Friday, October 12, 2007


The Master of Ballantrae by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Master of Ballantrae by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Master of Ballantrae
A Winter's Tale
To Sir Percy Florence and Lady Shelley
Here is a tale which extends over many years and travels into many
countries. By a peculiar fitness of circumstance the writer began,
continued it, and concluded it among distant and diverse scenes.
Above all, he was much upon the sea. The character and fortune of
the fraternal enemies, the hall and shrubbery of Durrisdeer, the
problem of Mackellar's homespun and how to shape it for superior
flights; these were his company on deck in many star-reflecting
harbours, ran often in his mind at sea to the tune of slatting
canvas, and were dismissed (something of the suddenest) on the
approach of squalls. It is my hope that these surroundings of its
manufacture may to some degree find favour for my story with
seafarers and sea-lovers like yourselves.
And at least here is a dedication from a great way off: written by
the loud shores of a subtropical island near upon ten thousand
miles from Boscombe Chine and Manor: scenes which rise before me
as I write, along with the faces and voices of my friends.
Well, I am for the sea once more; no doubt Sir Percy also. Let us
make the signal B. R. D.!
R. L. S.
WAIKIKI, May 17, 1889
Although an old, consistent exile, the editor of the following
pages revisits now and again the city of which he exults to be a
native; and there are few things more strange, more painful, or
more salutary, than such revisitations. Outside, in foreign spots,
he comes by surprise and awakens more attention than he had
expected; in his own city, the relation is reversed, and he stands
amazed to be so little recollected. Elsewhere he is refreshed to
see attractive faces, to remark possible friends; there he scouts
the long streets, with a pang at heart, for the faces and friends
that are no more. Elsewhere he is delighted with the presence of
what is new, there tormented by the absence of what is old.
Elsewhere he is content to be his present self; there he is smitten
with an equal regret for what he once was and for what he once
hoped to be.
He was feeling all this dimly, as he drove from the station, on his
last visit; he was feeling it still as he alighted at the door of
his friend Mr. Johnstone Thomson, W.S., with whom he was to stay.
A hearty welcome, a face not altogether changed, a few words that
sounded of old days, a laugh provoked and shared, a glimpse in
passing of the snowy cloth and bright decanters and the Piranesis
on the dining-room wall, brought him to his bed-room with a
somewhat lightened cheer, and when he and Mr. Thomson sat down a
few minutes later, cheek by jowl, and pledged the past in a
preliminary bumper, he was already almost consoled, he had already
almost forgiven himself his two unpardonable errors, that he should
ever have left his native city, or ever returned to it.
"I have something quite in your way," said Mr. Thomson. "I wished
to do honour to your arrival; because, my dear fellow, it is my own
youth that comes back along with you; in a very tattered and
withered state, to be sure, but - well! - all that's left of it."
"A great deal better than nothing," said the editor. "But what is
this which is quite in my way?"
"I was coming to that," said Mr. Thomson: "Fate has put it in my
power to honour your arrival with something really original by way
of dessert. A mystery."
"A mystery?" I repeated.
"Yes," said his friend, "a mystery. It may prove to be nothing,
and it may prove to be a great deal. But in the meanwhile it is
truly mysterious, no eye having looked on it for near a hundred
years; it is highly genteel, for it treats of a titled family; and
it ought to be melodramatic, for (according to the superscription)
it is concerned with death."
"I think I rarely heard a more obscure or a more promising
annunciation," the other remarked. "But what is It?"
"You remember my predecessor's, old Peter M'Brair's business?"
"I remember him acutely; he could not look at me without a pang of
reprobation, and he could not feel the pang without betraying it.
He was to me a man of a great historical interest, but the interest
was not returned."
"Ah well, we go beyond him," said Mr. Thomson. "I daresay old
Peter knew as little about this as I do. You see, I succeeded to a
prodigious accumulation of old law-papers and old tin boxes, some
of them of Peter's hoarding, some of his father's, John, first of
the dynasty, a great man in his day. Among other collections, were
all the papers of the Durrisdeers."
"The Durrisdeers!" cried I. "My dear fellow, these may be of the
greatest interest. One of them was out in the '45; one had some
strange passages with the devil - you will find a note of it in
Law's MEMORIALS, I think; and there was an unexplained tragedy, I
know not what, much later, about a hundred years ago - "
"More than a hundred years ago," said Mr. Thomson. "In 1783."
"How do you know that? I mean some death."
"Yes, the lamentable deaths of my Lord Durrisdeer and his brother,
the Master of Ballantrae (attainted in the troubles)," said Mr.
Thomson with something the tone of a man quoting. "Is that it?"
"To say truth," said I, "I have only seen some dim reference to the
things in memoirs; and heard some traditions dimmer still, through
my uncle (whom I think you knew). My uncle lived when he was a boy
in the neighbourhood of St. Bride's; he has often told me of the
avenue closed up and grown over with grass, the great gates never
opened, the last lord and his old maid sister who lived in the back
parts of the house, a quiet, plain, poor, hum-drum couple it would
seem - but pathetic too, as the last of that stirring and brave
house - and, to the country folk, faintly terrible from some
deformed traditions."
"Yes," said Mr. Thomson. "Henry Graeme Durie, the last lord, died
in 1820; his sister, the honourable Miss Katherine Durie, in '27;
so much I know; and by what I have been going over the last few
days, they were what you say, decent, quiet people and not rich.
To say truth, it was a letter of my lord's that put me on the
search for the packet we are going to open this evening. Some
papers could not be found; and he wrote to Jack M'Brair suggesting
they might be among those sealed up by a Mr. Mackellar. M'Brair
answered, that the papers in question were all in Mackellar's own
hand, all (as the writer understood) of a purely narrative
character; and besides, said he, 'I am bound not to open them
before the year 1889.' You may fancy if these words struck me: I
instituted a hunt through all the M'Brair repositories; and at last
hit upon that packet which (if you have had enough wine) I propose
to show you at once."
In the smoking-room, to which my host now led me, was a packet,
fastened with many seals and enclosed in a single sheet of strong
paper thus endorsed:
Papers relating to the lives and lamentable deaths of the late Lord
Durisdeer, and his elder brother James, commonly called Master of
Ballantrae, attainted in the troubles: entrusted into the hands of
John M'Brair in the Lawnmarket of Edinburgh, W.S.; this 20th day of
September Anno Domini 1789; by him to be kept secret until the
revolution of one hundred years complete, or until the 20th day of
September 1889: the same compiled and written by me, EPHRAIM
For near forty years Land Steward on the estates of his Lordship.
As Mr. Thomson is a married man, I will not say what hour had
struck when we laid down the last of the following pages; but I
will give a few words of what ensued.
"Here," said Mr. Thomson, "is a novel ready to your hand: all you
have to do is to work up the scenery, develop the characters, and
improve the style."
"My dear fellow," said I, "they are just the three things that I
would rather die than set my hand to. It shall be published as it
"But it's so bald," objected Mr. Thomson.
"I believe there is nothing so noble as baldness," replied I, "and
I am sure there in nothing so interesting. I would have all
literature bald, and all authors (if you like) but one."
"Well, well," add Mr. Thomson, "we shall see."
The full truth of this odd matter is what the world has long been
looking for, and public curiosity is sure to welcome. It so befell
that I was intimately mingled with the last years and history of
the house; and there does not live one man so able as myself to
make these matters plain, or so desirous to narrate them
faithfully. I knew the Master; on many secret steps of his career
I have an authentic memoir in my hand; I sailed with him on his
last voyage almost alone; I made one upon that winter's journey of
which so many tales have gone abroad; and I was there at the man's
death. As for my late Lord Durrisdeer, I served him and loved him
near twenty years; and thought more of him the more I knew of him.
Altogether, I think it not fit that so much evidence should perish;
the truth is a debt I owe my lord's memory; and I think my old
years will flow more smoothly, and my white hair lie quieter on the
pillow, when the debt is paid.
The Duries of Durrisdeer and Ballantrae were a strong family in the
south-west from the days of David First. A rhyme still current in
the countryside -
Kittle folk are the Durrisdeers,
They ride wi' over mony spears -
bears the mark of its antiquity; and the name appears in another,
which common report attributes to Thomas of Ercildoune himself - I
cannot say how truly, and which some have applied - I dare not say
with how much justice - to the events of this narration:
Twa Duries in Durrisdeer,
Ane to tie and ane to ride,
An ill day for the groom
And a waur day for the bride.
Authentic history besides is filled with their exploits which (to
our modern eyes) seem not very commendable: and the family
suffered its full share of those ups and downs to which the great
houses of Scotland have been ever liable. But all these I pass
over, to come to that memorable year 1745, when the foundations of
this tragedy were laid.
At that time there dwelt a family of four persons in the house of
Durrisdeer, near St. Bride's, on the Solway shore; a chief hold of
their race since the Reformation. My old lord, eighth of the name,
was not old in years, but he suffered prematurely from the
disabilities of age; his place was at the chimney side; there he
sat reading, in a lined gown, with few words for any man, and wry
words for none: the model of an old retired housekeeper; and yet
his mind very well nourished with study, and reputed in the country
to be more cunning than he seemed. The master of Ballantrae, James
in baptism, took from his father the love of serious reading; some
of his tact perhaps as well, but that which was only policy in the
father became black dissimulation in the son. The face of his
behaviour was merely popular and wild: he sat late at wine, later
at the cards; had the name in the country of "an unco man for the
lasses;" and was ever in the front of broils. But for all he was
the first to go in, yet it was observed he was invariably the best
to come off; and his partners in mischief were usually alone to pay
the piper. This luck or dexterity got him several ill-wishers, but
with the rest of the country, enhanced his reputation; so that
great things were looked for in his future, when he should have
gained more gravity. One very black mark he had to his name; but
the matter was hushed up at the time, and so defaced by legends
before I came into those parts, that I scruple to set it down. If
it was true, it was a horrid fact in one so young; and if false, it
was a horrid calumny. I think it notable that he had always
vaunted himself quite implacable, and was taken at his word; so
that he had the addition among his neighbours of "an ill man to
cross." Here was altogether a young nobleman (not yet twenty-four
in the year '45) who had made a figure in the country beyond his
time of life. The less marvel if there were little heard of the
second son, Mr. Henry (my late Lord Durrisdeer), who was neither
very bad nor yet very able, but an honest, solid sort of lad like
many of his neighbours. Little heard, I say; but indeed it was a
case of little spoken. He was known among the salmon fishers in
the firth, for that was a sport that he assiduously followed; he
was an excellent good horse-doctor besides; and took a chief hand,
almost from a boy, in the management of the estates. How hard a
part that was, in the situation of that family, none knows better
than myself; nor yet with how little colour of justice a man may
there acquire the reputation of a tyrant and a miser. The fourth
person in the house was Miss Alison Graeme, a near kinswoman, an
orphan, and the heir to a considerable fortune which her father had
acquired in trade. This money was loudly called for by my lord's
necessities; indeed the land was deeply mortgaged; and Miss Alison
was designed accordingly to be the Master's wife, gladly enough on
her side; with how much good-will on his, is another matter. She
was a comely girl, and in those days very spirited and self-willed;
for the old lord having no daughter of his own, and my lady being
long dead, she had grown up as best she might.
To these four came the news of Prince Charlie's landing, and set
them presently by the ears. My lord, like the chimney-keeper that
he was, was all for temporising. Miss Alison held the other side,
because it appeared romantical; and the Master (though I have heard
they did not agree often) was for this once of her opinion. The
adventure tempted him, as I conceive; he was tempted by the
opportunity to raise the fortunes of the house, and not less by the
hope of paying off his private liabilities, which were heavy beyond
all opinion. As for Mr. Henry, it appears he said little enough at
first; his part came later on. It took the three a whole day's
disputation, before they agreed to steer a middle course, one son
going forth to strike a blow for King James, my lord and the other
staying at home to keep in favour with King George. Doubtless this
was my lord's decision; and, as is well known, it was the part
played by many considerable families. But the one dispute settled,
another opened. For my lord, Miss Alison, and Mr. Henry all held
the one view: that it was the cadet's part to go out; and the
Master, what with restlessness and vanity, would at no rate consent
to stay at home. My lord pleaded, Miss Alison wept, Mr. Henry was
very plain spoken: all was of no avail.
"It is the direct heir of Durrisdeer that should ride by his King's
bridle," says the Master.
"If we were playing a manly part," says Mr. Henry, "there might be
sense in such talk. But what are we doing? Cheating at cards!"
"We are saving the house of Durrisdeer, Henry," his father said.
"And see, James," said Mr. Henry, "if I go, and the Prince has the
upper hand, it will be easy to make your peace with King James.
But if you go, and the expedition fails, we divide the right and
the title. And what shall I be then?"
"You will be Lord Durrisdeer," said the Master. "I put all I have
upon the table."
"I play at no such game," cries Mr. Henry. "I shall be left in
such a situation as no man of sense and honour could endure. I
shall be neither fish nor flesh!" he cried. And a little after he
had another expression, plainer perhaps than he intended. "It is
your duty to be here with my father," said he. "You know well
enough you are the favourite."
"Ay?" said the Master. "And there spoke Envy! Would you trip up
my heels - Jacob?" said he, and dwelled upon the name maliciously.
Mr. Henry went and walked at the low end of the hall without reply;
for he had an excellent gift of silence. Presently he came back.
"I am the cadet and I SHOULD go," said he. "And my lord here in
the master, and he says I SHALL go. What say ye to that, my
"I say this, Harry," returned the Master, "that when very obstinate
folk are met, there are only two ways out: Blows - and I think
none of us could care to go so far; or the arbitrament of chance -
and here is a guinea piece. Will you stand by the toss of the
"I will stand and fall by it," said Mr. Henry. "Heads, I go;
shield, I stay."
The coin was spun, and it fell shield. "So there is a lesson for
Jacob," says the Master.
"We shall live to repent of this," says Mr. Henry, and flung out of
the hall.
As for Miss Alison, she caught up that piece of gold which had just
sent her lover to the wars, and flung it clean through the family
shield in the great painted window.
"If you loved me as well as I love you, you would have stayed,"
cried she.
"'I could not love you, dear, so well, loved I not honour more,'"
sang the Master.
"Oh!" she cried, "you have no heart - I hope you may be killed!"
and she ran from the room, and in tears, to her own chamber.
It seems the Master turned to my lord with his most comical manner,
and says he, "This looks like a devil of a wife."
"I think you are a devil of a son to me," cried his father, "you
that have always been the favourite, to my shame be it spoken.
Never a good hour have I gotten of you, since you were born; no,
never one good hour," and repeated it again the third time.
Whether it was the Master's levity, or his insubordination, or Mr.
Henry's word about the favourite son, that had so much disturbed my
lord, I do not know; but I incline to think it was the last, for I
have it by all accounts that Mr. Henry was more made up to from
that hour.
Altogether it was in pretty ill blood with his family that the
Master rode to the North; which was the more sorrowful for others
to remember when it seemed too late. By fear and favour he had
scraped together near upon a dozen men, principally tenants' sons;
they were all pretty full when they set forth, and rode up the hill
by the old abbey, roaring and singing, the white cockade in every
hat. It was a desperate venture for so small a company to cross
the most of Scotland unsupported; and (what made folk think so the
more) even as that poor dozen was clattering up the hill, a great
ship of the king's navy, that could have brought them under with a
single boat, lay with her broad ensign streaming in the bay. The
next afternoon, having given the Master a fair start, it was Mr.
Henry's turn; and he rode off, all by himself, to offer his sword
and carry letters from his father to King George's Government.
Miss Alison was shut in her room, and did little but weep, till
both were gone; only she stitched the cockade upon the Master's
hat, and (as John Paul told me) it was wetted with tears when he
carried it down to him.
In all that followed, Mr. Henry and my old lord were true to their
bargain. That ever they accomplished anything is more than I could
learn; and that they were anyway strong on the king's side, more
than believe. But they kept the letter of loyalty, corresponded
with my Lord President, sat still at home, and had little or no
commerce with the Master while that business lasted. Nor was he,
on his side, more communicative. Miss Alison, indeed, was always
sending him expresses, but I do not know if she had many answers.
Macconochie rode for her once, and found the highlanders before
Carlisle, and the Master riding by the Prince's side in high
favour; he took the letter (so Macconochie tells), opened it,
glanced it through with a mouth like a man whistling, and stuck it
in his belt, whence, on his horse passageing, it fell unregarded to
the ground. It was Macconochie who picked it up; and he still kept
it, and indeed I have seen it in his hands. News came to
Durrisdeer of course, by the common report, as it goes travelling
through a country, a thing always wonderful to me. By that means
the family learned more of the Master's favour with the Prince, and
the ground it was said to stand on: for by a strange condescension
in a man so proud - only that he was a man still more ambitious -
he was said to have crept into notability by truckling to the
Irish. Sir Thomas Sullivan, Colonel Burke and the rest, were his
daily comrades, by which course he withdrew himself from his own
country-folk. All the small intrigues he had a hand in fomenting;
thwarted my Lord George upon a thousand points; was always for the
advice that seemed palatable to the Prince, no matter if it was
good or bad; and seems upon the whole (like the gambler he was all
through life) to have had less regard to the chances of the
campaign than to the greatness of favour he might aspire to, if, by
any luck, it should succeed. For the rest, he did very well in the
field; no one questioned that; for he was no coward.
The next was the news of Culloden, which was brought to Durrisdeer
by one of the tenants' sons - the only survivor, he declared, of
all those that had gone singing up the hill. By an unfortunate
chance John Paul and Macconochie had that very morning found the
guinea piece - which was the root of all the evil - sticking in a
holly bush; they had been "up the gait," as the servants say at
Durrisdeer, to the change-house; and if they had little left of the
guinea, they had less of their wits. What must John Paul do but
burst into the hall where the family sat at dinner, and cry the
news to them that "Tam Macmorland was but new lichtit at the door,
and - wirra, wirra - there were nane to come behind him"?
They took the word in silence like folk condemned; only Mr. Henry
carrying his palm to his face, and Miss Alison laying her head
outright upon her hands. As for my lord, he was like ashes.
"I have still one son," says he. "And, Henry, I will do you this
justice - it is the kinder that is left."
It was a strange thing to say in such a moment; but my lord had
never forgotten Mr. Henry's speech, and he had years of injustice
on his conscience. Still it was a strange thing, and more than
Miss Alison could let pass. She broke out and blamed my lord for
his unnatural words, and Mr. Henry because he was sitting there in
safety when his brother lay dead, and herself because she had given
her sweetheart ill words at his departure, calling him the flower
of the flock, wringing her hands, protesting her love, and crying
on him by his name - so that the servants stood astonished.
Mr. Henry got to his feet, and stood holding his chair. It was he
that was like ashes now.
"Oh!" he burst out suddenly, "I know you loved him."
"The world knows that, glory be to God!" cries she; and then to Mr.
Henry: "There is none but me to know one thing - that you were a
traitor to him in your heart."
"God knows," groans he, "it was lost love on both sides."
Time went by in the house after that without much change; only they
were now three instead of four, which was a perpetual reminder of
their loss. Miss Alison's money, you are to bear in mind, wag
highly needful for the estates; and the one brother being dead, my
old lord soon set his heart upon her marrying the other. Day in,
day out, he would work upon her, sitting by the chimney-side with
his finger in his Latin book, and his eyes set upon her face with a
kind of pleasant intentness that became the old gentleman very
well. If she wept, he would condole with her like an ancient man
that has seen worse times and begins to think lightly even of
sorrow; if she raged, he would fall to reading again in his Latin
book, but always with some civil excuse; if she offered, as she
often did, to let them have her money in a gift, he would show her
how little it consisted with his honour, and remind her, even if he
should consent, that Mr. Henry would certainly refuse. NON VI SED
SAEPE CADENDO was a favourite word of his; and no doubt this quiet
persecution wore away much of her resolve; no doubt, besides, he
had a great influence on the girl, having stood in the place of
both her parents; and, for that matter, she was herself filled with
the spirit of the Duries, and would have gone a great way for the
glory of Durrisdeer; but not so far, I think, as to marry my poor
patron, had it not been - strangely enough - for the circumstance
of his extreme unpopularity.
This was the work of Tam Macmorland. There was not much harm in
Tam; but he had that grievous weakness, a long tongue; and as the
only man in that country who had been out - or, rather, who had
come in again - he was sure of listeners. Those that have the
underhand in any fighting, I have observed, are ever anxious to
persuade themselves they were betrayed. By Tam's account of it,
the rebels had been betrayed at every turn and by every officer
they had; they had been betrayed at Derby, and betrayed at Falkirk;
the night march was a step of treachery of my Lord George's; and
Culloden was lost by the treachery of the Macdonalds. This habit
of imputing treason grew upon the fool, till at last he must have
in Mr. Henry also. Mr. Henry (by his account) had betrayed the
lads of Durrisdeer; he had promised to follow with more men, and
instead of that he had ridden to King George. "Ay, and the next
day!" Tam would cry. "The puir bonnie Master, and the puir, kind
lads that rade wi' him, were hardly ower the scaur, or he was aff -
the Judis! Ay, weel - he has his way o't: he's to be my lord, nae
less, and there's mony a cold corp amang the Hieland heather!" And
at this, if Tam had been drinking, he would begin to weep.
Let anyone speak long enough, he will get believers. This view of
Mr. Henry's behaviour crept about the country by little and little;
it was talked upon by folk that knew the contrary, but were short
of topics; and it was heard and believed and given out for gospel
by the ignorant and the ill-willing. Mr. Henry began to be
shunned; yet awhile, and the commons began to murmur as he went by,
and the women (who are always the most bold because they are the
most safe) to cry out their reproaches to his face. The Master was
cried up for a saint. It was remembered how he had never any hand
in pressing the tenants; as, indeed, no more he had, except to
spend the money. He was a little wild perhaps, the folk said; but
how much better was a natural, wild lad that would soon have
settled down, than a skinflint and a sneckdraw, sitting, with his
nose in an account book, to persecute poor tenants! One trollop,
who had had a child to the Master, and by all accounts been very
badly used, yet made herself a kind of champion of his memory. She
flung a stone one day at Mr. Henry.
"Whaur's the bonnie lad that trustit ye?" she cried.
Mr. Henry reined in his horse and looked upon her, the blood
flowing from his lip. "Ay, Jess?" says he. "You too? And yet ye
should ken me better." For it was he who had helped her with
The woman had another stone ready, which she made as if she would
cast; and he, to ward himself, threw up the hand that held his
"What, would ye beat a lassie, ye ugly - ?" cries she, and ran away
screaming as though he had struck her.
Next day word went about the country like wildfire that Mr. Henry
had beaten Jessie Broun within an inch of her life. I give it as
one instance of how this snowball grew, and one calumny brought
another; until my poor patron was so perished in reputation that he
began to keep the house like my lord. All this while, you may be
very sure, he uttered no complaints at home; the very ground of the
scandal was too sore a matter to be handled; and Mr. Henry was very
proud and strangely obstinate in silence. My old lord must have
heard of it, by John Paul, if by no one else; and he must at least
have remarked the altered habits of his son. Yet even he, it is
probable, knew not how high the feeling ran; and as for Miss
Alison, she was ever the last person to hear news, and the least
interested when she heard them.
In the height of the ill-feeling (for it died away as it came, no
man could say why) there was an election forward in the town of St.
Bride's, which is the next to Durrisdeer, standing on the Water of
Swift; some grievance was fermenting, I forget what, if ever I
heard; and it was currently said there would be broken heads ere
night, and that the sheriff had sent as far as Dumfries for
soldiers. My lord moved that Mr. Henry should be present, assuring
him it was necessary to appear, for the credit of the house. "It
will soon be reported," said he, "that we do not take the lead in
our own country."
"It is a strange lead that I can take," said Mr. Henry; and when
they had pushed him further, "I tell you the plain truth," he said,
"I dare not show my face."
"You are the first of the house that ever said so," cries Miss
"We will go all three," said my lord; and sure enough he got into
his boots (the first time in four years - a sore business John Paul
had to get them on), and Miss Alison into her riding-coat, and all
three rode together to St. Bride's.
The streets were full of the rift-raff of all the countryside, who
had no sooner clapped eyes on Mr. Henry than the hissing began, and
the hooting, and the cries of "Judas!" and "Where was the Master?"
and "Where were the poor lads that rode with him?" Even a stone
was cast; but the more part cried shame at that, for my old lord's
sake, and Miss Alison's. It took not ten minutes to persuade my
lord that Mr. Henry had been right. He said never a word, but
turned his horse about, and home again, with his chin upon his
bosom. Never a word said Miss Alison; no doubt she thought the
more; no doubt her pride was stung, for she was a bone-bred Durie;
and no doubt her heart was touched to see her cousin so unjustly
used. That night she was never in bed; I have often blamed my lady
- when I call to mind that night, I readily forgive her all; and
the first thing in the morning she came to the old lord in his
usual seat.
"If Henry still wants me," said she, "he can have me now." To
himself she had a different speech: "I bring you no love, Henry;
but God knows, all the pity in the world."
June the 1st, 1748, was the day of their marriage. It was December
of the same year that first saw me alighting at the doors of the
great house; and from there I take up the history of events as they
befell under my own observation, like a witness in a court.
I made the last of my journey in the cold end of December, in a
mighty dry day of frost, and who should be my guide but Patey
Macmorland, brother of Tam! For a tow-headed, bare-legged brat of
ten, he had more ill tales upon his tongue than ever I heard the
match of; having drunken betimes in his brother's cup. I was still
not so old myself; pride had not yet the upper hand of curiosity;
and indeed it would have taken any man, that cold morning, to hear
all the old clashes of the country, and be shown all the places by
the way where strange things had fallen out. I had tales of
Claverhouse as we came through the bogs, and tales of the devil, as
we came over the top of the scaur. As we came in by the abbey I
heard somewhat of the old monks, and more of the freetraders, who
use its ruins for a magazine, landing for that cause within a
cannon-shot of Durrisdeer; and along all the road the Duries and
poor Mr. Henry were in the first rank of slander. My mind was thus
highly prejudiced against the family I was about to serve, so that
I was half surprised when I beheld Durrisdeer itself, lying in a
pretty, sheltered bay, under the Abbey Hill; the house most
commodiously built in the French fashion, or perhaps Italianate,
for I have no skill in these arts; and the place the most
beautified with gardens, lawns, shrubberies, and trees I had ever
seen. The money sunk here unproductively would have quite restored
the family; but as it was, it cost a revenue to keep it up.
Mr. Henry came himself to the door to welcome me: a tall dark
young gentleman (the Duries are all black men) of a plain and not
cheerful face, very strong in body, but not so strong in health:
taking me by the hand without any pride, and putting me at home
with plain kind speeches. He led me into the hall, booted as I
was, to present me to my lord. It was still daylight; and the
first thing I observed was a lozenge of clear glass in the midst of
the shield in the painted window, which I remember thinking a
blemish on a room otherwise so handsome, with its family portraits,
and the pargeted ceiling with pendants, and the carved chimney, in
one corner of which my old lord sat reading in his Livy. He was
like Mr. Henry, with much the same plain countenance, only more
subtle and pleasant, and his talk a thousand times more
entertaining. He had many questions to ask me, I remember, of
Edinburgh College, where I had just received my mastership of arts,
and of the various professors, with whom and their proficiency he
seemed well acquainted; and thus, talking of things that I knew, I
soon got liberty of speech in my new home.
In the midst of this came Mrs. Henry into the room; she was very
far gone, Miss Katharine being due in about six weeks, which made
me think less of her beauty at the first sight; and she used me
with more of condescension than the rest; so that, upon all
accounts, I kept her in the third place of my esteem.
It did not take long before all Patey Macmorland's tales were
blotted out of my belief, and I was become, what I have ever since
remained, a loving servant of the house of Durrisdeer. Mr. Henry
had the chief part of my affection. It was with him I worked; and
I found him an exacting master, keeping all his kindness for those
hours in which we were unemployed, and in the steward's office not
only loading me with work, but viewing me with a shrewd
supervision. At length one day he looked up from his paper with a
kind of timidness, and says he, "Mr. Mackellar, I think I ought to
tell you that you do very well." That was my first word of
commendation; and from that day his jealousy of my performance was
relaxed; soon it was "Mr. Mackellar" here, and "Mr. Mackellar"
there, with the whole family; and for much of my service at
Durrisdeer, I have transacted everything at my own time, and to my
own fancy, and never a farthing challenged. Even while he was
driving me, I had begun to find my heart go out to Mr. Henry; no
doubt, partly in pity, he was a man so palpably unhappy. He would
fall into a deep muse over our accounts, staring at the page or out
of the window; and at those times the look of his face, and the
sigh that would break from him, awoke in me strong feelings of
curiosity and commiseration. One day, I remember, we were late
upon some business in the steward's room.
This room is in the top of the house, and has a view upon the bay,
and over a little wooded cape, on the long sands; and there, right
over against the sun, which was then dipping, we saw the
freetraders, with a great force of men and horses, scouring on the
beach. Mr. Henry had been staring straight west, so that I
marvelled he was not blinded by the sun; suddenly he frowns, rubs
his hand upon his brow, and turns to me with a smile.
"You would not guess what I was thinking," says he. "I was
thinking I would be a happier man if I could ride and run the
danger of my life, with these lawless companions."
I told him I had observed he did not enjoy good spirits; and that
it was a common fancy to envy others and think we should be the
better of some change; quoting Horace to the point, like a young
man fresh from college.
"Why, just so," said he. "And with that we may get back to our
It was not long before I began to get wind of the causes that so
much depressed him. Indeed a blind man must have soon discovered
there was a shadow on that house, the shadow of the Master of
Ballantrae. Dead or alive (and he was then supposed to be dead)
that man was his brother's rival: his rival abroad, where there
was never a good word for Mr. Henry, and nothing but regret and
praise for the Master; and his rival at home, not only with his
father and his wife, but with the very servants.
They were two old serving-men that were the leaders. John Paul, a
little, bald, solemn, stomachy man, a great professor of piety and
(take him for all in all) a pretty faithful servant, was the chief
of the Master's faction. None durst go so far as John. He took a
pleasure in disregarding Mr. Henry publicly, often with a slighting
comparison. My lord and Mrs. Henry took him up, to be sure, but
never so resolutely as they should; and he had only to pull his
weeping face and begin his lamentations for the Master - "his
laddie," as he called him - to have the whole condoned. As for
Henry, he let these things pass in silence, sometimes with a sad
and sometimes with a black look. There was no rivalling the dead,
he knew that; and how to censure an old serving-man for a fault of
loyalty, was more than he could see. His was not the tongue to do
Macconochie was chief upon the other side; an old, ill-spoken,
swearing, ranting, drunken dog; and I have often thought it an odd
circumstance in human nature that these two serving-men should each
have been the champion of his contrary, and blackened their own
faults and made light of their own virtues when they beheld them in
a master. Macconochie had soon smelled out my secret inclination,
took me much into his confidence, and would rant against the Master
by the hour, so that even my work suffered. "They're a' daft
here," he would cry, "and be damned to them! The Master - the
deil's in their thrapples that should call him sae! it's Mr. Henry
should be master now! They were nane sae fond o' the Master when
they had him, I'll can tell ye that. Sorrow on his name! Never a
guid word did I hear on his lips, nor naebody else, but just
fleering and flyting and profane cursing - deil hae him! There's
nane kent his wickedness: him a gentleman! Did ever ye hear tell,
Mr. Mackellar, o' Wully White the wabster? No? Aweel, Wully was
an unco praying kind o' man; a dreigh body, nane o' my kind, I
never could abide the sight o' him; onyway he was a great hand by
his way of it, and he up and rebukit the Master for some of his ongoings.
It was a grand thing for the Master o' Ball'ntrae to tak
up a feud wi' a' wabster, wasnae't?" Macconochie would sneer;
indeed, he never took the full name upon his lips but with a sort
of a whine of hatred. "But he did! A fine employ it was:
chapping at the man's door, and crying 'boo' in his lum, and
puttin' poother in his fire, and pee-oys (1) in his window; till
the man thocht it was auld Hornie was come seekin' him. Weel, to
mak a lang story short, Wully gaed gyte. At the hinder end, they
couldnae get him frae his knees, but he just roared and prayed and
grat straucht on, till he got his release. It was fair murder,
a'body said that. Ask John Paul - he was brawly ashamed o' that
game, him that's sic a Christian man! Grand doin's for the Master
o' Ball'ntrae!" I asked him what the Master had thought of it
himself. "How would I ken?" says he. "He never said naething."
And on again in his usual manner of banning and swearing, with
every now and again a "Master of Ballantrae" sneered through his
nose. It was in one of these confidences that he showed me the
Carlisle letter, the print of the horse-shoe still stamped in the
paper. Indeed, that was our last confidence; for he then expressed
himself so ill-naturedly of Mrs. Henry that I had to reprimand him
sharply, and must thenceforth hold him at a distance.
My old lord was uniformly kind to Mr. Henry; he had even pretty
ways of gratitude, and would sometimes clap him on the shoulder and
say, as if to the world at large: "This is a very good son to me."
And grateful he was, no doubt, being a man of sense and justice.
But I think that was all, and I am sure Mr. Henry thought so. The
love was all for the dead son. Not that this was often given
breath to; indeed, with me but once. My lord had asked me one day
how I got on with Mr. Henry, and I had told him the truth.
"Ay," said he, looking sideways on the burning fire, "Henry is a
good lad, a very good lad," said he. "You have heard, Mr.
Mackellar, that I had another son? I am afraid he was not so
virtuous a lad as Mr. Henry; but dear me, he's dead, Mr. Mackellar!
and while he lived we were all very proud of him, all very proud.
If he was not all he should have been in some ways, well, perhaps
we loved him better!" This last he said looking musingly in the
fire; and then to me, with a great deal of briskness, "But I am
rejoiced you do so well with Mr. Henry. You will find him a good
master." And with that he opened his book, which was the customary
signal of dismission. But it would be little that he read, and
less that he understood; Culloden field and the Master, these would
be the burthen of his thought; and the burthen of mine was an
unnatural jealousy of the dead man for Mr. Henry's sake, that had
even then begun to grow on me.
I am keeping Mrs. Henry for the last, so that this expression of my
sentiment may seem unwarrantably strong: the reader shall judge
for himself when I have done. But I must first tell of another
matter, which was the means of bringing me more intimate. I had
not yet been six months at Durrisdeer when it chanced that John
Paul fell sick and must keep his bed; drink was the root of his
malady, in my poor thought; but he was tended, and indeed carried
himself, like an afflicted saint; and the very minister, who came
to visit him, professed himself edified when he went away. The
third morning of his sickness, Mr. Henry comes to me with something
of a hang-dog look.
"Mackellar," says he, "I wish I could trouble you upon a little
service. There is a pension we pay; it is John's part to carry it,
and now that he is sick I know not to whom I should look unless it
was yourself. The matter is very delicate; I could not carry it
with my own hand for a sufficient reason; I dare not send
Macconochie, who is a talker, and I am - I have - I am desirous
this should not come to Mrs. Henry's ears," says he, and flushed to
his neck as he said it.
To say truth, when I found I was to carry money to one Jessie
Broun, who was no better than she should be, I supposed it was some
trip of his own that Mr. Henry was dissembling. I was the more
impressed when the truth came out.
It was up a wynd off a side street in St. Bride's that Jessie had
her lodging. The place was very ill inhabited, mostly by the
freetrading sort. There was a man with a broken head at the entry;
half-way up, in a tavern, fellows were roaring and singing, though
it was not yet nine in the day. Altogether, I had never seen a
worse neighbourhood, even in the great city of Edinburgh, and I was
in two minds to go back. Jessie's room was of a piece with her
surroundings, and herself no better. She would not give me the
receipt (which Mr. Henry had told me to demand, for he was very
methodical) until she had sent out for spirits, and I had pledged
her in a glass; and all the time she carried on in a light-headed,
reckless way - now aping the manners of a lady, now breaking into
unseemly mirth, now making coquettish advances that oppressed me to
the ground. Of the money she spoke more tragically.
"It's blood money!" said she; "I take it for that: blood money for
the betrayed! See what I'm brought down to! Ah, if the bonnie lad
were back again, it would be changed days. But he's deid - he's
lyin' deid amang the Hieland hills - the bonnie lad, the bonnie
She had a rapt manner of crying on the bonnie lad, clasping her
hands and casting up her eyes, that I think she must have learned
of strolling players; and I thought her sorrow very much of an
affectation, and that she dwelled upon the business because her
shame was now all she had to be proud of. I will not say I did not
pity her, but it was a loathing pity at the best; and her last
change of manner wiped it out. This was when she had had enough of
me for an audience, and had set her name at last to the receipt.
"There!" says she, and taking the most unwomanly oaths upon her
tongue, bade me begone and carry it to the Judas who had sent me.
It was the first time I had heard the name applied to Mr. Henry; I
was staggered besides at her sudden vehemence of word and manner,
and got forth from the room, under this shower of curses, like a
beaten dog. But even then I was not quit, for the vixen threw up
her window, and, leaning forth, continued to revile me as I went up
the wynd; the freetraders, coming to the tavern door, joined in the
mockery, and one had even the inhumanity to set upon me a very
savage small dog, which bit me in the ankle. This was a strong
lesson, had I required one, to avoid ill company; and I rode home
in much pain from the bite and considerable indignation of mind.
Mr. Henry was in the steward's room, affecting employment, but I
could see he was only impatient to hear of my errand.
"Well?" says he, as soon as I came in; and when I had told him
something of what passed, and that Jessie seemed an undeserving
woman and far from grateful: "She is no friend to me," said he;
"but, indeed, Mackellar, I have few friends to boast of, and Jessie
has some cause to be unjust. I need not dissemble what all the
country knows: she was not very well used by one of our family."
This was the first time I had heard him refer to the Master even
distantly; and I think he found his tongue rebellious even for that
much, but presently he resumed - "This is why I would have nothing
said. It would give pain to Mrs. Henry . . . and to my father," he
added, with another flush.
"Mr. Henry," said I, "if you will take a freedom at my hands, I
would tell you to let that woman be. What service is your money to
the like of her? She has no sobriety and no economy - as for
gratitude, you will as soon get milk from a whinstone; and if you
will pretermit your bounty, it will make no change at all but just
to save the ankles of your messengers."
Mr. Henry smiled. "But I am grieved about your ankle," said he,
the next moment, with a proper gravity.
"And observe," I continued, "I give you this advice upon
consideration; and yet my heart was touched for the woman in the
"Why, there it is, you see!" said Mr. Henry. "And you are to
remember that I knew her once a very decent lass. Besides which,
although I speak little of my family, I think much of its repute."
And with that he broke up the talk, which was the first we had
together in such confidence. But the same afternoon I had the
proof that his father was perfectly acquainted with the business,
and that it was only from his wife that Mr. Henry kept it secret.
"I fear you had a painful errand to-day," says my lord to me, "for
which, as it enters in no way among your duties, I wish to thank
you, and to remind you at the same time (in case Mr. Henry should
have neglected) how very desirable it is that no word of it should
reach my daughter. Reflections on the dead, Mr. Mackellar, are
doubly painful."
Anger glowed in my heart; and I could have told my lord to his face
how little he had to do, bolstering up the image of the dead in
Mrs. Henry's heart, and how much better he were employed to shatter
that false idol; for by this time I saw very well how the land lay
between my patron and his wife.
My pen is clear enough to tell a plain tale; but to render the
effect of an infinity of small things, not one great enough in
itself to be narrated; and to translate the story of looks, and the
message of voices when they are saying no great matter; and to put
in half a page the essence of near eighteen months - this is what I
despair to accomplish. The fault, to be very blunt, lay all in
Mrs. Henry. She felt it a merit to have consented to the marriage,
and she took it like a martyrdom; in which my old lord, whether he
knew it or not, fomented her. She made a merit, besides, of her
constancy to the dead, though its name, to a nicer conscience,
should have seemed rather disloyalty to the living; and here also
my lord gave her his countenance. I suppose he was glad to talk of
his loss, and ashamed to dwell on it with Mr. Henry. Certainly, at
least, he made a little coterie apart in that family of three, and
it was the husband who was shut out. It seems it was an old custom
when the family were alone in Durrisdeer, that my lord should take
his wine to the chimney-side, and Miss Alison, instead of
withdrawing, should bring a stool to his knee, and chatter to him
privately; and after she had become my patron's wife the same
manner of doing was continued. It should have been pleasant to
behold this ancient gentleman so loving with his daughter, but I
was too much a partisan of Mr. Henry's to be anything but wroth at
his exclusion. Many's the time I have seen him make an obvious
resolve, quit the table, and go and join himself to his wife and my
Lord Durrisdeer; and on their part, they were never backward to
make him welcome, turned to him smilingly as to an intruding child,
and took him into their talk with an effort so ill-concealed that
he was soon back again beside me at the table, whence (so great is
the hall of Durrisdeer) we could but hear the murmur of voices at
the chimney. There he would sit and watch, and I along with him;
and sometimes by my lord's head sorrowfully shaken, or his hand
laid on Mrs. Henry's head, or hers upon his knee as if in
consolation, or sometimes by an exchange of tearful looks, we would
draw our conclusion that the talk had gone to the old subject and
the shadow of the dead was in the hall.
I have hours when I blame Mr. Henry for taking all too patiently;
yet we are to remember he was married in pity, and accepted his
wife upon that term. And, indeed, he had small encouragement to
make a stand. Once, I remember, he announced he had found a man to
replace the pane of the stained window, which, as it was he that
managed all the business, was a thing clearly within his
attributions. But to the Master's fancies, that pane was like a
relic; and on the first word of any change, the blood flew to Mrs.
Henry's face.
"I wonder at you!" she cried.
"I wonder at myself," says Mr. Henry, with more of bitterness than
I had ever heard him to express.
Thereupon my old lord stepped in with his smooth talk, so that
before the meal was at an end all seemed forgotten; only that,
after dinner, when the pair had withdrawn as usual to the chimneyside,
we could see her weeping with her head upon his knee. Mr.
Henry kept up the talk with me upon some topic of the estates - he
could speak of little else but business, and was never the best of
company; but he kept it up that day with more continuity, his eye
straying ever and again to the chimney, and his voice changing to
another key, but without check of delivery. The pane, however, was
not replaced; and I believe he counted it a great defeat.
Whether he was stout enough or no, God knows he was kind enough.
Mrs. Henry had a manner of condescension with him, such as (in a
wife) would have pricked my vanity into an ulcer; he took it like a
favour. She held him at the staff's end; forgot and then
remembered and unbent to him, as we do to children; burthened him
with cold kindness; reproved him with a change of colour and a
bitten lip, like one shamed by his disgrace: ordered him with a
look of the eye, when she was off her guard; when she was on the
watch, pleaded with him for the most natural attentions, as though
they were unheard-of favours. And to all this he replied with the
most unwearied service, loving, as folk say, the very ground she
trod on, and carrying that love in his eyes as bright as a lamp.
When Miss Katharine was to be born, nothing would serve but he must
stay in the room behind the head of the bed. There he sat, as
white (they tell me) as a sheet, and the sweat dropping from his
brow; and the handkerchief he had in his hand was crushed into a
little ball no bigger than a musket-bullet. Nor could he bear the
sight of Miss Katharine for many a day; indeed, I doubt if he was
ever what he should have been to my young lady; for the which want
of natural feeling he was loudly blamed.
Such was the state of this family down to the 7th April, 1749, when
there befell the first of that series of events which were to break
so many hearts and lose so many lives.
On that day I was sitting in my room a little before supper, when
John Paul burst open the door with no civility of knocking, and
told me there was one below that wished to speak with the steward;
sneering at the name of my office.
I asked what manner of man, and what his name was; and this
disclosed the cause of John's ill-humour; for it appeared the
visitor refused to name himself except to me, a sore affront to the
major-domo's consequence.
"Well," said I, smiling a little, "I will see what he wants."
I found in the entrance hall a big man, very plainly habited, and
wrapped in a sea-cloak, like one new landed, as indeed he was.
Not, far off Macconochie was standing, with his tongue out of his
mouth and his hand upon his chin, like a dull fellow thinking hard;
and the stranger, who had brought his cloak about his face,
appeared uneasy. He had no sooner seen me coming than he went to
meet me with an effusive manner.
"My dear man," said he, "a thousand apologies for disturbing you,
but I'm in the most awkward position. And there's a son of a
ramrod there that I should know the looks of, and more betoken I
believe that he knows mine. Being in this family, sir, and in a
place of some responsibility (which was the cause I took the
liberty to send for you), you are doubtless of the honest party?"
"You may be sure at least," says I, "that all of that party are
quite safe in Durrisdeer."
"My dear man, it is my very thought," says he. "You see, I have
just been set on shore here by a very honest man, whose name I
cannot remember, and who is to stand off and on for me till
morning, at some danger to himself; and, to be clear with you, I am
a little concerned lest it should be at some to me. I have saved
my life so often, Mr. -, I forget your name, which is a very good
one - that, faith, I would be very loath to lose it after all. And
the son of a ramrod, whom I believe I saw before Carlisle . . . "
"Oh, sir," said I, "you can trust Macconochie until to-morrow."
"Well, and it's a delight to hear you say so," says the stranger.
"The truth is that my name is not a very suitable one in this
country of Scotland. With a gentleman like you, my dear man, I
would have no concealments of course; and by your leave I'll just
breathe it in your ear. They call me Francis Burke - Colonel
Francis Burke; and I am here, at a most damnable risk to myself, to
see your masters - if you'll excuse me, my good man, for giving
them the name, for I'm sure it's a circumstance I would never have
guessed from your appearance. And if you would just be so very
obliging as to take my name to them, you might say that I come
bearing letters which I am sure they will be very rejoiced to have
the reading of."
Colonel Francis Burke was one of the Prince's Irishmen, that did
his cause such an infinity of hurt, and were so much distasted of
the Scots at the time of the rebellion; and it came at once into my
mind, how the Master of Ballantrae had astonished all men by going
with that party. In the same moment a strong foreboding of the
truth possessed my soul.
"If you will step in here," said I, opening a chamber door, "I will
let my lord know."
"And I am sure it's very good of you, Mr. What-is-your-name," says
the Colonel.
Up to the hall I went, slow-footed. There they were, all three -
my old lord in his place, Mrs. Henry at work by the window, Mr.
Henry (as was much his custom) pacing the low end. In the midst
was the table laid for supper. I told them briefly what I had to
say. My old lord lay back in his seat. Mrs. Henry sprang up
standing with a mechanical motion, and she and her husband stared
at each other's eyes across the room; it was the strangest,
challenging look these two exchanged, and as they looked, the
colour faded in their faces. Then Mr. Henry turned to me; not to
speak, only to sign with his finger; but that was enough, and I
went down again for the Colonel.
When we returned, these three were in much the same position I same
left them in; I believe no word had passed.
"My Lord Durrisdeer, no doubt?" says the Colonel, bowing, and my
lord bowed in answer. "And this," continues the Colonel, "should
be the Master of Ballantrae?"
"I have never taken that name," said Mr. Henry; "but I am Henry
Durie, at your service."
Then the Colonel turns to Mrs. Henry, bowing with his hat upon his
heart and the most killing airs of gallantry. "There can be no
mistake about so fine a figure of a lady," says he. "I address the
seductive Miss Alison, of whom I have so often heard?"
Once more husband and wife exchanged a look.
"I am Mrs. Henry Durie," said she; "but before my marriage my name
was Alison Graeme."
Then my lord spoke up. "I am an old man, Colonel Burke," said he,
"and a frail one. It will be mercy on your part to be expeditious.
