by Robert Louis Stevenson
KIDNAPPED BEING MEMOIRS OF THE ADVENTURES OF DAVID BALFOUR
IN THE YEAR 1751. HOW HE WAS KIDNAPPED AND CAST AWAY;
HIS SUFFERINGS IN A DESERT ISLE; HIS JOURNEY IN THE WILD HIGHLANDS;
HIS ACQUAINTANCE WITH ALAN BRECK STEWART AND OTHER NOTORIOUS HIGHLAND JACOBITES;
WITH ALL THAT HE SUFFERED AT THE HANDS OF HIS UNCLE, EBENEZER BALFOUR OF
SHAWS, FALSELY SO CALLED
WRITTEN BY HIMSELF AND NOW SET FORTH BY
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
I I SET OFF UPON MY JOURNEY TO THE HOUSE OF SHAWS
II I COME TO MY JOURNEY'S END.
III I MAKE ACQUAINTANCE OF MY UNCLE .
IV I RUN A GREAT DANGER IN THE HOUSE OF SHAWS .
V I GO TO THE QUEEN'S FERRY .
VI WHAT BEFELL AT THE QUEEN'S FERRY.
VII I GO TO SEA IN THE BRIG "COVENANT" OF DYSART.
VIII THE ROUND-HOUSE .
IX THE MAN WITH THE BELT OF GOLD .
X THE SIEGE OF THE ROUND-HOUSE.
XI THE CAPTAIN KNUCKLES UNDER.
XII I HEAR OF THE "RED FOX" .
XIII THE LOSS OF THE BRIG.
XIV THE ISLET .
XV THE LAD WITH THE SILVER BUTTON: THROUGH THE ISLE OF
XVI THE LAD WITH THE SILVER BUTTON: ACROSS MORVEN.
XVII THE DEATH OF THE RED FOX .
XVIIII TALK WITH ALAN IN THE WOOD OF LETTERMORE.
XIX THE HOUSE OF FEAR .
XX THE FLIGHT IN THE HEATHER: THE ROCKS.
XXI THE FLIGHT IN THE HEATHER: THE HEUGH OF CORRYNAKIEGH
XXII THE FLIGHT IN THE HEATHER: THE MOOR .
XXIII CLUNY'S CAGE.
XXIV THE FLIGHT IN THE HEATHER: THE QUARREL.
XXV IN BALQUHIDDER.
XXVI END OF THE FLIGHT: WE PASS THE FORTH.
XXVII I COME TO MRRANKEILLOR.
XXVIII I GO IN QUEST OF MY INHERITANCE .
XXIX I COME INTO MY KINGDOM.
I SET OFF UPON MY JOURNEY TO THE HOUSE OF SHAWS
I WILL begin the story of my adventures with a certain morning
early in the month of June, the year of grace 1751, when I took
the key for the last time out of the door of my father's house.
The sun began to shine upon the summit of the hills as I went
down the road; and by the time I had come as far as the manse,
the blackbirds were whistling in the garden lilacs, and the mist
that hung around the valley in the time of the dawn was
beginning to arise and die away.
Mr. Campbell, the minister of Essendean, was waiting for me
by the garden gate, good man! He asked me if I had breakfasted;
and hearing that I lacked for nothing, he took my hand in both
of his and clapped it kindly under his arm.
"Well, Davie, lad," said he, "I will go with you as far as
the ford, to set you on the way." And we began to walk forward
"Are ye sorry to leave Essendean?" said he, after awhile.
"Why, sir," said I, "if I knew where I was going, or what
likely to become of me, I would tell you candidly. Essendean is
a good place indeed, and I have been very happy there; but then
I have never been anywhere else. My father and mother, since
they are both dead, I shall be no nearer to in Essendean than in
the Kingdom of Hungary, and, to speak truth, if I thought I had
a chance to better myself where I was going I would go with a
"Ay?" said Mr. Campbell. "Very well, Davie. Then it behoves
me to tell your fortune; or so far as I may. When your mother
was gone, and your father (the worthy, Christian man) began to
sicken for his end, he gave me in charge a certain letter, which
he said was your inheritance. 'So soon,' says he, 'as I am gone,
and the house is redd up and the gear disposed of' (all which,
Davie, hath been done), 'give my boy this letter into his hand,
and start him off to the house of Shaws, not far from Cramond.
That is the place I came from,' he said, 'and it's where it
befits that my boy should return. He is a steady lad,' your
father said, 'and a canny goer; and I doubt not he will come
safe, and be well lived where he goes.'"
"The house of Shaws!" I cried. "What had my poor father to
do with the house of Shaws?"
"Nay," said Mr. Campbell, "who can tell that for a surety?
But the name of that family, Davie, boy, is the name you bear --
Balfours of Shaws: an ancient, honest, reputable house,
peradventure in these latter days decayed. Your father, too, was
a man of learning as befitted his position; no man more
plausibly conducted school; nor had he the manner or the speech
of a common dominie; but (as ye will yourself remember) I took
aye a pleasure to have him to the manse to meet the gentry" and
those of my own house, Campbell of Kilrennet, Campbell of
Dunswire, Campbell of Minch, and others, all well-kenned
gentlemen, had pleasure in his society. Lastly, to put all the
elements of this affair before you, here is the testamentary
letter itself, superscrived by the own hand of our departed
He gave me the letter, which was addressed in these words:
"To the hands of Ebenezer Balfour, Esquire, of Shaws, in his
house of Shaws, these will be delivered by my son, David
Balfour." My heart was beating hard at this great prospect now
suddenly opening before a lad of seventeen years of age, the son
of a poor country dominie in the Forest of Ettrick.
"Mr. Campbell," I stammered, "and if you were in my shoes,
would you go?"
"Of a surety," said the minister, "that would I, and
without pause. A pretty lad like you should get to Cramond
(which is near in by Edinburgh) in two days of walk. If the
worst came to the worst, and your high relations (as I cannot
but suppose them to be somewhat of your blood) should put you to
the door, ye can but walk the two days back again and risp at
the manse door. But I would rather hope that ye shall be well
received, as your poor father forecast for you, and for anything
that I ken come to be a great man in time. And here, Davie,
laddie," he resumed, "it lies near upon my conscience to improve
this parting, and set you on the right guard against the dangers
of the world."
Here he cast about for a comfortable seat, lighted on a big
boulder under a birch by the trackside, sate down upon it with
a very long, serious upper lip, and the sun now shining in upon
us between two peaks, put his pocket-handkerchief over his
cocked hat to shelter him. There, then, with uplifted
forefinger, he first put me on my guard against a considerable
number of heresies, to which I had no temptation, and urged upon
me to be instant in my prayers and reading of the Bible. That
done, he drew a picture of the great house that I was bound to,
and how I should conduct myself with its inhabitants.
"Be soople, Davie, in things immaterial," said he." Bear
this in mind, that, though gentle born, ye have had a country
rearing. Dinnae shame us, Davie, dinnae shame us In yon great,
muckle house, with all these domestics, upper and under, show
yourself as nice, as circumspect, as quick at the conception,
and as slow of speech as any. As for the laird -- remember he's
the laird; I say no more: honour to whom honour. It's a pleasure
to obey a laird; or should be, to the young."
"Well, sir," said I, "it may be; and I'll promise you I'll
try to make it so."
"Why, very well said," replied Mr. Campbell, heartily. "And
now to come to the material, or (to make a quibble) to the
immaterial. I have here a little packet which contains four
things." He tugged it, as he spoke, and with some great
difficulty, from the skirt pocket of his coat." Of these four
things, the first is your legal due: the little pickle money for
your father's books and plenishing, which I have bought (as I
have explained from the first) in the design of re-selling at a
profit to the incoming dominie. The other three are gifties that
Mrs. Campbell and myself would be blithe of your acceptance. The
first, which is round, will likely please ye best at the first
off-go; but, O Davie, laddie, it's but a drop of water in the
sea; it'll help you but a step, and vanish like the morning. The
second, which is flat and square and written upon, will stand by
you through life, like a good staff for the road, and a good
pillow to your head in sickness. And as for the last, which is
cubical, that'll see you, it's my prayerful wish, into a better
With that he got upon his feet, took off his hat, and
prayed a little while aloud, and in affecting terms, for a young
man setting out into the world; then suddenly took me in his
arms and embraced me very hard; then held me at arm's length,
looking at me with his face all working with sorrow; and then
whipped about, and crying good-bye to me, set off backward by
the way that we had come at a sort of jogging run. It might have
been laughable to another; but I was in no mind to laugh. I
watched him as long as he was in sight; and he never stopped
hurrying, nor once looked back. Then it came in upon my mind
that this was all his Sorrow at my departure; and my conscience
smote me hard and fast, because I, for my part, was overjoyed to
get away out of that quiet country-side, and go to a great, busy
house, among rich and respected gentlefolk of my own name and
"Davie, Davie," I thought," was ever seen such black
ingratitude? Can you forget old favours and old friends at the
mere whistle of a name? Fie, fie; think shame."
And I sat down on the boulder the good man had just left,
and opened the parcel to see the nature of my gifts. That which
he had called cubical, I had never had much doubt of; sure
enough it was a little Bible, to carry in a, plaid-neuk. That
which he had called round, I found to be a shilling piece; and
the third, which was to help me so wonderfully both in health
and sickness all the days of my life, was a little piece of
coarse yellow paper, written upon thus in red ink:
"TO MAKE LILLY OF THE VALLEY WATER.--Take the flowers of lilly
of the valley and distil them in sack, and drink a spooneful or
two as there is occasion. It restores speech to those that have
the dumb palsey. It is good against the Gout; it comforts the
heart and strengthens the memory; and the flowers, put into a
Glasse, close stopt, and set into ane hill of ants for a month,
then take it out, and you will find a liquor which comes from
the flowers, which keep in a vial; it is good, ill or well, and
whether man or woman." And then, in the minister's own hand, was
"Likewise for sprains, rub it in; and for the cholic, a great
spooneful in the hour."
To be sure, I laughed over this; but it was rather tremulous
laughter; and I was glad to get my bundle on my staff's end and
set out over the ford and up the hill upon the farther side;
till, just as I came on the green drove-road running wide
through the heather, I took my last look of Kirk Essendean, the
trees about the manse, and the big rowans in the kirkyard where
my father and my mother lay.
I COME TO MY JOURNEY'S END
ON the forenoon of the second day, coming to the top of a hill,
I saw all the country fall away before me down to the sea; and
in the midst of this descent, on a long ridge, the city of
Edinburgh smoking like a kiln. There was a flag upon the castle,
and ships moving or lying anchored in the firth; both of which,
for as far away as they were, I could distinguish clearly; and
both brought my country heart into my mouth.
Presently after, I came by a house where a shepherd lived,
and got a rough direction for the neighbourhood of Cramond; and
so, from one to another, worked my way to the westward of the
capital by Colinton, till I came out upon the Glasgow road. And
there, to my great pleasure and wonder, I beheld a regiment
marching to the fifes, every foot in time; an old red-faced
general on a grey horse at the one end, and at the other the
company of Grenadiers, with their Pope's-hats. The pride of life
seemed to mount into my brain at the sight of the red coats and
the hearing of that merry music.
A little farther on, and I was told I was in Cramond
parish, and began to substitute in my inquiries the name of the
house of Shaws. It was a word that seemed to surprise those of
whom I sought my way. At first I thought the plainness of my
appearance, in my country habit, and that all dusty from the
road, consorted ill with the greatness of the place to which I
was bound. But after two, or maybe three, had given me the same
look and the same answer, I began to take it in my head there
was something strange about the Shaws itself.
The better to set this fear at rest, I changed the form of
my inquiries; and spying an honest fellow coming along a lane on
the shaft of his cart, I asked him if he had ever heard tell of
a house they called the house of Shaws.
He stopped his cart and looked at me, like the others.
"Ay" said he. "What for?"
"It's a great house?" I asked.
"Doubtless," says he. "The house is a big, muckle house."
"Ay," said I, "but the folk that are in it?"
"Folk?" cried he. "Are ye daft? There's nae folk there --
to call folk."
"What?" say I; "not Mr. Ebenezer?"
"Ou, ay" says the man; "there's the laird, to be sure, if
it's him you're wanting. What'll like be your business, mannie?"
"I was led to think that I would get a situation," I said,
looking as modest as I could.
"What?" cries the carter, in so sharp a note that his very
horse started; and then, "Well, mannie," he added, "it's
my affairs; but ye seem a decent-spoken lad; and if ye'll take
a word from me, ye'll keep clear of the Shaws."
The next person I came across was a dapper little man in a
beautiful white wig, whom I saw to be a barber on his rounds;
and knowing well that barbers were great gossips, I asked him
plainly what sort of a man was Mr. Balfour of the Shaws.
"Hoot, hoot, hoot," said the barber, "nae kind of a man,
nae kind of a man at all;" and began to ask me very shrewdly
what my business was; but I was more than a match for him at
that, and he went on to his next customer no wiser than he came.
I cannot well describe the blow this dealt to my illusions.
The more indistinct the accusations were, the less I liked them,
for they left the wider field to fancy. What kind of a great
house was this, that all the parish should start and stare to be
asked the way to it? or what sort of a gentleman, that his
ill-fame should be thus current on the wayside? If an hour's
walking would have brought me back to Essendean, had left my
adventure then and there, and returned to Mr. Campbell's. But
when I had come so far a way already, mere shame would not
suffer me to desist till I had put the matter to the touch of
proof; I was bound, out of mere self-respect, to carry it
through; and little as I liked the sound of what I heard, and
slow as I began to travel, I still kept asking my way and still
kept advancing. It was drawing on to sundown when I met a stout,
dark, sour-looking woman coming trudging down a hill; and she,
when I had put my usual question, turned sharp about,
accompanied me back to the summit she had just left, and pointed
to a great bulk of building standing very bare upon a green in
the bottom of the next valley. The country was pleasant round
about, running in low hills, pleasantly watered and wooded, and
the crops, to my eyes, wonderfully good; but the house itself
appeared to be a kind of ruin; no road led up to it; no smoke
arose from any of the chimneys; nor was there any semblance of
a garden. My heart sank. "That!" I cried.
The woman's face lit up with a malignant anger. "That is
the house of Shaws!" she cried." Blood built it; blood stopped
the building of it; blood shall bring it down. See here!" she
cried again -- "I spit upon the ground, and crack my thumb at
it! Black be its fall! If ye see the laird, tell him what ye
hear; tell him this makes the twelve hunner and nineteen time
that Jennet Clouston has called down the curse on him and his
house, byre and stable, man, guest, and master, wife, miss, or
bairn -- black, black be their fall!"
And the woman, whose voice had risen to a kind of eldritch
sing-song, turned with a skip, and was gone. I stood where she
left me, with my hair on end. In those days folk still believed
in witches and trembled at a curse; and this one, falling so
pat, like a wayside omen, to arrest me ere I carried out my
purpose, took the pith out of my legs. I sat me down and stared
at the house of Shaws. The more I looked, the pleasanter that
country-side appeared; being all set with hawthorn bushes full
of flowers; the fields dotted with sheep; a fine flight of rooks
in the sky; and every sign of a kind soil and climate; and yet
the barrack in the midst of it went sore against my fancy.
Country folk went by from the fields as I sat there on the
side of the ditch, but I lacked the spirit to give them a
good-e'en. At last the sun went down, and then, right up against
the yellow sky, I saw a scroll of smoke go mounting, not much
thicker, as it seemed to me, than the smoke of a candle; but
still there it was, and meant a fire, and warmth, and cookery,
and some living inhabitant that must have lit it; and this
comforted my heart.
So I set forward by a little faint track in the grass that
led in my direction. It was very faint indeed to be the only way
to a place of habitation; yet I saw no other. Presently it
brought me to stone uprights, with an unroofed lodge beside
them, and coats of arms upon the top. A main entrance it was
plainly meant to be, but never finished; instead of gates of
wrought iron, a pair of hurdles were tied across with a straw
rope; and as there were no park walls, nor any sign of avenue,
the track that I was following passed on the right hand of the
pillars, and went wandering on toward the house.
The nearer I got to that, the drearier it appeared. It
seemed like the one wing of a house that had never been
finished. What should have been the inner end stood open on the
upper floors, and showed against the sky with steps and stairs
of uncompleted masonry. Many of the windows were unglazed, and
bats flew in and out like doves out of a dove-cote.
The night had begun to fall as I got close; and in three of
the lower windows, which were very high up and narrow, and well
barred, the changing light of a little fire began to glimmer.
Was this the palace I had been coming to? Was it within these
walls that I was to seek new friends and begin great fortunes?
Why, in my father's house on Essen-Waterside, the fire and the
bright lights would show a mile away, and the door open to a
I came forward cautiously, and giving ear as I came, heard
some one rattling with dishes, and a little dry, eager cough
that came in fits; but there was no sound of speech, and not a
The door, as well as I could see it in the dim light, was
a great piece of wood all studded with nails; and I lifted my
hand with a faint heart under my jacket, and knocked once. Then
I stood and waited. The house had fallen into a dead silence; a
whole minute passed away, and nothing stirred but the bats
overhead. I knocked again, and hearkened again. By this time my
ears had grown so accustomed to the quiet, that I could hear the
ticking of the clock inside as it slowly counted out the
seconds; but whoever was in that house kept deadly still, and
must have held his breath.
I was in two minds whether to run away; but anger got the
upper hand, and I began instead to rain kicks and buffets on the
door, and to shout out aloud for Mr. Balfour. I was in full
career, when I heard the cough right overhead, and jumping back
and looking up, beheld a man's head in a tall nightcap, and the
bell mouth of a blunderbuss, at one of the first-storey windows.
"It's loaded," said a voice.
"I have come here with a letter," I said, "to Mr. Ebenezer
Balfour of Shaws. Is he here?"
"From whom is it?" asked the man with the blunderbuss.
"That is neither here nor there," said I, for I was growing
"Well," was the reply, "ye can put it down upon the
doorstep, and be off with ye."
"I will do no such thing," I cried. "I will deliver it into
Mr. Balfour's hands, as it was meant I should. It is a letter of
"A what?" cried the voice, sharply.
I repeated what I had said.
"Who are ye, yourself?" was the next question, after a
"I am not ashamed of my name," said I. "They call me David
At that, I made sure the man started, for I heard the
blunderbuss rattle on the window-sill; and it was after quite a
long pause, and with a curious change of voice, that the next
question followed: "Is your father dead?"
I was so much surprised at this, that I could find no
voice to answer, but stood staring.
"Ay" the man resumed, "he'll be dead, no doubt; and that'll
be what brings ye chapping to my door." Another pause, and then
defiantly, "Well, man," he said, "I'll let ye in;" and
disappeared from the window.
I MAKE ACQUAINTANCE OF MY UNCLE
PRESENTLY there came a great rattling of chains and bolts, and
the door was cautiously opened and shut to again behind me as
soon as I had passed.
"Go into the kitchen and touch naething," said the voice;
and while the person of the house set himself to replacing the
defences of the door, I groped my way forward and entered the
The fire had burned up fairly bright, and showed me the
barest room I think I ever put my eyes on. Half-a-dozen dishes
stood upon the shelves; the table was laid for supper with a
bowl of porridge, a horn spoon, and a cup of small beer. Besides
what I have named, there was not another thing in that great,
stone-vaulted, empty chamber but lockfast chests arranged along
the wall and a corner cupboard with a padlock.
As soon as the last chain was up, the man rejoined me. He
was a mean, stooping, narrow-shouldered, clay-faced creature;
and his age might have been anything between fifty and seventy.
His nightcap was of flannel, and so was the nightgown that he
wore, instead of coat and waistcoat, over his ragged shirt. He
was long unshaved; but what most distressed and even daunted me,
he would neither take his eyes away from me nor look me fairly
in the face. What he was, whether by trade or birth, was more
than I could fathom; but he seemed most like an old,
unprofitable serving-man, who should have been left in charge of
that big house upon board wages.
"Are ye sharp-set?" he asked, glancing at about the level
of my knee. "Ye can eat that drop parritch?"
I said I feared it was his own supper.
"O," said he, "I can do fine wanting it. I'll take the ale,
though, for it slockens my cough." He drank the cup about
half out, still keeping an eye upon me as he drank; and then
suddenly held out his hand. "Let's see the letter," said he.
I told him the letter was for Mr. Balfour; not for him.
"And who do ye think I am?" says he. "Give me Alexander's
"You know my father's name?"
"It would be strange if I didnae," he returned, "for he was
my born brother; and little as ye seem to like either me or my
house, or my good parritch, I'm your born uncle, Davie, my man,
and you my born nephew. So give us the letter, and sit down and
fill your kyte."
If I had been some years younger, what with shame,
weariness, and disappointment, I believe I had burst into tears.
As it was, I could find no words, neither black nor white, but
handed him the letter, and sat down to the porridge with as
little appetite for meat as ever a young man had.
Meanwhile, my uncle, stooping over the fire, turned the
letter over and over in his hands.
"Do ye ken what's in it?" he asked, suddenly. "You see for
yourself, sir," said I, "that the seal has not been broken."
"Ay," said he, "but what brought you here?"
"To give the letter," said I.
"No," says he, cunningly, "but ye'll have had some hopes,
"I confess, sir," said I, "when I was told that I had
kinsfolk well-to-do, I did indeed indulge the hope that they
might help me in my life. But I am no beggar; I look for no
favours at your hands, and I want none that are not freely
given. For as poor as I appear, I have friends of my own that
will be blithe to help me."
"Hoot-toot!" said Uncle Ebenezer, "dinnae fly up in the
snuff at me. We'll agree fine yet. And, Davie, my man, if you're
done with that bit parritch, I could just take a sup of it
myself. Ay," he continued, as soon as he had ousted me from the
stool and spoon, "they're fine, halesome food -- they're grand
food, parritch." He murmured a little grace to himself and fell
to. "Your father was very fond of his meat, I mind; he was a
hearty, if not a great eater; but as for me, I could never do
mair than pyke at food." He took a pull at the small beer, which
probably reminded him of hospitable duties, for his next speech
ran thus: "If ye're dry ye'll find water behind the door."
To this I returned no answer, standing stiffly on my two
feet, and looking down upon my uncle with a mighty angry heart.
He, on his part, continued to eat like a man under some pressure
of time, and to throw out little darting glances now at my shoes
and now at my home-spun stockings. Once only, when he had
ventured to look a little higher, our eyes met; and no thief
taken with a hand in a man's pocket could have shown more lively
signals of distress. This set me in a muse, whether his timidity
arose from too long a disuse of any human company; and whether
perhaps, upon a little trial, it might pass off, and my uncle
change into an altogether different man. From this I was
awakened by his sharp voice.
"Your father's been long dead?" he asked."
Three weeks, sir," said I.
"He was a secret man, Alexander -- a secret, silent man,"
he continued. "He never said muckle when he was young. He'll
never have spoken muckle of me?"
"I never knew, sir, till you told it me yourself, that he
had any brother."
"Dear me, dear me!" said Ebenezer. "Nor yet of Shaws, I
"Not so much as the name, sir," said I.
"To think o' that!" said he. "A strange nature of a man!"
For all that, he seemed singularly satisfied, but whether with
himself, or me, or with this conduct of my father's, was more
than I could read. Certainly, however, he seemed to be
outgrowing that distaste, or ill-will, that he had conceived at
first against my person; for presently he jumped up, came across
the room behind me, and hit me a smack upon the shoulder. "We'll
agree fine yet!" he cried. "I'm just as glad I let you in. And
now come awa' to your bed."
To my surprise, he lit no lamp or candle, but set forth
into the dark passage, groped his way, breathing deeply, up a
flight of steps, and paused before a door, which he unlocked. I
was close upon his heels, having stumbled after him as best I
might; and then he bade me go in, for that was my chamber. I did
as he bid, but paused after a few steps, and begged a light to
go to bed with.
"Hoot-toot." said Uncle Ebenezer, "there's a fine moon."
"Neither moon nor star, sir, and pit-mirk," said I. "I
cannae see the bed."
"Hoot-toot, hoot-toot!" said he. "Lights in a house is a
thing I dinnae agree with. I'm unco feared of fires. Good-night
to ye, Davie, my man." And before I had time to add a further
protest, he pulled the door to, and I heard him lock me in from
I did not know whether to laugh or cry. The room was as
cold as a well, and the bed, when I had found my way to it, as
damp as a peat-hag; but by good fortune I had caught up my
bundle and my plaid, and rolling myself in the latter, I lay
down upon the floor under lee of the big bedstead, and fell
With the first peep of day I opened my eyes, to find myself
in a great chamber, hung with stamped leather, furnished with
fine embroidered furniture, and lit by three fair windows. Ten
years ago, or perhaps twenty, it must have been as pleasant a
room to lie down or to awake in as a man could wish; but damp,
dirt, disuse, and the mice and spiders had done their worst
since then. Many of the window-panes, besides, were broken; and
indeed this was so common a feature in that house, that I
believe my uncle must at some time have stood a siege from his
indignant neighbours perhaps with Jennet Clouston at their head.
Meanwhile the sun was shining outside; and being very cold
in that miserable room, I knocked and shouted till my gaoler
came and let me out. He carried me to the back of the house,
where was a draw-well, and told me to "wash my face there, if I
wanted;" and when that was done, I made the best of my own way
back to the kitchen, where he had lit the fire and was making
the porridge. The table was laid with two bowls and two horn
spoons, but the same single measure of small beer. Perhaps my
eye rested on this particular with some surprise, and perhaps my
uncle observed it; for he spoke up as if in answer to my
thought, asking me if I would like to drink ale -- for so he
I told him such was my habit, but not to put himself about.
"Na, na," said he; "I'll deny you nothing in reason."
He fetched another cup from the shelf; and then, to my
great surprise, instead of drawing more beer, he poured an
accurate half from one cup to the other. There was a kind of
nobleness in this that took my breath away; if my uncle was
certainly a miser, he was one of that thorough breed that goes
near to make the vice respectable.
When we had made an end of our meal, my uncle Ebenezer
unlocked a drawer, and drew out of it a clay pipe and a lump of
tobacco, from which he cut one fill before he locked it up
again. Then he sat down in the sun at one of the windows and
silently smoked. From time to time his eyes came coasting round
to me, and he shot out one of his questions. Once it was, "And
your mother?" and when I had told him that she, too, was dead,
"Ay, she was a bonnie lassie!" Then, after another long pause,
"Whae were these friends o' yours?"
I told him they were different gentlemen of the name of
Campbell; though, indeed, there was only one, and that the
minister, that had ever taken the least note of me; but I began
to think my uncle made too light of my position, and finding
myself all alone with him, I did not wish him to suppose me
He seemed to turn this over in his mind; and then, "Davie,
my man," said he, "ye've come to the right bit when ye came to
your uncle Ebenezer. I've a great notion of the family, and I
mean to do the right by you; but while I'm taking a bit think to
mysel' of what's the best thing to put you to -- whether the
law, or the meenistry, or maybe the army, whilk is what boys are
fondest of -- I wouldnae like the Balfours to be humbled before
a wheen Hieland Campbells, and I'll ask you to keep your tongue
within your teeth. Nae letters; nae messages; no kind of word to
onybody; or else -- there's my door."
"Uncle Ebenezer," said I, "I've no manner of reason to
suppose you mean anything but well by me. For all that, I would
have you to know that I have a pride of my own. It was by no
will of mine that I came seeking you; and if you show me your
door again, I'll take you at the word."
He seemed grievously put out. "Hoots-toots," said he, "ca'
cannie, man -- ca' cannie! Bide a day or two. I'm nae warlock,
to find a fortune for you in the bottom of a parritch bowl; but
just you give me a day or two, and say naething to naebody, and
as sure as sure, I'll do the right by you."
"Very well," said I, "enough said. If you want to help me,
there's no doubt but I'll be glad of it, and none but I'll be
It seemed to me (too soon, I dare say) that I was getting
the upper hand of my uncle; and I began next to say that I must
have the bed and bedclothes aired and put to sun-dry; for
nothing would make me sleep in such a pickle."
Is this my house or yours?" said he, in his keen voice, and
then all of a sudden broke off. "Na, na," said he, "I didnae
mean that. What's mine is yours, Davie, my man, and what's yours
is mine. Blood's thicker than water; and there's naebody but you
and me that ought the name." And then on he rambled about the
family, and its ancient greatness, and his father that began to
enlarge the house, and himself that stopped the building as a
sinful waste; and this put it in my head to give him Jennet
"The limmer." he cried. "Twelve hunner and fifteen --
that's every day since I had the limmer rowpit! Dod, David,
I'll have her roasted on red peats before I'm by with it! A
witch -- a proclaimed witch! I'll aff and see the session
And with that he opened a chest, and got out a very old and
well-preserved blue coat and waistcoat, and a good enough beaver
hat, both without lace. These he threw on any way, and taking a
staff from the cupboard, locked all up again, and was for
setting out, when a thought arrested him."
I cannae leave you by yoursel' in the house," said he.
"I'll have to lock you out."
The blood came to my face. "If you lock me out," I said,
"it'll be the last you'll see of me in friendship."
He turned very pale, and sucked his mouth in."
This is no the, way" he said, looking wickedly at a corner
of the floor -- "this is no the way to win my favour, David."
"Sir," says I, "with a proper reverence for your age and
our common blood, I do not value your favour at a boddle's
purchase. I was brought up to have a good conceit of myself; and
if you were all the uncle, and all the family, I had in the
world ten times over, I wouldn't buy your liking at such
Uncle Ebenezer went and looked out of the window for
awhile. I could see him all trembling and twitching, like a man
with palsy. But when he turned round, he had a smile upon his
"Well, well," said he, "we must bear and forbear. I'll no
go; that's all that's to be said of it."
"Uncle Ebenezer," I said, "I can make nothing out of this.
You use me like a thief; you hate to have me in this house; you
let me see it, every word and every minute: it's not possible
that you can like me; and as for me, I've spoken to you as I
never thought to speak to any man. Why do you seek to keep me,
then? Let me gang back -- let me gang back to the friends I
have, and that like me!"
"Na, na; na, na," he said, very earnestly. "I like you
fine; we'll agree fine yet; and for the honour of the house I
couldnae let you leave the way ye came. Bide here quiet, there's
a good lad; just you bide here quiet a bittie, and ye'll find
that we agree."
"Well, sir," said I, after I had thought the matter out in
silence, "I'll stay awhile. It's more just I should be helped by
my own blood than strangers; and if we don't agree, I'll do my
best it shall be through no fault of mine."
 Dark as the pit.
 Sold up.
I RUN A GREAT DANGER IN THE HOUSE OF SHAWS
FOR a day that was begun so ill, the day passed fairly well. We
had the porridge cold again at noon, and hot porridge at night;
porridge and small beer was my uncle's diet. He spoke but
little, and that in the same way as before, shooting a question
at me after a long silence; and when I sought to lead him to
talk about my future, slipped out of it again. In a room next
door to the kitchen, where he suffered me to go, I found a great
number of books, both Latin and English, in which I took great
pleasure all the afternoon. Indeed, the time passed so lightly
in this good company, that I began to be almost reconciled to my
residence at Shaws; and nothing but the sight of my uncle, and
his eyes playing hide and seek with mine, revived the force of
One thing I discovered, which put me in some doubt. This
was an entry on the fly-leaf of a chap-book (one of Patrick
Walker's) plainly written by my father's hand and thus
conceived:" To my brother Ebenezer on his fifth birthday" Now,
what puzzled me was this: That, as my father was of course the
younger brother, he must either have made some strange error, or
he must have written, before he was yet five, an excellent,
clear manly hand of writing.
I tried to get this out of my head; but though I took down
many interesting authors, old and new, history, poetry, and
story-book, this notion of my father's hand of writing stuck to
me; and when at length I went back into the kitchen, and sat
down once more to porridge and small beer, the first thing I
said to Uncle Ebenezer was to ask him if my father had not been
very quick at his book.
"Alexander? No him!" was the reply. "I was far quicker
mysel'; I was a clever chappie when I was young. Why, I could
read as soon as he could."
This puzzled me yet more; and a thought coming into my
head, I asked if he and my father had been twins.
He jumped upon his stool, and the horn spoon fell out of
his hand upon the floor. "What gars ye ask that?" he said, and
he caught me by the breast of the jacket, and looked this time
straight into my eyes: his own were little and light, and bright
like a bird's, blinking and winking strangely.
"What do you mean?" I asked, very calmly, for I was far
stronger than he, and not easily frightened. "Take your hand
from my jacket. This is no way to behave."
My uncle seemed to make a great effort upon himself. "Dod
man, David," he said, "ye shouldnae speak to me about your
father. That's where the mistake is." He sat awhile and shook,
blinking in his plate:" He was all the brother that ever I had,"
he added, but with no heart in his voice; and then he caught up
his spoon and fell to supper again, but still shaking.
Now this last passage, this laying of hands upon my person
and sudden profession of love for my dead father, went so clean
beyond my comprehension that it put me into both fear and hope.
On the one hand, I began to think my uncle was perhaps insane
and might be dangerous; on the other, there came up into my mind
(quite unbidden by me and even discouraged) a story like some
ballad I had heard folk singing, of a poor lad that was a
rightful heir and a wicked kinsman that tried to keep him from
his own. For why should my uncle play a part with a relative
that came, almost a beggar, to his door, unless in his heart he
had some cause to fear him?
With this notion, all unacknowledged, but nevertheless
getting firmly settled in my head, I now began to imitate his
covert looks; so that we sat at table like a cat and a mouse,
each stealthily observing the other. Not another word had he to
say to me, black or white, but was busy turning something
secretly over in his mind; and the longer we sat and the more I
looked at him, the more certain I became that the something was
unfriendly to myself.
When he had cleared the platter, he got out a single
pipeful of tobacco, just as in the morning, turned round a stool
into the chimney corner, and sat awhile smoking, with his back
"Davie," he said, at length, "I've been thinking;" then
paused, and said it again. "There's a wee bit siller that I half
promised ye before ye were born," he continued; "promised it to
your father. O, naething legal, ye understand; just gentlemen
daffing at their wine. Well, I keepit that bit money separate --
it was a great expense, but a promise is a promise -- and it has
grown by now to be a matter of just precisely -- just exactly"
-- and here he paused and stumbled -- "of just exactly forty
pounds!" This last he rapped out with a sidelong glance over his
shoulder; and the next moment added, almost with a scream,
The pound Scots being the same thing as an English
shilling, the difference made by this second thought was
considerable; I could see, besides, that the whole story was a
lie, invented with some end which it puzzled me to guess; and I
made no attempt to conceal the tone of raillery in which I
O, think again, sir Pounds sterling, I believe!"
"That's what I said," returned my uncle: "pounds sterling!
And if you'll step out-by to the door a minute, just to see what
kind of a night it is, I'll get it out to ye and call ye in
I did his will, smiling to myself in my contempt that he
should think I was so easily to be deceived. It was a dark
night, with a few stars low down; and as I stood just outside
the door, I heard a hollow moaning of wind far off among the
hills. I said to myself there was something thundery and
changeful in the weather, and little knew of what a vast
importance that should prove to me before the evening passed.
When I was called in again, my uncle counted out into my
hand seven and thirty golden guinea pieces; the rest was in his
hand, in small gold and silver; but his heart failed him there,
and he crammed the change into his pocket.
"There," said he, "that'll show you! I'm a queer man, and
strange wi' strangers; but my word is my bond, and there's the
proof of it."
Now, my uncle seemed so miserly that I was struck dumb by
this sudden generosity, and could find no words in which to
"No a word!" said he. "Nae thanks; I want nae thanks. I do
my duty. I'm no saying that everybody would have, done it; but
for my part (though I'm a careful body, too) it's a pleasure to
me to do the right by my brother's son; and it's a pleasure to
me to think that now we'll agree as such near friends should."
I spoke him in return as handsomely as I was able; but all
the while I was wondering what would come next, and why he had
parted with his precious guineas; for as to the reason he had
given, a baby would have refused it.
Presently he looked towards me sideways.
"And see here," says he, "tit for tat."
I told him I was ready to prove my gratitude in any
reasonable degree, and then waited, looking for some monstrous
demand. And yet, when at last he plucked up courage to speak, it
was only to tell me (very properly, as I thought) that he was
growing old and a little broken, and that he would expect me to
help him with the house and the bit garden.
I answered, and expressed my readiness to serve.
"Well," he said, "let's begin." He pulled out of his
a rusty key. "There," says he, "there's the key of the
stair-tower at the far end of the house. Ye can only win into it
from the outside, for that part of the house is no finished.
Gang ye in there, and up the stairs, and bring me down the chest
that's at the top. There's papers in't," he added.
"Can I have a light, sir?" said I.
"Na," said he, very cunningly. "Nae lights in my house."
"Very well, sir," said I. "Are the stairs good?"
"They're grand," said he; and then, as I was going, "Keep
to the wall," he added; "there's nae bannisters. But the stairs
are grand underfoot."
Out I went into the night. The wind was still moaning in
the distance, though never a breath of it came near the house of
Shaws. It had fallen blacker than ever; and I was glad to feel
along the wall, till I came the length of the stairtower door at
the far end of the unfinished wing. I had got the key into the
keyhole and had just turned it, when all upon a sudden, without
sound of wind or thunder, the whole sky lighted up with wild
fire and went black again. I had to put my hand over my eyes to
get back to the colour of the darkness; and indeed I was already
half blinded when I stepped into the tower.
It was so dark inside, it seemed a body could scarce
breathe; but I pushed out with foot and hand, and presently
struck the wall with the one, and the lowermost round of the
stair with the other. The wall, by the touch, was of fine hewn
stone; the steps too, though somewhat steep and narrow, were of
polished masonwork, and regular and solid underfoot. Minding my
uncle's word about the bannisters, I kept close to the tower
side, and felt my way in the pitch darkness with a beating
The house of Shaws stood some five full storeys high, not
counting lofts. Well, as I advanced, it seemed to me the stair
grew airier and a thought more lightsome; and I was wondering
what might be the cause of this change, when a second blink of
the summer lightning came and went. If I did not cry out, it was
because fear had me by the throat; and if I did not fall, it was
more by Heaven's mercy than my own strength. It was not only
that the flash shone in on every side through breaches in the
wall, so that I seemed to be clambering aloft upon an open
scaffold, but the same passing brightness showed me the steps
were of unequal length, and that one of my feet rested that
moment within two inches of the well.
This was the grand stair! I thought; and with the thought,
a gust of a kind of angry courage came into my heart. My uncle
had sent me here, certainly to run great risks, perhaps to die.
I swore I would settle that "perhaps," if I should break my neck
for it; got me down upon my hands and knees; and as slowly as a
snail, feeling before me every inch, and testing the solidity of
every stone, I continued to ascend the stair. The darkness, by
contrast with the flash, appeared to have redoubled; nor was
that all, for my ears were now troubled and my mind confounded
by a great stir of bats in the top part of the tower, and the
foul beasts, flying downwards, sometimes beat about my face and
The tower, I should have said, was square; and in every
corner the step was made of a great stone of a different shape
to join the flights. Well, I had come close to one of these
turns, when, feeling forward as usual, my hand slipped upon an
edge and found nothing but emptiness beyond it. The stair had
been carried no higher; to set a stranger mounting it in the
darkness was to send him straight to his death; and (although,
thanks to the lightning and my own precautions, I was safe
enough) the mere thought of the peril in which I might have
stood, and the dreadful height I might have fallen from, brought
out the sweat upon my body and relaxed my joints.
But I knew what I wanted now, and turned and groped my way
down again, with a wonderful anger in my heart. About half-way
down, the wind sprang up in a clap and shook the tower, and died
again; the rain followed; and before I had reached the ground
level it fell in buckets. I put out my head into the storm, and
looked along towards the kitchen. The door, which I had shut
behind me when I left, now stood open, and shed a little glimmer
of light; and I thought I could see a figure standing in the
rain, quite still, like a man hearkening. And then there came a
blinding flash, which showed me my uncle plainly, just where I
had fancied him to stand; and hard upon the heels of it, a great
tow-row of thunder.
Now, whether my uncle thought the crash to be the sound of
my fall, or whether he heard in it God's voice denouncing
murder, I will leave you to guess. Certain it is, at least, that
he was seized on by a kind of panic fear, and that he ran into
the house and left the door open behind him. I followed as
softly as I could, and, coming unheard into the kitchen, stood
and watched him.
He had found time to open the corner cupboard and bring out
a great case bottle of aqua vitae, and now sat with his back
towards me at the table. Ever and again he would be seized with
a fit of deadly shuddering and groan aloud, and carrying the
bottle to his lips, drink down the raw spirits by the mouthful.
I stepped forward, came close behind him where he sat, and
suddenly clapping my two hands down upon his shoulders --"Ah!"
My uncle gave a kind of broken cry like a sheep's bleat,
flung up his arms, and tumbled to the floor like a dead man. I
was somewhat shocked at this; but I had myself to look to first
of all, and did not hesitate to let him lie as he had fallen.
The keys were hanging in the cupboard; and it was my design to
furnish myself with arms before my uncle should come again to
his senses and the power of devising evil. In the cupboard were
a few bottles, some apparently of medicine; a great many bills
and other papers, which I should willingly enough have rummaged,
had I had the time; and a few necessaries that were nothing to
my purpose. Thence I turned to the chests. The first was full of
meal; the second of moneybags and papers tied into sheaves; in
the third, with many other things (and these for the most part
clothes) I found a rusty, ugly-looking Highland dirk without the
scabbard. This, then, I concealed inside my waistcoat, and
turned to my uncle.
He lay as he had fallen, all huddled, with one knee up and
one arm sprawling abroad; his face had a strange colour of blue,
and he seemed to have ceased breathing. Fear came on me that he
was dead; then I got water and dashed it in his face; and with
that he seemed to come a little to himself, working his mouth
and fluttering his eyelids. At last he looked up and saw me, and
there came into his eyes a terror that was not of this world.
"Come, come," said I; "sit up."
"Are ye alive?" he sobbed. "O man, are ye alive?"
"That am I," said I. "Small thanks to you!"
He had begun to seek for his breath with deep sighs. "The
blue phial," said he -- "in the aumry -- the blue phial."
breath came slower still.
I ran to the cupboard, and, sure enough, found there a blue
phial of medicine, with the dose written on it on a paper, and
this I administered to him with what speed I might.
"It's the trouble," said he, reviving a little; "I have a
trouble, Davie. It's the heart."
I set him on a chair and looked at him. It is true I felt
some pity for a man that looked so sick, but I was full besides
of righteous anger; and I numbered over before him the points on
which I wanted explanation: why he lied to me at every word; why
he feared that I should leave him; why he disliked it to be
hinted that he and my father were twins "Is that because it is
true?" I asked; why he had given me money to which I was
convinced I had no claim; and, last of all, why he had tried to
kill me. He heard me all through in silence; and then, in a
broken voice, begged me to let him go to bed.
"I'll tell ye the morn," he said; "as sure as death I
And so weak was he that I could do nothing but consent. I
locked him into his room, however, and pocketed the, key, and
then returning to the kitchen, made up such a blaze as had not
shone there for many a long year, and wrapping myself in my
plaid, lay down upon the chests and fell asleep.
