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Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

Part 5 out of 5

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"No," said he, "but if ye could?"

She answered him nothing.

"Look here, my lass," said Alan, "there are boats in the Kingdom
of Fife, for I saw two (no less) upon the beach, as I came in by
your town's end. Now if we could have the use of a boat to pass
under cloud of night into Lothian, and some secret, decent kind
of a man to bring that boat back again and keep his counsel,
there would be two souls saved -- mine to all likelihood -- his
to a dead surety. If we lack that boat, we have but three
shillings left in this wide world; and where to go, and how to
do, and what other place there is for us except the chains of a
gibbet -- I give you my naked word, I kenna! Shall we go
wanting, lassie? Are ye to lie in your warm bed and think upon
us, when the wind gowls in the chimney and the rain tirls on the
roof? Are ye to eat your meat by the cheeks of a red fire, and
think upon this poor sick lad of mine, biting his finger ends on
a blae muir for cauld and hunger? Sick or sound, he must aye be
moving; with the death grapple at his throat he must aye be
trailing in the rain on the lang roads; and when he gants his
last on a rickle of cauld stanes, there will be nae friends near
him but only me and God."

At this appeal, I could see the lass was in great trouble of
mind, being tempted to help us, and yet in some fear she might be
helping malefactors; and so now I determined to step in myself
and to allay her scruples with a portion of the truth.

"Did ever you, hear" said I, "of Mr. Rankeillor of the Ferry?"

"Rankeillor the writer?" said she. "I daur say that!"

"Well," said I, "it's to his door that I am bound, so you may
judge by that if I am an ill-doer; and I will tell you more, that
though I am indeed, by a dreadful error, in some peril of my
life, King George has no truer friend in all Scotland than

Her face cleared up mightily at this, although Alan's darkened.

"That's more than I would ask," said she. "Mr. Rankeillor is a
kennt man." And she bade us finish our meat, get clear of the
clachan as soon as might be, and lie close in the bit wood on the
sea-beach. "And ye can trust me," says she, "I'll find some
means to put you over."

At this we waited for no more, but shook hands with her upon the
bargain, made short work of the puddings, and set forth again
from Limekilns as far as to the wood. It was a small piece of
perhaps a score of elders and hawthorns and a few young ashes,
not thick enough to veil us from passersby upon the road or
beach. Here we must lie, however, making the best of the brave
warm weather and the good hopes we now had of a deliverance, and
planing more particularly what remained for us to do.

We had but one trouble all day; when a strolling piper came and
sat in the same wood with us; a red-nosed, bleareyed, drunken
dog, with a great bottle of whisky in his pocket, and a long
story of wrongs that had been done him by all sorts of persons,
from the Lord President of the Court of Session, who had denied
him justice, down to the Bailies of Inverkeithing who had given
him more of it than he desired. It was impossible but he should
conceive some suspicion of two men lying all day concealed in a
thicket and having no business to allege. As long as he stayed
there he kept us in hot water with prying questions; and after he
was gone, as he was a man not very likely to hold his tongue, we
were in the greater impatience to be gone ourselves.

The day came to an end with the same brightness; the night fell
quiet and clear; lights came out in houses and hamlets and then,
one after another, began to be put out; but it was past eleven,
and we were long since strangely tortured with anxieties, before
we heard the grinding of oars upon the rowing-pins. At that, we
looked out and saw the lass herself coming rowing to us in a
boat. She had trusted no one with our affairs, not even her
sweetheart, if she had one; but as soon as her father was asleep,
had left the house by a window, stolen a neighbour's boat, and
come to our assistance single-handed.

I was abashed how to find expression for my thanks; but she was
no less abashed at the thought of hearing them; begged us to lose
no time and to hold our peace, saying (very properly) that the
heart of our matter was in haste and silence; and so, what with
one thing and another, she had set us on the Lothian shore not
far from Carriden, had shaken hands with us, and was out again at
sea and rowing for Limekilns, before there was one word said
either of her service or our gratitude.

Even after she was gone, we had nothing to say, as indeed nothing
was enough for such a kindness. Only Alan stood a great while
upon the shore shaking his head.

"It is a very fine lass," he said at last. "David, it is a very
fine lass." And a matter of an hour later, as we were lying in a
den on the sea-shore and I had been already dozing, he broke out
again in commendations of her character. For my part, I could
say nothing, she was so simple a creature that my heart smote me
both with remorse and fear: remorse because we had traded upon
her ignorance; and fear lest we should have anyway involved her
in the dangers of our situation.



The next day it was agreed that Alan should fend for himself till
sunset; but as soon as it began to grow dark, he should lie in
the fields by the roadside near to Newhalls, and stir for naught
until he heard me whistling. At first I proposed I should give
him for a signal the "Bonnie House of Airlie," which was a
favourite of mine; but he objected that as the piece was very
commonly known, any ploughman might whistle it by accident; and
taught me instead a little fragment of a Highland air, which has
run in my head from that day to this, and will likely run in my
head when I lie dying. Every time it comes to me, it takes me off
to that last day of my uncertainty, with Alan sitting up in the
bottom of the den, whistling and beating the measure with a
finger, and the grey of the dawn coming on his face.

I was in the long street of Queensferry before the sun was up. It
was a fairly built burgh, the houses of good stone, many slated;
the town-hall not so fine, I thought, as that of Peebles, nor yet
the street so noble; but take it altogether, it put me to shame
for my foul tatters.

As the morning went on, and the fires began to be kindled, and
the windows to open, and the people to appear out of the houses,
my concern and despondency grew ever the blacker. I saw now that
I had no grounds to stand upon; and no clear proof of my rights,
nor so much as of my own identity. If it was all a bubble, I was
indeed sorely cheated and left in a sore pass. Even if things
were as I conceived, it would in all likelihood take time to
establish my contentions; and what time had I to spare with less
than three shillings in my pocket, and a condemned, hunted man
upon my hands to ship out of the country? Truly, if my hope
broke with me, it might come to the gallows yet for both of us.
And as I continued to walk up and down, and saw people looking
askance at me upon the street or out of windows, and nudging or
speaking one to another with smiles, I began to take a fresh
apprehension: that it might be no easy matter even to come to
speech of the lawyer, far less to convince him of my story.