Do you bring me news of - " he hesitated, and then the words broke
from him with a singular change of voice - "my son?"
"My dear lord, I will be round with you like a soldier," said the
Colonel. "I do."
My lord held out a wavering hand; he seemed to wave a signal, but
whether it was to give him time or to speak on, was more than we
could guess. At length he got out the one word, "Good?"
"Why, the very best in the creation!" cries the Colonel. "For my
good friend and admired comrade is at this hour in the fine city of
Paris, and as like as not, if I know anything of his habits, he
will be drawing in his chair to a piece of dinner. - Bedad, I
believe the lady's fainting."
Mrs. Henry was indeed the colour of death, and drooped against the
window-frame. But when Mr. Henry made a movement as if to run to
her, she straightened with a sort of shiver. "I am well," she
said, with her white lips.
Mr. Henry stopped, and his face had a strong twitch of anger. The
next moment he had turned to the Colonel. "You must not blame
yourself," says he, "for this effect on Mrs. Durie. It is only
natural; we were all brought up like brother and sister."
Mrs. Henry looked at her husband with something like relief or even
gratitude. In my way of thinking, that speech was the first step
he made in her good graces.
"You must try to forgive me, Mrs. Durie, for indeed and I am just
an Irish savage," said the Colonel; "and I deserve to be shot for
not breaking the matter more artistically to a lady. But here are
the Master's own letters; one for each of the three of you; and to
be sure (if I know anything of my friend's genius) he will tell his
own story with a better grace."
He brought the three letters forth as he spoke, arranged them by
their superscriptions, presented the first to my lord, who took it
greedily, and advanced towards Mrs. Henry holding out the second.
But the lady waved it back. "To my husband," says she, with a
choked voice.
The Colonel was a quick man, but at this he was somewhat
nonplussed. "To be sure!" says he; "how very dull of me! To be
sure!" But he still held the letter.
At last Mr. Henry reached forth his hand, and there was nothing to
be done but give it up. Mr. Henry took the letters (both hers and
his own), and looked upon their outside, with his brows knit hard,
as if he were thinking. He had surprised me all through by his
excellent behaviour; but he was to excel himself now.
"Let me give you a hand to your room," said he to his wife. "This
has come something of the suddenest; and, at any rate, you will
wish to read your letter by yourself."
Again she looked upon him with the same thought of wonder; but he
gave her no time, coming straight to where she stood. "It will be
better so, believe me," said he; "and Colonel Burke is too
considerate not to excuse you." And with that he took her hand by
the fingers, and led her from the hall.
Mrs. Henry returned no more that night; and when Mr. Henry went to
visit her next morning, as I heard long afterwards, she gave him
the letter again, still unopened.
"Oh, read it and be done!" he had cried.
"Spare me that," said she.
And by these two speeches, to my way of thinking, each undid a
great part of what they had previously done well. But the letter,
sure enough, came into my hands, and by me was burned, unopened.
To be very exact as to the adventures of the Master after Culloden,
I wrote not long ago to Colonel Burke, now a Chevalier of the Order
of St. Louis, begging him for some notes in writing, since I could
scarce depend upon my memory at so great an interval. To confess
the truth, I have been somewhat embarrassed by his response; for he
sent me the complete memoirs of his life, touching only in places
on the Master; running to a much greater length than my whole
story, and not everywhere (as it seems to me) designed for
edification. He begged in his letter, dated from Ettenheim, that I
would find a publisher for the whole, after I had made what use of
it I required; and I think I shall best answer my own purpose and
fulfil his wishes by printing certain parts of it in full. In this
way my readers will have a detailed, and, I believe, a very genuine
account of some essential matters; and if any publisher should take
a fancy to the Chevalier's manner of narration, he knows where to
apply for the rest, of which there is plenty at his service. I put
in my first extract here, so that it may stand in the place of what
the Chevalier told us over our wine in the hall of Durrisdeer; but
you are to suppose it was not the brutal fact, but a very varnished
version that he offered to my lord.
. . . I left Ruthven (it's hardly necessary to remark) with much
greater satisfaction than I had come to it; but whether I missed my
way in the deserts, or whether my companions failed me, I soon
found myself alone. This was a predicament very disagreeable; for
I never understood this horrid country or savage people, and the
last stroke of the Prince's withdrawal had made us of the Irish
more unpopular than ever. I was reflecting on my poor chances,
when I saw another horseman on the hill, whom I supposed at first
to have been a phantom, the news of his death in the very front at
Culloden being current in the army generally. This was the Master
of Ballantrae, my Lord Durrisdeer's son, a young nobleman of the
rarest gallantry and parts, and equally designed by nature to adorn
a Court and to reap laurels in the field. Our meeting was the more
welcome to both, as he was one of the few Scots who had used the
Irish with consideration, and as he might now be of very high
utility in aiding my escape. Yet what founded our particular
friendship was a circumstance, by itself as romantic as any fable
of King Arthur.
This was on the second day of our flight, after we had slept one
night in the rain upon the inclination of a mountain. There was an
Appin man, Alan Black Stewart (or some such name, (2) but I have
seen him since in France) who chanced to be passing the same way,
and had a jealousy of my companion. Very uncivil expressions were
exchanged; and Stewart calls upon the Master to alight and have it
"Why, Mr. Stewart," says the Master, "I think at the present time I
would prefer to run a race with you." And with the word claps
spurs to his horse.
Stewart ran after us, a childish thing to do, for more than a mile;
and I could not help laughing, as I looked back at last and saw him
on a hill, holding his hand to his side, and nearly burst with
"But, all the same," I could not help saying to my companion, "I
would let no man run after me for any such proper purpose, and not
give him his desire. It was a good jest, but it smells a trifle
He bent his brows at me. "I do pretty well," says he, "when I
saddle myself with the most unpopular man in Scotland, and let that
suffice for courage."
"O, bedad," says I, "I could show you a more unpopular with the
naked eye. And if you like not my company, you can 'saddle'
yourself on some one else."
"Colonel Burke," says he, "do not let us quarrel; and, to that
effect, let me assure you I am the least patient man in the world."
"I am as little patient as yourself," said I. "I care not who
knows that."
"At this rate," says he, reining in, "we shall not go very far.
And I propose we do one of two things upon the instant: either
quarrel and be done; or make a sure bargain to bear everything at
each other's hands."
"Like a pair of brothers?" said I.
"I said no such foolishness," he replied. "I have a brother of my
own, and I think no more of him than of a colewort. But if we are
to have our noses rubbed together in this course of flight, let us
each dare to be ourselves like savages, and each swear that he will
neither resent nor deprecate the other. I am a pretty bad fellow
at bottom, and I find the pretence of virtues very irksome."
"O, I am as bad as yourself," said I. "There is no skim milk in
Francis Burke. But which is it to be? Fight or make friends?"
"Why," says be, "I think it will be the best manner to spin a coin
for it."
This proposition was too highly chivalrous not to take my fancy;
and, strange as it may seem of two well-born gentlemen of to-day,
we span a half-crown (like a pair of ancient paladins) whether we
were to cut each other's throats or be sworn friends. A more
romantic circumstance can rarely have occurred; and it is one of
those points in my memoirs, by which we may see the old tales of
Homer and the poets are equally true to-day - at least, of the
noble and genteel. The coin fell for peace, and we shook hands
upon our bargain. And then it was that my companion explained to
me his thought in running away from Mr. Stewart, which was
certainly worthy of his political intellect. The report of his
death, he said, was a great guard to him; Mr. Stewart having
recognised him, had become a danger; and he had taken the briefest
road to that gentleman's silence. "For," says he, "Alan Black is
too vain a man to narrate any such story of himself."
Towards afternoon we came down to the shores of that loch for which
we were heading; and there was the ship, but newly come to anchor.
She was the SAINTE-MARIE-DES-ANGES, out of the port of Havre-de-
Grace. The Master, after we had signalled for a boat, asked me if
I knew the captain. I told him he was a countryman of mine, of the
most unblemished integrity, but, I was afraid, a rather timorous
"No matter," says he. "For all that, he should certainly hear the
I asked him if he meant about the battle? for if the captain once
knew the standard was down, he would certainly put to sea again at
"And even then!" said he; "the arms are now of no sort of utility."
"My dear man," said I, "who thinks of the arms? But, to be sure,
we must remember our friends. They will be close upon our heels,
perhaps the Prince himself, and if the ship be gone, a great number
of valuable lives may be imperilled."
"The captain and the crew have lives also, if you come to that,"
says Ballantrae.
This I declared was but a quibble, and that I would not hear of the
captain being told; and then it was that Ballantrae made me a witty
answer, for the sake of which (and also because I have been blamed
myself in this business of the SAINTE-MARIE-DES-ANGES) I have
related the whole conversation as it passed.
"Frank," says he, "remember our bargain. I must not object to your
holding your tongue, which I hereby even encourage you to do; but,
by the same terms, you are not to resent my telling."
I could not help laughing at this; though I still forewarned him
what would come of it.
"The devil may come of it for what I care," says the reckless
fellow. "I have always done exactly as I felt inclined."
As is well known, my prediction came true. The captain had no
sooner heard the news than he cut his cable and to sea again; and
before morning broke, we were in the Great Minch.
The ship was very old; and the skipper, although the most honest of
men (and Irish too), was one of the least capable. The wind blew
very boisterous, and the sea raged extremely. All that day we had
little heart whether to eat or drink; went early to rest in some
concern of mind; and (as if to give us a lesson) in the night the
wind chopped suddenly into the north-east, and blew a hurricane.
We were awaked by the dreadful thunder of the tempest and the
stamping of the mariners on deck; so that I supposed our last hour
was certainly come; and the terror of my mind was increased out of
all measure by Ballantrae, who mocked at my devotions. It is in
hours like these that a man of any piety appears in his true light,
and we find (what we are taught as babes) the small trust that can
be set in worldly friends. I would be unworthy of my religion if I
let this pass without particular remark. For three days we lay in
the dark in the cabin, and had but a biscuit to nibble. On the
fourth the wind fell, leaving the ship dismasted and heaving on
vast billows. The captain had not a guess of whither we were
blown; he was stark ignorant of his trade, and could do naught but
bless the Holy Virgin; a very good thing, too, but scarce the whole
of seamanship. It seemed, our one hope was to be picked up by
another vessel; and if that should prove to be an English ship, it
might be no great blessing to the Master and myself.
The fifth and sixth days we tossed there helpless. The seventh
some sail was got on her, but she was an unwieldy vessel at the
best, and we made little but leeway. All the time, indeed, we had
been drifting to the south and west, and during the tempest must
have driven in that direction with unheard-of violence. The ninth
dawn was cold and black, with a great sea running, and every mark
of foul weather. In this situation we were overjoyed to sight a
small ship on the horizon, and to perceive her go about and head
for the SAINTE-MARIE. But our gratification did not very long
endure; for when she had laid to and lowered a boat, it was
immediately filled with disorderly fellows, who sang and shouted as
they pulled across to us, and swarmed in on our deck with bare
cutlasses, cursing loudly. Their leader was a horrible villain,
with his face blacked and his whiskers curled in ringlets; Teach,
his name; a most notorious pirate. He stamped about the deck,
raving and crying out that his name was Satan, and his ship was
called Hell. There was something about him like a wicked child or
a half-witted person, that daunted me beyond expression. I
whispered in the ear of Ballantrae that I would not be the last to
volunteer, and only prayed God they might be short of hands; he
approved my purpose with a nod.
"Bedad," said I to Master Teach, "if you are Satan, here is a devil
for ye."
The word pleased him; and (not to dwell upon these shocking
incidents) Ballantrae and I and two others were taken for recruits,
while the skipper and all the rest were cast into the sea by the
method of walking the plank. It was the first time I had seen this
done; my heart died within me at the spectacle; and Master Teach or
one of his acolytes (for my head was too much lost to be precise)
remarked upon my pale face in a very alarming manner. I had the
strength to cut a step or two of a jig, and cry out some ribaldry,
which saved me for that time; but my legs were like water when I
must get down into the skiff among these miscreants; and what with
my horror of my company and fear of the monstrous billows, it was
all I could do to keep an Irish tongue and break a jest or two as
we were pulled aboard. By the blessing of God, there was a fiddle
in the pirate ship, which I had no sooner seen than I fell upon;
and in my quality of crowder I had the heavenly good luck to get
favour in their eyes. CROWDING PAT was the name they dubbed me
with; and it was little I cared for a name so long as my skin was
What kind of a pandemonium that vessel was, I cannot describe, but
she was commanded by a lunatic, and might be called a floating
Bedlam. Drinking, roaring, singing, quarrelling, dancing, they
were never all sober at one time; and there were days together
when, if a squall had supervened, it must have sent us to the
bottom; or if a king's ship had come along, it would have found us
quite helpless for defence. Once or twice we sighted a sail, and,
if we were sober enough, overhauled it, God forgive us! and if we
were all too drunk, she got away, and I would bless the saints
under my breath. Teach ruled, if you can call that rule which
brought no order, by the terror he created; and I observed the man
was very vain of his position. I have known marshals of France -
ay, and even Highland chieftains - that were less openly puffed up;
which throws a singular light on the pursuit of honour and glory.
Indeed, the longer we live, the more we perceive the sagacity of
Aristotle and the other old philosophers; and though I have all my
life been eager for legitimate distinctions, I can lay my hand upon
my heart, at the end of my career, and declare there is not one -
no, nor yet life itself - which is worth acquiring or preserving at
the slightest cost of dignity.
It was long before I got private speech of Ballantrae; but at
length one night we crept out upon the boltsprit, when the rest
were better employed, and commiserated our position.
"None can deliver us but the saints," said I.
"My mind is very different," said Ballantrae; "for I am going to
deliver myself. This Teach is the poorest creature possible; we
make no profit of him, and lie continually open to capture; and,"
says he, "I am not going to be a tarry pirate for nothing, nor yet
to hang in chains if I can help it." And he told me what was in
his mind to better the state of the ship in the way of discipline,
which would give us safety for the present, and a sooner hope of
deliverance when they should have gained enough and should break up
their company.
I confessed to him ingenuously that my nerve was quite shook amid
these horrible surroundings, and I durst scarce tell him to count
upon me.
"I am not very easy frightened," said he, "nor very easy beat."
A few days after, there befell an accident which had nearly hanged
us all; and offers the most extraordinary picture of the folly that
ruled in our concerns. We were all pretty drunk: and some
bedlamite spying a sail, Teach put the ship about in chase without
a glance, and we began to bustle up the arms and boast of the
horrors that should follow. I observed Ballantrae stood quiet in
the bows, looking under the shade of his hand; but for my part,
true to my policy among these savages, I was at work with the
busiest and passing Irish jests for their diversion.
"Run up the colours," cries Teach. "Show the -s the Jolly Roger!"
It was the merest drunken braggadocio at such a stage, and might
have lost us a valuable prize; but I thought it no part of mine to
reason, and I ran up the black flag with my own hand.
Ballantrae steps presently aft with a smile upon his face.
"You may perhaps like to know, you drunken dog," says he, "that you
are chasing a king's ship."
Teach roared him the lie; but he ran at the same time to the
bulwarks, and so did they all. I have never seen so many drunken
men struck suddenly sober. The cruiser had gone about, upon our
impudent display of colours; she was just then filling on the new
tack; her ensign blew out quite plain to see; and even as we
stared, there came a puff of smoke, and then a report, and a shot
plunged in the waves a good way short of us. Some ran to the
ropes, and got the SARAH round with an incredible swiftness. One
fellow fell on the rum barrel, which stood broached upon the deck,
and rolled it promptly overboard. On my part, I made for the Jolly
Roger, struck it, tossed it in the sea; and could have flung myself
after, so vexed was I with our mismanagement. As for Teach, he
grew as pale as death, and incontinently went down to his cabin.
Only twice he came on deck that afternoon; went to the taffrail;
took a long look at the king's ship, which was still on the horizon
heading after us; and then, without speech, back to his cabin. You
may say he deserted us; and if it had not been for one very capable
sailor we had on board, and for the lightness of the airs that blew
all day, we must certainly have gone to the yard-arm.
It is to be supposed Teach was humiliated, and perhaps alarmed for
his position with the crew; and the way in which he set about
regaining what he had lost, was highly characteristic of the man.
Early next day we smelled him burning sulphur in his cabin and
crying out of "Hell, hell!" which was well understood among the
crew, and filled their minds with apprehension. Presently he comes
on deck, a perfect figure of fun, his face blacked, his hair and
whiskers curled, his belt stuck full of pistols; chewing bits of
glass so that the blood ran down his chin, and brandishing a dirk.
I do not know if he had taken these manners from the Indians of
America, where he was a native; but such was his way, and he would
always thus announce that he was wound up to horrid deeds. The
first that came near him was the fellow who had sent the rum
overboard the day before; him he stabbed to the heart, damning him
for a mutineer; and then capered about the body, raving and
swearing and daring us to come on. It was the silliest exhibition;
and yet dangerous too, for the cowardly fellow was plainly working
himself up to another murder.
All of a sudden Ballantrae stepped forth. "Have done with this
play-acting," says he. "Do you think to frighten us with making
faces? We saw nothing of you yesterday, when you were wanted; and
we did well without you, let me tell you that."
There was a murmur and a movement in the crew, of pleasure and
alarm, I thought, in nearly equal parts. As for Teach, he gave a
barbarous howl, and swung his dirk to fling it, an art in which
(like many seamen) he was very expert.
"Knock that out of his hand!" says Ballantrae, so sudden and sharp
that my arm obeyed him before my mind had understood.
Teach stood like one stupid, never thinking on his pistols.
"Go down to your cabin," cries Ballantrae, "and come on deck again
when you are sober. Do you think we are going to hang for you, you
black-faced, half-witted, drunken brute and butcher? Go down!"
And he stamped his foot at him with such a sudden smartness that
Teach fairly ran for it to the companion.
"And now, mates," says Ballantrae, "a word with you. I don't know
if you are gentlemen of fortune for the fun of the thing, but I am
not. I want to make money, and get ashore again, and spend it like
a man. And on one thing my mind is made up: I will not hang if I
can help it. Come: give me a hint; I'm only a beginner! Is there
no way to get a little discipline and common sense about this
One of the men spoke up: he said by rights they should have a
quartermaster; and no sooner was the word out of his mouth than
they were all of that opinion. The thing went by acclamation,
Ballantrae was made quartermaster, the rum was put in his charge,
laws were passed in imitation of those of a pirate by the name of
Roberts, and the last proposal was to make an end of Teach. But
Ballantrae was afraid of a more efficient captain, who might be a
counterweight to himself, and he opposed this stoutly. Teach, he
said, was good enough to board ships and frighten fools with his
blacked face and swearing; we could scarce get a better man than
Teach for that; and besides, as the man was now disconsidered and
as good as deposed, we might reduce his proportion of the plunder.
This carried it; Teach's share was cut down to a mere derision,
being actually less than mine; and there remained only two points:
whether he would consent, and who was to announce to him this
"Do not let that stick you," says Ballantrae, "I will do that."
And he stepped to the companion and down alone into the cabin to
face that drunken savage.
"This is the man for us," cries one of the hands. "Three cheers
for the quartermaster!" which were given with a will, my own voice
among the loudest, and I dare say these plaudits had their effect
on Master Teach in the cabin, as we have seen of late days how
shouting in the streets may trouble even the minds of legislators.
What passed precisely was never known, though some of the heads of
it came to the surface later on; and we were all amazed, as well as
gratified, when Ballantrae came on deck with Teach upon his arm,
and announced that all had been consented.
I pass swiftly over those twelve or fifteen months in which we
continued to keep the sea in the North Atlantic, getting our food
and water from the ships we over-hauled, and doing on the whole a
pretty fortunate business. Sure, no one could wish to read
anything so ungenteel as the memoirs of a pirate, even an unwilling
one like me! Things went extremely better with our designs, and
Ballantrae kept his lead, to my admiration, from that day forth. I
would be tempted to suppose that a gentleman must everywhere be
first, even aboard a rover: but my birth is every whit as good as
any Scottish lord's, and I am not ashamed to confess that I stayed
Crowding Pat until the end, and was not much better than the crew's
buffoon. Indeed, it was no scene to bring out my merits. My
health suffered from a variety of reasons; I was more at home to
the last on a horse's back than a ship's deck; and, to be
ingenuous, the fear of the sea was constantly in my mind, battling
with the fear of my companions. I need not cry myself up for
courage; I have done well on many fields under the eyes of famous
generals, and earned my late advancement by an act of the most
distinguished valour before many witnesses. But when we must
proceed on one of our abordages, the heart of Francis Burke was in
his boots; the little eggshell skiff in which we must set forth,
the horrible heaving of the vast billows, the height of the ship
that we must scale, the thought of how many might be there in
garrison upon their legitimate defence, the scowling heavens which
(in that climate) so often looked darkly down upon our exploits,
and the mere crying of the wind in my ears, were all considerations
most unpalatable to my valour. Besides which, as I was always a
creature of the nicest sensibility, the scenes that must follow on
our success tempted me as little as the chances of defeat. Twice
we found women on board; and though I have seen towns sacked, and
of late days in France some very horrid public tumults, there was
something in the smallness of the numbers engaged, and the bleak
dangerous sea-surroundings, that made these acts of piracy far the
most revolting. I confess ingenuously I could never proceed unless
I was three parts drunk; it was the same even with the crew; Teach
himself was fit for no enterprise till he was full of rum; and it
was one of the most difficult parts of Ballantrae's performance, to
serve us with liquor in the proper quantities. Even this he did to
admiration; being upon the whole the most capable man I ever met
with, and the one of the most natural genius. He did not even
scrape favour with the crew, as I did, by continual buffoonery made
upon a very anxious heart; but preserved on most occasions a great
deal of gravity and distance; so that he was like a parent among a
family of young children, or a schoolmaster with his boys. What
made his part the harder to perform, the men were most inveterate
grumblers; Ballantrae's discipline, little as it was, was yet
irksome to their love of licence; and what was worse, being kept
sober they had time to think. Some of them accordingly would fall
to repenting their abominable crimes; one in particular, who was a
good Catholic, and with whom I would sometimes steal apart for
prayer; above all in bad weather, fogs, lashing rain and the like,
when we would be the less observed; and I am sure no two criminals
in the cart have ever performed their devotions with more anxious
sincerity. But the rest, having no such grounds of hope, fell to
another pastime, that of computation. All day long they would he
telling up their shares or grooming over the result. I have said
we were pretty fortunate. But an observation fails to be made:
that in this world, in no business that I have tried, do the
profits rise to a man's expectations. We found many ships and took
many; yet few of them contained much money, their goods were
usually nothing to our purpose - what did we want with a cargo of
ploughs, or even of tobacco? - and it is quite a painful reflection
how many whole crews we have made to walk the plank for no more
than a stock of biscuit or an anker or two of spirit.
In the meanwhile our ship was growing very foul, and it was high
time we should make for our PORT DE CARRENAGE, which was in the
estuary of a river among swamps. It was openly understood that we
should then break up and go and squander our proportions of the
spoil; and this made every man greedy of a little more, so that our
decision was delayed from day to day. What finally decided
matters, was a trifling accident, such as an ignorant person might
suppose incidental to our way of life. But here I must explain:
on only one of all the ships we boarded, the first on which we
found women, did we meet with any genuine resistance. On that
occasion we had two men killed and several injured, and if it had
not been for the gallantry of Ballantrae we had surely been beat
back at last. Everywhere else the defence (where there was any at
all) was what the worst troops in Europe would have laughed at; so
that the most dangerous part of our employment was to clamber up
the side of the ship; and I have even known the poor souls on board
to cast us a line, so eager were they to volunteer instead of
walking the plank. This constant immunity had made our fellows
very soft, so that I understood how Teach had made so deep a mark
upon their minds; for indeed the company of that lunatic was the
chief danger in our way of life. The accident to which I have
referred was this:- We had sighted a little full-rigged ship very
close under our board in a haze; she sailed near as well as we did
- I should be nearer truth if I said, near as ill; and we cleared
the bow-chaser to see if we could bring a spar or two about their
ears. The swell was exceeding great; the motion of the ship beyond
description; it was little wonder if our gunners should fire thrice
and be still quite broad of what they aimed at. But in the
meanwhile the chase had cleared a stern gun, the thickness of the
air concealing them; and being better marksmen, their first shot
struck us in the bows, knocked our two gunners into mince-meat, so
that we were all sprinkled with the blood, and plunged through the
deck into the forecastle, where we slept. Ballantrae would have
held on; indeed, there was nothing in this CONTRETEMPS to affect
the mind of any soldier; but he had a quick perception of the men's
wishes, and it was plain this lucky shot had given them a sickener
of their trade. In a moment they were all of one mind: the chase
was drawing away from us, it was needless to hold on, the SARAH was
too foul to overhaul a bottle, it was mere foolery to keep the sea
with her; and on these pretended grounds her head was incontinently
put about and the course laid for the river. It was strange to see
what merriment fell on that ship's company, and how they stamped
about the deck jesting, and each computing what increase had come
to his share by the death of the two gunners.
We were nine days making our port, so light were the airs we had to
sail on, so foul the ship's bottom; but early on the tenth, before
dawn, and in a light lifting haze, we passed the head. A little
after, the haze lifted, and fell again, showing us a cruiser very
close. This was a sore blow, happening so near our refuge. There
was a great debate of whether she had seen us, and if so whether it
was likely they had recognised the SARAH. We were very careful, by
destroying every member of those crews we overhauled, to leave no
evidence as to our own persons; but the appearance of the SARAH
herself we could not keep so private; and above all of late, since
she had been foul, and we had pursued many ships without success,
it was plain that her description had been often published. I
supposed this alert would have made us separate upon the instant.
But here again that original genius of Ballantrae's had a surprise
in store for me. He and Teach (and it was the most remarkable step
of his success) had gone hand in hand since the first day of his
appointment. I often questioned him upon the fact, and never got
an answer but once, when he told me he and Teach had an
understanding "which would very much surprise the crew if they
should hear of it, and would surprise himself a good deal if it was
carried out." Well, here again he and Teach were of a mind; and by
their joint procurement the anchor was no sooner down than the
whole crew went off upon a scene of drunkenness indescribable. By
afternoon we were a mere shipful of lunatical persons, throwing of
things overboard, howling of different songs at the same time,
quarrelling and falling together, and then forgetting our quarrels
to embrace. Ballantrae had bidden me drink nothing, and feign
drunkenness, as I valued my life; and I have never passed a day so
wearisomely, lying the best part of the time upon the forecastle
and watching the swamps and thickets by which our little basin was
entirely surrounded for the eye. A little after dusk Ballantrae
stumbled up to my side, feigned to fall, with a drunken laugh, and
before he got his feet again, whispered me to "reel down into the
cabin and seem to fall asleep upon a locker, for there would be
need of me soon." I did as I was told, and coming into the cabin,
where it was quite dark, let myself fall on the first locker.
There was a man there already; by the way he stirred and threw me
off, I could not think he was much in liquor; and yet when I had
found another place, he seemed to continue to sleep on. My heart
now beat very hard, for I saw some desperate matter was in act.
Presently down came Ballantrae, lit the lamp, looked about the
cabin, nodded as if pleased, and on deck again without a word. I
peered out from between my fingers, and saw there were three of us
slumbering, or feigning to slumber, on the lockers: myself, one
Dutton and one Grady, both resolute men. On deck the rest were got
to a pitch of revelry quite beyond the bounds of what is human; so
that no reasonable name can describe the sounds they were now
making. I have heard many a drunken bout in my time, many on board
that very SARAH, but never anything the least like this, which made
me early suppose the liquor had been tampered with. It was a long
while before these yells and howls died out into a sort of
miserable moaning, and then to silence; and it seemed a long while
after that before Ballantrae came down again, this time with Teach
upon his heels. The latter cursed at the sight of us three upon
the lockers.
"Tut," says Ballantrae, "you might fire a pistol at their ears.
You know what stuff they have been swallowing."
There was a hatch in the cabin floor, and under that the richest
part of the booty was stored against the day of division. It
fastened with a ring and three padlocks, the keys (for greater
security) being divided; one to Teach, one to Ballantrae, and one
to the mate, a man called Hammond. Yet I was amazed to see they
were now all in the one hand; and yet more amazed (still looking
through my fingers) to observe Ballantrae and Teach bring up
several packets, four of them in all, very carefully made up and
with a loop for carriage.
"And now," says Teach, "let us be going."
"One word," says Ballantrae. "I have discovered there is another
man besides yourself who knows a private path across the swamp; and
it seems it is shorter than yours."
Teach cried out, in that case, they were undone.
"I do not know for that," says Ballantrae. "For there are several
other circumstances with which I must acquaint you. First of all,
there is no bullet in your pistols, which (if you remember) I was
kind enough to load for both of us this morning. Secondly, as
there is someone else who knows a passage, you must think it highly
improbable I should saddle myself with a lunatic like you.
Thirdly, these gentlemen (who need no longer pretend to be asleep)
are those of my party, and will now proceed to gag and bind you to
the mast; and when your men awaken (if they ever do awake after the
drugs we have mingled in their liquor), I am sure they will be so
obliging as to deliver you, and you will have no difficulty, I
daresay, to explain the business of the keys."
Not a word said Teach, but looked at us like a frightened baby as
we gagged and bound him.
"Now you see, you moon-calf," says Ballantrae, "why we made four
packets. Heretofore you have been called Captain Teach, but I
think you are now rather Captain Learn."
That was our last word on board the SARAH. We four, with our four
packets, lowered ourselves softly into a skiff, and left that ship
behind us as silent as the grave, only for the moaning of some of
the drunkards. There was a fog about breast-high on the waters; so
that Dutton, who knew the passage, must stand on his feet to direct
our rowing; and this, as it forced us to row gently, was the means
of our deliverance. We were yet but a little way from the ship,
when it began to come grey, and the birds to fly abroad upon the
water. All of a sudden Dutton clapped down upon his hams, and
whispered us to be silent for our lives, and hearken. Sure enough,
we heard a little faint creak of oars upon one hand, and then
again, and further off, a creak of oars upon the other. It was
clear we had been sighted yesterday in the morning; here were the
cruiser's boats to cut us out; here were we defenceless in their
very midst. Sure, never were poor souls more perilously placed;
and as we lay there on our oars, praying God the mist might hold,
the sweat poured from my brow. Presently we heard one of the boats
where we might have thrown a biscuit in her. "Softly, men," we
heard an officer whisper; and I marvelled they could not hear the
drumming of my heart.
"Never mind the path," says Ballantrae; "we must get shelter
anyhow; let us pull straight ahead for the sides of the basin."
This we did with the most anxious precaution, rowing, as best we
could, upon our hands, and steering at a venture in the fog, which
was (for all that) our only safety. But Heaven guided us; we
touched ground at a thicket; scrambled ashore with our treasure;
and having no other way of concealment, and the mist beginning
already to lighten, hove down the skiff and let her sink. We were
still but new under cover when the sun rose; and at the same time,
from the midst of the basin, a great shouting of seamen sprang up,
and we knew the SARAH was being boarded. I heard afterwards the
officer that took her got great honour; and it's true the approach
was creditably managed, but I think he had an easy capture when he
came to board. (3)
I was still blessing the saints for my escape, when I became aware
we were in trouble of another kind. We were here landed at random
in a vast and dangerous swamp; and how to come at the path was a
concern of doubt, fatigue, and peril. Dutton, indeed, was of
opinion we should wait until the ship was gone, and fish up the
skiff; for any delay would be more wise than to go blindly ahead in
that morass. One went back accordingly to the basin-side and
(peering through the thicket) saw the fog already quite drunk up,
and English colours flying on the SARAH, but no movement made to
get her under way. Our situation was now very doubtful. The swamp
was an unhealthful place to linger in; we had been so greedy to
bring treasures that we had brought but little food; it was highly
desirable, besides, that we should get clear of the neighbourhood
and into the settlements before the news of the capture went
abroad; and against all these considerations, there was only the
peril of the passage on the other side. I think it not wonderful
we decided on the active part.
It was already blistering hot when we set forth to pass the marsh,
or rather to strike the path, by compass. Dutton took the compass,
and one or other of us three carried his proportion of the
treasure. I promise you he kept a sharp eye to his rear, for it
was like the man's soul that he must trust us with. The thicket
was as close as a bush; the ground very treacherous, so that we
often sank in the most terrifying manner, and must go round about;
the heat, besides, was stifling, the air singularly heavy, and the
stinging insects abounded in such myriads that each of us walked
under his own cloud. It has often been commented on, how much
better gentlemen of birth endure fatigue than persons of the
rabble; so that walking officers who must tramp in the dirt beside
their men, shame them by their constancy. This was well to be
observed in the present instance; for here were Ballantrae and I,
two gentlemen of the highest breeding, on the one hand; and on the
other, Grady, a common mariner, and a man nearly a giant in
physical strength. The case of Dutton is not in point, for I
confess he did as well as any of us. (4) But as for Grady, he
began early to lament his case, tailed in the rear, refused to
carry Dutton's packet when it came his turn, clamoured continually
for rum (of which we had too little), and at last even threatened
us from behind with a cooked pistol, unless we should allow him
rest. Ballantrae would have fought it out, I believe; but I
prevailed with him the other way; and we made a stop and ate a
meal. It seemed to benefit Grady little; he was in the rear again
at once, growling and bemoaning his lot; and at last, by some
carelessness, not having followed properly in our tracks, stumbled
into a deep part of the slough where it was mostly water, gave some
very dreadful screams, and before we could come to his aid had sunk
along with his booty. His fate, and above all these screams of
his, appalled us to the soul; yet it was on the whole a fortunate
circumstance and the means of our deliverance, for it moved Dutton
to mount into a tree, whence he was able to perceive and to show
me, who had climbed after him, a high piece of the wood, which was
a landmark for the path. He went forward the more carelessly, I
must suppose; for presently we saw him sink a little down, draw up
his feet and sink again, and so twice. Then he turned his face to
us, pretty white.
"Lend a hand," said he, "I am in a bad place."
"I don't know about that," says Ballantrae, standing still.
Dutton broke out into the most violent oaths, sinking a little
lower as he did, so that the mud was nearly to his waist, and
plucking a pistol from his belt, "Help me," he cries, "or die and
be damned to you!"
"Nay," says Ballantrae, "I did but jest. I am coming." And he set
down his own packet and Dutton's, which he was then carrying. "Do
not venture near till we see if you are needed," said he to me, and
went forward alone to where the man was bogged. He was quiet now,
though he still held the pistol; and the marks of terror in his
countenance were very moving to behold.
"For the Lord's sake," says he, "look sharp."
Ballantrae was now got close up. "Keep still," says he, and seemed
to consider; and then, "Reach out both your hands!"
Dutton laid down his pistol, and so watery was the top surface that
it went clear out of sight; with an oath he stooped to snatch it;
and as he did so, Ballantrae leaned forth and stabbed him between
the shoulders. Up went his hands over his head - I know not
whether with the pain or to ward himself; and the next moment he
doubled forward in the mud.
Ballantrae was already over the ankles; but he plucked himself out,
and came back to me, where I stood with my knees smiting one
another. "The devil take you, Francis!" says he. "I believe you
are a half-hearted fellow, after all. I have only done justice on
a pirate. And here we are quite clear of the SARAH! Who shall now
say that we have dipped our hands in any irregularities?"
I assured him he did me injustice; but my sense of humanity was so
much affected by the horridness of the fact that I could scarce
find breath to answer with.
"Come," said he, "you must be more resolved. The need for this
fellow ceased when he had shown you where the path ran; and you
cannot deny I would have been daft to let slip so fair an
I could not deny but he was right in principle; nor yet could I
refrain from shedding tears, of which I think no man of valour need
have been ashamed; and it was not until I had a share of the rum
that I was able to proceed. I repeat, I am far from ashamed of my
generous emotion; mercy is honourable in the warrior; and yet I
cannot altogether censure Ballantrae, whose step was really
fortunate, as we struck the path without further misadventure, and
the same night, about sundown, came to the edge of the morass.
We were too weary to seek far; on some dry sands, still warm with
the day's sun, and close under a wood of pines, we lay down and
were instantly plunged in sleep.
We awaked the next morning very early, and began with a sullen
spirit a conversation that came near to end in blows. We were now
cast on shore in the southern provinces, thousands of miles from
any French settlement; a dreadful journey and a thousand perils lay
in front of us; and sure, if there was ever need for amity, it was
in such an hour. I must suppose that Ballantrae had suffered in
his sense of what is truly polite; indeed, and there is nothing
strange in the idea, after the sea-wolves we had consorted with so
long; and as for myself, he fubbed me off unhandsomely, and any
gentleman would have resented his behaviour.
I told him in what light I saw his conduct; he walked a little off,
I following to upbraid him; and at last he stopped me with his
"Frank," says he, "you know what we swore; and yet there is no oath
invented would induce me to swallow such expressions, if I did not
regard you with sincere affection. It is impossible you should
doubt me there: I have given proofs. Dutton I had to take,
because he knew the pass, and Grady because Dutton would not move
without him; but what call was there to carry you along? You are a
perpetual danger to me with your cursed Irish tongue. By rights
you should now be in irons in the cruiser. And you quarrel with me
like a baby for some trinkets!"
I considered this one of the most unhandsome speeches ever made;
and indeed to this day I can scarce reconcile it to my notion of a
gentleman that was my friend. I retorted upon him with his Scotch
accent, of which he had not so much as some, but enough to be very
barbarous and disgusting, as I told him plainly; and the affair
would have gone to a great length, but for an alarming
We had got some way off upon the sand. The place where we had
slept, with the packets lying undone and the money scattered
openly, was now between us and the pines; and it was out of these
the stranger must have come. There he was at least, a great
hulking fellow of the country, with a broad axe on his shoulder,
looking open-mouthed, now at the treasure, which was just at his
feet, and now at our disputation, in which we had gone far enough
to have weapons in our hands. We had no sooner observed him than
he found his legs and made off again among the pines.
This was no scene to put our minds at rest: a couple of armed men
in sea-clothes found quarrelling over a treasure, not many miles
from where a pirate had been captured - here was enough to bring
the whole country about our ears. The quarrel was not even made
up; it was blotted from our minds; and we got our packets together
in the twinkling of an eye, and made off, running with the best
will in the world. But the trouble was, we did not know in what
direction, and must continually return upon our steps. Ballantrae
had indeed collected what he could from Dutton; but it's hard to
travel upon hearsay; and the estuary, which spreads into a vast
irregular harbour, turned us off upon every side with a new stretch
of water.
We were near beside ourselves, and already quite spent with
running, when, coming to the top of a dune, we saw we were again
cut off by another ramification of the bay. This was a creek,
however, very different from those that had arrested us before;
being set in rocks, and so precipitously deep that a small vessel
was able to lie alongside, made fast with a hawser; and her crew
had laid a plank to the shore. Here they had lighted a fire, and
were sitting at their meal. As for the vessel herself, she was one
of those they build in the Bermudas.
The love of gold and the great hatred that everybody has to pirates
were motives of the most influential, and would certainly raise the
country in our pursuit. Besides, it was now plain we were on some
sort of straggling peninsula, like the fingers of a hand; and the
wrist, or passage to the mainland, which we should have taken at
the first, was by this time not improbably secured. These
considerations put us on a bolder counsel. For as long as we
dared, looking every moment to hear sounds of the chase, we lay
among some bushes on the top of the dune; and having by this means
secured a little breath and recomposed our appearance, we strolled
down at last, with a great affectation of carelessness, to the
party by the fire.
It was a trader and his negroes, belonging to Albany, in the
province of New York, and now on the way home from the Indies with
a cargo; his name I cannot recall. We were amazed to learn he had
put in here from terror of the SARAH; for we had no thought our
exploits had been so notorious. As soon as the Albanian heard she
had been taken the day before, he jumped to his feet, gave us a cup
of spirits for our good news, and sent big negroes to get sail on
the Bermudan. On our side, we profited by the dram to become more
confidential, and at last offered ourselves as passengers. He
looked askance at our tarry clothes and pistols, and replied
civilly enough that he had scarce accommodation for himself; nor
could either our prayers or our offers of money, in which we
advanced pretty far, avail to shake him.
"I see, you think ill of us," says Ballantrae, "but I will show you
how well we think of you by telling you the truth. We are Jacobite
fugitives, and there is a price upon our heads."
At this, the Albanian was plainly moved a little. He asked us many
questions as to the Scotch war, which Ballantrae very patiently
answered. And then, with a wink, in a vulgar manner, "I guess you
and your Prince Charlie got more than you cared about," said he.
"Bedad, and that we did," said I. "And, my dear man, I wish you
would set a new example and give us just that much."
This I said in the Irish way, about which there is allowed to be
something very engaging. It's a remarkable thing, and a testimony
to the love with which our nation is regarded, that this address
scarce ever fails in a handsome fellow. I cannot tell how often I
have seen a private soldier escape the horse, or a beggar wheedle
out a good alms by a touch of the brogue. And, indeed, as soon as
the Albanian had laughed at me I was pretty much at rest. Even
then, however, he made many conditions, and - for one thing - took
away our arms, before he suffered us aboard; which was the signal
to cast off; so that in a moment after, we were gliding down the
bay with a good breeze, and blessing the name of God for our
deliverance. Almost in the mouth of the estuary, we passed the
cruiser, and a little after the poor SARAH with her prize crew; and
these were both sights to make us tremble. The Bermudan seemed a
very safe place to be in, and our bold stroke to have been
fortunately played, when we were thus reminded of the case of our
companions. For all that, we had only exchanged traps, jumped out
of the frying-pan into the fire, ran from the yard-arm to the
block, and escaped the open hostility of the man-of-war to lie at
the mercy of the doubtful faith of our Albanian merchant.
From many circumstances, it chanced we were safer than we could
have dared to hope. The town of Albany was at that time much
concerned in contraband trade across the desert with the Indians
and the French. This, as it was highly illegal, relaxed their
loyalty, and as it brought them in relation with the politest
people on the earth, divided even their sympathies. In short, they
were like all the smugglers in the world, spies and agents readymade
for either party. Our Albanian, besides, was a very honest
man indeed, and very greedy; and, to crown our luck, he conceived a
great delight in our society. Before we had reached the town of
New York we had come to a full agreement, that he should carry us
as far as Albany upon his ship, and thence put us on a way to pass
the boundaries and join the French. For all this we were to pay at
a high rate; but beggars cannot be choosers, nor outlaws
We sailed, then, up the Hudson River, which, I protest, is a very
fine stream, and put up at the "King's Arms" in Albany. The town
was full of the militia of the province, breathing slaughter
against the French. Governor Clinton was there himself, a very
busy man, and, by what I could learn, very near distracted by the
factiousness of his Assembly. The Indians on both sides were on
the war-path; we saw parties of them bringing in prisoners and
(what was much worse) scalps, both male and female, for which they
were paid at a fixed rate; and I assure you the sight was not
encouraging. Altogether, we could scarce have come at a period
more unsuitable for our designs; our position in the chief inn was
dreadfully conspicuous; our Albanian fubbed us off with a thousand
delays, and seemed upon the point of a retreat from his
engagements; nothing but peril appeared to environ the poor
fugitives, and for some time we drowned our concern in a very
irregular course of living.
This, too, proved to be fortunate; and it's one of the remarks that
fall to be made upon our escape, how providentially our steps were
conducted to the very end. What a humiliation to the dignity of
man! My philosophy, the extraordinary genius of Ballantrae, our
valour, in which I grant that we were equal - all these might have
proved insufficient without the Divine blessing on our efforts.
And how true it is, as the Church tells us, that the Truths of
Religion are, after all, quite applicable even to daily affairs!
At least, it was in the course of our revelry that we made the
acquaintance of a spirited youth by the name of Chew. He was one
of the most daring of the Indian traders, very well acquainted with
the secret paths of the wilderness, needy, dissolute, and, by a
last good fortune, in some disgrace with his family. Him we
persuaded to come to our relief; he privately provided what was
needful for our flight, and one day we slipped out of Albany,
without a word to our former friend, and embarked, a little above,
in a canoe.
To the toils and perils of this journey, it would require a pen
more elegant than mine to do full justice. The reader must
conceive for himself the dreadful wilderness which we had now to
thread; its thickets, swamps, precipitous rocks, impetuous rivers,
and amazing waterfalls. Among these barbarous scenes we must toil
all day, now paddling, now carrying our canoe upon our shoulders;
and at night we slept about a fire, surrounded by the howling of
wolves and other savage animals. It was our design to mount the
headwaters of the Hudson, to the neighbourhood of Crown Point,
where the French had a strong place in the woods, upon Lake
Champlain. But to have done this directly were too perilous; and
it was accordingly gone upon by such a labyrinth of rivers, lakes,
and portages as makes my head giddy to remember. These paths were
in ordinary times entirely desert; but the country was now up, the
tribes on the war-path, the woods full of Indian scouts. Again and
again we came upon these parties when we least expected, them; and
one day, in particular, I shall never forget, how, as dawn was
coming in, we were suddenly surrounded by five or six of these
painted devils, uttering a very dreary sort of cry, and brandishing
their hatchets. It passed off harmlessly, indeed, as did the rest
of our encounters; for Chew was well known and highly valued among
the different tribes. Indeed, he was a very gallant, respectable
young man; but even with the advantage of his companionship, you
must not think these meetings were without sensible peril. To
prove friendship on our part, it was needful to draw upon our stock
of rum - indeed, under whatever disguise, that is the true business
of the Indian trader, to keep a travelling public-house in the
forest; and when once the braves had got their bottle of SCAURA (as
they call this beastly liquor), it behoved us to set forth and
paddle for our scalps. Once they were a little drunk, goodbye to
any sense or decency; they had but the one thought, to get more
SCAURA. They might easily take it in their heads to give us chase,
and had we been overtaken, I had never written these memoirs.
We were come to the most critical portion of our course, where we
might equally expect to fall into the hands of French or English,
when a terrible calamity befell us. Chew was taken suddenly sick
with symptoms like those of poison, and in the course of a few
hours expired in the bottom of the canoe. We thus lost at once our
guide, our interpreter, our boatman, and our passport, for he was
all these in one; and found ourselves reduced, at a blow, to the
most desperate and irremediable distress. Chew, who took a great
pride in his knowledge, had indeed often lectured us on the
geography; and Ballantrae, I believe, would listen. But for my
part I have always found such information highly tedious; and
beyond the fact that we were now in the country of the Adirondack
Indians, and not so distant from our destination, could we but have
found the way, I was entirely ignorant. The wisdom of my course
was soon the more apparent; for with all his pains, Ballantrae was
no further advanced than myself. He knew we must continue to go up
one stream; then, by way of a portage, down another; and then up a
third. But you are to consider, in a mountain country, how many
streams come rolling in from every hand. And how is a gentleman,
who is a perfect stranger in that part of the world, to tell any
one of them from any other? Nor was this our only trouble. We
were great novices, besides, in handling a canoe; the portages were
almost beyond our strength, so that I have seen us sit down in
despair for half an hour at a time without one word; and the
appearance of a single Indian, since we had now no means of
speaking to them, would have been in all probability the means of
our destruction. There is altogether some excuse if Ballantrae
showed something of a grooming disposition; his habit of imputing
blame to others, quite as capable as himself, was less tolerable,
and his language it was not always easy to accept. Indeed, he had
contracted on board the pirate ship a manner of address which was
in a high degree unusual between gentlemen; and now, when you might
say he was in a fever, it increased upon him hugely.
