Part 2 out of 5
atrocities) came in at times from the round-house, where he
berthed and served, now nursing a bruised limb in silent agony,
now raving against the cruelty of Mr. Shuan. It made my heart
bleed; but the men had a great respect for the chief mate, who
was, as they said, "the only seaman of the whole jing-bang, and
none such a bad man when he was sober." Indeed, I found there
was a strange peculiarity about our two mates: that Mr. Riach was
sullen, unkind, and harsh when he was sober, and Mr. Shuan would
not hurt a fly except when he was drinking. I asked about the
captain; but I was told drink made no difference upon that man of
I did my best in the small time allowed me to make some thing
like a man, or rather I should say something like a boy, of the
poor creature, Ransome. But his mind was scarce truly human. He
could remember nothing of the time before he came to sea; only
that his father had made clocks, and had a starling in the
parlour, which could whistle "The North Countrie;" all else had
been blotted out in these years of hardship and cruelties. He
had a strange notion of the dry land, picked up from sailor's
stories: that it was a place where lads were put to some kind of
slavery called a trade, and where apprentices were continually
lashed and clapped into foul prisons. In a town, he thought
every second person a decoy, and every third house a place in
which seamen would be drugged and murdered. To be sure, I would
tell him how kindly I had myself been used upon that dry land he
was so much afraid of, and how well fed and carefully taught both
by my friends and my parents: and if he had been recently hurt,
he would weep bitterly and swear to run away; but if he was in
his usual crackbrain humour, or (still more) if he had had a
glass of spirits in the roundhouse, he would deride the notion.
It was Mr. Riach (Heaven forgive him!) who gave the boy drink;
and it was, doubtless, kindly meant; but besides that it was ruin
to his health, it was the pitifullest thing in life to see this
unhappy, unfriended creature staggering, and dancing, and talking
he knew not what. Some of the men laughed, but not all; others
would grow as black as thunder (thinking, perhaps, of their own
childhood or their own children) and bid him stop that nonsense,
and think what he was doing. As for me, I felt ashamed to look
at him, and the poor child still comes about me in my dreams.
All this time, you should know, the Covenant was meeting
continual head-winds and tumbling up and down against head-seas,
so that the scuttle was almost constantly shut, and the
forecastle lighted only by a swinging lantern on a beam. There
was constant labour for all hands; the sails had to be made and
shortened every hour; the strain told on the men's temper; there
was a growl of quarrelling all day, long from berth to berth; and
as I was never allowed to set my foot on deck, you can picture to
yourselves how weary of my life I grew to be, and how impatient
for a change.
And a change I was to get, as you shall hear; but I must first
tell of a conversation I had with Mr. Riach, which put a little
heart in me to bear my troubles. Getting him in a favourable
stage of drink (for indeed he never looked near me when he was
sober), I pledged him to secrecy, and told him my whole story.
He declared it was like a ballad; that he would do his best to
help me; that I should have paper, pen, and ink, and write one
line to Mr. Campbell and another to Mr. Rankeillor; and that if I
had told the truth, ten to one he would be able (with their help)
to pull me through and set me in my rights.
"And in the meantime," says he, "keep your heart up. You're not
the only one, I'll tell you that. There's many a man hoeing
tobacco over-seas that should be mounting his horse at his own
door at home; many and many! And life is all a variorum, at the
best. Look at me: I'm a laird's son and more than half a doctor,
and here I am, man-Jack to Hoseason!"
I thought it would be civil to ask him for his story.
He whistled loud.
"Never had one," said he. "I like fun, that's all." And he
skipped out of the forecastle.
One night, about eleven o'clock, a man of Mr. Riach's watch
(which was on deck) came below for his jacket; and instantly
there began to go a whisper about the forecastle that "Shuan had
done for him at last." There was no need of a name; we all knew
who was meant; but we had scarce time to get the idea rightly in
our heads, far less to speak of it, when the scuttle was again
flung open, and Captain Hoseason came down the ladder. He looked
sharply round the bunks in the tossing light of the lantern; and
then, walking straight up to me, he addressed me, to my surprise,
in tones of kindness.
"My man," said he, "we want ye to serve in the round-house. You
and Ransome are to change berths. Run away aft with ye."
Even as he spoke, two seamen appeared in the scuttle, carrying
Ransome in their arms; and the ship at that moment giving a great
sheer into the sea, and the lantern swinging, the light fell
direct on the boy's face. It was as white as wax, and had a look
upon it like a dreadful smile. The blood in me ran cold, and I
drew in my breath as if I had been struck.
"Run away aft; run away aft with ye!" cried Hoseason.
And at that I brushed by the sailors and the boy (who neither
spoke nor moved), and ran up the ladder on deck.
The brig was sheering swiftly and giddily through a long,
cresting swell. She was on the starboard tack, and on the left
hand, under the arched foot of the foresail, I could see the
sunset still quite bright. This, at such an hour of the night,
surprised me greatly; but I was too ignorant to draw the true
conclusion -- that we were going north-about round Scotland, and
were now on the high sea between the Orkney and Shetland Islands,
having avoided the dangerous currents of the Pentland Firth. For
my part, who had been so long shut in the dark and knew nothing
of head-winds, I thought we might be half-way or more across the
Atlantic. And indeed (beyond that I wondered a little at the
lateness of the sunset light) I gave no heed to it, and pushed on
across the decks, running between the seas, catching at ropes,
and only saved from going overboard by one of the hands on deck,
who had been always kind to me.
The round-house, for which I was bound, and where I was now to
sleep and serve, stood some six feet above the decks, and
considering the size of the brig, was of good dimensions. Inside
were a fixed table and bench, and two berths, one for the captain
and the other for the two mates, turn and turn about. It was all
fitted with lockers from top to bottom, so as to stow away the
officers' belongings and a part of the ship's stores; there was a
second store-room underneath, which you entered by a hatchway in
the middle of the deck; indeed, all the best of the meat and
drink and the whole of the powder were collected in this place;
and all the firearms, except the two pieces of brass ordnance,
were set in a rack in the aftermost wall of the round-house. The
most of the cutlasses were in another place.
A small window with a shutter on each side, and a skylight in the
roof, gave it light by, day; and after dark there was a lamp
always burning. It was burning when I entered, not brightly, but
enough to show Mr. Shuan sitting at the table, with the brandy
bottle and a tin pannikin in front of him. He was a tall man,
strongly made and very black; and he stared before him on the
table like one stupid.
He took no notice of my coming in; nor did he move when the
captain followed and leant on the berth beside me, looking darkly
at the mate. I stood in great fear of Hoseason, and had my
reasons for it; but something told me I need not be afraid of him
just then; and I whispered in his ear: "How is he?" He shook his
head like one that does not know and does not wish to think, and
his face was very stern.
Presently Mr. Riach came in. He gave the captain a glance that
meant the boy was dead as plain as speaking, and took his place
like the rest of us; so that we all three stood without a word,
staring down at Mr. Shuan, and Mr. Shuan (on his side) sat
without a word, looking hard upon the table.
All of a sudden he put out his hand to take the bottle; and at
that Mr. Riach started forward and caught it away from him,
rather by surprise than violence, crying out, with an oath, that
there had been too much of this work altogether, and that a
judgment would fall upon the ship. And as he spoke (the weather
sliding-doors standing open) he tossed the bottle into the sea.
Mr. Shuan was on his feet in a trice; he still looked dazed, but
he meant murder, ay, and would have done it, for the second time
that night, had not the captain stepped in between him and his
"Sit down!" roars the captain. "Ye sot and swine, do ye know
what ye've done? Ye've murdered the boy!"
Mr. Shuan seemed to understand; for he sat down again, and put up
his hand to his brow.
"Well," he said, "he brought me a dirty pannikin!"
At that word, the captain and I and Mr. Riach all looked at each
other for a second with a kind of frightened look; and then
Hoseason walked up to his chief officer, took him by the
shoulder, led him across to his bunk, and bade him lie down and
go to sleep, as you might speak to a bad child. The murderer
cried a little, but he took off his sea-boots and obeyed.
"Ah!" cried Mr. Riach, with a dreadful voice, "ye should have
interfered long syne. It's too late now."
"Mr. Riach," said the captain, "this night's work must never be
kennt in Dysart. The boy went overboard, sir; that's what the
story is; and I would give five pounds out of my pocket it was
true!" He turned to the table. "What made ye throw the good
bottle away?" he added. "There was nae sense in that, sir.
Here, David, draw me another. They're in the bottom locker;" and
he tossed me a key. "Ye'll need a glass yourself, sir," he added
to Riach. "Yon was an ugly thing to see."
So the pair sat down and hob-a-nobbed; and while they did so, the
murderer, who had been lying and whimpering in his berth, raised
himself upon his elbow and looked at them and at me.
That was the first night of my new duties; and in the course of
the next day I had got well into the run of them. I had to serve
at the meals, which the captain took at regular hours, sitting
down with the officer who was off duty; all the day through I
would be running with a dram to one or other of my three masters;
and at night I slept on a blanket thrown on the deck boards at
the aftermost end of the round-house, and right in the draught of
the two doors. It was a hard and a cold bed; nor was I suffered
to sleep without interruption; for some one would be always
coming in from deck to get a dram, and when a fresh watch was to
be set, two and sometimes all three would sit down and brew a
bowl together. How they kept their health, I know not, any more
than how I kept my own.
