped down the avenue, leaving a throng of
pale faces staring after my horse’s tail.

Once on the road I lashed my animal into a mad gallop.  Some devil
seemed to have possessed me. I had oft thought fondly in the past that
my nature was not such as the wild cavaliers whom I had seen, but more
that of the calm and reasonable philosopher. Now I laughed bitterly at
these vain imaginings.  For when a man’s heart is stirred to its bottom
with love or hatred all surface graces are stripped from it and the old
primeval passions sway him, which swayed his father before him.  But
with all my heat I felt a new coolness and self-possession.  A desperate
calm held me.  In a little all things would be settled, for this was the
final strife, from which one or other of the combatants would never
return.

The dull November eve came on me ere I reached the Clyde.  ’Twas no
vantage to ford the stream, so I rode down the left bank among the damp
haughs and great sedgy pools.  In a little I had come to the awful gorge
where the water foams over many linns and the roar of the place is like
the guns of an army.  Here I left the stream side and struck into the
country, whence I returned again nearly opposite the town of Lanark, at
the broad, shallow place in the river, which folk call the Fords o’
Clyde.

Here there is a clachan of houses jumbled together in a crinkle of the
hill, where the way from the Ayrshire moors to the capital comes down to
the bank. Here there was an inn, an indifferent place, but quiet and
little frequented; and since there was little to be got by going further
I resolved to pass the night in the house.  So I rode down the uneven
way to where I saw the light brightest, and found the hostel by a
swinging lamp over the door.  So giving my horse to a stableman, with
many strict injunctions as to his treatment, I entered the low doorway
and found my way to the inn parlour.

From the place came a great racket of mirth, and as I opened the door a
glass struck against the top and was shivered to pieces.  Inside, around
the long table, sat a round dozen of dragoons making merry after their
boisterous fashion.  One would have guessed little indeed from their
faces that their occupation was gone, for they birled at the wine as if
the times were twenty years back and King Charles (whom God rest) just
come anew to his throne.

I had never seen the soldiers before, but I made a guess that they were
disbanded men of my cousin’s company, both from their air of exceeding
braggadocio which clung to all who had any relation to Gilbert Burnet,
and also since there were no soldiers in this special part of the Clyde
dale save his.  I was in no temper for such a racket, and had there been
another room in the house I should have sought it; but the inn was small
and little frequented, and the accommodation narrow at the best.
However, I must needs make the most of it, so shutting the door behind I
sought a retired corner seat.  I was still worn with my exertions of
yesterday and weary with long riding, so I was blithe to get my limbs at
rest.

But it was clear that three-fourths of the company were in the last
state of drunkenness, and since men in liquor can never let well alone,
they must needs begin to meddle with me.

"Gidden," said one, "what kind o’ gentleman hae we here?  I havena seen
sic a fellow sin’ yon steeple-jaick at Brochtoun Fair.  D’ye think he
wad be willin’ to gie us a bit entertainment?"

Now you must remember that I still wore my suit of torn and dirty
crimson, and with my stained face and long hair I must have cut a rare
figure.

But had the thing gone no further than words I should never have stirred
a finger in the matter, for when a man’s energies are all bent upon some
great quarrel, he has little stomach for lesser bickerings. But now one
arose in a drunken frolic, staggered over to where I sat, and plucked me
rudely by the arm. "Come ower," he said, "my man, and let’sh see ye
dance the ’Nancy kilt her Coats.’  You see here twelve honest sodgers
whae will gie ye a penny a piece for the ploy."

"Keep your hands off," I said brusquely, "and hold your tongue.  ’Twill
be you that will do the dancing soon at the end of a tow on the castle
hill, when King William plays the fiddle.  You’ll be brisker lads then."

"What," said he in a second, with drunken gravity.  "Do I hear you
shpeak treason against his majesty King James?  Dod, I’ll learn ye
better."  And he tugged at his sword, but being unable in his present
state to draw it with comfort, he struck me a hard thwack over the
shoulder, scabbard and all.

In a moment I was ablaze with passion.  I flung myself on the fellow,
and with one buffet sent him rolling below the table.  Then I was
ashamed for myself, for a drunken man is no more fit for an honest blow
than a babe or a woman.

But there was no time for shame or aught save action.  Three men—the
only three who were able to understand the turn of affairs—rose to their
feet in a trice, and with drawn swords came towards me. The others sat
stupidly staring, save two who had fallen asleep and rolled from their
seats.

I picked up my chair, which was broad and heavy and of excellent stout
oak, and held it before me like a shield.  I received the first man’s
awkward lunge full on it, and, thrusting it forward, struck him fair
above the elbow, while his blade fell with a clatter on the floor.
Meantime the others were attacking me to the best of their power, and
though they were singly feeble, yet in their very folly they were more
dangerous than a mettlesome opponent, who will keep always in front and
observe well the rules of the game. Indeed, it might have gone hard with
me had not the door been flung violently open and the landlord entered,
wringing his hands and beseeching, and close at his heels another man,
very tall and thin and dark.  At the sight of this second my heart gave
a great bound and I cried aloud in delight.  For it was my servant
Nicol.

In less time than it takes to write it we had disarmed the drunken
ruffians and reduced them to order. And, indeed, the task was not a hard
one, for they were a vast deal more eager to sleep than to fight, and
soon sank to their fitting places on the floor.  Forbye they may have
had some gleam of sense, and seen how perilous was their conduct in the
present regiment of affairs.  Then Nicol, who was an old acquaintance of
the host’s, led me to another room in the back of the house, where we
were left in peace; and sitting by the fire told one another some
fragment of our tales.

And first for his own, for I would speak not a word till he had told me
all there was to tell.  He had had much ado to get to Caerdon, for the
hills were thick with the military, and at that wild season of the year
there is little cover.  When he found no letter he set off for the
hiding-place above Scrape, where he knew I had been, and found it
deserted.  Thence he had shaped his way again to Smitwood with infinite
labour and told Marjory the fruit of his errand.  At this her grief had
been so excessive that nothing would content her but that he must be off
again and learn by hook or crook some word of my whereabouts.  So began
his wanderings among the hills, often attended with danger and always
with hardship, but no trace of me could he find.  At last, somewhere
about the Moffat Water, he had forgathered with a single tinker whom he
had once befriended in the old days when he had yet power to help.  From
this man he had learned that the Baillies had with them one whom he did
not know for certain, but shrewdly guessed as the laird of Barns.  With
all speed he had set off on this new quest and followed me in my journey
right to the moss of Biggar.  Here all signs of the band came to an end,
for most of the folk of the place knew naught of the airt of the gipsy
flight, and such as knew were loth to tell, being little in a mood to
incur the Baillies’ wrath.  So naught was left for him but to return to
the place whence he had started.  Here he was met with the bitter news
that I have already set down. He was thrown into a state of utter
despondency, and sat for long in a fine confusion of mind.  Then he fell
to reasoning.  There was no place whither Gilbert could take a woman
save his own house of Eaglesham, for Dawyck and Barns were too near the
hills and myself.  You must remember that at this time my servant had no
inkling of the momentous event which had set our positions upside down.
Now, if they took her to the west they would do so with all speed; they
had but one day’s start; he might yet overtake them, and try if his wits
could find no way out of the difficulty.

So off he set and came to this inn of the Clyde fords, and then he heard
that on the evening before such a cavalcade had passed as he sought.
But he learned something more the next morn; namely, that my cousin’s
power was wholly broken and that now I was freed from all suspicion of
danger.  Once more he fell into a confusion, but the one thing clear was
that he must find me at all costs.  He had heard of me last at the town
of Biggar not fifteen miles off; when I heard the great news he guessed
that I would ride straight for Smitwood; I would hear the tidings that
the folk there had to tell, and, if he knew aught of me, I would ride
straight, as he had done, on the track of the fugitives.  So he turned
back to the inn, and abode there awaiting me, and, lo! at nightfall I
had come.

Then for long we spoke of my own wanderings, and I told him many tales
of my doings and sufferings up hill and down dale, as did Ulysses to the
Ithacan swineherd.  But ere long we fell to discussing that far more
momentous task which lay before us.  It behooved us to be up and doing,
for I had a horrid fear at my heart that my cousin might seek to reach
the western seacoast and escape to France or Ireland, and thus sorely
hinder my meeting with my love.  I had no fear but that I should
overtake him sooner or later, for fate had driven that lesson deep into
my heart, and to myself I said that it was but a matter of days, or
weeks, or maybe years, but not of failure.  I was for posting on even at
that late hour, but Nicol would have none of it.

"Look at your face i’ the gless, sir," said he, "and tell me if ye look
like muckle mair ridin’ the day.  Ye’re fair forwandered wi’ weariness
and want o’ sleep.  And what for wad ye keep thae queer-like claes?
I’ll get ye a new suit frae the landlord, decent man, and mak ye mair
presentable for gaun intil the Wast."

I looked as he bade me in the low mirror, and saw my dark face, and
wind-tossed hair, and my clothes of flaming crimson.  Something in the
odd contrast struck my fancy.

"Nay," I said, grimly, "I will bide as I am.  I am going on a grim
errand and I will not lay aside these rags till I have done that which I
went for to do."

"Weel, weel, please yersel’," said my servant, jauntily, and he turned
away, whistling and smiling to himself.



                               CHAPTER II

                    AN OLD JOURNEY WITH A NEW ERRAND


I slept like a log till the broad daylight on the next morn woke me, and
with all speed I got up and dressed. I found myself much refreshed in
body.  My weariness was gone, and the dull languor which had oppressed
me had given place to a singular freshness of spirit.

When I went below I found my servant ready and waiting, with the horses
saddled and my meal prepared.  The soldiers had gone early, paying no
score; for when their liquor had left them they had wakened up to the
solemn conviction that this countryside was not like to be a pleasant
habitation for them for many months to come.  So they had gone off to
Heaven knows where, cutting my bridle-rein as a last token of their
affection.

It was near ten o’clock ere we started, the two of us, on our road to
the West.  I had travelled it many times, for it was the way to Glasgow,
and I found myself calling up, whether I would or no, a thousand
half-sad and half-pleasing memories.  At this place I had stopped to
water my horse, at this cottage I had halted for an hour, at this hostel
I had lain the night.  Had I not looked at my comrade every now and
then, I might have fancied that I was still the schoolboy, with his wide
interest in letters and life, and little knowledge of either, with half
a dozen letters in his pocket, looking forward with fear and hope to
town and college.  Heigh-ho!  Many things had come and gone since then,
and here was I still the same boy, but ah! how tossed and buffeted and
perplexed.  Yet I would not have bartered my present state for those
careless and joyous years, for after all this is a rugged world, with
God knows how many sore straits and devilish temptations, but with so
many fair and valiant rewards, that a man is a coward indeed who would
not battle through the one for the sweet sake of the other.

As we went Nicol talked of many things with a cheery good humour.  His
was an adventure-loving mind, and there were few things which he would
not brave save the routine of settled life.  Now, as the November sun
came out, for the morn was frosty and clear, his face shone with the
sharp air and the excitement of the ride, and he entertained me to his
views on the world and the things in it.  The ground was hard as steel
underfoot, the horse’s hooves crackled through the little ice-coated
pools in the road, and a solitary thrush sang its song from a wayside
wood and seemed like a silver trump calling to action and daring.

"What think ye o’ the hills, Laird?" said my servant.  "Ye’ve been lang
among them, and ye’ll ken them noo in anither way than if ye had just
trampit ower them after wild-jucks or ridden through them to Yarrow or
Moffatdale.  I’ve wandered among them since I was a laddie five ’ear
auld, and used to gang oot wi’ my faither to the herdin’.  And since
then I’ve traivelled up Tweed and doun Tweed, and a’ ower the Clydeside
and the Annanside, no to speak o’ furrin pairts, and I can weel say that
I ken naucht sae awfu’ and sae kindly, sae couthy and bonny and hamely,
and, at the same time, sae cauld and cruel, as juist thae green hills
and muirs."