The third day of these wanderings, as we were carrying the canoe
upon a rocky portage, she fell, and was entirely bilged. The
portage was between two lakes, both pretty extensive; the track,
such as it was, opened at both ends upon the water, and on both
hands was enclosed by the unbroken woods; and the sides of the
lakes were quite impassable with bog: so that we beheld ourselves
not only condemned to go without our boat and the greater part of
our provisions, but to plunge at once into impenetrable thickets
and to desert what little guidance we still had - the course of the
river. Each stuck his pistols in his belt, shouldered an axe, made
a pack of his treasure and as much food as he could stagger under;
and deserting the rest of our possessions, even to our swords,
which would have much embarrassed us among the woods, we set forth
on this deplorable adventure. The labours of Hercules, so finely
described by Homer, were a trifle to what we now underwent. Some
parts of the forest were perfectly dense down to the ground, so
that we must cut our way like mites in a cheese. In some the
bottom was full of deep swamp, and the whole wood entirely rotten.
I have leaped on a great fallen log and sunk to the knees in
touchwood; I have sought to stay myself, in falling, against what
looked to be a solid trunk, and the whole thing has whiffed away at
my touch like a sheet of paper. Stumbling, falling, bogging to the
knees, hewing our way, our eyes almost put out with twigs and
branches, our clothes plucked from our bodies, we laboured all day,
and it is doubtful if we made two miles. What was worse, as we
could rarely get a view of the country, and were perpetually
justled from our path by obstacles, it was impossible even to have
a guess in what direction we were moving.
A little before sundown, in an open place with a stream, and set
about with barbarous mountains, Ballantrae threw down his pack. "I
will go no further," said he, and bade me light the fire, damning
my blood in terms not proper for a chairman.
I told him to try to forget he had ever been a pirate, and to
remember he had been a gentleman.
"Are you mad?" he cried. "Don't cross me here! And then, shaking
his fist at the hills, "To think," cries he, "that I must leave my
bones in this miserable wilderness! Would God I had died upon the
scaffold like a gentleman!" This he said ranting like an actor;
and then sat biting his fingers and staring on the ground, a most
unchristian object.
I took a certain horror of the man, for I thought a soldier and a
gentleman should confront his end with more philosophy. I made him
no reply, therefore, in words; and presently the evening fell so
chill that I was glad, for my own sake, to kindle a fire. And yet
God knows, in such an open spot, and the country alive with
savages, the act was little short of lunacy. Ballantrae seemed
never to observe me; but at last, as I was about parching a little
corn, he looked up.
"Have you ever a brother?" said be.
"By the blessing of Heaven," said I, "not less than five."
"I have the one," said he, with a strange voice; and then
presently, "He shall pay me for all this," he added. And when I
asked him what was his brother's part in our distress, "What!" he
cried, "he sits in my place, he bears my name, he courts my wife;
and I am here alone with a damned Irishman in this tooth-chattering
desert! Oh, I have been a common gull!" he cried.
The explosion was in all ways so foreign to my friend's nature that
I was daunted out of all my just susceptibility. Sure, an
offensive expression, however vivacious, appears a wonderfully
small affair in circumstances so extreme! But here there is a
strange thing to be noted. He had only once before referred to the
lady with whom he was contracted. That was when we came in view of
the town of New York, when he had told me, if all had their rights,
he was now in sight of his own property, for Miss Graeme enjoyed a
large estate in the province. And this was certainly a natural
occasion; but now here she was named a second time; and what is
surely fit to be observed, in this very month, which was November,
BARBAROUS MOUNTAINS, his brother and Miss Graeme were married. I
am the least superstitious of men; but the hand of Providence is
here displayed too openly not to be remarked. (5)
The next day, and the next, were passed in similar labours;
Ballantrae often deciding on our course by the spinning of a coin;
and once, when I expostulated on this childishness, he had an odd
remark that I have never forgotten. "I know no better way," said
he, "to express my scorn of human reason." I think it was the
third day that we found the body of a Christian, scalped and most
abominably mangled, and lying in a pudder of his blood; the birds
of the desert screaming over him, as thick as flies. I cannot
describe how dreadfully this sight affected us; but it robbed me of
all strength and all hope for this world. The same day, and only a
little after, we were scrambling over a part of the forest that had
been burned, when Ballantrae, who was a little ahead, ducked
suddenly behind a fallen trunk. I joined him in this shelter,
whence we could look abroad without being seen ourselves; and in
the bottom of the next vale, beheld a large war party of the
savages going by across our line. There might be the value of a
weak battalion present; all naked to the waist, blacked with grease
and soot, and painted with white lead and vermilion, according to
their beastly habits. They went one behind another like a string
of geese, and at a quickish trot; so that they took but a little
while to rattle by, and disappear again among the woods. Yet I
suppose we endured a greater agony of hesitation and suspense in
these few minutes than goes usually to a man's whole life. Whether
they were French or English Indians, whether they desired scalps or
prisoners, whether we should declare ourselves upon the chance, or
lie quiet and continue the heart-breaking business of our journey:
sure, I think these were questions to have puzzled the brains of
Aristotle himself. Ballantrae turned to me with a face all
wrinkled up and his teeth showing in his mouth, like what I have
read of people starving; he said no word, but his whole appearance
was a kind of dreadful question.
"They may be of the English side," I whispered; "and think! the
best we could then hope, is to begin this over again."
"I know - I know," he said. "Yet it must come to a plunge at
last." And he suddenly plucked out his coin, shook it in his
closed hands, looked at it, and then lay down with his face in the
ADDITION BY MR. MACKELLAR. - I drop the Chevalier's narration at
this point because the couple quarrelled and separated the same
day; and the Chevalier's account of the quarrel seems to me (I must
confess) quite incompatible with the nature of either of the men.
Henceforth they wandered alone, undergoing extraordinary
sufferings; until first one and then the other was picked up by a
party from Fort St. Frederick. Only two things are to be noted.
And first (as most important for my purpose) that the Master, in
the course of his miseries buried his treasure, at a point never
since discovered, but of which he took a drawing in his own blood
on the lining of his hat. And second, that on his coming thus
penniless to the Fort, he was welcomed like a brother by the
Chevalier, who thence paid his way to France. The simplicity of
Mr. Burke's character leads him at this point to praise the Master
exceedingly; to an eye more worldly wise, it would seem it was the
Chevalier alone that was to be commended. I have the more pleasure
in pointing to this really very noble trait of my esteemed
correspondent, as I fear I may have wounded him immediately before.
I have refrained from comments on any of his extraordinary and (in
my eyes) immoral opinions, for I know him to be jealous of respect.
But his version of the quarrel is really more than I can reproduce;
for I knew the Master myself, and a man more insusceptible of fear
is not conceivable. I regret this oversight of the Chevalier's,
and all the more because the tenor of his narrative (set aside a
few flourishes) strikes me as highly ingenuous.
You can guess on what part of his adventures the Colonel
principally dwelled. Indeed, if we had heard it all, it is to be
thought the current of this business had been wholly altered; but
the pirate ship was very gently touched upon. Nor did I hear the
Colonel to an end even of that which he was willing to disclose;
for Mr. Henry, having for some while been plunged in a brown study,
rose at last from his seat and (reminding the Colonel there were
matters that he must attend to) bade me follow him immediately to
the office.
Once there, he sought no longer to dissemble his concern, walking
to and fro in the room with a contorted face, and passing his hand
repeatedly upon his brow.
"We have some business," he began at last; and there broke off,
declared we must have wine, and sent for a magnum of the best.
This was extremely foreign to his habitudes; and what was still
more so, when the wine had come, he gulped down one glass upon
another like a man careless of appearances. But the drink steadied
"You will scarce be surprised, Mackellar," says he, "when I tell
you that my brother - whose safety we are all rejoiced to learn -
stands in some need of money."
I told him I had misdoubted as much; but the time was not very
fortunate, as the stock was low.
"Not mine," said he. "There is the money for the mortgage."
I reminded him it was Mrs. Henry's.
"I will be answerable to my wife," he cried violently.
"And then," said I, "there is the mortgage."
"I know," said he; "it is on that I would consult you."
I showed him how unfortunate a time it was to divert this money
from its destination; and how, by so doing, we must lose the profit
of our past economies, and plunge back the estate into the mire. I
even took the liberty to plead with him; and when he still opposed
me with a shake of the head and a bitter dogged smile, my zeal
quite carried me beyond my place. "This is midsummer madness,"
cried I; "and I for one will be no party to it."
"You speak as though I did it for my pleasure," says he. "But I
have a child now; and, besides, I love order; and to say the honest
truth, Mackellar, I had begun to take a pride in the estates." He
gloomed for a moment. "But what would you have?" he went on.
"Nothing is mine, nothing. This day's news has knocked the bottom
out of my life. I have only the name and the shadow of things -
only the shadow; there is no substance in my rights."
"They will prove substantial enough before a court," said I.
He looked at me with a burning eye, and seemed to repress the word
upon his lips; and I repented what I had said, for I saw that while
he spoke of the estate he had still a side-thought to his marriage.
And then, of a sudden, he twitched the letter from his pocket,
where it lay all crumpled, smoothed it violently on the table, and
read these words to me with a trembling tongue: "'My dear Jacob' -
This is how he begins!" cries he - "'My dear Jacob, I once called
you so, you may remember; and you have now done the business, and
flung my heels as high as Criffel.' What do you think of that,
Mackellar," says he, "from an only brother? I declare to God I
liked him very well; I was always staunch to him; and this is how
he writes! But I will not sit down under the imputation" - walking
to and fro - "I am as good as he; I am a better man than he, I call
on God to prove it! I cannot give him all the monstrous sum he
asks; he knows the estate to be incompetent; but I will give him
what I have, and it in more than he expects. I have borne all this
too long. See what he writes further on; read it for yourself: 'I
know you are a niggardly dog.' A niggardly dog! I niggardly? Is
that true, Mackellar? You think it is?" I really thought he would
have struck me at that. "Oh, you all think so! Well, you shall
see, and he shall see, and God shall see. If I ruin the estate and
go barefoot, I shall stuff this bloodsucker. Let him ask all -
all, and he shall have it! It is all his by rights. Ah!" he
cried, "and I foresaw all this, and worse, when he would not let me
go." He poured out another glass of wine, and was about to carry
it to his lips, when I made so bold as to lay a finger on his arm.
He stopped a moment. "You are right," said he, and flung glass and
all in the fireplace. "Come, let us count the money."
I durst no longer oppose him; indeed, I was very much affected by
the sight of so much disorder in a man usually so controlled; and
we sat down together, counted the money, and made it up in packets
for the greater ease of Colonel Burke, who was to be the bearer.
This done, Mr. Henry returned to the hall, where he and my old lord
sat all night through with their guest.
A little before dawn I was called and set out with the Colonel. He
would scarce have liked a less responsible convoy, for he was a man
who valued himself; nor could we afford him one more dignified, for
Mr. Henry must not appear with the freetraders. It was a very
bitter morning of wind, and as we went down through the long
shrubbery the Colonel held himself muffled in his cloak.
"Sir," said I, "this is a great sum of money that your friend
requires. I must suppose his necessities to be very great."
"We must suppose so," says he, I thought drily; but perhaps it was
the cloak about his mouth.
"I am only a servant of the family," said I. "You may deal openly
with me. I think we are likely to get little good by him?"
"My dear man," said the Colonel, "Ballantrae is a gentleman of the
most eminent natural abilities, and a man that I admire, and that I
revere, to the very ground he treads on." And then he seemed to me
to pause like one in a difficulty.
"But for all that," said I, "we are likely to get little good by
"Sure, and you can have it your own way, my dear man," says the
By this time we had come to the side of the creek, where the boat
awaited him. "Well," said be, "I am sure I am very much your
debtor for all your civility, Mr. Whatever-your-name-is; and just
as a last word, and since you show so much intelligent interest, I
will mention a small circumstance that may be of use to the family.
For I believe my friend omitted to mention that he has the largest
pension on the Scots Fund of any refugee in Paris; and it's the
more disgraceful, sir," cries the Colonel, warming, "because
there's not one dirty penny for myself."
He cocked his hat at me, as if I had been to blame for this
partiality; then changed again into his usual swaggering civility,
shook me by the hand, and set off down to the boat, with the money
under his arms, and whistling as he went the pathetic air of SHULE
AROON. It was the first time I had heard that tune; I was to hear
it again, words and all, as you shall learn, but I remember how
that little stave of it ran in my head after the freetraders had
bade him "Wheesht, in the deil's name," and the grating of the oars
had taken its place, and I stood and watched the dawn creeping on
the sea, and the boat drawing away, and the lugger lying with her
foresail backed awaiting it.
The gap made in our money was a sore embarrassment, and, among
other consequences, it had this: that I must ride to Edinburgh,
and there raise a new loan on very questionable terms to keep the
old afloat; and was thus, for close upon three weeks, absent from
the house of Durrisdeer.
What passed in the interval I had none to tell me, but I found Mrs.
Henry, upon my return, much changed in her demeanour. The old
talks with my lord for the most part pretermitted; a certain
deprecation visible towards her husband, to whom I thought she
addressed herself more often; and, for one thing, she was now
greatly wrapped up in Miss Katharine. You would think the change
was agreeable to Mr. Henry; no such matter! To the contrary, every
circumstance of alteration was a stab to him; he read in each the
avowal of her truant fancies. That constancy to the Master of
which she was proud while she supposed him dead, she had to blush
for now she knew he was alive, and these blushes were the hated
spring of her new conduct. I am to conceal no truth; and I will
here say plainly, I think this was the period in which Mr. Henry
showed the worst. He contained himself, indeed, in public; but
there was a deep-seated irritation visible underneath. With me,
from whom he had less concealment, he was often grossly unjust, and
even for his wife he would sometimes have a sharp retort: perhaps
when she had ruffled him with some unwonted kindness; perhaps upon
no tangible occasion, the mere habitual tenor of the man's
annoyance bursting spontaneously forth. When he would thus forget
himself (a thing so strangely out of keeping with the terms of
their relation), there went a shook through the whole company, and
the pair would look upon each other in a kind of pained amazement.
All the time, too, while he was injuring himself by this defect of
temper, he was hurting his position by a silence, of which I scarce
know whether to say it was the child of generosity or pride. The
freetraders came again and again, bringing messengers from the
Master, and none departed empty-handed. I never durst reason with
Mr. Henry; he gave what was asked of him in a kind of noble rage.
Perhaps because he knew he was by nature inclining to the
parsimonious, he took a backforemost pleasure in the recklessness
with which he supplied his brother's exigence. Perhaps the falsity
of the position would have spurred a humbler man into the same
excess. But the estate (if I may say so) groaned under it; our
daily expenses were shorn lower and lower; the stables were
emptied, all but four roadsters; servants were discharged, which
raised a dreadful murmuring in the country, and heated up the old
disfavour upon Mr. Henry; and at last the yearly visit to Edinburgh
must be discontinued.
This was in 1756. You are to suppose that for seven years this
bloodsucker had been drawing the life's blood from Durrisdeer, and
that all this time my patron had held his peace. It was an effect
of devilish malice in the Master that he addressed Mr. Henry alone
upon the matter of his demands, and there was never a word to my
lord. The family had looked on, wondering at our economies. They
had lamented, I have no doubt, that my patron had become so great a
miser - a fault always despicable, but in the young abhorrent, and
Mr. Henry was not yet thirty years of age. Still, he had managed
the business of Durrisdeer almost from a boy; and they bore with
these changes in a silence as proud and bitter as his own, until
the coping-stone of the Edinburgh visit.
At this time I believe my patron and his wife were rarely together,
save at meals. Immediately on the back of Colonel Burke's
announcement Mrs. Henry made palpable advances; you might say she
had laid a sort of timid court to her husband, different, indeed,
from her former manner of unconcern and distance. I never had the
heart to blame Mr. Henry because he recoiled from these advances;
nor yet to censure the wife, when she was cut to the quick by their
rejection. But the result was an entire estrangement, so that (as
I say) they rarely spoke, except at meals. Even the matter of the
Edinburgh visit was first broached at table, and it chanced that
Mrs. Henry was that day ailing and querulous. She had no sooner
understood her husband's meaning than the red flew in her face.
"At last," she cried, "this is too much! Heaven knows what
pleasure I have in my life, that I should be denied my only
consolation. These shameful proclivities must be trod down; we are
already a mark and an eyesore in the neighbourhood. I will not
endure this fresh insanity."
"I cannot afford it," says Mr. Henry.
"Afford?" she cried. "For shame! But I have money of my own."
"That is all mine, madam, by marriage," he snarled, and instantly
left the room.
My old lord threw up his hands to Heaven, and he and his daughter,
withdrawing to the chimney, gave me a broad hint to be gone. I
found Mr. Henry in his usual retreat, the steward's room, perched
on the end of the table, and plunging his penknife in it with a
very ugly countenance.
"Mr. Henry," said I, "you do yourself too much injustice, and it is
time this should cease."
"Oh!" cries he, "nobody minds here. They think it only natural. I
have shameful proclivities. I am a niggardly dog," and he drove
his knife up to the hilt. "But I will show that fellow," he cried
with an oath, "I will show him which is the more generous."
"This is no generosity," said I; "this is only pride."
"Do you think I want morality?" he asked.
I thought he wanted help, and I should give it him, willy-nilly;
and no sooner was Mrs. Henry gone to her room than I presented
myself at her door and sought admittance.
She openly showed her wonder. "What do you want with me, Mr.
Mackellar?" said she.
"The Lord knows, madam," says I, "I have never troubled you before
with any freedoms; but this thing lies too hard upon my conscience,
and it will out. Is it possible that two people can be so blind as
you and my lord? and have lived all these years with a noble
gentleman like Mr. Henry, and understand so little of his nature?"
"What does this mean?" she cried.
"Do you not know where his money goes to? his - and yours - and the
money for the very wine he does not drink at table?" I went on.
"To Paris - to that man! Eight thousand pounds has he had of us in
seven years, and my patron fool enough to keep it secret!"
"Eight thousand pounds!" she repeated. "It in impossible; the
estate is not sufficient."
"God knows how we have sweated farthings to produce it," said I.
"But eight thousand and sixty is the sum, beside odd shillings.
And if you can think my patron miserly after that, this shall be my
last interference."
"You need say no more, Mr. Mackellar," said she. "You have done
most properly in what you too modestly call your interference. I
am much to blame; you must think me indeed a very unobservant wife"
(looking upon me with a strange smile), "but I shall put this right
at once. The Master was always of a very thoughtless nature; but
his heart is excellent; he is the soul of generosity. I shall
write to him myself. You cannot think how you have pained me by
this communication."
"Indeed, madam, I had hoped to have pleased you," said I, for I
raged to see her still thinking of the Master.
"And pleased," said she, "and pleased me of course."
That same day (I will not say but what I watched) I had the
satisfaction to see Mr. Henry come from his wife's room in a state
most unlike himself; for his face was all bloated with weeping, and
yet he seemed to me to walk upon the air. By this, I was sure his
wife had made him full amends for once. "Ah," thought I to myself,
"I have done a brave stroke this day."
On the morrow, as I was seated at my books, Mr. Henry came in
softly behind me, took me by the shoulders, and shook me in a
manner of playfulness. "I find you are a faithless fellow after
all," says he, which was his only reference to my part; but the
tone he spoke in was more to me than any eloquence of protestation.
Nor was this all I had effected; for when the next messenger came
(as he did not long afterwards) from the Master, he got nothing
away with him but a letter. For some while back it had been I
myself who had conducted these affairs; Mr. Henry not setting pen
to paper, and I only in the dryest and most formal terms. But this
letter I did not even see; it would scarce be pleasant reading, for
Mr. Henry felt he had his wife behind him for once, and I observed,
on the day it was despatched, he had a very gratified expression.
Things went better now in the family, though it could scarce be
pretended they went well. There was now at least no misconception;
there was kindness upon all sides; and I believe my patron and his
wife might again have drawn together if he could but have pocketed
his pride, and she forgot (what was the ground of all) her brooding
on another man. It is wonderful how a private thought leaks out;
it is wonderful to me now how we should all have followed the
current of her sentiments; and though she bore herself quietly, and
had a very even disposition, yet we should have known whenever her
fancy ran to Paris. And would not any one have thought that my
disclosure must have rooted up that idol? I think there is the
devil in women: all these years passed, never a sight of the man,
little enough kindness to remember (by all accounts) even while she
had him, the notion of his death intervening, his heartless
rapacity laid bare to her; that all should not do, and she must
still keep the best place in her heart for this accursed fellow, is
a thing to make a plain man rage. I had never much natural
sympathy for the passion of love; but this unreason in my patron's
wife disgusted me outright with the whole matter. I remember
checking a maid because she sang some bairnly kickshaw while my
mind was thus engaged; and my asperity brought about my ears the
enmity of all the petticoats about the house; of which I reeked
very little, but it amused Mr. Henry, who rallied me much upon our
joint unpopularity. It is strange enough (for my own mother was
certainly one of the salt of the earth, and my Aunt Dickson, who
paid my fees at the University, a very notable woman), but I have
never had much toleration for the female sex, possibly not much
understanding; and being far from a bold man, I have ever shunned
their company. Not only do I see no cause to regret this
diffidence in myself, but have invariably remarked the most unhappy
consequences follow those who were less wise. So much I thought
proper to set down, lest I show myself unjust to Mrs. Henry. And,
besides, the remark arose naturally, on a re-perusal of the letter
which was the next step in these affairs, and reached me, to my
sincere astonishment, by a private hand, some week or so after the
departure of the last messenger.
Letter from Colonel BURKE (afterwards Chevalier) to MR. MACKELLAR.
July 12, 1756
My Dear Sir, - You will doubtless be surprised to receive a
communication from one so little known to you; but on the occasion
I had the good fortune to rencounter you at Durrisdeer, I remarked
you for a young man of a solid gravity of character: a
qualification which I profess I admire and revere next to natural
genius or the bold chivalrous spirit of the soldier. I was,
besides, interested in the noble family which you have the honour
to serve, or (to speak more by the book) to be the humble and
respected friend of; and a conversation I had the pleasure to have
with you very early in the morning has remained much upon my mind.
Being the other day in Paris, on a visit from this famous city,
where I am in garrison, I took occasion to inquire your name (which
I profess I had forgot) at my friend, the Master of B.; and a fair
opportunity occurring, I write to inform you of what's new.
The Master of B. (when we had last some talk of him together) was
in receipt, as I think I then told you, of a highly advantageous
pension on the Scots Fund. He next received a company, and was
soon after advanced to a regiment of his own. My dear sir, I do
not offer to explain this circumstance; any more than why I myself,
who have rid at the right hand of Princes, should be fubbed off
with a pair of colours and sent to rot in a hole at the bottom of
the province. Accustomed as I am to Courts, I cannot but feel it
is no atmosphere for a plain soldier; and I could never hope to
advance by similar means, even could I stoop to the endeavour. But
our friend has a particular aptitude to succeed by the means of
ladies; and if all be true that I have heard, he enjoyed a
remarkable protection. It is like this turned against him; for
when I had the honour to shake him by the hand, he was but newly
released from the Bastille, where he had been cast on a sealed
letter; and, though now released, has both lost his regiment and
his pension. My dear sir, the loyalty of a plain Irishman will
ultimately succeed in the place of craft; as I am sure a gentleman
of your probity will agree.
Now, sir, the Master is a man whose genius I admire beyond
expression, and, besides, he is my friend; but I thought a little
word of this revolution in his fortunes would not come amiss, for,
in my opinion, the man's desperate. He spoke, when I saw him, of a
trip to India (whither I am myself in some hope of accompanying my
illustrious countryman, Mr. Lally); but for this he would require
(as I understood) more money than was readily at his command. You
may have heard a military proverb: that it is a good thing to make
a bridge of gold to a flying enemy? I trust you will take my
meaning and I subscribe myself, with proper respects to my Lord
Durrisdeer, to his son, and to the beauteous Mrs. Durie,
My dear Sir,
Your obedient humble servant,
This missive I carried at once to Mr. Henry; and I think there was
but the one thought between the two of us: that it had come a week
too late. I made haste to send an answer to Colonel Burke, in
which I begged him, if he should see the Master, to assure him his
next messenger would be attended to. But with all my haste I was
not in time to avert what was impending; the arrow had been drawn,
it must now fly. I could almost doubt the power of Providence (and
certainly His will) to stay the issue of events; and it is a
strange thought, how many of us had been storing up the elements of
this catastrophe, for how long a time, and with how blind an
ignorance of what we did.
From the coming of the Colonel's letter, I had a spyglass in my
room, began to drop questions to the tenant folk, and as there was
no great secrecy observed, and the freetrade (in our part) went by
force as much as stealth, I had soon got together a knowledge of
the signals in use, and knew pretty well to an hour when any
messenger might be expected. I say, I questioned the tenants; for
with the traders themselves, desperate blades that went habitually
armed, I could never bring myself to meddle willingly. Indeed, by
what proved in the sequel an unhappy chance, I was an object of
scorn to some of these braggadocios; who had not only gratified me
with a nickname, but catching me one night upon a by-path, and
being all (as they would have said) somewhat merry, had caused me
to dance for their diversion. The method employed was that of
cruelly chipping at my toes with naked cutlasses, shouting at the
same time "Square-Toes"; and though they did me no bodily mischief,
I was none the less deplorably affected, and was indeed for several
days confined to my bed: a scandal on the state of Scotland on
which no comment is required.
It happened on the afternoon of November 7th, in this same
unfortunate year, that I espied, during my walk, the smoke of a
beacon fire upon the Muckleross. It was drawing near time for my
return; but the uneasiness upon my spirits was that day so great
that I must burst through the thickets to the edge of what they
call the Craig Head. The sun was already down, but there was still
a broad light in the west, which showed me some of the smugglers
treading out their signal fire upon the Ross, and in the bay the
lugger lying with her sails brailed up. She was plainly but new
come to anchor, and yet the skiff was already lowered and pulling
for the landing-place at the end of the long shrubbery. And this I
knew could signify but one thing, the coming of a messenger for
I laid aside the remainder of my terrors, clambered down the brae -
a place I had never ventured through before, and was hid among the
shore-side thickets in time to see the boat touch. Captain Crail
himself was steering, a thing not usual; by his side there sat a
passenger; and the men gave way with difficulty, being hampered
with near upon half a dozen portmanteaus, great and small. But the
business of landing was briskly carried through; and presently the
baggage was all tumbled on shore, the boat on its return voyage to
the lugger, and the passenger standing alone upon the point of
rock, a tall slender figure of a gentleman, habited in black, with
a sword by his side and a walking-cane upon his wrist. As he so
stood, he waved the cane to Captain Crail by way of salutation,
with something both of grace and mockery that wrote the gesture
deeply on my mind.
No sooner was the boat away with my sworn enemies than I took a
sort of half courage, came forth to the margin of the thicket, and
there halted again, my mind being greatly pulled about between
natural diffidence and a dark foreboding of the truth. Indeed, I
might have stood there swithering all night, had not the stranger
turned, spied me through the mists, which were beginning to fall,
and waved and cried on me to draw near. I did so with a heart like
"Here, my good man," said he, in the English accent, "there are
some things for Durrisdeer."
I was now near enough to see him, a very handsome figure and
countenance, swarthy, lean, long, with a quick, alert, black look,
as of one who was a fighter, and accustomed to command; upon one
cheek he had a mole, not unbecoming; a large diamond sparkled on
his hand; his clothes, although of the one hue, were of a French
and foppish design; his ruffles, which he wore longer than common,
of exquisite lace; and I wondered the more to see him in such a
guise when he was but newly landed from a dirty smuggling lugger.
At the same time he had a better look at me, toised me a second
time sharply, and then smiled.
"I wager, my friend," says he, "that I know both your name and your
nickname. I divined these very clothes upon your hand of writing,
Mr. Mackellar."
At these words I fell to shaking.
"Oh,"' says he, "you need not be afraid of me. I bear no malice
for your tedious letters; and it is my purpose to employ you a good
deal. You may call me Mr. Bally: it is the name I have assumed;
or rather (since I am addressing so great a precision) it is so I
have curtailed my own. Come now, pick up that and that" -
indicating two of the portmanteaus. "That will be as much as you
are fit to bear, and the rest can very well wait. Come, lose no
more time, if you please."
His tone was so cutting that I managed to do as he bid by a sort of
instinct, my mind being all the time quite lost. No sooner had I
picked up the portmanteaus than he turned his back and marched off
through the long shrubbery, where it began already to be dusk, for
the wood is thick and evergreen. I followed behind, loaded almost
to the dust, though I profess I was not conscious of the burthen;
being swallowed up in the monstrosity of this return, and my mind
flying like a weaver's shuttle.
On a sudden I set the portmanteaus to the ground and halted. He
turned and looked back at me.
"Well?" said he.
"You are the Master of Ballantrae?"
"You will do me the justice to observe," says he, "I have made no
secret with the astute Mackellar."
"And in the name of God," cries I, "what brings you here? Go back,
while it is yet time."
"I thank you," said he. "Your master has chosen this way, and not
I; but since he has made the choice, he (and you also) must abide
by the result. And now pick up these things of mine, which you
have set down in a very boggy place, and attend to that which I
have made your business."
But I had no thought now of obedience; I came straight up to him.
"If nothing will move you to go back," said I; "though, sure, under
all the circumstances, any Christian or even any gentleman would
scruple to go forward . . . "
"These are gratifying expressions," he threw in.
"If nothing will move you to go back," I continued, "there are
still some decencies to be observed. Wait here with your baggage,
and I will go forward and prepare your family. Your father is an
old man; and . . . " I stumbled . . . "there are decencies to be
"Truly," said he, "this Mackellar improves upon acquaintance. But
look you here, my man, and understand it once for all - you waste
your breath upon me, and I go my own way with inevitable motion."
"Ah!" says I. "Is that so? We shall see then!"
And I turned and took to my heels for Durrisdeer. He clutched at
me and cried out angrily, and then I believe I heard him laugh, and
then I am certain he pursued me for a step or two, and (I suppose)
desisted. One thing at least is sure, that I came but a few
minutes later to the door of the great house, nearly strangled for
the lack of breath, but quite alone. Straight up the stair I ran,
and burst into the hall, and stopped before the family without the
power of speech; but I must have carried my story in my looks, for
they rose out of their places and stared on me like changelings.
"He has come," I panted out at last.
"He?" said Mr. Henry.
"Himself," said I.
"My son?" cried my lord. "Imprudent, imprudent boy! Oh, could he
not stay where he was safe!"
Never a word says Mrs. Henry; nor did I look at her, I scarce knew
"Well," said Mr. Henry, with a very deep breath, "and where is he?"
"I left him in the long shrubbery," said I.
"Take me to him," said he.
So we went out together, he and I, without another word from any
one; and in the midst of the gravelled plot encountered the Master
strolling up, whistling as he came, and beating the air with his
cane. There was still light enough overhead to recognise, though
not to read, a countenance.
"Ah! Jacob," says the Master. "So here is Esau back."
"James," says Mr. Henry, "for God's sake, call me by my name. I
will not pretend that I am glad to see you; but I would fain make
you as welcome as I can in the house of our fathers."
"Or in MY house? or YOURS?" says the Master. "Which were you about
to say? But this is an old sore, and we need not rub it. If you
would not share with me in Paris, I hope you will yet scarce deny
your elder brother a corner of the fire at Durrisdeer?"
"That is very idle speech," replied Mr. Henry. "And you understand
the power of your position excellently well."
"Why, I believe I do," said the other with a little laugh. And
this, though they had never touched hands, was (as we may say) the
end of the brothers' meeting; for at this the Master turned to me
and bade me fetch his baggage.
I, on my side, turned to Mr. Henry for a confirmation; perhaps with
some defiance.
"As long as the Master is here, Mr. Mackellar, you will very much
oblige me by regarding his wishes as you would my own," says Mr.
Henry. "We are constantly troubling you: will you be so good as
send one of the servants?" - with an accent on the word.
If this speech were anything at all, it was surely a well-deserved
reproof upon the stranger; and yet, so devilish was his impudence,
he twisted it the other way.
"And shall we be common enough to say 'Sneck up'?" inquires he
softly, looking upon me sideways.
Had a kingdom depended on the act, I could not have trusted myself
in words; even to call a servant was beyond me; I had rather serve
the man myself than speak; and I turned away in silence and went
into the long shrubbery, with a heart full of anger and despair.
It was dark under the trees, and I walked before me and forgot what
business I was come upon, till I near broke my shin on the
portmanteaus. Then it was that I remarked a strange particular;
for whereas I had before carried both and scarce observed it, it
was now as much as I could do to manage one. And this, as it
forced me to make two journeys, kept me the longer from the hall.
When I got there, the business of welcome was over long ago; the
company was already at supper; and by an oversight that cut me to
the quick, my place had been forgotten. I had seen one side of the
Master's return; now I was to see the other. It was he who first
remarked my coming in and standing back (as I did) in some
annoyance. He jumped from his seat.
"And if I have not got the good Mackellar's place!" cries he.
"John, lay another for Mr. Bally; I protest he will disturb no one,
and your table is big enough for all."
I could scarce credit my ears, nor yet my senses, when he took me
by the shoulders and thrust me, laughing, into my own place - such
an affectionate playfulness was in his voice. And while John laid
the fresh place for him (a thing on which he still insisted), he
went and leaned on his father's chair and looked down upon him, and
the old man turned about and looked upwards on his son, with such a
pleasant mutual tenderness that I could have carried my hand to my
head in mere amazement.
Yet all was of a piece. Never a harsh word fell from him, never a
sneer showed upon his lip. He had laid aside even his cutting
English accent, and spoke with the kindly Scots' tongue, that set a
value on affectionate words; and though his manners had a graceful
elegance mighty foreign to our ways in Durrisdeer, it was still a
homely courtliness, that did not shame but flattered us. All that,
he did throughout the meal, indeed, drinking wine with me with a
notable respect, turning about for a pleasant word with John,
fondling his father's hand, breaking into little merry tales of his
adventures, calling up the past with happy reference - all he did
was so becoming, and himself so handsome, that I could scarce
wonder if my lord and Mrs. Henry sat about the board with radiant
faces, or if John waited behind with dropping tears.
As soon as supper was over, Mrs. Henry rose to withdraw.
"This was never your way, Alison," said he.
"It is my way now," she replied: which was notoriously false, "and
I will give you a good-night, James, and a welcome - from the
dead," said she, and her voice dropped and trembled.
Poor Mr. Henry, who had made rather a heavy figure through the
meal, was more concerned than ever; pleased to see his wife
withdraw, and yet half displeased, as he thought upon the cause of
it; and the next moment altogether dashed by the fervour of her
On my part, I thought I was now one too many; and was stealing
after Mrs. Henry, when the Master saw me.
"Now, Mr. Mackellar," says he, "I take this near on an
unfriendliness. I cannot have you go: this is to make a stranger
of the prodigal son; and let me remind you where - in his own
father's house! Come, sit ye down, and drink another glass with
Mr. Bally."
"Ay, ay, Mr. Mackellar," says my lord, "we must not make a stranger
either of him or you. I have been telling my son," he added, his
voice brightening as usual on the word, "how much we valued all
your friendly service."
So I sat there, silent, till my usual hour; and might have been
almost deceived in the man's nature but for one passage, in which
his perfidy appeared too plain. Here was the passage; of which,
after what he knows of the brothers' meeting, the reader shall
consider for himself. Mr. Henry sitting somewhat dully, in spite
of his best endeavours to carry things before my lord, up jumps the
Master, passes about the board, and claps his brother on the
"Come, come, HAIRRY LAD," says he, with a broad accent such as they
must have used together when they were boys, "you must not be
downcast because your brother has come home. All's yours, that's
sure enough, and little I grudge it you. Neither must you grudge
me my place beside my father's fire."
"And that is too true, Henry," says my old lord with a little
frown, a thing rare with him. "You have been the elder brother of
the parable in the good sense; you must be careful of the other."
"I am easily put in the wrong," said Mr. Henry.
"Who puts you in the wrong?" cried my lord, I thought very tartly
for so mild a man. "You have earned my gratitude and your
brother's many thousand times: you may count on its endurance; and
let that suffice."
"Ay, Harry, that you may," said the Master; and I thought Mr. Henry
looked at him with a kind of wildness in his eye.
On all the miserable business that now followed, I have four
questions that I asked myself often at the time and ask myself
still:- Was the man moved by a particular sentiment against Mr.
Henry? or by what he thought to be his interest? or by a mere
delight in cruelty such as cats display and theologians tell us of
the devil? or by what he would have called love? My common opinion
halts among the three first; but perhaps there lay at the spring of
his behaviour an element of all. As thus:- Animosity to Mr. Henry
would explain his hateful usage of him when they were alone; the
interests he came to serve would explain his very different
attitude before my lord; that and some spice of a design of
gallantry, his care to stand well with Mrs. Henry; and the pleasure
of malice for itself, the pains he was continually at to mingle and
oppose these lines of conduct.
Partly because I was a very open friend to my patron, partly
because in my letters to Paris I had often given myself some
freedom of remonstrance, I was included in his diabolical
amusement. When I was alone with him, he pursued me with sneers;
before the family he used me with the extreme of friendly
condescension. This was not only painful in itself; not only did
it put me continually in the wrong; but there was in it an element
of insult indescribable. That he should thus leave me out in his
dissimulation, as though even my testimony were too despicable to
be considered, galled me to the blood. But what it was to me is
not worth notice. I make but memorandum of it here; and chiefly
for this reason, that it had one good result, and gave me the
quicker sense of Mr. Henry's martyrdom.
It was on him the burthen fell. How was he to respond to the
public advances of one who never lost a chance of gibing him in
private? How was he to smile back on the deceiver and the
insulter? He was condemned to seem ungracious. He was condemned
to silence. Had he been less proud, had he spoken, who would have
credited the truth? The acted calumny had done its work; my lord
and Mrs. Henry were the daily witnesses of what went on; they could
have sworn in court that the Master was a model of long-suffering
good-nature, and Mr. Henry a pattern of jealousy and thanklessness.
And ugly enough as these must have appeared in any one, they seemed
tenfold uglier in Mr. Henry; for who could forget that the Master
lay in peril of his life, and that he had already lost his
mistress, his title, and his fortune?
"Henry, will you ride with me?" asks the Master one day.
And Mr. Henry, who had been goaded by the man all morning, raps
out: "I will not."
"I sometimes wish you would be kinder, Henry," says the other,
I give this for a specimen; but such scenes befell continually.
Small wonder if Mr. Henry was blamed; small wonder if I fretted
myself into something near upon a bilious fever; nay, and at the
mere recollection feel a bitterness in my blood.
Sure, never in this world was a more diabolical contrivance: so
perfidious, so simple, so impossible to combat. And yet I think
again, and I think always, Mrs. Henry might have road between the
lines; she might have had more knowledge of her husband's nature;
after all these years of marriage she might have commanded or
captured his confidence. And my old lord, too - that very watchful
gentleman - where was all his observation? But, for one thing, the
deceit was practised by a master hand, and might have gulled an
angel. For another (in the case of Mrs. Henry), I have observed
there are no persons so far away as those who are both married and
estranged, so that they seem out of ear-shot or to have no common
tongue. For a third (in the case of both of these spectators),
they were blinded by old ingrained predilection. And for a fourth,
the risk the Master was supposed to stand in (supposed, I say - you
will soon hear why) made it seem the more ungenerous to criticise;
and, keeping them in a perpetual tender solicitude about his life,
blinded them the more effectually to his faults.
It was during this time that I perceived most clearly the effect of
manner, and was led to lament most deeply the plainness of my own.
Mr. Henry had the essence of a gentleman; when he was moved, when
there was any call of circumstance, he could play his part with
dignity and spirit; but in the day's commerce (it is idle to deny
it) he fell short of the ornamental. The Master (on the other
hand) had never a movement but it commanded him. So it befell that
when the one appeared gracious and the other ungracious, every
trick of their bodies seemed to call out confirmation. Not that
alone: but the more deeply Mr. Henry floundered in his brother's
toils, the more clownish he grew; and the more the Master enjoyed
his spiteful entertainment, the more engagingly, the more
smilingly, he went! So that the plot, by its own scope and
progress, furthered and confirmed itself.
It was one of the man's arts to use the peril in which (as I say)
he was supposed to stand. He spoke of it to those who loved him
with a gentle pleasantry, which made it the more touching. To Mr.
Henry he used it as a cruel weapon of offence. I remember his
laying his finger on the clean lozenge of the painted window one
day when we three were alone together in the hall. "Here went your
lucky guinea, Jacob," said he. And when Mr. Henry only looked upon
him darkly, "Oh!" he added, "you need not look such impotent
malice, my good fly. You can be rid of your spider when you
please. How long, O Lord? When are you to be wrought to the point
of a denunciation, scrupulous brother? It is one of my interests
in this dreary hole. I ever loved experiment." Still Mr. Henry
only stared upon him with a grooming brow, and a changed colour;
and at last the Master broke out in a laugh and clapped him on the
shoulder, calling him a sulky dog. At this my patron leaped back
with a gesture I thought very dangerous; and I must suppose the
Master thought so too, for he looked the least in the world
discountenance, and I do not remember him again to have laid hands
on Mr. Henry.
But though he had his peril always on his lips in the one way or
the other, I thought his conduct strangely incautious, and began to
fancy the Government - who had set a price upon his head - was gone
sound asleep. I will not deny I was tempted with the wish to
denounce him; but two thoughts withheld me: one, that if he were
thus to end his life upon an honourable scaffold, the man would be
canonised for good in the minds of his father and my patron's wife;
the other, that if I was anyway mingled in the matter, Mr. Henry
himself would scarce escape some glancings of suspicion. And in
the meanwhile our enemy went in and out more than I could have
thought possible, the fact that he was home again was buzzed about
all the country-side, and yet he was never stirred. Of all these
so-many and so-different persons who were acquainted with his
presence, none had the least greed - as I used to say in my
annoyance - or the least loyalty; and the man rode here and there -
fully more welcome, considering the lees of old unpopularity, than
Mr. Henry - and considering the freetraders, far safer than myself.
Not but what he had a trouble of his own; and this, as it brought
about the gravest consequences, I must now relate. The reader will
scarce have forgotten Jessie Broun; her way of life was much among
the smuggling party; Captain Crail himself was of her intimates;
and she had early word of Mr. Bally's presence at the house. In my
opinion, she had long ceased to care two straws for the Master's
person; but it was become her habit to connect herself continually
with the Master's name; that was the ground of all her play-acting;
and so now, when he was back, she thought she owed it to herself to
grow a haunter of the neighbourhood of Durrisdeer. The Master
could scarce go abroad but she was there in wait for him; a
scandalous figure of a woman, not often sober; hailing him wildly
as "her bonny laddie," quoting pedlar's poetry, and, as I receive
the story, even seeking to weep upon his neck. I own I rubbed my
hands over this persecution; but the Master, who laid so much upon
others, was himself the least patient of men. There were strange
scenes enacted in the policies. Some say he took his cane to her,
and Jessie fell back upon her former weapons - stones. It is
certain at least that he made a motion to Captain Crail to have the
woman trepanned, and that the Captain refused the proposition with
uncommon vehemence. And the end of the matter was victory for
Jessie. Money was got together; an interview took place, in which
my proud gentleman must consent to be kissed and wept upon; and the
woman was set up in a public of her own, somewhere on Solway side
(but I forget where), and, by the only news I ever had of it,
extremely ill-frequented.
This is to look forward. After Jessie had been but a little while
upon his heels, the Master comes to me one day in the steward's
office, and with more civility than usual, "Mackellar," says he,
"there is a damned crazy wench comes about here. I cannot well
move in the matter myself, which brings me to you. Be so good as
to see to it: the men must have a strict injunction to drive the
wench away."
"Sir," said I, trembling a little, "you can do your own dirty
errands for yourself."
He said not a word to that, and left the room.
Presently came Mr. Henry. "Here is news!" cried he. "It seems all
is not enough, and you must add to my wretchedness. It seems you
have insulted Mr. Bally."
"Under your kind favour, Mr. Henry," said I, "it was he that
insulted me, and, as I think, grossly. But I may have been
careless of your position when I spoke; and if you think so when
you know all, my dear patron, you have but to say the word. For
you I would obey in any point whatever, even to sin, God pardon
me!" And thereupon I told him what had passed.
Mr. Henry smiled to himself; a grimmer smile I never witnessed.
"You did exactly well," said he. "He shall drink his Jessie Broun
to the dregs." And then, spying the Master outside, he opened the
window, and crying to him by the name of Mr. Bally, asked him to
step up and have a word.
"James," said he, when our persecutor had come in and closed the
door behind him, looking at me with a smile, as if he thought I was
to be humbled, "you brought me a complaint against Mr. Mackellar,
into which I have inquired. I need not tell you I would always
take his word against yours; for we are alone, and I am going to
use something of your own freedom. Mr. Mackellar is a gentleman I
value; and you must contrive, so long as you are under this roof,
to bring yourself into no more collisions with one whom I will
support at any possible cost to me or mine. As for the errand upon
which you came to him, you must deliver yourself from the
consequences of your own cruelty, and, none of my servants shall be
at all employed in such a case."
"My father's servants, I believe," says the Master.
"Go to him with this tale," said Mr. Henry.
The Master grew very white. He pointed at me with his finger. "I
want that man discharged," he said.
"He shall not be," said Mr. Henry.
"You shall pay pretty dear for this," says the Master.
"I have paid so dear already for a wicked brother," said Mr. Henry,
"that I am bankrupt even of fears. You have no place left where
you can strike me."
"I will show you about that," says the Master, and went softly
"What will he do next, Mackellar?" cries Mr. Henry.
"Let me go away," said I. "My dear patron, let me go away; I am
but the beginning of fresh sorrows."
"Would you leave me quite alone?" said he.
We were not long in suspense as to the nature of the new assault.
Up to that hour the Master had played a very close game with Mrs.
Henry; avoiding pointedly to be alone with her, which I took at the
time for an effect of decency, but now think to be a most insidious
art; meeting her, you may say, at meal-time only; and behaving,
when he did so, like an affectionate brother. Up to that hour, you
may say he had scarce directly interfered between Mr. Henry and his
wife; except in so far as he had manoeuvred the one quite forth
from the good graces of the other. Now all that was to be changed;
but whether really in revenge, or because he was wearying of
Durrisdeer and looked about for some diversion, who but the devil
shall decide?
From that hour, at least, began the siege of Mrs. Henry; a thing so
deftly carried on that I scarce know if she was aware of it
herself, and that her husband must look on in silence. The first
parallel was opened (as was made to appear) by accident. The talk
fell, as it did often, on the exiles in France; so it glided to the
matter of their songs.
"There is one," says the Master, "if you are curious in these
matters, that has always seemed to me very moving. The poetry is
harsh; and yet, perhaps because of my situation, it has always
found the way to my heart. It is supposed to be sung, I should
tell you, by an exile's sweetheart; and represents perhaps, not so
much the truth of what she is thinking, as the truth of what he
hopes of her, poor soul! in these far lands." And here the Master
sighed, "I protest it is a pathetic sight when a score of rough
Irish, all common sentinels, get to this song; and you may see, by
their falling tears, how it strikes home to them. It goes thus,
father," says he, very adroitly taking my lord for his listener,
"and if I cannot get to the end of it, you must think it is a
common case with us exiles." And thereupon he struck up the same
air as I had heard the Colonel whistle; but now to words, rustic
indeed, yet most pathetically setting forth a poor girl's
aspirations for an exiled lover; of which one verse indeed (or
something like it) still sticks by me:-
O, I will dye my petticoat red,
With my dear boy I'll beg my bread,
Though all my friends should wish me dead,
For Willie among the rushes, O!