For the life of me I could not muster up the courage to address
any of these reputable burghers; I thought shame even to speak
with them in such a pickle of rags and dirt; and if I had asked
for the house of such a man as Mr. Rankeillor, I suppose they
would have burst out laughing in my face. So I went up and down,
and through the street, and down to the harbour-side, like a dog
that has lost its master, with a strange gnawing in my inwards,
and every now and then a movement of despair. It grew to be high
day at last, perhaps nine in the forenoon; and I was worn with
these wanderings, and chanced to have stopped in front of a very
good house on the landward side, a house with beautiful, clear
glass windows, flowering knots upon the sills, the walls
new-harled[33] and a chase-dog sitting yawning on the step like
one that was at home. Well, I was even envying this dumb brute,
when the door fell open and there issued forth a shrewd, ruddy,
kindly, consequential man in a well-powdered wig and spectacles.
I was in such a plight that no one set eyes on me once, but he
looked at me again; and this gentleman, as it proved, was so much
struck with my poor appearance that he came straight up to me and
asked me what I did.

[33]Newly rough-cast.

I told him I was come to the Queensferry on business, and taking
heart of grace, asked him to direct me to the house of Mr.

"Why," said he, "that is his house that I have just come out of;
and for a rather singular chance, I am that very man."

"Then, sir," said I, "I have to beg the favour of an interview."

"I do not know your name," said he, "nor yet your face."

"My name is David Balfour," said I.

"David Balfour?" he repeated, in rather a high tone, like one
surprised. "And where have you come from, Mr. David Balfour?" he
asked, looking me pretty drily in the face.

"I have come from a great many strange places, sir," said I; "but
I think it would be as well to tell you where and how in a more
private manner."

He seemed to muse awhile, holding his lip in his hand, and
looking now at me and now upon the causeway of the street.

"Yes," says he, "that will be the best, no doubt." And he led me
back with him into his house, cried out to some one whom I could
not see that he would be engaged all morning, and brought me into
a little dusty chamber full of books and documents. Here he sate
down, and bade me be seated; though I thought he looked a little
ruefully from his clean chair to my muddy rags. "And now," says
he, "if you have any business, pray be brief and come swiftly to
the point. Nec gemino bellum Trojanum orditur ab ovo --do you
understand that?" says he, with a keen look.

"I will even do as Horace says, sir," I answered, smiling, "and
carry you in medias res." He nodded as if he was well pleased,
and indeed his scrap of Latin had been set to test me. For all
that, and though I was somewhat encouraged, the blood came in my
face when I added: "I have reason to believe myself some rights
on the estate of Shaws."

He got a paper book out of a drawer and set it before him open.
"Well?" said he.

But I had shot my bolt and sat speechless.

"Come, come, Mr. Balfour," said he, "you must continue. Where
were you born?"

"In Essendean, sir," said I, "the year 1733, the 12th of March."

He seemed to follow this statement in his paper book; but what
that meant I knew not. "Your father and mother?" said he.

"My father was Alexander Balfour, schoolmaster of that place,"
said I, "and my mother Grace Pitarrow; I think her people were
from Angus."

"Have you any papers proving your identity?" asked Mr.

"No, sir," said I, "but they are in the hands of Mr. Campbell,
the minister, and could be readily produced. Mr. Campbell, too,
would give me his word; and for that matter, I do not think my
uncle would deny me."

"Meaning Mr. Ebenezer Balfour?" says he.

"The same," said I.

"Whom you have seen?" he asked.

"By whom I was received into his own house," I answered.

"Did you ever meet a man of the name of Hoseason?" asked Mr.

"I did so, sir, for my sins," said I; "for it was by his means
and the procurement of my uncle, that I was kidnapped within
sight of this town, carried to sea, suffered shipwreck and a
hundred other hardships, and stand before you to-day in this poor

"You say you were shipwrecked," said Rankeillor; "where was

"Off the south end of the Isle of Mull," said I. "The name of the
isle on which I was cast up is the Island Earraid."

"Ah!" says he, smiling, "you are deeper than me in the geography.
But so far, I may tell you, this agrees pretty exactly with other
informations that I hold. But you say you were kidnapped; in what

"In the plain meaning of the word, sir," said I. "I was on my way
to your house, when I was trepanned on board the brig, cruelly
struck down, thrown below, and knew no more of anything till we
were far at sea. I was destined for the plantations; a fate that,
in God's providence, I have escaped."

"The brig was lost on June the 27th," says he, looking in his
book," and we are now at August the 24th. Here is a considerable
hiatus, Mr. Balfour, of near upon two months. It has already
caused a vast amount of trouble to your friends; and I own I
shall not be very well contented until it is set right."

"Indeed, sir," said I, "these months are very easily filled up;
but yet before I told my story, I would be glad to know that I
was talking to a friend."

"This is to argue in a circle," said the lawyer. "I cannot be
convinced till I have heard you. I cannot be your friend till I
am properly informed. If you were more trustful, it would better
befit your time of life. And you know, Mr. Balfour, we have a
proverb in the country that evil-doers are aye evil-dreaders."

"You are not to forget, sir," said I, "that I have already
suffered by my trustfulness; and was shipped off to be a slave by
the very man that (if I rightly understand) is your employer?"

All this while I had been gaining ground with Mr. Rankeillor, and
in proportion as I gained ground, gaining confidence. But at
this sally, which I made with something of a smile myself, he
fairly laughed aloud.