I GO TO THE QUEEN'S FERRY
MUCH rain fell in the night; and the next morning there blew a
bitter wintry wind out of the north-west, driving scattered
clouds. For all that, and before the sun began to peep or the
last of the stars had vanished, I made my way to the side of the
burn, and had a plunge in a deep whirling pool. All aglow from
my bath, I sat down once more beside the fire, which I
replenished, and began gravely to consider my position.
There was now no doubt about my uncle's enmity; there was
no doubt I carried my life in my hand, and he would leave no
stone unturned that he might compass my destruction. But I was
young and spirited, and like most lads that have been
country-bred, I had a great opinion of my shrewdness. I had come
to his door no better than a beggar and little more than a
child; he had met me with treachery and violence; it would be a
fine consummation to take the upper hand, and drive him like a
herd of sheep.
I sat there nursing my knee and smiling at the fire; and I
saw myself in fancy smell out his secrets one after another, and
grow to be that man's king and ruler. The warlock of Essendean,
they say, had made a mirror in which men could read the future;
it must have been of other stuff than burning coal; for in all
the shapes and pictures that I sat and gazed at, there was never
a ship, never a seaman with a hairy cap, never a big bludgeon
for my silly head, or the least sign of all those tribulations
that were ripe to fall on me.
Presently, all swollen with conceit, I went up-stairs and
gave my prisoner his liberty. He gave me good-morning civilly;
and I gave the same to him, smiling down upon him, from the
heights of my sufficiency. Soon we were set to breakfast, as it
might have been the day before.
"Well, sir," said I, with a jeering tone, "have you nothing
more to say to me?" And then, as he made no articulate reply,
"It will be time, I think, to understand each other," I
continued. "You took me for a country Johnnie Raw, with no more
mother-wit or courage than a porridge-stick. I took you for a
good man, or no worse than others at the least. It seems we were
both wrong. What cause you have to fear me, to cheat me, and to
attempt my life--"
He murmured something about a jest, and that he liked a bit
of fun; and then, seeing me smile, changed his tone, and assured
me he would make all clear as soon as we had breakfasted. I saw
by his face that he had no lie ready for me, though he was hard
at work preparing one; and I think I was about to tell him so,
when we were interrupted by a knocking at the door.
Bidding my uncle sit where he was, I went to open it, and
found on the doorstep a half-grown boy in sea-clothes. He had no
sooner seen me than he began to dance some steps of the
sea-hornpipe (which I had never before heard of far less seen),
snapping his fingers in the air and footing it right cleverly.
For all that, he was blue with the cold; and there was something
in his face, a look between tears and laughter, that was highly
pathetic and consisted ill with this gaiety of manner.
"What cheer, mate?" says he, with a cracked voice.
I asked him soberly to name his pleasure.
"O, pleasure!" says he; and then began to sing:
"For it's my delight, of a shiny night,
In the season of the year."
"Well," said I, "if you have no business at all, I will
even be so unmannerly as to shut you out."
"Stay, brother!" he cried." Have you no fun about you? or
do you want to get me thrashed? I've brought a letter from old
Heasyoasy to Mr. Belflower." He showed me a letter as he spoke."
And I say, mate," he added, "I'm mortal hungry."
"Well," said I, "come into the house, and you shall have
bite if I go empty for it."
With that I brought him in and set him down to my own
place, where he fell-to greedily on the remains of breakfast,
winking to me between whiles, and making many faces, which I
think the poor soul considered manly. Meanwhile, my uncle had
read the letter and sat thinking; then, suddenly, he got to his
feet with a great air of liveliness, and pulled me apart into
the farthest corner of the room.
"Read that," said he, and put the letter in my hand.
Here it is, lying before me as I write:
"The Hawes Inn, at the Queen's Ferry.
"Sir, -- I lie here with my hawser up and down, and send my
cabin-boy to informe. If you have any further commands for
over-seas, to-day will be the last occasion, as the wind will
serve us well out of the firth I will not seek to deny that I
have had crosses with your doer, Mr. Rankeillor. of which, if
not speedily redd up, you may looke to see some, losses follow
I have drawn a bill upon you, as per margin, and am, sir, your
most obedt., humble servant,
"You see, Davie," resumed my uncle, as soon as he saw that
I had done, "I have a venture with this man Hoseason, the
captain of a trading brig, the Covenant, of Dysart. Now, if you
and me was to walk over with yon lad, I could see the captain at
the Hawes, or maybe on board the Covenant if there was papers to
be signed; and so far from a loss of time, we can jog on to the
lawyer, Mr. Rankeillor's. After a' that's come and gone, ye
would be swier to believe me upon my naked word; but ye'll
believe Rankeillor. He's factor to half the gentry in these
parts; an auld man, forby: highly respeckit, and he kenned your
I stood awhile and thought. I was going to some place of
shipping, which was doubtless populous, and where my uncle durst
attempt no violence, and, indeed, even the society of the
cabin-boy so far protected me. Once there, I believed I could
force on the visit to the lawyer, even if my uncle were now
insincere in proposing it; and, perhaps, in the bottom of my
heart, I wished a nearer view of the sea and ships. You are to
remember I had lived all my life in the inland hills, and just
two days before had my first sight of the firth lying like a
blue floor, and the sailed ships moving on the face of it, no
bigger than toys. One thing with another, I made up my mind.
"Very well," says I, "let us go to the Ferry."
My uncle got into his hat and coat, and buckled an old
rusty cutlass on; and then we trod the fire out, locked the
door, and set forth upon our walk.
The wind, being in that cold quarter the north-west, blew
nearly in our faces as we went. It was the month of June; the
grass was all white with daisies, and the trees with blossom;
but, to judge by our blue nails and aching wrists, the time
might have been winter and the whiteness a December frost.
Uncle Ebenezer trudged in the ditch, jogging from side to
side like an old ploughman coming home from work. He never said
a word the whole way; and I was thrown for talk on the
cabin-boy. He told me his name was Ransome, and that he had
followed the sea since he was nine, but could not say how old he
was, as he had lost his reckoning. He showed me tattoo marks,
baring his breast in the teeth of the wind and in spite of my
remonstrances, for I thought it was enough to kill him; he swore
horribly whenever he remembered, but more like a silly schoolboy
than a man; and boasted of many wild and bad things that he had
done: stealthy thefts, false accusations, ay, and even murder;
but all with such a dearth of likelihood in the details, and
such a weak and crazy swagger in the delivery, as disposed me
rather to pity than to believe him.
I asked him of the brig (which he declared was the finest
ship that sailed) and of Captain Hoseason, in whose praises he
was equally loud. Heasyoasy (for so he still named the skipper)
was a man, by his account, that minded for nothing either in
heaven or earth; one that, as people said, would "crack on all
sail into the day of judgment;" rough, fierce, unscrupulous, and
brutal; and all this my poor cabin-boy had taught himself to
admire as something seamanlike and manly. He would only admit
one flaw in his idol." He ain't no seaman," he admitted. "That's
Mr. Shuan that navigates the brig; he's the finest seaman in the
trade, only for drink; and I tell you I believe it! Why,
look'ere;" and turning down his stocking he showed me a great,
raw, red wound that made my blood run cold. "He done that -- Mr.
Shuan done it," he said, with an air of pride.
"What!" I cried, "do you take such savage usage at his
hands? Why, you are no slave, to be so handled!"
"No," said the poor moon-calf, changing his tune at once,
"and so he'll find. See'ere;" and he showed me a great
case-knife, which he told me was stolen. "O," says he, "let
see him, try; I dare him to; I'll do for him! O, he ain't the
first!" And he confirmed it with a poor, silly, ugly oath.
I have never felt such pity for any one in this wide world
as I felt for that half-witted creature, and it began to come
over me that the brig Covenant (for all her pious name) was
little better than a hell upon the seas.
"Have you no friends?" said I.
He said he had a father in some English seaport, I forget
which. "He was a fine man, too," he said, "but he's dead."
"In Heaven's name," cried I, "can you find no reputable
life on shore?"
"O, no," says he, winking and looking very sly, "they would
put me to a trade. I know a trick worth two of that, I do!"
I asked him what trade could be so dreadful as the one he
followed, where he ran the continual peril of his life, not
alone from wind and sea, but by the horrid cruelty of those who
were his masters. He said it was very true; and then began to
praise the life, and tell what a pleasure it was to get on shore
with money in his pocket, and spend it like a man, and buy
apples, and swagger, and surprise what he called
stick-in-the-mud boys. "And then it's not all as bad as that,"
says he; "there's worse off than me: there's the
twenty-pounders. O, laws! you should see them taking on. Why,
I've seen a man as old as you, I dessay" -- (to him I seemed
old)--" ah, and he had a beard, too -- well, and as soon as we
cleared out of the river, and he had the drug out of his head --
my! how he cried and carried on! I made a fine fool of him, I
tell you! And then there's little uns, too: oh, little by me! I
tell you, I keep them in order. When we carry little uns, I have
a rope's end of my own to wollop'em." And so he ran on, until it
came in on me what he meant by twenty-pounders were those
unhappy criminals who were sent over-seas to slavery in North
America, or the still more unhappy innocents who were kidnapped
or trepanned (as the word went) for private interest or
Just then we came to the top of the hill, and looked down
on the Ferry and the Hope. The Firth of Forth (as is very well
known) narrows at this point to the width of a good-sized river,
which makes a convenient ferry going north, and turns the upper
reach into a landlocked haven for all manner of ships. Right in
the midst of the narrows lies an islet with some ruins; on the
south shore they have built a pier for the service of the Ferry;
and at the end of the pier, on the other side of the road, and
backed against a pretty garden of holly-trees and hawthorns, I
could see the building which they called the Hawes Inn.
The town of Queensferry lies farther west, and the
neighbourhood of the inn looked pretty lonely at that time of
day, for the boat had just gone north with passengers. A skiff,
however, lay beside the pier, with some seamen sleeping on the
thwarts; this, as Ransome told me, was the brig's boat waiting
for the captain; and about half a mile off, and all alone in the
anchorage, he showed me the Covenant herself. There was a
sea-going bustle on board; yards were swinging into place; and
as the wind blew from that quarter, I could hear the song of the
sailors as they pulled upon the ropes. After all I had listened
to upon the way, I looked at that ship with an extreme
abhorrence; and from the bottom of my heart I pitied all poor
souls that were condemned to sail in her.
We had all three pulled up on the brow of the hill; and now
I marched across the road and addressed my uncle. "I think it
right to tell you, sir." says I, "there's nothing that will
bring me on board that Covenant."
He seemed to waken from a dream. "Eh?" he said. "What's
I told him over again.
"Well, well," he said, "we'll have to please ye, I suppose.
But what are we standing here for? It's perishing cold; and if
I'm no mistaken, they're busking the Covenant for sea."
WHAT BEFELL AT THE QUEEN'S FERRY
AS soon as we came to the inn, Ransome led us up the stair to a
small room, with a bed in it, and heated like an oven by a great
fire of coal. At a table hard by the chimney, a tall, dark,
sober-looking man sat writing. In spite of the heat of the room,
he wore a thick sea-jacket, buttoned to the neck, and a tall
hairy cap drawn down over his ears; yet I never saw any man, not
even a judge upon the bench, look cooler, or more studious and
self-possessed, than this ship-captain.
He got to his feet at once, and coming forward, offered his
large hand to Ebenezer. "I am proud to see you, Mr. Balfour,"
said he, in a fine deep voice, "and glad that ye are here in
time. The wind's fair, and the tide upon the turn; we'll see the
old coal-bucket burning on the Isle of May before to-night."
"Captain Hoseason," returned my uncle, "you keep your room
"It's a habit I have, Mr. Balfour," said the skipper. "I'm
a cold-rife man by my nature; I have a cold blood, sir. There's
neither fur, nor flannel -- no, sir, nor hot rum, will warm up
what they call the temperature. Sir, it's the same with most men
that have been carbonadoed, as they call it, in the tropic
"Well, well, captain," replied my uncle, "we must all be
the way we're made."
But it chanced that this fancy of the captain's had a great
share in my misfortunes. For though I had promised myself not to
let my kinsman out of sight, I was both so impatient for a
nearer look of the sea, and so sickened by the closeness of the
room, that when he told me to "run down-stairs and play myself
awhile," I was fool enough to take him at his word.
Away I went, therefore, leaving the two men sitting down to
a bottle and a great mass of papers; and crossing the road in
front of the inn, walked down upon the beach. With the wind in
that quarter, only little wavelets, not much bigger than I had
seen upon a lake, beat upon the shore. But the weeds were new to
me -- some green, some brown and long, and some with little
bladders that crackled between my fingers. Even so far up the
firth, the smell of the sea-water was exceedingly salt and
stirring; the Covenant, besides, was beginning to shake out her
sails, which hung upon the yards in clusters; and the spirit of
all that I beheld put me in thoughts of far voyages and foreign
I looked, too, at the seamen with the skiff -- big brown
fellows, some in shirts, some with jackets, some with coloured
handkerchiefs about their throats, one with a brace of pistols
stuck into his pockets, two or three with knotty bludgeons, and
all with their case-knives. I passed the time of day with one
that looked less desperate than his fellows, and asked him of
the sailing of the brig. He said they would get under way as
soon as the ebb set, and expressed his gladness to be out of a
port where there were no taverns and fiddlers; but all with such
horrifying oaths, that I made haste to get away from him.
This threw me back on Ransome, who seemed the least wicked
of that gang, and who soon came out of the inn and ran to me,
crying for a bowl of punch. I told him I would give him no such
thing, for neither he nor I was of an age for such indulgences.
"But a glass of ale you may have, and welcome," said I. He
mopped and mowed at me, and called me names; but he was glad to
get the ale, for all that; and presently we were set down at a
table in the front room of the inn, and both eating and drinking
with a good appetite.
Here it occurred to me that, as the landlord was a man of
that county, I might do well to make a friend of him. I offered
him a share, as was much the custom in those days; but he was
far too great a man to sit with such poor customers as Ransome
and myself, and he was leaving the room, when I called him back
to ask if he knew Mr. Rankeillor.
"Hoot, ay," says he, "and a very honest man. And, O,
by-the-by," says he, "was it you that came in with Ebenezer?"
And when I had told him yes, "Ye'll be no friend of his?" he
asked, meaning, in the Scottish way, that I would be no
I told him no, none."
I thought not," said he, "and yet ye have a kind of
gliff of Mr. Alexander."
I said it seemed that Ebenezer was ill-seen in the country.
"Nae doubt," said the landlord. "He's a wicked auld man,
and there's many would like to see him girning in the tow.
Jennet Clouston and mony mair that he has harried out of house
and hame. And yet he was ance a fine young fellow, too. But that
was before the sough gaed abroad about Mr. Alexander, that
was like the death of him."
"And what was it?" I asked.
"Ou, just that he had killed him," said the landlord. "Did
ye never hear that?"
"And what would he kill him for?" said I.
"And what for, but just to get the place," said he.
"The place?" said I. "The Shaws?"
"Nae other place that I ken," said he.
"Ay, man?" said I. "Is that so? Was my -- was Alexander the
"'Deed was he," said the landlord. "What else would he have
killed him for?"
And with that he went away, as he had been impatient to do
from the beginning.
Of course, I had guessed it a long while ago; but it is one
thing to guess, another to know; and I sat stunned with my good
fortune, and could scarce grow to believe that the same poor lad
who had trudged in the dust from Ettrick Forest not two days
ago, was now one of the rich of the earth, and had a house and
broad lands, and might mount his horse tomorrow. All these
pleasant things, and a thousand others, crowded into my mind, as
I sat staring before me out of the inn window, and paying no
heed to what I saw; only I remember that my eye lighted on
Captain Hoseason down on the pier among his seamen, and speaking
with some authority. And presently he came marching back towards
the house, with no mark of a sailor's clumsiness, but carrying
his fine, tall figure with a manly bearing, and still with the
same sober, grave expression on his face. I wondered if it was
possible that Ransome's stories could be true, and half
disbelieved them; they fitted so ill with the man's looks. But
indeed, he was neither so good as I supposed him, nor quite so
bad as Ransome did; for, in fact, he was two men, and left the
better one behind as soon as he set foot on board his vessel.
The next thing, I heard my uncle calling me, and found the
pair in the road together. It was the captain who addressed me,
and that with an air (very flattering to a young lad) of grave
"Sir," said he, "Mr. Balfour tells me great things of you;
and for my own part, I like your looks. I wish I was for longer
here, that we might make the better friends; but we'll make the
most of what we have. Ye shall come on board my brig for half an
hour, till the ebb sets, and drink a bowl with me."
Now, I longed to see the inside of a ship more than words
can tell; but I was not going to put myself in jeopardy, and I
told him my uncle and I had an appointment with a lawyer.
"Ay, ay," said he, "he passed me word of that. But, ye see,
the boat'll set ye ashore at the town pier, and that's but a
penny stonecast from Rankeillor's house." And here he suddenly
leaned down and whispered in my ear: "Take care of the old
tod; he means mischief. Come aboard till I can get a word
with ye." And then, passing his arm through mine, he continued
aloud, as he set off towards his boat: "But, come, what can I
bring ye from the Carolinas? Any friend of Mr. Balfour's can
command. A roll of tobacco? Indian feather-work? a skin of a
wild beast? a stone pipe? the mocking-bird that mews for all the
world like a cat? the cardinal bird that is as red as blood? --
take your pick and say your pleasure."
By this time we were at the boat-side, and he was handing
me in. I did not dream of hanging back; I thought (the poor
fool!) that I had found a good friend and helper, and I was
rejoiced to see the ship. As soon as we were all set in our
places, the boat was thrust off from the pier and began to move
over the waters: and what with my pleasure in this new movement
and my surprise at our low position, and the appearance of the
shores, and the growing bigness of the brig as we drew near to
it, I could hardly understand what the captain said, and must
have answered him at random.
As soon as we were alongside (where I sat fairly gaping at
the ship's height, the strong humming of the tide against its
sides, and the pleasant cries of the seamen at their work)
Hoseason, declaring that he and I must be the first aboard,
ordered a tackle to be sent down from the main-yard. In this I
was whipped into the air and set down again on the deck, where
the captain stood ready waiting for me, and instantly slipped
back his arm under mine. There I stood some while, a little
dizzy with the unsteadiness of all around me, perhaps a little
afraid, and yet vastly pleased with these strange sights; the
captain meanwhile pointing out the strangest, and telling me
their names and uses.
"But where is my uncle?" said I suddenly.
"Ay," said Hoseason, with a sudden grimness, "that's the
I felt I was lost. With all my strength, I plucked myself
clear of him and ran to the bulwarks. Sure enough, there was the
boat pulling for the town, with my uncle sitting in the stern.
I gave a piercing cry -- "Help, help! Murder!" -- so that both
sides of the anchorage rang with it, and my uncle turned round
where he was sitting, and showed me a face full of cruelty and
It was the last I saw. Already strong hands had been
plucking me back from the ship's side; and now a thunderbolt
seemed to strike me; I saw a great flash of fire, and fell
I GO TO SEA IN THE BRIG "COVENANT" OF DYSART
I CAME to myself in darkness, in great pain, bound hand and
foot, and deafened by many unfamiliar noises. There sounded in
my ears a roaring of water as of a huge mill-dam, the thrashing
of heavy sprays, the thundering of the sails, and the shrill
cries of seamen. The whole world now heaved giddily up, and now
rushed giddily downward; and so sick and hurt was I in body, and
my mind so much confounded, that it took me a long while,
chasing my thoughts up and down, and ever stunned again by a
fresh stab of pain, to realise that I must be lying somewhere
bound in the belly of that unlucky ship, and that the wind must
have strengthened to a gale. With the clear perception of my
plight, there fell upon me a blackness of despair, a horror of
remorse at my own folly, and a passion of anger at my uncle,
that once more bereft me of my senses.
When I returned again to life, the same uproar, the same
confused and violent movements, shook and deafened me; and
presently, to my other pains and distresses, there was added the
sickness of an unused landsman on the sea. In that time of my
adventurous youth, I suffered many hardships; but none that was
so crushing to my mind and body, or lit by so few hopes, as
these first hours aboard the brig.
I heard a gun fire, and supposed the storm had proved too
strong for us, and we were firing signals of distress. The
thought of deliverance, even by death in the deep sea, was
welcome to me. Yet it was no such matter; but (as I was
afterwards told) a common habit of the captain's, which I here
set down to show that even the worst man may have his kindlier
side. We were then passing, it appearcd, within some miles of
Dysart, where the brig was built, and where old Mrs. Hoseason,
the captain's mother, had come some years before to live; and
whether outward or inward bound, the Covenant was never suffered
to go by that place by day, without a gun fired and colours
I had no measure of time; day and night were alike in that
ill-smelling cavern of the ship's bowels where, I lay. and the
misery of my situation drew out the hours to double. How long,
therefore, I lay waiting to hear the ship split upon some rock,
or to feel her reel head foremost into the depths of the sea, I
have not the means of computation. But sleep at length stole
from me the consciousness of sorrow.
I was awakened by the light of a hand-lantern shining in my
face. A small man of about thirty, with green eyes and a tangle
of fair hair, stood looking down at me.
"Well," said he, "how goes it?"
I answered by a sob; and my visitor then felt my pulse and
temples, and set himself to wash and dress the wound upon my
"Ay," said he, "a sore dunt. What, man? Cheer up! The
world's no done; you've made a bad start of it but you'll make
a better. Have you had any meat?"
I said I could not look at it: and thereupon he gave me
some brandy and water in a tin pannikin, and left me once more
The next time he came to see me, I was lying betwixt sleep
and waking, my eyes wide open in the darkness, the sickness
quite departed, but succeeded by a horrid giddiness and swimming
that was almost worse to bear. I ached, besides, in every limb,
and the cords that bound me seemed to be of fire. The smell of
the hole in which I lay seemed to have become a part of me; and
during the long interval since his last visit I had suffered
tortures of fear, now from the scurrying of the ship's rats,
that sometimes pattered on my very face, and now from the dismal
imaginings that haunt the bed of fever.
The glimmer of the lantern, as a trap opened, shone in like
the heaven's sunlight; and though it only showed me the strong,
dark beams of the ship that was my prison, I could have cried
aloud for gladness. The man with the green eyes was the first to
descend the ladder, and I noticed that he came somewhat
unsteadily. He was followed by the captain. Neither said a word;
but the first set to and examined me, and dressed my wound as
before, while Hoseason looked me in my face with an odd, black
"Now, sir, you see for yourself," said the first: "a high
fever, no appetite, no light, no meat: you see for yourself what
"I am no conjurer, Mr. Riach," said the captain.
"Give me leave, sir" said Riach; "you've a good head upon
your shoulders, and a good Scotch tongue to ask with; but I will
leave you no manner of excuse; I want that boy taken out of this
hole and put in the forecastle."
"What ye may want, sir, is a matter of concern to nobody
but yoursel'," returned the captain; "but I can tell ye that
which is to be. Here he is; here he shall bide."
"Admitting that you have been paid in a proportion," said
the other, "I will crave leave humbly to say that I have not.
Paid I am, and none too much, to be the second officer of this
old tub, and you ken very well if I do my best to earn it. But
I was paid for nothing more."
"If ye could hold back your hand from the tin-pan, Mr.
Riach, I would have no complaint to make of ye," returned the
skipper. "and instead of asking riddles, I make bold to say that
ye would keep your breath to cool your porridge. We'll be
required on deck," he added, in a sharper note, and set one foot
upon the ladder.
But Mr. Riach caught him by the sleeve.
"Admitting that you have been paid to do a murder ----" he
Hoseason turned upon him with a flash.
"What's that?" he cried. "What kind of talk is that?"
"It seems it is the talk that you can understand," said Mr.
Riach, looking him steadily in the face.
"Mr. Riach, I have sailed with ye three cruises," replied
the captain. "In all that time, sir, ye should have learned to
know me: I'm a stiff man, and a dour man; but for what ye say
the now -- fie, fie! -- it comes from a bad heart and a black
conscience. If ye say the lad will die----"
"Ay, will he!" said Mr. Riach.
"Well, sir, is not that enough?" said Hoseason. "Flit him
where ye please!"
Thereupon the captain ascended the ladder; and I, who had
lain silent throughout this strange conversation, beheld Mr.
Riach turn after him and bow as low as to his knees in what was
plainly a spirit of derision. Even in my then state of sickness,
I perceived two things: that the mate was touched with liquor,
as the captain hinted, and that (drunk or sober) he was like to
prove a valuable friend.
Five minutes afterwards my bonds were cut, I was hoisted on
a man's back, carried up to the forecastle, and laid in a bunk
on some sea-blankets; where the first thing that I did was to
lose my senses.
It was a blessed thing indeed to open my eyes again upon
the daylight, and to find myself in the society of men. The
forecastle was a roomy place enough, set all about with berths,
in which the men of the watch below were seated smoking, or
lying down asleep. The day being calm and the wind fair, the
scuttle was open, and not only the good daylight, but from time
to time (as the ship rolled) a dusty beam of sunlight shone in,
and dazzled and delighted me. I had no sooner moved, moreover,
than one of the men brought me a drink of something healing
which Mr. Riach had prepared, and bade me lie still and I should
soon be well again. There were no bones broken, he explained: "A
clour on the head was naething. Man," said he, "it was me
that gave it ye!"
Here I lay for the space of many days a close prisoner, and
not only got my health again, but came to know my companions.
They were a rough lot indeed, as sailors mostly are: being men
rooted out of all the kindly parts of life, and condemned to
toss together on the rough seas, with masters no less cruel.
There were some among them that had sailed with the pirates and
seen things it would be a shame even to speak of; some were men
that had run from the king's ships, and went with a halter round
their necks, of which they made no secret; and all, as the
saying goes, were "at a word and a blow" with their best
friends. Yet I had not been many days shut up with them before
I began to be ashamed of my first judgment, when I had drawn
away from them at the Ferry pier, as though they had been
unclean beasts. No class of man is altogether bad, but each has
its own faults and virtues; and these shipmates of mine were no
exception to the rule. Rough they were, sure enough; and bad, I
suppose; but they had many virtues. They were kind when it
occurred to them, simple even beyond the simplicity of a country
lad like me, and had some glimmerings of honesty.
There was one man, of maybe forty, that would sit on my
berthside for hours and tell me of his wife and child. He was a
fisher that had lost his boat, and thus been driven to the
deep-sea voyaging. Well, it is years ago now: but I have never
forgotten him. His wife (who was "young by him," as he often
told me) waited in vain to see her man return; he would never
again make the fire for her in the morning, nor yet keep the
bairn when she was sick. Indeed, many of these poor fellows (as
the event proved) were upon their last cruise; the deep seas and
cannibal fish received them; and it is a thankless business to
speak ill of the dead.
Among other good deeds that they did, they returned my
money, which had been shared among them; and though it was about
a third short, I was very glad to get it, and hoped great good
from it in the land I was going to. The ship was bound for the
Carolinas; and you must not suppose that I was going to that
place merely as an exile. The trade was even then much
depressed; since that, and with the rebellion of the colonies
and the formation of the United States, it has, of course, come
to an end; but in those days of my youth, white men were still
sold into slavery on the plantations, and that was the destiny
to which my wicked uncle had condemned me.
The cabin-boy Ransome (from whom I had first heard of these
atrocities) came in at times from the round-house, where he
berthed and served, now nursing a bruised limb in silent agony,
now raving against the cruelty of Mr. Shuan. It made my heart
bleed; but the men had a great respect for the chief mate, who
was, as they said, "the only seaman of the whole jing-bang, and
none such a bad man when he was sober." Indeed, I found there
was a strange peculiarity about our two mates: that Mr. Riach
was sullen, unkind, and harsh when he was sober, and Mr. Shuan
would not hurt a fly except when he was drinking. I asked about
the captain; but I was told drink made no difference upon that
man of iron.
I did my best in the small time allowed me to make some
thing like a man, or rather I should say something like a boy,
of the poor creature, Ransome. But his mind was scarce truly
human. He could remember nothing of the time before he came to
sea; only that his father had made clocks, and had a starling in
the parlour, which could whistle "The North Countrie;" all else
had been blotted out in these years of hardship and cruelties.
He had a strange notion of the dry land, picked up from sailor's
stories: that it was a place where lads were put to some kind of
slavery called a trade, and where apprentices were continually
lashed and clapped into foul prisons. In a town, he thought
every second person a decoy, and every third house a place in
which seamen would be drugged and murdered. To be sure, I would
tell him how kindly I had myself been used upon that dry land he
was so much afraid of, and how well fed and carefully taught
both by my friends and my parents: and if he had been recently
hurt, he would weep bitterly and swear to run away; but if he
was in his usual crackbrain humour, or (still more) if he had
had a glass of spirits in the roundhouse, he would deride the
It was Mr. Riach (Heaven forgive him!) who gave the boy
drink; and it was, doubtless, kindly meant; but besides that it
was ruin to his health, it was the pitifullest thing in life to
see this unhappy, unfriended creature staggering, and dancing,
and talking he knew not what. Some of the men laughed, but not
all; others would grow as black as thunder (thinking, perhaps,
of their own childhood or their own children) and bid him stop
that nonsense, and think what he was doing. As for me, I felt
ashamed to look at him, and the poor child still comes about me
in my dreams.
All this time, you should know, the Covenant was meeting
continual head-winds and tumbling up and down against head-seas,
so that the scuttle was almost constantly shut, and the
forecastle lighted only by a swinging lantern on a beam. There
was constant labour for all hands; the sails had to be made and
shortened every hour; the strain told on the men's temper; there
was a growl of quarrelling all day, long from berth to berth;
and as I was never allowed to set my foot on deck, you can
picture to yourselves how weary of my life I grew to be, and how
impatient for a change.
And a change I was to get, as you shall hear; but I must
first tell of a conversation I had with Mr. Riach, which put a
little heart in me to bear my troubles. Getting him in a
favourable stage of drink (for indeed he never looked near me
when he was sober), I pledged him to secrecy, and told him my
He declared it was like a ballad; that he would do his best
to help me; that I should have paper, pen, and ink, and write
one line to Mr. Campbell and another to Mr. Rankeillor; and that
if I had told the truth, ten to one he would be able (with their
help) to pull me through and set me in my rights.
"And in the meantime," says he, "keep your heart up. You're
not the only one, I'll tell you that. There's many a man hoeing
tobacco over-seas that should be mounting his horse at his own
door at home; many and many! And life is all a variorum, at the
best. Look at me: I'm a laird's son and more than half a doctor,
and here I am, man-Jack to Hoseason!"
I thought it would be civil to ask him for his story.
He whistled loud.
"Never had one," said he. "I like fun, that's all."
skipped out of the forecastle.
ONE night, about eleven o'clock, a man of Mr. Riach's watch
(which was on deck) came below for his jacket; and instantly
there began to go a whisper about the forecastle that "Shuan had
done for him at last." There was no need of a name; we all knew
who was meant; but we had scarce time to get the idea rightly in
our heads, far less to speak of it, when the scuttle was again
flung open, and Captain Hoseason came down the ladder. He looked
sharply round the bunks in the tossing light of the lantern; and
then, walking straight up to me, he addressed me, to my
surprise, in tones of kindness.
"My man," said he, "we want ye to serve in the round-house.
You and Ransome are to change berths. Run away aft with ye."
Even as he spoke, two seamen appeared in the scuttle,
carrying Ransome in their arms; and the ship at that moment
giving a great sheer into the sea, and the lantern swinging, the
light fell direct on the boy's face. It was as white as wax, and
had a look upon it like a dreadful smile. The blood in me ran
cold, and I drew in my breath as if I had been struck.
"Run away aft; run away aft with ye!" cried Hoseason.
And at that I brushed by the sailors and the boy (who
neither spoke nor moved), and ran up the ladder on deck.
The brig was sheering swiftly and giddily through a long,
cresting swell. She was on the starboard tack, and on the left
hand, under the arched foot of the foresail, I could see the
sunset still quite bright. This, at such an hour of the night,
surprised me greatly; but I was too ignorant to draw the true
conclusion -- that we were going north-about round Scotland, and
were now on the high sea between the Orkney and Shetland
Islands, having avoided the dangerous currents of the Pentland
Firth. For my part, who had been so long shut in the dark and
knew nothing of head-winds, I thought we might be half-way or
more across the Atlantic. And indeed (beyond that I wondered a
little at the lateness of the sunset light) I gave no heed to
it, and pushed on across the decks, running between the seas,
catching at ropes, and only saved from going overboard by one of
the hands on deck, who had been always kind to me.
The round-house, for which I was bound, and where I was now
to sleep and serve, stood some six feet above the decks, and
considering the size of the brig, was of good dimensions. Inside
were a fixed table and bench, and two berths, one for the
captain and the other for the two mates, turn and turn about. It
was all fitted with lockers from top to bottom, so as to stow
away the offieers' belongings and a part of the ship's stores;
there was a second store-room underneath, which you entered by
a hatchway in the middle of the deck; indeed, all the best of
the meat and drink and the whole of the powder were collected in
this place; and all the firearms, except the two pieces of brass
ordnance, were set in a rack in the aftermost wall of the
round-house. The most of the cutlasses were in another place.
A small window with a shutter on each side, and a skylight
in the roof, gave it light by, day; and after dark there was a
lamp always burning. It was burning when I entered, not
brightly, but enough to show Mr. Shuan sitting at the table,
with the brandy bottle and a tin pannikin in front of him. He
was a tall man, strongly made and very black; and he stared
before him on the table like one stupid.
He took no notice of my coming in; nor did he move when the
captain followed and leant on the berth beside me, looking
darkly at the mate. I stood in great fear of Hoseason, and had
my reasons for it; but something told me I need not be afraid of
him just then; and I whispered in his ear: "How is he?" He shook
his head like one that does not know and does not wish to think,
and his face was very stern.
Presently Mr. Riach came in. He gave the captain a glance
that meant the boy was dead as plain as speaking, and took his
place like the rest of us; so that we all three stood without a
word, staring down at Mr. Shuan, and Mr. Shuan (on his side) sat
without a word, looking hard upon the table.
All of a sudden he put out his hand to take the bottle; and
at that Mr. Riach started forward and caught it away from him,
rather by surprise than violence, crying out, with an oath, that
there had been too much of this work altogether, and that a
judgment would fall upon the ship. And as he spoke (the weather
sliding-doors standing open) he tossed the bottle into the sea.
Mr. Shuan was on his feet in a trice; he still looked
dazed, but he meant murder, ay, and would have done it, for the
second time that night, had not the captain stepped in between
him and his victim.
"Sit down!" roars the captain. "Ye sot and swine, do ye
know what ye've done? Ye've murdered the boy!"
Mr. Shuan seemed to understand; for he sat down again, and
put up his hand to his brow.
"Well," he said, "he brought me a dirty pannikin!"
At that word, the captain and I and Mr. Riach all looked at
each other for a second with a kind of frightened look; and then
Hoseason walked up to his chief officer, took him by the
shoulder, led him across to his bunk, and bade him lie down and
go to sleep, as you might speak to a bad child. The murderer
cried a little, but he took off his sea-boots and obeyed.
"Ah!" cried Mr. Riach, with a dreadful voice, "ye should
have interfered long syne. It's too late now."
"Mr. Riach," said the captain, "this night's work must
never be kennt in Dysart. The boy went overboard, sir; that's
what the story is; and I would give five pounds out of my pocket
it was true!" He turned to the table. "What made ye throw the
good bottle away?" he added. "There was nae sense in that, sir.
Here, David, draw me another. They're in the bottom locker;" and
he tossed me a key. "Ye'll need a glass yourself, sir," he added
to Riach." Yon was an ugly thing to see."
So the pair sat down and hob-a-nobbed; and while they did
so, the murderer, who had been lying and whimpering in his
berth, raised himself upon his elbow and looked at them and at
That was the first night of my new duties; and in the
course of the next day I had got well into the run of them. I
had to serve at the meals, which the captain took at regular
hours, sitting down with the officer who was off, duty; all the
day through I would be running with a dram to one or other of my
three masters; and at night I slept on a blanket thrown on the
deck boards at the aftermost end of the round-house, and right
in the draught of the two doors. It was a hard and a cold bed;
nor was I suffered to sleep without interruption; for some one
would be always coming in from deck to get a dram, and when a
fresh watch was to be set, two and sometimes all three would sit
down and brew a bowl together. How they kept their health, I
know not, any more than how I kept my own.
And yet in other ways it was an easy service. There was no
cloth to lay; the meals were either of oatmeal porridge or salt
junk, except twice a week, when there was duff: and though I was
clumsy enough and (not being firm on my sealegs) sometimes fell
with what I was bringing them, both Mr. Riach and the captain
were singularly patient. I could not but fancy they were making
up lee-way with their consciences, and that they would scarce
have been so good with me if they had not been worse with
As for Mr. Shuan, the drink or his crime, or the two
together, had certainly troubled his mind. I cannot say I ever
saw him in his proper wits. He never grew used to my being
there, stared at me continually (sometimes, I could have
thought, with terror), and more than once drew back from my hand
when I was serving him. I was pretty sure from the first that he
had no clear mind of what he had done, and on my second day in
the round-house I had the proof of it. We were alone, and he had
been staring at me a long time, when all at once, up he got, as
pale as death, and came close up to me, to my great terror. But
I had no cause to be afraid of him.
"You were not here before?" he asked.
"No, sir," said I."
"There was another boy?" he asked again; and when I had
answered him, "Ah!" says he, "I thought that," and went
down, without another word, except to call for brandy.
You may think it strange, but for all the horror I had, I
was still sorry for him. He was a married man, with a wife in
Leith; but whether or no he had a family, I have now forgotten;
I hope not.
Altogether it was no very hard life for the time it lasted,
which (as you are to hear) was not long. I was as well fed as
the best of them; even their pickles, which were the great
dainty, I was allowed my share of; and had I liked I might have
been drunk from morning to night, like Mr. Shuan. I had company,
too, and good company of its sort. Mr. Riach, who had been to
the college, spoke to me like a friend when he was not sulking,
and told me many curious things, and some that were informing;
and even the captain, though he kept me at the stick's end the
most part of the time, would sometimes unbuckle a bit, and tell
me of the fine countries he had visited.
The shadow of poor Ransome, to be sure, lay on all four of
us, and on me and Mr. Shuan in particular, most heavily. And
then I had another trouble of my own. Here I was, doing dirty
work for three men that I looked down upon, and one of whom, at
least, should have hung upon a gallows; that was for the
present; and as for the future, I could only see myself slaving
alongside of negroes in the tobacco fields. Mr. Riach, perhaps
from caution, would never suffer me to say another word about my
story; the captain, whom I tried to approach, rebuffed me like
a dog and would not hear a word; and as the days came and went,
my heart sank lower and lower, till I was even glad of the work
which kept me from thinking.
THE MAN WITH THE BELT OF GOLD
MORE than a week went by, in which the ill-luck that had
hitherto pursued the Covenant upon this voyage grew yet more
strongly marked. Some days she made a little way; others, she
was driven actually back. At last we were beaten so far to the
south that we tossed and tacked to and fro the whole of the
ninth day, within sight of Cape Wrath and the wild, rocky coast
on either hand of it. There followed on that a council of the
officers, and some decision which I did not rightly understand,
seeing only the result: that we had made a fair wind of a foul
one and were running south.
The tenth afternoon there was a falling swell and a thick,
wet, white fog that hid one end of the brig from the other. All
afternoon, when I went on deck, I saw men and officers listening
hard over the bulwarks -- "for breakers," they said; and though
I did not so much as understand the word, I felt danger in the
air, and was excited.
Maybe about ten at night, I was serving Mr. Riach and the
captain at their supper, when the ship struck something with a
great sound, and we heard voices singing out. My two masters
leaped to their feet.
"She's struck!" said Mr. Riach.
"No, sir," said the captain. "We've only run a boat down."
And they hurried out.
The captain was in the right of it. We had run down a boat
in the fog, and she had parted in the midst and gone to the
bottom with all her crew but one. This man (as I heard
afterwards) had been sitting in the stern as a passenger, while
the rest were on the benches rowing. At the moment of the blow,
the stern had been thrown into the air, and the man (having his
hands free, and for all he was encumbered with a frieze overcoat
that came below his knees) had leaped up and caught hold of the
brig's bowsprit. It showed he had luck and much agility and
unusual strength, that he should have thus saved himself from
such a pass. And yet, when the captain brought him into the
round-house, and I set eyes on him for the first time, he looked
as cool as I did.
He was smallish in stature, but well set and as nimble as
a goat; his face was of a good open expression, but sunburnt
very dark, and heavily freckled and pitted with the small-pox;
his eyes were unusually light and had a kind of dancing madness
in them, that was both engaging and alarming; and when he took
off his great-coat, he laid a pair of fine silver-mounted
pistols on the table, and I saw that he was belted with a great
sword. His manners, besides, were elegant, and he pledged the
captain handsomely. Altogether I thought of him, at the first
sight, that here was a man I would rather call my friend than my
The captain, too, was taking his observations, but rather
of the man's clothes than his person. And to be sure, as soon as
he had taken off the great-coat, he showed forth mighty fine for
the round-house of a merchant brig: having a hat with feathers,
a red waistcoat, breeches of black plush, and a blue coat with
silver buttons and handsome silver lace; costly clothes, though
somewhat spoiled with the fog and being slept in.
"I'm vexed, sir, about the boat," says the captain.
"There are some pretty men gone to the bottom," said the
stranger, "that I would rather see on the dry land again than
half a score of boats."
"Friends of yours?" said Hoseason.
"You have none such friends in your country," was the
reply. "They would have died for me like dogs."
"Well, sir," said the captain, still watching him, "there
are more men in the world than boats to put them in."
"And that's true, too," cried the other, "and ye seem to
a gentleman of great penetration."
"I have been in France, sir," says the captain, so that it
was plain he meant more by the words than showed upon the face
"Well, sir," says the other, "and so has many a pretty man,
for the matter of that."
"No doubt, sir" says the captain, "and fine coats."
"Oho!" says the stranger, "is that how the wind sets?"
he laid his hand quickly on his pistols.
"Don't be hasty," said the captain. "Don't do a mischief
before ye see the need of it. Ye've a French soldier's coat upon
your back and a Scotch tongue in your head, to be sure; but so
has many an honest fellow in these days, and I dare say none the
worse of it."
"So?" said the gentleman in the fine coat: "are ye of the
honest party?" (meaning, Was he a Jacobite? for each side, in
these sort of civil broils, takes the name of honesty for its
"Why, sir," replied the captain, "I am a true-blue
Protestant, and I thank God for it." (It was the first word of
any religion I had ever heard from him, but I learnt afterwards
he was a great church-goer while on shore.) "But, for all that,"
says he, "I can be sorry to see another man with his back to the
"Can ye so, indeed?" asked the Jacobite. "Well, sir, to be
quite plain with ye, I am one of those honest gentlemen that
were in trouble about the years forty-five and six; and (to be
still quite plain with ye) if I got into the hands of any of the
red-coated gentry, it's like it would go hard with me. Now, sir,
I was for France; and there was a French ship cruising here to
pick me up; but she gave us the go-by in the fog -- as I wish
from the heart that ye had done yoursel'! And the best that I
can say is this: If ye can set me ashore where I was going, I
have that upon me will reward you highly for your trouble."