"You speak truly," said I.  "I’ve seen them in all weathers and I know
well what you mean."

"Ay," he went on, "thae lawlands are very bonny, wi’ the laigh meadows,
and bosky trees and waters as still as a mill-pound.  And if ye come
doun frae the high bare lands ye think them fair like Heev’n.  But I
canna bide lang there.  I aye turn fair sick for the smell o’ moss and
heather, and the roarin’ and routin’ o’ the burn, and the air sae clear
and snell that it gars your face prick and your legs and airms
strauchten oot, till ye think ye could run frae here to the Heads o’
Ayr."

"I know all of that," said I, "and more."

"Ay, there’s far mair," said he.  "There’s the sleepin’ at nicht on the
grund wi’ naething abune you but the stars, and waukin’ i’ the mornin’
wi’ the birds singin’ i’ your lug and the wind blawin’ cool and free
around you.  I ken a’ that and I ken the ither, when the mist crowds low
on the tap o’ the hills and the rain dreeps and seeps, or when the snaw
comes and drifts sae thick that ye canna stand afore it, and there’s
life neither for man nor beast.  Yet wi’ it a’ I like it, and if I micht
choose the place I wad like best to dee in, it would be in the lee side
o’ a muckle hill, wi’ nae death-bed or sic like havers, but juist to
gang straucht to my Makker frae the yirth I had aye traivelled on.  But
wha kens?" and he spurred up his horse.

"Nicol," said I, after a long silence, "you know the errand we go on.  I
have told you it, I think. It is to find my cousin and Mistress Marjory.
If God grant that we do so, then these are my orders.  You shall take
the lady home to Tweeddale, to Dawyck, which is her own, and leave me
behind you.  I may come back or I may not.  If I do, all will be well.
If I do not, you know your duty.  You have already fulfilled it for some
little time; if it happens as I say, you shall continue it to death.
The lass will have no other protector than yourself."

"E’en as ye say," cried he, resuming his hilarity, though whether it was
real or no I cannot tell.  "But dinna crack aboot siccan things, Laird,
or ye’ll be makkin’ our journey nae better than buryin’.  It’s a
wanchancy thing to speak aboot death.  No that a man should be feared at
it, but that he should keep a calm sough till it come.  Ye mind the
story o’ auld Tam Blacket, the writer at Peebles.  Tam was deein’, and
as he was a guid auld man the minister, whae was great at death-beds and
consolation, cam to speak to him aboot his latter end.  ’Ye’re near
death, Tammas,’ says he.  Up gets auld Tam.  ’I’ll thank ye no to
mention that subject,’ he says, and never a word wad he allow the puir
man to speak."

So in this way we talked till we came to where the road leaves the Clyde
valley and rises steep to the high land about the town of Hamilton.
Here we alighted for dinner at an inn which bears for its sign the Ship
of War, though what this means in a town many miles from the sea I do
not know.  Here we had a most excellent meal, over which we did not
tarry long, for we sought to reach Glasgow ere nightfall, and at that
season of the year the day closes early.

As we rode down the narrow, crooked street, I had leisure to look about
me.  The town was in a ferment, for, as near the field of Bothwell Brig,
where the Whigs had suffered their chiefest slaughter, it had been well
garrisoned with soldiers, and the news of the Prince of Orange’s landing
put the place into an uproar. Men with flushed, eager faces hurried past
with wonder writ large on their cheeks; others stood about in knots
talking shrilly; and every now and then a horseman would push his way
through the crowd bearing fresh tidings to the townsfolk or carrying it
thence to the West country.

Suddenly, in the throng of men, I saw a face which brought me to a
standstill.  It was that of a man, dark, sullen, and foreign-looking,
whose former dragoon’s dress a countryman’s coat poorly concealed. He
was pushing his way eagerly through the crowd, when he looked into the
mid-street and caught my eye.  In an instant he had dived into one of
the narrow closes and was lost to sight.

At the first glance I knew my man for that soldier of Gilbert’s, Jan
Hamman, the Hollander, whom already thrice I had met, once in the Alphen
Road, once at the joining of the Cor Water with Tweed, and once at the
caves of the Cor, when so many of His Majesty’s servants went to their
account.  What he was about in this West country I could not think, for
had he been wise he would have made for the eastern seacoast or at least
not ventured into this stronghold of those he had persecuted.  And with
the thought another came.  Had not he spoken bitterly of his commander?
was he not the victim of one of my fair cousin’s many infamies? had he
not, in my own hearing, sworn vengeance?  Gilbert had more foes than one
on his track, for here was this man, darkly malevolent, dogging him in
his flight.  The thought flashed upon me that he of all men would know
my cousin’s plans and would aid me in my search.  I did not for a moment
desire him for an ally in my work; nay, I should first frustrate his
designs, before I settled matters with Gilbert, for it was in the
highest degree unseemly that any such villain should meddle in matters
which belonged solely to our house.  Still I should use him for my own
ends, come what might.

I leaped from my horse, crying on Nicol to take charge of it, and dashed
up the narrow entry.  I had just a glimpse of a figure vanishing round
the far corner, and when I had picked my way, stumbling over countless
obstacles, I found at the end an open court, roughly paved with
cobbie-stones, and beyond that a high wall.  With all my might I made a
great leap and caught the top, and lo!  I looked over into a narrow lane
wherein children were playing.  It was clear that my man had gone by
this road, and would now be mixed among the folk in the side street.  It
was useless to follow further, so in some chagrin I retraced my steps,
banning Nicol and the Dutchman and my own ill-luck.

I remounted, making no answer to my servant’s sarcastic condolences—for,
of course, he had no knowledge of this fellow’s purport in coming to the
Westlands, and could only look on my conduct as a whimsical freak.  As
we passed down the street I kept a shrewd lookout to right and left if
haply I might see my man, but no such good luck visited me.  Once out of
the town it behooved us to make better speed, for little of the
afternoon remained, and dusk at this time of year fell sharp and sudden.
So with a great jingling and bravado we clattered through the little
hamlets of Blantyre and Cambuslang, and came just at the darkening to
the populous burgh of Rutherglen, which, saving that it has no college
or abbey, is a more bustling and prosperous place than Glasgow itself.
But here we did not stay, being eager to win to our journey’s end; so
after a glass of wine at an inn we took the path through the now dusky
meadows by Clyde side, and passing through the village of Gorbals, which
lies on the south bank of the river, we crossed the great bridge and
entered the gates just as they were on the point of closing.

During the latter hours of the day I had gone over again in mind all the
details of the doings of past weeks.  All seemed now clear, and with
great heartiness I cursed myself for errors, which I could scarce have
refrained from.  The steps in Gilbert’s plan lay before me one by one.
The letter had given him only the slightest of clues, which he must have
taken weeks to discover.  When at last it had been made clear to him,
something else had engaged his mind.  He must have had word from private
sources, shut to the country folk, of the way whither events were
trending in the state.  His mind was made up; he would make one
desperate bid for success; and thus he shaped his course.  He sent men
to Smitwood with the plausible story which I had already heard from my
servant, how all breach was healed between us, and how this was her
escort to take her to me.  Then I doubted not he had bidden the men show
her as proof some letter forged in my name on the model of the one I had
lost on Caerdon, and also give her some slight hint of the great change
in the country to convince her that now he could do no ill even had he
desired it, and that I was now on the summit of fortune.  The poor lass,
wearied with anxiety and long delay, and with no wise Nicol at hand to
give better counsel, had suffered herself to be persuaded, and left the
house with a glad heart.  I pictured her disillusion, her bitter
regrets, her unwilling flight.  And then I swore with redoubled
vehemence that it should not be for long.

We alighted for the night at the house of that Mistress Macmillan, where
I lodged when I first came to college.  She welcomed us heartily, and
prepared us a noble supper, for we were hungry as hawks, and I, for one,
tired with many rough adventures.  The house stood in the Gallow Gate,
near the salt market and the college gardens; and as I lay down on the
fresh sheets and heard the many noises of the street with the ripple of
the river filling the pauses, I thanked God that at last I had come out
of beggary and outlawry to decent habitation.



                              CHAPTER III

                   THE HOUSE WITH THE CHIPPED GABLES


The next morn the weather had changed.  When I looked forth through the
latticed panes to the street, it was a bleak scene that met my eyes—near
a foot of snow, flakes tossing and whirling everywhere, and the roofs
and gables showing leaden dull in the gloom. Had I been in another frame
of mind I should have lost my spirits, for nothing so disheartened me as
heavy, dismal weather.  But now I was in such a temper that I welcomed
the outlook; the grey, lifeless street was akin to my heart, and I went
down from my chamber with the iron of resolution in my soul.

My first care was to enquire at Mistress Macmillan if she knew aught of
my cousin’s doings, for the town-house of the Eaglesham Burnets was not
two streets distant.  But she could give me no news, for, said she,
since the old laird died and these troublous times succeeded, it was
little that the young master came near the place.  So without any delay
I and my servant went out into the wintry day, and found our way to the
old, dark dwelling in the High Street.

The house had been built near a hundred years before, in the time of
Ephraim Burnet, my cousin’s grandfather.  I mind it well to this day,
and oft as I think of the city, that dreary, ancient pile rises to fill
my vision.  The three Burnet leaves, the escutcheon of our family, hung
over the doorway.  Every window was little and well-barred with iron,
nor was any sign of life to be seen behind the dreary panes.  But the
most notable things to the eye were the odd crow-step gables, which, I
know not from what cause, were all chipped and defaced, and had a
strange, pied appearance against the darker roof.  It faced the street
and down one side ran a little lane.  Behind were many lesser buildings
around the courtyard, and the back opened into a wynd which ran westward
to the city walls.

I went up the steps and with my sword-hilt thundered on the door.  The
blows roused the echoes of the old place.  Within I heard the resonance
of corridor and room, all hollow and empty.  Below me was the snowy
street, with now and then a single passer, and I felt an eerie awe of
this strange house, as of one who should seek to force a vault of the
dead.

Again I knocked, and this time it brought me an answer.  I heard
feet—slow, shuffling feet, coming from some room, and ascending the
staircase to the hall.  The place was so void that the slightest sound
rang loud and clear, and I could mark the progress of the steps from
their beginning.  Somewhere they came to a halt, as if the person were
considering whether or not to come to the door, but by and by they
advanced, and with vast creaking a key was fitted into the lock and the
great oak door was opened a little.

It was a little old woman who stood in the opening, with a face seamed
and wrinkled, and not a tooth in her head.  She wore a mutch, which gave
her a most witch-like appearance, and her narrow, grey eyes, as they
fastened on me and sought out my errand, did not reassure me.

"What d’ye want here the day, sir?" she said in a high, squeaking voice.
"It’s cauld, cauld weather, and my banes are auld and I canna stand here
bidin’ your pleesur."

"Is your master within?" I said, shortly.  "Take me to him, for I have
business with him."

"Maister, quotha!" she screamed.  "Wha d’ye speak o’, young sir?  If
it’s the auld laird ye mean, he’s lang syne wi’ his Makker, and the
young yin has no been here thae fower years.  He was a tenty bit lad,
was Maister Gilbert, but he gaed aff to the wars i’ the abroad and ne’er
thinks o’ returnin’.  Wae’s me for the puir, hapless cheil."  And she
crooned on to herself in the garrulity of old age.

"Tell me the truth," said I, "and have done with your lies.  It is well
known that your master came here in the last two days with two men and a
lady, and abode here for the night.  Tell me instantly if he is still
here or whither has he gone."

She looked at me with a twinkle of shrewdness and then shook her head
once more.  "Na, na, I’m no leein’.  I’m ower neer my accoont wi’ the
Lord to burden my soul wi’ lees.  When you tae are faun i’ the hinner
end o’ life, ye’ll no think it worth your while to mak up leesome
stories.  I tell ye the young maister hasna been here for years, though
it’s blithe I wad be to see him.  If ye winna believe my word, ye can
e’en gang your ways."