"No, no," said he, "it is not so bad as that. Fui, non sum. I
was indeed your uncle's man of business; but while you (imberbis
juvenis custode remoto) were gallivanting in the west, a good
deal of water has run under the bridges; and if your ears did not
sing, it was not for lack of being talked about. On the very day
of your sea disaster, Mr. Campbell stalked into my office,
demanding you from all the winds. I had never heard of your
existence; but I had known your father; and from matters in my
competence (to be touched upon hereafter) I was disposed to fear
the worst. Mr. Ebenezer admitted having seen you; declared (what
seemed improbable) that he had given you considerable sums; and
that you had started for the continent of Europe, intending to
fulfil your education, which was probable and praiseworthy.
Interrogated how you had come to send no word to Mr. Campbell, he
deponed that you had expressed a great desire to break with your
past life. Further interrogated where you now were, protested
ignorance, but believed you were in Leyden. That is a close sum
of his replies. I am not exactly sure that any one believed
him," continued Mr. Rankeillor with a smile; "and in particular
he so much disrelished me expressions of mine that (in a word) he
showed me to the door. We were then at a full stand; for
whatever shrewd suspicions we might entertain, we had no shadow
of probation. In the very article, comes Captain Hoseason with
the story of your drowning; whereupon all fell through; with no
consequences but concern to Mr. Campbell, injury to my pocket,
and another blot upon your uncle's character, which could very
ill afford it. And now, Mr. Balfour," said he, "you understand
the whole process of these matters, and can judge for yourself to
what extent I may be trusted."

Indeed he was more pedantic than I can represent him, and placed
more scraps of Latin in his speech; but it was all uttered with a
fine geniality of eye and manner which went far to conquer my
distrust. Moreover, I could see he now treated me as if I was
myself beyond a doubt; so that first point of my identity seemed
fully granted.

"Sir," said I, "if I tell you my story, I must commit a friend's
life to your discretion. Pass me your word it shall be sacred;
and for what touches myself, I will ask no better guarantee than
just your face."

He passed me his word very seriously. "But," said he, "these are
rather alarming prolocutions; and if there are in your story any
little jostles to the law, I would beg you to bear in mind that I
am a lawyer, and pass lightly."

Thereupon I told him my story from the first, he listening with
his spectacles thrust up and his eyes closed, so that I sometimes
feared he was asleep. But no such matter! he heard every word
(as I found afterward) with such quickness of hearing and
precision of memory as often surprised me. Even strange
outlandish Gaelic names, heard for that time only, he remembered
and would remind me of, years after. Yet when I called Alan
Breck in full, we had an odd scene. The name of Alan had of
course rung through Scotland, with the news of the Appin murder
and the offer of the reward; and it had no sooner escaped me than
the lawyer moved in his seat and opened his eyes.

"I would name no unnecessary names, Mr. Balfour," said he; "above
all of Highlanders, many of whom are obnoxious to the law."

"Well, it might have been better not," said I, "but since I have
let it slip, I may as well continue."

"Not at all," said Mr. Rankeillor. "I am somewhat dull of
hearing, as you may have remarked; and I am far from sure I
caught the name exactly. We will call your friend, if you
please, Mr. Thomson -- that there may be no reflections. And in
future, I would take some such way with any Highlander that you
may have to mention -- dead or alive."

By this, I saw he must have heard the name all too clearly, and
had already guessed I might be coming to the murder. If he chose
to play this part of ignorance, it was no matter of mine; so I
smiled, said it was no very Highland-sounding name, and
consented. Through all the rest of my story Alan was Mr.
Thomson; which amused me the more, as it was a piece of policy
after his own heart. James Stewart, in like manner, was
mentioned under the style of Mr. Thomson's kinsman; Colin
Campbell passed as a Mr. Glen; and to Cluny, when I came to that
part of my tale, I gave the name of "Mr. Jameson, a Highland
chief." It was truly the most open farce, and I wondered that
the lawyer should care to keep it up; but, after all, it was
quite in the taste of that age, when there were two parties in
the state, and quiet persons, with no very high opinions of their
own, sought out every cranny to avoid offence to either.

"Well, well," said the lawyer, when I had quite done, "this is a
great epic, a great Odyssey of yours. You must tell it, sir, in
a sound Latinity when your scholarship is riper; or in English if
you please, though for my part I prefer the stronger tongue. You
have rolled much; quae regio in terris -- what parish in Scotland
(to make a homely translation) has not been filled with your
wanderings? You have shown, besides, a singular aptitude for
getting into false positions; and, yes, upon the whole, for
behaving well in them. This Mr. Thomson seems to me a gentleman
of some choice qualities, though perhaps a trifle bloody-minded.
It would please me none the worse, if (with all his merits) he
were soused in the North Sea, for the man, Mr. David, is a sore
embarrassment. But you are doubtless quite right to adhere to
him; indubitably, he adhered to you. It comes -- we may say --
he was your true companion; nor less paribus curis vestigia
figit, for I dare say you would both take an orra thought upon
the gallows. Well, well, these days are fortunately, by; and I
think (speaking humanly) that you are near the end of your

As he thus moralised on my adventures, he looked upon me with so
much humour and benignity that I could scarce contain my
satisfaction. I had been so long wandering with lawless people,
and making my bed upon the hills and under the bare sky, that to
sit once more in a clean, covered house, and to talk amicably
with a gentleman in broadcloth, seemed mighty elevations. Even
as I thought so, my eye fell on my unseemly tatters, and I was
once more plunged in confusion. But the lawyer saw and
understood me. He rose, called over the stair to lay another
plate, for Mr. Balfour would stay to dinner, and led me into a
bedroom in the upper part of the house. Here he set before me
water and soap, and a comb; and laid out some clothes that
belonged to his son; and here, with another apposite tag, he left
me to my toilet.



I made what change I could in my appearance; and blithe was I to
look in the glass and find the beggarman a thing of the past, and
David Balfour come to life again. And yet I was ashamed of the
change too, and, above all, of the borrowed clothes. When I had
done, Mr. Rankeillor caught me on the stair, made me his
compliments, and had me again into the cabinet.