And yet in other ways it was an easy service. There was no cloth
to lay; the meals were either of oatmeal porridge or salt junk,
except twice a week, when there was duff: and though I was clumsy
enough and (not being firm on my sealegs) sometimes fell with
what I was bringing them, both Mr. Riach and the captain were
singularly patient. I could not but fancy they were making up
lee-way with their consciences, and that they would scarce have
been so good with me if they had not been worse with 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 (sometimes, I could have thought, with terror),
and more than once drew back from my hand when I was serving him.
I was pretty sure from the first that he had no clear mind of
what he had done, and on my second day in the round-house I had
the proof of it. We were alone, and he had been staring at me a
long time, when all at once, up he got, as pale as death, and
came close up to me, to my great terror. But I had no cause to
be afraid of him.
"You were not here before?" he asked.
"No, sir," said I."
"There was another boy?" he asked again; and when I had answered
him, "Ah!" says he, "I thought that," and went and sat down,
without another word, except to call for brandy.
You may think it strange, but for all the horror I had, I was
still sorry for him. He was a married man, with a wife in Leith;
but whether or no he had a family, I have now forgotten; I hope
Altogether it was no very hard life for the time it lasted, which
(as you are to hear) was not long. I was as well fed as the best
of them; even their pickles, which were the great dainty, I was
allowed my share of; and had I liked I might have been drunk from
morning to night, like Mr. Shuan. I had company, too, and good
company of its sort. Mr. Riach, who had been to the college,
spoke to me like a friend when he was not sulking, and told me
many curious things, and some that were informing; and even the
captain, though he kept me at the stick's end the most part of
the time, would sometimes unbuckle a bit, and tell me of the fine
countries he had visited.
The shadow of poor Ransome, to be sure, lay on all four of us,
and on me and Mr. Shuan in particular, most heavily. And then I
had another trouble of my own. Here I was, doing dirty work for
three men that I looked down upon, and one of whom, at least,
should have hung upon a gallows; that was for the present; and as
for the future, I could only see myself slaving alongside of
negroes in the tobacco fields. Mr. Riach, perhaps from caution,
would never suffer me to say another word about my story; the
captain, whom I tried to approach, rebuffed me like a dog and
would not hear a word; and as the days came and went, my heart
sank lower and lower, till I was even glad of the work which kept
me from thinking.
THE MAN WITH THE BELT OF GOLD
More than a week went by, in which the ill-luck that had hitherto
pursued the Covenant upon this voyage grew yet more strongly
marked. Some days she made a little way; others, she was driven
actually back. At last we were beaten so far to the south that
we tossed and tacked to and fro the whole of the ninth day,
within sight of Cape Wrath and the wild, rocky coast on either
hand of it. There followed on that a council of the officers,
and some decision which I did not rightly understand, seeing only
the result: that we had made a fair wind of a foul one and were
The tenth afternoon there was a falling swell and a thick, wet,
white fog that hid one end of the brig from the other. All
afternoon, when I went on deck, I saw men and officers listening
hard over the bulwarks -- "for breakers," they said; and though I
did not so much as understand the word, I felt danger in the air,
and was excited.
Maybe about ten at night, I was serving Mr. Riach and the captain
at their supper, when the ship struck something with a great
sound, and we heard voices singing out. My two masters leaped to
"She's struck!" said Mr. Riach.
"No, sir," said the captain. "We've only run a boat down."
And they hurried out.
The captain was in the right of it. We had run down a boat in
the fog, and she had parted in the midst and gone to the bottom
with all her crew but one. This man (as I heard afterwards) had
been sitting in the stern as a passenger, while the rest were on
the benches rowing. At the moment of the blow, the stern had
been thrown into the air, and the man (having his hands free, and
for all he was encumbered with a frieze overcoat that came below
his knees) had leaped up and caught hold of the brig's bowsprit.
It showed he had luck and much agility and unusual strength, that
he should have thus saved himself from such a pass. And yet,
when the captain brought him into the round-house, and I set eyes
on him for the first time, he looked as cool as I did.
He was smallish in stature, but well set and as nimble as a goat;
his face was of a good open expression, but sunburnt very dark,
and heavily freckled and pitted with the small-pox; his eyes were
unusually light and had a kind of dancing madness in them, that
was both engaging and alarming; and when he took off his
great-coat, he laid a pair of fine silver-mounted pistols on the
table, and I saw that he was belted with a great sword. His
manners, besides, were elegant, and he pledged the captain
handsomely. Altogether I thought of him, at the first sight,
that here was a man I would rather call my friend than my enemy.
The captain, too, was taking his observations, but rather of the
man's clothes than his person. And to be sure, as soon as he had
taken off the great-coat, he showed forth mighty fine for the
round-house of a merchant brig: having a hat with feathers, a red
waistcoat, breeches of black plush, and a blue coat with silver
buttons and handsome silver lace; costly clothes, though somewhat
spoiled with the fog and being slept in.
"I'm vexed, sir, about the boat," says the captain.
"There are some pretty men gone to the bottom," said the
stranger, "that I would rather see on the dry land again than
half a score of boats."
"Friends of yours?" said Hoseason.
"You have none such friends in your country," was the reply.
"They would have died for me like dogs."
"Well, sir," said the captain, still watching him, "there are
more men in the world than boats to put them in."
"And that's true, too," cried the other, "and ye seem to 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
"Well, sir," says the other, "and so has many a pretty man, for
the matter of that."
"No doubt, sir" says the captain, "and fine coats."
"Oho!" says the stranger, "is that how the wind sets?" And he
laid his hand quickly on his pistols.
"Don't be hasty," said the captain. "Don't do a mischief before
ye see the need of it. Ye've a French soldier's coat upon your
back and a Scotch tongue in your head, to be sure; but so has
many an honest fellow in these days, and I dare say none the
worse of it."
"So?" said the gentleman in the fine coat: "are ye of the honest
party?" (meaning, Was he a Jacobite? for each side, in these sort
of civil broils, takes the name of honesty for its own).
"Why, sir," replied the captain, "I am a true-blue Protestant,
and I thank God for it." (It was the first word of any religion
I had ever heard from him, but I learnt afterwards he was a great
church-goer while on shore.) "But, for all that," says he, "I
can be sorry to see another man with his back to the wall."
"Can ye so, indeed?" asked the Jacobite. "Well, sir, to be quite
plain with ye, I am one of those honest gentlemen that were in
trouble about the years forty-five and six; and (to be still
quite plain with ye) if I got into the hands of any of the
red-coated gentry, it's like it would go hard with me. Now, sir,
I was for France; and there was a French ship cruising here to
pick me up; but she gave us the go-by in the fog -- as I wish
from the heart that ye had done yoursel'! And the best that I can
say is this: If ye can set me ashore where I was going, I have
that upon me will reward you highly for your trouble."
"In France?" says the captain. "No, sir; that I cannot do. But
where ye come from -- we might talk of that."
And then, unhappily, he observed me standing in my corner, and
packed me off to the galley to get supper for the gentleman. I
lost no time, I promise you; and when I came back into the
round-house, I found the gentleman had taken a money-belt from
about his waist, and poured out a guinea or two upon the table.
The captain was looking at the guineas, and then at the belt, and
then at the gentleman's face; and I thought he seemed excited.
"Half of it," he cried, "and I'm your man!"
The other swept back the guineas into the belt, and put it on
again under his waistcoat. "I have told ye" sir" said he, "that
not one doit of it belongs to me. It belongs to my chieftain,"
and here he touched his hat, "and while I would be but a silly
messenger to grudge some of it that the rest might come safe, I
should show myself a hound indeed if I bought my own carcase any
too dear. Thirty guineas on the sea-side, or sixty if ye set me
on the Linnhe Loch. Take it, if ye will; if not, ye can do your
"Ay," said Hoseason. "And if I give ye over to the soldiers?"
"Ye would make a fool's bargain," said the other. "My chief, let
me tell you, sir, is forfeited, like every honest man in
Scotland. His estate is in the hands of the man they call King
George; and it is his officers that collect the rents, or try to
collect them. But for the honour of Scotland, the poor tenant
bodies take a thought upon their chief lying in exile; and this
money is a part of that very rent for which King George is
looking. Now, sir, ye seem to me to be a man that understands
things: bring this money within the reach of Government, and how
much of it'll come to you?"
"Little enough, to be sure," said Hoseason; and then, "if they,
knew" he added, drily. "But I think, if I was to try, that I
could hold my tongue about it."
"Ah, but I'll begowk ye there!" cried the gentleman. "Play
me false, and I'll play you cunning. If a hand is laid upon me,
they shall ken what money it is."
"Well," returned the captain, "what must be must. Sixty guineas,
and done. Here's my hand upon it."
"And here's mine," said the other.
And thereupon the captain went out (rather hurriedly, I thought),
and left me alone in the round-house with the stranger.
At that period (so soon after the forty-five) there were many
exiled gentlemen coming back at the peril of their lives, either
to see their friends or to collect a little money; and as for the
Highland chiefs that had been forfeited, it was a common matter
of talk how their tenants would stint themselves to send them
money, and their clansmen outface the soldiery to get it in, and
run the gauntlet of our great navy to carry it across. All this
I had, of course, heard tell of; and now I had a man under my
eyes whose life was forfeit on all these counts and upon one
more, for he was not only a rebel and a smuggler of rents, but
had taken service with King Louis of France. And as if all this
were not enough, he had a belt full of golden guineas round his
loins. Whatever my opinions, I could not look on such a man
without a lively interest.
"And so you're a Jacobite?" said I, as I set meat before him.
"Ay," said he, beginning to eat. "And you, by your long face,
should be a Whig?"
 Whig or Whigamore was the cant name for those who were loyal
to King George.
"Betwixt and between," said I, not to annoy him; for indeed I was
as good a Whig as Mr. Campbell could make me.