Now I was in something of a quandary.  The woman looked to be speaking
the truth, and it was possible that my cousin could have left the city
on one side and pushed straight on to his house of Eaglesham or even to
the remoter western coast.  Yet the way was a long one, and I saw not
how he could have refrained from halting at Glasgow in the even.  He had
no cause to fear my following him there more than another place.  For
that I would come post-haste to the Westlands at the first word he must
have well known, and so he could have no reason in covering his tracks
from me.  He was over-well known a figure in his own countryside to make
secrecy possible; his aim must be to outrace me in speed, not to outwit
me with cunning.

"Let me gang, young sir," the old hag was groaning. "I’ve the
rheumaticks i’ my banes and I’m sair hadden doon wi’ the chills, and
I’ll get my death if I stand here longer."

"I will trust you then," said I, "but since I am a kinsman of your
master’s and have ridden far on a bootless errand, I will even come in
and refresh myself ere I return."

"Na, na," she said, a new look, one of anxiety and cunning coming into
her face, "ye maun na dae that.  It was the last word my maister bade me
ere he gaed awa’.  ’Elspeth,’ says he, ’see ye let nane intil the hoose
till I come back.’"

"Tut, tut, I am his own cousin.  I will enter if I please," and calling
my servant, I made to force an admittance.

Then suddenly, ere I knew, the great door was slammed in my face, and I
could hear the sound of a key turning and a bar being dropped.

Here was a pretty to-do.  Without doubt there was that in the house
which the crone desired to keep from my notice.  I sprang to the door
and thundered on it like a madman, wrestling with the lock, and calling
for the woman to open it.  But all in vain, and after a few seconds’
bootless endeavour, I turned ruefully to my servant.

"Can aught be done?" I asked.

"I saw a dyke as we cam here," said Nicol, "and ower the back o’t was a
yaird.  There was likewise a gate i’ the dyke.  I’m thinkin’ that’ll be
the back door o’ the hoose.  If ye were awfu’ determined, Laird, ye
micht win in there."

I thought for a moment.  "You are right," I cried.  "I know the place.
But we will first go back and fetch the horses, for it is like there
will be wild work before us ere night."

But lo and behold! when we went to the inn stable my horse was off.  "I
thocht he needit a shoe," said the ostler, "so I just sent him doun to
Jock Walkinshaw’s i’ the East Port.  If ye’ll bide a wee, I’ll send a
laddie doun to bring him up."

Five, twenty, sixty minutes and more we waited while that accursed child
brought my horse.  Then he came back a little after midday; three shoes
had been needed, he said, and he had rin a’ the way, and he wasna to
blame.  So I gave him a crown and a sound box on the ears, and then the
two of us set off.

The place was high and difficult of access, being in a narrow lane where
few passers ever went, and nigh to the city wall.  I bade Nicol hold the
horses, and standing on the back of one I could just come to within a
few feet of the top.  I did my utmost by springing upward to grasp the
parapet, but all in vain, so in a miserable state of disappointed hopes
I desisted and consulted with my servant.  Together we tried the door,
but it was of massive wood, clamped with iron, and triply bolted.  There
was nothing for it but to send off to Mistress Macmillan and seek some
contrivance.  Had the day not been so wild and the lane so quiet we
could scarce have gone unnoticed.  As it was, one man passed, a hawker
in a little cart, seeking a near way, and with little time to stare at
the two solitary horsemen waiting by the wall.

Nicol went off alone, while I kept guard—an aimless guard—by the gate.
In a little he returned with an old boat-hook, with the cleek at the end
somewhat unusually long.  Then he proposed his method.  I should stand
on horseback as before, and hang the hook on the flat surface of the
wall.  When, by dint of scraping, I had fixed it firmly, I should climb
it hand over hand, as a sailor mounts a rope, and with a few pulls I
might hope to be at the summit.

I did as he bade, and, with great labour, fixed the hook in the hard
stone.  Then I pulled myself up, very slowly and carefully, with the
shaft quivering in my hands.  I was just gripping the stone when the
wretched iron slipped and rattled down to the ground, cutting me sharply
in the wrist.  Luckily I did not go with it, for in the moment of
falling, I had grasped the top and hung there with aching hands and the
blood from the cut trickling down my arm.  Then, with a mighty effort, I
swung myself up and stood safe on the top.

Below me was a sloping roof of wood which ended in a sheer wall of maybe
twelve feet.  Below that in turn was the great yard, flagged with stone,
but now hidden under a cloak of snow.  Around it were stables, empty of
horses, windy, cold, and dismal.  I cannot tell how the whole place
depressed me.  I felt as though I were descending into some pit of the
dead.

Staunching the blood from my wrist—by good luck my left—as best I might
with my kerchief, I slipped down the white roof and dropped into the
court.  It was a wide, empty place, and, in the late afternoon, looked
grey and fearsome.  The dead black house behind, with its many windows
all shuttered and lifeless, shadowed the place like a pall.  At my back
was the back door of the house, like the other locked and iron-clamped.
I seemed to myself to have done little good by my escapade in coming
thither.

Wandering aimlessly, I entered the stables, scarce thinking what I was
doing.  Something about the place made me stop and look.  I rubbed my
eyes and wondered.  There, sure enough, were signs of horses having been
recently here.  Fresh hay and a few oats were in the mangers, and straw
and dung in the stalls clearly proclaimed that not long agone the place
had been tenanted.

I rushed out into the yard, and ran hither and thither searching the
ground.  There were hoof-marks—fool that I was not to have marked them
before—leading clearly from the stable door to the gate on the High
Street.  I rushed to the iron doors and tugged at them.  To my amazement
I found that they yielded, and I was staring into the darkening street.

So the birds had been there and flown in our brief absence.  I cursed my
ill-fortune with a bitter heart.

Suddenly I saw something dark lying amid the snow.  I picked it up and
laid it tenderly in my bosom.  For it was a little knot of blue velvet
ribbon, such as my lady wore.



                               CHAPTER IV

                         UP HILL AND DOWN DALE


I rushed up the street, leaving the gates swinging wide behind me, and
down the lane to where Nicol waited.  In brief, panting words I told him
my tale. He heard it without a movement, save to turn his horse’s head
up the street.  I swung myself into the saddle, and, with no more delay,
we made for our lodgings.

"There is but one thing that we may do," said I. "The night is an ill
one, but if it is ill for us ’tis ill for them."  And at the words I
groaned, for I thought of my poor Marjory in the storm and cold.

At Mistress Macmillan’s I paid the lawing, and having eaten a hearty
meal, we crammed some food into our saddle-bags and bade the hostess
good-bye. Then we turned straight for the west port of the city.

It was as I had expected.  The gates were just at the closing when the
twain of us rode up to them and were suffered to pass.  The man looked
curiously at my strange dress, but made no remark, as is the fashion of
these taciturn Westland folk, and together we rode through and into the
bleak night.  The snow had ceased to fall early in the day, but now it
came on again in little intermittent driftings, while a keen wind
whistled from the hills of the north.  The land was more or less strange
to me, and even my servant, who had a passing acquaintance with many
countrysides, professed himself ignorant.  It was the way to the wild
highlands—the county of Campbells and Lennoxes—and far distant from
kindly Christian folk.  I could not think why my cousin had chosen this
path, save for the reason of its difficulty and obscurity.  I was still
in doubt of his purpose, whether he was bound for his own house of
Eaglesham or for the more distant Clyde coast.  He had clearly gone by
this gate from the city, for this much we had learned from the man at
the port.  Now, if he sought Eaglesham, he must needs cross the river,
which would give us some time to gain on his track.  But if he still
held to the north, then there was naught for it but to follow him
hot-foot and come up with him by God’s grace and our horses’ speed.

I have been abroad on many dark nights, but never have I seen one so
black as this.  The path to the west ran straight from our feet to the
rugged hills which dip down to the river edge some ten miles off. But of
it we could make nothing, nor was there anything to tell us of its
presence save that our horses stumbled when we strayed from it to the
moory land on either side.  All about us were the wilds, for the town of
Glasgow stood on the last bounds of settled country, near to the fierce
mountains and black morasses of the Highlandmen.  The wind crooned and
blew in gusts over the white waste, driving little flakes of snow about
us, and cutting us to the bone with its bitter cold.  Somewhere in the
unknown distances we heard strange sounds—the awesome rumble of water or
the cry of forlorn birds.  All was as bleak as death, and, in the thick
darkness, what might otherwise have seemed simple and homelike, was
filled with vague terrors.  I had shaped no path—all that I sought was
to hasten somewhere nearer those we followed, and on this mad quest we
stumbled blindly forward.

When we had gone some half-dozen miles a light shone out from the
wayside, and we descried a house. It was a little, low dwelling, with
many sheds at the rear; clearly a smithy or a humble farm.  My servant
leaped down and knocked.  The door was opened, a warm stream of light
lay across the snowy road.  I had a glimpse within, and there was a
cheerful kitchen with a fire of logs crackling.  A man sat by the
hearth, shaping something or other with a knife, and around him two
children were playing.  The woman who came to us was buxom and comely,
one who delighted in her children and her home.  The whole place gave me
a sharp feeling of envy and regret. Even these folk, poor peasants, had
the joys of comfort and peace, while I, so long an outlaw and a
wanderer, must still wander hopeless seeking the lost, cumbered about
with a thousand dangers.

"Did any riders pass by the road to-day?" I asked.

"Ay, four passed on horses about midday or maybe a wee thing after it,
twae stoot fellows, and a braw-clad gentleman and a bonny young leddy.
They didna stop but gaed by at a great rate."

"What was the lady like?" I asked, breathlessly.

"Oh, a bit young thing, snod and genty-like.  But I mind she looked gey
dowie and I think she had been greetin’.  But wherefore d’ye speir, sir?
And what are ye daein’ oot hereaways on siccan a nicht?  Ye best come in
and bide till mornin’.  We’ve an orra bed i’ the house for the maister,
and plenty o’ guid, saft straw i’ the barn for the man."

"Did they go straight on?" I cried, "and whither does this way lead?"

"They went straight on," said she, "and the road is the road to the toun
o’ Dumbarton."  And she would have told me more, but with a hasty word
of thanks, I cut her short, and once more we were off into the night.

From this place our way and the incidents thereof are scarce clear in my
memory.  For one thing the many toils of the preceding time began at
last to tell upon me, and I grew sore and wearied.  Also a heavy
drowsiness oppressed me, and even in that cold I could have slept on my
horse’s back.  We were still on the path, and the rhythmical jog of the
motion served to lull me, till, as befell every now and then, there came
a rut or a tussock, and I was brought to my senses with a sharp shock.
Nicol rode silently at my side, a great figure in the gloom, bent low,
as was always his custom, over his horse’s neck.  In one way the state
was more pleasing than the last, for the turmoil of cares in my heart
was quieted for the moment by the bodily fatigue.  I roused myself at
times to think of my purpose and get me energy for my task, but the dull
languor would not be exorcised, and I always fell back again into my
sloth.  Nevertheless we kept a fair pace, for we had given the rein to
our animals, and they were fresh and well-fed.

Suddenly, ere I knew, the way began to change from a level road into a
steep hill-path.  Even in the blackness I could see a great hillside
rising steeply to right and to left.  I pulled up my horse, for here
there would be need of careful guidance, and was going on as before when
Nicol halted me with his voice.

"Laird, Laird," he cried, "I dinna ken muckle aboot the Dumbarton road,
but there’s yae thing I ken weel and that is that it keeps i’ the laigh
land near the waterside a’ the way, and doesna straiggle ower
brae-faces."

This roused me to myself.  "Did we pass any cross-road?" I asked, "for
God knows the night is dark enough for any man to wander.  Are you sure
of what you say?"

