Tantissimi classici della letteratura e della cultura politica,
economica e scientifica in lingua inglese con audio di ReadSpeaker e traduttore
automatico interattivo FGA Translate
Abbe Prevost - MANON LESCAUT
Alcott, Louisa M. - AN OLDFASHIONED GIRL
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE MEN
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE WOMEN
Alcott, Louisa May - JACK AND JILL
Alcott, Louisa May - LIFE LETTERS AND JOURNALS
Andersen, Hans Christian - FAIRY TALES
Anonimo - BEOWULF
Ariosto, Ludovico - ORLANDO ENRAGED
Aurelius, Marcus - MEDITATIONS
Austen, Jane - EMMA
Austen, Jane - MANSFIELD PARK
Austen, Jane - NORTHANGER ABBEY
Austen, Jane - PERSUASION
Austen, Jane - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Austen, Jane - SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Authors, Various - LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Authors, Various - SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS
Autori Vari - THE WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE
Bacon, Francis - THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
Balzac, Honore de - EUGENIE GRANDET
Balzac, Honore de - FATHER GORIOT
Baroness Orczy - THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Barrie, J. M. - PETER AND WENDY
Barrie, James M. - PETER PAN
Bierce, Ambrose - THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Blake, William - SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Boccaccio, Giovanni - DECAMERONE
Brent, Linda - INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Bronte, Charlotte - JANE EYRE
Bronte, Charlotte - VILLETTE
Buchan, John - GREENMANTLE
Buchan, John - MR STANDFAST
Buchan, John - THE 39 STEPS
Bunyan, John - THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
Burckhardt, Jacob - THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
Burnett, Frances H. - A LITTLE PRINCESS
Burnett, Frances H. - LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Burnett, Frances H. - THE SECRET GARDEN
Butler, Samuel - EREWHON
Carlyle, Thomas - PAST AND PRESENT
Carlyle, Thomas - THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Cellini, Benvenuto - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Cervantes - DON QUIXOTE
Chaucer, Geoffrey - THE CANTERBURY TALES
Chesterton, G. K. - A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Chesterton, G. K. - THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE
Chesterton, G. K. - THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
Chesterton, G. K. - THE WISDOM OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - TWELVE TYPES
Chesterton, G. K. - WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA
Chesterton, Gilbert K. - HERETICS
Chopin, Kate - AT FAULT
Chopin, Kate - BAYOU FOLK
Chopin, Kate - THE AWAKENING AND SELECTED SHORT STORIES
Clark Hall, John R. - A CONCISE ANGLOSAXON DICTIONARY
Clarkson, Thomas - AN ESSAY ON THE SLAVERY AND COMMERCE OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
Clausewitz, Carl von - ON WAR
Coleridge, Herbert - A DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST OR OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH
Coleridge, S. T. - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Coleridge, S. T. - HINTS TOWARDS THE FORMATION OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE THEORY
Coleridge, S. T. - THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
Collins, Wilkie - THE MOONSTONE
Collodi - PINOCCHIO
Conan Doyle, Arthur - A STUDY IN SCARLET
Conan Doyle, Arthur - MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Conrad, Joseph - HEART OF DARKNESS
Conrad, Joseph - LORD JIM
Conrad, Joseph - NOSTROMO
Conrad, Joseph - THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS
Conrad, Joseph - TYPHOON
Crane, Stephen - LAST WORDS
Crane, Stephen - MAGGIE
Crane, Stephen - THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Crane, Stephen - WOUNDS IN THE RAIN
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELL
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PARADISE
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PURGATORY
Darwin, Charles - THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin, Charles - THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Defoe, Daniel - A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES
Defoe, Daniel - A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
Defoe, Daniel - CAPTAIN SINGLETON
Defoe, Daniel - MOLL FLANDERS
Defoe, Daniel - ROBINSON CRUSOE
Defoe, Daniel - THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN
Defoe, Daniel - THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE
Deledda, Grazia - AFTER THE DIVORCE
Dickens, Charles - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Dickens, Charles - A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Dickens, Charles - BLEAK HOUSE
Dickens, Charles - DAVID COPPERFIELD
Dickens, Charles - DONBEY AND SON
Dickens, Charles - GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Dickens, Charles - HARD TIMES
Dickens, Charles - LETTERS VOLUME 1
Dickens, Charles - LITTLE DORRIT
