The Master of Ballantrae: A Winter's Tale
Author(s): Stevenson, Robert Louis Balfour
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MASTER OF BALLANTRAE.
A Winter's Tale
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON,
Author of "Kidnapped," "Treasure Island,"
&c. &c. &c.
CASSELL & COMPANY, LIMITED:
LONDON, PARIS, NEW YORK & MELBOURNE.
[ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.]
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.
I. SUMMARY OF EVENTS DURING THE MASTER'S
WANDERINGS . . . . . . . 1
II. SUMMARY OF EVENTS (continued) . . . . . 17
III. THE MASTER'S WANDERINGS: From the Memoirs of the
Chevalier de Burke . . . . . . 40
IV. PERSECUTIONS ENDURED BY MR. HENRY . . . 84
V. ACCOUNT OF ALL THAT PASSED ON THE NIGHT OF
FEBRUARY 27TH, 1757 . . . . . 132
VI. SUMMARY OF EVENTS DURING THE MASTER'S SECOND
ABSENCE . . . . . . . . 162
VII. ADVENTURE OF CHEVALIER BURKE IN INDIA: Extracted
from his Memoirs . . . . . . . 190
VIII. THE ENEMY IN THE HOUSE . . . . . . 196
IX. MR. MACKELLAR'S JOURNEY WITH THE MASTER . . 227
X. PASSAGES AT NEW YORK . . . . . . 253
XI. THE JOURNEY IN THE WILDERNESS . . . . 278
Narrative of the Trader, Mountain . . . . 292
XII. THE JOURNEY IN THE WILDERNESS — (continued) . . . . 312
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE.
SUMMARY OF EVENTS DURING THE MASTER'S
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' ower 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 be 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 is the master, and he says I shall go.
What say ye to that, my brother?"
"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
"If you loved me as well as I love you, you would
have stayed," cried she.
"'I could not love you, clear, 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
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
I 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 bad 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
"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
"God knows," groans he, "it was lost love on both
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, was 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 sæpe cadeno 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
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 money.
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 riding-rod.
"What, would ye beat a lassie, ye ugly — ?" cries
she, and ran away screaming as though he had struck
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 Alison.
"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 riff-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.
SUMMARY OF EVENTS (continued).
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
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
"Why, just so," said he. "And with that we may
get back to our accounts."
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
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 it.
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 on-goings. 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* 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
* A kind of firework made with damp powder.
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
"And observe," I continued, "I give you this
advice upon consideration; and yet my heart was
touched for the woman in the beginning."
"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
"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 chimney-side, 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
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
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
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
"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 had left them in; I believe no word
"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
"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
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
"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
"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.
THE MASTER'S WANDERINGS.
From the Memoirs of the Chevalier de Burke.
. . . . 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, * 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 out.
"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 running.
"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 cowardly."
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."
* Note by Mr. Mackellar. Shou d not this be Alan Breck
Stewart, afterwards notorious as the Appin murderer? The Chevalier
is sometimes very weak on names.
"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
"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 he, "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 wellborn
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 man.
"No matter," says he. "For all that, he should
certainly hear the truth."
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 once.
"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
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 whole.
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
"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
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
"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
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
"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 business?"
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 resolution.
"Do not let that stick you," says Ballantrae, "I will
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
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 egg-shell 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 be telling up their shares or
glooming 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
In the meanwhile our ship was growing very foul,
and it was high time we should make for our port de
carrénage, 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
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
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
"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. *
I was still blessing the saints for my escape, when I
* 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
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.* 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 cocked 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
* Note by Mr. Mackellar. And is not this the whole explanation?
since this Dutton, exactly like the officers, enjoyed the
stimulus of some responsibility.
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
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 he 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
"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
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
"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 opportunity."
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
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 hand.
"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 intervention.
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 his
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
"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, run 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 cicumstances, 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 ready-made 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 bargainers.
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
bands 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 glooming 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
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 clown 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 he.
