Part 2 out of 6
to a bearing on plain ground, and had nearly wept aloud. My hands
were as good as flayed, my courage entirely exhausted, and, what
with the long strain and the sudden relief, my limbs shook under me
with more than the violence of ague, and I was glad to cling to the
But this was no time to give way. I had (by God's single mercy)
got myself alive out of that fortress; and now I had to try to get
the others, my comrades. There was about a fathom of rope to
spare; I got it by the end, and searched the whole ground
thoroughly for anything to make it fast to. In vain: the ground
was broken and stony, but there grew not there so much as a bush of
'Now then,' thought I to myself, 'here begins a new lesson, and I
believe it will prove richer than the first. I am not strong
enough to keep this rope extended. If I do not keep it extended
the next man will be dashed against the precipice. There is no
reason why he should have my extravagant good luck. I see no
reason why he should not fall--nor any place for him to fall on but
From where I was now standing there was occasionally visible, as
the fog lightened, a lamp in one of the barrack windows, which gave
me a measure of the height he had to fall and the horrid force that
he must strike me with. What was yet worse, we had agreed to do
without signals: every so many minutes by Laclas' watch another
man was to be started from the battlements. Now, I had seemed to
myself to be about half an hour in my descent, and it seemed near
as long again that I waited, straining on the rope for my next
comrade to begin. I began to be afraid that our conspiracy was
out, that my friends were all secured, and that I should pass the
remainder of the night, and be discovered in the morning, vainly
clinging to the rope's end like a hooked fish upon an angle. I
could not refrain, at this ridiculous image, from a chuckle of
laughter. And the next moment I knew, by the jerking of the rope,
that my friend had crawled out of the tunnel and was fairly
launched on his descent. It appears it was the sailor who had
insisted on succeeding me: as soon as my continued silence had
assured him the rope was long enough, Gautier, for that was his
name, had forgot his former arguments, and shown himself so
extremely forward, that Laclas had given way. It was like the
fellow, who had no harm in him beyond an instinctive selfishness.
But he was like to have paid pretty dearly for the privilege. Do
as I would, I could not keep the rope as I could have wished it;
and he ended at last by falling on me from a height of several
yards, so that we both rolled together on the ground. As soon as
he could breathe he cursed me beyond belief, wept over his finger,
which he had broken, and cursed me again. I bade him be still and
think shame of himself to be so great a cry-baby. Did he not hear
the round going by above? I asked; and who could tell but what the
noise of his fall was already remarked, and the sentinels at the
very moment leaning upon the battlements to listen?
The round, however, went by, and nothing was discovered; the third
man came to the ground quite easily; the fourth was, of course,
child's play; and before there were ten of us collected, it seemed
to me that, without the least injustice to my comrades, I might
proceed to take care of myself.
I knew their plan: they had a map and an almanack, and designed
for Grangemouth, where they were to steal a ship. Suppose them to
do so, I had no idea they were qualified to manage it after it was
stolen. Their whole escape, indeed, was the most haphazard thing
imaginable; only the impatience of captives and the ignorance of
private soldiers would have entertained so misbegotten a device;
and though I played the good comrade and worked with them upon the
tunnel, but for the lawyer's message I should have let them go
without me. Well, now they were beyond my help, as they had always
been beyond my counselling; and, without word said or leave taken,
I stole out of the little crowd. It is true I would rather have
waited to shake hands with Laclas, but in the last man who had
descended I thought I recognised Clausel, and since the scene in
the shed my distrust of Clausel was perfect. I believed the man to
be capable of any infamy, and events have since shown that I was
CHAPTER VII--SWANSTON COTTAGE
I had two views. The first was, naturally, to get clear of
Edinburgh Castle and the town, to say nothing of my fellow-
prisoners; the second to work to the southward so long as it was
night, and be near Swanston Cottage by morning. What I should do
there and then, I had no guess, and did not greatly care, being a
devotee of a couple of divinities called Chance and Circumstance.
Prepare, if possible; where it is impossible, work straight
forward, and keep your eyes open and your tongue oiled. Wit and a
good exterior--there is all life in a nutshell.
I had at first a rather chequered journey: got involved in
gardens, butted into houses, and had even once the misfortune to
awake a sleeping family, the father of which, as I suppose, menaced
me from the window with a blunderbuss. Altogether, though I had
been some time gone from my companions, I was still at no great
distance, when a miserable accident put a period to the escape. Of
a sudden the night was divided by a scream. This was followed by
the sound of something falling, and that again by the report of a
musket from the Castle battlements. It was strange to hear the
alarm spread through the city. In the fortress drums were beat and
a bell rung backward. On all hands the watchmen sprang their
rattles. Even in that limbo or no-man's-land where I was
wandering, lights were made in the houses; sashes were flung up; I
could hear neighbouring families converse from window to window,
and at length I was challenged myself.
'Wha's that?' cried a big voice.
I could see it proceeded from a big man in a big nightcap, leaning
from a one-pair window; and as I was not yet abreast of his house,
I judged it was more wise to answer. This was not the first time I
had had to stake my fortunes on the goodness of my accent in a
foreign tongue; and I have always found the moment inspiriting, as
a gambler should. Pulling around me a sort of great-coat I had
made of my blanket, to cover my sulphur-coloured livery,--'A
friend!' said I.
'What like's all this collieshangie?' said he.
I had never heard of a collieshangie in my days, but with the
racket all about us in the city, I could have no doubt as to the
'I do not know, sir, really,' said I; 'but I suppose some of the
prisoners will have escaped.'
'Bedamned!' says he.
'Oh, sir, they will be soon taken,' I replied: 'it has been found
in time. Good morning, sir!'
'Ye walk late, sir?' he added.
'Oh, surely not,' said I, with a laugh. 'Earlyish, if you like!'
which brought me finally beyond him, highly pleased with my
I was now come forth on a good thoroughfare, which led (as well as
I could judge) in my direction. It brought me almost immediately
through a piece of street, whence I could hear close by the
springing of a watchman's rattle, and where I suppose a sixth part
of the windows would be open, and the people, in all sorts of night
gear, talking with a kind of tragic gusto from one to another.
Here, again, I must run the gauntlet of a half-dozen questions, the
rattle all the while sounding nearer; but as I was not walking
inordinately quick, as I spoke like a gentleman, and the lamps were
too dim to show my dress, I carried it off once more. One person,
indeed, inquired where I was off to at that hour.
I replied vaguely and cheerfully, and as I escaped at one end of
this dangerous pass I could see the watchman's lantern entering by
the other. I was now safe on a dark country highway, out of sight
of lights and out of the fear of watchmen. And yet I had not gone
above a hundred yards before a fellow made an ugly rush at me from
the roadside. I avoided him with a leap, and stood on guard,
cursing my empty hands, wondering whether I had to do with an
officer or a mere footpad, and scarce knowing which to wish. My
assailant stood a little; in the thick darkness I could see him bob
and sidle as though he were feinting at me for an advantageous
onfall. Then he spoke.
'My goo' frien',' says he, and at the first word I pricked my ears,
'my goo' frien', will you oblishe me with lil neshary infamation?
Whish roa' t' Cramond?'
I laughed out clear and loud, stepped up to the convivialist, took
him by the shoulders and faced him about. 'My good friend,' said
I, 'I believe I know what is best for you much better than
yourself, and may God forgive you the fright you have given me!
There, get you gone to Edinburgh!' And I gave a shove, which he
obeyed with the passive agility of a ball, and disappeared
incontinently in the darkness down the road by which I had myself
Once clear of this foolish fellow, I went on again up a gradual
hill, descended on the other side through the houses of a country
village, and came at last to the bottom of the main ascent leading
to the Pentlands and my destination. I was some way up when the
fog began to lighten; a little farther, and I stepped by degrees
into a clear starry night, and saw in front of me, and quite
distinct, the summits of the Pentlands, and behind, the valley of
the Forth and the city of my late captivity buried under a lake of
vapour. I had but one encounter--that of a farm-cart, which I
heard, from a great way ahead of me, creaking nearer in the night,
and which passed me about the point of dawn like a thing seen in a
dream, with two silent figures in the inside nodding to the horse's
steps. I presume they were asleep; by the shawl about her head and
shoulders, one of them should be a woman. Soon, by concurrent
steps, the day began to break and the fog to subside and roll away.
The east grew luminous and was barred with chilly colours, and the
Castle on its rock, and the spires and chimneys of the upper town,
took gradual shape, and arose, like islands, out of the receding
cloud. All about me was still and sylvan; the road mounting and
winding, with nowhere a sign of any passenger, the birds chirping,
I suppose for warmth, the boughs of the trees knocking together,
and the red leaves falling in the wind.
It was broad day, but still bitter cold and the sun not up, when I
came in view of my destination. A single gable and chimney of the
cottage peeped over the shoulder of the hill; not far off, and a
trifle higher on the mountain, a tall old white-washed farmhouse
stood among the trees, beside a falling brook; beyond were rough
hills of pasture. I bethought me that shepherd folk were early
risers, and if I were once seen skulking in that neighbourhood it
might prove the ruin of my prospects; took advantage of a line of
hedge, and worked myself up in its shadow till I was come under the
garden wall of my friends' house. The cottage was a little quaint
place of many rough-cast gables and grey roofs. It had something
the air of a rambling infinitesimal cathedral, the body of it
rising in the midst two storeys high, with a steep-pitched roof,
and sending out upon all hands (as it were chapter-houses, chapels,
and transepts) one-storeyed and dwarfish projections. To add to
this appearance, it was grotesquely decorated with crockets and
gargoyles, ravished from some medieval church. The place seemed
hidden away, being not only concealed in the trees of the garden,
but, on the side on which I approached it, buried as high as the
eaves by the rising of the ground. About the walls of the garden
there went a line of well-grown elms and beeches, the first
entirely bare, the last still pretty well covered with red leaves,
and the centre was occupied with a thicket of laurel and holly, in
which I could see arches cut and paths winding.
I was now within hail of my friends, and not much the better. The
house appeared asleep; yet if I attempted to wake any one, I had no
guarantee it might not prove either the aunt with the gold
eyeglasses (whom I could only remember with trembling), or some ass
of a servant-maid who should burst out screaming at sight of me.
Higher up I could hear and see a shepherd shouting to his dogs and
striding on the rough sides of the mountain, and it was clear I
must get to cover without loss of time. No doubt the holly
thickets would have proved a very suitable retreat, but there was
mounted on the wall a sort of signboard not uncommon in the country
of Great Britain, and very damping to the adventurous: SPRING GUNS
AND MAN-TRAPS was the legend that it bore. I have learned since
that these advertisements, three times out of four, were in the
nature of Quaker guns on a disarmed battery, but I had not learned
it then, and even so, the odds would not have been good enough.
