ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
/" si~: himl pass his /sword through the iiate's body.
Drawn by HOWARD PYLE.
w THE NOVELS AND
NEW YORK BY
SONS X t 1896 t
THE ADVENTURES OF DAVID BALFOUR
HOW HE WAS KIDNAPPED AND CAST AWAY; HIS SUFFERINGS IN A
DESERT ISLE; HIS JOURNEY IN THE WILD HIGHLANDS; HIS ACQUAINT-
ANCE WITH ALAN BRECK STEWART AND OTHER NOTORIOUS HIGH-
LAND JACOBITES; WITH ALL THAT HE SUFFERED AT THE HANDS OF
HIS UNCLE, EBENEZER BALFOUR OF SHAWS, FALSELY SO-CALLED:
WRITTEN BY HIMSELF, AND NOW SET FORTH BY
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
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 mur-
der 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 indefen-
sible; 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 des-
perate 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
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 mean-
while 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.
I SET OFF UPON MY JOURNEY TO THE HOUSE OF
SHAW S . . . .
I COME TO MY JOURNEY'S END . . 7
I MAKE ACQUAINTANCE OF MY UNCLE. . 14
I RUN A GREAT DANGER IN THE HOUSE OF SHAWS 23
I GO TO THE QUEEN'S FERRY .... .. 33
WHAT BEFELL AT THE QUEEN'S FERRY .. 41
I GO TO SEA IN THE BRIG "COVENANT" OF DYSART 48
THE ROUND-HOUSE . . .. 57
THE MAN WITH THE BELT CF GOLD . .. .64
THE SIEGE OF THE ROUND-HOUSE . ... .76
THE CAPTAIN KNUCKLES UNDER . ... 85
I HEAR OF THE "RED FOX" . ... 9
THE LOSS OF THE BRIG. . . ... 10o2
THE ISLET .... . . .. .1lo
THE LAD WITH THE SILVER BUTTON: THROUGH THE
ISLE OF MULL . .. 122
THE LAD WITH THE SILVER BUTTON: ACROSS MORVEN 132
THE DEATH OF THE RED FOX .. . .. 142
I TALK WITH ALAN IN THE WOOD OF LETTERMORE 150
THE HOUSE OF FEAR . . . 161
THE FLIGHT IN THE HEATHER: THE ROCKS . 170
THE FLIGHT IN THE HEATHER: THE HEUGH OF COR-
THE FLIGHT IN THE HEATHER: THE MOOR . 191
CLUNY'S CAGE . . . . 20o
THE FLIGHT IN THE HEATHER: THE QUARREL. 212
IN BALQUHIDDER . . . 225
END OF THE FLIGHT: WE PASS THE FORTH 234
I COME TO MR. RANKEILLOR . .. .248
I GO IN QUEST OF MY INHERITANCE . .. 258
I COME INTO MY KINGDOM . . .268
GOOD-BYE! . . . . 277
y ^ SKETCH of the CRUISE of the BRIG COVENANT
S, And the probable course of DAVID BALFOUR'S WANDERINGS.
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ILE OF MILS,
lO-tOSO ____ iy
I SET OFF UPON MY JOURNEY TO THE HOUSE OF SHAWS
I WILL begin the story of my adventures with a cer-
tain 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 wait-
ing 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 a
"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 let-
ter 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 liked 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 de-
cayed. Your father, too, was a man of learning as be-
fitted his position; no man more plausibly conducted
school; nor had he the manner or the speech of a com-
MY JOURNEY TO THE HOUSE OF SHAWS
mon 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, super-
scrived 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 be-
fore a lad of seventeen years of age, the son of a poor
country dominie in the Forest of Ettrick.
"Mr. Campbell," I stammered, "and if you were in
my shoes, would you go ?"
"Of a surety," said the minister, "that would I, and
without pause. A pretty lad like you should get to
Cramond (which is near in by Edinburgh) in two days
of walk. If the worst came to the worst, and your high
relations (as I cannot but suppose them to be some-
what 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 re-
ceived, 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 in-
stant 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 inhabit-
"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 hon-
our. It's a pleasure to obey a laird; or should be, to the
"Well, sir," said I, "it may be; and I'll promise you
I'll try to make it so."
"Why, very well said," replied Mr. Campbell, heart-
ily. "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
MY JOURNEY TO THE HOUSE OF SHAWS
Mrs. Campbell and myself would be blithe of your ac-
ceptance. 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 land."
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
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 pal-
sey. It is good against the Gout; it comforts the heart and strength-
ens 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 spoone-
ful in the hour."
