THE GOLD OF FAIRNILEE. 273
"The good folk have taken ma bairn," she said, "this nicht o' a' the nichts in the year, when the fairy folk—preserve us frae them !— have power. But they could nae take the blessed rood o' grace; it was beyond their strength. If gipsies, or robber folk frae the Debatable Land, had carried away the bairn, they would hae taken him, cross and a'. But the guid folk have gotten him, and Randal Ker will never, never mair come hame to bonny Fairnilee."
What the old nurse said was what everybody thought. Even Simon Grieve shook his head,, and did not like it.
But Lady Ker did not give up hope. She sent horsemen through all the country-side: up Tweed to the Crook, and to Talla; up Yarrow, past Catslack Tower, and on to the Loch of Saint Mary; up Ettrick to Thirlestane and Buccleugh, and over to Gala, and to Branxholme in Teviotdale; and even to Hermitage Castle, far away by Liddel water.
They rode far and rode fast, and at every cottage and every tower they asked " had anyone seen a boy in green ? " But nobody had seen Randal through all the country-side. Only a shepherd lad, on Foulshiels hill, had heard bells ringing in the night, and a sound of laughter go past him, like a breeze of wind over the heather.
Days went by, and all the country was out