"By the blessing of Heaven," said I, "not less than
"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
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, '47, and I believe upon that very
day as we sat among these 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. *
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
* Note by Mr. Mackellar: A complete blunder: there was at this
date no word of the marriage: see above in my own narration.
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 dust.
Additions 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.
PERSECUTIONS ENDURED BY MR. HENRY.
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
"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
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
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,"
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 is 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 case 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
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
"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 him?"
"Sure, and you can have it your own way, my dear
man," says the Colonel.
By this time we had come to the side of the creek,
where the boat awaited him. "Well," said he, "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
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 shock 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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"Eight thousand pounds!" she repeated. "It is
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
"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
Letter from Colonel BURKE (afterwards Chevalier) to MR. MACKELLAR.
TROYES IN CHAMPAGNE,
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
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 broiled 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 Durrisdeer.
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 lead.
"Here, my good man," said he, in the English
accent, "here 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. Mackeller."
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
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
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,
"that 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
Never a word says Mrs. Henry; nor did I look at her,
I scarce knew why.
"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
"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
"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 goodnight, 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 be thought upon the cause of it; and the next
moment altogether dashed by the fervour of her speech.
On my part, I thought I was now one too many;
and was stealing after Mrs. Henry, when the Master
"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
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 shoulder.
"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
"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
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, wistfully.
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 read 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
commended 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
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 glooming 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 discountenanced,
and I do not remember him again to have laid hands on
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.
"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
"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
"He shall not be," said Mr. Henry.
"You shall pay pretty dear for this," says the
"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 away.
"What will he do next, Mackellar?" cries Mr.
"Let me go away," said I. "My dear patron, let
me go away; I am but the beginning of fresh
"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 manœuvred 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 or 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
as 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
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
"Do not deceive yourself, my lord," said Mr. Henry.
"This injustice is not done from generosity to him, but
in obedience to yourself."
"Before strangers . . ." begins my lord, still
more unhappily affected.
"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 defence."
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 be 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
"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 voyage.
"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
"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 dinner."
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
"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
"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
"No," said Mr. Henry, still glancing on his letter,
"but I remember your expression. You said it was very
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
"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 bounty."
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 misapply
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 cast 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
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 lord."
"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
ACCOUNT OF ALL THAT PASSED ON THE NIGHT OF
FEBRUARY 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
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'hebété qui me fait rager;
it is strange I should have such a brother. Even.
Square-toes has a certain vivacity when his stake is
imperilled; but the dreariness of a game with you I
positively lack language to depict."
Mr. Henry continued to look at his cards, as though
very maturely considering some play; but his mind was
"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 mouth.
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 he.
"It was the most deliberate act of my life," says
"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 needful."
"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 Master.
"Gentlemen," said I, "shame upon you both! Sons
of the same mother, would you turn against the life she
"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
"We must have light," said Mr. Henry, as though
there had been no interruption.
"This trembler can bring a pair of candles," said the
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 1-1-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 hall, appeared not even conscious of
"Here is the place," said the Master. "Set down
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
"The light is something in my eyes," said the
"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
Never a word said Mr. Henry, but saluted too, and
the swords rang together.
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
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
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 in.
"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 tonight,
there is an end of the house of Durrisdeer."
"I am very courageous," said she; and she looked at
me with a sort of smile, very painful to see, but very
"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 tonight
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
"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
"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
"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
"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,
"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
"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 bedfoot,
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
"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 wife."
"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 —
"Do I look like a man lying?" I interrupted,
checking him with my hand.
"You should have told me at first," he said.
"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,
"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
"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 must fly to them," he said, beginning once again
to leave his bed.
"No, no!" I cried, holding forth my hands.
"You do not know," said he. "These are dangerous
"Will nothing make you understand, my lord?"
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.
"Have you told him?" says she.
"It was he who sent me," said I. "It is gone. But
why are you here?"
"It is gone!" she repeated. "What is gone?"
"The body," said I. "Why are you not with your
"Gone?" said she. "You cannot have looked.