Dickens, Charles - MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT
Dickens, Charles - NICHOLAS NICKLEBY
Dickens, Charles - OLIVER TWIST
Dickens, Charles - OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Dickens, Charles - PICTURES FROM ITALY
Dickens, Charles - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
Dickens, Charles - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Dickens, Charles - THE PICKWICK PAPERS
Dickinson, Emily - POEMS
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Du Maurier, George - TRILBY
Dumas, Alexandre - THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Dumas, Alexandre - THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Dumas, Alexandre - THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Eliot, George - DANIEL DERONDA
Eliot, George - MIDDLEMARCH
Eliot, George - SILAS MARNER
Eliot, George - THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Engels, Frederick - THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING-CLASS IN ENGLAND IN 1844
Equiano - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Esopo - FABLES
Fenimore Cooper, James - THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Fielding, Henry - TOM JONES
France, Anatole - THAIS
France, Anatole - THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
France, Anatole - THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
France, Anatole - THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD
Frank Baum, L. - THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ
Frank Baum, L. - THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Franklin, Benjamin - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frazer, James George - THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Freud, Sigmund - DREAM PSYCHOLOGY
Galsworthy, John - COMPLETE PLAYS
Galsworthy, John - STRIFE
Galsworthy, John - STUDIES AND ESSAYS
Galsworthy, John - THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Galsworthy, John - THE FORSYTE SAGA
Galsworthy, John - THE LITTLE MAN
Galsworthy, John - THE SILVER BOX
Galsworthy, John - THE SKIN GAME
Gaskell, Elizabeth - CRANFORD
Gaskell, Elizabeth - MARY BARTON
Gaskell, Elizabeth - NORTH AND SOUTH
Gaskell, Elizabeth - THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Gay, John - THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
Gentile, Maria - THE ITALIAN COOK BOOK
Gilbert and Sullivan - PLAYS
Goethe - FAUST
Gogol - DEAD SOULS
Goldsmith, Oliver - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
Goldsmith, Oliver - THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Grahame, Kenneth - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Grimm, Brothers - FAIRY TALES
Harding, A. R. - GINSENG AND OTHER MEDICINAL PLANTS
Hardy, Thomas - A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES
Hardy, Thomas - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Hardy, Thomas - JUDE THE OBSCURE
Hardy, Thomas - TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
Hardy, Thomas - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE
Hartley, Cecil B. - THE GENTLEMEN'S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - LITTLE MASTERPIECES
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - THE SCARLET LETTER
Henry VIII - LOVE LETTERS TO ANNE BOLEYN
Henry, O. - CABBAGES AND KINGS
Henry, O. - SIXES AND SEVENS
Henry, O. - THE FOUR MILLION
Henry, O. - THE TRIMMED LAMP
Henry, O. - WHIRLIGIGS
Hindman Miller, Gustavus - TEN THOUSAND DREAMS INTERPRETED
Hobbes, Thomas - LEVIATHAN
Homer - THE ILIAD
Homer - THE ODYSSEY
Hornaday, William T. - THE EXTERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN BISON
Hume, David - A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE
Hume, David - AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING
Hume, David - DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION
Ibsen, Henrik - A DOLL'S HOUSE
Ibsen, Henrik - AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
Ibsen, Henrik - GHOSTS
Ibsen, Henrik - HEDDA GABLER
Ibsen, Henrik - JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN
Ibsen, Henrik - ROSMERHOLM
Ibsen, Henrik - THE LADY FROM THE SEA
Ibsen, Henrik - THE MASTER BUILDER
Ibsen, Henrik - WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN
Irving, Washington - THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
James, Henry - ITALIAN HOURS
James, Henry - THE ASPERN PAPERS
James, Henry - THE BOSTONIANS
James, Henry - THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
James, Henry - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
James, Henry - WASHINGTON SQUARE
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN IN A BOAT
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL
Jevons, Stanley - POLITICAL ECONOMY
Johnson, Samuel - A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE
Jonson, Ben - THE ALCHEMIST
Jonson, Ben - VOLPONE
Joyce, James - A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Joyce, James - CHAMBER MUSIC
Joyce, James - DUBLINERS
Joyce, James - ULYSSES
Keats, John - ENDYMION
