Kidnapped by robert loui.., p.18
Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson, p.18Robert Louis Stevenson
I paid little heed while I lay in this poor pass. But Alan and Cluny were most of the time at the cards, and I am clear that Alan must have begun by winning; for I remember sitting up, and seeing them hard at it, and a great glittering pile of as much as sixty or a hundred guineas on the table. It looked strange enough, to see all this wealth in a nest upon a cliff-side, wattled about growing trees. And even then, I thought it seemed deep water for Alan to be riding, who had no better battle-horse than a green purse and a matter of five pounds.
The luck, it seems, changed on the second day. About noon I was wakened as usual for dinner, and as usual refused to eat, and was given a dram with some bitter infusion which the barber had prescribed. The sun was shining in at the open door of the Cage, and this dazzled and offended me. Cluny sat at the table, biting the pack of cards. Alan had stooped over the bed, and had his face close to my eyes; to which, troubled as they were with the fever, it seemed of the most shocking bigness.
He asked me for a loan of my money.
“What for?” said I.
“O, just for a loan,” said he.
“But why?” I repeated. “I don’t see.”
“Hut, David!” said Alan, “ye wouldnae grudge me a loan?”
I would, though, if I had had my senses! But all I thought of then was to get his face away, and I handed him my money.
On the morning of the third day, when we had been forty-eight hours in the Cage, I awoke with a great relief of spirits, very weak and weary indeed, but seeing things of the right size and with their honest, everyday appearance. I had a mind to eat, moreover, rose from bed of my own movement, and as soon as we had breakfasted, stepped to the entry of the Cage and sat down outside in the top of the wood. It was a grey day with a cool, mild air: and I sat in a dream all morning, only disturbed by the passing by of Cluny’s scouts and servants coming with provisions and reports; for as the coast was at that time clear, you might almost say he held court openly.
When I returned, he and Alan had laid the cards aside, and were questioning a gillie; and the chief turned about and spoke to me in the Gaelic.
“I have no Gaelic, sir,” said I.
Now since the card question, everything I said or did had the power of annoying Cluny. “Your name has more sense than yourself, then,” said he angrily, “for it’s good Gaelic. But the point is this. My scout reports all clear in the south, and the question is, have ye the strength to go?”
I saw cards on the table, but no gold; only a heap of little written papers, and these all on Cluny’s side. Alan, besides, had an odd look, like a man not very well content; and I began to have a strong misgiving.
“I do not know if I am as well as I should be,” said I, looking at Alan; “but the little money we have has a long way to carry us.”
Alan took his under-lip into his mouth, and looked upon the ground.
“David,” says he at last, “I’ve lost it; there’s the naked truth.”
“My money too?” said I.
“Your money too,” says Alan, with a groan. “Ye shouldnae have given it me. I’m daft when I get to the cartes.”
“Hoot-toot! hoot-toot!” said Cluny. “It was all daffing; it’s all nonsense. Of course you’ll have your money back again, and the double of it, if ye’ll make so free with me. It would be a singular thing for me to keep it. It’s not to be supposed that I would be any hindrance to gentlemen in your situation; that would be a singular thing!” cries he, and began to pull gold out of his pocket with a mighty red face.
Alan said nothing, only looked on the ground.
“Will you step to the door with me, sir?” said I.
Cluny said he would be very glad, and followed me readily enough, but he looked flustered and put out.
“And now, sir,” says I, “I must first acknowledge your generosity.”
“Nonsensical nonsense!” cries Cluny. “Where’s the generosity? This is just a most unfortunate affair; but what would ye have me do—boxed up in this bee-skep of a cage of mine—but just set my friends to the cartes, when I can get them? And if they lose, of course, it’s not to be supposed——” And here he came to a pause.
“Yes,” said I, “if they lose, you give them back their money; and if they win, they carry away yours in their pouches! I have said before that I grant your generosity; but to me, sir, it’s a very painful thing to be placed in this position.”
