“I didn’t do much towards making them fat myself,” replied Turnbull, genially, “but I flatter myself that I am now doing something towards making them thin. You’ll see they will be as lean as rakes by the time they catch us. They will look like your friend, Cardinal Manning.”
“But they won’t catch us,” said MacIan, in his literal way.
“No, we beat them in the great military art of running away,” returned the other. “They won’t catch us unless——”
MacIan turned his long equine face inquiringly. “Unless what?” he said, for Turnbull had gone silent suddenly, and seemed to be listening intently as he ran as a horse does with his ears turned back.
“Unless what?” repeated the Highlander.
“Unless they do—what they have done. Listen.” MacIan slackened his trot, and turned his head to the trail they had left behind them. Across two or three billows of the up and down lane came along the ground the unmistakable throbbing of horses’ hoofs.
“They have put the mounted police on us,” said Turnbull, shortly. “Good Lord, one would think we were a Revolution.”
“So we are,” said MacIan calmly. “What shall we do? Shall we turn on them with our points?”
“It may come to that,” answered Turnbull, “though if it does, I reckon that will be the last act. We must put it off if we can.” And he stared and peered about him between the bushes. “If we could hide somewhere the beasts might go by us,” he said. “The police have their faults, but thank God they’re inefficient. Why, here’s the very thing. Be quick and quiet. Follow me.”
He suddenly swung himself up the high bank on one side of the lane. It was almost as high and smooth as a wall, and on the top of it the black hedge stood out over them as an angle, almost like a thatched roof of the lane. And the burning evening sky looked down at them through the tangle with red eyes as of an army of goblins.
Turnbull hoisted himself up and broke the hedge with his body. As his head and shoulders rose above it they turned to flame in the full glow as if lit up by an immense firelight. His red hair and beard looked almost scarlet, and his pale face as bright as a boy’s. Something violent, something that was at once love and hatred, surged in the strange heart of the Gael below him. He had an unutterable sense of epic importance, as if he were somehow lifting all humanity into a prouder and more passionate region of the air. As he swung himself up also into the evening light he felt as if he were rising on enormous wings.
Legends of the morning of the world which he had heard in childhood or read in youth came back upon him in a cloudy splendour, purple tales of wrath and friendship, like Roland and Oliver, or Balin and Balan, reminding him of emotional entanglements. Men who had loved each other and then fought each other; men who had fought each other and then loved each other, together made a mixed but monstrous sense of momentousness. The crimson seas of the sunset seemed to him like a bursting out of some sacred blood, as if the heart of the world had broken.