"As sure as I am that my fingers are cauld and my een fair dazed wi’
sleep," said he.

"Then there is naught for it but to go back and trust to overtaking the
path.  But stay, are these not the hills of Kilpatrick, which stretch
down from the Lennox to the Clyde and front the river at this very
Dumbarton?  I have surely heard of such.  Our highway must lie to our
left, since we clearly have turned to the right, seeing that if we had
turned to the left we should have reached the water.  If then we strike
straight from here along the bottom of this slope, will we not reach the
town?  The chances are that we should never find our path, whereas this
way will bring us there without fail, if we can stomach some rough
riding."

"Weel, sir, I’m wi’ ye wherever ye like to gang. And I’ll no deny but
that it’s the maist reasonable road to tak, if ye’re no feared o’
breakin’ your craig ower a stane or walkin’ intil a peat-bog.  But we
maun e’en lippen to Providence and tak our chance like better men."

So wheeling sharply to our left, we left the path and rode as best we
could along the rough bottom of the hills.  It was a tract of rushy
ground where many streams ran.  Huge boulders, tumbled down from the
steeps, strewed it like the leaves of a hazel wood in autumn.  On one
hand the land lay back to the haughlands and ordered fields, on the
other it sloped steeply to the hills.  Stumps of birk-trees and stray
gnarled trunks came at times, but in general the ground was open and not
unsuited for horses in the light of day. Now it was something more than
difficult, for we came perilous near oftentimes to fulfilling my
servant’s prophecy.  Once, I remember, I floundered fair into a trench
of moss-water with a vile muddy bottom, where I verily believe both
horse and man would have perished, had not Nicol, who saw my misfortune
and leaped his beast across, pulled me fiercely from my saddle to the
bank, and the twain of us together extricated the horse.  In this
fashion, floundering and slipping, we must have ridden some half-dozen
miles. All drowsiness had vanished with the rough and ready mode of
travel.  Once more the thought of my lady and her plight, of my wrongs
and my misfortunes, tormented me with anxiety and wrath, and stamped yet
more firmly my errand on my soul.

Now, however, we were suddenly brought to an end in our progress.
Before us lay a little ravine, clogged with snow, in whose bottom a burn
roared. It was a water of little size, and, in summer weather, one might
all but have leaped it.  Now the snow had swollen it to the semblance of
a torrent, and it chafed and eddied in the little gorge, a streak of
dark, angry water against the dim white banks.  There was nothing for it
but to enter and struggle across, and yet, as I looked at the ugly
swirl, I hesitated.  I was nigh numbed with cold, my horse was aching
from its stumbling, there was little foothold on the opposing bank.  I
turned to Nicol, who sat with his teeth shaking with the bitter weather.

"There is naught for it," said I, "but to risk it. There is no use in
following it, for we shall find no better place in a ravine like this."

Even as I spoke my servant had taken the plunge, and I saw horse and man
slip off the snowy bank into the foam.  I followed so closely that I
lost all sight of them.  To this day I remember the feelings of the
moment, the choking as an icy wave surged over my mouth, the frantic
pulling at the bridle-rein, the wild plunging of my horse, the roar of
water and the splash of swimming.  Then, with a mighty effort, my brave
animal was struggling up the further side, where my servant was already
shaking the water from his clothes.

This incident, while it put me in better heart, vastly added to my
bodily discomfort.  An icy wind shivering through dripping garments may
well chill the blood of the stoutest.  And for certain the next part of
the way is burned on my memory with a thousand recollections of utter
weariness and misery.  Even my hardy servant could scarce keep from
groaning, and I, who was ever of a tenderer make, could have leaned my
head on my horse’s neck and sobbed with pure feebleness.

The country was now rough with tanglewood, for we were near the last
spur of the hills, ere they break down on the river.  Somewhere through
the gloom lights were shining and moving, as I guessed from a ship on
the water.  Beyond were still others, few in number, but fixed as if
from dwelling-houses.  Here at last, I thought, is the town of Dumbarton
which I am seeking, and fired with the hope we urged on the more our
jaded beasts.

But lo! when we came to it, ’twas but a wayside inn in a little clachan,
where one solitary lamp swung and cast a bar of light over the snowy
street.  I hammered at the door till I brought down the landlord,
shivering in his night-dress.  It might be that my cousin had halted
here, so I asked the man if he had any travellers within.

"Nane, save twae drunk Ayr skippers and a Glesca packman, unless your
honour is comin’ to keep them company."

"Has anyone passed then?" I cried.

"How could I tell when I’ve been sleepin’ i’ my bed thae sax ’oor?" he
coughed, and, seeing we were no sojourners, slammed the door in our
face.

We were numb and wretched, but there was naught for it but to ride on
further to the town.  It could not be far, and there were signs of morn
already in the air.  The cold grew more intense and the thick pall of
darkness lifted somewhat toward the east.  The blurred woods and clogged
fields at our side gradually came into view, and as, heart-sick and nigh
fordone with want of sleep, we rounded the great barrier ridge of hill,
an array of twinkling lights sprang up in front and told us that we were
not far from our journey’s end.  Nevertheless, it was still dark when we
rode into a narrow, cobbled street and stopped at the first hostelry.

Now, both the one and the other were too far gone with weariness to do
more than drop helplessly from the horses and stagger into the inn
parlour.  They gave us brandy, and then led us to a sleeping-room, where
we lay down like logs and dropped into a profound slumber.

When we awoke the morning was well advanced. I was roused by Nicol, who
was ever the more wakeful, and without more delay we went down and
recruited our exhausted strength with a meal.  Then I summoned the
landlord, and asked, more from habit than from any clear expectation,
whether any travellers had lodged over night.

The man answered shortly that there had been a gentleman and a maid,
with two serving-men, who had but lately left.

In a great haste I seized on my hat and called loudly for the horses.
"Where did they go?" I said; "by what way?  Quick, tell me."

"They took the road doun to the ferry," said he, in great amazement.
"It’s no an ’oor since they gaed."

Thereupon I flung him his lawing, and we rushed from the house.



                               CHAPTER V

                               EAGLESHAM


It was dawning morn, grey and misty, with a thaw setting in on the
surface of the snow.  Down the narrow, crooked streets, with a wind
shivering in our teeth, we went at a breakneck gallop.  I lashed my
horse for its life, and the poor brute, wearied as it was by the toils
of the night, answered gallantly to my call.  Sometimes, in a steep
place, we slipped for yards; often I was within an ace of death; and at
one street-turning with a mighty clatter Nicol came down, though the
next minute he was up again.  A few sleepy citizens rubbed their eyes
and stared from their windows, and in the lighted doorway of a tavern, a
sailor looked at us wonderingly.

In less time than it takes to tell, we were at the water-edge.  Here
there is a rough quay, with something of a harbour behind it, where lie
the sugar-boats from the Indies, when the flood-tide is too low to
suffer them to go up stream to the city.  Here, also, the ferry four
times daily crosses the river.

Before us the water lay in leaden gloom, with that strange, dead colour
which comes from the falling of much snow.  Heavy waves were beginning
to roll over the jetty, and a mist was drooping lower and ever lower.
Two men stood by an old anchor coiling some rope.  We pulled up our
horses and I cried out in impatience where the ferry might be.

"Gone ten meenutes syne," said one, with no change on his stolid face.
"There she is gin ye hae een i’ your heid to see."

And he pointed out to the waste of waters.  I looked and saw a sail
rising and sinking in the trough of the waves.

"When does she return?" I cried out, with many curses on our laggard
journey.

"Whiles in an ’oor, whiles in twae.  She’ll be twae the day ere she’s
back, for the ferryman, Jock Gellatly, is a fou’ as the Baltic wi’ some
drink that a young gentleman gave him."

So we turned back to the harbour tavern, with all the regrets of
unsuccess.

The man had said two hours, but it was nearer three, ere that wretched
shell returned, and, when it came, ’twas with a drunken man who could
scarce stagger ashore.  I was in no mood for trifling.

"Here, you drunken swine," I cried, "will you take us across and be
quick about it?"

"I maun hae anither gless o’ Duncan’s whusky," said the fellow, with a
leer.

"By God, and you will not," I cried.  "Get aboard and make no more
delay, or, by the Lord, I’ll throw you into the stream."

The man hiccuped and whined.  "I canna, I canna, my bonny lad.  I had
ower muckle guid yill afore I sterted, and I maun hae some whusky to
keep it doon.  I’m an auld man, and the cauld air frae the water is bad
for the inside.  Let me be, let me be," and he lay down on the quay with
the utter helplessness of a sot.

"Here is a devil of a mess," I cried to Nicol. "What is to be done?"

"I’ll hae to tak the boat mysel’, Laird," said my servant, quietly.  "If
I droon ye, dinna complain."

Indeed, I was in no mood for complaining at anything which would carry
me further on my quest. With some difficulty we got the horses aboard
and penned them in the stalls.  Then Nicol hoisted the sail, and we
shoved off, while I kept those at bay with a boat-hook who sought to
stop us.  Once out on the stormy waters I was beset with a thousand
fears.  I have ever feared the sea, and now, as we leaped and dived
among the billows, and as the wind scoured us like a threshing floor,
and, above all, as the crazy boat now almost lay sideways on the water,
I felt a dreadful sinking of my courage, and looked for nothing better
than immediate death.  It was clear that Nicol, who knew something of
seamanship as he knew of most things, had a hard task to keep us
straight, and by his set face and white lips, I guessed that he, too,
was not without his fears.  Nevertheless, the passage was narrow, and in
less time than I had expected, we saw a dim line of sand through the
fog.  Running in there, we beached the coble, and brought the horses
splashing to shore.

The place was dreary and waste, low-lying, with a few huts facing the
river.  Beyond the land seemed still flat, though, as far as the mist
suffered me to see, there seemed to be something of a rise to the right.
My feet and hands were numbed with cold, and the wound in my wrist,
which I got in scaling the wall, smarted till it brought the water to my
eyes.  I was so stiff I could scarce mount horse, and Nicol was in no
better plight.

We rode to the nearest cottage and asked whither the folk had gone who
landed with the last ferry. The woman answered gruffly that she had seen
none land, and cared not.  At the next house I fared little better; but
at the third I found a young fisher lad, who, for the sake of a silver
piece, told me that they had headed over the moor about three hours ago.

"And what lies beyond the moor?" I asked.

"Beyond the muir," said he, "is a muckle hill they ca’ Mistilaw, a’
thick wi’ bogs, and ayont it there are mair hills and mosses, and syne
if ye ride on ye’ll come to Eaglesham, whaur the muirs end and the guid
lands begin.  I yince was ower there wi’ my faither, aboot a cowt, and a
braw bit place it is, and no like hereaways."

So Nicol and I, with dogged hearts and numbed bodies, rode into the
black heath where there was no road.  The snow had lost all hardness and
was thick and clogging to our horses’ feet.  We made as good speed as we
could, but that, after all, was little. About midday we had crossed the
first part of our journey and were clambering and slipping over the
shoulder of Mistilaw.  This hill is low and trivial contrasted with our
great Tweedside hills, but it well deserves its name, for it is one vast
quagmire, where at all seasons mists and vapours hang.  Beyond it, and
all through the afternoon, we struggled among low hills and lochs.  We
halted at a solitary shepherd’s hut among the wilds, and ate a vile meal
of braxy and oaten-cake.  Then again we set forth, and, in the
darkening, came to the wide moor which is the last guard of the wastes
and borders the pleasant vale of the Cart.

Now here I fell into a great fit of indecision.  It was clear that
Gilbert and Marjory were but a little way off in the House of Eaglesham,
and I had almost reached the end of my travels.  But here my plans came
to a sudden end.  Was I to ride forward and boldly demand my cousin to
let her go?  I knew my cousin’s temper; he could make but one reply, and
at last some end would be placed to our feud.  But with this came
another thought.  Gilbert was not a man of one device but of many.  If I
sought to wrest my lady from his hands by force, it was most likely that
he would be the winner.  For he was ever ripe for high, bold and
dastardly policies, and at such a time was little likely to be
punctilious.