"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
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
"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
"You have a right to doubt me," she replied, with a
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,"
"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 hack, 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 alive?"
"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
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. Mackellar."
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 puffed 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
be 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
lying 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 honey.
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, Cæsar'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 and
whom he so cruelly despised.
SUMMARY OF EVENTS DURING THE MASTER'S
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 singular 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 to and 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 armful."
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
"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,
"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 said 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 vanished.
"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 together."
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
a 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 loss 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 him?"
I could not make one sound in answer.
"Where have you buried him?" he repeated. "I
want to see his grave."
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 asked.
"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 God's
eternity!" says he, and, sitting down again, fell upon a
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,"
"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 slumber,
from which it was often difficult to rouse him; seemed
to have lost 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 mortal 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 same
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
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 prayer."
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 ears of
"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
"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
"Ay, but if you were in my shoes, would you
forgive him?" asks my lord.
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 yourself?"
"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
"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 riddles."
"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
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 nothing."
"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 fall. 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
ADVENTURE OF CHEVALIER BURKE IN INDIA.
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 ill-acquainted 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
"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, * now rose to his feet.
* Note by Mr. Mackellar. — Plainly Secundra Dass. — E. McK.
"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
"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 pagoda.
"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
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 sword-hilt 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
"The Sahib thinks you better go away," says the
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 Cæsar
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. McK.)
THE ENEMY IN THE HOUSE.
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 truths is, I was stricken out of all my habitudes,
and find my journals very ill redd-up, * 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
"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 otherwise.
"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
"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
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
"Mackellar," says he, "we must see to breakfast
for these travellers."
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 bands 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 him.
"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. lf 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
"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
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 he 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 him.
"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 self-restraint.
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
"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 part."
"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
"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 * 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
"Mackellar!" cries my lord, getting to his feet. "O
my God, Mackellar!"
"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
* Land steward.
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
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 master's leaping heart came in
my mind, and I remembered it was for his life we played
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 meaning."
"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
"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 assumed.
"I have come with empty pockets," says he, after a
"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
"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 Mas — Mr. Bally does not, then, accompany
"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
"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, sir," said I.
"No doubt," said he. "Mr. Bally will have no
"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.
"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 behaviour."
"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
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
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 wiseacres
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 Æneas, 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 trail.
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 woodpath
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
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 debouched on the
main road; and some quarter of a mile further, 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 Will--
o'-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
"We are a small party," said he. "How comes
"This is the party to which we must grow accustomed,"
He looked at me with a sudden sharpness. "What
is all this?" said he.
"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 voyage."
"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 saddle horse."
He made an excuse to send Macconochie from the
"And for money?" he inquired. "Have I to keep
well with my good friend Mackellar for my pocketmoney
also? This is a pleasing return to the principles
"There was no allowance made," said I; "but I
will take it on myself to see you are supplied in
"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 is not possible they have omitted that?"
"I will make a note of it, and ask instructions
when I write," said I.
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
"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 revenge."
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
"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
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 * 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, mealtime
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
"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
"And at least," I added, "you know very well you
could not throw me off."
"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 expeditious 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
"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
"If you take to prophecy," says he, "listen to
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.
MR. MACKELLAR'S JOURNEY WITH THE MASTER.
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 pre-vision 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
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
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
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 work
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
change-house. 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
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
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 vain!'"
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
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, old-fashioned, 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 peering
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 pine-tree, 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 bad 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 subtile!"
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
"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 he, "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 hands.
He sat down at once in the same place and the old
"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 overboard."
"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 to-morrow; 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
"It has been hitherto rather the loss of others," I
remarked, "which seems a little on the hither side of
"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 — to-morrow 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 extended.
"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 defiance."
PASSAGES AT NEW YORK.
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 interval.
"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 sea."
"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
"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," cries 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 Durrisdeer."
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 ingratitude."
"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
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:
FORMERLY MASTER OF BALLANTRAE.
CLOTHES NEATLY CLOUTED.