For a choice, I would a hundred times sooner be returned to
Edinburgh Castle and my corner in the bastion, than to leave my
foot in a steel trap or have to digest the contents of an automatic
blunderbuss. There was but one chance left--that Ronald or Flora
might be the first to come abroad; and in order to profit by this
chance if it occurred, I got me on the cope of the wall in a place
where it was screened by the thick branches of a beech, and sat
As the day wore on, the sun came very pleasantly out. I had been
awake all night, I had undergone the most violent agitations of
mind and body, and it is not so much to be wondered at, as it was
exceedingly unwise and foolhardy, that I should have dropped into a
doze. From this I awakened to the characteristic sound of digging,
looked down, and saw immediately below me the back view of a
gardener in a stable waistcoat. Now he would appear steadily
immersed in his business; anon, to my more immediate terror, he
would straighten his back, stretch his arms, gaze about the
otherwise deserted garden, and relish a deep pinch of snuff. It
was my first thought to drop from the wall upon the other side. A
glance sufficed to show me that even the way by which I had come
was now cut off, and the field behind me already occupied by a
couple of shepherds' assistants and a score or two of sheep. I
have named the talismans on which I habitually depend, but here was
a conjuncture in which both were wholly useless. The copestone of
a wall arrayed with broken bottles is no favourable rostrum; and I
might be as eloquent as Pitt, and as fascinating as Richelieu, and
neither the gardener nor the shepherd lads would care a halfpenny.
In short, there was no escape possible from my absurd position:
there I must continue to sit until one or other of my neighbours
should raise his eyes and give the signal for my capture.
The part of the wall on which (for my sins) I was posted could be
scarce less than twelve feet high on the inside; the leaves of the
beech which made a fashion of sheltering me were already partly
fallen; and I was thus not only perilously exposed myself, but
enabled to command some part of the garden walks and (under an
evergreen arch) the front lawn and windows of the cottage. For
long nothing stirred except my friend with the spade; then I heard
the opening of a sash; and presently after saw Miss Flora appear in
a morning wrapper and come strolling hitherward between the
borders, pausing and visiting her flowers--herself as fair. THERE
was a friend; HERE, immediately beneath me, an unknown quantity--
the gardener: how to communicate with the one and not attract the
notice of the other? To make a noise was out of the question; I
dared scarce to breathe. I held myself ready to make a gesture as
soon as she should look, and she looked in every possible direction
but the one. She was interested in the vilest tuft of chickweed,
she gazed at the summit of the mountain, she came even immediately
below me and conversed on the most fastidious topics with the
gardener; but to the top of that wall she would not dedicate a
glance! At last she began to retrace her steps in the direction of
the cottage; whereupon, becoming quite desperate, I broke off a
piece of plaster, took a happy aim, and hit her with it in the nape
of the neck. She clapped her hand to the place, turned about,
looked on all sides for an explanation, and spying me (as indeed I
was parting the branches to make it the more easy), half uttered
and half swallowed down again a cry of surprise.
The infernal gardener was erect upon the instant. 'What's your
wull, miss?' said he.
Her readiness amazed me. She had already turned and was gazing in
the opposite direction. 'There's a child among the artichokes,'
'The Plagues of Egyp'! I'LL see to them!' cried the gardener
truculently, and with a hurried waddle disappeared among the
That moment she turned, she came running towards me, her arms
stretched out, her face incarnadined for the one moment with
heavenly blushes, the next pale as death. 'Monsieur de. Saint-
Yves!' she said.
'My dear young lady,' I said, 'this is the damnedest liberty--I
know it! But what else was I to do?'
'You have escaped?' said she.
'If you call this escape,' I replied.
'But you cannot possibly stop there!' she cried.
'I know it,' said I. 'And where am I to go?'
She struck her hands together. 'I have it!' she exclaimed. 'Come
down by the beech trunk--you must leave no footprint in the border-
-quickly, before Robie can get back! I am the hen-wife here: I
keep the key; you must go into the hen-house--for the moment.'
I was by her side at once. Both cast a hasty glance at the blank
windows of the cottage and so much as was visible of the garden
alleys; it seemed there was none to observe us. She caught me by
the sleeve and ran. It was no time for compliments; hurry breathed
upon our necks; and I ran along with her to the next corner of the
garden, where a wired court and a board hovel standing in a grove
of trees advertised my place of refuge. She thrust me in without a
word; the bulk of the fowls were at the same time emitted; and I
found myself the next moment locked in alone with half a dozen
sitting hens. In the twilight of the place all fixed their eyes on
me severely, and seemed to upbraid me with some crying impropriety.
Doubtless the hen has always a puritanic appearance, although (in
its own behaviour) I could never observe it to be more particular
than its neighbours. But conceive a British hen!
CHAPTER VIII--THE HEN-HOUSE
I was half an hour at least in the society of these distressing
bipeds, and alone with my own reflections and necessities. I was
in great pain of my flayed hands, and had nothing to treat them
with; I was hungry and thirsty, and had nothing to eat or to drink;
I was thoroughly tired, and there was no place for me to sit. To
be sure there was the floor, but nothing could be imagined less
At the sound of approaching footsteps, my good-humour was restored.
The key rattled in the lock, and Master Ronald entered, closed the
door behind him, and leaned his back to it.
'I say, you know!' he said, and shook a sullen young head.
'I know it's a liberty,' said I.
'It's infernally awkward: my position is infernally embarrassing,'
'Well,' said I, 'and what do you think of mine?'
This seemed to pose him entirely, and he remained gazing upon me
with a convincing air of youth and innocence. I could have
laughed, but I was not so inhumane.
'I am in your hands,' said I, with a little gesture. 'You must do
with me what you think right.'
'Ah, yes!' he cried: 'if I knew!'
'You see,' said I, 'it would be different if you had received your
commission. Properly speaking, you are not yet a combatant; I have
ceased to be one; and I think it arguable that we are just in the
position of one ordinary gentleman to another, where friendship
usually comes before the law. Observe, I only say ARGUABLE. For
God's sake, don't think I wish to dictate an opinion. These are
the sort of nasty little businesses, inseparable from war, which
every gentleman must decide for himself. If I were in your place--
'Ay, what would you do, then?' says he.
'Upon my word, I do not know,' said I. 'Hesitate, as you are
doing, I believe.'
'I will tell you,' he said. 'I have a kinsman, and it is what HE
would think, that I am thinking. It is General Graham of Lynedoch-
-Sir Thomas Graham. I scarcely know him, but I believe I admire
him more than I do God.'
'I admire him a good deal myself,' said I, 'and have good reason
to. I have fought with him, been beaten, and run away. Veni,
victus sum, evasi.'
'What!' he cried. 'You were at Barossa?'
'There and back, which many could not say,' said I. 'It was a
pretty affair and a hot one, and the Spaniards behaved abominably,
as they usually did in a pitched field; the Marshal Duke of Belluno
made a fool of himself, and not for the first time; and your friend
Sir Thomas had the best of it, so far as there was any best. He is
a brave and ready officer.'
'Now, then, you will understand!' said the boy. 'I wish to please
Sir Thomas: what would he do?'
'Well, I can tell you a story,' said I, 'a true one too, and about
this very combat of Chiclana, or Barossa as you call it. I was in
the Eighth of the Line; we lost the eagle of the First Battalion,
more betoken, but it cost you dear. Well, we had repulsed more
charges than I care to count, when your 87th Regiment came on at a
foot's pace, very slow but very steady; in front of them a mounted
officer, his hat in his hand, white-haired, and talking very
quietly to the battalions. Our Major, Vigo-Roussillon, set spurs
to his horse and galloped out to sabre him, but seeing him an old
man, very handsome, and as composed as if he were in a coffee-
house, lost heart and galloped back again. Only, you see, they had
been very close together for the moment, and looked each other in
the eyes. Soon after the Major was wounded, taken prisoner, and
carried into Cadiz. One fine day they announced to him the visit
of the General, Sir Thomas Graham. "Well, sir," said the General,
taking him by the hand, "I think we were face to face upon the
field." It was the white-haired officer!'
'Ah!' cried the boy,--his eyes were burning.
'Well, and here is the point,' I continued. 'Sir Thomas fed the
Major from his own table from that day, and served him with six
'Yes, it is a beautiful--a beautiful story,' said Ronald. 'And yet
somehow it is not the same--is it?'
'I admit it freely,' said I.
The boy stood awhile brooding. 'Well, I take my risk of it,' he
cried. 'I believe it's treason to my sovereign--I believe there is
an infamous punishment for such a crime--and yet I'm hanged if I
can give you up'
I was as much moved as he. 'I could almost beg you to do
otherwise,' I said. 'I was a brute to come to you, a brute and a
coward. You are a noble enemy; you will make a noble soldier.'
And with rather a happy idea of a compliment for this warlike
youth, I stood up straight and gave him the salute.
He was for a moment confused; his face flushed. 'Well, well, I
must be getting you something to eat, but it will not be for six,'
he added, with a smile: 'only what we can get smuggled out. There
is my aunt in the road, you see,' and he locked me in again with
the indignant hens.
I always smile when I recall that young fellow; and yet, if the
reader were to smile also, I should feel ashamed. If my son shall
be only like him when he comes to that age, it will be a brave day
for me and not a bad one for his country.
At the same time I cannot pretend that I was sorry when his sister
succeeded in his place. She brought me a few crusts of bread and a
jug of milk, which she had handsomely laced with whisky after the
'I am so sorry,' she said: 'I dared not bring on anything more.
We are so small a family, and my aunt keeps such an eye upon the
servants. I have put some whisky in the milk--it is more wholesome
so--and with eggs you will be able to make something of a meal.
How many eggs will you be wanting to that milk? for I must be
taking the others to my aunt--that is my excuse for being here. I
should think three or four. Do you know how to beat them? or shall
I do it?'
Willing to detain her a while longer in the hen-house, I displayed
my bleeding palms; at which she cried aloud.
'My dear Miss Flora, you cannot make an omelette without breaking
eggs,' said I; 'and it is no bagatelle to escape from Edinburgh
Castle. One of us, I think, was even killed.'
'And you are as white as a rag, too,' she exclaimed, 'and can
hardly stand! Here is my shawl, sit down upon it here in the
corner, and I will beat your eggs. See, I have brought a fork too;
I should have been a good person to take care of Jacobites or
Covenanters in old days! You shall have more to eat this evening;
Ronald is to bring it you from town. We have money enough,
although no food that we can call our own. Ah, if Ronald and I
kept house, you should not be lying in this shed! He admires you
'My dear friend,' said I, 'for God's sake do not embarrass me with
more alms. I loved to receive them from that hand, so long as they
were needed; but they are so no more, and whatever else I may lack-
-and I lack everything--it is not money.' I pulled out my sheaf of
notes and detached the top one: it was written for ten pounds, and
signed by that very famous individual, Abraham Newlands. 'Oblige
me, as you would like me to oblige your brother if the parts were
reversed, and take this note for the expenses. I shall need not
only food, but clothes.'