"In France?" says the captain. "No, sir; that I cannot do.
But where ye come from -- we might talk of that."
And then, unhappily, he observed me standing in my corner,
and packed me off to the galley to get supper for the gentleman.
I lost no time, I promise you; and when I came back into the
round-house, I found the gentleman had taken a money-belt from
about his waist, and poured out a guinea or two upon the table.
The captain was looking at the guineas, and then at the belt,
and then at the gentleman's face; and I thought he seemed
"Half of it," he cried, "and I'm your man!"
The other swept back the guineas into the belt, and put it
on again under his waistcoat. "I have told ye" sir" said
"that not one doit of it belongs to me. It belongs to my
chieftain," and here he touched his hat," and while I would be
but a silly messenger to grudge some of it that the rest might
come safe, I should show myself a hound indeed if I bought my
own carcase any too dear. Thirty guineas on the sea-side, or
sixty if ye set me on the Linnhe Loch. Take it, if ye will; if
not, ye can do your worst."
"Ay," said Hoseason. "And if I give ye over to the
"Ye would make a fool's bargain," said the other. "My
chief, let me tell you, sir, is forfeited, like every honest man
in Scotland. His estate is in the hands of the man they call
King George; and it is his officers that collect the rents, or
try to collect them. But for the honour of Scotland, the poor
tenant bodies take a thought upon their chief lying in exile;
and this money is a part of that very rent for which King George
is looking. Now, sir, ye seem to me to be a man that understands
things: bring this money within the reach of Government, and how
much of it'll come to you?"
"Little enough, to be sure," said Hoseason; and then, "if
they, knew" he added, drily. "But I think, if I was to try, that
I could hold my tongue about it."
"Ah, but I'll begowk ye there!" cried the gentleman.
"Play me false, and I'll play you cunning. If a hand is laid
upon me, they shall ken what money it is."
"Well," returned the captain, "what must be must. Sixty
guineas, and done. Here's my hand upon it."
"And here's mine," said the other.
And thereupon the captain went out (rather hurriedly, I
thought), and left me alone in the round-house with the
At that period (so soon after the forty-five) there were
many exiled gentlemen coming back at the peril of their lives,
either to see their friends or to collect a little money; and as
for the Highland chiefs that had been forfeited, it was a common
matter of talk how their tenants would stint themselves to send
them money, and their clansmen outface the soldiery to get it
in, and run the gauntlet of our great navy to carry it across.
All this I had, of course, heard tell of; and now I had a man
under my eyes whose life was forfeit on all these counts and
upon one more, for he was not only a rebel and a smuggler of
rents, but had taken service with King Louis of France. And as
if all this were not enough, he had a belt full of golden
guineas round his loins. Whatever my opinions, I could not look
on such a man without a lively interest.
"And so you're a Jacobite?" said I, as I set meat before
"Ay" said he, beginning to eat. "And you, by your long
face, should be a Whig?"
"Betwixt and between," said I, not to annoy him; for indeed
I was as good a Whig as Mr. Campbell could make me.
"And that's naething," said he. "But I'm saying, Mr.
Betwixt-and-Between," he added, "this bottle of yours is dry;
and it's hard if I'm to pay sixty guineas and be grudged a dram
upon the back of it."
"I'll go and ask for the key," said I, and stepped on deck.
The fog was as close as ever, but the swell almost down.
They had laid the brig to, not knowing precisely where they
were, and the wind (what little there was of it) not serving
well for their true course. Some of the hands were still
hearkening for breakers; but the captain and the two officers
were in the waist with their heads together. It struck me (I
don't know why) that they were after no good; and the first word
I heard, as I drew softly near, more than confirmed me.
It was Mr. Riach, crying out as if upon a sudden thought:"
Could n't we wile him out of the round-house?"
"He's better where he is," returned Hoseason; "he has n't
room to use his sword."
"Well, that's true," said Riach; "but he's hard to come
"Hut!" said Hoseason. "We can get the man in talk, one upon
each side, and pin him by the two arms; or if that'll not hold,
sir, we can make a run by both the doors and get him under hand
before he has the time to draw"
At this hearing, I was seized with both fear and anger at
these treacherous, greedy, bloody men that I sailed with. My
first mind was to run away; my second was bolder.
"Captain," said I, "the gentleman is seeking a dram,
the bottle's out. Will you give me the key?"
They all started and turned about.
"Why, here's our chance to get the firearms!" Riach cried;
and then to me: "Hark ye, David," he said, "do ye ken where
"Ay, ay," put in Hoseason. "David kens; David's a good lad.
Ye see, David my man, yon wild Hielandman is a danger to the
ship, besides being a rank foe to King George, God bless him!"
I had never been so be-Davided since I came on board: but
I said Yes, as if all I heard were quite natural.
"The trouble is," resumed the captain, "that all our
firelocks, great and little, are in the round-house under this
man's nose; likewise the powder. Now, if I, or one of the
officers, was to go in and take them, he would fall to thinking.
But a lad like you, David, might snap up a horn and a pistol or
two without remark. And if ye can do it cleverly, I'll bear it
in mind when it'll be good for you to have friends; and that's
when we come to Carolina."
Here Mr. Riach whispered him a little.
"Very right, sir," said the captain; and then to myself:"
And see here, David, yon man has a beltful of gold, and I give
you my word that you shall have your fingers in it."
I told him I would do as he wished, though indeed I had
scarce breath to speak with; and upon that he gave me the key of
the spirit locker, and I began to go slowly back to the
round-house. What was I to do? They were dogs and thieves; they
had stolen me from my own country; they had killed poor Ransome;
and was I to hold the candle to another murder? But then, upon
the other hand, there was the fear of death very plain before
me; for what could a boy and a man, if they were as brave as
lions, against a whole ship's company?
I was still arguing it back and forth, and getting no great
clearness, when I came into the round-house and saw the Jacobite
eating his supper under the lamp; and at that my mind was made
up all in a moment. I have no credit by it; it was by no choice
of mine, but as if by compulsion, that I walked right up to the
table and put my hand on his shoulder.
"Do ye want to be killed?" said I. He sprang to his feet,
and looked a question at me as clear as if he had spoken.
"O!" cried I, "they're all murderers here; it's a ship full
of them! They've murdered a boy already. Now it's you."
"Ay, ay" said he; "but they have n't got me yet." And
looking at me curiously, "Will ye stand with me?"
"That will I!" said I. "I am no thief, nor yet murderer.
I'll stand by you."
"Why, then," said he, "what's your name?"
"David Balfour," said I; and then, thinking that a man with
so fine a coat must like fine people, I added for the first
time, "of Shaws."
It never occurred to him to doubt me, for a Highlander is
used to see great gentlefolk in great poverty; but as he had no
estate of his own, my words nettled a very childish vanity he
"My name is Stewart," he said, drawing himself up. "Alan
Breck, they call me. A king's name is good enough for me, though
I bear it plain and have the name of no farm-midden to clap to
the hind-end of it."
And having administered this rebuke, as though it were
something of a chief importance, he turned to examine our
The round-house was built very strong, to support the
breaching of the seas. Of its five apertures, only the skylight
and the two doors were large enough for the passage of a man.
The doors, besides, could be drawn close: they were of stout
oak, and ran in grooves, and were fitted with hooks to keep them
either shut or open, as the need arose. The one that was already
shut I secured in this fashion; but when I was proceeding to
slide to the other, Alan stopped me.
"David," said he --" for I cannae bring to mind the name
your landed estate, and so will make so bold as to call you
David -- that door, being open, is the best part of my
"It would be yet better shut," says I.
"Not so, David," says he. "Ye see, I have but one face; but
so long as that door is open and my face to it, the best part of
my enemies will be in front of me, where I would aye wish to
Then he gave me from the rack a cutlass (of which there
were a few besides the firearms), choosing it with great care,
shaking his head and saying he had never in all his life seen
poorer weapons; and next he set me down to the table with a
powder-horn, a bag of bullets and all the pistols, which he bade
"And that will be better work, let me tell you," said he,
"for a gentleman of decent birth, than scraping plates and
raxing drams to a wheen tarry sailors."
Thereupon he stood up in the midst with his face to the
door, and drawing his great sword, made trial of the room he had
to wield it in.
"I must stick to the point," he said, shaking his head;"
and that's a pity, too. It does n't set my genius, which is all
for the upper guard. And, now" said he, "do you keep on charging
the pistols, and give heed to me."
I told him I would listen closely. My chest was tight, my
mouth dry, the light dark to my eyes; the thought of the numbers
that were soon to leap in upon us kept my heart in a flutter:
and the sea, which I heard washing round the brig, and where I
thought my dead body would be cast ere morning, ran in my mind
"First of all," said he, "how many are against us?"
I reckoned them up; and such was the hurry of my mind, I
had to cast the numbers twice. "Fifteen," said I.
Alan whistled. "Well," said he, "that can't be cured. And
now follow me. It is my part to keep this door, where I look for
the main battle. In that, ye have no hand. And mind and dinnae
fire to this side unless they get me down; for I would rather
have ten foes in front of me than one friend like you cracking
pistols at my back."
I told him, indeed I was no great shot."
And that, s very bravely said," he cried, in a great
admiration of my candour. "There's many a pretty gentleman that
wouldnae dare to say it."
"But then, sir" said I, "there is the door behind you"
which they may perhaps break in."
"Ay," said he, "and that is a part of your work. No sooner
the pistols charged, than ye must climb up into yon bed where
ye're handy at the window; and if they lift hand, against the
door, ye're to shoot. But that's not all. Let's make a bit of a
soldier of ye, David. What else have ye to guard?"
"There's the skylight," said I. "But indeed, Mr. Stewart,
I would need to have eyes upon both sides to keep the two of
them; for when my face is at the one, my back is to the other."
"And that's very true," said Alan. "But have ye no ears to
"To be sure!" cried I. "I must hear the bursting of the
"Ye have some rudiments of sense," said Alan, grimly.
 Whig or Whigamore was the cant name for those who were loyal
to King George.
THE SIEGE OF THE ROUND-HOUSE
BUT now our time of truce was come to an end. Those on deck had
waited for my coming till they grew impatient; and scarce had
Alan spoken, when the captain showed face in the open door.
"Stand!" cried Alan, and pointed his sword at him. The
captain stood. indeed; but he neither winced nor drew back a
"A naked sword?" says he. "This is a strange return for
"Do ye see me?" said Alan. "I am come of kings; I bear a
king's name. My badge is the oak. Do ye see my sword? It has
slashed the heads off mair Whigamores than you have toes upon
your feet. Call up your vermin to your back, sir, and fall on!
The sooner the clash begins, the sooner ye'll taste this steel
throughout your vitals."
The captain said nothing to Alan, but he looked over at me
with an ugly look. "David," said he, "I'll mind this;"
sound of his voice went through me with a jar.
Next moment he was gone.
"And now," said Alan, "let your hand keep your head, for
the grip is coming."
Alan drew a dirk, which he held in his left hand in case
they should run in under his sword. I, on my part, clambered up
into the berth with an armful of pistols and something of a
heavy heart, and set open the window where I was to watch. It
was a small part of the deck that I could overlook, but enough
for our purpose. The sea had gone down, and the wind was steady
and kept the sails quiet; so that there was a great stillness in
the ship, in which I made sure I heard the sound of muttering
voices. A little after, and there came a clash of steel upon the
deck, by which I knew they were dealing out the cutlasses and
one had been let fall; and after that, silence again.
I do not know if I was what you call afraid; but my heart
beat like a bird's, both quick and little; and there was a
dimness came before my eyes which I continually rubbed away, and
which continually returned. As for hope, I had none; but only a
darkness of despair and a sort of anger against all the world
that made me long to sell my life as dear as I was able. I tried
to pray, I remember, but that same hurry of my mind, like a man
running, would not suffer me to think upon the words; and my
chief wish was to have the thing begin and be done with it.
It came all of a sudden when it did, with a rush of feet
and a roar, and then a shout from Alan, and a sound of blows and
some one crying out as if hurt. I looked back over my shoulder,
and saw Mr. Shuan in the doorway, crossing blades with Alan.
"That's him that killed the boy!" I cried.
"Look to your window!" said Alan; and as I turned back to
my place, I saw him pass his sword through the mate's body.
It was none too soon for me to look to my own part; for my
head was scarce back at the window, before five men, carrying a
spare yard for a battering-ram, ran past me and took post to
drive the door in. I had never fired with a pistol in my life,
and not often with a gun; far less against a fellow-creature.
But it was now or never; and just as they swang the yard, I
cried out: "Take that!" and shot into their midst.
I must have hit one of them, for he sang out and gave back
a step, and the rest stopped as if a little disconcerted. Before
they had time to recover, I sent another ball over their heads;
and at my third shot (which went as wide as the second) the
whole party threw down the yard and ran for it.
Then I looked round again into the deck-house. The whole
place was full of the smoke of my own firing, just as my ears
seemed to be burst with the noise of the shots. But there was
Alan, standing as before; only now his sword was running blood
to the hilt, and himself so swelled with triumph and fallen into
so fine an attitude, that he looked to be invincible. Right
before him on the floor was Mr. Shuan, on his hands and knees;
the blood was pouring from his mouth, and he was sinking slowly
lower, with a terrible, white face; and just as I looked, some
of those from behind caught hold of him by the heels and dragged
him bodily out of the round-house. I believe he died as they
were doing it.
"There's one of your Whigs for ye!" cried Alan; and then
turing to me, he asked if I had done much execution.
I told him I had winged one, and thought it was the
"And I've settled two," says he. "No, there's not enough
blood let; they'll be back again. To your watch, David. This was
but a dram before meat."
I settled back to my place, re-charging the three pistols
I had fired, and keeping watch with both eye and ear.
Our enemies were disputing not far off upon the deck, and
that so loudly that I could hear a word or two above the washing
of the seas.
"It was Shuan bauchled it," I heard one say.
And another answered him with a "Wheesht, man! He's paid
After that the voices fell again into the same muttering as
before. Only now, one person spoke most of the time, as though
laying down a plan, and first one and then another answered him
briefly, like men taking orders. By this, I made sure they were
coming on again, and told Alan.
"It's what we have to pray for," said he. "Unless we can
give them a good distaste of us, and done with it, there'll be
nae sleep for either you or me. But this time, mind, they'll be
By this, my pistols were ready, and there was nothing to do
but listen and wait. While the brush lasted, I had not the time
to think if I was frighted; but now, when all was still again,
my mind ran upon nothing else. The thought of the sharp swords
and the cold steel was strong in me; and presently, when I began
to hear stealthy steps and a brushing of men's clothes against
the round-house wall, and knew they were taking their places in
the dark, I could have found it in my mind to cry out aloud.
All this was upon Alan's side; and I had begun to think my
share of the fight was at an end, when I heard some one drop
softly on the roof above me.
Then there came a single call on the sea-pipe, and that was
the signal. A knot of them made one rush of it, cutlass in hand,
against the door; and at the same moment, the glass of the
skylight was dashed in a thousand pieces, and a man leaped
through and landed on the floor. Before he got his feet, I had
clapped a pistol to his back, and might have shot him, too; only
at the touch of him (and him alive) my whole flesh misgave me,
and I could no more pull the trigger than I could have flown.
He had dropped his cutlass as he jumped, and when he felt
the pistol, whipped straight round and laid hold of me, roaring
out an oath; and at that either my courage came again, or I grew
so much afraid as came to the same thing; for I gave a shriek
and shot him in the midst of the body. He gave the most
horrible, ugly groan and fell to the floor. The foot of a second
fellow, whose legs were dangling through the skylight, struck me
at the same time upon the head; and at that I snatched another
pistol and shot this one through the thigh, so that he slipped
through and tumbled in a lump on his companion's body. There was
no talk of missing, any more than there was time to aim; I
clapped the muzzle to the very place and fired.
I might have stood and stared at them for long, but I heard
Alan shout as if for help, and that brought me to my senses.
He had kept the door so long; but one of the seamen, while
he was engaged with others, had run in under his guard and
caught him about the body. Alan was dirking him with his left
hand, but the fellow clung like a leech. Anothcr had broken in
and had his cutlass raised. The door was thronged with their
faces. I thought we were lost, and catching up my cutlass, fell
on them in flank.
But I had not time to be of help. The wrestler dropped at
last; and Alan, leaping back to get his distance, ran upon the
others like a bull, roaring as he went. They broke before him
like water, turning, and running, and falling one against
another in their haste. The sword in his hands flashed like
quicksilver into the huddle of our fleeing enemies; and at every
flash there came the scream of a man hurt. I was still thinking
we were lost, when lo! they were all gone, and Alan was driving
them along the deck as a sheep-dog chases sheep.
Yet he was no sooner out than he was back again, being as
cautious as he was brave; and meanwhile the seamen continued
running and crying out as if he was still behind them; and we
heard them tumble one upon another into the forecastle, and
clap-to the hatch upon the top.
The round-house was like a shambles; three were dead
inside, another lay in his death agony across the threshold; and
there were Alan and I victorious and unhurt.
He came up to me with open arms. "Come to my arms!" he
cried, and embraced and kissed me hard upon both cheek. "David,"
said he, "I love you like a brother. And O, man," he cried in
kind of ecstasy, "am I no a bonny fighter?"
Thereupon he turned to the four enemies, passed his sword
clean through each of them, and tumbled them out of doors one
after the other. As he did so, he kept humming and singing and
whistling to himself, like a man trying to recall an air; only
what he was trying was to make one. All the while, the flush was
in his face, and his eyes were as bright as a five-year-old
child's with a new toy. And presently he sat down upon the
table, sword in hand; the air that he was making all the time
began to run a little clearer, and then clearer still; and then
out he burst with a great voice into a Gaelic song.
I have translated it here, not in verse (of which I have no
skill) but at least in the king's English. He sang it often
afterwards, and the thing became popular; so that I have, heard
it, and had it explained to me, many's the time."
This is the song of the sword of Alan;
The smith made it,
The fire set it;
Now it shines in the hand of Alan Breck.
Their eyes were many and bright,
Swift were they to behold,
Many the hands they guided:
The sword was alone.
The dun deer troop over the hill,
They are many, the hill is one;
The dun deer vanish,
The hill remains.
Come to me from the hills of heather,
Come from the isles of the sea.
O far-beholding eagles,
Here is your meat.
Now this song which he made (both words and music) in the
hour of our victory, is something less than just to me, who
stood beside him in the tussle. Mr. Shuan and five more were
either killed outright or thoroughly disabled; but of these, two
fell by my hand, the two that came by the skylight. Four more
were hurt, and of that number, one (and he not the least
important) got his hurt from me. So that, altogether, I did my
fair share both of the killing and the wounding, and might have
claimed a place in Alan's verses. But poets have to think upon
their rhymes; and in good prose talk, Alan always did me more
In the meanwhile, I was innocent of any wrong being done
me. For not only I knew no word of the Gaelic; but what with the
long suspense of the waiting, and the scurry and strain of our
two spirts of fighting, and more than all, the horror I had of
some of my own share in it, the thing was no sooner over than I
was glad to stagger to a seat. There was that tightness on my
chest that I could hardly breathe; the thought of the two men I
had shot sat upon me like a nightmare; and all upon a sudden,
and before I had a guess of what was coming, I began to sob and
cry like any child.
Alan clapped my shoulder, and said I was a brave lad and
wanted nothing but a sleep.
"I'll take the first watch," said he. "Ye've done well by
me, David, first and last; and I wouldn't lose you for all Appin
-- no, nor for Breadalbane."
So I made up my bed on the floor; and he took the first
spell, pistol in hand and sword on knee, three hours by the
captain's watch upon the wall. Then he roused me up, and I took
my turn of three hours; before the end of which it was broad
day, and a very quiet morning, with a smooth, rolling sea that
tossed the ship and made the blood run to and fro on the
round-house floor, and a heavy rain that drummed upon the roof.
All my watch there was nothing stirring; and by the banging of
the helm, I knew they had even no one at the tiller. Indeed (as
I learned afterwards) there were so many of them hurt or dead,
and the rest in so ill a temper, that Mr. Riach and the captain
had to take turn and turn like Alan and me, or the brig might
have gone ashore and nobody the wiser. It was a mercy the night
had fallen so still, for the wind had gone down as soon as the
rain began. Even as it was, I judged by the wailing of a great
number of gulls that went crying and fishing round the ship,
that she must have drifted pretty near the coast or one of the
islands of the Hebrides; and at last, looking out of the door of
the round-house, I saw the great stone hills of Skye on the
right hand, and, a little more astern, the strange isle of Rum.
THE CAPTAIN KNUCKLES UNDER
ALAN and I sat down to breakfast about six of the clock. The
floor was covered with broken glass and in a horrid mess of
blood, which took away my hunger. In all other ways we were in
a situation not only agreeable but merry; having ousted the
officers from their own cabin, and having at command all the
drink in the ship -- both wine and spirits -- and all the dainty
part of what was eatable, such as the pickles and the fine sort
of bread. This, of itself, was enough to set us in good humour,
but the richest part of it was this, that the two thirstiest men
that ever came out of Scotland (Mr. Shuan being dead) were now
shut in the fore-part of the ship and condemned to what they
hated most -- cold water.
"And depend upon it," Alan said, "we shall hear more of
them ere long. Ye may keep a man from the fighting, but never
from his bottle."
We made good company for each other. Alan, indeed,
expressed himself most lovingly; and taking a knife from the
table, cut me off one of the silver buttons from his coat.
"I had them," says he, "from my father, Duncan Stewart; and
now give ye one of them to be a keepsake for last night's work.
And wherever ye go and show that button, the friends of Alan
Breck will come around you."
He said this as if he had been Charlemagne, and commanded
armies; and indeed, much as I admired his courage, I was always
in danger of smiling at his vanity: in danger, I say, for had I
not kept my countenance, I would be afraid to think what a
quarrel might have followed.
As soon as we were through with our meal he rummaged in the
captain's locker till he found a clothes-brush; and then taking
off his coat, began to visit his suit and brush away the stains,
with such care and labour as I supposed to have been only usual
with women. To be sure, he had no other; and, besides (as he
said), it belonged to a king and so behoved to be royally looked
For all that, when I saw what care he took to pluck out the
threads where the button had been cut away, I put a higher value
on his gift.
He was still so engaged when we were hailed by Mr. Riach
from the deck, asking for a parley; and I, climbing through the
skylight and sitting on the edge of it, pistol in hand and with
a bold front, though inwardly in fear of broken glass, hailed
him back again and bade him speak out. He came to the edge of
the round-house, and stood on a coil of rope, so that his chin
was on a level with the roof; and we looked at each other awhile
in silence. Mr. Riach, as I do not think he had been very
forward in the battle, so he had got off with nothing worse than
a blow upon the cheek: but he looked out of heart and very
weary, having been all night afoot, either standing watch or
doctoring the wounded.
"This is a bad job," said he at last, shaking his head.
"It was none of our choosing," said I.
"The captain," says he, "would like to speak with your
friend. They might speak at the window."
"And how do we know what treachery he means?" cried I.
"He means none, David," returned Mr. Riach, "and if he did,
I'll tell ye the honest truth, we couldnae get the men to
"Is that so?" said I.
"I'll tell ye more than that," said he. "It's not only the
men; it's me. I'm frich'ened, Davie." And he smiled across at
me. "No," he continued, "what we want is to be shut of him."
Thereupon I consulted with Alan, and the parley was agreed
to and parole given upon either side; but this was not the whole
of Mr. Riach's business, and he now begged me for a dram with
such instancy and such reminders of his former kindness, that at
last I handed him a pannikin with about a gill of brandy. He
drank a part, and then carried the rest down upon the deck, to
share it (I suppose) with his superior.
A little after, the captain came (as was agreed) to one of
the windows, and stood there in the rain, with his arm in a
sling, and looking stern and pale, and so old that my heart
smote me for having fired upon him.
Alan at once held a pistol in his face.
"Put that thing up!" said the captain. "Have I not passed
my word, sir? or do ye seek to affront me?"
"Captain," says Alan, "I doubt your word is a breakable.
Last night ye haggled and argle-bargled like an apple-wife; and
then passed me your word, and gave me your hand to back it; and
ye ken very well what was the upshot. Be damned to your word!"
"Well, well, sir," said the captain, "ye'll get little good
by swearing." (And truly that was a fault of which the captain
was quite free.) "But we have other things to speak," he
continued, bitterly. "Ye've made a sore hash of my brig; I
haven't hands enough left to work her; and my first officer
(whom I could ill spare) has got your sword throughout his
vitals, and passed without speech. There is nothing left me,
sir, but to put back into the port of Glasgow after hands; and
there (by your leave) ye will find them that are better able to
talk to you."
"Ay?" said Alan; "and faith, I'll have a talk with them
mysel'! Unless there's naebody speaks English in that town, I
have a bonny tale for them. Fifteen tarry sailors upon the one
side, and a man and a halfling boy upon the other! O, man, it's
Hoseason flushed red.
"No," continued Alan, "that'll no do. Ye'll just have to
set me ashore as we agreed."
"Ay," said Hoseason, "but my first officer is dead -- ye
ken best how. There's none of the rest of us acquaint with this
coast" sir; and it's one very dangerous to ships."
"I give ye your choice," says Alan. "Set me on dry ground
in Appin, or Ardgour, or in Morven, or Arisaig, or Morar; or, in
brief, where ye please, within thirty miles of my own country;
except in a country of the Campbells. That's a broad target. If
ye miss that, ye must be as feckless at the sailoring as I have
found ye at the fighting. Why, my poor country people in their
bit cobles pass from island to island in all weathers, ay,
and by night too, for the matter of that."
"A coble's not a ship" sir" said the captain. "It has
draught of water."
"Well, then, to Glasgow if ye list!" says Alan. "We'll have
the laugh of ye at the least."
"My mind runs little upon laughing," said the captain. "But
all this will cost money, sir."
"Well" sir" says Alan, "I am nae weathercock. Thirty
guineas, if ye land me on the sea-side; and sixty, if ye put me
in the Linnhe Loch."
"But see, sir, where we lie, we are but a few hours' sail
from Ardnamurchan," said Hoseason. "Give me sixty, and I'll set
"And I'm to wear my brogues and run jeopardy of the
red-coats to please you?" cries Alan. "No, sir; if ye want sixty
guineas earn them, and set me in my own country."
"It's to risk the brig, sir," said the captain, "and your
own lives along with her."
"Take it or want it," says Alan.
"Could ye pilot us at all?" asked the captain, who was
frowning to himself.
"Well, it's doubtful," said Alan. "I'm more of a fighting
man (as ye have seen for yoursel') than a sailor-man. But I have
been often enough picked up and set down upon this coast, and
should ken something of the lie of it."
The captain shook his head, still frowning.
"If I had lost less money on this unchancy cruise," says
he, "I would see you in a rope's end before I risked my brig,
sir. But be it as ye will. As soon as I get a slant of wind (and
there's some coming, or I'm the more mistaken) I'll put it in
hand. But there's one thing more. We may meet in with a king's
ship and she may lay us aboard, sir, with no blame of mine: they
keep the cruisers thick upon this coast, ye ken who for. Now,
sir, if that was to befall, ye might leave the money."
"Captain," says Alan, "if ye see a pennant, it shall be
your part to run away. And now, as I hear you're a little short
of brandy in the fore-part, I'll offer ye a change: a bottle of
brandy against two buckets of water."
That was the last clause of the treaty, and was duly
executed on both sides; so that Alan and I could at last wash
out the round-house and be quit of the memorials of those whom
we had slain, and the captain and Mr. Riach could be happy again
in their own way, the name of which was drink.
 Coble: a small boat used in fishing.
I HEAR OF THE "RED FOX"
BEFORE we had done cleaning out the round-house, a breeze sprang
up from a little to the east of north. This blew off the rain
and brought out the sun.
And here I must explain; and the reader would do well to
look at a map. On the day when the fog fell and we ran down
Alan's boat, we had been running through the Little Minch. At
dawn after the battle, we lay becalmed to the east of the Isle
of Canna or between that and Isle Eriska in the chain of the
Long Island. Now to get from there to the Linnhe Loch, the
straight course was through the narrows of the Sound of Mull.
But the captain had no chart; he was afraid to trust his brig so
deep among the islands; and the wind serving well, he preferred
to go by west of Tiree and come up under the southern coast of
the great Isle of Mull.
All day the breeze held in the same point, and rather
freshened than died down; and towards afternoon, a swell began
to set in from round the outer Hebrides. Our course, to go round
about the inner isles, was to the west of south, so that at
first we had this swell upon our beam, and were much rolled
about. But after nightfall, when we had turned the end of Tiree
and began to head more to the east, the sea came right astern.
Meanwhile, the early part of the day, before the swell came
up, was very pleasant; sailing, as we were, in a bright sunshine
and with many mountainous islands upon different sides. Alan and
I sat in the round-house with the doors open on each side (the
wind being straight astern), and smoked a pipe or two of the
captain's fine tobacco. It was at this time we heard each
other's stories, which was the more important to me, as I gained
some knowledge of that wild Highland country on which I was so
soon to land. In those days, so close on the back of the great
rebellion, it was needful a man should know what he was doing
when he went upon the heather.
It was I that showed the example, telling him all my
misfortune; which he heard with great good-nature. Only, when I
came to mention that good friend of mine, Mr. Campbell the
minister, Alan fired up and cried out that he hated all that
were of that name.
"Why," said I, "he is a man you should be proud to give
your hand to."
"I know nothing I would help a Campbell to," says he,
"unless it was a leaden bullet. I would hunt all of that name
like blackcocks. If I lay dying, I would crawl upon my knees to
my chamber window for a shot at one."
"Why, Alan," I cried, "what ails ye at the Campbells?"
"Well," says he, "ye ken very well that I am an Appin
Stewart, and the Campbells have long harried and wasted those of
my name; ay, and got lands of us by treachery--but never with
the sword," he cried loudly, and with the word brought down his
fist upon the table. But I paid the less attention to this, for
I knew it was usually said by those who have the underhand.
"There's more than that," he continued, "and all in the same
story: lying words, lying papers, tricks fit for a peddler, and
the show of what's legal over all, to make a man the more
"You that are so wasteful of your buttons," said I, "I can
hardly think you would be a good judge of business."
"Ah!" says he, falling again to smiling, "I got my
wastefulness from the same man I got the buttons from; and that
was my poor father, Duncan Stewart, grace be to him! He was the
prettiest man of his kindred; and the best swordsman in the
Hielands, David, and that is the same as to say, in all the
world, I should ken, for it was him that taught me. He was in
the Black Watch, when first it was mustered; and, like other
gentlemen privates, had a gillie at his back to carry his
firelock for him on the march. Well, the King, it appears, was
wishful to see Hieland swordsmanship; and my father and three
more were chosen out and sent to London town, to let him see it
at the best. So they were had into the palace and showed the
whole art of the sword for two hours at a stretch, before King
George and Queen Carline, and the Butcher Cumberland, and many
more of whom I havenae mind. And when they were through, the
King (for all he was a rank usurper) spoke them fair and gave
each man three guineas in his hand. Now, as they were going out
of the palace, they had a porter's lodge to go, by; and it came
in on my father, as he was perhaps the first private Hieland
gentleman that had ever gone by that door, it was right he
should give the poor porter a proper notion of their quality. So
he gives the King's three guineas into the man's hand, as if it
was his common custom; the three others that came behind him did
the same; and there they were on the street, never a penny the
better for their pains. Some say it was one, that was the first
to fee the King's porter; and some say it was another; but the
truth of it is, that it was Duncan Stewart, as I am willing to
prove with either sword or pistol. And that was the father that
I had, God rest him!"
"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
"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
"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."
"I thought they called your chief Appin," said I.
"Ay, but Ardshiel is the captain of the clan," said he,
which scarcely cleared my mind. "Ye see, David, he that was all
his life so great a man, and come of the blood and bearing the
name of kings, is now brought down to live in a French town like
a poor and private person. He that had four hundred swords at
his whistle, I have seen, with these eyes of mine, buying butter
in the market-place, and taking it home in a kale-leaf. This is
not only a pain but a disgrace to us of his family and clan.
There are the bairns forby, the children and the hope of Appin,
that must be learned their letters and how to hold a sword, in
that far country. Now, the tenants of Appin have to pay a rent
to King George; but their hearts are staunch, they are true to
their chief; and what with love and a bit of pressure, and maybe
a threat or two, the poor folk scrape up a second rent for
Ardshiel. Well, David, I'm the hand that carries it." And he
struck the belt about his body, so that the guineas rang.
"Do they pay both?" cried I.
"Ay, David, both," says he.
"What! two rents?" I repeated.
"Ay, David," said he. "I told a different tale to yon
captain man; but this is the truth of it. And it's wonderful to
me how little pressure is needed. But that's the handiwork of my
good kinsman and my father's friend, James of the Glens: James
Stewart, that is: Ardshiel's half-brother. He it is that gets
the money in, and does the management."
This was the first time I heard the name of that James
Stewart, who was afterwards so famous at the time of his
hanging. But I took little heed at the moment, for all my mind
was occupied with the generosity of these poor Highlanders.
"I call it noble," I cried. "I'm a Whig, or little better;
but I call it noble."
"Ay" said he, "ye're a Whig, but ye're a gentleman; and
that's what does it. Now, if ye were one of the cursed race of
Campbell, ye would gnash your teeth to hear tell of it. If ye
were the Red Fox."... And at that name, his teeth shut together,
and he ceased speaking. I have seen many a grim face, but never
a grimmer than Alan's when he had named the Red Fox.
"And who is the Red Fox?" I asked, daunted, but still
"Who is he?" cried Alan. "Well, and I'll tell you that.
When the men of the clans were broken at Culloden, and the good
cause went down, and the horses rode over the fetlocks in the
best blood of the north, Ardshiel had to flee like a poor deer
upon the mountains -- he and his lady and his bairns. A sair job
we had of it before we got him shipped; and while he still lay
in the heather, the English rogues, that couldnae come at his
life, were striking at his rights. They stripped him of his
powers; they stripped him of his lands; they plucked the weapons
from the hands of his clansmen, that had borne arms for thirty
centuries; ay, and the very clothes off their backs -- so that
it's now a sin to wear a tartan plaid, and a man may be cast
into a gaol if he has but a kilt about his legs. One thing they
couldnae kill. That was the love the clansmen bore their chief.
These guineas are the proof of it. And now, in there steps a
man, a Campbell, red-headed Colin of Glenure ----"
"Is that him you call the Red Fox?" said I.
"Will ye bring me his brush?" cries Alan, fiercely. "Ay,
that's the man. In he steps, and gets papers from King George,
to be so-called King's factor on the lands of Appin. And at
first he sings small, and is hail-fellow-well-met with Sheamus -
- that's James of the Glens, my chieftain's agent. But
by-and-by, that came to his ears that I have just told you; how
the poor commons of Appin, the farmers and the crofters and the
boumen, were wringing their very plaids to get a second rent,
and send it over-seas for Ardshiel and his poor bairns. What was
it ye called it, when I told ye?"
"I called it noble, Alan," said I.
"And you little better than a common Whig!" cries Alan.
"But when it came to Colin Roy, the black Campbell blood in him
ran wild. He sat gnashing his teeth at the wine table. What!
should a Stewart get a bite of bread, and him not be able to
prevent it? Ah! Red Fox, if ever I hold you at a gun's end, the
Lord have pity upon ye!" (Alan stopped to swallow down his
anger.) "Well, David, what does he do? He declares all the farms
to let. And, thinks he, in his black heart,' I'll soon get other
tenants that'll overbid these Stewarts, and Maccolls, and
Macrobs' (for these are all names in my clan, David). 'and
then,' thinks he, 'Ardshiel will have to hold his bonnet on a
"Well," said I, "what followed?"
Alan laid down his pipe, which he had long since suffered
to go out, and set his two hands upon his knees.
"Ay," said he, "ye'll never guess that! For these same
Stewarts, and Maccolls, and Macrobs (that had two rents to pay,
one to King George by stark force, and one to Ardshiel by
natural kindness) offered him a better price than any Campbell
in all broad Scotland; and far he sent seeking them -- as far as
to the sides of Clyde and the cross of Edinburgh -- seeking, and
fleeching, and begging them to come, where there was a Stewart
to be starved and a red-headed hound of a Campbell to be
"Well, Alan," said I, "that is a strange story, and a fine
one, too. And Whig as I may be, I am glad the man was beaten."
"Him beaten?" echoed Alan. "It's little ye ken of
Campbells, and less of the Red Fox. Him beaten? No: nor will be,
till his blood's on the hillside! But if the day comes, David
man, that I can find time and leisure for a bit of hunting,
there grows not enough heather in all Scotland to hide him from
"Man Alan," said I, "ye are neither very wise nor very
Christian to blow off so many words of anger. They will do the
man ye call the Fox no harm, and yourself no good. Tell me your
tale plainly out. What did he next?"
"And that's a good observe, David," said Alan. "Troth and
indeed, they will do him no harm; the more's the pity! And
barring that about Christianity (of which my opinion is quite
otherwise, or I would be nae Christian), I am much of your
"Opinion here or opinion there," said I, "it's a kent thing
that Christianity forbids revenge."
"Ay" said he, "it's well seen it was a Campbell taught ye!
It would be a convenient world for them and their sort, if there
was no such a thing as a lad and a gun behind a heather bush!
But that's nothing to the point. This is what he did."
"Ay" said I, "come to that."
"Well, David," said he, "since he couldnae be rid of the
loyal commons by fair means, he swore he would be rid of them by
foul. Ardshiel was to starve: that was the thing he aimed at.
And since them that fed him in his exile wouldnae be bought out
-- right or wrong, he would drive them out. Therefore he sent
for lawyers, and papers, and red-coats to stand at his back. And
the kindly folk of that country must all pack and tramp, every
father's son out of his father's house, and out of the place
where he was bred and fed, and played when he was a callant. And
who are to succeed them? Bare-leggit beggars! King George is to
whistle for his rents; he maun dow with less; he can spread his
butter thinner: what cares Red Colin? If he can hurt Ardshiel,
he has his wish; if he can pluck the meat from my chieftain's
table, and the bit toys out of his children's hands, he will
gang hame singing to Glenure!"
"Let me have a word," said I. "Be sure, if they take less
rents, be sure Government has a finger in the pie. It's not this
Campbell's fault, man -- it's his orders. And if ye killed this
Colin to-morrow, what better would ye be? There would be another
factor in his shoes, as fast as spur can drive."
"Ye're a good lad in a fight," said Alan; "but, man! ye
have Whig blood in ye!"
He spoke kindly enough, but there was so much anger under
his contempt that I thought it was wise to change the
conversation. I expressed my wonder how, with the Highlands
covered with troops, and guarded like a city in a siege, a man
in his situation could come and go without arrest.
"It's easier than ye would think," said Alan. "A bare
hillside (ye see) is like all one road; if there's a sentry at
one place, ye just go by another. And then the heather's a great
help. And everywhere there are friends' houses and friends'
byres and haystacks. And besides, when folk talk of a country
covered with troops, it's but a kind of a byword at the best. A
soldier covers nae mair of it than his boot-soles. I have fished
a water with a sentry on the other side of the brae, and killed
a fine trout; and I have sat in a heather bush within six feet
of another, and learned a real bonny tune from his whistling.
This was it," said he, and whistled me the air."
And then, besides," he continued, "it's no sae bad now as
it was in forty-six. The Hielands are what they call pacified.
Small wonder, with never a gun or a sword left from Cantyre to
Cape Wrath, but what tenty folk have hidden in their thatch!
But what I would like to ken, David, is just how long? Not long,
ye would think, with men like Ardshiel in exile and men like the
Red Fox sitting birling the wine and oppressing the poor at
home. But it's a kittle thing to decide what folk'll bear, and
what they will not. Or why would Red Colin be riding his horse
all over my poor country of Appin, and never a pretty lad to put
a bullet in him?"
And with this Alan fell into a muse, and for a long time
sate very sad and silent.
I will add the rest of what I have to say about my friend,
that he was skilled in all kinds of music, but principally pipe-
music; was a well-considered poet in his own tongue; had read
several books both in French and English; was a dead shot, a
good angler, and an excellent fencer with the small sword as
well as with his own particular weapon. For his faults, they
were on his face, and I now knew them all. But the worst of
them, his childish propensity to take offence and to pick
quarrels, he greatly laid aside in my case, out of regard for
the battle of the round-house. But whether it was because I had
done well myself, or because I had been a witness of his own
much greater prowess, is more than I can tell. For though he had
a great taste for courage in other men, yet he admired it most
in Alan Breck.
THE LOSS OF THE BRIG
IT was already late at night, and as dark as it ever would be at
that season of the year (and that is to say, it was still pretty
bright), when Hoseason clapped his head into the round-house
"Here," said he, "come out and see if ye can pilot."
"Is this one of your tricks?" asked Alan.
"Do I look like tricks?" cries the captain. "I have other
things to think of -- my brig's in danger!"
By the concerned look of his face, and, above all, by the
sharp tones in which he spoke of his brig, it was plain to both
of us he was in deadly earnest; and so Alan and I, with no great
fear of treachery, stepped on deck.
The sky was clear; it blew hard, and was bitter cold; a
great deal of daylight lingered; and the moon, which was nearly
full, shone brightly. The brig was close hauled, so as to round
the southwest corner of the Island of Mull, the hills of which
(and Ben More above them all, with a wisp of mist upon the top
of it) lay full upon the larboard bow. Though it was no good
point of sailing for the Covenant, she tore through the seas at
a great rate, pitching and straining, and pursued by the
Altogether it was no such ill night to keep the seas in;
and I had begun to wonder what it was that sat so heavily upon
the captain, when the brig rising suddenly on the top of a high
swell, he pointed and cried to us to look. Away on the lee bow,
a thing like a fountain rose out of the moonlit sea, and
immediately after we heard a low sound of roaring.
"What do ye call that?" asked the captain, gloomily.
"The sea breaking on a reef," said Alan. "And now ye ken
where it is; and what better would ye have?"
"Ay," said Hoseason, "if it was the only one."
And sure enough, just as he spoke there came a second
fountain farther to the south.
"There!" said Hoseason. "Ye see for yourself. If I had kent
of these reefs, if I had had a chart, or if Shuan had been
spared, it's not sixty guineas, no, nor six hundred, would have
made me risk my brig in sic a stoneyard! But you, sir, that was
to pilot us, have ye never a word?"
"I'm thinking," said Alan, "these'll be what they call the
"Are there many of them?" says the captain.
"Truly, sir, I am nae pilot," said Alan; "but it sticks in
my mind there are ten miles of them."
Mr. Riach and the captain looked at each other.
"There's a way through them, I suppose?" said the captain.
"Doubtless," said Alan, "but where? But it somehow runs in
my mind once more that it is clearer under the land."
"So?" said Hoseason. "We'll have to haul our wind then, Mr.
Riach; we'll have to come as near in about the end of Mull as we
can take her, sir; and even then we'll have the land to kep the
wind off us, and that stoneyard on our lee. Well, we're in for
it now, and may as well crack on."