He sang it well, even as a song; but he did better yet a performer.
I have heard famous actors, when there was not a dry eye in the
Edinburgh theatre; a great wonder to behold; but no more wonderful
than how the Master played upon that little ballad, and on those
who heard him, like an instrument, and seemed now upon the point of
failing, and now to conquer his distress, so that words and music
seemed to pour out of his own heart and his own past, and to be
aimed directly at Mrs. Henry. And his art went further yet; for
all was so delicately touched, it seemed impossible to suspect him
of the least design; and so far from making a parade of emotion,
you would have sworn he was striving to be calm. When it came to
an end, we all sat silent for a time; he had chosen the dusk of the
afternoon, so that none could see his neighbour's face; but it
seemed as if we held our breathing; only my old lord cleared his
throat. The first to move was the singer, who got to his feet
suddenly and softly, and went and walked softly to and fro in the
low end of the hall, Mr. Henry's customary place. We were to
suppose that he there struggled down the last of his emotion; for
he presently returned and launched into a disquisition on the
nature of the Irish (always so much miscalled, and whom he
defended) in his natural voice; so that, before the lights were
brought, we were in the usual course of talk. But even then,
methought Mrs. Henry's face was a shade pale; and, for another
thing, she withdrew almost at once.
The next sign was a friendship this insidious devil struck up with
innocent Miss Katharine; so that they were always together, hand in
hand, or she climbing on his knee, like a pair of children. Like
all his diabolical acts, this cut in several ways. It was the last
stroke to Mr. Henry, to see his own babe debauched against him; it
made him harsh with the poor innocent, which brought him still a
peg lower in his wife's esteem; and (to conclude) it was a bond of
union between the lady and the Master. Under this influence, their
old reserve melted by daily stages. Presently there came walks in
the long shrubbery, talks in the Belvedere, and I know not what
tender familiarity. I am sure Mrs. Henry was like many a good
woman; she had a whole conscience but perhaps by the means of a
little winking. For even to so dull an observer as myself, it was
plain her kindness was of a more moving nature than the sisterly.
The tones of her voice appeared more numerous; she had a light and
softness in her eye; she was more gentle with all of us, even with
Mr. Henry, even with myself; methought she breathed of some quiet
melancholy happiness.
To look on at this, what a torment it was for Mr. Henry! And yet
it brought our ultimate deliverance, as I am soon to tell.
The purport of the Master's stay was no more noble (gild it as they
might) than to wring money out. He had some design of a fortune in
the French Indies, as the Chevalier wrote me; and it was the sum
required for this that he came seeking. For the rest of the family
it spelled ruin; but my lord, in his incredible partiality, pushed
ever for the granting. The family was now so narrowed down
(indeed, there were no more of them than just the father and the
two sons) that it was possible to break the entail and alienate a
piece of land. And to this, at first by hints, and then by open
pressure, Mr. Henry was brought to consent. He never would have
done so, I am very well assured, but for the weight of the distress
under which he laboured. But for his passionate eagerness to see
his brother gone, he would not thus have broken with his own
sentiment and the traditions of his house. And even so, he sold
them his consent at a dear rate, speaking for once openly, and
holding the business up in its own shameful colours.
"You will observe," he said, "this is an injustice to my son, if
ever I have one."
"But that you are not likely to have," said my lord.
"God knows!" says Mr. Henry. "And considering the cruel falseness
of the position in which I stand to my brother, and that you, my
lord, are my father, and have the right to command me, I set my
hand to this paper. But one thing I will say first: I have been
ungenerously pushed, and when next, my lord, you are tempted to
compare your sons, I call on you to remember what I have done and
what he has done. Acts are the fair test."
My lord was the most uneasy man I ever saw; even in his old face
the blood came up. "I think this is not a very wisely chosen
moment, Henry, for complaints," said he. "This takes away from the
merit of your generosity."
"Do not deceive yourself, my lord," said Mr. Henry. "This
injustice is not done from generosity to him, but in obedience to
"Before strangers . . . " begins my lord, still more unhappily
"There is no one but Mackellar here," said Mr. Henry; "he is my
friend. And, my lord, as you make him no stranger to your frequent
blame, it were hard if I must keep him one to a thing so rare as my
Almost I believe my lord would have rescinded his decision; but the
Master was on the watch.
"Ah! Henry, Henry," says he, "you are the best of us still.
Rugged and true! Ah! man, I wish I was as good."
And at that instance of his favourite's generosity my lord desisted
from his hesitation, and the deed was signed.
As soon as it could he brought about, the land of Ochterhall was
sold for much below its value, and the money paid over to our leech
and sent by some private carriage into France. Or so he said;
though I have suspected since it did not go so far. And now here
was all the man's business brought to a successful head, and his
pockets once more bulging with our gold; and yet the point for
which we had consented to this sacrifice was still denied us, and
the visitor still lingered on at Durrisdeer. Whether in malice, or
because the time was not yet come for his adventure to the Indies,
or because he had hopes of his design on Mrs. Henry, or from the
orders of the Government, who shall say? but linger he did, and
that for weeks.
You will observe I say: from the orders of Government; for about
this time the man's disreputable secret trickled out.
The first hint I had was from a tenant, who commented on the
Master's stay, and yet more on his security; for this tenant was a
Jacobitish sympathiser, and had lost a son at Culloden, which gave
him the more critical eye. "There is one thing," said he, "that I
cannot but think strange; and that is how he got to Cockermouth."
"To Cockermouth?" said I, with a sudden memory of my first wonder
on beholding the man disembark so point-de-vice after so long a
"Why, yes," says the tenant, "it was there he was picked up by
Captain Crail. You thought he had come from France by sea? And so
we all did."
I turned this news a little in my head, and then carried it to Mr.
Henry. "Here is an odd circumstance," said I, and told him.
"What matters how he came, Mackellar, so long as he is here?"
groans Mr. Henry.
"No, sir," said I, "but think again! Does not this smack a little
of some Government connivance? You know how much we have wondered
already at the man's security."
"Stop," said Mr. Henry. "Let me think of this." And as he
thought, there came that grim smile upon his face that was a little
like the Master's. "Give me paper," said he. And he sat without
another word and wrote to a gentleman of his acquaintance - I will
name no unnecessary names, but he was one in a high place. This
letter I despatched by the only hand I could depend upon in such a
case - Macconochie's; and the old man rode hard, for he was back
with the reply before even my eagerness had ventured to expect him.
Again, as he read it, Mr. Henry had the same grim smile.
"This is the best you have done for me yet, Mackellar," says he.
"With this in my hand I will give him a shog. Watch for us at
At dinner accordingly Mr. Henry proposed some very public
appearance for the Master; and my lord, as he had hoped, objected
to the danger of the course.
"Oh!" says Mr. Henry, very easily, "you need no longer keep this up
with me. I am as much in the secret as yourself."
"In the secret?" says my lord. "What do you mean, Henry? I give
you my word, I am in no secret from which you are excluded."
The Master had changed countenance, and I saw he was struck in a
joint of his harness.
"How?" says Mr. Henry, turning to him with a huge appearance of
surprise. "I see you serve your masters very faithfully; but I had
thought you would have been humane enough to set your father's mind
at rest."
"What are you talking of? I refuse to have my business publicly
discussed. I order this to cease," cries the Master very foolishly
and passionately, and indeed more like a child than a man.
"So much discretion was not looked for at your hands, I can assure
you," continued Mr. Henry. "For see what my correspondent writes"
- unfolding the paper - "'It is, of course, in the interests both
of the Government and the gentleman whom we may perhaps best
continue to call Mr. Bally, to keep this understanding secret; but
it was never meant his own family should continue to endure the
suspense you paint so feelingly; and I am pleased mine should be
the hand to set these fears at rest. Mr. Bally is as safe in Great
Britain as yourself.'"
"Is this possible?" cries my lord, looking at his son, with a great
deal of wonder and still more of suspicion in his face.
"My dear father," says the Master, already much recovered. "I am
overjoyed that this may be disclosed. My own instructions, direct
from London, bore a very contrary sense, and I was charged to keep
the indulgence secret from every one, yourself not excepted, and
indeed yourself expressly named - as I can show in black and white
unless I have destroyed the letter. They must have changed their
mind very swiftly, for the whole matter is still quite fresh; or
rather, Henry's correspondent must have misconceived that part, as
he seems to have misconceived the rest. To tell you the truth,
sir," he continued, getting visibly more easy, "I had supposed this
unexplained favour to a rebel was the effect of some application
from yourself; and the injunction to secrecy among my family the
result of a desire on your part to conceal your kindness. Hence I
was the more careful to obey orders. It remains now to guess by
what other channel indulgence can have flowed on so notorious an
offender as myself; for I do not think your son need defend himself
from what seems hinted at in Henry's letter. I have never yet
heard of a Durrisdeer who was a turncoat or a spy," says he,
And so it seemed he had swum out of this danger unharmed; but this
was to reckon without a blunder he had made, and without the
pertinacity of Mr. Henry, who was now to show he had something of
his brother's spirit.
"You say the matter is still fresh," says Mr. Henry.
"It is recent," says the Master, with a fair show of stoutness and
yet not without a quaver.
"Is it so recent as that?" asks Mr. Henry, like a man a little
puzzled, and spreading his letter forth again.
In all the letter there was no word as to the date; but how was the
Master to know that?
"It seemed to come late enough for me," says he, with a laugh. And
at the sound of that laugh, which rang false, like a cracked bell,
my lord looked at him again across the table, and I saw his old
lips draw together close.
"No," said Mr. Henry, still glancing on his letter, "but I remember
your expression. You said it was very fresh."
And here we had a proof of our victory, and the strongest instance
yet of my lord's incredible indulgence; for what must he do but
interfere to save his favourite from exposure!
"I think, Henry," says he, with a kind of pitiful eagerness, "I
think we need dispute no more. We are all rejoiced at last to find
your brother safe; we are all at one on that; and, as grateful
subjects, we can do no less than drink to the king's health and
Thus was the Master extricated; but at least he had been put to his
defence, he had come lamely out, and the attraction of his personal
danger was now publicly plucked away from him. My lord, in his
heart of hearts, now knew his favourite to be a Government spy; and
Mrs. Henry (however she explained the tale) was notably cold in her
behaviour to the discredited hero of romance. Thus in the best
fabric of duplicity, there is some weak point, if you can strike
it, which will loosen all; and if, by this fortunate stroke, we had
not shaken the idol, who can say how it might have gone with us at
the catastrophe?
And yet at the time we seemed to have accomplished nothing. Before
a day or two he had wiped off the ill-results of his discomfiture,
and, to all appearance, stood as high as ever. As for my Lord
Durrisdeer, he was sunk in parental partiality; it was not so much
love, which should be an active quality, as an apathy and torpor of
his other powers; and forgiveness (so to mis-apply a noble word)
flowed from him in sheer weakness, like the tears of senility.
Mrs. Henry's was a different case; and Heaven alone knows what he
found to say to her, or how he persuaded her from her contempt. It
is one of the worst things of sentiment, that the voice grows to be
more important than the words, and the speaker than that which is
spoken. But some excuse the Master must have found, or perhaps he
had even struck upon some art to wrest this exposure to his own
advantage; for after a time of coldness, it seemed as if things
went worse than ever between him and Mrs. Henry. They were then
constantly together. I would not be thought to cut one shadow of
blame, beyond what is due to a half-wilful blindness, on that
unfortunate lady; but I do think, in these last days, she was
playing very near the fire; and whether I be wrong or not in that,
one thing is sure and quite sufficient: Mr. Henry thought so. The
poor gentleman sat for days in my room, so great a picture of
distress that I could never venture to address him; yet it is to be
thought he found some comfort even in my presence and the knowledge
of my sympathy. There were times, too, when we talked, and a
strange manner of talk it was; there was never a person named, nor
an individual circumstance referred to; yet we had the same matter
in our minds, and we were each aware of it. It is a strange art
that can thus be practised; to talk for hours of a thing, and never
name nor yet so much as hint at it. And I remember I wondered if
it was by some such natural skill that the Master made love to Mrs.
Henry all day long (as he manifestly did), yet never startled her
into reserve.
To show how far affairs had gone with Mr. Henry, I will give some
words of his, uttered (as I have cause not to forget) upon the 26th
of February, 1757. It was unseasonable weather, a cast back into
Winter: windless, bitter cold, the world all white with rime, the
sky low and gray . the sea black and silent like a quarry-hole.
Mr. Henry sat close by the fire, and debated (as was now common
with him) whether "a man" should "do things," whether "interference
was wise," and the like general propositions, which each of us
particularly applied. I was by the window, looking out, when there
passed below me the Master, Mrs. Henry, and Miss Katharine, that
now constant trio. The child was running to and fro, delighted
with the frost; the Master spoke close in the lady's ear with what
seemed (even from so far) a devilish grace of insinuation; and she
on her part looked on the ground like a person lost in listening.
I broke out of my reserve.
"If I were you, Mr. Henry," said I, "I would deal openly with my
"Mackellar, Mackellar," said he, "you do not see the weakness of my
ground. I can carry no such base thoughts to any one - to my
father least of all; that would be to fall into the bottom of his
scorn. The weakness of my ground," he continued, "lies in myself,
that I am not one who engages love. I have their gratitude, they
all tell me that; I have a rich estate of it! But I am not present
in their minds; they are moved neither to think with me nor to
think for me. There is my loss!" He got to his feet, and trod
down the fire. "But some method must be found, Mackellar," said
he, looking at me suddenly over his shoulder; "some way must be
found. I am a man of a great deal of patience - far too much - far
too much. I begin to despise myself. And yet, sure, never was a
man involved in such a toil!" He fell back to his brooding.
"Cheer up," said I. "It will burst of itself."
"I am far past anger now," says he, which had so little coherency
with my own observation that I let both fall.
27TH, 1757.
On the evening of the interview referred to, the Master went
abroad; he was abroad a great deal of the next day also, that fatal
27th; but where he went, or what he did, we never concerned
ourselves to ask until next day. If we had done so, and by any
chance found out, it might have changed all. But as all we did was
done in ignorance, and should be so judged, I shall so narrate
these passages as they appeared to us in the moment of their birth,
and reserve all that I since discovered for the time of its
discovery. For I have now come to one of the dark parts of my
narrative, and must engage the reader's indulgence for my patron.
All the 27th that rigorous weather endured: a stifling cold; the
folk passing about like smoking chimneys; the wide hearth in the
hall piled high with fuel; some of the spring birds that had
already blundered north into our neighbourhood, besieging the
windows of the house or trotting on the frozen turf like things
distracted. About noon there came a blink of sunshine, showing a
very pretty, wintry, frosty landscape of white hills and woods,
with Crail's lugger waiting for a wind under the Craig Head, and
the smoke mounting straight into the air from every farm and
cottage. With the coming of night, the haze closed in overhead; it
fell dark and still and starless, and exceeding cold: a night the
most unseasonable, fit for strange events.
Mrs. Henry withdrew, as was now her custom, very early. We had set
ourselves of late to pass the evening with a game of cards; another
mark that our visitor was wearying mightily of the life at
Durrisdeer; and we had not been long at this when my old lord
slipped from his place beside the fire, and was off without a word
to seek the warmth of bed. The three thus left together had
neither love nor courtesy to share; not one of us would have sat up
one instant to oblige another; yet from the influence of custom,
and as the cards had just been dealt, we continued the form of
playing out the round. I should say we were late sitters; and
though my lord had departed earlier than was his custom, twelve was
already gone some time upon the clock, and the servants long ago in
bed. Another thing I should say, that although I never saw the
Master anyway affected with liquor, he had been drinking freely,
and was perhaps (although he showed it not) a trifle heated.
Anyway, he now practised one of his transitions; and so soon as the
door closed behind my lord, and without the smallest change of
voice, shifted from ordinary civil talk into a stream of insult.
"My dear Henry, it is yours to play," he had been saying, and now
continued: "It is a very strange thing how, even in so small a
matter as a game of cards, you display your rusticity. You play,
Jacob, like a bonnet laird, or a sailor in a tavern. The same
dulness, the same petty greed, CETTE LENTEUR D'HEBETE QUI ME FAIT
RAGER; it is strange I should have such a brother. Even Squaretoes
has a certain vivacity when his stake is imperilled; but the
dreariness of a game with you I positively lack language to
Mr. Henry continued to look at his cards, as though very maturely
considering some play; but his mind was elsewhere.
"Dear God, will this never be done?" cries the Master. "QUEL
LOURDEAU! But why do I trouble you with French expressions, which
are lost on such an ignoramus? A LOURDEAU, my dear brother, is as
we might say a bumpkin, a clown, a clodpole: a fellow without
grace, lightness, quickness; any gift of pleasing, any natural
brilliancy: such a one as you shall see, when you desire, by
looking in the mirror. I tell you these things for your good, I
assure you; and besides, Square-toes" (looking at me and stifling a
yawn), "it is one of my diversions in this very dreary spot to
toast you and your master at the fire like chestnuts. I have great
pleasure in your case, for I observe the nickname (rustic as it is)
has always the power to make you writhe. But sometimes I have more
trouble with this dear fellow here, who seems to have gone to sleep
upon his cards. Do you not see the applicability of the epithet I
have just explained, dear Henry? Let me show you. For instance,
with all those solid qualities which I delight to recognise in you,
I never knew a woman who did not prefer me - nor, I think," he
continued, with the most silken deliberation, "I think - who did
not continue to prefer me."
Mr. Henry laid down his cards. He rose to his feet very softly,
and seemed all the while like a person in deep thought. "You
coward!" he said gently, as if to himself. And then, with neither
hurry nor any particular violence, he struck the Master in the
The Master sprang to his feet like one transfigured; I had never
seen the man so beautiful. "A blow!" he cried. "I would not take
a blow from God Almighty!"
"Lower your voice," said Mr. Henry. "Do you wish my father to
interfere for you again?"
"Gentlemen, gentlemen," I cried, and sought to come between them.
The Master caught me by the shoulder, held me at arm's length, and
still addressing his brother: "Do you know what this means?" said
"It was the most deliberate act of my life," says Mr. Henry.
"I must have blood, I must have blood for this," says the Master.
"Please God it shall be yours," said Mr. Henry; and he went to the
wall and took down a pair of swords that hung there with others,
naked. These he presented to the Master by the points. "Mackellar
shall see us play fair," said Mr. Henry. "I think it very
"You need insult me no more," said the Master, taking one of the
swords at random. "I have hated you all my life."
"My father is but newly gone to bed," said Mr. Henry. "We must go
somewhere forth of the house."
"There is an excellent place in the long shrubbery," said the
"Gentlemen," said I, "shame upon you both! Sons of the same
mother, would you turn against the life she gave you?"
"Even so, Mackellar," said Mr. Henry, with the same perfect
quietude of manner he had shown throughout.
"It is what I will prevent," said I.
And now here is a blot upon my life. At these words of mine the
Master turned his blade against my bosom; I saw the light run along
the steel; and I threw up my arms and fell to my knees before him
on the floor. "No, no," I cried, like a baby.
"We shall have no more trouble with him," said the Master. "It is
a good thing to have a coward in the house."
"We must have light," said Mr. Henry, as though there had been no
"This trembler can bring a pair of candles," said the Master.
To my shame be it said, I was still so blinded with the flashing of
that bare sword that I volunteered to bring a lantern.
"We do not need a l-l-lantern," says the Master, mocking me.
"There is no breath of air. Come, get to your feet, take a pair of
lights, and go before. I am close behind with this - " making. the
blade glitter as he spoke.
I took up the candlesticks and went before them, steps that I would
give my hand to recall; but a coward is a slave at the best; and
even as I went, my teeth smote each other in my mouth. It was as
he had said: there was no breath stirring; a windless stricture of
frost had bound the air; and as we went forth in the shine of the
candles, the blackness was like a roof over our heads. Never a
word was said; there was never a sound but the creaking of our
steps along the frozen path. The cold of the night fell about me
like a bucket of water; I shook as I went with more than terror;
but my companions, bare-headed like myself, and fresh from the warm
ball, appeared not even conscious of the change.
"Here is the place," said the Master. "Set down the candles."
I did as he bid me, and presently the flames went up, as steady as
in a chamber, in the midst of the frosted trees, and I beheld these
two brothers take their places.
"The light is something in my eyes," said the Master.
"I will give you every advantage," replied Mr. Henry, shifting his
ground, "for I think you are about to die." He spoke rather sadly
than otherwise, yet there was a ring in his voice.
"Henry Durie," said the Master, "two words before I begin. You are
a fencer, you can hold a foil; you little know what a change it
makes to hold a sword! And by that I know you are to fall. But
see how strong is my situation! If you fall, I shift out of this
country to where my money is before me. If I fall, where are you?
My father, your wife - who is in love with me, as you very well
know - your child even, who prefers me to yourself:- how will these
avenge me! Had you thought of that, dear Henry?" He looked at his
brother with a smile; then made a fencing-room salute.
Never a word said Mr. Henry, but saluted too, and the swords rang
I am no judge of the play; my head, besides, was gone with cold and
fear and horror; but it seems that Mr. Henry took and kept the
upper hand from the engagement, crowding in upon his foe with a
contained and glowing fury. Nearer and nearer he crept upon the
man, till of a sudden the Master leaped back with a little sobbing
oath; and I believe the movement brought the light once more
against his eyes. To it they went again, on the fresh ground; but
now methought closer, Mr. Henry pressing more outrageously, the
Master beyond doubt with shaken confidence. For it is beyond doubt
he now recognised himself for lost, and had some taste of the cold
agony of fear; or he had never attempted the foul stroke. I cannot
say I followed it, my untrained eye was never quick enough to seize
details, but it appears he caught his brother's blade with his left
hand, a practice not permitted. Certainly Mr. Henry only saved
himself by leaping on one side; as certainly the Master, lunging in
the air, stumbled on his knee, and before he could move the sword
was through his body.
I cried out with a stifled scream, and ran in; but the body was
already fallen to the ground, where it writhed a moment like a
trodden worm, and then lay motionless.
"Look at his left hand." said Mr. Henry.
"It is all bloody," said I.
"On the inside?" said he.
"It is cut on the inside," said I.
"I thought so," said he, and turned his back.
I opened the man's clothes; the heart was quite still, it gave not
a flutter.
"God forgive us, Mr. Henry!" said I. "He is dead."
"Dead?" he repeated, a little stupidly; and then with a rising
tone, "Dead? dead?" says he, and suddenly cast his bloody sword
upon the ground.
"What must we do?" said I. "Be yourself, sir. It is too late now:
you must be yourself."
He turned and stared at me. "Oh, Mackellar!" says he, and put his
face in his hands.
I plucked him by the coat. "For God's sake, for all our sakes, be
more courageous!" said I. "What must we do?"
He showed me his face with the same stupid stare.
"Do?" says he. And with that his eye fell on the body, and "Oh!"
he cries out, with his hand to his brow, as if he had never
remembered; and, turning from me, made off towards the house of
Durrisdeer at a strange stumbling run.
I stood a moment mused; then it seemed to me my duty lay most plain
on the side of the living; and I ran after him, leaving the candles
on the frosty ground and the body lying in their light under the
trees. But run as I pleased, he had the start of me, and was got
into the house, and up to the hall, where I found him standing
before the fire with his face once more in his hands, and as he so
stood he visibly shuddered.
"Mr. Henry, Mr. Henry," I said, "this will be the ruin of us all."
"What is this that I have done?" cries he, and then looking upon me
with a countenance that I shall never forget, "Who is to tell the
old man?" he said.
The word knocked at my heart; but it was no time for weakness. I
went and poured him out a glass of brandy. "Drink that," said I,
"drink it down." I forced him to swallow it like a child; and,
being still perished with the cold of the night, I followed his
"It has to be told, Mackellar," said he. "It must be told." And
he fell suddenly in a seat - my old lord's seat by the chimney-side
- and was shaken with dry sobs.
Dismay came upon my soul; it was plain there was no help in Mr.
Henry. "Well," said I, "sit there, and leave all to me." And
taking a candle in my hand, I set forth out of the room in the dark
house. There was no movement; I must suppose that all had gone
unobserved; and I was now to consider how to smuggle through the
rest with the like secrecy. It was no hour for scruples; and I
opened my lady's door without so much as a knock, and passed boldly
"There is some calamity happened," she cried, sitting up in bed.
"Madam," said I, "I will go forth again into the passage; and do
you get as quickly as you can into your clothes. There is much to
be done."
She troubled me with no questions, nor did she keep me waiting.
Ere I had time to prepare a word of that which I must say to her,
she was on the threshold signing me to enter.
"Madam," said I, "if you cannot be very brave, I must go elsewhere;
for if no one helps me to-night, there is an end of the house of
"I am very courageous," said she; and she looked at me with a sort
of smile, very painful to see, but very brave too.
"It has come to a duel," said I.
"A duel?" she repeated. "A duel! Henry and - "
"And the Master," said I. "Things have been borne so long, things
of which you know nothing, which you would not believe if I should
tell. But to-night it went too far, and when he insulted you - "
"Stop," said she. "He? Who?"
"Oh! madam," cried I, my bitterness breaking forth, "do you ask me
such a question? Indeed, then, I may go elsewhere for help; there
is none here!"
"I do not know in what I have offended you," said she. "Forgive
me; put me out of this suspense."
But I dared not tell her yet; I felt not sure of her; and at the
doubt, and under the sense of impotence it brought with it, I
turned on the poor woman with something near to anger.
"Madam," said I, "we are speaking of two men: one of them insulted
you, and you ask me which. I will help you to the answer. With
one of these men you have spent all your hours: has the other
reproached you? To one you have been always kind; to the other, as
God sees me and judges between us two, I think not always: has his
love ever failed you? To-night one of these two men told the
other, in my hearing - the hearing of a hired stranger, - that you
were in love with him. Before I say one word, you shall answer
your own question: Which was it? Nay, madam, you shall answer me
another: If it has come to this dreadful end, whose fault is it?"
She stared at me like one dazzled. "Good God!" she said once, in a
kind of bursting exclamation; and then a second time in a whisper
to herself: "Great God! - In the name of mercy, Mackellar, what is
wrong?" she cried. "I am made up; I can hear all."
"You are not fit to hear," said I. "Whatever it was, you shall say
first it was your fault."
"Oh!" she cried, with a gesture of wringing her hands, "this man
will drive me mad! Can you not put me out of your thoughts?"
"I think not once of you," I cried. "I think of none but my dear
unhappy master."
"Ah!" she cried, with her hand to her heart, "is Henry dead?"
"Lower your voice," said I. "The other."
I saw her sway like something stricken by the wind; and I know not
whether in cowardice or misery, turned aside and looked upon the
floor. "These are dreadful tidings," said I at length, when her
silence began to put me in some fear; "and you and I behove to be
the more bold if the house is to be saved." Still she answered
nothing. "There is Miss Katharine, besides," I added: "unless we
bring this matter through, her inheritance is like to be of shame."
I do not know if it was the thought of her child or the naked word
shame, that gave her deliverance; at least, I had no sooner spoken
than a sound passed her lips, the like of it I never heard; it was
as though she had lain buried under a hill and sought to move that
burthen. And the next moment she had found a sort of voice.
"It was a fight," she whispered. "It was not - " and she paused
upon the word.
"It was a fair fight on my dear master's part," said I. "As for
the other, he was slain in the very act of a foul stroke."
"Not now!" she cried.
"Madam," said I, "hatred of that man glows in my bosom like a
burning fire; ay, even now he is dead. God knows, I would have
stopped the fighting, had I dared. It is my shame I did not. But
when I saw him fall, if I could have spared one thought from
pitying of my master, it had been to exult in that deliverance."
I do not know if she marked; but her next words were, "My lord?"
"That shall be my part," said I.
"You will not speak to him as you have to me?" she asked.
"Madam," said I, "have you not some one else to think of? Leave my
lord to me."
"Some one else?" she repeated.
"Your husband," said I. She looked at me with a countenance
illegible. "Are you going to turn your back on him?" I asked.
Still she looked at me; then her hand went to her heart again.
"No," said she.
"God bless you for that word!" I said. "Go to him now, where he
sits in the hall; speak to him - it matters not what you say; give
him your hand; say, 'I know all;' - if God gives you grace enough,
say, 'Forgive me.'"
"God strengthen you, and make you merciful," said she. "I will go
to my husband."
"Let me light you there," said I, taking up the candle.
"I will find my way in the dark," she said, with a shudder, and I
think the shudder was at me.
So we separated - she down stairs to where a little light glimmered
in the hall-door, I along the passage to my lord's room. It seems
hard to say why, but I could not burst in on the old man as I could
on the young woman; with whatever reluctance, I must knock. But
his old slumbers were light, or perhaps he slept not; and at the
first summons I was bidden enter.
He, too, sat up in bed; very aged and bloodless he looked; and
whereas he had a certain largeness of appearance when dressed for
daylight, he now seemed frail and little, and his face (the wig
being laid aside) not bigger than a child's. This daunted me; nor
less, the haggard surmise of misfortune in his eye. Yet his voice
was even peaceful as he inquired my errand. I set my candle down
upon a chair, leaned on the bed-foot, and looked at him.
"Lord Durrisdeer," said I, "it is very well known to you that I am
a partisan in your family."
"I hope we are none of us partisans," said he. "That you love my
son sincerely, I have always been glad to recognise."
"Oh! my lord, we are past the hour of these civilities," I replied.
"If we are to save anything out of the fire, we must look the fact
in its bare countenance. A partisan I am; partisans we have all
been; it is as a partisan that I am here in the middle of the night
to plead before you. Hear me; before I go, I will tell you why."
"I would always hear you, Mr. Mackellar," said he, "and that at any
hour, whether of the day or night, for I would be always sure you
had a reason. You spoke once before to very proper purpose; I have
not forgotten that."
"I am here to plead the cause of my master," I said. "I need not
tell you how he acts. You know how he is placed. You know with
what generosity, he has always met your other - met your wishes," I
corrected myself, stumbling at that name of son. "You know - you
must know - what he has suffered - what he has suffered about his
"Mr. Mackellar!" cried my lord, rising in bed like a bearded lion.
"You said you would hear me," I continued. "What you do not know,
what you should know, one of the things I am here to speak of, is
the persecution he must bear in private. Your back is not turned
before one whom I dare not name to you falls upon him with the most
unfeeling taunts; twits him - pardon me, my lord - twits him with
your partiality, calls him Jacob, calls him clown, pursues him with
ungenerous raillery, not to be borne by man. And let but one of
you appear, instantly he changes; and my master must smile and
courtesy to the man who has been feeding him with insults; I know,
for I have shared in some of it, and I tell you the life is
insupportable. All these months it has endured; it began with the
man's landing; it was by the name of Jacob that my master was
greeted the first night."
My lord made a movement as if to throw aside the clothes and rise.
"If there be any truth in this - " said he.
"Do I look like a man lying?" I interrupted, checking him with my
"You should have told me at first," he odd.
"Ah, my lord! indeed I should, and you may well hate the face of
this unfaithful servant!" I cried.
"I will take order," said he, "at once." And again made the
movement to rise.
Again I checked him. "I have not done," said I. "Would God I had!
All this my dear, unfortunate patron has endured without help or
countenance. Your own best word, my lord, was only gratitude. Oh,
but he was your son, too! He had no other father. He was hated in
the country, God knows how unjustly. He had a loveless marriage.
He stood on all hands without affection or support - dear,
generous, ill-fated, noble heart!"
"Your tears do you much honour and me much shame," says my lord,
with a palsied trembling. "But you do me some injustice. Henry
has been ever dear to me, very dear. James (I do not deny it, Mr.
Mackellar), James is perhaps dearer; you have not seen my James in
quite a favourable light; he has suffered under his misfortunes;
and we can only remember how great and how unmerited these were.
And even now his is the more affectionate nature. But I will not
speak of him. All that you say of Henry is most true; I do not
wonder, I know him to be very magnanimous; you will say I trade
upon the knowledge? It is possible; there are dangerous virtues:
virtues that tempt the encroacher. Mr. Mackellar, I will make it
up to him; I will take order with all this. I have been weak; and,
what is worse, I have been dull!"
"I must not hear you blame yourself, my lord, with that which I
have yet to tell upon my conscience," I replied. "You have not
been weak; you have been abused by a devilish dissembler. You saw
yourself how he had deceived you in the matter of his danger; he
has deceived you throughout in every step of his career. I wish to
pluck him from your heart; I wish to force your eyes upon your
other son; ah, you have a son there!"
"No, no" said he, "two sons - I have two sons."
I made some gesture of despair that struck him; he looked at me
with a changed face. "There is much worse behind?" he asked, his
voice dying as it rose upon the question.
"Much worse," I answered. "This night he said these words to Mr.
Henry: 'I have never known a woman who did not prefer me to you,
and I think who did not continue to prefer me.'"
"I will hear nothing against my daughter," he cried; and from his
readiness to stop me in this direction, I conclude his eyes were
not so dull as I had fancied, and he had looked not without anxiety
upon the siege of Mrs. Henry.
"I think not of blaming her," cried I. "It is not that. These
words were said in my hearing to Mr. Henry; and if you find them
not yet plain enough, these others but a little after: Your wife,
who is in love with me!'"
"They have quarrelled?" he said.
I nodded.
"I must fly to them," he said, beginning once again to leave his
"No, no!" I cried, holding forth my hands.
"You do not know," said he. "These are dangerous words."
"Will nothing make you understand, my lord?' said I.
His eyes besought me for the truth.
I flung myself on my knees by the bedside. "Oh, my lord," cried I,
"think on him you have left; think of this poor sinner whom you
begot, whom your wife bore to you, whom we have none of us
strengthened as we could; think of him, not of yourself; he is the
other sufferer - think of him! That is the door for sorrow -
Christ's door, God's door: oh! it stands open. Think of him, even
as he thought of you. 'WHO IS TO TELL THE OLD MAN?' - these were
his words. It was for that I came; that is why I am here pleading
at your feet."
"Let me get up," he cried, thrusting me aside, and was on his feet
before myself. His voice shook like a sail in the wind, yet he
spoke with a good loudness; his face was like the snow, but his
eyes were steady and dry.
"Here is too much speech," said he. "Where was it?"
"In the shrubbery," said I.
"And Mr. Henry?" he asked. And when I had told him he knotted his
old face in thought.
"And Mr. James?" says he.
"I have left him lying," said I, "beside the candles."
"Candles?" he cried. And with that he ran to the window, opened
it, and looked abroad. "It might be spied from the road."
"Where none goes by at such an hour," I objected.
"It makes no matter," he said. "One might. Hark!" cries he.
"What is that?"
It was the sound of men very guardedly rowing in the bay; and I
told him so.
"The freetraders," said my lord. "Run at once, Mackellar; put
these candles out. I will dress in the meanwhile; and when you
return we can debate on what is wisest."
I groped my way downstairs, and out at the door. From quite a far
way off a sheen was visible, making points of brightness in the
shrubbery; in so black a night it might have been remarked for
miles; and I blamed myself bitterly for my incaution. How much
more sharply when I reached the place! One of the candlesticks was
overthrown, and that taper quenched. The other burned steadily by
itself, and made a broad space of light upon the frosted ground.
All within that circle seemed, by the force of contrast and the
overhanging blackness, brighter than by day. And there was the
bloodstain in the midst; and a little farther off Mr. Henry's
sword, the pommel of which was of silver; but of the body, not a
trace. My heart thumped upon my ribs, the hair stirred upon my
scalp, as I stood there staring - so strange was the sight, so dire
the fears it wakened. I looked right and left; the ground was so
hard, it told no story. I stood and listened till my ears ached,
but the night was hollow about me like an empty church; not even a
ripple stirred upon the shore; it seemed you might have heard a pin
drop in the county.
I put the candle out, and the blackness fell about me groping dark;
it was like a crowd surrounding me; and I went back to the house of
Durrisdeer, with my chin upon my shoulder, startling, as I went,
with craven suppositions. In the door a figure moved to meet me,
and I had near screamed with terror ere I recognised Mrs. Henry.
"Have you told him?" says she.
"It was he who sent me," said I. "It is gone. But why are you
"It is gone!" she repeated. "What is gone?"
"The body," said I. "Why are you not with your husband?"
"Gone!" said she. "You cannot have looked. Come back."
"There is no light now," said I. "I dare not."
"I can see in the dark. I have been standing here so long - so
long," said she. "Come, give me your hand."
We returned to the shrubbery hand in hand, and to the fatal place.
"Take care of the blood," said I.
"Blood?" she cried, and started violently back.
"I suppose it will be," said I. "I am like a blind man."
"No!" said she, "nothing! Have you not dreamed?"
"Ah, would to God we had!" cried I.
She spied the sword, picked it up, and seeing the blood, let it
fall again with her hands thrown wide. "Ah!" she cried. And then,
with an instant courage, handled it the second time, and thrust it
to the hilt into the frozen ground. "I will take it back and clean
it properly," says she, and again looked about her on all sides.
"It cannot be that he was dead?" she added.
"There was no flutter of his heart," said I, and then remembering:
"Why are you not with your husband?"
"It is no use," said she; "he will not speak to me."
"Not speak to you?" I repeated. "Oh! you have not tried."
"You have a right to doubt me," she replied, with a gentle dignity.
At this, for the first time, I was seized with sorrow for her.
"God knows, madam," I cried, "God knows I am not so hard as I
appear; on this dreadful night who can veneer his words? But I am
a friend to all who are not Henry Durie's enemies."
"It is hard, then, you should hesitate about his wife," said she.
I saw all at once, like the rending of a veil, how nobly she had
borne this unnatural calamity, and how generously my reproaches.
"We must go back and tell this to my lord," said I.
"Him I cannot face," she cried.
"You will find him the least moved of all of us," said I.
"And yet I cannot face him," said she.
"Well," said I, "you can return to Mr. Henry; I will see my lord."
As we walked back, I bearing the candlesticks, she the sword - a
strange burthen for that woman - she had another thought. "Should
we tell Henry?" she asked.
"Let my lord decide," said I.
My lord was nearly dressed when I came to his chamber. He heard me
with a frown. "The freetraders," said he. "But whether dead or
"I thought him - " said I, and paused, ashamed of the word.
"I know; but you may very well have been in error. Why should they
remove him if not living?" he asked. "Oh! here is a great door of
hope. It must be given out that he departed - as he came - without
any note of preparation. We must save all scandal."
I saw he had fallen, like the rest of us, to think mainly of the
house. Now that all the living members of the family were plunged
in irremediable sorrow, it was strange how we turned to that
conjoint abstraction of the family itself, and sought to bolster up
the airy nothing of its reputation: not the Duries only, but the
hired steward himself.
"Are we to tell Mr. Henry?" I asked him.
"I will see," said he. "I am going first to visit him; then I go
forth with you to view the shrubbery and consider."
We went downstairs into the hall. Mr. Henry sat by the table with
his head upon his hand, like a man of stone. His wife stood a
little back from him, her hand at her mouth; it was plain she could
not move him. My old lord walked very steadily to where his son
was sitting; he had a steady countenance, too, but methought a
little cold. When he was come quite up, he held out both his hands
and said, "My son!"
With a broken, strangled cry, Mr. Henry leaped up and fell on his
father's neck, crying and weeping, the most pitiful sight that ever
a man witnessed. "Oh! father," he cried, "you know I loved him;
you know I loved him in the beginning; I could have died for him -
you know that! I would have given my life for him and you. Oh!
say you know that. Oh! say you can forgive me. O father, father,
what have I done - what have I done? And we used to be bairns
together!" and wept and sobbed, and fondled the old man, and
clutched him about the neck, with the passion of a child in terror.
And then he caught sight of his wife (you would have thought for
the first time), where she stood weeping to hear him, and in a
moment had fallen at her knees. "And O my lass," he cried, "you
must forgive me, too! Not your husband - I have only been the ruin
of your life. But you knew me when I was a lad; there was no harm
in Henry Durie then; he meant aye to be a friend to you. It's him
- it's the old bairn that played with you - oh, can ye never, never
forgive him?"
Throughout all this my lord was like a cold, kind spectator with
his wits about him. At the first cry, which was indeed enough to
call the house about us, he had said to me over his shoulder,
"Close the door." And now he nodded to himself.
"We may leave him to his wife now,"' says he. "Bring a light, Mr.
Upon my going forth again with my lord, I was aware of a strange
phenomenon; for though it was quite dark, and the night not yet
old, methought I smelt the morning. At the same time there went a
tossing through the branches of the evergreens, so that they
sounded like a quiet sea, and the air pulled at times against our
faces, and the flame of the candle shook. We made the more speed,
I believe, being surrounded by this bustle; visited the scene of
the duel, where my lord looked upon the blood with stoicism; and
passing farther on toward the landing-place, came at last upon some
evidences of the truth. For, first of all, where there was a pool
across the path, the ice had been trodden in, plainly by more than
one man's weight; next, and but a little farther, a young tree was
broken, and down by the landing-place, where the traders' boats
were usually beached, another stain of blood marked where the body
must have been infallibly set down to rest the bearers.
This stain we set ourselves to wash away with the sea-water,
carrying it in my lord's hat; and as we were thus engaged there
came up a sudden moaning gust and left us instantly benighted.
"It will come to snow," says my lord; "and the best thing that we
could hope. Let us go back now; we can do nothing in the dark."
As we went houseward, the wind being again subsided, we were aware
of a strong pattering noise about us in the night; and when we
issued from the shelter of the trees, we found it raining smartly.
Throughout the whole of this, my lord's clearness of mind, no less
than his activity of body, had not ceased to minister to my
amazement. He set the crown upon it in the council we held on our
return. The freetraders had certainly secured the Master, though
whether dead or alive we were still left to our conjectures; the
rain would, long before day, wipe out all marks of the transaction;
by this we must profit. The Master had unexpectedly come after the
fall of night; it must now he given out he had as suddenly departed
before the break of day; and, to make all this plausible, it now
only remained for me to mount into the man's chamber, and pack and
conceal his baggage. True, we still lay at the discretion of the
traders; but that was the incurable weakness of our guilt.
I heard him, as I said, with wonder, and hastened to obey. Mr. and
Mrs. Henry were gone from the hall; my lord, for warmth's sake,
hurried to his bed; there was still no sign of stir among the
servants, and as I went up the tower stair, and entered the dead
man's room, a horror of solitude weighed upon my mind. To my
extreme surprise, it was all in the disorder of departure. Of his
three portmanteaux, two were already locked; the third lay open and
near full. At once there flashed upon me some suspicion of the
truth. The man had been going, after all; he had but waited upon
Crail, as Crail waited upon the wind; early in the night the seamen
had perceived the weather changing; the boat had come to give
notice of the change and call the passenger aboard, and the boat's
crew had stumbled on him dying in his blood. Nay, and there was
more behind. This pre-arranged departure shed some light upon his
inconceivable insult of the night before; it was a parting shot,
hatred being no longer checked by policy. And, for another thing,
the nature of that insult, and the conduct of Mrs. Henry, pointed
to one conclusion, which I have never verified, and can now never
verify until the great assize - the conclusion that he had at last
forgotten himself, had gone too far in his advances, and had been
rebuffed. It can never be verified, as I say; but as I thought of
it that morning among his baggage, the thought was sweet to me like
Into the open portmanteau I dipped a little ere I closed it. The
most beautiful lace and linen, many suits of those fine plain
clothes in which he loved to appear; a book or two, and those of
the best, Caesar's "Commentaries," a volume of Mr. Hobbes, the
"Henriade" of M. de Voltaire, a book upon the Indies, one on the
mathematics, far beyond where I have studied: these were what I
observed with very mingled feelings. But in the open portmanteau,
no papers of any description. This set me musing. It was possible
the man was dead; but, since the traders had carried him away, not
likely. It was possible he might still die of his wound; but it
was also possible he might not. And in this latter case I was
determined to have the means of some defence.
One after another I carried his portmanteaux to a loft in the top
of the house which we kept locked; went to my own room for my keys,
and, returning to the loft, had the gratification to find two that
fitted pretty well. In one of the portmanteaux there was a
shagreen letter-case, which I cut open with my knife; and
thenceforth (so far as any credit went) the man was at my mercy.
Here was a vast deal of gallant correspondence, chiefly of his
Paris days; and, what was more to the purpose, here were the copies
of his own reports to the English Secretary, and the originals of
the Secretary's answers: a most damning series: such as to
publish would be to wreck the Master's honour and to set a price
upon his life. I chuckled to myself as I ran through the
documents; I rubbed my hands, I sang aloud in my glee. Day found
me at the pleasing task; nor did I then remit my diligence, except
in so far as I went to the window - looked out for a moment, to see
the frost quite gone, the world turned black again, and the rain
and the wind driving in the bay - and to assure myself that the
lugger was gone from its anchorage, and the Master (whether dead or
alive) now tumbling on the Irish Sea.
It is proper I should add in this place the very little I have
subsequently angled out upon the doings of that night. It took me
a long while to gather it; for we dared not openly ask, and the
freetraders regarded me with enmity, if not with scorn. It was
near six months before we even knew for certain that the man
survived; and it was years before I learned from one of Crail's
men, turned publican on his ill-gotten gain, some particulars which
smack to me of truth. It seems the traders found the Master
struggled on one elbow, and now staring round him, and now gazing
at the candle or at his hand which was all bloodied, like a man
stupid. Upon their coming, he would seem to have found his mind,
bade them carry him aboard, and hold their tongues; and on the
captain asking how he had come in such a pickle, replied with a
burst of passionate swearing, and incontinently fainted. They held
some debate, but they were momently looking for a wind, they were
highly paid to smuggle him to France, and did not care to delay.
Besides which, he was well enough liked by these abominable
wretches: they supposed him under capital sentence, knew not in
what mischief he might have got his wound, and judged it a piece of
good nature to remove him out of the way of danger. So he was
taken aboard, recovered on the passage over, and was set ashore a
convalescent at the Havre de Grace. What is truly notable: he
said not a word to anyone of the duel, and not a trader knows to
this day in what quarrel, or by the hand of what adversary, he
fell. With any other man I should have set this down to natural
decency; with him, to pride. He could not bear to avow, perhaps
even to himself, that he had been vanquished by one whom he had so
much insulted whom he so cruelly despised.
Of the heavy sickness which declared itself next morning I can
think with equanimity, as of the last unmingled trouble that befell
my master; and even that was perhaps a mercy in disguise; for what
pains of the body could equal the miseries of his mind? Mrs. Henry
and I had the watching by the bed. My old lord called from time to
time to take the news, but would not usually pass the door. Once,
I remember, when hope was nigh gone, he stepped to the bedside,
looked awhile in his son's face, and turned away with a gesture of
the head and hand thrown up, that remains upon my mind as something
tragic; such grief and such a scorn of sublunary things were there
expressed. But the most of the time Mrs. Henry and I had the room
to ourselves, taking turns by night, and bearing each other company
by day, for it was dreary watching. Mr. Henry, his shaven head
bound in a napkin, tossed fro without remission, beating the bed
with his hands. His tongue never lay; his voice ran continuously
like a river, so that my heart was weary with the sound of it. It
was notable, and to me inexpressibly mortifying, that he spoke all
the while on matters of no import: comings and goings, horses -
which he was ever calling to have saddled, thinking perhaps (the
poor soul!) that he might ride away from his discomfort - matters
of the garden, the salmon nets, and (what I particularly raged to
hear) continually of his affairs, cyphering figures and holding
disputation with the tenantry. Never a word of his father or his
wife, nor of the Master, save only for a day or two, when his mind
dwelled entirely in the past, and he supposed himself a boy again
and upon some innocent child's play with his brother. What made
this the more affecting: it appeared the Master had then run some
peril of his life, for there was a cry - "Oh! Jamie will be
drowned - Oh, save Jamie!" which he came over and over with a great
deal of passion.