"Sit ye down, Mr. David," said he, "and now that you are looking
a little more like yourself, let me see if I can find you any
news. You will be wondering, no doubt, about your father and
your uncle? To be sure it is a singular tale; and the
explanation is one that I blush to have to offer you. For," says
he, really with embarrassment, "the matter hinges on a love

"Truly," said I, "I cannot very well join that notion with my

"But your uncle, Mr. David, was not always old," replied the
lawyer, "and what may perhaps surprise you more, not always ugly.
He had a fine, gallant air; people stood in their doors to look
after him, as he went by upon a mettle horse. I have seen it with
these eyes, and I ingenuously confess, not altogether without
envy; for I was a plain lad myself and a plain man's son; and in
those days it was a case of Odi te, qui bellus es, Sabelle."

"It sounds like a dream," said I.

"Ay, ay," said the lawyer, "that is how it is with youth and age.
Nor was that all, but he had a spirit of his own that seemed to
promise great things in the future. In 1715, what must he do but
run away to join the rebels? It was your father that pursued
him, found him in a ditch, and brought him back multum gementem;
to the mirth of the whole country. However, majora canamus --
the two lads fell in love, and that with the same lady. Mr.
Ebenezer, who was the admired and the beloved, and the spoiled
one, made, no doubt, mighty certain of the victory; and when he
found he had deceived himself, screamed like a peacock. The
whole country heard of it; now he lay sick at home, with his
silly family standing round the bed in tears; now he rode from
public-house to public-house, and shouted his sorrows into the
lug of Tom, Dick, and Harry. Your father, Mr. David, was a kind
gentleman; but he was weak, dolefully weak; took all this folly
with a long countenance; and one day -- by your leave! --
resigned the lady. She was no such fool, however; it's from her
you must inherit your excellent good sense; and she refused to be
bandied from one to another. Both got upon their knees to her;
and the upshot of the matter for that while was that she showed
both of them the door. That was in August; dear me! the same
year I came from college. The scene must have been highly

I thought myself it was a silly business, but I could not forget
my father had a hand in it. "Surely, sir, it had some note of
tragedy," said I.

"Why, no, sir, not at all," returned the lawyer. "For tragedy
implies some ponderable matter in dispute, some dignus vindice
nodus; and this piece of work was all about the petulance of a
young ass that had been spoiled, and wanted nothing so much as to
be tied up and soundly belted. However, that was not your
father's view; and the end of it was, that from concession to
concession on your father's part, and from one height to another
of squalling, sentimental selfishness upon your uncle's, they
came at last to drive a sort of bargain, from whose ill results
you have recently been smarting. The one man took the lady, the
other the estate. Now, Mr. David, they talk a great deal of
charity and generosity; but in this disputable state of life, I
often think the happiest consequences seem to flow when a
gentleman consults his lawyer, and takes all the law allows him.
Anyhow, this piece of Quixotry on your father's part, as it was
unjust in itself, has brought forth a monstrous family of
injustices. Your father and mother lived and died poor folk; you
were poorly reared; and in the meanwhile, what a time it has been
for the tenants on the estate of Shaws! And I might add (if it
was a matter I cared much about) what a time for Mr. Ebenezer!"

"And yet that is certainly the strangest part of all," said I,
"that a man's nature should thus change."

"True," said Mr. Rankeillor. "And yet I imagine it was natural
enough. He could not think that he had played a handsome part.
Those who knew the story gave him the cold shoulder; those who
knew it not, seeing one brother disappear, and the other succeed
in the estate, raised a cry of murder; so that upon all sides he
found himself evited. Money was all he got by his bargain; well,
he came to think the more of money. He was selfish when he was
young, he is selfish now that he is old; and the latter end of
all these pretty manners and fine feelings you have seen for

"Well, sir," said I, "and in all this, what is my position?"

"The estate is yours beyond a doubt," replied the lawyer. "It
matters nothing what your father signed, you are the heir of
entail. But your uncle is a man to fight the indefensible; and
it would be likely your identity that he would call in question.
A lawsuit is always expensive, and a family lawsuit always
scandalous; besides which, if any of your doings with your friend
Mr. Thomson were to come out, we might find that we had burned
our fingers. The kidnapping, to be sure, would be a court card
upon our side, if we could only prove it. But it may be difficult
to prove; and my advice (upon the whole) is to make a very easy
bargain with your uncle, perhaps even leaving him at Shaws where
he has taken root for a quarter of a century, and contenting
yourself in the meanwhile with a fair provision."

I told him I was very willing to be easy, and that to carry
family concerns before the public was a step from which I was
naturally much averse. In the meantime (thinking to myself) I
began to see the outlines of that scheme on which we afterwards

"The great affair," I asked, "is to bring home to him the

"Surely," said Mr. Rankeillor, "and if possible, out of court.
For mark you here, Mr. David: we could no doubt find some men of
the Covenant who would swear to your reclusion; but once they
were in the box, we could no longer check their testimony, and
some word of your friend Mr. Thomson must certainly crop out.
Which (from what you have let fall) I cannot think to be

"Well, sir," said I, "here is my way of it." And I opened my
plot to him.

"But this would seem to involve my meeting the man Thomson?"
says he, when I had done.

"I think so, indeed, sir," said I.

"Dear doctor!" cries he, rubbing his brow. "Dear doctor! No,
Mr. David, I am afraid your scheme is inadmissible. I say
nothing against your friend, Mr. Thomson: I know nothing against
him; and if I did -- mark this, Mr. David! -- it would be my duty
to lay hands on him. Now I put it to you: is it wise to meet?
He may have matters to his charge. He may not have told you all.
His name may not be even Thomson!" cries the lawyer, twinkling;
"for some of these fellows will pick up names by the roadside as
another would gather haws."

"You must be the judge, sir," said I.