There was a little silence, in which Cluny seemed always as if he was about to speak, but said nothing. All the time he grew redder and redder in the face.
“I am a young man,” said I, “and I ask your advice. Advise me as you would your son. My friend fairly lost his money, after having fairly gained a far greater sum of yours; can I accept it back again? Would that be the right part for me to play? Whatever I do, you can see for yourself it must be hard upon a man of any pride.”
“It’s rather hard on me, too, Mr. Balfour,” said Cluny, “and ye give me very much the look of a man that has entrapped poor people to their hurt. I wouldnae have my friends come to any house of mine to accept affronts; no,” he cried, with a sudden heat of anger, “nor yet to give them!”
“And so you see, sir,” said I, “there is something to be said upon my side; and this gambling is a very poor employ for gentlefolks. But I am still waiting your opinion.”
I am sure if ever Cluny hated any man it was David Balfour. He looked me all over with a warlike eye, and I saw the challenge at his lips. But either my youth disarmed him, or perhaps his own sense of justice. Certainly it was a mortifying matter for all concerned, and not least Cluny; the more credit that he took it as he did.
“Mr. Balfour,” said he, “I think you are too nice and covenanting, but for all that you have the spirit of a very pretty gentleman. Upon my honest word, ye may take this money—it’s what I would tell my son—and here’s my hand along with it!”
* * *
The Flight in the Heather: The Quarrel
Alan and I were put across Loch Errocht under cloud of night, and went down its eastern shore to another hiding-place near the head of Loch Rannoch, whither we were led by one of the gillies from the Cage. This fellow carried all our luggage and Alan’s great-coat in the bargain, trotting along under the burthen, far less than the half of which used to weigh me to the ground, like a stout hill pony with a feather; yet he was a man that, in plain contest, I could have broken on my knee.
Doubtless it was a great relief to walk disencumbered; and perhaps without that relief, and the consequent sense of liberty and lightness, I could not have walked at all. I was but new risen from a bed of sickness; and there was nothing in the state of our affairs to hearten me for much exertion; travelling, as we did, over the most dismal deserts in Scotland, under a cloudy heaven, and with divided hearts among the travellers.
For long, we said nothing; marching alongside or one behind the other, each with a set countenance: I, angry and proud, and drawing what strength I had from these two violent and sinful feelings; Alan angry and ashamed, ashamed that he had lost my money, angry that I should take it so ill.
The thought of a separation ran always the stronger in my mind; and the more I approved of it, the more ashamed I grew of my approval. It would be a fine, handsome, generous thing, indeed, for Alan to turn round and say to me: “Go, I am in the most danger, and my company only increases yours.” But for me to turn to the friend who certainly loved me, and say to him: “You are in great danger, I am in but little; your friendship is a burden; go, take your risks and bear your hardships alone——” no, that was impossible; and even to think of it privily to myself, made my cheeks to burn.
And yet Alan had behaved like a child, and (what is worse) a treacherous child. Wheedling my money from me while I lay half-conscious was scarce better than theft; and yet here he was trudging by my side, without a penny to his name, and by what I could see, quite blithe to sponge upon the money he had driven me to beg
These were the two things uppermost in my mind; and I could open my mouth upon neither without black ungenerosity. So I did the next worst, and said nothing, nor so much as looked once at my companion, save with the tail of my eye.
At last, upon the other side of Loch Errocht, going over a smooth, rushy place, where the walking was easy, he could bear it no longer, and came close to me.
“David,” says he, “this is no way for two friends to take a small accident. I have to say that I’m sorry; and so that’s said. And now if you have anything, ye’d better say it.”
“O,” says I, “I have nothing.”
He seemed disconcerted; at which I was meanly pleased.
“No,” said he, with rather a trembling voice, “but when I say I was to blame?”
“Why, of course, ye were to blame,” said I, coolly; “and you will bear me out that I have never reproached you.”
