But the bouman, after feeling about in a hairy purse that hung in front of him in the Highland manner (though he wore otherwise the Lowland habit, with sea-trousers), began to roll his eyes strangely, and at last said, “Her nainsel will loss it,” meaning he thought he had lost it.
“What!” cried Alan, “you will lose my button, that was my father’s before me? Now I will tell you what is in my mind, John Breck: it is in my mind this is the worst day’s work that ever ye did since ye was born.”
And as Alan spoke, he set his hands on his knees and looked at the bouman with a smiling mouth, and that dancing light in his eyes that meant mischief to his enemies.
Perhaps the bouman was honest enough; perhaps he had meant to cheat and then, finding himself alone with two of us in a desert place, cast back to honesty as being safer; at least, and all at once, he seemed to find that button and handed it to Alan.
“Well, and it is a good thing for the honour of the Maccolls,” said Alan, and then to me, “Here is my button back again, and I thank you for parting with it, which is of a piece with all your friendships to me.” Then he took the warmest parting of the bouman. “For,” says he, “ye have done very well by me, and set your neck at a venture, and I will always give you the name of a good man.”
Lastly, the bouman took himself off by one way; and Alan I (getting our chattels together) struck into another to resume our flight.
THE FLIGHT IN THE HEATHER: THE MOOR
Some seven hours’ incessant, hard travelling brought us early in the morning to the end of a range of mountains. In front of us there lay a piece of low, broken, desert land, which we must now cross. The sun was not long up, and shone straight in our eyes; a little, thin mist went up from the face of the moorland like a smoke; so that (as Alan said) there might have been twenty squadron of dragoons there and we none the wiser.
We sat down, therefore, in a howe of the hill-side till the mist should have risen, and made ourselves a dish of drammach, and held a council of war.
“David,” said Alan, “this is the kittle bit. Shall we lie here till it comes night, or shall we risk it, and stave on ahead?”
“Well,” said I, “I am tired indeed, but I could walk as far again, if that was all.”
“Ay, but it isnae,” said Alan, “nor yet the half. This is how we stand: Appin’s fair death to us. To the south it’s all Campbells, and no to be thought of. To the north; well, there’s no muckle to be gained by going north; neither for you, that wants to get to Queensferry, nor yet for me, that wants to get to France. Well, then, we’ll can strike east.”
“East be it!” says I, quite cheerily; but I was thinking in to myself: “O, man, if you would only take one point of the compass and let me take any other, it would be the best for both of us.”