But it was clear my plan had taken hold upon his fancy, for he
kept musing to himself till we were called to dinner and the
company of Mrs. Rankeillor; and that lady had scarce left us
again to ourselves and a bottle of wine, ere he was back harping
on my proposal. When and where was I to meet my friend Mr.
Thomson; was I sure of Mr. T.'s discretion; supposing we could
catch the old fox tripping, would I consent to such and such a
term of an agreement -- these and the like questions he kept
asking at long intervals, while he thoughtfully rolled his wine
upon his tongue. When I had answered all of them, seemingly to
his contentment, he fell into a still deeper muse, even the
claret being now forgotten. Then he got a sheet of paper and a
pencil, and set to work writing and weighing every word; and at
last touched a bell and had his clerk into the chamber.

"Torrance," said he, "I must have this written out fair against
to-night; and when it is done, you will be so kind as put on your
hat and be ready to come along with this gentleman and me, for
you will probably be wanted as a witness."

"What, sir," cried I, as soon as the clerk was gone, "are you to
venture it?"

"Why, so it would appear," says he, filling his glass. "But let
us speak no more of business. The very sight of Torrance brings
in my head a little droll matter of some years ago, when I had
made a tryst with the poor oaf at the cross of Edinburgh. Each
had gone his proper errand; and when it came four o'clock,
Torrance had been taking a glass and did not know his master, and
I, who had forgot my spectacles, was so blind without them, that
I give you my word I did not know my own clerk." And thereupon
he laughed heartily.

I said it was an odd chance, and smiled out of politeness; but
what held me all the afternoon in wonder, he kept returning and
dwelling on this story, and telling it again with fresh details
and laughter; so that I began at last to be quite put out of
countenance and feel ashamed for my friend's folly.

Towards the time I had appointed with Alan, we set out from the
house, Mr. Rankeillor and I arm in arm, and Torrance following
behind with the deed in his pocket and a covered basket in his
hand. All through the town, the lawyer was bowing right and
left, and continually being button-holed by gentlemen on matters
of burgh or private business; and I could see he was one greatly
looked up to in the county. At last we were clear of the houses,
and began to go along the side of the haven and towards the Hawes
Inn and the Ferry pier, the scene of my misfortune. I could not
look upon the place without emotion, recalling how many that had
been there with me that day were now no more: Ransome taken, I
could hope, from the evil to come; Shuan passed where I dared not
follow him; and the poor souls that had gone down with the brig
in her last plunge. All these, and the brig herself, I had
outlived; and come through these hardships and fearful perils
without scath. My only thought should have been of gratitude;
and yet I could not behold the place without sorrow for others
and a chill of recollected fear.

I was so thinking when, upon a sudden, Mr. Rankeillor cried out,
clapped his hand to his pockets, and began to laugh.

"Why," he cries, "if this be not a farcical adventure! After all
that I said, I have forgot my glasses!"

At that, of course, I understood the purpose of his anecdote, and
knew that if he had left his spectacles at home, it had been done
on purpose, so that he might have the benefit of Alan's help
without the awkwardness of recognising him. And indeed it was
well thought upon; for now (suppose things to go the very worst)
how could Rankeillor swear to my friend's identity, or how be
made to bear damaging evidence against myself? For all that, he
had been a long while of finding out his want, and had spoken to
and recognised a good few persons as we came through the town;
and I had little doubt myself that he saw reasonably well.

As soon as we were past the Hawes (where I recognised the
landlord smoking his pipe in the door, and was amazed to see him
look no older) Mr. Rankeillor changed the order of march, walking
behind with Torrance and sending me forward in the manner of a
scout. I went up the hill, whistling from time to time my Gaelic
air; and at length I had the pleasure to hear it answered and to
see Alan rise from behind a bush. He was somewhat dashed in
spirits, having passed a long day alone skulking in the county,
and made but a poor meal in an alehouse near Dundas. But at the
mere sight of my clothes, he began to brighten up; and as soon as
I had told him in what a forward state our matters were and the
part I looked to him to play in what remained, he sprang into a
new man.

"And that is a very good notion of yours," says he; "and I dare
to say that you could lay your hands upon no better man to put it
through than Alan Breck. It is not a thing (mark ye) that any
one could do, but takes a gentleman of penetration. But it
sticks in my head your lawyer-man will be somewhat wearying to
see me," says Alan.

Accordingly I cried and waved on Mr. Rankeillor, who came up
alone and was presented to my friend, Mr. Thomson.

"Mr. Thomson, I am pleased to meet you," said he. "But I have
forgotten my glasses; and our friend, Mr. David here" (clapping
me on the shoulder), "will tell you that I am little better than
blind, and that you must not be surprised if I pass you by

This he said, thinking that Alan would be pleased; but the
Highlandman's vanity was ready to startle at a less matter than

"Why, sir," says he, stiffly, "I would say it mattered the less
as we are met here for a particular end, to see justice done to
Mr. Balfour; and by what I can see, not very likely to have much
else in common. But I accept your apology, which was a very
proper one to make."

"And that is more than I could look for, Mr. Thomson," said
Rankeillor, heartily. "And now as you and I are the chief actors
in this enterprise, I think we should come into a nice agreement;
to which end, I propose that you should lend me your arm, for
(what with the dusk and the want of my glasses) I am not very
clear as to the path; and as for you, Mr. David, you will find
Torrance a pleasant kind of body to speak with. Only let me
remind you, it's quite needless he should hear more of your
adventures or those of -- ahem -- Mr. Thomson."

Accordingly these two went on ahead in very close talk, and
Torrance and I brought up the rear.

Night was quite come when we came in view of the house of Shaws.
Ten had been gone some time; it was dark and mild, with a
pleasant, rustling wind in the south-west that covered the sound
of our approach; and as we drew near we saw no glimmer of light
in any portion of the building. It seemed my uncle was Already
in bed, which was indeed the best thing for our arrangements. We
made our last whispered consultations some fifty yards away; and
then the lawyer and Torrance and I crept quietly up and crouched
down beside the corner of the house; and as soon as we were in
our places, Alan strode to the door without concealment and began
to knock.