'Lay it on the ground,' said she. 'I must not stop my beating.'
'You are not offended?' I exclaimed.
She answered me by a look that was a reward in itself, and seemed
to imply the most heavenly offers for the future. There was in it
a shadow of reproach, and such warmth of communicative cordiality
as left me speechless. I watched her instead till her hens' milk
'Now,' said she, 'taste that.'
I did so, and swore it was nectar. She collected her eggs and
crouched in front of me to watch me eat. There was about this tall
young lady at the moment an air of motherliness delicious to
behold. I am like the English general, and to this day I still
wonder at my moderation.
'What sort of clothes will you be wanting?' said she.
'The clothes of a gentleman,' said I. 'Right or wrong, I think it
is the part I am best qualified to play. Mr. St. Ives (for that's
to be my name upon the journey) I conceive as rather a theatrical
figure, and his make-up should be to match.'
'And yet there is a difficulty,' said she. 'If you got coarse
clothes the fit would hardly matter. But the clothes of a fine
gentleman--O, it is absolutely necessary that these should fit!
And above all, with your'--she paused a moment--'to our ideas
somewhat noticeable manners.'
'Alas for my poor manners!' said I. 'But my dear friend Flora,
these little noticeabilities are just what mankind has to suffer
under. Yourself, you see, you're very noticeable even when you
come in a crowd to visit poor prisoners in the Castle.'
I was afraid I should frighten my good angel visitant away, and
without the smallest breath of pause went on to add a few
directions as to stuffs and colours.
She opened big eyes upon me. 'O, Mr. St. Ives!' she cried--'if
that is to be your name--I do not say they would not be becoming;
but for a journey, do you think they would be wise? I am afraid'--
she gave a pretty break of laughter--'I am afraid they would be
'Well, and am I not daft?' I asked her.
'I do begin to think you are,' said she.
'There it is, then!' said I. 'I have been long enough a figure of
fun. Can you not feel with me that perhaps the bitterest thing in
this captivity has been the clothes? Make me a captive--bind me
with chains if you like--but let me be still myself. You do not
know what it is to be a walking travesty--among foes,' I added
'O, but you are too unjust!' she cried. 'You speak as though any
one ever dreamed of laughing at you. But no one did. We were all
pained to the heart. Even my aunt--though sometimes I do think she
was not quite in good taste--you should have seen her and heard her
at home! She took so much interest. Every patch in your clothes
made us sorry; it should have been a sister's work.'
'That is what I never had--a sister,' said I. 'But since you say
that I did not make you laugh--'
'O, Mr. St. Ives! never!' she exclaimed. 'Not for one moment. It
was all too sad. To see a gentleman --'
'In the clothes of a harlequin, and begging?' I suggested.
'To see a gentleman in distress, and nobly supporting it,' she
'And do you not understand, my fair foe,' said I, 'that even if all
were as you say--even if you had thought my travesty were becoming-
-I should be only the more anxious, for my sake, for my country's
sake, and for the sake of your kindness, that you should see him
whom you have helped as God meant him to be seen? that you should
have something to remember him by at least more characteristic than
a misfitting sulphur-yellow suit, and half a week's beard?'
'You think a great deal too much of clothes,' she said. 'I am not
that kind of girl.'
'And I am afraid I am that kind of man,' said I. 'But do not think
of me too harshly for that. I talked just now of something to
remember by. I have many of them myself, of these beautiful
reminders, of these keepsakes, that I cannot be parted from until I
lose memory and life. Many of them are great things, many of them
are high virtues--charity, mercy, faith. But some of them are
trivial enough. Miss Flora, do you remember the day that I first
saw you, the day of the strong east wind? Miss Flora, shall I tell
you what you wore?'
We had both risen to our feet, and she had her hand already on the
door to go. Perhaps this attitude emboldened me to profit by the
last seconds of our interview; and it certainly rendered her escape
the more easy.
'O, you are too romantic!' she said, laughing; and with that my sun
was blown out, my enchantress had fled away, and I was again left
alone in the twilight with the lady hens.
CHAPTER IX--THREE IS COMPANY, AND FOUR NONE
The rest of the day I slept in the corner of the hen-house upon
Flora's shawl. Nor did I awake until a light shone suddenly in my
eyes, and starting up with a gasp (for, indeed, at the moment I
dreamed I was still swinging from the Castle battlements) I found
Ronald bending over me with a lantern. It appeared it was past
midnight, that I had slept about sixteen hours, and that Flora had
returned her poultry to the shed and I had heard her not. I could
not but wonder if she had stooped to look at me as I slept. The
puritan hens now slept irremediably; and being cheered with the
promise of supper I wished them an ironical good-night, and was
lighted across the garden and noiselessly admitted to a bedroom on
the ground floor of the cottage. There I found soap, water,
razors--offered me diffidently by my beardless host--and an outfit
of new clothes. To be shaved again without depending on the barber
of the gaol was a source of a delicious, if a childish joy. My
hair was sadly too long, but I was none so unwise as to make an
attempt on it myself. And, indeed, I thought it did not wholly
misbecome me as it was, being by nature curly. The clothes were
about as good as I expected. The waistcoat was of toilenet, a
pretty piece, the trousers of fine kerseymere, and the coat sat
extraordinarily well. Altogether, when I beheld this changeling in
the glass, I kissed my hand to him.
'My dear fellow,' said I, 'have you no scent?'
'Good God, no!' cried Ronald. 'What do you want with scent?'
'Capital thing on a campaign,' said I. 'But I can do without.'
I was now led, with the same precautions against noise, into the
little bow-windowed dining-room of the cottage. The shutters were
up, the lamp guiltily turned low; the beautiful Flora greeted me in
a whisper; and when I was set down to table, the pair proceeded to
help me with precautions that might have seemed excessive in the
Ear of Dionysius.
'She sleeps up there,' observed the boy, pointing to the ceiling;
and the knowledge that I was so imminently near to the resting-
place of that gold eyeglass touched even myself with some
Our excellent youth had imported from the city a meat pie, and I
was glad to find it flanked with a decanter of really admirable
wine of Oporto. While I ate, Ronald entertained me with the news
of the city, which had naturally rung all day with our escape:
troops and mounted messengers had followed each other forth at all
hours and in all directions; but according to the last intelligence
no recapture had been made. Opinion in town was very favourable to
us: our courage was applauded, and many professed regret that our
ultimate chance of escape should be so small. The man who had
fallen was one Sombref, a peasant; he was one who slept in a
different part of the Castle; and I was thus assured that the whole
of my former companions had attained their liberty, and Shed A was
From this we wandered insensibly into other topics. It is
impossible to exaggerate the pleasure I took to be thus sitting at
the same table with Flora, in the clothes of a gentleman, at
liberty and in the full possession of my spirits and resources; of
all of which I had need, because it was necessary that I should
support at the same time two opposite characters, and at once play
the cavalier and lively soldier for the eyes of Ronald, and to the
ears of Flora maintain the same profound and sentimental note that
I had already sounded. Certainly there are days when all goes well
with a man; when his wit, his digestion, his mistress are in a
conspiracy to spoil him, and even the weather smiles upon his
wishes. I will only say of myself upon that evening that I
surpassed my expectations, and was privileged to delight my hosts.
Little by little they forgot their terrors and I my caution; until
at last we were brought back to earth by a catastrophe that might
very easily have been foreseen, but was not the less astonishing to
us when it occurred.
I had filled all the glasses. 'I have a toast to propose,' I
whispered, 'or rather three, but all so inextricably interwoven
that they will not bear dividing. I wish first to drink to the
health of a brave and therefore a generous enemy. He found me
disarmed, a fugitive and helpless. Like the lion, he disdained so
poor a triumph; and when he might have vindicated an easy valour,
he preferred to make a friend. I wish that we should next drink to
a fairer and a more tender foe. She found me in prison; she
cheered me with a priceless sympathy; what she has done since, I
know she has done in mercy, and I only pray--I dare scarce hope--
her mercy may prove to have been merciful. And I wish to conjoin
with these, for the first, and perhaps the last time, the health--
and I fear I may already say the memory--of one who has fought, not
always without success, against the soldiers of your nation; but
who came here, vanquished already, only to be vanquished again by
the loyal hand of the one, by the unforgettable eyes of the other.'
It is to be feared I may have lent at times a certain resonancy to
my voice; it is to be feared that Ronald, who was none the better
for his own hospitality, may have set down his glass with something
of a clang. Whatever may have been the cause, at least, I had
scarce finished my compliment before we were aware of a thump upon
the ceiling overhead. It was to be thought some very solid body
had descended to the floor from the level (possibly) of a bed. I
have never seen consternation painted in more lively colours than
on the faces of my hosts. It was proposed to smuggle me forth into
the garden, or to conceal my form under a horsehair sofa which
stood against the wall. For the first expedient, as was now plain
by the approaching footsteps, there was no longer time; from the
second I recoiled with indignation.
'My dear creatures,' said I, 'let us die, but do not let us be
The words were still upon my lips when the door opened and my
friend of the gold eyeglass appeared, a memorable figure, on the
threshold. In one hand she bore a bedroom candlestick; in the
other, with the steadiness of a dragoon, a horse-pistol. She was
wound about in shawls which did not wholly conceal the candid
fabric of her nightdress, and surmounted by a nightcap of
portentous architecture. Thus accoutred, she made her entrance;
laid down the candle and pistol, as no longer called for; looked
about the room with a silence more eloquent than oaths; and then,
in a thrilling voice--'To whom have I the pleasure?' she said,
addressing me with a ghost of a bow.
'Madam, I am charmed, I am sure,' said I. 'The story is a little
long; and our meeting, however welcome, was for the moment entirely
unexpected by myself. I am sure--' but here I found I was quite
sure of nothing, and tried again. 'I have the honour,' I began,
and found I had the honour to be only exceedingly confused. With
that, I threw myself outright upon her mercy. 'Madam, I must be
more frank with you,' I resumed. 'You have already proved your
charity and compassion for the French prisoners, I am one of these;
and if my appearance be not too much changed, you may even yet
recognise in me that ODDITY who had the good fortune more than once
to make you smile.'
Still gazing upon me through her glass, she uttered an
uncompromising grunt; and then, turning to her niece--'Flora,' said
she, 'how comes he here?'
The culprits poured out for a while an antiphony of explanations,
which died out at last in a miserable silence.
'I think at least you might have told your aunt,' she snorted.
'Madam,' I interposed, 'they were about to do so. It is my fault
if it be not done already. But I made it my prayer that your
slumbers might be respected, and this necessary formula of my
presentation should be delayed until to-morrow in the morning.'