"And that's naething," said he. "But I'm saying, Mr.
Betwixt-and-Between," he added, "this bottle of yours is dry; and
it's hard if I'm to pay sixty guineas and be grudged a dram upon
the back of it."
"I'll go and ask for the key," said I, and stepped on deck.
The fog was as close as ever, but the swell almost down. They
had laid the brig to, not knowing precisely where they were, and
the wind (what little there was of it) not serving well for their
true course. Some of the hands were still hearkening for
breakers; but the captain and the two officers were in the waist
with their heads together. It struck me (I don't know why) that
they were after no good; and the first word I heard, as I drew
softly near, more than confirmed me.
It was Mr. Riach, crying out as if upon a sudden thought:
"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 come at."
"Hut!" said Hoseason. "We can get the man in talk, one upon each
side, and pin him by the two arms; or if that'll not hold, sir,
we can make a run by both the doors and get him under hand before
he has the time to draw"
At this hearing, I was seized with both fear and anger at these
treacherous, greedy, bloody men that I sailed with. My first
mind was to run away; my second was bolder.
"Captain," said I, "the gentleman is seeking a dram, and the
bottle's out. Will you give me the key?"
They all started and turned about.
"Why, here's our chance to get the firearms!"
Riach cried; and then to me: "Hark ye, David," he said, "do ye
ken where the pistols are?"
"Ay, ay," put in Hoseason. "David kens; David's a good lad. Ye
see, David my man, yon wild Hielandman is a danger to the ship,
besides being a rank foe to King George, God bless him!"
I had never been so be-Davided since I came on board: but I said
Yes, as if all I heard were quite natural.
"The trouble is," resumed the captain, "that all our firelocks,
great and little, are in the round-house under this man's nose;
likewise the powder. Now, if I, or one of the officers, was to
go in and take them, he would fall to thinking. But a lad like
you, David, might snap up a horn and a pistol or two without
remark. And if ye can do it cleverly, I'll bear it in mind when
it'll be good for you to have friends; and that's when we come to
Here Mr. Riach whispered him a little.
"Very right, sir," said the captain; and then to myself: "And see
here, David, yon man has a beltful of gold, and I give you my
word that you shall have your fingers in it."
I told him I would do as he wished, though indeed I had scarce
breath to speak with; and upon that he gave me the key of the
spirit locker, and I began to go slowly back to the round-house.
What was I to do? They were dogs and thieves; they had stolen me
from my own country; they had killed poor Ransome; and was I to
hold the candle to another murder? But then, upon the other hand,
there was the fear of death very plain before me; for what could
a boy and a man, if they were as brave as lions, against a whole
I was still arguing it back and forth, and getting no great
clearness, when I came into the round-house and saw the Jacobite
eating his supper under the lamp; and at that my mind was made up
all in a moment. I have no credit by it; it was by no choice of
mine, but as if by compulsion, that I walked right up to the
table and put my hand on his shoulder.
"Do ye want to be killed?" said I. He sprang to his feet, and
looked a question at me as clear as if he had spoken.
"O!" cried I, "they're all murderers here; it's a ship full of
them! They've murdered a boy already. Now it's you."
"Ay, ay" said he; "but they have n't got me yet." And then
looking at me curiously, "Will ye stand with me?"
"That will I!" said I. "I am no thief, nor yet murderer. I'll
stand by 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,
It never occurred to him to doubt me, for a Highlander is used to
see great gentlefolk in great poverty; but as he had no estate of
his own, my words nettled a very childish vanity he had.
"My name is Stewart," he said, drawing himself up. "Alan Breck,
they call me. A king's name is good enough for me, though I bear
it plain and have the name of no farm-midden to clap to the
hind-end of it."
And having administered this rebuke, as though it were something
of a chief importance, he turned to examine our defences.
The round-house was built very strong, to support the breaching
of the seas. Of its five apertures, only the skylight and the
two doors were large enough for the passage of a man. The doors,
besides, could be drawn close: they were of stout oak, and ran in
grooves, and were fitted with hooks to keep them either shut or
open, as the need arose. The one that was already shut I secured
in this fashion; but when I was proceeding to slide to the other,
Alan stopped me.
"David," said he -- "for I cannae bring to mind the name of your
landed estate, and so will make so bold as to call you David --
that door, being open, is the best part of my defences."
"It would be yet better shut," says I.
"Not so, David," says he. "Ye see, I have but one face; but so
long as that door is open and my face to it, the best part of my
enemies will be in front of me, where I would aye wish to find
Then he gave me from the rack a cutlass (of which there were a
few besides the firearms), choosing it with great care, shaking
his head and saying he had never in all his life seen poorer
weapons; and next he set me down to the table with a powder-horn,
a bag of bullets and all the pistols, which he bade me charge.
"And that will be better work, let me tell you," said he, "for a
gentleman of decent birth, than scraping plates and raxing
drams to a wheen tarry sailors."
Thereupon he stood up in the midst with his face to the door, and
drawing his great sword, made trial of the room he had to wield
"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 to me."
I told him I would listen closely. My chest was tight, my mouth
dry, the light dark to my eyes; the thought of the numbers that
were soon to leap in upon us kept my heart in a flutter: and the
sea, which I heard washing round the brig, and where I thought my
dead body would be cast ere morning, ran in my mind strangely.
"First of all," said he, "how many are against us?"
I reckoned them up; and such was the hurry of my mind, I had to
cast the numbers twice. "Fifteen," said I.
Alan whistled. "Well," said he, "that can't be cured. And now
follow me. It is my part to keep this door, where I look for the
main battle. In that, ye have no hand. And mind and dinnae fire
to this side unless they get me down; for I would rather have ten
foes in front of me than one friend like you cracking pistols at
I told him, indeed I was no great shot.
"And that, s very bravely said," he cried, in a great admiration
of my candour. "There's many a pretty gentleman that wouldnae
dare to say it."
"But then, sir" said I, "there is the door behind you" which they
may perhaps break in."
"Ay," said he, "and that is a part of your work. No sooner the
pistols charged, than ye must climb up into yon bed where ye're
handy at the window; and if they lift hand, against the door,
ye're to shoot. But that's not all. Let's make a bit of a
soldier of ye, David. What else have ye to guard?"
"There's the skylight," said I. "But indeed, Mr. Stewart, I
would need to have eyes upon both sides to keep the two of them;
for when my face is at the one, my back is to the other."
"And that's very true," said Alan. "But have ye no ears to your
"To be sure!" cried I. "I must hear the bursting of the glass!"
"Ye have some rudiments of sense," said Alan, grimly.
THE SIEGE OF THE ROUND-HOUSE
But now our time of truce was come to an end. Those on deck had
waited for my coming till they grew impatient; and scarce had
Alan spoken, when the captain showed face in the open door.
"Stand!" cried Alan, and pointed his sword at him. The captain
stood, indeed; but he neither winced nor drew back a foot.
"A naked sword?" says he. "This is a strange return for
"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
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
Alan drew a dirk, which he held in his left hand in case they
should run in under his sword. I, on my part, clambered up into
the berth with an armful of pistols and something of a heavy
heart, and set open the window where I was to watch. It was a
small part of the deck that I could overlook, but enough for our
purpose. The sea had gone down, and the wind was steady and kept
the sails quiet; so that there was a great stillness in the ship,
in which I made sure I heard the sound of muttering voices. A
little after, and there came a clash of steel upon the deck, by
which I knew they were dealing out the cutlasses and one had been
let fall; and after that, silence again.
I do not know if I was what you call afraid; but my heart beat
like a bird's, both quick and little; and there was a dimness
came before my eyes which I continually rubbed away, and which
continually returned. As for hope, I had none; but only a
darkness of despair and a sort of anger against all the world
that made me long to sell my life as dear as I was able. I tried
to pray, I remember, but that same hurry of my mind, like a man
running, would not suffer me to think upon the words; and my
chief wish was to have the thing begin and be done with it.
It came all of a sudden when it did, with a rush of feet and a
roar, and then a shout from Alan, and a sound of blows and some
one crying out as if hurt. I looked back over my shoulder, and
saw Mr. Shuan in the doorway, crossing blades with Alan.
"That's him that killed the boy!" I cried.
"Look to your window!" said Alan; and as I turned back to my
place, I saw him pass his sword through the mate's body.
It was none too soon for me to look to my own part; for my head
was scarce back at the window, before five men, carrying a spare
yard for a battering-ram, ran past me and took post to drive the
door in. I had never fired with a pistol in my life, and not
often with a gun; far less against a fellow-creature. But it was
now or never; and just as they swang the yard, I cried out: "Take
that!" and shot into their midst.
I must have hit one of them, for he sang out and gave back a
step, and the rest stopped as if a little disconcerted. Before
they had time to recover, I sent another ball over their heads;
and at my third shot (which went as wide as the second) the whole
party threw down the yard and ran for it.
Then I looked round again into the deck-house. The whole place
was full of the smoke of my own firing, just as my ears seemed to
be burst with the noise of the shots. But there was Alan,
standing as before; only now his sword was running blood to the
hilt, and himself so swelled with triumph and fallen into so fine
an attitude, that he looked to be invincible. Right before him
on the floor was Mr. Shuan, on his hands and knees; the blood was
pouring from his mouth, and he was sinking slowly lower, with a
terrible, white face; and just as I looked, some of those from
behind caught hold of him by the heels and dragged him bodily out
of the round-house. I believe he died as they were doing it.
"There's one of your Whigs for ye!" cried Alan; and then turning
to me, he asked if I had done much execution.
