:vin Ogilvic" (J. M. Borne) on
or Ballantrae," newly
published by Cassells: Her<
are half through the book, is
v that dims glory of
"' Kidnapped ": but. alas! Mr. Stevenson
.led his beautiful kite with a
it along the earth. The
Master's adventures as a pirate have no
o a place in the tale, but it is not
of them one thinks with sorrow. It is
of the latter part of the book, where
Mr. Stevenson takes the brothers to
America, doses the good one with drink,
idealises the cur --for he is a spy and,
in leadinc up to the death of both, con-
i wonderful " winter's tale " into
shocker." . . . The workmanship
continues skilful, but the object is in-
artistic, and the end a charnel-house
instead of a tragedy.
Presented to the
LIBRARY of the
UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO
Mrs. H. ,J. Cody
in- u\s i ni. nL.L.iin/1 THE \\
DEVOTED TO THE TOURING ATTRA BALLAN
Edited by FRANK At last Mr. Wa'i
===== come into his own,
Toronto, Septem play in which he I
====== smother his identit
make-up,' and a
black, or dingy brc
is that of "Jamc
Master of Ballant
has been dramatij
In Robert Louis Stevenson's Master
piece of Stirring Romantic Comedy
The MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
Mason. As every I
knows, "James D!
Walker Whiteside, the distinguishec
American actor, will inaugurate
regular season of the Royal Alexandra sc ' e -grace. At
Theatre on Monday night, Septembefpaf ^f r h< ; had
22nd, at which time he will appeal a ttleneld of Cull<
in Robert Louis Steverson': cele^ 1 ugh seas by for<
brated romance "The Master o'u. a gentleman of Inc
Ballantrae." The dramatization cr JT a " e court of the I
this engrossing novel was made b~ c , . . P^ a ^ ^
Carl Mason, who has utilized certaii^ ^ matlc lncidents <
dramatic incidents in the career o' 9 ' , e entlre act
" Tames Durie," Master of Ballantra^ place in th
m^\ f O 11 TTt5TTf CT TO TJl Q'PT/ *
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9B^s ^B UAvoqs si qoiqAv uioo:
gqq. snqj^ - 9joj9q p9zqiq.n U99C
J9A9U SBq 'SAVOUR J9^UA\ 9qq. SB JBJ O
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
The Master of
A Winter's Tale
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
Literature Publishing Co.
Robert Louis Stevenson at the age
of thirty, when he became the hus-
band of Fanny van de Grift
The Master of
A Winter's Tale
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
Current Literature Publishing Co.
J\ LIBRARY ( ;
SUMMARY OF EVENTS DURING THE
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 mas-
ter; 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 southwest from the days of David
First. A rhyme still current in the countryside
* THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
Kittle folks are the Durrisdeers,
They ride wi* ower mony spears
bears the mark of its antiquity, and the name appears
in another, which common report attributes to
Thomas of Ercildoune himself I cannot say how
truly, and which some have applied I dare not say
with how much justice to the events of this narra-
Twa Dories 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 commend-
able, 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 founda-
tions 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 Bal-
lantrae, 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 neigh-
bours 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 Durris-
deer), 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
4 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
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
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 5
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 tide.
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."
6 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
" Ay ? " said the master. " And there spoke Envy !
Would you trip up my heels Jacob ? " said he, and
dwelled upon the name maliciously.
Mr. Henry went and walked at the low end of the
hall without reply; for he had an excellent gift of
silence. Presently he came back.
" I am the cadet and I should go," said he. " And
my lord here is the master, and he says I shall go.
What say ye to that, my brother ? "
" I say this, Harry," returned the master, " that
when very obstinate folk are met, there are only two
ways out : Blows and I think none of us could care
to go so far; or the arbitrament of chance and here
is a guinea piece. Will you stand by the toss of the
coin ? "
" I will stand and fall by it," said Mr. Henry.
" Heads, I go; shield, I stay."
The coin was spun and it fell shield. " So there
is a lesson for Jacob," says the master.
" We shall live to repent of this," says Mr. Henry,
and flung out of the hall.