The old lady regarded me with undissembled incredulity, to which I
was able to find no better repartee than a profound and I trust
'French prisoners are very well in their place,' she said, 'but I
cannot see that their place is in my private dining-room.'
'Madam,' said I, 'I hope it may be said without offence, but
(except the Castle of Edinburgh) I cannot think upon the spot from
which I would so readily be absent.'
At this, to my relief, I thought I could perceive a vestige of a
smile to steal upon that iron countenance and to be bitten
'And if it is a fair question, what do they call ye?' she asked.
'At your service, the Vicomte Anne de St.-Yves,' said I.
'Mosha the Viscount,' said she, 'I am afraid you do us plain people
a great deal too much honour.'
'My dear lady,' said I, 'let us be serious for a moment. What was
I to do? Where was I to go? And how can you be angry with these
benevolent children who took pity on one so unfortunate as myself?
Your humble servant is no such terrific adventurer that you should
come out against him with horse-pistol and'--smiling--'bedroom
candlesticks. It is but a young gentleman in extreme distress,
hunted upon every side, and asking no more than to escape from his
pursuers. I know your character, I read it in your face'--the
heart trembled in my body as I said these daring words. 'There are
unhappy English prisoners in France at this day, perhaps at this
hour. Perhaps at this hour they kneel as I do; they take the hand
of her who might conceal and assist them; they press it to their
lips as I do--'
'Here, here!' cried the old lady, breaking from my solicitations.
'Behave yourself before folk! Saw ever anyone the match of that?
And on earth, my dears, what are we to do with him?'
'Pack him off, my dear lady,' said I: 'pack off the impudent
fellow double-quick! And if it may be, and if your good heart
allows it, help him a little on the way he has to go.'
'What's this pie?' she cried stridently. 'Where is this pie from,
No answer was vouchsafed by my unfortunate and (I may say) extinct
'Is that my port?' she pursued. 'Hough! Will somebody give me a
glass of my port wine?'
I made haste to serve her.
She looked at me over the rim with an extraordinary expression. 'I
hope ye liked it?' said she.
'It is even a magnificent wine,' said I.
'Aweel, it was my father laid it down,' said she. 'There were few
knew more about port wine than my father, God rest him!' She
settled herself in a chair with an alarming air of resolution.
'And so there is some particular direction that you wish to go in?'
'O,' said I, following her example, 'I am by no means such a
vagrant as you suppose. I have good friends, if I could get to
them, for which all I want is to be once clear of Scotland; and I
have money for the road.' And I produced my bundle.
'English bank-notes?' she said. 'That's not very handy for
Scotland. It's been some fool of an Englishman that's given you
these, I'm thinking. How much is it?'
'I declare to heaven I never thought to count!' I exclaimed. 'But
that is soon remedied.'
And I counted out ten notes of ten pound each, all in the name of
Abraham Newlands, and five bills of country bankers for as many
'One hundred and twenty six pound five,' cried the old lady. 'And
you carry such a sum about you, and have not so much as counted it!
If you are not a thief, you must allow you are very thief-like.'
'And yet, madam, the money is legitimately mine,' said I.
She took one of the bills and held it up. 'Is there any
probability, now, that this could be traced?' she asked.
'None, I should suppose; and if it were, it would be no matter,'
said I. 'With your usual penetration, you guessed right. An
Englishman brought it me. It reached me, through the hands of his
English solicitor, from my great-uncle, the Comte de Keroual de
Saint-Yves, I believe the richest emigre in London.'
'I can do no more than take your word for it,' said she.
'And I trust, madam, not less,' said I.
'Well,' said she, 'at this rate the matter may be feasible. I will
cash one of these five-guinea bills, less the exchange, and give
you silver and Scots notes to bear you as far as the border.
Beyond that, Mosha the Viscount, you will have to depend upon
I could not but express a civil hesitation as to whether the amount
would suffice, in my case, for so long a journey.
'Ay,' said she, 'but you havenae heard me out. For if you are not
too fine a gentleman to travel with a pair of drovers, I believe I
have found the very thing, and the Lord forgive me for a
treasonable old wife! There are a couple stopping up by with the
shepherd-man at the farm; to-morrow they will take the road for
England, probably by skriegh of day--and in my opinion you had best
be travelling with the stots,' said she.
'For Heaven's sake do not suppose me to be so effeminate a
character!' I cried. 'An old soldier of Napoleon is certainly
beyond suspicion. But, dear lady, to what end? and how is the
society of these excellent gentlemen supposed to help me?'
'My dear sir,' said she, 'you do not at all understand your own
predicament, and must just leave your matters in the hands of those
who do. I dare say you have never even heard tell of the drove-
roads or the drovers; and I am certainly not going to sit up all
night to explain it to you. Suffice it, that it is me who is
arranging this affair--the more shame to me!--and that is the way
ye have to go. Ronald,' she continued, 'away up-by to the
shepherds; rowst them out of their beds, and make it perfectly
distinct that Sim is not to leave till he has seen me.'
Ronald was nothing loath to escape from his aunt's neighbourhood,
and left the room and the cottage with a silent expedition that was
more like flight than mere obedience. Meanwhile the old lady
turned to her niece.
'And I would like to know what we are to do with him the night!'
'Ronald and I meant to put him in the hen-house,' said the
'And I can tell you he is to go to no such a place,' replied the
aunt. 'Hen-house, indeed! If a guest he is to be, he shall sleep
in no mortal hen-house. Your room is the most fit, I think, if he
will consent to occupy it on so great a suddenty. And as for you,
Flora, you shall sleep with me.'
I could not help admiring the prudence and tact of this old
dowager, and of course it was not for me to make objections. Ere I
well knew how, I was alone with a flat candlestick, which is not
the most sympathetic of companions, and stood studying the snuff in
a frame of mind between triumph and chagrin. All had gone well
with my flight: the masterful lady who had arrogated to herself
the arrangement of the details gave me every confidence; and I saw
myself already arriving at my uncle's door. But, alas! it was
another story with my love affair. I had seen and spoken with her
alone; I had ventured boldly; I had been not ill received; I had
seen her change colour, had enjoyed the undissembled kindness of
her eyes; and now, in a moment, down comes upon the scene that
apocalyptic figure with the nightcap and the horse-pistol, and with
the very wind of her coming behold me separated from my love!
Gratitude and admiration contended in my breast with the extreme of
natural rancour. My appearance in her house at past midnight had
an air (I could not disguise it from myself) that was insolent and
underhand, and could not but minister to the worst suspicions. And
the old lady had taken it well. Her generosity was no more to be
called in question than her courage, and I was afraid that her
intelligence would be found to match. Certainly, Miss Flora had to
support some shrewd looks, and certainly she had been troubled. I
could see but the one way before me: to profit by an excellent
bed, to try to sleep soon, to be stirring early, and to hope for
some renewed occasion in the morning. To have said so much and yet
to say no more, to go out into the world upon so half-hearted a
parting, was more than I could accept.
It is my belief that the benevolent fiend sat up all night to baulk
me. She was at my bedside with a candle long ere day, roused me,
laid out for me a damnable misfit of clothes, and bade me pack my
own (which were wholly unsuited to the journey) in a bundle. Sore
grudging, I arrayed myself in a suit of some country fabric, as
delicate as sackcloth and about as becoming as a shroud; and, on
coming forth, found the dragon had prepared for me a hearty
breakfast. She took the head of the table, poured out the tea, and
entertained me as I ate with a great deal of good sense and a
conspicuous lack of charm. How often did I not regret the change!-
-how often compare her, and condemn her in the comparison, with her
charming niece! But if my entertainer was not beautiful, she had
certainly been busy in my interest. Already she was in
communication with my destined fellow-travellers; and the device on
which she had struck appeared entirely suitable. I was a young
Englishman who had outrun the constable; warrants were out against
me in Scotland, and it had become needful I should pass the border
without loss of time, and privately.
'I have given a very good account of you,' said she, 'which I hope
you may justify. I told them there was nothing against you beyond
the fact that you were put to the haw (if that is the right word)
'I pray God you have the expression incorrectly, ma'am,' said I.
'I do not give myself out for a person easily alarmed; but you must
admit there is something barbarous and mediaeval in the sound well
qualified to startle a poor foreigner.'
'It is the name of a process in Scots Law, and need alarm no honest
man,' said she. 'But you are a very idle-minded young gentleman;
you must still have your joke, I see: I only hope you will have no
cause to regret it.'
'I pray you not to suppose, because I speak lightly, that I do not
feel deeply,' said I. 'Your kindness has quite conquered me; I lay
myself at your disposition, I beg you to believe, with real
tenderness; I pray you to consider me from henceforth as the most
devoted of your friends.'
'Well, well,' she said, 'here comes your devoted friend the drover.
I'm thinking he will be eager for the road; and I will not be easy
myself till I see you well off the premises, and the dishes washed,
before my servant-woman wakes. Praise God, we have gotten one that
is a treasure at the sleeping!'
The morning was already beginning to be blue in the trees of the
garden, and to put to shame the candle by which I had breakfasted.
The lady rose from table, and I had no choice but to follow her
example. All the time I was beating my brains for any means by
which I should be able to get a word apart with Flora, or find the
time to write her a billet. The windows had been open while I
breakfasted, I suppose to ventilate the room from any traces of my
passage there; and, Master Ronald appearing on the front lawn, my
ogre leaned forth to address him.
'Ronald,' she said, 'wasn't that Sim that went by the wall?'
I snatched my advantage. Right at her back there was pen, ink, and
paper laid out. I wrote: 'I love you'; and before I had time to
write more, or so much as to blot what I had written, I was again
under the guns of the gold eyeglasses.
'It's time,' she began; and then, as she observed my occupation,
'Umph!' she broke off. 'Ye have something to write?' she demanded.
'Some notes, madam,' said I, bowing with alacrity.
'Notes,' she said; 'or a note?'
'There is doubtless some finesse of the English language that I do
not comprehend,' said I.
'I'll contrive, however, to make my meaning very plain to ye, Mosha
le Viscount,' she continued. 'I suppose you desire to be
considered a gentleman?'
'Can you doubt it, madam?' said I.
'I doubt very much, at least, whether you go to the right way about
it,' she said. 'You have come here to me, I cannot very well say
how; I think you will admit you owe me some thanks, if it was only
for the breakfast I made ye. But what are you to me? A waif young
man, not so far to seek for looks and manners, with some English
notes in your pocket and a price upon your head. I am a lady; I
have been your hostess, with however little will; and I desire that
this random acquaintance of yours with my family will cease and
I believe I must have coloured. 'Madam,' said I, 'the notes are of
no importance; and your least pleasure ought certainly to be my
law. You have felt, and you have been pleased to express, a doubt
of me. I tear them up.' Which you may be sure I did thoroughly.
