“And if I were so—?”
“Then life alters and there is strong embrace.”
A great stillness lay upon the oasis and the desert around. Men and beasts were sleeping, only these two waking, just here, just now. After a moment the dervish spoke again. “The holder-back is the sense of disunity. Sit fast and gather yourself to yourself.... Then will you find how large is your brood!”
He rose, stood a moment above Glenfernie, then went away. The man whom he left sat on, struck from within by fresh shafts. Perception now came in this way, with inner beam. How huge was the landscape that it lighted up!... Alexander sat still. He bent his head—there was a sense, extending to the physical, of a broken shell, of escape, freedom.... He found that he was weeping. He lay upon the sand, and the tears came as they might from a young boy. When they were past, when he lifted himself again, the morning star was in the sky.
Strickland, in the deep summer glen, saw before him the feather of smoke from Mother Binning’s cot. The singing stream ran clearly, the sky arched blue above. The air held calm and fine, filled as it were with golden points. He met a white hen and her brood, he heard the slow drone of Mother Binning’s wheel. She sat in the doorway, an old wise wife, active still.
“Eh, mon, and it’s you!—Wish, and afttimes ye’ll get!” She pushed her wheel aside. “I’ve had a feeling a’ the day!”
Strickland leaned against her ash-tree. “It’s high summer, Mother—one of the poised, blissful days.”
“Aye. I’ve a feeling.... Hae ye ony news at the House?”
“Alice sings beautifully this summer. Jamie is marrying down in England—beauty and worth he says, and they say.”
“Miss Alice doesna marry?”
“She’s not the marrying kind, she says.”
“Eh, then! She’s bonny and gude, juist the same! Did ye come by White Farm?”
“Yes. Jarvis Barrow fails. He sits under his fir-tree, with his Bible beside him and his eyes on the hills. Littlefarm manages now for White Farm.”
“Robin’s sunny and keen. But he aye irked Jarvis with his profane sangs.” She drew out the adjective with a humorous downward drag of her lip.
Strickland smiled. “The old man’s softer now. You see that by the places at which his Bible opens.”
“Oh aye! We’re journeyers—rock and tree and Kelpie’s Pool with the rest of us.”
She seemed to catch her own speech and look at it. “That’s a word I hae been wanting the morn!—The Kelpie’s Pool, with the moor sae green and purple around it.” She sat bent forward, her wrinkled hands in her lap, her eyes, rather wide, fixed upon the ash-tree.
“We have not heard from the laird,” said Strickland, “this long time.”
“The laird—now there! What ye want further comes when the mind strains and then waits! I see in one ring the day and Glenfernie and yonder water. Wherever the laird be, he thinks to-day of Scotland.”