As for Miss Alison, she caught up that piece of gold
which had just sent her lover to the wars, and flung it
clean through the family shield in the great painted
" If you loved me as well as I love you, you would
have stayed," cried she.
" ' I could not love you, dear, so well, loved I not
honour more,' " sung 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.
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 7
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 has always been the favourite, to
my shame be it spoken. Never a good hour have I
gotten of you since you were born; no, never one good
hour," and repeated it again the third time. Whether
it was the master's levity, or his insubordination, or
Mr. Henry's word about the favourite son, that had so
much disturbed my lord, I do not know ; but I incline
to think it was the last, for I have it by all accounts
that Mr. Henry was more made up to from that hour.
Altogether it was in pretty ill blood with his family
that the master rode to the north ; which was the more
sorrowful for others to remember when it seemed too
late. By fear and favour, he had scraped together near
upon a dozen men, principally tenants' sons; they
were all pretty full when they set forth, and rode up the
hill by the old abbey, roaring and singing, the white
cockade in every hat. It was a desperate venture for
so small a company to cross the most of Scotland
unsupported; and (what made folk think so the more)
even as that poor dozen was clattering up the hill, a
great ship of the king's navy, that could have brought
them under with a single boat, lay with her broad en-
sign 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 govern-
ment. Miss Alison was shut in her room and did little
but weep, till both were gone; only she stitched the
8 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
cockade upon the master's hat and (as John Paul told
me) it was wetted with tears when he carried it down
In all that followed, Mr. Henry and my old lord
were true to their bargain. That ever they accom-
plished anything is more than I could learn; and that
they were any way strong on the king's side, more than
I believe. But they kept the letter of loyalty, corre-
sponded 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 com-
municative. 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 him-
self from his own country folk. All the small intrigues
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 9
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 " Tarn 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
io THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
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
Mr. Henry got to his feet and stood holding his
chair; it was he that was like ashes now.
" Oh," he burst out suddenly, " I know you loved
" The world knows that, glory be to God ! " cries
she; and then to Mr. Henry: "There is none but
me to know one thing that you were a traitor to
him in your heart."
" God knows," groans he, " it was lost love on both
Time went by in the house after that without much
change; only they were now three instead of four,
which was a perpetual reminder of their loss. Miss
Alison's money, you are to bear in mind, was highly
needful for the estates; and the one brother being
dead, my old lord soon set his heart upon her marrying
the other. Day in, day out, he would work upon her,
sitting by the chimney-side with his finger in his Latin
book, and his eyes set upon her face with a kind of
pleasant intentness that became the old gentleman
very well. If she wept, he would condole with her,
like an ancient man that has seen worse times and
begins to think lightly even of sorrow; if she raged,
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE n
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 ca-
dendo 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 unpop-
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 Tarn'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
12 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
more men, and instead of that he had ridden to King
George. " Ay, and the next day ! " Tarn 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 cauld
corp amang the Hieland heather ! " And at this, if
Tarn had been drinking, he would begin to weep.
Let any one 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 had 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.
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 13
" You too ? And yet ye should ken me better." For
it was he who had helped her with money.
The woman had another stone ready, which she
made as if she would cast; and he, to ward himself,
threw up the hand that held his riding-rod.
" What, would you beat a lassie, ye ugly ? "
cries she, and ran away screaming as though he had
Next day, word went about the country like wild-
fire that Mr. Henry had beaten Jessie Broun within
an inch of her life. I give it as one instance of hovr
this snowball grew and one calumny brought an-
other; until my poor patron was so perished in rep-
utation that he began to keep the house like my lord.
All this while, you may be sure he uttered no com-
plaints 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 r
if by no one else; and he must at least have remarked
the altered habits of his son. Yet even he, it is prob-
able, knew not how high the feeling ran ; and as for
Miss Alison, she was ever the last person to hear news r
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
14 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
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
" You are the first of the house that ever said so,"
cries Miss Alison.
" We will go all three," said my lord : and sure
enough he got into his boots (the first time in four
years a sore business John Paul had to get them
on) and Miss Alison into her riding-coat, and all three
rode together to St. Bride's.