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1817
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1820
King James - THE BIBLE
Kipling, Rudyard - CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Kipling, Rudyard - INDIAN TALES
Kipling, Rudyard - JUST SO STORIES
Kipling, Rudyard - KIM
Kipling, Rudyard - THE JUNGLE BOOK
Kipling, Rudyard - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Kipling, Rudyard - THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK
Lawrence, D. H - THE RAINBOW
Lawrence, D. H - THE WHITE PEACOCK
Lawrence, D. H - TWILIGHT IN ITALY
Lawrence, D. H. - AARON'S ROD
Lawrence, D. H. - SONS AND LOVERS
Lawrence, D. H. - THE LOST GIRL
Lawrence, D. H. - WOMEN IN LOVE
Lear, Edward - BOOK OF NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - LAUGHABLE LYRICS
Lear, Edward - MORE NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - NONSENSE SONG
Leblanc, Maurice - ARSENE LUPIN VS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Leblanc, Maurice - THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE HOLLOW NEEDLE
Leblanc, Maurice - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
Lehmann, Lilli - HOW TO SING
Leroux, Gaston - THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER
Leroux, Gaston - THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
Leroux, Gaston - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
London, Jack - MARTIN EDEN
London, Jack - THE CALL OF THE WILD
London, Jack - WHITE FANG
Machiavelli, Nicolo' - THE PRINCE
Malthus, Thomas - PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION
Mansfield, Katherine - THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES
Marlowe, Christopher - THE JEW OF MALTA
Marryat, Captain - THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
Maupassant, Guy De - BEL AMI
Melville, Hermann - MOBY DICK
Melville, Hermann - TYPEE
Mill, John Stuart - PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Milton, John - PARADISE LOST
Mitra, S. M. - HINDU TALES FROM THE SANSKRIT
Montaigne, Michel de - ESSAYS
Montgomery, Lucy Maud - ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
More, Thomas - UTOPIA
Nesbit, E. - FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
Nesbit, E. - THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET
Nesbit, E. - THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Nesbit, E. - THE STORY OF THE AMULET
Newton, Isaac - OPTICKS
Nietsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Nietsche, Friedrich - THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nightingale, Florence - NOTES ON NURSING
Owen, Wilfred - POEMS
Ozaki, Yei Theodora - JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
Pascal, Blaise - PENSEES
Pellico, Silvio - MY TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Perrault, Charles - FAIRY TALES
Pirandello, Luigi - THREE PLAYS
Plato - THE REPUBLIC
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 1
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 2
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 3
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 4
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 5
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Potter, Beatrix - THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT
Proust, Marcel - SWANN'S WAY
Radcliffe, Ann - A SICILIAN ROMANCE
Ricardo, David - ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION
Richardson, Samuel - PAMELA
Rider Haggard, H. - ALLAN QUATERMAIN
Rider Haggard, H. - KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Rousseau, J. J. - THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF INEQUALITY AMONG MANKIND
Ruskin, John - THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE
Schiller, Friedrich - THE DEATH OF WALLENSTEIN
Schiller, Friedrich - THE PICCOLOMINI
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE ART OF CONTROVERSY
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE WISDOM OF LIFE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
Scott, Walter - IVANHOE
Scott, Walter - QUENTIN DURWARD
Scott, Walter - ROB ROY
Scott, Walter - THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR
Scott, Walter - WAVERLEY
Sedgwick, Anne Douglas - THE THIRD WINDOW
Sewell, Anna - BLACK BEAUTY
Shakespeare, William - COMPLETE WORKS
Shakespeare, William - HAMLET
Shakespeare, William - OTHELLO
Shakespeare, William - ROMEO AND JULIET
Shelley, Mary - FRANKENSTEIN
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - A DEFENCE OF POETRY AND OTHER ESSAYS
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Sheridan, Richard B. - THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - QUO VADIS
Smith, Adam - THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Smollett, Tobias - TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY
Spencer, Herbert - ESSAYS ON EDUCATION AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
Spyri, Johanna - HEIDI
Sterne, Laurence - A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Sterne, Laurence - TRISTRAM SHANDY
Stevenson, Robert Louis - A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
