“I’m here, father.”
“I’ve been lying here, gaeing up and down in my thoughts, a bairn again with my grandmither, gaeing up and down the braes and by the glen. I want to say somewhat to you. When you see an adder set your heel upon it! When a wolf goes by take your firelock and after him! When a denier and a cheat is near you tell the world as much and help to set the snare! Where there are betrayers and persecutors hunt the wild plant shall make a cup like their ain!” He fell to coughing, coughing more and more violently.
Strickland rose and came to the bedside, and the two watchers gave him water and wine to drink, and would have had him, when the fit was over, cease from all speech. He shook them off.
“Alexander, ye’re like me. Ye’re mair like me than any think! Where ye find your Grierson of Lagg, clench with him—clench—Alexander!”
He coughed, lifting himself in their arms. A blood-vessel broke. Tibbie Ross, answering the calling, hurried in. “Gude with us! it’s the end!” Mrs. Grizel came, wrapped in a great flowered bed-gown. In a few minutes all was over. Strickland and Alexander laid him straight that had been the laird.
The month was May. The laird of Glenfernie, who had walked to the Kelpie’s Pool, now came down the glen. Mother Binning was yet in her cot, though an older woman now and somewhat broken.
“Oh aye, my bonny man! All things die and all things live. To and fro gaes the shuttle!”
Glenfernie sat on the door-stone. She took all the news he could bring, and had her own questions to put.
“How’s the house and all in it?”
“Ye’ve got a bonny sister! Whom will she marry? There’s Abercrombie and Fleming and Ferguson.”
“I do not know. The one she likes the best.”
“And when will ye be marrying yourself?”
“I am not going to marry, Mother. I would marry Wisdom, if I could!”
“Hoot! she stays single! Do ye love the hunt of Wisdom so?”
“Aye, I do. But it’s a long, long chase—and to tell you the truth, at times I think she’s just a wraith! And at times I am lazy and would just sit in the sun and be a fool.”
“Like to-day. And so,” said Alexander, rising, “as I feel that way, I’ll e’en be going on!”
“I’m thinking that maist of the wise have inner tokens by which they ken the fule. I was ne’er afraid of folly,” said Mother Binning. “It’s good growing stuff!”
Glenfernie laughed and left her and the drone of her wheel. A clucking hen and her brood, the cot and its ash-tree, sank from sight. A little longer and he reached the middle glen where the banks approached and the full stream rushed with a manifold sound. Here was the curtain of brier masking the cave that he had shared with Ian. He drew it aside and entered. So much smaller was the place than it had seemed in boyhood! Twice since they came to be men had he been here with Ian, and they had smiled over their cavern, but felt for it a tenderness. In a corner lay the fagots that, the last time, they had gathered with laughter and left here against outlaws’ needs. Ian! He pictured Ian with his soldiers.