A triumphant Stewart went back to Holyrood, an exultant army, calling itself, now with some good show of bearing it through, the "royal" army, carried into Edinburgh its confident step and sanguine hue. Victory was with the old line, the magnificent attempt! The erstwhile doubting throng began, stage by stage, to mount toward enthusiasm. It was the quicker done that Charles Edward, or his wisest advisers, put forth a series of judicious civic and public measures. And, now that Cope had fled, King George had in Scotland no regular troops. Every day there came open accessions to the Prince's strength. The old Stewarts up again became a magnet, drawing more and more the filings. The Prince had presently between five and six thousand troops. The north was his, Edinburgh, the Jacobites scattered through the Lowlands. The moderate Whig and Presbyterian might begin to think of compounding, of finding virtues in necessity. The irreconcilables felt great alarm and saw coming upon them a helplessness.
But the Stewarts, with French approval behind, aimed at the recovery of England no less than Scotland. Windsor might well overdazzle Holyrood. This interest had received many and strong protestations of support from a wide swathe of English nobility and gentry. Lift the victorious army over the border, set it and the young Prince bodily upon English ground, would not great family after great family rouse its tenants, arm them, join the Prince? So at least it seemed to the flushed Stewart hope. King George was home from Hanover, British troops being brought back from the Continent. Best to fan high the fire of the rising while it might with most ease be fanned—best to march as soon as might be into England!
On the 1st of November they marched, three detachments by three roads, and the meeting-place Carlisle. All went most merrily well. On the 10th of November began the siege of Carlisle. The Prince had cannon now, some taken at Prestonpans, some arrived, no great time before, from France, first fruits of French support. The English General Wade was at Newcastle with a larger army than that of the Jacobites. But the siege of Carlisle was not lifted by Wade. After three days city and castle surrendered. Charles Edward and his army entered England.
From Carlisle they marched to Penrith—to Kendal, Lancaster, Preston, Manchester—clear, well-conducted marches, the army held well together and in hand, here and there handfuls of recruits. But no flood of loyally-shouting gentry, no bearers of great names drawing the sword for King James III and a gallant, youthful Regent! Each dawn said they will come! Each eve said they have not come! One month from leaving Edinburgh found this army of Highland chiefs and their clans, Lowland Scots, a few Englishmen, a few Irishmen, and a few Frenchmen, led by skilful enough generals and by a Prince the great-grandson of Charles I, deep in England, but little advanced in bulk for all that. Old cavalier England stayed upon its acres. Other times, other manners! And how to know when an old vortex begins to disintegrate and a mode of action becomes antiquated, belated?
Wade was to one side with his army, and now there loomed ahead the Duke of Cumberland and ten thousand English troops. Battle seemed imminent, yet again the Scots force pushed by. The 4th of December found this strange wedge, of no great mass, but of a tested, rapier-like keenness and hardness, at the town of Derby, with London not a hundred and thirty miles away. And still no English rising for the rightful King! Instead Whig armies, and a slow Whiggish buzzing beginning through all the country.
The Duke of Cumberland and Marshal Wade, two jaws opening for Jacobite destruction, had between them twenty thousand men. Spies brought report of thirty thousand drawn up before London, on Finchley Common. The Prince might have so many lions of the desert in his Highlanders, but multitude will make a net that lions cannot break. At Derby also they had news from that Scotland now so dangerously far behind them. Royal Scots had landed from France, the Irish brigade from the same country was on the seas, and French regiments besides. Lord John Drummond had in Scotland now at least three thousand men and good promise of more. The Prince held council with the Duke of Perth, Lord George Murray, Lord Nairn, the many chiefs and leading voices. Return to Scotland, make with these newly gathered troops and with others a greater army, expect aid from France, stand in a gained kingdom the onslaught from Hanoverian England? Or go on—go on toward London? Encounter, defeat, with half his number, the Duke of Cumberland's ten thousand, keep Wade from closing in behind them, meet the Finchley Common thousands, come to the enemy's capital of half a million souls? Return where there were friends? Go on where false-promising friends hugged safety? Go on to London, still hoping, trusting still to the glamour and outcry that ran before them, to extraordinary events called miracles? Hot was the debate! But on the 6th of December the Jacobite army turned back toward Scotland.
It began its homeward march long before dawn. Not all nor most had been told the decision. Even the changed direction, eyes upon slow-descending not upon climbing stars, did not at first enlighten. It might mean some detour, the Duke being out-maneuvered. But at last rose the winter dawn and lit remembered scene after scene. The news ran. The army was in retreat.
Ian Rullock, riding with a kinsman, Gordon, heard, up and down, an angry lamenting sound. "Little do the clans like turning back!"
"Hark! The chieftains are telling them it is for the best."
"Is it for the best? I do not like this month or aught that is done in it!"
A week later they were at Lancaster; three days after that at Kendal. Here Wade might have fallen upon them, but did not. A day or two and the main column approached Penrith. The no great amount of artillery was yet precious. Heavy to drag over heavy roads, the guns and straining horses were left in the rear. Four companies of Lowland infantry, Macdonald of Glengarry and his five hundred Highlanders, a few cavalrymen, and Lord George Murray himself tarried with the guns. The main column disappeared, lost among mountains and hills; this detached number had the wild country, the forbidding road, the December day to themselves. To get the guns and ammunition-wagons along proved a snail-and-tortoise business. Guns and escort fell farther and farther behind.
Ian Rullock, acting still as aide, rode from the Prince nearing Penrith to Lord George Murray, now miles to the rear. Why was the delay? and 'ware the Duke of Cumberland, certainly close at hand! The delay was greater, the distance between farther, than the Prince had supposed. Rullock rode through the late December afternoon by huge frozen waves of earth, under a roof of pallid blue, in his ears a small complaining wind like a wailing child. He rode till nightfall, and only then came to his objective, finding needed rest in the village of Shap. Here he sought Lord George Murray, gave information and was given it in turn, ate, drank, and then turned back through the December night to the Prince.
He rode and the huge winter stars seemed to watch him with at once a glittering intentness and a disdain of his pygmy being. Once he looked up to them with a gesture of his head. "Are we so far apart and so different?" he asked of Orion.
He was several miles upon his way to Penrith. Before him appeared a crossroad, noted by him in the afternoon. A great salient of a hill overhung it, and on the near side a fir wood crept close. He looked about him, and as he rode kept his hand upon his pistol. He did not think to meet an enemy in strength, but there might be lurkers, men of the countryside ready to fall upon stragglers from the army that had passed that way. He had left behind the crossroad when from in front, around the jut of the hill, came four horsemen. He turned his head. Others had started from the wood. He made to ride on as though he were of their kindred and cause, but hands were laid upon his bridle.
"Courier, no doubt—"
All turned into the narrow road. Half an hour's riding brought in sight a substantial farm-house and about it the dimly flaring lights of a considerable camp, both cavalry and infantry. Rullock supposed it to be a detachment of Wade's, though it was possible that the Duke of Cumberland might have thrust advance troops thus far. He wished quite heartily that something might occur to warn Lord George Murray, the Macdonalds and the Prince's guns, asleep at Shap. For himself, he might, if he chose, pick out among the glittering constellations a shape like a scaffold.
When he dismounted he was brought past a bivouac fire and a coming and going of men afoot and on horseback, into the farm-house, where two or three officers sat at table. Questioned, threatened, and re-questioned, he had of course nothing to divulge. The less pressure was brought in that these troops were in possession of the facts which the moment desired. His name and rank he gave, it being idle to withhold them. In the end he was shut alone into a small room of the farm-house, behind a guarded door. He saw that there was planned an attack upon the detachment that with dawn would move from Shap. But this force of Wade's or of the Duke's was itself a detachment and apparently of no great mass. He could only hope that Lord George and the Macdonalds would move warily and when the shock came be found equal. All that was beyond his control. In the chill darkness he turned to the consideration of his own affair, which seemed desperate enough. He found, by groping, a bench against the wall. Wrapping himself in his cloak, he lay down upon this and tried to sleep, but could not. With all his will he closed off the future, and then as best he might the immediately environing present. After all, these armies—these struggles—these eery ambitions.... The feeling of out of it crept over him. It was an unfamiliar perception, impermanent. Yet it might leave a trace to work in the under-consciousness, on a far day to emerge, be revalued and added to.
This December air! Fire would be good—and with that thought he seemed to catch a gleam through the small-paned, small window, and in a moment through the opening door. He rose from the bench. A man in a long cloak entered the room, behind him a soldier bearing a lantern which he set upon a shelf above a litter of boards and kegs. Dismissed by a gesture, he went out, shutting the door behind him. The first man dropped his cloak, drew a heavy stool from the thrust-aside lumber, and sat down beneath the lantern. He spoke:
"Of all our many meeting-places, this looks most like the old cave in the glen!"