To be sure, I laughed over this; but it was rather
tremulous laughter; and I was glad to get my bundle
on my staff's end and set out over the ford and up the
hill upon the farther side; till, just as I came on the
green drove-road running wide through the heather, I
took my last look of Kirk Essendean, the trees about
the manse, and the big rowans in the kirkyard where
my father and my mother lay.
I COME TO MY JOURNEY'S END
ON the forenoon of the second day, coming to the
top of a hill, I saw all the country fall away before me
down to the sea; and in the midst of this descent, on
a long ridge, the city of Edinburgh smoking like a kiln.
There was a flag upon the castle, and ships moving or
lying anchored in the firth; both of which, for as far
away as they were, I could distinguish clearly; and both
brought my country heart into my mouth.
Presently after, I came by a house where a shepherd
lived, and got a rough direction for the neighbourhood
of Cramond; and so, from one to another, worked my
way to the westward of the capital by Colinton, till I
came out upon the Glasgow road. And there, to my
great pleasure and wonder, I beheld a regiment march-
ing 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
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, con-
sorted 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
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
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
"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."
I COME TO MY JOURNEY'S END
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 illu-
sions. 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 cur-
rent 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
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
I COME TO MY JOURNEY'S END
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
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 un-
roofed 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
I came forward cautiously, and giving ear as I came,
heard someone 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. Bal-
four. I was in full career, when I heard the cough right
overhead, and jumping back and looking up, beheld a
man's head in a tall nightcap, and the bell mouth of a
blunderbuss, at one of the first-storey windows.
It's loaded," said a voice.
"I have come here with a letter," I said, "to Mr.
Ebenezer Balfour of Shaws. Is he here ? "
"From whom is it?" asked the man with the blun-
"That is neither here nor there," said I, for I was
growing very wroth.
I COME TO MY JOURNEY'S END
"Well," was the reply, "ye can put it down upon
the doorstep, and be off with ye."
"I will do no such thing," I cried. "I will deliver
it into Mr. Balfour's hands, as it was meant I should.
It is a letter of introduction."
"A what?" cried the voice, sharply.
I repeated what I had said.
"Who are ye, yourself ?" was the next question, af-
ter a considerable pause.
"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 win-
I MAKE ACQUAINTANCE OF MY UNCLE
PRESENTLY there came a great rattling of chains and
bolts, and the door was cautiously opened and shut to
again behind me as soon as I had passed.
"Go into the kitchen and touch naething," said the
voice; and while the person of the house set himself to
replacing the defences of the door, I groped my way
forward and entered the 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 lock-fast 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 any-
thing 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
I MAKE ACQUAINTANCE OF MY UNCLE
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 slockens1 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
"You know my father's name ?"
"It would be strange if I didnae," he returned, "for
he was my born brother; and little as ye seem to like
either me or my house, or my good parritch, I'm your
born uncle, Davie, my man, and you my born nephew.
So give us the letter, and sit down and fill your kyte."
If I had been some years younger, what with shame,
weariness, and disappointment, I believe I had burst
into tears. As it was, I could find no words, neither
black nor white, but handed him the letter, and sat
down to the porridge with as little appetite for meat as
ever a young man had.
Meanwhile, my uncle, stooping over the fire, turned
the letter over and over in his hands.
"Do ye ken what's in it ?" he asked, suddenly.
"You see for yourself, sir," said I, that the seal has
not been broken."
"Ay," said he, "but what brought you here?"
"To give the letter," said I.
"No," says he, cunningly, "but ye'll have had some
hopes, 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
I MAKE ACQUAINTANCE OF MY UNCLE
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 dis-
use of any human company; and whether perhaps,
upon a little trial, it might pass off, and my uncle change
into an altogether different man. From this I was
awakened by his sharp voice.
"Your father's been long dead ?" he asked.
"Three weeks, sir," said I.
"He was a secret man, Alexander--a secret, silent
man," he continued. "He never said muckle when he
was young. He'll never have spoken muckle of me ? "
"I never knew, sir, till you told it me yourself, that
he had any brother."
"Dear me, dear me!" said Ebenezer. "Nor yet of
Shaws, I daresay ? "
"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 per-
son; 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
"Neither moon nor star, sir, and pit-mirk,"' said I.
"I cannae see the bed."
Hoot-toot, hoot-toot! said he. Lights in a house
is a thing I dinnae agree with. I'm unco feared of fires.
Good night to ye, Davie, my man." And before I had
time to add a further protest, he pulled the door to, and
I heard him lock me in from 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
1 Dark as the pit.
I MAKE ACQUAINTANCE OF MY UNCLE
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 sur-
prise, 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
"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
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 an-
other 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 when 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 seek-
ing you; and if you show me your door again, I'll take
you at the word."