So in my extremity I fell to consulting with Nicol, and between us we
devised a plan.  I liked it so well that I lost all dismal forebodings
and proceeded to put it in action.  Night fell just as we came to the
meadows above the village, and the twinkling lights of the place served
as our guides.  There was an inn there which I remembered of old time,
for the innkeeper had come originally from Tweeddale.  At first I would
shun the place, but then I remembered that the man was dead these
half-dozen years, and all the place so changed that I was secure from
recognition, even had I not been so disguised and clad.  So without any
fear we rode up to the door and sought admittance.

The place was roomy and wide; a clean-swept floor, with a fire blazing
on the hearth, and a goodly smell of cooked meat everywhere.  They
brought us a meal, which we ate like hungry men who had been a long
day’s journey in a snow-bound world.  Then I lay back and stared at the
firelight, and tried hard to fix my mind on the things which were coming
to pass. I found it hard to determine whether I was asleep or awake, for
the events of the past hours were still mere phantasmagoria in my
memory.  Through all the bewildering maze of weariness and despair, and
scrupulosity of motive, there was still that one clear thought branded
on my mind.  And now, as I sat there, the thought was alone, without any
clear perspective of the actors or the drama to be played.  I scarce
thought of Marjory, and Gilbert was little in my mind, for the long
series of cares which had been mine for so many days had gone far to
blunt my vision, and drive me to look no further than the next moment or
the next hour.  I was dull, blank, deadened with this one unalterable
intention firm in my heart, but, God knows! little besides.

About nine or ten, I know not rightly, my servant roused me and bade me
get ready.  He had ordered the landlord to have the horses round to the
door, giving I know not what excuse.  I mounted without a thought, save
that the air was raw and ugly.  We rode down the silent street out on to
the heath, where the snow was deeper, and our steps all but noiseless.
The night was clear and deadly chill, piercing to the marrow.  A low
snow-fog clothed the ground, and not a sound could we hear in that
great, wide world, save our own breathing and our horses’ tread.  A sort
of awe took me at the silence, and it was with solemn thoughts that I
advanced.

In a mile we left the heath, and, dipping down into the valley of the
stream, entered a wood of pines. Snow powdered us from the bare boughs,
and a dead branch crackled underfoot.  Then all of a sudden, black and
cold and still, from the stream-side meadows and all girt with dark
forest, rose the house.  Through the tree trunks it looked ghostly as a
place of the dead. Then I remembered that this was the hill-front, where
no habitable rooms were; so, marvelling no more at the dearth of light,
we turned sharp to the left and came on the side looking to the river.

Two lights twinkled in the place, one in the basement, and one in the
low, first story.  I cast my memory back over old days.  One was from
the sitting-parlour where the old Gilbert Burnet had chosen to spend his
days, and the other—ah, I had it, ’twas from the sleeping-room of the
old Mistress Burnet, where she had dragged out her last years and drawn
her last breath.  But for these there was no other sign of life in the
house.

We crossed the snowy slope to the black shadow of the wall, where we
halted and consulted.  By this time some life and spirit had come back
to my movements, and I held myself more resolutely.  Now I gave my
servant his orders.  "If so happen we get Mistress Marjory safe," said
I, "you will ride off with her without delay, down the valley to the
Clyde and then straight towards Tweeddale.  You will get fresh horses at
Hamilton, and till then these will serve your purpose.  Once in her own
countryside there remains nothing for you save to see that you do her
bidding in everything.  If God so will it, I will not be long in
returning to you."

Then, with no more words, we set our faces to our task.

The light in the window above us still shone out on the white ground.
Many yards to our left another patch of brightness marked where the
other lamp burned.  There was need of caution and stillness, else the
master of the place would hear.  I kicked my shoes from my feet, though
it was bitter cold, and set myself to the scaling the wall.  The
distance was little, scarce twenty feet, and the masonry was rough-hewn
and full of projecting stones, yet I found the matter as hard as I could
manage.  For my hands were numbed with the excessive chill, and the cut
in my wrist still ached like the devil.  I was like to swoon twenty
times ere I reached the corner of the window.  With a sob of exhaustion
I drew myself up and stared at the curtained window.

Very gently I tapped on the pane, once, twice, three times.  I heard a
quick movement of surprise within, then silence once more, as if the
occupant of the room thought it only the snow drifting.  Again I rapped,
this time with a sharp knock, which men use who wait long outside a gate
in a windy night.  Now there could be no doubt of the matter.  A hand
drew the curtains aside, and a timid little face peered out. Then of a
sudden the whole folds were swept back and my lady stood before me.

She wore her riding-dress still, but a shawl of some white stuff was
flung around her shoulders.  There she stood before my sight, peering
forth into the darkness, with surprise, fright, love, joy chasing one
another across her face, her dear eyes sad and tearful, and her mouth
drawn as with much sorrow, and her light hair tossed loosely over her
shoulders.  It was many lone and dismal months since I had seen her,
months filled with terrors and alarums, and heart-sickening despair.
And now, as she was almost within my reach at last after so many days,
my heart gave a great bound, and with one leap the burden of the past
shook itself from my shoulders.

"Open the window, dear," I cried, and with trembling hands she undid the
fastenings and swung the lattice open.  The next moment I had her in my
arms, and felt her heart beating close to mine, and the soft, warm touch
of her neck.  "Marjory lass," I cried, "how I have missed you, dear!
But now I have you and shall never leave you more."  And I drew her
closer to me, while she could only sob the more.

Then, with a mighty effort, I recalled myself to the immediate
enterprise.  The sound of the horses shuffling the snow without forced
on me the need of action.

"My servant is without with horses," I said. "You must go with him,
dear.  It is our only safety. By to-morrow you will be in Tweeddale, and
in a very little while I will come to you."

"But do you not go just now?" she cried, in anxiety, still clinging to
me.

"No, Marjory dear," said I, soothing her as best I could, "I cannot come
yet.  There are some things which need my special care.  If you think
yourself, you will see that."

"Is it aught to do with Gilbert Burnet?  Oh, I dare not leave you with
him.  Come with me, John, oh, come.  I dare not, I dare not."  And the
poor child fell to wringing her hands.

"Marjory," I said, "if you love me do as I bid you.  I will come to no
scaith.  I promise you I will be with you at Dawyck ere the week is
out."

So she put a brave face on the matter, though her lips still quivered.
I went to the window and looked down to where Nicol stood waiting with
the horses. Then I thought of a plan, and, finding none better, I cried
to him to mount to the window-sill, for I knew his prowess as a climber,
and the uncommon toughness of his arm.  The horses were too jaded and
spiritless to need any watching.

I caught up my lady in my arms and stepped out upon the ledge.  Then
very carefully and painfully I lowered myself, still clinging to the
sill, till I found a foothold in a projecting stone.  Below us were
Nicol’s arms and into them I gave my burden.  I heard him clambering
down by degrees, and in a very little, for the height was small, he had
reached the ground.  Then I followed him, slipping the last few feet,
and burying myself in a bank of snow.

I had brought a heap of warm furs from the room, and these I flung round
my love’s shoulders.  My heart ached to think of her, weary from the
day’s hard riding, setting forth again into the cold of a November
night.

"Oh, John," she said, "no sooner met than parted.  It is ever our fate."

"It will be the last time, dear," I said, and I kissed her face in her
hood.

Then, with many injunctions to my servant, I bade them good-bye, and
watched the figure which I loved best in all the world, disappear into
the darkness. With a sad and yet cheerful heart I turned back and
clambered again into the chamber.

There were Marjory’s things scattered about, as of one who has come from
a long journey.  Something on a table caught my eye, and, taking it up,
I saw it was a slip of withered heather.  Then I minded how I had given
it her one summer long ago on the Hill of Scrape.

I kicked off my boots, and in utter weariness of body and mind, I flung
myself on the bed and was soon asleep.



                               CHAPTER VI

                  I MAKE MY PEACE WITH GILBERT BURNET


I slept till dawn the dreamless sleep of those who have drowned care in
bodily exertion.  It was scarce light when I awoke, and, with the
opening of the eyes, there came with a rush the consciousness of my
errand.  I leaped out of bed, and sitting on the edge considered my
further actions.

First I sought to remove from my person some of the more glaring stains
of travel.  There was water in the room, bitter cold and all but frozen,
and with it I laved my face and hands.

Then I opened the chamber door and stepped out into one of the long
corridors.  The house was still, though somewhere in the far distance I
could hear the bustle of servants.  I cast my mind back many years, and
strove to remember where was the room where the morning meal was served.
I descended the staircase to the broad, high hall, but still there were
no signs of other occupants.  One door I tried, but it was locked;
another, with no better fate, till I began to doubt my judgment.  Then I
perceived one standing ajar, and, pushing it wide, I looked in.
Breakfast was laid on the table, and a fire smoked on the hearth.  I
entered and closed the door behind me.

There was a looking-glass at the far end, and, as I entered, I caught a
glimpse of my figure.  Grim as was my errand, I could have laughed aloud
at the sight.  My hair unkempt, my face tanned to the deepest brown, my
strange scarlet clothes, marred as they were by wind and weather, gave
me a look so truculent and weird that I was half afraid of myself. And
then this humour passed, and all the sufferings of the past, the hate,
the despairing love, the anxious care came back upon me in a flood, and
I felt that such garb was fitting for such a place and such a season.

I warmed my hands at the blaze and waited.  The minutes dragged slowly,
while no sound came save the bickering of the fire and the solemn
ticking of a clock.  I had not a shade of fear or perturbation. Never in
all my life had my mind been so wholly at ease.  I waited for the coming
of my enemy, as one would wait on a ferry or the opening of a gate,
quiet, calm, and fixed of purpose.

At last, and it must have been a good hour, I heard steps on the stair.
Clearly my cousin had slept long after his exertions.  Nearer they came,
and I heard his voice giving some orders to the servants.  Then the door
was opened, and he came in.

At first sight I scarcely knew him, so changed was he from the time of
our last meeting.  He was grown much thinner and gaunter in countenance,
nor was his dress so well-cared for and trim as I remembered him.  The
high, masterful look which his face always wore had deepened into
something bitter and savage, as if he had grown half-sick of the world
and cared naught for the things which had aforetime delighted him.  His
habit of scorn for all which opposed him, and all which was beneath him,
had grown on him with his years and power, and given him that look as of
one born to command, ay, and of one to whom suffering and pain were less
than nothing.  As I looked on him I hated him deeply and fiercely, and
yet I admired him more than I could bear to think, and gloried that he
was of our family.  For I have rarely seen a nobler figure of a man.  I
am not little, but in his presence I felt dwarfed.  Nor was it only in
stature that he had the preëminence, for his step was as light and his
eye as keen as a master of fence.

He had expected a very different figure to greet him at the other side
of the table.  In place of a lissom maid he saw a grim, rough-clad man
waiting on him with death in his eyes.  I saw surprise, anger, even a
momentary spasm of fear flit across his face.  He looked at me keenly,
then with a great effort he controlled himself, and his sullen face grew
hard as stone.

"Good morning to you, Master John Burnet," said he.  "I am overjoyed to
see you again.  I had hoped to have had a meeting with you in the past
months among your own hills of Tweedside, but the chance was denied me.
But better late than never. I bid you welcome."

I bowed.  "I thank you," I said.

"I have another guest," said he, "whom you know.  It is a fortunate
chance that you should both be present.  This old house of Eaglesham has
not held so many folk for many a long day.  May I ask when you arrived?"
The man spoke all the while with great effort, and his eyes searched my
face as though he would wrest from me my inmost thoughts.

"An end to this fooling, Gilbert," I said, quietly. "Marjory Veitch is
no more in this house; with the escort of my servant she is on her road
to Tweeddale. By this time she will be more than half-way there."