'There's a good lad!' said the dragon, and immediately led the way
to the front lawn.
The brother and sister were both waiting us here, and, as well as I
could make out in the imperfect light, bore every appearance of
having passed through a rather cruel experience. Ronald seemed
ashamed to so much as catch my eye in the presence of his aunt, and
was the picture of embarrassment. As for Flora, she had scarce the
time to cast me one look before the dragon took her by the arm, and
began to march across the garden in the extreme first glimmer of
the dawn without exchanging speech. Ronald and I followed in equal
There was a door in that same high wall on the top of which I had
sat perched no longer gone than yesterday morning. This the old
lady set open with a key; and on the other side we were aware of a
rough-looking, thick-set man, leaning with his arms (through which
was passed a formidable staff) on a dry-stone dyke. Him the old
lady immediately addressed.
'Sim,' said she, 'this is the young gentleman.'
Sim replied with an inarticulate grumble of sound, and a movement
of one arm and his head, which did duty for a salutation.
'Now, Mr. St. Ives,' said the old lady, 'it's high time for you to
be taking the road. But first of all let me give the change of
your five-guinea bill. Here are four pounds of it in British Linen
notes, and the balance in small silver, less sixpence. Some charge
a shilling, I believe, but I have given you the benefit of the
doubt. See and guide it with all the sense that you possess.'
'And here, Mr. St. Ives,' said Flora, speaking for the first time,
'is a plaid which you will find quite necessary on so rough a
journey. I hope you will take it from the hands of a Scotch
friend,' she added, and her voice trembled.
'Genuine holly: I cut it myself,' said Ronald, and gave me as good
a cudgel as a man could wish for in a row.
The formality of these gifts, and the waiting figure of the driver,
told me loudly that I must be gone. I dropped on one knee and bade
farewell to the aunt, kissing her hand. I did the like--but with
how different a passion!--to her niece; as for the boy, I took him
to my arms and embraced him with a cordiality that seemed to strike
him speechless. 'Farewell!' and 'Farewell!' I said. 'I shall
never forget my friends. Keep me sometimes in memory. Farewell!'
With that I turned my back and began to walk away; and had scarce
done so, when I heard the door in the high wall close behind me.
Of course this was the aunt's doing; and of course, if I know
anything of human character, she would not let me go without some
tart expressions. I declare, even if I had heard them, I should
not have minded in the least, for I was quite persuaded that,
whatever admirers I might be leaving behind me in Swanston Cottage,
the aunt was not the least sincere.
CHAPTER X--THE DROVERS
It took me a little effort to come abreast of my new companion; for
though he walked with an ugly roll and no great appearance of
speed, he could cover the around at a good rate when he wanted to.
Each looked at the other: I with natural curiosity, he with a
great appearance of distaste. I have heard since that his heart
was entirely set against me; he had seen me kneel to the ladies,
and diagnosed me for a 'gesterin' eediot.'
'So, ye're for England, are ye?' said he.
I told him yes.
'Weel, there's waur places, I believe,' was his reply; and he
relapsed into a silence which was not broken during a quarter of an
hour of steady walking.
This interval brought us to the foot of a bare green valley, which
wound upwards and backwards among the hills. A little stream came
down the midst and made a succession of clear pools; near by the
lowest of which I was aware of a drove of shaggy cattle, and a man
who seemed the very counterpart of Mr. Sim making a breakfast upon
bread and cheese. This second drover (whose name proved to be
Candlish) rose on our approach.
'Here's a mannie that's to gang through with us,' said Sim. 'It
was the auld wife, Gilchrist, wanted it.'
'Aweel, aweel,' said the other; and presently, remembering his
manners, and looking on me with a solemn grin, 'A fine day!' says
I agreed with him, and asked him how he did.
'Brawly,' was the reply; and without further civilities, the pair
proceeded to get the cattle under way. This, as well as almost all
the herding, was the work of a pair of comely and intelligent dogs,
directed by Sim or Candlish in little more than monosyllables.
Presently we were ascending the side of the mountain by a rude
green track, whose presence I had not hitherto observed. A
continual sound of munching and the crying of a great quantity of
moor birds accompanied our progress, which the deliberate pace and
perennial appetite of the cattle rendered wearisomely slow. In the
midst my two conductors marched in a contented silence that I could
not but admire. The more I looked at them, the more I was
impressed by their absurd resemblance to each other. They were
dressed in the same coarse homespun, carried similar sticks, were
equally begrimed about the nose with snuff, and each wound in an
identical plaid of what is called the shepherd's tartan. In a back
view they might be described as indistinguishable; and even from
the front they were much alike. An incredible coincidence of
humours augmented the impression. Thrice and four times I
attempted to pave the way for some exchange of thought, sentiment,
or--at the least of it--human words. An Ay or an Nhm was the sole
return, and the topic died on the hill-side without echo. I can
never deny that I was chagrined; and when, after a little more
walking, Sim turned towards me and offered me a ram's horn of
snuff, with the question 'Do ye use it?' I answered, with some
animation, 'Faith, sir, I would use pepper to introduce a little
cordiality.' But even this sally failed to reach, or at least
failed to soften, my companions.
At this rate we came to the summit of a ridge, and saw the track
descend in front of us abruptly into a desert vale, about a league
in length, and closed at the farther end by no less barren
hilltops. Upon this point of vantage Sim came to a halt, took off
his hat, and mopped his brow.
'Weel,' he said, 'here we're at the top o' Howden.'
'The top o' Howden, sure eneuch,' said Candlish.
'Mr. St. Ivey, are ye dry?' said the first.
'Now, really,' said I, 'is not this Satan reproving sin?'
'What ails ye, man?' said he. 'I'm offerin' ye a dram.'
'Oh, if it be anything to drink,' said I, 'I am as dry as my
Whereupon Sim produced from the corner of his plaid a black bottle,
and we all drank and pledged each other. I found these gentlemen
followed upon such occasions an invariable etiquette, which you may
be certain I made haste to imitate. Each wiped his mouth with the
back of his left hand, held up the bottle in his right, remarked
with emphasis, 'Here's to ye!' and swallowed as much of the spirit
as his fancy prompted. This little ceremony, which was the nearest
thing to manners I could perceive in either of my companions, was
repeated at becoming intervals, generally after an ascent.
Occasionally we shared a mouthful of ewe-milk cheese and an
inglorious form of bread, which I understood (but am far from
engaging my honour on the point) to be called 'shearer's bannock.'
And that may be said to have concluded our whole active intercourse
for the first day.
I had the more occasion to remark the extraordinarily desolate
nature of that country, through which the drove road continued,
hour after hour and even day after day, to wind. A continual
succession of insignificant shaggy hills, divided by the course of
ten thousand brooks, through which we had to wade, or by the side
of which we encamped at night; infinite perspectives of heather,
infinite quantities of moorfowl; here and there, by a stream side,
small and pretty clumps of willows or the silver birch; here and
there, the ruins of ancient and inconsiderable fortresses--made the
unchanging characters of the scene. Occasionally, but only in the
distance, we could perceive the smoke of a small town or of an
isolated farmhouse or cottage on the moors; more often, a flock of
sheep and its attendant shepherd, or a rude field of agriculture
perhaps not yet harvested. With these alleviations, we might
almost be said to pass through an unbroken desert--sure, one of the
most impoverished in Europe; and when I recalled to mind that we
were yet but a few leagues from the chief city (where the law
courts sat every day with a press of business, soldiers garrisoned
the castle, and men of admitted parts were carrying on the practice
of letters and the investigations of science), it gave me a
singular view of that poor, barren, and yet illustrious country
through which I travelled. Still more, perhaps, did it commend the
wisdom of Miss Gilchrist in sending me with these uncouth
companions and by this unfrequented path.
My itinerary is by no means clear to me; the names and distances I
never clearly knew, and have now wholly forgotten; and this is the
more to be regretted as there is no doubt that, in the course of
those days, I must have passed and camped among sites which have
been rendered illustrious by the pen of Walter Scott. Nay, more, I
am of opinion that I was still more favoured by fortune, and have
actually met and spoken with that inimitable author. Our encounter
was of a tall, stoutish, elderly gentleman, a little grizzled, and
of a rugged but cheerful and engaging countenance. He sat on a
hill pony, wrapped in a plaid over his green coat, and was
accompanied by a horse-woman, his daughter, a young lady of the
most charming appearance. They overtook us on a stretch of heath,
reined up as they came alongside, and accompanied us for perhaps a
quarter of an hour before they galloped off again across the
hillsides to our left. Great was my amazement to find the
unconquerable Mr. Sim thaw immediately on the accost of this
strange gentleman, who hailed him with a ready familiarity,
proceeded at once to discuss with him the trade of droving and the
prices of cattle, and did not disdain to take a pinch from the
inevitable ram's horn. Presently I was aware that the stranger's
eye was directed on myself; and there ensued a conversation, some
of which I could not help overhearing at the time, and the rest
have pieced together more or less plausibly from the report of Sim.
'Surely that must be an AMATEUR DROVER ye have gotten there?' the
gentleman seems to have asked.
Sim replied, I was a young gentleman that had a reason of his own
to travel privately.
'Well, well, ye must tell me nothing of that. I am in the law, you
know, and tace is the Latin for a candle,' answered the gentleman.
'But I hope it's nothing bad.'
Sim told him it was no more than debt.
'Oh, Lord, if that be all!' cried the gentleman; and turning to
myself, 'Well, sir,' he added, 'I understand you are taking a tramp
through our forest here for the pleasure of the thing?'
'Why, yes, sir,' said I; 'and I must say I am very well
'I envy you,' said he. 'I have jogged many miles of it myself when
I was younger. My youth lies buried about here under every
heather-bush, like the soul of the licentiate Lucius. But you
should have a guide. The pleasure of this country is much in the
legends, which grow as plentiful as blackberries.' And directing
my attention to a little fragment of a broken wall no greater than
a tombstone, he told me for an example a story of its earlier
inhabitants. Years after it chanced that I was one day diverting
myself with a Waverley Novel, when what should I come upon but the
identical narrative of my green-coated gentleman upon the moors!
In a moment the scene, the tones of his voice, his northern accent,
and the very aspect of the earth and sky and temperature of the
weather, flashed back into my mind with the reality of dreams. The
unknown in the green-coat had been the Great Unknown! I had met
Scott; I had heard a story from his lips; I should have been able
to write, to claim acquaintance, to tell him that his legend still
tingled in my ears. But the discovery came too late, and the great
man had already succumbed under the load of his honours and
Presently, after giving us a cigar apiece, Scott bade us farewell
and disappeared with his daughter over the hills. And when I
applied to Sim for information, his answer of 'The Shirra, man!