Ian moistened his lips. He resumed his seat against the wall. "I wondered, after Prestonpans, if you went home."
"No, you are right. I did not."
"At all times it is the liar's wont still to lie. Small things or great—use or no use!"
"I am a prisoner and unarmed. You are the captor. To insult lies in your power."
"That is a jargon that may be dropped between us. Yet I, too, am bound by conventions! Seeing that you are a prisoner, and not my prisoner only, I cannot give you your sword or pistols, and we cannot fight.... The fighting, too, is a convention. I see that, and that it is not adequate. Yet so do I hold you in hatred that I would destroy you in this poor way also!"
The two sat not eight feet apart. Time was when either, finding himself in deadly straits, would have seen in the other a sure rescuer, or a friend to perish with him. One would have come to the other in a burst of light and warmth. So countless were the associations between them, so much knowledge, after all, did they have of each other, that even now, if they hated and contended, it must be, as it were, a contention within an orb. To each hemisphere, repelling the other, must yet come in lightning flashes the face of the whole.
Glenfernie, under the lantern-light, looked like the old laird his father. "No long time ago," he said, "'revenge,' 'vengeance,' seemed to me words of a low order! It was not so in my boyhood. Then they were often to me passionate, immediate, personal, and vindicated words! But it grew to be that they appeared words of a low order. It is not so now. As far as that goes I am younger than I was a year ago. I stand in a hot, bright light where they are vindicated. If fate sets you free again, yet I do not set you free! I shall be after you. I entered this place to tell you that."
"Do as you will!" answered Ian. Scorn mounted in his voice. "I shall withstand the shock of you!"
The net of name and form hardened, grew more iron and closer meshed. Each I contracted, made its carapace thicker. Each I bestrode, like Apollyon, the path of the other.
"Why should I undertake to defend myself?" said Ian. "I do not undertake to do so! So at least I shall escape the hypocrite! It is in the nature of man to put down other kings and be king himself!"
"Aye so? The prime difficulty in that is that the others, too, are immortal." Glenfernie rising, his great frame seemed to fill the little room. "Sooner may the Kelpie's Pool sink into the earth than I forego to give again to you what you have given! What is now all my wish? It is to seem to you, here and hereafter, the avenger of blood and fraud! Remember me so!"
He stood looking at the sometime friend with a dark and working face. Then, abruptly turning, he went away. The door of the small room closed behind him. Ian heard the bolt driven.
The night went leadenly by. At last he slept, and was waked by trumpets blowing. He saw through the window that it was at faintest dawn. Much later the door opened and a man brought him a poor breakfast. Rullock questioned him, but could gain nothing beyond the statement that to-day at latest the "rebels" would be wiped from the face of the earth. When he was gone Ian climbed to the small window that, even were it open and unguarded, was yet too small for his body to pass. But, working with care, he managed to loosen and draw inward without noise one of the round panes. Outside lay a trampled farm-yard. A few soldiers, apparently invalided, lounged about, but there was no such throng such as he had passed through when they brought him here. He supposed that the attack upon the force at Shap might be in progress. If the Duke of Cumberland's whole power was at hand the main column might be set upon. All around him the hills, the farm inclosure, and these petty walls cut off the outer world. The hours, the day, limped somehow by. He walked to keep himself warm. Back and forth and to and fro. December—December—December! How cold was the Kelpie's Pool? Poisoned love—poisoned friendship—ambition in ruin—bells ringing for executions! To and fro—to and fro. He had always felt life as sensuous, rich, and warm, with garlands and colors. It had been large and aglow, with a profusion of arabesques of imagination and emotion. Thought had not lacked, but thought, too, bore a personal, passional cast, and was much interested in a golden world of sense. Just this December day the world seemed the ocean-bed of life, where dull creatures moved slowly in cold, thick ooze, and annihilation was much to be desired.... The day went by. The same man brought him supper. There seemed to be triumph in his face. "They'll be bringing in more prisoners—unless we don't make prisoners!" Nothing more could be gained from that quarter. In the night it began to rain. He listened to its dash against the window. Black Hill came into mind, and the rain against his windows there. He was cold, and he tried, with the regressive sense, to feel himself in that old, warm nest. His Black Hill room rose about him, firelit. The fire lighted that Italian painting of a city of refuge and a fleeing man, behind whom ran the avenger of blood.... Then it was July, and he was in the glen with Elspeth Barrow. He fought away from the recollection of that, for it involved a sickness of the soul.... Italy! Think of Italy. Venice, and a month that he had spent there alone—Old Steadfast being elsewhere. It had been a warm season, warm and rich, sun-kissed and languorous, like the fruit, like the Italian women.... Leave out the women, but try to feel again the sun of Venice!
He tried, but the cold of his prison fought with the sun. Then suddenly sprang clamor without. The uproar increased. He rose, he heard the bolts open, the door open. In came light and voices. "Captain Rullock! We beat them at Clifton! We learned that you were here! Lord George sent us back for you...."
Three days later Scotch earth was again beneath their feet. They marched to Glasgow; they marched to Stirling; they fought the battle of Falkirk and again there was Jacobite victory. And now there was an army of eight thousand.... And then began a time of poor policy, mistaken moves. And in April befell the battle of Culloden and far-resounding ruin.
The green May rolled around and below the Highland shelter where Ian lay, fugitive, like thousands of others, after Culloden. The Prince had stayed to give an order to his broken army. Sauve qui peut! Then he, too, became a fugitive, passing from one fastness to another of these glens and the mountains that overtowered them. The Stewart hope was sunk in the sea of dead hopes. Cumberland, with for the time and place a great force and with an ugly fury, hunted all who had been in arms against King George.
Ian Rullock couched high upon a mountain-side, in a shelter of stone and felled tree built in an angle of crag, screened by a growth of birch and oak, made long ago against emergencies. A path, devious and hidden, connected it first with a hut far below, and then, at several miles' distance, with the house of a chieftain, now a house of terror, with the chieftain in prison and his sons in hiding, and the women watching with hard-beating hearts. Ian, a kinsman of the house, had been given, faute de mieux, this old, secret hold, far up, where at least he could see danger if it approached. Food had been stored for him here and sheepskins given for bedding. He was so masked by splintered and fallen pieces of rock that he might, with great precautions, kindle a fire. A spring like a fairy cup gave him water. More than one rude comfort had been provided. He had even a book or two, caught up from his kinsman's small collection. He had been here fourteen days.
At first they were days and nights of vastly needed rest. Bitter had been the fatigue, privation, wandering, immediately after Culloden! Now he was rested.
He was by nature sanguine. When the sun had irretrievably blackened and gone out he might be expected at least to attempt to gather materials and ignite another. He was capable of whistling down the wind those long hopes of fame and fortune that had hung around the Stewart star. And now he was willing to let go the old half-acknowledged boyish romance and sentiment, the glamour of the imagination that had dressed the cause in hues not its own. Two years of actual contact with the present incarnations of that cause had worn the sentiment threadbare.
Seated or lying upon the brown earth by the splintered crag, alone save for the wheeling birds and the sound of wind and water and the sailing clouds, he had time at last for the rise into mind, definitely shaped and visible, of much that had been slowly brewing and forming. He was conscious of a beginning of a readjustment of ideas. For a long time now he had been pledged to personal daring, to thought forced to become supple and concentrated, to hard, practical planning, physical hardship and danger. In the midst of this had begun to grow up a criticism of all the enterprises upon which he was engaged. Scope—in many respects the Jacobite character, generally taken, was amiable and brave, but its prime exhibit was not scope! Somewhat narrow, somewhat obsolete; Ian's mind now saw Jacobitism in that light. As he sat without his rock fortress, in the shadow of birch-trees, with lower hills and glens at his feet, he had a pale vision of Europe, of the world. Countries and times showed themselves contiguous. "Causes," dynastic wars, political life, life in other molds and hues, appeared in chords and sequences and strokes of the eye, rather than in the old way of innumerable, vivid, but faintly connected points. "I begin to see," thought Ian, "how things travel together, like with like!" His body was rested, recovered, his mind invigorated. He had had with him for long days the very elixir of solitude. Relations and associations that before had been banked in ignorance came forth and looked at him. "You surely have known us before, though you had forgotten that you knew us!" He found that he was taking delight in these expansions of meaning. He thought, "If I can get abroad out of this danger, out of old circles, I'll roam and study and go to school to wider plans!" He suddenly thought, "This kind of thing is what Old Steadfast meant when he used to say that I did not see widely enough." He moved sharply. A hot and bitter flood seemed to well up within him. "He himself is seeing narrowly now—Alexander Jardine!"