Stevenson, Robert Louis - ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING
Stevenson, Robert Louis - KIDNAPPED
Stevenson, Robert Louis - NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE BLACK ARROW
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Stevenson, Robert Louis - TREASURE ISLAND
Stoker, Bram - DRACULA
Strindberg, August - LUCKY PEHR
Strindberg, August - MASTER OLOF
Strindberg, August - THE RED ROOM
Strindberg, August - THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Strindberg, August - THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES
Swift, Jonathan - A MODEST PROPOSAL
Swift, Jonathan - A TALE OF A TUB
Swift, Jonathan - GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
Swift, Jonathan - THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS AND OTHER SHORT PIECES
Tagore, Rabindranath - FRUIT GATHERING
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE GARDENER
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE HUNGRY STONES AND OTHER STORIES
Thackeray, William - BARRY LYNDON
Thackeray, William - VANITY FAIR
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE BOOK OF SNOBS
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE ROSE AND THE RING
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE VIRGINIANS
Thoreau, Henry David - WALDEN
Tolstoi, Leo - A LETTER TO A HINDU
Tolstoy, Lev - ANNA KARENINA
Tolstoy, Lev - WAR AND PEACE
Trollope, Anthony - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Trollope, Anthony - BARCHESTER TOWERS
Trollope, Anthony - FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
Trollope, Anthony - THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS
Trollope, Anthony - THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS MONEY IN A BOX
Trollope, Anthony - THE WARDEN
Trollope, Anthony - THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Twain, Mark - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Twain, Mark - SPEECHES
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Twain, Mark - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Vari, Autori - THE MAGNA CARTA
Verga, Giovanni - SICILIAN STORIES
Verne, Jules - 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS
Verne, Jules - A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Verne, Jules - ALL AROUND THE MOON
Verne, Jules - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Verne, Jules - FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
Verne, Jules - FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Verne, Jules - MICHAEL STROGOFF
Verne, Jules - THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Voltaire - PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Vyasa - MAHABHARATA
Wallace, Edgar - SANDERS OF THE RIVER
Wallace, Edgar - THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
Wallace, Lew - BEN HUR
Webster, Jean - DADDY LONG LEGS
Wedekind, Franz - THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
Wells, H. G. - KIPPS
Wells, H. G. - THE INVISIBLE MAN
Wells, H. G. - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Wells, H. G. - THE STOLEN BACILLUS AND OTHER INCIDENTS
Wells, H. G. - THE TIME MACHINE
Wells, H. G. - THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Wells, H. G. - WHAT IS COMING
Wharton, Edith - THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
White, Andrew Dickson - FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE
Wilde, Oscar - A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Wilde, Oscar - AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Wilde, Oscar - DE PROFUNDIS
Wilde, Oscar - LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN
Wilde, Oscar - SALOME
Wilde, Oscar - SELECTED POEMS
Wilde, Oscar - THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Wilde, Oscar - THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
Wilde, Oscar - THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES
Wilde, Oscar - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
Wilde, Oscar - THE SOUL OF MAN
Wilson, Epiphanius - SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
Woolf, Virgina - NIGHT AND DAY
Woolf, Virgina - THE VOYAGE OUT
Woolf, Virginia - JACOB'S ROOM
Woolf, Virginia - MONDAY OR TUESDAY
Wordsworth, William - POEMS
Wordsworth, William - PROSE WORKS
Zola, Emile - THERESE RAQUIN
Clicca sul pulsante qui sopra per iscriverti alla nostra newsletter gratuita che
ti informerà su tutte le nostre novità e iniziative!
legge il testo inglese con una perfetta pronuncia
britannica e con il magico effetto karaoke. Per attivarlo clicca sul
pulsante Ascolta il testo che si trova qui sotto. Puoi anche
selezionare una parola, frase o porzione di testo e ascoltare solo
quella cliccando sul simbolino di altoparlante che apparirà vicino alla
porzione di testo selezionata.
Translate: selezionando con il mouse una qualsiasi porzione di testo,
FGA Translate te la traduce istantaneamente in una finestrella pop-up.
Per evitare eventuali conflitti tra ReadSpeaker e FGA Translate puoi
deselezionare quest'ultimo togliendo la spunta qui sopra.