He sprang at me like a wild thing, his face suddenly inflaming with
passion.

"You, you—" he cried, but no words could come. He could only stutter and
gape, with murder staring from his visage.

As for me the passion in him roused in me a far greater.

"Yes," I cried, my voice rising so that I scarce knew it for mine.  "You
villain, liar, deceiver, murderer, by the living God, the time has now
come for your deserts.  You tortured my love and harassed her with
hateful captivity; you slew her brother, your friend, slew him in his
cups like the coward you are; you drove me from my house and lands; you
made me crouch and hide in the hills like a fox, and hunted me with your
hell-hounds; you lied and killed and tortured, but now I am free, and
now you will find that I am your master.  I have longed for this day,
oh, for so long, and now you shall not escape me. Gilbert Burnet, this
earth is wide, but it is not wide enough for you and me to live
together.  One or other of us shall never go from this place."

He made no answer but only looked me straight in the face, with a look
from which the rage died by degrees.  Then he spoke slowly and
measuredly. "I think you are right, Cousin John," said he, "the world is
too small for both of us.  We must come to a settlement."  And in his
tone there was a spice of pity and regret.  Then I knew that I had lied,
and that this man was stronger than I.

For a little we stood looking across the table at each other.  There was
an extraordinary attraction in the man, and before the power of his keen
eyes I felt my wits trembling.  Then, with his hand, he motioned me to
sit down.  "The morning air is raw, Cousin John.  It will be better to
finish our meal," and he called to his servant to bring in breakfast.

I have never eaten food in my life under stranger circumstances.  Yet I
did not fear aught, but satisfied my hunger with much readiness.  As for
him, he toyed and ate little.  Once I caught him looking over at me with
a shade of anxiety, of dread in his gaze. No word passed between us, for
both alike felt the time too momentous for any light talk.  As the
minutes fled I seemed to discern some change in his manner.  His brows
grew heavier and he appeared to brood over the past, while his glance
sought the pictures on the walls, and my face in turn, with something of
fierceness.  When all was over he rose and courteously made way for me
to pass, holding the door wide as I went out.  Then he led me to a
little room at the other side of the hall, whence a window opened to the
garden.

"You wish to be satisfied," he said, "and I grant you that the wish is
just.  There are some matters ’twixt me and thee that need clearing.
But, first, by your leave, I have something to say.  You believe me
guilty of many crimes, and I fling the charge in your teeth.  But one
thing I did unwittingly and have often repented of.  Michael Veitch fell
by his own folly and by no fault of mine."

"Let that be," said I; "I have heard another tale."

"I have said my say; your belief matters naught to me.  One thing I ask
you.  Where has the girl Marjory gone?  If fate decides against you, it
is but right I should have her."

"Nay," I cried, passionately, "that you never shall.  You have caused
her enough grief already. She hates the sight of you even as I, and I
will do nothing to make her fall into your hands."

"It matters little," he said, with a shrug of his great shoulders.  "It
was only a trifling civility which I sought from you.  Let us get to
work."

From a rack he picked a blade, one such as he always used in any serious
affray, single-edged and basket-hiked.  Then he signed to me to follow,
and opened the window and stepped out.

The morning was murky and damp.  Fog clothed the trees and fields, and a
smell of rottenness hung in the air.  I shivered, for my clothes were
thin and old.

Gilbert walked quickly, never casting a look behind him.  First we
crossed the sodden lawn, and then entered the pine wood, which I had
skirted on the night before.

In a little we heard the roaring of water and came to the banks of the
stream, which, swollen by the melting snows, was raving wildly between
the barriers of the banks.  At the edge was a piece of short turf, some
hundred yards square, and drier than the rest of the ground which we had
traversed.  Here Gilbert stopped and bade me get ready.  I had little to
do save cast my coat, and stand stripped and shivering, waiting while my
enemy took his ground.

The next I know is that I was in the thick of a deadly encounter, with
blows rattling on my blade as thick as hail.  My cousin’s eyes glared
into mine, mad with anger and regret, with all the unrequited love and
aimless scheming of months concentrated in one fiery passion.  I put
forth my best skill, but it was all I could do to keep death from me.
As it was I was scratched and grazed in a dozen places, and there was a
great hole in my shirt which the other’s blade had ripped.  The sweat
began to trickle over my eyes with the exertion, and my sight was half
dazed by the rapid play.

Now it so happened that I had my back to the stream.  This was the cause
of my opponent’s sudden violence, for he sought to drive me backwards,
that, when I found myself near the water, I might grow bewildered.  But
I had been brought up to this very trick, for in the old days in
Tweeddale, Tam Todd would have taken his stand near the Tweed and
striven to force me back into the great pool.  In my present danger
these old memories came back to me in a flood, and in a second I was
calm again.  This, after all, was only what I had done a thousand times
for sport. Could I not do it once for grim earnest?

In a very little I saw that my cousin’s policy of putting all his
strength out at the commencement was like to be his ruin.  He was not a
man built for long endurance, being too full in blood and heavy of body.
Soon his breath came thick and painfully; he yielded a step, then
another, and still a third; his thrusts lacked force, and his guards
were feeble.  He had changed even from that tough antagonist whom I had
aforetime encountered, and who taxed my mettle to the utmost.  Had it
not been that my anger still held my heart, and admitted no room for
other thoughts, I would even have felt some compunction in thrusting at
him.  But now I had no pity in me. A terrible desire to do to him as he
had done to my friends gripped me like a man’s hand.  The excitement of
the struggle, and, perhaps, the peril to my own life, roused my dormant
hate into a storm of fury. I know not what I did, but shrieking curses
and anathemas, I slashed blindly before me like a man killing bees.
Before my sword point I saw his face growing greyer and greyer with each
passing minute. He was a brave man, this I have always said for him; and
if any other in a like position, with an enemy at his throat and the
awful cognisance of guilt, still keeps his stand and does not flee, him
also I call brave.

Suddenly his defence ceased.  His arm seemed to numb and his blade was
lowered.  I checked my cut, and waited with raised point.  An awful
delight was in my heart, which now I hate and shudder to think on.  I
waited, torturing him.  He tried to speak, but his mouth was parched and
I heard the rattle of his tongue.  Still I delayed, for all my heat
seemed turned into deadly malice.

Then his eyes left my face and looked over my shoulders.  I saw a new
shade of terror enter them. I chuckled, for now, thought I, my revenge
has come. Of a sudden he crouched with a quick movement, bringing his
hands to his face.  I was in the act of striking, when from behind came
a crack, and something whistled past my ear.  Then I saw my cousin fall,
groaning, with a bullet through his neck.

In a trice my rage was turned from him to the unknown enemy behind.
With that one shot all rancour had gone from my heart.  I turned, and
there, running through the trees up the river bank, I saw a man. At the
first look I recognised him, though he was bent well-nigh double, and
the air was thick with fog. It was the fellow Jan Hamman.

I ran after him at top speed, though he was many yards ahead of me.  I
have never felt such lightness in my limbs.  I tore through thicket and
bramble, and leaped the brooks as easily as if I were not spent with
fighting and weak from the toils of months. My whole being was
concentrated into one fierce attempt, for a thousand complex passions
were tearing at my heart.  This man had dared to come between us; this
man had dared to slay one of my house.  No sound escaped my lips, but
silently, swiftly, I sped after the fleeing figure.

He ran straight up stream, and at every step I gained.  Somewhere at the
beginning he dropped his pistol; soon he cast away his cap and cloak;
and when already he heard my hot breathing behind him he cried out in
despair and flung his belt aside.  We were climbing a higher ridge
beneath which ran the stream. I was so near that I clutched at him once
and twice, but each time he eluded me.  Soon we gained the top, and I
half-stumbled while he gained a yard. Then I gathered myself together
for a great effort. In three paces I was on him, and had him by the
hair; but my clutch was uncertain with my faintness, and, with a wrench,
he was free.  Before I knew his purpose he swerved quickly to the side,
and leaped clean over the cliff into the churning torrent below.

I stood giddy on the edge, looking down.  There was nothing but a foam
of yellow and white and brown from bank to bank.  No man could live in
such a stream.  I turned and hastened back to my cousin.

I found him lying as I had left him, with his head bent over to the side
and the blood oozing from his neck-wound.  When I came near he raised
his eyes and saw me.  A gleam of something came into them; it may have
been mere recognition, but I thought it pleasure.

I kneeled beside him with no feelings other than kindness.  The sight of
him lying so helpless and still drove all anger from me.  He was my
cousin, one of my own family, and, with it all, a gentleman and a
soldier.

He spoke very hoarsely and small.

"I am done for, John.  My ill-doing has come back on my own head.  That
man——"

"Yes," I said, for I did not wish to trouble a man so near his end with
idle confessions, "I know, I have heard, but that is all past and done
with."

"God forgive me," he said, "I did him a wrong, but I have repaid it.
Did you kill him, John?"

"No," I said; "he leaped from a steep into the stream.  He will be no
more heard of."

"Ah," and his breath came painfully, "it is well. Yet I could have
wished that one of the family had done the work.  But it is no time to
think of such things.  I am going fast, John."

Then his speech failed for a little and he lay back with a whitening
face.

"I have done many ill deeds to you, for which I crave your forgiveness."

"You have mine with all my heart," I said, hastily.  "But there is the
forgiveness of a greater, which we all need alike.  You would do well to
seek it."

He spoke nothing for a little.  "I have lived a headstrong, evil life,"
said he, "which God forgive. Yet it is not meet to go canting to your
end, when in your health you have crossed His will."

Once again there was silence for a little space. Then he reached out his
hand for mine.

"I have been a fool all my days.  Let us think no more of the lass,
John.  We are men of the same house, who should have lived in
friendship.  It was a small thing to come between us."

A wind had risen and brought with it a small, chill rain.  A gust swept
past us and carried my cast-off cloak into the bushes.  "Ease my head,"
he gasped, and when I hasted to do it, I was even forestalled. For
another at that moment laid His hand on him, and with a little shudder
his spirit passed to the great and only judge of man’s heart.

I walked off for help with all speed, and my thoughts were sober and
melancholy.  Shame had taken me for my passion and my hot-fit of
revenge; ay, and pity and kindness for my dead opponent.  The old days
when we played together by Tweed, a thousand faint, fragrant memories
came back to me, and in this light the last shades of bitterness
disappeared. Also the great truth came home to me as I went, how little
the happiness of man hangs on gifts and graces, and how there is naught
in the world so great as the plain virtues of honour and heart.



                              CHAPTER VII

                       OF A VOICE IN THE EVENTIDE


Of the events of the time following there is little need to give an
exact account.  There was some law business to be gone through in
connection with my cousin’s death and the disposing of the estate, which
went to an East country laird, a Whig of the Whigs, and one like to make
good and provident use of it. Then, when I would have returned to
Tweeddale, I received a post from my good kinsman, Dr. Gilbert Burnet,
which led me first to Edinburgh and then so far afield as London itself.
For it was necessary, in the great confusion of affairs, that I should
set myself right with the law and gain some reparation for my some-time
forfeited lands.

So to the great city I went, posting by the main road from Edinburgh,
and seeing a hundred things which were new and entertaining.  I abode
there most all the winter, during the months of December, January,
February, and March, for there was much to do and see.  My lodging was
in my kinsman’s house near the village of Kensington, and there I met a
great concourse of remarkable folk whose names I had heard of and have
heard of since.  Notably, there were Master John Dryden, the excellent
poet, my Lord Sandwich, and a very brisk, pleasing gentleman, one Mr.
Pepys, of the Admiralty.  I had great opportunity of gratifying my taste
for books and learned society, for my kinsman’s library was an excellent
one, and his cellars so good that they attracted all conditions of folk
to his house.  Also I had many chances of meeting with gentlemen of like
degree with myself, and many entertaining diversions we had together.
Nor did I neglect those in Tweeddale, for I sent news by near every post
that went to the North.

