The more reason there should be one decent man in such a
land of thieves! My word in passed, and I'll stick to it. I said
long syne to your kinswoman that I would stumble at no risk. Do ye
mind of that?--the night Red Colin fell, it was. No more I will,
then. Here I stop. Prestongrange promised me my life: if he's to
be mansworn, here I'll have to die."
"Aweel aweel," said Alan.
All this time we had seen or heard no more of our pursuers. In
truth we had caught them unawares; their whole party (as I was to
learn afterwards) had not yet reached the scene; what there was of
them was spread among the bents towards Gillane. It was quite an
affair to call them in and bring them over, and the boat was making
speed. They were besides but cowardly fellows: a mere leash of
Highland cattle-thieves, of several clans, no gentleman there to be
the captain and the more they looked at Alan and me upon the beach,
the less (I must suppose) they liked the look of us.
Whoever had betrayed Alan it was not the captain: he was in the
skiff himself, steering and stirring up his oarsmen, like a man
with his heart in his employ. Already he was near in, and the boat
securing--already Alan's face had flamed crimson with the
excitement of his deliverance, when our friends in the bents,
either in their despair to see their prey escape them or with some
hope of scaring Andie, raised suddenly a shrill cry of several
This sound, arising from what appeared to be a quite deserted
coast, was really very daunting, and the men in the boat held water
"What's this of it?" sings out the captain, for he was come within
an easy hail.
"Freens o'mine," says Alan, and began immediately to wade forth in
the shallow water towards the boat. "Davie," he said, pausing,
"Davie, are ye no coming? I am swier to leave ye."
"Not a hair of me," said I.
"He stood part of a second where he was to his knees in the salt
"He that will to Cupar, maun to Cupar," said he, and swashing in
deeper than his waist, was hauled into the skiff, which was
immediately directed for the ship.
I stood where he had left me, with my hands behind my back; Alan
sat with his head turned watching me; and the boat drew smoothly
away. Of a sudden I came the nearest hand to shedding tears, and
seemed to myself the most deserted solitary lad in Scotland. With
that I turned my back upon the sea and faced the sandhills. There
was no sight or sound of man; the sun shone on the wet sand and the
dry, the wind blew in the bents, the gulls made a dreary piping.
As I passed higher up the beach, the sand-lice were hopping nimbly
about the stranded tangles. The devil any other sight or sound in
that unchancy place. And yet I knew there were folk there,
observing me, upon some secret purpose. They were no soldiers, or
they would have fallen on and taken us ere now; doubtless they were
some common rogues hired for my undoing, perhaps to kidnap, perhaps
to murder me outright. From the position of those engaged, the
first was the more likely; from what I knew of their character and
ardency in this business, I thought the second very possible; and
the blood ran cold about my heart.
I had a mad idea to loosen my sword in the scabbard; for though I
was very unfit to stand up like a gentleman blade to blade, I
thought I could do some scathe in a random combat. But I perceived
in time the folly of resistance. This was no doubt the joint
"expedient" on which Prestongrange and Fraser were agreed. The
first, I was very sure, had done something to secure my life; the
second was pretty likely to have slipped in some contrary hints
into the ears of Neil and his companions; and it I were to show
bare steel I might play straight into the hands of my worst enemy
and seal my own doom.
These thoughts brought me to the head of the beach. I cast a look
behind, the boat was nearing the brig, and Alan flew his
handkerchief for a farewell, which I replied to with the waving of