This, I say, was affecting, both to Mrs. Henry and myself; but the
balance of my master's wanderings did him little justice. It
seemed he had set out to justify his brother's calumnies; as though
he was bent to prove himself a man of a dry nature, immersed in
money-getting. Had I been there alone, I would not have troubled
my thumb; but all the while, as I listened, I was estimating the
effect on the man's wife, and telling myself that he fell lower
every day. I was the one person on the surface of the globe that
comprehended him, and I was bound there should be yet another.
Whether he was to die there and his virtues perish: or whether he
should save his days and come back to that inheritance of sorrows,
his right memory: I was bound he should be heartily lamented in
the one case, and unaffectedly welcomed in the other, by the person
he loved the most, his wife.
Finding no occasion of free speech, I bethought me at last of a
kind of documentary disclosure; and for some nights, when I was off
duty and should have been asleep, I gave my time to the preparation
of that which I may call my budget. But this I found to be the
easiest portion of my task, and that which remained - namely, the
presentation to my lady - almost more than I had fortitude to
overtake. Several days I went about with my papers under my arm,
spying for some juncture of talk to serve as introduction. I will
not deny but that some offered; only when they did my tongue clove
to the roof of my mouth; and I think I might have been carrying
about my packet till this day, had not a fortunate accident
delivered me from all my hesitations. This was at night, when I
was once more leaving the room, the thing not yet done, and myself
in despair at my own cowardice.
"What do you carry about with you, Mr. Mackellar?" she asked.
"These last days, I see you always coming in and out with the same
I returned upon my steps without a word, laid the papers before her
on the table, and left her to her reading. Of what that was, I am
now to give you some idea; and the best will be to reproduce a
letter of my own which came first in the budget and of which
(according to an excellent habitude) I have preserved the scroll.
It will show, too, the moderation of my part in these affairs, a
thing which some have called recklessly in question.
"I trust I would not step out of my place without occasion; but I
see how much evil has flowed in the past to all of your noble house
from that unhappy and secretive fault of reticency, and the papers
on which I venture to call your attention are family papers, and
all highly worthy your acquaintance.
"I append a schedule with some necessary observations,
"And am,
"Honoured Madam,
"Your ladyship's obliged, obedient servant,
"Schedule of Papers.
"A. Scroll of ten letters from Ephraim Mackellar to the Hon. James
Durie, Esq., by courtesy Master of Ballantrae during the latter's
residence in Paris: under dates . . . " (follow the dates) . . .
"Nota: to be read in connection with B. and C.
"B. Seven original letters from the said Mr of Ballantrae to the
said E. Mackellar, under dates . . . " (follow the dates.)
"C. Three original letters from the Mr of Ballantrae to the Hon.
Henry Durie, Esq., under dates . . . " (follow the dates) . . .
"Nota: given me by Mr. Henry to answer: copies of my answers A 4,
A 5, and A 9 of these productions. The purport of Mr. Henry's
communications, of which I can find no scroll, may be gathered from
those of his unnatural brother.
"D. A correspondence, original and scroll, extending over a period
of three years till January of the current year, between the said
Mr of Ballantrae and - -, Under Secretary of State; twenty-seven in
all. Nota: found among the Master's papers."
Weary as I was with watching and distress of mind, it was
impossible for me to sleep. All night long I walked in my chamber,
revolving what should be the issue, and sometimes repenting the
temerity of my immixture in affairs so private; and with the first
peep of the morning I was at the sick-room door. Mrs. Henry had
thrown open the shutters and even the window, for the temperature
was mild. She looked steadfastly before her; where was nothing to
see, or only the blue of the morning creeping among woods. Upon
the stir of my entrance she did not so much as turn about her face:
a circumstance from which I augured very ill.
"Madam," I began; and then again, "Madam;" but could make no more
of it. Nor yet did Mrs. Henry come to my assistance with a word.
In this pass I began gathering up the papers where they lay
scattered on the table; and the first thing that struck me, their
bulk appeared to have diminished. Once I ran them through, and
twice; but the correspondence with the Secretary of State, on which
I had reckoned so much against the future, was nowhere to be found.
I looked in the chimney; amid the smouldering embers, black ashes
of paper fluttered in the draught; and at that my timidity
"Good God, madam," cried I, in a voice not fitting for a sick-room,
"Good God, madam, what have you done with my papers?"
"I have burned them," said Mrs. Henry, turning about. "It is
enough, it is too much, that you and I have seen them."
"This is a fine night's work that you have done!" cried I. "And
all to save the reputation of a man that ate bread by the shedding
of his comrades' blood, as I do by the shedding of ink."
"To save the reputation of that family in which you are a servant,
Mr. Mackellar," she returned, "and for which you have already done
so much."
"It is a family I will not serve much longer," I cried, "for I am
driven desperate. You have stricken the sword out of my hands; you
have left us all defenceless. I had always these letters I could
shake over his head; and now - What is to do? We are so falsely
situate we dare not show the man the door; the country would fly on
fire against us; and I had this one hold upon him - and now it is
gone - now he may come back to-morrow, and we must all sit down
with him to dinner, go for a stroll with him on the terrace, or
take a hand at cards, of all things, to divert his leisure! No,
madam! God forgive you, if He can find it in His heart; for I
cannot find it in mine."
"I wonder to find you so simple, Mr. Mackellar," said Mrs. Henry.
"What does this man value reputation? But he knows how high we
prize it; he knows we would rather die than make these letters
public; and do you suppose he would not trade upon the knowledge?
What you call your sword, Mr. Mackellar, and which had been one
indeed against a man of any remnant of propriety, would have been
but a sword of paper against him. He would smile in your face at
such a threat. He stands upon his degradation, he makes that his
strength; it is in vain to struggle with such characters." She
cried out this last a little desperately, and then with more quiet:
"No, Mr. Mackellar; I have thought upon this matter all night, and
there is no way out of it. Papers or no papers, the door of this
house stands open for him; he is the rightful heir, forsooth! If
we sought to exclude him, all would redound against poor Henry, and
I should see him stoned again upon the streets. Ah! if Henry dies,
it is a different matter! They have broke the entail for their own
good purposes; the estate goes to my daughter; and I shall see who
sets a foot upon it. But if Henry lives, my poor Mr. Mackellar,
and that man returns, we must suffer: only this time it will be
On the whole I was well pleased with Mrs. Henry's attitude of mind;
nor could I even deny there was some cogency in that which she
advanced about the papers.
"Let us say no more about it," said I. "I can only be sorry I
trusted a lady with the originals, which was an unbusinesslike
proceeding at the best. As for what I said of leaving the service
of the family, it was spoken with the tongue only; and you may set
your mind at rest. I belong to Durrisdeer, Mrs. Henry, as if I had
been born there."
I must do her the justice to say she seemed perfectly relieved; so
that we began this morning, as we were to continue for so many
years, on a proper ground of mutual indulgence and respect.
The same day, which was certainly prededicate to joy, we observed
the first signal of recovery in Mr. Henry; and about three of the
following afternoon he found his mind again, recognising me by name
with the strongest evidences of affection. Mrs. Henry was also in
the room, at the bedfoot; but it did not appear that he observed
her. And indeed (the fever being gone) he was so weak that he made
but the one effort and sank again into lethargy. The course of his
restoration was now slow but equal; every day his appetite
improved; every week we were able to remark an increase both of
strength and flesh; and before the end of the month he was out of
bed and had even begun to be carried in his chair upon the terrace.
It was perhaps at this time that Mrs. Henry and I were the most
uneasy in mind. Apprehension for his days was at an end; and a
worse fear succeeded. Every day we drew consciously nearer to a
day of reckoning; and the days passed on, and still there was
nothing. Mr. Henry bettered in strength, he held long talks with
us on a great diversity of subjects, his father came and sat with
him and went again; and still there was no reference to the late
tragedy or to the former troubles which had brought it on. Did he
remember, and conceal his dreadful knowledge? or was the whole
blotted from his mind? This was the problem that kept us watching
and trembling all day when we were in his company and held us awake
at night when we were in our lonely beds. We knew not even which
alternative to hope for, both appearing so unnatural and pointing
so directly to an unsound brain. Once this fear offered, I
observed his conduct with sedulous particularity. Something of the
child he exhibited: a cheerfulness quite foreign to his previous
character, an interest readily aroused, and then very tenacious, in
small matters which he had heretofore despised. When he was
stricken down, I was his only confidant, and I may say his only
friend, and he was on terms of division with his wife; upon his
recovery, all was changed, the past forgotten, the wife first and
even single in his thoughts. He turned to her with all his
emotions, like a child to its mother, and seemed secure of
sympathy; called her in all his needs with something of that
querulous familiarity that marks a certainty of indulgence; and I
must say, in justice to the woman, he was never disappointed. To
her, indeed, this changed behaviour was inexpressibly affecting;
and I think she felt it secretly as a reproach; so that I have seen
her, in early days, escape out of the room that she might indulge
herself in weeping. But to me the change appeared not natural; and
viewing it along with all the rest, I began to wonder, with many
head-shakings, whether his reason were perfectly erect.
As this doubt stretched over many years, endured indeed until my
master's death, and clouded all our subsequent relations, I may
well consider of it more at large. When he was able to resume some
charge of his affairs, I had many opportunities to try him with
precision. There was no lack of understanding, nor yet of
authority; but the old continuous interest had quite departed; he
grew readily fatigued, and fell to yawning; and he carried into
money relations, where it is certainly out of place, a facility
that bordered upon slackness. True, since we had no longer the
exactions of the Master to contend against, there was the less
occasion to raise strictness into principle or do battle for a
farthing. True, again, there was nothing excessive in these
relaxations, or I would have been no party to them. But the whole
thing marked a change, very slight yet very perceptible; and though
no man could say my master had gone at all out of his mind, no man
could deny that he had drifted from his character. It was the same
to the end, with his manner and appearance. Some of the heat of
the fever lingered in his veins: his movements a little hurried,
his speech notably more voluble, yet neither truly amiss. His
whole mind stood open to happy impressions, welcoming these and
making much of them; but the smallest suggestion of trouble or
sorrow he received with visible impatience and dismissed again with
immediate relief. It was to this temper that he owed the felicity
of his later days; and yet here it was, if anywhere, that you could
call the man insane. A great part of this life consists in
contemplating what we cannot cure; but Mr. Henry, if he could not
dismiss solicitude by an effort of the mind, must instantly and at
whatever cost annihilate the cause of it; so that he played
alternately the ostrich and the bull. It is to this strenuous
cowardice of pain that I have to set down all the unfortunate and
excessive steps of his subsequent career. Certainly this was the
reason of his beating McManus, the groom, a thing so much out of
all his former practice, and which awakened so much comment at the
time. It is to this, again, that I must lay the total lose of near
upon two hundred pounds, more than the half of which I could have
saved if his impatience would have suffered me. But he preferred
loss or any desperate extreme to a continuance of mental suffering.
All this has led me far from our immediate trouble: whether he
remembered or had forgotten his late dreadful act; and if he
remembered, in what light he viewed it. The truth burst upon us
suddenly, and was indeed one of the chief surprises of my life. He
had been several times abroad, and was now beginning to walk a
little with an arm, when it chanced I should be left alone with him
upon the terrace. He turned to me with a singular furtive smile,
such as schoolboys use when in fault; and says he, in a private
whisper and without the least preface: "Where have you buried
I could not make one sound in answer.
"Where have you buried him?" he repeated. "I want to see his
I conceived I had best take the bull by the horns. "Mr. Henry,"
said I, "I have news to give that will rejoice you exceedingly. In
all human likelihood, your hands are clear of blood. I reason from
certain indices; and by these it should appear your brother was not
dead, but was carried in a swound on board the lugger. But now he
may be perfectly recovered."
What there was in his countenance I could not read. "James?" he
"Your brother James," I answered. "I would not raise a hope that
may be found deceptive, but in my heart I think it very probable he
is alive."
"Ah!" says Mr. Henry; and suddenly rising from his seat with more
alacrity than he had yet discovered, set one finger on my breast,
and cried at me in a kind of screaming whisper, "Mackellar" - these
were his words - "nothing can kill that man. He is not mortal. He
is bound upon my back to all eternity - to all eternity!" says he,
and, sitting down again, fell upon a stubborn silence.
A day or two after, with the same secret smile, and first looking
about as if to be sure we were alone, "Mackellar," said he, "when
you have any intelligence, be sure and let me know. We must keep
an eye upon him, or he will take us when we least expect."
"He will not show face here again," said I.
"Oh yes he will," said Mr. Henry. "Wherever I am, there will he
be." And again he looked all about him.
"You must not dwell upon this thought, Mr. Henry," said I.
"No," said he, "that is a very good advice. We will never think of
it, except when you have news. And we do not know yet," he added;
"he may be dead."
The manner of his saying this convinced me thoroughly of what I had
scarce ventured to suspect: that, so far from suffering any
penitence for the attempt, he did but lament his failure. This was
a discovery I kept to myself, fearing it might do him a prejudice
with his wife. But I might have saved myself the trouble; she had
divined it for herself, and found the sentiment quite natural.
Indeed, I could not but say that there were three of us, all of the
same mind; nor could any news have reached Durrisdeer more
generally welcome than tidings of the Master's death.
This brings me to speak of the exception, my old lord. As soon as
my anxiety for my own master began to be relaxed, I was aware of a
change in the old gentleman, his father, that seemed to threaten
mortal consequences.
His face was pale and swollen; as he sat in the chimney-side with
his Latin, he would drop off sleeping and the book roll in the
ashes; some days he would drag his foot, others stumble in
speaking. The amenity of his behaviour appeared more extreme; full
of excuses for the least trouble, very thoughtful for all; to
myself, of a most flattering civility. One day, that he had sent
for his lawyer and remained a long while private, he met me as he
was crossing the hall with painful footsteps, and took me kindly by
the hand. "Mr. Mackellar," said he, "I have had many occasions to
set a proper value on your services; and to-day, when I re-cast my
will, I have taken the freedom to name you for one of my executors.
I believe you bear love enough to our house to render me this
service." At that very time he passed the greater portion of his
days in clamber, from which it was often difficult to rouse him;
seemed to have losst all count of years, and had several times
(particularly on waking) called for his wife and for an old servant
whose very gravestone was now green with moss. If I had been put
to my oath, I must have declared he was incapable of testing; and
yet there was never a will drawn more sensible in every trait, or
showing a more excellent judgment both of persons and affairs.
His dissolution, though it took not very long, proceeded by
infinitesimal gradations. His faculties decayed together steadily;
the power of his limbs was almost gone, he was extremely deaf, his
speech had sunk into mere mumblings; and yet to the end he managed
to discover something of his former courtesy and kindness, pressing
the hand of any that helped him, presenting me with one of his
Latin books, in which he had laboriously traced my name, and in a
thousand ways reminding us of the greatness of that loss which it
might almost be said we had already suffered. To the end, the
power of articulation returned to him in flashes; it seemed he had
only forgotten the art of speech as a child forgets his lesson, and
at times he would call some part of it to mind. On the last night
of his life he suddenly broke silence with these words from Virgil:
"Gnatique pratisque, alma, precor, miserere," perfectly uttered,
and with a fitting accent. At the sudden clear sound of it we
started from our several occupations; but it was in vain we turned
to him; he sat there silent, and, to all appearance, fatuous. A
little later he was had to bed with more difficulty than ever
before; and some time in the night, without any more violence, his
spirit fled.
At a far later period I chanced to speak of these particulars with
a doctor of medicine, a man of so high a reputation that I scruple
to adduce his name. By his view of it father and son both suffered
from the affection: the father from the strain of his unnatural
sorrows - the son perhaps in the excitation of the fever; each had
ruptured a vessel on the brain, and there was probably (my doctor
added) some predisposition in the family to accidents of that
description. The father sank, the son recovered all the externals
of a healthy man; but it is like there was some destruction in
those delicate tissues where the soul resides and does her earthly
business; her heavenly, I would fain hope, cannot be thus
obstructed by material accidents. And yet, upon a more mature
opinion, it matters not one jot; for He who shall pass judgment on
the records of our life is the same that formed us in frailty.
The death of my old lord was the occasion of a fresh surprise to us
who watched the behaviour of his successor. To any considering
mind, the two sons had between them slain their father, and he who
took the sword might be even said to have slain him with his hand,
but no such thought appeared to trouble my new lord. He was
becomingly grave; I could scarce say sorrowful, or only with a
pleasant sorrow; talking of the dead with a regretful cheerfulness,
relating old examples of his character, smiling at them with a good
conscience; and when the day of the funeral came round, doing the
honours with exact propriety. I could perceive, besides, that he
found a solid gratification in his accession to the title; the
which he was punctilious in exacting.
And now there came upon the scene a new character, and one that
played his part, too, in the story; I mean the present lord,
Alexander, whose birth (17th July, 1757) filled the cup of my poor
master's happiness. There was nothing then left him to wish for;
nor yet leisure to wish for it. Indeed, there never was a parent
so fond and doting as he showed himself. He was continually uneasy
in his son's absence. Was the child abroad? the father would be
watching the clouds in case it rained. Was it night? he would rise
out of his bed to observe its slumbers. His conversation grew even
wearyful to strangers, since he talked of little but his son. In
matters relating to the estate, all was designed with a particular
eye to Alexander; and it would be:- "Let us put it in hand at once,
that the wood may be grown against Alexander's majority;" or, "This
will fall in again handsomely for Alexander's marriage." Every day
this absorption of the man's nature became more observable, with
many touching and some very blameworthy particulars. Soon the
child could walk abroad with him, at first on the terrace, hand in
hand, and afterward at large about the policies; and this grew to
be my lord's chief occupation. The sound of their two voices
(audible a great way off, for they spoke loud) became familiar in
the neighbourhood; and for my part I found it more agreeable than
the sound of birds. It was pretty to see the pair returning, full
of briars, and the father as flushed and sometimes as bemuddied as
the child, for they were equal sharers in all sorts of boyish
entertainment, digging in the beach, damming of streams, and what
not; and I have seen them gaze through a fence at cattle with the
same childish contemplation.
The mention of these rambles brings me to a strange scene of which
I was a witness. There was one walk I never followed myself
without emotion, so often had I gone there upon miserable errands,
so much had there befallen against the house of Durrisdeer. But
the path lay handy from all points beyond the Muckle Ross; and I
was driven, although much against my will, to take my use of it
perhaps once in the two months. It befell when Mr. Alexander was
of the age of seven or eight, I had some business on the far side
in the morning, and entered the shrubbery, on my homeward way,
about nine of a bright forenoon. It was that time of year when the
woods are all in their spring colours, the thorns all in flower,
and the birds in the high season of their singing. In contrast to
this merriment, the shrubbery was only the more sad, and I the more
oppressed by its associations. In this situation of spirit it
struck me disagreeably to hear voices a little way in front, and to
recognise the tones of my lord and Mr. Alexander. I pushed ahead,
and came presently into their view. They stood together in the
open space where the duel was, my lord with his hand on his son's
shoulder, and speaking with some gravity. At least, as he raised
his head upon my coming, I thought I could perceive his countenance
to lighten.
"Ah!" says he, "here comes the good Mackellar. I have just been
telling Sandie the story of this place, and how there was a man
whom the devil tried to kill, and how near he came to kill the
devil instead."
I had thought it strange enough he should bring the child into that
scene; that he should actually be discoursing of his act, passed
measure. But the worst was yet to come; for he added, turning to
his son - "You can ask Mackellar; he was here and saw it."
"Is it true, Mr. Mackellar?" asked the child. "And did you really
see the devil?"
"I have not heard the tale," I replied; "and I am in a press of
business." So far I said a little sourly, fencing with the
embarrassment of the position; and suddenly the bitterness of the
past, and the terror of that scene by candle-light, rushed in upon
my mind. I bethought me that, for a difference of a second's
quickness in parade, the child before me might have never seen the
day; and the emotion that always fluttered round my heart in that
dark shrubbery burst forth in words. "But so much is true," I
cried, "that I have met the devil in these woods, and seen him
foiled here. Blessed be God that we escaped with life - blessed be
God that one stone yet stands upon another in the walls of
Durrisdeer! And, oh! Mr. Alexander, if ever you come by this spot,
though it was a hundred years hence, and you came with the gayest
and the highest in the land, I would step aside and remember a bit
My lord bowed his head gravely. "Ah!" says he, "Mackellar is
always in the right. Come, Alexander, take your bonnet off." And
with that he uncovered, and held out his hand. "O Lord," said he,
"I thank Thee, and my son thanks Thee, for Thy manifold great
mercies. Let us have peace for a little; defend us from the evil
man. Smite him, O Lord, upon the lying mouth!" The last broke out
of him like a cry; and at that, whether remembered anger choked his
utterance, or whether he perceived this was a singular sort of
prayer, at least he suddenly came to a full stop; and, after a
moment, set back his hat upon his head.
"I think you have forgot a word, my lord," said I. "'Forgive us
our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. For
Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and
ever. Amen.'"
"Ah! that is easy saying," said my lord. "That is very easy
saying, Mackellar. But for me to forgive! - I think I would cut a
very silly figure if I had the affectation to pretend it."
"The bairn, my lord!" said I, with some severity, for I thought his
expressions little fitted for the care of children.
"Why, very true," said he. "This is dull work for a bairn. Let's
go nesting."
I forget if it was the same day, but it was soon after, my lord,
finding me alone, opened himself a little more on the same head.
"Mackellar," he said, "I am now a very happy man."
"I think so indeed, my lord," said I, "and the sight of it gives me
a light heart."
"There is an obligation in happiness - do you not think so?" says
he, musingly.
"I think so indeed," says I, "and one in sorrow, too. If we are
not here to try to do the best, in my humble opinion the sooner we
are away the better for all parties."
"Ay, but if you were in my shoes, would you forgive him?" asks my
The suddenness of the attack a little gravelled me.
"It is a duty laid upon us strictly," said I.
"Hut!" said he. "These are expressions! Do you forgive the man
"Well - no!" said I. "God forgive me, I do not."
"Shake hands upon that!" cries my lord, with a kind of joviality.
"It is an ill sentiment to shake hands upon," said I, "for
Christian people. I think I will give you mine on some more
evangelical occasion."
This I said, smiling a little; but as for my lord, he went from the
room laughing aloud.
For my lord's slavery to the child, I can find no expression
adequate. He lost himself in that continual thought: business,
friends, and wife being all alike forgotten, or only remembered
with a painful effort, like that of one struggling with a posset.
It was most notable in the matter of his wife. Since I had known
Durrisdeer, she had been the burthen of his thought and the
loadstone of his eyes; and now she was quite cast out. I have seen
him come to the door of a room, look round, and pass my lady over
as though she were a dog before the fire. It would be Alexander he
was seeking, and my lady knew it well. I have heard him speak to
her so ruggedly that I nearly found it in my heart to intervene:
the cause would still be the same, that she had in some way
thwarted Alexander. Without doubt this was in the nature of a
judgment on my lady. Without doubt she had the tables turned upon
her, as only Providence can do it; she who had been cold so many
years to every mark of tenderness, it was her part now to be
neglected: the more praise to her that she played it well.
An odd situation resulted: that we had once more two parties in
the house, and that now I was of my lady's. Not that ever I lost
the love I bore my master. But, for one thing, he had the less use
for my society. For another, I could not but compare the case of
Mr. Alexander with that of Miss Katharine; for whom my lord had
never found the least attention. And for a third, I was wounded by
the change he discovered to his wife, which struck me in the nature
of an infidelity. I could not but admire, besides, the constancy
and kindness she displayed. Perhaps her sentiment to my lord, as
it had been founded from the first in pity, was that rather of a
mother than a wife; perhaps it pleased her - if I may so say - to
behold her two children so happy in each other; the more as one had
suffered so unjustly in the past. But, for all that, and though I
could never trace in her one spark of jealousy, she must fall back
for society on poor neglected Miss Katharine; and I, on my part,
came to pass my spare hours more and more with the mother and
daughter. It would be easy to make too much of this division, for
it was a pleasant family, as families go; still the thing existed;
whether my lord knew it or not, I am in doubt. I do not think he
did; he was bound up so entirely in his son; but the rest of us
knew it, and in a manner suffered from the knowledge.
What troubled us most, however, was the great and growing danger to
the child. My lord was his father over again; it was to be feared
the son would prove a second Master. Time has proved these fears
to have been quite exaggerate. Certainly there is no more worthy
gentleman to-day in Scotland than the seventh Lord Durrisdeer. Of
my own exodus from his employment it does not become me to speak,
above all in a memorandum written only to justify his father. . . .
[Editor's Note. Five pages of Mr. Mackellar's MS. are here
omitted. I have gathered from their perusal an impression that Mr.
Mackellar, in his old age, was rather an exacting servant. Against
the seventh Lord Durrisdeer (with whom, at any rate, we have no
concern) nothing material is alleged. - R. L. S.]
. . . But our fear at the time was lest he should turn out, in the
person of his son, a second edition of his brother. My lady had
tried to interject some wholesome discipline; she had been glad to
give that up, and now looked on with secret dismay; sometimes she
even spoke of it by hints; and sometimes, when there was brought to
her knowledge some monstrous instance of my lord's indulgence, she
would betray herself in a gesture or perhaps an exclamation. As
for myself, I was haunted by the thought both day and night: not
so much for the child's sake as for the father's. The man had gone
to sleep, he was dreaming a dream, and any rough wakening must
infallibly prove mortal. That he should survive its death was
inconceivable; and the fear of its dishonour made me cover my face.
It was this continual preoccupation that screwed me up at last to a
remonstrance: a matter worthy to be narrated in detail. My lord
and I sat one day at the same table upon some tedious business of
detail; I have said that he had lost his former interest in such
occupations; he was plainly itching to be gone, and he looked
fretful, weary, and methought older than I had ever previously
observed. I suppose it was the haggard face that put me suddenly
upon my enterprise.
"My lord," said I, with my head down, and feigning to continue my
occupation - "or, rather, let me call you again by the name of Mr.
Henry, for I fear your anger and want you to think upon old times -
"My good Mackellar!" said he; and that in tones so kindly that I
had near forsook my purpose. But I called to mind that I was
speaking for his good, and stuck to my colours.
"Has it never come in upon your mind what you are doing?" I asked.
"What I am doing?" he repeated; "I was never good at guessing
"What you are doing with your son?" said I.
"Well," said he, with some defiance in his tone, "and what am I
doing with my son?"
"Your father was a very good man," says I, straying from the direct
path. "But do you think he was a wise father?"
There was a pause before he spoke, and then: "I say nothing
against him," he replied. "I had the most cause perhaps; but I say
"Why, there it is," said I. "You had the cause at least. And yet
your father was a good man; I never knew a better, save on the one
point, nor yet a wiser. Where he stumbled, it is highly possible
another man should fail. He had the two sons - "
My lord rapped suddenly and violently on the table.
"What is this?" cried he. "Speak out!"
"I will, then," said I, my voice almost strangled with the thumping
of my heart. "If you continue to indulge Mr. Alexander, you are
following in your father's footsteps. Beware, my lord, lest (when
he grows up) your son should follow in the Master's."
I had never meant to put the thing so crudely; but in the extreme
of fear, there comes a brutal kind of courage, the most brutal
indeed of all; and I burnt my ships with that plain word. I never
had the answer. When I lifted my head, my lord had risen to his
feet, and the next moment he fell heavily on the floor. The fit or
seizure endured not very long; he came to himself vacantly, put his
hand to his head, which I was then supporting, and says he, in a
broken voice: "I have been ill," and a little after: "Help me."
I got him to his feet, and he stood pretty well, though he kept
hold of the table. "I have been ill, Mackellar," he said again.
"Something broke, Mackellar - or was going to break, and then all
swam away. I think I was very angry. Never you mind, Mackellar;
never you mind, my man. I wouldnae hurt a hair upon your head.
Too much has come and gone. It's a certain thing between us two.
But I think, Mackellar, I will go to Mrs. Henry - I think I will go
to Mrs. Henry," said he, and got pretty steadily from the room,
leaving me overcome with penitence.
Presently the door flew open, and my lady swept in with flashing
eyes. "What is all this?" she cried. "What have you done to my
husband? Will nothing teach you your position in this house? Will
you never cease from making and meddling?"
"My lady," said I, "since I have been in this house I have had
plenty of hard words. For a while they were my daily diet, and I
swallowed them all. As for to-day, you may call me what you
please; you will never find the name hard enough for such a
blunder. And yet I meant it for the best."
I told her all with ingenuity, even as it is written here; and when
she had heard me out, she pondered, and I could see her animosity
fall. "Yes," she said, "you meant well indeed. I have had the
same thought myself, or the same temptation rather, which makes me
pardon you. But, dear God, can you not understand that he can bear
no more? He can bear no more!" she cried. "The cord is stretched
to snapping. What matters the future if he have one or two good
"Amen," said I. "I will meddle no more. I am pleased enough that
you should recognise the kindness of my meaning."
"Yes," said my lady; "but when it came to the point, I have to
suppose your courage failed you; for what you said was said
cruelly." She paused, looking at me; then suddenly smiled a
little, and said a singular thing: "Do you know what you are, Mr.
Mackellar? You are an old maid."
No more incident of any note occurred in the family until the
return of that ill-starred man the Master. But I have to place
here a second extract from the memoirs of Chevalier Burke,
interesting in itself, and highly necessary for my purpose. It is
our only sight of the Master on his Indian travels; and the first
word in these pages of Secundra Dass. One fact, it is to observe,
appears here very clearly, which if we had known some twenty years
ago, how many calamities and sorrows had been spared! - that
Secundra Dass spoke English.
Extracted from his Memoirs.
. . . Here was I, therefore, on the streets of that city, the name
of which I cannot call to mind, while even then I was so illacquainted
with its situation that I knew not whether to go south
or north. The alert being sudden, I had run forth without shoes or
stockings; my hat had been struck from my head in the mellay; my
kit was in the hands of the English; I had no companion but the
cipaye, no weapon but my sword, and the devil a coin in my pocket.
In short, I was for all the world like one of those calendars with
whom Mr. Galland has made us acquainted in his elegant tales.
These gentlemen, you will remember, were for ever falling in with
extraordinary incidents; and I was myself upon the brink of one so
astonishing that I protest I cannot explain it to this day.
The cipaye was a very honest man; he had served many years with the
French colours, and would have let himself be cut to pieces for any
of the brave countrymen of Mr. Lally. It is the same fellow (his
name has quite escaped me) of whom I have narrated already a
surprising instance of generosity of mind - when he found Mr. de
Fessac and myself upon the ramparts, entirely overcome with liquor,
and covered us with straw while the commandant was passing by. I
consulted him, therefore, with perfect freedom. It was a fine
question what to do; but we decided at last to escalade a garden
wall, where we could certainly sleep in the shadow of the trees,
and might perhaps find an occasion to get hold of a pair of
slippers and a turban. In that part of the city we had only the
difficulty of the choice, for it was a quarter consisting entirely
of walled gardens, and the lanes which divided them were at that
hour of the night deserted. I gave the cipaye a back, and we had
soon dropped into a large enclosure full of trees. The place was
soaking with the dew, which, in that country, is exceedingly
unwholesome, above all to whites; yet my fatigue was so extreme
that I was already half asleep, when the cipaye recalled me to my
senses. In the far end of the enclosure a bright light had
suddenly shone out, and continued to burn steadily among the
leaves. It was a circumstance highly unusual in such a place and
hour; and, in our situation, it behoved us to proceed with some
timidity. The cipaye was sent to reconnoitre, and pretty soon
returned with the intelligence that we had fallen extremely amiss,
for the house belonged to a white man, who was in all likelihood
"Faith," says I, "if there is a white man to be seen, I will have a
look at him; for, the Lord be praised! there are more sorts than
the one!"
The cipaye led me forward accordingly to a place from which I had a
clear view upon the house. It was surrounded with a wide verandah;
a lamp, very well trimmed, stood upon the floor of it, and on
either side of the lamp there sat a man, cross-legged, after the
Oriental manner. Both, besides, were bundled up in muslin like two
natives; and yet one of them was not only a white man, but a man
very well known to me and the reader, being indeed that very Master
of Ballantrae of whose gallantry and genius I have had to speak so
often. Word had reached me that he was come to the Indies, though
we had never met at least, and I heard little of his occupations.
But, sure, I had no sooner recognised him, and found myself in the
arms of so old a comrade, than I supposed my tribulations were
quite done. I stepped plainly forth into the light of the moon,
which shone exceeding strong, and hailing Ballantrae by name, made
him in a few words master of my grievous situation. He turned,
started the least thing in the world, looked me fair in the face
while I was speaking, and when I had done addressed himself to his
companion in the barbarous native dialect. The second person, who
was of an extraordinary delicate appearance, with legs like walking
canes and fingers like the stalk of a tobacco pipe, (6) now rose to
his feet.
"The Sahib," says he, "understands no English language. I
understand it myself, and I see you make some small mistake - oh!
which may happen very often. But the Sahib would be glad to know
how you come in a garden."
"Ballantrae!" I cried, "have you the damned impudence to deny me to
my face?"
Ballantrae never moved a muscle, staring at me like an image in a
"The Sahib understands no English language," says the native, as
glib as before. "He be glad to know how you come in a garden."
"Oh! the divil fetch him," says I. "He would be glad to know how I
come in a garden, would he? Well, now, my dear man, just have the
civility to tell the Sahib, with my kind love, that we are two
soldiers here whom he never met and never heard of, but the cipaye
is a broth of a boy, and I am a broth of a boy myself; and if we
don't get a full meal of meat, and a turban, and slippers, and the
value of a gold mohur in small change as a matter of convenience,
bedad, my friend, I could lay my finger on a garden where there is
going to be trouble."
They carried their comedy so far as to converse awhile in
Hindustanee; and then says the Hindu, with the same smile, but
sighing as if he were tired of the repetition, "The Sahib would be
glad to know how you come in a garden."
"Is that the way of it?" says I, and laying my hand on my swordhilt
I bade the cipaye draw.
Ballantrae's Hindu, still smiling, pulled out a pistol from his
bosom, and though Ballantrae himself never moved a muscle I knew
him well enough to be sure he was prepared.
"The Sahib thinks you better go away," says the Hindu.
Well, to be plain, it was what I was thinking myself; for the
report of a pistol would have been, under Providence, the means of
hanging the pair of us.
"Tell the Sahib I consider him no gentleman," says I, and turned
away with a gesture of contempt.
I was not gone three steps when the voice of the Hindu called me
back. "The Sahib would be glad to know if you are a dam low
Irishman," says he; and at the words Ballantrae smiled and bowed
very low.
"What is that?" says I.
"The Sahib say you ask your friend Mackellar," says the Hindu.
"The Sahib he cry quits."
"Tell the Sahib I will give him a cure for the Scots fiddle when
next we meet," cried I.
The pair were still smiling as I left.
There is little doubt some flaws may be picked in my own behaviour;
and when a man, however gallant, appeals to posterity with an
account of his exploits, he must almost certainly expect to share
the fate of Caesar and Alexander, and to meet with some detractors.
But there is one thing that can never be laid at the door of
Francis Burke: he never turned his back on a friend. . . .
(Here follows a passage which the Chevalier Burke has been at the
pains to delete before sending me his manuscript. Doubtless it was
some very natural complaint of what he supposed to be an
indiscretion on my part; though, indeed, I can call none to mind.
Perhaps Mr. Henry was less guarded; or it is just possible the
Master found the means to examine my correspondence, and himself
read the letter from Troyes: in revenge for which this cruel jest
was perpetrated on Mr. Burke in his extreme necessity. The Master,
for all his wickedness, was not without some natural affection; I
believe he was sincerely attached to Mr. Burke in the beginning;
but the thought of treachery dried up the springs of his very
shallow friendship, and his detestable nature appeared naked. - E.
It is a strange thing that I should be at a stick for a date - the
date, besides, of an incident that changed the very nature of my
life, and sent us all into foreign lands. But the truth is, I was
stricken out of all my habitudes, and find my journals very ill
redd-up, (7) the day not indicated sometimes for a week or two
together, and the whole fashion of the thing like that of a man
near desperate. It was late in March at least, or early in April,
1764. I had slept heavily, and wakened with a premonition of some
evil to befall. So strong was this upon my spirit that I hurried
downstairs in my shirt and breeches, and my hand (I remember) shook
upon the rail. It was a cold, sunny morning, with a thick white
frost; the blackbirds sang exceeding sweet and loud about the house
of Durrisdeer, and there was a noise of the sea in all the
chambers. As I came by the doors of the hall, another sound
arrested me - of voices talking. I drew nearer, and stood like a
man dreaming. Here was certainly a human voice, and that in my own
master's house, and yet I knew it not; certainly human speech, and
that in my native land; and yet, listen as I pleased, I could not
catch one syllable. An old tale started up in my mind of a fairy
wife (or perhaps only a wandering stranger), that came to the place
of my fathers some generations back, and stayed the matter of a
week, talking often in a tongue that signified nothing to the
hearers; and went again, as she had come, under cloud of night,
leaving not so much as a name behind her. A little fear I had, but
more curiosity; and I opened the hall-door, and entered.
The supper-things still lay upon the table; the shutters were still
closed, although day peeped in the divisions; and the great room
was lighted only with a single taper and some lurching
reverberation of the fire. Close in the chimney sat two men. The
one that was wrapped in a cloak and wore boots, I knew at once: it
was the bird of ill omen back again. Of the other, who was set
close to the red embers, and made up into a bundle like a mummy, I
could but see that he was an alien, of a darker hue than any man of
Europe, very frailly built, with a singular tall forehead, and a
secret eye. Several bundles and a small valise were on the floor;
and to judge by the smallness of this luggage, and by the condition
of the Master's boots, grossly patched by some unscrupulous country
cobbler, evil had not prospered.
He rose upon my entrance; our eyes crossed; and I know not why it
should have been, but my courage rose like a lark on a May morning.
"Ha!" said I, "is this you?" - and I was pleased with the unconcern
of my own voice.
"It is even myself, worthy Mackellar," says the Master.
"This time you have brought the black dog visibly upon your back,"
I continued.
"Referring to Secundra Dass?" asked the Master. "Let me present
you. He is a native gentleman of India."
"Hum!" said I. "I am no great lover either of you or your friends,
Mr. Bally. But I will let a little daylight in, and have a look at
you." And so saying, I undid the shutters of the eastern window.
By the light of the morning I could perceive the man was changed.
Later, when we were all together, I was more struck to see how
lightly time had dealt with him; but the first glance was
"You are getting an old man," said I.
A shade came upon his face. "If you could see yourself," said he,
"you would perhaps not dwell upon the topic."
"Hut!" I returned, "old age is nothing to me. I think I have been
always old; and I am now, I thank God, better known and more
respected. It is not every one that can say that, Mr. Bally! The
lines in your brow are calamities; your life begins to close in
upon you like a prison; death will soon be rapping at the door; and
I see not from what source you are to draw your consolations."
Here the Master addressed himself to Secundra Dass in Hindustanee,
from which I gathered (I freely confess, with a high degree of
pleasure) that my remarks annoyed him. All this while, you may be
sure, my mind had been busy upon other matters, even while I
rallied my enemy; and chiefly as to how I should communicate
secretly and quickly with my lord. To this, in the breathing-space
now given me, I turned all the forces of my mind; when, suddenly
shifting my eyes, I was aware of the man himself standing in the
doorway, and, to all appearance, quite composed. He had no sooner
met my looks than he stepped across the threshold. The Master
heard him coming, and advanced upon the other side; about four feet
apart, these brothers came to a full pause, and stood exchanging
steady looks, and then my lord smiled, bowed a little forward, and
turned briskly away.
"Mackellar," says he, "we must see to breakfast for these
It was plain the Master was a trifle disconcerted; but he assumed
the more impudence of speech and manner. "I am as hungry as a
hawk," says he. "Let it be something good, Henry."
My lord turned to him with the same hard smile.
"Lord Durrisdeer," says he.
"Oh! never in the family," returned the Master.
"Every one in this house renders me my proper title," says my lord.
"If it please you to make an exception, I will leave you to
consider what appearance it will bear to strangers, and whether it
may not be translated as an effect of impotent jealousy."
I could have clapped my hands together with delight: the more so
as my lord left no time for any answer, but, bidding me with a sign
to follow him, went straight out of the hall.
"Come quick," says he; "we have to sweep vermin from the house."
And he sped through the passages, with so swift a step that I could
scarce keep up with him, straight to the door of John Paul, the
which he opened without summons and walked in. John was, to all
appearance, sound asleep, but my lord made no pretence of waking
"John Paul," said he, speaking as quietly as ever I heard him, "you
served my father long, or I would pack you from the house like a
dog. If in half an hour's time I find you gone, you shall continue
to receive your wages in Edinburgh. If you linger here or in St.
Bride's - old man, old servant, and altogether - I shall find some
very astonishing way to make you smart for your disloyalty. Up and
begone. The door you let them in by will serve for your departure.
I do not choose my son shall see your face again."
"I am rejoiced to find you bear the thing so quietly," said I, when
we were forth again by ourselves.
"Quietly!" cries he, and put my hand suddenly against his heart,
which struck upon his bosom like a sledge.
At this revelation I was filled with wonder and fear. There was no
constitution could bear so violent a strain - his least of all,
that was unhinged already; and I decided in my mind that we must
bring this monstrous situation to an end.
"It would be well, I think, if I took word to my lady," said I.
Indeed, he should have gone himself, but I counted - not in vain -
on his indifference.
"Aye," says he, "do. I will hurry breakfast: we must all appear
at the table, even Alexander; it must appear we are untroubled."
I ran to my lady's room, and with no preparatory cruelty disclosed
my news.
"My mind was long ago made up," said she. "We must make our
packets secretly to-day, and leave secretly to-night. Thank
Heaven, we have another house! The first ship that sails shall
bear us to New York."
"And what of him?" I asked.
"We leave him Durrisdeer," she cried. "Let him work his pleasure
upon that."
"Not so, by your leave," said I. "There shall be a dog at his
heels that can hold fast. Bed he shall have, and board, and a
horse to ride upon, if he behave himself; but the keys - if you
think well of it, my lady - shall be left in the hands of one
Mackellar. There will be good care taken; trust him for that."
"Mr. Mackellar," she cried, "I thank you for that thought. All
shall be left in your hands. If we must go into a savage country,
I bequeath it to you to take our vengeance. Send Macconochie to
St. Bride's, to arrange privately for horses and to call the
lawyer. My lord must leave procuration."
At that moment my lord came to the door, and we opened our plan to
"I will never hear of it," he cried; "he would think I feared him.
I will stay in my own house, please God, until I die. There lives
not the man can beard me out of it. Once and for all, here I am,
and here I stay in spite of all the devils in hell." I can give no
idea of the vehemency of his words and utterance; but we both stood
aghast, and I in particular, who had been a witness of his former
My lady looked at me with an appeal that went to my heart and
recalled me to my wits. I made her a private sign to go, and when
my lord and I were alone, went up to him where he was racing to and
fro in one end of the room like a half-lunatic, and set my hand
firmly on his shoulder.
"My lord," says I, "I am going to be the plain-dealer once more; if
for the last time, so much the better, for I am grown weary of the
"Nothing will change me," he answered. "God forbid I should refuse
to hear you; but nothing will change me." This he said firmly,
with no signal of the former violence, which already raised my
"Very well," said I "I can afford to waste my breath." I pointed
to a chair, and he sat down and looked at me. "I can remember a
time when my lady very much neglected you," said I.
"I never spoke of it while it lasted," returned my lord, with a
high flush of colour; "and it is all changed now."'
"Do you know how much?" I said. "Do you know how much it is all
changed? The tables are turned, my lord! It is my lady that now
courts you for a word, a look - ay, and courts you in vain. Do you
know with whom she passes her days while you are out gallivanting
in the policies? My lord, she is glad to pass them with a certain
dry old grieve (8) of the name of Ephraim Mackellar; and I think
you may be able to remember what that means, for I am the more in a
mistake or you were once driven to the same company yourself."
"Mackellar!" cries my lord, getting to his feet. "O my God,
"It is neither the name of Mackellar nor the name of God that can
change the truth," said I; "and I am telling you the fact. Now for
you, that suffered so much, to deal out the same suffering to
another, is that the part of any Christian? But you are so
swallowed up in your new friend that the old are all forgotten.
They are all clean vanished from your memory. And yet they stood
by you at the darkest; my lady not the least. And does my lady
ever cross your mind? Does it ever cross your mind what she went
through that night? - or what manner of a wife she has been to you
thenceforward? - or in what kind of a position she finds herself
to-day? Never. It is your pride to stay and face him out, and she
must stay along with you. Oh! my lord's pride - that's the great
affair! And yet she is the woman, and you are a great hulking man!
She is the woman that you swore to protect; and, more betoken, the
own mother of that son of yours!"
"You are speaking very bitterly, Mackellar," said he; "but, the
Lord knows, I fear you are speaking very true. I have not proved
worthy of my happiness. Bring my lady back."
My lady was waiting near at hand to learn the issue. When I
brought her in, my lord took a hand of each of us, and laid them
both upon his bosom. "I have had two friends in my life," said he.
"All the comfort ever I had, it came from one or other. When you
two are in a mind, I think I would be an ungrateful dog - " He
shut his mouth very hard, and looked on us with swimming eyes. "Do
what ye like with me," says he, "only don't think - " He stopped
again. "Do what ye please with me: God knows I love and honour
you." And dropping our two hands, he turned his back and went and
gazed out of the window. But my lady ran after, calling his name,
and threw herself upon his neck in a passion of weeping.
I went out and shut the door behind me, and stood and thanked God
from the bottom of my heart.
At the breakfast board, according to my lord's design, we were all
met. The Master had by that time plucked off his patched boots and
made a toilet suitable to the hour; Secundra Dass was no longer
bundled up in wrappers, but wore a decent plain black suit, which
misbecame him strangely; and the pair were at the great window,
looking forth, when the family entered. They turned; and the black
man (as they had already named him in the house) bowed almost to
his knees, but the Master was for running forward like one of the
family. My lady stopped him, curtseying low from the far end of
the hall, and keeping her children at her back. My lord was a
little in front: so there were the three cousins of Durrisdeer
face to face. The hand of time was very legible on all; I seemed
to read in their changed faces a MEMENTO MORI; and what affected me
still more, it was the wicked man that bore his years the
handsomest. My lady was quite transfigured into the matron, a
becoming woman for the head of a great tableful of children and
dependents. My lord was grown slack in his limbs; he stooped; he
walked with a running motion, as though he had learned again from
Mr. Alexander; his face was drawn; it seemed a trifle longer than
of old; and it wore at times a smile very singularly mingled, and
which (in my eyes) appeared both bitter and pathetic. But the
Master still bore himself erect, although perhaps with effort; his
brow barred about the centre with imperious lines, his mouth set as
for command. He had all the gravity and something of the splendour
of Satan in the "Paradise Lost." I could not help but see the man
with admiration, and was only surprised that I saw him with so
little fear.