With that he gave an order to the steersman, and sent Riach
to the foretop. There were only five men on deck, counting the
officers; these being all that were fit (or, at least, both fit
and willing) for their work. So, as I say, it fell to Mr. Riach
to go aloft, and he sat there looking out and hailing the deck
with news of all he saw.
"The sea to the south is thick," he cried; and then, after
a while, "it does seem clearer in by the land."
"Well, sir," said Hoseason to Alan, "we'll try your way of
it. But I think I might as well trust to a blind fiddler. Pray
God you're right."
"Pray God I am!" says Alan to me. "But where did I hear it?
Well, well, it will be as it must."
As we got nearer to the turn of the land the reefs began to
be sown here and there on our very path; and Mr. Riach sometimes
cried down to us to change the course. Sometimes, indeed, none
too soon; for one reef was so close on the brig's weather board
that when a sea burst upon it the lighter sprays fell upon her
deck and wetted us like rain.
The brightness of the night showed us these perils as
clearly as by day, which was, perhaps, the more alarming. It
showed me, too, the face of the captain as he stood by the
steersman, now on one foot, now on the other, and sometimes
blowing in his hands, but still listening and looking and as
steady as steel. Neither he nor Mr. Riach had shown well in the
fighting; but I saw they were brave in their own trade, and
admired them all the more because I found Alan very white.
"Ochone, David," says he, "this is no the kind of death I
"What, Alan!" I cried, "you're not afraid?"
"No," said he, wetting his lips, "but you'll allow,
yourself, it's a cold ending."
By this time, now and then sheering to one side or the
other to avoid a reef, but still hugging the wind and the land,
we had got round Iona and begun to come alongside Mull. The tide
at the tail of the land ran very strong, and threw the brig
about. Two hands were put to the helm, and Hoseason himself
would sometimes lend a help; and it was strange to see three
strong men throw their weight upon the tiller, and it (like a
living thing) struggle against and drive them back. This would
have been the greater danger had not the sea been for some while
free of obstacles. Mr. Riach, besides, announced from the top
that he saw clear water ahead.
"Ye were right," said Hoseason to Alan. "Ye have saved the
brig, sir. I'll mind that when we come to clear accounts." And
I believe he not only meant what he said, but would have done
it; so high a place did the Covenant hold in his affections.
But this is matter only for conjecture, things having gone
otherwise than he forecast.
"Keep her away a point," sings out Mr. Riach. "Reef to
And just at the same time the tide caught the brig, and
threw the wind out of her sails. She came round into the wind
like a top, and the next moment struck the reef with such a
dunch as threw us all flat upon the deck, and came near to shake
Mr. Riach from his place upon the mast.
I was on my feet in a minute. The reef on which we had
struck was close in under the southwest end of Mull, off a
little isle they call Earraid, which lay low and black upon the
larboard. Sometimes the swell broke clean over us; sometimes it
only ground the poor brig upon the reef, so that we could hear
her beat herself to pieces; and what with the great noise of the
sails, and the singing of the wind, and the flying of the spray
in the moonlight, and the sense of danger, I think my head must
have been partly turned, for I could scarcely understand the
things I saw.
Presently I observed Mr. Riach and the seamen busy round
the skiff, and, still in the same blank, ran over to assist
them; and as soon as I set my hand to work, my mind came clear
again. It was no very easy task, for the skiff lay amidships and
was full of hamper, and the breaking of the heavier seas
continually forced us to give over and hold on; but we all
wrought like horses while we could.
Meanwhile such of the wounded as could move came clambering
out of the fore-scuttle and began to help; while the rest that
lay helpless in their bunks harrowed me with screaming and
begging to be saved.
The captain took no part. It seemed he was struck stupid.
He stood holding by the shrouds, talking to himself and groaning
out aloud whenever the ship hammered on the rock. His brig was
like wife and child to him; he had looked on, day by day, at the
mishandling of poor Ransome; but when it came to the brig, he
seemed to suffer along with her.
All the time of our working at the boat, I remember only
one other thing: that I asked Alan, looking across at the shore,
what country it was; and he answered, it was the worst possible
for him, for it was a land of the Campbells.
We had one of the wounded men told off to keep a watch upon
the seas and cry us warning. Well, we had the boat about ready
to be launched, when this man sang out pretty shrill: "For God's
sake, hold on!" We knew by his tone that it was someting more
than ordinary; and sure enough, there followed a sea so huge
that it lifted the brig right up and canted her over on her
beam. Whether the cry came too late, or my hold was too weak, I
know not; but at the sudden tilting of the ship I was cast clean
over the bulwarks into the sea.
I went down, and drank my fill, and then came up, and got
a blink of the moon, and then down again. They say a man sinks
a third time for good. I cannot be made like other folk, then;
for I would not like to write how often I went down, or how
often I came up again. All the while, I was being hurled along,
and beaten upon and choked, and then swallowed whole; and the
thing was so distracting to my wits, that I was neither sorry
Presently, I found I was holding to a spar, which helped me
somewhat. And then all of a sudden I was in quiet water, and
began to come to myself.
It was the spare yard I had got hold of, and I was amazed
to see how far I had travelled from the brig. I hailed her,
indeed; but it was plain she was already out of cry. She was
still holding together; but whether or not they had yet launched
the boat, I was too far off and too low down to see.
While I was hailing the brig, I spied a tract of water
lying between us where no great waves came, but which yet boiled
white all over and bristled in the moon with rings and bubbles.
Sometimes the whole tract swung to one side, like the tail of a
live serpent; sometimes, for a glimpse, it would all disappear
and then boil up again. What it was I had no guess, which for
the time increased my fear of it; but I now know it must have
been the roost or tide race, which had carried me away so fast
and tumbled me about so cruelly, and at last, as if tired of
that play, had flung out me and the spare yard upon its landward
I now lay quite becalmed, and began to feel that a man can
die of cold as well as of drowning. The shores of Earraid were
close in; I could see in the moonlight the dots of heather and
the sparkling of the mica in the rocks.
"Well," thought I to myself, "if I cannot get as far as
that, it's strange!"
I had no skill of swimming, Essen Water being small in our
neighbourhood; but when I laid hold upon the yard with both
arms, and kicked out with both feet, I soon begun to find that
I was moving. Hard work it was, and mortally slow; but in about
an hour of kicking and splashing, I had got well in between the
points of a sandy bay surrounded by low hills.
The sea was here quite quiet; there was no sound of any
surf; the moon shone clear; and I thought in my heart I had
never seen a place so desert and desolate. But it was dry land;
and when at last it grew so shallow that I could leave the yard
and wade ashore upon my feet, I cannot tell if I was more tired
or more grateful. Both, at least, I was: tired as I never was
before that night; and grateful to God as I trust I have been
often, though never with more cause.
WITH my stepping ashore I began the most unhappy part of my
adventures. It was half-past twelve in the morning, and though
the wind was broken by the land, it was a cold night. I dared
not sit down (for I thought I should have frozen), but took off
my shoes and walked to and fro upon the sand, bare-foot, and
beating my breast with infinite weariness. There was no sound of
man or cattle; not a cock crew, though it was about the hour of
their first waking; only the surf broke outside in the distance,
which put me in mind of my perils and those of my friend. To
walk by the sea at that hour of the morning, and in a place so
desert-like and lonesome, struck me with a kind of fear.
As soon as the day began to break I put on my shoes and
climbed a hill -- the ruggedest scramble I ever undertook--
falling, the whole way, between big blocks of granite, or
leaping from one to another. When I got to the top the dawn was
come. There was no sign of the brig, which must have lifted from
the reef and sunk. The boat, too, was nowhere to be seen. There
was never a sail upon the ocean; and in what I could see of the
land was neither house nor man.
I was afraid to think what had befallen my shipmates, and
afraid to look longer at so empty a scene. What with my wet
clothes and weariness, and my belly that now began to ache with
hunger, I had enough to trouble me without that. So I set off
eastward along the south coast, hoping to find a house where I
might warm myself, and perhaps get news of those I had lost. And
at the worst, I considered the sun would soon rise and dry my
After a little, my way was stopped by a creek or inlet of
the sea, which seemed to run pretty deep into the land; and as
I had no means to get across, I must needs change my direction
to go about the end of it. It was still the roughest kind of
walking; indeed the whole, not only of Earraid, but of the
neighbouring part of Mull (which they call the Ross) is nothing
but a jumble of granite rocks with heather in among. At first
the creek kept narrowing as I had looked to see; but presently
to my surprise it began to widen out again. At this I scratched
my head, but had still no notion of the truth: until at last I
came to a rising ground, and it burst upon me all in a moment
that I was cast upon a little barren isle, and cut off on every
side by the salt seas.
Instead of the sun rising to dry me, it came on to rain,
with a thick mist; so that my case was lamentable.
I stood in the rain, and shivered, and wondered what to do,
till it occurred to me that perhaps the creek was fordable. Back
I went to the narrowest point and waded in. But not three yards
from shore, I plumped in head over ears; and if ever I was heard
of more, it was rather by God's grace than my own prudence. I
was no wetter (for that could hardly be), but I was all the
colder for this mishap; and having lost another hope was the
And now, all at once, the yard came in my head. What had
carried me through the roost would surely serve me to cross this
little quiet creek in safety. With that I set off, undaunted,
across the top of the isle, to fetch and carry it back. It was
a weary tramp in all ways, and if hope had not buoyed me up, I
must have cast myself down and given up. Whether with the sea
salt, or because I was growing fevered, I was distressed with
thirst, and had to stop, as I went, and drink the peaty water
out of the hags.
I came to the bay at last, more dead than alive; and at the
first glance, I thought the yard was something farther out than
when I left it. In I went, for the third time, into the sea. The
sand was smooth and firm, and shelved gradually down, so that I
could wade out till the water was almost to my neck and the
little waves splashed into my face. But at that depth my feet
began to leave me, and I durst venture in no farther. As for the
yard, I saw it bobbing very quietly some twenty feet beyond.
I had borne up well until this last disappointment; but at
that I came ashore, and flung myself down upon the sands and
The time I spent upon the island is still so horrible a
thought to me, that I must pass it lightly over. In all the
books I have read of people cast away, they had either their
pockets full of tools, or a chest of things would be thrown upon
the beach along with them, as if on purpose. My case was very
different. I had nothing in my pockets but money and Alan's
silver button; and being inland bred, I was as much short of
knowledge as of means.
I knew indeed that shell-fish were counted good to eat; and
among the rocks of the isle I found a great plenty of limpets,
which at first I could scarcely strike from their places, not
knowing quickness to be needful. There were, besides, some of
the little shells that we call buckies; I think periwinkle is
the English name. Of these two I made my whole diet, devouring
them cold and raw as I found them; and so hungry was I, that at
first they seemed to me delicious.
Perhaps they were out of season, or perhaps there was
something wrong in the sea about my island. But at least I had
no sooner eaten my first meal than I was seized with giddiness
and retching, and lay for a long time no better than dead. A
second trial of the same food (indeed I had no other) did better
with me, and revived my strength. But as long as I was on the
island, I never knew what to expect when I had eaten; sometimes
all was well, and sometimes I was thrown into a miserable
sickness; nor could I ever distinguish what particular fish it
was that hurt me.
All day it streamed rain; the island ran like a sop, there
was no dry spot to be found; and when I lay down that night,
between two boulders that made a kind of roof, my feet were in
The second day I crossed the island to all sides. There was
no one part of it better than another; it was all desolate and
rocky; nothing living on it but game birds which I lacked the
means to kill, and the gulls which haunted the outlying rocks in
a prodigious number. But the creek, or strait, that cut off the
isle from the main-land of the Ross, opened out on the north
into a bay, and the bay again opened into the Sound of Iona; and
it was the neighbourhood of this place that I chose to be my
home; though if I had thought upon the very name of home in such
a spot, I must have burst out weeping.
I had good reasons for my choice. There was in this part of
the isle a little hut of a house like a pig's hut, where fishers
used to sleep when they came there upon their business; but the
turf roof of it had fallen entirely in; so that the hut was of
no use to me, and gave me less shelter than my rocks. What was
more important, the shell-fish on which I lived grew there in
great plenty; when the tide was out I could gather a peck at a
time: and this was doubtless a convenience. But the other reason
went deeper. I had become in no way used to the horrid solitude
of the isle, but still looked round me on all sides (like a man
that was hunted), between fear and hope that I might see some
human creature coming. Now, from a little up the hillside over
the bay, I could catch a sight of the great, ancient church and
the roofs of the people's houses in Iona. And on the other hand,
over the low country of the Ross, I saw smoke go up, morning and
evening, as if from a homestead in a hollow of the land.
I used to watch this smoke, when I was wet and cold, and
had my head half turned with loneliness; and think of the
fireside and the company, till my heart burned. It was the same
with the roofs of Iona. Altogether, this sight I had of men's
homes and comfortable lives, although it put a point on my own
sufferings, yet it kept hope alive, and helped me to eat my raw
shell-fish (which had soon grown to be a disgust), and saved me
from the sense of horror I had whenever I was quite alone with
dead rocks, and fowls, and the rain, and the cold sea.
I say it kept hope alive; and indeed it seemed impossible
that I should be left to die on the shores of my own country,
and within view of a church-tower and the smoke of men's houses.
But the second day passed; and though as long as the light
lasted I kept a bright look-out for boats on the Sound or men
passing on the Ross, no help came near me. It still rained, and
I turned in to sleep, as wet as ever, and with a cruel sore
throat, but a little comforted, perhaps, by having said
good-night to my next neighbours, the people of Iona.
Charles the Second declared a man could stay outdoors more
days in the year in the climate of England than in any other.
This was very like a king, with a palace at his back and changes
of dry clothes. But he must have had better luck on his flight
from Worcester than I had on that miserable isle. It was the
height of the summer; yet it rained for more than twenty-four
hours, and did not clear until the afternoon of the third day.
This was the day of incidents. In the morning I saw a red
deer, a buck with a fine spread of antlers, standing in the rain
on the top of the island; but he had scarce seen me rise from
under my rock, before he trotted off upon the other side. I
supposed he must have swum the strait; though what should bring
any creature to Earraid, was more than I could fancy.
A little after, as I was jumping about after my limpets, I
was startled by a guinea-piece, which fell upon a rock in front
of me and glanced off into the sea. When the sailors gave me my
money again, they kept back not only about a third of the whole
sum, but my father's leather purse; so that from that day out,
I carried my gold loose in a pocket with a button. I now saw
there must be a hole, and clapped my hand to the place in a
great hurry. But this was to lock the stable door after the
steed was stolen. I had left the shore at Queensferry with near
on fifty pounds; now I found no more than two guinea-pieces and
a silver shilling.
It is true I picked up a third guinea a little after, where
it lay shining on a piece of turf. That made a fortune of three
pounds and four shillings, English money, for a lad, the
rightful heir of an estate, and now starving on an isle at the
extreme end of the wild Highlands.
This state of my affairs dashed me still further; and,
indeed my plight on that third morning was truly pitiful. My
clothes were beginning to rot; my stockings in particular were
quite worn through, so that my shanks went naked; my hands had
grown quite soft with the continual soaking; my throat was very
sore, my strength had much abated, and my heart so turned
against the horrid stuff I was condemned to eat, that the very
sight of it came near to sicken me.
And yet the worst was not yet come.
There is a pretty high rock on the northwest of Earraid,
which (because it had a flat top and overlooked the Sound) I was
much in the habit of frequenting; not that ever I stayed in one
place, save when asleep, my misery giving me no rest. Indeed, I
wore myself down with continual and aimless goings and comings
in the rain.
As soon, however, as the sun came out, I lay down on the
top of that rock to dry myself. The comfort of the sunshine is
a thing I cannot tell. It set me thinking hopefully of my
deliverance, of which I had begun to despair; and I scanned the
sea and the Ross with a fresh interest. On the south of my rock,
a part of the island jutted out and hid the open ocean, so that
a boat could thus come quite near me upon that side, and I be
none the wiser.
Well, all of a sudden, a coble with a brown sail and a pair
of fishers aboard of it, came flying round that corner of the
isle, bound for Iona. I shouted out, and then fell on my knees
on the rock and reached up my hands and prayed to them. They
were near enough to hear -- I could even see the colour of their
hair; and there was no doubt but they observed me, for they
cried out in the Gaelic tongue, and laughed. But the boat never
turned aside, and flew on, right before my eyes, for Iona.
I could not believe such wickedness, and ran along the
shore from rock to rock, crying on them piteously. even after
they were out of reach of my voice, I still cried and waved to
them; and when they were quite gone, I thought my heart would
have burst. All the time of my troubles I wept only twice. Once,
when I could not reach the yard, and now, the second time, when
these fishers turned a deaf ear to my cries. But this time I
wept and roared like a wicked child, tearing up the turf with my
nails, and grinding my face in the earth. If a wish would kill
men, those two fishers would never have seen morning, and I
should likely have died upon my island.
When I was a little over my anger, I must eat again, but
with such loathing of the mess as I could now scarce control.
Sure enough, I should have done as well to fast, for my fishes
poisoned me again. I had all my first pains; my throat was so
sore I could scarce swallow; I had a fit of strong shuddering,
which clucked my teeth together; and there came on me that
dreadful sense of illness, which we have no name for either in
Scotch or English. I thought I should have died, and made my
peace with God, forgiving all men, even my uncle and the
fishers; and as soon as I had thus made up my mind to the worst,
clearness came upon me; I observed the night was falling dry; my
clothes were dried a good deal; truly, I was in a better case
than ever before, since I had landed on the isle; and so I got
to sleep at last, with a thought of gratitude.
The next day (which was the fourth of this horrible life of
mine) I found my bodily strength run very low. But the sun
shone, the air was sweet, and what I managed to eat of the
shell-fish agreed well with me and revived my courage.
I was scarce back on my rock (where I went always the first
thing after I had eaten) before I observed a boat coming down
the Sound, and with her head, as I thought, in my direction.
I began at once to hope and fear exceedingly; for I thought
these men might have thought better of their cruelty and be
coming back to my assistance. But another disappointment, such
as yesterday's, was more than I could bear. I turned my back,
accordingly, upon the sea, and did not look again till I had
counted many hundreds. The boat was still heading for the
island. The next time I counted the full thousand, as slowly as
I could, my heart beating so as to hurt me. And then it was out
of all question. She was coming straight to Earraid!
I could no longer hold myself back, but ran to the seaside
and out, from one rock to another, as far as I could go. It is
a marvel I was not drowned; for when I was brought to a stand at
last, my legs shook under me, and my mouth was so dry, I must
wet it with the sea-water before I was able to shout.
All this time the boat was coming on; and now I was able to
perceive it was the same boat and the same two men as yesterday.
This I knew by their hair, which the one had of a bright yellow
and the other black. But now there was a third man along with
them, who looked to be of a better class.
As soon as they were come within easy speech, they let down
their sail and lay quiet. In spite of my supplications, they
drew no nearer in, and what frightened me most of all, the new
man tee-hee'd with laughter as he talked and looked at me.
Then he stood up in the boat and addressed me a long while,
speaking fast and with many wavings of his hand. I told him I
had no Gaelic; and at this he became very angry, and I began to
suspect he thought he was talking English. Listening very close,
I caught the word "whateffer" several times; but all the rest
was Gaelic and might have been Greek and Hebrew for me.
"Whatever," said I, to show him I had caught a word.
"Yes, yes -- yes, yes," says he, and then he looked at the
other men, as much as to say, "I told you I spoke English," and
began again as hard as ever in the Gaelic.
This time I picked out another word, "tide." Then I had a
flash of hope. I remembered he was always waving his hand
towards the mainland of the Ross.
"Do you mean when the tide is out --?" I cried, and could
"Yes, yes," said he. "Tide."
At that I turned tail upon their boat (where my adviser had
once more begun to tee-hee with laughter), leaped back the way
I had come, from one stone to another, and set off running
across the isle as I had never run before. In about half an hour
I came out upon the shores of the creek; and, sure enough, it
was shrunk into a little trickle of water, through which I
dashed, not above my knees, and landed with a shout on the main
A sea-bred boy would not have stayed a day on Earraid;
which is only what they call a tidal islet, and except in the
bottom of the neaps, can be entered and left twice in every
twenty-four hours, either dry-shod, or at the most by wading.
Even I, who had the tide going out and in before me in the bay,
and even watchcd for the ebbs, the better to get my shellfish --
even I (I say) if I had sat down to think, instead of raging at
my fate, must have soon guessed the secret, and got free. It was
no wonder the fishers had not understood me. The wonder was
rather that they had ever guessed my pitiful illusion, and taken
the trouble to come back. I had starved with cold and hunger on
that island for close upon one hundred hours. But for the
fishers, I might have left my bones there, in pure folly. And
even as it was, I had paid for it pretty dear, not only in past
sufferings, but in my present case; being clothed like a
beggar-man, scarce able to walk, and in great pain of my sore
I have seen wicked men and fools, a great many of both; and
I believe they both get paid in the end; but the fools first.
THE LAD WITH THE SILVER BUTTON: THROUGH THE ISLE OF MULL
THE Ross of Mull, which I had now got upon, was rugged and
trackless, like the isle I had just left; being all bog, and
brier, and big stone. There may be roads for them that know that
country well; but for my part I had no better guide than my own
nose, and no other landmark than Ben More.
I aimed as well as I could for the smoke I had seen so
often from the island; and with all my great weariness and the
difficulty of the way came upon the house in the bottom of a
little hollow about five or six at night. It was low and
longish, roofed with turf and built of unmortared stones; and on
a mound in front of it, an old gentleman sat smoking his pipe in
With what little English he had, he gave me to understand
that my shipmates had got safe ashore, and had broken bread in
that very house on the day after.
"Was there one," I asked, "dressed like a gentleman?"
He said they all wore rough great-coats; but to be sure,
the first of them, the one that came alone, wore breeches and
stockings, while the rest had sailors' trousers.
"Ah," said I, "and he would have a feathered hat?"
He told me, no, that he was bareheaded like myself.
At first I thought Alan might have lost his hat; and then
the rain came in my mind, and I judged it more likely he had it
out of harm's way under his great-coat. This set me smiling,
partly because my friend was safe, partly to think of his vanity
And then the old gentleman clapped his hand to his brow,
and cried out that I must be the lad with the silver button.
"Why, yes!" said I, in some wonder.
"Well, then," said the old gentleman, "I have a word for
you, that you are to follow your friend to his country, by
He then asked me how I had fared, and I told him my tale.
A south-country man would certainly have laughed; but this old
gentleman (I call him so because of his manners, for his clothes
were dropping off his back) heard me all through with nothing
but gravity and pity. When I had done, he took me by the hand,
led me into his hut (it was no better) and presented me before
his wife, as if she had been the Queen and I a duke.
The good woman set oat-bread before me and a cold grouse,
patting my shoulder and smiling to me all the time, for she had
no English; and the old gentleman (not to be behind) brewed me
a strong punch out of their country spirit. All the while I was
eating, and after that when I was drinking the punch, I could
scarce come to believe in my good fortune; and the house, though
it was thick with the peat-smoke and as full of holes as a
colander, seemed like a palace.
The punch threw me in a strong sweat and a deep slumber;
the good people let me lie; and it was near noon of the next day
before I took the road, my throat already easier and my spirits
quite restored by good fare and good news. The old gentleman,
although I pressed him hard, would take no money, and gave me an
old bonnet for my head; though I am free to own I was no sooner
out of view of the house than I very jealously washed this gift
of his in a wayside fountain.
Thought I to myself: "If these are the wild Highlanders, I
could wish my own folk wilder."
I not only started late, but I must have wandered nearly
half the time. True, I met plenty of people, grubbing in little
miserable fields that would not keep a cat, or herding little
kine about the bigness of asses. The Highland dress being
forbidden by law since the rebellion, and the people condemned
to the Lowland habit, which they much disliked, it was strange
to see the variety of their array. Some went bare, only for a
hanging cloak or great-coat, and carried their trousers on their
backs like a useless burthen: some had made an imitation of the
tartan with little parti-coloured stripes patched together like
an old wife's quilt; others, again, still wore the Highland
philabeg, but by putting a few stitches between the legs
transformed it into a pair of trousers like a Dutchman's. All
those makeshifts were condemned and punished, for the law was
harshly applied, in hopes to break up the clan spirit; but in
that out-of-the-way, sea-bound isle, there were few to make
remarks and fewer to tell tales.
They seemed in great poverty; which was no doubt natural,
now that rapine was put down, and the chiefs kept no longer an
open house; and the roads (even such a wandering, country by-
-track as the one I followed) were infested with beggars. And
here again I marked a difference from my own part of the
country. For our Lowland beggars -- even the gownsmen
themselves, who beg by patent -- had a louting, flattering way
with them, and if you gave them a plaek and asked change, would
very civilly return you a boddle. But these Highland beggars
stood on their dignity, asked alms only to buy snuff (by their
account) and would give no change.
To be sure, this was no concern of mine, except in so far
as it entertained me by the way. What was much more to the
purpose, few had any English, and these few (unless they were of
the brotherhood of beggars) not very anxious to place it at my
service. I knew Torosay to be my destination, and repeated the
name to them and pointed; but instead of simply pointing in
reply, they would give me a screed of the Gaelic that set me
foolish; so it was small wonder if I went out of my road as
often as I stayed in it.
At last, about eight at night, and already very weary, I
came to a lone house, where I asked admittance, and was refused,
until I bethought me of the power of money in so poor a country,
and held up one of my guineas in my finger and thumb. Thereupon,
the man of the house, who had hitherto pretended to have no
English, and driven me from his door by signals, suddenly began
to speak as clearly as was needful, and agreed for five
shillings to give me a night's lodging and guide me the next day
I slept uneasily that night, fearing I should be robbed;
but I might have spared myself the pain; for my host was no
robber, only miserably poor and a great cheat. He was not alone
in his poverty; for the next morning, we must go five miles
about to the house of what he called a rich man to have one of
my guineas changed. This was perhaps a rich man for Mull; he
would have scarce been thought so in the south; for it took all
he had -- the whole house was turned upside down, and a
neighbour brought under contribution, before he could scrape
together twenty shillings in silver. The odd shilling he kept
for himself, protesting he could ill afford to have so great a
sum of money lying "locked up." For all that he was very
courteous and well spoken, made us both sit down with his family
to dinner, and brewed punch in a fine china bowl, over which my
rascal guide grew so merry that he refused to start.
I was for getting angry, and appealed to the rich man
(Hector Maclean was his name), who had been a witness to our
bargain and to my payment of the five shillings. But Maclean had
taken his share of the punch, and vowed that no gentleman should
leave his table after the bowl was brewed; so there was nothing
for it but to sit and hear Jacobite toasts and Gaelic songs,
till all were tipsy and staggered off to the bed or the barn for
their night's rest.
Next day (the fourth of my travels) we were up before five
upon the clock; but my rascal guide got to the bottle at once,
and it was three hours before I had him clear of the house, and
then (as you shall hear) only for a worse disappointment.
As long as we went down a heathery valley that lay before
Mr. Maclean's house, all went well; only my guide looked
constantly over his shoulder, and when I asked him the cause,
only grinned at me. No sooner, however, had we crossed the back
of a hill, and got out of sight of the house windows, than he
told me Torosay lay right in front, and that a hill-top (which
he pointed out) was my best landmark.
"I care very little for that," said I, "since you are going
The impudent cheat answered me in the Gaelic that he had no
"My fine fellow," I said, "I know very well your English
comes and goes. Tell me what will bring it back? Is it more
money you wish?"
"Five shillings mair," said he, "and hersel' will bring ye
I reflected awhile and then offered him two, which he
accepted greedily, and insisted on having in his hands at once
"for luck," as he said, but I think it was rather for my
The two shillings carried him not quite as many miles; at
the end of which distance, he sat down upon the wayside and took
off his brogues from his feet, like a man about to rest.
I was now red-hot. "Ha!" said I, "have you no more
He said impudently, "No."
At that I boiled over, and lifted my hand to strike him;
and he, drawing a knife from his rags, squatted back and grinned
at me like a wildcat. At that, forgetting everything but my
anger, I ran in upon him, put aside his knife with my left, and
struck him in the mouth with the right. I was a strong lad and
very angry, and he but a little man; and he went down before me
heavily. By good luck, his knife flew out of his hand as he
I picked up both that and his brogues, wished him a good
morning, and set off upon my way, leaving him barefoot and
disarmed. I chuckled to myself as I went, being sure I was done
with that rogue, for a variety of reasons. First, he knew he
could have no more of my money; next, the brogues were worth in
that country only a few pence; and, lastly, the knife, which was
really a dagger, it was against the law for him to carry.
In about half an hour of walk, I overtook a great, ragged
man, moving pretty fast but feeling before him with a staff. He
was quite blind, and told me he was a catechist, which should
have put me at my ease. But his face went against me; it seemed
dark and dangerous and secret; and presently, as we began to go
on alongside, I saw the steel butt of a pistol sticking from
under the flap of his coat-pocket. To carry such a thing meant
a fine of fifteen pounds sterling upon a first offence, and
transportation to the colonies upon a second. Nor could I quite
see why a religious teacher should go armed, or what a blind man
could be doing with a pistol.
I told him about my guide, for I was proud of what I had
done, and my vanity for once got the heels of my prudence. At
the mention of the five shillings he cried out so loud that I
made up my mind I should say nothing of the other two, and was
glad he could not see my blushes.
"Was it too much?" I asked, a little faltering.
"Too much!" cries he. "Why, I will guide you to Torosay
myself for a dram of brandy. And give you the great pleasure of
my company (me that is a man of some learning) in the bargain."
I said I did not see how a blind man could be a guide; but
at that he laughed aloud, and said his stick was eyes enough for
"In the Isle of Mull, at least," says he, "where I know
every stone and heather-bush by mark of head. See, now," he
said, striking right and left, as if to make sure, "down there
a burn is running; and at the head of it there stands a bit of
a small hill with a stone cocked upon the top of that; and it's
hard at the foot of the hill, that the way runs by to Torosay;
and the way here, being for droves, is plainly trodden, and will
show grassy through the heather."
I had to own he was right in every feature, and told my
"Ha!" says he, "that's nothing. Would ye believe me now,
that before the Act came out, and when there were weepons in
this country, I could shoot? Ay, could I!" cries he, and then
with a leer: "If ye had such a thing as a pistol here to try
with, I would show ye how it's done."
I told him I had nothing of the sort, and gave him a wider
berth. If he had known, his pistol stuck at that time quite
plainly out of his pocket, and I could see the sun twinkle on
the steel of the butt. But by the better luck for me, he knew
nothing, thought all was covered, and lied on in the dark.
He then began to question me cunningly, where I came from,
whether I was rich, whether I could change a five-shilling piece
for him (which he declared he had that moment in his sporran),
and all the time he kept edging up to me and I avoiding him. We
were now upon a sort of green cattle-track which crossed the
hills towards Torosay, and we kept changing sides upon that like
dancers in a reel. I had so plainly the upper-hand that my
spirits rose, and indeed I took a pleasure in this game of
blindman's buff; but the catechist grew angrier and angrier, and
at last began to swear in Gaelic and to strike for my legs with
Then I told him that, sure enough, I had a pistol in my
pocket as well as he, and if he did not strike across the hill
due south I would even blow his brains out.
He became at once very polite, and after trying to soften
me for some time, but quite in vain, he cursed me once more in
Gaelic and took himself off. I watched him striding along,
through bog and brier, tapping with his stick, until he turned
the end of a hill and disappeared in the next hollow. Then I
struck on again for Torosay, much better pleased to be alone
than to travel with that man of learning. This was an unlucky
day; and these two, of whom I had just rid myself, one after the
other, were the two worst men I met with in the Highlands.
At Torosay, on the Sound of Mull and looking over to the
mainland of Morven, there was an inn with an innkeeper, who was
a Maclean, it appeared, of a very high family; for to keep an
inn is thought even more genteel in the Highlands than it is
with us, perhaps as partaking of hospitality, or perhaps because
the trade is idle and drunken. He spoke good English, and
finding me to be something of a scholar, tried me first in
French, where he easily beat me, and then in the Latin, in which
I don't know which of us did best. This pleasant rivalry put us
at once upon friendly terms; and I sat up and drank punch with
him (or to be more correct, sat up and watched him drink it),
until he was so tipsy that he wept upon my shoulder.
I tried him, as if by accident, with a sight of Alan's
button; but it was plain he had never seen or heard of it.
Indeed, he bore some grudge against the family and friends of
Ardshiel, and before he was drunk he read me a lampoon, in very
good Latin, but with a very ill meaning, which he had made in
elegiac verses upon a person of that house.
When I told him of my catechist, he shook his head, and
said I was lucky to have got clear off. "That is a very
dangerous man," he said; "Duncan Mackiegh is his name; he can
shoot by the ear at several yards, and has been often accused of
highway robberies, and once of murder."
"The cream of it is," says I, "that he called himself a
"And why should he not?" says he, "when that is what he is.
It was Maclean of Duart gave it to him because he was blind. But
perhaps it was a peety," says my host, "for he is always on the
road, going from one place to another to hear the young folk say
their religion; and, doubtless, that is a great temptation to
the poor man."
At last, when my landlord could drink no more, he showed me
to a bed, and I lay down in very good spirits; having travelled
the greater part of that big and crooked Island of Mull, from
Earraid to Torosay, fifty miles as the crow flies, and (with my
wanderings) much nearer a hundred, in four days and with little
fatigue. Indeed I was by far in better heart and health of body
at the end of that long tramp than I had been at the beginning.
THE LAD WITH THE SILVER BUTTON: ACROSS MORVEN
THERE is a regular ferry from Torosay to Kinlochaline on the
mainland. Both shores of the Sound are in the country of the
strong clan of the Macleans, and the people that passed the
ferry with me were almost all of that clan. The skipper of the
boat, on the other hand, was called Neil Roy Macrob; and since
Macrob was one of the names of Alan's clansmen, and Alan himself
had sent me to that ferry, I was eager to come to private speech
of Neil Roy.
In the crowded boat this was of course impossible, and the
passage was a very slow affair. There was no wind, and as the
boat was wretchedly equipped, we could pull but two oars on one
side, and one on the other. The men gave way, however, with a
good will, the passengers taking spells to help them, and the
whole company giving the time in Gaelic boat-songs. And what
with the songs, and the sea-air, and the good-nature and spirit
of all concerned, and the bright weather, the passage was a
pretty thing to have seen.
But there was one melancholy part. In the mouth of Loch
Aline we found a great sea-going ship at anchor; and this I
supposed at first to be one of the King's cruisers which were
kept along that coast, both summer and winter, to prevent
communication with the French. As we got a little nearer, it
became plain she was a ship of merchandise; and what still more
puzzled me, not only her decks, but the sea-beach also, were
quite black with people, and skiffs were continually plying to
and fro between them. Yet nearer, and there began to come to our
ears a great sound of mourning, the people on board and those on
the shore crying and lamenting one to another so as to pierce
Then I understood this was an emigrant ship bound for the
We put the ferry-boat alongside, and the exiles leaned over
the bulwarks, weeping and reaching out their hands to my
fellow-passengers, among whom they counted some near friends.
How long this might have gone on I do not know, for they seemed
to have no sense of time: but at last the captain of the ship,
who seemed near beside himself (and no great wonder) in the
midst of this crying and confusion, came to the side and begged
us to depart.
Thereupon Neil sheered off; and the chief singer in our
boat struck into a melancholy air, which was presently taken up
both by the emigrants and their friends upon the beach, so that
it sounded from all sides like a lament for the dying. I saw the
tears run down the cheeks of the men and women in the boat, even
as they bent at the oars; and the circumstances and the music of
the song (which is one called "Lochaber no more") were highly
affecting even to myself.
At Kinlochaline I got Neil Roy upon one side on the beach,
and said I made sure he was one of Appin's men.
"And what for no?" said he.
"I am seeking somebody," said I; "and it comes in my mind
that you will have news of him. Alan Breck Stewart is his name."
And very foolishly, instead of showing him the button, I sought
to pass a shilling in his hand.
At this he drew back. "I am very much affronted," he said;
"and this is not the way that one shentleman should behave to
another at all. The man you ask for is in France; but if he was
in my sporran," says he, "and your belly full of shillings, I
would not hurt a hair upon his body."
I saw I had gone the wrong way to work, and without wasting
time upon apologies, showed him the button lying in the hollow
of my palm.
"Aweel, aweel," said Neil; "and I think ye might have begun
with that end of the stick, whatever! But if ye are the lad with
the silver button, all is well, and I have the word to see that
ye come safe. But if ye will pardon me to speak plainly," says
he, "there is a name that you should never take into your mouth,
and that is the name of Alan Breck; and there is a thing that ye
would never do, and that is to offer your dirty money to a
It was not very easy to apologise; for I could scarce tell
him (what was the truth) that I had never dreamed he would set
up to be a gentleman until he told me so. Neil on his part had
no wish to prolong his dealings with me, only to fulfil his
orders and be done with it; and he made haste to give me my
route. This was to lie the night in Kinlochaline in the public
inn; to cross Morven the next day to Ardgour, and lie the night
in the house of one John of the Claymore, who was warned that I
might come; the third day, to be set across one loch at Corran
and another at Balachulish, and then ask my way to the house of
James of the Glens, at Aucharn in Duror of Appin. There was a
good deal of ferrying, as you hear; the sea in all this part
running deep into the mountains and winding about their roots.
It makes the country strong to hold and difficult to travel, but
full of prodigious wild and dreadful prospects.
I had some other advice from Neil: to speak with no one by
the way, to avoid Whigs, Campbells, and the "red-soldiers;" to
leave the road and lie in a bush if I saw any of the latter
coming, "for it was never chancy to meet in with them;" and in
brief, to conduct myself like a robber or a Jacobite agent, as
perhaps Neil thought me.
The inn at Kinlochaline was the most beggarly vile place
that ever pigs were styed in, full of smoke, vermin, and silent
Highlanders. I was not only discontented with my lodging, but
with myself for my mismanagement of Neil, and thought I could
hardly be worse off. But very wrongly, as I was soon to see; for
I had not been half an hour at the inn (standing in the door
most of the time, to ease my eyes from the peat smoke) when a
thunderstorm came close by, the springs broke in a little hill
on which the inn stood, and one end of the house became a
running water. Places of public entertainment were bad enough
all over Scotland in those days; yet it was a wonder to myself,
when I had to go from the fireside to the bed in which I slept,
wading over the shoes.
Early in my next day's journey I overtook a little, stout,
solemn man, walking very slowly with his toes turned out,
sometimes reading in a book and sometimes marking the place with
his finger, and dressed decently and plainly in something of a
This I found to be another catechist, but of a different
order from the blind man of Mull: being indeed one of those sent
out by the Edinburgh Society for Propagating Christian
Knowledge, to evangelise the more savage places of the
Highlands. His name was Henderland; he spoke with the broad
south-country tongue, which I was beginning to weary for the
sound of; and besides common countryship, we soon found we had
a more particular bond of interest. For my good friend, the
minister of Essendean, had translated into the Gaelic in his
by-time a number of hymns and pious books which Henderland used
in his work, and held in great esteem. Indeed, it was one of
these he was carrying and reading when we met.
We fell in company at once, our ways lying together as far
as to Kingairloch. As we went, he stopped and spoke with all the
wayfarers and workers that we met or passed; and though of
course I could not tell what they discoursed about, yet I judged
Mr. Henderland must be well liked in the countryside, for I
observed many of them to bring out their mulls and share a pinch
of snuff with him.
I told him as far in my affairs as I judged wise; as far,
that is, as they were none of Alan's; and gave Balachulish as
the place I was travelling to, to meet a friend; for I thought
Aucharn, or even Duror, would be too particular, and might put
him on the scent.
On his part, he told me much of his work and the people he
worked among, the hiding priests and Jacobites, the Disarming
Act, the dress, and many other curiosities of the time and
place. He seemed moderate; blaming Parliament in several points,
and especially because they had framed the Act more severely
against those who wore the dress than against those who carried
This moderation put it in my mind to question him of the
Red Fox and the Appin tenants; questions which, I thought, would
seem natural enough in the mouth of one travelling to that
He said it was a bad business. "It's wonderful," said he,
"where the tenants find the money, for their life is mere
starvation. (Ye don't carry such a thing as snuff, do ye, Mr.
Balfour? No. Well, I'm better wanting it.) But these tenants (as
I was saying) are doubtless partly driven to it. James Stewart
in Duror (that's him they call James of the Glens) is
half-brother to Ardshiel, the captain of the clan; and he is a
man much looked up to, and drives very hard. And then there's
one they call Alan Breck"
"Ah!" I cried, "what of him?"
"What of the wind that bloweth where it listeth?" said
Henderland. "He's here and awa; here to-day and gone to-morrow:
a fair heather-cat. He might be glowering at the two of us out
of yon whin-bush, and I wouldnae wonder! Ye'll no carry such a
thing as snuff, will ye?"
I told him no, and that he had asked the same thing more
"It's highly possible," said he, sighing. "But it seems
strange ye shouldnae carry it. However, as I was saying, this
Alan Breck is a bold, desperate customer, and well kent to be
James's right hand. His life is forfeit already; he would boggle
at naething; and maybe, if a tenant-body was to hang back he
would get a dirk in his wame."
"You make a poor story of it all, Mr. Henderland," said I.
"If it is all fear upon both sides, I care to hear no more of
"Na," said Mr. Henderland, "but there's love too, and
self-denial that should put the like of you and me to shame.
There's something fine about it; no perhaps Christian, but
humanly fine. Even Alan Breck, by all that I hear, is a chield
to be respected. There's many a lying sneck-draw sits close in
kirk in our own part of the country, and stands well in the
world's eye, and maybe is a far worse man, Mr. Balfour, than yon
misguided shedder of man's blood. Ay, ay, we might take a lesson
by them. -- Ye'll perhaps think I've been too long in the
Hielands?" he added, smiling to me.
I told him not at all; that I had seen much to admire among
the Highlanders; and if he came to that, Mr. Campbell himself
was a Highlander.
"Ay," said he, "that's true. It's a fine blood."
"And what is the King's agent about?" I asked.
"Colin Campbell?" says Henderland. "Putting his head in a
"He is to turn the tenants out by force, I hear?" said I.
"Yes," says he, "but the business has gone back and forth,
as folk say. First, James of the Glens rode to Edinburgh, and
got some lawyer (a Stewart, nae doubt -- they all hing together
like bats in a steeple) and had the proceedings stayed. And then
Colin Campbell cam' in again, and had the upper-hand before the
Barons of Exchequer. And now they tell me the first of the
tenants are to flit to-morrow. It's to begin at Duror under
James's very windows, which doesnae seem wise by my humble way
"Do you think they'll fight?" I asked.
"Well," says Henderland, "they're disarmed -- or supposed
to be -- for there's still a good deal of cold iron lying by in
quiet places. And then Colin Campbell has the sogers coming. But
for all that, if I was his lady wife, I wouldnae be well pleased
till I got him home again. They're queer customers, the Appin
I asked if they were worse than their neighbours.
"No they," said he. "And that's the worst part of it. For
if Colin Roy can get his business done in Appin, he has it all
to begin again in the next country, which they call Mamore, and
which is one of the countries of the Camerons. He's King's
Factor upon both, and from both he has to drive out the tenants;
and indeed, Mr. Balfour (to be open with ye), it's my belief
that if he escapes the one lot, he'll get his death by the
So we continued talking and walking the great part of the,
day; until at last, Mr. Henderland after expressing his delight
in my company, and satisfaction at meeting with a friend of Mr.