He left the crag and went for a scrambling and somewhat dangerous walk along the mountain-side. There was peril in leaving that one rock-curtained place. Two days before he had seen what he thought to be signs of red-coated soldiers in the glen far below. But he must walk—he must exercise his body, note old things, not give too much time to new perceptions! He breathed the keen, sweet mountain air; with a knife that he had he fell to making a staff from a young oak; he watched the pass below and the shadows of the clouds; he climbed fairly to the mountain-top and had a great view; he sang an old song, not aloud, but under his breath; and at last he must come back with solitude to his fastness. And here was brooding thought again!
Two more days passed. The man from the hut below in the pass came at dusk with food carefully sent from the chieftain's hall. Redcoats had gone indeed through the glen, but they could never find the path to this place! They might return or they might not; they were like the devil who rose by your side when you were most peaceful! Angus went down the mountain-side. The sound of his footstep died away. Ian had again Solitude herself.
Another day and night passed. He watched the sun climb toward noon, and as the day grew warm he heard a step upon the hidden path. With a pistol in either hand he moved, as stealthily, as silently as might be, to a platform of rock that overhung the way of the intruder. In another moment the latter was in sight—one man climbing steadily the path to the old robber fastness. He saw that it was Glenfernie. No one followed him. He came on alone.
Rullock put by his pistols and, moving to a chair of rock, sat there. The other's great frame rose level with him, stepped upon the rocky floor. Ian had been growing to feel an anger at solitude. When he saw Alexander he had not been able to check an inner movement of welcome. He felt an old—he even felt a new—affection for the being upon whom, certainly, he had leaned. There flowed in, in an impatient wave, the consideration that he must hate....
But Glenfernie hated. Ian rose to face him.
"So you've found your way to my castle? It is a climb! You had best sit and rest yourself. I have my sword now, and I will give you satisfaction."
Glenfernie nodded. He sat upon a piece of fallen rock. "Yes, I will rest first, thank you! I have searched since dawn, and the mountain is steep. Besides, I want to talk to you."
Ian brought from his cupboard oat-cake and a flask of brandy. The other shook his head.
"I had food at sunrise, and I drank from a spring below."
The laird of Glenfernie sat looking down the mountain-sides and over to far hills and moving clouds, much as he used to sit in the crook of the old pine outside the broken wall at Glenfernie. There was a trick of posture when he was at certain levels within himself. Ian knew it well.
"Perhaps I should tell you," said Alexander, "that I came alone through the pass and that I have been alone for some days. If there are soldiers near I do not know of them."
"It is not necessary," answered Ian. While he spoke he saw in a flash both that his confidence was profound that it was not necessary, and that that incapacity to betray that might be predicated of Old Steadfast was confined to but one of the two upon this rock. The enlightenment stung, then immediately brought out a reaction. "To each some specialty in error! I no more than he am monstrous!" There arose a desire to defend himself, to show Old Steadfast certain things. He spoke. "We are going to fight presently—"
"That's understood. Now listen to me a little! For long years we were together, friends near and warm! You knew that I saw differently from you in regard to many things—in regard, for instance, to women. I remember old discussions.... Well, you differed, and sometimes you were angry. But for all that, friendship never went out with violence! You knew the ancient current that I swam in—that it was narrower, more mixed with earth, than your own! But you were tolerant. You took me as I was.... What has developed was essentially there then, and you knew it. The difference is that at last it touched what you held to be your own. Then, and not till then, the sinner became anathema!"
"In some part you say truth. But my load of inconsistency does not lighten yours of guilt."
"Perhaps not. We were friends. Five-sixths of me made a fair enough friend and comrade. We interlocked. You had gifts and possessions I had not. I liked the oak-feeling of you—the great ship in sail! In turn, I had the key, perhaps, to a few lands of bloom and flavor that you lacked. We interchanged and thought that we were each the richer. Five-sixths.... Say, then, that the other sixth might be defined as no-friend, or as false friend! Say that it was wilful, impatient of superiorities, proud, vain, willing to hurt, betray, and play the demon generally! Say that once it gave itself swing it darkened some of the other sixths.... Well, it is done! Yet there was gold. Perhaps, laird of Glenfernie, there is still gold in the mine!"
"You are mistaken in your proportions. Gold! You are to me the specter of the Kelpie's Pool!"
Silence held for a minute or two. The clouds, passing between earth and sun, made against the mountain slopes impalpable, dark, fantastic shapes. An eagle wheeled above its nest at the mountain-top. Ian spoke again. His tone had altered.
"If I do not decline remorse, I at least decline the leaden cope of it you would have me wear! There is such a thing as fair play to oneself! Two years ago come August Elspeth Barrow and I agreed to part—"
"Have it so! I said that we must part. She acquiesced—and that without the appeals that the stage and literature show us. Oh, doubtless I might have seen a pierced spirit, and did not, and was brute beast there! But one thing you have got to believe, and that is that neither of us knew what was to happen. Even with that, she was aware of how a letter might be sent, with good hope of reaching me. She was not a weak, ignorant girl.... I went away, and within a fortnight was deep in that long attempt that ends here. I became actively an agent for the Prince and his father. A hundred names and their fates were in my hands. You can fill in the multitude of activities, each seeming small in itself, but the whole preoccupying every field.... If Elspeth Barrow wrote I never received her letter. When my thought turned in that direction, it saw her well and not necessarily unhappy. Time passed. For reasons, I ceased to write home, and again for reasons I obliterated paths by which I might be reached. For months I heard nothing, as I said nothing. I was on the very eve of quitting Paris, under careful disguise, to go into Scotland. Came suddenly your challenge—and still, though I knew that to you at least our relations must have been discovered, I knew no more than that! I did not know that she was dead.... I could not stay to fight you then. I left you to brand me as you pleased in your mind."
"I had already branded you."
"Later, I saw that you had. Perhaps then I did not wonder. In September—almost a year from that Christmas Eve—I yet did not know. Then, in Edinburgh, I came upon Mr. Wotherspoon. He told me.... I had no wicked intent toward Elspeth Barrow—none according to my canon, which has been that of the natural man. We met by accident. We loved at once and deeply. She had in her an elf queen! But at last the human must have darkened and beset her. Had I known of those fears, those dangers, I might have turned homeward from France and every shining scheme...."
"Ah no, you would not—"
"... If I would not, then certainly I should have written to Jarvis Barrow and to others, acknowledging my part—"
"Perhaps you would have done that. Perhaps not. You might have found reasons of obligation for not doing so. 'Loved deeply'! You never loved her deeply! You have loved nothing deeply save yourself!"
"Perhaps. Yet I think," said Ian, "that I would have done as much as that. But Alexander Jardine, of course, would not have taken one erring step!"
"Have you done now?"
Glenfernie rose to his feet. He stood against the gulf of air and his great frame seemed enlarged, like the figure of the Brocken. He was like his father, the old laird, but there glowed an extremer dark anger and power. The old laird had made himself the dream-avenger of injuries adopted, not felt at first hand. The present laird knew the wounding, the searing. "All his life my father dreamed of grappling with Grierson of Lagg. My Grierson of Lagg stands before me in the guise of a false friend and lover!... What do I care for your weighing to a scruple how much the heap of wrong falls short of the uttermost? The dire wrong is there, to me the direst! Had I deep affection for you once? Now you speak to me of every treacherous morass, every ignis fatuus, past and present! The traveler through life does right to drain the bogs as they arise—put it out of their power to suck down man, woman, and child! It is not his cause alone. It is the general cause. If there be a God, He approves. Draw your sword and let us fight!"
They fought. The platform of rock was smooth enough for good footing. They had no seconds, unless the shadows upon the hills and the mountain eagles answered for such. Ian was the highly trained fencer, adept of the sword. Glenfernie's knowledge was lesser, more casual. But he had his bleak wrath, a passion that did not blind nor overheat, but burned white, that set him, as it were, in a tingling, crackling arctic air, where the shadows were sharp-edged, the nerves braced and the will steel-tipped. They fought with determination and long—Ian now to save his own life, Alexander for Revenge, whose man he had become. The clash of blade against blade, the shifting of foot upon the rock floor, made the dominant sound upon the mountain-side. The birds stayed silent in the birch-trees. Self-service, pride, anger, jealousy, hatred—the inner vibrations were heavy.
The sword of Ian beat down his antagonist's guard, leaped, and gave a deep wound. Alexander's sword fell from his hand. He staggered and vision darkened. He came to his knees, then sank upon the ground. Ian bent over him. He felt his anger ebb. A kind of compunction seized him. He thought, "Are you so badly hurt, Old Steadfast?"
Alexander looked at him. His lips moved. "Lo, how the wicked prosper! But do you think that Justice will have it so?" The blood gushed; he sank back in a swoon.