For some time Alan volleyed upon the door, and his knocking only
roused the echoes of the house and neighbourhood. At last,
however, I could hear the noise of a window gently thrust up, and
knew that my uncle had come to his observatory. By what light
there was, he would see Alan standing, like a dark shadow, on the
steps; the three witnesses were hidden quite out of his view; so
that there was nothing to alarm an honest man in his own house.
For all that, he studied his visitor awhile in silence, and when
he spoke his voice had a quaver of misgiving.

"What's this?" says he. "This is nae kind of time of night for
decent folk; and I hae nae trokings[34] wi' night-hawks. What
brings ye here? I have a blunderbush."


"Is that yoursel', Mr. Balfour?" returned Alan, stepping back and
looking up into the darkness. "Have a care of that blunderbuss;
they're nasty things to burst."

"What brings ye here? and whae are ye?" says my uncle, angrily.

"I have no manner of inclination to rowt out my name to the
country-side," said Alan; "but what brings me here is another
story, being more of your affair than mine; and if ye're sure
it's what ye would like, I'll set it to a tune and sing it to

"And what is't?" asked my uncle.

"David," says Alan.

"What was that?" cried my uncle, in a mighty changed voice.

"Shall I give ye the rest of the name, then?" said Alan.

There was a pause; and then, "I'm thinking I'll better let ye
in," says my uncle, doubtfully.

"I dare say that," said Alan; "but the point is, Would I go? Now
I will tell you what I am thinking. I am thinking that it is
here upon this doorstep that we must confer upon this business;
and it shall be here or nowhere at all whatever; for I would have
you to understand that I am as stiffnecked as yoursel', and a
gentleman of better family."

This change of note disconcerted Ebenezer; he was a little while
digesting it, and then says he, "Weel, weel, what must be must,"
and shut the window. But it took him a long time to get
down-stairs, and a still longer to undo the fastenings, repenting
(I dare say) and taken with fresh claps of fear at every second
step and every bolt and bar. At last, however, we heard the
creak of the hinges, and it seems my uncle slipped gingerly out
and (seeing that Alan had stepped back a pace or two) sate him
down on the top doorstep with the blunderbuss ready in his hands.

"And, now" says he, "mind I have my blunderbush, and if ye take a
step nearer ye're as good as deid."

"And a very civil speech," says Alan, "to be sure."

"Na," says my uncle, "but this is no a very chanty kind of a
proceeding, and I'm bound to be prepared. And now that we
understand each other, ye'll can name your business."

"Why," says Alan, "you that are a man of so much understanding,
will doubtless have perceived that I am a Hieland gentleman. My
name has nae business in my story; but the county of my friends
is no very far from the Isle of Mull, of which ye will have
heard. It seems there was a ship lost in those parts; and the
next day a gentleman of my family was seeking wreck-wood for his
fire along the sands, when he came upon a lad that was half
drowned. Well, he brought him to; and he and some other
gentleman took and clapped him in an auld, ruined castle, where
from that day to this he has been a great expense to my friends.
My friends are a wee wild-like, and not so particular about the
law as some that I could name; and finding that the lad owned
some decent folk, and was your born nephew, Mr. Balfour, they
asked me to give ye a bit call and confer upon the matter. And I
may tell ye at the off-go, unless we can agree upon some terms,
ye are little likely to set eyes upon him. For my friends,"
added Alan, simply, "are no very well off."

My uncle cleared his throat. "I'm no very caring," says he. "He
wasnae a good lad at the best of it, and I've nae call to

"Ay, ay," said Alan, "I see what ye would be at: pretending ye
don't care, to make the ransom smaller."

"Na," said my uncle, "it's the mere truth. I take nae manner of
interest in the lad, and I'll pay nae ransome, and ye can make a
kirk and a mill of him for what I care."

"Hoot, sir," says Alan. "Blood's thicker than water, in the
deil's name! Ye cannae desert your brother's son for the fair
shame of it; and if ye did, and it came to be kennt, ye wouldnae
be very popular in your country-side, or I'm the more deceived."

"I'm no just very popular the way it is," returned Ebenezer; "and
I dinnae see how it would come to be kennt. No by me, onyway;
nor yet by you or your friends. So that's idle talk, my buckie,"
says he.

"Then it'll have to be David that tells it," said Alan.

"How that?" says my uncle, sharply."

"Ou, just this, way" says Alan. "My friends would doubtless keep
your nephew as long as there was any likelihood of siller to be
made of it, but if there was nane, I am clearly of opinion they
would let him gang where he pleased, and be damned to him!"

"Ay, but I'm no very caring about that either," said my uncle.
"I wouldnae be muckle made up with that."

"I was thinking that," said Alan.

"And what for why?" asked Ebenezer.

"Why, Mr. Balfour," replied Alan, "by all that I could hear,
there were two ways of it: either ye liked David and would pay to
get him back; or else ye had very good reasons for not wanting
him, and would pay for us to keep him. It seems it's not the
first; well then, it's the second; and blythe am I to ken it, for
it should be a pretty penny in my pocket and the pockets of my

"I dinnae follow ye there," said my uncle.

"No?" said Alan. "Well, see here: you dinnae want the lad back;
well, what do ye want done with him, and how much will ye pay?"

My uncle made no answer, but shifted uneasily on his seat.

"Come, sir," cried Alan. "I would have you to ken that I am a
gentleman; I bear a king's name; I am nae rider to kick my shanks
at your hall door. Either give me an answer in civility, and
that out of hand; or by the top of Glencoe, I will ram three feet
of iron through your vitals."

"Eh, man," cried my uncle, scrambling to his feet, "give me a
meenit! What's like wrong with ye? I'm just a plain man and nae
dancing master; and I'm tryin to be as ceevil as it's morally
possible. As for that wild talk, it's fair disrepitable.
Vitals, says you! And where would I be with my blunderbush?" he

"Powder and your auld hands are but as the snail to the swallow
against the bright steel in the hands of Alan," said the other.
"Before your jottering finger could find the trigger, the hilt
would dirl on your breast-bane."

