The Great Shadow and Other Napoleonic Tales
Arthur Conan Doyle
Part 1 out of 3
Produced by Lionel G. Sear
THE GREAT SHADOW AND OTHER NAPOLEONIC TALES
A. CONAN DOYLE
THE GREAT SHADOW
I. THE NIGHT OF THE BEACONS
II. COUSIN EDIE OF EYEMOUTH
III. THE SHADOW ON THE WATERS
IV. THE CHOOSING OF JIM
V. THE MAN FROM THE SEA
VI. A WANDERING EAGLE
VII. THE SHADOW ON THE LAND
VIII. THE COMING OF THE CUTTER
IX. THE DOINGS AT WEST INCH
X. THE RETURN OF THE SHADOW
XI. THE GATHERING OF THE NATIONS
XII. THE SHADOW ON THE LAND
XIII. THE END OF THE STORM
XIV. THE TALLY OF DEATH
XV. THE END OF IT
THE CRIME OF THE BRIGADIER
THE "SLAPPING SAL"
THE GREAT SHADOW.
THE NIGHT OF THE BEACONS.
It is strange to me, Jock Calder of West Inch, to feel that though now,
in the very centre of the nineteenth century, I am but five-and-fifty
years of age, and though it is only once in a week perhaps that my wife
can pluck out a little grey bristle from over my ear, yet I have lived
in a time when the thoughts and the ways of men were as different as
though it were another planet from this. For when I walk in my fields I
can see, down Berwick way, the little fluffs of white smoke which tell
me of this strange new hundred-legged beast, with coals for food and a
thousand men in its belly, for ever crawling over the border.
On a shiny day I can see the glint of the brass work as it takes the
curve near Corriemuir; and then, as I look out to sea, there is the same
beast again, or a dozen of them maybe, leaving a trail of black in the
air and of white in the water, and swimming in the face of the wind as
easily as a salmon up the Tweed. Such a sight as that would have struck
my good old father speechless with wrath as well as surprise; for he was
so stricken with the fear of offending the Creator that he was chary of
contradicting Nature, and always held the new thing to be nearly akin to
the blasphemous. As long as God made the horse, and a man down
Birmingham way the engine, my good old dad would have stuck by the
saddle and the spurs.
But he would have been still more surprised had he seen the peace and
kindliness which reigns now in the hearts of men, and the talk in the
papers and at the meetings that there is to be no more war--save, of
course, with blacks and such like. For when he died we had been
fighting with scarce a break, save only during two short years, for very
nearly a quarter of a century. Think of it, you who live so quietly and
peacefully now! Babies who were born in the war grew to be bearded men
with babies of their own, and still the war continued. Those who had
served and fought in their stalwart prime grew stiff and bent, and yet
the ships and the armies were struggling. It was no wonder that folk
came at last to look upon it as the natural state, and thought how queer
it must seem to be at peace. During that long time we fought the Dutch,
we fought the Danes, we fought the Spanish, we fought the Turks, we
fought the Americans, we fought the Monte-Videans, until it seemed that
in this universal struggle no race was too near of kin, or too far away,
to be drawn into the quarrel. But most of all it was the French whom we
fought, and the man whom of all others we loathed and feared and admired
was the great Captain who ruled them.
It was very well to draw pictures of him, and sing songs about him, and
make as though he were an impostor; but I can tell you that the fear of
that man hung like a black shadow over all Europe, and that there was a
time when the glint of a fire at night upon the coast would set every
woman upon her knees and every man gripping for his musket. He had
always won: that was the terror of it. The Fates seemed to be behind
him. And now we knew that he lay upon the northern coast with a hundred
and fifty thousand veterans, and the boats for their passage. But it is
an old story, how a third of the grown folk of our country took up arms,
and how our little one-eyed, one-armed man crushed their fleet.
There was still to be a land of free thinking and free speaking in
There was a great beacon ready on the hill by Tweedmouth, built up of
logs and tar-barrels; and I can well remember how, night after night, I
strained my eyes to see if it were ablaze. I was only eight at the
time, but it is an age when one takes a grief to heart, and I felt as
though the fate of the country hung in some fashion upon me and my
vigilance. And then one night as I looked I suddenly saw a little
flicker on the beacon hill--a single red tongue of flame in the
darkness. I remember how I rubbed my eyes, and pinched myself, and
rapped my knuckles against the stone window-sill, to make sure that I
was indeed awake. And then the flame shot higher, and I saw the red
quivering line upon the water between; and I dashed into the kitchen,
screeching to my father that the French had crossed and the Tweedmouth
light was aflame. He had been talking to Mr. Mitchell, the law student
from Edinburgh; and I can see him now as he knocked his pipe out at the
side of the fire, and looked at me from over the top of his horn
"Are you sure, Jock?" says he.
"Sure as death!" I gasped.
He reached out his hand for the Bible upon the table, and opened it upon
his knee as though he meant to read to us; but he shut it again in
silence, and hurried out. We went too, the law student and I, and
followed him down to the gate which opens out upon the highway. From
there we could see the red light of the big beacon, and the glimmer of a
smaller one to the north of us at Ayton. My mother came down with two
plaids to keep the chill from us, and we all stood there until morning,
speaking little to each other, and that little in a whisper. The road
had more folk on it than ever passed along it at night before; for many
of the yeomen up our way had enrolled themselves in the Berwick
volunteer regiments, and were riding now as fast as hoof could carry
them for the muster. Some had a stirrup cup or two before parting, and
I cannot forget one who tore past on a huge white horse, brandishing a
great rusty sword in the moonlight. They shouted to us as they passed
that the North Berwick Law fire was blazing, and that it was thought
that the alarm had come from Edinburgh Castle. There were a few who
galloped the other way, couriers for Edinburgh, and the laird's son, and
Master Clayton, the deputy sheriff, and such like. And among others
there was one a fine built, heavy man on a roan horse, who pulled up at
our gate and asked some question about the road. He took off his hat to
ease himself, and I saw that he had a kindly long-drawn face, and a
great high brow that shot away up into tufts of sandy hair.
"I doubt it's a false alarm," said he. "Maybe I'd ha' done well to bide
where I was; but now I've come so far, I'll break my fast with the
He clapped spurs to his horse, and away he went down the brae.
"I ken him weel," said our student, nodding after him. "He's a lawyer
in Edinburgh, and a braw hand at the stringin' of verses. Wattie Scott
is his name."
None of us had heard of it then; but it was not long before it was the
best known name in Scotland, and many a time we thought of how he
speered his way of us on the night of the terror.
But early in the morning we had our minds set at ease. It was grey and
cold, and my mother had gone up to the house to make a pot of tea for
us, when there came a gig down the road with Dr. Horscroft of Ayton in
it and his son Jim. The collar of the doctor's brown coat came over his
ears, and he looked in a deadly black humour; for Jim, who was but
fifteen years of age, had trooped off to Berwick at the first alarm with
his father's new fowling piece. All night his dad had chased him, and
now there he was, a prisoner, with the barrel of the stolen gun sticking
out from behind the seat. He looked as sulky as his father, with his
hands thrust into his side-pockets, his brows drawn down, and his lower
lip thrusting out.
"It's all a lie!" shouted the doctor as he passed. "There has been no
landing, and all the fools in Scotland have been gadding about the roads
His son Jim snarled something up at him on this, and his father struck
him a blow with his clenched fist on the side of his head, which sent
the boy's chin forward upon his breast as though he had been stunned.
My father shook his head, for he had a liking for Jim; but we all walked
up to the house again, nodding and blinking, and hardly able to keep our
eyes open now that we knew that all was safe, but with a thrill of joy
at our hearts such as I have only matched once or twice in my
Now all this has little enough to do with what I took my pen up to tell
about; but when a man has a good memory and little skill, he cannot draw
one thought from his mind without a dozen others trailing out behind it.
And yet, now that I come to think of it, this had something to do with
it after all; for Jim Horscroft had so deadly a quarrel with his father,
that he was packed off to the Berwick Academy, and as my father had long
wished me to go there, he took advantage of this chance to send me also.
But before I say a word about this school, I shall go back to where I
should have begun, and give you a hint as to who I am; for it may be
that these words of mine may be read by some folk beyond the border
country who never heard of the Calders of West Inch.
It has a brave sound, West Inch, but it is not a fine estate with a
braw house upon it, but only a great hard-bitten, wind-swept sheep run,
fringing off into links along the sea-shore, where a frugal man might
with hard work just pay his rent and have butter instead of treacle on
Sundays. In the centre there is a grey-stoned slate-roofed house with a
byre behind it, and "1703" scrawled in stonework over the lintel of the
door. There for more than a hundred years our folk have lived, until,
for all their poverty, they came to take a good place among the people;
for in the country parts the old yeoman is often better thought of than
the new laird.
There was one queer thing about the house of West Inch. It has been
reckoned by engineers and other knowing folk that the boundary line
between the two countries ran right through the middle of it, splitting
our second-best bedroom into an English half and a Scotch half. Now the
cot in which I always slept was so placed that my head was to the north
of the line and my feet to the south of it. My friends say that if I
had chanced to lie the other way my hair might not have been so sandy,
nor my mind of so solemn a cast. This I know, that more than once in my
life, when my Scotch head could see no way out of a danger, my good
thick English legs have come to my help, and carried me clear away.
But at school I never heard the end of this, for they would call me
"Half-and-half" and "The Great Britain," and sometimes "Union Jack."
When there was a battle between the Scotch and English boys, one side
would kick my shins and the other cuff my ears, and then they would both
stop and laugh as though it were something funny.
At first I was very miserable at the Berwick Academy. Birtwhistle was
the first master, and Adams the second, and I had no love for either of
them. I was shy and backward by nature, and slow at making a friend
either among masters or boys. It was nine miles as the crow flies, and
eleven and a half by road, from Berwick to West Inch, and my heart grew
heavy at the weary distance that separated me from my mother; for, mark
you, a lad of that age pretends that he has no need of his mother's
caresses, but ah, how sad he is when he is taken at his word! At last I
could stand it no longer, and I determined to run away from the school
and make my way home as fast as I might. At the very last moment,
however, I had the good fortune to win the praise and admiration of
every one, from the headmaster downwards, and to find my school life
made very pleasant and easy to me. And all this came of my falling by
accident out of a second-floor window.
