“I’m going to write to Pete and bring him here,” he said to the woman. “I don’t suppose you’ll turn me out before he comes.”
She gave him a quiet, searching glance, and her husband seemed to leave the matter to her.
“For a’ his poaching, ye’ll find Pate an honest man,” she answered meaningly.
“So am I; it’s an honest man I want. You have trusted me and I’ll trust you as far as I can when Pete arrives. Shall we leave it until then?”
The woman nodded. “Ye can stay until he ken what yere business is.”
“Thank you,” said Foster, who sat down to write to Pete.
He thought her judgment would be just, if she had not already decided in his favor. Until he came to Scotland, he had never met people who could say so little and mean so much. Moreover, he imagined one could depend upon their standing by all that they implied. They were taciturn but staunch.
Pete arrived in the evening when it was getting dark, and after a meal, which they ate together, Foster moved his chair back from the table and sat opposite his companions. A lamp was burning and the red glow from the peat fire fell on their rough clothing and quiet brown faces as they waited for him to speak. He admitted that what he was about to do was rash. He had no logical reason for trusting these people and perhaps no right to involve them in his difficulties, while the sensible course would be to put the matter in the hands of the police. But this was a course he did not mean to take.
“I sent for you because I want your help and I’m willing to pay for it well,” he said to Pete.
“Just that!” Pete answered quietly. “In an ordinar’ way, I’m no’ verra particular, but before I take the money I’d like to ken how it’s to be earned.”
“As a matter of fact, you won’t get all of it until it is earned and I see how much the job is worth. In the meantime, you can judge, and if necessary go to the police.”
Pete grinned. “They’re no’ the kin’ o’ gentry I hae mony dealings with.”
“What for are ye hiding frae them?” the woman asked.
Foster saw the others’ eyes were fixed on him and he must, to some extent, satisfy their curiosity. He did not think he could have convinced conventional Englishmen, or perhaps Canadians, but these Scots were different. They were certainly not less shrewd than the others, but while sternly practical in many ways they had imagination; moreover, they were descendants of the Border cattle-thieves.
“I’m not really hiding from the police, but from people who have better grounds for fearing them. I owe nobody anything and, so far as I know, have done nobody wrong.”
There was silence for a moment or two and he recognized that his statement was very incomplete, but somehow thought the others did not discredit it.