Campbell's ("whom," says he, "I will make bold to call that
sweet singer of our covenanted Zion"), proposed that I should
make a short stage, and lie the night in his house a little
beyond Kingairloch. To say truth, I was overjoyed; for I had no
great desire for John of the Claymore, and since my double
misadventure, first with the guide and next with the gentleman
skipper, I stood in some fear of any Highland stranger.
Accordingly we shook hands upon the bargain, and came in the
afternoon to a small house, standing alone by the shore of the
Linnhe Loch. The sun was already gone from the desert mountains
of Ardgour upon the hither side, but shone on those of Appin on
the farther; the loch lay as still as a lake, only the gulls
were crying round the sides of it; and the whole place seemed
solemn and uncouth.
We had no sooner come to the door of Mr. Henderland's
dwelling, than to my great surprise (for I was now used to the
politeness of Highlanders) he burst rudely past me, dashed into
the room, caught up a jar and a small horn-spoon, and began
ladling snuff into his nose in most excessive quantities. Then
he had a hearty fit of sneezing, and looked round upon me with
a rather silly smile.
"It's a vow I took," says he. "I took a vow upon me that
wouldnae carry it. Doubtless it's a great privation; but when I
think upon the martyrs, not only to the Scottish Covenant but to
other points of Christianity, I think shame to mind it."
As soon as we had eaten (and porridge and whey was the best
of the good man's diet) he took a grave face and said he had a
duty to perform by Mr. Campbell, and that was to inquire into my
state of mind towards God. I was inclined to smile at him since
the business of the snuff; but he had not spoken long before he
brought the tears into my eyes. There are two things that men
should never weary of, goodness and humility; we get none too
much of them in this rough world among cold, proud people; but
Mr. Henderland had their very speech upon his tongue. And though
I was a good deal puffed up with my adventures and with having
come off, as the saying is, with flying colours; yet he soon had
me on my knees beside a simple, poor old man, and both proud and
glad to be there.
Before we went to bed he offered me sixpence to help me on
my way, out of a scanty store he kept in the turf wall of his
house; at which excess of goodness I knew not what to do. But at
last he was so earnest with me that I thought it the more
mannerly part to let him have his way, and so left him poorer
THE DEATH OF THE RED FOX
THE next day Mr. Henderland found for me a man who had a boat of
his own and was to cross the Linnhe Loch that afternoon into
Appin, fishing. Him he prevailed on to take me, for he was one
of his flock; and in this way I saved a long day's travel and
the price of the two public ferries I must otherwise have
It was near noon before we set out; a dark day with clouds,
and the sun shining upon little patches. The sea was here very
deep and still, and had scarce a wave upon it; so that I must
put the water to my lips before I could believe it to be truly
salt. The mountains on either side were high, rough and barren,
very black and gloomy in the shadow of the clouds, but all
silver-laced with little watercourses where the sun shone upon
them. It seemed a hard country, this of Appin, for people to
care as much about as Alan did.
There was but one thing to mention. A little after we had
started, the sun shone upon a little moving clump of scarlet
close in along the water-side to the north. It was much of the
same red as soldiers' coats; every now and then, too, there came
little sparks and lightnings, as though the sun had struck upon
I asked my boatman what it should be, and he answered he
supposed it was some of the red soldiers coming from Fort
William into Appin, against the poor tenantry of the country.
Well, it was a sad sight to me; and whether it was because of my
thoughts of Alan, or from something prophetic in my bosom,
although this was but the second time I had seen King George's
troops, I had no good will to them.
At last we came so near the point of land at the entering
in of Loch Leven that I begged to be set on shore. My boatman
(who was an honest fellow and mindful of his promise to the
catechist) would fain have carried me on to Balachulish; but as
this was to take me farther from my secret destination, I
insisted, and was set on shore at last under the wood of
Lettermore (or Lettervore, for I have heard it both ways) in
Alan's country of Appin.
This was a wood of birches, growing on a steep, craggy side
of a mountain that overhung the loch. It had many openings and
ferny howes; and a road or bridle track ran north and south
through the midst of it, by the edge of which, where was a
spring, I sat down to eat some oat-bread of Mr. Henderland's and
think upon my situation.
Here I was not only troubled by a cloud of stinging midges,
but far more by the doubts of my mind. What I ought to do, why
I was going to join myself with an outlaw and a would-be
murderer like Alan, whether I should not be acting more like a
man of sense to tramp back to the south country direct, by my
own guidance and at my own charges, and what Mr. Campbell or
even Mr. Henderland would think of me if they should ever learn
my folly and presumption: these were the doubts that now began
to come in on me stronger than ever.
As I Was so sitting and thinking, a sound of men and horses
came to me through the wood; and presently after, at a turning
of the road, I saw four travellers come into view. The way was
in this part so rough and narrow that they came single and led
their horses by the reins. The first was a great, red-headed
gentleman, of an imperious and flushed face, who carried his hat
in his hand and fanned himself, for he was in a breathing heat.
The second, by his decent black garb and white wig, I correctly
took to be a lawyer. The third was a servant, and wore some part
of his clothes in tartan, which showed that his master was of a
Highland family, and either an outlaw or else in singular good
odour with the Government, since the wearing of tartan was
against the Act. If I had been better versed in these things, I
would have known the tartan to be of the Argyle (or Campbell)
colours. This servant had a good-sized portmanteau strapped on
his horse, and a net of lemons (to brew punch with) hanging at
the saddle-bow; as was often enough the custom with luxurious
travellers in that part of the country.
As for the fourth, who brought up the tail, I had seen his
like before, and knew him at once to be a sheriff's officer.
I had no sooner seen these people coming than I made up my
mind (for no reason that I can tell) to go through with my
adventure; and when the first came alongside of me, I rose up
from the bracken and asked him the way to Aucharn.
He stopped and looked at me, as I thought, a little oddly;
and then, turning to the lawyer, "Mungo," said he, "there's
a man would think this more of a warning than two pyats. Here am
I on my road to Duror on the job ye ken; and here is a young lad
starts up out of the bracken, and speers if I am on the way to
"Glenure," said the other, "this is an ill subject for
These two had now drawn close up and were gazing at me,
while the two followers had halted about a stone-cast in the
"And what seek ye in Aucharn?" said Colin Roy Campbell of
Glenure, him they called the Red Fox; for he it was that I had
"The man that lives there," said I.
"James of the Glens," says Glenure, musingly; and then to
the lawyer: "Is he gathering his people, think ye?"
"Anyway," says the lawyer, "we shall do better to bide
where we are, and let the soldiers rally us."
"If you are concerned for me," said I, "I am neither of his
people nor yours, but an honest subject of King George, owing no
man and fearing no man."
"Why, very well said," replies the Factor. "But if I may
make so bold as ask, what does this honest man so far from his
country? and why does he come seeking the brother of Ardshiel?
I have power here, I must tell you. I am King's Factor upon
several of these estates, and have twelve files of soldiers at
"I have heard a waif word in the country," said I, a little
nettled, "that you were a hard man to drive."
He still kept looking at me, as if in doubt.
"Well," said he, at last, "your tongue is bold; but I am
unfriend to plainness. If ye had asked me the way to the door of
James Stewart on any other day but this, I would have set ye
right and bidden ye God speed. But to-day -- eh, Mungo?" And he
turned again to look at the lawyer.
But just as he turned there came the shot of a firelock
from higher up the hill; and with the very sound of it Glenure
fell upon the road.
"O, I am dead!" he cried, several times over.
The lawyer had caught him up and held him in his arms, the
servant standing over and clasping his hands. And now the
wounded man looked from one to another with scared eyes, and
there was a change in his voice, that went to the heart.
"Take care of yourselves," says he. "I am dead."
He tried to open his clothes as if to look for the wound,
but his fingers slipped on the buttons. With that he gave a
great sigh, his head rolled on his shoulder, and he passed away.
The lawyer said never a word, but his face was as sharp as
a pen and as white as the dead man's; the servant broke out into
a great noise of crying and weeping, like a child; and I, on my
side, stood staring at them in a kind of horror. The sheriff's
officer had run back at the first sound of the shot, to hasten
the coming of the soldiers.
At last the lawyer laid down the dead man in his blood upon
the road, and got to his own feet with a kind of stagger.
I believe it was his movement that brought me to my senses;
for he had no sooner done so than I began to scramble up the
hill, crying out, "The murderer! the murderer!"
So little a time had elapsed, that when I got to the top of
the first steepness, and could see some part of the open
mountain, the murderer was still moving away at no great
distance. He was a big man, in a black coat, with metal buttons,
and carried a long fowling-piece.
"Here!" I cried. "I see him!"
At that the murderer gave a little, quick look over his
shoulder, and began to run. The next moment he was lost in a
fringe of birches; then he came out again on the upper side,
where I could see him climbing like a jackanapes, for that part
was again very steep; and then he dipped behind a shoulder, and
I saw him no more.
All this time I had been running on my side, and had got a
good way up, when a voice cried upon me to stand.
I was at the edge of the upper wood, and so now, when I
halted and looked back, I saw all the open part of the hill
The lawyer and the sheriff's officer were standing just
above the road, crying and waving on me to come back; and on
their left, the red-coats, musket in hand, were beginning to
struggle singly out of the lower wood.
"Why should I come back?" I cried. "Come you on!"
"Ten pounds if ye take that lad!" cried the lawyer. "He's
an acomplice. He was posted here to hold us in talk."
At that word (which I could hear quite plainly, though it
was to the soldiers and not to me that he was crying it) my
heart came in my mouth with quite a new kind of terror. Indeed,
it is one thing to stand the danger of your life, and quite
another to run the peril of both life and character. The thing,
besides, had come so suddenly, like thunder out of a clear sky,
that I was all amazed and helpless.
The soldiers began to spread, some of them to run, and
others to put up their pieces and cover me; and still I stood.
"Jouk in here among the trees," said a voice close by.
Indeed, I scarce knew what I was doing, but I obeyed; and
as I did so, I heard the firelocks bang and the balls whistle in
Just inside the shelter of the trees I found Alan Breck
standing, with a fishing-rod. He gave me no salutation; indeed
it was no time for civilities; only "Come!" says he, and set off
running along the side of the mountain towards Balaehulish; and
I, like a sheep, to follow him.
Now we ran among the birches; now stooping behind low humps
upon the mountain-side; now crawling on all fours among the
heather. The pace was deadly: my heart seemed bursting against
my ribs; and I had neither time to think nor breath to speak
with. Only I remember seeing with wonder, that Alan every now
and then would straighten himself to his full height and look
back; and every time he did so, there came a great far-away
cheering and crying of the soldiers.
Quarter of an hour later, Alan stopped, clapped down flat
in the heather, and turned to me.
"Now," said he, "it's earnest. Do as I do, for your life."
And at the same speed, but now with infinitely more
precaution, we traced back again across the mountain-side by the
same way that we had come, only perhaps higher; till at last
Alan threw him-self down in the upper wood of Lettermore, where
I had found him at the first, and lay, with his face in the
bracken, panting like a dog.
My own sides so ached, my head so swam, my tongue so hung
out of my mouth with heat and dryness, that I lay beside him
like one dead.
I TALK WITH ALAN IN THE WOOD OF LETTERMORE
ALAN was the first to come round. He rose, went to the border of
the wood, peered out a little, and then returned and sat down.
"Well," said he, "yon was a hot burst, David."
I said nothing, nor so much as lifted my face. I had seen
murder done, and a great, ruddy, jovial gentleman struck out of
life in a moment; the pity of that sight was still sore within
me, and yet that was but a part of my concern. Here was murder
done upon the man Alan hated; here was Alan skulking in the
trees and running from the troops; and whether his was the hand
that fired or only the head that ordered, signified but little.
By my way of it, my only friend in that wild country was
blood-guilty in the first degree; I held him in horror; I could
not look upon his face; I would have rather lain alone in the
rain on my cold isle, than in that warm wood beside a murderer.
"Are ye still wearied?" he asked again.
"No," said I, still with my face in the bracken; "no, I am
not wearied now, and I can speak. You and me must twine," I
said. "I liked you very well, Alan, but your ways are not mine,
and they're not God's: and the short and the long of it is just
that we must twine."
"I will hardly twine from ye, David, without some kind of
reason for the same," said Alan, mighty gravely. "If ye ken
anything against my reputation, it's the least thing that ye
should do, for old acquaintance' sake, to let me hear the name
of it; and if ye have only taken a distaste to my society, it
will be proper for me to judge if I'm insulted."
"Alan," said I, "what is the sense of this? Ye ken very
well yon Campbell-man lies in his blood upon the road."
He was silent for a little; then says he, "Did ever ye hear
tell of the story of the Man and the Good People?" -- by which
he meant the fairies.
"No," said I, "nor do I want to hear it."
"With your permission, Mr. Balfour, I will tell it you,
whatever," says Alan. "The man, ye should ken, was cast upon a
rock in the sea, where it appears the Good People were in use to
come and rest as they went through to Ireland. The name of this
rock is called the Skerryvore, and it's not far from where we
suffered ship-wreck. Well, it seems the man cried so sore, if he
could just see his little bairn before he died! that at last the
king of the Good People took peety upon him, and sent one flying
that brought back the bairn in a poke and laid it down beside
the man where he lay sleeping. So when the man woke, there was
a poke beside him and something into the inside of it that
moved. Well, it seems he was one of these gentry that think aye
the worst of things; and for greater seeurity, he stuck his dirk
throughout that poke before he opened it, and there was his
bairn dead. I am thinking to myself, Mr. Balfour, that you and
the man are very much alike."
"Do you mean you had no hand in it?" cried I, sitting up.
"I will tell you first of all, Mr. Balfour of Shaws, as one
friend to another," said Alan, "that if I were going to kill a
gentleman, it would not be in my own country, to bring trouble
on my clan; and I would not go wanting sword and gun, and with
a long fishing-rod upon my back."
"Well," said I, "that's true!"
"And now," continued Alan, taking out his dirk and laying
his hand upon it in a certain manner, "I swear upon the Holy
Iron I had neither art nor part, act nor thought in it."
"I thank God for that!" cried I, and offered him my hand.
He did not appear to see it.
"And here is a great deal of work about a Campbell!" said
he. "They are not so scarce, that I ken!"
"At least," said I, "you cannot justly blame me, for you
know very well what you told me in the brig. But the temptation
and the act are different, I thank God again for that. We may
all be tempted; but to take a life in cold blood, Alan!" And I
could say no more for the moment." And do you know who did it?"
I added. "Do you know that man in the black coat?"
"I have nae clear mind about his coat," said Alan
Cunningly." but it sticks in my head that it was blue."
"Blue or black, did ye know him?" said I.
"I couldnae just conscientiously swear to him," says Alan.
"He gaed very close by me, to be sure, but it's a strange thing
that I should just have been tying my brogues."
"Can you swear that you don't know him, Alan?" I cried,
half angered, half in a mind to laugh at his evasions.
"Not yet," says he; "but I've a grand memory for
"And yet there was one thing I saw clearly," said I; "and
that was, that you exposed yourself and me to draw the
"It's very likely," said Alan; "and so would any gentleman.
You and me were innocent of that transaction."
"The better reason, since we were falsely suspected, that
we should get clear," I cried. "The innocent should surely come
before the guilty."
"Why, David," said he, "the innocent have aye a chance to
get assoiled in court; but for the lad that shot the bullet, I
think the best place for him will be the heather. Them that
havenae dipped their hands in any little difficulty, should be
very mindful of the case of them that have. And that is the good
Christianity. For if it was the other way round about, and the
lad whom I couldnae just clearly see had been in our shoes, and
we in his (as might very well have been), I think we would be a
good deal obliged to him oursel's if he would draw the
When it came to this, I gave Alan up. But he looked so
innocent all the time, and was in such clear good faith in what
he said, and so ready to sacrifice himself for what he deemed
his duty, that my mouth was closed. Mr. Henderland's words came
back to me: that we ourselves might take a lesson by these wild
Highlanders. Well, here I had taken mine. Alan's morals were all
tail-first; but he was ready to give his life for them, such as
"Alan," said I, "I'll not say it's the good Christianity
I understand it, but it's good enough. And here I offer ye my
hand for the second time."
Whereupon he gave me both of his, saying surely I had cast
a spell upon him, for he could forgive me anything. Then he grew
very grave, and said we had not much time to throw away, but
must both flee that country: he, because he was a deserter, and
the whole of Appin would now be searched like a chamber, and
every one obliged to give a good account of himself; and I,
because I was certainly involved in the murder.
"O!" says I, willing to give him a little lesson, "I have
no fear of the justice of my country."
"As if this was your country!" said he. "Or as if ye would
be tried here, in a country of Stewarts!"
"It's all Scotland," said I.
"Man, I whiles wonder at ye," said Alan. "This is a
Campbell that's been killed. Well, it'll be tried in Inverara,
the Campbells' head place; with fifteen Campbells in the
jury-box and the biggest Campbell of all (and that's the Duke)
sitting cocking on the bench. Justice, David? The same justice,
by all the world, as Glenure found awhile ago at the roadside."
This frightened me a little, I confess, and would have
frightened me more if I had known how nearly exact were Alan's
predictions; indeed it was but in one point that he exaggerated,
there being but eleven Campbells on the jury; though as the
other four were equally in the Duke's dependence, it mattered
less than might appear. Still, I cried out that he was unjust to
the Duke of Argyle, who (for all he was a Whig) was yet a wise
and honest nobleman.
"Hoot!" said Alan, "the man's a Whig, nae doubt; but I
would never deny he was a good chieftain to his clan. And what
would the clan think if there was a Campbell shot, and naebody
hanged, and their own chief the Justice General? But I have
often observed," says Alan, "that you Low-country bodies have
clear idea of what's right and wrong."
At this I did at last laugh out aloud, when to my surprise,
Alan joined in, and laughed as merrily as myself.
"Na, na," said he, "we're in the Hielands, David; and when
I tell ye to run, take my word and run. Nae doubt it's a hard
thing to skulk and starve in the Heather, but it's harder yet to
lie shackled in a red-coat prison."
I asked him whither we should flee; and as he told me "to
the Lowlands," I was a little better inclined to go with him;
for, indeed, I was growing impatient to get baek and have the
upper-hand of my uncle. Besides, Alan made so sure there would
be no question of justice in the matter, that I began to be
afraid he might be right. Of all deaths, I would truly like
least to die by the gallows; and the picture of that uncanny
instrument came into my head with extraordinary clearness (as I
had once seen it engraved at the top of a pedlar's ballad) and
took away my appetite for courts of justice.
"I'll chance it, Alan," said I. "I'll go with you."
"But mind you," said Alan, "it's no small thing. Ye maun
lie bare and hard, and brook many an empty belly. Your bed shall
be the moorcock's, and your life shall be like the hunted
deer's, and ye shall sleep with your hand upon your weapons. Ay,
man, ye shall taigle many a weary foot, or we get clear! I tell
ye this at the start, for it's a life that I ken well. But if ye
ask what other chance ye have, I answer: Nane. Either take to
the heather with me, or else hang."
"And that's a choice very easily made," said I; and we
shook hands upon it.
"And now let's take another keek at the red-coats," says
Alan, and he led me to the north-eastern fringe of the wood.
Looking out between the trees, we could see a great side of
mountain, running down exceeding steep into the waters of the
loch. It was a rough part, all hanging stone, and heather, and
big scrogs of birchwood; and away at the far end towards
Balachulish, little wee red soldiers were dipping up and down
over hill and howe, and growing smaller every minute. There was
no cheering now, for I think they had other uses for what breath
was left them; but they still stuck to the trail, and doubtless
thought that we were close in front of them.
Alan watched them, smiling to himself.
"Ay," said he, "they'll be gey weary before they've got to
the end of that employ! And so you and me, David, can sit down
and eat a bite, and breathe a bit longer, and take a dram from
my bottle. Then we'll strike for Aucharn, the house of my
kinsman, James of the Glens, where I must get my clothes, and my
arms, and money to carry us along; and then, David, we'll cry,
'Forth, Fortune!' and take a cast among the heather."
So we sat again and ate and drank, in a place whence we
could see the sun going down into a field of great, wild, and
houseless mountains, such as I was now condemned to wander in
with my companion. Partly as we so sat, and partly afterwards,
on the way to Aucharn, each of us narrated his adventures; and
I shall here set down so much of Alan's as seems either curious
It appears he ran to the bulwarks as soon as the wave was
passed; saw me, and lost me, and saw me again, as I tumbled in
the roost; and at last had one glimpse of me clinging on the
yard. It was this that put him in some hope I would maybe get to
land after all, and made him leave those clues and messages
which had brought me (for my sins) to that unlucky country of
In the meanwhile, those still on the brig had got the skiff
launched, and one or two were on board of her already, when
there came a second wave greater than the first, and heaved the
brig out of her place, and would certainly have sent her to the
bottom, had she not struck and caught on some projection of the
reef. When she had struck first, it had been bows-on, so that
the stern had hitherto been lowest. But now her stern was thrown
in the air, and the bows plunged under the sea; and with that,
the water began to pour into the fore-scuttle like the pouring
of a mill-dam.
It took the colour out of Alan's face, even to tell what
followed. For there were still two men lying impotent in their
bunks; and these, seeing the water pour in and thinking the ship
had foundered, began to cry out aloud, and that with such
harrowing cries that all who were on deck tumbled one after
another into the skiff and fell to their oars. They were not two
hundred yards away, when there came a third great sea; and at
that the brig lifted clean over the reef; her canvas filled for
a moment, and she seemed to sail in chase of them, but settling
all the while; and presently she drew down and down, as if a
hand was drawing her; and the sea closed over the Covenant of
Never a word they spoke as they pulled ashore. being
stunned with the horror of that screaming; but they had scarce
set foot upon the beach when Hoseason woke up, as if out of a
muse, and bade them lay hands upon Alan. They hung back indeed,
having little taste for the employment; but Hoseason was like a
fiend, crying that Alan was alone, that he had a great sum about
him, that he had been the means of losing the brig and drowning
all their comrades, and that here was both revenge and wealth
upon a single cast. It was seven against one; in that part of
the shore there was no rock that Alan could set his back to; and
the sailors began to spread out and come behind him.
"And then," said Alan, "the little man with the red head
I havenae mind of the name that he is called."
"Riach," said I.
"Ay" said Alan," Riach! Well, it was him that took up the
clubs for me, asked the men if they werenae feared of a
judgment, and, says he 'Dod, I'll put my back to the
Hielandman's mysel'.' That's none such an entirely bad little
man, yon little man with the red head," said Alan "He has some
spunks of decency."
"Well," said I, "he was kind to me in his way."
"And so he was to Alan," said he; "and by my troth, I found
his way a very good one! But ye see, David, the loss of the ship
and the cries of these poor lads sat very ill upon the man; and
I'm thinking that would be the cause of it."
"Well, I would think so," says I; "for he was as keen as
any of the rest at the beginning. But how did Hoseason take it?"
"It sticks in my mind that he would take it very ill," says
Alan. "But the little man cried to me to run, and indeed I
thought it was a good observe, and ran. The last that I saw they
were all in a knot upon the beach, like folk that were not
agreeing very well together."
"What do you mean by that?" said I.
"Well, the fists were going," said Alan; "and I saw one man
go down like a pair of breeks. But I thought it would be better
no to wait. Ye see there's a strip of Campbells in that end of
Mull, which is no good company for a gentleman like me. If it
hadnae been for that I would have waited and looked for ye
mysel', let alone giving a hand to the little man." (It was
droll how Alan dwelt on Mr. Riach's stature, for, to say the
truth, the one was not much smaller than the other.) "So," says
he, continuing, "I set my best foot forward, and whenever I met
in with any one I cried out there was a wreck ashore. Man, they
didnae stop to fash with me! Ye should have seen them linking
for the beach! And when they got there they found they had had
the pleasure of a run, which is aye good for a Campbell. I'm
thinking it was a judgment on the clan that the brig went down
in the lump and didnae break. But it was a very unlucky thing
for you, that same; for if any wreck had come ashore they would
have hunted high and low, and would soon have found ye."
THE HOUSE OF FEAR
NIGHT fell as we were walking, and the clouds, which had broken
up in the afternoon, settled in and thickened, so that it fell,
for the season of the year, extremely dark. The way we went was
over rough mountainsides; and though Alan pushed on with an
assured manner, I could by no means see how he directed himself.
At last, about half-past ten of the clock, we came to the
top of a brae, and saw lights below us. It seemed a house door
stood open and let out a beam of fire and candle-light; and all
round the house and steading five or six persons were moving
hurriedly about, each carrying a lighted brand.
"James must have tint his wits," said Alan. "If this was
the soldiers instead of you and me, he would be in a bonny mess.
But I dare say he'll have a sentry on the road, and he would ken
well enough no soldiers would find the way that we came."
Hereupon he whistled three times, in a particular manner.
It was strange to see how, at the first sound of it, all the
moving torches came to a stand, as if the bearers were
affrighted; and how, at the third, the bustle began again as
Having thus set folks' minds at rest, we came down the
brae, and were met at the yard gate (for this place was like a
well-doing farm) by a tall, handsome man of more than fifty, who
cried out to Alan in the Gaelic.
"James Stewart," said Alan, "I will ask ye to speak in
Scotch, for here is a young gentleman with me that has nane of
the other. This is him," he added, putting his arm through mine,
"a young gentleman of the Lowlands, and a laird in his country
too, but I am thinking it will be the better for his health if
we give his name the go-by."
James of the Glens turned to me for a moment, and greeted
me courteously enough; the next he had turned to Alan.
"This has been a dreadful accident," he cried. "It will
bring trouble on the country." And he wrung his hands.
"Hoots!" said Alan, "ye must take the sour with the sweet,
man. Colin Roy is dead, and be thankful for that!"
"Ay" said James, "and by my troth, I wish he was alive
again! It's all very fine to blow and boast beforehand; but now
it's done, Alan; and who's to bear the wyte of it? The
accident fell out in Appin -- mind ye that, Alan; it's Appin
that must pay; and I am a man that has a family."
While this was going on I looked about me at the servants.
Some were on ladders, digging in the thatch of the house or the
farm buildings, from which they brought out guns, swords, and
different weapons of war; others carried them away; and by the
sound of mattock blows from somewhere farther down the brae, I
suppose they buried them. Though they were all so busy, there
prevailed no kind of order in their efforts; men struggled
together for the same gun and ran into each other with their
burning torches; and James was continually turning about from
his talk with Alan, to cry out orders which were apparently
never understood. The faces in the torchlight were like those of
people overborne with hurry and panic; and though none spoke
above his breath, their speech sounded both anxious and angry.
It was about this time that a lassie came out of the house
carrying a pack or bundle; and it has often made me smile to
think how Alan's instinct awoke at the mere sight of it.
"What's that the lassie has?" he asked.
"We're just setting the house in order, Alan," said James,
in his frightened and somewhat fawning way. "They'll search
Appin with candles, and we must have all things straight. We're
digging the bit guns and swords into the moss, ye see; and
these, I am thinking, will be your ain French clothes. We'll be
to bury them, I believe."
"Bury my French clothes!" cried Alan. "Troth, no!" And
laid hold upon the packet and retired into the barn to shift
himself, recommending me in the meanwhile to his kinsman.
James carried me accordingly into the kitchen, and sat down
with me at table, smiling and talking at first in a very
hospitable manner. But presently the gloom returned upon him; he
sat frowning and biting his fingers; only remembered me from
time to time; and then gave me but a word or two and a poor
smile, and back into his private terrors. His wife sat by the
fire and wept, with her face in her hands; his eldest son was
crouched upon the floor, running over a great mass of papers and
now and again setting one alight and burning it to the bitter
end; all the while a servant lass with a red face was rummaging
about the room, in a blind hurry of fear, and whimpering as she
went; and every now and again one of the men would thrust in his
face from the yard, and cry for orders.
At last James could keep his seat no longer, and begged my
permission to be so unmannerly as walk about. "I am but poor
company altogether, sir," says he, "but I can think of nothing
but this dreadful accident, and the trouble it is like to bring
upon quite innocent persons."
A little after he observed his son burning a paper which he
thought should have been kept; and at that his excitement burst
out so that it was painful to witness. He struck the lad
"Are you gone gyte?" he cried. "Do you wish to hang your
father?" and forgetful of my presence, carried on at him a long
time together in the Gaelic, the young man answering nothing;
only the wife, at the name of hanging, throwing her apron over
her face and sobbing out louder than before.
This was all wretched for a stranger like myself to hear
and see; and I was right glad when Alan returned, looking like
himself in his fine French clothes, though (to be sure) they
were now grown almost too battered and withered to deserve the
name of fine. I was then taken out in my turn by another of the
sons, and given that change of clothing of which I had stood so
long in need, and a pair of Highland brogues made of
deer-leather, rather strange at first, but after a little
practice very easy to the feet.
By the time I came back Alan must have told his story; for
it seemed understood that I was to fly with him, and they were
all busy upon our equipment. They gave us each a sword and
pistols, though I professed my inability to use the former; and
with these, and some ammunition, a bag of oatmeal, an iron pan,
and a bottle of right French brandy, we were ready for the
heather. Money, indeed, was lacking. I had about two guineas
left; Alan's belt having been despatched by another hand, that
trusty messenger had no more than seventeen-pence to his whole
fortune; and as for James, it appears he had brought himself so
low with journeys to Edinburgh and legal expenses on behalf of
the tenants, that he could only scrape together
three-and-five-pence-halfpenny, the most of it in coppers.
"This'll no do," said Alan.
"Ye must find a safe bit somewhere near by," said James,
"and get word sent to me. Ye see, ye'll have to get this
business prettily off, Alan. This is no time to be stayed for a
guinea or two. They're sure to get wind of ye, sure to seek ye,
and by my way of it, sure to lay on ye the wyte of this day's
accident. If it falls on you, it falls on me that am your near
kinsman and harboured ye while ye were in the country. And if it
comes on me----" he paused, and bit his fingers, with a white
face." It would be a painful thing for our friends if I was to
hang," said he.
"It would be an ill day for Appin," says Alan.
"It's a day that sticks in my throat," said James. "O man,
man, man--man Alan! you and me have spoken like two fools!" he
cried, striking his hand upon the wall so that the house rang
"Well, and that's true, too," said Alan; "and my friend
from the Lowlands here" (nodding at me) "gave me a good word
upon that head, if I would only have listened to him."
"But see here," said James, returning to his former manner,
"if they lay me by the heels, Alan, it's then that you'll be
needing the money. For with all that I have said and that you
have said, it will look very black against the two of us; do ye
mark that? Well, follow me out, and ye'll, I'll see that I'll
have to get a paper out against ye mysel'; have to offer a
reward for ye; ay, will I! It's a sore thing to do between such
near friends; but if I get the dirdum of this dreadful
accident, I'll have to fend for myself, man. Do ye see that?"
He spoke with a pleading earnestness, taking Alan by the
breast of the coat.
"Ay" said Alan, "I see that."
"And ye'll have to be clear of the country, Alan -- ay, and
clear of Scotland -- you and your friend from the Lowlands, too.
For I'll have to paper your friend from the Lowlands. Ye see
that, Alan -- say that ye see that!"
I thought Alan flushed a bit. "This is unco hard on me that
brought him here, James," said he, throwing his head back. "It's
like making me a traitor!"
"Now, Alan, man!" cried James. "Look things in the face!
He'll be papered anyway; Mungo Campbell'll be sure to paper him;
what matters if I paper him too? And then, Alan, I am a man that
has a family." And then, after a little pause on both sides,
"And, Alan, it'll be a jury of Campbells," said he.
"There's one thing," said Alan, musingly, "that naebody
kens his name."
"Nor yet they shallnae, Alan! There's my hand on that,"
cried James, for all the world as if he had really known my name
and was foregoing some advantage. "But just the habit he was in,
and what he looked like, and his age, and the like? I couldnae
well do less."
"I wonder at your father's son," cried Alan, sternly.
"Would ye sell the lad with a gift? Would ye change his clothes
and then betray him?"
"No, no, Alan," said James. "No, no: the habit he took off
-- the habit Mungo saw him in." But I thought he seemed
crestfallen; indeed, he was clutching at every straw, and all
the time, I dare say, saw the faces of his hereditary foes on
the bench, and in the jury-box, and the gallows in the
"Well, sir" says Alan, turning to me, "what say ye to,
that? Ye are here under the safeguard of my honour; and it's my
part to see nothing done but what shall please you."
"I have but one word to say," said I; "for to all this
dispute I am a perfect stranger. But the plain common-sense is
to set the blame where it belongs, and that is on the man who
fired the shot. Paper him, as ye call it, set the hunt on him;
and let honest, innocent folk show their faces in safety." But
at this both Alan and James cried out in horror; bidding me hold
my tongue, for that was not to be thought of; and asking me what
the Camerons would think? (which confirmed me, it must have been
a Cameron from Mamore that did the act) and if I did not see
that the lad might be caught? "Ye havenae surely thought of
that?" said they, with such innocent earnestness, that my hands
dropped at my side and I despaired of argument.
"Very well, then," said I, "paper me, if you please, paper
Alan, paper King George! We're all three innocent, and that
seems to be what's wanted. But at least, sir," said I to James,
recovering from my little fit of annoyance, "I am Alan's friend,
and if I can be helpful to friends of his, I will not stumble at
I thought it best to put a fair face on my consent, for I
saw Alan troubled; and, besides (thinks I to myself), as soon as
my back is turned, they will paper me, as they call it, whether
I consent or not. But in this I saw I was wrong; for I had no
sooner said the words, than Mrs. Stewart leaped out of her
chair, came running over to us, and wept first upon my neck and
then on Alan's, blessing God for our goodness to her family.
"As for you, Alan, it was no more than your bounden duty,"
she said. "But for this lad that has come here and seen us at
our worst, and seen the goodman fleeching like a suitor, him
that by rights should give his commands like any king -- as for
you, my lad," she says, "my heart is wae not to have your name,
but I have your face; and as long as my heart beats under my
bosom, I will keep it, and think of it, and bless it." And with
that she kissed me, and burst once more into such sobbing, that
I stood abashed.
"Hoot, hoot," said Alan, looking mighty silly. "The day
comes unco soon in this month of July; and to-morrow there'll be
a fine to-do in Appin, a fine riding of dragoons, and crying of,
Cruachan!, and running of red-coats; and it behoves you and
me to the sooner be gone."
Thereupon we said farewell, and set out again, bending
somewhat eastwards, in a fine mild dark night, and over much the
same broken country as before.
 The rallying-word of the Campbells.
THE FLIGHT IN THE HEATHER: THE ROCKS
SOMETIMES we walked, sometimes ran; and as it drew on to
morning, walked ever the less and ran the more. Though, upon its
face, that country appeared to be a desert, yet there were huts
and houses of the people, of which we must have passed more than
twenty, hidden in quiet places of the hills. When we came to one
of these, Alan would leave me in the way, and go himself and rap
upon the side of the house and speak awhile at the window with
some sleeper awakened. This was to pass the news; which, in that
country, was so much of a duty that Alan must pause to attend to
it even while fleeing for his life; and so well attended to by
others, that in more than half of the houses where we called
they had heard already of the murder. In the others, as well as
I could make out (standing back at a distance and hearing a
strange tongue), the news was received with more of
consternation than surprise.
For all our hurry, day began to come in while we were still
far from any shelter. It found us in a prodigious valley, strewn
with rocks and where ran a foaming river. Wild mountains stood
around it; there grew there neither grass nor trees; and I have
sometimes thought since then, that it may have been the valley
called Glencoe, where the massacre was in the time of King
William. But for the details of our itinerary, I am all to seek;
our way lying now by short cuts, now by great detours; our pace
being so hurried, our time of journeying usually by night; and
the names of such places as I asked and heard being in the
Gaelic tongue and the more easily forgotten.
The first peep of morning, then, showed us this horrible
place, and I could see Alan knit his brow.
"This is no fit place for you and me," he said. "This is
place they're bound to watch."
And with that he ran harder than ever down to the water-
side, in a part where the river was split in two among three
rocks. It went through with a horrid thundering that made my
belly quake; and there hung over the lynn a little mist of
spray. Alan looked neither to the right nor to the left, but
jumped clean upon the middle rock and fell there on his hands
and knees to check himself, for that rock was small and he might
have pitched over on the far side. I had scarce time to measure
the distance or to understand the peril before I had followed
him, and he had caught and stopped me.
So there we stood, side by side upon a small rock slippery
with spray, a far broader leap in front of us, and the river
dinning upon all sides. When I saw where I was, there came on me
a deadly sickness of fear, and I put my hand over my eyes. Alan
took me and shook me; I saw he was speaking, but the roaring of
the falls and the trouble of my mind prevented me from hearing;
only I saw his face was red with anger, and that he stamped upon
the rock. The same look showed me the water raging by, and the
mist hanging in the air: and with that I covered my eyes again
The next minute Alan had set the brandy bottle to my lips,
and forced me to drink about a gill, which sent the blood into
my head again. Then, putting his hands to his mouth, and his
mouth to my ear, he shouted, "Hang or drown!" and turning his
back upon me, leaped over the farther branch of the stream, and
I was now alone upon the rock, which gave me the more room;
the brandy was singing in my ears; I had this good example fresh
before me, and just wit enough to see that if I did not leap at
once, I should never leap at all. I bent low on my knees and
flung myself forth, with that kind of anger of despair that has
sometimes stood me in stead of courage. Sure enough, it was but
my hands that reached the full length; these slipped, caught
again, slipped again; and I was sliddering back into the lynn,
when Alan seized me, first by the hair, then by the collar, and
with a great strain dragged me into safety.
Never a word he said, but set off running again for his
life, and I must stagger to my feet and run after him. I had
been weary before, but now I was sick and bruised, and partly
drunken with the brandy; I kept stumbling as I ran, I had a
stitch that came near to overmaster me; and when at last Alan
paused under a great rock that stood there among a number of
others, it was none too soon for David Balfour.
A great rock I have said; but by rights it was two rocks
leaning together at the top, both some twenty feet high, and at
the first sight inaccessible. Even Alan (though you may say he
had as good as four hands) failed twice in an attempt to climb
them; and it was only at the third trial, and then by standing
on my shoulders and leaping up with such force as I thought must
have broken my collar-bone, that he secured a lodgment. Once
there, he let down his leathern girdle; and with the aid of that
and a pair of shallow footholds in the rock, I scrambled up
Then I saw why we had come there; for the two rocks, being
both somewhat hollow on the top and sloping one to the other,
made a kind of dish or saucer, where as many as three or four
men might have lain hidden.
All this while Alan had not said a word, and had run and
climbed with such a savage, silent frenzy of hurry, that I knew
that he was in mortal fear of some miscarriage. Even now we were
on the rock he said nothing, nor so much as relaxed the frowning
look upon his face; but clapped flat down, and keeping only one
eye above the edge of our place of shelter scouted all round the
compass. The dawn had come quite, clear; we could see the stony
sides of the valley, and its bottom, which was bestrewed with
rocks, and the river, which went from one side to another, and
made white falls; but nowhere the smoke of a house, nor any
living creature but some eagles screaming round a cliff.
Then at last Alan smiled.
"Ay" said he, "now we have a chance;" and then looking
me with some amusement. "Ye're no very gleg at the jumping,"
At this I suppose I coloured with mortification, for he
added at once, "Hoots! small blame to ye! To be feared of a
thing and yet to do it, is what makes the prettiest kind of a
man. And then there was water there, and water's a thing that
dauntons even me. No, no," said Alan, "it's no you that's to
blame, it's me."
I asked him why.
"Why," said he, "I have proved myself a gomeral this night.
For first of all I take a wrong road, and that in my own country
of Appin; so that the day has caught us where we should never
have been; and thanks to that, we lie here in some danger and
mair discomfort. And next (which is the worst of the two, for a
man that has been so much among the heather as myself) I have
come wanting a water-bottle, and here we lie for a long summer's
day with naething but neat spirit. Ye may think that a small
matter; but before it comes night, David, ye'll give me news of
I was anxious to redeem my character, and offered, if he
would pour out the brandy, to run down and fill the bottle at
"I wouldnae waste the good spirit either," says he. "It,s
been a good friend to you this night; or in my poor opinion, ye
would still be cocking on yon stone. And what's mair," says he,
"ye may have observed (you that's a man of so much penetration)
that Alan Breck Stewart was perhaps walking quicker than his
"You!" I cried, "you were running fit to burst."
"Was I so?" said he. "Well, then, ye may depend upon it,
there was nae time to be lost. And now here is enough said; gang
you to your sleep, lad, and I'll watch."
Accordingly, I lay down to sleep; a little peaty earth had
drifted in between the top of the two rocks, and some bracken
grew there, to be a bed to me; the last thing I heard was still
the crying of the eagles.
I dare say it would be nine in the morning when I was
roughly awakened, and found Alan's hand pressed upon my mouth.
"Wheesht!" he whispered. "Ye were snoring."
"Well," said I, surprised at his anxious and dark face,
"and why not?"
He peered over the edge of the rock, and signed to me to do
It was now high day, cloudless, and very hot. The valley
was as clear as in a picture. About half a mile up the water was
a camp of red-coats; a big fire blazed in their midst, at which
some were cooking; and near by, on the top of a rock about as
high as ours, there stood a sentry, with the sun sparkling on
his arms. All the way down along the river-side were posted
other sentries; here near together, there widelier scattered;
some planted like the first, on places of command, some on the
ground level and marching and counter-marching, so as to meet
half-way. Higher up the glen, where the ground was more open,
the chain of posts was continued by horse-soldiers, whom we
could see in the distance riding to and fro. Lower down, the
infantry continued; but as the stream was suddenly swelled by
the confluence of a considerable burn, they were more widely
set, and only watched the fords and stepping-stones.
I took but one look at them, and ducked again into my
place. It was strange indeed to see this valley, which had lain
so solitary in the hour of dawn, bristling with arms and dotted
with the red coats and breeches.
"Ye see," said Alan, "this was what I was afraid of, Davie:
that they would watch the burn-side. They began to come in about
two hours ago, and, man! but ye're a grand hand at the sleeping!
We're in a narrow place. If they get up the sides of the hill,
they could easy spy us with a glass; but if they'll only keep in
the foot of the valley, we'll do yet. The posts are thinner down
the water; and, come night, we'll try our hand at getting by
"And what are we to do till night?" I asked.
"Lie here," says he, "and birstle."
That one good Scotch word, "birstle," was indeed the most
of the story of the day that we had now to pass. You are to
remember that we lay on the bare top of a rock, like scones upon
a girdle; the sun beat upon us cruelly; the rock grew so heated,
a man could scarce endure the touch of it; and the little patch
of earth and fern, which kept cooler, was only large enough for
one at a time. We took turn about to lie on the naked rock,
which was indeed like the position of that saint that was
martyred on a gridiron; and it ran in my mind how strange it
was, that in the same climate and at only a few days' distance,
I should have suffered so cruelly, first from cold upon my
island and now from heat upon this rock.
