As the old man had predicted, their sport was but small, but this concerned them little. Thinking that they might be watched, they continued steadily all the afternoon casting and drawing in the nets, until the sun neared the horizon. Then they gathered the nets into the boat and rowed quietly towards the shore. Just as they were abreast the end of the promontory the bell of the chapel began to ring the vespers. A few more strokes and Archie could see the clump of bushes.
“Row quietly now,” he said, still steering toward the village.
He was about a hundred yards distant from the shore of the convent garden. Just as he came abreast of the bushes the foliage was parted and Marjory appeared at the edge of the water. In an instant the boat’s head was turned toward shore, and the three rowers bent to the oars.
A shout from the watchman on the turret showed that he had been watching the boat and that this sudden change of its course had excited his alarm. The shout was repeated again and again as the boat neared the shore, and just as the keel grated on the sand the outer gate was opened and some armed men were seen running into the garden, but they were still two hundred yards away. Marjory leapt lightly into the boat; the men pushed off, and before the retainers of the convent reached the spot the boat was speeding away over the lake. Archie gave up to Marjory his seat in the stern, and himself took an oar.
Loch Leven, though of considerable length, is narrow, and the boat was nearly a third of the way across it before two or three craft were seen putting out from the village in pursuit, and although these gained somewhat, the fugitives reached the other shore a long distance in advance. William Orr and his men were at the landing place, and soon the whole party were hurrying through the wood. They had no fear of instant pursuit, for even in the fast gathering gloom those in the boats would have perceived the accession of force which they had received on landing, and would not venture to follow. But before morning the news of the evasion would spread far and wide, and there would be a hot pursuit among the mountains.
Scarce a word had been spoken in the boat. Marjory was pale and agitated, and Archie thought it best to leave her to herself. On the way through the wood he kept beside her, assisting her over rough places, and occasionally saying a few encouraging words. When darkness had completely set in three or four torches were lit, and they continued their way until midnight. Several times Archie had proposed a halt, but Marjory insisted that she was perfectly able to continue her way for some time longer.
At midnight, however, he halted.
“We will stop here,” he said. “My men have been marching ever since daybreak, and tomorrow we must journey fast and far. I propose that we keep due east for some time and then along by Loch Rannoch, then across the Grampians by the pass of Killiecrankie, when we can make down to Perth, and so to Stirling. The news of your escape will fly fast to the south, and the tracks to Tarbert and the Clyde will all be watched; but if we start at daybreak we shall be far on our way east before they begin to search the hills here; and even if they think of our making in this direction, we shall be at Killiecrankie before they can cut us off.”