This was how it happened. One evening I had been kicked by Ned Barton,
who was the bully of the school; and this injury coming on the top of
all my other grievances, caused my little cup to overflow. I vowed that
night, as I buried my tear-stained face beneath the blankets, that the
next morning would either find me at West Inch or well on the way to it.
Our dormitory was on the second floor, but I was a famous climber, and
had a fine head for heights. I used to think little, young as I was, of
swinging myself with a rope round my thigh off the West Inch gable, and
that stood three-and-fifty feet above the ground. There was not much
fear then but that I could make my way out of Birtwhistle's dormitory.
I waited a weary while until the coughing and tossing had died away, and
there was no sound of wakefulness from the long line of wooden cots;
then I very softly rose, slipped on my clothes, took my shoes in my
hand, and walked tiptoe to the window. I opened the casement and looked
out. Underneath me lay the garden, and close by my hand was the stout
branch of a pear tree. An active lad could ask no better ladder.
Once in the garden I had but a five-foot wall to get over, and then
there was nothing but distance between me and home. I took a firm grip
of a branch with one hand, placed my knee upon another one, and was
about to swing myself out of the window, when in a moment I was as
silent and as still as though I had been turned to stone.
There was a face looking at me from over the coping of the wall. A
chill of fear struck to my heart at its whiteness and its stillness.
The moon shimmered upon it, and the eyeballs moved slowly from side to
side, though I was hid from them behind the screen of the pear tree.
Then in a jerky fashion this white face ascended, until the neck,
shoulders, waist, and knees of a man became visible. He sat himself
down on the top of the wall, and with a great heave he pulled up after
him a boy about my own size, who caught his breath from time to time as
though to choke down a sob. The man gave him a shake, with a few rough
whispered words, and then the two dropped together down into the garden.
I was still standing balanced with one foot upon the bough and one upon
the casement, not daring to budge for fear of attracting their
attention, for I could hear them moving stealthily about in the long
shadow of the house. Suddenly, from immediately beneath my feet, I
heard a low grating noise and the sharp tinkle of falling glass.
"That's done it," said the man's eager whisper. "There is room for
"But the edge is all jagged!" cried the other in a weak quaver.
The fellow burst out into an oath that made my skin pringle.
"In with you, you cub," he snarled, "or--"
I could not see what he did, but there was a short, quick gasp of pain.
"I'll go! I'll go!" cried the little lad.
But I heard no more, for my head suddenly swam, my heel shot off the
branch, I gave a dreadful yell, and came down, with my ninety-five
pounds of weight, right upon the bent back of the burglar. If you ask
me, I can only say that to this day I am not quite certain whether it
was an accident or whether I designed it. It may be that while I was
thinking of doing it Chance settled the matter for me. The fellow was
stooping with his head forward thrusting the boy through a tiny window,
when I came down upon him just where the neck joins the spine. He gave
a kind of whistling cry, dropped upon his face, and rolled three times
over, drumming on the grass with his heels. His little companion
flashed off in the moonlight, and was over the wall in a trice. As for
me, I sat yelling at the pitch of my lungs and nursing one of my legs,
which felt as if a red-hot ring were welded round it.
It was not long, as may be imagined, before the whole household, from
the headmaster to the stable boy, were out in the garden with lamps and
lanterns. The matter was soon cleared: the man carried off upon a
shutter, and I borne in much state and solemnity to a special bedroom,
where the small bone of my leg was set by Surgeon Purdie, the younger of
the two brothers of that name. As to the robber, it was found that his
legs were palsied, and the doctors were of two minds as to whether he
would recover the use of them or no; but the Law never gave them a
chance of settling the matter, for he was hanged after Carlisle assizes,
some six weeks later. It was proved that he was the most desperate
rogue in the North of England, for he had done three murders at the
least, and there were charges enough against him upon the sheet to have
hanged him ten times over.
Well now, I could not pass over my boyhood without telling you about
this, which was the most important thing that happened to me. But I
will go off upon no more side tracks; for when I think of all that is
coming, I can see very well that I shall have more than enough to do
before I have finished. For when a man has only his own little private
tale to tell, it often takes him all his time; but when he gets mixed up
in such great matters as I shall have to speak about, then it is hard on
him, if he has not been brought up to it, to get it all set down to his
liking. But my memory is as good as ever, thank God, and I shall try to
get it all straight before I finish.
It was this business of the burglar that first made a friendship between
Jim Horscroft, the doctor's son, and me. He was cock boy of the school
from the day he came; for within the hour he had thrown Barton, who had
been cock before him, right through the big blackboard in the
class-room. Jim always ran to muscle and bone, and even then he was
square and tall, short of speech and long in the arm, much given to
lounging with his broad back against walls, and his hands deep in his
breeches pockets. I can even recall that he had a trick of keeping a
straw in the corner of his mouth, just where he used afterwards to hold
his pipe. Jim was always the same for good and for bad since first I
Heavens, how we all looked up to him! We were but young savages, and
had a savage's respect for power. There was Tom Carndale of Appleby,
who could write alcaics as well as mere pentameters and hexameters, yet
nobody would give a snap for Tom; and there was Willie Earnshaw, who
had every date, from the killing of Abel, on the tip of his tongue, so
that the masters themselves would turn to him if they were in doubt, yet
he was but a narrow-chested lad, over long for his breadth; and what did
his dates help him when Jack Simons of the lower third chivied him down
the passage with the buckle end of a strap? But you didn't do things
like that with Jim Horscroft. What tales we used to whisper about his
strength! How he put his fist through the oak-panel of the
game-room door; how, when Long Merridew was carrying the ball, he caught
up Merridew, ball and all, and ran swiftly past every opponent to the
goal. It did not seem fit to us that such a one as he should trouble
his head about spondees and dactyls, or care to know who signed the
Magna Charta. When he said in open class that King Alfred was the man,
we little boys all felt that very likely it was so, and that perhaps Jim
knew more about it than the man who wrote the book.
Well, it was this business of the burglar that drew his attention to me;
for he patted me on my head, and said that I was a spunky little devil,
which blew me out with pride for a week on end. For two years we were
close friends, for all the gap that the years had made between us, and
though in passion or in want of thought he did many a thing that galled
me, yet I loved him like a brother, and wept as much as would have
filled an ink bottle when at last he went off to Edinburgh to study his
father's profession. Five years after that did I tide at Birtwhistle's,
and when I left had become cock myself, for I was wiry and as tough as
whalebone, though I never ran to weight and sinew like my great
predecessor. It was in Jubilee Year that I left Birtwhistle's, and then
for three years I stayed at home learning the ways of the cattle; but
still the ships and the armies were wrestling, and still the great
shadow of Bonaparte lay across the country. How could I guess that I
too should have a hand in lifting that shadow for ever from our people?
COUSIN EDIE OF EYEMOUTH.
Some years before, when I was still but a lad, there had come over to us
upon a five weeks' visit the only daughter of my father's brother.
Willie Calder had settled at Eyemouth as a maker of fishing nets, and he
had made more out of twine than ever we were like to do out of the
whin-bushes and sand-links of West Inch. So his daughter, Edie Calder,
came over with a braw red frock and a five shilling bonnet, and a kist
full of things that brought my dear mother's eyes out like a partan's.
It was wonderful to see her so free with money, and she but a slip of a
girl, paying the carrier man all that he asked and a whole twopence
over, to which he had no claim. She made no more of drinking
ginger-beer than we did of water, and she would have her sugar in her
tea and butter with her bread just as if she had been English.
I took no great stock of girls at that time, for it was hard for me to
see what they had been made for. There were none of us at Birtwhistle's
that thought very much of them; but the smallest laddies seemed to have
the most sense, for after they began to grow bigger they were not so
sure about it. We little ones were all of one mind: that a creature
that couldn't fight and was aye carrying tales, and couldn't so much as
shy a stone without flapping its arm like a rag in the wind, was no use
for anything. And then the airs that they would put on, as if they were
mother and father rolled into one; for ever breaking into a game with
"Jimmy, your toe's come through your boot," or "Go home, you dirty boy,
and clean yourself," until the very sight of them was weariness.
So when this one came to the steading at West Inch I was not best
pleased to see her. I was twelve at the time (it was in the holidays)
and she eleven, a thin, tallish girl with black eyes and the queerest
ways. She was for ever staring out in front of her with her lips
parted, as if she saw something wonderful; but when I came behind her
and looked the same way, I could see nothing but the sheep's trough or
the midden, or father's breeches hanging on a clothes-line. And then if
she saw a lump of heather or bracken, or any common stuff of that sort,
she would mope over it, as if it had struck her sick, and cry,
"How sweet! how perfect!" just as though it had been a painted picture.
She didn't like games, but I used to make her play "tig" and such like;
but it was no fun, for I could always catch her in three jumps, and she
could never catch me, though she would come with as much rustle and
flutter as ten boys would make. When I used to tell her that she was
good for nothing, and that her father was a fool to bring her up like
that, she would begin to cry, and say that I was a rude boy, and that
she would go home that very night, and never forgive me as long as she
lived. But in five minutes she had forgot all about it. What was
strange was that she liked me a deal better than I did her, and she
would never leave me alone; but she was always watching me and running
after me, and then saying, "Oh, here you are!" as if it were a surprise.
But soon I found that there was good in her too. She used sometimes to
give me pennies, so that once I had four in my pocket all at the same
time; but the best part of her was the stories that she could tell.
She was sore frightened of frogs, so I would bring one to her, and tell
her that I would put it down her neck unless she told a story.