A'body kens the Shirra!' told me, unfortunately, nothing.
A more considerable adventure falls to be related. We were now
near the border. We had travelled for long upon the track beaten
and browsed by a million herds, our predecessors, and had seen no
vestige of that traffic which had created it. It was early in the
morning when we at last perceived, drawing near to the drove road,
but still at a distance of about half a league, a second caravan,
similar to but larger than our own. The liveliest excitement was
at once exhibited by both my comrades. They climbed hillocks, they
studied the approaching drove from under their hand, they consulted
each other with an appearance of alarm that seemed to me
extraordinary. I had learned by this time that their stand-oft
manners implied, at least, no active enmity; and I made bold to ask
them what was wrong.
'Bad yins,' was Sim's emphatic answer.
All day the dogs were kept unsparingly on the alert, and the drove
pushed forward at a very unusual and seemingly unwelcome speed.
All day Sim and Candlish, with a more than ordinary expenditure
both of snuff and of words, continued to debate the position. It
seems that they had recognised two of our neighbours on the road--
one Faa, and another by the name of Gillies. Whether there was an
old feud between them still unsettled I could never learn; but Sim
and Candlish were prepared for every degree of fraud or violence at
their hands. Candlish repeatedly congratulated himself on having
left 'the watch at home with the mistress'; and Sim perpetually
brandished his cudgel, and cursed his ill-fortune that it should be
'I willna care a damn to gie the daashed scoon'rel a fair clout wi'
it,' he said. 'The daashed thing micht come sindry in ma hand.'
'Well, gentlemen,' said I, 'suppose they do come on, I think we can
give a very good account of them.' And I made my piece of holly,
Ronald's gift, the value of which I now appreciated, sing about my
'Ay, man? Are ye stench?' inquired Sim, with a gleam of approval
in his wooden countenance.
The same evening, somewhat wearied with our day-long expedition, we
encamped on a little verdant mound, from the midst of which there
welled a spring of clear water scarce great enough to wash the
hands in. We had made our meal and lain down, but were not yet
asleep, when a growl from one of the collies set us on the alert.
All three sat up, and on a second impulse all lay down again, but
now with our cudgels ready. A man must be an alien and an outlaw,
an old soldier and a young man in the bargain, to take adventure
easily. With no idea as to the rights of the quarrel or the
probable consequences of the encounter, I was as ready to take part
with my two drovers, as ever to fall in line on the morning of a
battle. Presently there leaped three men out of the heather; we
had scarce time to get to our feet before we were assailed; and in
a moment each one of us was engaged with an adversary whom the
deepening twilight scarce permitted him to see. How the battle
sped in other quarters I am in no position to describe. The rogue
that fell to my share was exceedingly agile and expert with his
weapon; had and held me at a disadvantage from the first assault;
forced me to give ground continually, and at last, in mere self-
defence, to let him have the point. It struck him in the throat,
and he went down like a ninepin and moved no more.
It seemed this was the signal for the engagement to be
discontinued. The other combatants separated at once; our foes
were suffered, without molestation, to lift up and bear away their
fallen comrade; so that I perceived this sort of war to be not
wholly without laws of chivalry, and perhaps rather to partake of
the character of a tournament than of a battle a outrance. There
was no doubt, at least, that I was supposed to have pushed the
affair too seriously. Our friends the enemy removed their wounded
companion with undisguised consternation; and they were no sooner
over the top of the brae, than Sim and Candlish roused up their
wearied drove and set forth on a night march.
'I'm thinking Faa's unco bad,' said the one.
'Ay,' said the other, 'he lookit dooms gash.'
'He did that,' said the first.
And their weary silence fell upon them again.
Presently Sim turned to me. 'Ye're unco ready with the stick,'
'Too ready, I'm afraid,' said I. 'I am afraid Mr. Faa (if that be
his name) has got his gruel.'
'Weel, I wouldnae wonder,' replied Sim.
'And what is likely to happen?' I inquired.
'Aweel,' said Sim, snuffing profoundly, 'if I were to offer an
opeenion, it would not be conscientious. For the plain fac' is,
Mr. St. Ivy, that I div not ken. We have had crackit heids--and
rowth of them--ere now; and we have had a broken leg or maybe twa;
and the like of that we drover bodies make a kind of a practice
like to keep among oursel's. But a corp we have none of us ever
had to deal with, and I could set nae leemit to what Gillies micht
consider proper in the affair. Forbye that, he would be in raither
a hobble himsel', if he was to gang hame wantin' Faa. Folk are
awfu' throng with their questions, and parteecularly when they're
'That's a fac',' said Candlish.
I considered this prospect ruefully; and then making the best of
it, 'Upon all which accounts,' said I, 'the best will be to get
across the border and there separate. If you are troubled, you can
very truly put the blame upon your late companion; and if I am
pursued, I must just try to keep out of the way.'
'Mr. St. Ivy,' said Sim, with something resembling enthusiasm, 'no'
a word mair! I have met in wi' mony kinds o' gentry ere now; I hae
seen o' them that was the tae thing, and I hae seen o' them that
was the tither; but the wale of a gentleman like you I have no sae
very frequently seen the bate of.'
Our night march was accordingly pursued with unremitting diligence.
The stars paled, the east whitened, and we were still, both dogs
and men, toiling after the wearied cattle. Again and again Sim and
Candlish lamented the necessity: it was 'fair ruin on the
bestial,' they declared; but the thought of a judge and a scaffold
hunted them ever forward. I myself was not so much to be pitied.
All that night, and during the whole of the little that remained
before us of our conjunct journey, I enjoyed a new pleasure, the
reward of my prowess, in the now loosened tongue of Mr. Sim.
Candlish was still obdurately taciturn: it was the man's nature;
but Sim, having finally appraised and approved me, displayed
without reticence a rather garrulous habit of mind and a pretty
talent for narration. The pair were old and close companions, co-
existing in these endless moors in a brotherhood of silence such as
I have heard attributed to the trappers of the west. It seems
absurd to mention love in connection with so ugly and snuffy a
couple; at least, their trust was absolute; and they entertained a
surprising admiration for each other's qualities; Candlish
exclaiming that Sim was 'grand company!' and Sim frequently
assuring me in an aside that for 'a rale, auld, stench bitch, there
was nae the bate of Candlish in braid Scotland.' The two dogs
appeared to be entirely included in this family compact, and I
remarked that their exploits and traits of character were
constantly and minutely observed by the two masters. Dog stories
particularly abounded with them; and not only the dogs of the
present but those of the past contributed their quota. 'But that
was naething,' Sim would begin: 'there was a herd in Manar, they
ca'd him Tweedie--ye'll mind Tweedie, Can'lish?' 'Fine, that!'
said Candlish. 'Aweel, Tweedie had a dog--' The story I have
forgotten; I dare say it was dull, and I suspect it was not true;
but indeed, my travels with the drove rendered me indulgent, and
perhaps even credulous, in the matter of dog stories. Beautiful,
indefatigable beings! as I saw them at the end of a long day's
journey frisking, barking, bounding, striking attitudes, slanting a
bushy tail, manifestly playing to the spectator's eye, manifestly
rejoicing in their grace and beauty--and turned to observe Sim and
Candlish unornamentally plodding in the rear with the plaids about
their bowed shoulders and the drop at their snuffy nose--I thought
I would rather claim kinship with the dogs than with the men! My
sympathy was unreturned; in their eyes I was a creature light as
air; and they would scarce spare me the time for a perfunctory
caress or perhaps a hasty lap of the wet tongue, ere they were back
again in sedulous attendance on those dingy deities, their masters-
-and their masters, as like as not, damning their stupidity.
Altogether the last hours of our tramp were infinitely the most
agreeable to me, and I believe to all of us; and by the time we
came to separate, there had grown up a certain familiarity and
mutual esteem that made the parting harder. It took place about
four of the afternoon on a bare hillside from which I could see the
ribbon of the great north road, henceforth to be my conductor. I
asked what was to pay.
'Naething,' replied Sim.
'What in the name of folly is this?' I exclaimed. 'You have led
me, you have fed me, you have filled me full of whisky, and now you
will take nothing!'
'Ye see we indentit for that,' replied Sim.
'Indented?' I repeated; 'what does the man mean?'
'Mr. St. Ivy,' said Sim, 'this is a maitter entirely between
Candlish and me and the auld wife, Gilchrist. You had naething to
say to it; weel, ye can have naething to do with it, then.'
'My good man,' said I, 'I can allow myself to be placed in no such
ridiculous position. Mrs. Gilchrist is nothing to me, and I refuse
to be her debtor.'
'I dinna exac'ly see what way ye're gaun to help it,' observed my
'By paying you here and now,' said I.
'There's aye twa to a bargain, Mr. St. Ives,' said he.
'You mean that you will not take it?' said I.
'There or thereabout,' said he. 'Forbye, that it would set ye a
heap better to keep your siller for them you awe it to. Ye're
young, Mr. St. Ivy, and thoughtless; but it's my belief that, wi'
care and circumspection, ye may yet do credit to yoursel'. But
just you bear this in mind: that him that AWES siller should never
Well, what was there to say? I accepted his rebuke, and bidding
the pair farewell, set off alone upon my southward way.
'Mr. St. Ivy,' was the last word of Sim, 'I was never muckle ta'en
up in Englishry; but I think that I really ought to say that ye
seem to me to have the makings of quite a decent lad.'
CHAPTER XI--THE GREAT NORTH ROAD
It chanced that as I went down the hill these last words of my
friend the drover echoed not unfruitfully in my head. I had never
told these men the least particulars as to my race or fortune, as
it was a part, and the best part, of their civility to ask no
questions: yet they had dubbed me without hesitation English.
Some strangeness in the accent they had doubtless thus explained.
And it occurred to me, that if I could pass in Scotland for an
Englishman, I might be able to reverse the process and pass in
England for a Scot. I thought, if I was pushed to it, I could make
a struggle to imitate the brogue; after my experience with Candlish
and Sim, I had a rich provision of outlandish words at my command;
and I felt I could tell the tale of Tweedie's dog so as to deceive
a native. At the same time, I was afraid my name of St. Ives was
scarcely suitable; till I remembered there was a town so called in
the province of Cornwall, thought I might yet be glad to claim it
for my place of origin, and decided for a Cornish family and a
Scots education. For a trade, as I was equally ignorant of all,
and as the most innocent might at any moment be the means of my
exposure, it was best to pretend to none. And I dubbed myself a
young gentleman of a sufficient fortune and an idle, curious habit
of mind, rambling the country at my own charges, in quest of
health, information, and merry adventures.