But when the spring came, and there was no further need for tarrying in
the South, with a light heart I net off homewards once more.  I
journeyed by Peterborough and York in the company of one Sir C.
Cotterell, a gentleman of Northumberland, and abode two days at his
house in the moors, where there was excellent fishing.  Then I came
northwards by the great Northumberland road by the towns of Newcastle
and Morpeth, and crossed the Cheviot Hills, which minded me much of my
own glen.  At Coldstream I crossed the Tweed, which is there grown a
very broad, noble river, and then rode with all speed over the
Lammermoors to Edinburgh.  I stayed there no longer than my duty
demanded; and when all was settled, one bright spring day, just after
midday, set out for Barns.

The day, I remember, was one of surprising brightness, clear, sunshiny,
and soft as midsummer.  There are few ways I know better than that from
the capital to my home—the bare, windy moorlands for one half, and the
green glens and pleasant waters of the other. It was by this road that I
had come to Leith to ship for Holland; by this road that I had ridden on
that wild night ride to Dawyck.  Each spot of the wayside was imprinted
on my memory, and now that my wanderings were over, and I was returning
to peace and quiet, all things were invested with a new delight. Yet my
pleasure was not of the brisk, boisterous order, for my many misfortunes
had made me a graver man, and chastened my natural spirits to a mellow
and abiding cheerfulness.

At Leadburn was the inn where I had first met my servant Nicol, my
trusty comrade through so many varying fates.  I drank a glass of wine
at the place for no other cause than a sentimental remembrance. The old
landlord was still there, and the idle ostlers hung around the stable
doors, as when I had passed before.  Down in the bog-meadow the
marsh-marigolds were beginning to open, and the lambs from the hillside
bleated about their mothers.  The blue, shell-like sky overhead arched
without a cloud to the green, distant hills.

When I came to the place on the Tweedside road, called the Mount Bog, I
dismounted and lay down on the grass.  For there the view opens to the
hills of my own countryside.  A great barrier of blue, seamed with
glens, all scarred in spots with rock and shingle, lifting serene brows
from the little ridges to the wide expanse of the heavens.  I named them
one by one from east to west—Minchmoor, though it was hidden from sight,
where fled the great Montrose after the fatal rout of Philiphaugh; the
broad foreheads of the Glenrath heights above my own vale of Manor,
Dollar Law, Scrape, the Drummelzier fells, the rugged Wormel, and,
fronting me, the great Caerdon, with snow still lining its crannies.
Beyond, still further and fainter lines of mountain, till like a great
tableland the monstrous mass of the Broad Law barred the distance. It
was all so calm and fragrant, with not a sound on the ear but the plash
of little streams and the boom of nesting snipe.  And above all there
was the thought that now all peril had gone, and I was free to live as I
listed and enjoy life as a man is born to do, and skulk no more at
dyke-sides, and be torn no longer by hopeless passion.

When I rode through the village of Broughton and came to the turn of the
hill at Dreva, the sun was already westering.  The goodly valley, all
golden with evening light, lay beneath me.  Tweed was one belt of pure
brightness, flashing and shimmering by its silver shores and green,
mossy banks.  Every wood waved and sparkled in a fairy glow, and the
hills above caught the radiance on their broad bosoms.  I have never
seen such a sight, and for me at that hour it seemed the presage of my
home-coming.  I have rarely felt a more serene enjoyment, for it put me
at peace with all the earth, and gilded even the nightmare of the past
with a remembered romance.  To crown it there was that melodious concert
of birds, which one may hear only on such a night in this sweet time o’
year.  Throstles and linnets and the shriller mountain larks sang in the
setting daylight, till I felt like some prince in an eastern tale who
has found the talisman and opened the portals of the Golden Land.

Down the long, winding hill-path I rode, watching the shadows flit
before me, and thinking strange thoughts.  Fronting me over the broad
belt of woodland, I saw the grey towers of Dawyck, and the green avenues
of grass running straight to the hill.

By and by the road took me under the trees, among the cool shades and
the smell of pine and budding leaves.  There was a great crooning of
wood-doves, and the sighing of the tenderest breezes.  Shafts of light
still crept among the trunks, but the soft darkness of spring was almost
at hand.  My heart was filled with a great exaltation.  The shadow of
the past seemed to slip from me like an old garment.

Suddenly I stopped, for somewhere I heard a faint melody, the voice of a
girl singing.  ’Twas that voice I would know among ten thousand, the
only one in all the world for me.  I pulled up my horse and listened as
the notes grew clearer, and this was what she sang:

    "First shall the heavens want starry light,
      The seas be robbèd of their waves;
    The day want sun, the sun want bright,
      The night want shade, and dead men graves;
        The April, flowers and leaf and tree,
        Before I false my faith to thee.
          To thee, to thee."


There came a pause, and then again, in the fragrant gloaming, the air
went on:

    "First shall the tops of highest hills
      By humble plains be overpry’d;
    And poets scorn the Muses’ quills,
      And fish forsake the water-glide;
        And Iris lose her coloured weed
        Before I fail thee at thy need."


I stood in shadow and watched her as she came in sight, sauntering up
the little, green glade, with a basket of spring flowers swinging on her
arm.  Her hat of white satin hung loose over her hair, and as she walked
lightly, now in the twilight, now in a sudden shaft of the western sun,
she looked fairer than aught I had ever seen.  Once more she sang with
her clear voice:

    "First direful Hate shall turn to Peace,
      And Love relent in deep disdain;
    And Death his fatal stroke shall cease,
      And Envy pity every pain;
        And Pleasure mourn, and Sorrow smile,
        Before I talk of any guile."


But now the darkness had come in good earnest, and I could scarce see
the singer.  "First Time shall stay," the voice went on:

    "First Time shall stay his stayless race,
      And Winter bless his brows with corn;
    And snow bemoisten July’s face,
      And Winter, Spring and Summer mourn."


Here the verse stopped short, for I stepped out and stood before her.

"Oh, you have come back," she cried.  "At last, and I have looked so
long for you."

"Indeed, dear lass, I have come back, and by God’s grace to go no more
away."

Then leading my horse, I walked by her side down the broad path to the
house.  We spoke nothing, our hearts being too busy with the delights of
each other’s presence.  The crowning stone was added to my palace of
joy, and in that moment it seemed as if earth could contain no more of
happiness, and that all the sorrows of the past were well worth
encountering for the ecstasy of the present.  To be once more in my own
land, with my own solemn hills looking down upon me, and that fair river
wandering by wood and heather, and my lady at my side, was not that
sufficient for any man?  The purple, airy dark, odorous with spring
scents, clung around us, and in the pauses of silence the place was so
still that our ears heard naught save the drawing of our breath.

At the lawn of Dawyck I stopped and took her hands in mine.

"Marjory," I said, "once, many years ago, you sang me a verse and made
me a promise.  I cannot tell how bravely you have fulfilled it.  You
have endured all my hardships, and borne me company where I bade you,
and now all is done with and we are returned to peace and our own place.
Now it is my turn for troth-plighting, and I give you it with all my
heart.  God bless you, my own dear maid."  And I repeated softly:

    "First shall the heavens want starry light,
      The seas be robbèd of their waves;
    The day want sun, the sun want bright,
      The night want shade, and dead men graves;
        The April, flowers and leaf and tree,
        Before I false my faith to thee."


And I kissed her and bade farewell, with the echo still ringing in my
ears, "to thee, to thee."

I rode through the great shadows of the wood, scarce needing to pick my
path in a place my horse knew so well, for once again I was on Maisie.
The stillness clung to me like a garment, and out of it, from high up on
the hillside, came a bird’s note, clear, tremulous, like a bell.  Then
the trees ceased, and I was out on the shorn, green banks, ’neath which
the river gleamed and rustled.  Then, all of a sudden, I had rounded the
turn of the hill, and there, before me in the dimness, stood the old
grey tower, which was mine and had been my fathers’ since first man
tilled a field in the dale.  I crossed the little bridge with a
throbbing heart, and lo! there was the smell of lilac and gean-tree
blossom as of old coming in great gusts from the lawn.  Then all was
confusion and much hurrying about and a thousand kindly greetings. But
in especial I remember Tam Todd, the placid, the imperturbable, who
clung to my hand, and sobbed like the veriest child, "Oh, Laird, ye’ve
been lang o’ comin’."



                              CHAPTER VIII

          HOW NICOL PLENDERLEITH SOUGHT HIS FORTUNE ELSEWHERE


Now, at last, I am come to the end of my tale, and have little more to
set down.  It was on a very fresh, sweet May morning, that Marjory and I
were married in the old Kirk of Lyne, which stands high on a knoll above
the Lyne Water, with green hills huddled around the door.  There was a
great concourse of people, for half the countryside dwelled on our land.
Likewise, when all was done, there was the greatest feast spread in
Barns that living man had ever seen.  The common folk dined without on
tables laid on the green, while within the walls the gentry from far and
near drank long life and health to us till sober reason fled hot-foot
and the hilarity grew high.  But in a little all was over, the last
guest had clambered heavily on his horse and ridden away, and we were
left alone.

The evening, I remember, was one riot of golden light and rich shadow.
The sweet-scented air stole into the room with promise of the fragrant
out-of-doors, and together we went out to the lawn and thence down by
the trees to the brink of Tweed, and along by the great pool and the
water-meadows.  The glitter of that brave, romantic stream came on my
sight, as a sound of old music comes on the ears, bringing a thousand
half-sad, half-joyful memories.  All that life held of fair was in
it—the rattle and clash of arms, the valour of men, the loveliness of
women, the glories of art and song, the wonders of the great mother
earth, and the re-creations of the years.  And as we walked together, I
and my dear lady, in that soft twilight in the green world, a peace, a
delight, a settled hope grew upon us, and we went in silence, speaking
no word the one to the other.  By and by we passed through the garden
where the early lilies stood in white battalions, and entered the
dining-hall.

A band of light lay on the east wall where hung the portraits of my
folk.  One was a woman, tall and comely, habited in a grey satin gown of
antique fashion.

"Who was she?" Marjory asked, softly.

"She was my mother, a Stewart of Traquair, a noble lady and a good.  God
rest her soul."

"And who is he who stands so firmly and keeps hand on sword?"

"That was my father’s brother who stood last at Philiphaugh, when the
Great Marquis was overthrown. And he with the curled moustachios was his
father, my grandfather, of whom you will yet hear in the countryside.
And beyond still is his father, the one with the pale, grave face, and
solemn eyes.  He died next his king at the rout of Flodden.  God rest
them all; they were honest gentlemen."

Then there was silence for a space, while the light faded, and the old,
stately dames looked down at us from their frames with an air, as it
seemed to me, all but kindly, as if they laughed to see us playing in
the old comedy which they had played themselves.

I turned to her, with whom I had borne so many perils.

"Dear heart," I said, "you are the best and fairest of them all.  These
old men and women lived in other times, when life was easy and little
like our perplexed and difficult years.  Nevertheless, the virtue of old
times is the same as for us, and if a man take but the world as he find
it, and set himself manfully to it with good heart and brave spirit, he
will find the way grow straight under his feet.  Heaven bless you, dear,
for now we are comrades together on the road, to cheer each other when
the feet grow weary."


On the morning of the third day from the time I have written of, I was
surprised by seeing my servant, Nicol, coming into my study with a grave
face, as if he had some weighty matter to tell.  Since I had come home,
I purposed to keep him always with me, to accompany me in sport and see
to many things on the land, which none could do better than he.  Now he
sought an audience with a half-timid, bashful look, and, when I bade him
be seated, he flicked his boots uneasily with his hat and looked
askance.

"I hae come to bid ye fareweel, sir," at length he said, slowly.

I sprang up in genuine alarm.