On this mountain-side, some distance below the fastness, a stone, displaced by a human foot, rolled down the slope with a clattering sound. The fugitive above heard it, thought, too, that he caught other sounds. He crossed to the nook whence he had view of the way of approach. Far down he saw the redcoats, and then, much nearer, coming out from dwarf woods, still King George's men.
Ian caught up his belt and pistols. He sheathed his sword. "They'll find you and save you, Glenfernie! I do not think that you will die!" Above him sprang the height of crag, seemingly unscalable. But he had been shown the secret, just possible stair. He mounted it. Masked by bushes, it swung around an abutment and rose by ledge and natural tunnel, perilous and dizzy, but the one way out to safety. At last, a hundred feet above the old shelter, he dipped over the crag head to a saucer-like depression walled from all redcoat view by the surmounted rock. With a feeling of triumph he plunged through small firs and heather, and, passing the mountain brow, took the way that should lead him to the next glen.
The laird of Glenfernie, rising from the great chair by the table, moved to the window of the room that had been his father's and mother's, the room where both had died. He remembered the wild night of snow and wind in which his father had left the body. Now it was August, and the light golden upon the grass and the pilgrim cedar. Alexander walked slowly, with a great stick under his hand. Old Bran was dead, but a young Bran stretched himself, wagged his tail, and looked beseechingly at the master.
"I'll let you out," said the latter, "but I am a prisoner; I cannot let myself out!"
He moved haltingly to the door, opened it, and the dog ran forth. Glenfernie returned to the window. "Prisoner." The word brought to his strongly visualizing mind prisoners and prisons through all Britain this summer—shackled prisoners, dark prisons, scaffolds.... He leaned his head against the window-frame.
"O God that my father and my grandfather served—God of old times—of Israel in Egypt! I think that I would release them all if I could—all but one! Not him!" He looked at the cedar. "Who was he, in truth, who planted that, perhaps for a remembrance? And he, and all men, had and have some one deep wrong that shall not be brooked!"
He stood in a brown study until there was a tap at the door. "Come in!"
Alice entered, bearing before her a bowl of flowers of all fair hues and shapes. She herself was like a bright, strong, winsome flower. "To make your room look bonny!" she said, and placed the bowl upon the table. To do so she pushed aside the books. "What a withered, snuff-brown lot! Won't you be glad when you are back in the keep with all the books?"
Glenfernie, wrapped in a brown gown, came with his stick back to the great chair before the books. "Bonny—they are bonny!" he said and touched the flowers. "I've set a week from to-day to be dressed and out of this and back to the keep. Another week, and I shall ride Black Alan."
"Ah," said Alice. "You mustn't determine that you can do it all yourself! There will be the doctor and the wound!"
Alexander took her hands and held them. "You are a fine philosopher! Where is Strickland?"
"Helping Aunt Grizel with accounts. Do you want him?"
"When you go. But not for a long while if you will stay."
Alice regarded him with her mother's shrewdness. "Oh, Glenfernie, for all you've traveled and are so learned, it's not me nor Mr. Strickland, but the moon now that you're wanting! I don't know what your moon is, but it's the moon!"
Alexander laughed. "And is not the moon a beautiful thing?"
"The books say that it is cold and almost dead, wrinkled and ashen. But I've got to go," said Alice, "and I'll send you Mr. Strickland."
Strickland came presently. "You look much stronger this morning, Glenfernie. I'm glad of that! Shall I read to you, or write?"
"Read, I think. My eyes dazzle still when I try. Some strong old thing—the Plutarch there. Read the Brutus."
Strickland read. He thought that now Alexander listened, and that now he had traveled afar. The minutes passed. The flowers smelled sweetly, murmuring sounds came in the open windows. Bran scratched at the door and was admitted. Far off, Alice's voice was heard singing. Strickland read on. The laird of Glenfernie was not at Rome, in the Capitol, by Pompey's statue. He walked with Elspeth Barrow the feathery green glen.
Davie appeared in the door. "A letter, sir, come post." He brought it to Glenfernie's outstretched hand.
"From Edinburgh—from Jamie," said the latter.
Strickland laid down his book and moved to the window. Standing there, his eyes upon the great cedar, massive and tall as though it would build a tower to heaven, his mind left Brutus, Caesar, and Cassius, and played somewhat idly over the British Isles. He was recalled by an exclamation, not loud, but so intense and fierce that it startled like a meteor of the night. He turned. Glenfernie sat still in his great chair, but his features were changed, his mouth working, his eyes shooting light. Strickland advanced toward him.
"Not bad news of Jamie!"
"Not of Jamie! From Jamie." He thrust the letter under the other's eyes. "Read—read it out!"
Strickland read aloud.
"Here is authoritative news. Ian Rullock, after lying two months in the tolbooth, has escaped. A gaoler connived, it is supposed, else it would seem impossible. Galbraith tells me he would certainly have been hanged in September. It is thought that he got to Leith and on board a ship. Three cleared that day—for Rotterdam, for Lisbon, and Virginia."
Alexander took the letter again. "That is all of that import." Strickland once more felt astonishment. Glenfernie's tone was quiet, almost matter-of-fact. The blood had ebbed from his face; he sat there collected, a great quiet on the heels of storm. It was impossible not to admire the power that could with such swiftness exercise control. Strickland hesitated. He wished to speak, but did not know how far he might with wisdom. The laird forestalled him.
"Sit down! This is to be talked over, for again my course of life alters."
Strickland took his chair. He leaned his arm upon the table, his chin upon his hand. He did not look directly at the man opposite, but at the bowl of flowers between them.
"When a man has had joy and lost it, what does he do?" Glenfernie's voice was almost contemplative.
"One man one thing, and one another," said Strickland. "After his nature."
"No. All go seeking it in the teeth of death and horror. That's universal! Joy must be sought. But it may not wear the old face; it may wear another."
"I suppose that true joy has one face."
"When one platonizes—perhaps! I keep to-day to earth, to the cave. Do you know," said Alexander, "why I sit here wounded?"
"Of outward facts I do not know any more than is, I think, pretty generally known through this countryside."
Strickland looked still at the bowl of flowers. "It is known, I think, that you loved Elspeth Barrow and would have wedded her. And that, while you were from home, the man who called himself, and was called by you, your nearest friend, stepped before you—made love to her, betrayed her—and left her to bear the shame.... I myself know that he kept you in ignorance, and that, away from here, he let you still write to him in friendship and answered in that tone.... All know that she drowned herself because of him, and that you knew naught until you yourself entered the Kelpie's Pool and found her body and carried her home.... After that you left the country to find and fight Ian Rullock. Folk know, too, that he evaded you then. You returned. Then came this insurrection, and news that he was in Scotland with the Pretender. You joined the King's forces. Then, after Culloden, you found the false friend in hiding, in the mountains. The two of you fought, and, as is often the way, the injurer seemed again to win. You were dangerously wounded. He fled. Soldiers upon his track found you lying in your blood. You were carried to Inverness. Dickson and I went to you, brought you at last home. In the mean time came news that the man you fought had been taken by the soldiers. I suppose that we have all had visions of him, in prison, expecting to suffer with other conspirators."
"Yes, I have had visions ... outward facts!... Do you know the inner, northern ocean, where sleep all the wrecks?"
"As I have watched you since you were a boy, it is improbable that I should not have some divining power. In Inverness, too, while you were fevered, you talked and talked.... You have walked with Tragedy, felt her net and her strong whip." Strickland lifted his eyes from the bowl, pushed back his chair a little, and looked full at the laird of Glenfernie. "What then? Rise, Glenfernie, and leave her behind! And if you do not now, it will soon be hard for you to do so! Remember, too, that I watched your father—"
"After I find Ian Rullock in Holland or Lisbon or America—"
Strickland made a movement of deep concern. "You have met and fought this man. Do you mean so to nourish vengeance—"
"I mean so to aid and vindicate distressed Justice."
"Is it the way?"
"I think that it is the way."
Strickland was silent, seeing the uselessness. Glenfernie was one to whom conviction must come from within. A stillness held in the room, broken by the laird in the voice that was growing like his father's. "Nothing lacks now but strength, and I am gaining that—will gain it the faster now! Travel—travel!... All my travel was preparatory to this."
"Do you mean," asked Strickland, "to kill him when you find him?"
"I like your directness. But I do not know—I do not know!... I mean to be his following fiend. To have him ever feel me—when he turns his head ever to see me!"
The other sighed sharply. He thought to himself, "Oh, mind, thy abysses!"
Indeed, Glenfernie looked at this moment stronger. He folded Jamie's letter and put it by. He drew the bowl of flowers to him and picked forth a rose. "A week—two at most—and I shall be wholly recovered!" His voice had fiber, decision, even a kind of cheer.
