The day called us about five. A beautiful morning it was, the high westerly wind still blowing strong, but the clouds all blown away to Europe. Alan was already sitting up and smiling to himself. It was my first sight of my friend since we were parted, and I looked upon him with enjoyment. He had still the same big great-coat on his back; but (what was new) he had now a pair of knitted boot-hose drawn above the knee. Doubtless these were intended for disguise; but, as the day promised to be warm, he made a most unseasonable figure.
“Well, Davie,” said he, “is this no a bonny morning? Here is a day that looks the way that a day ought to. This is a great change of it from the belly of my haystack; and while you were there sottering and sleeping I have done a thing that maybe I do over seldom.”
“And what was that?” said I.
“O, just said my prayers,” said he.
“And where are my gentry, as ye call them?” I asked.
“Gude kens,” says he; “and the short and the long of it is that we must take our chance of them. Up with your foot-soles, Davie! Forth, Fortune, once again of it! And a bonny walk we are like to have.”
So we went east by the beach of the sea, towards where the salt-pans were smoking in by the Esk mouth. No doubt there was a by-ordinary bonny blink of morning sun on Arthur’s Seat and the green Pentlands; and the pleasantness of the day appeared to set Alan among nettles.
“I feel like a gomeral,” says he, “to be leaving Scotland on a day like this. It sticks in my head; I would maybe like it better to stay here and hing.”
“Ay, but ye wouldnae, Alan,” said I.
“No but what France is a good place too,” he explained; “but it’s some way no the same. It’s brawer, I believe, but it’s no Scotland. I like it fine when I’m there, man; yet I kind of weary for Scots divots and the Scots peat-reek.”
“If that’s all you have to complain of, Alan, it’s no such great affair,” said I.
“And it sets me ill to be complaining, whatever,” said he, “and me but new out of yon de’il’s haystack.”
“And so you were unco’ weary of your haystack?” I asked.
“Weary’s nae word for it,” said he. “I’m not just precisely a man that’s easily cast down; but I do better with caller air and the lift above my head. I’m like the auld Black Douglas (wasnae’t?) that likit better to hear the laverock sing than the mouse cheep. And yon place, ye see, Davie—whilk was a very suitable place to hide in, as I’m free to own—was pit mirk from dawn to gloaming. There were days (or nights, for how would I tell one from other?) that seemed to me as long as a long winter.”
“How did you know the hour to bide your tryst?” I asked.
“The goodman brought me my meat and a drop brandy, and a candle-dowp to eat it by, about eleeven,” said he. “So, when I had swallowed a bit, it would be time to be getting to the wood. There I lay and wearied for ye sore, Davie,” says he, laying his hand on my shoulder, “and guessed when the two hours would be about by—unless Charlie Stewart would come and tell me on his watch—and then back to the dooms haystack. Na, it was a driech employ, and praise the Lord that I have warstled through with it!”