At Newcastle, which was the first town I reached, I completed my
preparations for the part, before going to the inn, by the purchase
of a knapsack and a pair of leathern gaiters. My plaid I continued
to wear from sentiment. It was warm, useful to sleep in if I were
again benighted, and I had discovered it to be not unbecoming for a
man of gallant carriage. Thus equipped, I supported my character
of the light-hearted pedestrian not amiss. Surprise was indeed
expressed that I should have selected such a season of the year;
but I pleaded some delays of business, and smilingly claimed to be
an eccentric. The devil was in it, I would say, if any season of
the year was not good enough for me; I was not made of sugar, I was
no mollycoddle to be afraid of an ill-aired bed or a sprinkle of
snow; and I would knock upon the table with my fist and call for
t'other bottle, like the noisy and free-hearted young gentleman I
was. It was my policy (if I may so express myself) to talk much
and say little. At the inn tables, the country, the state of the
roads, the business interest of those who sat down with me, and the
course of public events, afforded me a considerable field in which
I might discourse at large and still communicate no information
about myself. There was no one with less air of reticence; I
plunged into my company up to the neck; and I had a long cock-and-
bull story of an aunt of mine which must have convinced the most
suspicious of my innocence. 'What!' they would have said, 'that
young ass to be concealing anything! Why, he has deafened me with
an aunt of his until my head aches. He only wants you should give
him a line, and he would tell you his whole descent from Adam
downward, and his whole private fortune to the last shilling.' A
responsible solid fellow was even so much moved by pity for my
inexperience as to give me a word or two of good advice: that I
was but a young man after all--I had at this time a deceptive air
of youth that made me easily pass for one-and-twenty, and was, in
the circumstances, worth a fortune--that the company at inns was
very mingled, that I should do well to be more careful, and the
like; to all which I made answer that I meant no harm myself and
expected none from others, or the devil was in it. 'You are one of
those d-d prudent fellows that I could never abide with,' said I.
'You are the kind of man that has a long head. That's all the
world, my dear sir: the long-heads and the short-horns! Now, I am
a short-horn.' 'I doubt,' says he, 'that you will not go very far
without getting sheared.' I offered to bet with him on that, and
he made off, shaking his head.
But my particular delight was to enlarge on politics and the war.
None damned the French like me; none was more bitter against the
Americans. And when the north-bound mail arrived, crowned with
holly, and the coachman and guard hoarse with shouting victory, I
went even so far as to entertain the company to a bowl of punch,
which I compounded myself with no illiberal hand, and doled out to
such sentiments as the following:-
'Our glorious victory on the Nivelle'! 'Lord Wellington, God bless
him! and may victory ever attend upon his arms!' and, 'Soult, poor
devil! and may he catch it again to the same tune!'
Never was oratory more applauded to the echo--never any one was
more of the popular man than I. I promise you, we made a night of
it. Some of the company supported each other, with the assistance
of boots, to their respective bedchambers, while the rest slept on
the field of glory where we had left them; and at the breakfast
table the next morning there was an extraordinary assemblage of red
eyes and shaking fists. I observed patriotism to burn much lower
by daylight. Let no one blame me for insensibility to the reverses
of France! God knows how my heart raged. How I longed to fall on
that herd of swine and knock their heads together in the moment of
their revelry! But you are to consider my own situation and its
necessities; also a certain lightheartedness, eminently Gallic,
which forms a leading trait in my character, and leads me to throw
myself into new circumstances with the spirit of a schoolboy. It
is possible that I sometimes allowed this impish humour to carry me
further than good taste approves: and I was certainly punished for
This was in the episcopal city of Durham. We sat down, a
considerable company, to dinner, most of us fine old vatted English
tories of that class which is often so enthusiastic as to be
inarticulate. I took and held the lead from the beginning; and,
the talk having turned on the French in the Peninsula, I gave them
authentic details (on the authority of a cousin of mine, an ensign)
of certain cannibal orgies in Galicia, in which no less a person
than General Caffarelli had taken a part. I always disliked that
commander, who once ordered me under arrest for insubordination;
and it is possible that a spice of vengeance added to the rigour of
my picture. I have forgotten the details; no doubt they were high-
coloured. No doubt I rejoiced to fool these jolter-heads; and no
doubt the sense of security that I drank from their dull, gasping
faces encouraged me to proceed extremely far. And for my sins,
there was one silent little man at table who took my story at the
true value. It was from no sense of humour, to which he was quite
dead. It was from no particular intelligence, for he had not any.
The bond of sympathy, of all things in the world, had rendered him
Dinner was no sooner done than I strolled forth into the streets
with some design of viewing the cathedral; and the little man was
silently at my heels. A few doors from the inn, in a dark place of
the street, I was aware of a touch on my arm, turned suddenly, and
found him looking up at me with eyes pathetically bright.
'I beg your pardon, sir; but that story of yours was particularly
rich. He--he! Particularly racy,' said he. 'I tell you, sir, I
took you wholly! I SMOKED you! I believe you and I, sir, if we
had a chance to talk, would find we had a good many opinions in
common. Here is the "Blue Bell," a very comfortable place. They
draw good ale, sir. Would you be so condescending as to share a
pot with me?'
There was something so ambiguous and secret in the little man's
perpetual signalling, that I confess my curiosity was much aroused.
Blaming myself, even as I did so, for the indiscretion, I embraced
his proposal, and we were soon face to face over a tankard of
mulled ale. He lowered his voice to the least attenuation of a
'Here, sir,' said he, 'is to the Great Man. I think you take me?
No?' He leaned forward till our noses touched. 'Here is to the
Emperor!' said he.
I was extremely embarrassed, and, in spite of the creature's
innocent appearance, more than half alarmed. I thought him too
ingenious, and, indeed, too daring for a spy. Yet if he were
honest he must be a man of extraordinary indiscretion, and
therefore very unfit to be encouraged by an escaped prisoner. I
took a half course, accordingly--accepted his toast in silence, and
drank it without enthusiasm.
He proceeded to abound in the praises of Napoleon, such as I had
never heard in France, or at least only on the lips of officials
paid to offer them.
'And this Caffarelli, now,' he pursued: 'he is a splendid fellow,
too, is he not? I have not heard vastly much of him myself. No
details, sir--no details! We labour under huge difficulties here
as to unbiassed information.'
'I believe I have heard the same complaint in other countries,' I
could not help remarking. 'But as to Caffarelli, he is neither
lame nor blind, he has two legs and a nose in the middle of his
face. And I care as much about him as you care for the dead body
of Mr. Perceval!'
He studied me with glowing eyes.
'You cannot deceive me!' he cried. 'You have served under him.
You are a Frenchman! I hold by the hand, at last, one of that
noble race, the pioneers of the glorious principles of liberty and
brotherhood. Hush! No, it is all right. I thought there had been
somebody at the door. In this wretched, enslaved country we dare
not even call our souls our own. The spy and the hangman, sir--the
spy and the hangman! And yet there is a candle burning, too. The
good leaven is working, sir--working underneath. Even in this town
there are a few brave spirits, who meet every Wednesday. You must
stay over a day or so, and join us. We do not use this house.
Another, and a quieter. They draw fine ale, however--fair, mild
ale. You will find yourself among friends, among brothers. You
will hear some very daring sentiments expressed!' he cried,
expanding his small chest. 'Monarchy, Christianity--all the
trappings of a bloated past--the Free Confraternity of Durham and
Here was a devil of a prospect for a gentleman whose whole design
was to avoid observation! The Free Confraternity had no charms for
me; daring sentiments were no part of my baggage; and I tried,
instead, a little cold water.
'You seem to forget, sir, that my Emperor has re-established
Christianity,' I observed.
'Ah, sir, but that was policy!' he exclaimed. 'You do not
understand Napoleon. I have followed his whole career. I can
explain his policy from first to last. Now for instance in the
Peninsula, on which you were so very amusing, if you will come to a
friend's house who has a map of Spain, I can make the whole course
of the war quite clear to you, I venture to say, in half an hour.'
This was intolerable. Of the two extremes, I found I preferred the
British tory; and, making an appointment for the morrow, I pleaded
sudden headache, escaped to the inn, packed my knapsack, and fled,
about nine at night, from this accursed neighbourhood. It was
cold, starry, and clear, and the road dry, with a touch of frost.
For all that, I had not the smallest intention to make a long stage
of it; and about ten o'clock, spying on the right-hand side of the
way the lighted windows of an alehouse, I determined to bait there
for the night.
It was against my principle, which was to frequent only the dearest
inns; and the misadventure that befell me was sufficient to make me
more particular in the future. A large company was assembled in
the parlour, which was heavy with clouds of tobacco smoke, and
brightly lighted up by a roaring fire of coal. Hard by the chimney
stood a vacant chair in what I thought an enviable situation,
whether for warmth or the pleasure of society; and I was about to
take it, when the nearest of the company stopped me with his hand.
'Beg thy pardon, sir,' said he; 'but that there chair belongs to a
A chorus of voices enforced and explained. It was one of Lord
Wellington's heroes. He had been wounded under Rowland Hill. He
was Colbourne's right-hand man. In short, this favoured individual
appeared to have served with every separate corps, and under every
individual general in the Peninsula. Of course I apologised. I
had not known. The devil was in it if a soldier had not a right to
the best in England. And with that sentiment, which was loudly
applauded, I found a corner of a bench, and awaited, with some
hopes of entertainment, the return of the hero. He proved, of
course, to be a private soldier. I say of course, because no
officer could possibly enjoy such heights of popularity. He had
been wounded before San Sebastian, and still wore his arm in a
sling. What was a great deal worse for him, every member of the
company had been plying him with drink. His honest yokel's
countenance blazed as if with fever, his eyes were glazed and
looked the two ways, and his feet stumbled as, amidst a murmur of
applause, he returned to the midst of his admirers.
Two minutes afterwards I was again posting in the dark along the
highway; to explain which sudden movement of retreat I must trouble
the reader with a reminiscence of my services.
I lay one night with the out-pickets in Castile. We were in close
touch with the enemy; the usual orders had been issued against
smoking, fires, and talk, and both armies lay as quiet as mice,
when I saw the English sentinel opposite making a signal by holding
up his musket. I repeated it, and we both crept together in the
dry bed of a stream, which made the demarcation of the armies. It
was wine he wanted, of which we had a good provision, and the
English had quite run out. He gave me the money, and I, as was the
custom, left him my firelock in pledge, and set off for the
canteen. When I returned with a skin of wine, behold, it had
pleased some uneasy devil of an English officer to withdraw the
outposts! Here was a situation with a vengeance, and I looked for
nothing but ridicule in the present and punishment in the future.