Strickland thought, "It is his fancied remedy, at which he snatches!"
Glenfernie continued: "We'll set to work to-morrow upon long arrangements! With you to manage here, I will not be missed." Without waiting for the morrow he took quill and paper and began to figure.
Strickland watched him. At last he said, "Will you go at once in three ships to Holland, Portugal, and America?"
"Has the onlooker room for irony, while to me it looks so simple? I shall ship first to the likeliest land.... In ten days—in two weeks at most—to Edinburgh—"
Strickland left him figuring and, rising, went to the window. He saw the great cedar, and in mind the pilgrim who planted it there. All the pilgrims—all the crusaders—all the men in Plutarch; the long frieze of them, the full ocean of them ... all the self-search, dressed as search of another. "I, too, I doubt not—I, too!" Buried scenes in his own life rose before Strickland. Behind him scratched Glenfernie's pen, sounded Glenfernie's voice:
"I am going to see presently if I can walk as far as the keep. In two or three days I shall ride. There are things that I shall know when I get to Edinburgh. He would take, if he could, the ship that would land him at the door of France."
Alexander rode across the moors to the glen head. Two or three solitary farers that he met gave him eager good day.
"Are ye getting sae weel, laird? I am glad o' that!"
"Good day, Mr. Jardine! I rejoice to see you recovered. Well, they hung more of them yesterday!"
"Gude day, Glenfernie! It's a bonny morn, and sweet to be living!"
At noon he looked down on the Kelpie's Pool. The air was sweet and fine, bird sounds came from the purple heather. The great blue arch of the sky smiled; even the pool, reflecting day, seemed to have forgotten cold and dread. But for Glenfernie a dull, cold, sick horror overspread the place. He and Black Alan stood still upon the moor brow. Large against the long, clean, horizon sweep, they looked the sun-bathed, stone figures of horse and man, set there long ago, guarding the moor, giving warning of the kelpie.
"None has been found to warn. There is none but the kelpie waits for.... But punish—punish!"
He and Black Alan pushed on to the head of the glen. Here was Mother Binning's cot, and here he dismounted, fastening the horse to the ash-tree. Mother Binning was outdoors, gathering herbs in her apron.
* * * * *
She straightened herself as he stepped toward her. "Eh, laird of Glenfernie, ye gave me a start! I thought ye came out of the ground by the ash-tree!... Wound is healed, and life runs on to another springtime?"
"Yes, it's another springtime.... I do not think that I believe in scrying, Mother Binning. But I'm where I pick up all straws with which to build me a nest! Sit down and scry for me, will you?"
"I canna scry every day, nor every noon, nor every year. What are you wanting to see, Glenfernie?"
"Oh, just my soul's desire!"
Mother Binning turned to her door. She put down the herbs, then brought a pan of water and set it down upon the door-step, and herself beside it. "It helps—onything that's still and clear! Wait till the ripple's gane, and then dinna speak to me. But gin I see onything, it will na be sae great a thing as a soul's desire."
She sat still and he stood still, leaning against the side of her house. Mother Binning sat with fixed gaze. Her lips moved. "There's the white mist. It's clearing."
"Tell me if you see a ship."
"Yes, I see it...."
"Tell me if you see its port."
"Yes, I see."
"Describe it—the houses, the country, the dress and look of the people—"
Mother Binning did so.
"That's not Holland—that would be Lisbon. Look at the ship again, Mother. Look at the sailors. Look at the passengers if there are any. Whom do you see?"
"Ah!" said Mother Binning. "There's a braw wrong-doer for you, sitting drinking Spanish wine!"
"Say his name."
"It's he that once, when you were a lad, you brought alive from the Kelpie's Pool."
"Thank you, Mother! That's what I wanted. Scrying! Who gives to whom—who gives back to whom? The underneath great I, I suppose. Left hand giving to right—and no brand-new news! All the same, other drifts concurring, I think that he fled by the Lisbon ship!"
Mother Binning pushed aside the pan of water and rubbed her hand across her eyes. She took up her bundle of herbs. "Hoot, Glenfernie! do ye think that's your soul's desire?"
Jock came limping around the house. Alexander could not now abide the sight of this cripple who had spied, and had not shot some fashion of arrow! He said good-by and loosed Black Alan from the ash-tree and rode away. He would not tread the glen. His memory recoiled from it as from some Eastern glen of serpents. He and Black Alan went over the moors. And still it was early and he had his body strength back. He rode to Littlefarm.
Robin Greenlaw was in the field, coat off in the gay, warm weather. He came to Glenfernie's side, and the latter dismounted and sat with him under a tree. Greenlaw brought a stone jug and tankard and poured ale.
The laird drank. "That's good, Robin!" He put down the tankard. "Are you still a poet?"
"If I was so once upon a time, I hope I am so still. At any rate, I still make verses. And I see poems that I can never write."
"'Never'—how long a word that is!"
Greenlaw gazed at the workers in the field. "I met Mr. Strickland the other day. He says that you will travel again."
"The Jardine Arms gets it from the Edinburgh road that Ian Rullock made a daring escape."
"He had always ingenuity and a certain sort of physical bravery."
"So has Lucifer, Milton says. But he's not Lucifer."
"No. He is weak and small."
"Well, look Glenfernie! I would not waste my soul chasing him!"
"How dead are you all! You, too, Greenlaw!"
Robin flushed. "No! I hate all that he did that is vile! If all his escaping leads him to violent death, I shall not find it in me to grieve! But all the same, I would not see you narrowed to the wolf-hunter that will never make the wolf less than the wolf! I don't know. I've always thought of you as one who would serve Wisdom and show us her beauty—"
"To me this is now wisdom—this is now beauty. Poets may stay and make poetry, but I go after Ian Rullock!"
"Oh, there's poetry in that, too," said Greenlaw, "because there's nothing in which there isn't poetry! But you're choosing the kind you're not best in, or so it seems to me."
Glenfernie rode from Littlefarm homeward. But the next day he and Black Alan went to Black Hill. Here he saw Mr. Touris alone. That gentleman sat with a shrunken and shriveled look.
"Eh, Glenfernie! I am glad to see that you are yourself again! Well, my sister's son has broken prison."
"Yes, one prison."
"God knows they were all mad! But I could not wish to see him in my dreams, hanging dark from the King's gallows!"
"From the King's gallows and for old, mad, Stewart hopes? I find," said Glenfernie, "that I do not wish that, either. He would have gone for the lesser thing—and the long true, right vengeance been delayed!"
"What is that?" asked Mr. Touris, dully.
"His wrong shall be ever in his mind, and I the painter's brush to paint it there! Give me, O God, the power of genius!"
"Are you going to follow him and kill him?"
"I am going to follow him. At first I thought that I would kill him. But my mind is changing as to that."
Mr. Touris sighed heavily. "I don't know what is the matter with the world.... One does one's best, but all goes wrong. All kinds of hopes and plans.... When I look back to when I was a young man, I wonder.... I set myself an aim in life, to lift me and mine from poverty. I saved for it, denied for it, was faithful. It came about and it's ashes in my mouth! Yet I took it as a trust, and was faithful. What does the Bible say, 'Vanity of vanities'? But I say that the world's made wrong."
Glenfernie left him at last, wrinkled and shrunken and shriveled, cold on a summer day, plying himself with wine, a serving-man mending the fire upon the hearth. Alexander went to Mrs. Alison's parlor. He found her deep chair placed in the garden without, and she herself sitting there, a book in hand, but not read, her form very still, her eyes upon a shaft of light that was making vivid a row of flowers. The book dropped beside her on the grass; she rose quickly. The last time they had met was before Culloden, before Prestonpans.
She came to him. "You're well, Alexander! Thanks be! Sit down, my dear, sit down!" She would have made him take her chair, but he laughed and brought one for himself from the room. "I bless my ancestors for a physical body that will not keep wounds!"
She sank into her chair again and sat in silence, gazing at him. Her clear eyes filled with tears, but she shook them away. At last she spoke: "Oh, I see the other sort of wounds! Alexander! lay hold of the nature that will make them, too, to heal!"
"Saint Alison," he answered, "look full at what went on. Now tell me if those are wounds easy to heal. And tell me if he were not less than a man who pocketed the injury, who said to the injurer, 'Go in peace!'"
She looked at him mournfully. "Is it to pocket the injury? Will not all combine—silently, silently—to teach him at last? Less than man—man—more than man, than to-day's appearing man?... I am not wise. For yourself and the ring of your moment you may be judging inevitably, rightly.... But with what will you overcome—and in overcoming what will you overcome?"
He made a gesture of impatience. "Oh, friend, once I, too, could be metaphysical! I cannot now."