ISTRUZIONI D'USO DETTAGLIATE
BY ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
MEMOIRS OF THE ADVENTURES OF
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
WRITTEN BY HIMSELF AND NOW SET FORTH BY
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
WITH A PREFACE BY MRS. STEVENSON
PREFACE TO THE BIOGRAPHICAL EDITION
While my husband and Mr. Henley were engaged in writing plays in
Bournemouth they made a number of titles, hoping to use them in the
future. Dramatic composition was not what my husband preferred, but
the torrent of Mr. Henley's enthusiasm swept him off his feet. However,
after several plays had been finished, and his health seriously impaired
by his endeavours to keep up with Mr. Henley, play writing was abandoned
forever, and my husband returned to his legitimate vocation. Having
added one of the titles, The Hanging Judge, to the list of projected
plays, now thrown aside, and emboldened by my husband's offer to give me
any help needed, I concluded to try and write it myself.
As I wanted a trial scene in the Old Bailey, I chose the period of 1700
for my purpose; but being shamefully ignorant of my subject, and my
husband confessing to little more knowledge than I possessed, a London
bookseller was commissioned to send us everything he could procure
bearing on Old Bailey trials. A great package came in response to our
order, and very soon we were both absorbed, not so much in the trials
as in following the brilliant career of a Mr. Garrow, who appeared as
counsel in many of the cases. We sent for more books, and yet more,
still intent on Mr. Garrow, whose subtle cross-examination of witnesses
and masterly, if sometimes startling, methods of arriving at the truth
seemed more thrilling to us than any novel.
Occasionally other trials than those of the Old Bailey would be included
in the package of books we received from London; among these my husband
found and read with avidity:--
in Aucharn in Duror of Appin
Murder of COLIN CAMPBELL of Glenure, Efq;
Factor for His Majefty on the forfeited
Estate of Ardfhiel.
My husband was always interested in this period of his country's
history, and had already the intention of writing a story that should
turn on the Appin murder. The tale was to be of a boy, David Balfour,
supposed to belong to my husband's own family, who should travel in
Scotland as though it were a foreign country, meeting with various
adventures and misadventures by the way. From the trial of James Stewart
my husband gleaned much valuable material for his novel, the most
important being the character of Alan Breck. Aside from having described
him as "smallish in stature," my husband seems to have taken Alan
Breck's personal appearance, even to his clothing, from the book.
A letter from James Stewart to Mr. John Macfarlane, introduced as
evidence in the trial, says: "There is one Alan Stewart, a distant
friend of the late Ardshiel's, who is in the French service, and came
over in March last, as he said to some, in order to settle at home; to
others, that he was to go soon back; and was, as I hear, the day that
the murder was committed, seen not far from the place where it happened,
and is not now to be seen; by which it is believed he was the actor. He
is a desperate foolish fellow; and if he is guilty, came to the country
for that very purpose. He is a tall, pock-pitted lad, very black hair,
and wore a blue coat and metal buttons, an old red vest, and breeches of
the same colour." A second witness testified to having seen him wearing
"a blue coat with silver buttons, a red waistcoat, black shag breeches,
tartan hose, and a feathered hat, with a big coat, dun coloured," a
costume referred to by one of the counsel as "French cloathes which were
There are many incidents given in the trial that point to Alan's fiery
spirit and Highland quickness to take offence. One witness "declared
also That the said Alan Breck threatened that he would challenge
Ballieveolan and his sons to fight because of his removing the
declarant last year from Glenduror." On another page: "Duncan Campbell,
change-keeper at Annat, aged thirty-five years, married, witness cited,
sworn, purged and examined ut supra, depones, That, in the month of
April last, the deponent met with Alan Breck Stewart, with whom he was
not acquainted, and John Stewart, in Auchnacoan, in the house of the
walk miller of Auchofragan, and went on with them to the house: Alan
Breck Stewart said, that he hated all the name of Campbell; and the
deponent said, he had no reason for doing so: But Alan said, he had very
good reason for it: that thereafter they left that house; and, after
drinking a dram at another house, came to the deponent's house, where
they went in, and drunk some drams, and Alan Breck renewed the former
Conversation; and the deponent, making the same answer, Alan said, that,
if the deponent had any respect for his friends, he would tell them,
that if they offered to turn out the possessors of Ardshiel's estate, he
would make black cocks of them, before they entered into possession by
which the deponent understood shooting them, it being a common phrase in
Some time after the publication of Kidnapped we stopped for a short
while in the Appin country, where we were surprised and interested to
discover that the feeling concerning the murder of Glenure (the "Red
Fox," also called "Colin Roy") was almost as keen as though the tragedy
had taken place the day before. For several years my husband received
letters of expostulation or commendation from members of the Campbell
and Stewart clans. I have in my possession a paper, yellow with age,
that was sent soon after the novel appeared, containing "The Pedigree of
the Family of Appine," wherein it is said that "Alan 3rd Baron of Appine
was not killed at Flowdoun, tho there, but lived to a great old age. He
married Cameron Daughter to Ewen Cameron of Lochiel." Following this
is a paragraph stating that "John Stewart 1st of Ardsheall of his
descendants Alan Breck had better be omitted. Duncan Baan Stewart in
Achindarroch his father was a Bastard."
