No sooner had Donald returned to the Lettoch then he set about making preparations for a supply of malt from the mill of Auchindoun. To accomplish this with any degree of safety he knew it would be necessary to select an evening when the gaugers would be engaged in searching operations in a direction different from that in which his route lay, so that then they would have a clear field to himself. Certainly he had the supervisor’s order for a sack of meal, and surmised he would have little difficulty on his first journey. If, however, he was observed the order would be useless for any subsequent consignment he might want. His idea was to trade on the order until he was overhauled, and then pretend he was only executing it in the first instance, but as will be seen subsequently, 

“The best laid schemes o’ mice and men
Gang aft agley.”

Robert Burns

Donald sallied forth upon Meg in the gloaming of the day he returned, and by taking his way along the Dullan side, the escaped, as he thought, the prying eyes of the ever-watchful officers. He reached the mill in safety, got a sack of malt, and returned to the Lettoch without mishap. The same night he had it converted into wort, and this, again, being rapidly converted into wash in the fermenting vessels.

The succeeding evening he again sallied forth for another sack, and in due course he reached Auchindoun, where we will leave him enjoying a glass of the miller’s “home produce,” while we return to the doings of some of the other parties connected with this veracious narrative.

When Donald returned on the previous night, he thought he had been unobserved, but such was not the case – the lynx eye of the supervisor, who was returning from the Laggan, had seen him passing on his return journey. Remembering the order he had given to Donald on the occasion of the spilling of the meal at the bridge of the Lettoch, and Donald’s disappearance almost immediately afterwards, he presumed he was only now returning with the meal for which he had the order. Still, he was not satisfied with this – he had shrewd suspicion that Donald’s relations with the smuggling fraternity would not bear strict investigations, and he determined, if his suspicions were correct, to verify them.

If Donald only wanted meal from Auchindoun (thus he reasoned), one journey would be sufficient to supply him for the ensuing three months, and therefor he would have no occasion for a further errand during that time. If he repeated the journey, however, inside that time – say in a week – it was evident he wanted something else, and what that “something” was he was determined to find out.

Acting upon this idea, when he reached Dufftown he detailed one of the preventive staff to watch the bridge that spans the Dullan at Crachie, and report to him if Donald passed in the direction of Auchindoun. This man, true to that principle inherent in human nature, which delights man to prey upon his fellow man, watched with the greatest assiduity for Donald’s appearance and his vigil was at last rewarded by the appearance of that individual, mounted on Meg as usual, and proceeding slowly in the expected direction. He was apparently engaged in deep meditation, for his head was bent down and passed along without once raising it. No sooner had he passed than the watcher prepared to return to Dufftown to report to his superior officers, and had just emerged from his hiding-place beside the bridge when another horseman appeared in sight, coming from the direction of the wood opposite the church of Mortlach, and past the place where the Richmond lime kilns are situated.

This was no less a personage than Jock Grant from Pitglassie, who was on his way to Dufftown to bring home a couple of young pigs which he had purchased there a few days previously. Observing the skulking movements of the man, and knowing that he was in some way connected with the gaugers, he determined to have a talk with him, “for’” as he afterwards told Donald, “I kent he was aboot nae guid.”

“Weel, my man,” said Jock, reining up, “are ye waitin’ for onybody? I was jist thinkin’ as I eam’ alang an’ saw ye cowering’ ahint the brig like a poacher waitin’ for a skelp at a maukin, that ye were waitin’ for me.”

“No,” said the man surlily, “I was not waiting for you. The person I was waiting for has passed.” “Passed?” exclaimed Jock interrogatively, “an’ ye didna stop him to hae a crack? That’s mighty strange – waitin’ for a man, and then no’ speakin’ to him when he passes. That cows a’.  Micht I spier wha he was? Perhaps I’ve met him.” “No,” said the man in a still more surly tone, “you have not met him, and you may not ‘spier’ as you call it.”

“Weel, weel,” returned Jock pleasantly, “no offence, but I was aboot to spier at ye if ye wad come up to the inn an’ hae a dram. Ye look awfu’ cauld like there haudi’ up the paprapet o’ the brig wi’ yer shoother.” “I cannot go just now,” returned the man in a more cheerful tone, “as I have business to attend to, but perhaps I might drop in there in about an hour.” “A’ right then, I’ll be there then,” and Jock rode on.

“I wonder wha he was watchin’,” muttered Jock as he rode slowely to the inn. “I must try an’ find oot. Perhaps he’ll speak after a glass or twa. I’ll get some o’ the best whisky I’ the hoose, an’ that’ll gar him speak oot. I’ll be waarant he’ll no’ be lang when he expects a good dram. Why, he continued, as if the idea tickled his fance, “thae billies are as fond o’t as a fish is o’ water – ay, an’ they ken a guid dram as weel as a saumon does pure water.”

He had now arrived at the inn, where he gave his horse to the man in charge of the yard, directing him to put the pigs into a bag with some hay, so that they might be ready to sling across the horse back at his departure, after which he proceeded inside to the landlord. From him he ordered half a mutchkin of the best, and requested to be shown into a private room.

This being done, he told the landlord to bring him a jug of new uncoloured whisky. The landlord looked at him, unable to speak for a few moments from astonishment. When he did find his voice, he exclaimed – “Mercy me, Jock!” hae ye tint yer senses a’ thegither, an’ want tae pushion yersel’.” “Na,” returned Jock Coolly, “but ane o’ the gauger’s men is comin’ to see me, an’ I want to hae the water handy when he wants to dilute his whisky. Ye see, thae gentry folk are sae genteel nebbit that they canna tak’ their whisky neat like ordinar’ Christians.”

“I quite understand ye, Jock, ye want to get some information, but see that ye dinna gi’e him over muckle. I’ll send him in when he comes.”

When the landlord left the room, Jock sat contemplating the half mutchkin stoup for several seconds, then as if a new idea had entered his head, he rose and followed him into the bar, where he found him engaged in drawing the jug of new whisky. “Better,” said Jock in a whisper, “keep it until he sends for the water – it would look more genteel like.” “Very well,” said the landlord, placing the half-filled jug on the counter, “there’s enough in it anyhow.”

Jock had scarcely returned to the room when his acquaintance of the Dullan bridge was ushered in, and plied with strong drink (diluted with a still stronger) for the space of an hour.

There are numerous legends about the vine – the writer has heard at least three – all equally well authenticated, and each is as likely to be the correct one as any of the others.

One legend runs: –

“A certain devout follower of the Prophet was returning from a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, when he found a little plant growing in the arid soil on the wayside. Taking compassion on it in its inhospitable situation, the man of the green turban plucked it up and cast a look about for something to carry it in to a more fertile place. He espied the skeleton of a small bird in which he placed it in and continued his journey. The plant, however, grew too large for it, and he had to place it successively in the skeleton of a lion’s head, and that of an ass.”

The reader can draw the moral.

At the end of two hours Jock Grant rose from the tables, his companion evincing no interest in his departure, and getting his cargo, amid loud lamentations at being disturbed, in front of him on the horse, was soon speeding on his way to meet Donald, who was expected to be returning about this time from Auchindoun.