The streets were full of the rifF-raff of all the coun-
try-side, 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 mas-
ter ? " 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;
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 15
and the first thing in the morning, she came to the
old lord in his usual seat.
" If Henry still wants me," said she, " he can have
me now." To himself she had a different speech:
" I bring you no love, Henry; but God knows, all the
pity in the world."
June the first, 1748, was the day of their marriage.
It was December of the same year that first saw me
alighting at the doors of the great house; and from
there I take up the history of events as they befell
under my own observation, like a witness in a court.
I made the last of my journey in the cold end of
December, in a mighty dry day of frost; and who
should be my guide but Patey Macmorland, brother
of Tam ! For a tow-headed, bare-legged brat of ten,
he had more ill tales upon his tongue than ever I
heard the match of; having drunken betimes in his
brother's cup. I was still not so old myself; pride
had not yet the upper hand of curiosity; and indeed
it would have taken any man, that cold morning, to
hear all the old clashes of the country and be shown
all the places by the way where strange things had
fallen out. I had tales of Claverhouse as we came
through the bogs, and tales of the devil as we came
over the top of the scaur. As we came in by the abbey
I heard somewhat of the old monks, and more of
the free-traders, who use its ruins for a magazine,
landing for that cause within a cannon-shot of Dur-
risdeer; 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
1 6 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
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, shrub-
beries, 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 pargetted ceiling with pen-
dants, 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
In the midst of this came Mrs. Henry into the room ;
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 17
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
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 Pate Macmorland's
tales were blotted out of my belief, and I was be-
come, 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, keep-
ing 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 com-
mendation, and from that day his jealousy of my
performance was relaxed; soon it was " Mr. Mac-
kellar " here and " Mr. Mackellar " there with the
whole family, and for much of my service at Dur-
risdeer 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 com-
miseration. One day, I remember, we were late
1 8 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
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 free-traders 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
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 accounts."
It was not long before I began to get wind of the
causes that so much depressed him. Indeed a blind
man must have soon discovered there was a shadow
on that house, the shadow of the Master of Ballan-
trae. 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
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 19
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 pub-
licly, often with a slighting comparison. My lord
and Mrs. Henry took him up, to be sure, but never
so resolutely as they should, and he had only to pull
his weeping face and begin his lamentations for the
master " his laddie," as he called him to have the
whole condoned. As for Henry, he let these things
pass in silence, sometimes with a sad and sometimes
with a black look. There was no rivalling the dead,
he knew that, and how to censure an old serving-
man for a fault of loyalty was more than he could
see. His was not the tongue to do it.
Macconochie was chief upon the other side an
old, ill-spoken, swearing, ranting, drun'ken dog and
I have often thought it an odd circumstance in hu-
man nature that these two serving-men should each
have been the champion of his contrary, and black-
ened their own faults and made light of their own
virtues when they beheld them in a master. Mac-
conochie 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
20 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
word did I hear on his lips, nor naebody else, but
just fleering and flyting and profane cursing deil
ha'e 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 driegh 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, was-
nae'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 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 Car-
1 A kind of firework made with damp powder.
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 21
lisle letter, the print of the horseshoe 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 some-
times 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
" 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 than he understood;
Culloden field and the master, these would be the
burden of his thought; and the burden of mine was
22 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
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 hangdog 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 your-
self. 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
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
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 23
inhabited, mostly by the free-trading 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. Jes-
sie'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
" 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 lad ! "
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 ! "
24 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
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 free-traders, 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
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 25
"** Mr. Henry," said I, " if you will take a freedom
Kt vny hands, I would tell you to let that woman be.
What service is your money to the like of her ? She
has no sobriety and no economy; as for gratitude,
you will as soon get milk from a whinstone; and if
you will pretermit your bounty, it will make no change
at all but just to save the ankles of your messengers."
Mr. Henry smiled. " But I am grieved about your
ankle," said he, the next moment, with a proper
" And observe," I continued, " I give you this
advice upon consideration; and yet my heart was
touched for the woman in the beginning."
" Why, there it is, you see ! " said Mr. Henry.
" And you are to remember that I knew her once a
very decent lass. Besides which, although I speak
little of my family, I think much of its repute."
