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CHAPTER 12. I HEAR OF THE "RED FOX" (continued)
"I think he was not the man to leave you rich," said I.
"And that's true," said Alan. "He left me my breeks to cover me, and little besides. And that was how I came to enlist, which was a black spot upon my character at the best of times, and would still be a sore job for me if I fell among the red-coats."
"What," cried I, "were you in the English army?"
"That was I," said Alan. "But I deserted to the right side at Preston Pans -- and that's some comfort."
I could scarcely share this view: holding desertion under arms for an unpardonable fault in honour. But for all I was so young, I was wiser than say my thought. "Dear, dear," says I, "the punishment is death."
"Ay" said he, "if they got hands on me, it would be a short shrift and a lang tow for Alan! But I have the King of France's commission in my pocket, which would aye be some protection."
"I misdoubt it much," said I.
"I have doubts mysel'," said Alan drily.
"And, good heaven, man," cried I, "you that are a condemned rebel, and a deserter, and a man of the French King's -- what tempts ye back into this country? It's a braving of Providence."
"Tut!" says Alan, "I have been back every year since forty-six!"
"And what brings ye, man?" cried I.
"Well, ye see, I weary for my friends and country," said he. "France is a braw place, nae doubt; but I weary for the heather and the deer. And then I have bit things that I attend to. Whiles I pick up a few lads to serve the King of France: recruits, ye see; and that's aye a little money. But the heart of the matter is the business of my chief, Ardshiel."
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