He seemed grievously put out. "Hoots-toots," said
he, ca' cannie, man ca' cannie! Bide a day or two.
I'm nae warlock, to find a fortune for you in the bottom
of a parritch bowl; but just you give me a day or two,
and say naething to naebody, and as sure as sure, I'll do
the right by you."
"Very well," said I, "enough said. If you want to
help me, there's no doubt but I'll be glad of it, and none
but I'll be grateful."
1 MAKE ACQUAINTANCE OF MY UNCLE
It seemed to me (too soon, I daresay) that I was get-
ting 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! 1 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."
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 anyway, 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 yourself' 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
1 Sold up.
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 a while. I could see him all trembling and twitch-
ing, 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 a while. 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
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 in 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 noth-
ing 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
"Alexander? No him!" was the reply. "I was far
quicker myself ; 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
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, blink-
ing and winking strangely.
"What do you mean?" I asked, very calmly, for I
was far stronger than he, and not easily frightened.
"Take your hand from my jacket. This is no way to
My uncle seemed to make a great effort upon him-
self. "Dod man, David," he said, "ye shouldnae speak
to me about your father. That's where the mistake is."
He sat awhile and shook, blinking in his plate: "He
was all the brother that ever I had," he added, but with
no heart in his voice; and then he caught up his spoon
and fell to supper again, but still shaking.
Now this last passage, this laying of hands upon my
I RUN A GREAT DANGER IN THE HOUSE OF SHAWS
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 dan-
gerous; 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
With this notion, all unacknowledged, but neverthe-
less 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 smok-
ing, 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, "Scots!"
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 some-
thing thundery and changeful in the weather, and little
knew of what a vast importance that should prove to
me before the evening passed.
When I was called in again, my uncle counted out
into my hand seven and thirty golden guinea pieces;
the rest was in his hand, in small gold and silver; but
his heart failed him there and he crammed the change
into his pocket.
"There," said he, "that'll show you! I'm a queer
man, and strange wi' strangers; but my word is my
bond, and there's the proof of it."
I RUN A GREAT DANGER IN THE HOUSE OF SHAWS
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 care-
ful 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 prop-
erly, 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
"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 moan-
ing 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 stair-tower 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, with-
out 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 lower-
most 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
I RUN A GREAT DANGER IN THE HOUSE OF SHAWS
change, when a second blink of the summer lightning
came and went. If I did not cry out, it was because
fear had me by the throat; and if I did not fall, it was
more by Heaven's mercy than my own strength. It
was not only that the flash shone in on every side
through breaches in the wall, so that I seemed to be
clambering aloft upon an open scaffold, but the same
passing brightness showed me the steps were of unequal
length, and that one of my feet rested that moment
within two inches of the well.
This was the grand stair! I thought; and with the
thought, a gust of a kind of angry courage came into
my heart. My uncle had sent me here, certainly to run
great risks, perhaps to die. I swore I would settle that
"perhaps," if I should break my neck for it; got me
down upon my hands and knees; and as slowly as a
snail, feeling before me every inch, and testing the solid-
ity of every stone, I continued to ascend the stair. The
darkness, by contrast with the flash, appeared to have
redoubled; nor was that all, for my ears were now
troubled and my mind confounded by a great stir of
bats in the top part of the tower, and the foul beasts,
flying downwards, sometimes beat about my face and
The tower, I should have said, was square; and in
every corner the step was made of a great stone of a
different shape, to join the flights. Well, I had come
close to one of these turns, when, feeling forward as
usual, my hand slipped upon an edge and found noth-
ing but emptiness beyond it. The stair had been carried
no higher: to set a stranger mounting it in the darkness
was to send him straight to his death; and (although,
thanks to the lightning and my own precautions, I was
safe enough) the mere thought of the peril in which I
might have stood, and the dreadful height I might have
fallen from, brought out the sweat upon my body and
relaxed my joints.
But I knew what I wanted now, and turned and
groped my way down again, with a wonderful anger in
my heart. About half-way down, the wind sprang up
in a clap and shook the tower, and died again; the rain
followed; and before I had reached the ground level it
fell in buckets. I put out my head into the storm, and
looked along towards the kitchen. The door, which I
had shut behind me when I left, now stood open, and
shed a little glimmer of light; and I thought I could see
a figure standing in the rain, quite still, like a man
hearkening. And then there came a blinding flash,
which showed me my uncle plainly, just where I had
fancied him to stand; and hard upon the heels of it, a
great tow-row of thunder.