And with that he broke up the talk, which was the
first we had together in such confidence. But the
same afternoon I had the proof that his father was
perfectly acquainted with the business, and that it was
only from his wife that Mr. Henry kept it secret.
" I fear you had a painful errand to-day," says my
lord to me : " for which, as it enters in no way among
your duties, I wish to thank you, and to remind you
at the same time (in case Mr. Henry should have
neglected) how very desirable it is that no word of it
should reach my daughter. Reflections on the dead,
Mr. Mackellar, are doubly painful."
Anger glowed in my heart; and I could have told
my lord to his face how little he had to do, bolstering
up the image of the dead in Mrs. Henry's heart, and
26 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
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 dis-
loyalty 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
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 27
table, and go and join himself to his wife and my Lord
Durrisdeer; and on their part, they were never back-
ward 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 consola-
tion, 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
I have hours when I blame Mr. Henry for taking
all too patiently; yet \ve 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 fanciers, 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
28 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
withdrawn as usual to 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 es-
tates 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, how-
ever, was not replaced, and I believe he counted it a
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 tookit like a favour.
She held him at the staff's end; forgot and then
remembered and unbent to him, as we do to children;
burdened 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 hand-
kerchief 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;
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 29
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 of
April, 1749, when there befell the first of that series
of events which were to break so marry 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 majordomo's con-
" Well," said I, smiling a little, " I will see what
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
" 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
30 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
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
" 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
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 31
sure they will be very rejoiced to have the reading
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
" If you will step in here," said I, opening a chamber
door, " I will let my lord know."
" And I am sure it's very good of you, Mr. What-is-
your-name," says the colonel.
Up to the hall I went, slow footed. There they
were all three, my old lord in his place, Mrs. Henry
at work by the window, Mr. Henry (as was much his
custom) pacing the low end. In the midst was the
table laid for supper. I told them briefly what I had
to say. My old lord lay back in his seat. Mrs. Henry
sprung up standing with a mechanical motion, and she
and her husband stared at each other's eyes across
the room ; it was the strangest, challenging look these
two exchanged, and as they looked, the colour faded
in their faces. Then Mr. Henry turned to me; not
to speak, only to sign with his finger; but that was
enough, and I went down again for the colonel.
When we returned, these three were in much the
same position I had left them in; I believe no word
" My Lord Durrisdeer, no doubt ? " says the
colonel, bowing, and my lord bowed in answer. " And
32 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
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 com-
rade 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
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 33
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
Mrs. Henry looked at her husband with something
like relief or even gratitude. In my way of think-
ing, that speech was the first step he made in her
" You must try to forgive me, Mrs. Durie, for in-
deed 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 ad-
vanced toward Mrs. Henry holding out the second.
But the lady waved it back. " To my husband,"
says she, with a choked voice.
The colonel was a quick man, but at this he was
somewhat nonplussed. " To be sure," says he; " how
very dull of me ! To be sure." But he still held the
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
34 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
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 sud-
denest, 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 afterward, she gave him the letter again,
" 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 mas-
ter 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 in-
terval. 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
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 35
on the master, running to a much greater length
than my whole story, and not everywhere (as it
seems to me) designed for edification. He begged
in his letter, dated from Ettenheim, that I would
find a publisher for the whole after I had made what
use of it I required, and I think I shall best answer
my own purpose and fulfil his wishes by printing
certain parts of it in full. In this way my readers will
have a detailed and I believe a very genuine account
of some essential matters, and if any publisher should
take a fancy to the chevalier's manner of narration he
knows where to apply for the rest, of which there is
plenty at his service. I put in my first extract here, so
that it may stand in the place of what the chevalier
told us over our wine in the hall of Durrisdeer; but
you are to suppose it was not the brutal fact, but a
very varnished version that he offered to my lord.
THE MASTER'S WANDERINGS
From the Memoirs of the Chevalier de Burke
... I LEFT Ruthven (it's hardly necessary to re-
mark) 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 cir
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 37
cumstance by itself as romantic as any fable of King
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, 1 but I have seen
him since in France) who chanced to be passing the
same way, and had a jealousy of my companion.
