was the thunder of the feet of a vast host of men, and now and then a voice came faintly, though whence we knew not, for nothing confuses sound so much as fog.
"The Scots!" said Alan, turning to me with his eyes shining under his helm.
"It is not possible," I said; "how could they find their way through this mist?"
"Any shepherd they have caught could guide them. Anyhow, we must see if I am right."
"Let us ride back to camp and give the alarm," I said.
"And be laughed at—for every one would say as you, that it is not possible. And all believe that the foe has halted. Bide here while I ride on, and if I shout 'De Courci!' ride back for your life and give the alarm."
"Faith," said I, "where you go, I go. If we cannot see them, neither can they see us. We may get near enough to hear what tongue they speak, and that is all we need."
"Come then," said Alan.
So we rode, as the keener senses of our horses bade us, down the hill towards our right more or less. We had to leave the pathway, but in returning we could not miss it if we breasted the hill anywhere, for it ran all along its crest. At the foot of the long hill we stayed again and listened, and now the sound of the marching host was deadened, because they were yet beyond some rising land.
What happened next was sudden, and took us unawares, for all the warning we had was a little crackle of deerskin-shod feet, and the snorting and restlessness of our horses.
Out of the mist seemed to grow half-a-dozen men silently and swiftly, and for a moment I sat and stared at them in amazement. They were the wild scouts of the enemy, the tartan-clad Pictish men of Galloway, belted with long claymores, shield on back, and spear or pole-axe in hand.