All the while we had no water, only raw brandy for a drink,
which was worse than nothing; but we kept the bottle as cool as
we could, burying it in the earth, and got some relief by
bathing our breasts and temples.
The soldiers kept stirring all day in the bottom of the
valley, now changing guard, now in patrolling parties hunting
among the rocks. These lay round in so great a number, that to
look for men among them was like looking for a needle in a
bottle of hay; and being so hopeless a task, it was gone about
with the less care. Yet we could see the soldiers pike their
bayonets among the heather, which sent a cold thrill into my
vitals; and they would sometimes hang about our rock, so that we
scarce dared to breathe.
It was in this way that I first heard the right English
speech; one fellow as he went by actually clapping his hand upon
the sunny face of the rock on which we lay, and plucking it off
again with an oath. "I tell you it's 'ot," says he; and I was
amazed at the clipping tones and the odd sing-song in which he
spoke, and no less at that strange trick of dropping out the
letter "h." To be sure, I had heard Ransome; but he had taken
his ways from all sorts of people, and spoke so imperfectly at
the best, that I set down the most of it to childishness. My
surprise was all the greater to hear that manner of speaking in
the mouth of a grown man; and indeed I have never grown used to
it; nor yet altogether with the English grammar, as perhaps a
very critical eye might here and there spy out even in these
The tediousness and pain of these hours upon the rock grew
only the greater as the day went on; the rock getting still the
hotter and the sun fiercer. There were giddiness, and sickness,
and sharp pangs like rheumatism, to be supported. I minded then,
and have often minded since, on the lines in our Scotch psalm:
"The moon by night thee shall not smite,
Nor yet the sun by day;"
and indeed it was only by God's blessing that we were neither of
At last, about two, it was beyond men's bearing, and there
was now temptation to resist, as well as pain to thole. For the
sun being now got a little into the west, there came a patch of
shade on the east side of our rock, which was the side sheltered
from the soldiers.
"As well one death as another," said Alan, and slipped over
the edge and dropped on the ground on the shadowy side.
I followed him at once, and instantly fell all my length,
so weak was I and so giddy with that long exposure. Here, then,
we lay for an hour or two, aching from head to foot, as weak as
water, and lying quite naked to the eye of any soldier who
should have strolled that way. None came, however, all passing
by on the other side; so that our rock continued to be our
shield even in this new position.
Presently we began again to get a little strength; and as
the soldiers were now lying closer along the river-side, Alan
proposed that we should try a start. I was by this time afraid
of but one thing in the world; and that was to be set back upon
the rock; anything else was welcome to me; so we got ourselves
at once in marching order, and began to slip from rock to rock
one after the other, now crawling flat on our bellies in the
shade, now making a run for it, heart in mouth.
The soldiers, having searched this side of the valley after
a fashion, and being perhaps somewhat sleepy with the sultriness
of the afternoon, had now laid by much of their vigilance, and
stood dozing at their posts or only kept a look-out along the
banks of the river; so that in this way, keeping down the valley
and at the same time towards the mountains, we drew steadily
away from their neighbourhood. But the business was the most
wearing I had ever taken part in. A man had need of a hundred
eyes in every part of him, to keep concealed in that uneven
country and within cry of so many and scattered sentries. When
we must pass an open place, quickness was not all, but a swift
judgment not only of the lie of the whole country, but of the
solidity of every stone on which we must set foot; for the
afternoon was now fallen so breathless that the rolling of a
pebble sounded abroad like a pistol shot, and would start the
echo calling among the hills and cliffs.
By sundown we had made some distance, even by our slow rate
of progress, though to be sure the sentry on the rock was still
plainly in our view. But now we came on something that put all
fears out of season; and that was a deep rushing burn, that tore
down, in that part, to join the glen river. At the sight of this
we cast ourselves on the ground and plunged head and shoulders
in the water; and I cannot tell which was the more pleasant, the
great shock as the cool stream went over us, or the greed with
which we drank of it.
We lay there (for the banks hid us), drank again and again,
bathed our chests, let our wrists trail in the running water
till they ached with the chill; and at last, being wonderfullv
renewed, we got out the meal-bag and made drammach in the iron
pan. This, though it is but cold water mingled with oatmeal, yet
makes a good enough dish for a hungry man; and where there are
no means of making fire, or (as in our case) good reason for not
making one, it is the chief stand-by of those who have taken to
As soon as the shadow of the night had fallen, we set forth
again, at first with the same caution, but presently with more
boldness, standing our full height and stepping out at a good
pace of walking. The way was very intricate, lying up the steep
sides of mountains and along the brows of cliffs; clouds had
come in with the sunset, and the night was dark and cool; so
that I walked without much fatigue, but in continual fear of
falling and rolling down the mountains, and with no guess at our
The moon rose at last and found us still on the road; it
was in its last quarter, and was long beset with clouds; but
after awhile shone out and showed me many dark heads of
mountains, and was reflected far underneath us on the narrow arm
of a sea-loch.
At this sight we both paused: I struck with wonder to find
myself so high and walking (as it seemed to me) upon clouds;
Alan to make sure of his direction.
Seemingly he was well pleased, and he must certainly have
judged us out of ear-shot of all our enemies; for throughout the
rest of our night-march he beguiled the way with whistling of
many tunes, warlike, merry, plaintive; reel tunes that made the
foot go faster; tunes of my own south country that made me fain
to be home from my adventures; and all these, on the great,
dark, desert mountains, making company upon the way.
THE FLIGHT IN THE HEATHER: THE HEUGH OF CORRYNAKIEGH
EARLY as day comes in the beginning of July, it was still dark
when we reached our destination, a cleft in the head of a great
mountain, with a water running through the midst, and upon the
one hand a shallow cave in a rock. Birches grew there in a thin,
pretty wood, which a little farther on was changed into a wood
of pines. The burn was full of trout; the wood of cushat-doves;
on the open side of the mountain beyond, whaups would be always
whistling, and cuckoos were plentiful. From the mouth of the
cleft we looked down upon a part of Mamore, and on the sea-loch
that divides that country from Appin; and this from so great a
height as made it my continual wonder and pleasure to sit and
The name of the cleft was the Heugh of Corrynakiegh; and
although from its height and being so near upon the sea, it was
often beset with clouds, yet it was on the whole a pleasant
place, and the five days we lived in it went happily.
We slept in the cave, making our bed of heather bushes
which we cut for that purpose, and covering ourselves with
Alan's great-coat. There was a low concealed place, in a turning
of the glen, where we were so bold as to make fire: so that we
could warm ourselves when the clouds set in, and cook hot
porridge, and grill the little trouts that we caught with our
hands under the stones and overhanging banks of the burn. This
was indeed our chief pleasure and business; and not only to save
our meal against worse times, but with a rivalry that much
amused us, we spent a great part of our days at the water-side,
stripped to the waist and groping about or (as they say)
guddling for these fish. The largest we got might have been a
quarter of a pound; but they were of good flesh and flavour, and
when broiled upon the coals, lacked only a little salt to be
In any by-time Alan must teach me to use my sword, for my
ignorance had much distressed him; and I think besides, as I had
sometimes the upper-hand of him in the fishing, he was not sorry
to turn to an exercise where he had so much the upper-hand of
me. He made it somewhat more of a pain than need have been, for
he stormed at me all through the lessons in a very violent
manner of scolding, and would push me so close that I made sure
he must run me through the body. I was often tempted to turn
tail, but held my ground for all that, and got some profit of my
lessons; if it was but to stand on guard with an assured
countenance, which is often all that is required. So, though I
could never in the least please my master, I was not altogether
displeased with myself.
In the meanwhile, you are not to suppose that we neglected
our chief business, which was to get away.
"It will be many a long, day" Alan said to me on our first
morning, "before the red-coats think upon seeking Corrynakiegh;
so now we must get word sent to James, and he must find the
siller for us."
"And how shall we send that word?" says I. "We are here in
a desert place, which yet we dare not leave; and unless ye get
the fowls of the air to be your messengers, I see not what we
shall be able to do."
"Ay?" said Alan. "Ye're a man of small contrivance, David."
Thereupon he fell in a muse, looking in the embers of the
fire; and presently, getting a piece of wood, he fashioned it in
a cross, the four ends of which he blackened on the coals. Then
he looked at me a little shyly.
"Could ye lend me my button?" says he. "It seems a strange
thing to ask a gift again, but I own I am laith to cut another."
I gave him the button; whereupon he strung it on a strip of
his great-coat which he had used to bind the cross; and tying in
a little sprig of birch and another of fir, he looked upon his
work with satisfaction.
"Now," said he, "there is a little clachan" (what is
a hamlet in the English) "not very far from Corrynakiegh, and it
has the name of Koalisnacoan. There there are living many
friends of mine whom I could trust with my life, and some that
I am no just so sure of. Ye see, David, there will be money set
upon our heads; James himsel' is to set money on them; and as
for the Campbells, they would never spare siller where there was
a Stewart to be hurt. If it was otherwise, I would go down to
Koalisnacoan whatever, and trust my life into these people's
hands as lightly as I would trust another with my glove."
"But being so?" said I.
"Being so," said he, "I would as lief they didnae see me.
There's bad folk everywhere, and what's far worse, weak ones. So
when it comes dark again, I will steal down into that clachan,
and set this that I have been making in the window of a good
friend of mine, John Breck Maccoll, a bouman of Appin's."
"With all my heart," says I; "and if he finds it, what is
he to think?"
"Well," says Alan, "I wish he was a man of more
penetration, for by my troth I am afraid he will make little
enough of it! But this is what I have in my mind. This cross is
something in the nature of the crosstarrie, or fiery cross,
which is the signal of gathering in our clans; yet he will know
well enough the clan is not to rise, for there it is standing in
his window, and no word with it. So he will say to himsel', The
clan is not to rise, but there is something. Then he will see my
button, and that was Duncan Stewart's. And then he will say to
himsel', The son of Duncan is in the heather, and has need of
"Well," said I, "it may be. But even supposing so, there
a good deal of heather between here and the Forth."
"And that is a very true word," says Alan. "But then John
Breck will see the sprig of birch and the sprig of pine; and he
will say to himsel' (if he is a man of any penetration at all,
which I misdoubt), Alan will be lying in a wood which is both of
pines and birches. Then he will think to himsel', That is not so
very rife hereabout; and then he will come and give us a look up
in Corrynakiegh. And if he does not, David, the devil may fly
away with him, for what I care; for he will no be worth the salt
to his porridge."
"Eh, man," said I, drolling with him a little, "you're very
ingenious! But would it not be simpler for you to write him a
few words in black and white?"
"And that is an excellent observe, Mr. Balfour of Shaws,"
says Alan, drolling with me; "and it would certainly be much
simpler for me to write to him, but it would be a sore job for
John Breck to read it. He would have to go to the school for
two-three years; and it's possible we might be wearied waiting
So that night Alan carried down his fiery cross and set it
in the bouman's window. He was troubled when he came back; for
the dogs had barked and the folk run out from their houses; and
he thought he had heard a clatter of arms and seen a red-coat
come to one of the doors. On all accounts we lay the next day in
the borders of the wood and kept a close look-out, so that if it
was John Breck that came we might be ready to guide him, and if
it was the red-coats we should have time to get away.
About noon a man was to be spied, straggling up the open
side of the mountain in the sun, and looking round him as he
came, from under his hand. No sooner had Alan seen him than he
whistled; the man turned and came a little towards us: then Alan
would give another "peep!" and the man would come still nearer;
and so by the sound of whistling, he was guided to the spot
where we lay.
He was a ragged, wild, bearded man, about forty, grossly
disfigured with the small pox, and looked both dull and savage.
Although his English was very bad and broken, yet Alan
(according to his very handsome use, whenever I was by) would
suffer him to speak no Gaelic. Perhaps the strange language made
him appear more backward than he really was; but I thought he
had little good-will to serve us, and what he had was the child
Alan would have had him carry a message to James; but the
bouman would hear of no message. "She was forget it," he said
his screaming voice; and would either have a letter or wash his
hands of us.
I thought Alan would be gravelled at that, for we lacked
the means of writing in that desert. But he was a man of more
resources than I knew; searched the wood until he found the
quill of a cushat-dove, which he shaped into a pen; made himself
a kind of ink with gunpowder from his horn and water from the
running stream; and tearing a corner from his French military
commission (which he carried in his pocket, like a talisman to
keep him from the gallows), he sat down and wrote as follows:
"DEAR KINSMAN, -- Please send the money by the bearer to
the place he kens of.
"Your affectionate cousin,
This he intrusted to the bouman, who promised to make what
manner of speed he best could, and carried it off with him down
He was three full days gone, but about five in the evening
of the third, we heard a whistling in the wood, which Alan
answered; and presently the bouman came up the water-side,
looking for us, right and left. He seemed less sulky than
before, and indeed he was no doubt well pleased to have got to
the end of such a dangerous commission.
He gave us the news of the country; that it was alive with
red-coats; that arms were being found, and poor folk brought in
trouble daily; and that James and some of his servants were
already clapped in prison at Fort William, under strong
suspicion of complicity. It seemed it was noised on all sides
that Alan Breck had fired the shot; and there was a bill issued
for both him and me, with one hundred pounds reward.
This was all as bad as could be; and the little note the
bouman had carried us from Mrs. Stewart was of a miserable
sadness. In it she besought Alan not to let himself be captured,
assuring him, if he fell in the hands of the troops, both he and
James were no better than dead men. The money she had sent was
all that she could beg or borrow, and she prayed heaven we could
be doing with it. Lastly, she said, she enclosed us one of the
bills in which we were described.
This we looked upon with great curiosity and not a little
fear, partly as a man may look in a mirror, partly as he might
look into the barrel of an enemy's gun to judge if it be truly
aimed. Alan was advertised as "a small, pock-marked, active man
of thirty-five or thereby, dressed in a feathered hat, a French
side-coat of blue with silver buttons, and lace a great deal
tarnished, a red waistcoat and breeches of black, shag;" and I
as "a tall strong lad of about eighteen, wearing an old blue
coat, very ragged, an old Highland bonnet, a long homespun
waistcoat, blue breeches; his legs bare, low-country shoes,
wanting the toes; speaks like a Lowlander, and has no beard."
Alan was well enough pleased to see his finery so fully
remembered and set down; only when he came to the word tarnish,
he looked upon his lace like one a little mortified. As for
myself, I thought I cut a miserable figure in the bill; and yet
was well enough pleased too, for since I had changed these rags,
the description had ceased to be a danger and become a source of
"Alan," said I, "you should change your clothes."
"Na, troth!" said Alan, "I have nae others. A fine sight
would be, if I went back to France in a bonnet!"
This put a second reflection in my mind: that if I were to
separate from Alan and his tell-tale clothes I should be safe
against arrest, and might go openly about my business. Nor was
this all; for suppose I was arrested when I was alone, there was
little against me; but suppose I was taken in company with the
reputed murderer, my case would begin to be grave. For
generosity's sake I dare not speak my mind upon this head; but
I thought of it none the less.
I thought of it all the more, too, when the bouman brought
out a green purse with four guineas in gold, and the best part
of another in small change. True, it was more than I had. But
then Alan, with less than five guineas, had to get as far as
France; I, with my less than two, not beyond Queensferry; so
that taking things in their proportion, Alan's society was not
only a peril to my life, but a burden on my purse.
But there was no thought of the sort in the honest head of
my companion. He believed he was serving, helping, and
protecting me. And what could I do but hold my peace, and chafe,
and take my chance of it?
"It's little enough," said Alan, putting the purse in his
pocket, "but it'll do my business. And now, John Breck, if ye
will hand me over my button, this gentleman and me will be for
taking the road."
But the bouman, after feeling about in a hairy purse that
hung in front of him in the Highland manner (though he wore
otherwise the Lowland habit, with sea-trousers), began to roll
his eyes strangely, and at last said, "Her nainsel will loss
it," meaning he thought he had lost it.
"What!" cried Alan, "you will lose my button, that was my
father's before me? Now I will tell you what is in my mind, John
Breck: it is in my mind this is the worst day's work that ever
ye did since ye was born."
And as Alan spoke, he set his hands on his knees and looked
at the bouman with a smiling mouth, and that dancing light in
his eyes that meant mischief to his enemies.
Perhaps the bouman was honest enough; perhaps he had meant
to cheat and then, finding himself alone with two of us in a
desert place, cast back to honesty as being safer; at least, and
all at once, he seemed to find that button and handed it to
"Well, and it is a good thing for the honour of the
Maccolls," said Alan, and then to me, "Here is my button back
again, and I thank you for parting with it, which is of a piece
with all your friendships to me." Then he took the warmest
parting of the bouman. "For," says he, "ye have done very
by me, and set your neck at a venture, and I will always give
you the name of a good man."
Lastly, the bouman took himself off by one way; and Alan I
(getting our chattels together) struck into another to resume
 A bouman is a tenant who takes stock from the landlord and
shares with him the increase.
THE FLIGHT IN THE HEATHER: THE MOOR
SOME seven hours' incessant, hard travelling brought us early in
the morning to the end of a range of mountains. In front of us
there lay a piece of low, broken, desert land, which we must now
cross. The sun was not long up, and shone straight in our eyes;
a little, thin mist went up from the face of the moorland like
a smoke; so that (as Alan said) there might have been twenty
squadron of dragoons there and we none the wiser.
We sat down, therefore, in a howe of the hill-side till the
mist should have risen, and made ourselves a dish of drammach,
and held a council of war.
"David," said Alan, "this is the kittle bit. Shall we lie
here till it comes night, or shall we risk it, and stave on
"Well," said I, "I am tired indeed, but I could walk as far
again, if that was all."
"Ay, but it isnae," said Alan, "nor yet the half. This is
how we stand: Appin's fair death to us. To the south it's all
Campbells, and no to be thought of. To the north; well, there's
no muckle to be gained by going north; neither for you, that
wants to get to Queensferry, nor yet for me, that wants to get
to France. Well, then, we'll can strike east."
"East be it!" says I, quite cheerily; but I was thinking"
in to myself: "O, man, if you would only take one point of the
compass and let me take any other, it would be the best for both
"Well, then, east, ye see, we have the muirs," said Alan.
"Once there, David, it's mere pitch-and-toss. Out on yon bald,
naked, flat place, where can a body turn to? Let the red-coats
come over a hill, they can spy you miles away; and the sorrow's
in their horses' heels, they would soon ride you down. It's no
good place, David; and I'm free to say, it's worse by daylight
than by dark."
"Alan," said I, "hear my way of it. Appin's death for us;
we have none too much money, nor yet meal; the longer they seek,
the nearer they may guess where we are; it's all a risk; and I
give my word to go ahead until we drop."
Alan was delighted. "There are whiles," said he, "when ye
are altogether too canny and Whiggish to be company for a
gentleman like me; but there come other whiles when ye show
yoursel' a mettle spark; and it's then, David, that I love ye
like a brother."
The mist rose and died away, and showed us that country
lying as waste as the sea; only the moorfowl and the pewees
crying upon it, and far over to the east, a herd of deer, moving
like dots. Much of it was red with heather; much of the rest
broken up with bogs and hags and peaty pools; some had been
burnt black in a heath fire; and in another place there was
quite a forest of dead firs, standing like skeletons. A
wearier-looking desert man never saw; but at least it was clear
of troops, which was our point.
We went down accordingly into the waste, and began to make
our toilsome and devious travel towards the eastern verge. There
were the tops of mountains all round (you are to remember) from
whence we might be spied at any moment; so it behoved us to keep
in the hollow parts of the moor, and when these turned aside
from our direction to move upon its naked face with infinite
care. Sometimes, for half an hour together, we must crawl from
one heather bush to another, as hunters do when they are hard
upon the deer. It was a clear day again, with a blazing sun; the
water in the brandy bottle was soon gone; and altogether, if I
had guessed what it would be to crawl half the time upon my
belly and to walk much of the rest stooping nearly to the knees,
I should certainly have held back from such a killing
Toiling and resting and toiling again, we wore away the
morning; and about noon lay down in a thick bush of heather to
sleep. Alan took the first watch; and it seemed to me I had
scarce closed my eyes before I was shaken up to take the second.
We had no clock to go by; and Alan stuck a sprig of heath in the
ground to serve instead; so that as soon as the shadow of the
bush should fall so far to the east, I might know to rouse him.
But I was by this time so weary that I could have slept twelve
hours at a stretch; I had the taste of sleep in my throat; my
joints slept even when my mind was waking; the hot smell of the
heather, and the drone of the wild bees, were like possets to
me; and every now and again I would give a jump and find I had
The last time I woke I seemed to come back from farther
away, and thought the sun had taken a great start in the
heavens. I looked at the sprig of heath, and at that I could
have cried aloud: for I saw I had betrayed my trust. My head was
nearly turned with fear and shame; and at what I saw, when I
looked out around me on the moor, my heart was like dying in my
body. For sure enough, a body of horse-soldiers had come down
during my sleep, and were drawing near to us from the
south-east, spread out in the shape of a fan and riding their
horses to and fro in the deep parts of the heather.
When I waked Alan, he glanced first at the soldiers, then
at the mark and the position of the sun, and knitted his brows
with a sudden, quick look, both ugly and anxious, which was all
the reproach I had of him.
"What are we to do now?" I asked.
"We'll have to play at being hares," said he. "Do ye see
yon mountain?" pointing to one on the north-eastern sky.
"Ay," said I.
"Well, then," says he, "let us strike for that. Its name
Ben Alder. it is a wild, desert mountain full of hills and
hollows, and if we can win to it before the morn, we may do
"But, Alan," cried I, "that will take us across the very
coming of the soldiers!"
"I ken that fine," said he; "but if we are driven back on
Appin, we are two dead men. So now, David man, be brisk!"
With that he began to run forward on his hands and knees
with an incredible quickness, as though it were his natural way
of going. All the time, too, he kept winding in and out in the
lower parts of the moorland where we were the best concealed.
Some of these had been burned or at least scathed with fire; and
there rose in our faces (which were close to the ground) a
blinding, choking dust as fine as smoke. The water was long out;
and this posture of running on the hands and knees brings an
overmastering weakness and weariness, so that the joints ache
and the wrists faint under your weight.
Now and then, indeed, where was a big bush of heather, we
lay awhile, and panted, and putting aside the leaves, looked
back at the dragoons. They had not spied us, for they held
straight on; a half-troop, I think, covering about two miles of
ground, and beating it mighty thoroughly as they went. I had
awakened just in time; a little later, and we must have fled in
front of them, instead of escaping on one side. Even as it was,
the least misfortune might betray us; and now and again, when a
grouse rose out of the heather with a clap of wings, we lay as
still as the dead and were afraid to breathe.
The aching and faintness of my body, the labouring of my
heart, the soreness of my hands, and the smarting of my throat
and eyes in the continual smoke of dust and ashes, had soon
grown to be so unbearable that I would gladly have given up.
Nothing but the fear of Alan lent me enough of a false kind of
courage to continue. As for himself (and you are to bear in mind
that he was cumbered with a great-coat) he had first turned
crimson, but as time went on the redness began to be mingled
with patches of white; his breath cried and whistled as it came;
and his voice, when he whispered his observations in my ear
during our halts, sounded like nothing human. Yet he seemed in
no way dashed in spirits, nor did he at all abate in his
activity. so that I was driven, to marvel at the man's
At length, in the first gloaming of the night, we heard a
trumpet sound, and looking back from among the heather, saw the
troop beginning to collect. A little after, they had built a
fire and camped for the night, about the middle of the waste.
At this I begged and besought that we might lie down and
"There shall be no sleep the night!" said Alan. "From now
on, these weary dragoons of yours will keep the crown of the
muirland, and none will get out of Appin but winged fowls. We
got through in the nick of time, and shall we jeopard what we've
gained? Na, na, when the day comes, it shall find you and me in
a fast place on Ben Alder."
"Alan," I said, "it's not the want of will: it's the
strength that I want. If I could, I would; but as sure as I'm
alive I cannot."
"Very well, then," said Alan. "I'll carry ye."
I looked to see if he were jesting; but no, the little man
was in dead earnest; and the sight of so much resolution shamed
"Lead away!" said I. "I'll follow."
He gave me one look as much as to say, "Well done, David!"
and off he set again at his top speed.
It grew cooler and even a little darker (but not much) with
the coming of the night. The sky was cloudless; it was still
early in July, and pretty far north; in the darkest part of that
night, you would have needed pretty good eyes to read, but for
all that, I have often seen it darker in a winter mid-day. Heavy
dew fell and drenched the moor like rain; and this refreshed me
for a while. When we stopped to breathe, and I had time to see
all about me, the clearness and sweetness of the night, the
shapes of the hills like things asleep, and the fire dwindling
away behind us, like a bright spot in the midst of the moor,
anger would come upon me in a clap that I must still drag myself
in agony and eat the dust like a worm.
By what I have read in books, I think few that have held a
pen were ever really wearied, or they would write of it more
strongly. I had no care of my life, neither past nor future, and
I scarce remembered there was such a lad as David Balfour. I did
not think of myself, but just of each fresh step which I was
sure would be my last, with despair -- and of Alan, who was the
cause of it, with hatred. Alan was in the right trade as a
soldier; this is the officer's part to make men continue to do
things, they know not wherefore, and when, if the choice was
offered, they would lie down where they were and be killed. And
I dare say I would have made a good enough private; for in these
last hours it never occurred to me that I had any choice but
just to obey as long as I was able, and die obeying.
Day began to come in, after years, I thought; and by that
time we were past the greatest danger, and could walk upon our
feet like men, instead of crawling like brutes. But, dear heart
have mercy! what a pair we must have made, going double like old
grandfathers, stumbling like babes, and as white as dead folk.
Never a word passed between us; each set his mouth and kept his
eyes in front of him, and lifted up his foot and set it down
again, like people lifting weights at a country, play; all
the while, with the moorfowl crying "peep!" in the heather, and
the light coming slowly clearer in the east.
I say Alan did as I did. Not that ever I looked at him, for
I had enough ado to keep my feet; but because it is plain he
must have been as stupid with weariness as myself, and looked as
little where we were going, or we should not have walked into an
ambush like blind men.
It fell in this way. We were going down a heathery brae,
Alan leading and I following a pace or two behind, like a
fiddler and his wife; when upon a sudden the heather gave a
rustle, three or four ragged men leaped out, and the next moment
we were lying on our backs, each with a dirk at his throat.
I don't think I cared; the pain of this rough handling was
quite swallowed up by the pains of which I was already full; and
I was too glad to have stopped walking to mind about a dirk. I
lay looking up in the face of the man that held me; and I mind
his face was black with the sun, and his eyes very light, but I
was not afraid of him. I heard Alan and another whispering in
the Gaelic; and what they said was all one to me.
Then the dirks were put up, our weapons were taken away,
and we were set face to face, sitting in the heather.
"They are Cluny's men," said Alan. "We couldnae have fallen
better. We're just to bide here with these, which are his
out-sentries, till they can get word to the chief of my
Now Cluny Macpherson, the chief of the clan Vourich, had
been one of the leaders of the great rebellion six years before;
there was a price on his life; and I had supposed him long ago
in France, with the rest of the heads of that desperate party.
Even tired as I was, the surprise of what I heard half wakened
"What," I cried, "is Cluny still here?"
"Ay, is he so!" said Alan. "Still in his own country and
kept by his own clan. King George can do no more."
I think I would have asked farther, but Alan gave me the
put-off. "I am rather wearied," he said, "and I would like
to get a sleep." And without more words, he rolled on his face
in a deep heather bush, and seemed to sleep at once.
There was no such thing possible for me. You have heard
grasshoppers whirring in the grass in the summer time? Well, I
had no sooner closed my eyes, than my body, and above all my
head, belly, and wrists, seemed to be filled with whirring
grasshoppers; and I must open my eyes again at once, and tumble
and toss, and sit up and lie down; and look at the sky which
dazzled me, or at Cluny's wild and dirty sentries, peering out
over the top of the brae and chattering to each other in the
That was all the rest I had, until the messenger returned;
when, as it appeared that Cluny would be glad to receive us, we
must get once more upon our feet and set forward. Alan was in
excellent good spirits, much refreshed by his sleep, very
hungry, and looking pleasantly forward to a dram and a dish of
hot collops, of which, it seems, the messenger had brought him
word. For my part, it made me sick to hear of eating. I had been
dead-heavy before, and now I felt a kind of dreadful lightness,
which would not suffer me to walk. I drifted like a gossamer;
the ground seemed to me a cloud, the hills a feather-weight, the
air to have a current, like a running burn, which carried me to
and fro. With all that, a sort of horror of despair sat on my
mind, so that I could have wept at my own helplessness.
I saw Alan knitting his brows at me, and supposed it was in
anger; and that gave me a pang of light-headed fear, like what
a child may have. I remember, too, that I was smiling, and could
not stop smiling, hard as I tried; for I thought it was out of
place at such a time. But my good companion had nothing in his
mind but kindness; and the next moment, two of the gillies had
me by the arms, and I began to be carried forward with great
swiftness (or so it appeared to me, although I dare say it was
slowly enough in truth), through a labyrinth of dreary glens and
hollows and into the heart of that dismal mountain of Ben Alder.
 Village fair.
WE came at last to the foot of an exceeding steep wood, which
scrambled up a craggy hillside, and was crowned by a naked
"It's here," said one of the guides, and we struck up hill.
The trees clung upon the slope, like sailors on the shrouds
of a ship, and their trunks were like the rounds of a ladder, by
which we mounted.
Quite at the top, and just before the rocky face of the
cliff sprang above the foliage, we found that strange house
which was known in the country as "Cluny's Cage." The trunks of
several trees had been wattled across, the intervals
strengthened with stakes, and the ground behind this barricade
levelled up with earth to make the floor. A tree, which grew out
from the hillside, was the living centre-beam of the roof. The
walls were of wattle and covered with moss. The whole house had
something of an egg shape; and it half hung, half stood in that
steep, hillside thicket, like a wasp's nest in a green hawthorn.
Within, it was large enough to shelter five or six persons
with some comfort. A projection of the cliff had been cunningly
employed to be the fireplace; and the smoke rising against the
face of the rock, and being not dissimilar in colour, readily
escaped notice from below.
This was but one of Cluny's hiding-places; he had caves,
besides, and underground chambers in several parts of his
country; and following the reports of his scouts, he moved from
one to another as the soldiers drew near or moved away. By this
manner of living, and thanks to the affection of his clan, he
had not only stayed all this time in safety, while so many
others had fled or been taken and slain: but stayed four or five
years longer, and only went to France at last by the express
command of his master. There he soon died; and it is strange to
reflect that he may have regretted his Cage upon Ben Alder.
When we came to the door he was seated by his rock chimney,
watching a gillie about some cookery. He was mighty plainly
habited, with a knitted nightcap drawn over his ears, and smoked
a foul cutty pipe. For all that he had the manners of a king,
and it was quite a sight to see him rise out of his place to
"Well, Mr. Stewart, come awa', sir!" said he, "and bring
your friend that as yet I dinna ken the name of."
"And how is yourself, Cluny?" said Alan. "I hope ye do
brawly, sir. And I am proud to see ye, and to present to ye my
friend the Laird of Shaws, Mr. David Balfour."
Alan never referred to my estate without a touch of a
sneer, when we were alone; but with strangers, he rang the words
out like a herald.
"Step in by, the both of ye, gentlemen," says Cluny. "I
make ye welcome to my house, which is a queer, rude place for
certain, but one where I have entertained a royal personage, Mr.
Stewart -- ye doubtless ken the personage I have in my eye.
We'll take a dram for luck, and as soon as this handless man of
mine has the collops ready, we'll dine and take a hand at the
cartes as gentlemen should. My life is a bit driegh," says he,
pouring out the brandy;" I see little company, and sit and twirl
my thumbs, and mind upon a great day that is gone by, and weary
for another great day that we all hope will be upon the road.
And so here's a toast to ye: The Restoration!"
Thereupon we all touched glasses and drank. I am sure I
wished no ill to King George; and if he had been there himself
in proper person, it's like he would have done as I did. No
sooner had I taken out the drain than I felt hugely better, and
could look on and listen, still a little mistily perhaps, but no
longer with the same groundless horror and distress of mind.
It was certainly a strange place, and we had a strange
host. In his long hiding, Cluny had grown to have all manner of
precise habits, like those of an old maid. He had a particular
place, where no one else must sit; the Cage was arranged in a
particular way, which none must disturb; cookery was one of his
chief fancies, and even while he was greeting us in, he kept an
eye to the collops.
It appears, he sometimes visited or received visits from
his wife and one or two of his nearest friends, under the cover
of night; but for the more part lived quite alone, and
communicated only with his sentinels and the gillies that waited
on him in the Cage. The first thing in the morning, one of them,
who was a barber, came and shaved him, and gave him the news of
the country, of which he was immoderately greedy. There was no
end to his questions; he put them as earnestly as a child; and
at some of the answers, laughed out of all bounds of reason, and
would break out again laughing at the mere memory, hours after
the barber was gone.
To be sure, there might have been a purpose in his
questions; for though he was thus sequestered, and like the
other landed gentlemen of Scotland, stripped by the late Act of
Parliament of legal powers, he still exercised a patriarchal
justice in his clan. Disputes were brought to him in his
hiding-hole to be decided; and the men of his country, who would
have snapped their fingers at the Court of Session, laid aside
revenge and paid down money at the bare word of this forfeited
and hunted outlaw. When he was angered, which was often enough,
he gave his commands and breathed threats of punishment like
any, king; and his gillies trembled and crouched away from him
like children before a hasty father. With each of them, as he
entered, he ceremoniously shook hands, both parties touching
their bonnets at the same time in a military manner. Altogether,
I had a fair chance to see some of the inner workings of a
Highland clan; and this with a proscribed, fugitive chief; his
country conquered; the troops riding upon all sides in quest of
him, sometimes within a mile of where he lay; and when the least
of the ragged fellows whom he rated and threatened, could have
made a fortune by betraying him.
On that first day, as soon as the collops were ready, Cluny
gave them with his own hand a squeeze of a lemon (for he was
well supplied with luxuries) and bade us draw in to our meal.
"They," said he, meaning the collops, "are such as I gave
his Royal Highness in this very house; bating the lemon juice,
for at that time we were glad to get the meat and never fashed
for kitchen. Indeed, there were mair dragoons than lemons in
my country in the year forty-six."
I do not know if the collops were truly very good, but my
heart rose against the sight of them, and I could eat but
little. All the while Cluny entertained us with stories of
Prince Charlie's stay in the Cage, giving us the very words of
the speakers, and rising from his place to show us where they
stood. By these, I gathered the Prinee was a gracious, spirited
boy, like the son of a race of polite kings, but not so wise as
Solomon. I gathered, too, that while he was in the Cage, he was
often drunk; so the fault that has since, by all accounts, made
such a wreck of him, had even then begun to show itself.
We were no sooner done eating than Cluny brought out an
old, thumbed, greasy pack of cards, such as you may find in a
mean inn; and his eyes brightened in his face as he proposed
that we should fall to playing.
Now this was one of the things I had been brought up to
eschew like disgrace; it being held by my father neither the
part of a Christian nor yet of a gentleman to set his own
livelihood and fish for that of others, on the cast of painted
pasteboard. To be sure, I might have pleaded my fatigue, which
was excuse enough; but I thought it behoved that I should bear
a testimony. I must have got very red in the face, but I spoke
steadily, and told them I had no call to be a judge of others,
but for my own part, it was a matter in which I had no
Cluny stopped mingling the cards. "What in deil's name is
this?" says he. "What kind of Whiggish, canting talk is this,
for the house of Cluny Macpherson?"
"I will put my hand in the fire for Mr. Balfour," says
Alan. "He is an honest and a mettle gentleman, and I would have
ye bear in mind who says it. I bear a king's name," says he,
cocking his hat; "and I and any that I call friend are company
for the best. But the gentleman is tired, and should sleep; if
he has no mind to the cartes, it will never hinder you and me.
And I'm fit and willing, sir, to play ye any game that ye can
"Sir," says Cluny, "in this poor house of mine I would have
you to ken that any gentleman may follow his pleasure. If your
friend would like to stand on his head, he is welcome. And if
either he, or you, or any other man, is not preceesely
satisfied, I will be proud to step outside with him."
I had no will that these two friends should cut their
throats for my sake.
"Sir," said I, "I am very wearied, as Alan says; and what's
more, as you are a man that likely has sons of your own, I may
tell you it was a promise to my father."
"Say nae mair, say nae mair," said Cluny, and pointed me to
a bed of heather in a corner of the Cage. For all that he was
displeased enough, looked at me askance, and grumbled when he
looked. And indeed it must be owned that both my scruples and
the words in which I declared them, smacked somewhat of the
Covenanter, and were little in their place among wild Highland
What with the brandy and the venison, a strange heaviness
had come over me; and I had scarce lain down upon the bed before
I fell into a kind of trance, in which I continued almost the
whole time of our stay in the Cage. Sometimes I was broad awake
and understood what passed; sometimes I only heard voices, or
men snoring, like the voice of a silly river; and the plaids
upon the wall dwindled down and swelled out again, like
firelight shadows on the roof. I must sometimes have spoken or
cried out, for I remember I was now and then amazed at being
answered; yet I was conscious of no particular nightmare, only
of a general, black, abiding horror -- a horror of the place I
was in, and the bed I lay in, and the plaids on the wall, and
the voices, and the fire, and myself.
The barber-gillie, who was a doctor too, was called in to
prescribe for me; but as he spoke in the Gaelic, I understood
not a word of his opinion, and was too sick even to ask for a
translation. I knew well enough I was ill, and that was all I
I paid little heed while I lay in this poor pass. But Alan
and Cluny were most of the time at the cards, and I am clear
that Alan must have begun by winning; for I remember sitting up,
and seeing them hard at it, and a great glittering pile of as
much as sixty or a hundred guineas on the table. It looked
strange enough, to see all this wealth in a nest upon a
cliff-side, wattled about growing trees. And even then, I
thought it seemed deep water for Alan to be riding, who had no
better battle-horse than a green purse and a matter of five
The luck, it seems, changed on the second day. About noon
I was wakened as usual for dinner, and as usual refused to eat,
and was given a dram with some bitter infusion which the barber
had prescribed. The sun was shining in at the open door of the
Cage, and this dazzled and offended me. Cluny sat at the table,
biting the pack of cards. Alan had stooped over the bed, and had
his face close to my eyes; to which, troubled as they were with
the fever, it seemed of the most shocking bigness.
He asked me for a loan of my money.
"What for?" said I.
"O, just for a loan," said he.
"But why?" I repeated. "I don't see."
"Hut, David!" said Alan, "ye wouldnae grudge me a loan?"
I would, though, if I had had my senses! But all I thought
of then was to get his face away, and I handed him my money.
On the morning of the third day, when we had been forty-
eight hours in the Cage, I awoke with a great relief of spirits,
very weak and weary indeed, but seeing things of the right size
and with their honest, everyday appearance. I had a mind to eat,
moreover, rose from bed of my own movement, and as soon as we
had breakfasted, stepped to the entry of the Cage and sat down
outside in the top of the wood. It was a grey day with a cool,
mild air: and I sat in a dream all morning, only disturbed by
the passing by of Cluny's scouts and servants coming with
provisions and reports; for as the coast was at that time clear,
you might almost say he held court openly.
When I returned, he and Alan had laid the cards aside, and
were questioning a gillie; and the chief turned about and spoke
to me in the Gaelic.
"I have no Gaelic, sir," said I.
Now since the card question, everything I said or did had
the power of annoying Cluny. "Your name has more sense than
yourself, then," said he angrily. "for it's good Gaelic. But the
point is this. My scout reports all clear in the south, and the
question is, have ye the strength to go?"
I saw cards on the table, but no gold; only a heap of
little written papers, and these all on Cluny's side. Alan,
besides, had an odd look, like a man not very well content; and
I began to have a strong misgiving.
"I do not know if I am as well as I should be," said I,
looking at Alan; "but the little money we have has a long way to
Alan took his under-lip into his mouth, and looked upon the
"David," says he at last, "I've lost it; there's the naked
"My money too?" said I.
"Your money too," says Alan, with a groan. "Ye shouldnae
have given it me. I'm daft when I get to the cartes."
"Hoot-toot! hoot-toot!" said Cluny. "It was all daffing;
it's all nonsense. Of course you'll have your money back again,
and the double of it, if ye'll make so free with me. It would be
a singular thing for me to keep it. It's not to be supposed that
I would be any hindrance to gentlemen in your situation; that
would be a singular thing!" cries he, and began to pull gold out
of his pocket with a mighty red face.
Alan said nothing, only looked on the ground.
Will you step to the door with me, sir?" said I.
Cluny said he would be very glad, and followed me readily
enough, but he looked flustered and put out.
"And now, sir," says I, "I must first acknowledge your
"Nonsensical nonsense!" cries Cluny. "Where's the
generosity? This is just a most unfortunate affair; but what
would ye have me do -- boxed up in this bee-skep of a cage of
mine -- but just set my friends to the cartes, when I can get
them? And if they lose, of course, it's not to be supposed ----"
And here he came to a pause.
"Yes," said I, "if they lose, you give them back their
money; and if they win, they carry away yours in their pouches!
I have said before that I grant your generosity; but to me, sir,
it's a very painful thing to be placed in this position."
There was a little silence, in which Cluny seemed always as
if he was about to speak, but said nothing. All the time he grew
redder and redder in the face.
"I am a young man," said I, "and I ask your advice. Advise
me as you would your son. My friend fairly lost his money, after
having fairly gained a far greater sum of yours; can I accept it
back again? Would that be the right part for me to play?
Whatever I do, you can see for yourself it must be hard upon a
man of any pride."
"It's rather hard on me, too, Mr. Balfour," said Cluny,
"and ye give me very much the look of a man that has entrapped
poor people to their hurt. I wouldnae have my friends come to
any house of mine to accept affronts; no," he cried, with a
sudden heat of anger, "nor yet to give them!"
"And so you see, sir," said I, "there is something to be
said upon my side; and this gambling is a very poor employ for
gentlefolks. But I am still waiting your opinion."
I am sure if ever Cluny hated any man it was David Balfour.
He looked me all over with a warlike eye, and I saw the
challenge at his lips. But either my youth disarmed him, or
perhaps his own sense of justice. Certainly it was a mortifying
matter for all concerned, and not least Cluny; the more credit
that he took it as he did."
Mr. Balfour," said he, "I think you are too nice and
covenanting, but for all that you have the spirit of a very
pretty gentleman. Upon my honest word, ye may take this money --
it's what I would tell my son -- and here's my hand along with
THE FLIGHT IN THE HEATHER: THE QUARREL
ALAN and I were put across Loch Errocht under cloud of night,
and went down its eastern shore to another hiding-place near the
head of Loch Rannoch, whither we were led by one of the gillies
from the Cage. This fellow carried all our luggage and Alan's
great-coat in the bargain, trotting along under the burthen, far
less than the half of which used to weigh me to the ground, like
a stout hill pony with a feather; yet he was a man that, in
plain contest, I could have broken on my knee.
