where there was a Stewart to be hurt. If it was otherwise, I would go down to Koalisnacoan whatever, and trust my life into these people’s hands as lightly as I would trust another with my glove.”

“But being so?” said I.

“Being so,” said he, “I would as lief they didnae see me. There’s bad folk everywhere, and what’s far worse, weak ones. So when it comes dark again, I will steal down into that clachan, and set this that I have been making in the window of a good friend of mine, John Breck Maccoll, a bouman1

of Appin’s.”

“With all my heart,” says I; “and if he finds it, what is he to think?”

“Well,” says Alan, “I wish he was a man of more penetration, for by my troth I am afraid he will make little enough of it! But this is what I have in my mind. This cross is something in the nature of the crosstarrie, or fiery cross, which is the signal of gathering in our clans; yet he will know well enough the clan is not to rise, for there it is standing in his window, and no word with it. So he will say to himsel’, The clan is not to rise, but there is something. Then he will see my button, and that was Duncan Stewart’s. And then he will say to himsel’, The son of Duncan is in the heather, and has need of me.”

“Well,” said I, “it may be. But even supposing so, there is a good deal of heather between here and the Forth.”

“And that is a very true word,” says Alan. “But then John Breck will see the sprig of birch and the sprig of pine; and he will say to himsel’ (if he is a man of any penetration at all, which I misdoubt), Alan will be lying in a wood which is both of pines and birches. Then he will think to himsel’, That is not so very rife hereabout; and then he will come and give us a look up in Corrynakiegh. And if he does not, David, the devil may fly away with him, for what I care; for he will no be worth the salt to his porridge.”

“Eh, man,” said I, drolling with him a little, “you’re very ingenious! But would it not be simpler for you to write him a few words in black and white?”

“And that is an excellent observe, Mr. Balfour of Shaws,” says Alan, drolling with me; “and it would certainly be much simpler for me to write to him, but it would be a sore job for John Breck to read it. He would have to go to the school for two-three years; and it’s possible we might be wearied waiting on him.”

So that night Alan carried down his fiery cross and set it in the bouman’s window. He was troubled when he came back; for the dogs had barked and the folk run out from their houses; and he thought he had heard a clatter of arms and seen a red-coat come to one of the doors. On all accounts we lay the next day in the borders of the wood and kept a close look-out, so that if it was John Breck that came we might be ready to guide him, and if it was the red-coats we should have time to get away.

About noon a man was to be spied, straggling up the open side of the mountain in the sun, and looking round him as he came, from under his hand. No sooner had Alan seen him than he whistled; the man turned and came a little towards us: then Alan would give another “peep!” and the man would come still nearer; and so by the sound of whistling, he was guided to the spot where we lay.

He was a ragged, wild, bearded man, about forty, grossly disfigured with the small pox, and looked both dull and savage. Although his English was very bad and broken, yet Alan (according to his very handsome use, whenever I was by) would suffer him to speak no Gaelic. Perhaps the strange language made him appear more backward than he really was; but I thought he had little good-will to serve us, and what he had was the child of terror.

Alan would have had him carry a message to James; but the bouman would hear of no message. “She was forget it,” he said in his screaming voice; and would either have a letter or wash his hands of us.

I thought Alan would be gravelled at that, for we lacked the means of writing in that desert.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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