Doubtless our officers winked pretty hard at this interchange of
courtesies, but doubtless it would be impossible to wink at so
gross a fault, or rather so pitiable a misadventure as mine; and
you are to conceive me wandering in the plains of Castile,
benighted, charged with a wine-skin for which I had no use, and
with no knowledge whatever of the whereabouts of my musket, beyond
that it was somewhere in my Lord Wellington's army. But my
Englishman was either a very honest fellow, or else extremely
thirsty, and at last contrived to advertise me of his new position.
Now, the English sentry in Castile, and the wounded hero in the
Durham public-house, were one and the same person; and if he had
been a little less drunk, or myself less lively in getting away,
the travels of M. St. Ives might have come to an untimely end.
I suppose this woke me up; it stirred in me besides a spirit of
opposition, and in spite of cold, darkness, the highwaymen and the
footpads, I determined to walk right on till breakfast-time: a
happy resolution, which enabled me to observe one of those traits
of manners which at once depict a country and condemn it. It was
near midnight when I saw, a great way ahead of me, the light of
many torches; presently after, the sound of wheels reached me, and
the slow tread of feet, and soon I had joined myself to the rear of
a sordid, silent, and lugubrious procession, such as we see in
dreams. Close on a hundred persons marched by torchlight in
unbroken silence; in their midst a cart, and in the cart, on an
inclined platform, the dead body of a man--the centre-piece of this
solemnity, the hero whose obsequies we were come forth at this
unusual hour to celebrate. It was but a plain, dingy old fellow of
fifty or sixty, his throat cut, his shirt turned over as though to
show the wound. Blue trousers and brown socks completed his
attire, if we can talk so of the dead. He had a horrid look of a
waxwork. In the tossing of the lights he seemed to make faces and
mouths at us, to frown, and to be at times upon the point of
speech. The cart, with this shabby and tragic freight, and
surrounded by its silent escort and bright torches, continued for
some distance to creak along the high-road, and I to follow it in
amazement, which was soon exchanged for horror. At the corner of a
lane the procession stopped, and, as the torches ranged themselves
along the hedgerow-side, I became aware of a grave dug in the midst
of the thoroughfare, and a provision of quicklime piled in the
ditch. The cart was backed to the margin, the body slung off the
platform and dumped into the grave with an irreverent roughness. A
sharpened stake had hitherto served it for a pillow. It was now
withdrawn, held in its place by several volunteers, and a fellow
with a heavy mallet (the sound of which still haunts me at night)
drove it home through the bosom of the corpse. The hole was filled
with quicklime, and the bystanders, as if relieved of some
oppression, broke at once into a sound of whispered speech.
My shirt stuck to me, my heart had almost ceased beating, and I
found my tongue with difficulty.
'I beg your pardon,' I gasped to a neighbour, 'what is this? what
has he done? is it allowed?'
'Why, where do you come from?' replied the man.
'I am a traveller, sir,' said I, 'and a total stranger in this part
of the country. I had lost my way when I saw your torches, and
came by chance on this--this incredible scene. Who was the man?'
'A suicide,' said he. 'Ay, he was a bad one, was Johnnie Green.'
It appeared this was a wretch who had committed many barbarous
murders, and being at last upon the point of discovery fell of his
own hand. And the nightmare at the crossroads was the regular
punishment, according to the laws of England, for an act which the
Romans honoured as a virtue! Whenever an Englishman begins to
prate of civilisation (as, indeed, it's a defect they are rather
prone to), I hear the measured blows of a mallet, see the
bystanders crowd with torches about the grave, smile a little to
myself in conscious superiority--and take a thimbleful of brandy
for the stomach's sake.
I believe it must have been at my next stage, for I remember going
to bed extremely early, that I came to the model of a good old-
fashioned English inn, and was attended on by the picture of a
pretty chambermaid. We had a good many pleasant passages as she
waited table or warmed my bed for me with a devil of a brass
warming pan, fully larger than herself; and as she was no less pert
than she was pretty, she may be said to have given rather better
than she took. I cannot tell why (unless it were for the sake of
her saucy eyes), but I made her my confidante, told her I was
attached to a young lady in Scotland, and received the
encouragement of her sympathy, mingled and connected with a fair
amount of rustic wit. While I slept the down-mail stopped for
supper; it chanced that one of the passengers left behind a copy of
the EDINBURGH COURANT, and the next morning my pretty chambermaid
set the paper before me at breakfast, with the remark that there
was some news from my lady-love. I took it eagerly, hoping to find
some further word of our escape, in which I was disappointed; and I
was about to lay it down, when my eye fell on a paragraph
immediately concerning me. Faa was in hospital, grievously sick,
and warrants were out for the arrest of Sim and Candlish. These
two men had shown themselves very loyal to me. This trouble
emerging, the least I could do was to be guided by a similar
loyalty to them. Suppose my visit to my uncle crowned with some
success, and my finances re-established, I determined I should
immediately return to Edinburgh, put their case in the hands of a
good lawyer, and await events. So my mind was very lightly made up
to what proved a mighty serious matter. Candlish and Sim were all
very well in their way, and I do sincerely trust I should have been
at some pains to help them, had there been nothing else. But in
truth my heart and my eyes were set on quite another matter, and I
received the news of their tribulation almost with joy. That is
never a bad wind that blows where we want to go, and you may be
sure there was nothing unwelcome in a circumstance that carried me
back to Edinburgh and Flora. From that hour I began to indulge
myself with the making of imaginary scenes and interviews, in which
I confounded the aunt, flattered Ronald, and now in the witty, now
in the sentimental manner, declared my love and received the
assurance of its return. By means of this exercise my resolution
daily grew stronger, until at last I had piled together such a mass
of obstinacy as it would have taken a cataclysm of nature to
'Yes,' said I to the chambermaid, 'here is news of my lady-love
indeed, and very good news too.'
All that day, in the teeth of a keen winter wind, I hugged myself
in my plaid, and it was as though her arms were flung around me.
CHAPTER XII--I FOLLOW A COVERED CART NEARLY TO MY DESTINATION
At last I began to draw near, by reasonable stages, to the
neighbourhood of Wakefield; and the name of Mr. Burchell Fenn came
to the top in my memory. This was the gentleman (the reader may
remember) who made a trade of forwarding the escape of French
prisoners. How he did so: whether he had a sign-board, Escapes
forwarded, apply within; what he charged for his services, or
whether they were gratuitous and charitable, were all matters of
which I was at once ignorant and extremely curious. Thanks to my
proficiency in English, and Mr. Romaine's bank-notes, I was getting
on swimmingly without him; but the trouble was that I could not be
easy till I had come to the bottom of these mysteries, and it was
my difficulty that I knew nothing of him beyond the name. I knew
not his trade beyond that of Forwarder of Escapes--whether he lived
in town or country, whether he were rich or poor, nor by what kind
of address I was to gain his confidence. It would have a very bad
appearance to go along the highwayside asking after a man of whom I
could give so scanty an account; and I should look like a fool,
indeed, if I were to present myself at his door and find the police
in occupation! The interest of the conundrum, however, tempted me,
and I turned aside from my direct road to pass by Wakefield; kept
my ears pricked, as I went, for any mention of his name, and relied
for the rest on my good fortune. If Luck (who must certainly be
feminine) favoured me as far as to throw me in the man's way, I
should owe the lady a candle; if not, I could very readily console
myself. In this experimental humour, and with so little to help
me, it was a miracle that I should have brought my enterprise to a
good end; and there are several saints in the calendar who might be
happy to exchange with St. Ives!
I had slept that night in a good inn at Wakefield, made my
breakfast by candle-light with the passengers of an up-coach, and
set off in a very ill temper with myself and my surroundings. It
was still early; the air raw and cold; the sun low, and soon to
disappear under a vast canopy of rain-clouds that had begun to
assemble in the north-west, and from that quarter invaded the whole
width of the heaven. Already the rain fell in crystal rods;
already the whole face of the country sounded with the discharge of
drains and ditches; and I looked forward to a day of downpour and
the hell of wet clothes, in which particular I am as dainty as a
cat. At a corner of the road, and by the last glint of the
drowning sun, I spied a covered cart, of a kind that I thought I
had never seen before, preceding me at the foot's pace of jaded
horses. Anything is interesting to a pedestrian that can help him
to forget the miseries of a day of rain; and I bettered my pace and
gradually overtook the vehicle.
The nearer I came, the more it puzzled me. It was much such a cart
as I am told the calico printers use, mounted on two wheels, and
furnished with a seat in front for the driver. The interior closed
with a door, and was of a bigness to contain a good load of calico,
or (at a pinch and if it were necessary) four or five persons.
But, indeed, if human beings were meant to travel there, they had
my pity! They must travel in the dark, for there was no sign of a
window; and they would be shaken all the way like a phial of
doctor's stuff, for the cart was not only ungainly to look at--it
was besides very imperfectly balanced on the one pair of wheels,
and pitched unconscionably. Altogether, if I had any glancing idea
that the cart was really a carriage, I had soon dismissed it; but I
was still inquisitive as to what it should contain, and where it
had come from. Wheels and horses were splashed with many different
colours of mud, as though they had come far and across a
considerable diversity of country. The driver continually and
vainly plied his whip. It seemed to follow they had made a long,
perhaps an all-night, stage; and that the driver, at that early
hour of a little after eight in the morning, already felt himself
belated. I looked for the name of the proprietor on the shaft, and
started outright. Fortune had favoured the careless: it was
'A wet morning, my man,' said I.
The driver, a loutish fellow, shock-headed and turnip-faced,
returned not a word to my salutation, but savagely flogged his
horses. The tired animals, who could scarce put the one foot
before the other, paid no attention to his cruelty; and I continued
without effort to maintain my position alongside, smiling to myself
at the futility of his attempts, and at the same time pricked with
curiosity as to why he made them. I made no such formidable a
figure as that a man should flee when I accosted him; and my
conscience not being entirely clear, I was more accustomed to be
uneasy myself than to see others timid. Presently he desisted, and
put back his whip in the holster with the air of a man vanquished.
'So you would run away from me?' said I. 'Come, come, that's not
'Beg pardon, master: no offence meant,' he said, touching his hat.
'And none taken!' cried I. 'All I desire is a little gaiety by the
I understood him to say he didn't 'take with gaiety.'
'Then I will try you with something else,' said I. 'Oh, I can be
all things to all men, like the apostle! I dare to say I have
travelled with heavier fellows than you in my time, and done
famously well with them. Are you going home?'
'Yes, I'm a goin' home, I am,' he said.
'A very fortunate circumstance for me!' said I. 'At this rate we
shall see a good deal of each other, going the same way; and, now I
come to think of it, why should you not give me a cast? There is
room beside you on the bench.'
With a sudden snatch, he carried the cart two yards into the
roadway. The horses plunged and came to a stop. 'No, you don't!'
he said, menacing me with the whip. 'None o' that with me.'
'None of what?' said I. 'I asked you for a lift, but I have no
idea of taking one by force.'