But indeed (as long as we were at the table) it seemed as if his
authority were quite vanished and his teeth all drawn. We had
known him a magician that controlled the elements; and here he was,
transformed into an ordinary gentleman, chatting like his
neighbours at the breakfast-board. For now the father was dead,
and my lord and lady reconciled, in what ear was he to pour his
calumnies? It came upon me in a kind of vision how hugely I had
overrated the man's subtlety. He had his malice still; he was
false as ever; and, the occasion being gone that made his strength,
he sat there impotent; he was still the viper, but now spent his
venom on a file. Two more thoughts occurred to me while yet we sat
at breakfast: the first, that he was abashed - I had almost said,
distressed - to find his wickedness quite unavailing; the second,
that perhaps my lord was in the right, and we did amiss to fly from
our dismasted enemy. But my poor man's leaping heart came in my
mind, and I remembered it was for his life we played the coward.
When the meal was over, the Master followed me to my room, and,
taking a chair (which I had never offered him), asked me what was
to be done with him.
"Why, Mr. Bally," said I, "the house will still be open to you for
a time."
"For a time?" says he. "I do not know if I quite take your
"It is plain enough," said I. "We keep you for our reputation; as
soon as you shall have publicly disgraced yourself by some of your
misconduct, we shall pack you forth again."
"You are become an impudent rogue," said the Master, bending his
brows at me dangerously.
"I learned in a good school," I returned. "And you must have
perceived yourself that with my old lord's death your power is
quite departed. I do not fear you now, Mr. Bally; I think even -
God forgive me - that I take a certain pleasure in your company."
He broke out in a burst of laughter, which I clearly saw to be
"I have come with empty pockets," says he, after a pause.
"I do not think there will be any money going," I replied. "I
would advise you not to build on that."
"I shall have something to say on the point," he returned.
"Indeed?" said I. "I have not a guess what it will be, then."
"Oh! you affect confidence," said the Master. "I have still one
strong position - that you people fear a scandal, and I enjoy it."
"Pardon me, Mr. Bally," says I. "We do not in the least fear a
scandal against you."
He laughed again. "You have been studying repartee," he said.
"But speech is very easy, and sometimes very deceptive. I warn you
fairly: you will find me vitriol in the house. You would do wiser
to pay money down and see my back." And with that he waved his
hand to me and left the room.
A little after, my lord came with the lawyer, Mr. Carlyle; a bottle
of old wine was brought, and we all had a glass before we fell to
business. The necessary deeds were then prepared and executed, and
the Scotch estates made over in trust to Mr. Carlyle and myself.
"There is one point, Mr. Carlyle," said my lord, when these affairs
had been adjusted, "on which I wish that you would do us justice.
This sudden departure coinciding with my brother's return will be
certainly commented on. I wish you would discourage any
conjunction of the two."
"I will make a point of it, my lord," said Mr. Carlyle. "The MasBally
does not, then, accompany you?"
"It is a point I must approach," said my lord. "Mr. Bally remains
at Durrisdeer, under the care of Mr. Mackellar; and I do not mean
that he shall even know our destination."
"Common report, however - " began the lawyer.
"Ah! but, Mr. Carlyle, this is to be a secret quite among
ourselves," interrupted my lord. "None but you and Mackellar are
to be made acquainted with my movements."
"And Mr. Bally stays here? Quite so," said Mr. Carlyle. "The
powers you leave - " Then he broke off again. "Mr. Mackellar, we
have a rather heavy weight upon us."
"No doubt," said I.
"No doubt," said he. "Mr. Bally will have no voice?"
"He will have no voice," said my lord; "and, I hope, no influence.
Mr. Bally is not a good adviser."
"I see," said the lawyer. "By the way, has Mr. Bally means?"
"I understand him to have nothing," replied my lord. "I give him
table, fire, and candle in this house."
"And in the matter of an allowance? If I am to share the
responsibility, you will see how highly desirable it is that I
should understand your views," said the lawyer. "On the question
of an allowance?"
"There will be no allowance," said my lord. "I wish Mr. Bally to
live very private. We have not always been gratified with his
"And in the matter of money," I added, "he has shown himself an
infamous bad husband. Glance your eye upon that docket, Mr.
Carlyle, where I have brought together the different sums the man
has drawn from the estate in the last fifteen or twenty years. The
total is pretty."
Mr. Carlyle made the motion of whistling. "I had no guess of
this," said he. "Excuse me once more, my lord, if I appear to push
you; but it is really desirable I should penetrate your intentions.
Mr. Mackellar might die, when I should find myself alone upon this
trust. Would it not be rather your lordship's preference that Mr.
Bally should - ahem - should leave the country?"
My lord looked at Mr. Carlyle. "Why do you ask that?" said he.
"I gather, my lord, that Mr. Bally is not a comfort to his family,"
says the lawyer with a smile.
My lord's face became suddenly knotted. "I wish he was in hell!"
cried he, and filled himself a glass of wine, but with a hand so
tottering that he spilled the half into his bosom. This was the
second time that, in the midst of the most regular and wise
behaviour, his animosity had spirted out. It startled Mr. Carlyle,
who observed my lord thenceforth with covert curiosity; and to me
it restored the certainty that we were acting for the best in view
of my lord's health and reason.
Except for this explosion the interview was very successfully
conducted. No doubt Mr. Carlyle would talk, as lawyers do, little
by little. We could thus feel we had laid the foundations of a
better feeling in the country, and the man's own misconduct would
certainly complete what we had begun. Indeed, before his
departure, the lawyer showed us there had already gone abroad some
glimmerings of the truth.
"I should perhaps explain to you, my lord," said he, pausing, with
his hat in his hand, "that I have not been altogether surprised
with your lordship's dispositions in the case of Mr. Bally.
Something of this nature oozed out when he was last in Durrisdeer.
There was some talk of a woman at St. Bride's, to whom you had
behaved extremely handsome, and Mr. Bally with no small degree of
cruelty. There was the entail, again, which was much controverted.
In short, there was no want of talk, back and forward; and some of
our wise-acres took up a strong opinion. I remained in suspense,
as became one of my cloth; but Mr. Mackellar's docket here has
finally opened my eyes. I do not think, Mr. Mackellar, that you
and I will give him that much rope."
The rest of that important day passed prosperously through. It was
our policy to keep the enemy in view, and I took my turn to be his
watchman with the rest. I think his spirits rose as he perceived
us to be so attentive, and I know that mine insensibly declined.
What chiefly daunted me was the man's singular dexterity to worm
himself into our troubles. You may have felt (after a horse
accident) the hand of a bone-setter artfully divide and interrogate
the muscles, and settle strongly on the injured place? It was so
with the Master's tongue, that was so cunning to question; and his
eyes, that were so quick to observe. I seemed to have said
nothing, and yet to have let all out. Before I knew where I was
the man was condoling with me on my lord's neglect of my lady and
myself, and his hurtful indulgence to his son. On this last point
I perceived him (with panic fear) to return repeatedly. The boy
had displayed a certain shrinking from his uncle; it was strong in
my mind his father had been fool enough to indoctrinate the same,
which was no wise beginning: and when I looked upon the man before
me, still so handsome, so apt a speaker, with so great a variety of
fortunes to relate, I saw he was the very personage to captivate a
boyish fancy. John Paul had left only that morning; it was not to
be supposed he had been altogether dumb upon his favourite subject:
so that here would be Mr. Alexander in the part of Dido, with a
curiosity inflamed to hear; and there would be the Master, like a
diabolical AEneas, full of matter the most pleasing in the world to
any youthful ear, such as battles, sea-disasters, flights, the
forests of the West, and (since his later voyage) the ancient
cities of the Indies. How cunningly these baits might be employed,
and what an empire might be so founded, little by little, in the
mind of any boy, stood obviously clear to me. There was no
inhibition, so long as the man was in the house, that would be
strong enough to hold these two apart; for if it be hard to charm
serpents, it is no very difficult thing to cast a glamour on a
little chip of manhood not very long in breeches. I recalled an
ancient sailor-man who dwelt in a lone house beyond the Figgate
Whins (I believe, he called it after Portobello), and how the boys
would troop out of Leith on a Saturday, and sit and listen to his
swearing tales, as thick as crows about a carrion: a thing I often
remarked as I went by, a young student, on my own more meditative
holiday diversion. Many of these boys went, no doubt, in the face
of an express command; many feared and even hated the old brute of
whom they made their hero; and I have seen them flee from him when
he was tipsy, and stone him when he was drunk. And yet there they
came each Saturday! How much more easily would a boy like Mr.
Alexander fall under the influence of a high-looking, high-spoken
gentleman-adventurer, who should conceive the fancy to entrap him;
and, the influence gained, how easy to employ it for the child's
I doubt if our enemy had named Mr. Alexander three times before I
perceived which way his mind was aiming - all this train of thought
and memory passed in one pulsation through my own - and you may say
I started back as though an open hole had gaped across a pathway.
Mr. Alexander: there was the weak point, there was the Eve in our
perishable paradise; and the serpent was already hissing on the
I promise you, I went the more heartily about the preparations; my
last scruple gone, the danger of delay written before me in huge
characters. From that moment forth I seem not to have sat down or
breathed. Now I would be at my post with the Master and his
Indian; now in the garret, buckling a valise; now sending forth
Macconochie by the side postern and the wood-path to bear it to the
trysting-place; and, again, snatching some words of counsel with my
lady. This was the VERSO of our life in Durrisdeer that day; but
on the RECTO all appeared quite settled, as of a family at home in
its paternal seat; and what perturbation may have been observable,
the Master would set down to the blow of his unlooked-for coming,
and the fear he was accustomed to inspire.
Supper went creditably off, cold salutations passed and the company
trooped to their respective chambers. I attended the Master to the
last. We had put him next door to his Indian, in the north wing;
because that was the most distant and could be severed from the
body of the house with doors. I saw he was a kind friend or a good
master (whichever it was) to his Secundra Dass - seeing to his
comfort; mending the fire with his own hand, for the Indian
complained of cold; inquiring as to the rice on which the stranger
made his diet; talking with him pleasantly in the Hindustanee,
while I stood by, my candle in my hand, and affected to be overcome
with slumber. At length the Master observed my signals of
distress. "I perceive," says he, "that you have all your ancient
habits: early to bed and early to rise. Yawn yourself away!"
Once in my own room, I made the customary motions of undressing, so
that I might time myself; and when the cycle was complete, set my
tinder-box ready, and blew out my taper. The matter of an hour
afterward I made a light again, put on my shoes of list that I had
worn by my lord's sick-bed, and set forth into the house to call
the voyagers. All were dressed and waiting - my lord, my lady,
Miss Katharine, Mr. Alexander, my lady's woman Christie; and I
observed the effect of secrecy even upon quite innocent persons,
that one after another showed in the chink of the door a face as
white as paper. We slipped out of the side postern into a night of
darkness, scarce broken by a star or two; so that at first we
groped and stumbled and fell among the bushes. A few hundred yards
up the wood-path Macconochie was waiting us with a great lantern;
so the rest of the way we went easy enough, but still in a kind of
guilty silence. A little beyond the abbey the path debauched on
the main road and some quarter of a mile farther, at the place
called Eagles, where the moors begin, we saw the lights of the two
carriages stand shining by the wayside. Scarce a word or two was
uttered at our parting, and these regarded business: a silent
grasping of hands, a turning of faces aside, and the thing was
over; the horses broke into a trot, the lamplight sped like Willo'-
the-Wisp upon the broken moorland, it dipped beyond Stony Brae;
and there were Macconochie and I alone with our lantern on the
road. There was one thing more to wait for, and that was the
reappearance of the coach upon Cartmore. It seems they must have
pulled up upon the summit, looked back for a last time, and seen
our lantern not yet moved away from the place of separation. For a
lamp was taken from a carriage, and waved three times up and down
by way of a farewell. And then they were gone indeed, having
looked their last on the kind roof of Durrisdeer, their faces
toward a barbarous country. I never knew before, the greatness of
that vault of night in which we two poor serving-men - the one old,
and the one elderly - stood for the first time deserted; I had
never felt before my own dependency upon the countenance of others.
The sense of isolation burned in my bowels like a fire. It seemed
that we who remained at home were the true exiles, and that
Durrisdeer and Solwayside, and all that made my country native, its
air good to me, and its language welcome, had gone forth and was
far over the sea with my old masters.
The remainder of that night I paced to and fro on the smooth
highway, reflecting on the future and the past. My thoughts, which
at first dwelled tenderly on those who were just gone, took a more
manly temper as I considered what remained for me to do. Day came
upon the inland mountain-tops, and the fowls began to cry, and the
smoke of homesteads to arise in the brown bosom of the moors,
before I turned my face homeward, and went down the path to where
the roof of Durrisdeer shone in the morning by the sea.
At the customary hour I had the Master called, and awaited his
coming in the hall with a quiet mind. He looked about him at the
empty room and the three covers set.
"We are a small party," said he. "How comes?"
"This is the party to which we must grow accustomed," I replied.
He looked at me with a sudden sharpness. "What is all this?" said
"You and I and your friend Mr. Dass are now all the company," I
replied. "My lord, my lady, and the children, are gone upon a
"Upon my word!" said he. "Can this be possible? I have indeed
fluttered your Volscians in Corioli! But this is no reason why our
breakfast should go cold. Sit down, Mr. Mackellar, if you please"
- taking, as he spoke, the head of the table, which I had designed
to occupy myself - "and as we eat, you can give me the details of
this evasion."
I could see he was more affected than his language carried, and I
determined to equal him in coolness. "I was about to ask you to
take the head of the table," said I; "for though I am now thrust
into the position of your host, I could never forget that you were,
after all, a member of the family."
For a while he played the part of entertainer, giving directions to
Macconochie, who received them with an evil grace, and attending
specially upon Secundra. "And where has my good family withdrawn
to?" he asked carelessly.
"Ah! Mr. Bally, that is another point," said I. "I have no orders
to communicate their destination."
"To me," he corrected.
"To any one," said I.
"It is the less pointed," said the master; "C'EST DE BON TON: my
brother improves as he continues. And I, dear Mr. Mackellar?"
"You will have bed and board, Mr. Bally," said I. "I am permitted
to give you the run of the cellar, which is pretty reasonably
stocked. You have only to keep well with me, which is no very
difficult matter, and you shall want neither for wine nor a saddlehorse."
He made an excuse to send Macconochie from the room.
"And for money?" he inquired. "Have I to keep well with my good
friend Mackellar for my pocket-money also? This is a pleasing
return to the principles of boyhood."
"There was no allowance made," said I; "but I will take it on
myself to see you are supplied in moderation."
"In moderation?" he repeated. "And you will take it on yourself?"
He drew himself up, and looked about the hall at the dark rows of
portraits. "In the name of my ancestors, I thank you," says he;
and then, with a return to irony, "But there must certainly be an
allowance for Secundra Dass?" he said. "It in not possible they
have omitted that?"
"I will make a note of it, and ask instructions when I write," said
And he, with a sudden change of manner, and leaning forward with an
elbow on the table - "Do you think this entirely wise?"
"I execute my orders, Mr. Bally," said I.
"Profoundly modest," said the Master; "perhaps not equally
ingenuous. You told me yesterday my power was fallen with my
father's death. How comes it, then, that a peer of the realm flees
under cloud of night out of a house in which his fathers have stood
several sieges? that he conceals his address, which must be a
matter of concern to his Gracious Majesty and to the whole
republic? and that he should leave me in possession, and under the
paternal charge of his invaluable Mackellar? This smacks to me of
a very considerable and genuine apprehension."
I sought to interrupt him with some not very truthful denegation;
but he waved me down, and pursued his speech.
"I say, it smacks of it," he said; "but I will go beyond that, for
I think the apprehension grounded. I came to this house with some
reluctancy. In view of the manner of my last departure, nothing
but necessity could have induced me to return. Money, however, is
that which I must have. You will not give with a good grace; well,
I have the power to force it from you. Inside of a week, without
leaving Durrisdeer, I will find out where these fools are fled to.
I will follow; and when I have run my quarry down, I will drive a
wedge into that family that shall once more burst it into shivers.
I shall see then whether my Lord Durrisdeer" (said with
indescribable scorn and rage) "will choose to buy my absence; and
you will all see whether, by that time, I decide for profit or
I was amazed to hear the man so open. The truth is, he was
consumed with anger at my lord's successful flight, felt himself to
figure as a dupe, and was in no humour to weigh language.
"Do you consider THIS entirely wise?" said I, copying his words.
"These twenty years I have lived by my poor wisdom," he answered
with a smile that seemed almost foolish in its vanity.
"And come out a beggar in the end," said I, "if beggar be a strong
enough word for it."
"I would have you to observe, Mr. Mackellar," cried he, with a
sudden imperious heat, in which I could not but admire him, "that I
am scrupulously civil: copy me in that, and we shall be the better
Throughout this dialogue I had been incommoded by the observation
of Secundra Dass. Not one of us, since the first word, had made a
feint of eating: our eyes were in each other's faces - you might
say, in each other's bosoms; and those of the Indian troubled me
with a certain changing brightness, as of comprehension. But I
brushed the fancy aside, telling myself once more he understood no
English; only, from the gravity of both voices, and the occasional
scorn and anger in the Master's, smelled out there was something of
import in the wind.
For the matter of three weeks we continued to live together in the
house of Durrisdeer: the beginning of that most singular chapter
of my life - what I must call my intimacy with the Master. At
first he was somewhat changeable in his behaviour: now civil, now
returning to his old manner of flouting me to my face; and in both
I met him half-way. Thanks be to Providence, I had now no measure
to keep with the man; and I was never afraid of black brows, only
of naked swords. So that I found a certain entertainment in these
bouts of incivility, and was not always ill-inspired in my
rejoinders. At last (it was at supper) I had a droll expression
that entirely vanquished him. He laughed again and again; and "Who
would have guessed," he cried, "that this old wife had any wit
under his petticoats?"
"It is no wit, Mr. Bally," said I: "a dry Scot's humour, and
something of the driest." And, indeed, I never had the least
pretension to be thought a wit.
From that hour he was never rude with me, but all passed between us
in a manner of pleasantry. One of our chief times of daffing (9)
was when he required a horse, another bottle, or some money. He
would approach me then after the manner of a schoolboy, and I would
carry it on by way of being his father: on both sides, with an
infinity of mirth. I could not but perceive that he thought more
of me, which tickled that poor part of mankind, the vanity. He
dropped, besides (I must suppose unconsciously), into a manner that
was not only familiar, but even friendly; and this, on the part of
one who had so long detested me, I found the more insidious. He
went little abroad; sometimes even refusing invitations. "No," he
would say, "what do I care for these thick-headed bonnet-lairds? I
will stay at home, Mackellar; and we shall share a bottle quietly,
and have one of our good talks." And, indeed, meal-time at
Durrisdeer must have been a delight to any one, by reason of the
brilliancy of the discourse. He would often express wonder at his
former indifference to my society. "But, you see," he would add,
"we were upon opposite sides. And so we are to-day; but let us
never speak of that. I would think much less of you if you were
not staunch to your employer." You are to consider he seemed to me
quite impotent for any evil; and how it is a most engaging form of
flattery when (after many years) tardy justice is done to a man's
character and parts. But I have no thought to excuse myself. I
was to blame; I let him cajole me, and, in short, I think the
watch-dog was going sound asleep, when he was suddenly aroused.
I should say the Indian was continually travelling to and fro in
the house. He never spoke, save in his own dialect and with the
Master; walked without sound; and was always turning up where you
would least expect him, fallen into a deep abstraction, from which
he would start (upon your coming) to mock you with one of his
grovelling obeisances. He seemed so quiet, so frail, and so
wrapped in his own fancies, that I came to pass him over without
much regard, or even to pity him for a harmless exile from his
country. And yet without doubt the creature was still
eavesdropping; and without doubt it was through his stealth and my
security that our secret reached the Master.
It was one very wild night, after supper, and when we had been
making more than usually merry, that the blow fell on me.
"This is all very fine," says the Master, "but we should do better
to be buckling our valise."
"Why so?" I cried. "Are you leaving?"
"We are all leaving to-morrow in the morning," said he. "For the
port of Glascow first, thence for the province of New York."
I suppose I must have groaned aloud.
"Yes," he continued, "I boasted; I said a week, and it has taken me
near twenty days. But never mind; I shall make it up; I will go
the faster."
"Have you the money for this voyage?" I asked.
"Dear and ingenuous personage, I have," said he. "Blame me, if you
choose, for my duplicity; but while I have been wringing shillings
from my daddy, I had a stock of my own put by against a rainy day.
You will pay for your own passage, if you choose to accompany us on
our flank march; I have enough for Secundra and myself, but not
more - enough to be dangerous, not enough to be generous. There
is, however, an outside seat upon the chaise which I will let you
have upon a moderate commutation; so that the whole menagerie can
go together - the house-dog, the monkey, and the tiger."
"I go with you," said I.
"I count upon it," said the Master. "You have seen me foiled; I
mean you shall see me victorious. To gain that I will risk wetting
you like a sop in this wild weather."
"And at least," I added, "you know very well you could not throw me
"Not easily," said he. "You put your finger on the point with your
usual excellent good sense. I never fight with the inevitable."
"I suppose it is useless to appeal to you?" said I.
"Believe me, perfectly," said he.
"And yet, if you would give me time, I could write - " I began.
"And what would be my Lord Durrisdeer's answer?" asks he.
"Aye," said I, "that is the rub."
"And, at any rate, how much more expeditions that I should go
myself!" says he. "But all this is quite a waste of breath. At
seven to-morrow the chaise will be at the door. For I start from
the door, Mackellar; I do not skulk through woods and take my
chaise upon the wayside - shall we say, at Eagles?"
My mind was now thoroughly made up. "Can you spare me quarter of
an hour at St. Bride's?" said I. "I have a little necessary
business with Carlyle."
"An hour, if you prefer," said he. "I do not seek to deny that the
money for your seat is an object to me; and you could always get
the first to Glascow with saddle-horses."
"Well," said I, "I never thought to leave old Scotland."
"It will brisken you up," says he.
"This will be an ill journey for some one," I said. "I think, sir,
for you. Something speaks in my bosom; and so much it says plain -
that this is an ill-omened journey."
"If you take to prophecy," says he, "listen to that."
There came up a violent squall off the open Solway, and the rain
was dashed on the great windows.
"Do ye ken what that bodes, warlock?" said he, in a broad accent:
"that there'll be a man Mackellar unco' sick at sea."
When I got to my chamber, I sat there under a painful excitation,
hearkening to the turmoil of the gale, which struck full upon that
gable of the house. What with the pressure on my spirits, the
eldritch cries of the wind among the turret-tops, and the perpetual
trepidation of the masoned house, sleep fled my eyelids utterly. I
sat by my taper, looking on the black panes of the window, where
the storm appeared continually on the point of bursting in its
entrance; and upon that empty field I beheld a perspective of
consequences that made the hair to rise upon my scalp. The child
corrupted, the home broken up, my master dead or worse than dead,
my mistress plunged in desolation - all these I saw before me
painted brightly on the darkness; and the outcry of the wind
appeared to mock at my inaction.
The chaise came to the door in a strong drenching mist. We took
our leave in silence: the house of Durrisdeer standing with
dropping gutters and windows closed, like a place dedicate to
melancholy. I observed the Master kept his head out, looking back
on these splashed walls and glimmering roofs, till they were
suddenly swallowed in the mist; and I must suppose some natural
sadness fell upon the man at this departure; or was it some
provision of the end? At least, upon our mounting the long brae
from Durrisdeer, as we walked side by side in the wet, he began
first to whistle and then to sing the saddest of our country tunes,
which sets folk weeping in a tavern, WANDERING WILLIE. The set of
words he used with it I have not heard elsewhere, and could never
come by any copy; but some of them which were the most appropriate
to our departure linger in my memory. One verse began -
Home was home then, my dear, full of kindly faces,
Home was home then, my dear, happy for the child.
And ended somewhat thus -
Now, when day dawns on the brow of the moorland,
Lone stands the house, and the chimney-stone is cold.
Lone let it stand, now the folks are all departed,
The kind hearts, the true hearts, that loved the place of old.
I could never be a judge of the merit of these verses; they were so
hallowed by the melancholy of the air, and were sung (or rather
"soothed") to me by a master-singer at a time so fitting. He
looked in my face when he had done, and saw that my eyes watered.
"Ah! Mackellar," said he, "do you think I have never a regret?"
"I do not think you could be so bad a man," said I, "if you had not
all the machinery to be a good one."
"No, not all," says he: "not all. You are there in error. The
malady of not wanting, my evangelist." But methought he sighed as
he mounted again into the chaise.
All day long we journeyed in the same miserable weather: the mist
besetting us closely, the heavens incessantly weeping on my head.
The road lay over moorish hills, where was no sound but the crying
of moor-fowl in the wet heather and the pouring of the swollen
burns. Sometimes I would doze off in slumber, when I would find
myself plunged at once in some foul and ominous nightmare, from the
which I would awake strangling. Sometimes, if the way was steep
and the wheels turning slowly, I would overhear the voices from
within, talking in that tropical tongue which was to me as
inarticulate as the piping of the fowls. Sometimes, at a longer
ascent, the Master would set foot to ground and walk by my side,
mostly without speech. And all the time, sleeping or waking, I
beheld the same black perspective of approaching ruin; and the same
pictures rose in my view, only they were now painted upon hillside
mist. One, I remember, stood before me with the colours of a true
illusion. It showed me my lord seated at a table in a small room;
his head, which was at first buried in his hands, he slowly raised,
and turned upon me a countenance from which hope had fled. I saw
it first on the black window-panes, my last night in Durrisdeer; it
haunted and returned upon me half the voyage through; and yet it
was no effect of lunacy, for I have come to a ripe old age with no
decay of my intelligence; nor yet (as I was then tempted to
suppose) a heaven-sent warning of the future, for all manner of
calamities befell, not that calamity - and I saw many pitiful
sights, but never that one.
It was decided we should travel on all night; and it was singular,
once the dusk had fallen, my spirits somewhat rose. The bright
lamps, shining forth into the mist and on the smoking horses and
the hodding post-boy, gave me perhaps an outlook intrinsically more
cheerful than what day had shown; or perhaps my mind had become
wearied of its melancholy. At least, I spent some waking hours,
not without satisfaction in my thoughts, although wet and weary in
my body; and fell at last into a natural slumber without dreams.
Yet I must have been at work even in the deepest of my sleep; and
at work with at least a measure of intelligence. For I started
broad awake, in the very act of crying out to myself
Home was home then, my dear, happy for the child,
stricken to find in it an appropriateness, which I had not
yesterday observed, to the Master's detestable purpose in the
present journey.
We were then close upon the city of Glascow, where we were soon
breakfasting together at an inn, and where (as the devil would have
it) we found a ship in the very article of sailing. We took our
places in the cabin; and, two days after, carried our effects on
board. Her name was the NONESUCH, a very ancient ship and very
happily named. By all accounts this should be her last voyage;
people shook their heads upon the quays, and I had several warnings
offered me by strangers in the street to the effect that she was
rotten as a cheese, too deeply loaden, and must infallibly founder
if we met a gale. From this it fell out we were the only
passengers; the Captain, McMurtrie, was a silent, absorbed man,
with the Glascow or Gaelic accent; the mates ignorant rough
seafarers, come in through the hawsehole; and the Master and I were
cast upon each other's company.
THE NONESUCH carried a fair wind out of the Clyde, and for near
upon a week we enjoyed bright weather and a sense of progress. I
found myself (to my wonder) a born seaman, in so far at least as I
was never sick; yet I was far from tasting the usual serenity of my
health. Whether it was the motion of the ship on the billows, the
confinement, the salted food, or all of these together, I suffered
from a blackness of spirit and a painful strain upon my temper.
The nature of my errand on that ship perhaps contributed; I think
it did no more; the malady (whatever it was) sprang from my
environment; and if the ship were not to blame, then it was the
Master. Hatred and fear are ill bedfellows; but (to my shame be it
spoken) I have tasted those in other places, lain down and got up
with them, and eaten and drunk with them, and yet never before, nor
after, have I been so poisoned through and through, in soul and
body, as I was on board the NONESUCH. I freely confess my enemy
set me a fair example of forbearance; in our worst days displayed
the most patient geniality, holding me in conversation as long as I
would suffer, and when I had rebuffed his civility, stretching
himself on deck to read. The book he had on board with him was Mr.
Richardson's famous CLARISSA! and among other small attentions he
would read me passages aloud; nor could any elocutionist have given
with greater potency the pathetic portions of that work. I would
retort upon him with passages out of the Bible, which was all my
library - and very fresh to me, my religious duties (I grieve to
say it) being always and even to this day extremely neglected. He
tasted the merits of the word like the connoisseur he was; and
would sometimes take it from my hand, turn the leaves over like a
man that knew his way, and give me, with his fine declamation, a
Roland for my Oliver. But it was singular how little he applied
his reading to himself; it passed high above his head like summer
thunder: Lovelace and Clarissa, the tales of David's generosity,
the psalms of his penitence, the solemn questions of the book of
Job, the touching poetry of Isaiah - they were to him a source of
entertainment only, like the scraping of a fiddle in a changehouse.
This outer sensibility and inner toughness set me against
him; it seemed of a piece with that impudent grossness which I knew
to underlie the veneer of his fine manners; and sometimes my gorge
rose against him as though he were deformed - and sometimes I would
draw away as though from something partly spectral. I had moments
when I thought of him as of a man of pasteboard - as though, if one
should strike smartly through the buckram of his countenance, there
would be found a mere vacuity within. This horror (not merely
fanciful, I think) vastly increased my detestation of his
neighbourhood; I began to feel something shiver within me on his
drawing near; I had at times a longing to cry out; there were days
when I thought I could have struck him. This frame of mind was
doubtless helped by shame, because I had dropped during our last
days at Durrisdeer into a certain toleration of the man; and if any
one had then told me I should drop into it again, I must have
laughed in his face. It is possible he remained unconscious of
this extreme fever of my resentment; yet I think he was too quick;
and rather that he had fallen, in a long life of idleness, into a
positive need of company, which obliged him to confront and
tolerate my unconcealed aversion. Certain, at least, that he loved
the note of his own tongue, as, indeed, he entirely loved all the
parts and properties of himself; a sort of imbecility which almost
necessarily attends on wickedness. I have seen him driven, when I
proved recalcitrant, to long discourses with the skipper; and this,
although the man plainly testified his weariness, fiddling
miserably with both hand and foot, and replying only with a grunt.
After the first week out we fell in with foul winds and heavy
weather. The sea was high. The NONESUCH, being an old-fashioned
ship and badly loaden, rolled beyond belief; so that the skipper
trembled for his masts, and I for my life. We made no progress on
our course. An unbearable ill-humour settled on the ship: men,
mates, and master, girding at one another all day long. A saucy
word on the one hand, and a blow on the other, made a daily
incident. There were times when the whole crew refused their duty;
and we of the afterguard were twice got under arms - being the
first time that ever I bore weapons - in the fear of mutiny.
In the midst of our evil season sprang up a hurricane of wind; so
that all supposed she must go down. I was shut in the cabin from
noon of one day till sundown of the next; the Master was somewhere
lashed on deck. Secundra had eaten of some drug and lay
insensible; so you may say I passed these hours in an unbroken
solitude. At first I was terrified beyond motion, and almost
beyond thought, my mind appearing to be frozen. Presently there
stole in on me a ray of comfort. If the NONESUCH foundered, she
would carry down with her into the deeps of that unsounded sea the
creature whom we all so feared and hated; there would be no more
Master of Ballantrae, the fish would sport among his ribs; his
schemes all brought to nothing, his harmless enemies at peace. At
first, I have said, it was but a ray of comfort; but it had soon
grown to be broad sunshine. The thought of the man's death, of his
deletion from this world, which he embittered for so many, took
possession of my mind. I hugged it, I found it sweet in my belly.
I conceived the ship's last plunge, the sea bursting upon all sides
into the cabin, the brief mortal conflict there, all by myself, in
that closed place; I numbered the horrors, I had almost said with
satisfaction; I felt I could bear all and more, if the NONESUCH
carried down with her, overtook by the same ruin, the enemy of my
poor master's house. Towards noon of the second day the screaming
of the wind abated; the ship lay not so perilously over, and it
began to be clear to me that we were past the height of the
tempest. As I hope for mercy, I was singly disappointed. In the
selfishness of that vile, absorbing passion of hatred, I forgot the
case of our innocent shipmates, and thought but of myself and my
enemy. For myself, I was already old; I had never been young, I
was not formed for the world's pleasures, I had few affections; it
mattered not the toss of a silver tester whether I was drowned
there and then in the Atlantic, or dribbled out a few more years,
to die, perhaps no less terribly, in a deserted sick-bed. Down I
went upon my knees - holding on by the locker, or else I had been
instantly dashed across the tossing cabin - and, lifting up my
voice in the midst of that clamour of the abating hurricane,
impiously prayed for my own death. "O God!" I cried, "I would be
liker a man if I rose and struck this creature down; but Thou
madest me a coward from my mother's womb. O Lord, Thou madest me
so, Thou knowest my weakness, Thou knowest that any face of death
will set me shaking in my shoes. But, lo! here is Thy servant
ready, his mortal weakness laid aside. Let me give my life for
this creature's; take the two of them, Lord! take the two, and have
mercy on the innocent!" In some such words as these, only yet more
irreverent and with more sacred adjurations, I continued to pour
forth my spirit. God heard me not, I must suppose in mercy; and I
was still absorbed in my agony of supplication when some one,
removing the tarpaulin cover, let the light of the sunset pour into
the cabin. I stumbled to my feet ashamed, and was seized with
surprise to find myself totter and ache like one that had been
stretched upon the rack. Secundra Dass, who had slept off the
effects of his drug, stood in a corner not far off, gazing at me
with wild eyes; and from the open skylight the captain thanked me
for my supplications.
"It's you that saved the ship, Mr. Mackellar," says he. "There is
no craft of seamanship that could have kept her floating: well may
we say, 'Except the Lord the city keep, the watchmen watch in
I was abashed by the captain's error; abashed, also, by the
surprise and fear with which the Indian regarded me at first, and
the obsequious civilities with which he soon began to cumber me. I
know now that he must have overheard and comprehended the peculiar
nature of my prayers. It is certain, of course, that he at once
disclosed the matter to his patron; and looking back with greater
knowledge, I can now understand what so much puzzled me at the
moment, those singular and (so to speak) approving smiles with
which the Master honoured me. Similarly, I can understand a word
that I remember to have fallen from him in conversation that same
night; when, holding up his hand and smiling, "Ah! Mackellar," said
he, "not every man is so great a coward as he thinks he is - nor
yet so good a Christian." He did not guess how true he spoke! For
the fact is, the thoughts which had come to me in the violence of
the storm retained their hold upon my spirit; and the words that
rose to my lips unbidden in the instancy of prayer continued to
sound in my ears: with what shameful consequences, it is fitting I
should honestly relate; for I could not support a part of such
disloyalty as to describe the sins of others and conceal my own.
The wind fell, but the sea hove ever the higher. All night the
NONESUCH rolled outrageously; the next day dawned, and the next,
and brought no change. To cross the cabin was scarce possible; old
experienced seamen were cast down upon the deck, and one cruelly
mauled in the concussion; every board and block in the old ship
cried out aloud; and the great bell by the anchor-bitts continually
and dolefully rang. One of these days the Master and I sate alone
together at the break of the poop. I should say the NONESUCH
carried a high, raised poop. About the top of it ran considerable
bulwarks, which made the ship unweatherly; and these, as they
approached the front on each side, ran down in a fine, oldfashioned,
carven scroll to join the bulwarks of the waist. From
this disposition, which seems designed rather for ornament than
use, it followed there was a discontinuance of protection: and
that, besides, at the very margin of the elevated part where (in
certain movements of the ship) it might be the most needful. It
was here we were sitting: our feet hanging down, the Master
betwixt me and the side, and I holding on with both hands to the
grating of the cabin skylight; for it struck me it was a dangerous
position, the more so as I had continually before my eyes a measure
of our evolutions in the person of the Master, which stood out in
the break of the bulwarks against the sun. Now his head would be
in the zenith and his shadow fall quite beyond the NONESUCH on the
farther side; and now he would swing down till he was underneath my
feet, and the line of the sea leaped high above him like the
ceiling of a room. I looked on upon this with a growing
fascination, as birds are said to look on snakes. My mind,
besides, was troubled with an astonishing diversity of noises; for
now that we had all sails spread in the vain hope to bring her to
the sea, the ship sounded like a factory with their reverberations.
We spoke first of the mutiny with which we had been threatened;
this led us on to the topic of assassination; and that offered a
temptation to the Master more strong than he was able to resist.
He must tell me a tale, and show me at the same time how clever he
was and how wicked. It was a thing he did always with affectation
and display; generally with a good effect. But this tale, told in
a high key in the midst of so great a tumult, and by a narrator who
was one moment looking down at me from the skies and the next up
from under the soles of my feet - this particular tale, I say, took
hold upon me in a degree quite singular.
"My friend the count," it was thus that he began his story, "had
for an enemy a certain German baron, a stranger in Rome. It
matters not what was the ground of the count's enmity; but as he
had a firm design to be revenged, and that with safety to himself,
he kept it secret even from the baron. Indeed, that is the first
principle of vengeance; and hatred betrayed is hatred impotent.
The count was a man of a curious, searching mind; he had something
of the artist; if anything fell for him to do, it must always be
done with an exact perfection, not only as to the result, but in
the very means and instruments, or he thought the thing miscarried.
It chanced he was one day riding in the outer suburbs, when he came
to a disused by-road branching off into the moor which lies about
Rome. On the one hand was an ancient Roman tomb; on the other a
deserted house in a garden of evergreen trees. This road brought
him presently into a field of ruins, in the midst of which, in the
side of a hill, he saw an open door, and, not far off, a single
stunted pine no greater than a currant-bush. The place was desert
and very secret; a voice spoke in the count's bosom that there was
something here to his advantage. He tied his horse to the pinetree,
took his flint and steel in his hand to make a light, and
entered into the hill. The doorway opened on a passage of old
Roman masonry, which shortly after branched in two. The count took
the turning to the right, and followed it, groping forward in the
dark, till he was brought up by a kind of fence, about elbow-high,
which extended quite across the passage. Sounding forward with his
foot, he found an edge of polished stone, and then vacancy. All
his curiosity was now awakened, and, getting some rotten sticks
that lay about the floor, he made a fire. In front of him was a
profound well; doubtless some neighbouring peasant had once used it
for his water, and it was he that had set up the fence. A long
while the count stood leaning on the rail and looking down into the
pit. It was of Roman foundation, and, like all that nation set
their hands to, built as for eternity; the sides were still
straight, and the joints smooth; to a man who should fall in, no
escape was possible. 'Now,' the count was thinking, 'a strong
impulsion brought me to this place. What for? what have I gained?
why should I be sent to gaze into this well?' when the rail of the
fence gave suddenly under his weight, and he came within an ace of
falling headlong in. Leaping back to save himself, he trod out the
last flicker of his fire, which gave him thenceforward no more
light, only an incommoding smoke. 'Was I sent here to my death?'
says he, and shook from head to foot. And then a thought flashed
in his mind. He crept forth on hands and knees to the brink of the
pit, and felt above him in the air. The rail had been fast to a
pair of uprights; it had only broken from the one, and still
depended from the other. The count set it back again as he had
found it, so that the place meant death to the first comer, and
groped out of the catacomb like a sick man. The next day, riding
in the Corso with the baron, he purposely betrayed a strong
preoccupation. The other (as he had designed) inquired into the
cause; and he, after some fencing, admitted that his spirits had
been dashed by an unusual dream. This was calculated to draw on
the baron - a superstitious man, who affected the scorn of
superstition. Some rallying followed, and then the count, as if
suddenly carried away, called on his friend to beware, for it was
of him that he had dreamed. You know enough of human nature, my
excellent Mackellar, to be certain of one thing: I mean that the
baron did not rest till he had heard the dream. The count, sure
that he would never desist, kept him in play till his curiosity was
highly inflamed, and then suffered himself, with seeming
reluctance, to be overborne. 'I warn you,' says he, 'evil will
come of it; something tells me so. But since there is to be no
peace either for you or me except on this condition, the blame be
on your own head! This was the dream:- I beheld you riding, I know
not where, yet I think it must have been near Rome, for on your one
hand was an ancient tomb, and on the other a garden of evergreen
trees. Methought I cried and cried upon you to come back in a very
agony of terror; whether you heard me I know not, but you went
doggedly on. The road brought you to a desert place among ruins,
where was a door in a hillside, and hard by the door a misbegotten
pine. Here you dismounted (I still crying on you to beware), tied
your horse to the pine-tree, and entered resolutely in by the door.
Within, it was dark; but in my dream I could still see you, and
still besought you to hold back. You felt your way along the
right-hand wall, took a branching passage to the right, and came to
a little chamber, where was a well with a railing. At this - I
know not why - my alarm for you increased a thousandfold, so that I
seemed to scream myself hoarse with warnings, crying it was still
time, and bidding you begone at once from that vestibule. Such was
the word I used in my dream, and it seemed then to have a clear
significancy; but to-day, and awake, I profess I know not what it
means. To all my outcry you rendered not the least attention,
leaning the while upon the rail and looking down intently in the
water. And then there was made to you a communication; I do not
think I even gathered what it was, but the fear of it plucked me
clean out of my slumber, and I awoke shaking and sobbing. And
now,' continues the count, 'I thank you from my heart for your
insistency. This dream lay on me like a load; and now I have told
it in plain words and in the broad daylight, it seems no great
matter.' - 'I do not know,' says the baron. 'It is in some points
strange. A communication, did you say? Oh! it is an odd dream.
It will make a story to amuse our friends.' - 'I am not so sure,'
says the count. 'I am sensible of some reluctancy. Let us rather
forget it.' - 'By all means,' says the baron. And (in fact) the
dream was not again referred to. Some days after, the count
proposed a ride in the fields, which the baron (since they were
daily growing faster friends) very readily accepted. On the way
back to Rome, the count led them insensibly by a particular route.
Presently he reined in his horse, clapped his hand before his eyes,
and cried out aloud. Then he showed his face again (which was now
quite white, for he was a consummate actor), and stared upon the
baron. 'What ails you?' cries the baron. 'What is wrong with
you?' - 'Nothing,' cries the count. 'It is nothing. A seizure, I
know not what. Let us hurry back to Rome.' But in the meanwhile
the baron had looked about him; and there, on the left-hand side of
the way as they went back to Rome, he saw a dusty by-road with a
tomb upon the one hand and a garden of evergreen trees upon the
other. - 'Yes,' says he, with a changed voice. 'Let us by all
means hurry back to Rome. I fear you are not well in health.' -
'Oh, for God's sake!' cries the count, shuddering, 'back to Rome
and let me get to bed.' They made their return with scarce a word;
and the count, who should by rights have gone into society, took to
his bed and gave out he had a touch of country fever. The next day
the baron's horse was found tied to the pine, but himself was never
heard of from that hour. - And, now, was that a murder?" says the
Master, breaking sharply off.
"Are you sure he was a count?" I asked.
"I am not certain of the title," said he, "but he was a gentleman
of family: and the Lord deliver you, Mackellar, from an enemy so
These last words he spoke down at me, smiling, from high above; the
next, he was under my feet. I continued to follow his evolutions
with a childish fixity; they made me giddy and vacant, and I spoke
as in a dream.
"He hated the baron with a great hatred?" I asked.
His belly moved when the man came near him," said the Master.
"I have felt that same," said I.
"Verily!" cries the Master. "Here is news indeed! I wonder - do I
flatter myself? or am I the cause of these ventral perturbations?"
He was quite capable of choosing out a graceful posture, even with
no one to behold him but myself, and all the more if there were any
element of peril. He sat now with one knee flung across the other,
his arms on his bosom, fitting the swing of the ship with an
exquisite balance, such as a featherweight might overthrow. All at
once I had the vision of my lord at the table, with his head upon
his hands; only now, when he showed me his countenance, it was
heavy with reproach. The words of my own prayer - I WERE LIKER A
MAN IF I STRUCK THIS CREATURE DOWN - shot at the same time into my
memory. I called my energies together, and (the ship then heeling
downward toward my enemy) thrust at him swiftly with my foot. It
was written I should have the guilt of this attempt without the
profit. Whether from my own uncertainty or his incredible
quickness, he escaped the thrust, leaping to his feet and catching
hold at the same moment of a stay.
I do not know how long a time passed by. I lying where I was upon
the deck, overcome with terror and remorse and shame: he standing
with the stay in his hand, backed against the bulwarks, and
regarding me with an expression singularly mingled. At last he
"Mackellar," said he, "I make no reproaches, but I offer you a
bargain. On your side, I do not suppose you desire to have this
exploit made public; on mine, I own to you freely I do not care to
draw my breath in a perpetual terror of assassination by the man I
sit at meat with. Promise me - but no," says he, breaking off,
"you are not yet in the quiet possession of your mind; you might
think I had extorted the promise from your weakness; and I would
leave no door open for casuistry to come in - that dishonesty of
the conscientious. Take time to meditate."
With that he made off up the sliding deck like a squirrel, and
plunged into the cabin. About half an hour later he returned - I
still lying as he had left me.
"Now,' says be, "will you give me your troth as a Christian, and a
faithful servant of my brother's, that I shall have no more to fear
from your attempts?"
"I give it you," said I.
"I shall require your hand upon it," says he.
"You have the right to make conditions," I replied, and we shook
He sat down at once in the same place and the old perilous
"Hold on!" cried I, covering my eyes. "I cannot bear to see you in
that posture. The least irregularity of the sea might plunge you
"You are highly inconsistent," he replied, smiling, but doing as I
asked. "For all that, Mackellar, I would have you to know you have
risen forty feet in my esteem. You think I cannot set a price upon
fidelity? But why do you suppose I carry that Secundra Dass about
the world with me? Because he would die or do murder for me tomorrow;
and I love him for it. Well, you may think it odd, but I
like you the better for this afternoon's performance. I thought
you were magnetised with the Ten Commandments; but no - God damn my
soul!" - he cries, "the old wife has blood in his body after all!
Which does not change the fact," he continued, smiling again, "that
you have done well to give your promise; for I doubt if you would
ever shine in your new trade."
"I suppose," said I, "I should ask your pardon and God's for my
attempt. At any rate, I have passed my word, which I will keep
faithfully. But when I think of those you persecute - " I paused.
"Life is a singular thing," said he, "and mankind a very singular
people. You suppose yourself to love my brother. I assure you, it
is merely custom. Interrogate your memory; and when first you came
to Durrisdeer, you will find you considered him a dull, ordinary
youth. He is as dull and ordinary now, though not so young. Had
you instead fallen in with me, you would to-day be as strong upon
my side."
"I would never say you were ordinary, Mr. Bally," I returned; "but
here you prove yourself dull. You have just shown your reliance on
my word. In other terms, that is my conscience - the same which
starts instinctively back from you, like the eye from a strong
"Ah!" says he, "but I mean otherwise. I mean, had I met you in my
youth. You are to consider I was not always as I am to-day; nor
(had I met in with a friend of your description) should I have ever
been so."
"Hut, Mr. Bally," says I, "you would have made a mock of me; you
would never have spent ten civil words on such a Square-toes."
But he was now fairly started on his new course of justification,
with which he wearied me throughout the remainder of the passage.
