But Alan himself was shrunk to a small thing in my view,
alongside of this pass that lay in front of me. I set my hat hard
on my head, clenched my teeth, and went right before me up the face
of the sand-wreath. It made a hard climb, being steep, and the
sand like water underfoot. But I caught hold at last by the long
bent-grass on the brae-top, and pulled myself to a good footing.
The same moment men stirred and stood up here and there, six or
seven of them, ragged-like knaves, each with a dagger in his hand.
The fair truth is, I shut my eyes and prayed. When I opened them
again, the rogues were crept the least thing nearer without speech
or hurry. Every eye was upon mine, which struck me with a strange
sensation of their brightness, and of the fear with which they
continued to approach me. I held out my hands empty; whereupon one
asked, with a strong Highland brogue, if I surrendered.
"Under protest," said I, "if ye ken what that means, which I
At that word, they came all in upon me like a flight of birds upon
a carrion, seized me, took my sword, and all the money from my
pockets, bound me hand and foot with some strong line, and cast me
on a tussock of bent. There they sat about their captive in a part
of a circle and gazed upon him silently like something dangerous,
perhaps a lion or a tiger on the spring. Presently this attention
was relaxed. They drew nearer together, fell to speech in the
Gaelic, and very cynically divided my property before my eyes. It
was my diversion in this time that I could watch from my place the
progress of my friend's escape. I saw the boat come to the brig
and be hoisted in, the sails fill, and the ship pass out seaward
behind the isles and by North Berwick.
In the course of two hours or so, more and more ragged Highlandmen
kept collecting. Neil among the first, until the party must have
numbered near a score. With each new arrival there was a fresh
bout of talk, that sounded like complaints and explanations; but I
observed one thing, none of those who came late had any share in
the division of my spoils. The last discussion was very violent
and eager, so that once I thought they would have quarrelled; on
the heels of which their company parted, the bulk of them returning
westward in a troop, and only three, Neil and two others, remaining
sentries on the prisoner.
"I could name one who would be very ill pleased with your day's
work, Neil Duncanson," said I, when the rest had moved away.
He assured me in answer I should be tenderly used, for he knew he
was "acquent wi' the leddy."
This was all our talk, nor did any other son of man appear upon
that portion of the coast until the sun had gone down among the
Highland mountains, and the gloaming was beginning to grow dark.
At which hour I was aware of a long, lean, bony-like Lothian man of
a very swarthy countenance, that came towards us among the bents on
a farm horse.
"Lads," cried he, "has ye a paper like this?" and held up one in
his hand. Neil produced a second, which the newcomer studied
through a pair of horn spectacles, and saying all was right and we
were the folk he was seeking, immediately dismounted. I was then
set in his place, my feet tied under the horse's belly, and we set
forth under the guidance of the Lowlander. His path must have been
very well chosen, for we met but one pair--a pair of lovers--the
whole way, and these, perhaps taking us to be free-traders, fled on
our approach. We were at one time close at the foot of Berwick Law
on the south side; at another, as we passed over some open hills, I
spied the lights of a clachan and the old tower of a church among
some trees not far off, but too far to cry for help, if I had
dreamed of it. At last we came again within sound of the sea.
There was moonlight, though not much; and by this I could see the
three huge towers and broken battlements of Tantallon, that old
chief place of the Red Douglases.