I told him I had winged one, and thought it was the captain.
"And I've settled two," says he. "No, there's not enough blood
let; they'll be back again. To your watch, David. This was but
a dram before 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
"It was Shuan bauchled it," I heard one say.
And another answered him with a "Wheesht, man! He's paid the
After that the voices fell again into the same muttering as
before. Only now, one person spoke most of the time, as though
laying down a plan, and first one and then another answered him
briefly, like men taking orders. By this, I made sure they were
coming on again, and told Alan.
"It's what we have to pray for," said he. "Unless we can give
them a good distaste of us, and done with it, there'll be nae
sleep for either you or me. But this time, mind, they'll be in
By this, my pistols were ready, and there was nothing to do but
listen and wait. While the brush lasted, I had not the time to
think if I was frighted; but now, when all was still again, my
mind ran upon nothing else. The thought of the sharp swords and
the cold steel was strong in me; and presently, when I began to
hear stealthy steps and a brushing of men's clothes against the
round-house wall, and knew they were taking their places in the
dark, I could have found it in my mind to cry out aloud.
All this was upon Alan's side; and I had begun to think my share
of the fight was at an end, when I heard some one drop softly on
the roof above me.
Then there came a single call on the sea-pipe, and that was the
signal. A knot of them made one rush of it, cutlass in hand,
against the door; and at the same moment, the glass of the
skylight was dashed in a thousand pieces, and a man leaped
through and landed on the floor. Before he got his feet, I had
clapped a pistol to his back, and might have shot him, too; only
at the touch of him (and him alive) my whole flesh misgave me,
and I could no more pull the trigger than I could have flown.
He had dropped his cutlass as he jumped, and when he felt the
pistol, whipped straight round and laid hold of me, roaring out
an oath; and at that either my courage came again, or I grew so
much afraid as came to the same thing; for I gave a shriek and
shot him in the midst of the body. He gave the most horrible,
ugly groan and fell to the floor. The foot of a second fellow,
whose legs were dangling through the skylight, struck me at the
same time upon the head; and at that I snatched another pistol
and shot this one through the thigh, so that he slipped through
and tumbled in a lump on his companion's body. There was no talk
of missing, any more than there was time to aim; I clapped the
muzzle to the very place and fired.
I might have stood and stared at them for long, but I heard Alan
shout as if for help, and that brought me to my senses.
He had kept the door so long; but one of the seamen, while he was
engaged with others, had run in under his guard and caught him
about the body. Alan was dirking him with his left hand, but the
fellow clung like a leech. 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
But I had not time to be of help. The wrestler dropped at last;
and Alan, leaping back to get his distance, ran upon the others
like a bull, roaring as he went. They broke before him like
water, turning, and running, and falling one against another in
their haste. The sword in his hands flashed like quicksilver
into the huddle of our fleeing enemies; and at every flash there
came the scream of a man hurt. I was still thinking we were
lost, when lo! they were all gone, and Alan was driving them
along the deck as a sheep-dog chases sheep.
Yet he was no sooner out than he was back again, being as
cautious as he was brave; and meanwhile the seamen continued
running and crying out as if he was still behind them; and we
heard them tumble one upon another into the forecastle, and
clap-to the hatch upon the top.
The round-house was like a shambles; three were dead inside,
another lay in his death agony across the threshold; and there
were Alan and I victorious and unhurt.
He came up to me with open arms. "Come to my arms!" he cried,
and embraced and kissed me hard upon both cheek. "David," said
he, "I love you like a brother. And O, man," he cried in a kind
of ecstasy, "am I no a bonny fighter?"
Thereupon he turned to the four enemies, passed his sword clean
through each of them, and tumbled them out of doors one after the
other. As he did so, he kept humming and singing and whistling
to himself, like a man trying to recall an air; only what HE was
trying was to make one. All the while, the flush was in his
face, and his eyes were as bright as a five-year-old child's with
a new toy. And presently he sat down upon the table, sword in
hand; the air that he was making all the time began to run a
little clearer, and then clearer still; and then out he burst
with a great voice into a Gaelic song.
I have translated it here, not in verse (of which I have no
skill) but at least in the king's English.
He sang it often afterwards, and the thing became popular; so
that I have, heard it, and had it explained to me, many's the
"This is the song of the sword of Alan;
The smith made it,
The fire set it;
Now it shines in the hand of Alan Breck.
"Their eyes were many and bright,
Swift were they to behold,
Many the hands they guided:
The sword was alone.
"The dun deer troop over the hill,
They are many, the hill is one;
The dun deer vanish,
The hill remains.
"Come to me from the hills of heather,
Come from the isles of the sea.
O far-beholding eagles,
Here is your meat."
Now this song which he made (both words and music) in the hour of
our victory, is something less than just to me, who stood beside
him in the tussle. Mr. Shuan and five more were either killed
outright or thoroughly disabled; but of these, two fell by my
hand, the two that came by the skylight. Four more were hurt,
and of that number, one (and he not the least important) got his
hurt from me. So that, altogether, I did my fair share both of
the killing and the wounding, and might have claimed a place in
Alan's verses. But poets have to think upon their rhymes; and in
good prose talk, Alan always did me more than justice.
In the meanwhile, I was innocent of any wrong being done me. For
not only I knew no word of the Gaelic; but what with the long
suspense of the waiting, and the scurry and strain of our two
spirts of fighting, and more than all, the horror I had of some
of my own share in it, the thing was no sooner over than I was
glad to stagger to a seat. There was that tightness on my chest
that I could hardly breathe; the thought of the two men I had
shot sat upon me like a nightmare; and all upon a sudden, and
before I had a guess of what was coming, I began to sob and cry
like any child.
Alan clapped my shoulder, and said I was a brave lad and wanted
nothing but a sleep.
"I'll take the first watch," said he. "Ye've done well by me,
David, first and last; and I wouldn't lose you for all Appin --
no, nor for Breadalbane."
So I made up my bed on the floor; and he took the first spell,
pistol in hand and sword on knee, three hours by the captain's
watch upon the wall. Then he roused me up, and I took my turn of
three hours; before the end of which it was broad day, and a very
quiet morning, with a smooth, rolling sea that tossed the ship
and made the blood run to and fro on the round-house floor, and a
heavy rain that drummed upon the roof. All my watch there was
nothing stirring; and by the banging of the helm, I knew they had
even no one at the tiller. Indeed (as I learned afterwards)
there were so many of them hurt or dead, and the rest in so ill a
temper, that Mr. Riach and the captain had to take turn and turn
like Alan and me, or the brig might have gone ashore and nobody
the wiser. It was a mercy the night had fallen so still, for the
wind had gone down as soon as the rain began. Even as it was, I
judged by the wailing of a great number of gulls that went crying
and fishing round the ship, that she must have drifted pretty
near the coast or one of the islands of the Hebrides; and at
last, looking out of the door of the round-house, I saw the great
stone hills of Skye on the right hand, and, a little more astern,
the strange isle of Rum.
THE CAPTAIN KNUCKLES UNDER
Alan and I sat down to breakfast about six of the clock. The
floor was covered with broken glass and in a horrid mess of
blood, which took away my hunger. In all other ways we were in a
situation not only agreeable but merry; having ousted the
officers from their own cabin, and having at command all the
drink in the ship -- both wine and spirits -- and all the dainty
part of what was eatable, such as the pickles and the fine sort
of bread. This, of itself, was enough to set us in good humour,
but the richest part of it was this, that the two thirstiest men
that ever came out of Scotland (Mr. Shuan being dead) were now
shut in the fore-part of the ship and condemned to what they
hated most -- cold water.
"And depend upon it," Alan said, "we shall hear more of them ere
long. Ye may keep a man from the fighting, but never from his
We made good company for each other. Alan, indeed, expressed
himself most lovingly; and taking a knife from the table, cut me
off one of the silver buttons from his coat.
"I had them," says he, "from my father, Duncan Stewart; and now
give ye one of them to be a keepsake for last night's work. And
wherever ye go and show that button, the friends of Alan Breck
will come around you."
He said this as if he had been Charlemagne, and commanded armies;
and indeed, much as I admired his courage, I was always in danger
of smiling at his vanity: in danger, I say, for had I not kept my
countenance, I would be afraid to think what a quarrel might have
As soon as we were through with our meal he rummaged in the
captain's locker till he found a clothes-brush; and then taking
off his coat, began to visit his suit and brush away the stains,
with such care and labour as I supposed to have been only usual
with women. To be sure, he had no other; and, besides (as he
said), it belonged to a king and so behoved to be royally looked
For all that, when I saw what care he took to pluck out the
threads where the button had been cut away, I put a higher value
on his gift.
He was still so engaged when we were hailed by Mr. Riach from the
deck, asking for a parley; and I, climbing through the skylight
and sitting on the edge of it, pistol in hand and with a bold
front, though inwardly in fear of broken glass, hailed him back
again and bade him speak out. He came to the edge of the
round-house, and stood on a coil of rope, so that his chin was on
a level with the roof; and we looked at each other awhile in
silence. Mr. Riach, as I do not think he had been very forward
in the battle, so he had got off with nothing worse than a blow
upon the cheek: but he looked out of heart and very weary, having
been all night afoot, either standing watch or doctoring the
"This is a bad job," said he at last, shaking his head.
"It was none of our choosing," said I.
"The captain," says he, "would like to speak with your friend.
They might speak at the window."
"And how do we know what treachery he means?" cried I.
"He means none, David," returned Mr. Riach, "and if he did, I'll
tell ye the honest truth, we couldnae get the men to follow."
"Is that so?" said I.