“Never,” says he; “but ye ken very well that ye’ve done worse. Are we to part? Ye said so once before. Are ye to say it again? There’s hills and heather enough between here and the two seas, David; and I will own I’m no very keen to stay where I’m no wanted.”
This pierced me like a sword, and seemed to lay bare my private disloyalty.
“Alan Breck!” I cried; and then: “Do you think I am one to turn my back on you in your chief need? You dursn’t say it to my face. My whole conduct’s there to give the lie to it. It’s true, I fell asleep upon the muir; but that was from weariness, and you do wrong to cast it up to me——”
“Which is what I never did,” said Alan.
“But aside from that,” I continued, “what have I done that you should even me to dogs by such a supposition? I never yet failed a friend, and it’s not likely I’ll begin with you. There are things between us that I can never forget, even if you can.”
“I will only say this to ye, David,” said Alan, very quietly, “that I have long been owing ye my life, and now I owe ye money. Ye should try to make that burden light for me.”
This ought to have touched me, and in a manner it did, but the wrong manner. I felt I was behaving badly; and was now not only angry with Alan, but angry with myself in the bargain; and it made me the more cruel.
“You asked me to speak,” said I. “Well, then, I will. You own yourself that you have done me a disservice; I have had to swallow an affront: I have never reproached you, I never named the thing till you did. And now you blame me,” cried I, “because I cannae laugh and sing as if I was glad to be affronted. The next thing will be that I’m to go down upon my knees and thank you for it! Ye should think more of others, Alan Breck. If ye thought more of others, ye would perhaps speak less about yourself; and when a friend that likes you very well has passed over an offence without a word, you would be blithe to let it lie, instead of making it a stick to break his back with. By your own way of it, it was you that was to blame; then it shouldnae be you to seek the quarrel.”
“Aweel,” said Alan, “say nae mair.”
And we fell back into our former silence; and came to our journey’s end, and supped, and lay down to sleep, without another word.
The gillie put us across Loch Rannoch in the dusk of the next day, and gave us his opinion as to our best route. This was to get us up at once into the tops of the mountains: to go round by a circuit, turning the heads of Glen Lyon, Glen Lochay, and Glen Dochart, and come down upon the lowlands by Kippen and the upper waters of the Forth. Alan was little pleased with a route which led us through the country of his blood-foes, the Glenorchy Campbells. He objected that by turning to the east, we should come almost at once among the Athole Stewarts, a race of his own name and lineage, although following a different chief, and come besides by a far easier and swifter way to the place whither we were bound. But the gillie, who was indeed the chief man of Cluny’s scouts, had good reasons to give him on all hands, naming the force of troops in every district, and alleging finally (as well as I could understand) that we should nowhere be so little troubled as in a country of the Campbells.
Alan gave way at last, but with only half a heart. “It’s one of the dowiest countries in Scotland,” said he. “There’s naething there that I ken, but heath, and crows, and Campbells. But I see that ye’re a man of some penetration; and be it as ye please!”
We set forth accordingly by this itinerary; and for the best part of three nights travelled on eerie mountains and among the well-heads of wild rivers; often buried in mist, almost continually blown and rained upon, and not once cheered by any glimpse of sunshine. By day, we lay and slept in the drenching heather; by night, incessantly clambered upon break-neck hills and among rude crags. We often wandered; we were often so involved in fog, that we must lie quiet till it lightened. A fire was never to be thought of. Our only food was drammach and a portion of cold meat that we had carried from the Cage; and as for drink, Heaven knows we had no want of water.
This was a dreadful time, rendered the more dreadful by the gloom of the weather and the country. I was never warm; my teeth chattered in my head; I was troubled with a very sore throat, such as I had on the isle; I had a painful stitch in my side, which never left me; and when I slept in my wet bed, with the rain beating above and the mud oozing below me, it was to live over again in fancy the worst part of my adventures—to see the tower of Shaws lit by lightning, Ransome carried below on the men’s backs, Shuan dying on the round-house floor, or Colin Campbell grasping at the bosom of his coat. From such broken slumbers, I would be aroused in the gloaming, to sit up in the same puddle where I had slept, and sup cold drammach; the rain driving sharp in my face or running down my back in icy trickles; the mist enfolding us like as in a gloomy chamber—or, perhaps, if the wind blew, falling suddenly apart and showing us the gulf of some dark valley where the streams were crying aloud.