No doubt in the past he had taken pleasure to paint himself
unnecessarily black, and made a vaunt of his wickedness, bearing it
for a coat-of-arms. Nor was he so illogical as to abate one item
of his old confessions. "But now that I know you are a human
being," he would say, "I can take the trouble to explain myself.
For I assure you I am human, too, and have my virtues, like my
neighbours." I say, he wearied me, for I had only the one word to
say in answer: twenty times I must have said it: "Give up your
present purpose and return with me to Durrisdeer; then I will
believe you."
Thereupon he would shake his head at me. "Ah! Mackellar, you might
live a thousand years and never understand my nature," he would
say. "This battle is now committed, the hour of reflection quite
past, the hour for mercy not yet come. It began between us when we
span a coin in the hall of Durrisdeer, now twenty years ago; we
have had our ups and downs, but never either of us dreamed of
giving in; and as for me, when my glove is cast, life and honour go
with it."
"A fig for your honour!" I would say. "And by your leave, these
warlike similitudes are something too high-sounding for the matter
in hand. You want some dirty money; there is the bottom of your
contention; and as for your means, what are they? to stir up sorrow
in a family that never harmed you, to debauch (if you can) your own
nephew, and to wring the heart of your born brother! A footpad
that kills an old granny in a woollen mutch with a dirty bludgeon,
and that for a shilling-piece and a paper of snuff - there is all
the warrior that you are."
When I would attack him thus (or somewhat thus) he would smile, and
sigh like a man misunderstood. Once, I remember, he defended
himself more at large, and had some curious sophistries, worth
repeating, for a light upon his character.
"You are very like a civilian to think war consists in drums and
banners," said he. "War (as the ancients said very wisely) is
ULTIMA RATIO. When we take our advantage unrelentingly, then we
make war. Ah! Mackellar, you are a devil of a soldier in the
steward's room at Durrisdeer, or the tenants do you sad injustice!"
"I think little of what war is or is not," I replied. "But you
weary me with claiming my respect. Your brother is a good man, and
you are a bad one - neither more nor less."
"Had I been Alexander - " he began.
"It is so we all dupe ourselves," I cried. "Had I been St. Paul,
it would have been all one; I would have made the same hash of that
career that you now see me making of my own."
"I tell you," he cried, bearing down my interruption, "had I been
the least petty chieftain in the Highlands, had I been the least
king of naked negroes in the African desert, my people would have
adored me. A bad man, am I? Ah! but I was born for a good tyrant!
Ask Secundra Dass; he will tell you I treat him like a son. Cast
in your lot with me to-morrow, become my slave, my chattel, a thing
I can command as I command the powers of my own limbs and spirit -
you will see no more that dark side that I turn upon the world in
anger. I must have all or none. But where all is given, I give it
back with usury. I have a kingly nature: there is my loss!"
"It has been hitherto rather the loss of others," I remarked,
"which seems a little on the hither side of royalty."
"Tilly-vally!" cried he. "Even now, I tell you, I would spare that
family in which you take so great an interest: yes, even now - tomorrow
I would leave them to their petty welfare, and disappear in
that forest of cut-throats and thimble-riggers that we call the
world. I would do it to-morrow!" says he. "Only - only - "
"Only what?" I asked.
"Only they must beg it on their bended knees. I think in public,
too," he added, smiling. "Indeed, Mackellar, I doubt if there be a
hall big enough to serve my purpose for that act of reparation."
"Vanity, vanity!" I moralised. "To think that this great force for
evil should be swayed by the same sentiment that sets a lassie
mincing to her glass!"
"Oh! there are double words for everything: the word that swells,
the word that belittles; you cannot fight me with a word!" said he.
"You said the other day that I relied on your conscience: were I
in your humour of detraction, I might say I built upon your vanity.
It is your pretension to be UN HOMME DE PAROLE; 'tis mine not to
accept defeat. Call it vanity, call it virtue, call it greatness
of soul - what signifies the expression? But recognise in each of
us a common strain: that we both live for an idea."
It will be gathered from so much familiar talk, and so much
patience on both sides, that we now lived together upon excellent
terms. Such was again the fact, and this time more seriously than
before. Apart from disputations such as that which I have tried to
reproduce, not only consideration reigned, but, I am tempted to
say, even kindness. When I fell sick (as I did shortly after our
great storm), he sat by my berth to entertain me with his
conversation, and treated me with excellent remedies, which I
accepted with security. Himself commented on the circumstance.
"You see," says he, "you begin to know me better. A very little
while ago, upon this lonely ship, where no one but myself has any
smattering of science, you would have made sure I had designs upon
your life. And, observe, it is since I found you had designs upon
my own, that I have shown you most respect. You will tell me if
this speaks of a small mind." I found little to reply. In so far
as regarded myself, I believed him to mean well; I am, perhaps, the
more a dupe of his dissimulation, but I believed (and I still
believe) that he regarded me with genuine kindness. Singular and
sad fact! so soon as this change began, my animosity abated, and
these haunting visions of my master passed utterly away. So that,
perhaps, there was truth in the man's last vaunting word to me,
uttered on the second day of July, when our long voyage was at last
brought almost to an end, and we lay becalmed at the sea end of the
vast harbour of New York, in a gasping heat, which was presently
exchanged for a surprising waterfall of rain. I stood on the poop,
regarding the green shores near at hand, and now and then the light
smoke of the little town, our destination. And as I was even then
devising how to steal a march on my familiar enemy, I was conscious
of a shade of embarrassment when he approached me with his hand
"I am now to bid you farewell," said he, "and that for ever. For
now you go among my enemies, where all your former prejudices will
revive. I never yet failed to charm a person when I wanted; even
you, my good friend - to call you so for once - even you have now a
very different portrait of me in your memory, and one that you will
never quite forget. The voyage has not lasted long enough, or I
should have wrote the impression deeper. But now all is at an end,
and we are again at war. Judge by this little interlude how
dangerous I am; and tell those fools" - pointing with his finger to
the town - "to think twice and thrice before they set me at
I have mentioned I was resolved to steal a march upon the Master;
and this, with the complicity of Captain McMurtrie, was mighty
easily effected: a boat being partly loaded on the one side of our
ship and the Master placed on board of it, the while a skiff put
off from the other, carrying me alone. I had no more trouble in
finding a direction to my lord's house, whither I went at top
speed, and which I found to be on the outskirts of the place, a
very suitable mansion, in a fine garden, with an extraordinary
large barn, byre, and stable, all in one. It was here my lord was
walking when I arrived; indeed, it had become his chief place of
frequentation, and his mind was now filled with farming. I burst
in upon him breathless, and gave him my news: which was indeed no
news at all, several ships having outsailed the NONESUCH in the
"We have been expecting you long," said my lord; "and indeed, of
late days, ceased to expect you any more. I am glad to take your
hand again, Mackellar. I thought you had been at the bottom of the
"Ah! my lord, would God I had!" cried I. "Things would have been
better for yourself."
"Not in the least," says he, grimly. "I could not ask better.
There is a long score to pay, and now - at last - I can begin to
pay it."
I cried out against his security.
"Oh!" says he, "this is not Durrisdeer, and I have taken my
precautions. His reputation awaits him; I have prepared a welcome
for my brother. Indeed, fortune has served me; for I found here a
merchant of Albany who knew him after the '45 and had mighty
convenient suspicions of a murder: some one of the name of Chew it
was, another Albanian. No one here will be surprised if I deny him
my door; he will not be suffered to address my children, nor even
to salute my wife: as for myself, I make so much exception for a
brother that he may speak to me. I should lose my pleasure else,"
says my lord, rubbing his palms.
Presently he bethought himself, and set men off running, with
billets, to summon the magnates of the province. I cannot recall
what pretext he employed; at least, it was successful; and when our
ancient enemy appeared upon the scene, he found my lord pacing in
front of his house under some trees of shade, with the Governor
upon one hand and various notables upon the other. My lady, who
was seated in the verandah, rose with a very pinched expression and
carried her children into the house.
The Master, well dressed and with an elegant walking-sword, bowed
to the company in a handsome manner and nodded to my lord with
familiarity. My lord did not accept the salutation, but looked
upon his brother with bended brows.
"Well, sir," says he, at last, "what ill wind brings you hither of
all places, where (to our common disgrace) your reputation has
preceded you?"
"Your lordship is pleased to be civil," said the Master, with a
fine start.
"I am pleased to be very plain," returned my lord; "because it is
needful you should clearly understand your situation. At home,
where you were so little known, it was still possible to keep
appearances; that would be quite vain in this province; and I have
to tell you that I am quite resolved to wash my hands of you. You
have already ruined me almost to the door, as you ruined my father
before me; - whose heart you also broke. Your crimes escape the
law; but my friend the Governor has promised protection to my
family. Have a care, sir!" cries my lord, shaking his cane at him:
"if you are observed to utter two words to any of my innocent
household, the law shall be stretched to make you smart for it."
"Ah!" says the Master, very slowly. "And so this is the advantage
of a foreign land! These gentlemen are unacquainted with our
story, I perceive. They do not know that I am the Lord Durrisdeer;
they do not know you are my younger brother, sitting in my place
under a sworn family compact; they do not know (or they would not
be seen with you in familiar correspondence) that every acre is
mine before God Almighty - and every doit of the money you withhold
from me, you do it as a thief, a perjurer, and a disloyal brother!"
"General Clinton," I cried, "do not listen to his lies. I am the
steward of the estate, and there is not one word of truth in it.
The man is a forfeited rebel turned into a hired spy: there is his
story in two words."
It was thus that (in the heat of the moment) I let slip his infamy.
"Fellow," said the Governor, turning his face sternly on the
Master, "I know more of you than you think for. We have some
broken ends of your adventures in the provinces, which you will do
very well not to drive me to investigate. There is the
disappearance of Mr. Jacob Chew with all his merchandise; there is
the matter of where you came ashore from with so much money and
jewels, when you were picked up by a Bermudan out of Albany.
Believe me, if I let these matters lie, it is in commiseration for
your family and out of respect for my valued friend, Lord
There was a murmur of applause from the provincials.
"I should have remembered how a title would shine out in such a
hole as this," says the Master, white as a sheet: "no matter how
unjustly come by. It remains for me, then, to die at my lord's
door, where my dead body will form a very cheerful ornament."
"Away with your affectations!" cries my lord. "You know very well
I have no such meaning; only to protect myself from calumny, and my
home from your intrusion. I offer you a choice. Either I shall
pay your passage home on the first ship, when you may perhaps be
able to resume your occupations under Government, although God
knows I would rather see you on the highway! Or, if that likes you
not, stay here and welcome! I have inquired the least sum on which
body and soul can be decently kept together in New York; so much
you shall have, paid weekly; and if you cannot labour with your
hands to better it, high time you should betake yourself to learn.
The condition is - that you speak with no member of my family
except myself," he added.
I do not think I have ever seen any man so pale as was the Master;
but he was erect and his mouth firm.
"I have been met here with some very unmerited insults," said he,
"from which I have certainly no idea to take refuge by flight.
Give me your pittance; I take it without shame, for it is mine
already - like the shirt upon your back; and I choose to stay until
these gentlemen shall understand me better. Already they must spy
the cloven hoof, since with all your pretended eagerness for the
family honour, you take a pleasure to degrade it in my person."
"This is all very fine," says my lord; "but to us who know you of
old, you must be sure it signifies nothing. You take that
alternative out of which you think that you can make the most.
Take it, if you can, in silence; it will serve you better in the
long run, you may believe me, than this ostentation of
"Oh, gratitude, my lord!" cries the Master, with a mounting
intonation and his forefinger very conspicuously lifted up. "Be at
rest: it will not fail you. It now remains that I should salute
these gentlemen whom we have wearied with our family affairs."
And he bowed to each in succession, settled his walking-sword, and
took himself off, leaving every one amazed at his behaviour, and me
not less so at my lord's.
We were now to enter on a changed phase of this family division.
The Master was by no manner of means so helpless as my lord
supposed, having at his hand, and entirely devoted to his service,
an excellent artist in all sorts of goldsmith work. With my lord's
allowance, which was not so scanty as he had described it, the pair
could support life; and all the earnings of Secundra Dass might be
laid upon one side for any future purpose. That this was done, I
have no doubt. It was in all likelihood the Master's design to
gather a sufficiency, and then proceed in quest of that treasure
which he had buried long before among the mountains; to which, if
he had confined himself, he would have been more happily inspired.
But unfortunately for himself and all of us, he took counsel of his
anger. The public disgrace of his arrival - which I sometimes
wonder he could manage to survive - rankled in his bones; he was in
that humour when a man - in the words of the old adage - will cut
off his nose to spite his face; and he must make himself a public
spectacle in the hopes that some of the disgrace might spatter on
my lord.
He chose, in a poor quarter of the town, a lonely, small house of
boards, overhung with some acacias. It was furnished in front with
a sort of hutch opening, like that of a dog's kennel, but about as
high as a table from the ground, in which the poor man that built
it had formerly displayed some wares; and it was this which took
the Master's fancy and possibly suggested his proceedings. It
appears, on board the pirate ship he had acquired some quickness
with the needle - enough, at least, to play the part of tailor in
the public eye; which was all that was required by the nature of
his vengeance. A placard was hung above the hutch, bearing these
words in something of the following disposition:
* * * * *
Underneath this, when he had a job, my gentleman sat withinside
tailor-wise and busily stitching. I say, when he had a job; but
such customers as came were rather for Secundra, and the Master's
sewing would be more in the manner of Penelope's. He could never
have designed to gain even butter to his bread by such a means of
livelihood: enough for him that there was the name of Durie
dragged in the dirt on the placard, and the sometime heir of that
proud family set up cross-legged in public for a reproach upon his
brother's meanness. And in so far his device succeeded that there
was murmuring in the town and a party formed highly inimical to my
lord. My lord's favour with the Governor laid him more open on the
other side; my lady (who was never so well received in the colony)
met with painful innuendoes; in a party of women, where it would be
the topic most natural to introduce, she was almost debarred from
the naming of needle-work; and I have seen her return with a
flushed countenance and vow that she would go abroad no more.
In the meanwhile my lord dwelled in his decent mansion, immersed in
farming; a popular man with his intimates, and careless or
unconscious of the rest. He laid on flesh; had a bright, busy
face; even the heat seemed to prosper with him; and my lady - in
despite of her own annoyances - daily blessed Heaven her father
should have left her such a paradise. She had looked on from a
window upon the Master's humiliation; and from that hour appeared
to feel at ease. I was not so sure myself; as time went on, there
seemed to me a something not quite wholesome in my lord's
condition. Happy he was, beyond a doubt, but the grounds of this
felicity were wont; even in the bosom of his family he brooded with
manifest delight upon some private thought; and I conceived at last
the suspicion (quite unworthy of us both) that he kept a mistress
somewhere in the town. Yet he went little abroad, and his day was
very fully occupied; indeed, there was but a single period, and
that pretty early in the morning, while Mr. Alexander was at his
lesson-book, of which I was not certain of the disposition. It
should be borne in mind, in the defence of that which I now did,
that I was always in some fear my lord was not quite justly in his
reason; and with our enemy sitting so still in the same town with
us, I did well to be upon my guard. Accordingly I made a pretext,
had the hour changed at which I taught Mr. Alexander the foundation
of cyphering and the mathematic, and set myself instead to dog my
master's footsteps.
Every morning, fair or foul, he took his gold-headed cane, set his
hat on the back of his head - a recent habitude, which I thought to
indicate a burning brow - and betook himself to make a certain
circuit. At the first his way was among pleasant trees and beside
a graveyard, where he would sit awhile, if the day were fine, in
meditation. Presently the path turned down to the waterside, and
came back along the harbour-front and past the Master's booth. As
he approached this second part of his circuit, my Lord Durrisdeer
began to pace more leisurely, like a man delighted with the air and
scene; and before the booth, half-way between that and the water's
edge, would pause a little, leaning on his staff. It was the hour
when the Master sate within upon his board and plied his needle.
So these two brothers would gaze upon each other with hard faces;
and then my lord move on again, smiling to himself.
It was but twice that I must stoop to that ungrateful necessity of
playing spy. I was then certain of my lord's purpose in his
rambles and of the secret source of his delight. Here was his
mistress: it was hatred and not love that gave him healthful
colours. Some moralists might have been relieved by the discovery;
I confess that I was dismayed. I found this situation of two
brethren not only odious in itself, but big with possibilities of
further evil; and I made it my practice, in so far as many
occupations would allow, to go by a shorter path and be secretly
present at their meeting. Coming down one day a little late, after
I had been near a week prevented, I was struck with surprise to
find a new development. I should say there was a bench against the
Master's house, where customers might sit to parley with the
shopman; and here I found my lord seated, nursing his cane and
looking pleasantly forth upon the bay. Not three feet from him
sate the Master, stitching. Neither spoke; nor (in this new
situation) did my lord so much as cut a glance upon his enemy. He
tasted his neighbourhood, I must suppose, less indirectly in the
bare proximity of person; and, without doubt, drank deep of hateful
He had no sooner come away than I openly joined him. "My lord, my
lord," said I, "this is no manner of behaviour."
"I grow fat upon it," he replied; and not merely the words, which
were strange enough, but the whole character of his expression,
shocked me.
"I warn you, my lord, against this indulgency of evil feeling,"
said I. "I know not to which it is more perilous, the soul or the
reason; but you go the way to murder both."
"You cannot understand," said he. "You had never such mountains of
bitterness upon your heart."
"And if it were no more," I added, "you will surely goad the man to
some extremity."
"To the contrary; I am breaking his spirit," says my lord.
Every morning for hard upon a week my lord took his same place upon
the bench. It was a pleasant place, under the green acacias, with
a sight upon the bay and shipping, and a sound (from some way off)
of marines singing at their employ. Here the two sate without
speech or any external movement, beyond that of the needle or the
Master biting off a thread, for he still clung to his pretence of
industry; and here I made a point to join them, wondering at myself
and my companions. If any of my lord's friends went by, he would
hail them cheerfully, and cry out he was there to give some good
advice to his brother, who was now (to his delight) grown quite
industrious. And even this the Master accepted with a steady
countenance; what was in his mind, God knows, or perhaps Satan
All of a sudden, on a still day of what they call the Indian
Summer, when the woods were changed into gold and pink and scarlet,
the Master laid down his needle and burst into a fit of merriment.
I think he must have been preparing it a long while in silence, for
the note in itself was pretty naturally pitched; but breaking
suddenly from so extreme a silence, and in circumstances so averse
from mirth, it sounded ominously on my ear.
"Henry," said he, "I have for once made a false step, and for once
you have had the wit to profit by it. The farce of the cobbler
ends to-day; and I confess to you (with my compliments) that you
have had the best of it. Blood will out; and you have certainly a
choice idea of how to make yourself unpleasant."
Never a word said my lord; it was just as though the Master had not
broken silence.
"Come," resumed the Master, "do not be sulky; it will spoil your
attitude. You can now afford (believe me) to be a little gracious;
for I have not merely a defeat to accept. I had meant to continue
this performance till I had gathered enough money for a certain
purpose; I confess ingenuously, I have not the courage. You
naturally desire my absence from this town; I have come round by
another way to the same idea. And I have a proposition to make;
or, if your lordship prefers, a favour to ask."
"Ask it," says my lord.
"You may have heard that I had once in this country a considerable
treasure," returned the Master; "it matters not whether or no -
such is the fact; and I was obliged to bury it in a spot of which I
have sufficient indications. To the recovery of this, has my
ambition now come down; and, as it is my own, you will not grudge
it me."
"Go and get it," says my lord. "I make no opposition."
"Yes," said the Master; "but to do so, I must find men and
carriage. The way is long and rough, and the country infested with
wild Indians. Advance me only so much as shall be needful: either
as a lump sum, in lieu of my allowance; or, if you prefer it, as a
loan, which I shall repay on my return. And then, if you so
decide, you may have seen the last of me."
My lord stared him steadily in the eyes; there was a hard smile
upon his face, but he uttered nothing.
"Henry," said the Master, with a formidable quietness, and drawing
at the same time somewhat back - "Henry, I had the honour to
address you."
"Let us be stepping homeward," says my lord to me, who was plucking
at his sleeve; and with that he rose, stretched himself, settled
his hat, and still without a syllable of response, began to walk
steadily along the shore.
I hesitated awhile between the two brothers, so serious a climax
did we seem to have reached. But the Master had resumed his
occupation, his eyes lowered, his hand seemingly as deft as ever;
and I decided to pursue my lord.
"Are you mad?" I cried, so soon as I had overtook him. "Would you
cast away so fair an opportunity?"
"Is it possible you should still believe in him?" inquired my lord,
almost with a sneer.
"I wish him forth of this town!" I cried. "I wish him anywhere and
anyhow but as he is."
"I have said my say," returned my lord, "and you have said yours.
There let it rest."
But I was bent on dislodging the Master. That sight of him
patiently returning to his needlework was more than my imagination
could digest. There was never a man made, and the Master the least
of any, that could accept so long a series of insults. The air
smelt blood to me. And I vowed there should be no neglect of mine
if, through any chink of possibility, crime could be yet turned
aside. That same day, therefore, I came to my lord in his business
room, where he sat upon some trivial occupation.
"My lord," said I, "I have found a suitable investment for my small
economies. But these are unhappily in Scotland; it will take some
time to lift them, and the affair presses. Could your lordship see
his way to advance me the amount against my note?"
He read me awhile with keen eyes. "I have never inquired into the
state of your affairs, Mackellar," says he. "Beyond the amount of
your caution, you may not be worth a farthing, for what I know."
"I have been a long while in your service, and never told a lie,
nor yet asked a favour for myself," said I, "until to-day."
"A favour for the Master," he returned, quietly. "Do you take me
for a fool, Mackellar? Understand it once and for all, I treat
this beast in my own way; fear nor favour shall not move me; and
before I am hoodwinked, it will require a trickster less
transparent than yourself. I ask service, loyal service; not that
you should make and mar behind my back, and steal my own money to
defeat me."
"My lord," said I, "these are very unpardonable expressions."
"Think once more, Mackellar," he replied; "and you will see they
fit the fact. It is your own subterfuge that is unpardonable.
Deny (if you can) that you designed this money to evade my orders
with, and I will ask your pardon freely. If you cannot, you must
have the resolution to hear your conduct go by its own name."
"If you think I had any design but to save you - " I began.
"Oh! my old friend," said he, "you know very well what I think!
Here is my hand to you with all my heart; but of money, not one
Defeated upon this side, I went straight to my room, wrote a
letter, ran with it to the harbour, for I knew a ship was on the
point of sailing; and came to the Master's door a little before
dusk. Entering without the form of any knock, I found him sitting
with his Indian at a simple meal of maize porridge with some milk.
The house within was clean and poor; only a few books upon a shelf
distinguished it, and (in one corner) Secundra's little bench.
"Mr. Bally," said I, "I have near five hundred pounds laid by in
Scotland, the economies of a hard life. A letter goes by yon ship
to have it lifted. Have so much patience till the return ship
comes in, and it is all yours, upon the same condition you offered
to my lord this morning."
He rose from the table, came forward, took me by the shoulders, and
looked me in the face, smiling.
"And yet you are very fond of money!" said he. "And yet you love
money beyond all things else, except my brother!"
"I fear old age and poverty," said I, "which is another matter."
"I will never quarrel for a name. Call it so," he replied. "Ah!
Mackellar, Mackellar, if this were done from any love to me, how
gladly would I close upon your offer!"
"And yet," I eagerly answered - "I say it to my shame, but I cannot
see you in this poor place without compunction. It is not my
single thought, nor my first; and yet it's there! I would gladly
see you delivered. I do not offer it in love, and far from that;
but, as God judges me - and I wonder at it too! - quite without
"Ah!" says he, still holding my shoulders, and now gently shaking
me, "you think of me more than you suppose. 'And I wonder at it
too,'" he added, repeating my expression and, I suppose, something
of my voice. "You are an honest man, and for that cause I spare
"Spare me?" I cried.
"Spare you," he repeated, letting me go and turning away. And
then, fronting me once more. "You little know what I would do with
it, Mackellar! Did you think I had swallowed my defeat indeed?
Listen: my life has been a series of unmerited cast-backs. That
fool, Prince Charlie, mismanaged a most promising affair: there
fell my first fortune. In Paris I had my foot once more high upon
the ladder: that time it was an accident; a letter came to the
wrong hand, and I was bare again. A third time, I found my
opportunity; I built up a place for myself in India with an
infinite patience; and then Clive came, my rajah was swallowed up,
and I escaped out of the convulsion, like another AEneas, with
Secundra Dass upon my back. Three times I have had my hand upon
the highest station: and I am not yet three-and-forty. I know the
world as few men know it when they come to die - Court and camp,
the East and the West; I know where to go, I see a thousand
openings. I am now at the height of my resources, sound of health,
of inordinate ambition. Well, all this I resign; I care not if I
die, and the world never hear of me; I care only for one thing, and
that I will have. Mind yourself; lest, when the roof falls, you,
too, should be crushed under the ruins."
As I came out of his house, all hope of intervention quite
destroyed, I was aware of a stir on the harbour-side, and, raising
my eyes, there was a great ship newly come to anchor. It seems
strange I could have looked upon her with so much indifference, for
she brought death to the brothers of Durrisdeer. After all the
desperate episodes of this contention, the insults, the opposing
interests, the fraternal duel in the shrubbery, it was reserved for
some poor devil in Grub Street, scribbling for his dinner, and not
caring what he scribbled, to cast a spell across four thousand
miles of the salt sea, and send forth both these brothers into
savage and wintry deserts, there to die. But such a thought was
distant from my mind; and while all the provincials were fluttered
about me by the unusual animation of their port, I passed
throughout their midst on my return homeward, quite absorbed in the
recollection of my visit and the Master's speech.
The same night there was brought to us from the ship a little
packet of pamphlets. The next day my lord was under engagement to
go with the Governor upon some party of pleasure; the time was
nearly due, and I left him for a moment alone in his room and
skimming through the pamphlets. When I returned, his head had
fallen upon the table, his arms lying abroad amongst the crumpled
"My lord, my lord!" I cried as I ran forward, for I supposed he was
in some fit.
He sprang up like a figure upon wires, his countenance deformed
with fury, so that in a strange place I should scarce have known
him. His hand at the same time flew above his head, as though to
strike me down. "Leave me alone!" he screeched, and I fled, as
fast as my shaking legs would bear me, for my lady. She, too, lost
no time; but when we returned, he had the door locked within, and
only cried to us from the other side to leave him be. We looked in
each other's faces, very white - each supposing the blow had come
at last.
"I will write to the Governor to excuse him," says she. "We must
keep our strong friends." But when she took up the pen, it flew
out of her fingers. "I cannot write," said she. "Can you?"
"I will make a shift, my lady," said I.
She looked over me as I wrote. "That will do," she said, when I
had done. "Thank God, Mackellar, I have you to lean upon! But
what can it be now? What, what can it be?"
In my own mind, I believed there was no explanation possible, and
none required; it was my fear that the man's madness had now simply
burst forth its way, like the long-smothered flames of a volcano;
but to this (in mere mercy to my lady) I durst not give expression.
"It is more to the purpose to consider our own behaviour," said I.
"Must we leave him there alone?"
"I do not dare disturb him," she replied. "Nature may know best;
it may be Nature that cries to be alone; and we grope in the dark.
Oh yes, I would leave him as he is."
"I will, then, despatch this letter, my lady, and return here, if
you please, to sit with you," said I.
"Pray do," cries my lady.
All afternoon we sat together, mostly in silence, watching my
lord's door. My own mind was busy with the scene that had just
passed, and its singular resemblance to my vision. I must say a
word upon this, for the story has gone abroad with great
exaggeration, and I have even seen it printed, and my own name
referred to for particulars. So much was the same: here was my
lord in a room, with his head upon the table, and when he raised
his face, it wore such an expression as distressed me to the soul.
But the room was different, my lord's attitude at the table not at
all the same, and his face, when he disclosed it, expressed a
painful degree of fury instead of that haunting despair which had
always (except once, already referred to) characterised it in the
vision. There is the whole truth at last before the public; and if
the differences be great, the coincidence was yet enough to fill me
with uneasiness. All afternoon, as I say, I sat and pondered upon
this quite to myself; for my lady had trouble of her own, and it
was my last thought to vex her with fancies. About the midst of
our time of waiting, she conceived an ingenious scheme, had Mr.
Alexander fetched, and bid him knock at his father's door. My lord
sent the boy about his business, but without the least violence,
whether of manner or expression; so that I began to entertain a
hope the fit was over.
At last, as the night fell and I was lighting a lamp that stood
there trimmed, the door opened and my lord stood within upon the
threshold. The light was not so strong that we could read his
countenance; when he spoke, methought his voice a little altered
but yet perfectly steady.
"Mackellar," said he, "carry this note to its destination with your
own hand. It is highly private. Find the person alone when you
deliver it."
"Henry," says my lady, "you are not ill?"
"No, no," says be, querulously, "I am occupied. Not at all; I am
only occupied. It is a singular thing a man must be supposed to be
ill when he has any business! Send me supper to this room, and a
basket of wine: I expect the visit of a friend. Otherwise I am
not to be disturbed."
And with that he once more shut himself in.
The note was addressed to one Captain Harris, at a tavern on the
portside. I knew Harris (by reputation) for a dangerous
adventurer, highly suspected of piracy in the past, and now
following the rude business of an Indian trader. What my lord
should have to say to him, or he to my lord, it passed my
imagination to conceive: or yet how my lord had heard of him,
unless by a disgraceful trial from which the man was recently
escaped. Altogether I went upon the errand with reluctance, and
from the little I saw of the captain, returned from it with sorrow.
I found him in a foul-smelling chamber, sitting by a guttering
candle and an empty bottle; he had the remains of a military
carriage, or rather perhaps it was an affectation, for his manners
were low.
"Tell my lord, with my service, that I will wait upon his lordship
in the inside of half an hour," says he, when he had read the note;
and then had the servility, pointing to his empty bottle, to
propose that I should buy him liquor.
Although I returned with my best speed, the Captain followed close
upon my heels, and he stayed late into the night. The cock was
crowing a second time when I saw (from my chamber window) my lord
lighting him to the gate, both men very much affected with their
potations, and sometimes leaning one upon the other to confabulate.
Yet the next morning my lord was abroad again early with a hundred
pounds of money in his pocket. I never supposed that he returned
with it; and yet I was quite sure it did not find its way to the
Master, for I lingered all morning within view of the booth. That
was the last time my Lord Durrisdeer passed his own enclosure till
we left New York; he walked in his barn, or sat and talked with his
family, all much as usual; but the town saw nothing of him, and his
daily visits to the Master seemed forgotten. Nor yet did Harris
reappear; or not until the end.
I was now much oppressed with a sense of the mysteries in which we
had begun to move. It was plain, if only from his change of
habitude, my lord had something on his mind of a grave nature; but
what it was, whence it sprang, or why he should now keep the house
and garden, I could make no guess at. It was clear, even to
probation, the pamphlets had some share in this revolution; I read
all I could find, and they were all extremely insignificant, and of
the usual kind of party scurrility; even to a high politician, I
could spy out no particular matter of offence, and my lord was a
man rather indifferent on public questions. The truth is, the
pamphlet which was the spring of this affair, lay all the time on
my lord's bosom. There it was that I found it at last, after he
was dead, in the midst of the north wilderness: in such a place,
in such dismal circumstances, I was to read for the first time
these idle, lying words of a Whig pamphleteer declaiming against
indulgency to Jacobites:- "Another notorious Rebel, the M-r of B-e,
is to have his Title restored," the passage ran. "This Business
has been long in hand, since he rendered some very disgraceful
Services in Scotland and France. His Brother, L-D D-R, is known to
be no better than himself in Inclination; and the supposed Heir,
who is now to be set aside, was bred up in the most detestable
Principles. In the old Phrase, it is SIX OF THE ONE AND HALF A
DOZEN OF THE OTHER; but the Favour of such a Reposition is too
extreme to be passed over." A man in his right wits could not have
cared two straws for a tale so manifestly false; that Government
should ever entertain the notion, was inconceivable to any
reasoning creature, unless possibly the fool that penned it; and my
lord, though never brilliant, was ever remarkable for sense. That
he should credit such a rodomontade, and carry the pamphlet on his
bosom and the words in his heart, is the clear proof of the man's
lunacy. Doubtless the mere mention of Mr. Alexander, and the
threat directly held out against the child's succession,
precipitated that which had so long impended. Or else my master
had been truly mad for a long time, and we were too dull or too
much used to him, and did not perceive the extent of his infirmity.
About a week after the day of the pamphlets I was late upon the
harbour-side, and took a turn towards the Master's, as I often did.
The door opened, a flood of light came forth upon the road, and I
beheld a man taking his departure with friendly salutations. I
cannot say how singularly I was shaken to recognise the adventurer
Harris. I could not but conclude it was the hand of my lord that
had brought him there; and prolonged my walk in very serious and
apprehensive thought. It was late when I came home, and there was
my lord making up his portmanteau for a voyage.
"Why do you come so late?" he cried. "We leave to-morrow for
Albany, you and I together; and it is high time you were about your
"For Albany, my lord?" I cried. "And for what earthly purpose?"
"Change of scene," said he.
And my lady, who appeared to have been weeping, gave me the signal
to obey without more parley. She told me a little later (when we
found occasion to exchange some words) that he had suddenly
announced his intention after a visit from Captain Harris, and her
best endeavours, whether to dissuade him from the journey, or to
elicit some explanation of its purpose, had alike proved
We made a prosperous voyage up that fine river of the Hudson, the
weather grateful, the hills singularly beautified with the colours
of the autumn. At Albany we had our residence at an inn, where I
was not so blind and my lord not so cunning but what I could see he
had some design to hold me prisoner. The work he found for me to
do was not so pressing that we should transact it apart from
necessary papers in the chamber of an inn; nor was it of such
importance that I should be set upon as many as four or five
scrolls of the same document. I submitted in appearance; but I
took private measures on my own side, and had the news of the town
communicated to me daily by the politeness of our host. In this
way I received at last a piece of intelligence for which, I may
say, I had been waiting. Captain Harris (I was told) with "Mr.
Mountain, the trader," had gone by up the river in a boat. I would
have feared the landlord's eye, so strong the sense of some
complicity upon my master's part oppressed me. But I made out to
say I had some knowledge of the Captain, although none of Mr.
Mountain, and to inquire who else was of the party. My informant
knew not; Mr. Mountain had come ashore upon some needful purchases;
had gone round the town buying, drinking, and prating; and it
seemed the party went upon some likely venture, for he had spoken
much of great things he would do when he returned. No more was
known, for none of the rest had come ashore, and it seemed they
were pressed for time to reach a certain spot before the snow
should fall.
And sure enough, the next day, there fell a sprinkle even in
Albany; but it passed as it came, and was but a reminder of what
lay before us. I thought of it lightly then, knowing so little as
I did of that inclement province: the retrospect is different; and
I wonder at times if some of the horror of there events which I
must now rehearse flowed not from the foul skies and savage winds
to which we were exposed, and the agony of cold that we must
The boat having passed by, I thought at first we should have left
the town. But no such matter. My lord continued his stay in
Albany where he had no ostensible affairs, and kept me by him, far
from my due employment, and making a pretence of occupation. It is
upon this passage I expect, and perhaps deserve, censure. I was
not so dull but what I had my own thoughts. I could not see the
Master entrust himself into the hands of Harris, and not suspect
some underhand contrivance. Harris bore a villainous reputation,
and he had been tampered with in private by my lord; Mountain, the
trader, proved, upon inquiry, to be another of the same kidney; the
errand they were all gone upon being the recovery of ill-gotten
treasures, offered in itself a very strong incentive to foul play;
and the character of the country where they journeyed promised
impunity to deeds of blood. Well: it is true I had all these
thoughts and fears, and guesses of the Master's fate. But you are
to consider I was the same man that sought to dash him from the
bulwarks of a ship in the mid-sea; the same that, a little before,
very impiously but sincerely offered God a bargain, seeking to hire
God to be my bravo. It is true again that I had a good deal melted
towards our enemy. But this I always thought of as a weakness of
the flesh and even culpable; my mind remaining steady and quite
bent against him. True, yet again, that it was one thing to assume
on my own shoulders the guilt and danger of a criminal attempt, and
another to stand by and see my lord imperil and besmirch himself.
But this was the very ground of my inaction. For (should I anyway
stir in the business) I might fail indeed to save the Master, but I
could not miss to make a byword of my lord.
Thus it was that I did nothing; and upon the same reasons, I am
still strong to justify my course. We lived meanwhile in Albany,
but though alone together in a strange place, had little traffic
beyond formal salutations. My lord had carried with him several
introductions to chief people of the town and neighbourhood; others
he had before encountered in New York: with this consequence, that
he went much abroad, and I am sorry to say was altogether too
convivial in his habits. I was often in bed, but never asleep,
when he returned; and there was scarce a night when he did not
betray the influence of liquor. By day he would still lay upon me
endless tasks, which he showed considerable ingenuity to fish up
and renew, in the manner of Penelope's web. I never refused, as I
say, for I was hired to do his bidding; but I took no pains to keep
my penetration under a bushel, and would sometimes smile in his
"I think I must be the devil and you Michael Scott," I said to him
one day. "I have bridged Tweed and split the Eildons; and now you
set me to the rope of sand."
He looked at me with shining eyes, and looked away again, his jaw
chewing, but without words.
"Well, well, my lord," said I, "your will is my pleasure. I will
do this thing for the fourth time; but I would beg of you to invent
another task against to-morrow, for by my troth, I am weary of this
"You do not know what you are saying," returned my lord, putting on
his hat and turning his back to me. "It is a strange thing you
should take a pleasure to annoy me. A friend - but that is a
different affair. It is a strange thing. I am a man that has had
ill-fortune all my life through. I am still surrounded by
contrivances. I am always treading in plots," he burst out. "The
whole world is banded against me."
"I would not talk wicked nonsense if I were you," said I; "but I
will tell you what I WOULD do - I would put my head in cold water,
for you had more last night than you could carry."
"Do ye think that?" said he, with a manner of interest highly
awakened. "Would that be good for me? It's a thing I never
"I mind the days when you had no call to try, and I wish, my lord,
that they were back again," said I. "But the plain truth is, if
you continue to exceed, you will do yourself a mischief."
"I don't appear to carry drink the way I used to," said my lord.
"I get overtaken, Mackellar. But I will be more upon my guard."
"That is what I would ask of you," I replied. "You are to bear in
mind that you are Mr. Alexander's father: give the bairn a chance
to carry his name with some responsibility."
"Ay, ay," said he. "Ye're a very sensible man, Mackellar, and have
been long in my employ. But I think, if you have nothing more to
say to me I will be stepping. If you have nothing more to say?" he
added, with that burning, childish eagerness that was now so common
with the man.
"No, my lord, I have nothing more," said I, dryly enough.
"Then I think I will be stepping," says my lord, and stood and
looked at me fidgeting with his hat, which he had taken off again.
"I suppose you will have no errands? No? I am to meet Sir William
Johnson, but I will be more upon my guard." He was silent for a
time, and then, smiling: "Do you call to mind a place, Mackellar -
it's a little below Engles - where the burn runs very deep under a
wood of rowans. I mind being there when I was a lad - dear, it
comes over me like an old song! - I was after the fishing, and I
made a bonny cast. Eh, but I was happy. I wonder, Mackellar, why
I am never happy now?"
"My lord," said I, "if you would drink with more moderation you
would have the better chance. It is an old byword that the bottle
is a false consoler."
"No doubt," said he, "no doubt. Well, I think I will be going."
"Good-morning, my lord," said I.
"Good-morning, good-morning," said he, and so got himself at last
from the apartment.
I give that for a fair specimen of my lord in the morning; and I
must have described my patron very ill if the reader does not
perceive a notable falling off. To behold the man thus fallen: to
know him accepted among his companions for a poor, muddled toper,
welcome (if he were welcome at all) for the bare consideration of
his title; and to recall the virtues he had once displayed against
such odds of fortune; was not this a thing at once to rage and to
be humbled at?
In his cups, he was more expensive. I will give but the one scene,
close upon the end, which is strongly marked upon my memory to this
day, and at the time affected me almost with horror
I was in bed, lying there awake, when I heard him stumbling on the
stair and singing. My lord had no gift of music, his brother had
all the graces of the family, so that when I say singing, you are
to understand a manner of high, carolling utterance, which was
truly neither speech nor song. Something not unlike is to be heard
upon the lips of children, ere they learn shame; from those of a
man grown elderly, it had a strange effect. He opened the door
with noisy precaution; peered in, shading his candle; conceived me
to slumber; entered, set his light upon the table, and took off his
hat. I saw him very plain; a high, feverish exultation appeared to
boil in his veins, and he stood and smiled and smirked upon the
candle. Presently he lifted up his arm, snapped his fingers, and
fell to undress. As he did so, having once more forgot my
presence, he took back to his singing; and now I could hear the
words, which were those from the old song of the TWA CORBIES
endlessly repeated:
"And over his banes when they are bare
The wind sall blaw for evermair!"
I have said there was no music in the man. His strains had no
logical succession except in so far as they inclined a little to
the minor mode; but they exercised a rude potency upon the
feelings, and followed the words, and signified the feelings of the
singer with barbaric fitness. He took it first in the time and
manner of a rant; presently this ill-favoured gleefulness abated,
he began to dwell upon the notes more feelingly, and sank at last
into a degree of maudlin pathos that was to me scarce bearable. By
equal steps, the original briskness of his acts declined; and when
he was stripped to his breeches, he sat on the bedside and fell to
whimpering. I know nothing less respectable than the tears of
drunkenness, and turned my back impatiently on this poor sight.
But he had started himself (I am to suppose) on that slippery
descent of self-pity; on the which, to a man unstrung by old
sorrows and recent potations there is no arrest except exhaustion.
His tears continued to flow, and the man to sit there, three parts
naked, in the cold air of the chamber. I twitted myself
alternately with inhumanity and sentimental weakness, now half
rising in my bed to interfere, now reading myself lessons of
indifference and courting slumber, until, upon a sudden, the
QUANTUM MUTATUS AB ILLO shot into my mind; and calling to
remembrance his old wisdom, constancy, and patience, I was
overborne with a pity almost approaching the passionate, not for my
master alone but for the sons of man.
At this I leaped from my place, went over to his side and laid a
hand on his bare shoulder, which was cold as stone. He uncovered
his face and showed it me all swollen and begrutten (10) like a
child's; and at the sight my impatience partially revived.
"Think shame to yourself," said I. "This is bairnly conduct. I
might have been snivelling myself, if I had cared to swill my belly
with wine. But I went to my bed sober like a man. Come: get into
yours, and have done with this pitiable exhibition."
"Oh, Mackellar," said he, "my heart is wae!"
"Wae?" cried I. "For a good cause, I think. What words were these
you sang as you came in? Show pity to others, we then can talk of
pity to yourself. You can be the one thing or the other, but I
will be no party to half-way houses. If you're a striker, strike,
and if you're a bleater, bleat!"
"Cry!" cries he, with a burst, "that's it - strike! that's talking!
Man, I've stood it all too long. But when they laid a hand upon
the child, when the child's threatened" - his momentary vigour
whimpering off - "my child, my Alexander!" - and he was at his
tears again.
I took him by the shoulders and shook him. "Alexander!" said I.
"Do you even think of him? Not you! Look yourself in the face
like a brave man, and you'll find you're but a self-deceiver. The
wife, the friend, the child, they're all equally forgot, and you
sunk in a mere log of selfishness."
"Mackellar," said he, with a wonderful return to his old manner and
appearance, "you may say what you will of me, but one thing I never
was - I was never selfish."
"I will open your eyes in your despite," said I. "How long have we
been here? and how often have you written to your family? I think
this is the first time you were ever separate: have you written at
all? Do they know if you are dead or living?"
I had caught him here too openly; it braced his better nature;
there was no more weeping, he thanked me very penitently, got to
bed and was soon fast asleep; and the first thing he did the next
morning was to sit down and begin a letter to my lady: a very
tender letter it was too, though it was never finished. Indeed all
communication with New York was transacted by myself; and it will
be judged I had a thankless task of it. What to tell my lady and
in what words, and how far to be false and how far cruel, was a
thing that kept me often from my slumber.
All this while, no doubt, my lord waited with growing impatiency
for news of his accomplices. Harris, it is to be thought, had
promised a high degree of expedition; the time was already overpast
when word was to be looked for; and suspense was a very evil
counsellor to a man of an impaired intelligence. My lord's mind
throughout this interval dwelled almost wholly in the Wilderness,
following that party with whose deeds he had so much concern. He
continually conjured up their camps and progresses, the fashion of
the country, the perpetration in a thousand different manners of
the same horrid fact, and that consequent spectacle of the Master's
bones lying scattered in the wind. These private, guilty
considerations I would continually observe to peep forth in the
man's talk, like rabbits from a hill. And it is the less wonder if
the scene of his meditations began to draw him bodily.
It is well known what pretext he took. Sir William Johnson had a
diplomatic errand in these parts; and my lord and I (from
curiosity, as was given out) went in his company. Sir William was
well attended and liberally supplied. Hunters brought us venison,
fish was taken for us daily in the streams, and brandy ran like
water. We proceeded by day and encamped by night in the military
style; sentinels were set and changed; every man had his named
duty; and Sir William was the spring of all. There was much in
this that might at times have entertained me; but for our
misfortune, the weather was extremely harsh, the days were in the
beginning open, but the nights frosty from the first. A painful
keen wind blew most of the time, so that we sat in the boat with
blue fingers, and at night, as we scorched our faces at the fire,
the clothes upon our back appeared to be of paper. A dreadful
solitude surrounded our steps; the land was quite dispeopled, there
was no smoke of fires, and save for a single boat of merchants on
the second day, we met no travellers. The season was indeed late,
but this desertion of the waterways impressed Sir William himself;
and I have heard him more than once express a sense of
intimidation. "I have come too late, I fear; they must have dug up
the hatchet;" he said; and the future proved how justly he had
I could never depict the blackness of my soul upon this journey. I
have none of those minds that are in love with the unusual: to see
the winter coming and to lie in the field so far from any house,
oppressed me like a nightmare; it seemed, indeed, a kind of awful
braving of God's power; and this thought, which I daresay only
writes me down a coward, was greatly exaggerated by my private
knowledge of the errand we were come upon. I was besides
encumbered by my duties to Sir William, whom it fell upon me to
entertain; for my lord was quite sunk into a state bordering on
PERVIGILIUM, watching the woods with a rapt eye, sleeping scarce at
all, and speaking sometimes not twenty words in a whole day. That
which he said was still coherent; but it turned almost invariably
upon the party for whom he kept his crazy lookout. He would tell
Sir William often, and always as if it were a new communication,
that he had "a brother somewhere in the woods," and beg that the
sentinels should be directed "to inquire for him." "I am anxious
for news of my brother," he would say. And sometimes, when we were
under way, he would fancy he spied a canoe far off upon the water
or a camp on the shore, and exhibit painful agitation. It was
impossible but Sir William should be struck with these
singularities; and at last he led me aside, and hinted his
uneasiness. I touched my head and shook it; quite rejoiced to
prepare a little testimony against possible disclosures.
"But in that case," cries Sir William, "is it wise to let him go at
"Those that know him best," said I, "are persuaded that he should
be humoured."
"Well, well," replied Sir William, "it is none of my affairs. But
if I had understood, you would never have been here."
Our advance into this savage country had thus uneventfully
proceeded for about a week, when we encamped for a night at a place
where the river ran among considerable mountains clothed in wood.