"I'll tell ye more than that," said he. "It's not only the men;
it's me. I'm frich'ened, Davie." And he smiled across at me.
"No," he continued, "what we want is to be shut of him."
Thereupon I consulted with Alan, and the parley was agreed to and
parole given upon either side; but this was not the whole of Mr.
Riach's business, and he now begged me for a dram with such
instancy and such reminders of his former kindness, that at last
I handed him a pannikin with about a gill of brandy. He drank a
part, and then carried the rest down upon the deck, to share it
(I suppose) with his superior.
A little after, the captain came (as was agreed) to one of the
windows, and stood there in the rain, with his arm in a sling,
and looking stern and pale, and so old that my heart smote me for
having fired upon him.
Alan at once held a pistol in his face.
"Put that thing up!" said the captain. "Have I not passed my
word, sir? or do ye seek to affront me?"
"Captain," says Alan, "I doubt your word is a breakable. Last
night ye haggled and argle-bargled like an apple-wife; and then
passed me your word, and gave me your hand to back it; and ye ken
very well what was the upshot. Be damned to your word!" says he.
"Well, well, sir," said the captain, "ye'll get little good by
swearing." (And truly that was a fault of which the captain was
quite free.) "But we have other things to speak," he continued,
bitterly. "Ye've made a sore hash of my brig; I haven't hands
enough left to work her; and my first officer (whom I could ill
spare) has got your sword throughout his vitals, and passed
without speech. There is nothing left me, sir, but to put back
into the port of Glasgow after hands; and there (by your leave)
ye will find them that are better able to talk to you."
"Ay?" said Alan; "and faith, I'll have a talk with them mysel'!
Unless there's naebody speaks English in that town, I have a
bonny tale for them. Fifteen tarry sailors upon the one side,
and a man and a halfling boy upon the other! O, man, it's
Hoseason flushed red.
"No," continued Alan, "that'll no do. Ye'll just have to set me
ashore as we agreed."
"Ay," said Hoseason, "but my first officer is dead -- ye ken best
how. There's none of the rest of us acquaint with this coast,
sir; and it's one very dangerous to ships."
"I give ye your choice," says Alan. "Set me on dry ground in
Appin, or Ardgour, or in Morven, or Arisaig, or Morar; or, in
brief, where ye please, within thirty miles of my own country;
except in a country of the Campbells. That's a broad target. If
ye miss that, ye must be as feckless at the sailoring as I have
found ye at the fighting. Why, my poor country people in their
bit cobles pass from island to island in all weathers, ay,
and by night too, for the matter of that."
Coble: a small boat used in fishing.
"A coble's not a ship" sir" said the captain. "It has nae
draught of water."
"Well, then, to Glasgow if ye list!" says Alan. "We'll have the
laugh of ye at the least."
"My mind runs little upon laughing," said the captain. "But all
this will cost money, sir."
"Well, sir" says Alan, "I am nae weathercock. Thirty guineas, if
ye land me on the sea-side; and sixty, if ye put me in the Linnhe
"But see, sir, where we lie, we are but a few hours' sail from
Ardnamurchan," said Hoseason. "Give me sixty, and I'll set ye
" And I'm to wear my brogues and run jeopardy of the red-coats to
please you?" cries Alan. "No, sir; if ye want sixty guineas earn
them, and set me in my own country."
"It's to risk the brig, sir," said the captain, "and your own
lives along with her."
"Take it or want it," says Alan.
"Could ye pilot us at all?" asked the captain, who was frowning
"Well, it's doubtful," said Alan. "I'm more of a fighting man
(as ye have seen for yoursel') than a sailor-man. But I have
been often enough picked up and set down upon this coast, and
should ken something of the lie of it."
The captain shook his head, still frowning.
"If I had lost less money on this unchancy cruise," says he, "I
would see you in a rope's end before I risked my brig, sir. But
be it as ye will. As soon as I get a slant of wind (and there's
some coming, or I'm the more mistaken) I'll put it in hand. But
there's one thing more. We may meet in with a king's ship and
she may lay us aboard, sir, with no blame of mine: they keep the
cruisers thick upon this coast, ye ken who for. Now, sir, if
that was to befall, ye might leave the money."
"Captain," says Alan, "if ye see a pennant, it shall be your part
to run away. And now, as I hear you're a little short of brandy
in the fore-part, I'll offer ye a change: a bottle of brandy
against two buckets of water."
That was the last clause of the treaty, and was duly executed on
both sides; so that Alan and I could at last wash out the
round-house and be quit of the memorials of those whom we had
slain, and the captain and Mr. Riach could be happy again in
their own way, the name of which was drink.
I HEAR OF THE "RED FOX"
Before we had done cleaning out the round-house, a breeze sprang
up from a little to the east of north. This blew off the rain
and brought out the sun.
And here I must explain; and the reader would do well to look at
a map. On the day when the fog fell and we ran down Alan's boat,
we had been running through the Little Minch. At dawn after the
battle, we lay becalmed to the east of the Isle of Canna or
between that and Isle Eriska in the chain of the Long Island.
Now to get from there to the Linnhe Loch, the straight course was
through the narrows of the Sound of Mull. But the captain had no
chart; he was afraid to trust his brig so deep among the islands;
and the wind serving well, he preferred to go by west of Tiree
and come up under the southern coast of the great Isle of Mull.
All day the breeze held in the same point, and rather freshened
than died down; and towards afternoon, a swell began to set in
from round the outer Hebrides. Our course, to go round about the
inner isles, was to the west of south, so that at first we had
this swell upon our beam, and were much rolled about. But after
nightfall, when we had turned the end of Tiree and began to head
more to the east, the sea came right astern.
Meanwhile, the early part of the day, before the swell came up,
was very pleasant; sailing, as we were, in a bright sunshine and
with many mountainous islands upon different sides. Alan and I
sat in the round-house with the doors open on each side (the wind
being straight astern), and smoked a pipe or two of the captain's
fine tobacco. It was at this time we heard each other's stories,
which was the more important to me, as I gained some knowledge of
that wild Highland country on which I was so soon to land. In
those days, so close on the back of the great rebellion, it was
needful a man should know what he was doing when he went upon the
It was I that showed the example, telling him all my misfortune;
which he heard with great good-nature. Only, when I came to
mention that good friend of mine, Mr. Campbell the minister, Alan
fired up and cried out that he hated all that were of that name.
"Why," said I, "he is a man you should be proud to give your hand
"I know nothing I would help a Campbell to," says he, "unless it
was a leaden bullet. I would hunt all of that name like
blackcocks. If I lay dying, I would crawl upon my knees to my
chamber window for a shot at one."
"Why, Alan," I cried, "what ails ye at the Campbells?"
"Well," says he, "ye ken very well that I am an Appin Stewart,
and the Campbells have long harried and wasted those of my name;
ay, and got lands of us by treachery--but never with the sword,"
he cried loudly, and with the word brought down his fist upon the
table. But I paid the less attention to this, for I knew it was
usually said by those who have the underhand. "There's more than
that," he continued, "and all in the same story: lying words,
lying papers, tricks fit for a peddler, and the show of what's
legal over all, to make a man the more angry."
"You that are so wasteful of your buttons," said I, "I can hardly
think you would be a good judge of business."
"Ah!" says he, falling again to smiling, "I got my wastefulness
from the same man I got the buttons from; and that was my poor
father, Duncan Stewart, grace be to him! He was the prettiest man
of his kindred; and the best swordsman in the Hielands, David,
and that is the same as to say, in all the world, I should ken,
for it was him that taught me. He was in the Black Watch, when
first it was mustered; and, like other gentlemen privates, had a
gillie at his back to carry his firelock for him on the march.
Well, the King, it appears, was wishful to see Hieland
swordsmanship; and my father and three more were chosen out and
sent to London town, to let him see it at the best. So they were
had into the palace and showed the whole art of the sword for two
hours at a stretch, before King George and Queen Carline, and the
Butcher Cumberland, and many more of whom I havenae mind. And
when they were through, the King (for all he was a rank usurper)
spoke them fair and gave each man three guineas in his hand.
Now, as they were going out of the palace, they had a porter's
lodge to go, by; and it came in on my father, as he was perhaps
the first private Hieland gentleman that had ever gone by that
door, it was right he should give the poor porter a proper notion
of their quality. So he gives the King's three guineas into the
man's hand, as if it was his common custom; the three others that
came behind him did the same; and there they were on the street,
never a penny the better for their pains. Some say it was one,
that was the first to fee the King's porter; and some say it was
another; but the truth of it is, that it was Duncan Stewart, as I
am willing to prove with either sword or pistol. And that was
the father that I had, God rest him!"
"I think he was not the man to leave you rich," said I.
"And that's true," said Alan. "He left me my breeks to cover me,
and little besides. And that was how I came to enlist, which was
a black spot upon my character at the best of times, and would
still be a sore job for me if I fell among the red-coats."
"What," cried I, "were you in the English army?"
"That was I," said Alan. "But I deserted to the right side at
Preston Pans -- and that's some comfort."
I could scarcely share this view: holding desertion under arms
for an unpardonable fault in honour. But for all I was so young,
I was wiser than say my thought. "Dear, dear," says I, "the
punishment is death."
"Ay" said he, "if they got hands on me, it would be a short
shrift and a lang tow for Alan! But I have the King of France's
commission in my pocket, which would aye be some protection."
"I misdoubt it much," said I.
"I have doubts mysel'," said Alan drily.
"And, good heaven, man," cried I, "you that are a condemned
rebel, and a deserter, and a man of the French King's -- what
tempts ye back into this country? It's a braving of Providence."
