The walk was not a short one. Daybreak was just behind the east when they came to the long heath-grown hill that faced the house, the purple ridge where as boys they had met. They climbed it, and in the east was light. Beneath them, among the trees, Black Hill showed roof and chimney. Then up the path toward them came Peter Lindsay.
He seemed to come in haste and a kind of fear. When he saw the two he threw up his hands, then violently gestured to them to go back upon their path, drop beneath the hilltop. They obeyed, and he came to them himself, panting, sweat upon him for all the chill night. “Mr. Ian—Laird! Sogers at the house—”
“Twelve of them. They rade in an hour syne. The lieutenant swears ye’re there, Mr. Ian, and they search the house. Didna ye see the lights? Mrs. Alison tauld me to gae warn ye—”
The soldiers, having fruitlessly searched Black Hill, for the present set up quarters there, and searched the neighborhood. They gave a wide cast to that word. It seemed to include all this part of Scotland. Before long they appeared, not unforeseen, at Glenfernie.
The lieutenant was a wiry, wide-nostriled man, determined to please superiors and win promotion. He had now men at the Jardine Arms no less than men at Black Hill. Face to face with the laird of Glenfernie in the latter’s hall, he explained his errand.
“Yes,” said Glenfernie. “I saw you coming up the hill. Will you take wine?”
“To your health, sir!”
“To your health!”
The lieutenant set down the glass and wiped his lips. “I have orders, Mr. Jardine, which I may not disobey.”
“Exactly so, Lieutenant.”
“My duty, therefore, brings me in at your door—though of course I may say that you and your household are hardly under suspicion of harboring a proscribed rebel! A good Whig”—he bowed stiffly—“a volunteer serving with the Duke in the late trouble, and, last but not least, a personal enemy of the man we seek—”
“The catalogue is ample!” said Glenfernie. “But still, having your orders to make no exception, you must search my house. It is at your service. I will show you from room to room.”
Lieutenant and soldiers and laird went through the place, high and low and up and down. “Perfunctory!” said the lieutenant twice. “But we must do as we are told!”
“Yes,” said the laird. “This is my sister’s garden. The small building there is an old school-room.”
They met Alice walking in the garden, in the winter sunshine. Strickland, too, joined them here. Presentations over, the lieutenant again repeated his story.
“Perfunctory, of course, here—perfunctory! The only trace that we think we have we found in a glen near you. There is a cave there that I understand he used to haunt. We found ashes, still warm, where had been a fire. Pity is, the ground is so frozen no footstep shows!”