"Eh, man, whae's denying it?" said my uncle. "Pit it as ye
please, hae't your ain way; I'll do naething to cross ye. Just
tell me what like ye'll be wanting, and ye'll see that we'll can
agree fine."

"Troth, sir," said Alan, "I ask for nothing but plain dealing.
In two words: do ye want the lad killed or kept?"

"O, sirs!" cried Ebenezer. "O, sirs, me! that's no kind of

"Killed or kept!" repeated Alan.

"O, keepit, keepit!" wailed my uncle. "We'll have nae bloodshed,
if you please."

"Well," says Alan, "as ye please; that'll be the dearer."

"The dearer?" cries Ebenezer. "Would ye fyle your hands wi'

"Hoot!" said Alan, "they're baith crime, whatever! And the
killing's easier, and quicker, and surer. Keeping the lad'll be
a fashious[35] job, a fashious, kittle business."


"I'll have him keepit, though," returned my uncle. "I never had
naething to do with onything morally wrong; and I'm no gaun to
begin to pleasure a wild Hielandman."

"Ye're unco scrupulous," sneered Alan.

"I'm a man o' principle," said Ebenezer, simply; "and if I have
to pay for it, I'll have to pay for it. And besides," says he,
"ye forget the lad's my brother's son."

"Well, well," said Alan, "and now about the price. It's no very
easy for me to set a name upon it; I would first have to ken some
small matters. I would have to ken, for instance, what ye gave
Hoseason at the first off-go?"

"Hoseason!" cries my uncle, struck aback. "What for?"

"For kidnapping David," says Alan.

"It's a lee, it's a black lee!" cried my uncle. "He was never
kidnapped. He leed in his throat that tauld ye that. Kidnapped?
He never was!"

"That's no fault of mine nor yet of yours," said Alan; "nor yet
of Hoseason's, if he's a man that can be trusted."

"What do ye mean?" cried Ebenezer. "Did Hoseason tell ye?"

"Why, ye donnered auld runt, how else would I ken?" cried Alan.
"Hoseason and me are partners; we gang shares; so ye can see for
yoursel' what good ye can do leeing. And I must plainly say ye
drove a fool's bargain when ye let a man like the sailor-man so
far forward in your private matters. But that's past praying
for; and ye must lie on your bed the way ye made it. And the
point in hand is just this: what did ye pay him?"

"Has he tauld ye himsel'?" asked my uncle.

"That's my concern," said Alan.

"Weel," said my uncle, "I dinnae care what he said, he leed, and
the solemn God's truth is this, that I gave him twenty pound.
But I'll be perfec'ly honest with ye: forby that, he was to have
the selling of the lad in Caroliny, whilk would be as muckle
mair, but no from my pocket, ye see."

"Thank you, Mr. Thomson. That will do excellently well," said
the lawyer, stepping forward; and then mighty civilly,
"Good-evening, Mr. Balfour," said he.

And, "Good-evening, Uncle Ebenezer," said I.

And, "It's a braw nicht, Mr. Balfour" added Torrance.

Never a word said my uncle, neither black nor white; but just sat
where he was on the top door-step and stared upon us like a man
turned to stone. Alan filched away his blunderbuss; and the
lawyer, taking him by the arm, plucked him up from the doorstep,
led him into the kitchen, whither we all followed, and set him
down in a chair beside the hearth, where the fire was out and
only a rush-light burning.

There we all looked upon him for a while, exulting greatly in our
success, but yet with a sort of pity for the man's shame.

"Come, come, Mr. Ebenezer," said the lawyer, "you must not be
down-hearted, for I promise you we shall make easy terms. In the
meanwhile give us the cellar key, and Torrance shall draw us a
bottle of your father's wine in honour of the event." Then,
turning to me and taking me by the hand, "Mr. David," says he, "I
wish you all joy in your good fortune, which I believe to be
deserved." And then to Alan, with a spice of drollery, "Mr.
Thomson, I pay you my compliment; it was most artfully conducted;
but in one point you somewhat outran my comprehension. Do I
understand your name to be James? or Charles? or is it George,

"And why should it be any of the three, sir?" quoth Alan, drawing
himself up, like one who smelt an offence.

"Only, sir, that you mentioned a king's name," replied
Rankeillor; "and as there has never yet been a King Thomson, or
his fame at least has never come my way, I judged you must refer
to that you had in baptism."

This was just the stab that Alan would feel keenest, and I am
free to confess he took it very ill. Not a word would he answer,
but stepped off to the far end of the kitchen, and sat down and
sulked; and it was not till I stepped after him, and gave him my
hand, and thanked him by title as the chief spring of my success,
that he began to smile a bit, and was at last prevailed upon to
join our party.

By that time we had the fire lighted, and a bottle of wine
uncorked; a good supper came out of the basket, to which Torrance
and I and Alan set ourselves down; while the lawyer and my uncle
passed into the next chamber to consult. They stayed there
closeted about an hour; at the end of which period they had come
to a good understanding, and my uncle and I set our hands to the
agreement in a formal manner. By the terms of this, my uncle
bound himself to satisfy Rankeillor as to his intromissions, and
to pay me two clear thirds of the yearly income of Shaws.

So the beggar in the ballad had come home; and when I lay down
that night on the kitchen chests, I was a man of means and had a
name in the country. Alan and Torrance and Rankeillor slept and
snored on their hard beds; but for me who had lain out under
heaven and upon dirt and stones, so many days and nights, and
often with an empty belly, and in fear of death, this good change
in my case unmanned me more than any of the former evil ones; and
I lay till dawn, looking at the fire on the roof and planning the



So far as I was concerned myself, I had come to port; but I had
still Alan, to whom I was so much beholden, on my hands; and I
felt besides a heavy charge in the matter of the murder and James
of the Glens. On both these heads I unbosomed to Rankeillor the
next morning, walking to and fro about six of the clock before
the house of Shaws, and with nothing in view but the fields and
woods that had been my ancestors' and were now mine. Even as I
spoke on these grave subjects, my eye would take a glad bit of a
run over the prospect, and my heart jump with pride.