Now, whether my uncle thought the crash to be the
sound of my fall, or whether he heard in it God's voice
denouncing murder, I will leave you to guess. Certain
it is, at least, that he was seized on by a kind of panic fear,
and that he ran into the house and left the door open
behind him. I followed as softly as I could, and, coming
unheard into the kitchen, stood and watched him.
He had found time to open the corner cupboard and
bring out a great case bottle of aqua vite, 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 RUN A GREAT DANGER IN THE HOUSE OF SHAWS
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 High-
land dirk without the scabbard. This, then, I con-
cealed 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. 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
"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 be-
fore 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
"I'll tell ye the morn," he said; "as sure as death I
And so weak was he that I could do nothing but con-
sent. I locked him into his room, however, and pock-
eted the key; and then returning to the kitchen, made
up such a blaze as had not shone there for many a long
year, and wrapping myself in my plaid, lay down upon
the chests and fell asleep.
I GO TO THE QUEEN'S FERRY
MUCH rain fell in the night; and the next morning
there blew a bitter wintry wind out of the north-west,
driving scattered clouds. For all that, and before the
sun began to peep or the last of the stars had vanished,
I made my way to the side of the burn, and had a
plunge in a deep whirling pool. All aglow from my
bath, I sat down once more beside the fire, which I re-
plenished, and began gravely to consider my position.
There was now no doubt about my uncle's enmity;
there was no doubt I carried my life in my hand, and he
would leave no stone unturned that he might compass
my destruction. But I was young and spirited, and like
most lads that have been country-bred, I had a great
opinion of my shrewdness. I had come to his door no
better than a beggar and little more than a child; he had
met me with treachery and violence; it would be a fine
consummation to take the upper hand, and drive him
like a herd of sheep.
I sat there nursing my knee and smiling at the fire;
and I saw myself in fancy smell out his secrets one after
another, and grow to be that man's king and ruler. The
warlock of Essendean, they say, had made a mirror in
which men could read the future; it must have been of
other stuff than burning coal; for in all the shapes and
pictures that I sat and gazed at, there was never a ship,
never a seaman with a hairy cap, never a big bludgeon
for my silly head, or the least sign of all those tribula-
tions 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
I GO TO THE QUEEN'S FERRY
blue with the cold; and there was something in his face,
a look between tears and laughter, that was highly pa-
thetic 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.
"0, 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 Heasy-oasy 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 far-
thest 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 informed. 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,l
Mr. Rankeillor; of which, if not speedily redd up, you may looke to
see some losses follow. I have drawn a bill upon you, as per margin,
and am, sir, your most obedt., humble servant,
"You see, Davie," resumed my uncle, as soon as he
saw that I had done, I have a venture with this man
Hoseason, the captain of a trading brig, the Covenant,
of Dysart. Now, if you and me was to walk over with
yon lad, I could see the captain at the Hawes, or may-
be 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 swier2 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 propos-
ing it; and, perhaps, in the bottom of my heart, I wished
a nearer view of the sea and ships. You are to remem-
ber 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.
1 Agent. 2 Unwilling.
I GO TO THE QUEEN'S FERRY
Very well, says I, let us go to the Ferry."
My uncle got into his hat and coat, and buckled an
old rusty cutlass on; and then we trod the fire out,
locked the door, and set forth upon our walk.
The wind, being in that cold quarter the north-west,
blew nearly in our faces, as we went. It was the month
of June; the grass was all white with daisies and the
trees with blossom; but, to judge by our blue nails and
aching wrists, the time might have been winter and the
whiteness a December frost.
Uncle Ebenezer trudged in the ditch, jogging from
side to side like an old ploughman coming home from
work. He never said a word the whole way; and I
was thrown for talk on the cabin-boy. He told me his
name was Ransome, and that he had followed the sea
since he was nine, but could not say how old he was,
as he had lost his reckoning. He showed me tattoo
marks, baring his breast in the teeth of the wind and in
spite of my remonstrances, for I thought it was enough
to kill him; he swore horribly whenever he remembered,
but more like a silly schoolboy than a man; and boasted
of many wild and bad things that he had done: stealthy
thefts, false accusations, ay, and even murder; but all
with such a dearth of likelihood in the details, and such
a weak and crazy swagger in the delivery, as disposed
me rather to pity than to believe him.
I asked him of the brig (which he declared was the
finest ship that sailed) and of Captain Hoseason, in whose
praises he was equally loud. Heasy-oasy (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
ofjudgment;" 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 turn-
ing 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 han-
"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, ugly oath.
I have never felt such pity for anyone in this wide
world as I felt for that half-witted creature; and it be-
gan to come over me that the brig Covenant (for all her
pious name) was little better than a hell upon the seas.