One day, while my husband was busily at work, I sat beside him reading
an old cookery book called The Compleat Housewife: or Accomplish'd
Gentlewoman's Companion. In the midst of receipts for "Rabbits, and
Chickens mumbled, Pickled Samphire, Skirret Pye, Baked Tansy," and
other forgotten delicacies, there were directions for the preparation
of several lotions for the preservation of beauty. One of these was so
charming that I interrupted my husband to read it aloud. "Just what
I wanted!" he exclaimed; and the receipt for the "Lily of the Valley
Water" was instantly incorporated into Kidnapped.
F. V. DE G. S.
MY DEAR CHARLES BAXTER:
If you ever read this tale, you will likely ask yourself more questions
than I should care to answer: as for instance how the Appin murder has
come to fall in the year 1751, how the Torran rocks have crept so near
to Earraid, or why the printed trial is silent as to all that touches
David Balfour. These are nuts beyond my ability to crack. But if you
tried me on the point of Alan's guilt or innocence, I think I could
defend the reading of the text. To this day you will find the tradition
of Appin clear in Alan's favour. If you inquire, you may even hear that
the descendants of "the other man" who fired the shot are in the country
to this day. But that other man's name, inquire as you please, you shall
not hear; for the Highlander values a secret for itself and for the
congenial exercise of keeping it. I might go on for long to justify one
point and own another indefensible; it is more honest to confess at once
how little I am touched by the desire of accuracy. This is no furniture
for the scholar's library, but a book for the winter evening school-room
when the tasks are over and the hour for bed draws near; and honest
Alan, who was a grim old fire-eater in his day has in this new avatar
no more desperate purpose than to steal some young gentleman's attention
from his Ovid, carry him awhile into the Highlands and the last century,
and pack him to bed with some engaging images to mingle with his dreams.
As for you, my dear Charles, I do not even ask you to like this tale.
But perhaps when he is older, your son will; he may then be pleased to
find his father's name on the fly-leaf; and in the meanwhile it pleases
me to set it there, in memory of many days that were happy and some (now
perhaps as pleasant to remember) that were sad. If it is strange for
me to look back from a distance both in time and space on these bygone
adventures of our youth, it must be stranger for you who tread the same
streets--who may to-morrow open the door of the old Speculative,
where we begin to rank with Scott and Robert Emmet and the beloved and
inglorious Macbean--or may pass the corner of the close where that great
society, the L. J. R., held its meetings and drank its beer, sitting in
the seats of Burns and his companions. I think I see you, moving there
by plain daylight, beholding with your natural eyes those places that
have now become for your companion a part of the scenery of dreams. How,
in the intervals of present business, the past must echo in your memory!
Let it not echo often without some kind thoughts of your friend,
R.L.S. SKERRYVORE, BOURNEMOUTH.
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 MULL
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 IN BALQUHIDDER
XXVI END OF THE FLIGHT: WE PASS THE FORTH
XXVII I COME TO MR. RANKEILLOR
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 in silence.
"Are ye sorry to leave Essendean?" said he, after awhile.
"Why, sir," said I, "if I knew where I was going, or what was 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 good will."
"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 brother."
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
"Mr. Campbell," I stammered, "and if you were in my shoes, would you
"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 ye 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
"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 blood.
"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 added:
"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
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 nane of 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, I
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 beggar's knock!
