As I went I remember that always a little ahead I seemed to hear the merry lilt of Ringan’s whistling.
I SUFFER THE HEATHEN’S RAGE
As I stumbled through the moonlit forest I heard Ringan’s tunes ever crooning among the trees. First it was the old mad march of “Bundle and go,” which the pipers play when the clans are rising. Then it changed to the lilt of “Colin’s Cattle,” which is an air that the fairies made, and sung in the ear of a shepherd who fell asleep in one of their holy places. And then it lost all mortal form, and became a thing as faint as the wind in the tree-tops or the humming of bees in clover. My weary legs stepped out to this wizard music, and the spell of it lulled my fevered thoughts into the dull patience of the desperate.
At an open space where I could see the sky I tried to take further bearings. I must move south-east by east, and in time I must come to Lawrence. I do not think I had any hope of getting there, for I knew that long ere this the man who escaped must have returned with others, and that now they would be hot on my trail. What could one lad do in a wide woodland against the cunningest trackers on earth? But Ringan had praised my courage, and I could not fail him. I should go on till I died, and I did not think that would be very long. My pistols, re-loaded, pressed against my side, and Ringan’s sword swung by my thigh. I was determined to make a good ending, since that was all now left to me. In that hour I had forgotten about everything—about the peril of Virginia, even about Elspeth and the others in the fort on the hill-top. There comes a time to every one when the world narrows for him to a strait alley, with Death at the end of it, and all his thoughts are fixed on that waiting enemy of mankind.
My senses were blunted, and I took no note of the noises of the forest. As I passed down a ravine a stone dropped behind me, but I did not pause to wonder why. A twig crackled on my left, but it did not disquiet me, and there was a rustling in the thicket which was not the breeze. I marked nothing, as I plodded on with vacant mind and eye. So when I tripped on a vine and fell, I was scarcely surprised when I found I could not rise. Men had sprung up silently around me, and I was pinned by many hands.
They trussed me with ropes, binding my hands cruelly behind my back, and swathing my legs till not a muscle could move. My pistols hung idle, and the ropes drove the hafts into my flesh. This is the end, thought I, and I did not even grieve at my impotence. My courage now was of the passive kind, not to act but to endure. Always I kept telling myself that I must be brave, for Ringan had praised my courage, and I had a conviction that nothing that man could do would shake me. Thanks be to God, my quick fancy was dulled, and I did not try to look into the future. I lived for the moment, and I was resolved that the moment should find me unmoved.