Speech failed between them. They sat with eyes upon the garden, the old tree, the August blue sky, but perhaps they hardly saw these. At last she turned. She had a slender, still youthful figure, an oval, lovely, still young face. Now there was a smile upon her lips, and in her eyes a light deep, touching, maternal.
"Go as you will, hunt him as you will, do what you will! And he, too—Ian! Ian and his sins. Grapes in the wine-press—wheat beneath the flail—ore in the ardent fire, and over all the clouds of wrath! Suffering and making to suffer—sinning and making to sin.... And yet will the dawn come, and yet will you be reconciled!"
"Not while memory holds!"
"Ah, there is so much to remember! Ian has so much and you have so much.... When the great memory comes you will see. But not now, it is apparent, not now! So go if you will and must, Alexander, with the net and the spear!"
"Did he not sin?"
"I also sin. But my sin does not match his! God makes use of instruments, and He shall make use of me!"
"If He 'shall,' then He shall. Let us leave talk of this. Where you go may love and light go, too—and work it out, and work it out!"
He did not stay long in her garden. All Black Hill oppressed him now. The dark crept in upon the light. She saw that it was so.
"He can be friends now with none. He sees in each one a partisan—his own or Ian's." She did not detain him, but when he rose to say good-by helped him to say it without delay.
He went, and she paced her garden, thinking of Ian who had done so great wrong, and Alexander who cried, "My enemy!" She stayed in the garden an hour, and then she turned and went to play piquet with the lonely, shriveled man, her brother.
Two days after this Glenfernie rode to White Farm. Jenny Barrow met him with exclamations.
"Oh, Mr. Alexander! Oh, Glenfernie! And they say that you are amaist as weel as ever—but to me you look twelve years older! Eh, and this warld has brought gray into my hair! Father's gane to kirk session, and Gilian's awa'."
He sat down beside her. Her hands went on paring apples, while her eyes and tongue were busy elsewhere.
"They say you're gaeing to travel."
"Yes. I'm starting very soon."
"It's na said oot—but a kind of whisper's been gaeing around." She hesitated, then, "Are you gaeing after him, Glenfernie?"
Jenny put down her knife and apple. She drew a long breath, so that her bosom heaved under her striped gown. A bright color came into her cheeks. She laughed. "Aweel, I wadna spare him if I were you!"
He sat with her longer than he had done with Mrs. Alison. He felt nearer to her. He could be friends with her, while he moved from the other as from a bloodless wraith. Here breathed freely all the strong vindications! He sat, sincere and strong, and sincere and strong was the countrywoman beside him.
"Oh aye!" said Jenny. "He's a villain, and I wad gie him all that he gave of villainy!"
"That is right," said Alexander, "to look at it simply!" He felt that those were his friends who felt in this as did he.
On the moor, riding homeward, he saw before him Jarvis Barrow. Dismounting, he met the old man beside a cairn, placed there so long ago that there was only an elfin story for the deeds it commemorated.
"Gude day, Glenfernie! So that Hieland traitor did not slay ye?"
Jarvis Barrow, white-headed, strong-featured, far yet, it seemed, from incapacitating old age, took his seat upon a great stone loosened from the mass. He leaned upon his staff; his collie lay at his feet. "Many wad say a lang time, with the healing in it of lang time, since a fause lover sang in the ear of my granddaughter, in the glen there!"
"Aye, many would say it."
"I say 'a fause lover.' But the ane to whom she truly listened is an aulder serpent than he ... wae to her!"
"But I say 'aye!' I am na weak! She that worked evil and looseness, harlotry, strife, and shame, shall she na have her hire? As, Sunday by Sunday, I wad ha' set her in kirk, before the congregation, for the stern rebuking of her sin, so, mak no doubt, the Lord pursues her now! Aye, He shakes His wrath before her eyes! Wherever she turns she sees 'Fornicatress' writ in flames!"
"Where she was mistaken—where, maybe, she was wilfully blind—she must learn. Not the learning better, but the old mistake until it is lost in knowledge, will clothe itself in suffering! But that is but a part of her! If there is error within, there is also Michael within to make it of naught! She releases herself. It is horrible to me to see you angered against her, for you do not discriminate—and you are your Michael, but not hers!"
"Adam is speaking—still the woman's lover! I'm not for contending with you. She tore my heart working folly in my house, and an ill example, and for herself condemnation!"
"Leave her alone! She has had great unhappiness!" He moved the small stones of the cairn with his fingers. "I am going away from Glenfernie."
"Aye. It was in mind that ye would! You and he were great friends."
"The greater foes now."
"I gie ye full understanding there!"
"With my father, those he hated were beyond his touch. So he walked among shadows only. But to me this world is a not unknown wood where roves, alive and insolent, my utter enemy! I can touch him and I will touch him!"
"Not you, but the Lord Wha abides not evil!... How sune will ye be gaeing, Glenfernie?"
"As soon as I can ride far. As soon as everything is in order here. I know that I am going, but I do not know if I am returning."
"I haud na with dueling. It's un-Christian. But mony's the ancient gude man that Jehovah used for sword! Aye, and approved the sword that he used—calling him faithful servant and man after His heart! I am na judging."
From the moor Glenfernie rode through the village. Folk spoke to him, looked after him; children about the doors called to others, "It's tha laird on Black Alan!" Old and young women, distaff or pan or pot or pitcher in hand, turned head, gazed, spoke to themselves or to one another. The Jardine Arms looked out of doors. "He's unco like tha auld laird!" Auld Willy, that was over a hundred, raised a piping voice, "Did ye young things remember Gawin Elliot that was his great-grandfather ye'd be saying, 'Ye might think it was Gawin Elliot that was hangit!'" Mrs. Macmurdo came to her shop door. "Eh, the laird, wi' all the straw of all that's past alight in his heart!"
Alexander answered the "good days," but he did not draw rein. He rode slowly up the steep village street and over the bare waste bit of hill until here was the manse, with the kirk beyond it. Coming out of the manse gate was the minister. Glenfernie checked his mare. All around spread a bare and lonely hilltop. The manse and the kirk and the minister's figure buttressed each the others with a grim strength. The wind swept around them and around Glenfernie.
Mr. M'Nab, standing beside the laird, spoke earnestly. "We rejoice, Glenfernie, that you are about once more! There is the making in you of a grand man, like your father. It would have been down-spiriting if that son of Belial had again triumphed in mischief. The weak would have found it so."
"What is triumph?"
"Ye may well ask that! And yet," said M'Nab, "I know. It is the warm-feeling cloak that Good when it hath been naked wraps around it, seeing the spoiler spoiled and the wicked fallen into the pit that he digged!"
"Aye, the naked Good."
The minister looked afar, a dark glow and energy in his thin face. "They are in prison, and the scaffolds groan—they who would out with the Kirk and a Protestant king and in with the French and popery!"
"Your general wrong," said Glenfernie, "barbed and feathered also for a Scots minister's own inmost nerve! And is not my wrong general likewise? Who hates and punishes falsity, though it were found in his own self, acts for the common good!"
"Aye!" said the minister. "But there must be assurance that God calls you and that you hate the sin and not the sinner!"
"Who assures the assurances? Still it is I!"
Glenfernie rode on. Mr. M'Nab looked after him with a darkling brow. "That was heathenish—!"
Alexander passed kirk and kirkyard. He went home and sat in the room in the keep, under his hand paper upon which he made figures, diagrams, words, and sentences. When the next day came he did not ride, but walked. He walked over the hills, with the kirk spire before him lifting toward a vast, blue serenity. Presently he came in sight of the kirkyard, its gravestones and yew-trees. He had met few persons upon the road, and here on the hilltop held to-day a balmy silence and solitude. As he approached the gate, to which there mounted five ancient, rounded steps of stone, he saw sitting on one of these a woman with a basket of flowers. Nearer still, he found that it was Gilian Barrow.
She waited for him to come up to her. He took his place upon the steps. All around hung still and sunny space. The basket of flowers between them was heaped with marigolds, pinks, and pansies.
"For Elspeth," said Gilian.
"It is almost two years. You have ceased to grieve?"
"Ah no! But one learns how to marry grief and gladness."
"Have you learned that? That is a long lesson. But some are quicker than others or had learned much beforehand.... Where is Elspeth?"
"Oh, she is safe, Glenfernie!"
"I wanted her body safe—safe, warm, in my arms!"
"Spirit and spirit. Meet spirit with spirit!"
"No! I crave and hunger and am cold. Unless I warm myself—unless I warm myself—with anger and hatred!"
"I wish it were not so!"
"I had a friend.... I warm myself now in the hunt of a foe—in his look when he sees me!"
Gilian smote her hands together. "So Elspeth would have loved that! So the smothered God in you loves that!"
