Chapter VII The Cave in the Pentlands
John Kerr was well nigh beside himself with fury.
If this was to go on, the whole of his estate would be harried, his vassals ruined, and his revenues stopped, and this by a mere handful of foes. Again he started with his vassals to explore the hills, this time in parties of ten only, so as to explore thoroughly a larger space of ground. When at evening the men returned, it was found that but two men of one of the parties, composed entirely of men-at-arms from the castle, came back. They reported that when in a narrow ravine showers of rocks were hurled down upon them from both sides. Four of their number were killed at once, and four others had fallen pierced by arrows from an unseen foe as they fled back down the ravine.
“Methinks, Sir John,” Red Roy said, “that I know the place where the Forbeses may have taken up their abode. When I was a boy I was tending a herd of goats far up in the hills, and near the pass where this mischance has today befallen us I found a cave in the mountain’s side. Its entrance was hidden by bushes, and I should not have found it had not one of the goats entered the bush and remained there so long that I went to see what he was doing. There I found a cave. The entrance was but three feet high, but inside it widened out into a great cavern, where fifty men could shelter. Perchance Archie Forbes or some of his band may also have discovered it; and if so, they might well think that no better place of concealment could be found.”
“We will search it tomorrow,” the knight said. “Tell the vassals to gather here three hours before daybreak. We will start so as to be there soon after sunrise. If they are on foot again tonight they will then be asleep. Did you follow the cave and discover whether it had any other entrances beyond that by which you entered?”
“I know not,” the henchman replied; “it goes a long way into the hills, and there are several inner passages; but these I did not explore, for I was alone and feared being lost in them.”
The next night some more homesteads were burnt, but this time the vassals did not turn out, as they had been told to rest until the appointed hour whatever might befall.