The fires were lighted on a level space at the water's edge; and we
supped and lay down to sleep in the customary fashion. It chanced
the night fell murderously cold; the stringency of the frost seized
and bit me through my coverings so that pain kept me wakeful; and I
was afoot again before the peep of day, crouching by the fires or
trotting to and for at the stream's edge, to combat the aching of
my limbs. At last dawn began to break upon hoar woods and
mountains, the sleepers rolled in their robes, and the boisterous
river dashing among spears of ice. I stood looking about me,
swaddled in my stiff coat of a bull's fur, and the breath smoking
from my scorched nostrils, when, upon a sudden, a singular, eager
cry rang from the borders of the wood. The sentries answered it,
the sleepers sprang to their feet; one pointed, the rest followed
his direction with their eyes, and there, upon the edge of the
forest and betwixt two trees, we beheld the figure of a man
reaching forth his hands like one in ecstasy. The next moment he
ran forward, fell on his knees at the side of the camp, and burst
in tears.
This was John Mountain, the trader, escaped from the most horrid
perils; and his fist word, when he got speech, was to ask if we had
seen Secundra Dass.
"Seen what?" cries Sir William.
"No," said I, "we have seen nothing of him. Why?"
"Nothing?" says Mountain. "Then I was right after all." With that
he struck his palm upon his brow. "But what takes him back?" he
cried. "What takes the man back among dead bodies. There is some
damned mystery here."
This was a word which highly aroused our curiosity, but I shall be
more perspicacious, if I narrate these incidents in their true
order. Here follows a narrative which I have compiled out of three
sources, not very consistent in all points:
FIRST, a written statement by Mountain, in which everything
criminal is cleverly smuggled out of view;
SECOND, two conversations with Secundra Dass; and
THIRD, many conversations with Mountain himself, in which he was
pleased to be entirely plain; for the truth is he regarded me as an
The crew that went up the river under the joint command of Captain
Harris and the Master numbered in all nine persons, of whom (if I
except Secundra Dass) there was not one that had not merited the
gallows. From Harris downward the voyagers were notorious in that
colony for desperate, bloody-minded miscreants; some were reputed
pirates, the most hawkers of rum; all ranters and drinkers; all fit
associates, embarking together without remorse, upon this
treacherous and murderous design. I could not hear there was much
discipline or any set captain in the gang; but Harris and four
others, Mountain himself, two Scotchmen - Pinkerton and Hastie -
and a man of the name of Hicks, a drunken shoemaker, put their
heads together and agreed upon the course. In a material sense,
they were well enough provided; and the Master in particular
brought with him a tent where he might enjoy some privacy and
Even this small indulgence told against him in the minds of his
companions. But indeed he was in a position so entirely false (and
even ridiculous) that all his habit of command and arts of pleasing
were here thrown away. In the eyes of all, except Secundra Dass,
he figured as a common gull and designated victim; going
unconsciously to death; yet he could not but suppose himself the
contriver and the leader of the expedition; he could scarce help
but so conduct himself and at the least hint of authority or
condescension, his deceivers would be laughing in their sleeves. I
was so used to see and to conceive him in a high, authoritative
attitude, that when I had conceived his position on this journey, I
was pained and could have blushed. How soon he may have
entertained a first surmise, we cannot know; but it was long, and
the party had advanced into the Wilderness beyond the reach of any
help, ere he was fully awakened to the truth.
It fell thus. Harris and some others had drawn apart into the
woods for consultation, when they were startled by a rustling in
the brush. They were all accustomed to the arts of Indian warfare,
and Mountain had not only lived and hunted, but fought and earned
some reputation, with the savages. He could move in the woods
without noise, and follow a trail like a hound; and upon the
emergence of this alert, he was deputed by the rest to plunge into
the thicket for intelligence. He was soon convinced there was a
man in his close neighbourhood, moving with precaution but without
art among the leaves and branches; and coming shortly to a place of
advantage, he was able to observe Secundra Dass crawling briskly
off with many backward glances. At this he knew not whether to
laugh or cry; and his accomplices, when he had returned and
reported, were in much the same dubiety. There was now no danger
of an Indian onslaught; but on the other hand, since Secundra Dass
was at the pains to spy upon them, it was highly probable he knew
English, and if he knew English it was certain the whole of their
design was in the Master's knowledge. There was one singularity in
the position. If Secundra Dass knew and concealed his knowledge of
English, Harris was a proficient in several of the tongues of
India, and as his career in that part of the world had been a great
deal worse than profligate, he had not thought proper to remark
upon the circumstance. Each side had thus a spy-hole on the
counsels of the other. The plotters, so soon as this advantage was
explained, returned to camp; Harris, hearing the Hindustani was
once more closeted with his master, crept to the side of the tent;
and the rest, sitting about the fire with their tobacco, awaited
his report with impatience. When he came at last, his face was
very black. He had overheard enough to confirm the worst of his
suspicions. Secundra Dass was a good English scholar; he had been
some days creeping and listening, the Master was now fully informed
of the conspiracy, and the pair proposed on the morrow to fall out
of line at a carrying place and plunge at a venture in the woods:
preferring the full risk of famine, savage beasts, and savage men
to their position in the midst of traitors.
What, then, was to be done? Some were for killing the Master on
the spot; but Harris assured them that would be a crime without
profit, since the secret of the treasure must die along with him
that buried it. Others were for desisting at once from the whole
enterprise and making for New York; but the appetising name of
treasure, and the thought of the long way they had already
travelled dissuaded the majority. I imagine they were dull fellows
for the most part. Harris, indeed, had some acquirements, Mountain
was no fool, Hastie was an educated man; but even these had
manifestly failed in life, and the rest were the dregs of colonial
rascality. The conclusion they reached, at least, was more the
offspring of greed and hope, than reason. It was to temporise, to
be wary and watch the Master, to be silent and supply no further
aliment to his suspicions, and to depend entirely (as well as I
make out) on the chance that their victim was as greedy, hopeful,
and irrational as themselves, and might, after all, betray his life
and treasure.
Twice in the course of the next day Secundra and the Master must
have appeared to themselves to have escaped; and twice they were
circumvented. The Master, save that the second time he grew a
little pale, displayed no sign of disappointment, apologised for
the stupidity with which he had fallen aside, thanked his
recapturers as for a service, and rejoined the caravan with all his
usual gallantry and cheerfulness of mien and bearing. But it is
certain he had smelled a rat; for from thenceforth he and Secundra
spoke only in each other's ear, and Harris listened and shivered by
the tent in vain. The same night it was announced they were to
leave the boats and proceed by foot, a circumstance which (as it
put an end to the confusion of the portages) greatly lessened the
chances of escape.
And now there began between the two sides a silent contest, for
life on the one hand, for riches on the other. They were now near
that quarter of the desert in which the Master himself must begin
to play the part of guide; and using this for a pretext of
persecution, Harris and his men sat with him every night about the
fire, and laboured to entrap him into some admission. If he let
slip his secret, he knew well it was the warrant for his death; on
the other hand, he durst not refuse their questions, and must
appear to help them to the best of his capacity, or he practically
published his mistrust. And yet Mountain assures me the man's brow
was never ruffled. He sat in the midst of these jackals, his life
depending by a thread, like some easy, witty householder at home by
his own fire; an answer he had for everything - as often as not, a
jesting answer; avoided threats, evaded insults; talked, laughed,
and listened with an open countenance; and, in short, conducted
himself in such a manner as must have disarmed suspicion, and went
near to stagger knowledge. Indeed, Mountain confessed to me they
would soon have disbelieved the Captain's story, and supposed their
designated victim still quite innocent of their designs; but for
the fact that he continued (however ingeniously) to give the slip
to questions, and the yet stronger confirmation of his repeated
efforts to escape. The last of these, which brought things to a
head, I am now to relate. And first I should say that by this time
the temper of Harris's companions was utterly worn out; civility
was scarce pretended; and for one very significant circumstance,
the Master and Secundra had been (on some pretext) deprived of
weapons. On their side, however, the threatened pair kept up the
parade of friendship handsomely; Secundra was all bows, the Master
all smiles; and on the last night of the truce he had even gone so
far as to sing for the diversion of the company. It was observed
that he had also eaten with unusual heartiness, and drank deep,
doubtless from design.
At least, about three in the morning, he came out of the tent into
the open air, audibly mourning and complaining, with all the manner
of a sufferer from surfeit. For some while, Secundra publicly
attended on his patron, who at last became more easy, and fell
asleep on the frosty ground behind the tent, the Indian returning
within. Some time after, the sentry was changed; had the Master
pointed out to him, where he lay in what is called a robe of
buffalo: and thenceforth kept an eye upon him (he declared)
without remission. With the first of the dawn, a draught of wind
came suddenly and blew open one side the corner of the robe; and
with the same puff, the Master's hat whirled in the air and fell
some yards away. The sentry thinking it remarkable the sleeper
should not awaken, thereupon drew near; and the next moment, with a
great shout, informed the camp their prisoner was escaped. He had
left behind his Indian, who (in the first vivacity of the surprise)
came near to pay the forfeit of his life, and was, in fact,
inhumanly mishandled; but Secundra, in the midst of threats and
cruelties, stuck to it with extraordinary loyalty, that he was
quite ignorant of his master's plans, which might indeed be true,
and of the manner of his escape, which was demonstrably false.
Nothing was therefore left to the conspirators but to rely entirely
on the skill of Mountain. The night had been frosty, the ground
quite hard; and the sun was no sooner up than a strong thaw set in.
It was Mountain's boast that few men could have followed that
trail, and still fewer (even of the native Indians) found it. The
Master had thus a long start before his pursuers had the scent, and
he must have travelled with surprising energy for a pedestrian so
unused, since it was near noon before Mountain had a view of him.
At this conjuncture the trader was alone, all his companions
following, at his own request, several hundred yards in the rear;
he knew the Master was unarmed; his heart was besides heated with
the exercise and lust of hunting; and seeing the quarry so close,
so defenceless, and seeming so fatigued, he vain-gloriously
determined to effect the capture with his single hand. A step or
two farther brought him to one margin of a little clearing; on the
other, with his arms folded and his back to a huge stone, the
Master sat. It is possible Mountain may have made a rustle, it is
certain, at least, the Master raised his head and gazed directly at
that quarter of the thicket where his hunter lay; "I could not be
sure he saw me," Mountain said; "he just looked my way like a man
with his mind made up, and all the courage ran out of me like rum
out of a bottle." And presently, when the Master looked away
again, and appeared to resume those meditations in which he had sat
immersed before the trader's coming, Mountain slunk stealthily back
and returned to seek the help of his companions.
And now began the chapter of surprises, for the scout had scarce
informed the others of his discovery, and they were yet preparing
their weapons for a rush upon the fugitive, when the man himself
appeared in their midst, walking openly and quietly, with his hands
behind his back.
"Ah, men!" says he, on his beholding them. "Here is a fortunate
encounter. Let us get back to camp."
Mountain had not mentioned his own weakness or the Master's
disconcerting gaze upon the thicket, so that (with all the rest)
his return appeared spontaneous. For all that, a hubbub arose;
oaths flew, fists were shaken, and guns pointed.
"Let us get back to camp," said the Master. "I have an explanation
to make, but it must be laid before you all. And in the meanwhile
I would put up these weapons, one of which might very easily go off
and blow away your hopes of treasure. I would not kill," says he,
smiling, "the goose with the golden eggs."
The charm of his superiority once more triumphed; and the party, in
no particular order, set off on their return. By the way, he found
occasion to get a word or two apart with Mountain.
"You are a clever fellow and a bold," says he, "but I am not so
sure that you are doing yourself justice. I would have you to
consider whether you would not do better, ay, and safer, to serve
me instead of serving so commonplace a rascal as Mr. Harris.
Consider of it," he concluded, dealing the man a gentle tap upon
the shoulder, "and don't be in haste. Dead or alive, you will find
me an ill man to quarrel with."
When they were come back to the camp, where Harris and Pinkerton
stood guard over Secundra, these two ran upon the Master like
viragoes, and were amazed out of measure when they were bidden by
their comrades to "stand back and hear what the gentleman had to
say." The Master had not flinched before their onslaught; nor, at
this proof of the ground he had gained, did he betray the least
"Do not let us be in haste," says he. "Meat first and public
speaking after."
With that they made a hasty meal: and as soon as it was done, the
Master, leaning on one elbow, began his speech. He spoke long,
addressing himself to each except Harris, finding for each (with
the same exception) some particular flattery. He called them
"bold, honest blades," declared he had never seen a more jovial
company, work better done, or pains more merrily supported. "Well,
then," says he, "some one asks me, Why the devil I ran away? But
that is scarce worth answer, for I think you all know pretty well.
But you know only pretty well: that is a point I shall arrive at
presently, and be you ready to remark it when it comes. There is a
traitor here: a double traitor: I will give you his name before I
am done; and let that suffice for now. But here comes some other
gentleman and asks me, 'Why, in the devil, I came back?' Well,
before I answer that question, I have one to put to you. It was
this cur here, this Harris, that speaks Hindustani?" cries he,
rising on one knee and pointing fair at the man's face, with a
gesture indescribably menacing; and when he had been answered in
the affirmative, "Ah!" says he, "then are all my suspicions
verified, and I did rightly to come back. Now, men, hear the truth
for the first time." Thereupon he launched forth in a long story,
told with extraordinary skill, how he had all along suspected
Harris, how he had found the confirmation of his fears, and how
Harris must have misrepresented what passed between Secundra and
himself. At this point he made a bold stroke with excellent
effect. "I suppose," says he, "you think you are going shares with
Harris; I suppose you think you will see to that yourselves; you
would naturally not think so flat a rogue could cozen you. But
have a care! These half idiots have a sort of cunning, as the
skunk has its stench; and it may be news to you that Harris has
taken care of himself already. Yes, for him the treasure is all
money in the bargain. You must find it or go starve. But he has
been paid beforehand; my brother paid him to destroy me; look at
him, if you doubt - look at him, grinning and gulping, a detected
thief!" Thence, having made this happy impression, he explained
how he had escaped, and thought better of it, and at last concluded
to come back, lay the truth before the company, and take his chance
with them once more: persuaded as he was, they would instantly
depose Harris and elect some other leader. "There is the whole
truth," said he: "and with one exception, I put myself entirely in
your hands. What is the exception? There he sits," he cried,
pointing once more to Harris; "a man that has to die! Weapons and
conditions are all one to me; put me face to face with him, and if
you give me nothing but a stick, in five minutes I will show you a
sop of broken carrion, fit for dogs to roll in."
It was dark night when he made an end; they had listened in almost
perfect silence; but the firelight scarce permitted any one to
judge, from the look of his neighbours, with what result of
persuasion or conviction. Indeed, the Master had set himself in
the brightest place, and kept his face there, to be the centre of
men's eyes: doubtless on a profound calculation. Silence followed
for awhile, and presently the whole party became involved in
disputation: the Master lying on his back, with his hands knit
under his head and one knee flung across the other, like a person
unconcerned in the result. And here, I daresay, his bravado
carried him too far and prejudiced his case. At least, after a
cast or two back and forward, opinion settled finally against him.
It's possible he hoped to repeat the business of the pirate ship,
and be himself, perhaps, on hard enough conditions, elected leader;
and things went so far that way, that Mountain actually threw out
the proposition. But the rock he split upon was Hastie. This
fellow was not well liked, being sour and slow, with an ugly,
glowering disposition, but he had studied some time for the church
at Edinburgh College, before ill conduct had destroyed his
prospects, and he now remembered and applied what he had learned.
Indeed he had not proceeded very far, when the Master rolled
carelessly upon one side, which was done (in Mountain's opinion) to
conceal the beginnings of despair upon his countenance. Hastie
dismissed the most of what they had heard as nothing to the matter:
what they wanted was the treasure. All that was said of Harris
might be true, and they would have to see to that in time. But
what had that to do with the treasure? They had heard a vast of
words; but the truth was just this, that Mr. Durie was damnably
frightened and had several times run off. Here he was - whether
caught or come back was all one to Hastie: the point was to make
an end of the business. As for the talk of deposing and electing
captains, he hoped they were all free men and could attend their
own affairs. That was dust flung in their eyes, and so was the
proposal to fight Harris. "He shall fight no one in this camp, I
can tell him that," said Hastie. "We had trouble enough to get his
arms away from him, and we should look pretty fools to give them
back again. But if it's excitement the gentleman is after, I can
supply him with more than perhaps he cares about. For I have no
intention to spend the remainder of my life in these mountains;
already I have been too long; and I propose that he should
immediately tell us where that treasure is, or else immediately be
shot. And there," says he, producing his weapon, "there is the
pistol that I mean to use."
"Come, I call you a man," cries the Master, sitting up and looking
at the speaker with an air of admiration.
"I didn't ask you to call me anything," returned Hastie; "which is
it to be?"
"That's an idle question," said the Master. "Needs must when the
devil drives. The truth is we are within easy walk of the place,
and I will show it you to-morrow."
With that, as if all were quite settled, and settled exactly to his
mind, he walked off to his tent, whither Secundra had preceded him.
I cannot think of these last turns and wriggles of my old enemy
except with admiration; scarce even pity is mingled with the
sentiment, so strongly the man supported, so boldly resisted his
misfortunes. Even at that hour, when he perceived himself quite
lost, when he saw he had but effected an exchange of enemies, and
overthrown Harris to set Hastie up, no sign of weakness appeared in
his behaviour, and he withdrew to his tent, already determined (I
must suppose) upon affronting the incredible hazard of his last
expedient, with the same easy, assured, genteel expression and
demeanour as he might have left a theatre withal to join a supper
of the wits. But doubtless within, if we could see there, his soul
Early in the night, word went about the camp that he was sick; and
the first thing the next morning he called Hastie to his side, and
inquired most anxiously if he had any skill in medicine. As a
matter of fact, this was a vanity of that fallen divinity
student's, to which he had cunningly addressed himself. Hastie
examined him; and being flattered, ignorant, and highly auspicious,
knew not in the least whether the man was sick or malingering. In
this state he went forth again to his companions; and (as the thing
which would give himself most consequence either way) announced
that the patient was in a fair way to die.
"For all that," he added with an oath, "and if he bursts by the
wayside, he must bring us this morning to the treasure."
But there were several in the camp (Mountain among the number) whom
this brutality revolted. They would have seen the Master
pistolled, or pistolled him themselves, without the smallest
sentiment of pity; but they seemed to have been touched by his
gallant fight and unequivocal defeat the night before; perhaps,
too, they were even already beginning to oppose themselves to their
new leader: at least, they now declared that (if the man was sick)
he should have a day's rest in spite of Hastie's teeth.
The next morning he was manifestly worse, and Hastie himself began
to display something of humane concern, so easily does even the
pretence of doctoring awaken sympathy. The third the Master called
Mountain and Hastie to the tent, announced himself to be dying,
gave them full particulars as to the position of the cache, and
begged them to set out incontinently on the quest, so that they
might see if he deceived them, and (if they were at first
unsuccessful) he should be able to correct their error.
But here arose a difficulty on which he doubtless counted. None of
these men would trust another, none would consent to stay behind.
On the other hand, although the Master seemed extremely low, spoke
scarce above a whisper, and lay much of the time insensible, it was
still possible it was a fraudulent sickness; and if all went
treasure-hunting, it might prove they had gone upon a wild-goose
chase, and return to find their prisoner flown. They concluded,
therefore, to hang idling round the camp, alleging sympathy to
their reason; and certainly, so mingled are our dispositions,
several were sincerely (if not very deeply) affected by the natural
peril of the man whom they callously designed to murder. In the
afternoon, Hastie was called to the bedside to pray: the which
(incredible as it must appear) he did with unction; about eight at
night, the wailing of Secundra announced that all was over; and
before ten, the Indian, with a link stuck in the ground, was
toiling at the grave. Sunrise of next day beheld the Master's
burial, all hands attending with great decency of demeanour; and
the body was laid in the earth, wrapped in a fur robe, with only
the face uncovered; which last was of a waxy whiteness, and had the
nostrils plugged according to some Oriental habit of Secundra's.
No sooner was the grave filled than the lamentations of the Indian
once more struck concern to every heart; and it appears this gang
of murderers, so far from resenting his outcries, although both
distressful and (in such a country) perilous to their own safety,
roughly but kindly endeavoured to console him.
But if human nature is even in the worst of men occasionally kind,
it is still, and before all things, greedy; and they soon turned
from the mourner to their own concerns. The cache of the treasure
being hard by, although yet unidentified, it was concluded not to
break camp; and the day passed, on the part of the voyagers, in
unavailing exploration of the woods, Secundra the while lying on
his master's grave. That night they placed no sentinel, but lay
altogether about the fire, in the customary woodman fashion, the
heads outward, like the spokes of a wheel. Morning found them in
the same disposition; only Pinkerton, who lay on Mountain's right,
between him and Hastie, had (in the hours of darkness) been
secretly butchered, and there lay, still wrapped as to his body in
his mantle, but offering above that ungodly and horrific spectacle
of the scalped head. The gang were that morning as pale as a
company of phantoms, for the pertinacity of Indian war (or to speak
more correctly, Indian murder) was well known to all. But they
laid the chief blame on their unsentinelled posture; and fired with
the neighbourhood of the treasure, determined to continue where
they were. Pinkerton was buried hard by the Master; the survivors
again passed the day in exploration, and returned in a mingled
humour of anxiety and hope, being partly certain they were now
close on the discovery of what they sought, and on the other hand
(with the return of darkness) were infected with the fear of
Indians. Mountain was the first sentry; he declares he neither
slept nor yet sat down, but kept his watch with a perpetual and
straining vigilance, and it was even with unconcern that (when he
saw by the stars his time was up) he drew near the fire to awaken
his successor. This man (it was Hicks the shoemaker) slept on the
lee side of the circle, something farther off in consequence than
those to windward, and in a place darkened by the blowing smoke.
Mountain stooped and took him by the shoulder; his hand was at once
smeared by some adhesive wetness; and (the wind at the moment
veering) the firelight shone upon the sleeper, and showed him, like
Pinkerton, dead and scalped.
It was clear they had fallen in the hands of one of those matchless
Indian bravos, that will sometimes follow a party for days, and in
spite of indefatigable travel, and unsleeping watch, continue to
keep up with their advance, and steal a scalp at every restingplace.
Upon this discovery, the treasure-seekers, already reduced
to a poor half dozen, fell into mere dismay, seized a few
necessaries, and deserting the remainder of their goods, fled
outright into the forest. Their fire they left still burning, and
their dead comrade unburied. All day they ceased not to flee,
eating by the way, from hand to mouth; and since they feared to
sleep, continued to advance at random even in the hours of
darkness. But the limit of man's endurance is soon reached; when
they rested at last it was to sleep profoundly; and when they woke,
it was to find that the enemy was still upon their heels, and death
and mutilation had once more lessened and deformed their company.
By this they had become light-headed, they had quite missed their
path in the wilderness, their stores were already running low.
With the further horrors, it is superfluous that I should swell
this narrative, already too prolonged. Suffice it to say that when
at length a night passed by innocuous, and they might breathe again
in the hope that the murderer had at last desisted from pursuit,
Mountain and Secundra were alone. The trader is firmly persuaded
their unseen enemy was some warrior of his own acquaintance, and
that he himself was spared by favour. The mercy extended to
Secundra he explains on the ground that the East Indian was thought
to be insane; partly from the fact that, through all the horrors of
the flight and while others were casting away their very food and
weapons, Secundra continued to stagger forward with a mattock on
his shoulder, and partly because, in the last days and with a great
degree of heat and fluency, he perpetually spoke with himself in
his own language. But he was sane enough when it came to English.
"You think he will be gone quite away?" he asked, upon their blest
awakening in safety.
"I pray God so, I believe so, I dare to believe so," Mountain had
replied almost with incoherence, as he described the scene to me.
And indeed he was so much distempered that until he met us, the
next morning, he could scarce be certain whether he had dreamed, or
whether it was a fact, that Secundra had thereupon turned directly
about and returned without a word upon their footprints, setting
his face for these wintry and hungry solitudes, along a path whose
every stage was mile-stoned with a mutilated corpse.
Mountain's story, as it was laid before Sir William Johnson and my
lord, was shorn, of course, of all the earlier particulars, and the
expedition described to have proceeded uneventfully, until the
Master sickened. But the latter part was very forcibly related,
the speaker visibly thrilling to his recollections; and our then
situation, on the fringe of the same desert, and the private
interests of each, gave him an audience prepared to share in his
emotions. For Mountain's intelligence not only changed the world
for my Lord Durrisdeer, but materially affected the designs of Sir
William Johnson.
These I find I must lay more at length before the reader. Word had
reached Albany of dubious import; it had been rumoured some
hostility was to be put in act; and the Indian diplomatist had,
thereupon, sped into the wilderness, even at the approach of
winter, to nip that mischief in the bud. Here, on the borders, he
learned that he was come too late; and a difficult choice was thus
presented to a man (upon the whole) not any more bold than prudent.
His standing with the painted braves may be compared to that of my
Lord President Culloden among the chiefs of our own Highlanders at
the 'forty-five; that is as much as to say, he was, to these men,
reason's only speaking trumpet, and counsels of peace and
moderation, if they were to prevail at all, must prevail singly
through his influence. If, then, he should return, the province
must lie open to all the abominable tragedies of Indian war - the
houses blaze, the wayfarer be cut off, and the men of the woods
collect their usual disgusting spoil of human scalps. On the other
side, to go farther forth, to risk so small a party deeper in the
desert, to carry words of peace among warlike savages already
rejoicing to return to war: here was an extremity from which it
was easy to perceive his mind revolted.
"I have come too late," he said more than once, and would fall into
a deep consideration, his head bowed in his hands, his foot patting
the ground.
At length he raised his face and looked upon us, that is to say
upon my lord, Mountain, and myself, sitting close round a small
fire, which had been made for privacy in one corner of the camp.
"My lord, to be quite frank with you, I find myself in two minds,"
said he. "I think it very needful I should go on, but not at all
proper I should any longer enjoy the pleasure of your company. We
are here still upon the water side; and I think the risk to
southward no great matter. Will not yourself and Mr. Mackellar
take a single boat's crew and return to Albany?"
My lord, I should say, had listened to Mountain's narrative,
regarding him throughout with a painful intensity of gaze; and
since the tale concluded, had sat as in a dream. There was
something very daunting in his look; something to my eyes not
rightly human; the face, lean, and dark, and aged, the mouth
painful, the teeth disclosed in a perpetual rictus; the eyeball
swimming clear of the lids upon a field of blood-shot white. I
could not behold him myself without a jarring irritation, such as,
I believe, is too frequently the uppermost feeling on the sickness
of those dear to us. Others, I could not but remark. were scarce
able to support his neighbourhood - Sir William eviting to be near
him, Mountain dodging his eye, and, when he met it, blenching and
halting in his story. At this appeal, however, my lord appeared to
recover his command upon himself.
"To Albany?" said he, with a good voice.
"Not short of it, at least," replied Sir William. "There is no
safety nearer hand."
"I would be very sweir (11) to return," says my lord. "I am not
afraid - of Indians," he added, with a jerk.
"I wish that I could say so much," returned Sir William, smiling;
"although, if any man durst say it, it should be myself. But you
are to keep in view my responsibility, and that as the voyage has
now become highly dangerous, and your business - if you ever had
any," says he, "brought quite to a conclusion by the distressing
family intelligence you have received, I should be hardly justified
if I even suffered you to proceed, and run the risk of some obloquy
if anything regrettable should follow."
My lord turned to Mountain. "What did he pretend he died of?" he
"I don't think I understand your honour," said the trader, pausing
like a man very much affected, in the dressing of some cruel frostbites.
For a moment my lord seemed at a full stop; and then, with some
irritation, "I ask you what he died of. Surely that's a plain
question," said he.
"Oh! I don't know," said Mountain. "Hastie even never knew. He
seemed to sicken natural, and just pass away."
"There it is, you see!" concluded my lord, turning to Sir William.
"Your lordship is too deep for me," replied Sir William.
"Why," says my lord, "this in a matter of succession; my son's
title may be called in doubt; and the man being supposed to be dead
of nobody can tell what, a great deal of suspicion would be
naturally roused."
"But, God damn me, the man's buried!" cried Sir William.
"I will never believe that," returned my lord, painfully trembling.
"I'll never believe it!" he cried again, and jumped to his feet.
"Did he LOOK dead?" he asked of Mountain.
"Look dead?" repeated the trader. "He looked white. Why, what
would he be at? I tell you, I put the sods upon him."
My lord caught Sir William by the coat with a hooked hand. "This
man has the name of my brother," says he, "but it's well understood
that he was never canny."
"Canny?" says Sir William. "What is that?"
"He's not of this world," whispered my lord, "neither him nor the
black deil that serves him. I have struck my sword throughout his
vitals," he cried; "I have felt the hilt dirl (12) on his
breastbone, and the hot blood spirt in my very face, time and
again, time and again!" he repeated, with a gesture indescribable.
"But he was never dead for that," said he, and I sighed aloud.
"Why should I think he was dead now? No, not till I see him
rotting," says he.
Sir William looked across at me with a long face. Mountain forgot
his wounds, staring and gaping.
"My lord," said I, "I wish you would collect your spirits." But my
throat was so dry, and my own wits so scattered, I could add no
"No," says my lord, "it's not to be supposed that he would
understand me. Mackellar does, for he kens all, and has seen him
buried before now. This is a very good servant to me, Sir William,
this man Mackellar; he buried him with his own hands - he and my
father - by the light of two siller candlesticks. The other man is
a familiar spirit; he brought him from Coromandel. I would have
told ye this long syne, Sir William, only it was in the family."
These last remarks he made with a kind of a melancholy composure,
and his time of aberration seemed to pass away. "You can ask
yourself what it all means," he proceeded. "My brother falls sick,
and dies, and is buried, as so they say; and all seems very plain.
But why did the familiar go back? I think ye must see for yourself
it's a point that wants some clearing."
"I will be at your service, my lord, in half a minute," said Sir
William, rising. "Mr. Mackellar, two words with you;" and he led
me without the camp, the frost crunching in our steps, the trees
standing at our elbow, hoar with frost, even as on that night in
the Long Shrubbery. "Of course, this is midsummer madness," said
Sir William, as soon as we were gotten out of bearing.
"Why, certainly," said I. "The man is mad. I think that
"Shall I seize and bind him?" asked Sir William. "I will upon your
authority. If these are all ravings, that should certainly be
I looked down upon the ground, back at the camp, with its bright
fires and the folk watching us, and about me on the woods and
mountains; there was just the one way that I could not look, and
that was in Sir William's face.
"Sir William," said I at last, "I think my lord not sane, and have
long thought him so. But there are degrees in madness; and whether
he should be brought under restraint - Sir William, I am no fit
judge," I concluded.
"I will be the judge," said he. "I ask for facts. Was there, in
all that jargon, any word of truth or sanity? Do you hesitate?" he
asked. "Am I to understand you have buried this gentleman before?"
"Not buried," said I; and then, taking up courage at last, "Sir
William," said I, "unless I were to tell you a long story, which
much concerns a noble family (and myself not in the least), it
would be impossible to make this matter clear to you. Say the
word, and I will do it, right or wrong. And, at any rate, I will
say so much, that my lord is not so crazy as he seems. This is a
strange matter, into the tail of which you are unhappily drifted."
"I desire none of your secrets," replied Sir William; "but I will
be plain, at the risk of incivility, and confess that I take little
pleasure in my present company."
"I would be the last to blame you," said I, "for that."
"I have not asked either for your censure or your praise, sir,"
returned Sir William. "I desire simply to be quit of you; and to
that effect, I put a boat and complement of men at your disposal."
"This is fairly offered," said I, after reflection. "But you must
suffer me to say a word upon the other side. We have a natural
curiosity to learn the truth of this affair; I have some of it
myself; my lord (it is very plain) has but too much. The matter of
the Indian's return is enigmatical."
"I think so myself," Sir William interrupted, "and I propose (since
I go in that direction) to probe it to the bottom. Whether or not
the man has gone like a dog to die upon his master's grave, his
life, at least, is in great danger, and I propose, if I can, to
save it. There is nothing against his character?"
"Nothing, Sir William," I replied.
"And the other?" he said. "I have heard my lord, of course; but,
from the circumstances of his servant's loyalty, I must suppose he
had some noble qualities."
"You must not ask me that!" I cried. "Hell may have noble flames.
I have known him a score of years, and always hated, and always
admired, and always slavishly feared him."
"I appear to intrude again upon your secrets," said Sir William,
"believe me, inadvertently. Enough that I will see the grave, and
(if possible) rescue the Indian. Upon these terms, can you
persuade your master to return to Albany?"
"Sir William," said I, "I will tell you how it is. You do not see
my lord to advantage; it will seem even strange to you that I
should love him; but I do, and I am not alone. If he goes back to
Albany, it must be by force, and it will be the death-warrant of
his reason, and perhaps his life. That is my sincere belief; but I
am in your hands, and ready to obey, if you will assume so much
responsibility as to command."
"I will have no shred of responsibility; it is my single endeavour
to avoid the same," cried Sir William. "You insist upon following
this journey up; and be it so! I wash my hands of the whole
With which word, he turned upon his heel and gave the order to
break camp; and my lord, who had been hovering near by, came
instantly to my side.
"Which is it to be?" said he.
"You are to have your way," I answered. "You shall see the grave."
The situation of the Master's grave was, between guides, easily
described; it lay, indeed, beside a chief landmark of the
wilderness, a certain range of peaks, conspicuous by their design
and altitude, and the source of many brawling tributaries to that
inland sea, Lake Champlain. It was therefore possible to strike
for it direct, instead of following back the blood-stained trail of
the fugitives, and to cover, in some sixteen hours of march, a
distance which their perturbed wanderings had extended over more
than sixty. Our boats we left under a guard upon the river; it
was, indeed, probable we should return to find them frozen fast;
and the small equipment with which we set forth upon the
expedition, included not only an infinity of furs to protect us
from the cold, but an arsenal of snow-shoes to render travel
possible, when the inevitable snow should fall. Considerable alarm
was manifested at our departure; the march was conducted with
soldierly precaution, the camp at night sedulously chosen and
patrolled; and it was a consideration of this sort that arrested
us, the second day, within not many hundred yards of our
destination - the night being already imminent, the spot in which
we stood well qualified to be a strong camp for a party of our
numbers; and Sir William, therefore, on a sudden thought, arresting
our advance.
Before us was the high range of mountains toward which we had been
all day deviously drawing near. From the first light of the dawn,
their silver peaks had been the goal of our advance across a
tumbled lowland forest, thrid with rough streams, and strewn with
monstrous boulders; the peaks (as I say) silver, for already at the
higher altitudes the snow fell nightly; but the woods and the low
ground only breathed upon with frost. All day heaven had been
charged with ugly vapours, in the which the sun swam and glimmered
like a shilling piece; all day the wind blew on our left cheek
barbarous cold, but very pure to breathe. With the end of the
afternoon, however, the wind fell; the clouds, being no longer
reinforced, were scattered or drunk up; the sun set behind us with
some wintry splendour, and the white brow of the mountains shared
its dying glow.
It was dark ere we had supper; we ate in silence, and the meal was
scarce despatched before my lord slunk from the fireside to the
margin of the camp; whither I made haste to follow him. The camp
was on high ground, overlooking a frozen lake, perhaps a mile in
its longest measurement; all about us, the forest lay in heights
and hollows; above rose the white mountains; and higher yet, the
moon rode in a fair sky. There was no breath of air; nowhere a
twig creaked; and the sounds of our own camp were hushed and
swallowed up in the surrounding stillness. Now that the sun and
the wind were both gone down, it appeared almost warm, like a night
of July: a singular illusion of the sense, when earth, air, and
water were strained to bursting with the extremity of frost.
My lord (or what I still continued to call by his loved name) stood
with his elbow in one hand, and his chin sunk in the other, gazing
before him on the surface of the wood. My eyes followed his, and
rested almost pleasantly upon the frosted contexture of the pines,
rising in moonlit hillocks, or sinking in the shadow of small
glens. Hard by, I told myself, was the grave of our enemy, now
gone where the wicked cease from troubling, the earth heaped for
ever on his once so active limbs. I could not but think of him as
somehow fortunate to be thus done with man's anxiety and weariness,
the daily expense of spirit, and that daily river of circumstance
to be swum through, at any hazard, under the penalty of shame or
death. I could not but think how good was the end of that long
travel; and with that, my mind swung at a tangent to my lord. For
was not my lord dead also? a maimed soldier, looking vainly for
discharge, lingering derided in the line of battle? A kind man, I
remembered him; wise, with a decent pride, a son perhaps too
dutiful, a husband only too loving, one that could suffer and be
silent, one whose hand I loved to press. Of a sudden, pity caught
in my windpipe with a sob; I could have wept aloud to remember and
behold him; and standing thus by his elbow, under the broad moon, I
prayed fervently either that he should be released, or I
strengthened to persist in my affection.
"Oh God," said I, "this was the best man to me and to himself, and
now I shrink from him. He did no wrong, or not till he was broke
with sorrows; these are but his honourable wounds that we begin to
shrink from. Oh, cover them up, oh, take him away, before we hate
I was still so engaged in my own bosom, when a sound broke suddenly
upon the night. It was neither very loud, nor very near; yet,
bursting as it did from so profound and so prolonged a silence, it
startled the camp like an alarm of trumpets. Ere I had taken
breath, Sir William was beside me, the main part of the voyagers
clustered at his back, intently giving ear. Methought, as I
glanced at them across my shoulder, there was a whiteness, other
than moonlight, on their cheeks; and the rays of the moon reflected
with a sparkle on the eyes of some, and the shadows lying black
under the brows of others (according as they raised or bowed the
head to listen) gave to the group a strange air of animation and
anxiety. My lord was to the front, crouching a little forth, his
hand raised as for silence: a man turned to stone. And still the
sounds continued, breathlessly renewed with a precipitate rhythm.
Suddenly Mountain spoke in a loud, broken whisper, as of a man
relieved. "I have it now," he said; and, as we all turned to hear
him, "the Indian must have known the cache," he added. "That is he
- he is digging out the treasure."
"Why, to be sure!" exclaimed Sir William. "We were geese not to
have supposed so much."
"The only thing is," Mountain resumed, "the sound is very close to
our old camp. And, again, I do not see how he is there before us,
unless the man had wings!"
"Greed and fear are wings," remarked Sir William. "But this rogue
has given us an alert, and I have a notion to return the
compliment. What say you, gentlemen, shall we have a moonlight
It was so agreed; dispositions were made to surround Secundra at
his task; some of Sir William's Indians hastened in advance; and a
strong guard being left at our headquarters, we set forth along the
uneven bottom of the forest; frost crackling, ice sometimes loudly
splitting under foot; and overhead the blackness of pine-woods, and
the broken brightness of the moon. Our way led down into a hollow
of the land; and as we descended, the sounds diminished and had
almost died away. Upon the other slope it was more open, only
dotted with a few pines, and several vast and scattered rocks that
made inky shadows in the moonlight. Here the sounds began to reach
us more distinctly; we could now perceive the ring of iron, and
more exactly estimate the furious degree of haste with which the
digger plied his instrument. As we neared the top of the ascent, a
bird or two winged aloft and hovered darkly in the moonlight; and
the next moment we were gazing through a fringe of trees upon a
singular picture.
A narrow plateau, overlooked by the white mountains, and
encompassed nearer hand by woods, lay bare to the strong radiance
of the moon. Rough goods, such as make the wealth of foresters,
were sprinkled here and there upon the ground in meaningless
disarray. About the midst, a tent stood, silvered with frost: the
door open, gaping on the black interior. At the one end of this
small stage lay what seemed the tattered remnants of a man.
Without doubt we had arrived upon the scene of Harris's encampment;
there were the goods scattered in the panic of flight; it was in
yon tent the Master breathed his last; and the frozen carrion that
lay before us was the body of the drunken shoemaker. It was always
moving to come upon the theatre of any tragic incident; to come
upon it after so many days, and to find it (in the seclusion of a
desert) still unchanged, must have impressed the mind of the most
careless. And yet it was not that which struck us into pillars of
stone; but the sight (which yet we had been half expecting) of
Secundra ankle deep in the grave of his late master. He had cast
the main part of his raiment by, yet his frail arms and shoulders
glistered in the moonlight with a copious sweat; his face was
contracted with anxiety and expectation; his blows resounded on the
grave, as thick as sobs; and behind him, strangely deformed and
ink-black upon the frosty ground, the creature's shadow repeated
and parodied his swift gesticulations. Some night birds arose from
the boughs upon our coming, and then settled back; but Secundra,
absorbed in his toil; heard or heeded not at all.
I heard Mountain whisper to Sir William, "Good God! it's the grave!
He's digging him up!" It was what we had all guessed, and yet to
hear it put in language thrilled me. Sir William violently
"You damned sacrilegious hound!" he cried. "What's this?"
Secundra leaped in the air, a little breathless cry escaped him,
the tool flew from his grasp, and he stood one instant staring at
the speaker. The next, swift as an arrow, he sped for the woods
upon the farther side; and the next again, throwing up his hands
with a violent gesture of resolution, he had begun already to
retrace his steps.
"Well, then, you come, you help - " he was saying. But by now my
lord had stepped beside Sir William; the moon shone fair upon his
face, and the words were still upon Secundra's lips, when he beheld
and recognised his master's enemy. "Him!" he screamed, clasping
his hands, and shrinking on himself.
"Come, come!" said Sir William. "There is none here to do you
harm, if you be innocent; and if you be guilty, your escape is
quite cut off. Speak, what do you here among the graves of the
dead and the remains of the unburied?"
"You no murderer?" inquired Secundra. "You true man? you see me
"I will see you safe, if you be innocent," returned Sir William.
"I have said the thing, and I see not wherefore you should doubt
"There all murderers," cried Secundra, "that is why! He kill -
murderer," pointing to Mountain; "there two hire-murderers,"
pointing to my lord and myself - "all gallows - murderers! Ah! I
see you all swing in a rope. Now I go save the sahib; he see you
swing in a rope. The sahib," he continued, pointing to the grave,
"he not dead. He bury, he not dead."
My lord uttered a little noise, moved nearer to the grave, and
stood and stared in it.
"Buried and not dead?" exclaimed Sir William. "What kind of rant
is this?"
"See, sahib," said Secundra. "The sahib and I alone with
murderers; try all way to escape, no way good. Then try this way:
good way in warm climate, good way in India; here, in this dam cold
place, who can tell? I tell you pretty good hurry: you help, you
light a fire, help rub."
"What is the creature talking of?" cried Sir William. "My head
goes round."
"I tell you I bury him alive," said Secundra. "I teach him swallow
his tongue. Now dig him up pretty good hurry, and he not much
worse. You light a fire."
Sir William turned to the nearest of his men. "Light a fire," said
he. "My lot seems to be cast with the insane."
"You good man," returned Secundra. "Now I go dig the sahib up."
He returned as he spoke to the grave, and resumed his former toil.
My lord stood rooted, and I at my lord's side, fearing I knew not
The frost was not yet very deep, and presently the Indian threw
aside his tool, and began to scoop the dirt by handfuls. Then he
disengaged a corner of a buffalo robe; and then I saw hair catch
among his fingers: yet, a moment more, and the moon shone on
something white. Awhile Secundra crouched upon his knees, scraping
with delicate fingers, breathing with puffed lips; and when he
moved aside, I beheld the face of the Master wholly disengaged. It
was deadly white, the eyes closed, the ears and nostrils plugged,
the cheeks fallen, the nose sharp as if in death; but for all he
had lain so many days under the sod, corruption had not approached
him, and (what strangely affected all of us) his lips and chin were
mantled with a swarthy beard.
"My God!" cried Mountain, "he was as smooth as a baby when we laid
him there!"
"They say hair grows upon the dead," observed Sir William; but his
voice was thick and weak.
Secundra paid no heed to our remarks, digging swift as a terrier in
the loose earth. Every moment the form of the Master, swathed in
his buffalo robe, grew more distinct in the bottom of that shallow
trough; the moon shining strong, and the shadows of the standersby,
as they drew forward and back, falling and flitting over his
emergent countenance. The sight held us with a horror not before
experienced. I dared not look my lord in the face; but for as long
as it lasted, I never observed him to draw breath; and a little in
the background one of the men (I know not whom) burst into a kind
of sobbing.
"Now," said Secundra, "you help me lift him out."
Of the flight of time, I have no idea; it may have been three
hours, and it may have been five, that the Indian laboured to
reanimate his master's body. One thing only I know, that it was
still night, and the moon was not yet set, although it had sunk
low, and now barred the plateau with long shadows, when Secundra
uttered a small cry of satisfaction; and, leaning swiftly forth, I
thought I could myself perceive a change upon that icy countenance
of the unburied. The next moment I beheld his eyelids flutter; the
next they rose entirely, and the week-old corpse looked me for a
moment in the face.
So much display of life I can myself swear to. I have heard from
others that he visibly strove to speak, that his teeth showed in
his beard, and that his brow was contorted as with an agony of pain
and effort. And this may have been; I know not, I was otherwise
engaged. For at that first disclosure of the dead man's eyes, my
Lord Durrisdeer fell to the ground, and when I raised him up, he
was a corpse.
Day came, and still Secundra could not be persuaded to desist from
his unavailing efforts. Sir William, leaving a small party under
my command, proceeded on his embassy with the first light; and
still the Indian rubbed the limbs and breathed in the mouth of the
dead body. You would think such labours might have vitalised a
stone; but, except for that one moment (which was my lord's death),
the black spirit of the Master held aloof from its discarded clay;
and by about the hour of noon, even the faithful servant was at
length convinced. He took it with unshaken quietude.
"Too cold," said he, "good way in India, no good here." And,
asking for some food, which he ravenously devoured as soon as it
was set before him, he drew near to the fire and took his place at
my elbow. In the same spot, as soon as he had eaten, he stretched
himself out, and fell into a childlike slumber, from which I must
arouse him, some hours afterwards, to take his part as one of the
mourners at the double funeral. It was the same throughout; he
seemed to have outlived at once and with the same effort, his grief
for his master and his terror of myself and Mountain.
One of the men left with me was skilled in stone-cutting; and
before Sir William returned to pick us up, I had chiselled on a
boulder this inscription, with a copy of which I may fitly bring my
narrative to a close:
J. D.,
* * * * *
H. D.,
* * * * *
(1) A kind of firework made with damp powder.
(2) "NOTE BY MR. MACKELLAR. Should not this be Alan BRECK Stewart,
afterwards notorious as the Appin murderer? The Chevalier is
sometimes very weak on names.
(3) NOTE BY MR. MACKELLAR. This Teach of the SARAH must not be
confused with the celebrated Blackbeard. The dates and facts by no
means tally. It is possible the second Teach may have at once
borrowed the name and imitated the more excessive part of his
manners from the first. Even the Master of Ballantrae could make
(4) NOTE BY MR. MACKELLAR. And is not this the whole explanation?
since this Dutton, exactly like the officers, enjoyed the stimulus
of some responsibility.
(5) NOTE BY MR. MACKELLAR: A complete blunder: there was at this
date no word of the marriage: see above in my own narration.
(6) Note by Mr. Mackellar. - Plainly Secundra Dass. - E. McK.
(7) Ordered.
(8) Land steward.
(9) Fooling.
(10) Tear-marked.
(11) Unwilling.
(12) Ring.

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