"It is the God in me that will punish him!"
"Is it—is it, Glenfernie?"
He made a wide gesture of impatience. "Cold—languid—pithless! You, Robin, Strickland, Alison Touris—"
Gilian looked at her basket of marigolds, pinks, and pansies. "That word death.... I bring these here, but Elspeth is with me everywhere! There is a riddle—there is a strange, huge mistake. She must solve it, she must make that port of all ports—and you and I must make it.... It is a hard, heroic, long adventure!"
"I speak of the pine-tree in the blast, and such as you would give me pansies! I speak of the eagle at the crag-top in the storm, and you offer butterflies!"
"Ah, then, go and kill her lover and the man who was your friend!"
Glenfernie rose from the step, in his face strong anger and denial. He stood, seeking for words, looking down upon the seated woman and her flowers. She met him with parted lips and a straight, fearless look.
"Will you take half the flowers, Glenfernie, and put them for Elspeth?"
"No. I cannot go there now!"
"I thought you would not. Now I am Elspeth. I love her. I would give her gladness—serve her. She says, 'Let him alone! Do you not know that his own weird will bring him into dark countries and light countries, and where he is to go? Is your own tree to be made thwart and misshapen, that his may be reminded that there is rightness of growth? He is a tree—he is not a stone, nor will he become a stone. There is a law a little larger than your fretfulness that will take care of him! I like Glenfernie better when he is not a busybody!'"
Alexander stared at her in anger. "Differences where I thought to find likeness—likenesses where I thought to find differences! He deceived me, fooled me, played upon me as upon a pipe; took my own—"
"Ha!" said Gilian. "So you are going a-hunting for more reasons than one?—Elspeth, Elspeth! come out of it!—for Glenfernie, after all, avenges himself!"
Alexander, looking like his father, spoke slowly, with laboring breath. "Had one asked me, I should have said that you above all might understand. But you, too, betray!" With a sweep of his arms abroad, a gesture abrupt and desolate, he turned. He quitted the sunny bare space, the kirkyard and the woman sitting with her basket of marigolds and pansies.
But two nights later he came to this place alone.
The moon was full. It hung like a wonder lantern above the hill and the kirk; it made the kirkyard cloth of silver. The yews stood unreal, or with a delicate, other reality. It was neither warm nor cold. The moving air neither struck nor caressed, but there breathed a sense of coming and going, unhurried and unperplexed, from far away to far away. The laird of Glenfernie crossed long grass to where, for a hundred years, had been laid the dead from White Farm. There was a mound bare to the sunlight thrown from the moon. He saw the flowers that Gilian had brought.
The flowers were colorless in the moonlight—and yet they could be, and were, clothed with a hue of anger from himself. They lay before him purple-crimson. They were withered, but suddenly they had sap, life, fullness—but a distasteful, reminding life, a life in opposition! He took them and threw them away.
Now the mound rested bare. He lay down beside it. He stretched his arms over it. "Elspeth!"—and "Elspeth!"—and "Elspeth!" But Elspeth did not answer—only the cool sunlight thrown back from the moon.
Ian traveled toward a pass through the Pyrenees. Behind him stretched difficult, hazardous, slow travel—weeks of it. Behind those weeks lay the voyage to Lisbon, and from Lisbon in a second boat north to Vigo. From Vigo to this day of forested slopes and brawling streams, steadily worsening road, ruder dwellings, more primitive, impoverished folk, rolled a time of difficulties small and great, like the mountain pebbles for number. It took will and wit at strain to dissolve them all, and so make way out of Spain into France—through France—to Paris, where were friends.
Spanish travel was difficult at best—Spanish travel with scarcely any gold to travel on found the "best" quite winnowed out. Slow at all times, it grew, lacking money, to be like one of those dreams of retardation. Ian gathered and blew upon his philosophy, and took matters at last with some amusement, at times, even, with a sense of the enjoyable.
He was not quite penniless. Those who had helped in his escape from Edinburgh had provided him gold. But, his voyage paid for, he must buy at Vigo fresh apparel and a horse. When at last he rode eastward and northward he was poor enough! Food and lodging must be bought for himself and his steed. Inns and innkeepers, chance folk applied to for guidance, petty officials in perennially suspicious towns—twenty people a day stood ready to present a spectral aspect of leech and gold-sucker! He was expert in traveling, but usually he had borne a purse quite like that of Fortunatus. Now he must consider that he might presently have to sell his horse—and it was not a steed of Roland's, to bring a great price! He might be compelled to go afoot into France. He might be sufficiently blessed if the millennium did not find him yet living by his wits in Spain. It was Spanish, that prospect! Turn what? Ian asked himself. Bull-fighter—fencing-master— gipsy—or brigand? He played with the notion of fencing-master. But he would have to sell his horse to provide room and equipment, and he must turn aside to some considerable town. Brigand would be easier, in these wild forests and rock fortresses that climbed and stood upon the sky-line. Matter enough for perplexity! But the sweep of forest and mountain wall was admirable—admirable the air, the freedom from the Edinburgh prison. Except occasionally, in the midst of some intensification of annoyance, he rode and maneuvered undetected.
Past happenings might and did come across him in waves. He remembered, he regretted; he pursued a dialectic with various convenient divisions of himself. But all that would be lost for long times in the general miraculous variety of things! On the whole, going through Spain in the autumn weather, even with poverty making mouths alongside, was not a sorry business! Zest lived in pitting vigor and wit against mole hills threatening an aggregation into mountains! As for time, what was it, anyhow, to matter so much? He owned time and a wide world.
Delay and delay and delay. In one town the alcalde kept him a week, denying him the road beyond while inquiries were made as to his identity or non-identity with some famed outlaw escaping from justice. Further on, his horse fell badly lame and he stayed day after day in a miserable village, lounging under a cork-tree, learning patois. There was a girl with great black eyes. He watched her, two or three times spoke to her. But when she saw how he must haggle over the price of food and lodging she laughed, and returned to the side of a muleteer with a sash and little bells upon his hat.
All along the road fell these retardations. Then as the mountains loomed higher, the spirit of contradiction apparently grew tired and fell behind. For several days he traveled quite easily. "My Lady Fortune," asked Ian, "what is up your sleeve?"
The air stayed smiling and sweet. In a town half mountain, half plain, he made friends at the inn with Don Fernando, son of an ancient, proud, decaying house, poor as poverty. Don Fernando had been in Paris, knew by hearsay England, and had heard Scotland mentioned. Spaniard and Scot drank together. The former was drawn into almost love of Ian. Here was a help against boundless ennui! Ian and his horse, and the small mail strapped behind the saddle, finally went off with Don Fernando to spend a week in his old house on the hillside just without the town. Here was poverty also, but yet sufficient acres to set a table and pour good wine and to make the horse forget the famine road behind him. Here were lounging and siesta, rest for body and mind, sweet "do well a very little!" Don Fernando would have kept the guest a second week and then a third.
But Ian shook his head, laughed, embraced him, promised a return of good when the great stream made it possible, and set forth upon his further travel. The horse looked sleek, almost fat. The Scot's jaded wardrobe was cleaned, mended, refreshed. Living with Don Fernando were an elder sister and an ancient cousin who had fallen in love with the big, handsome Don, traveling so oddly. These had set hand-maidens to work, with the result that Ian felt himself spruce as a newly opened pink. And Don Fernando gave him a traveling-cloak—very fine—a last year's gift, it seemed, from a grandee he had obliged. Cold weather was approaching and its warmth would be grateful. Ian's great need was for money in purse. These new friends had so little of that that he chose not to ask for a loan. After all, he could sell the cloak!
The day was fine, the country mounting as it were by stairs toward the mountains. Before him climbed a string of pack-mules. The merchant owning them and their lading traveled with a guard of stout young men. For some hours Ian had the merchant for companion and heard much of the woes of the region and the times, the miseries of travel, the cursed inns, bandits licensed and unlicensed, craft, violence, and robbery! The merchant bewailed all life and kept a hawk eye upon his treasure on the Spanish road. At last he and his guard, his mules and muleteers, turned aside into a skirting way that would bring him to a town visible at no great distance. Left alone, Ian viewed from a hilltop the roofs of this place, with a tower or two starting up like warning fingers. But his road led on through a mountain pass.
The earth itself seemed to be climbing. The mountain shapes, little and big, gathered in herds. Cliffs, ravines, the hoarse song of water, the faces of few human folk, and on these written "Mountains, mountains! Live as we can! Catch who catch can!" After a time the road was deprived of even these faces. The Scot thought of home mountains. He thought of the Highlands. Above him and at some distance to the right appeared a distribution of cliffs that reminded him of that hiding-place after Culloden. He looked to see the birchwood, the wheeling eagle. The sun was at noon. Riding in a solitude, he almost dozed in the warm light. The Highlands and the eagle wheeling above the crag.... Black Hill and Glenfernie and White Farm and Alexander.... Life generally, and all the funny little figures running full tilt, one against another....