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 dog barked.
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
"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 very wroth.
"Well," was the reply, "ye can put it down upon the doorstep, and be off
"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 considerable
"I am not ashamed of my name," said I. "They call me David Balfour."
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 he disappeared from the
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
"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 kitchen.
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
"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 (moistens) 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 letter."
"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
"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, nae doubt?"
"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
"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
"I never knew, sir, till you told it me yourself, that he had any
"Dear me, dear me!" said Ebenezer. "Nor yet of Shaws, I dare say?"
"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
* Dark as the pit.
"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 the outside.
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 speedily asleep.
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 called it.
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 helpless.
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
"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 grateful."
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 Clouston's message.
"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 clerk."
* Sold up.
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 prices."
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 face.
"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."
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 my distrust.
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
"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 should-nae 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
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 to me.
"Davie," he said, at length, "I've been thinking;" then he 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 answered--
"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 again."
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
"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 thank him.
"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
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 pocket 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 heart.
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
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 body.
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
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!" cried I.
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." His 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 will."
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
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
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
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 a 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, "ELIAS HOSEASON."* Agent.
"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 father."
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
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
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 me 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,
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
"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 vengeance.
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
He seemed to waken from a dream. "Eh?" he said. "What's that?"
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 unco hot."
"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 seas."
"Well, well, captain," replied my uncle, "we must all be the way we're
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
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 places.
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 relative.
I told him no, none.
"I thought not," said he, "and yet ye have a kind of gliff* of Mr.
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
"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 eldest son?"
"'Deed was he," said the landlord. "What else would he have killed him
And with that he went away, as he had been impatient to do from the
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 equality.
"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
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 point."
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 terror.
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 senseless.
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 appeared, 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 shown.
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 scalp.
"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
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 to myself.
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,
"Now, sir, you see for yourself," said the first: "a high fever, no
appetite, no light, no meat: you see for yourself what that means."
"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
"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 began.
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
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
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 notion.
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 whole story.
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." And he 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
"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 officers' 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
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
"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 me.
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 and sat 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
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 enemy.
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
"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 be 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 of them.
"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?" And 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 own).
"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 wall."
"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
"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 he, "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 soldiers?"
"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
"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 stranger.
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
"And so you're a Jacobite?" said I, as I set meat before him.
"Ay," said he, beginning to eat. "And you, by your long face, should be
* Whig or Whigamore was the cant name for those who were
loyal to King George.
"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
"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: "Couldn't we
wile him out of the round-house?"
"He's better where he is," returned Hoseason; "he hasn't room to use his
"Well, that's true," said Riach; "but he's hard to come at."
"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
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, and 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
the pistols are?"
"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 then 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
"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 had.
"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 defences.
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 of your landed
estate, and so will make so bold as to call you David--that door, being
open, is the best part of my defences."
"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 find them."
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 me charge.
"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 doesn'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
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 strangely.
"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 your head?"
"To be sure!" cried I. "I must hear the bursting of the glass!"
"Ye have some rudiments of sense," said Alan, grimly.
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 foot.
"A naked sword?" says he. "This is a strange return for hospitality."
"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;" and the 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
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 turning to me,
he asked if I had done much execution.
I told him I had winged one, and thought it was the captain.
"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
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 the piper."
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 in earnest."
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
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
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
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. Another 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 cheeks. "David," said he, "I love
you like a brother. And O, man," he cried in a 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 than justice.
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
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 after.
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 follow."
"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!" says he.
"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 peetiful!"
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."
*Coble: a small boat used in fishing.
"A coble's not a ship, sir," said the captain. "It has nae draught of
"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 ye there."
"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
"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
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
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
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
"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 angry."
"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 red-coats."
"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 forty-six!"
"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,
"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
"I call it noble," I cried. "I'm a Whig, or little better; but I call it
"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
"And who is the Red Fox?" I asked, daunted, but still curious.
"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 French roadside.'"
"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 my vengeance!"
"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
"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 mind."
"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
"Ye're a good lad in a fight," said Alan; "but, man! ye have Whig blood
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
"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
And with this Alan fell into a muse, and for a long time sate very sad
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 door.
"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
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 lar-board 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 Torran
"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
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 fancy!"
"What, Alan!" I cried, "you're not afraid?"