That always helped her to begin; but when once she was started it was
wonderful how she would carry on. And the things that had happened to
her, they were enough to take your breath away. There was a Barbary
rover that had been at Eyemouth, and he was coming back in five years in
a ship full of gold to make her his wife; and then there was a
wandering knight who had been there also, and he had given her a ring
which he said he would redeem when the time came. She showed me the
ring, which was very like the ones upon my bed curtain; but she said
that this one was virgin gold. I asked her what the knight would do if
he met the Barbary rover, and she told me that he would sweep his head
from his shoulders. What they could all see in her was more than I
could think. And then she told me that she had been followed on her way
to West Inch by a disguised prince. I asked her how she knew it was a
prince, and she said by his disguise. Another day she said that her
father was preparing a riddle, and that when it was ready it would be
put in the papers, and anyone who guessed it would have half his fortune
and his daughter. I said that I was good at riddles, and that she must
send it to me when it was ready. She said it would be in the _Berwick
Gazette_, and wanted to know what I would do with her when I won her. I
said I would sell her by public roup for what she would fetch; but she
would tell no more stories that evening, for she was very techy about
Jim Horscroft was away when Cousin Edie was with us, but he came back
the very week she went; and I mind how surprised I was that he should
ask any questions or take any interest in a mere lassie. He asked me if
she were pretty; and when I said I hadn't noticed, he laughed and called
me a mole, and said my eyes would be opened some day. But very soon he
came to be interested in something else, and I never gave Edie another
thought until one day she just took my life in her hands and twisted it
as I could twist this quill.
That was in 1813, after I had left school, when I was already eighteen
years of age, with a good forty hairs on my upper lip and every hope of
more. I had changed since I left school, and was not so keen on games
as I had been, but found myself instead lying about on the sunny side of
the braes, with my own lips parted and my eyes staring just the same as
Cousin Edie's used to do. It had satisfied me and filled my whole life
that I could run faster and jump higher than my neighbour; but now all
that seemed such a little thing, and I yearned, and yearned, and looked
up at the big arching sky, and down at the flat blue sea, and felt that
there was something wanting, but could never lay my tongue to what that
something was. And I became quick of temper too, for my nerves seemed
all of a fret, and when my mother would ask me what ailed me, or my
father would speak of my turning my hand to work, I would break into
such sharp bitter answers as I have often grieved over since. Ah! a man
may have more than one wife, and more than one child, and more than one
friend; but he can never have but the one mother, so let him cherish her
while he may.
One day when I came in from the sheep, there was my father sitting with
a letter in his hands, which was a very rare thing with us, except when
the factor wrote for the rent. Then as I came nearer to him I saw that
he was crying, and I stood staring, for I had always thought that it was
not a thing that a man could do. I can see him now, for he had so deep
a crease across his brown cheek that no tear could pass it, but must
trickle away sideways and so down to his ear, hopping off on to the
sheet of paper. My mother sat beside him and stroked his hands like she
did the cat's back when she would soothe it.
"Aye, Jeannie," said he, "poor Willie's gone. It's from the lawyer, and
it was sudden or they'd ha' sent word of it. Carbuncle, he says, and a
flush o' blood to the head."
"Ah! well, his trouble's over," said my mother.
My father rubbed his ears with the tablecloth.
"He's left a' his savings to his lassie," said he, "and by gom if she's
not changed from what she promised to be she'll soon gar them flee.
You mind what she said of weak tea under this very roof, and it at seven
shillings the pound!"
My mother shook her head, and looked up at the flitches of bacon that
hung from the ceiling.
"He doesn't say how much, but she'll have enough and to spare, he says.
And she's to come and bide with us, for that was his last wish."
"To pay for her keep!" cried my mother sharply. I was sorry that she
should have spoken of money at that moment, but then if she had not been
sharp we would all have been on the roadside in a twelvemonth.
"Aye, she'll pay, and she's coming this very day. Jock lad, I'll want
you to drive to Ayton and meet the evening coach. Your Cousin Edie will
be in it, and you can fetch her over to West Inch."
And so off I started at quarter past five with Souter Johnnie, the
long-haired fifteen-year-old, and our cart with the new-painted
tail-board that we only used on great days. The coach was in just as I
came, and I, like a foolish country lad, taking no heed to the years
that had passed, was looking about among the folk in the Inn front for a
slip of a girl with her petticoats just under her knees. And as I
slouched past and craned my neck there came a touch to my elbow, and
there was a lady dressed all in black standing by the steps, and I knew
that it was my cousin Edie.
I knew it, I say, and yet had she not touched me I might have passed her
a score of times and never known it. My word, if Jim Horscroft had
asked me then if she were pretty or no, I should have known how to
answer him! She was dark, much darker than is common among our border
lasses, and yet with such a faint blush of pink breaking through her
dainty colour, like the deeper flush at the heart of a sulphur rose.
Her lips were red, and kindly, and firm; and even then, at the first
glance, I saw that light of mischief and mockery that danced away at the
back of her great dark eyes. She took me then and there as though I had
been her heritage, put out her hand and plucked me. She was, as I have
said, in black, dressed in what seemed to me to be a wondrous fashion,
with a black veil pushed up from her brow.
"Ah! Jack," said she, in a mincing English fashion, that she had learned
at the boarding school. "No, no, we are rather old for that"--this
because I in my awkward fashion was pushing my foolish brown face
forward to kiss her, as I had done when I saw her last. "Just hurry up
like a good fellow and give a shilling to the conductor, who has been
exceedingly civil to me during the journey."
I flushed up red to the ears, for I had only a silver fourpenny piece
in my pocket. Never had my lack of pence weighed so heavily upon me as
just at that moment. But she read me at a glance, and there in an
instant was a little moleskin purse with a silver clasp thrust into my
hand. I paid the man, and would have given it back, but she still would
have me keep it.
"You shall be my factor, Jack," said she, laughing. "Is this our
carriage? How funny it looks! And where am I to sit?"
"On the sacking," said I.
"And how am I to get there?"
"Put your foot on the hub," said I. "I'll help you."
I sprang up and took her two little gloved hands in my own. As she came
over the side her breath blew in my face, sweet and warm, and all that
vagueness and unrest seemed in a moment to have been shredded away from
my soul. I felt as if that instant had taken me out from myself, and
made me one of the race. It took but the time of the flicking of the
horse's tail, and yet something had happened, a barrier had gone down
somewhere, and I was leading a wider and a wiser life. I felt it all in
a flush, but shy and backward as I was, I could do nothing but flatten
out the sacking for her. Her eyes were after the coach which was
rattling away to Berwick, and suddenly she shook her handkerchief in the
"He took off his hat," said she. "I think he must have been an officer.
He was very distinguished looking. Perhaps you noticed him--a gentleman
on the outside, very handsome, with a brown overcoat."
I shook my head, with all my flush of joy changed to foolish resentment.
"Ah! well, I shall never see him again. Here are all the green braes
and the brown winding road just the same as ever. And you, Jack, I
don't see any great change in you either. I hope your manners are
better than they used to be. You won't try to put any frogs down my
back, will you?"
I crept all over when I thought of such a thing.
"We'll do all we can to make you happy at West Inch," said I, playing
with the whip.
"I'm sure it's very kind of you to take a poor lonely girl in," said
"It's very kind of you to come, Cousin Edie," I stammered. "You'll find
it very dull, I fear."
"I suppose it is a little quiet, Jack, eh? Not many men about, as I
"There is Major Elliott, up at Corriemuir. He comes down of an evening,
a real brave old soldier who had a ball in his knee under Wellington."
"Ah, when I speak of men. Jack, I don't mean old folk with balls in
their knees. I meant people of our own age that we could make friends
of. By the way, that crabbed old doctor had a son, had he not?"
"Oh yes, that's Jim Horscroft, my best friend."
"Is he at home?"
"No. He'll be home soon. He's still at Edinburgh studying."
"Ah! then we'll keep each other company until he comes, Jack. And I'm
very tired and I wish I was at West Inch."
I made old Souter Johnnie cover the ground as he has never done before
or since, and in an hour she was seated at the supper table, where my
mother had laid out not only butter, but a glass dish of gooseberry jam,
which sparkled and looked fine in the candle-light. I could see that my
parents were as overcome as I was at the difference in her, though not
in the same way. My mother was so set back by the feather thing that
she had round her neck that she called her Miss Calder instead of Edie,
until my cousin in her pretty flighty way would lift her forefinger to
her whenever she did it. After supper, when she had gone to bed, they
could talk of nothing but her looks and her breeding.
"By the way, though," says my father, "it does not look as if she were
heart-broke about my brother's death."
And then for the first time I remembered that she had never said a word
about the matter since I had met her.
THE SHADOW ON THE WATERS.
It was not very long before Cousin Edie was queen of West Inch, and we
all her devoted subjects from my father down. She had money and to
spare, though none of us knew how much. When my mother said that four
shillings the week would cover all that she would cost, she fixed on
seven shillings and sixpence of her own free will. The south room,
which was the sunniest and had the honeysuckle round the window, was for
her; and it was a marvel to see the things that she brought from Berwick
to put into it. Twice a week she would drive over, and the cart would
not do for her, for she hired a gig from Angus Whitehead, whose farm lay
over the hill. And it was seldom that she went without bringing
something back for one or other of us. It was a wooden pipe for my
father, or a Shetland plaid for my mother, or a book for me, or a brass
collar for Rob the collie. There was never a woman more free-handed.
But the best thing that she gave us was just her own presence. To me it
changed the whole country-side, and the sun was brighter and the braes
greener and the air sweeter from the day she came. Our lives were
common no longer now that we spent them with such a one as she, and the
old dull grey house was another place in my eyes since she had set her
foot across the door-mat. It was not her face, though that was winsome
enough, nor her form, though I never saw the lass that could match her;
but it was her spirit, her queer mocking ways, her fresh new fashion of
talk, her proud whisk of the dress and toss of the head, which made one
feel like the ground beneath her feet, and then the quick challenge in
her eye, and the kindly word that brought one up to her level again.
But never quite to her level either. To me she was always something
above and beyond. I might brace myself and blame myself, and do what I
would, but still I could not feel that the same blood ran in our veins,
and that she was but a country lassie, as I was a country lad. The more
I loved her the more frightened I was at her, and she could see the
fright long before she knew the love. I was uneasy to be away from her,
and yet when I was with her I was in a shiver all the time for fear my
stumbling talk might weary her or give her offence. Had I known more of
the ways of women I might have taken less pains.
"You're a deal changed from what you used to be, Jack," said she,
looking at me sideways from under her dark lashes.
"You said not when first we met," says I.
"Ah! I was speaking of your looks then, and of your ways now. You used
to be so rough to me, and so masterful, and would have your own way,
like the little man that you were. I can see you now with your touzled
brown hair and your mischievous eyes. And now you are so gentle and
quiet and soft-spoken."
"One learns to behave," says I.
"Ah, but, Jack, I liked you so much better as you were!"
Well, when she said that I fairly stared at her, for I had thought that
she could never have quite forgiven me for the way I used to carry on.
That anyone out of a daft house could have liked it, was clean beyond my
understanding. I thought of how when she was reading by the door I
would go up on the moor with a hazel switch and fix little clay balls at
the end of it, and sling them at her until I made her cry. And then I
thought of how I caught an eel in the Corriemuir burn and chivied her
about with it, until she ran screaming under my mother's apron half mad
with fright, and my father gave me one on the ear-hole with the porridge
stick which knocked me and my eel under the kitchen dresser. And these
were the things that she missed! Well, she must miss them, for my hand
would wither before I could do them now. But for the first time I began
to understand the queerness that lies in a woman, and that a man must
not reason about one, but just watch and try to learn.
We found our level after a time, when she saw that she had just to do
what she liked and how she liked, and that I was as much at her beck and
call as old Rob was at mine. You'll think I was a fool to have had my
head so turned, and maybe I was; but then you must think how little I
was used to women, and how much we were thrown together. Besides she
was a woman in a million, and I can tell you that it was a strong head
that would not be turned by her.
Why, there was Major Elliott, a man that had buried three wives, and had
twelve pitched battles to his name, Edie could have turned him round her
finger like a damp rag--she, only new from the boarding school. I met
him hobbling from West Inch the first time after she came, with pink in
his cheeks and a shine in his eye that took ten years from him. He was
cocking up his grey moustaches at either end and curling them into his
eyes, and strutting out with his sound leg as proud as a piper. What
she had said to him the Lord knows, but it was like old wine in his
"I've been up to see you, laddie," said he, "but I must home again now.
My visit has not been wasted, however, as I had an opportunity of seeing
_la belle cousine_. A most charming and engaging young lady, laddie."
He had a formal stiff way of talking, and was fond of jerking in a bit
of the French, for he had picked some up in the Peninsula. He would
have gone on talking of Cousin Edie, but I saw the corner of a newspaper
thrusting out of his pocket, and I knew that he had come over, as was
his way, to give me some news, for we heard little enough at West Inch.
"What is fresh, Major?" I asked. He pulled the paper out with a
"The allies have won a great battle, my lad," says he. "I don't think
Nap can stand up long against this. The Saxons have thrown him over,
and he's been badly beat at Leipzig. Wellington is past the Pyrenees,
and Graham's folk will be at Bayonne before long."
I chucked up my hat.
"Then the war will come to an end at last," I cried.
"Aye, and time too," said he, shaking his head gravely. "It's been a
bloody business. But it is hardly worth while for me to say now what
was in my mind about you."
"What was that?"
"Well, laddie, you are doing no good here, and now that my knee is
getting more limber I was hoping that I might get on active service
again. I wondered whether maybe you might like to do a little
soldiering under me."
My heart jumped at the thought.
"Aye, would I!" I cried.
"But it'll be clear six months before I'll be fit to pass a board, and
it's long odds that Boney will be under lock and key before that."
"And there's my mother," said I, "I doubt she'd never let me go."
"Ah! well, she'll never be asked to now," he answered, and hobbled on
upon his way.
I sat down among the heather with my chin on my hand, turning the thing
over in my mind, and watching him in his old brown clothes, with the end
of a grey plaid flapping over his shoulder, as he picked his way up the
swell of the hill. It was a poor life this, at West Inch, waiting to
fill my father's shoes, with the same heath, and the same burn, and the
same sheep, and the same grey house for ever before me. But over
there, over the blue sea, ah! there was a life fit for a man. There was
the Major, a man past his prime, wounded and spent, and yet planning to
get to work again, whilst I, with all the strength of my youth, was
wasting it upon these hillsides. A hot wave of shame flushed over me,
and I sprang up all in a tingle to be off and playing a man's part in
For two days I turned it over in my mind, and on the third there came
something which first brought all my resolutions to a head, and then
blew them all to nothing like a puff of smoke in the wind.
I had strolled out in 'the afternoon with Cousin Edie and Rob, until we
found ourselves upon the brow of the slope which dips away down to the
beach. It was late in the fall, and the links were all bronzed and
faded; but the sun still shone warmly, and a south breeze came in little
hot pants, rippling the broad blue sea with white curling lines.
I pulled an armful of bracken to make a couch for Edie, and there she
lay in her listless fashion, happy and contented; for of all folk that I
have ever met, she had the most joy from warmth and light. I leaned on
a tussock of grass, with Rob's head upon my knee, and there as we sat
alone in peace in the wilderness, even there we saw suddenly thrown upon
the waters in front of us the shadow of that great man over yonder, who
had scrawled his name in red letters across the map of Europe.
There was a ship coming up with the wind, a black sedate old
merchant-man, bound for Leith as likely as not. Her yards were square
and she was running with all sail set. On the other tack, coming from
the north-east, were two great ugly lugger-like craft, with one high
mast each, and a big square brown sail. A prettier sight one would not
wish than to see the three craft dipping along upon so fair a day.
But of a sudden there came a spurt of flame and a whirl of blue smoke
from one lugger, then the same from the second, and a rap, rap, rap,
from the ship. In a twinkling hell had elbowed out heaven, and there on
the waters was hatred and savagery and the lust for blood.
We had sprung to our feet at the outburst, and Edie put her hand all in
a tremble upon my arm.
"They are fighting, Jack!" she cried. "What are they? Who are they?"
My heart was thudding with the guns, and it was all that I could do to
answer her for the catch of my breath.
"It's two French privateers, Edie," said I, "Chasse-marries, they call
them, and yon's one of our merchant ships, and they'll take her as sure
as death; for the Major says they've always got heavy guns, and are as
full of men as an egg is full of meat. Why doesn't the fool make back
for Tweedmouth bar?"
But not an inch of canvas did she lower, but floundered on in her stolid
fashion, while a little black ball ran up to her peak, and the rare old
flag streamed suddenly out from the halliard. Then again came the rap,
rap, rap, of her little guns, and the boom, boom of the big carronades
in the bows of the lugger. An instant later the three ships met, and
the merchant-man staggered on like a stag with two wolves hanging to its
haunches. The three became but a dark blurr amid the smoke, with the
top spars thrusting out in a bristle, and from the heart of that cloud
came the quick red flashes of flame, and such a devils' racket of big
guns and small, cheering and screaming, as was to din in my head for
many a week. For a stricken hour the hell-cloud moved slowly across the
face of the water, and still with our hearts in our mouths we watched
the flap of the flag, straining to see if it were yet there. And then
suddenly, the ship, as proud and black and high as ever, shot on upon
her way; and as the smoke cleared we saw one of the luggers squattering
like a broken winged duck upon the water, and the other working hard to
get the crew from her before she sank.
For all that hour I had lived for nothing but the fight. My cap had
been whisked away by the wind, but I had never given it a thought.
Now with my heart full I turned upon my Cousin Edie, and the sight of
her took me back six years. There was the vacant staring eye and the
parted lips, just as I had seen them in her girlhood, and her little
hands were clenched until the knuckles gleamed like ivory.
"Ah, that captain!" said she, talking to the heath and the
whin-bushes. "There is a man so strong, so resolute! What woman would
not be proud of a man like that?"
"Aye, he did well!" I cried with enthusiasm.
She looked at me as if she had forgotten my existence.
"I would give a year of my life to meet such a man," said she.
"But that is what living in the country means. One never sees anybody
but just those who are fit for nothing better."
I do not know that she meant to hurt me, though she was never very
backward at that; but whatever her intention, her words seemed to strike
straight upon a naked nerve.
"Very well, Cousin Edie," I said, trying to speak calmly, "that puts the
cap on it. I'll take the bounty in Berwick to-night."
"What, Jack! you be a soldier!"
"Yes, if you think that every man that bides in the country must be a
"Oh, you'd look so handsome in a red coat, Jack, and it improves you
vastly when you are in a temper. I wish your eyes would always flash
like that, for it looks so nice and manly. But I am sure that you are
joking about the soldiering."
"I'll let you see if I am joking."
Then and there I set off running over the moor, until I burst into the
kitchen where my mother and father were sitting on either side of the
"Mother," I cried, "I'm off for a soldier!"
Had I said I was off for a burglar they could not have looked worse over
it, for in those days among the decent canny country folks it was mostly
the black sheep that were herded by the sergeant. But, my word, those
same black sheep did their country some rare service too. My mother put
up her mittens to her eyes, and my father looked as black as a peat
"Hoots, Jock, you're daft," says he.
"Daft or no, I'm going."
"Then you'll have no blessing from me."
"Then I'll go without."
At this my mother gives a screech and throws her arms about my neck.
I saw her hand, all hard and worn and knuckly with the work she had done
for my up-bringing, and it pleaded with me as words could not have done.
My heart was soft for her, but my will was as hard as a flint-edge.
I put her back in her chair with a kiss, and then ran to my room to pack
my bundle. It was already growing dark, and I had a long walk before
me, so I thrust a few things together and hastened out. As I came
through the side door someone touched my shoulder, and there was Edie in
"Silly boy," said she, "you are not really going."
"Am I not? You'll see."
"But your father does not wish it, nor your mother."
"I know that."
"Then why go?"
"You ought to know."
"Because you make me!"
"I don't want you to go, Jack."
"You said it. You said that the folk in the country were fit for
nothing better. You always speak like that. You think no more of me
than of those doos in the cot. You think I am nobody at all. I'll show
All my troubles came out in hot little spurts of speech. She coloured
up as I spoke, and looked at me in her queer half-mocking, half-petting
"Oh, I think so little of you as that?" said she. "And that is the
reason why you are going away? Well then, Jack, will you stay if I
am--if I am kind to you?"
We were face to face and close together, and in an instant the thing was
done. My arms were round her, and I was kissing her, and kissing her,
and kissing her, on her mouth, her cheeks, her eyes, and pressing her to
my heart, and whispering to her that she was all, all, to me, and that I
could not be without her. She said nothing, but it was long before she
turned her face aside, and when she pushed me back it was not very hard.
"Why, you are quite your rude, old, impudent self!" said she, patting
her hair with her two hands. "You have tossed me, Jack; I had no idea
that you would be so forward!"
But all my fear of her was gone, and a love tenfold hotter than ever was
boiling in my veins. I took her up again, and kissed her as if it were
"You are my very own now!" I cried. "I shall not go to Berwick, but
I'll stay and marry you."
But she laughed when I spoke of marriage.
"Silly boy! Silly boy!" said she, with her forefinger up; and then when
I tried to lay hands on her again, she gave a little dainty curtsy, and
was off into the house.
THE CHOOSING OF JIM.
And then there came those ten weeks which were like a dream, and are so
now to look back upon. I would weary you were I to tell you what passed
between us; but oh, how earnest and fateful and all-important it was at
the time! Her waywardness; her ever-varying moods, now bright, now
dark, like a meadow under drifting clouds; her causeless angers; her
sudden repentances, each in turn filling me with joy or sorrow: these
were my life, and all the rest was but emptiness. But ever deep down
behind all my other feelings was a vague disquiet, a fear that I was
like the man who set forth to lay hands upon the rainbow, and that the
real Edie Calder, however near she might seem, was in truth for ever
beyond my reach.
For she was so hard to understand, or, at least, she was so for a
dull-witted country lad like me. For if I would talk to her of my real
prospects, and how by taking in the whole of Corriemuir we might earn a
hundred good pounds over the extra rent, and maybe be able to build out
the parlour at West Inch, so as to make it fine for her when we married,
she would pout her lips and droop her eyes, as though she scarce had
patience to listen to me. But if I would let her build up dreams about
what I might become, how I might find a paper which proved me to be the
true heir of the laird, or how, without joining the army, which she
would by no means hear of, I showed myself to be a great warrior until
my name was in all folks' mouths, then she would be as blithe as the
May. I would keep up the play as well as I could, but soon some
luckless word would show that I was only plain Jock Calder of West Inch,
and out would come her lip again in scorn of me. So we moved on, she in
the air and I on the ground; and if the rift had not come in one way, it
must in another.
It was after Christmas, but the winter had been mild, with just frost
enough to make it safe walking over the peat bogs. One fresh morning
Edie had been out early, and she came back to breakfast with a fleck of
colour on her cheeks.
"Has your friend the doctor's son come home, Jack?" says she.
"I heard that it was expected."
"Ah! then it must have been him that I met on the muir."
"What! you met Jim Horscroft?"
"I am sure it must be he. A splendid-looking man--a hero, with curly
black hair, a short, straight nose, and grey eyes. He had shoulders
like a statue, and as to height, why, I suppose that your head, Jack,
would come up to his scarf-pin."
"Up to his ear, Edie!" said I indignantly. "That is, if it was Jim.
But tell me. Had he a brown wooden pipe stuck in the corner of his
"Yes, he was smoking. He was dressed in grey, and he has a grand deep
"Ho, ho! you spoke to him!" said I.
She coloured a little, as if she had said more than she meant.
"I was going where the ground was a little soft, and he warned me of
it," she said.
"Ah! it must have been dear old Jim," said I. "He should have been a
doctor years back, if his brains had been as strong as his arm.
Why, heart alive, here is the very man himself!"
I had seen him through the kitchen window, and now I rushed out with my
half-eaten bannock in my hand to greet him. He ran forward too, with
his great hand out and his eyes shining.
"Ah! Jock," he cried, "it's good to see you again. There are no friends
like the old ones."
Then suddenly he stuck in his speech, and stared with his mouth open
over my shoulder. I turned, and there was Edie, with such a merry,
roguish smile, standing in the door. How proud I felt of her, and of
myself too, as I looked at her!
"This is my cousin, Miss Edie Calder, Jim," said I.
"Do you often take walks before breakfast, Mr. Horscroft?" she asked,
still with that roguish smile.
"Yes," said he, staring at her with all his eyes.
"So do I, and generally over yonder," said she. "But you are not very
hospitable to your friend, Jack. If you do not do the honours, I shall
have to take your place for the credit of West Inch."
Well, in another minute we were in with the old folk, and Jim had his
plate of porridge ladled out for him; but hardly a word would he speak,
but sat with his spoon in his hand staring at Cousin Edie. She shot
little twinkling glances across at him all the time, and it seemed to me
that she was amused at his backwardness, and that she tried by what she
said to give him heart.
"Jack was telling me that you were studying to be a doctor," said she.
"But oh, how hard it must be, and how long it must take before one can
gather so much learning as that!"
"It takes me long enough," Jim answered ruefully; "but I'll beat it
"Ah! but you are brave. You are resolute. You fix your eyes on a point
and you move on towards it, and nothing can stop you."
"Indeed, I've little to boast of," said he. "Many a one who began with
me has put up his plate years ago, and here am I but a student still."
"That is your modesty, Mr. Horscroft. They say that the bravest are
always humble. But then, when you have gained your end, what a glorious
career--to carry healing in your hands, to raise up the suffering, to
have for one's sole end the good of humanity!"
Honest Jim wriggled in his chair at this.
"I'm afraid I have no such very high motives, Miss Calder," said he.
"It's to earn a living, and to take over my father's business, that I do
it. If I carry healing in one hand, I have the other out for a
"How candid and truthful you are!" she cried; and so they went on, she
decking him with every virtue, and twisting his words to make him play
the part, in the way that I knew so well. Before he was done I could
see that his head was buzzing with her beauty and her kindly words.
I thrilled with pride to think that he should think so well of my kin.
"Isn't she fine, Jim?" I could not help saying when we stood outside
the door, he lighting his pipe before he set off home.
"Fine!" he cried; "I never saw her match!"
"We're going to be married," said I.
The pipe fell out of his mouth, and he stood staring at me. Then he
picked it up and walked off without a word. I thought that he would
likely come back, but he never did; and I saw him far off up the brae,
with his chin on his chest.
But I was not to forget him, for Cousin Edie had a hundred questions to
ask me about his boyhood, about his strength, about the women that he
was likely to know; there was no satisfying her. And then again, later
in the day, I heard of him, but in a less pleasant fashion.
It was my father who came home in the evening with his mouth full of
poor Jim. He had been deadly drunk since midday, had been down to
Westhouse Links to fight the gipsy champion, and it was not certain that
the man would live through the night. My father had met Jim on the
highroad, dour as a thunder-cloud, and with an insult in his eye for
every man that passed him. "Guid sakes!" said the old man. "He'll make
a fine practice for himsel', if breaking banes will do it."
Cousin Edie laughed at all this, and I laughed because she did; but I
was not so sure that it was funny.
On the third day afterwards, I was going up Corriemuir by the
sheep-track, when who should I see striding down but Jim himself.
But he was a different man from the big, kindly fellow who had supped
his porridge with us the other morning. He had no collar nor tie, his
vest was open, his hair matted, and his face mottled, like a man who has
drunk heavily overnight. He carried an ash stick, and he slashed at the
whin-bushes on either side of the path.
"Why, Jim!" said I.
But he looked at me in the way that I had often seen at school when the
devil was strong in him, and when he knew that he was in the wrong, and
yet set his will to brazen it out. Not a word did he say, but he
brushed past me on the narrow path and swaggered on, still brandishing
his ash-plant and cutting at the bushes.
Ah well, I was not angry with him. I was sorry, very sorry, and that
was all. Of course I was not so blind but that I could see how the
matter stood. He was in love with Edie, and he could not bear to think
that I should have her. Poor devil, how could he help it? Maybe I
should have been the same. There was a time when I should have wondered
that a girl could have turned a strong man's head like that, but I knew
more about it now.
For a fortnight I saw nothing of Jim Horscroft, and then came the
Thursday which was to change the whole current of my life.
I had woke early that day, and with a little thrill of joy which is a
rare thing to feel when a man first opens his eyes. Edie had been
kinder than usual the night before, and I had fallen asleep with the
thought that maybe at last I had caught the rainbow, and that without
any imaginings or make-believes she was learning to love plain, rough
Jock Calder of West Inch. It was this thought, still at my heart, which
had given me that little morning chirrup of joy. And then I remembered
that if I hastened I might be in time for her, for it was her custom to
go out with the sunrise.
But I was too late. When I came to her door it was half-open and the
room empty. Well, thought I, at least I may meet her and have the
homeward walk with her. From the top of Corriemuir hill you may see all
the country round; so, catching up my stick, I swung off in that
direction. It was bright, but cold, and the surf, I remember, was
booming loudly, though there had been no wind in our parts for days.
I zigzagged up the steep pathway, breathing in the thin, keen morning
air, and humming a lilt as I went, until I came out, a little short of
breath, among the whins upon the top. Looking down the long slope of
the farther side, I saw Cousin Edie, as I had expected; and I saw Jim
Horscroft walking by her side.
They were not far away, but too taken up with each other to see me. She
was walking slowly, with the little petulant cock of her dainty head
which I knew so well, casting her eyes away from him, and shooting out a
word from time to time. He paced along beside her, looking down at her
and bending his head in the eagerness of his talk. Then as he said
something, she placed her hand with a caress upon his arm, and he,
carried off his feet, plucked her up and kissed her again and again.
At the sight I could neither cry out nor move, but stood, with a heart
of lead and the face of a dead man, staring down at them. I saw her
hand passed over his shoulder, and that his kisses were as welcome to
her as ever mine had been.
Then he set her down again, and I found that this had been their
parting; for, indeed, in another hundred paces they would have come in
view of the upper windows of the house. She walked slowly away, with a
wave back once or twice, and he stood looking after her. I waited until
she was some way off, and then down I came, but so taken up was he,
that I was within a hand's-touch of him before he whisked round upon me.
He tried to smile as is eye met mine.
"Ah, Jock," says he, "early afoot!"
"I saw you!" I gasped; and my throat had turned so dry that I spoke like
a man with a quinsy.
"Did you so?" said he, and gave a little whistle. "Well, on my life,
Jock, I'm not sorry. I was thinking of coming up to West Inch this very
day, and having it out with you. Maybe it's better as it is."
"You've been a fine friend!" said I.
"Well now, be reasonable, Jock," said he, sticking his hands into his
pockets and rocking to and fro as he stood. "Let me show you how it
stands. Look me in the eye, and you'll see that I don't lie. It's this
Way. I had met Edi--Miss Calder that is--before I came that morning,
and there were things which made me look upon her as free; and, thinking
that, I let my mind dwell on her. Then you said she wasn't free, but
was promised to you, and that was the worst knock I've had for a time.
It clean put me off, and I made a fool of myself for some days, and it's
a mercy I'm not in Berwick gaol. Then by chance I met her again--on my
soul, Jock, it was chance for me--and when I spoke of you she laughed at
the thought. It was cousin and cousin, she said; but as for her not
being free, or you being more to her than a friend, it was fool's talk.
So you see, Jock, I was not so much to blame, after all: the more so as
she promised that she would let you see by her conduct that you were
mistaken in thinking that you had any claim upon her. You must have
noticed that she has hardly had a word for you for these last two
I laughed bitterly.
"It was only last night," said I, "that she told me that I was the only
man in all this earth that she could ever bring herself to love."
Jim Horscroft put out a shaking hand and laid it on my shoulder, while
he pushed his face forward to look into my eyes.
"Jock Calder," said he, "I never knew you tell a lie. You are not
trying to score trick against trick, are you? Honest now, between man
"It's God's truth," said I.
He stood looking at me, and his face had set like that of a man who is
having a hard fight with himself. It was a long two minutes before he
"See here, Jock!" said he. "This woman is fooling us both. D'you hear,
man? she's fooling us both! She loves you at West Inch, and she loves
me on the braeside; and in her devil's heart she cares a whin-blossom
for neither of us. Let's join hands, man, and send the hellfire hussy
to the right-about!"
But this was too much. I could not curse her in my own heart, and still
less could I stand by and hear another man do it; not though it was my
"Don't you call names!" I cried.
"Ach! you sicken me with your soft talk! I'll call her what she should
"Will you, though?" said I, lugging off my coat. "Look you here, Jim
Horscroft, if you say another word against her, I'll lick it down your
throat, if you were as big as Berwick Castle! Try me and see!"
He peeled off his coat down to the elbows, and then he slowly put it on
"Don't be such a fool, Jock!" said he. "Four stone and five inches is
more than mortal man can give. Two old friends mustn't fall out over
such a--well, there, I won't say it. Well, by the Lord, if she hasn't
nerve for ten!"
I looked round, and there she was, not twenty yards from us, looking as
cool and easy and placid as we were hot and fevered.
"I was nearly home," said she, "when I saw you two boys very busy
talking, so I came all the way back to know what it was about."
Horscroft took a run forward and caught her by the wrist. She gave a
little squeal at the sight of his face, but he pulled her towards where
I was standing.
"Now, Jock, we've had tomfoolery enough," said he. "Here she is. Shall
we take her word as to which she likes? She can't trick us now that
we're both together."
"I am willing," said I.
"And so am I. If she goes for you, I swear I'll never so much as turn
an eye on her again. Will you do as much for me?"
"Yes, I will."
"Well then, look here, you! We're both honest men, and friends, and we
tell each other no lies; and so we know your double ways. I know what
you said last night. Jock knows what you said to-day. D'you see?
Now then, fair and square! Here we are before you; once and have done.
Which is it to be, Jock or me?"
You would have thought that the woman would have been overwhelmed with
shame, but instead of that her eyes were shining with delight; and I
dare wager that it was the proudest moment of her life. As she looked
from one to the other of us, with the cold morning sun glittering on her
face, I had never seen her look so lovely. Jim felt it also, I am sure;
for he dropped her wrist, and the harsh lines were softened upon his
"Come, Edie! which is it to be?" he asked.
"Naughty boys, to fall out like this!" she cried. "Cousin Jack, you
know how fond I am of you."
"Oh, then go to him!" said Horscroft.
"But I love nobody but Jim. There is nobody that I love like Jim."
She snuggled up to him, and laid her cheek against his breast.
"You see, Jock!" said he, looking over her shoulder.
I did see; and away I went for West Inch, another man from the time that
I left it.
THE MAN FROM THE SEA.
Well, I was never one to sit groaning over a cracked pot. If it could
not be mended, then it is the part of a man to say no more of it.
For weeks I had an aching heart; indeed, it is a little sore now, after
all these years and a happy marriage, when I think of it. But I kept a
brave face on me; and, above all, I did as I had promised that day on
the hillside. I was as a brother to her, and no more: though there were
times when I had to put a hard curb upon myself; for even now she would
come to me with her coaxing ways, and with tales about how rough Jim
was, and how happy she had been when I was kind to her; for it was in
her blood to speak like that, and she could not help it.
But for the most part Jim and she were happy enough. It was all over
the countryside that they were to be married when he had passed his
degree, and he would come up to West Inch four nights a week to sit with
us. My folk were pleased about it, and I tried to be pleased too.
Maybe at first there was a little coolness between him and me: there was
not quite the old schoolboy trust between us. But then, when the first
smart was passed, it seemed to me that he had acted openly, and that I
had no just cause for complaint against him. So we were friendly, in a
way; and as for her, he had forgotten all his anger, and would have
kissed the print of her shoe in the mud. We used to take long rambles
together, he and I; and it is about one of these that I now want to tell
We had passed over Bramston Heath and round the clump of firs which
screens the house of Major Elliott from the sea wind. It was spring
now, and the year was a forward one, so that the trees were well leaved
by the end of April. It was as warm as a summer day, and we were the
more surprised when we saw a huge fire roaring upon the grass-plot
before the Major's door. There was half a fir-tree in it, and the
flames were spouting up as high as the bedroom windows. Jim and I stood
staring, but we stared the more when out came the Major, with a great
quart pot in his hand, and at his heels his old sister who kept house
for him, and two of the maids, and all four began capering about round
the fire. He was a douce, quiet man, as all the country knew, and here
he was like old Nick at the carlin's dance, hobbling around and waving
his drink above his head. We both set off running, and he waved the
more when he saw us coming.
"Peace!" he roared. "Huzza, boys! Peace!"
And at that we both fell to dancing and shouting too; for it had been
such a weary war as far back as we could remember, and the shadow had
lain so long over us, that it was wondrous to feel that it was lifted.
Indeed it was too much to believe, but the Major laughed our doubts to
"Aye, aye, it is true," he cried, stopping with his hand to his side.
"The Allies have got Paris, Boney has thrown up the sponge, and his
people are all swearing allegiance to Louis XVIII."
"And the Emperor?" I asked. "Will they spare him?"
"There's talk of sending him to Elba, where he'll be out of mischief's
way. But his officers, there are some of them who will not get off so
lightly. Deeds have been done during these last twenty years that have
not been forgotten. There are a few old scores to be settled. But it's
And away he went once more with his great tankard hopping round his
Well, we stayed some time with the Major, and then away we went down to
the beach, Jim and I, talking about this great news, and all that would
come of it. He knew a little, and I knew less, but we pieced it all
together and talked about how the prices would come down, how our
brave fellows would return home, how the ships could go where they would
in peace, and how we could pull all the coast beacons down, for there
was no enemy now to fear. So we chatted as we walked along the clean,
hard sand, and looked out at the old North Sea. How little did Jim know
at that moment, as he strode along by my side so full of health and of
spirits, that he had reached the extreme summit of his life, and that
from that hour all would, in truth, be upon the downward slope!
There was a little haze out to sea; for it had been very misty in the
early morning, though the sun had thinned it. As we looked seawards we
suddenly saw the sail of a small boat break out through the fog, and
come bobbing along towards the land. A single man was seated in the
sheets, and she yawed about as she ran, as though he were of two minds
whether to beach her or no. At last, determined it may be by our
presence, he made straight for us, and her keel grated upon the shingle
at our very feet. He dropped his sail, sprang out, and pulled her bows
up on the beach.
"Great Britain, I believe?" said he, turning briskly round and facing
He was a man somewhat above middle height, but exceedingly thin.
His eyes were piercing and set close together, a long sharp nose jutted
out from between them, and beneath them was a bristle of brown moustache
as wiry and stiff as a cat's whiskers. He was well dressed in a suit of
brown with brass buttons, and he wore high boots which were all
roughened and dulled by the sea water. His face and hands were so dark
that he might have been a Spaniard, but as he raised his hat to us we
saw that the upper part of his brow was quite white and that it was from
without that he had his swarthiness. He looked from one to the other of
us, and his grey eyes had something in them which I had never seen
before. You could read the question; but there seemed to be a menace at
the back of it, as if the answer were a right and not a favour.
"Great Britain?" he asked again, with a quick tap of his foot on the
"Yes," said I, while Jim burst out laughing.
"Scotland. But it's England past yonder trees."
"_Bon!_ I know where I am now. I've been in a fog without a compass for
nearly three days, and I didn't thought I was ever to see land again."
He spoke English glibly enough, but with some strange turn of speech
from time to time.
"Where did you come from then?" asked Jim.
"I was in a ship that was wrecked," said he shortly. "What is the town
"It is Berwick."
"Ah! well, I must get stronger before I can go further."
He turned towards the boat, and as he did so he gave a lurch, and would
have fallen had he not caught the prow. On this he seated himself and
looked round with a face that was flushed, and two eyes that blazed like
a wild beast's.
"_Voltigeurs de la Garde_," he roared in a voice like a trumpet call,
and then again "_Voltigeurs de la Garde!_"
He waved his hat above is head, and suddenly pitching forwards upon his
face on the sand, he lay all huddled into a little brown heap.
Jim Horscroft and I stood and stared at each other. The coming of the
man had been so strange, and his questions, and now this sudden turn.
We took him by a shoulder each and turned him upon his back. There he
lay with his jutting nose and his cat's whiskers, but his lips were
bloodless, and his breath would scarce shake a feather.
"He's dying, Jim!" I cried.
"Aye, for want of food and water. There's not a drop or crumb in the
boat. Maybe there's something in the bag."
He sprang and brought out a black leather bag, which with a large blue
coat was the only thing in the boat. It was locked, but Jim had it open
in an instant. It was half full of gold pieces.
Neither of us had ever seen so much before--no, nor a tenth part of it.
There must have been hundreds of them, all bright new British
sovereigns. Indeed, so taken up were we that we had forgotten all about
their owner until a groan took our thoughts back to him. His lips were
bluer than ever, and his jaw had dropped. I can see his open mouth now,
with its row of white wolfish teeth.
"My God, he's off!" cried Jim. "Here, run to the burn. Jock, for a
hatful of water. Quick, man, or he's gone! I'll loosen his things the
while." Away I tore, and was back in a minute with as much water as
would Stay in my Glengarry. Jim had pulled open the man's coat and
shirt, and we doused the water over him, and forced some between his
lips. It had a good effect; for after a gasp or two he sat up and
rubbed his eyes slowly, like a man who is waking from a deep sleep.
But neither Jim nor I were looking at his face now, for our eyes were
fixed upon his uncovered chest.
There were two deep red puckers in it, one just below the collar bone,
and the other about half-way down on the right side. The skin of his
body was extremely white up to the brown line of his neck, and the angry
crinkled spots looked the more vivid against it. From above I could see
that there was a corresponding pucker in the back at one place, but not
at the other. Inexperienced as I was, I could tell what that meant.
Two bullets had pierced his chest; one had passed through it, and the
other had remained inside.
But suddenly he staggered up to his feet, and pulled his shirt to, with
a quick suspicious glance at us.
"What have I been doing?" he asked. "I've been off my head. Take no
notice of anything I may have said. Have I been shouting?"
"You shouted just before you fell."
"What did I shout?"
I told him, though it bore little meaning to my mind. He looked
sharply at us, and then he shrugged his shoulders.
"It's the words of a song," said he. "Well, the question is, What am I
to do now? I didn't thought I was so weak. Where did you get the
I pointed towards the burn, and he staggered off to the bank. There he
lay down upon his face, and he drank until I thought he would never have
done. His long skinny neck was outstretched like a horse's, and he made
a loud supping noise with his lips. At last he got up with a long sigh,
and wiped his moustache with his sleeve.
"That's better," said he. "Have you any food?"
I had crammed two bits of oat-cake into my pocket when I left home, and
these he crushed into his mouth and swallowed. Then he squared his
shoulders, puffed out his chest, and patted his ribs with the flat of
"I am sure that I owe you exceedingly well," said he. "You have been
very kind to a stranger. But I see that you have had occasion to open
"We hoped that we might find wine or brandy there when you fainted."
"Ah! I have nothing there but just a little--how do you say it?--my
savings. They are not much, but I must live quietly upon them until I
find something to do. Now one could live quietly here, I should say.
I could not have come upon a more peaceful place, without perhaps so
much as a _gendarme_ nearer than that town."
"You haven't told us yet who you are, where you come from, nor what you
have been," said Jim bluntly.
The stranger looked him up and down with a critical eye:
"My word, but you would make a grenadier for a flank company," said he.
"As to what you ask, I might take offence at it from other lips; but you
have a right to know, since you have received me with so great courtesy.
My name is Bonaventure de Lapp. I am a soldier and a wanderer by trade,
and I have come from Dunkirk, as you may see printed upon the boat."
"I thought that you had been shipwrecked!" said I.
But he looked at me with the straight gaze of an honest man.
"That is right," said he, "but the ship went from Dunkirk, and this is
one of her boats. The crew got away in the long boat, and she went down
so quickly that I had no time to put anything into her. That was on
"And to-day's Thursday. You have been three days without bite or sup."
"It is too long," said he. "Twice before I have been for two days, but
never quite so long as this. Well, I shall leave my boat here, and see
whether I can get lodgings in any of these little grey houses upon the
hillsides. Why is that great fire burning over yonder?"
"It is one of our neighbours who has served against the French. He is
rejoicing because peace has been declared."
"Oh, you have a neighbour who has served then! I am glad; for I, too,
have seen a little soldiering here and there."
He did not look glad, but he drew his brows down over his keen eyes.
"You are French, are you not?" I asked, as we all walked up the hill
together, he with his black bag in his hand and his long blue cloak
slung over his shoulder.
"Well, I am of Alsace," said he; "and, you know, they are more
German than French. For myself, I have been in so many lands that I
feel at home in all. I have been a great traveller; and where do you
think that I might find a lodging?"
I can scarcely tell now, on looking back with the great gap of
five-and-thirty years between, what impression this singular man had
made upon me. I distrusted him, I think, and yet I was fascinated by
him also; for there was something in his bearing, in his look, and his
whole fashion of speech which was entirely unlike anything that I had
ever seen. Jim Horscroft was a fine man, and Major Elliott was a brave
one, but they both lacked something that this wanderer had. It was the
quick alert look, the flash of the eye, the nameless distinction which
is so hard to fix. And then we had saved him when he lay gasping upon
the shingle, and one's heart always softens towards what one has once
"If you will come with me," said I, "I have little doubt that I can find
you a bed for a night or two, and by that time you will be better able
to make your own arrangements."
He pulled off his hat, and bowed with all the grace imaginable.
But Jim Horscroft pulled me by the sleeve, and led me aside.
"You're mad, Jock," he whispered. "The fellow's a common adventurer.
What do you want to get mixed up with him for?"
But I was as obstinate a man as ever laced his boots, and if you jerked
me back it was the finest way of sending me to the front.
"He's a stranger, and it's our part to look after him," said I.
"You'll be sorry for it," Said he.
"If you don't think of yourself, you might think of your cousin."
"Edie can take very good care of herself."
"Well, then, the devil take you, and you may do what you like!" he
cried, in one of his sudden flushes of anger. Without a word of
farewell to either of us, he turned off upon the track that led up
towards his father's house. Bonaventure de Lapp smiled at me as we
walked on together.
"I didn't thought he liked me very much," said he. "I can see very well
that he has made a quarrel with you because you are taking me to your
home. What does he think of me then? Does he think perhaps that I have
stole the gold in my bag, or what is it that he fears?"
"Tut, I neither know nor care," said I. "No stranger shall pass our
door without a crust and a bed."
With my head cocked and feeling as if I was doing something very fine,
instead of being the most egregious fool south of Edinburgh, I marched
on down the path with my new acquaintance at my elbow.
A WANDERING EAGLE.
My father seemed to be much of Jim Horscroft's opinion; for he was not
over warm to this new guest and looked him up and down with a very
questioning eye. He set a dish of vinegared herrings before him,
however, and I noticed that he looked more askance than ever when my
companion ate nine of them, for two were always our portion. When at
last he had finished Bonaventure de Lapp's lids were drooping over his
eyes, for I doubt that he had been sleepless as well as foodless for
these three days. It was but a poor room to which I had led him, but he
threw himself down upon the couch, wrapped his big blue cloak around
him, and was asleep in an instant. He was a very high and strong
snorer, and, as my room was next to his, I had reason to remember that
we had a stranger within our gates.
When I came down in the morning, I found that he had been beforehand
with me; for he was seated opposite my father at the window-table in the
kitchen, their heads almost touching, and a little roll of gold pieces
between them. As I came in my father looked up at me, and I saw a light
of greed in his eyes such as I had never seen before. He caught up the
money with an eager clutch and swept it into his pocket.
"Very good, mister," said he; "the room's yours, and you pay always on
the third of the month."
"Ah! and here is my first friend," cried de Lapp, holding out his hand
to me with a smile which was kindly enough, and yet had that touch of
patronage which a man uses when he smiles to his dog. "I am myself
again now, thanks to my excellent supper and good night's rest. Ah! it
is hunger that takes the courage from a man. That most, and cold next."
"Aye, that's right," said my father; "I've been out on the moors in a
snow-drift for six-and-thirty hours, and ken what it's like."
"I once saw three thousand men starve to death," remarked de Lapp,
putting out his hands to the fire. "Day by day they got thinner and
more like apes, and they did come down to the edge of the pontoons where
we did keep them, and they howled with rage and pain. The first few
days their howls went over the whole city, but after a week our sentries
on the bank could not hear them, so weak they had fallen."
"And they died!" I exclaimed.
"They held out a very long time. Austrian Grenadiers they were, of the
corps of Starowitz, fine stout men as big as your friend of yesterday;
but when the town fell there were but four hundred alive, and a man
could lift them three at a time as if they were little monkeys. It was
a pity. Ah! my friend, you will do me the honours with madame and with
It was my mother and Edie who had come into the kitchen. He had not
seen them the night before, but now it was all I could do to keep my
face as I watched him; for instead of our homely Scottish nod, he bent
up his back like a louping trout, and slid his foot, and clapped his
hand over his heart in the queerest way. My mother stared, for she
thought he was making fun of her; but Cousin Edie fell into it in an
instant, as though it had been a game, and away she went in a great
curtsy until I thought she would have had to give it up, and sit down
right there in the middle of the kitchen floor. But no, she up again as
light as a piece of fluff, and we all drew up our stools and started on
the scones and milk and porridge.