"Tut!" says Alan, "I have been back every year since forty-six!"
"And what brings ye, man?" cried I.
"Well, ye see, I weary for my friends and country," said he.
"France is a braw place, nae doubt; but I weary for the heather
and the deer. And then I have bit things that I attend to.
Whiles I pick up a few lads to serve the King of France:
recruits, ye see; and that's aye a little money. But the heart
of the matter is the business of my chief, Ardshiel."
"I thought they called your chief Appin," said I.
"Ay, but Ardshiel is the captain of the clan," said he, which
scarcely cleared my mind. "Ye see, David, he that was all his
life so great a man, and come of the blood and bearing the name
of kings, is now brought down to live in a French town like a
poor and private person. He that had four hundred swords at his
whistle, I have seen, with these eyes of mine, buying butter in
the market-place, and taking it home in a kale-leaf. This is not
only a pain but a disgrace to us of his family and clan. There
are the bairns forby, the children and the hope of Appin, that
must be learned their letters and how to hold a sword, in that
far country. Now, the tenants of Appin have to pay a rent to
King George; but their hearts are staunch, they are true to their
chief; and what with love and a bit of pressure, and maybe a
threat or two, the poor folk scrape up a second rent for
Ardshiel. Well, David, I'm the hand that carries it." And he
struck the belt about his body, so that the guineas rang.
"Do they pay both?" cried I.
"Ay, David, both," says he.
"What! two rents?" I repeated.
"Ay, David," said he. "I told a different tale to yon captain
man; but this is the truth of it. And it's wonderful to me how
little pressure is needed. But that's the handiwork of my good
kinsman and my father's friend, James of the Glens: James
Stewart, that is: Ardshiel's half-brother. He it is that gets
the money in, and does the management."
This was the first time I heard the name of that James Stewart,
who was afterwards so famous at the time of his hanging. But I
took little heed at the moment, for all my mind was occupied with
the generosity of these poor Highlanders.
"I call it noble," I cried. "I'm a Whig, or little better; but I
call it noble."
"Ay" said he, "ye're a Whig, but ye're a gentleman; and that's
what does it. Now, if ye were one of the cursed race of
Campbell, ye would gnash your teeth to hear tell of it. If ye
were the Red Fox..." And at that name, his teeth shut together,
and he ceased speaking. I have seen many a grim face, but never
a grimmer than Alan's when he had named the Red Fox.
"And who is the Red Fox?" I asked, daunted, but still curious.
"Who is he?" cried Alan. "Well, and I'll tell you that. When
the men of the clans were broken at Culloden, and the good cause
went down, and the horses rode over the fetlocks in the best
blood of the north, Ardshiel had to flee like a poor deer upon
the mountains -- he and his lady and his bairns. A sair job we
had of it before we got him shipped; and while he still lay in
the heather, the English rogues, that couldnae come at his life,
were striking at his rights. They stripped him of his powers;
they stripped him of his lands; they plucked the weapons from the
hands of his clansmen, that had borne arms for thirty centuries;
ay, and the very clothes off their backs -- so that it's now a
sin to wear a tartan plaid, and a man may be cast into a gaol if
he has but a kilt about his legs. One thing they couldnae kill.
That was the love the clansmen bore their chief. These guineas
are the proof of it. And now, in there steps a man, a Campbell,
red-headed Colin of Glenure ----"
"Is that him you call the Red Fox?" said I.
"Will ye bring me his brush?" cries Alan, fiercely. "Ay, that's
the man. In he steps, and gets papers from King George, to be
so-called King's factor on the lands of Appin. And at first he
sings small, and is hail-fellow-well-met with Sheamus -- that's
James of the Glens, my chieftain's agent. But by-and-by, that
came to his ears that I have just told you; how the poor commons
of Appin, the farmers and the crofters and the boumen, were
wringing their very plaids to get a second rent, and send it
over-seas for Ardshiel and his poor bairns. What was it ye
called it, when I told ye?"
"I called it noble, Alan," said I.
"And you little better than a common Whig!" cries Alan. "But
when it came to Colin Roy, the black Campbell blood in him ran
wild. He sat gnashing his teeth at the wine table. What! should
a Stewart get a bite of bread, and him not be able to prevent it?
Ah! Red Fox, if ever I hold you at a gun's end, the Lord have
pity upon ye!" (Alan stopped to swallow down his anger.) "Well,
David, what does he do? He declares all the farms to let. And,
thinks he, in his black heart, 'I'll soon get other tenants
that'll overbid these Stewarts, and Maccolls, and Macrobs' (for
these are all names in my clan, David); 'and then,' thinks he,
'Ardshiel will have to hold his bonnet on a French roadside.'"
"Well," said I, "what followed?"
Alan laid down his pipe, which he had long since suffered to go
out, and set his two hands upon his knees.
"Ay," said he, "ye'll never guess that! For these same Stewarts,
and Maccolls, and Macrobs (that had two rents to pay, one to King
George by stark force, and one to Ardshiel by natural kindness)
offered him a better price than any Campbell in all broad
Scotland; and far he sent seeking them -- as far as to the sides
of Clyde and the cross of Edinburgh -- seeking, and fleeching,
and begging them to come, where there was a Stewart to be starved
and a red-headed hound of a Campbell to be pleasured!"
"Well, Alan," said I, "that is a strange story, and a fine one,
too. And Whig as I may be, I am glad the man was beaten."
"Him beaten?" echoed Alan. "It's little ye ken of Campbells, and
less of the Red Fox. Him beaten? No: nor will be, till his
blood's on the hillside! But if the day comes, David man, that I
can find time and leisure for a bit of hunting, there grows not
enough heather in all Scotland to hide him from my vengeance!"
"Man Alan," said I, "ye are neither very wise nor very Christian
to blow off so many words of anger. They will do the man ye call
the Fox no harm, and yourself no good. Tell me your tale plainly
out. What did he next?"
"And that's a good observe, David," said Alan. "Troth and
indeed, they will do him no harm; the more's the pity! And
barring that about Christianity (of which my opinion is quite
otherwise, or I would be nae Christian), I am much of your mind."
"Opinion here or opinion there," said I, "it's a kent thing that
Christianity forbids revenge."
"Ay" said he, "it's well seen it was a Campbell taught ye! It
would be a convenient world for them and their sort, if there was
no such a thing as a lad and a gun behind a heather bush! But
that's nothing to the point. This is what he did."
"Ay" said I, "come to that."
"Well, David," said he, "since he couldnae be rid of the loyal
commons by fair means, he swore he would be rid of them by foul.
Ardshiel was to starve: that was the thing he aimed at. And
since them that fed him in his exile wouldnae be bought out --
right or wrong, he would drive them out. Therefore he sent for
lawyers, and papers, and red-coats to stand at his back. And the
kindly folk of that country must all pack and tramp, every
father's son out of his father's house, and out of the place
where he was bred and fed, and played when he was a callant. And
who are to succeed them? Bare-leggit beggars! King George is to
whistle for his rents; he maun dow with less; he can spread his
butter thinner: what cares Red Colin? If he can hurt Ardshiel, he
has his wish; if he can pluck the meat from my chieftain's table,
and the bit toys out of his children's hands, he will gang hame
singing to Glenure!"
"Let me have a word," said I. "Be sure, if they take less rents,
be sure Government has a finger in the pie. It's not this
Campbell's fault, man -- it's his orders. And if ye killed this
Colin to-morrow, what better would ye be? There would be another
factor in his shoes, as fast as spur can drive."
"Ye're a good lad in a fight," said Alan; "but, man! ye have Whig
blood in ye!"
He spoke kindly enough, but there was so much anger under his
contempt that I thought it was wise to change the conversation.
I expressed my wonder how, with the Highlands covered with
troops, and guarded like a city in a siege, a man in his
situation could come and go without arrest.
"It's easier than ye would think," said Alan. "A bare hillside
(ye see) is like all one road; if there's a sentry at one place,
ye just go by another. And then the heather's a great help. And
everywhere there are friends' houses and friends' byres and
haystacks. And besides, when folk talk of a country covered with
troops, it's but a kind of a byword at the best. A soldier
covers nae mair of it than his boot-soles. I have fished a water
with a sentry on the other side of the brae, and killed a fine
trout; and I have sat in a heather bush within six feet of
another, and learned a real bonny tune from his whistling. This
was it," said he, and whistled me the air.
"And then, besides," he continued, "it's no sae bad now as it was
in forty-six. The Hielands are what they call pacified. Small
wonder, with never a gun or a sword left from Cantyre to Cape
Wrath, but what tenty folk have hidden in their thatch! But
what I would like to ken, David, is just how long? Not long, ye
would think, with men like Ardshiel in exile and men like the Red
Fox sitting birling the wine and oppressing the poor at home.
But it's a kittle thing to decide what folk'll bear, and what
they will not. Or why would Red Colin be riding his horse all
over my poor country of Appin, and never a pretty lad to put a
bullet in him?"
And with this Alan fell into a muse, and for a long time sate
very sad and silent.
I will add the rest of what I have to say about my friend, that
he was skilled in all kinds of music, but principally pipe-music;
was a well-considered poet in his own tongue; had read several
books both in French and English; was a dead shot, a good angler,
and an excellent fencer with the small sword as well as with his
own particular weapon. For his faults, they were on his face,
and I now knew them all. But the worst of them, his childish
propensity to take offence and to pick quarrels, he greatly laid
aside in my case, out of regard for the battle of the
round-house. But whether it was because I had done well myself,
or because I had been a witness of his own much greater prowess,
is more than I can tell. For though he had a great taste for
courage in other men, yet he admired it most in Alan Breck.
