Foster frowned, because this was the road he meant to take next day, and if his pursuers did so now, it would be because they expected him to make for the Garth. They were, however, in front, where he would sooner have them than behind, and he set off down the valley for Hexham. He found the old Border town, clustering round the tall dark mass of the abbey, strangely picturesque; the ancient Moot Hall and market square invited his interest, but he shrank from wandering about the streets in the dark. Now he had Graham’s checks, he must be careful; moreover his knapsack and leggings made him conspicuous, and he went to a big red hotel.
He sent Pete to an inn farther on, because it seemed advisable that they should not be seen together, although he would have liked to know the man was about. After dinner, he sat in a quiet nook in the smoking-room, reading the newspapers and keeping his gloved hand out of sight, until it was time to go to bed.
About eleven o’clock next morning Foster stopped at the top of a hill and sitting down on a broken wall lighted his pipe. In front, the undulating military road ran straight across the high tableland to the west. To the south, a deep hollow, the bottom of which he could not see, marked the course of the Tyne. Plumes of smoke rose out of the valley and trailed languidly across the sky, for the river flowed past well-cultivated fields, old-fashioned villages, and rows of sooty cottages that clustered round pithead towers. Human activity had set its stamp upon the sheltered dale, alike in scenes of quiet pastoral beauty and industrial ugliness.
It was different to the north, where the shaggy moors rolled back in bleak, dark ridges. There were no white farmsteads here; one looked across a lonely waste that had sheltered the wolf and the lurking Pict when the Romans manned the Wall, and long afterwards offered a refuge to outlaws and cattle thieves. Foster’s way led through this desolation, but his map indicated a road of a kind that ran north to the head of Liddel. He must decide whether he should take it or plunge into the wilds.
Since Graham was in front of him, he had probably gone to Liddesdale, with the object of finding if Foster was at the Garth. If he did not come back by the road he had taken, he would watch the railway that roughly followed it across the moors from Hexham, which seemed to close the latter to Foster and make it dangerous for him to go near the Garth at all. Nevertheless he meant to see Alice before he looked for Daly, and he turned to Pete.
“On the whole, I’d sooner keep off the road. Is there a way across the heath to the upper Liddel?”
“I wouldna’ say there’s a way,” Pete answered with a dry smile. “But I can take ye ower the Spadeadam waste, if ye do not mind the soft flows and some verra rough traiveling. Then I’ll no’ promise that we’ll win farther than Bewcastle to-night, an’ if there’s much water in the burns, we’ll maybe no’ get there.”