Not only that, but he expended some
breath (of which he had not very much left) to curse his own
misfortune and my stupidity which was said to be its cause.
"Them that cannae tell the truth," he observed to myself as we went
on again, "should be aye mindful to leave an honest, handy lee
behind them. If folk dinnae ken what ye're doing, Davie, they're
terrible taken up with it; but if they think they ken, they care
nae mair for it than what I do for pease porridge."
As we had first made inland, so our road came in the end to lie
very near due north; the old Kirk of Aberlady for a landmark on the
left; on the right, the top of the Berwick Law; and it was thus we
struck the shore again, not far from Dirleton. From north Berwick
west to Gillane Ness there runs a string of four small islets,
Craiglieth, the Lamb, Fidra, and Eyebrough, notable by their
diversity of size and shape. Fidra is the most particular, being a
strange grey islet of two humps, made the more conspicuous by a
piece of ruin; and I mind that (as we drew closer to it) by some
door or window of these ruins the sea peeped through like a man's
eye. Under the lee of Fidra there is a good anchorage in westerly
winds, and there, from a far way off, we could see the Thistle
The shore in face of these islets is altogether waste. Here is no
dwelling of man, and scarce any passage, or at most of vagabond
children running at their play. Gillane is a small place on the
far side of the Ness, the folk of Dirleton go to their business in
the inland fields, and those of North Berwick straight to the sea-
fishing from their haven; so that few parts of the coast are
lonelier. But I mind, as we crawled upon our bellies into that
multiplicity of heights and hollows, keeping a bright eye upon all
sides, and our hearts hammering at our ribs, there was such a
shining of the sun and the sea, such a stir of the wind in the bent
grass, and such a bustle of down-popping rabbits and up-flying
gulls, that the desert seemed to me, like a place alive. No doubt
it was in all ways well chosen for a secret embarcation, if the
secret had been kept; and even now that it was out, and the place
watched, we were able to creep unperceived to the front of the
sandhills, where they look down immediately on the beach and sea.
But here Alan came to a full stop.
"Davie," said he, "this is a kittle passage! As long as we lie
here we're safe; but I'm nane sae muckle nearer to my ship or the
coast of France. And as soon as we stand up and signal the brig,
it's another matter. For where will your gentry be, think ye?"
"Maybe they're no come yet," said I. "And even if they are,
there's one clear matter in our favour. They'll be all arranged to
take us, that's true. But they'll have arranged for our coming
from the east and here we are upon their west."
"Ay," says Alan, "I wish we were in some force, and this was a
battle, we would have bonnily out-manoeuvred them! But it isnae,
Davit; and the way it is, is a wee thing less inspiring to Alan
Breck. I swither, Davie."
"Time flies, Alan," said I.
"I ken that," said Alan. "I ken naething else, as the French folk
say. But this is a dreidful case of heids or tails. O! if I could
but ken where your gentry were!"
"Alan," said I, "this is no like you. It's got to be now or
"This is no me, quo' he,"
sang Alan, with a queer face betwixt shame and drollery.
"Neither you nor me, quo' he, neither you nor me.
Wow, na, Johnnie man! neither you nor me."
And then of a sudden he stood straight up where he was, and with a
handkerchief flying in his right hand, marched down upon the beach.
I stood up myself, but lingered behind him, scanning the sand-hills
to the east. His appearance was at first unremarked: Scougal not
expecting him so early, and MY GENTRY watching on the other side.