THE LOSS OF THE BRIG
It was already late at night, and as dark as it ever would be at
that season of the year (and that is to say, it was still pretty
bright), when Hoseason clapped his head into the round-house
"Here," said he, "come out and see if ye can pilot."
"Is this one of your tricks?" asked Alan.
"Do I look like tricks?" cries the captain. "I have other things
to think of -- my brig's in danger!"
By the concerned look of his face, and, above all, by the sharp
tones in which he spoke of his brig, it was plain to both of us
he was in deadly earnest; and so Alan and I, with no great fear
of treachery, stepped on deck.
The sky was clear; it blew hard, and was bitter cold; a great
deal of daylight lingered; and the moon, which was nearly full,
shone brightly. The brig was close hauled, so as to round the
southwest corner of the Island of Mull, the hills of which (and
Ben More above them all, with a wisp of mist upon the top of it)
lay full upon the lar-board bow. Though it was no good point of
sailing for the Covenant, she tore through the seas at a great
rate, pitching and straining, and pursued by the westerly swell.
Altogether it was no such ill night to keep the seas in; and I
had begun to wonder what it was that sat so heavily upon the
captain, when the brig rising suddenly on the top of a high
swell, he pointed and cried to us to look. Away on the lee bow,
a thing like a fountain rose out of the moonlit sea, and
immediately after we heard a low sound of roaring.
"What do ye call that?" asked the captain, gloomily.
"The sea breaking on a reef," said Alan. "And now ye ken where
it is; and what better would ye have?"
"Ay," said Hoseason, "if it was the only one."
And sure enough, just as he spoke there came a second fountain
farther to the south.
"There!" said Hoseason. "Ye see for yourself. If I had kent of
these reefs, if I had had a chart, or if Shuan had been spared,
it's not sixty guineas, no, nor six hundred, would have made me
risk my brig in sic a stoneyard! But you, sir, that was to pilot
us, have ye never a word?"
"I'm thinking," said Alan, "these'll be what they call the Torran
"Are there many of them?" says the captain.
"Truly, sir, I am nae pilot," said Alan; "but it sticks in my
mind there are ten miles of them."
Mr. Riach and the captain looked at each other.
"There's a way through them, I suppose?" said the captain.
"Doubtless," said Alan, "but where? But it somehow runs in my
mind once more that it is clearer under the land."
"So?" said Hoseason. "We'll have to haul our wind then, Mr.
Riach; we'll have to come as near in about the end of Mull as we
can take her, sir; and even then we'll have the land to kep the
wind off us, and that stoneyard on our lee. Well, we're in for
it now, and may as well crack on."
With that he gave an order to the steersman, and sent Riach to
the foretop. There were only five men on deck, counting the
officers; these being all that were fit (or, at least, both fit
and willing) for their work. So, as I say, it fell to Mr. Riach
to go aloft, and he sat there looking out and hailing the deck
with news of all he saw.
"The sea to the south is thick," he cried; and then, after a
while, "it does seem clearer in by the land."
"Well, sir," said Hoseason to Alan, "we'll try your way of it.
But I think I might as well trust to a blind fiddler. Pray God
"Pray God I am!" says Alan to me. "But where did I hear it?
Well, well, it will be as it must."
As we got nearer to the turn of the land the reefs began to be
sown here and there on our very path; and Mr. Riach sometimes
cried down to us to change the course. Sometimes, indeed, none
too soon; for one reef was so close on the brig's weather board
that when a sea burst upon it the lighter sprays fell upon her
deck and wetted us like rain.
The brightness of the night showed us these perils as clearly as
by day, which was, perhaps, the more alarming. It showed me,
too, the face of the captain as he stood by the steersman, now on
one foot, now on the other, and sometimes blowing in his hands,
but still listening and looking and as steady as steel. Neither
he nor Mr. Riach had shown well in the fighting; but I saw they
were brave in their own trade, and admired them all the more
because I found Alan very white.
"Ochone, David," says he, "this is no the kind of death I fancy!"
"What, Alan!" I cried, "you're not afraid?"
"No," said he, wetting his lips, "but you'll allow, yourself,
it's a cold ending."
By this time, now and then sheering to one side or the other to
avoid a reef, but still hugging the wind and the land, we had got
round Iona and begun to come alongside Mull. The tide at the
tail of the land ran very strong, and threw the brig about. Two
hands were put to the helm, and Hoseason himself would sometimes
lend a help; and it was strange to see three strong men throw
their weight upon the tiller, and it (like a living thing)
struggle against and drive them back. This would have been the
greater danger had not the sea been for some while free of
obstacles. Mr. Riach, besides, announced from the top that he
saw clear water ahead.
"Ye were right," said Hoseason to Alan. "Ye have saved the brig,
sir. I'll mind that when we come to clear accounts." And I
believe he not only meant what he said, but would have done it;
so high a place did the Covenant hold in his affections.
But this is matter only for conjecture, things having gone
otherwise than he forecast.
"Keep her away a point," sings out Mr. Riach. "Reef to
And just at the same time the tide caught the brig, and threw the
wind out of her sails. She came round into the wind like a top,
and the next moment struck the reef with such a dunch as threw us
all flat upon the deck, and came near to shake Mr. Riach from his
place upon the mast.
I was on my feet in a minute. The reef on which we had struck
was close in under the southwest end of Mull, off a little isle
they call Earraid, which lay low and black upon the larboard.
Sometimes the swell broke clean over us; sometimes it only ground
the poor brig upon the reef, so that we could hear her beat
herself to pieces; and what with the great noise of the sails,
and the singing of the wind, and the flying of the spray in the
moonlight, and the sense of danger, I think my head must have
been partly turned, for I could scarcely understand the things I
Presently I observed Mr. Riach and the seamen busy round the
skiff, and, still in the same blank, ran over to assist them; and
as soon as I set my hand to work, my mind came clear again. It
was no very easy task, for the skiff lay amidships and was full
of hamper, and the breaking of the heavier seas continually
forced us to give over and hold on; but we all wrought like
horses while we could.
Meanwhile such of the wounded as could move came clambering out
of the fore-scuttle and began to help; while the rest that lay
helpless in their bunks harrowed me with screaming and begging to
The captain took no part. It seemed he was struck stupid. He
stood holding by the shrouds, talking to himself and groaning out
aloud whenever the ship hammered on the rock. His brig was like
wife and child to him; he had looked on, day by day, at the
mishandling of poor Ransome; but when it came to the brig, he
seemed to suffer along with her.
All the time of our working at the boat, I remember only one
other thing: that I asked Alan, looking across at the shore, what
country it was; and he answered, it was the worst possible for
him, for it was a land of the Campbells.
We had one of the wounded men told off to keep a watch upon the
seas and cry us warning. Well, we had the boat about ready to be
launched, when this man sang out pretty shrill: "For God's sake,
hold on!" We knew by his tone that it was something more than
ordinary; and sure enough, there followed a sea so huge that it
lifted the brig right up and canted her over on her beam.
Whether the cry came too late, or my hold was too weak, I know
not; but at the sudden tilting of the ship I was cast clean over
the bulwarks into the sea.
I went down, and drank my fill, and then came up, and got a blink
of the moon, and then down again. They say a man sinks a third
time for good. I cannot be made like other folk, then; for I
would not like to write how often I went down, or how often I
came up again. All the while, I was being hurled along, and
beaten upon and choked, and then swallowed whole; and the thing
was so distracting to my wits, that I was neither sorry nor
Presently, I found I was holding to a spar, which helped me
somewhat. And then all of a sudden I was in quiet water, and
began to come to myself.
It was the spare yard I had got hold of, and I was amazed to see
how far I had travelled from the brig. I hailed her, indeed; but
it was plain she was already out of cry. She was still holding
together; but whether or not they had yet launched the boat, I
was too far off and too low down to see.
While I was hailing the brig, I spied a tract of water lying
between us where no great waves came, but which yet boiled white
all over and bristled in the moon with rings and bubbles.
Sometimes the whole tract swung to one side, like the tail of a
live serpent; sometimes, for a glimpse, it would all disappear
and then boil up again. What it was I had no guess, which for
the time increased my fear of it; but I now know it must have
been the roost or tide race, which had carried me away so fast
and tumbled me about so cruelly, and at last, as if tired of that
play, had flung out me and the spare yard upon its landward
I now lay quite becalmed, and began to feel that a man can die of
cold as well as of drowning. The shores of Earraid were close
in; I could see in the moonlight the dots of heather and the
sparkling of the mica in the rocks.
"Well," thought I to myself, "if I cannot get as far as that,
I had no skill of swimming, Essen Water being small in our
neighbourhood; but when I laid hold upon the yard with both arms,
and kicked out with both feet, I soon begun to find that I was
moving. Hard work it was, and mortally slow; but in about an
hour of kicking and splashing, I had got well in between the
points of a sandy bay surrounded by low hills.
The sea was here quite quiet; there was no sound of any surf; the
moon shone clear; and I thought in my heart I had never seen a
place so desert and desolate. But it was dry land; and when at
last it grew so shallow that I could leave the yard and wade
ashore upon my feet, I cannot tell if I was more tired or more
grateful. Both, at least, I was: tired as I never was before
that night; and grateful to God as I trust I have been often,
though never with more cause.