Doubtless it was a great relief to walk disencumbered; and
perhaps without that relief, and the consequent sense of liberty
and lightness, I could not have walked at all. I was but new
risen from a bed of sickness; and there was nothing in the state
of our affairs to hearten me for much exertion; travelling, as
we did, over the most dismal deserts in Scotland, under a cloudy
heaven, and with divided hearts among the travellers.
For long, we said nothing; marching alongside or one behind
the other, each with a set countenance: I, angry and proud, and
drawing what strength I had from these two violent and sinful
feelings; Alan angry and ashamed, ashamed that he had lost my
money, angry that I should take it so ill.
The thought of a separation ran always the stronger in my
mind; and the more I approved of it, the more ashamed I grew of
my approval. It would be a fine, handsome, generous thing,
indeed, for Alan to turn round and say to me: "Go, I am in the
most danger, and my company only increases yours." But for me to
turn to the friend who certainly loved me, and say to him: "You
are in great danger, I am in but little; your friendship is a
burden; go, take your risks and bear your hardships alone ----"
no, that was impossible; and even to think of it privily to
myself, made my cheeks to burn.
And yet Alan had behaved like a child, and (what is worse)
a treacherous child. Wheedling my money from me while I lay
half-conscious was scarce better than theft; and yet here he was
trudging by my side, without a penny to his name, and by what I
could see, quite blithe to sponge upon the money he had driven
me to beg. True, I was ready to share it with him; but it made
me rage to see him count upon my readiness.
These were the two things uppermost in my mind; and I could
open my mouth upon neither without black ungenerosity. So I did
the next worst, and said nothing, nor so much as looked once at
my companion, save with the tail of my eye.
At last, upon the other side of Loch Errocht, going over a
smooth, rushy place, where the walking was easy, he could bear
it no longer, and came close to me.
"David," says he, "this is no way for two friends to take
a small accident. I have to say that I'm sorry; and so that's
said. And now if you have anything, ye'd better say it."
"O," says I, "I have nothing."
He seemed disconcerted; at which I was meanly pleased.
"No," said he, with rather a trembling voice, "but when I
say I was to blame?"
"Why, of course, ye were to blame," said I, coolly; "and
you will bear me out that I have never reproached you."
"Never," says he; "but ye ken very well that ye've done
worse. Are we to part? Ye said so once before. Are ye to say it
again? There's hills and heather enough between here and the two
seas, David; and I will own I'm no very keen to stay where I'm
This pierced me like a sword, and seemed to lay bare my
"Alan Breck!" I cried; and then: "Do you think I am one to
turn my back on you in your chief need? You dursn't say it to my
face. My whole conduct's there to give the lie to it. It's true,
I fell asleep upon the muir; but that was from weariness, and
you do wrong to cast it up to me----"
"Which is what I never did," said Alan.
"But aside from that," I continued, "what have I done that
you should even me to dogs by such a supposition? I never yet
failed a friend, and it's not likely I'll begin with you. There
are things between us that I can never forget, even if you can."
"I will only say this to ye, David," said Alan, very
quietly, "that I have long been owing ye my life, and now I owe
ye money. Ye should try to make that burden light for me."
This ought to have touched me, and in a manner it did, but
the wrong manner. I felt I was behaving, badly; and was now not
only angry with Alan, but angry with myself in the bargain; and
it made me the more cruel.
"You asked me to speak," said I. "Well, then, I will. You
own yourself that you have done me a disservice; I have had to
swallow an affront: I have never reproached you, I never named
the thing till you did. And now you blame me," cried I, "because
I cannae laugh and sing as if I was glad to be affronted. The
next thing will be that I'm to go down upon my knees and thank
you for it! Ye should think more of others, Alan Breck. If ye
thought more of others, ye would perhaps speak less about
yourself; and when a friend that likes you very well has passed
over an offence without a word, you would be blithe to let it
lie, instead of making it a stick to break his back with. By
your own way of it, it was you that was to blame; then it
shouldnae be you to seek the quarrel."
"Aweel," said Alan, "say nae mair."
And we fell back into our former silence; and came to our
journey's end, and supped, and lay down to sleep, without
The gillie put us across Loch Rannoch in the dusk of the
next day, and gave us his opinion as to our best route. This was
to get us up at once into the tops of the mountains: to go round
by a circuit, turning the heads of Glen Lyon, Glen Lochay, and
Glen Dochart, and come down upon the lowlands by Kippen and the
upper waters of the Forth. Alan was little pleased with a route
which led us through the country of his blood-foes, the
Glenorchy Campbells. He objected that by turning to the east, we
should come almost at once among the Athole Stewarts, a race of
his own name and lineage, although following a different chief,
and come besides by a far easier and swifter way to the place
whither we were bound. But the gillie, who was indeed the chief
man of Cluny's scouts, had good reasons to give him on all
hands, naming the force of troops in every district, and
alleging finally (as well as I could understand) that we should
nowhere be so little troubled as in a country of the Campbells.
Alan gave way at last, but with only half a heart. "It's
one of the dowiest countries in Scotland," said he. "There's
naething there that I ken, but heath, and crows, and Campbells.
But I see that ye're a man of some penetration; and be it as ye
We set forth accordingly by this itinerary; and for the
best part of three nights travelled on eerie mountains and among
the well-heads of wild rivers; often buried in mist, almost
continually blown and rained upon, and not once cheered by any
glimpse of sunshine. By day, we lay and slept in the drenching
heather; by night, incessantly clambered upon break-neck hills
and among rude crags. We often wandered; we were often so
involved in fog, that we must lie quiet till it lightened. A
fire was never to be thought of. Our only food was drammach and
a portion of cold meat that we had carried from the Cage; and as
for drink, Heaven knows we had no want of water.
This was a dreadful time, rendered the more dreadful by the
gloom of the weather and the country. I was never warm; my teeth
chattered in my head; I was troubled with a very sore throat,
such as I had on the isle; I had a painful stitch in my side,
which never left me; and when I slept in my wet bed, with the
rain beating above and the mud oozing below me, it was to live
over again in fancy the worst part of my adventures -- to see
the tower of Shaws lit by lightning, Ransome carried below on
the men's backs, Shuan dying on the round-house floor, or Colin
Campbell grasping at the bosom of his coat. From such broken
slumbers, I would be aroused in the gloaming, to sit up in the
same puddle where I had slept, and sup cold drammach; the rain
driving sharp in my face or running down my back in icy
trickles; the mist enfolding us like as in a gloomy chamber --
or, perhaps, if the wind blew, falling suddenly apart and
showing us the gulf of some dark valley where the streams were
The sound of an infinite number of rivers came up from all
round. In this steady rain the springs of the mountain were
broken up; every glen gushed water like a cistern; every stream
was in high spate, and had filled and overflowed its channel.
During our night tramps, it was solemn to hear the voice of them
below in the valleys, now booming like thunder, now with an
angry cry. I could well understand the story of the Water
Kelpie, that demon of the streams, who is fabled to keep wailing
and roaring at the ford until the coming of the doomed
traveller. Alan I saw believed it, or half believed it; and when
the cry of the river rose more than usually sharp, I was little
surprised (though, of course, I would still be shocked) to see
him cross himself in the manner of the Catholics.
During all these horrid wanderings we had no familiarity,
scarcely even that of speech. The truth is that I was sickening
for my grave, which is my best excuse. But besides that I was of
an unforgiving disposition from my birth, slow to take offence,
slower to forget it, and now incensed both against my companion
and myself. For the best part of two days he was unweariedly
kind; silent, indeed, but always ready to help, and always
hoping (as I could very well see) that my displeasure would blow
by. For the same length of time I stayed in myself, nursing my
anger, roughly refusing his services, and passing him over with
my eyes as if he had been a bush or a stone.
The second night, or rather the peep of the third day,
found us upon a very open hill, so that we could not follow our
usual plan and lie down immediately to eat and sleep. Before we
had reached a place of shelter, the grey had come pretty clear,
for though it still rained, the clouds ran higher; and Alan,
looking in my face, showed some marks of concern.
"Ye had better let me take your pack," said he, for perhaps
the ninth time since we had parted from the scout beside Loch
"I do very well, I thank you," said I, as cold as ice.
Alan flushed darkly. "I'll not offer it again," he said.
"I'm not a patient man, David."
"I never said you were," said I, which was exactly the
rude, silly speech of a boy of ten.
Alan made no answer at the time, but his conduct answered
for him. Henceforth, it is to be thought, he quite forgave
himself for the affair at Cluny's; cocked his hat again, walked
jauntily, whistled airs, and looked at me upon one side with a
The third night we were to pass through the western end of
the country of Balquhidder. It came clear and cold, with a touch
in the air like frost, and a northerly wind that blew the clouds
away and made the stars bright. The streams were full, of
course, and still made a great noise among the hills; but I
observed that Alan thought no more upon the Kelpie, and was in
high good spirits. As for me, the change of weather came too
late; I had lain in the mire so long that (as the Bible has it)
my very clothes" abhorred me." I was dead weary, deadly sick and
full of pains and shiverings; the chill of the wind went through
me, and the sound of it confused my ears. In this poor state I
had to bear from my companion something in the nature of a
persecution. He spoke a good deal, and never without a taunt.
"Whig" was the best name he had to give me. "Here,"
say, "here's a dub for ye to jump, my Whiggie! I ken you're a
fine jumper!" And so on; all the time with a gibing voice and
I knew it was my own doing, and no one else's; but I was
too miserable to repent. I felt I could drag myself but little
farther; pretty soon, I must lie down and die on these wet
mountains like a sheep or a fox, and my bones must whiten there
like the bones of a beast. My head was light perhaps; but I
began to love the prospect, I began to glory in the thought of
such a death, alone in the desert, with the wild eagles
besieging my last moments. Alan would repent then, I thought; he
would remember, when I was dead, how much he owed me, and the
remembrance would be torture. So I went like a sick, silly, and
bad-hearted schoolboy, feeding my anger against a fellow-man,
when I would have been better on my knees, crying on God for
mercy. And at each of Alan's taunts, I hugged myself. "Ah!"
thinks I to myself, "I have a better taunt in readiness; when I
lie down and die, you will feel it like a buffet in your face;
ah, what a revenge! ah, how you will regret your ingratitude and
All the while, I was growing worse and worse. Once I had
fallen, my leg simply doubling under me, and this had struck
Alan for the moment; but I was afoot so briskly, and set off
again with such a natural manner, that he soon forgot the
incident. Flushes of heat went over me, and then spasms of
shuddering. The stitch in my side was hardly bearable. At last
I began to feel that I could trail myself no farther: and with
that, there came on me all at once the wish to have it out with
Alan, let my anger blaze, and be done with my life in a more
sudden manner. He had just called me "Whig." I stopped.
"Mr. Stewart," said I, in a voice that quivered like a
fiddle-string, "you are older than I am, and should know your
manners. Do you think it either very wise or very witty to cast
my politics in my teeth? I thought, where folk differed, it was
the part of gentlemen to differ civilly; and if I did not, I may
tell you I could find a better taunt than some of yours."
Alan had stopped opposite to me, his hat cocked, his hands
in his breeches pockets, his head a little on one side. He
listened, smiling evilly, as I could see by the starlight; and
when I had done he began to whistle a Jacobite air. It was the
air made in mockery of General Cope's defeat at Preston Pans:
"Hey, Johnnie Cope, are ye waukin' yet?
And are your drums a-beatin' yet?"
And it came in my mind that Alan, on the day of that battle, had
been engaged upon the royal side.
"Why do ye take that air, Mr. Stewart?" said I. "Is that
remind me you have been beaten on both sides?"
The air stopped on Alan's lips. "David!" said he.
"But it's time these manners ceased," I continued; "and I
mean you shall henceforth speak civilly of my King and my good
friends the Campbells."
"I am a Stewart --" began Alan.
"O!" says I, "I ken ye bear a king's name. But you are to
remember, since I have been in the Highlands, I have seen a good
many of those that bear it; and the best I can say of them is
this, that they would be none the worse of washing."
"Do you know that you insult me?" said Alan, very low.
"I am sorry for that," said I, "for I am not done; and if
you distaste the sermon, I doubt the pirliecue will please
you as little. You have been chased in the field by the grown
men of my party; it seems a poor kind of pleasure to out-face a
boy. Both the Campbells and the Whigs have beaten you; you have
run before them like a hare. It behoves you to speak of them as
of your betters."
Alan stood quite still, the tails of his great-coat
clapping behind him in the wind.
"This is a pity" he said at last. "There are things said
that cannot be passed over."
"I never asked you to," said I. "I am as ready as
"Ready?" said he.
"Ready," I repeated. "I am no blower and boaster like some
that I could name. Come on!" And drawing my sword, I fell on
guard as Alan himself had taught me.
"David!" he cried. "Are ye daft? I cannae draw upon ye,
David. It's fair murder."
"That was your look-out when you insulted me," said I.
"It's the truth!" cried Alan, and he stood for a moment,
wringing his mouth in his hand like a man in sore perplexity.
"It's the bare truth," he said, and drew his sword. But before
I could touch his blade with mine, he had thrown it from him and
fallen to the ground. "Na, na," he kept saying, "na, na --
cannae, I cannae."
At this the last of my anger oozed all out of me; and I
found myself only sick, and sorry, and blank, and wondering at
myself. I would have given the world to take back what I had
said; but a word once spoken, who can recapture it? I minded me
of all Alan's kindness and courage in the past, how he had
helped and cheered and borne with me in our evil days; and then
recalled my own insults, and saw that I had lost for ever that
doughty friend. At the same time, the sickness that hung upon me
seemed to redouble, and the pang in my side was like a sword for
sharpness. I thought I must have swooned where I stood.
This it was that gave me a thought. No apology could blot
out what I had said; it was needless to think of one, none could
cover the offence; but where an apology was vain, a mere cry for
help might bring Alan back to my side. I put my pride away from
me. "Alan!" I said; "if ye cannae help me, I must just die
He started up sitting, and looked at me.
"It's true," said I. "I'm by with it. O, let me get into
the bield of a house -- I'll can die there easier." I had no
need to pretend; whether I chose or not, I spoke in a weeping
voice that would have melted a heart of stone.
"Can ye walk?" asked Alan.
"No," said I, "not without help. This last hour my legs
have been fainting under me; I've a stitch in my side like a
red-hot iron; I cannae breathe right. If I die, ye'll can
forgive me, Alan? In my heart, I liked ye fine -- even when I
was the angriest."
"Wheesht, wheesht!" cried Alan. "Dinna say that! David man,
ye ken --" He shut his mouth upon a sob. "Let me get my arm
about ye," he continued; "that's the way! Now lean upon me hard.
Gude kens where there's a house! We're in Balwhidder, too; there
should be no want of houses, no, nor friends' houses here. Do ye
gang easier so, Davie?"
"Ay" said I, "I can be doing this way;" and I pressed
arm with my hand.
Again he came near sobbing. "Davie," said he, "I'm no a
right man at all; I have neither sense nor kindness; I could nae
remember ye were just a bairn, I couldnae see ye were dying on
your feet; Davie, ye'll have to try and forgive me."
"O man, let's say no more about it!" said I. "We're neither
one of us to mend the other -- that's the truth! We must just
bear and forbear, man Alan. O, but my stitch is sore! Is there
"I'll find a house to ye, David," he said, stoutly. "We'll
follow down the burn, where there's bound to be houses. My poor
man, will ye no be better on my back?"
"O, Alan," says I, "and me a good twelve inches taller?"
"Ye're no such a thing," cried Alan, with a start. "There
may be a trifling matter of an inch or two; I'm no saying I'm
just exactly what ye would call a tall man, whatever; and I dare
say," he added, his voice tailing off in a laughable manner,
"now when I come to think of it, I dare say ye'll be just about
right. Ay, it'll be a foot, or near hand; or may be even mair!"
It was sweet and laughable to hear Alan eat his words up in
the fear of some fresh quarrel. I could have laughed, had not my
stitch caught me so hard; but if I had laughed, I think I must
have wept too.
"Alan," cried I, "what makes ye so good to me? What makes
ye care for such a thankless fellow?"
"'Deed, and I don't, know" said Alan. "For just precisely
what I thought I liked about ye, was that ye never quarrelled:
-- and now I like ye better!"
 A second sermon.
AT the door of the first house we came to, Alan knocked, which
was of no very safe enterprise in such a part of the Highlands
as the Braes of Balquhidder. No great clan held rule there; it
was filled and disputed by small septs, and broken remnants, and
what they call "chiefless folk," driven into the wild country
about the springs of Forth and Teith by the advance of the
Campbells. Here were Stewarts and Maclarens, which came to the
same thing, for the Maclarens followed Alan's chief in war, and
made but one clan with Appin. Here, too, were many of that old,
proscribed, nameless, red-handed clan of the Macgregors. They
had always been ill-considered, and now worse than ever, having
credit with no side or party in the whole country of Scotland.
Their chief, Macgregor of Macgregor, was in exile; the more
immediate leader of that part of them about Balquhidder, James
More, Rob Roy's eldest son, lay waiting his trial in Edinburgh
Castle; they were in ill-blood with Highlander and Lowlander,
with the Grahames, the Maclarens, and the Stewarts; and Alan,
who took up the quarrel of any friend, however distant, was
extremely wishful to avoid them.
Chance served us very well; for it was a household of
Maclarens that we found, where Alan was not only welcome for his
name's sake but known by reputation. Here then I was got to bed
without delay, and a doctor fetched, who found me in a sorry
plight. But whether because he was a very good doctor, or I a
very young, strong man, I lay bedridden for no more than a week,
and before a month I was able to take the road again with a good
All this time Alan would not leave me though I often
pressed him, and indeed his foolhardiness in staying was a
common subject of outcry with the two or three friends that were
let into the secret. He hid by day in a hole of the braes under
a little wood; and at night, when the coast was clear, would
come into the house to visit me. I need not say if I was pleased
to see him; Mrs. Maclaren, our hostess, thought nothing good
enough for such a guest; and as Duncan Dhu (which was the name
of our host) had a pair of pipes in his house, and was much of
a lover of music, this time of my recovery was quite a festival,
and we commonly turned night into day.
The soldiers let us be; although once a party of two
companies and some dragoons went by in the bottom of the valley,
where I could see them through the window as I lay in bed. What
was much more astonishing, no magistrate came near me, and there
was no question put of whence I came or whither I was going; and
in that time of excitement, I was as free of all inquiry as
though I had lain in a desert. Yet my presence was known before
I left to all the people in Balquhidder and the adjacent parts;
many coming about the house on visits and these (after the
custom of the country) spreading the news among their
neighbours. The bills, too, had now been printed. There was one
pinned near the foot of my bed, where I could read my own not
very flattering portrait and, in larger characters, the amount
of the blood money that had been set upon my life. Duncan Dhu
and the rest that knew that I had come there in Alan's company,
could have entertained no doubt of who I was; and many others
must have had their guess. For though I had changed my clothes,
I could not change my age or person; and Lowland boys of
eighteen were not so rife in these parts of the world, and above
all about that time, that they could fail to put one thing with
another, and connect me with the bill. So it was, at least.
Other folk keep a secret among two or three near friends, and
somehow it leaks out; but among these clansmen, it is told to a
whole countryside, and they will keep it for a century.
There was but one thing happened worth narrating; and that
is the visit I had of Robin Oig, one of the sons of the
notorious Rob Roy. He was sought upon all sides on a charge of
carrying a young woman from Balfron and marrying her (as was
alleged) by force; yet he stepped about Balquhidder like a
gentleman in his own walled policy. It was he who had shot James
Maclaren at the plough stilts, a quarrel never satisfied; yet he
walked into the house of his blood enemies as a rider might
into a public inn.
Duncan had time to pass me word of who it was; and we
looked at one another in concern. You should understand, it was
then close upon the time of Alan's coming; the two were little
likely to agree; and yet if we sent word or sought to make a
signal, it was sure to arouse suspicion in a man under so dark
a cloud as the Macgregor.
He came in with a great show of civility, but like a man
among inferiors; took off his bonnet to Mrs. Maclaren, but
clapped it on his head again to speak to Duncan; and leaving
thus set himself (as he would have thought) in a proper light,
came to my bedside and bowed.
"I am given to know, sir," says he, "that your name is
"They call me David Balfour," said I, "at your service."
"I would give ye my name in return, sir" he replied, "but
it's one somewhat blown upon of late days; and it'll perhaps
suffice if I tell ye that I am own brother to James More
Drummond or Macgregor, of whom ye will scarce have failed to
"No, sir," said I, a little alarmed; "nor yet of your
father, Macgregor-Campbell." And I sat up and bowed in bed; for
I thought best to compliment him, in case he was proud of having
had an outlaw to his father.
He bowed in return. "But what I am come to say, sir," he
went on, "is this. In the year '45, my brother raised a part of
the 'Gregara' and marched six companies to strike a stroke for
the good side; and the surgeon that marched with our clan and
cured my brother's leg when it was broken in the brush at
Preston Pans, was a gentleman of the same name precisely as
yourself. He was brother to Balfour of Baith; and if you are in
any reasonable degree of nearness one of that gentleman's kin,
I have come to put myself and my people at your command."
You are to remember that I knew no more of my descent than
any cadger's dog; my uncle, to be sure, had prated of some of
our high connections, but nothing to the present purpose; and
there was nothing left me but that bitter disgrace of owning
that I could not tell.
Robin told me shortly he was sorry he had put himself
about, turned his back upon me without a sign of salutation, and
as he went towards the door, I could hear him telling Duncan
that I was "only some kinless loon that didn't know his own
father." Angry as I was at these words, and ashamed of my own
ignorance, I could scarce keep from smiling that a man who was
under the lash of the law (and was indeed hanged some three
years later) should be so nice as to the descent of his
Just in the door, he met Alan coming in; and the two drew
back and looked at each other like strange dogs. They were
neither of them big men, but they seemed fairly to swell out
with pride. Each wore a sword, and by a movement of his haunch,
thrust clear the hilt of it, so that it might be the more
readily grasped and the blade drawn.
"Mr. Stewart, I am thinking," says Robin.
"Troth, Mr. Macgregor, it's not a name to be ashamed of,"
"I did not know ye were in my country, sir" says Robin.
"It sticks in my mind that I am in the country of my
friends the Maclarens," says Alan.
"That's a kittle point," returned the other. "There may be
two words to say to that. But I think I will have heard that you
are a man of your sword?"
"Unless ye were born deaf, Mr. Macgregor, ye will have
heard a good deal more than that," says Alan. "I am not the only
man that can draw steel in Appin; and when my kinsman and
captain, Ardshiel, had a talk with a gentleman of your name, not
so many years back, I could never hear that the Macgregor had
the best of it."
"Do ye mean my father, sir?" says Robin.
"Well, I wouldnae wonder," said Alan. "The gentleman I have
in my mind had the ill-taste to clap Campbell to his name."
"My father was an old man," returned Robin. "The match was
unequal. You and me would make a better pair, sir."
"I was thinking that," said Alan.
I was half out of bed, and Duncan had been hanging at the
elbow of these fighting cocks, ready to intervene upon the least
occasion. But when that word was uttered, it was a case of now
or never; and Duncan, with something of a white face to be sure,
thrust himself between.
"Gentlemen," said he, "I will have been thinking of a very
different matter, whateffer. Here are my pipes, and here are you
two gentlemen who are baith acclaimed pipers. It's an auld
dispute which one of ye's the best. Here will be a braw chance
to settle it."
"Why, sir," said Alan, still addressing Robin, from whom
indeed he had not so much as shifted his eyes, nor yet Robin
from him, "why, sir," says Alan, "I think I will have heard
sough of the sort. Have ye music, as folk say? Are ye a bit
of a piper?"
"I can pipe like a Macrimmon!" cries Robin.
"And that is a very bold word," quoth Alan.
"I have made bolder words good before now," returned Robin,
"and that against better adversaries."
"It is easy to try that," says Alan.
Duncan Dhu made haste to bring out the pair of pipes that
was his principal possession, and to set before his guests a
mutton-ham and a bottle of that drink which they call Athole
brose, and which is made of old whiskey, strained honey and
sweet cream, slowly beaten together in the right order and
proportion. The two enemies were still on the very breach of a
quarrel; but down they sat, one upon each side of the peat fire,
with a mighty show of politeness. Maclaren pressed them to taste
his mutton-ham and "the wife's brose," reminding them the wife
was out of Athole and had a name far and wide for her skill in
that confection. But Robin put aside these hospitalities as bad
for the breath.
"I would have ye to remark, sir," said Alan, "that I
havenae broken bread for near upon ten hours, which will be
worse for the breath than any brose in Scotland."
"I will take no advantages, Mr. Stewart," replied Robin.
"Eat and drink; I'll follow you."
Each ate a small portion of the ham and drank a glass of
the brose to Mrs. Maclaren; and then after a great number of
civilities, Robin took the pipes and played a little spring in
a very ranting manner.
"Ay, ye can, blow" said Alan; and taking the instrument
from his rival, he first played the same spring in a manner
identical with Robin's; and then wandered into variations,
which, as he went on, he decorated with a perfect flight of
grace-notes, such as pipers love, and call the "warblers."
I had been pleased with Robin's playing, Alan's ravished
"That's no very bad, Mr. Stewart," said the rival, "but ye
show a poor device in your warblers."
"Me!" cried Alan, the blood starting to his face. "I give
ye the lie."
"Do ye own yourself beaten at the pipes, then," said Robin,
"that ye seek to change them for the sword?"
"And that's very well said, Mr. Macgregor," returned Alan;
"and in the meantime" (laying a strong accent on the word) "I
take back the lie. I appeal to Duncan."
"Indeed, ye need appeal to naebody," said Robin. "Ye're a
far better judge than any Maclaren in Balquhidder: for it's a
God's truth that you're a very creditable piper for a Stewart.
Hand me the pipes." Alan did as he asked; and Robin proceeded to
imitate and correct some part of Alan's variations, which it
seemed that he remembered perfectly.
"Ay, ye have music," said Alan, gloomily.
"And now be the judge yourself, Mr. Stewart," said Robin;
and taking up the variations from the beginning, he worked them
throughout to so new a purpose, with such ingenuity and
sentiment, and with so odd a fancy and so quick a knack in the
grace-notes, that I was amazed to hear him.
As for Alan, his face grew dark and hot, and he sat and
gnawed his fingers, like a man under some deep affront.
"Enough!" he cried. "Ye can blow the pipes -- make the most
that." And he made as if to rise.
But Robin only held out his hand as if to ask for silence,
and struck into the slow measure of a pibroch. It was a fine
piece of music in itself, and nobly played; but it seems,
besides, it was a piece peculiar to the Appin Stewarts and a
chief favourite with Alan. The first notes were scarce out,
before there came a change in his face; when the time quickened,
he seemed to grow restless in his seat; and long before that
piece was at an end, the last signs of his anger died from him,
and he had no thought but for the music.
"Robin Oig," he said, when it was done, "ye are a great
piper. I am not fit to blow in the same kingdom with ye. Body of
me! ye have mair music in your sporran than I have in my head!
And though it still sticks in my mind that I could maybe show ye
another of it with the cold steel, I warn ye beforehand -- it'll
no be fair! It would go against my heart to haggle a man that
can blow the pipes as you can!"
Thereupon that quarrel was made up; all night long the
brose was going and the pipes changing hands; and the day had
come pretty bright, and the three men were none the better for
what they had been taking, before Robin as much as thought upon
 Commercial traveller.
END OF THE FLIGHT: WE PASS THE FORTH
THE month, as I have said, was not yet out, but it was already
far through August, and beautiful warm weather, with every sign
of an early and great harvest, when I was pronounced able for my
journey. Our money was now run to so low an ebb that we must
think first of all on speed; for if we came not soon to Mr.
Rankeillor's, or if when we came there he should fail to help
me, we must surely starve. In Alan's view, besides, the hunt
must have now greatly slackened; and the line of the Forth and
even Stirling Bridge, which is the main pass over that river,
would be watched with little interest.
"It's a chief principle in military affairs," said he, "to
go where ye are least expected. Forth is our trouble; ye ken the
saying, 'Forth bridles the wild Hielandman.' Well, if we seek to
creep round about the head of that river and come down by Kippen
or Balfron, it's just precisely there that they'll be looking to
lay hands on us. But if we stave on straight to the auld Brig of
Stirling, I'll lay my sword they let us pass unchallenged."
The first night, accordingly, we pushed to the house of a
Maclaren in Strathire, a friend of Duncan's, where we slept the
twenty-first of the month, and whence we set forth again about
the fall of night to make another easy stage. The twenty-second
we lay in a heather bush on the hillside in Uam Var, within view
of a herd of deer, the happiest ten hours of sleep in a fine,
breathing sunshine and on bone-dry ground, that I have ever
tasted. That night we struck Allan Water, and followed it down;
and coming to the edge of the hills saw the whole Carse of
Stirling underfoot, as flat as a pancake, with the town and
castle on a hill in the midst of it, and the moon shining on the
Links of Forth.
"Now," said Alan, "I kenna if ye care, but ye're in your
own land again. We passed the Hieland Line in the first hour;
and now if we could but pass yon crooked water, we might cast
our bonnets in the air."
In Allan Water, near by where it falls into the Forth, we
found a little sandy islet, overgrown with burdock, butterbur
and the like low plants, that would just cover us if we lay
flat. Here it was we made our camp, within plain view of
Stirling Castle, whence we could hear the drums beat as some
part of the garrison paraded. Shearers worked all day in a field
on one side of the river, and we could hear the stones going on
the hooks and the voices and even the words of the men talking.
It behoved to lie close and keep silent. But the sand of the
little isle was sun-warm, the green plants gave us shelter for
our heads, we had food and drink in plenty; and to crown all, we
were within sight of safety.
As soon as the shearers quit their work and the dusk began
to fall, we waded ashore and struck for the Bridge of Stirling,
keeping to the fields and under the field fences.
The bridge is close under the castle hill, an old, high,
narrow bridge with pinnacles along the parapet; and you may
conceive with how much interest I looked upon it, not only as a
place famous in history, but as the very doors of salvation to
Alan and myself. The moon was not yet up when we came there; a
few lights shone along the front of the fortress, and lower down
a few lighted windows in the town; but it was all mighty still,
and there seemed to be no guard upon the passage.
I was for pushing straight across; but Alan was more wary.
"It looks unco' quiet," said he; "but for all that we'll
lie down here cannily behind a dyke, and make sure."
So we lay for about a quarter of an hour, whiles
whispering, whiles lying still and hearing nothing earthly but
the washing of the water on the piers. At last there came by an
old, hobbling woman with a crutch stick; who first stopped a
little, close to where we lay, and bemoaned herself and the long
way she had travelled; and then set forth again up the steep
spring of the bridge. The woman was so little, and the night
still so dark, that we soon lost sight of her; only heard the
sound of her steps, and her stick, and a cough that she had by
fits, draw slowly farther away.
"She's bound to be across now," I whispered.
"Na," said Alan, "her foot still sounds boss upon the
And just then -- "Who goes?" cried a voice, and we heard
the butt of a musket rattle on the stones. I must suppose the
sentry had been sleeping, so that had we tried, we might have
passed unseen; but he was awake now, and the chance forfeited.
"This'll never do," said Alan. "This'll never, never do for
And without another word, he began to crawl away through
the fields; and a little after, being well out of eye-shot, got
to his feet again, and struck along a road that led to the
eastward. I could not conceive what he was doing; and indeed I
was so sharply cut by the disappointment, that I was little
likely to be pleased with anything. A moment back and I had seen
myself knocking at Mr. Rankeillor's door to claim my
inheritance, like a hero in a ballad; and here was I back again,
a wandering, hunted blackguard, on the wrong side of Forth.
"Well?" said I.
"Well," said Alan, "what would ye have? They're none such
fools as I took them for. We have still the Forth to pass, Davie
-- weary fall the rains that fed and the hillsides that guided
"And why go east?" said I.
"Ou, just upon the chance!" said he. "If we cannae pass the
river, we'll have to see what we can do for the firth."
"There are fords upon the river, and none upon the firth,"
"To be sure there are fords, and a bridge forbye," quoth
Alan; "and of what service, when they are watched?"
"Well," said I, "but a river can be swum."
"By them that have the skill of it," returned he; "but I
have yet to hear that either you or me is much of a hand at that
exercise; and for my own part, I swim like a stone."
"I'm not up to you in talking back, Alan," I said; "but I
can see we're making bad worse. If it's hard to pass a river, it
stands to reason it must be worse to pass a sea."
"But there's such a thing as a boat," says Alan, "or I'm
the more deceived."
"Ay, and such a thing as money," says I. "But for us that
have neither one nor other, they might just as well not have
"Ye think so?" said Alan.
"I do that," said I.
"David," says he, "ye're a man of small invention and less
faith. But let me set my wits upon the hone, and if I cannae
beg, borrow, nor yet steal a boat, I'll make one!"
"I think I see ye!" said I. "And what's more than all that:
if ye pass a bridge, it can tell no tales; but if we pass the
firth, there's the boat on the wrong side -- somebody must have
brought it -- the country-side will all be in a bizz"
"Man!" cried Alan, "if I make a boat, I'll make a body to
take it back again! So deave me with no more of your nonsense,
but walk (for that's what you've got to do) --and let Alan think
All night, then, we walked through the north side of the
Carse under the high line of the Ochil mountains; and by Alloa
and Clackmannan and Culross, all of which we avoided: and about
ten in the morning, mighty hungry and tired, came to the little
clachan of Limekilns. This is a place that sits near in by the
water-side, and looks across the Hope to the town of the
Queensferry. Smoke went up from both of these, and from other
villages and farms upon all hands. The fields were being reaped;
two ships lay anchored, and boats were coming and going on the
Hope. It was altogether a right pleasant sight to me; and I
could not take my fill of gazing at these comfortable, green,
cultivated hills and the busy people both of the field and sea.
For all that, there was Mr. Rankeillor's house on the south
shore, where I had no doubt wealth awaited me; and here was I
upon the north, clad in poor enough attire of an outlandish
fashion, with three silver shillings left to me of all my
fortune, a price set upon my head, and an outlawed man for my
"O, Alan!" said I, "to think of it! Over there, there's all
that heart could want waiting me; and the birds go over, and the
boats go over -- all that please can go, but just me only! O,
man, but it's a heart-break!"
In Limekilns we entered a small change-house, which we only
knew to be a public by the wand over the door, and bought some
bread and cheese from a good-looking lass that was the servant.
This we carried with us in a bundle, meaning to sit and eat it
in a bush of wood on the sea-shore, that we saw some third part
of a mile in front. As we went, I kept looking across the water
and sighing to myself; and though I took no heed of it, Alan had
fallen into a muse. At last he stopped in the way."
Did ye take heed of the lass we bought this of?" says he,
tapping on the bread and cheese.
"To be sure," said I, "and a bonny lass she was."
"Ye thought that?" cries he. "Man, David, that's good
"In the name of all that's wonderful, why so?" says I.
"What good can that do?"
"Well," said Alan, with one of his droll looks, "I was
rather in hopes it would maybe get us that boat."
"If it were the other way about, it would be liker it,"
"That's all that you ken, ye see," said Alan. "I don't want
the lass to fall in love with ye, I want her to be sorry for ye,
David; to which end there is no manner of need that she should
take you for a beauty. Let me see" (looking me curiously over).
"I wish ye were a wee thing paler; but apart from that ye'll do
fine for my purpose -- ye have a fine, hang-dog, rag-and-tatter,
clappermaclaw kind of a look to ye, as if ye had stolen the coat
from a potato-bogle. Come; right about, and back to the
change-house for that boat of ours."
I followed him, laughing.
"David Balfour," said he, "ye're a very funny gentleman by
your way of it, and this is a very funny employ for ye, no
doubt. For all that, if ye have any affection for my neck (to
say nothing of your own) ye will perhaps be kind enough to take
this matter responsibly. I am going to do a bit of play-acting,
the bottom ground of which is just exactly as serious as the
gallows for the pair of us. So bear it, if ye please, in mind,
and conduct yourself according."
"Well, well," said I, "have it as you will."
As we got near the clachan, he made me take his arm and
hang upon it like one almost helpless with weariness; and by the
time he pushed open the change-house door, he seemed to be half
carrying me. The maid appeared surprised (as well she might be)
at our speedy return; but Alan had no words to spare for her in
explanation, helped me to a chair, called for a tass of brandy
with which he fed me in little sips, and then breaking up the
bread and cheese helped me to eat it like a nursery-lass; the
whole with that grave, concerned, affectionate countenance, that
might have imposed upon a judge. It was small wonder if the maid
were taken with the picture we presented, of a poor, sick,
overwrought lad and his most tender comrade. She drew quite
near, and stood leaning with her back on the next table.
"What's like wrong with him?" said she at last.
Alan turned upon her, to my great wonder, with a kind of
fury. "Wrong?" cries he. "He's walked more hundreds of miles
than he has hairs upon his chin, and slept oftener in wet
heather than dry sheets. Wrong, quo' she! Wrong enough, I would
think! Wrong, indeed!" and he kept grumbling to himself as he
fed me, like a man ill-pleased"
He's young for the like of that," said the maid.
"Ower young," said Alan, with his back to her."
He would be better riding," says she.
"And where could I get a horse to him?" cried Alan, turning
on her with the same appearance of fury. "Would ye have me
I thought this roughness would have sent her off in
dudgeon, as indeed it closed her mouth for the time. But my
companion knew very well what he was doing; and for as simple as
he was in some things of life, had a great fund of roguishness
in such affairs as these.
"Ye neednae tell me," she said at last -- "ye're gentry."
"Well," said Alan, softened a little (I believe against his
will) by this artless comment, "and suppose we were? Did ever
you hear that gentrice put money in folk's pockets?"
She sighed at this, as if she were herself some
disinherited great lady. "No," says she, "that's true indeed."
I was all this while chafing at the part I played, and
sitting tongue-tied between shame and merriment; but somehow at
this I could hold in no longer, and bade Alan let me be, for I
was better already. My voice stuck in my throat, for I ever
hated to take part in lies; but my very embarrassment helped on
the plot, for the lass no doubt set down my husky voice to
sickness and fatigue.
"Has he nae friends?" said she, in a tearful voice.
"That has he so!" cried Alan, "if we could but win to them!
-- friends and rich friends, beds to lie in, food to eat,
doctors to see to him -- and here he must tramp in the dubs and
sleep in the heather like a beggarman."
"And why that?" says the lass.
"My dear," said Alan, "I cannae very safely say; but I'll
tell ye what I'll do instead," says he, "I'll whistle ye a bit
tune." And with that he leaned pretty far over the table, and in
a mere breath of a whistle, but with a wonderful pretty
sentiment, gave her a few bars of "Charlie is my darling."
"Wheesht," says she, and looked over her shoulder to the
"That's it," said Alan.
"And him so young!" cries the lass.
"He's old enough to----" and Alan struck his forefinger on
the back part of his neck, meaning that I was old enough to lose
"It would be a black shame," she cried, flushing high.
"It's what will be, though," said Alan, "unless we manage
At this the lass turned and ran out of that part of the
house, leaving us alone together. Alan in high good humour at
the furthering of his schemes, and I in bitter dudgeon at being
called a Jacobite and treated like a child.
"Alan," I cried, "I can stand no more of this."
"Ye'll have to sit it then, Davie," said he. "For if ye
upset the pot now, ye may scrape your own life out of the fire,
but Alan Breck is a dead man."
This was so true that I could only groan; and even my groan
served Alan's purpose, for it was overheard by the lass as she
came flying in again with a dish of white puddings and a bottle
of strong ale.
"Poor lamb!" says she, and had no sooner set the meat
before us, than she touched me on the shoulder with a little
friendly touch, as much as to bid me cheer up. Then she told us
to fall to, and there would be no more to pay; for the inn was
her own, or at least her father's, and he was gone for the day
to Pittencrieff. We waited for no second bidding, for bread and
cheese is but cold comfort and the puddings smelt excellently
well; and while we sat and ate, she took up that same place by
the next table, looking on, and thinking, and frowning to
herself, and drawing the string of her apron through her hand.
"I'm thinking ye have rather a long tongue," she said at
last to Alan.
"Ay" said Alan; "but ye see I ken the folk I speak to."
"I would never betray ye," said she, "if ye mean that."
"No," said he, "ye're not that kind. But I'll tell ye what
ye would do, ye would help."
"I couldnae," said she, shaking her head. "Na, I couldnae."
"No," said he, "but if ye could?"
She answered him nothing.
"Look here, my lass," said Alan, "there are boats in the
Kingdom of Fife, for I saw two (no less) upon the beach, as I
came in by your town's end. Now if we could have the use of a
boat to pass under cloud of night into Lothian, and some secret,
decent kind of a man to bring that boat back again and keep his
counsel, there would be two souls saved -- mine to all
likelihood -- his to a dead surety. If we lack that boat, we
have but three shillings left in this wide world; and where to
go, and how to do, and what other place there is for us except
the chains of a gibbet -- I give you my naked word, I kenna!
Shall we go wanting, lassie? Are ye to lie in your warm bed and
think upon us, when the wind gowls in the chimney and the rain
tirls on the roof? Are ye to eat your meat by the cheeks of a
red fire, and think upon this poor sick lad of mine, biting his
finger ends on a blae muir for cauld and hunger? Sick or sound,
he must aye be moving; with the death grapple at his throat he
must aye be trailing in the rain on the lang roads; and when he
gants his last on a rickle of cauld stanes, there will be nae
friends near him but only me and God."
At this appeal, I could see the lass was in great trouble
of mind, being tempted to help us, and yet in some fear she
might be helping malefactors; and so now I determined to step in
myself and to allay her scruples with a portion of the truth.
"Did ever you, hear" said I, "of Mr. Rankeillor of the
"Rankeillor the writer?" said she. " daur say that!"
"Well," said I, "it's to his door that I am bound, so you
may judge by that if I am an ill-doer; and I will tell you more,
that though I am indeed, by a dreadful error, in some peril of
my life, King George has no truer friend in all Scotland than
Her face cleared up mightily at this, although Alan's
"That's more than I would ask," said she. "Mr. Rankeillor
is a kennt man." And she bade us finish our meat, get clear of
the clachan as soon as might be, and lie close in the bit wood
on the sea-beach. "And ye can trust me," says she, "I'll
some means to put you over."
At this we waited for no more, but shook hands with her
upon the bargain, made short work of the puddings, and set forth
again from Limekilns as far as to the wood. It was a small piece
of perhaps a score of elders and hawthorns and a few young
ashes, not thick enough to veil us from passersby upon the road
or beach. Here we must lie, however, making the best of the
brave warm weather and the good hopes we now had of a
deliverance, and planing more particularly what remained for us
We had but one trouble all day; when a strolling piper came
and sat in the same wood with us; a red-nosed, bleareyed,
drunken dog, with a great bottle of whisky in his pocket, and a
long story of wrongs that had been done him by all sorts of
persons, from the Lord President of the Court of Session, who
had denied him justice, down to the Bailies of Inverkeithing who
had given him more of it than he desired. It was impossible but
he should conceive some suspicion of two men lying all day
concealed in a thicket and having no business to allege. As long
as he stayed there he kept us in hot water with prying
questions; and after he was gone, as he was a man not very
likely to hold his tongue, we were in the greater impatience to
be gone ourselves.
