It was already close on Alan's hour, and the moon was down.
If I left (as I could not very decently whistle to my spies to
follow me) they might miss me in the dark and tack themselves to
Alan by mistake. If I stayed, I could at the least of it set my
friend upon his guard which might prove his mere salvation. I had
adventured other peoples' safety in a course of self-indulgence; to
have endangered them again, and now on a mere design of penance,
would have been scarce rational. Accordingly, I had scarce risen
from my place ere I sat down again, but already in a different
frame of spirits, and equally marvelling at my past weakness and
rejoicing in my present composure.
Presently after came a crackling in the thicket. Putting my mouth
near down to the ground, I whistled a note or two, of Alan's air;
an answer came in the like guarded tone, and soon we had knocked
together in the dark.
"Is this you at last, Davie?" he whispered.
"Just myself," said I.
"God, man, but I've been wearying to see ye!" says he. "I've had
the longest kind of a time. A' day, I've had my dwelling into the
inside of a stack of hay, where I couldnae see the nebs of my ten
fingers; and then two hours of it waiting here for you, and you
never coming! Dod, and ye're none too soon the way it is, with me
to sail the morn! The morn? what am I saying?--the day, I mean."
"Ay, Alan, man, the day, sure enough," said I. "It's past twelve
now, surely, and ye sail the day. This'll be a long road you have
"We'll have a long crack of it first," said he.
"Well, indeed, and I have a good deal it will be telling you to
hear," said I.
And I told him what behooved, making rather a jumble of it, but
clear enough when done. He heard me out with very few questions,
laughing here and there like a man delighted: and the sound of his
laughing (above all there, in the dark, where neither one of us
could see the other) was extraordinary friendly to my heart.
"Ay, Davie, ye're a queer character," says he, when I had done: "a
queer bitch after a', and I have no mind of meeting with the like
of ye. As for your story, Prestongrange is a Whig like yoursel',
so I'll say the less of him; and, dod! I believe he was the best
friend ye had, if ye could only trust him. But Simon Fraser and
James More are my ain kind of cattle, and I'll give them the name
that they deserve. The muckle black deil was father to the
Frasers, a'body kens that; and as for the Gregara, I never could
abye the reek of them since I could stotter on two feet. I
bloodied the nose of one, I mind, when I was still so wambly on my
legs that I cowped upon the top of him. A proud man was my father
that day, God rest him! and I think he had the cause. I'll never
can deny but what Robin was something of a piper," he added; "but
as for James More, the deil guide him for me!"
"One thing we have to consider," said I. "Was Charles Stewart
right or wrong? Is it only me they're after, or the pair of us?"
"And what's your ain opinion, you that's a man of so much
experience?" said he.
"It passes me," said I.
"And me too," says Alan. "Do ye think this lass would keep her
word to ye?" he asked.
"I do that," said I.
"Well, there's nae telling," said he. "And anyway, that's over and
done: he'll be joined to the rest of them lang syne."
"How many would ye think there would be of them?" I asked.
"That depends," said Alan. "If it was only you, they would likely
send two-three lively, brisk young birkies, and if they thought
that I was to appear in the employ, I daresay ten or twelve," said
It was no use, I gave a little crack of laughter.
"And I think your own two eyes will have seen me drive that number,
or the double of it, nearer hand!" cries he.
"It matters the less," said I, "because I am well rid of them for
"Nae doubt that's your opinion," said he; "but I wouldnae be the
least surprised if they were hunkering this wood.