They spoke together once more in the Gaelic.
“He says he has James More my father’s errand,” said she. She was whiter than ever, and her voice faltered as she said it.
“It is pretty plain now,” said I, “and may God forgive the wicked!”
She said never anything to that, but continued gazing at me with the same white face.
“This is a fine business,” said I again. “Am I to fall, then, and those two along with me?”
“O, what am I to do?” she cried. “Could I go against my father’s orders, and him in prison, in the danger of his life?”
“But perhaps we go too fast,” said I. “This may be a lie too. He may have no right orders; all may be contrived by Symon, and your father knowing nothing.”
She burst out weeping between the pair of us; and my heart smote me hard, for I thought this girl was in a dreadful situation.
“Here,” said I, “keep him but the one hour; and I’ll chance it, and say God bless you.”
She put out her hand to me. “I will be needing one good word,” she sobbed.
“The full hour, then?” said I, keeping her hand in mine. “Three lives of it, my lass!”
“The full hour!” she said, and cried aloud on her Redeemer to forgive her.
I thought it no fit place for me, and fled.
* * * * *
THE WOOD BY SILVERMILLS
I lost no time, but down through the valley and by Stockbrig and Silvermills as hard as I could stave. It was Alan’s tryst to lie every night between twelve and two “in a bit scrog of wood by east of Silvermills and by south the south mill-lade.” This I found easy enough, where it grew on a steep brae, with the mill-lade flowing swift and deep along the foot of it; and here I began to walk slower and to reflect more reasonably on my employment. I saw I had made but a fool’s bargain with Catriona. It was not to be supposed that Neil was sent alone upon his errand, but perhaps he was the only man belonging to James More; in which case, I should have done all I could to hang Catriona’s father, and nothing the least material to help myself. To tell the truth, I fancied neither one of these ideas. Suppose, by holding back Neil, the girl should have helped to hang her father, I thought she would never forgive herself this side of time. And suppose there were others pursuing me that moment, what kind of a gift was I come bringing to Alan? and how would I like that?
I was up with the west end of that wood when these two considerations struck me like a cudgel. My feet stopped of themselves and my heart along with them. “What wild game is this that I have been playing?” thought I; and turned instantly upon my heels to go elsewhere.
This brought my face to Silvermills; the path came past the village with a crook, but all plainly visible; and, Highland or Lowland, there was nobody stirring. Here was my advantage, here was just such a conjuncture as Stewart had counselled me to profit by, and I ran by the side of the mill-lade, fetched about beyond the east corner of the wood, threaded through the midst of it, and returned to the west selvage, whence I could again command the path, and yet be myself unseen. Again it was all empty, and my heart began to rise.