"Have you no friends ?" said I.
He said he had a father in some English seaport, I for-
get which. "He was a fine man, too," he said; "but
"In Heaven's name," cried I, "can you find no repu-
table life on shore ?"
"0, 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!"
1 GO TO THE QUEEN'S FERRY
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.
0, 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 un-
happy 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 land-
locked 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 pas-
sengers. A skiff, however, lay beside the pier, with
some seamen sleeping on the thwarts; this, as Ransome
told me, was the brig's boat waiting for the captain;
and about half a mile off, and all alone in the anchorage,
he showed me the Covenant herself. There was a sea-
going bustle on board; yards were swinging into place;
and as the wind blew from that quarter, I could hear the
song of the sailors as they pulled upon the ropes. After
all I had listened to upon the way, I looked at that ship
with an extreme abhorrence; and from the bottom of
my heart I pitied all poor souls that were condemned to
sail in her.
We had all three pulled up on the brow of the hill;
and now I marched across the road and addressed my
uncle. "I think it right to tell you, sir," says I, "there's
nothing that will bring me on board that Covenant."
He seemed to waken from a dream. "Eh ?" he said.
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 writ-
ing. 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 stu-
dious and self-possessed, than this ship-captain.
He got to his feet at once, and coming forward, of-
fered 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 burn-
ing 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 made."
But it chanced that this fancy of the captain's had a
great share in my misfortunes. For though I had prom-
ised 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 a while,"
I was fool enough to take him at his word.
Away I went, therefore, leaving the two men sitting
down to a bottle and a great mass of papers; and cross-
ing the road in front of the inn, walked down upon the
beach. With the wind in that quarter, only little wave-
lets, 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 exceed-
ingly salt and stirring; the Covenant, besides, was be-
ginning 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 des-
perate 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
WHAT BEFELL AT THE QUEEN'S FERRY
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,
0, 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 gliff1 of Mr. Alexander."
I said it seemed that Ebenezer was ill-seen in the
"Nae doubt," said the landlord. "He's a wicked
auld man, and there's many would like to see him girn-
ing in the tow:1 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
sough2 gaed abroad about Mr. Alexander; that was
like the death of him."
"And what was it ? I asked.
Ou, just that he had killed him," said the landlord.
"Did ye never hear that ? "
"And what would he kill him for?" said I.
"And what for, but just to get the place," said he.
The place ?" said I. The Shaws ?"
"Nae other place that I ken," said he.
"Ay, man ?" said I. "Isthat so? Wasmy- was
Alexander the eldest son ?"
"'Deed was he," said the landlord. "What else
would he have killed him for ? "
And with that he went away, as he had been impa-
tient to do from the beginning.
Of course, I had guessed it a long while ago; but it
is one thing to guess, another to know; and I sat
stunned with my good fortune, and could scarce grow
to believe that the same poor lad who had trudged in
the dust from Ettrick Forest not two days ago, was now
one of the rich of the earth, and had a house and broad
lands, and might mount his horse to-morrow. 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 re-
member 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 to-
1 Rope. 2 Report.
WHAT BEFELL AT THE QUEEN'S FERRY
wards 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
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 ap-
pointment 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;1 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. Bal-
four's can command. A roll of tobacco ? Indian feather-
work? a skin of a wild beast? a stone pipe? the
mocking-bird that mews for all the world like a cat ?
the cardinal bird that is as red as blood ?-take your
pick and say your pleasure."
By this time we were at the boat-side, and he was
handing me in. I did not dream of hanging back; I
thought (the poor fool!) that I had found a good friend
and helper, and I was rejoiced to see the ship. As soon
as we were all set in our places, the boat was thrust off
from the pier and began to move over the waters; and
what with my pleasure in this new movement and my
surprise at our low position, and the appearance of the
shores, and the growing bigness of the brig as we drew
near to it, I could hardly understand what the captain
said, and must have answered him at random.
As soon as we were alongside (where I sat fairly gaping
at the ship's height, the strong humming of the tide
against its sides, and the pleasant cries of the seamen at
their work) Hoseason, declaring that he and I must be
the first aboard, ordered a tackle to be sent down from
the main-yard. In this I was whipped into the air and
set down again on the deck, where the captain stood
ready waiting for me, and instantly slipped back his arm
under mine. There I stood some while, a little dizzy
with the unsteadiness of all around me, perhaps a little
afraid, and yet vastly pleased with these strange sights;
the captain meanwhile pointing out the strangest, and
telling me their names and uses.
But where is my uncle ?" said I, suddenly.