"No," said he, wetting his lips, "but you'll allow, yourself, it's a
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
"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 windward!"
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
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
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 something 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 nor afraid.
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
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 margin.
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
"Well," thought I to myself, "if I cannot get as far as that, it's
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
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 more unhappy.
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
I had borne up well until this last disappointment; but at that I came
ashore, and flung myself down upon the sands and wept.
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
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 a bog.
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
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
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
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
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
"Do you mean when the tide is out--?" I cried, and could not finish.
"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 island.
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 watched 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 throat.
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
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 the sun.
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 in dress.
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 Torosay."
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
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 to Torosay.
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 with me."
The impudent cheat answered me in the Gaelic that he had no English.
"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 there."
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 misfortune.
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 English?"
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 fell.
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
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 an eagle.
"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 wonder.
"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 his
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 catechist."
"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 the heart.
Then I understood this was an emigrant ship bound for the American
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
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 Hieland shentleman."
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
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 clerical style.
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 weapons.
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 country.
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 than once.
"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 it."
"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
"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 bees' byke!"
"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 of
"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 Stewarts."
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
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 I 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 than myself.
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 passed.
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 bright steel.
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 many 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 Aucharn."
"Glenure," said the other, "this is an ill subject for jesting."
These two had now drawn close up and were gazing at me, while the two
followers had halted about a stone-cast in the rear.
"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 stopped.
"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
"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 my back."
"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 no 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
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 below me.
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 accomplice.
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.
"Jock* 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 the birches.
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 Balachulish; 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 himself 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
"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 security, 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 forgetting, David."
"And yet there was one thing I saw clearly," said I; "and that was, that
you exposed yourself and me to draw the soldiers."
"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 soldiers."
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 they were.
"Alan," said I, "I'll not say it's the good Christianity as I understand
it, but it's good enough. And here I offer ye my hand for the second
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
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 no 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
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 back 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
"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 or needful.
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 Appin.
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 Dysart.
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
"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 before.
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
"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 he 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
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 repeatedly.
"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
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
"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 again.
"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
"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
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
"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 background.
"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 the risk."
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
"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."
* The rallying-word of the Campbells.
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 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 a 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 and shuddered.
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 landed safe.
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 at me with some
amusement, "Ye're no very gleg* at the jumping," said he.
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 the river.
"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 ordinar'."
"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 the like.
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
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
"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 them."
"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
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 memoirs.
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 us
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 wonderfully 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 the heather.
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
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
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 behold
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 delicious.
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
"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
"Now," said he, "there is a little clachan" (what is called 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."
*A bouman is a tenant who takes stock from the landlord and
shares with him the increase.
"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 ME."
"Well," said I, "it may be. But even supposing so, there is 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 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 on him."
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
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 of terror.
Alan would have had him carry a message to James; but the bouman would
hear of no message. "She was forget it," he said in 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
"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 the hill.
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 safety.
"Alan," said I, "you should change your clothes."
"Na, troth!" said Alan, "I have nae others. A fine sight I 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
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 Alan.
"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 well 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 and I (getting our
chattels together) struck into another to resume our flight.
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
"David," said Alan, "this is the kittle bit. Shall we lie here till it
comes night, or shall we risk it, and stave on ahead?"
"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 of us."
"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 enterprise.
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 been dozing.
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 is 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 yet."
"But, Alan," cried I, "that will take us across the very coming of the
"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 endurance.
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 sleep.
"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 me.
"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
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.
* Village fair.
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
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
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 arrival."
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 me.
"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
♥ FINE AREA VOCALIZZATA CON READSPEAKER
Prodotti straordinari per le tue lingue
online il primo numero di
l'anglorivista che mette il turbo al tuo inglese, l'unica con
pronuncia guidata e doppia traduzione italiana per capire sempre
Leggi il n. 1 gratis!
Acquista gli arretrati
Cosa dicono i lettori
- A chi serve
Total Audio, la versione del
corso 20 ORE fatta
apposta per chi come te passa tanto tempo viaggiando! Ideale per
chi fa il pendolare o compie ogni giorno lunghi tragitti sui
mezzi. Sfrutta anche tu i tempi morti per imparare o migliorare
il tuo inglese!
CORSI 20 ORE - I corsi di lingue più
completi per una preparazione di base superiore alla media in 5