DECAYED GENTLEMAN OF INDIA.
FINE GOLDSMITH WORK.
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 secret; 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 pre--
text, 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
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 cast 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 pleasures.
He had no sooner come away than I openly joined him.
"My lord, my lord," said I, "this is no manner of
"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
"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
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 mariners
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
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 only.
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
"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
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,
"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
"Think once more, Mackellar," he replied; "and
you will see they fit the fact. It is your own subterfuge
that is unpardonahle. 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 rap."
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
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
"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
"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
"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 you."
"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
Æneas, 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 papers.
"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
"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 he, 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
"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 be 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 preparations."
"For Albany, my lord?" I cried. "And for what
"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 unavailing.
THE JOURNEY IN THE WILDERNESS.
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 these 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 suffer.
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 here 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 face.
"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 tomorrow,
for by my troth, I am weary of this one."
"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 tried."
"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
"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
"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 excessive. 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
"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
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 * 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 or 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
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
"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 reasoned.
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 bead 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 large?"
"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 fro 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 first 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.
"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 accomplice.
NARRATIVE OF THE TRADER, MOUNTAIN.
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 shelter.
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
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 prosecution, 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
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
"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 sufficiency.
"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; 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 tomorrow."
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 trembled.
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
suspicious, 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
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 resting-place.
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 he 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
THE JOURNEY IN THE WILDERNESS (continued).
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, give 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
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
"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
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 * to return," says my lord.
"I am not afraid — of Indians," he added, with a
"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 asked.
"I don't think I understand your honour," said the
trader, pausing like a man very much affected, in the
dressing of some cruel frost-bites.
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
"Why," says my lord, "this is 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
"I will never believe that," returned my lord,
painfully trembling. "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?'' 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 * 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
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 more.
"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
"Why, certainly," said I. "The man is mad. I
think that manifest."
"Shall I seize and bind him?" asked Sir William.
"I will upon your authority. If these are all ravings,
that should certainly be done."
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
"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
"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
"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
"I would be the last to blame you," said I, "for
"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
"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 matter."
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
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
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
"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 hunt?
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 started.
"You damned sacrilegious hound!" he cried.
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
"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 safe?"
"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 it."
"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
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 what.
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
standers-by, 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
"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
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:
HEIR TO A SCOTTISH TITLE,
A MASTER OF THE ARTS AND GRACES,
ADMIRED IN EUROPE, ASIA, AMERICA,
IN WAR AND PEACE,
IN THE TENTS OF SAVAGE HUNTERS AND THE
CITADELS OF KINGS, AFTER SO MUCH
ACQUIRED, ACCOMPLISHED, AND
ENDURED, LIES HERE FORGOTTEN.
AFTER A LIFE OF UNMERITED DISTRESS,
DIED ALMOST IN THE SAME HOUR,
AND SLEEPS IN THE SAME GRAVE
WITH HIS FRATERNAL ENEMY.
THE PIETY OF HIS WIFE AND ONE OLD
SERVANT RAISED THIS STONE
PRINTED BY CASSELL & COMPANY, LIMITED, LA BELLE SAUVAGE, LONDON, E.C.
Cite this Document
The Master of Ballantrae: A Winter's Tale. 2022. In The Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved October 2022, from http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/cmsw/document/?documentid=126.
"The Master of Ballantrae: A Winter's Tale." The Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2022. Web. October 2022. http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/cmsw/document/?documentid=126.
The Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing, s.v., "The Master of Ballantrae: A Winter's Tale," accessed October 2022, http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/cmsw/document/?documentid=126.
If your style guide prefers a single bibliography entry for this resource, we recommend:
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The Master of Ballantrae: A Winter's Tale
|Title||The Master of Ballantrae: A Winter's Tale|
|Year of publication||1889|
Author information: Stevenson, Robert Louis Balfour
|Forenames||Robert Louis Balfour|
|Year of birth||1850|
|Place of birth||Edinburgh, Scotland|
|Locations where resident||Edinburgh|