WHAT BEFELL AT THE QUEEN'S FERRY
"Ay," said Hoseason, with a sudden grimness, "that's
I felt I was lost. With all my strength, I plucked my-
self 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 thun-
dering 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 un-
lucky 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 deaf-
ened me; and presently, to my other pains and dis-
tresses, 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 GO TO SEA IN THE BRIG "COVENANT" OF DYSART
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 shin-
ing 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.1 What, man? Cheer
up! The world's no done; you've made a bad start of
it, but you'll make a better. Have you had any meat ?"
I said I could not look at it: and thereupon he gave
me some brandy and water in a tin pannikin, and left
me once more 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 tor-
tures of fear, now from the scurrying of the ship's rats,
that sometimes pattered on my very face, and now from
the dismal imaginings that haunt the bed of fever.
The glimmer of the lantern, as a trap opened, shone
in like the heaven's sunlight; and though it only showed
me the strong, dark beams of the ship that was my
prison, I could have cried aloud for gladness. The man
with the green eyes was the first to descend the ladder,
and I noticed that he came somewhat unsteadily. He
was followed by the captain. Neither said a word; but
the first set to and examined me, and dressed my wound
as before, while Hoseason looked me in my face with
an odd, black look.
"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 forecastle."
I GO TO SEA IN THE BRIG "COVENANT" OF DYSART
"What ye may want, sir, is a matter of concern to
nobody but yourself, returned the captain; "but I can
tell ye that which is to be. Here he is; here he shall
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
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," re-
plied 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
"Ay, will he!" said Mr. Riach.
"Well, sir, is not that enough ?" said Hoseason.
"Flit him where ye please!"
Thereupon the captain ascended the ladder; and I,
who had lain silent throughout this strange conversa-
tion, 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 pre-
pared, and bade me lie still and I should soon be well
again. There were no bones broken, he explained: "A
clour1 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
I GO TO SEA IN THE BRIG "COVENANT" OF DYSART
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 re-
ceived them; and it is a thankless business to speak ill
of the dead.
Among other good deeds that they did, they returned
my money, which had been shared among them; and
though it was about a third short, I was very glad to
get it, and hoped great good from it in the land I was
going to. The ship was bound for the Carolinas; and
you must not suppose that I was going to that place
merely as an exile. The trade was even then much de-
pressed; 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
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 cap-
tain; 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
something 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
I GO TO SEA IN THE BRIG "COVENANT" OF DYSART
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 ap-
prentices 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 bit-
terly 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 round-house, he would deride the
It was Mr. Riach (Heaven forgive him!) who gave
the boy drink; and it was, doubtless, kindly meant; but
besides that it was ruin to his health, it was the pitifullest
thing in life to see this unhappy, unfriended creature
staggering, and dancing, and talking he knew not what.
Some of the men laughed, but not all; others would
grow as black as thunder (thinking, perhaps, of their
own childhood or their own children) and bid him stop
that nonsense, and think what he was doing. As for
me, I felt ashamed to look at him, and the poor child
still comes about me in my dreams.
All this time, you should know, the Covenant was
meeting continual head-winds and tumbling up and
down against head-seas, so that the scuttle was almost
constantly shut, and the forcastle 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 quarreling 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 liked 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 lad-
der. 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 scut-
tle, carrying Ransome in their arms; and the ship at that
moment giving a great sheer into the sea, and the lan-
tern swinging, the light fell direct on the boy's face. It
was as white as wax, and had a look upon it like a
dreadful smile. The blood in me ran cold, and I drew
in my breath as if I had been struck.
"Run away aft; run away aft with ye!" cried Ho-
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 fore-
sail, 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 At-
lantic. 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
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; in-
deed, 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 be-
side me, looking darkly at the mate. I.stood in great
fear of Hoseason, and had my reasons for it; but some-
thing 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 speak-
ing, and took his place like the rest of us; so that we
all three stood without a word, staring down at Mr.
Shuan, and Mr. Shuan (on his side) sat without a word,
looking hard upon the table.
All of a sudden he put out his hand to take the bot-
tle; and at that Mr. Riach started forward and caught
it away from him, rather by surprise than violence, cry-
ing 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 fright-
ened look; and then Hoseason walked up to his chief
officer, took him by the shoulder, led him across to his
bunk, and bade him lie down and go to sleep, as you
might speak to a bad child. The murderer cried a little,
but he took off his sea-boots and obeyed.
"Ah!" cried Mr. Riach, with a dreadful voice, "ye
should have interfered long syne. It's too late now."
