“It would aye be a satisfaction though,” says Alan. “But bide a bit, bide a bit; I’m thinking—and thanks to this bonny westland wind, I believe I’ve still a chance of it. It’s this way, Davie. I’m no trysted with this man Scougal till the gloaming comes. But,” says he, “if I can get a bit of a wind out of the west I’ll be there long or that,” he says, “and lie-to for ye behind the Isle of Fidra. Now if your gentry kens the place, they ken the time forbye. Do ye see me coming, Davie? Thanks to Johnnie Cope and other red-coat gomerals, I should ken this country like the back of my hand; and if ye’re ready for another bit run with Alan Breck, we’ll can cast back inshore, and come down to the seaside again by Dirleton. If the ship’s there, we’ll try and get on board of her. If she’s no there, I’ll just have to get back to my weary haystack. But either way of it, I think we will leave your gentry whistling on their thumbs.”
“I believe there’s some chance in it,” said I. “Have on with ye, Alan!”
* * * * *
I did not profit by Alan’s pilotage as he had done by his marchings under General Cope; for I can scarce tell what way we went. It is my excuse that we travelled exceeding fast. Some part we ran, some trotted, and the rest walked at a vengeance of a pace. Twice, while we were at top speed, we ran against country-folk; but though we plumped into the first from round a corner, Alan was as ready as a loaded musket.
“Hae ye seen my horse?” he gasped.
“Na, man, I haenae seen nae horse the day,” replied the countryman.
And Alan spared the time to explain to him that we were travelling “ride and tie”; that our charger had escaped, and it was feared he had gone home to Linton. Not only that, but he expended some breath (of which he had not very much left) to curse his own misfortune and my stupidity which was said to be its cause.
“Them that cannae tell the truth,” he observed to myself as we went on again, “should be aye mindfu’ to leave an honest, handy lee behind them. If folk dinnae ken what ye’re doing, Davie, they’re terrible taken up with it; but if they think they ken, they care nae mair for it than what I do for pease porridge.”
As we had first made inland, so our road came in the end to lie very near due north; the old Kirk of Aberlady for a landmark on the left; on the right, the top of the Berwick Law; and it was thus we struck the shore again, not far from Dirleton. From North Berwick west to Gillane Ness there runs a string of four small islets, Craiglieth, the Lamb, Fidra, and Eyebrough, notable by their diversity of size and shape. Fidra is the most particular, being a strange grey islet of two humps, made the more conspicuous by a piece of ruin; and I mind that (as we drew closer to it) by some door or window of these ruins the sea peeped through like a man’s eye. Under the lee of Fidra there is a good anchorage in westerly winds, and there, from a far way off, we could see the Thistle riding.