The day came to an end with the same brightness; the night
fell quiet and clear; lights came out in houses and hamlets and
then, one after another, began to be put out; but it was past
eleven, and we were long since strangely tortured with
anxieties, before we heard the grinding of oars upon the
rowing-pins. At that, we looked out and saw the lass herself
coming rowing to us in a boat. She had trusted no one with our
affairs, not even her sweetheart, if she had one; but as soon as
her father was asleep, had left the house by a window, stolen a
neighbour's boat, and come to our assistance single-handed.
I was abashed how to find expression for my thanks; but she
was no less abashed at the thought of hearing them; begged us to
lose no time and to hold our peace, saying (very properly) that
the heart of our matter was in haste and silence; and so, what
with one thing and another, she had set us on the Lothian shore
not far from Carriden, had shaken hands with us, and was out
again at sea and rowing for Limekilns, before there was one word
said either of her service or our gratitude.
Even after she was gone, we had nothing to say, as indeed
nothing was enough for such a kindness. Only Alan stood a great
while upon the shore shaking his head.
"It is a very fine lass," he said at last. "David, it is
very fine lass." And a matter of an hour later, as we were lying
in a den on the sea-shore and I had been already dozing, he
broke out again in commendations of her character. For my part,
I could say nothing, she was so simple a creature that my heart
smote me both with remorse and fear: remorse because we had
traded upon her ignorance; and fear lest we should have anyway
involved her in the dangers of our situation.
I COME TO MR. RANKEILLOR
THE next day it was agreed that Alan should fend for himself
till sunset; but as soon as it began to grow dark, he should lie
in the fields by the roadside near to Newhalls, and stir for
naught until he heard me whistling. At first I proposed I should
give him for a signal the "Bonnie House of Airlie," which was
favourite of mine; but he objected that as the piece was very
commonly known, any ploughman might whistle it by accident; and
taught me instead a little fragment of a Highland air, which has
run in my head from that day to this, and will likely run in my
head when I lie dying. Every time it comes to me, it takes me
off to that last day of my uncertainty, with Alan sitting up in
the bottom of the den, whistling and beating the measure with a
finger, and the grey of the dawn coming on his face.
I was in the long street of Queensferry before the sun was
up. It was a fairly built burgh, the houses of good stone, many
slated; the town-hall not so fine, I thought, as that of
Peebles, nor yet the street so noble; but take it altogether, it
put me to shame for my foul tatters.
As the morning went on, and the fires began to be kindled,
and the windows to open, and the people to appear out of the
houses, my concern and despondency grew ever the blacker. I saw
now that I had no grounds to stand upon; and no clear proof of
my rights, nor so much as of my own identity. If it was all a
bubble, I was indeed sorely cheated and left in a sore pass.
Even if things were as I conceived, it would in all likelihood
take time to establish my contentions; and what time had I to
spare with less than three shillings in my pocket, and a
condemned, hunted man upon my hands to ship out of the country?
Truly, if my hope broke with me, it might come to the gallows
yet for both of us. And as I continued to walk up and down, and
saw people looking askance at me upon the street or out of
windows, and nudging or speaking one to another with smiles, I
began to take a fresh apprehension: that it might be no easy
matter even to come to speech of the lawyer, far less to
convince him of my story.
For the life of me I could not muster up the courage to
address any of these reputable burghers; I thought shame even to
speak with them in such a pickle of rags and dirt; and if I had
asked for the house of such a man as Mr. Rankeillor, I suppose
they would have burst out laughing in my face. So I went up and
down, and through the street, and down to the harbour-side, like
a dog that has lost its master, with a strange gnawing in my
inwards, and every now and then a movement of despair. It grew
to be high day at last, perhaps nine in the forenoon; and I was
worn with these wanderings, and chanced to have stopped in front
of a very good house on the landward side, a house with
beautiful, clear glass windows, flowering knots upon the sills,
the walls new-harled and a chase-dog sitting yawning on the
step like one that was at home. Well, I was even envying this
dumb brute, when the door fell open and there issued forth a
shrewd, ruddy, kindly, consequential man in a well-powdered wig
and spectacles. I was in such a plight that no one set eyes on
me once, but he looked at me again; and this gentleman, as it
proved, was so much struck with my poor appearance that he came
straight up to me and asked me what I did.
I told him I was come to the Queensferry on business, and
taking heart of grace, asked him to direct me to the house of
"Why," said he, "that is his house that I have just come
out of; and for a rather singular chance, I am that very man."
"Then, sir," said I, "I have to beg the favour of an
"I do not know your name," said he, "nor yet your face."
"My name is David Balfour," said I.
"David Balfour?" he repeated, in rather a high tone, like
one surprised. "And where have you come from, Mr. David
Balfour?" he asked, looking me pretty drily in the face.
"I have come from a great many strange places, sir," said
I; "but I think it would be as well to tell you where and how in
a more private manner."
He seemed to muse awhile, holding his lip in his hand, and
looking now at me and now upon the causeway of the street.
"Yes," says he, "that will be the best, no doubt." And
led me back with him into his house, cried out to some one whom
I could not see that he would be engaged all morning, and
brought me into a little dusty chamber full of books and
documents. Here he sate down, and bade me be seated; though I
thought he looked a little ruefully from his clean chair to my
muddy rags. "And now," says he, "if you have any business,
be brief and come swiftly to the point. Nec gemino bellum
Trojanum orditur ab ovo --do you understand that?" says he, with
a keen look.
"I will even do as Horace says, sir," I answered, smiling,
"and carry you in medias res." He nodded as if he was well
pleased, and indeed his scrap of Latin had been set to test me.
For all that, and though I was somewhat encouraged, the blood
came in my face when I added: "I have reason to believe myself
some rights on the estate of Shaws."
He got a paper book out of a drawer and set it before him
open. "Well?" said he.
But I had shot my bolt and sat speechless.
"Come, come, Mr. Balfour," said he, "you must continue.
Where were you born?"
"In Essendean, sir," said I, "the year 1733, the 12th of
He seemed to follow this statement in his paper book; but
what that meant I knew not. "Your father and mother?" said he.
"My father was Alexander Balfour, schoolmaster of that
place," said I, "and my mother Grace Pitarrow; I think her
people were from Angus."
"Have you any papers proving your identity?" asked Mr.
"No, sir," said I, "but they are in the hands of Mr.
Campbell, the minister, and could be readily produced. Mr.
Campbell, too, would give me his word; and for that matter, I do
not think my uncle would deny me."
"Meaning Mr. Ebenezer Balfour?" says he.
"The same," said I.
"Whom you have seen?" he asked.
"By whom I was received into his own house," I answered.
"Did you ever meet a man of the name of Hoseason?" asked
"I did so, sir, for my sins," said I; "for it was by his
means and the procurement of my uncle, that I was kidnapped
within sight of this town, carried to sea, suffered shipwreck
and a hundred other hardships, and stand before you to-day in
this poor accoutrement."
"You say you were shipwrecked," said Rankeillor; "where was
"Off the south end of the Isle of Mull," said I. "The name
of the isle on which I was cast up is the Island Earraid."
"Ah!" says he, smiling, "you are deeper than me in the
geography. But so far, I may tell you, this agrees pretty
exactly with other informations that I hold. But you say you
were kidnapped; in what sense?"
"In the plain meaning of the word, sir," said I. "I was on
my way to your house, when I was trepanned on board the brig,
cruelly struck down, thrown below, and knew no more of anything
till we were far at sea. I was destined for the plantations; a
fate that, in God's providence, I have escaped."
"The brig was lost on June the 27th," says he, looking in
his book," and we are now at August the 24th. Here is a
considerable hiatus, Mr. Balfour, of near upon two months. It
has already caused a vast amount of trouble to your friends; and
I own I shall not be very well contented until it is set right."
"Indeed, sir," said I, "these months are very easily filled
up; but yet before I told my story, I would be glad to know that
I was talking to a friend."
"This is to argue in a circle," said the lawyer. "I cannot
be convinced till I have heard you. I cannot be your friend till
I am properly informed. If you were more trustful, it would
better befit your time of life. And you know, Mr. Balfour, we
have a proverb in the country that evil-doers are aye
"You are not to forget, sir," said I, "that I have already
suffered by my trustfulness; and was shipped off to be a slave
by the very man that (if I rightly understand) is your
All this while I had been gaining ground with Mr.
Rankeillor, and in proportion as I gained ground, gaining
confidence. But at this sally, which I made with something of a
smile myself, he fairly laughed aloud.
"No, no," said he, "it is not so bad as that. Fui, non sum.
I was indeed your uncle's man of business; but while you
(imberbis juvenis custode remoto) were gallivanting in the west,
a good deal of water has run under the bridges; and if your ears
did not sing, it was not for lack of being talked about. On the
very day of your sea disaster, Mr. Campbell stalked into my
office, demanding you from all the winds. I had never heard of
your existence; but I had known your father; and from matters in
my competence (to be touched upon hereafter) I was disposed to
fear the worst. Mr. Ebenezer admitted having seen you; declared
(what seemed improbable) that he had given you considerable
sums; and that you had started for the continent of Europe,
intending to fulfil your education, which was probable and
praiseworthy. Interrogated how you had come to send no word to
Mr. Campbell, he deponed that you had expressed a great desire
to break with your past life. Further interrogated where you now
were, protested ignorance, but believed you were in Leyden. That
is a close sum of his replies. I am not exactly sure that any
one believed him," continued Mr. Rankeillor with a smile; "and
in particular he so much disrelished me expressions of mine that
(in a word) he showed me to the door. We were then at a full
stand; for whatever shrewd suspicions we might entertain, we had
no shadow of probation. In the very article, comes Captain
Hoseason with the story of your drowning; whereupon all fell
through; with no consequences but concern to Mr. Campbell,
injury to my pocket, and another blot upon your uncle's
character, which could very ill afford it. And now, Mr.
Balfour," said he, "you understand the whole process of these
matters, and can judge for yourself to what extent I may be
Indeed he was more pedantic than I can represent him, and
placed more scraps of Latin in his speech; but it was all
uttered with a fine geniality of eye and manner which went far
to conquer my distrust. Moreover, I could see he now treated me
as if I was myself beyond a doubt; so that first point of my
identity seemed fully granted.
"Sir," said I, "if I tell you my story, I must commit a
friend's life to your discretion. Pass me your word it shall be
sacred; and for what touches myself, I will ask no better
guarantee than just your face."
He passed me his word very seriously. "But," said he,
"these are rather alarming prolocutions; and if there are in
your story any little jostles to the law, I would beg you to
bear in mind that I am a lawyer, and pass lightly."
Thereupon I told him my story from the first, he listening
with his spectacles thrust up and his eyes closed, so that I
sometimes feared he was asleep. But no such matter! he heard
every word (as I found afterward) with such quickness of hearing
and precision of memory as often surprised me. Even strange
outlandish Gaelic names, heard for that time only, he remembered
and would remind me of, years after. Yet when I called Alan
Breck in full, we had an odd scene. The name of Alan had of
course rung through Scotland, with the news of the Appin murder
and the offer of the reward; and it had no sooner escaped me
than the lawyer moved in his seat and opened his eyes.
"I would name no unneccssary names, Mr. Balfour," said he;
"above all of Highlanders, many of whom are obnoxious to the
"Well, it might have been better not," said I, "but since
I have let it slip, I may as well continue."
"Not at all," said Mr. Rankeillor. "I am somewhat dull of
hearing, as you may have remarked; and I am far from sure I
caught the name exactly. We will call your friend, if you
please, Mr. Thomson -- that there may be no reflections. And in
future, I would take some such way with any Highlander that you
may have to mention -- dead or alive."
By this, I saw he must have heard the name all too clearly,
and had already guessed I might be coming to the murder. If he
chose to play this part of ignorance, it was no matter of mine;
so I smiled, said it was no very Highland-sounding name, and
consented. Through all the rest of my story Alan was Mr.
Thomson; which amused me the more, as it was a piece of policy
after his own heart. James Stewart, in like manner, was
mentioned under the style of Mr. Thomson's kinsman; Colin
Campbell passed as a Mr. Glen; and to Cluny, when I came to that
part of my tale, I gave the name of "Mr. Jameson, a Highland
chief." It was truly the most open farce, and I wondered that
the lawyer should care to keep it up; but, after all, it was
quite in the taste of that age, when there were two parties in
the state, and quiet persons, with no very high opinions of
their own, sought out every Cranny to avoid offence to either.
"Well, well," said the lawyer, when I had quite done, "this
is a great epic, a great Odyssey of yours. You must tell it,
sir, in a sound Latinity when your scholarship is riper; or in
English if you please, though for my part I prefer the stronger
tongue. You have rolled much; quae regio in terris -- what
parish in Scotland (to make a homely translation) has not been
filled with your wanderings? You have shown, besides, a singular
aptitude for getting into false positions; and, yes, upon the
whole, for behaving well in them. This Mr. Thomson seems to me
a gentleman of some choice qualities, though perhaps a trifle
bloody-minded. It would please me none the worse, if (with all
his merits) he were soused in the North Sea, for the man, Mr.
David, is a sore embarrassment. But you are doubtless quite
right to adhere to him; indubitably, he adhered to you. It comes
-- we may say -- he was your true companion; nor less paribus
curis vestigia figit, for I dare say you would both take an orra
thought upon the gallows. Well, well, these days are
fortunately, by; and I think (speaking humanly) that you are
near the end of your troubles."
As he thus moralised on my adventures, he looked upon me
with so much humour and benignity that I could scarce contain my
satisfaction. I had been so long wandering with lawless people,
and making my bed upon the hills and under the bare sky, that to
sit once more in a clean, covered house, and to talk amicably
with a gentleman in broadcloth, seemed mighty elevations. Even
as I thought so, my eye fell on my unseemly tatters, and I was
once more plunged in confusion. But the lawyer saw and
understood me. He rose, called over the stair to lay another
plate, for Mr. Balfour would stay to dinner, and led me into a
bedroom in the upper part of the house. Here he set before me
water and soap, and a comb; and laid out some clothes that
belonged to his son; and here, with another apposite tag, he
left me to my toilet.
 Newly rough-cast.
I GO IN QUEST OF MY INHERITANCE
I MADE what change I could in my appearance; and blithe was I to
look in the glass and find the beggarman a thing of the past,
and David Balfour come to life again. And yet I was ashamed of
the change too, and, above all, of the borrowed clothes. When I
had done, Mr. Rankeillor caught me on the stair, made me his
compliments, and had me again into the cabinet.
"Sit ye down, Mr. David," said he, "and now that you are
looking a little more like yourself, let me see if I can find
you any news. You will be wondering, no doubt, about your father
and your uncle? To be sure it is a singular tale; and the
explanation is one that I blush to have to offer you. For," says
he, really with embarrassment, "the matter hinges on a love
"Truly," said I, "I cannot very well join that notion with
"But your uncle, Mr. David, was not always old," replied
the lawyer, "and what may perhaps surprise you more, not always
ugly. He had a fine, gallant air; people stood in their doors to
look after him, as he went by upon a mettle horse. I have seen
it with these eyes, and I ingenuously confess, not altogether
without envy; for I was a plain lad myself and a plain man's
son; and in those days it was a case of Odi te, qui bellus es,
"It sounds like a dream," said I.
"Ay, ay," said the lawyer, "that is how it is with youth
and age. Nor was that all, but he had a spirit of his own that
seemed to promise great things in the future. In 1715, what must
he do but run away to join the rebels? It was your father that
pursued him, found him in a ditch, and brought him back multum
gementem; to the mirth of the whole country. However, majora
canamus -- the two lads fell in love, and that with the same
lady. Mr. Ebenezer, who was the admired and the beloved, and the
spoiled one, made, no doubt, mighty certain of the victory; and
when he found he had deceived himself, screamed like a peacock.
The whole country heard of it; now he lay sick at home, with his
silly family standing round the bed in tears; now he rode from
public-house to public-house, and shouted his sorrows into the
lug of Tom, Dick, and Harry. Your father, Mr. David, was a kind
gentleman; but he was weak, dolefully weak; took all this folly
with a long countenance; and one day -- by your leave! --
resigned the lady. She was no such fool, however; it's from her
you must inherit your excellent good sense; and she refused to
be bandied from one to another. Both got upon their knees to
her; and the upshot of the matter for that while was that she
showed both of them the door. That was in August; dear me! the
same year I came from college. The scene must have been highly
I thought myself it was a silly business, but I could not
forget my father had a hand in it. "Surely, sir, it had some
note of tragedy," said I.
"Why, no, sir, not at all," returned the lawyer. "For
tragedy implies some ponderable matter in dispute, some dignus
vindice nodus; and this piece of work was all about the
petulance of a young ass that had been spoiled, and wanted
nothing so much as to be tied up and soundly belted. However,
that was not your father's view; and the end of it was, that
from concession to concession on your father's part, and from
one height to another of squalling, sentimental selfishness upon
your uncle's, they came at last to drive a sort of bargain, from
whose ill results you have recently been smarting. The one man
took the lady, the other the estate. Now, Mr. David, they talk
a great deal of charity and generosity; but in this disputable
state of life, I often think the happiest consequences seem to
flow when a gentleman consults his lawyer, and takes all the law
allows him. Anyhow, this piece of Quixotry on your father's
part, as it was unjust in itself, has brought forth a monstrous
family of injustices. Your father and mother lived and died poor
folk; you were poorly reared; and in the meanwhile, what a time
it has been for the tenants on the estate of Shaws! And I might
add (if it was a matter I cared much about) what a time for Mr.
"And yet that is certainly the strangest part of all," said
I, "that a man's nature should thus change."
"True," said Mr. Rankeillor. "And yet I imagine it was
natural enough. He could not think that he had played a handsome
part. Those who knew the story gave him the cold shoulder; those
who knew it not, seeing one brother disappear, and the other
succeed in the estate, raised a cry of murder; so that upon all
sides he found himself evited. Money was all he got by his
bargain; well, he came to think the more of money. He was
selfish when he was young, he is selfish now that he is old; and
the latter end of all these pretty manners and fine feelings you
have seen for yourself."
"Well, sir," said I, "and in all this, what is my
"The estate is yours beyond a doubt," replied the lawyer.
"It matters nothing what your father signed, you are the heir of
entail. But your uncle is a man to fight the indefensible; and
it would be likely your identity that he would call in question.
A lawsuit is always expensive, and a family lawsuit always
scandalous; besides which, if any of your doings with your
friend Mr. Thomson were to come out, we might find that we had
burned our fingers. The kidnapping, to be sure, would be a court
card upon our side, if we could only prove it. But it may be
difficult to prove; and my advice (upon the whole) is to make a
very easy bargain with your uncle, perhaps even leaving him at
Shaws where he has taken root for a quarter of a century, and
contenting yourself in the meanwhile with a fair provision."
I told him I was very willing to be easy, and that to carry
family concerns before the public was a step from which I was
naturally much averse. In the meantime (thinking to myself) I
began to see the outlines of that scheme on which we afterwards
"The great affair," I asked, "is to bring home to him the
"Surely," said Mr. Rankeillor, "and if possible, out of
court. For mark you here, Mr. David: we could no doubt find some
men of the Covenant who would swear to your reclusion; but once
they were in the box, we could no longer check their testimony,
and some word of your friend Mr. Thomson must certainly crop
out. Which (from what you have let fall) I cannot think to be desirable."
"Well, sir," said I, "here is my way of it." And I opened
my plot to him.
"But this would seem to involve my meeting the man
Thomson?" says he, when I had done.
"I think so, indeed, sir," said I.
"Dear doctor!" cries he, rubbing his brow. "Dear doctor!
No, Mr. David, I am afraid your scheme is inadmissible. I say
nothing against your friend, Mr. Thomson: I know nothing against
him; and if I did -- mark this, Mr. David! -- it would be my
duty to lay hands on him. Now I put it to you: is it wise to
meet? He may have matters to his charge. He may not have told
you all. His name may not be even Thomson!" cries the lawyer,
twinkling; "for some of these fellows will pick up names by the
roadside as another would gather haws."
"You must be the judge, sir," said I.
But it was clear my plan had taken hold upon his fancy, for
he kept musing to himself till we were called to dinner and the
company of Mrs. Rankeillor; and that lady had scarce left us
again to ourselves and a bottle of wine, ere he was back harping
on my proposal. When and where was I to meet my friend Mr.
Thomson; was I sure of Mr. T.'s discretion; supposing we could
catch the old fox tripping, would I consent to such and such a
term of an agreement -- these and the like questions he kept
asking at long intervals, while he thoughtfully rolled his wine
upon his tongue. When I had answered all of them, seemingly to
his contentment, he fell into a still deeper muse, even the
claret being now forgotten. Then he got a sheet of paper and a
pencil, and set to work writing and weighing every word; and at
last touched a bell and had his clerk into the chamber.
"Torrance," said he, "I must have this written out fair
against to-night; and when it is done, you will be so kind as
put on your hat and be ready to come along with this gentleman
and me, for you will probably be wanted as a witness."
"What, sir," cried I, as soon as the clerk was gone, "are
you to venture it?"
"Why, so it would appear," says he, filling his glass. "But
let us speak no more of business. The very sight of Torrance
brings in my head a little droll matter of some years ago, when
I had made a tryst with the poor oaf at the cross of Edinburgh.
Each had gone his proper errand; and when it came four o'clock,
Torrance had been taking a glass and did not know his master,
and I, who had forgot my spectacles, was so blind without them,
that I give you my word I did not know my own clerk." And
thereupon he laughed heartily.
I said it was an odd chance, and smiled out of politeness;
but what held me all the afternoon in wonder, he kept returning
and dwelling on this story, and telling it again with fresh
details and laughter; so that I began at last to be quite put
out of countenance and feel ashamed for my friend's folly.
Towards the time I had appointed with Alan, we set out from
the house, Mr. Rankeillor and I arm in arm, and Torrance
following behind with the deed in his pocket and a covered
basket in his hand. All through the town, the lawyer was bowing
right and left, and continually being button-holed by gentlemen
on matters of burgh or private business; and I could see he was
one greatly looked up to in the county. At last we were clear of
the houses, and began to go along the side of the haven and
towards the Hawes Inn and the Ferry pier, the scene of my
misfortune. I could not look upon the place without emotion,
recalling how many that had been there with me that day were now
no more: Ransome taken, I could hope, from the evil to come;
Shuan passed where I dared not follow him; and the poor souls
that had gone down with the brig in her last plunge. All these,
and the brig herself, I had outlived; and come through these
hardships and fearful perils without scath. My only thought
should have been of gratitude; and yet I could not behold the
place without sorrow for others and a chill of recollected fear.
I was so thinking when, upon a sudden, Mr. Rankeillor cried
out, clapped his hand to his pockets, and began to laugh.
"Why," he cries, "if this be not a farcical adventure!
After all that I said, I have forgot my glasses!"
At that, of course, I understood the purpose of his
anecdote, and knew that if he had left his spectacles at home,
it had been done on purpose, so that he might have the benefit
of Alan's help without the awkwardness of recognising him. And
indeed it was well thought upon; for now (suppose things to go
the very worst) how could Rankeillor swear to my friend's
identity, or how be made to bear damaging evidence against
myself? For all that, he had been a long while of finding out
his want, and had spoken to and recognised a good few persons as
we came through the town; and I had little doubt myself that he
saw reasonably well.
As soon as we were past the Hawes (where I recognised the
landlord smoking his pipe in the door, and was amazed to see him
look no older) Mr. Rankeillor changed the order of march,
walking behind with Torrance and sending me forward in the
manner of a scout. I went up the hill, whistling from time to
time my Gaelic air; and at length I had the pleasure to hear it
answered and to see Alan rise from behind a bush. He was
somewhat dashed in spirits, having passed a long day alone
skulking in the county, and made but a poor meal in an alehouse
near Dundas. But at the mere sight of my clothes, he began to
brighten up; and as soon as I had told him in what a forward
state our matters were and the part I looked to him to play in
what remained, he sprang into a new man.
"And that is a very good notion of yours," says he; "and
dare to say that you could lay your hands upon no better man to
put it through than Alan Breck. It is not a thing (mark ye) that
any one could do, but takes a gentleman of penetration. But it
sticks in my head your lawyer-man will be somewhat wearying to
see me," says Alan.
Accordingly I cried and waved on Mr. Rankeillor, who came
up alone and was presented to my friend, Mr. Thomson.
"Mr. Thomson, I am pleased to meet you," said he. "But I
have forgotten my glasses; and our friend, Mr. David here"
(clapping me on the shoulder), "will tell you that I am little
better than blind, and that you must not be surprised if I pass
you by to-morrow."
This he said, thinking that Alan would be pleased; but the
Highlandman's vanity was ready to startle at a less matter than
"Why, sir," says he, stiffly, "I would say it mattered the
less as we are met here for a particular end, to see justice
done to Mr. Balfour; and by what I can see, not very likely to
have much else in common. But I accept your apology, which was
a very proper one to make."
"And that is more than I could look for, Mr. Thomson," said
Rankeillor, heartily. "And now as you and I are the chief actors
in this enterprise, I think we should come into a nice
agreement; to which end, I propose that you should lend me your
arm, for (what with the dusk and the want of my glasses) I am
not very clear as to the path; and as for you, Mr. David, you
will find Torrance a pleasant kind of body to speak with. Only
let me remind you, it's quite needless he should hear more of
your adventures or those of -- ahem -- Mr. Thomson."
Accordingly these two went on ahead in very close talk, and
Torrance and I brought up the rear.
Night was quite come when we came in view of the house of
Shaws. Ten had been gone some time; it was dark and mild, with
a pleasant, rustling wind in the south-west that covered the
sound of our approach; and as we drew near we saw no glimmer of
light in any portion of the building. It seemed my uncle was
Already in bed, which was indeed the best thing for our
arrangements. We made our last whispered consultations some
fifty yards away; and then the lawyer and Torrance and I crept
quietly up and crouched down beside the corner of the house; and
as soon as we were in our places, Alan strode to the door
without concealment and began to knock.
I COME INTO MY KINGDOM
FOR some time Alan volleyed upon the door, and his knocking only
roused the echoes of the house and neighbourhood. At last,
however, I could hear the noise of a window gently thrust up,
and knew that my uncle had come to his observatory. By what
light there was, he would see Alan standing, like a dark shadow,
on the steps; the three witnesses were hidden quite out of his
view; so that there was nothing to alarm an honest man in his
own house. For all that, he studied his visitor awhile in
silence, and when he spoke his voice had a quaver of misgiving.
"What's this?" says he. "This is nae kind of time of night
for decent folk; and I hae nae trokings wi' night-hawks. What
brings ye here? I have a blunderbush."
"Is that yoursel', Mr. Balfour?" returned Alan, steppig
back and looking up into the darkness. "Have a care of that
blunderbuss; they're nasty things to burst."
"What brings ye here? and whae are ye?" says my uncle,
"I have no manner of inclination to rowt out my name to the
country-side," said Alan; "but what brings me here is another
story, being more of your affair than mine; and if ye're sure
it's what ye would like, I'll set it to a tune and sing it to
"And what is't?" asked my uncle.
"David," says Alan.
"What was that?" cried my uncle, in a mighty changed voice.
"Shall I give ye the rest of the name, then?" said Alan.
There was a pause; and then, "I'm thinking I'll better let
ye in," says my uncle, doubtfully.
"I dare say that," said Alan; "but the point is, Would I
go? Now I will tell you what I am thinking. I am thinking that
it is here upon this doorstep that we must confer upon this
business; and it shall be here or nowhere at all whatever; for
I would have you to understand that I am as stiffnecked as
yoursel', and a gentleman of better family."
This change of note disconcerted Ebenezer; he was a little
while digesting it, and then says he, "Weel, weel, what must be
must," and shut the window. But it took him a long time to get
down-stairs, and a still longer to undo the fastenings,
repenting (I dare say) and taken with fresh claps of fear at
every second step and every bolt and bar. At last, however, we
heard the creak of the hinges, and it seems my uncle slipped
gingerly out and (seeing that Alan had stepped back a pace or
two) sate him down on the top doorstep with the blunderbuss
ready in his hands.
"And, now" says he, "mind I have my blunderbush, and if ye
take a step nearer ye're as good as deid."
"And a very civil speech," says Alan, "to be sure."
"Na," says my uncle, "but this is no a very chanty kind of
a proceeding, and I'm bound to be prepared. And now that we
understand each other, ye'll can name your business."
"Why," says Alan, "you that are a man of so much
understanding, will doubtless have perceived that I am a Hieland
gentleman. My name has nae business in my story; but the county
of my friends is no very far from the Isle of Mull, of which ye
will have heard. It seems there was a ship lost in those parts;
and the next day a gentleman of my family was seeking wreck-wood
for his fire along the sands, when he came upon a lad that was
half drowned. Well, he brought him to; and he and some other
gentleman took and clapped him in an auld, ruined castle, where
from that day to this he has been a great expense to my friends.
My friends are a wee wild-like, and not so particular about the
law as some that I could name; and finding that the lad owned
some decent folk, and was your born nephew, Mr. Balfour, they
asked me to give ye a bit call and confer upon the matter. And
I may tell ye at the off-go, unless we can agree upon some
terms, ye are little likely to set eyes upon him. For my
friends," added Alan, simply, "are no very well off."
My uncle cleated his throat. "I'm no very caring," says he.
"He wasnae a good lad at the best of it, and I've nae tall to
"Ay, ay," said Alan, "I see what ye would be at: pretending
ye don't care, to make the ransom smaller."
"Na," said my uncle, "it's the mere truth. I take nae
manner of interest in the lad, and I'll pay nae ransome, and ye
can make a kirk and a mill of him for what I care."
"Hoot, sir," says Alan. "Blood's thicker than water, in the
deil's name! Ye cannae desert your brother's son for the fair
shame of it; and if ye did, and it came to be kennt, ye wouldnae
be very popular in your country-side, or I'm the more deceived."
"I'm no just very popular the way it is," returned
Ebenezer; "and I dinnae see how it would come to be kennt. No by
me, onyway; nor yet by you or your friends. So that's idle talk,
my buckie," says he.
"Then it'll have to be David that tells it," said Alan.
"How that?" says my uncle, sharply."
Ou, just this, way" says Alan. "My friends would doubtless
keep your nephew as long as there was any likelihood of siller
to be made of it, but if there was nane, I am clearly of opinion
they would let him gang where he pleased, and be damned to him!"
"Ay, but I'm no very caring about that either," said my
uncle. "I wouldnae be muckle made up with that."
"I was thinking that," said Alan.
"And what for why?" asked Ebenezer.
"Why, Mr. Balfour," replied Alan, "by all that I could
hear, there were two ways of it: either ye liked David and would
pay to get him back; or else ye had very good reasons for not
wanting him, and would pay for us to keep him. It seems it's not
the first; well then, it's the second; and blythe am I to ken
it, for it should be a pretty penny in my pocket and the pockets
of my friends."
"I dinnae follow ye there," said my uncle.
"No?" said Alan. "Well, see here: you dinnae want the lad
back; well, what do ye want done with him, and how much will ye
My uncle made no answer, but shifted uneasily on his seat.
"Come, sir," cried Alan. "I would have you to ken that I
a gentleman; I bear a king's name; I am nae rider to kick my
shanks at your hall door. Either give me an answer in civility,
and that out of hand; or by the top of Glencoe, I will ram three
feet of iron through your vitals."
"Eh, man," cried my uncle, scrambling to his feet, "give
a meenit! What's like wrong with ye? I'm just a plain man and
nae dancing master; and I'm tryin to be as ceevil as it's
morally possible. As for that wild talk, it's fair disrepitable.
Vitals, says you! And where would I be with my blunderbush?" he
"Powder and your auld hands are but as the snail to the
swallow against the bright steel in the hands of Alan," said the
other. "Before your jottering finger could find the trigger, the
hilt would dirl on your breast-bane."
"Eh, man, whae's denying it?" said my uncle. "Pit it as ye
please, hae't your ain way; I'll do naething to cross ye. Just
tell me what like ye'll be wanting, and ye'll see that we'll can
"Troth, sir," said Alan, "I ask for nothing but plain
dealing. In two words: do ye want the lad killed or kept?"
"O, sirs!" cried Ebenezer. "O, sirs, me! that's no kind of
"Killed or kept!" repeated Alan.
"O, keepit, keepit!" wailed my uncle. "We'll have nae
bloodshed, if you please."
"Well," says Alan, "as ye please; that'll be the dearer."
"The dearer?" cries Ebenezer. "Would ye fyle your hands wi'
"Hoot!" said Alan, "they're baith crime, whatever! And the
killing's easier, and quicker, and surer. Keeping the lad'll be
a fashious job, a fashious, kittle business."
"I'll have him keepit, though," returned my uncle. "I never
had naething to do with onything morally wrong; and I'm no gaun
to begin to pleasure a wild Hielandman."
"Ye're unco scrupulous," sneered Alan.
"I'm a man o' principle," said Ebenezer, simply; "and if
have to pay for it, I'll have to pay for it. And besides," says
he, "ye forget the lad's my brother's son."
"Well, well," said Alan, "and now about the price. It's no
very easy for me to set a name upon it; I would first have to
ken some small matters. I would have to ken, for instance, what
ye gave Hoseason at the first off-go?"
"Hoseason!" cries my uncle, struck aback. "What for?"
"For kidnapping David," says Alan.
"It's a lee, it's a black lee!" cried my uncle. "He was
never kidnapped. He leed in his throat that tauld ye that.
Kidnapped? He never was!"
"That's no fault of mine nor yet of yours," said Alan; "nor
yet of Hoseason's, if he's a man that can be trusted."
"What do ye mean?" cried Ebenezer. "Did Hoseason tell ye?"
"Why, ye donnered auld runt, how else would I ken?" cried
Alan. "Hoseason and me are partners; we gang shares; so ye can
see for yoursel' what good ye can do leeing. And I must plainly
say ye drove a fool's bargain when ye let a man like the
sailor-man so far forward in your private matters. But that's
past praying for; and ye must lie on your bed the way ye made
it. And the point in hand is just this: what did ye pay him?"
"Has he tauld ye himsel'?" asked my uncle.
"That's my concern," said Alan.
"Weel," said my uncle, "I dinnae care what he said, he
leed, and the solemn God's truth is this, that I gave him twenty
pound. But I'll be perfec'ly honest with ye: forby that, he was
to have the selling of the lad in Caroliny, whilk would be as
muckle mair, but no from my pocket, ye see."
"Thank you, Mr. Thomson. That will do excellently well,"
said the lawyer, stepping forward; and then mighty civilly,
"Good-evening, Mr. Balfour," said he.
And, "Good-evening, Uncle Ebenezer," said I.
And, "It's a braw nicht, Mr. Balfour" added Torrance.
Never a word said my uncle, neither black nor white; but
just sat where he was on the top door-step and stared upon us
like a man turned to stone. Alan filched away his blunderbuss;
and the lawyer, taking him by the arm, plucked him up from the
doorstep, led him into the kitchen, whither we all followed, and
set him down in a chair beside the hearth, where the fire was
out and only a rush-light burning.
There we all looked upon him for a while, exulting greatly
in our success, but yet with a sort of pity for the man's shame.
"Come, come, Mr. Ebenezer," said the lawyer, "you must not
be down-hearted, for I promise you we shall make easy terms. In
the meanwhile give us the cellar key, and Torrance shall draw us
a bottle of your father's wine in honour of the event." Then,
turning to me and taking me by the hand, "Mr. David," says he,
"I wish you all joy in your good fortune, which I believe to be
deserved." And then to Alan, with a spice of drollery, "Mr.
Thomson, I pay you my compliment; it was most artfully
conducted; but in one point you somewhat outran my
comprehension. Do I understand your name to be James? or
Charles? or is it George, perhaps?"
"And why should it be any of the three, sir?" quoth Alan,
drawing himself up, like one who smelt an offence.
"Only, sir, that you mentioned a king's name," replied
Rankeillor." and as there has never yet been a King Thomson, or
his fame at least has never come my way, I judged you must refer
to that you had in baptism."
This was just the stab that Alan would feel keenest, and I
am free to confess he took it very ill. Not a word would he
answer, but stepped off to the far end of the kitchen, and sat
down and sulked; and it was not till I stepped after him, and
gave him my hand, and thanked him by title as the chief spring
of my success, that he began to smile a bit, and was at last
prevailed upon to join our party.
By that time we had the fire lighted, and a bottle of wine
uncorked; a good supper came out of the basket, to which
Torrance and I and Alan set ourselves down; while the lawyer and
my uncle passed into the next chamber to consult. They stayed
there closeted about an hour; at the end of which period they
had come to a good understanding, and my uncle and I set our
hands to the agreement in a formal manner. By the terms of this,
my uncle bound himself to satisfy Rankeillor as to his
intromissions, and to pay me two clear thirds of the yearly
income of Shaws.
So the beggar in the ballad had come home; and when I lay
down that night on the kitchen chests, I was a man of means and
had a name in the country. Alan and Torrance and Rankeillor
slept and snored on their hard beds; but for me who had lain out
under heaven and upon dirt and stones, so many days and nights,
and often with an empty belly, and in fear of death, this good
change in my case unmanned me more than any of the former evil
ones; and I lay till dawn, looking at the fire on the roof and
planing the future.
SO far as I was concerned myself, I had come to port; but I had
still Alan, to whom I was so much beholden, on my hands; and I
felt besides a heavy charge in the matter of the murder and
James of the Glens. On both these heads I unbosomed to
Rankeillor the next morning, walking to and fro about six of the
clock before the house of Shaws, and with nothing in view but
the fields and woods that had been my ancestors' and were now
mine. Even as I spoke on these grave subjects, my eye would take
a glad bit of a run over the prospect, and my heart jump with
About my clear duty to my friend, the lawyer had no doubt.
I must help him out of the county at whatever risk; but in the
case of James, he was of a different mind.
"Mr. Thomson," says he, "is one thing, Mr. Thomson's
kinsman quite another. I know little of the facts, but I gather
that a great noble (whom we will call, if you like, the D. of
A.) has some concern and is even supposed to feel some
aimosity in the matter. The D. of A. is doubtless an excellent
nobleman; but, Mr. David, timeo qui nocuere deos. If you
interfere to balk his vengeance, you should remember there is
one way to shut your testimony out; and that is to put you in
the dock. There, you would be in the same pickle as Mr.
Thomson's kinsman. You will object that you are innocent; well,
but so is he. And to be tried for your life before a Highland
jury, on a Highland quarrel and with a Highland Judge upon the
bench, would be a brief transition to the gallows."
Now I had made all these reasonings before and found no
very good reply to them; so I put on all the simplicity I could.
"In that case, sir," said I, "I would just have to be hanged
would I not?"
"My dear boy," cries he, "go in God's name, and do what you
think is right. It is a poor thought that at my time of life I
should be advising you to choose the safe and shameful; and I
take it back with an apology. Go and do your duty; and be
hanged, if you must, like a gentleman. There are worse things in
the world than to be hanged."
"Not many, sir," said I, smiling.
"Why, yes, sir," he cried, "very many. And it would be ten
times better for your uncle (to go no farther afield) if he were
dangling decently upon a gibbet."
Thereupon he turned into the house (still in a great
fervour of mind, so that I saw I had pleased him heartily) and
there he wrote me two letters, making his comments on them as he
"This," says he, "is to my bankers, the British Linen
Company, placing a credit to your name. Consult Mr. Thomson, he
will know of ways; and you, with this credit, can supply the
means. I trust you will be a good husband of your money; but in
the affair of a friend like Mr. Thompson, I would be even
prodigal. Then for his kinsman, there is no better way than that
you should seek the Advocate, tell him your tale, and offer
testimony. whether he may take it or not, is quite another
matter, and will turn on the D. of A. Now, that you may reach
the Lord Advocate well recommended, I give you here a letter to
a namesake of your own, the learned Mr. Balfour of Pilrig, a man
whom I esteem. It will look better that you should be presented
by one of your own name; and the laird of Pilrig is much looked
up to in the Faculty and stands well with Lord Advocate Grant.
I would not trouble him, if I were you, with any particulars;
and (do you know?) I think it would be needless to refer to Mr.
Thomson. Form yourself upon the laird, he is a good model; when
you deal with the Advocate, be discreet; and in all these
matters, may the Lord guide you, Mr. David!"
Thereupon he took his farewell, and set out with Torrance
for the Ferry, while Alan and I turned our faces for the city of
Edinburgh. As we went by the footpath and beside the gateposts
and the unfinished lodge, we kept looking back at the house of
my fathers. It stood there, bare and great and smokeless, like
a place not lived in; only in one of the top windows, there was
the peak of a nightcap bobbing up and down and back and forward,
like the head of a rabbit from a burrow. I had little welcome
when I came, and less kindness while I stayed; but at least I
was watched as I went away.
Alan and I went slowly forward upon our way, having little
heart either to walk or speak. The same thought was uppermost in
both, that we were near the time of our parting; and remembrance
of all the bygone days sate upon us sorely. We talked indeed of
what should be done; and it was resolved that Alan should keep
to the county, biding now here, now there, but coming once in
the day to a particular place where I might be able to
communicate with him, either in my own person or by messenger.
In the meanwhile, I was to seek out a lawyer, who was an Appin
Stewart, and a man therefore to be wholly trusted; and it should
be his part to find a ship and to arrange for Alan's safe
embarkation. No sooner was this business done, than the words
seemed to leave us; and though I would seek to jest with Alan
under the name of Mr. Thomson, and he with me on my new clothes
and my estate, you could feel very well that we were nearer
tears than laughter.
We came the by-way over the hill of Corstorphine; and when
we got near to the place called Rest-and-be-Thankful, and looked
down on Corstorphine bogs and over to the city and the castle on
the hill, we both stopped, for we both knew without a word said
that we had come to where our ways parted. Here he repeated to
me once again what had been agreed upon between us: the address
of the lawyer, the daily hour at which Alan might be found, and
the signals that were to be made by any that came seeking him.
Then I gave what money I had (a guinea or two of Rankeillor's)
so that he should not starve in the meanwhile; and then we stood
a space, and looked over at Edinburgh in silence.
"Well, good-bye," said Alan, and held out his left hand.
"Good-bye," said I, and gave the hand a little grasp, and
went off down hill.
Neither one of us looked the other in the face, nor so long
as he was in my view did I take one back glance at the friend I
was leaving. But as I went on my way to the city, I felt so lost
and lonesome, that I could have found it in my heart to sit down
by the dyke, and cry and weep like any baby.
It was coming near noon when I passed in by the West Kirk
and the Grassmarket into the streets of the capital. The huge
height of the buildings, running up to ten and fifteen storeys,
the narrow arched entries that continually vomited passengers,
the wares of the merchants in their windows, the hubbub and
endless stir, the foul smells and the fine clothes, and a
hundred other particulars too small to mention, struck me into
a kind of stupor of surprise, so that I let the crowd carry me
to and fro; and yet all the time what I was thinking of was Alan
at Rest-and-be-Thankful; and all the time (although you would
think I would not choose but be delighted with these braws and
novelties) there was a cold gnawing in my inside like a remorse
for something wrong.
The hand of Providence brought me in my drifting to the
very doors of the British Linen Company's bank.
The Duke of Argyle.
****** THE END ******