With my stepping ashore I began the most unhappy part of my
adventures. It was half-past twelve in the morning, and though
the wind was broken by the land, it was a cold night. I dared
not sit down (for I thought I should have frozen), but took off
my shoes and walked to and fro upon the sand, bare-foot, and
beating my breast with infinite weariness. There was no sound of
man or cattle; not a cock crew, though it was about the hour of
their first waking; only the surf broke outside in the distance,
which put me in mind of my perils and those of my friend. To
walk by the sea at that hour of the morning, and in a place so
desert-like and lonesome, struck me with a kind of fear.
As soon as the day began to break I put on my shoes and climbed a
hill -- the ruggedest scramble I ever undertook-- falling, the
whole way, between big blocks of granite, or leaping from one to
another. When I got to the top the dawn was come. There was no
sign of the brig, which must have lifted from the reef and sunk.
The boat, too, was nowhere to be seen. There was never a sail
upon the ocean; and in what I could see of the land was neither
house nor man.
I was afraid to think what had befallen my shipmates, and afraid
to look longer at so empty a scene. What with my wet clothes and
weariness, and my belly that now began to ache with hunger, I had
enough to trouble me without that. So I set off eastward along
the south coast, hoping to find a house where I might warm
myself, and perhaps get news of those I had lost. And at the
worst, I considered the sun would soon rise and dry my clothes.
After a little, my way was stopped by a creek or inlet of the
sea, which seemed to run pretty deep into the land; and as I had
no means to get across, I must needs change my direction to go
about the end of it. It was still the roughest kind of walking;
indeed the whole, not only of Earraid, but of the neighbouring
part of Mull (which they call the Ross) is nothing but a jumble
of granite rocks with heather in among. At first the creek kept
narrowing as I had looked to see; but presently to my surprise it
began to widen out again. At this I scratched my head, but had
still no notion of the truth: until at last I came to a rising
ground, and it burst upon me all in a moment that I was cast upon
a little barren isle, and cut off on every side by the salt seas.
Instead of the sun rising to dry me, it came on to rain, with a
thick mist; so that my case was lamentable.
I stood in the rain, and shivered, and wondered what to do, till
it occurred to me that perhaps the creek was fordable. Back I
went to the narrowest point and waded in. But not three yards
from shore, I plumped in head over ears; and if ever I was heard
of more, it was rather by God's grace than my own prudence. I
was no wetter (for that could hardly be), but I was all the
colder for this mishap; and having lost another hope was the more
And now, all at once, the yard came in my head. What had carried
me through the roost would surely serve me to cross this little
quiet creek in safety. With that I set off, undaunted, across
the top of the isle, to fetch and carry it back. It was a weary
tramp in all ways, and if hope had not buoyed me up, I must have
cast myself down and given up. Whether with the sea salt, or
because I was growing fevered, I was distressed with thirst, and
had to stop, as I went, and drink the peaty water out of the
I came to the bay at last, more dead than alive; and at the first
glance, I thought the yard was something farther out than when I
left it. In I went, for the third time, into the sea. The sand
was smooth and firm, and shelved gradually down, so that I could
wade out till the water was almost to my neck and the little
waves splashed into my face. But at that depth my feet began to
leave me, and I durst venture in no farther. As for the yard, I
saw it bobbing very quietly some twenty feet beyond.
I had borne up well until this last disappointment; but at that I
came ashore, and flung myself down upon the sands and wept.
The time I spent upon the island is still so horrible a thought
to me, that I must pass it lightly over. In all the books I have
read of people cast away, they had either their pockets full of
tools, or a chest of things would be thrown upon the beach along
with them, as if on purpose. My case was very different. I had
nothing in my pockets but money and Alan's silver button; and
being inland bred, I was as much short of knowledge as of means.
I knew indeed that shell-fish were counted good to eat; and among
the rocks of the isle I found a great plenty of limpets, which at
first I could scarcely strike from their places, not knowing
quickness to be needful. There were, besides, some of the little
shells that we call buckies; I think periwinkle is the English
name. Of these two I made my whole diet, devouring them cold and
raw as I found them; and so hungry was I, that at first they
seemed to me delicious.
Perhaps they were out of season, or perhaps there was something
wrong in the sea about my island. But at least I had no sooner
eaten my first meal than I was seized with giddiness and
retching, and lay for a long time no better than dead. A second
trial of the same food (indeed I had no other) did better with
me, and revived my strength. But as long as I was on the island,
I never knew what to expect when I had eaten; sometimes all was
well, and sometimes I was thrown into a miserable sickness; nor
could I ever distinguish what particular fish it was that hurt
All day it streamed rain; the island ran like a sop, there was no
dry spot to be found; and when I lay down that night, between two
boulders that made a kind of roof, my feet were in a bog.
The second day I crossed the island to all sides. There was no
one part of it better than another; it was all desolate and
rocky; nothing living on it but game birds which I lacked the
means to kill, and the gulls which haunted the outlying rocks in
a prodigious number. But the creek, or strait, that cut off the
isle from the main-land of the Ross, opened out on the north into
a bay, and the bay again opened into the Sound of Iona; and it
was the neighbourhood of this place that I chose to be my home;
though if I had thought upon the very name of home in such a
spot, I must have burst out weeping.
I had good reasons for my choice. There was in this part of the
isle a little hut of a house like a pig's hut, where fishers used
to sleep when they came there upon their business; but the turf
roof of it had fallen entirely in; so that the hut was of no use
to me, and gave me less shelter than my rocks. What was more
important, the shell-fish on which I lived grew there in great
plenty; when the tide was out I could gather a peck at a time:
and this was doubtless a convenience. But the other reason went
deeper. I had become in no way used to the horrid solitude of
the isle, but still looked round me on all sides (like a man that
was hunted), between fear and hope that I might see some human
creature coming. Now, from a little up the hillside over the
bay, I could catch a sight of the great, ancient church and the
roofs of the people's houses in Iona. And on the other hand,
over the low country of the Ross, I saw smoke go up, morning and
evening, as if from a homestead in a hollow of the land.
I used to watch this smoke, when I was wet and cold, and had my
head half turned with loneliness; and think of the fireside and
the company, till my heart burned. It was the same with the
roofs of Iona. Altogether, this sight I had of men's homes and
comfortable lives, although it put a point on my own sufferings,
yet it kept hope alive, and helped me to eat my raw shell-fish
(which had soon grown to be a disgust), and saved me from the
sense of horror I had whenever I was quite alone with dead rocks,
and fowls, and the rain, and the cold sea.
I say it kept hope alive; and indeed it seemed impossible that I
should be left to die on the shores of my own country, and within
view of a church-tower and the smoke of men's houses. But the
second day passed; and though as long as the light lasted I kept
a bright look-out for boats on the Sound or men passing on the
Ross, no help came near me. It still rained, and I turned in to
sleep, as wet as ever, and with a cruel sore throat, but a little
comforted, perhaps, by having said good-night to my next
neighbours, the people of Iona.
Charles the Second declared a man could stay outdoors more days
in the year in the climate of England than in any other. This
was very like a king, with a palace at his back and changes of
dry clothes. But he must have had better luck on his flight from
Worcester than I had on that miserable isle. It was the height
of the summer; yet it rained for more than twenty-four hours, and
did not clear until the afternoon of the third day.
This was the day of incidents. In the morning I saw a red deer,
a buck with a fine spread of antlers, standing in the rain on the
top of the island; but he had scarce seen me rise from under my
rock, before he trotted off upon the other side. I supposed he
must have swum the strait; though what should bring any creature
to Earraid, was more than I could fancy.
A little after, as I was jumping about after my limpets, I was
startled by a guinea-piece, which fell upon a rock in front of me
and glanced off into the sea. When the sailors gave me my money
again, they kept back not only about a third of the whole sum,
but my father's leather purse; so that from that day out, I
carried my gold loose in a pocket with a button. I now saw there
must be a hole, and clapped my hand to the place in a great
hurry. But this was to lock the stable door after the steed was
stolen. I had left the shore at Queensferry with near on fifty
pounds; now I found no more than two guinea-pieces and a silver
It is true I picked up a third guinea a little after, where it
lay shining on a piece of turf. That made a fortune of three
pounds and four shillings, English money, for a lad, the rightful
heir of an estate, and now starving on an isle at the extreme end
of the wild Highlands.
This state of my affairs dashed me still further; and, indeed my
plight on that third morning was truly pitiful. My clothes were
beginning to rot; my stockings in particular were quite worn
through, so that my shanks went naked; my hands had grown quite
soft with the continual soaking; my throat was very sore, my
strength had much abated, and my heart so turned against the
horrid stuff I was condemned to eat, that the very sight of it
came near to sicken me.
And yet the worst was not yet come.
There is a pretty high rock on the northwest of Earraid, which
(because it had a flat top and overlooked the Sound) I was much
in the habit of frequenting; not that ever I stayed in one place,
save when asleep, my misery giving me no rest. Indeed, I wore
myself down with continual and aimless goings and comings in the
As soon, however, as the sun came out, I lay down on the top of
that rock to dry myself. The comfort of the sunshine is a thing
I cannot tell. It set me thinking hopefully of my deliverance,
of which I had begun to despair; and I scanned the sea and the
Ross with a fresh interest. On the south of my rock, a part of
the island jutted out and hid the open ocean, so that a boat
could thus come quite near me upon that side, and I be none the
Well, all of a sudden, a coble with a brown sail and a pair of
fishers aboard of it, came flying round that corner of the isle,
bound for Iona. I shouted out, and then fell on my knees on the
rock and reached up my hands and prayed to them. They were near
enough to hear -- I could even see the colour of their hair; and
there was no doubt but they observed me, for they cried out in
the Gaelic tongue, and laughed. But the boat never turned aside,
and flew on, right before my eyes, for Iona.
I could not believe such wickedness, and ran along the shore from