"What nonsense is this?" I cried.  "You know fine, Nicol, that you
cannot leave me.  We have been too long together."

"I maun gang," he repeated, sadly; "I’m loth to dae ’t, but there’s nae
help for ’t."

"But what?" I cried.  "Have I not been a good friend to you, and your
comrade in a thousand perils? Is there anything I can do more for you?
Tell me, and I will do it."

"Na, na, Maister John, ye’ve aye been the best o’ maisters.  I’ve a’
thing I could wish; dinna think I’m no gratefu’."

"Then for Heaven’s sake tell me the reason, man.  I never thought you
would treat me like this, Nicol."

"Oh, sir, can ye no see?" the honest fellow cried with tears in his
eyes.  "Ye’ve been sae lang wi’ me, that I thocht ye kenned my natur’.
Fechtin’ and warstlin’ and roamin’ aboot the warld are the very breath
o’ life to me.  I see ye here settled sae braw and canty, and the auld
hoose o’ Barns lookin’ like itsel’ again.  And I thinks to mysel’,
’Nicol Plenderleith, lad, this is no for you.  This is no the kind of
life that ye can lead.  Ye’ve nae mair business here than a craw among
throstles.’  And the thocht maks me dowie, for I canna get by ’t.  I
whiles think o’ mysel’ bidin’ quiet here and gettin’ aulder and aulder,
till the time passes when I’m still brisk and venturesome, and I’m left
to naething but regrets. I maun be up and awa’, Laird, I carena whither.
We a’ made different, and I was aye queer and daft and no like ither
folk.  Ye winna blame me."

I tried to dissuade him, but it was to no purpose. He heard me
patiently, but shook his head.  I did not tax him with ingratitude, for
I knew how little the charge was founded.  For myself I was more sorry
than words, for this man was joined to me by ties of long holding.  I
longed to see him beside me at Barns, an unceasing reminder of my stormy
days.  I longed to have his sage counsel in a thousand matters, to have
him at my hand when I took gun to the hills or rod to the river.  I had
grown to love his wind-beaten face and his shrewd, homely talk, till I
counted them as necessary parts of my life.  And now all such hopes were
dashed, and he was seeking to leave me.

"But where would you go?" I asked.

"I kenna yet," he said.  "But there’s aye things for man like me
somewhere on the earth.  I’m thinkin’ o’ gaun back to the abroad, whaur
there’s like to be a steer for some time to come.  It’s the life I want
and no guid-fortine or bad-fortine, so I carena what happens.  I trust I
may see ye again, Maister John, afore I dee."

There was nothing for it but to agree, and agree I did, though with a
heavy heart and many regrets. I gave him a horse to take him to Leith,
and offered him a sum of money.  This he would have none of, but took,
instead, a pair of little old pistols which had been my father’s.

I never saw him again, though often I have desired it, but years after I
heard of him, and that in the oddest way.  I corresponded to some little
extent with folk in the Low Countries, and in especial with one Master
Ebenezer van Gliecken, a learned man and one of great humour in
converse.  It was at the time when there was much fighting between the
French and the Dutch, and one morn I received a letter from this Master
van Gliecken, written from some place whose name I have forgot, a
rascally little Holland town in the south.  He wrote of many things—of
some points in Latin scholarship, of the vexatious and most unpolitic
state of affairs in the land, and finally concluded with this which I
transcribe.... "Lastly, my dear Master John, I will tell you a tale
which, as it concerns the glory of your countrymen, you may think worth
hearing.  As you know well, this poor town of ours has lately been the
centre of a most bloody strife, for the French forces have assaulted it
on all sides, and though by God’s grace they have failed to take it, yet
it has suffered many sore afflictions.  In particular there was a fierce
attack made upon the side which fronts the river, both by boat and on
foot.  On the last day of the siege, a sally was made from the gate of
the corner tower, which, nevertheless, was unsuccessful, our men being
all but enclosed and some of the enemy succeeding in entering the gate.
One man in particular, a Scot, as I have heard, Nicolo Plenderleet by
name, with two others who were both slain, made his way to the
battlements.  The gate was shut, and, to all appearance, his death was
certain.  But they knew not the temper of their enemy, for springing on
the summit of the wall, he dared all to attack him.  When the defenders
pressed on he laid about him so sturdily that three fell under his
sword.

"Then when he could no longer make resistance, and bullets were
pattering around him like hail, and his cheek was bleeding with a deep
wound, his spirit seemed to rise the higher.  For, shouting out taunts
to his opponents, he broke into a song, keeping time all the while with
the thrusts of his sword.  Then bowing gallantly, and saluting with his
blade his ring of foes, he sheathed his weapon, and joining his hands
above his head, dived sheer and straight into the river, and, swimming
easily, reached the French lines.  At the sight those of his own side
cheered, and even our men, whom he had so tricked, could scarce keep
from joining.

"Touching the editions which you desired, I have given orders to the
bookseller on the quay at Rotterdam to send them to you.  I shall be
glad, indeed, to give you my poor advice on the difficult matters you
speak of, if you will do me the return favour of reading through my
excursus to Longinus, and giving me your veracious opinion.  Of this I
send you a copy.

"As regards the Scot I have already spoken of, I may mention for your
satisfaction that in person he was tall and thin, with black hair, and
the most bronzed skin I have ever seen on a man...."

When I read this letter to Marjory, her eyes were filled with tears, and
for myself I would speak to no one on that day.



                               CHAPTER IX

                         THE END OF ALL THINGS


I am writing the last words of this tale in my house of Barns after many
years have come and gone since the things I wrote of.  I am now no more
young, and my wife is no more a slim maid, but a comely woman. The years
have been years of peace and some measure of prosperity.  Here in
Tweeddale life runs easily and calm.  Our little country matters are all
the care we know, and from the greater world beyond there comes only
chance rumours of change and vexation.  Yet the time has not been idle,
for I have busied myself much with study and the care of the land.  Many
have sought to draw me out to politics and statecraft, but I have ever
resisted them, for after all what are these things of such importance
that for them a man should barter his leisure and piece of mind?  So I
have even stayed fast in this pleasant dale, and let the bustle and
clamour go on without my aid.

It is true that more than once I have made journeys even across the
water, and many times to London, on matters of private concern.  It was
during one of these visits to Flanders that I first learned the
importance of planting wood on land, and resolved to make trial on my
own estate.  Accordingly I set about planting on Barns, and now have
clothed some of the barer spaces of the hills with most flourishing
plantations of young trees, drawn in great part from the woods of
Dawyck.  I can never hope to reap the benefit of them myself, but haply
my grandchildren will yet bless me, when they find covert and shade
where before was only a barren hillside.

Also in Tweed I have made two caulds, both for the sake of the fish and
to draw off streams to water the meadows.  In the wide reaches of water
in Stobo Haughs I have cut down much of the encumbering brushwood and
thus laid the places open for fishing with the rod.  Also with much
labour I have made some little progress in clearing the channel of the
river in places where it is foully overlaid with green weed. The result,
I am pleased to think, has been good, and the fish thrive and multiply.
At any rate, I can now make baskets that beforetime were counted
impossible. My crowning triumph befell me two years ago in a wet,
boisterous April, when, fishing with a minnow in the pool above Barns, I
landed a trout of full six pound weight.

The land, which had fallen into neglect in my father’s time and my own
youth, I did my utmost to restore, and now I have the delight of seeing
around me many smiling fields and pleasant dwellings.  In the house of
Barns itself I have effected many changes, for it had aforetime been
liker a border keep than an orderly dwelling.  But now, what with many
works of art and things of interest gathered from my travels abroad,
and, above all, through the dainty fingers of my wife, the place has
grown gay and well-adorned, so that were any of its masters of old time
to revisit it they would scarce know it for theirs.

But the work which throughout these years has lain most near to my heart
has been the studies which I have already spoken of.  The fruit of them,
to be sure, is less than the labour, but still I have not been idle.  I
have already in this tale told of my exposition of the philosophy of the
Frenchman Descartes, with my own additions, and my writings on the
philosophy of the Greeks, and especially of the Neo-Platonists—both of
which I trust to give to the world at an early time.  As this story of
my life will never be published, it is no breach of modesty here to
counsel all, and especially those of my own family, who may see it, to
give their attention to my philosophical treatises. For though I do not
pretend to have any deep learning or extraordinary subtlety in the
matter, it has yet been my good fate, as I apprehend it, to notice many
things which have escaped the eyes of others.  Also I think that my
mind, since it has ever been clear from sedentary humours and the
blunders which come from mere knowledge of books, may have had in many
matters a juster view and a clearer insight.

Of my own folk I have little to tell.  Tam Todd has long since gone the
way of all the earth, and lies in Lyne Kirkyard with a flat stone above
him.  New faces are in Barns and Dawyck, and there scarce remains one of
the old serving-men who aided me in my time of misfortune.  Also many
things have changed in all the countryside, and they from whom I used to
hear tales as a boy are now no more on the earth.  In Peebles there are
many new things, and mosses are drained and moors measured out, till the
whole land wears a trimmer look.  But with us all is still the same, for
I have no fancy for change in that which I loved long ago, and would
fain still keep the remembrance.  Saving that I have planted the
hillsides, I have let the moors and marshes be, and to-day the wild-duck
and snipe are as thick on my land as of old.

As for myself, I trust I have outgrown the braggadocio and folly of
youth.  God send I may not have also outgrown its cheerfulness and
spirit!  For certain I am a graver man and less wont to set my delight
in trifles.  Of old I was the slave of little things—weather, scene,
company; but advancing age has brought with it more of sufficiency unto
myself. The ringing of sword and bridle has less charm, since it is the
reward of years that a man gets more to the core of a matter and has
less care for externals.  Yet I can still feel the impulses of high
passion, the glory of the chase, the stirring of the heart at a martial
tale. Now, as I write, things are sorely changed in the land. For though
peace hangs over us at home, I fear it is a traitor’s peace at the best,
and more horrific than war.  Time-servers and greedy sycophants sit in
high places, and it is hard to tell if generous feeling be not ousted by
a foul desire of gain.  It is not for me to say.  I have no love for
king or parliament, though much for my country.  I am no hot-headed
king’s man; nay, I never was; but when they who rely upon us are sold
for a price, when oaths are broken and honour driven away, I am
something less of one than before.  It may be that the old kings were
better, who ruled with a strong hand, though they oft ruled ill.  But,
indeed, I can say little; here in this valley of Tweed a man hears of
such things only as one hears the roar of a stormy sea from a green
inland vale.

As I write these last words, I am sitting in my old library at Barns,
looking forth of the narrow window over the sea of landscape.  The
afternoon is just drawing to evening, the evening of a hot August day,
which is scarce less glorious than noon.  From the meadow come the
tinkling of cattle bells and the gentle rise and fall of the stream.
Elsewhere there is no sound, for the summer weather hangs low and heavy
on the land.  Just beyond rise the barrier ridges, green and shimmering,
and behind all the sombre outlines of the great hills.  Below in the
garden my wife is plucking flowers to deck the table, and playing with
the little maid, who is but three years old to-day. Within the room lie
heavy shadows and the mellow scent of old books and the faint fragrance
of blossoms.

And as I look forth on this glorious world, I know not whether to be
glad or sad.  All the years of my life stretch back till I see as in a
glass the pageant of the past.  Faint regrets come to vex me, but they
hardly stay, and, as I look and think, I seem to learn the lesson of the
years, the great precept of time.  And deep in all, more clear as the
hours pass and the wrappings fall off, shines forth the golden star of
honour, which, if a man follow, though it be through quagmire and
desert, fierce faces and poignant sorrow, ’twill bring him at length to
a place of peace.

But these are words of little weight and I am too long about my
business.  Behold how great a tale I have written unto you.  Take it,
and, according to your pleasure, bless or ban the narrator.  Haply it
will help to while away a winter’s night, when the doors are barred and
the great logs crackle, and the snow comes over Caerdon.





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