His horse sprang violently aside, then stood trembling. Forms, some ragged, some attired with a violent picturesqueness, had started from without a fissure in the wood and from behind a huge wayside rock. Ian knew them at a glance for those brigands of whom he had heard mention and warning enough. Don Fernando had once described their practices.
Resistance was idle. He chose instead a genial patience for his tower, and within it keen wits to keep watch. With his horse he was taken by the fierce, bedizened dozen up a gorge to so complete and secure a robber hold that Nature, when she made it, must have been in robber mood. Here were found yet others of the band, with a bedecked and mustached chief. He was aware that property, not life, answered to their desires. His horse, his fine cloak, his weapons, the small mail and its contents, with any article of his actual wearing they might fancy, and the little, little, little money within his purse—all would be taken. All in the luck! To-day to thee, to-morrow to me. What puzzled him was that evidently more was expected.
When they condescended to direct speech he could understand their language well enough. Nor did they indulge in over-brutal handling; they kept a measure and reminded him sufficiently of old England's own highwaymen. Of course, like old England's own, they would become atrocious if they thought that circumstances indicated it. But they did not seem inclined to go out of their way to be murderous or tormenting. The only sensible course was to take things good-naturedly and as all in the song! The worst that might happen would be that he must proceed to France afoot, without a penny, lacking weapons, Don Fernando's cloak—all things, in short, but the bare clothing he stood in. To make loss as small as possible there were in order suavity, coolness, even gaiety!
And still appeared the perplexing something he could not resolve. The over-fine cloak, the horse now in good condition, might have something to do with it, contrasting as they certainly did with the purse in the last stages of emaciation. And there seemed a studying of his general appearance, of his features, even. Two men in especial appeared detailed to do this. At last his ear caught the word "ransom."
Now there was nobody in Spain knowing enough or caring enough of or for Ian Rullock to entertain the idea of parting with gold pieces in order to save his life. Don Fernando might be glad to see him live, but certainly had not the gold pieces! Moreover, it presently leaked fantastically out that the bandits expected a large ransom. He began to suspect a mistake in identity. That assumption, increasing in weight, became certainty. They looked him all around, they compared notes, they regarded the fine cloak, the refreshed steed. "English, senor, English?"
"Scots. You do not understand that? Cousin to English."
"English. We had word of your traveling—with plenty of gold."
"It is a world of mistakes. I travel, but I have no gold."
"It is a usual lack of memory of the truth. We find it often. You are traveling with escort—with another of your nation, your brother, we suppose. There are servants. You are rich. For some great freak you leave all in the town down there and ride on alone. Foreigners often act like madmen. Perhaps you meant to return to the town. Perhaps to wait for them in the inn below the pass. You have not gold in your purse because there is bountiful gold just behind you. Why hurt the beautiful truth? Sancho and Pedro here were in the inn-yard last night."
Sancho's hoarse voice emerged from the generality. "It was dusk, but we saw you plainly enough, we are sure, senor! In your fine cloak, speaking English, discussing with a big tall man who rode in with you and sat down to supper with you and was of your rank and evidently, we think, your brother or close kinsman!"
The chief nodded. "It is to him that we apply for your ransom. You, senor, shall write the letter, and Sancho and Pedro shall carry it down. It will be placed, without danger to us, in your brother's hand. We have our ways.... Then, in turn, your brother shall ride forth, with a single companion, from the town, and in a clear space that we shall indicate, put the ransom beneath a certain rock, turning his horse at once and returning the way he came. If the gold is put there, as much as we ask, and according to our conditions, you shall go free as a bird, senor, though perhaps with as little luggage as a bird. If we do not receive the ransom—why, then, the life of a bird is a little thing! We shall put you to death."
Ian combated the profound mistake. What was the use? They did not expect him to speak truth, but they were convinced that they had the truth themselves. At last it came, on his part, to a titanic whimsicalness of assent. At least, assenting, he would not die in the immediate hour! Stubbornly refuse to do their bidding, and his thread of life would be cut here and now.
"All events grow to seem unintelligible masks! So why quarrel with one mask more? Pen, ink, and paper?"
All were produced.
"I must write in English?"
"That is understood, senor. Now this—and this—is what you are to write in English."
The captive made a correct guess that not more than one or two of the captors could read Spanish, and none at all English.
"Nevertheless, senor," said the chief, "you will know that if the gold is not put in that place and after that fashion that I tell you, we shall let you die, and that not easily! So we think that you will not make English mistakes any more than Spanish ones."
Ian nodded. He wrote the letter. Sancho put it in his bosom and with Pedro disappeared from the dark ravine. The situation relaxed.
"You shall eat, drink, sleep, and be entirely comfortable, senor, until they return. If they bring the gold you shall pursue your road at your pleasure even with a piece for yourself, for we are nothing if not generous! If they do not bring it, why, then, of course—!"
Ian had long been bedfellow of wild adventure. He thought that he knew the mood in which it was best met. The mood represented the grist of much subtle effort, comparing, adjustment, and readjustment. He cultivated it now. The banditti admired courage, coolness, and good humor. They had provision of food and wine, the sun still shone warm. The robber hold was set amid dark, gipsy beauty.
The sun went down, the moon came up. Ian, lying upon shaggy skins, knew well that to-morrow night—the night after at most—he might not see the sun descend, the moon arise. What then?
Alexander Jardine, sailing from Scotland, came to Lisbon a month after Ian Rullock. He knew the name of the ship that had carried the fugitive, and fortune had it that she was yet in this port, waiting for her return lading. He found the captain, learned that Ian had transhipped north to Vigo. He followed. At Vigo he picked up a further trace and began again to follow. He followed across Spain on the long road to France. He had money, horses, servants when he needed them, skill in travel, a tireless, great frame, a consuming purpose. He made mistakes in roads and rectified them; followed false clues, then turned squarely from them and obtained another leading. He squandered upon the great task of dogging Ian, facing Ian, showing Ian, again and again showing Ian, the wrong that had been done, patience, wealth of kinds, a discovering and prophetic imagination. He traveled until at last here was the earth, climbing, climbing, and before him the forested slopes, the mountain walls, the great partition between Spain and France. An eagle would fly over it, and another eagle would follow him, for a nest had been robbed and a friendship destroyed!
As the mountains enlarged he fell in with an Englishman of rank, a nobleman given to the study of literature and peoples, amateur on the way to connoisseurship, and now traveling in Spain. He journeyed en prince with his secretary and his physician, servants and pack-horses, and, in addition, for at least this part of Spain, an armed escort furnished by the authorities, at his proper cost, against just those banditti dangers that haunted this strip of the globe. This noble found in the laird of Glenfernie a chance-met gentleman worth cultivating and detaining at his side as long as might be. They had been together three or four days when at eve they came to the largest inn of a town set at a short distance from the mountain pass through which ran their further road. Here, at dusk, they dismounted in the inn-yard, about them a staring, commenting crowd. Presently they went to supper together. The Englishman meant to tarry a while in this town to observe certain antiquities. He might stay a week. He urged that his companion of the last few days stay as well. But the laird of Glenfernie could not.
"I have an errand, you see. I am to find something. I must go on."
"Two days, then. You say yourself that your horses need rest."
"They do.... I will stay two days."
But when morning came the secretary and the physician alone appeared at table. The nobleman lay abed with a touch of fever. The physician reported that the trouble was slight—fatigue and a chill taken. A couple of days' repose and his lordship would be himself again.
Glenfernie walked through the town. Returning to the inn, he found that the Englishman had asked for him. For an hour or two he talked or listened, sitting by the nobleman's bed. Leaving him at last, he went below to the inn's great room, half open to the courtyard and all the come and go of the place. It was late afternoon. He sat by a table placed before the window, and the river seemed to flow by him, and now he looked at it from a rocky island, and now he looked elsewhere. The room grew ruddy from the setting sun. An inn servant entered and busied himself about the place. After him came an aged woman, half gipsy, it seemed. She approached the seat by the window. Her worn mantle, her wide sleeve, seemed to touch the deep stone sill. She was gone like a moth. Glenfernie's eye discovered a folded paper lying in the window. It had not been there five minutes earlier. Now it lay before him like a sudden outgrowth from the stone. He put out a hand and took it up. The woman was gone, the serving-man was gone. Outside flowed the river. Alexander unfolded the paper. It was addressed to Senor Nobody. It lay upon his knee, and it was Ian's hand. His lips moved, his vision blurred. Then came steadiness and he read.