The cousins walked upon the moor path together. Gilian was fairer and more strongly made than Elspeth. They walked in silence; then said Robin:
“You’re the old Gilian, but I’m sure I miss the old Elspeth!”
“I think, myself, she’s gone visiting! I rack and rack my brains to find what grief could have come to Elspeth. She will not help me.”
“Gilian, could it be that, after all, her heart is set on the laird?”
“Did you know about that?”
“In part I guessed, watching them together. And then I saw how Glenfernie oldened in a night. Then, being with my uncle one day, he let drop a word that I followed up. I led him on and he told me. Glenfernie acted like a true man.”
“If there’s one thing of which I’m sure it is that she hardly thinks of him from Sunday to Sunday. She thinks then for a little because she sees him in kirk—but that passes, too!”
“Then what is it?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know of anybody else. Maybe no outer thing has anything to do with it. Sometimes we just have drumlie, dreary seasons and we do not know why.... She loves the spring. Maybe when spring comes she’ll be Elspeth once more!”
“I hope so,” said Greenlaw. “Spring makes all the world bonny again.”
That was in November. On Christmas Eve Elspeth Barrow drowned herself in the Kelpie’s Pool.
There had been three hours of light on Christmas Day when Robin Greenlaw appeared at Glenfernie House and would see the laird.
“He’s in his ain room in the keep,” said Davie, and went with the message.
Alexander came down the stair and out into the flagged court. The weather had been unwontedly clement, melting the earlier snows, letting the brown earth forth again for one look about her. To-day there was pale sunlight. Greenlaw sat his big gray. The laird came to him.
“Get down, man, and come in for Christmas cheer!”
“Send Davie away,” said Greenlaw.
Alexander’s gray eyes glanced. “You’re bringing something that is not Christmas cheer!—Davie, tell Dandie Saunderson to saddle Black Alan at once.—Now, Robin!”
“Yesterday,” said Greenlaw, “Elspeth Barrow vanished from White Farm. They wanted to send Christmas fare to old Skene the cotter. She said she would take a basket there, and so she went away, down the stream—about ten of the morning they think it was. It was not for hours that they grew at all anxious. She’s never come back. She did not go to Skene’s. We can hear no word of her from any. Her grandfather and I and the men at White Farm looked for her through the night. This morning there’s an alarm sent up and down the dale.”
“What harm could happen—”
“She might have strayed into some lonely place—fallen—hurt herself. There were gipsies seen the other day over by Windyedge. Or she might have walked on and on upon what road she took, and somehow none chanced to notice her. I am going now to ride the Edinburgh way.”