The sound of an infinite number of rivers came up from all round. In this steady rain the springs of the mountain were broken up; every glen gushed water like a cistern; every stream was in high spate, and had filled and overflowed its channel. During our night tramps, it was solemn to hear the voice of them below in the valleys, now booming like thunder, now with an angry cry. I could well understand the story of the Water Kelpie, that demon of the streams, who is fabled to keep wailing and roaring at the ford until the coming of the doomed traveller. Alan I saw believed it, or half believed it; and when the cry of the river rose more than usually sharp, I was little surprised (though, of course, I would still be shocked) to see him cross himself in the manner of the Catholics.
During all these horrid wanderings we had no familiarity, scarcely even that of speech. The truth is that I was sickening for my grave, which is my best excuse. But besides that I was of an unforgiving disposition from my birth, slow to take offence, slower to forget it, and now incensed both against my companion and myself. For the best part of two days he was unweariedly kind; silent, indeed, but always ready to help, and always hoping (as I could very well see) that my displeasure would blow by. For the same length of time I stayed in myself, nursing my anger, roughly refusing his services, and passing him over with my eyes as if he had been a bush or a stone.
The second night, or rather the peep of the third day, found us upon a very open hill, so that we could not follow our usual plan and lie down immediately to eat and sleep. Before we had reached a place of shelter, the grey had come pretty clear, for though it still rained, the clouds ran higher; and Alan, looking in my face, showed some marks of concern.
“Ye had better let me take your pack,” said he, for perhaps the ninth time since we had parted from the scout beside Loch Rannoch.
“I do very well, I thank you,” said I, as cold as ice.
Alan flushed darkly. “I’ll not offer it again,” he said. “I’m not a patient man, David.”
“I never said you were,” said I, which was exactly the rude, silly speech of a boy of ten.
The third night we were to pass through the western end of the country of Balquhidder. It came clear and cold, with a touch in the air like frost, and a northerly wind that blew the clouds away and made the stars bright. The streams were full, of course, and still made a great noise among the hills; but I observed that Alan thought no more upon the Kelpie, and was in high good spirits. As for me, the change of weather came too late; I had lain in the mire so long that (as the Bible has it) my very clothes “abhorred me.” I was dead weary, deadly sick and full of pains and shiverings; the chill of the wind went through me, and the sound of it confused my ears. In this poor state I had to bear from my companion something in the nature of a persecution. He spoke a good deal, and never without a taunt. “Whig” was the best name he had to give me. “Here,” he would say, “here’s a dub for ye to jump, my Whiggie! I ken you’re a fine jumper!” And so on; all the time with a gibing voice and face.
I knew it was my own doing, and no one else’s; but I was too miserable to repent. I felt I could drag myself but little farther; pretty soon, I must lie down and die on these wet mountains like a sheep or a fox, and my bones must whiten there like the bones of a beast. My head was light perhaps; but I began to love the prospect, I began to glory in the thought of such a death, alone in the desert, with the wild eagles besieging my last moments. Alan would repent then, I thought; he would remember, when I was dead, how much he owed me, and the remembrance would be torture. So I went like a sick, silly, and bad-hearted schoolboy, feeding my anger against a fellow-man, when I would have been better on my knees, crying on God for mercy. And at each of Alan’s taunts, I hugged myself. “Ah!” thinks I to myself, “I have a better taunt in readiness; when I lie down and die, you will feel it like a buffet in your face; ah, what a revenge! ah, how you will regret your ingratitude and cruelty!”
Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson by Robert Louis Stevenson / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes