The Master of Ballantrae
Robert Louis Stevenson
Part 1 out of 5
The Master of Ballantrae by Robert Louis Stevenson
Scanned and proofed by David Price
The Master of Ballantrae
A Winter's Tale
To Sir Percy Florence and Lady Shelley
Here is a tale which extends over many years and travels into many
countries. By a peculiar fitness of circumstance the writer began,
continued it, and concluded it among distant and diverse scenes.
Above all, he was much upon the sea. The character and fortune of
the fraternal enemies, the hall and shrubbery of Durrisdeer, the
problem of Mackellar's homespun and how to shape it for superior
flights; these were his company on deck in many star-reflecting
harbours, ran often in his mind at sea to the tune of slatting
canvas, and were dismissed (something of the suddenest) on the
approach of squalls. It is my hope that these surroundings of its
manufacture may to some degree find favour for my story with
seafarers and sea-lovers like yourselves.
And at least here is a dedication from a great way off: written by
the loud shores of a subtropical island near upon ten thousand
miles from Boscombe Chine and Manor: scenes which rise before me
as I write, along with the faces and voices of my friends.
Well, I am for the sea once more; no doubt Sir Percy also. Let us
make the signal B. R. D.!
R. L. S.
WAIKIKI, May 17, 1889
Although an old, consistent exile, the editor of the following
pages revisits now and again the city of which he exults to be a
native; and there are few things more strange, more painful, or
more salutary, than such revisitations. Outside, in foreign spots,
he comes by surprise and awakens more attention than he had
expected; in his own city, the relation is reversed, and he stands
amazed to be so little recollected. Elsewhere he is refreshed to
see attractive faces, to remark possible friends; there he scouts
the long streets, with a pang at heart, for the faces and friends
that are no more. Elsewhere he is delighted with the presence of
what is new, there tormented by the absence of what is old.
Elsewhere he is content to be his present self; there he is smitten
with an equal regret for what he once was and for what he once
hoped to be.
He was feeling all this dimly, as he drove from the station, on his
last visit; he was feeling it still as he alighted at the door of
his friend Mr. Johnstone Thomson, W.S., with whom he was to stay.
A hearty welcome, a face not altogether changed, a few words that
sounded of old days, a laugh provoked and shared, a glimpse in
passing of the snowy cloth and bright decanters and the Piranesis
on the dining-room wall, brought him to his bed-room with a
somewhat lightened cheer, and when he and Mr. Thomson sat down a
few minutes later, cheek by jowl, and pledged the past in a
preliminary bumper, he was already almost consoled, he had already
almost forgiven himself his two unpardonable errors, that he should
ever have left his native city, or ever returned to it.
"I have something quite in your way," said Mr. Thomson. "I wished
to do honour to your arrival; because, my dear fellow, it is my own
youth that comes back along with you; in a very tattered and
withered state, to be sure, but - well! - all that's left of it."
"A great deal better than nothing," said the editor. "But what is
this which is quite in my way?"
"I was coming to that," said Mr. Thomson: "Fate has put it in my
power to honour your arrival with something really original by way
of dessert. A mystery."
"A mystery?" I repeated.
"Yes," said his friend, "a mystery. It may prove to be nothing,
and it may prove to be a great deal. But in the meanwhile it is
truly mysterious, no eye having looked on it for near a hundred
years; it is highly genteel, for it treats of a titled family; and
it ought to be melodramatic, for (according to the superscription)
it is concerned with death."
"I think I rarely heard a more obscure or a more promising
annunciation," the other remarked. "But what is It?"
"You remember my predecessor's, old Peter M'Brair's business?"
"I remember him acutely; he could not look at me without a pang of
reprobation, and he could not feel the pang without betraying it.
He was to me a man of a great historical interest, but the interest
was not returned."
"Ah well, we go beyond him," said Mr. Thomson. "I daresay old
Peter knew as little about this as I do. You see, I succeeded to a
prodigious accumulation of old law-papers and old tin boxes, some
of them of Peter's hoarding, some of his father's, John, first of
the dynasty, a great man in his day. Among other collections, were
all the papers of the Durrisdeers."
"The Durrisdeers!" cried I. "My dear fellow, these may be of the
greatest interest. One of them was out in the '45; one had some
strange passages with the devil - you will find a note of it in
Law's MEMORIALS, I think; and there was an unexplained tragedy, I
know not what, much later, about a hundred years ago - "
"More than a hundred years ago," said Mr. Thomson. "In 1783."
"How do you know that? I mean some death."
"Yes, the lamentable deaths of my Lord Durrisdeer and his brother,
the Master of Ballantrae (attainted in the troubles)," said Mr.
Thomson with something the tone of a man quoting. "Is that it?"
"To say truth," said I, "I have only seen some dim reference to the
things in memoirs; and heard some traditions dimmer still, through
my uncle (whom I think you knew). My uncle lived when he was a boy
in the neighbourhood of St. Bride's; he has often told me of the
avenue closed up and grown over with grass, the great gates never
opened, the last lord and his old maid sister who lived in the back
parts of the house, a quiet, plain, poor, hum-drum couple it would
seem - but pathetic too, as the last of that stirring and brave
house - and, to the country folk, faintly terrible from some
"Yes," said Mr. Thomson. "Henry Graeme Durie, the last lord, died
in 1820; his sister, the honourable Miss Katherine Durie, in '27;
so much I know; and by what I have been going over the last few
days, they were what you say, decent, quiet people and not rich.
To say truth, it was a letter of my lord's that put me on the
search for the packet we are going to open this evening. Some
papers could not be found; and he wrote to Jack M'Brair suggesting
they might be among those sealed up by a Mr. Mackellar. M'Brair
answered, that the papers in question were all in Mackellar's own
hand, all (as the writer understood) of a purely narrative
character; and besides, said he, 'I am bound not to open them
before the year 1889.' You may fancy if these words struck me: I
instituted a hunt through all the M'Brair repositories; and at last
hit upon that packet which (if you have had enough wine) I propose
to show you at once."
In the smoking-room, to which my host now led me, was a packet,
fastened with many seals and enclosed in a single sheet of strong
paper thus endorsed:
Papers relating to the lives and lamentable deaths of the late Lord
Durisdeer, and his elder brother James, commonly called Master of
Ballantrae, attainted in the troubles: entrusted into the hands of
John M'Brair in the Lawnmarket of Edinburgh, W.S.; this 20th day of
September Anno Domini 1789; by him to be kept secret until the
revolution of one hundred years complete, or until the 20th day of
September 1889: the same compiled and written by me, EPHRAIM
For near forty years Land Steward on the estates of his Lordship.
As Mr. Thomson is a married man, I will not say what hour had
struck when we laid down the last of the following pages; but I
will give a few words of what ensued.
"Here," said Mr. Thomson, "is a novel ready to your hand: all you
have to do is to work up the scenery, develop the characters, and
improve the style."
"My dear fellow," said I, "they are just the three things that I
would rather die than set my hand to. It shall be published as it
"But it's so bald," objected Mr. Thomson.
"I believe there is nothing so noble as baldness," replied I, "and
I am sure there in nothing so interesting. I would have all
literature bald, and all authors (if you like) but one."
"Well, well," add Mr. Thomson, "we shall see."
CHAPTER I. - SUMMARY OF EVENTS DURING THIS MASTER'S WANDERINGS.
The full truth of this odd matter is what the world has long been
looking for, and public curiosity is sure to welcome. It so befell
that I was intimately mingled with the last years and history of
the house; and there does not live one man so able as myself to
make these matters plain, or so desirous to narrate them
faithfully. I knew the Master; on many secret steps of his career
I have an authentic memoir in my hand; I sailed with him on his
last voyage almost alone; I made one upon that winter's journey of
which so many tales have gone abroad; and I was there at the man's
death. As for my late Lord Durrisdeer, I served him and loved him
near twenty years; and thought more of him the more I knew of him.
Altogether, I think it not fit that so much evidence should perish;
the truth is a debt I owe my lord's memory; and I think my old
years will flow more smoothly, and my white hair lie quieter on the
pillow, when the debt is paid.
The Duries of Durrisdeer and Ballantrae were a strong family in the
south-west from the days of David First. A rhyme still current in
the countryside -
Kittle folk are the Durrisdeers,
They ride wi' over mony spears -
bears the mark of its antiquity; and the name appears in another,
which common report attributes to Thomas of Ercildoune himself - I
cannot say how truly, and which some have applied - I dare not say
with how much justice - to the events of this narration:
Twa Duries in Durrisdeer,
Ane to tie and ane to ride,
An ill day for the groom
And a waur day for the bride.
Authentic history besides is filled with their exploits which (to
our modern eyes) seem not very commendable: and the family
suffered its full share of those ups and downs to which the great
houses of Scotland have been ever liable. But all these I pass
over, to come to that memorable year 1745, when the foundations of
this tragedy were laid.
At that time there dwelt a family of four persons in the house of
Durrisdeer, near St. Bride's, on the Solway shore; a chief hold of
their race since the Reformation. My old lord, eighth of the name,
was not old in years, but he suffered prematurely from the
disabilities of age; his place was at the chimney side; there he
sat reading, in a lined gown, with few words for any man, and wry
words for none: the model of an old retired housekeeper; and yet
his mind very well nourished with study, and reputed in the country
to be more cunning than he seemed. The master of Ballantrae, James
in baptism, took from his father the love of serious reading; some
of his tact perhaps as well, but that which was only policy in the
father became black dissimulation in the son. The face of his
behaviour was merely popular and wild: he sat late at wine, later
at the cards; had the name in the country of "an unco man for the
lasses;" and was ever in the front of broils. But for all he was
the first to go in, yet it was observed he was invariably the best
to come off; and his partners in mischief were usually alone to pay
the piper. This luck or dexterity got him several ill-wishers, but
with the rest of the country, enhanced his reputation; so that
great things were looked for in his future, when he should have
gained more gravity. One very black mark he had to his name; but
the matter was hushed up at the time, and so defaced by legends
before I came into those parts, that I scruple to set it down. If
it was true, it was a horrid fact in one so young; and if false, it
was a horrid calumny. I think it notable that he had always
vaunted himself quite implacable, and was taken at his word; so
that he had the addition among his neighbours of "an ill man to
cross." Here was altogether a young nobleman (not yet twenty-four
in the year '45) who had made a figure in the country beyond his
time of life. The less marvel if there were little heard of the
second son, Mr. Henry (my late Lord Durrisdeer), who was neither
very bad nor yet very able, but an honest, solid sort of lad like
many of his neighbours. Little heard, I say; but indeed it was a
case of little spoken. He was known among the salmon fishers in
the firth, for that was a sport that he assiduously followed; he
was an excellent good horse-doctor besides; and took a chief hand,
almost from a boy, in the management of the estates. How hard a
part that was, in the situation of that family, none knows better
than myself; nor yet with how little colour of justice a man may
there acquire the reputation of a tyrant and a miser. The fourth
person in the house was Miss Alison Graeme, a near kinswoman, an
orphan, and the heir to a considerable fortune which her father had
acquired in trade. This money was loudly called for by my lord's
necessities; indeed the land was deeply mortgaged; and Miss Alison
was designed accordingly to be the Master's wife, gladly enough on
her side; with how much good-will on his, is another matter. She
was a comely girl, and in those days very spirited and self-willed;
for the old lord having no daughter of his own, and my lady being
long dead, she had grown up as best she might.
To these four came the news of Prince Charlie's landing, and set
them presently by the ears. My lord, like the chimney-keeper that
he was, was all for temporising. Miss Alison held the other side,
because it appeared romantical; and the Master (though I have heard
they did not agree often) was for this once of her opinion. The
adventure tempted him, as I conceive; he was tempted by the
opportunity to raise the fortunes of the house, and not less by the
hope of paying off his private liabilities, which were heavy beyond
all opinion. As for Mr. Henry, it appears he said little enough at
first; his part came later on. It took the three a whole day's
disputation, before they agreed to steer a middle course, one son
going forth to strike a blow for King James, my lord and the other
staying at home to keep in favour with King George. Doubtless this
was my lord's decision; and, as is well known, it was the part
played by many considerable families. But the one dispute settled,
another opened. For my lord, Miss Alison, and Mr. Henry all held
the one view: that it was the cadet's part to go out; and the
Master, what with restlessness and vanity, would at no rate consent
to stay at home. My lord pleaded, Miss Alison wept, Mr. Henry was
very plain spoken: all was of no avail.
"It is the direct heir of Durrisdeer that should ride by his King's
bridle," says the Master.
"If we were playing a manly part," says Mr. Henry, "there might be
sense in such talk. But what are we doing? Cheating at cards!"
"We are saving the house of Durrisdeer, Henry," his father said.
"And see, James," said Mr. Henry, "if I go, and the Prince has the
upper hand, it will be easy to make your peace with King James.
But if you go, and the expedition fails, we divide the right and
the title. And what shall I be then?"
"You will be Lord Durrisdeer," said the Master. "I put all I have
upon the table."
"I play at no such game," cries Mr. Henry. "I shall be left in
such a situation as no man of sense and honour could endure. I
shall be neither fish nor flesh!" he cried. And a little after he
had another expression, plainer perhaps than he intended. "It is
your duty to be here with my father," said he. "You know well
enough you are the favourite."
"Ay?" said the Master. "And there spoke Envy! Would you trip up
my heels - Jacob?" said he, and dwelled upon the name maliciously.
Mr. Henry went and walked at the low end of the hall without reply;
for he had an excellent gift of silence. Presently he came back.
"I am the cadet and I SHOULD go," said he. "And my lord here in
the master, and he says I SHALL go. What say ye to that, my
"I say this, Harry," returned the Master, "that when very obstinate
folk are met, there are only two ways out: Blows - and I think
none of us could care to go so far; or the arbitrament of chance -
and here is a guinea piece. Will you stand by the toss of the
"I will stand and fall by it," said Mr. Henry. "Heads, I go;
shield, I stay."
The coin was spun, and it fell shield. "So there is a lesson for
Jacob," says the Master.
"We shall live to repent of this," says Mr. Henry, and flung out of
As for Miss Alison, she caught up that piece of gold which had just
sent her lover to the wars, and flung it clean through the family
shield in the great painted window.
"If you loved me as well as I love you, you would have stayed,"
"'I could not love you, dear, so well, loved I not honour more,'"
sang the Master.
"Oh!" she cried, "you have no heart - I hope you may be killed!"
and she ran from the room, and in tears, to her own chamber.
It seems the Master turned to my lord with his most comical manner,
and says he, "This looks like a devil of a wife."
"I think you are a devil of a son to me," cried his father, "you
that have always been the favourite, to my shame be it spoken.
Never a good hour have I gotten of you, since you were born; no,
never one good hour," and repeated it again the third time.
Whether it was the Master's levity, or his insubordination, or Mr.
Henry's word about the favourite son, that had so much disturbed my
lord, I do not know; but I incline to think it was the last, for I
have it by all accounts that Mr. Henry was more made up to from
Altogether it was in pretty ill blood with his family that the
Master rode to the North; which was the more sorrowful for others
to remember when it seemed too late. By fear and favour he had
scraped together near upon a dozen men, principally tenants' sons;
they were all pretty full when they set forth, and rode up the hill
by the old abbey, roaring and singing, the white cockade in every
hat. It was a desperate venture for so small a company to cross
the most of Scotland unsupported; and (what made folk think so the
more) even as that poor dozen was clattering up the hill, a great
ship of the king's navy, that could have brought them under with a
single boat, lay with her broad ensign streaming in the bay. The
next afternoon, having given the Master a fair start, it was Mr.
Henry's turn; and he rode off, all by himself, to offer his sword
and carry letters from his father to King George's Government.
Miss Alison was shut in her room, and did little but weep, till
both were gone; only she stitched the cockade upon the Master's
hat, and (as John Paul told me) it was wetted with tears when he
carried it down to him.
In all that followed, Mr. Henry and my old lord were true to their
bargain. That ever they accomplished anything is more than I could
learn; and that they were anyway strong on the king's side, more
than believe. But they kept the letter of loyalty, corresponded
with my Lord President, sat still at home, and had little or no
commerce with the Master while that business lasted. Nor was he,
on his side, more communicative. Miss Alison, indeed, was always
sending him expresses, but I do not know if she had many answers.
Macconochie rode for her once, and found the highlanders before
Carlisle, and the Master riding by the Prince's side in high
favour; he took the letter (so Macconochie tells), opened it,
glanced it through with a mouth like a man whistling, and stuck it
in his belt, whence, on his horse passageing, it fell unregarded to
the ground. It was Macconochie who picked it up; and he still kept
it, and indeed I have seen it in his hands. News came to
Durrisdeer of course, by the common report, as it goes travelling
through a country, a thing always wonderful to me. By that means
the family learned more of the Master's favour with the Prince, and
the ground it was said to stand on: for by a strange condescension
in a man so proud - only that he was a man still more ambitious -
he was said to have crept into notability by truckling to the
Irish. Sir Thomas Sullivan, Colonel Burke and the rest, were his
daily comrades, by which course he withdrew himself from his own
country-folk. All the small intrigues he had a hand in fomenting;
thwarted my Lord George upon a thousand points; was always for the
advice that seemed palatable to the Prince, no matter if it was
good or bad; and seems upon the whole (like the gambler he was all
through life) to have had less regard to the chances of the
campaign than to the greatness of favour he might aspire to, if, by
any luck, it should succeed. For the rest, he did very well in the
field; no one questioned that; for he was no coward.
The next was the news of Culloden, which was brought to Durrisdeer
by one of the tenants' sons - the only survivor, he declared, of
all those that had gone singing up the hill. By an unfortunate
chance John Paul and Macconochie had that very morning found the
guinea piece - which was the root of all the evil - sticking in a
holly bush; they had been "up the gait," as the servants say at
Durrisdeer, to the change-house; and if they had little left of the
guinea, they had less of their wits. What must John Paul do but
burst into the hall where the family sat at dinner, and cry the
news to them that "Tam Macmorland was but new lichtit at the door,
and - wirra, wirra - there were nane to come behind him"?
They took the word in silence like folk condemned; only Mr. Henry
carrying his palm to his face, and Miss Alison laying her head
outright upon her hands. As for my lord, he was like ashes.
"I have still one son," says he. "And, Henry, I will do you this
justice - it is the kinder that is left."
It was a strange thing to say in such a moment; but my lord had
never forgotten Mr. Henry's speech, and he had years of injustice
on his conscience. Still it was a strange thing, and more than
Miss Alison could let pass. She broke out and blamed my lord for
his unnatural words, and Mr. Henry because he was sitting there in
safety when his brother lay dead, and herself because she had given
her sweetheart ill words at his departure, calling him the flower
of the flock, wringing her hands, protesting her love, and crying
on him by his name - so that the servants stood astonished.
Mr. Henry got to his feet, and stood holding his chair. It was he
that was like ashes now.
"Oh!" he burst out suddenly, "I know you loved him."
"The world knows that, glory be to God!" cries she; and then to Mr.
Henry: "There is none but me to know one thing - that you were a
traitor to him in your heart."
"God knows," groans he, "it was lost love on both sides."
Time went by in the house after that without much change; only they
were now three instead of four, which was a perpetual reminder of
their loss. Miss Alison's money, you are to bear in mind, wag
highly needful for the estates; and the one brother being dead, my
old lord soon set his heart upon her marrying the other. Day in,
day out, he would work upon her, sitting by the chimney-side with
his finger in his Latin book, and his eyes set upon her face with a
kind of pleasant intentness that became the old gentleman very
well. If she wept, he would condole with her like an ancient man
that has seen worse times and begins to think lightly even of
sorrow; if she raged, he would fall to reading again in his Latin
book, but always with some civil excuse; if she offered, as she
often did, to let them have her money in a gift, he would show her
how little it consisted with his honour, and remind her, even if he
should consent, that Mr. Henry would certainly refuse. NON VI SED
SAEPE CADENDO was a favourite word of his; and no doubt this quiet
persecution wore away much of her resolve; no doubt, besides, he
had a great influence on the girl, having stood in the place of
both her parents; and, for that matter, she was herself filled with
the spirit of the Duries, and would have gone a great way for the
glory of Durrisdeer; but not so far, I think, as to marry my poor
patron, had it not been - strangely enough - for the circumstance
of his extreme unpopularity.
This was the work of Tam Macmorland. There was not much harm in
Tam; but he had that grievous weakness, a long tongue; and as the
only man in that country who had been out - or, rather, who had
come in again - he was sure of listeners. Those that have the
underhand in any fighting, I have observed, are ever anxious to
persuade themselves they were betrayed. By Tam's account of it,
the rebels had been betrayed at every turn and by every officer
they had; they had been betrayed at Derby, and betrayed at Falkirk;
the night march was a step of treachery of my Lord George's; and
Culloden was lost by the treachery of the Macdonalds. This habit
of imputing treason grew upon the fool, till at last he must have
in Mr. Henry also. Mr. Henry (by his account) had betrayed the
lads of Durrisdeer; he had promised to follow with more men, and
instead of that he had ridden to King George. "Ay, and the next
day!" Tam would cry. "The puir bonnie Master, and the puir, kind
lads that rade wi' him, were hardly ower the scaur, or he was aff -
the Judis! Ay, weel - he has his way o't: he's to be my lord, nae
less, and there's mony a cold corp amang the Hieland heather!" And
at this, if Tam had been drinking, he would begin to weep.
Let anyone speak long enough, he will get believers. This view of
Mr. Henry's behaviour crept about the country by little and little;
it was talked upon by folk that knew the contrary, but were short
of topics; and it was heard and believed and given out for gospel
by the ignorant and the ill-willing. Mr. Henry began to be
shunned; yet awhile, and the commons began to murmur as he went by,
and the women (who are always the most bold because they are the
most safe) to cry out their reproaches to his face. The Master was
cried up for a saint. It was remembered how he had never any hand
in pressing the tenants; as, indeed, no more he had, except to
spend the money. He was a little wild perhaps, the folk said; but
how much better was a natural, wild lad that would soon have
settled down, than a skinflint and a sneckdraw, sitting, with his
nose in an account book, to persecute poor tenants! One trollop,
who had had a child to the Master, and by all accounts been very
badly used, yet made herself a kind of champion of his memory. She
flung a stone one day at Mr. Henry.
"Whaur's the bonnie lad that trustit ye?" she cried.
Mr. Henry reined in his horse and looked upon her, the blood
flowing from his lip. "Ay, Jess?" says he. "You too? And yet ye
should ken me better." For it was he who had helped her with
The woman had another stone ready, which she made as if she would
cast; and he, to ward himself, threw up the hand that held his
"What, would ye beat a lassie, ye ugly - ?" cries she, and ran away
screaming as though he had struck her.
Next day word went about the country like wildfire that Mr. Henry
had beaten Jessie Broun within an inch of her life. I give it as
one instance of how this snowball grew, and one calumny brought
another; until my poor patron was so perished in reputation that he
began to keep the house like my lord. All this while, you may be
very sure, he uttered no complaints at home; the very ground of the
scandal was too sore a matter to be handled; and Mr. Henry was very
proud and strangely obstinate in silence. My old lord must have
heard of it, by John Paul, if by no one else; and he must at least
have remarked the altered habits of his son. Yet even he, it is
probable, knew not how high the feeling ran; and as for Miss
Alison, she was ever the last person to hear news, and the least
interested when she heard them.
In the height of the ill-feeling (for it died away as it came, no
man could say why) there was an election forward in the town of St.
Bride's, which is the next to Durrisdeer, standing on the Water of
Swift; some grievance was fermenting, I forget what, if ever I
heard; and it was currently said there would be broken heads ere
night, and that the sheriff had sent as far as Dumfries for
soldiers. My lord moved that Mr. Henry should be present, assuring
him it was necessary to appear, for the credit of the house. "It
will soon be reported," said he, "that we do not take the lead in
our own country."
"It is a strange lead that I can take," said Mr. Henry; and when
they had pushed him further, "I tell you the plain truth," he said,
"I dare not show my face."
"You are the first of the house that ever said so," cries Miss
"We will go all three," said my lord; and sure enough he got into
his boots (the first time in four years - a sore business John Paul
had to get them on), and Miss Alison into her riding-coat, and all
three rode together to St. Bride's.
The streets were full of the rift-raff of all the countryside, who
had no sooner clapped eyes on Mr. Henry than the hissing began, and
the hooting, and the cries of "Judas!" and "Where was the Master?"
and "Where were the poor lads that rode with him?" Even a stone
was cast; but the more part cried shame at that, for my old lord's
sake, and Miss Alison's. It took not ten minutes to persuade my
lord that Mr. Henry had been right. He said never a word, but
turned his horse about, and home again, with his chin upon his
bosom. Never a word said Miss Alison; no doubt she thought the
more; no doubt her pride was stung, for she was a bone-bred Durie;
and no doubt her heart was touched to see her cousin so unjustly
used. That night she was never in bed; I have often blamed my lady
- when I call to mind that night, I readily forgive her all; and
the first thing in the morning she came to the old lord in his
"If Henry still wants me," said she, "he can have me now." To
himself she had a different speech: "I bring you no love, Henry;
but God knows, all the pity in the world."
June the 1st, 1748, was the day of their marriage. It was December
of the same year that first saw me alighting at the doors of the
great house; and from there I take up the history of events as they
befell under my own observation, like a witness in a court.
CHAPTER II. SUMMARY OF EVENTS (continued)
I made the last of my journey in the cold end of December, in a
mighty dry day of frost, and who should be my guide but Patey
Macmorland, brother of Tam! For a tow-headed, bare-legged brat of
ten, he had more ill tales upon his tongue than ever I heard the
match of; having drunken betimes in his brother's cup. I was still
not so old myself; pride had not yet the upper hand of curiosity;
and indeed it would have taken any man, that cold morning, to hear
all the old clashes of the country, and be shown all the places by
the way where strange things had fallen out. I had tales of
Claverhouse as we came through the bogs, and tales of the devil, as
we came over the top of the scaur. As we came in by the abbey I
heard somewhat of the old monks, and more of the freetraders, who
use its ruins for a magazine, landing for that cause within a
cannon-shot of Durrisdeer; and along all the road the Duries and
poor Mr. Henry were in the first rank of slander. My mind was thus
highly prejudiced against the family I was about to serve, so that
I was half surprised when I beheld Durrisdeer itself, lying in a
pretty, sheltered bay, under the Abbey Hill; the house most
commodiously built in the French fashion, or perhaps Italianate,
for I have no skill in these arts; and the place the most
beautified with gardens, lawns, shrubberies, and trees I had ever
seen. The money sunk here unproductively would have quite restored
the family; but as it was, it cost a revenue to keep it up.
Mr. Henry came himself to the door to welcome me: a tall dark
young gentleman (the Duries are all black men) of a plain and not
cheerful face, very strong in body, but not so strong in health:
taking me by the hand without any pride, and putting me at home
with plain kind speeches. He led me into the hall, booted as I
was, to present me to my lord. It was still daylight; and the
first thing I observed was a lozenge of clear glass in the midst of
the shield in the painted window, which I remember thinking a
blemish on a room otherwise so handsome, with its family portraits,
and the pargeted ceiling with pendants, and the carved chimney, in
one corner of which my old lord sat reading in his Livy. He was
like Mr. Henry, with much the same plain countenance, only more
subtle and pleasant, and his talk a thousand times more
entertaining. He had many questions to ask me, I remember, of
Edinburgh College, where I had just received my mastership of arts,
and of the various professors, with whom and their proficiency he
seemed well acquainted; and thus, talking of things that I knew, I
soon got liberty of speech in my new home.
In the midst of this came Mrs. Henry into the room; she was very
far gone, Miss Katharine being due in about six weeks, which made
me think less of her beauty at the first sight; and she used me
with more of condescension than the rest; so that, upon all
accounts, I kept her in the third place of my esteem.
It did not take long before all Patey Macmorland's tales were
blotted out of my belief, and I was become, what I have ever since
remained, a loving servant of the house of Durrisdeer. Mr. Henry
had the chief part of my affection. It was with him I worked; and
I found him an exacting master, keeping all his kindness for those
hours in which we were unemployed, and in the steward's office not
only loading me with work, but viewing me with a shrewd
supervision. At length one day he looked up from his paper with a
kind of timidness, and says he, "Mr. Mackellar, I think I ought to
tell you that you do very well." That was my first word of
commendation; and from that day his jealousy of my performance was
relaxed; soon it was "Mr. Mackellar" here, and "Mr. Mackellar"
there, with the whole family; and for much of my service at
Durrisdeer, I have transacted everything at my own time, and to my
own fancy, and never a farthing challenged. Even while he was
driving me, I had begun to find my heart go out to Mr. Henry; no
doubt, partly in pity, he was a man so palpably unhappy. He would
fall into a deep muse over our accounts, staring at the page or out
of the window; and at those times the look of his face, and the
sigh that would break from him, awoke in me strong feelings of
curiosity and commiseration. One day, I remember, we were late
upon some business in the steward's room.
This room is in the top of the house, and has a view upon the bay,
and over a little wooded cape, on the long sands; and there, right
over against the sun, which was then dipping, we saw the
freetraders, with a great force of men and horses, scouring on the
beach. Mr. Henry had been staring straight west, so that I
marvelled he was not blinded by the sun; suddenly he frowns, rubs
his hand upon his brow, and turns to me with a smile.
"You would not guess what I was thinking," says he. "I was
thinking I would be a happier man if I could ride and run the
danger of my life, with these lawless companions."
I told him I had observed he did not enjoy good spirits; and that
it was a common fancy to envy others and think we should be the
better of some change; quoting Horace to the point, like a young
man fresh from college.
"Why, just so," said he. "And with that we may get back to our
It was not long before I began to get wind of the causes that so
much depressed him. Indeed a blind man must have soon discovered
there was a shadow on that house, the shadow of the Master of
Ballantrae. Dead or alive (and he was then supposed to be dead)
that man was his brother's rival: his rival abroad, where there
was never a good word for Mr. Henry, and nothing but regret and
praise for the Master; and his rival at home, not only with his
father and his wife, but with the very servants.
They were two old serving-men that were the leaders. John Paul, a
little, bald, solemn, stomachy man, a great professor of piety and
(take him for all in all) a pretty faithful servant, was the chief
of the Master's faction. None durst go so far as John. He took a
pleasure in disregarding Mr. Henry publicly, often with a slighting
comparison. My lord and Mrs. Henry took him up, to be sure, but
never so resolutely as they should; and he had only to pull his
weeping face and begin his lamentations for the Master - "his
laddie," as he called him - to have the whole condoned. As for
Henry, he let these things pass in silence, sometimes with a sad
and sometimes with a black look. There was no rivalling the dead,
he knew that; and how to censure an old serving-man for a fault of
loyalty, was more than he could see. His was not the tongue to do
Macconochie was chief upon the other side; an old, ill-spoken,
swearing, ranting, drunken dog; and I have often thought it an odd
circumstance in human nature that these two serving-men should each
have been the champion of his contrary, and blackened their own
faults and made light of their own virtues when they beheld them in
a master. Macconochie had soon smelled out my secret inclination,
took me much into his confidence, and would rant against the Master
by the hour, so that even my work suffered. "They're a' daft
here," he would cry, "and be damned to them! The Master - the
deil's in their thrapples that should call him sae! it's Mr. Henry
should be master now! They were nane sae fond o' the Master when
they had him, I'll can tell ye that. Sorrow on his name! Never a
guid word did I hear on his lips, nor naebody else, but just
fleering and flyting and profane cursing - deil hae him! There's
nane kent his wickedness: him a gentleman! Did ever ye hear tell,
Mr. Mackellar, o' Wully White the wabster? No? Aweel, Wully was
an unco praying kind o' man; a dreigh body, nane o' my kind, I
never could abide the sight o' him; onyway he was a great hand by
his way of it, and he up and rebukit the Master for some of his on-
goings. It was a grand thing for the Master o' Ball'ntrae to tak
up a feud wi' a' wabster, wasnae't?" Macconochie would sneer;
indeed, he never took the full name upon his lips but with a sort
of a whine of hatred. "But he did! A fine employ it was:
chapping at the man's door, and crying 'boo' in his lum, and
puttin' poother in his fire, and pee-oys (1) in his window; till
the man thocht it was auld Hornie was come seekin' him. Weel, to
mak a lang story short, Wully gaed gyte. At the hinder end, they
couldnae get him frae his knees, but he just roared and prayed and
grat straucht on, till he got his release. It was fair murder,
a'body said that. Ask John Paul - he was brawly ashamed o' that
game, him that's sic a Christian man! Grand doin's for the Master
o' Ball'ntrae!" I asked him what the Master had thought of it
himself. "How would I ken?" says he. "He never said naething."
And on again in his usual manner of banning and swearing, with
every now and again a "Master of Ballantrae" sneered through his
nose. It was in one of these confidences that he showed me the
Carlisle letter, the print of the horse-shoe still stamped in the
paper. Indeed, that was our last confidence; for he then expressed
himself so ill-naturedly of Mrs. Henry that I had to reprimand him
sharply, and must thenceforth hold him at a distance.
My old lord was uniformly kind to Mr. Henry; he had even pretty
ways of gratitude, and would sometimes clap him on the shoulder and
say, as if to the world at large: "This is a very good son to me."
And grateful he was, no doubt, being a man of sense and justice.
But I think that was all, and I am sure Mr. Henry thought so. The
love was all for the dead son. Not that this was often given
breath to; indeed, with me but once. My lord had asked me one day
how I got on with Mr. Henry, and I had told him the truth.
"Ay," said he, looking sideways on the burning fire, "Henry is a
good lad, a very good lad," said he. "You have heard, Mr.
Mackellar, that I had another son? I am afraid he was not so
virtuous a lad as Mr. Henry; but dear me, he's dead, Mr. Mackellar!
and while he lived we were all very proud of him, all very proud.
If he was not all he should have been in some ways, well, perhaps
we loved him better!" This last he said looking musingly in the
fire; and then to me, with a great deal of briskness, "But I am
rejoiced you do so well with Mr. Henry. You will find him a good
master." And with that he opened his book, which was the customary
signal of dismission. But it would be little that he read, and
less that he understood; Culloden field and the Master, these would
be the burthen of his thought; and the burthen of mine was an
unnatural jealousy of the dead man for Mr. Henry's sake, that had
even then begun to grow on me.
I am keeping Mrs. Henry for the last, so that this expression of my
sentiment may seem unwarrantably strong: the reader shall judge
for himself when I have done. But I must first tell of another
matter, which was the means of bringing me more intimate. I had
not yet been six months at Durrisdeer when it chanced that John
Paul fell sick and must keep his bed; drink was the root of his
malady, in my poor thought; but he was tended, and indeed carried
himself, like an afflicted saint; and the very minister, who came
to visit him, professed himself edified when he went away. The
third morning of his sickness, Mr. Henry comes to me with something
of a hang-dog look.
"Mackellar," says he, "I wish I could trouble you upon a little
service. There is a pension we pay; it is John's part to carry it,
and now that he is sick I know not to whom I should look unless it
was yourself. The matter is very delicate; I could not carry it
with my own hand for a sufficient reason; I dare not send
Macconochie, who is a talker, and I am - I have - I am desirous
this should not come to Mrs. Henry's ears," says he, and flushed to
his neck as he said it.
To say truth, when I found I was to carry money to one Jessie
Broun, who was no better than she should be, I supposed it was some
trip of his own that Mr. Henry was dissembling. I was the more
impressed when the truth came out.
It was up a wynd off a side street in St. Bride's that Jessie had
her lodging. The place was very ill inhabited, mostly by the
freetrading sort. There was a man with a broken head at the entry;
half-way up, in a tavern, fellows were roaring and singing, though
it was not yet nine in the day. Altogether, I had never seen a
worse neighbourhood, even in the great city of Edinburgh, and I was
in two minds to go back. Jessie's room was of a piece with her
surroundings, and herself no better. She would not give me the
receipt (which Mr. Henry had told me to demand, for he was very
methodical) until she had sent out for spirits, and I had pledged
her in a glass; and all the time she carried on in a light-headed,
reckless way - now aping the manners of a lady, now breaking into
unseemly mirth, now making coquettish advances that oppressed me to
the ground. Of the money she spoke more tragically.
"It's blood money!" said she; "I take it for that: blood money for
the betrayed! See what I'm brought down to! Ah, if the bonnie lad
were back again, it would be changed days. But he's deid - he's
lyin' deid amang the Hieland hills - the bonnie lad, the bonnie
She had a rapt manner of crying on the bonnie lad, clasping her
hands and casting up her eyes, that I think she must have learned
of strolling players; and I thought her sorrow very much of an
affectation, and that she dwelled upon the business because her
shame was now all she had to be proud of. I will not say I did not
pity her, but it was a loathing pity at the best; and her last
change of manner wiped it out. This was when she had had enough of
me for an audience, and had set her name at last to the receipt.
"There!" says she, and taking the most unwomanly oaths upon her
tongue, bade me begone and carry it to the Judas who had sent me.
It was the first time I had heard the name applied to Mr. Henry; I
was staggered besides at her sudden vehemence of word and manner,
and got forth from the room, under this shower of curses, like a
beaten dog. But even then I was not quit, for the vixen threw up
her window, and, leaning forth, continued to revile me as I went up
the wynd; the freetraders, coming to the tavern door, joined in the
mockery, and one had even the inhumanity to set upon me a very
savage small dog, which bit me in the ankle. This was a strong
lesson, had I required one, to avoid ill company; and I rode home
in much pain from the bite and considerable indignation of mind.
Mr. Henry was in the steward's room, affecting employment, but I
could see he was only impatient to hear of my errand.
"Well?" says he, as soon as I came in; and when I had told him
something of what passed, and that Jessie seemed an undeserving
woman and far from grateful: "She is no friend to me," said he;
"but, indeed, Mackellar, I have few friends to boast of, and Jessie
has some cause to be unjust. I need not dissemble what all the
country knows: she was not very well used by one of our family."
This was the first time I had heard him refer to the Master even
distantly; and I think he found his tongue rebellious even for that
much, but presently he resumed - "This is why I would have nothing
said. It would give pain to Mrs. Henry . . . and to my father," he
added, with another flush.
"Mr. Henry," said I, "if you will take a freedom at my hands, I
would tell you to let that woman be. What service is your money to
the like of her? She has no sobriety and no economy - as for
gratitude, you will as soon get milk from a whinstone; and if you
will pretermit your bounty, it will make no change at all but just
to save the ankles of your messengers."
Mr. Henry smiled. "But I am grieved about your ankle," said he,
the next moment, with a proper gravity.
"And observe," I continued, "I give you this advice upon
consideration; and yet my heart was touched for the woman in the
"Why, there it is, you see!" said Mr. Henry. "And you are to
remember that I knew her once a very decent lass. Besides which,
although I speak little of my family, I think much of its repute."
And with that he broke up the talk, which was the first we had
together in such confidence. But the same afternoon I had the
proof that his father was perfectly acquainted with the business,
and that it was only from his wife that Mr. Henry kept it secret.
"I fear you had a painful errand to-day," says my lord to me, "for
which, as it enters in no way among your duties, I wish to thank
you, and to remind you at the same time (in case Mr. Henry should
have neglected) how very desirable it is that no word of it should
reach my daughter. Reflections on the dead, Mr. Mackellar, are
Anger glowed in my heart; and I could have told my lord to his face
how little he had to do, bolstering up the image of the dead in
Mrs. Henry's heart, and how much better he were employed to shatter
that false idol; for by this time I saw very well how the land lay
between my patron and his wife.
My pen is clear enough to tell a plain tale; but to render the
effect of an infinity of small things, not one great enough in
itself to be narrated; and to translate the story of looks, and the
message of voices when they are saying no great matter; and to put
in half a page the essence of near eighteen months - this is what I
despair to accomplish. The fault, to be very blunt, lay all in
Mrs. Henry. She felt it a merit to have consented to the marriage,
and she took it like a martyrdom; in which my old lord, whether he
knew it or not, fomented her. She made a merit, besides, of her
constancy to the dead, though its name, to a nicer conscience,
should have seemed rather disloyalty to the living; and here also
my lord gave her his countenance. I suppose he was glad to talk of
his loss, and ashamed to dwell on it with Mr. Henry. Certainly, at
least, he made a little coterie apart in that family of three, and
it was the husband who was shut out. It seems it was an old custom
when the family were alone in Durrisdeer, that my lord should take
his wine to the chimney-side, and Miss Alison, instead of
withdrawing, should bring a stool to his knee, and chatter to him
privately; and after she had become my patron's wife the same
manner of doing was continued. It should have been pleasant to
behold this ancient gentleman so loving with his daughter, but I
was too much a partisan of Mr. Henry's to be anything but wroth at
his exclusion. Many's the time I have seen him make an obvious
resolve, quit the table, and go and join himself to his wife and my
Lord Durrisdeer; and on their part, they were never backward to
make him welcome, turned to him smilingly as to an intruding child,
and took him into their talk with an effort so ill-concealed that
he was soon back again beside me at the table, whence (so great is
the hall of Durrisdeer) we could but hear the murmur of voices at
the chimney. There he would sit and watch, and I along with him;
and sometimes by my lord's head sorrowfully shaken, or his hand
laid on Mrs. Henry's head, or hers upon his knee as if in
consolation, or sometimes by an exchange of tearful looks, we would
draw our conclusion that the talk had gone to the old subject and
the shadow of the dead was in the hall.
I have hours when I blame Mr. Henry for taking all too patiently;
yet we are to remember he was married in pity, and accepted his
wife upon that term. And, indeed, he had small encouragement to
make a stand. Once, I remember, he announced he had found a man to
replace the pane of the stained window, which, as it was he that
managed all the business, was a thing clearly within his
attributions. But to the Master's fancies, that pane was like a
relic; and on the first word of any change, the blood flew to Mrs.
"I wonder at you!" she cried.
"I wonder at myself," says Mr. Henry, with more of bitterness than
I had ever heard him to express.
Thereupon my old lord stepped in with his smooth talk, so that
before the meal was at an end all seemed forgotten; only that,
after dinner, when the pair had withdrawn as usual to the chimney-
side, we could see her weeping with her head upon his knee. Mr.
Henry kept up the talk with me upon some topic of the estates - he
could speak of little else but business, and was never the best of
company; but he kept it up that day with more continuity, his eye
straying ever and again to the chimney, and his voice changing to
another key, but without check of delivery. The pane, however, was
not replaced; and I believe he counted it a great defeat.
Whether he was stout enough or no, God knows he was kind enough.
Mrs. Henry had a manner of condescension with him, such as (in a
wife) would have pricked my vanity into an ulcer; he took it like a
favour. She held him at the staff's end; forgot and then
remembered and unbent to him, as we do to children; burthened him
with cold kindness; reproved him with a change of colour and a
bitten lip, like one shamed by his disgrace: ordered him with a
look of the eye, when she was off her guard; when she was on the
watch, pleaded with him for the most natural attentions, as though
they were unheard-of favours. And to all this he replied with the
most unwearied service, loving, as folk say, the very ground she
trod on, and carrying that love in his eyes as bright as a lamp.
When Miss Katharine was to be born, nothing would serve but he must
stay in the room behind the head of the bed. There he sat, as
white (they tell me) as a sheet, and the sweat dropping from his
brow; and the handkerchief he had in his hand was crushed into a
little ball no bigger than a musket-bullet. Nor could he bear the
sight of Miss Katharine for many a day; indeed, I doubt if he was
ever what he should have been to my young lady; for the which want
of natural feeling he was loudly blamed.
Such was the state of this family down to the 7th April, 1749, when
there befell the first of that series of events which were to break
so many hearts and lose so many lives.
On that day I was sitting in my room a little before supper, when
John Paul burst open the door with no civility of knocking, and
told me there was one below that wished to speak with the steward;
sneering at the name of my office.
I asked what manner of man, and what his name was; and this
disclosed the cause of John's ill-humour; for it appeared the
visitor refused to name himself except to me, a sore affront to the
"Well," said I, smiling a little, "I will see what he wants."
I found in the entrance hall a big man, very plainly habited, and
wrapped in a sea-cloak, like one new landed, as indeed he was.
Not, far off Macconochie was standing, with his tongue out of his
mouth and his hand upon his chin, like a dull fellow thinking hard;
and the stranger, who had brought his cloak about his face,
appeared uneasy. He had no sooner seen me coming than he went to
meet me with an effusive manner.
"My dear man," said he, "a thousand apologies for disturbing you,
but I'm in the most awkward position. And there's a son of a
ramrod there that I should know the looks of, and more betoken I
believe that he knows mine. Being in this family, sir, and in a
place of some responsibility (which was the cause I took the
liberty to send for you), you are doubtless of the honest party?"
"You may be sure at least," says I, "that all of that party are
quite safe in Durrisdeer."
"My dear man, it is my very thought," says he. "You see, I have
just been set on shore here by a very honest man, whose name I
cannot remember, and who is to stand off and on for me till
morning, at some danger to himself; and, to be clear with you, I am
a little concerned lest it should be at some to me. I have saved
my life so often, Mr. -, I forget your name, which is a very good
one - that, faith, I would be very loath to lose it after all. And
the son of a ramrod, whom I believe I saw before Carlisle . . . "
"Oh, sir," said I, "you can trust Macconochie until to-morrow."
"Well, and it's a delight to hear you say so," says the stranger.
"The truth is that my name is not a very suitable one in this
country of Scotland. With a gentleman like you, my dear man, I
would have no concealments of course; and by your leave I'll just
breathe it in your ear. They call me Francis Burke - Colonel
Francis Burke; and I am here, at a most damnable risk to myself, to
see your masters - if you'll excuse me, my good man, for giving
them the name, for I'm sure it's a circumstance I would never have
guessed from your appearance. And if you would just be so very
obliging as to take my name to them, you might say that I come
bearing letters which I am sure they will be very rejoiced to have
the reading of."
Colonel Francis Burke was one of the Prince's Irishmen, that did
his cause such an infinity of hurt, and were so much distasted of
the Scots at the time of the rebellion; and it came at once into my
mind, how the Master of Ballantrae had astonished all men by going
with that party. In the same moment a strong foreboding of the
truth possessed my soul.
"If you will step in here," said I, opening a chamber door, "I will
let my lord know."
"And I am sure it's very good of you, Mr. What-is-your-name," says
Up to the hall I went, slow-footed. There they were, all three -
my old lord in his place, Mrs. Henry at work by the window, Mr.
Henry (as was much his custom) pacing the low end. In the midst
was the table laid for supper. I told them briefly what I had to
say. My old lord lay back in his seat. Mrs. Henry sprang up
standing with a mechanical motion, and she and her husband stared
at each other's eyes across the room; it was the strangest,
challenging look these two exchanged, and as they looked, the
colour faded in their faces. Then Mr. Henry turned to me; not to
speak, only to sign with his finger; but that was enough, and I
went down again for the Colonel.
When we returned, these three were in much the same position I same
left them in; I believe no word had passed.
"My Lord Durrisdeer, no doubt?" says the Colonel, bowing, and my
lord bowed in answer. "And this," continues the Colonel, "should
be the Master of Ballantrae?"
"I have never taken that name," said Mr. Henry; "but I am Henry
Durie, at your service."
Then the Colonel turns to Mrs. Henry, bowing with his hat upon his
heart and the most killing airs of gallantry. "There can be no
mistake about so fine a figure of a lady," says he. "I address the
seductive Miss Alison, of whom I have so often heard?"
Once more husband and wife exchanged a look.
"I am Mrs. Henry Durie," said she; "but before my marriage my name
was Alison Graeme."
Then my lord spoke up. "I am an old man, Colonel Burke," said he,
"and a frail one. It will be mercy on your part to be expeditious.
Do you bring me news of - " he hesitated, and then the words broke
from him with a singular change of voice - "my son?"
"My dear lord, I will be round with you like a soldier," said the
Colonel. "I do."
My lord held out a wavering hand; he seemed to wave a signal, but
whether it was to give him time or to speak on, was more than we
could guess. At length he got out the one word, "Good?"
"Why, the very best in the creation!" cries the Colonel. "For my
good friend and admired comrade is at this hour in the fine city of
Paris, and as like as not, if I know anything of his habits, he
will be drawing in his chair to a piece of dinner. - Bedad, I
believe the lady's fainting."
Mrs. Henry was indeed the colour of death, and drooped against the
window-frame. But when Mr. Henry made a movement as if to run to
her, she straightened with a sort of shiver. "I am well," she
said, with her white lips.
Mr. Henry stopped, and his face had a strong twitch of anger. The
next moment he had turned to the Colonel. "You must not blame
yourself," says he, "for this effect on Mrs. Durie. It is only
natural; we were all brought up like brother and sister."
Mrs. Henry looked at her husband with something like relief or even
gratitude. In my way of thinking, that speech was the first step
he made in her good graces.
"You must try to forgive me, Mrs. Durie, for indeed and I am just
an Irish savage," said the Colonel; "and I deserve to be shot for
not breaking the matter more artistically to a lady. But here are
the Master's own letters; one for each of the three of you; and to
be sure (if I know anything of my friend's genius) he will tell his
own story with a better grace."
He brought the three letters forth as he spoke, arranged them by
their superscriptions, presented the first to my lord, who took it
greedily, and advanced towards Mrs. Henry holding out the second.
But the lady waved it back. "To my husband," says she, with a
The Colonel was a quick man, but at this he was somewhat
nonplussed. "To be sure!" says he; "how very dull of me! To be
sure!" But he still held the letter.
At last Mr. Henry reached forth his hand, and there was nothing to
be done but give it up. Mr. Henry took the letters (both hers and
his own), and looked upon their outside, with his brows knit hard,
as if he were thinking. He had surprised me all through by his
excellent behaviour; but he was to excel himself now.
"Let me give you a hand to your room," said he to his wife. "This
has come something of the suddenest; and, at any rate, you will
wish to read your letter by yourself."
Again she looked upon him with the same thought of wonder; but he
gave her no time, coming straight to where she stood. "It will be
better so, believe me," said he; "and Colonel Burke is too
considerate not to excuse you." And with that he took her hand by
the fingers, and led her from the hall.
Mrs. Henry returned no more that night; and when Mr. Henry went to
visit her next morning, as I heard long afterwards, she gave him
the letter again, still unopened.
"Oh, read it and be done!" he had cried.
"Spare me that," said she.
And by these two speeches, to my way of thinking, each undid a
great part of what they had previously done well. But the letter,
sure enough, came into my hands, and by me was burned, unopened.
To be very exact as to the adventures of the Master after Culloden,
I wrote not long ago to Colonel Burke, now a Chevalier of the Order
of St. Louis, begging him for some notes in writing, since I could
scarce depend upon my memory at so great an interval. To confess
the truth, I have been somewhat embarrassed by his response; for he
sent me the complete memoirs of his life, touching only in places
on the Master; running to a much greater length than my whole
story, and not everywhere (as it seems to me) designed for
edification. He begged in his letter, dated from Ettenheim, that I
would find a publisher for the whole, after I had made what use of
it I required; and I think I shall best answer my own purpose and
fulfil his wishes by printing certain parts of it in full. In this
way my readers will have a detailed, and, I believe, a very genuine
account of some essential matters; and if any publisher should take
a fancy to the Chevalier's manner of narration, he knows where to
apply for the rest, of which there is plenty at his service. I put
in my first extract here, so that it may stand in the place of what
the Chevalier told us over our wine in the hall of Durrisdeer; but
you are to suppose it was not the brutal fact, but a very varnished
version that he offered to my lord.
CHAPTER III. - THE MASTER'S WANDERINGS.
FROM THE MEMOIRS OF THE CHEVALIER DE BURKE.
. . . I left Ruthven (it's hardly necessary to remark) with much
greater satisfaction than I had come to it; but whether I missed my
way in the deserts, or whether my companions failed me, I soon
found myself alone. This was a predicament very disagreeable; for
I never understood this horrid country or savage people, and the
last stroke of the Prince's withdrawal had made us of the Irish
more unpopular than ever. I was reflecting on my poor chances,
when I saw another horseman on the hill, whom I supposed at first
to have been a phantom, the news of his death in the very front at
Culloden being current in the army generally. This was the Master
of Ballantrae, my Lord Durrisdeer's son, a young nobleman of the
rarest gallantry and parts, and equally designed by nature to adorn
a Court and to reap laurels in the field. Our meeting was the more
welcome to both, as he was one of the few Scots who had used the
Irish with consideration, and as he might now be of very high
utility in aiding my escape. Yet what founded our particular
friendship was a circumstance, by itself as romantic as any fable
of King Arthur.
This was on the second day of our flight, after we had slept one
night in the rain upon the inclination of a mountain. There was an
Appin man, Alan Black Stewart (or some such name, (2) but I have
seen him since in France) who chanced to be passing the same way,
and had a jealousy of my companion. Very uncivil expressions were
exchanged; and Stewart calls upon the Master to alight and have it
"Why, Mr. Stewart," says the Master, "I think at the present time I
would prefer to run a race with you." And with the word claps
spurs to his horse.
Stewart ran after us, a childish thing to do, for more than a mile;
and I could not help laughing, as I looked back at last and saw him
on a hill, holding his hand to his side, and nearly burst with
"But, all the same," I could not help saying to my companion, "I
would let no man run after me for any such proper purpose, and not
give him his desire. It was a good jest, but it smells a trifle
He bent his brows at me. "I do pretty well," says he, "when I
saddle myself with the most unpopular man in Scotland, and let that
suffice for courage."
"O, bedad," says I, "I could show you a more unpopular with the
naked eye. And if you like not my company, you can 'saddle'
yourself on some one else."
"Colonel Burke," says he, "do not let us quarrel; and, to that
effect, let me assure you I am the least patient man in the world."
"I am as little patient as yourself," said I. "I care not who
"At this rate," says he, reining in, "we shall not go very far.
And I propose we do one of two things upon the instant: either
quarrel and be done; or make a sure bargain to bear everything at
each other's hands."
"Like a pair of brothers?" said I.
"I said no such foolishness," he replied. "I have a brother of my
own, and I think no more of him than of a colewort. But if we are
to have our noses rubbed together in this course of flight, let us
each dare to be ourselves like savages, and each swear that he will
neither resent nor deprecate the other. I am a pretty bad fellow
at bottom, and I find the pretence of virtues very irksome."
"O, I am as bad as yourself," said I. "There is no skim milk in
Francis Burke. But which is it to be? Fight or make friends?"
"Why," says be, "I think it will be the best manner to spin a coin
This proposition was too highly chivalrous not to take my fancy;
and, strange as it may seem of two well-born gentlemen of to-day,
we span a half-crown (like a pair of ancient paladins) whether we
were to cut each other's throats or be sworn friends. A more
romantic circumstance can rarely have occurred; and it is one of
those points in my memoirs, by which we may see the old tales of
Homer and the poets are equally true to-day - at least, of the
noble and genteel. The coin fell for peace, and we shook hands
upon our bargain. And then it was that my companion explained to
me his thought in running away from Mr. Stewart, which was
certainly worthy of his political intellect. The report of his
death, he said, was a great guard to him; Mr. Stewart having
recognised him, had become a danger; and he had taken the briefest
road to that gentleman's silence. "For," says he, "Alan Black is
too vain a man to narrate any such story of himself."
Towards afternoon we came down to the shores of that loch for which
we were heading; and there was the ship, but newly come to anchor.
She was the SAINTE-MARIE-DES-ANGES, out of the port of Havre-de-
Grace. The Master, after we had signalled for a boat, asked me if
I knew the captain. I told him he was a countryman of mine, of the
most unblemished integrity, but, I was afraid, a rather timorous
"No matter," says he. "For all that, he should certainly hear the
I asked him if he meant about the battle? for if the captain once
knew the standard was down, he would certainly put to sea again at
"And even then!" said he; "the arms are now of no sort of utility."
"My dear man," said I, "who thinks of the arms? But, to be sure,
we must remember our friends. They will be close upon our heels,
perhaps the Prince himself, and if the ship be gone, a great number
of valuable lives may be imperilled."
"The captain and the crew have lives also, if you come to that,"
This I declared was but a quibble, and that I would not hear of the
captain being told; and then it was that Ballantrae made me a witty
answer, for the sake of which (and also because I have been blamed
myself in this business of the SAINTE-MARIE-DES-ANGES) I have
related the whole conversation as it passed.
"Frank," says he, "remember our bargain. I must not object to your
holding your tongue, which I hereby even encourage you to do; but,
by the same terms, you are not to resent my telling."
I could not help laughing at this; though I still forewarned him
what would come of it.
"The devil may come of it for what I care," says the reckless
fellow. "I have always done exactly as I felt inclined."
As is well known, my prediction came true. The captain had no
sooner heard the news than he cut his cable and to sea again; and
before morning broke, we were in the Great Minch.
The ship was very old; and the skipper, although the most honest of
men (and Irish too), was one of the least capable. The wind blew
very boisterous, and the sea raged extremely. All that day we had
little heart whether to eat or drink; went early to rest in some
concern of mind; and (as if to give us a lesson) in the night the
wind chopped suddenly into the north-east, and blew a hurricane.
We were awaked by the dreadful thunder of the tempest and the
stamping of the mariners on deck; so that I supposed our last hour
was certainly come; and the terror of my mind was increased out of
all measure by Ballantrae, who mocked at my devotions. It is in
hours like these that a man of any piety appears in his true light,
and we find (what we are taught as babes) the small trust that can
be set in worldly friends. I would be unworthy of my religion if I
let this pass without particular remark. For three days we lay in
the dark in the cabin, and had but a biscuit to nibble. On the
fourth the wind fell, leaving the ship dismasted and heaving on
vast billows. The captain had not a guess of whither we were
blown; he was stark ignorant of his trade, and could do naught but
bless the Holy Virgin; a very good thing, too, but scarce the whole
of seamanship. It seemed, our one hope was to be picked up by
another vessel; and if that should prove to be an English ship, it
might be no great blessing to the Master and myself.
The fifth and sixth days we tossed there helpless. The seventh
some sail was got on her, but she was an unwieldy vessel at the
best, and we made little but leeway. All the time, indeed, we had
been drifting to the south and west, and during the tempest must
have driven in that direction with unheard-of violence. The ninth
dawn was cold and black, with a great sea running, and every mark
of foul weather. In this situation we were overjoyed to sight a
small ship on the horizon, and to perceive her go about and head
for the SAINTE-MARIE. But our gratification did not very long
endure; for when she had laid to and lowered a boat, it was
immediately filled with disorderly fellows, who sang and shouted as
they pulled across to us, and swarmed in on our deck with bare
cutlasses, cursing loudly. Their leader was a horrible villain,
with his face blacked and his whiskers curled in ringlets; Teach,
his name; a most notorious pirate. He stamped about the deck,
raving and crying out that his name was Satan, and his ship was
called Hell. There was something about him like a wicked child or
a half-witted person, that daunted me beyond expression. I
whispered in the ear of Ballantrae that I would not be the last to
volunteer, and only prayed God they might be short of hands; he
approved my purpose with a nod.
"Bedad," said I to Master Teach, "if you are Satan, here is a devil
The word pleased him; and (not to dwell upon these shocking
incidents) Ballantrae and I and two others were taken for recruits,
while the skipper and all the rest were cast into the sea by the
method of walking the plank. It was the first time I had seen this
done; my heart died within me at the spectacle; and Master Teach or
one of his acolytes (for my head was too much lost to be precise)
remarked upon my pale face in a very alarming manner. I had the
strength to cut a step or two of a jig, and cry out some ribaldry,
which saved me for that time; but my legs were like water when I
must get down into the skiff among these miscreants; and what with
my horror of my company and fear of the monstrous billows, it was
all I could do to keep an Irish tongue and break a jest or two as
we were pulled aboard. By the blessing of God, there was a fiddle
in the pirate ship, which I had no sooner seen than I fell upon;
and in my quality of crowder I had the heavenly good luck to get
favour in their eyes. CROWDING PAT was the name they dubbed me
with; and it was little I cared for a name so long as my skin was
What kind of a pandemonium that vessel was, I cannot describe, but
she was commanded by a lunatic, and might be called a floating
Bedlam. Drinking, roaring, singing, quarrelling, dancing, they
were never all sober at one time; and there were days together
when, if a squall had supervened, it must have sent us to the
bottom; or if a king's ship had come along, it would have found us
quite helpless for defence. Once or twice we sighted a sail, and,
if we were sober enough, overhauled it, God forgive us! and if we
were all too drunk, she got away, and I would bless the saints
under my breath. Teach ruled, if you can call that rule which
brought no order, by the terror he created; and I observed the man
was very vain of his position. I have known marshals of France -
ay, and even Highland chieftains - that were less openly puffed up;
which throws a singular light on the pursuit of honour and glory.
Indeed, the longer we live, the more we perceive the sagacity of
Aristotle and the other old philosophers; and though I have all my
life been eager for legitimate distinctions, I can lay my hand upon
my heart, at the end of my career, and declare there is not one -
no, nor yet life itself - which is worth acquiring or preserving at
the slightest cost of dignity.
It was long before I got private speech of Ballantrae; but at
length one night we crept out upon the boltsprit, when the rest
were better employed, and commiserated our position.
"None can deliver us but the saints," said I.
"My mind is very different," said Ballantrae; "for I am going to
deliver myself. This Teach is the poorest creature possible; we
make no profit of him, and lie continually open to capture; and,"
says he, "I am not going to be a tarry pirate for nothing, nor yet
to hang in chains if I can help it." And he told me what was in
his mind to better the state of the ship in the way of discipline,
which would give us safety for the present, and a sooner hope of
deliverance when they should have gained enough and should break up
I confessed to him ingenuously that my nerve was quite shook amid
these horrible surroundings, and I durst scarce tell him to count
"I am not very easy frightened," said he, "nor very easy beat."
A few days after, there befell an accident which had nearly hanged
us all; and offers the most extraordinary picture of the folly that
ruled in our concerns. We were all pretty drunk: and some
bedlamite spying a sail, Teach put the ship about in chase without
a glance, and we began to bustle up the arms and boast of the
horrors that should follow. I observed Ballantrae stood quiet in
the bows, looking under the shade of his hand; but for my part,
true to my policy among these savages, I was at work with the
busiest and passing Irish jests for their diversion.
"Run up the colours," cries Teach. "Show the -s the Jolly Roger!"
It was the merest drunken braggadocio at such a stage, and might
have lost us a valuable prize; but I thought it no part of mine to
reason, and I ran up the black flag with my own hand.
Ballantrae steps presently aft with a smile upon his face.
"You may perhaps like to know, you drunken dog," says he, "that you
are chasing a king's ship."
Teach roared him the lie; but he ran at the same time to the
bulwarks, and so did they all. I have never seen so many drunken
men struck suddenly sober. The cruiser had gone about, upon our
impudent display of colours; she was just then filling on the new
tack; her ensign blew out quite plain to see; and even as we
stared, there came a puff of smoke, and then a report, and a shot
plunged in the waves a good way short of us. Some ran to the
ropes, and got the SARAH round with an incredible swiftness. One
fellow fell on the rum barrel, which stood broached upon the deck,
and rolled it promptly overboard. On my part, I made for the Jolly
Roger, struck it, tossed it in the sea; and could have flung myself
after, so vexed was I with our mismanagement. As for Teach, he
grew as pale as death, and incontinently went down to his cabin.
Only twice he came on deck that afternoon; went to the taffrail;
took a long look at the king's ship, which was still on the horizon
heading after us; and then, without speech, back to his cabin. You
may say he deserted us; and if it had not been for one very capable
sailor we had on board, and for the lightness of the airs that blew
all day, we must certainly have gone to the yard-arm.
It is to be supposed Teach was humiliated, and perhaps alarmed for
his position with the crew; and the way in which he set about
regaining what he had lost, was highly characteristic of the man.
Early next day we smelled him burning sulphur in his cabin and
crying out of "Hell, hell!" which was well understood among the
crew, and filled their minds with apprehension. Presently he comes
on deck, a perfect figure of fun, his face blacked, his hair and
whiskers curled, his belt stuck full of pistols; chewing bits of
glass so that the blood ran down his chin, and brandishing a dirk.
I do not know if he had taken these manners from the Indians of
America, where he was a native; but such was his way, and he would
always thus announce that he was wound up to horrid deeds. The
first that came near him was the fellow who had sent the rum
overboard the day before; him he stabbed to the heart, damning him
for a mutineer; and then capered about the body, raving and
swearing and daring us to come on. It was the silliest exhibition;
and yet dangerous too, for the cowardly fellow was plainly working
himself up to another murder.
All of a sudden Ballantrae stepped forth. "Have done with this
play-acting," says he. "Do you think to frighten us with making
faces? We saw nothing of you yesterday, when you were wanted; and
we did well without you, let me tell you that."
There was a murmur and a movement in the crew, of pleasure and
alarm, I thought, in nearly equal parts. As for Teach, he gave a
barbarous howl, and swung his dirk to fling it, an art in which
(like many seamen) he was very expert.
"Knock that out of his hand!" says Ballantrae, so sudden and sharp
that my arm obeyed him before my mind had understood.
Teach stood like one stupid, never thinking on his pistols.
"Go down to your cabin," cries Ballantrae, "and come on deck again
when you are sober. Do you think we are going to hang for you, you
black-faced, half-witted, drunken brute and butcher? Go down!"
And he stamped his foot at him with such a sudden smartness that
Teach fairly ran for it to the companion.
"And now, mates," says Ballantrae, "a word with you. I don't know
if you are gentlemen of fortune for the fun of the thing, but I am
not. I want to make money, and get ashore again, and spend it like
a man. And on one thing my mind is made up: I will not hang if I
can help it. Come: give me a hint; I'm only a beginner! Is there
no way to get a little discipline and common sense about this
One of the men spoke up: he said by rights they should have a
quartermaster; and no sooner was the word out of his mouth than
they were all of that opinion. The thing went by acclamation,
Ballantrae was made quartermaster, the rum was put in his charge,
laws were passed in imitation of those of a pirate by the name of
Roberts, and the last proposal was to make an end of Teach. But
Ballantrae was afraid of a more efficient captain, who might be a
counterweight to himself, and he opposed this stoutly. Teach, he
said, was good enough to board ships and frighten fools with his
blacked face and swearing; we could scarce get a better man than
Teach for that; and besides, as the man was now disconsidered and
as good as deposed, we might reduce his proportion of the plunder.
This carried it; Teach's share was cut down to a mere derision,
being actually less than mine; and there remained only two points:
whether he would consent, and who was to announce to him this
"Do not let that stick you," says Ballantrae, "I will do that."
And he stepped to the companion and down alone into the cabin to
face that drunken savage.
"This is the man for us," cries one of the hands. "Three cheers
for the quartermaster!" which were given with a will, my own voice
among the loudest, and I dare say these plaudits had their effect
on Master Teach in the cabin, as we have seen of late days how
shouting in the streets may trouble even the minds of legislators.
What passed precisely was never known, though some of the heads of
it came to the surface later on; and we were all amazed, as well as
gratified, when Ballantrae came on deck with Teach upon his arm,
and announced that all had been consented.
I pass swiftly over those twelve or fifteen months in which we
continued to keep the sea in the North Atlantic, getting our food
and water from the ships we over-hauled, and doing on the whole a
pretty fortunate business. Sure, no one could wish to read
anything so ungenteel as the memoirs of a pirate, even an unwilling
one like me! Things went extremely better with our designs, and
Ballantrae kept his lead, to my admiration, from that day forth. I
would be tempted to suppose that a gentleman must everywhere be
first, even aboard a rover: but my birth is every whit as good as
any Scottish lord's, and I am not ashamed to confess that I stayed
Crowding Pat until the end, and was not much better than the crew's
buffoon. Indeed, it was no scene to bring out my merits. My
health suffered from a variety of reasons; I was more at home to
the last on a horse's back than a ship's deck; and, to be
ingenuous, the fear of the sea was constantly in my mind, battling
with the fear of my companions. I need not cry myself up for
courage; I have done well on many fields under the eyes of famous
generals, and earned my late advancement by an act of the most
distinguished valour before many witnesses. But when we must
proceed on one of our abordages, the heart of Francis Burke was in
his boots; the little eggshell skiff in which we must set forth,
the horrible heaving of the vast billows, the height of the ship
that we must scale, the thought of how many might be there in
garrison upon their legitimate defence, the scowling heavens which
(in that climate) so often looked darkly down upon our exploits,
and the mere crying of the wind in my ears, were all considerations
most unpalatable to my valour. Besides which, as I was always a
creature of the nicest sensibility, the scenes that must follow on
our success tempted me as little as the chances of defeat. Twice
we found women on board; and though I have seen towns sacked, and
of late days in France some very horrid public tumults, there was
something in the smallness of the numbers engaged, and the bleak
dangerous sea-surroundings, that made these acts of piracy far the
most revolting. I confess ingenuously I could never proceed unless
I was three parts drunk; it was the same even with the crew; Teach
himself was fit for no enterprise till he was full of rum; and it
was one of the most difficult parts of Ballantrae's performance, to
serve us with liquor in the proper quantities. Even this he did to
admiration; being upon the whole the most capable man I ever met
with, and the one of the most natural genius. He did not even
scrape favour with the crew, as I did, by continual buffoonery made
upon a very anxious heart; but preserved on most occasions a great
deal of gravity and distance; so that he was like a parent among a
family of young children, or a schoolmaster with his boys. What
made his part the harder to perform, the men were most inveterate
grumblers; Ballantrae's discipline, little as it was, was yet
irksome to their love of licence; and what was worse, being kept
sober they had time to think. Some of them accordingly would fall
to repenting their abominable crimes; one in particular, who was a
good Catholic, and with whom I would sometimes steal apart for
prayer; above all in bad weather, fogs, lashing rain and the like,
when we would be the less observed; and I am sure no two criminals
in the cart have ever performed their devotions with more anxious
sincerity. But the rest, having no such grounds of hope, fell to
another pastime, that of computation. All day long they would he
telling up their shares or grooming over the result. I have said
we were pretty fortunate. But an observation fails to be made:
that in this world, in no business that I have tried, do the
profits rise to a man's expectations. We found many ships and took
many; yet few of them contained much money, their goods were
usually nothing to our purpose - what did we want with a cargo of
ploughs, or even of tobacco? - and it is quite a painful reflection
how many whole crews we have made to walk the plank for no more
than a stock of biscuit or an anker or two of spirit.
In the meanwhile our ship was growing very foul, and it was high
time we should make for our PORT DE CARRENAGE, which was in the
estuary of a river among swamps. It was openly understood that we
should then break up and go and squander our proportions of the
spoil; and this made every man greedy of a little more, so that our
decision was delayed from day to day. What finally decided
matters, was a trifling accident, such as an ignorant person might
suppose incidental to our way of life. But here I must explain:
on only one of all the ships we boarded, the first on which we
found women, did we meet with any genuine resistance. On that
occasion we had two men killed and several injured, and if it had
not been for the gallantry of Ballantrae we had surely been beat
back at last. Everywhere else the defence (where there was any at
all) was what the worst troops in Europe would have laughed at; so
that the most dangerous part of our employment was to clamber up
the side of the ship; and I have even known the poor souls on board
to cast us a line, so eager were they to volunteer instead of
walking the plank. This constant immunity had made our fellows
very soft, so that I understood how Teach had made so deep a mark
upon their minds; for indeed the company of that lunatic was the
chief danger in our way of life. The accident to which I have
referred was this:- We had sighted a little full-rigged ship very
close under our board in a haze; she sailed near as well as we did
- I should be nearer truth if I said, near as ill; and we cleared
the bow-chaser to see if we could bring a spar or two about their
ears. The swell was exceeding great; the motion of the ship beyond
description; it was little wonder if our gunners should fire thrice
and be still quite broad of what they aimed at. But in the
meanwhile the chase had cleared a stern gun, the thickness of the
air concealing them; and being better marksmen, their first shot
struck us in the bows, knocked our two gunners into mince-meat, so
that we were all sprinkled with the blood, and plunged through the
deck into the forecastle, where we slept. Ballantrae would have
held on; indeed, there was nothing in this CONTRETEMPS to affect
the mind of any soldier; but he had a quick perception of the men's
wishes, and it was plain this lucky shot had given them a sickener
of their trade. In a moment they were all of one mind: the chase
was drawing away from us, it was needless to hold on, the SARAH was
too foul to overhaul a bottle, it was mere foolery to keep the sea
with her; and on these pretended grounds her head was incontinently
put about and the course laid for the river. It was strange to see
what merriment fell on that ship's company, and how they stamped
about the deck jesting, and each computing what increase had come
to his share by the death of the two gunners.
We were nine days making our port, so light were the airs we had to
sail on, so foul the ship's bottom; but early on the tenth, before
dawn, and in a light lifting haze, we passed the head. A little
after, the haze lifted, and fell again, showing us a cruiser very
close. This was a sore blow, happening so near our refuge. There
was a great debate of whether she had seen us, and if so whether it
was likely they had recognised the SARAH. We were very careful, by
destroying every member of those crews we overhauled, to leave no
evidence as to our own persons; but the appearance of the SARAH
herself we could not keep so private; and above all of late, since
she had been foul, and we had pursued many ships without success,
it was plain that her description had been often published. I
supposed this alert would have made us separate upon the instant.
But here again that original genius of Ballantrae's had a surprise
in store for me. He and Teach (and it was the most remarkable step
of his success) had gone hand in hand since the first day of his
appointment. I often questioned him upon the fact, and never got
an answer but once, when he told me he and Teach had an
understanding "which would very much surprise the crew if they
should hear of it, and would surprise himself a good deal if it was
carried out." Well, here again he and Teach were of a mind; and by
their joint procurement the anchor was no sooner down than the
whole crew went off upon a scene of drunkenness indescribable. By
afternoon we were a mere shipful of lunatical persons, throwing of
things overboard, howling of different songs at the same time,
quarrelling and falling together, and then forgetting our quarrels
to embrace. Ballantrae had bidden me drink nothing, and feign
drunkenness, as I valued my life; and I have never passed a day so
wearisomely, lying the best part of the time upon the forecastle
and watching the swamps and thickets by which our little basin was
entirely surrounded for the eye. A little after dusk Ballantrae
stumbled up to my side, feigned to fall, with a drunken laugh, and
before he got his feet again, whispered me to "reel down into the
cabin and seem to fall asleep upon a locker, for there would be
need of me soon." I did as I was told, and coming into the cabin,
where it was quite dark, let myself fall on the first locker.
There was a man there already; by the way he stirred and threw me
off, I could not think he was much in liquor; and yet when I had
found another place, he seemed to continue to sleep on. My heart
now beat very hard, for I saw some desperate matter was in act.
Presently down came Ballantrae, lit the lamp, looked about the
cabin, nodded as if pleased, and on deck again without a word. I
peered out from between my fingers, and saw there were three of us
slumbering, or feigning to slumber, on the lockers: myself, one
Dutton and one Grady, both resolute men. On deck the rest were got
to a pitch of revelry quite beyond the bounds of what is human; so
that no reasonable name can describe the sounds they were now
making. I have heard many a drunken bout in my time, many on board
that very SARAH, but never anything the least like this, which made
me early suppose the liquor had been tampered with. It was a long
while before these yells and howls died out into a sort of
miserable moaning, and then to silence; and it seemed a long while
after that before Ballantrae came down again, this time with Teach
upon his heels. The latter cursed at the sight of us three upon
"Tut," says Ballantrae, "you might fire a pistol at their ears.
You know what stuff they have been swallowing."
There was a hatch in the cabin floor, and under that the richest
part of the booty was stored against the day of division. It
fastened with a ring and three padlocks, the keys (for greater
security) being divided; one to Teach, one to Ballantrae, and one
to the mate, a man called Hammond. Yet I was amazed to see they
were now all in the one hand; and yet more amazed (still looking
through my fingers) to observe Ballantrae and Teach bring up
several packets, four of them in all, very carefully made up and
with a loop for carriage.
"And now," says Teach, "let us be going."
"One word," says Ballantrae. "I have discovered there is another
man besides yourself who knows a private path across the swamp; and
it seems it is shorter than yours."
Teach cried out, in that case, they were undone.
"I do not know for that," says Ballantrae. "For there are several
other circumstances with which I must acquaint you. First of all,
there is no bullet in your pistols, which (if you remember) I was
kind enough to load for both of us this morning. Secondly, as
there is someone else who knows a passage, you must think it highly
improbable I should saddle myself with a lunatic like you.
Thirdly, these gentlemen (who need no longer pretend to be asleep)
are those of my party, and will now proceed to gag and bind you to
the mast; and when your men awaken (if they ever do awake after the
drugs we have mingled in their liquor), I am sure they will be so
obliging as to deliver you, and you will have no difficulty, I
daresay, to explain the business of the keys."
Not a word said Teach, but looked at us like a frightened baby as
we gagged and bound him.
"Now you see, you moon-calf," says Ballantrae, "why we made four
packets. Heretofore you have been called Captain Teach, but I
think you are now rather Captain Learn."
That was our last word on board the SARAH. We four, with our four
packets, lowered ourselves softly into a skiff, and left that ship
behind us as silent as the grave, only for the moaning of some of
the drunkards. There was a fog about breast-high on the waters; so
that Dutton, who knew the passage, must stand on his feet to direct
our rowing; and this, as it forced us to row gently, was the means
of our deliverance. We were yet but a little way from the ship,
when it began to come grey, and the birds to fly abroad upon the
water. All of a sudden Dutton clapped down upon his hams, and
whispered us to be silent for our lives, and hearken. Sure enough,
we heard a little faint creak of oars upon one hand, and then
again, and further off, a creak of oars upon the other. It was
clear we had been sighted yesterday in the morning; here were the
cruiser's boats to cut us out; here were we defenceless in their
very midst. Sure, never were poor souls more perilously placed;
and as we lay there on our oars, praying God the mist might hold,
the sweat poured from my brow. Presently we heard one of the boats
where we might have thrown a biscuit in her. "Softly, men," we
heard an officer whisper; and I marvelled they could not hear the
drumming of my heart.
"Never mind the path," says Ballantrae; "we must get shelter
anyhow; let us pull straight ahead for the sides of the basin."
This we did with the most anxious precaution, rowing, as best we
could, upon our hands, and steering at a venture in the fog, which
was (for all that) our only safety. But Heaven guided us; we
touched ground at a thicket; scrambled ashore with our treasure;
and having no other way of concealment, and the mist beginning
already to lighten, hove down the skiff and let her sink. We were
still but new under cover when the sun rose; and at the same time,
from the midst of the basin, a great shouting of seamen sprang up,
and we knew the SARAH was being boarded. I heard afterwards the
officer that took her got great honour; and it's true the approach
was creditably managed, but I think he had an easy capture when he
came to board. (3)
I was still blessing the saints for my escape, when I became aware
we were in trouble of another kind. We were here landed at random
in a vast and dangerous swamp; and how to come at the path was a
concern of doubt, fatigue, and peril. Dutton, indeed, was of
opinion we should wait until the ship was gone, and fish up the
skiff; for any delay would be more wise than to go blindly ahead in
that morass. One went back accordingly to the basin-side and
(peering through the thicket) saw the fog already quite drunk up,
and English colours flying on the SARAH, but no movement made to
get her under way. Our situation was now very doubtful. The swamp
was an unhealthful place to linger in; we had been so greedy to
bring treasures that we had brought but little food; it was highly
desirable, besides, that we should get clear of the neighbourhood
and into the settlements before the news of the capture went
abroad; and against all these considerations, there was only the
peril of the passage on the other side. I think it not wonderful
we decided on the active part.
It was already blistering hot when we set forth to pass the marsh,
or rather to strike the path, by compass. Dutton took the compass,
and one or other of us three carried his proportion of the
treasure. I promise you he kept a sharp eye to his rear, for it
was like the man's soul that he must trust us with. The thicket
was as close as a bush; the ground very treacherous, so that we
often sank in the most terrifying manner, and must go round about;
the heat, besides, was stifling, the air singularly heavy, and the
stinging insects abounded in such myriads that each of us walked
under his own cloud. It has often been commented on, how much
better gentlemen of birth endure fatigue than persons of the
rabble; so that walking officers who must tramp in the dirt beside
their men, shame them by their constancy. This was well to be
observed in the present instance; for here were Ballantrae and I,
two gentlemen of the highest breeding, on the one hand; and on the
other, Grady, a common mariner, and a man nearly a giant in
physical strength. The case of Dutton is not in point, for I
confess he did as well as any of us. (4) But as for Grady, he
began early to lament his case, tailed in the rear, refused to
carry Dutton's packet when it came his turn, clamoured continually
for rum (of which we had too little), and at last even threatened
us from behind with a cooked pistol, unless we should allow him
rest. Ballantrae would have fought it out, I believe; but I
prevailed with him the other way; and we made a stop and ate a
meal. It seemed to benefit Grady little; he was in the rear again
at once, growling and bemoaning his lot; and at last, by some
carelessness, not having followed properly in our tracks, stumbled
into a deep part of the slough where it was mostly water, gave some
very dreadful screams, and before we could come to his aid had sunk
along with his booty. His fate, and above all these screams of
his, appalled us to the soul; yet it was on the whole a fortunate
circumstance and the means of our deliverance, for it moved Dutton
to mount into a tree, whence he was able to perceive and to show
me, who had climbed after him, a high piece of the wood, which was
a landmark for the path. He went forward the more carelessly, I
must suppose; for presently we saw him sink a little down, draw up
his feet and sink again, and so twice. Then he turned his face to
us, pretty white.
"Lend a hand," said he, "I am in a bad place."
"I don't know about that," says Ballantrae, standing still.
Dutton broke out into the most violent oaths, sinking a little
lower as he did, so that the mud was nearly to his waist, and
plucking a pistol from his belt, "Help me," he cries, "or die and
be damned to you!"
"Nay," says Ballantrae, "I did but jest. I am coming." And he set
down his own packet and Dutton's, which he was then carrying. "Do
not venture near till we see if you are needed," said he to me, and
went forward alone to where the man was bogged. He was quiet now,
though he still held the pistol; and the marks of terror in his
countenance were very moving to behold.
"For the Lord's sake," says he, "look sharp."
Ballantrae was now got close up. "Keep still," says he, and seemed
to consider; and then, "Reach out both your hands!"
Dutton laid down his pistol, and so watery was the top surface that
it went clear out of sight; with an oath he stooped to snatch it;
and as he did so, Ballantrae leaned forth and stabbed him between
the shoulders. Up went his hands over his head - I know not
whether with the pain or to ward himself; and the next moment he
doubled forward in the mud.
Ballantrae was already over the ankles; but he plucked himself out,
and came back to me, where I stood with my knees smiting one
another. "The devil take you, Francis!" says he. "I believe you
are a half-hearted fellow, after all. I have only done justice on
a pirate. And here we are quite clear of the SARAH! Who shall now
say that we have dipped our hands in any irregularities?"
I assured him he did me injustice; but my sense of humanity was so
much affected by the horridness of the fact that I could scarce
find breath to answer with.
"Come," said he, "you must be more resolved. The need for this
fellow ceased when he had shown you where the path ran; and you
cannot deny I would have been daft to let slip so fair an
I could not deny but he was right in principle; nor yet could I
refrain from shedding tears, of which I think no man of valour need
have been ashamed; and it was not until I had a share of the rum
that I was able to proceed. I repeat, I am far from ashamed of my
generous emotion; mercy is honourable in the warrior; and yet I
cannot altogether censure Ballantrae, whose step was really
fortunate, as we struck the path without further misadventure, and
the same night, about sundown, came to the edge of the morass.
We were too weary to seek far; on some dry sands, still warm with
the day's sun, and close under a wood of pines, we lay down and
were instantly plunged in sleep.
We awaked the next morning very early, and began with a sullen
spirit a conversation that came near to end in blows. We were now
cast on shore in the southern provinces, thousands of miles from
any French settlement; a dreadful journey and a thousand perils lay
in front of us; and sure, if there was ever need for amity, it was
in such an hour. I must suppose that Ballantrae had suffered in
his sense of what is truly polite; indeed, and there is nothing
strange in the idea, after the sea-wolves we had consorted with so
long; and as for myself, he fubbed me off unhandsomely, and any
gentleman would have resented his behaviour.
I told him in what light I saw his conduct; he walked a little off,
I following to upbraid him; and at last he stopped me with his
"Frank," says he, "you know what we swore; and yet there is no oath
invented would induce me to swallow such expressions, if I did not
regard you with sincere affection. It is impossible you should
doubt me there: I have given proofs. Dutton I had to take,
because he knew the pass, and Grady because Dutton would not move
without him; but what call was there to carry you along? You are a
perpetual danger to me with your cursed Irish tongue. By rights
you should now be in irons in the cruiser. And you quarrel with me
like a baby for some trinkets!"
I considered this one of the most unhandsome speeches ever made;
and indeed to this day I can scarce reconcile it to my notion of a
gentleman that was my friend. I retorted upon him with his Scotch
accent, of which he had not so much as some, but enough to be very
barbarous and disgusting, as I told him plainly; and the affair
would have gone to a great length, but for an alarming
We had got some way off upon the sand. The place where we had
slept, with the packets lying undone and the money scattered
openly, was now between us and the pines; and it was out of these
the stranger must have come. There he was at least, a great
hulking fellow of the country, with a broad axe on his shoulder,
looking open-mouthed, now at the treasure, which was just at his
feet, and now at our disputation, in which we had gone far enough
to have weapons in our hands. We had no sooner observed him than
he found his legs and made off again among the pines.
This was no scene to put our minds at rest: a couple of armed men
in sea-clothes found quarrelling over a treasure, not many miles
from where a pirate had been captured - here was enough to bring
the whole country about our ears. The quarrel was not even made
up; it was blotted from our minds; and we got our packets together
in the twinkling of an eye, and made off, running with the best
will in the world. But the trouble was, we did not know in what
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