"Mr. Riach," said the captain, "this night's work
must never be kennt in Dysart. The boy went over-
board, 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 cap-
tain took at regular hours, sitting down with the officer
who was off duty; all the day through I would be run-
ning 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 in-
terruption; 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 sea-legs) 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 Ransome.
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 (some-
times, 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 morn-
ing to night, like Mr. Shuan. I had company, too, and
good company of its sort. Mr. Riach, who had been
to the college, spoke to me like a friend when he was
not sulking, and told me many curious things, and some
that were informing; and even the captain, though he
kept me at the stick's end the most part of the time,
would sometimes unbuckle a bit, and tell me of the fine
countries he had visited.
The shadow of poor Ransome, to be sure, lay on all
four of us, and on me and Mr. Shuan in particular, most
heavily. And then I had another trouble of my own.
Here I was, doing dirty work for three men that I looked
down upon, and one of whom, at least, should have
hung upon a gallows; that was for the present; and as
for the future, I could only see myself slaving alongside
of negroes in the tobacco fields. Mr. Riach, perhaps
from caution, would never suffer me to say another
word about my story; the captain, whom I tried to
approach, rebuffed me like a dog and would not hear a
word; and as the days came and went, my heart sank
lower and lower, till I was even glad of the work which
kept me from thinking.
THE MAN WITH THE BELT OF GOLD
MORE than a week went by, in which the ill-luck that
had hitherto pursued the Covenant upon this voyage
grew yet more strongly marked. Some days she made
a little way; others, she was driven actually back. At
last we were beaten so far to the south that we tossed
and tacked to and fro the whole of the ninth day, within
sight of Cape Wrath and the wild, rocky coast on either
hand of it. There followed on that a council of the of-
ficers, and some decision which I did not rightly under-
stand, 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
May-be 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.
THE MAN WITH THE BELT OF GOLD
"No, sir," said the captain. "We've only run a
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 en-
gaging 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 waist-
coat, 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
"Well, sir," said the captain, still watching him,
"there are more men in the world than boats to put
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."
THE MAN WITH THE BELT OF GOLD
"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 yourself 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
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 gentle-
man had taken a money-belt from about his waist, and
poured out a guinea or two upon the table. The captain
was looking at the guineas, and then at the belt, and then
at the gentleman's face; and I thought he seemed ex-
"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 seaside, or sixty if ye
set me on the Linnhe loch. Take it, if ye will; if not,
ye can do your worst."
"Ay," said Hoseason. "And if I give ye over to the
"Ye would make a fool's bargain," said the other.
"My chief, let me tell you, sir, is forfeited, like every
honest man in Scotland. His estate is in the hands of
the man they call King George; and it is his officers that
collect the rents, or try to collect them. But for the
honour of Scotland, the poor tenant bodies take a thought
upon their chief lying in exile; and this money is a part
of that very rent for which King George is looking.
Now, sir, ye seem to me to be a man that understands
things: bring this money within the reach of Govern-
ment, and how much of it'll come to you?"
"Little enough, to be sure," said Hoseason; and then,
"if they knew," he added, dryly. "But I think, if I
was to try, that I could hold my tongue about it."
"Ah, but I'll begowk 1 ye there!" cried the gentle-
man. "Play me false, and I'll play you cunning. If
THE MAN WITH THE BELT OF GOLD
a hand is laid upon me, they shall ken what money it
"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
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 clans-
men outface the soldiery to get it in, and run the gaunt-
let of our great navy to carry it across. All this I had,
of course, heard tell of; and now I had a man under my
eyes whose life was forfeit on all these counts and upon
one more, for he was not only a rebel and a smuggler
of rents, but had taken service with King Louis of France.
And as if all this were not enough, he had a belt full of
golden guineas round his loins. Whatever my opinions, I
could not look on such a man without a lively interest.
"And so you're a Jacobite?" said I, as I set meat be-
"Ay," said he, beginning to eat. "And you, by
your long face, should be a Whig?" 1
"Betwixt and between," said I, not to annoy him;
for indeed I was as good a Whig as Mr. Campbell could
1 Whig or Whigamore was the cant name for those who were loyal
to King George.
"And that's naething," said he. "But I'm saying,
Mr. Betwixt-and-Between," he added, "this bottle of
yours is dry; and it's hard if I'm to pay sixty guineas
and be grudged a dram upon the back of it."
"I'll go and ask for the key," said I, and stepped on
The fog was as close as ever, but the swell almost
down. They had laid the brig to, not knowing pre-
cisely 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
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 sword."
"Well, that's true," said Riach; "but he's hard to
"Hut! said Hoseason. "We can get the man in talk,
one upon each side, and pin him by the two arms; or if
that'll not hold, sir, we can make a run by both the doors
and get him under hand before he has the time to draw."
