The laird of Glenfernie was away to Edinburgh on Black Alan, Tam Dickson with him on Whitefoot. Ian Rullock riding Fatima, behind him a Black Hill groom on an iron-gray, came over the moor to the head of the glen. Ian checked the mare. Behind him rolled the moor, with the hollow where lay, water in a deep jade cup, the Kelpie’s Pool. Before him struck down the green feathered cleft, opening out at last into the vale. He could see the water there, and a silver gleam that was White Farm. He sat for a minute, pondering whether he should ride back the way he had come or, giving Fatima to Peter Lindsay, walk through the glen. He looked at his watch, looked, too, at a heap of clouds along the western horizon. The gleam in the vale at last decided him. He left the saddle.
“Take Fatima around to White Farm, Lindsay. I’ll walk through the glen.” His thought was, “I might as well see what like is Alexander’s inamorata!” It was true that he had seen her quite long ago, but time had overlaid the image, or perhaps he had never paid especial note.
Peter Lindsay stooped to catch the reins that the other tossed him. “There’s weather in thae clouds, sir!”
“Not before night, I think. They’re moving very slowly.”
Lindsay turned with the horses. Ian, light of step, resilient, “magnificent,” turned from the purple moor into the shade of birches. A few moments and he was near the cot of Mother Binning. A cock crowed, a feather of blue smoke went up from her peat fire.
He came to her door, meaning to stay but for a good-natured five minutes of gossip. She had lived here forever, set in the picture with ash-tree and boulder. But when he came to the door he found sitting with her, in the checkered space behind the opening, Glenfernie’s inamorata.
Now he remembered her.... He wondered if he had truly ever forgotten her.
When he had received his welcome he sat down upon the door-step. He could have touched Elspeth’s skirt. When she lowered her eyes they rested upon his gold-brown head, upon his hand in a little pool of light.
“Eh, laddie!” said Mother Binning, “but ye grow mair braw each time ye come!”
Elspeth thought him braw. The wishing-green where they danced, hand in hand!... Now she knew—now she knew—why her heart had lain so cold and still—for months, for years, cold and still! That was what hearts did until the sun came.... Definitely, in this hour, for her now, upon this stretch of the mortal path, Ian became the sun.
Ian sat daffing, talking. The old woman listened, her wheel idle; the young woman listened. The young woman, sitting half in shadow, half in light, put up her hand and drew farther over her face the brim of her wide hat of country weave. She wished to hide her eyes, her lips. She sat there pale, and through her ran in fine, innumerable waves human passion and longing, wild courage and trembling humility.