The land the two drovers, Robin and Wakefield, are given to temporarily graze their cattle on is negotiated for an exact price that we are not told. All Scott lets us know is that Mr. Ireby, the proprietor, asks Robin for six of his cattle in exchange for the grazing rights, but also plans to pay money for them. We would assume then that the prix juste, as Scott terms it, would be considerably less than what the drovers could get for the cattle on the open market, since Robin is being granted the use of the land. In the meantime, unknown to Robin, Wakefield has also contracted for the use of the same enclosure by applying to the bailiff, in Ireby's absence. This is the source of the dispute that ends the friendship of Wakefield and Robin.
One can thus conclude that, at least figuratively or metaphorically, the two men have traded their friendship for the land on which they wish to graze their droves. In the series of misunderstandings that occur between them, each man makes a tentative effort to reestablish their bond, but their respective standards of fair play differ, a reconciliation is not effected, and the result, tragically, is the death of Wakefield at Robin's hands. Scott sets the tale on the borderlands between England and Scotland, and the mistrust and prejudice still existing between the two nations at that time are part of what leads to the catastrophe. Among the English, the Highlander Robin is the Other. The wounding of his pride leads him to believe his honor can be restored only through the most drastic measure, a revenge in which he plunges his dagger into his friend's heart. When Robin is put on trial he calmly accepts his own guilty verdict as the paying of a life for a life, and is executed. That all of this occurs as the result of a dispute over land is grimly ironic. The story could almost be considered a British counterpart, though with a quite different plot, to Tolstoy's "How Much Land does a Man Need."