At this hearing, I was seized with both fear and
anger at these treacherous, greedy, bloody men that I
sailed with. My first mind was to run away; my second
Captain," said I, "the gentleman is seeking a dram,
and the bottle's out. Will you give me the key ? "
THE MAN WITH THE BELT OF GOLD
They all started and turned about.
Why, here's our chance to get the firearms I 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 Hieland-
man 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 my-
self: "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.,
"! cried I, "they're all murderers here; it's a ship
full of them! They've murdered a boy already. Now
"Ay, ay," said he; "but they haven't got me yet."
And then looking at me curiously, Will ye stand with
That will I said I. I am no thief, nor yet mur-
derer. I'll stand by you."
Why, then," said he, "what's your name ?"
"David Balfour," said I; and then, thinking that a
man with so fine a coat must like fine people, I added
for the first time, "of Shaws."
It never occurred to him to doubt me, for a High-
lander 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."
THE MAN WITH THE BELT OF GOLD
And having administered this rebuke, as though it
were something of a chief importance, he turned to ex-
amine 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 se-
cured 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 raxing1 drams to a when 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
"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,"
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.
THE MAN WITH THE BELT OF GOLD
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,
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 cap-
tain 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 re-
turn 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 coming."
Alan drew a dirk, which he held in his left hand in
THE SIEGE OF THE ROUND-HOUSE
case they should run in under his sword. I, on my
part, clambered up into the berth with an armful of pis-
tols 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 continu-
ally 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 door-
way, 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
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 discon-
certed. 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 him-
self 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
I told him I had winged one, and thought it was the
THE SIEGE OF THE ROUND-HOUSE
"And I've settled two," says he. "No, there's not
enough blood let; they'll be back again. To your watch,
David. This was but a dram before meat."
I settled back to my place, re-charging the three pistols
I had fired, and keeping watch with both eye and ear.
Our enemies were disputing not far off upon the
deck, and that so loudly that I could hear a word or
two above the washing of the seas.
"It was Shuan bauchled1 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 mutter-
ing 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 tak-
ing 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 tak-
ing their places in the dark, I could have found it in my
mind to cry out aloud.
All this was upon Alan's side; and I had begun to
think my share of the fight was at an end, when I heard
some one drop softly on the roof above me.
Then there came a single call on the sea-pipe, and
that was the signal, A knot of them made one rush of
it, cutlass in hand, against the door; and at the same
moment, the glass of the skylight was dashed in a
thousand pieces, and a man leaped through and landed
on the floor. Before he got his feet, I had clapped a
pistol to his back, and might have shot him, too; only
at the touch of him (and him alive) my whole flesh mis-
gave me, and I could no more pull the trigger than I
could have flown.
He had dropped his cutlass as he jumped, and when
he felt the pistol, whipped straight round and laid hold
of me, roaring out an oath; and at that either my cour-
age 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 miss-
ing, 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 sea-
men, while he was engaged with others, had run in
THE SIEGE OF THE ROUND-HOUSE
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 dis-
tance, 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
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 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 un-
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 0, 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
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
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.
THE SIEGE OF THE ROUND-HOUSE
Now this song which he made (both words and mu-
sic) 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 thor-
oughly 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 impor-
tant) 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 com-
ing, I began to sob and cry like any child.
Alan clapped my shoulder, and said I was a brave lad
and wanted nothing but a sleep.
"I'll take the first watch," said he. "Ye've done
well by me, David, first and last; and I wouldn't lose
you for all Appin no, nor for Breadalbane."
So I made up my bed on the floor; and he took the
first spell, pistol in hand and sword on knee, three
hours by the captain's watch upon the wall. Then he
roused me up, and I took my turn of three hours;
before the end of which it was broad day, and a
very quiet morning, with a smooth, rolling sea that
tossed the ship and made the blood run to and fro on
the round-house floor, and a heavy rain that drummed
upon the roof. All my watch there was nothing stir-
ring; and by the banging of the helm, I knew they had
even no one at the tiller. Indeed (as I learned after-
wards) there were so many of them hurt or dead, and
the rest in so ill a temper, that Mr. Riach and the cap-
tain 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 agree-
able 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, in-
deed, 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
He said this as if he had been Charlemagne, and com-
manded 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
As soon as we were through with our meal he rum-
maged 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, climb-
ing 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 a
while 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.
THE CAPTAIN KNUCKLES UNDER
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 ?"
"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 re-
minders 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 break-
able. 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 half-
ling boy upon the other! 0, 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 ac-
quaint with this coast, sir; and it's one very dangerous
"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