About my clear duty to my friend, the lawyer had no doubt. I
must help him out of the county at whatever risk; but in the case
of James, he was of a different mind.

"Mr. Thomson," says he, "is one thing, Mr. Thomson's kinsman
quite another. I know little of the facts, but I gather that a
great noble (whom we will call, if you like, the D. of A.)[36]
has some concern and is even supposed to feel some animosity in
the matter. The D. of A. is doubtless an excellent nobleman;
but, Mr. David, timeo qui nocuere deos. If you interfere to balk
his vengeance, you should remember there is one way to shut your
testimony out; and that is to put you in the dock. There, you
would be in the same pickle as Mr. Thomson's kinsman. You will
object that you are innocent; well, but so is he. And to be
tried for your life before a Highland jury, on a Highland quarrel
and with a Highland Judge upon the bench, would be a brief
transition to the gallows."

[36]The Duke of Argyle.

Now I had made all these reasonings before and found no very good
reply to them; so I put on all the simplicity I could. "In that
case, sir," said I, "I would just have to be hanged -- would I

"My dear boy," cries he, "go in God's name, and do what you think
is right. It is a poor thought that at my time of life I should
be advising you to choose the safe and shameful; and I take it
back with an apology. Go and do your duty; and be hanged, if you
must, like a gentleman. There are worse things in the world than
to be hanged."

"Not many, sir," said I, smiling.

"Why, yes, sir," he cried, "very many. And it would be ten times
better for your uncle (to go no farther afield) if he were
dangling decently upon a gibbet."

Thereupon he turned into the house (still in a great fervour of
mind, so that I saw I had pleased him heartily) and there he
wrote me two letters, making his comments on them as he wrote.

"This," says he, "is to my bankers, the British Linen Company,
placing a credit to your name. Consult Mr. Thomson, he will know
of ways; and you, with this credit, can supply the means. I
trust you will be a good husband of your money; but in the affair
of a friend like Mr. Thompson, I would be even prodigal. Then
for his kinsman, there is no better way than that you should seek
the Advocate, tell him your tale, and offer testimony; whether he
may take it or not, is quite another matter, and will turn on the
D. of A. Now, that you may reach the Lord Advocate well
recommended, I give you here a letter to a namesake of your own,
the learned Mr. Balfour of Pilrig, a man whom I esteem. It will
look better that you should be presented by one of your own name;
and the laird of Pilrig is much looked up to in the Faculty and
stands well with Lord Advocate Grant. I would not trouble him,
if I were you, with any particulars; and (do you know?) I think
it would be needless to refer to Mr. Thomson. Form yourself upon
the laird, he is a good model; when you deal with the Advocate,
be discreet; and in all these matters, may the Lord guide you,
Mr. David!"

Thereupon he took his farewell, and set out with Torrance for the
Ferry, while Alan and I turned our faces for the city of
Edinburgh. As we went by the footpath and beside the gateposts
and the unfinished lodge, we kept looking back at the house of my
fathers. It stood there, bare and great and smokeless, like a
place not lived in; only in one of the top windows, there was the
peak of a nightcap bobbing up and down and back and forward, like
the head of a rabbit from a burrow. I had little welcome when I
came, and less kindness while I stayed; but at least I was
watched as I went away.

Alan and I went slowly forward upon our way, having little heart
either to walk or speak. The same thought was uppermost in both,
that we were near the time of our parting; and remembrance of all
the bygone days sate upon us sorely. We talked indeed of what
should be done; and it was resolved that Alan should keep to the
county, biding now here, now there, but coming once in the day to
a particular place where I might be able to communicate with him,
either in my own person or by messenger. In the meanwhile, I was
to seek out a lawyer, who was an Appin Stewart, and a man
therefore to be wholly trusted; and it should be his part to find
a ship and to arrange for Alan's safe embarkation. No sooner was
this business done, than the words seemed to leave us; and though
I would seek to jest with Alan under the name of Mr. Thomson, and
he with me on my new clothes and my estate, you could feel very
well that we were nearer tears than laughter.

We came the by-way over the hill of Corstorphine; and when we got
near to the place called Rest-and-be-Thankful, and looked down on
Corstorphine bogs and over to the city and the castle on the
hill, we both stopped, for we both knew without a word said that
we had come to where our ways parted. Here he repeated to me
once again what had been agreed upon between us: the address of
the lawyer, the daily hour at which Alan might be found, and the
signals that were to be made by any that came seeking him. Then
I gave what money I had (a guinea or two of Rankeillor's) so that
he should not starve in the meanwhile; and then we stood a space,
and looked over at Edinburgh in silence.

"Well, good-bye," said Alan, and held out his left hand.

"Good-bye," said I, and gave the hand a little grasp, and went
off down hill.

Neither one of us looked the other in the face, nor so long as he
was in my view did I take one back glance at the friend I was
leaving. But as I went on my way to the city, I felt so lost and
lonesome, that I could have found it in my heart to sit down by
the dyke, and cry and weep like any baby.

It was coming near noon when I passed in by the West Kirk and the
Grassmarket into the streets of the capital. The huge height of
the buildings, running up to ten and fifteen storeys, the narrow
arched entries that continually vomited passengers, the wares of
the merchants in their windows, the hubbub and endless stir, the
foul smells and the fine clothes, and a hundred other particulars
too small to mention, struck me into a kind of stupor of
surprise, so that I let the crowd carry me to and fro; and yet
all the time what I was thinking of was Alan at
Rest-and-be-Thankful; and all the time (although you would think
I would not choose but be delighted with these braws and
novelties) there was a cold gnawing in my inside like a remorse
for something wrong.

The hand of Providence brought me in my drifting to the very
doors of the British Linen Company's bank.

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