He had a wonderful way with women, that man. Now if I were to do it,
or Jim Horscroft, it would look as if we were playing the fool, and the
girls would have laughed at us; but with him it seemed to go with his
style of face and fashion of speech, so that one came at last to look
for it: for when he spoke to my mother or Cousin Edie--and he was never
backward in speaking--it would always be with a bow and a look as if it
would hardly be worth their while to listen to what he had to say, and
when they answered he would put on a face as though every word they said
was to be treasured up and remembered for ever. And yet, even while he
humbled himself to a woman, there was always a proud sort of look at the
back of his eye as if he meant to say that it was only to them that he
was so meek, and that he could be stiff enough upon occasion. As to my
mother, it was wonderful the way she softened to him, and in
half-an-hour she had told him all about her uncle, who was a surgeon in
Carlisle, and the highest of any upon her side of the house. She spoke
to him about my brother Rob's death, which I had never heard her mention
to a soul before, and he looked as if the tears were in his eyes over
it--he, who had just told us how he had seen three thousand men starved
to death! As to Edie, she did not say much, but she kept shooting
little glances at our visitor, and once or twice he looked very hard at
When he had gone to his room after breakfast, my father pulled out
eight golden pounds and laid them on the table. "What think ye of
that, Martha?" said he.
"You've sold the twa black tups after all."
"No, but it's a month's pay for board and lodging from Jock's friend,
and as much to come every four weeks."
But my mother shook her head when she heard it.
"Two pounds a week is over much," said she; "and it is not when the
poor gentleman is in distress that we should put such a price on his bit
"Tut!" cried my father, "he can very well afford it, and he with a bag
full of gold. Besides, it's his own proposing."
"No blessing will come from that money," said she.
"Why, woman, he's turned your head wi' his foreign ways of speech!"
cried my father.
"Aye, and it would be a good thing if Scottish men had a little more of
that kindly way," she said, and that was the first time in all my life
that I had heard her answer him back.
He came down soon and asked me whether I would come out with him.
When we were in the sunshine he held out a little cross made of red
stones, one of the bonniest things that ever I had set eyes upon.
"These are rubies," said he, "and I got it at Tudela, in Spain.
There were two of them, but I gave the other to a Lithuanian girl.
I pray that you will take this as a memory of your exceedingly kindness
to me yesterday. It will fashion into a pin for your cravat."
I could but thank him for the present, which was of more value than
anything I had ever owned in my life.
"I am off to the upper muir to count the lambs," said I; "maybe you
would care to come up with me and see something of the country?"
He hesitated for a moment, and then he shook his head.
"I have some letters," he said, "which I ought to write as soon as
possible. I think that I will stay at quiet this morning and get them
All forenoon I was wandering over the links, and you may imagine that my
mind was turning all the time upon this strange man whom chance had
drifted to our doors. Where did he gain that style of his, that manner
of command, that haughty menacing glint of the eye? And his experiences
to which he referred so lightly, how wonderful the life must have been
which had put him in the way of them! He had been kind to us, and
gracious of speech, but still I could not quite shake myself clear of
the distrust with which I had regarded him. Perhaps, after all, Jim
Horscroft had been right and I had been wrong about taking him to West
When I got back he looked as though he had been born and bred in the
steading. He sat in the big wooden-armed ingle-chair, with the black
cat on his knee. His arms were out, and he held a skein of worsted from
hand to hand which my mother was busily rolling into a ball. Cousin
Edie was sitting near, and I could see by her eyes that she had been
"Hullo, Edie!" said I, "what's the trouble?"
"Ah! mademoiselle, like all good and true women, has a soft heart," said
he. "I didn't thought it would have moved her, or I should have been
silent. I have been talking of the suffering of some troops of which I
knew something when they were crossing the Guadarama mountains in the
winter of 1808. Ah! yes, it was very bad, for they were fine men and
fine horses. It is strange to see men blown by the wind over the
precipices, but the ground was so slippery and there was nothing to
which they could hold. So companies all linked arms, and they did
better in that fashion; but one artilleryman's hand came off as I held
it, for he had had the frost-bite for three days."
I stood staring with my mouth open.
"And the old Grenadiers, too, who were not so active as they used to be,
they could not keep up; and yet if they lingered the peasants would
catch them and crucify them to the barn doors with their feet up and a
fire under their heads, which was a pity for these fine old soldiers.
So when they could go no further, it was interesting to see what they
would do; for they would sit down and say their prayers, sitting on an
old saddle, or their knapsacks, maybe, and then take off their boots and
their stockings, and lean their chin on the barrel of their musket.
Then they would put their toe on the trigger, and _pouf!_ it was all
over, and there was no more marching for those fine old Grenadiers. Oh,
it was very rough work up there on these Guadarama mountains!"
"And what army was this?" I asked.
"Oh, I have served in so many armies that I mix them up sometimes.
Yes, I have seen much of war. Apropos I have seen your Scotchmen fight,
and very stout fantassins they make, but I thought from them, that the
folk over here all wore--how do you say it?--petticoats."
"Those are the kilts, and they wear them only in the Highlands."
"Ah! on the mountains. But there is a man out yonder. Maybe he is the
one who your father said would carry my letters to the post."
"Yes, he is Farmer Whitehead's man. Shall I give them to him?"
"Well, he would be more careful of them if he had them from your hand."
He took them from his pocket and gave them over to me. I hurried out
with them, and as I did so my eyes fell upon the address of the topmost
one. It was written very large and clear:
A SON MAJESTE,
LE ROI DE SUEDE,
I did not know very much French, but I had enough to make that out.
What sort of eagle was this which had flown into our humble little nest?
THE CORRIEMUIR PEEL TOWER.
Well, it would weary me, and I am very sure that it would weary you
also, if I were to attempt to tell you how life went with us after this
man came under our roof, or the way in which he gradually came to win
the affections of every one of us. With the women it was quick work
enough; but soon he had thawed my father too, which was no such easy
matter, and had gained Jim Horscroft's goodwill as well as my own.
Indeed, we were but two great boys beside him, for he had been
everywhere and seen everything; and of an evening he would chatter away
in his limping English until he took us clean from the plain kitchen and
the little farm steading, to plunge us into courts and camps and
battlefields and all the wonders of the world. Horscroft had been sulky
enough with him at first; but de Lapp, with his tact and his easy ways,
soon drew him round, until he had quite won his heart, and Jim would sit
with Cousin Edie's hand in his, and the two be quite lost in listening
to all that he had to tell us. I will not tell you all this; but even
now, after so long an interval, I can trace how, week by week and month
by month, by this word and that deed, he moulded us all as he wished.
One of his first acts was to give my father the boat in which he had
come, reserving only the right to have it back in case he should have
need of it. The herring were down on the coast that autumn, and my
uncle before he died had given us a fine set of nets, so the gift was
worth many a pound to us. Sometimes de Lapp would go out in the boat
alone, and I have seen him for a whole summer day rowing slowly along
and stopping every half-dozen strokes to throw over a stone at the end
of a string. I could not think what he was doing until he told me of
his own freewill.
"I am fond of studying all that has to do with the military," said he,
"and I never lose a chance. I was wondering if it would be a difficult
matter for the commander of an army corps to throw his men ashore here."
"If the wind were not from the east," said I.
"Ah! quite so, if the wind were not from the east. Have you taken
"Your line of battleships would have to lie outside; but there is water
enough for a forty-gun frigate right up within musket range. Cram your
boats with tirailleurs, deploy them behind these sandhills, then back
with the launches for more, and a stream of grape over their heads from
the frigates. It could be done! it could be done!"
His moustaches bristled out more like a cat's than ever, and I could see
by the flash of his eyes that he was carried away by his dream.
"You forget that our soldiers would be upon the beach," said I
"Ta, ta, ta!" he cried. "Of course it takes two sides to make a battle.
Let us see now; let us work it out. What could you get together?
Shall we say twenty, thirty thousand. A few regiments of good troops:
the rest, _pouf!_--conscripts, bourgeois with arms. How do you call
"Brave men!" I shouted.
"Oh yes, very brave men, but imbecile. Ah, _mon Dieu_, it is incredible
how imbecile they would be! Not they alone, I mean, but all young
troops. They are so afraid of being afraid that they would take no
precaution. Ah, I have seen it! In Spain I have seen a battalion of
conscripts attack a battery of ten pieces. Up they went, ah, so
gallantly! and presently the hillside looked, from where I stood, like--
how do you say it in English?--a raspberry tart. And where was our fine
battalion of conscripts? Then another battalion of young troops tried
it, all together in a rush, shouting and yelling; but what will shouting
do against a mitraille of grape? And there was our second battalion
laid out on the hillside. And then the foot chasseurs of the Guard, old
soldiers, were told to take the battery; and there was nothing fine
about their advance--no column, no shouting, nobody killed--just a few
scattered lines of tirailleurs and pelotons of support; but in ten
minutes the guns were silenced, and the Spanish gunners cut to pieces.
War must be learned, my young friend, just the same as the farming of
"Pooh!" said I, not to be out-crowed by a foreigner. "If we had thirty
thousand men on the line of the hill yonder, you would come to be very
glad that you had your boats behind you."
"On the line of the hill?" said he, with a flash of his eyes along the
ridge. "Yes, if your man knew his business he would have his left about
your house, his centre on Corriemuir, and his right over near the
doctor's house, with his tirailleurs pushed out thickly in front.
His horse, of course, would try to cut us up as we deployed on the
beach. But once let us form, and we should soon know what to do.
There's the weak point, there at the gap. I would sweep it with my
guns, then roll in my cavalry, push the infantry on in grand columns,
and that wing would find itself up in the air. Eh, Jack, where would
your volunteers be?"
"Close at the heels of your hindmost man," said I; and we both burst out
into the hearty laugh with which such discussions usually ended.
Sometimes when he talked I thought he was joking, and at other times it
was not quite so easy to say. I well remember one evening that summer,
when he was sitting in the kitchen with my father, Jim, and me, after
the women had gone to bed, he began about Scotland and its relation to
"You used to have your own king and your own laws made at Edinburgh,"
said he. "Does it not fill you with rage and despair when you think
that it all comes to you from London now?"
Jim took his pipe out of his mouth.
"It was we who put our king over the English; so if there's any rage, it
should have been over yonder," said he.
This was clearly news to the stranger, and it silenced him for the
"Well, but your laws are made down there, and surely that is not good,"
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