Very uncivil expressions were exchanged; and Stewart
calls upon the master to alight and have it out.
" Why, Mr. Stewart," says the master, " I think
at the present time I would prefer to run a race with
you." And with the word claps spurs to his horse.
Stewart ran after us, a childish thing to do, for
more than a mile; and I could not help laughing as
I looked back at last and saw him on a hill holding
his hand to his side and nearly burst with running.
" But all the same," I could not help saying to my
companion, " I would let no man run after me for
any such proper purpose and not give him his desire.
It was a good jest, but it smells a trifle cowardly."
He bent his brows at me. " I do pretty well,"
says he, " when I saddle myself with the most un-
popular man in Scotland, and let that suffice for
" Oh, 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
1 Note by Mr. Mackellar. Should not this be Alan Brtck
Stewart, afterward notorious as the Appin murderer ? The
chevalier is sometimes very weak on names.
38 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
" Colonel Burke," says he, " do not let us quarrel;
and to that effect, let me assure you I am the least
patient man in the world."
" I am as little patient as yourself," said I. " I
care not who knows that."
" At this rate," said 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
" 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."
" Oh, I am as bad as yourself," said I. '" There is
no skim milk in Francis Burke. But which is it to
be ? Fight or make friends ? "
" Why/' says he, " I think it will be the best manner
to spin a coin for it."
This proposition was too highly chivalrous not to
take my fancy; and strange as it may seem of two
well-born gentlemen of to-day, we spun 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
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 39
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 ex-
plained 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."
Toward 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 truth."
I asked him if he meant about the battle; for if
the captain once knew the standard was down, he
would certainly put to sea again at once.
" And even then ! " said he ; " the arms are now
of no sort of utility."
" My dear man," said I, " who thinks of the arms ?
But to be sure we must remember our friends. They
will be close upon our heels, perhaps the prince him-
self, and if the ship be gone, a great number of valuable
lives may be imperilled."
40 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
" The captain and the crew have lives also, if you
come to that," says Ballantrae.
This I declared was but a quibble, and that I
would not hear of the captain being told; and then
it was that Ballantrae made me a witty answer, for
the sake of which (and also because I have been
blamed myself in this business of the Sainte-Marie-
des-Anges} I have related the whole conversation as
" 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 northeast, 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
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 41
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
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 sit-
uation, 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
42 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
sung 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 ex-
pression. 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 divil for ye."
The word pleased him; and (not to dwell upon
these shocking incidents) Ballantrae and I and two
others were taken for recruits, while the skipper and
all the rest were cast into the sea by the method of
walking the plank. It was the first time I had seen
this done ; my heart died within me at the spectacle ;
and Master Teach or one of his acolytes (for my
head was too much lost to be precise) remarked
upon my pale face in a very alarming manner. I
had the strength to cut a step or two of a jig and
cry out some ribaldry, which saved me for that time;
but my legs were like water when I must get down
into the skiff among these miscreants; and what
with my horror of my company and fear of the mon-
strous 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
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 43
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. Crowd'
ing 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 High-
land 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 per-
ceive the sagacity of Aristotle and the other old phi-
losophers; 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, not yet life itself which is worth acquiring
or preserving at the slightest cost of dignity.
It was long before I got private speech of Ballan-
trae; but at length one night we crept out upon the
44 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
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 poor-
est 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 upon me.
" I am not very easy frightened," said he, " nor
very easy beat."
A few days after there befell an accident which
had nearly hanged us all, and offers the most extraor-
dinary picture of the folly that ruled in our con-
cerns. We were all pretty drunk; and some bed-
lamite 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 ob-
served 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
sthe Jolly Roger!"
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 45
It was the merest drunken braggadocio at such a
stage, and might have lost us a valuable prize; but
I thought it no part of mine to reason, and I ran up the
black flag with my own hand.
Ballantrae steps presently aft with a smile upon his
" You may perhaps like to know, you drunken dog,"
says he, " that you are chasing a king's ship."
Teach roared him the lie; but he ran at the same
time to the bulwarks, and so did they all. I have
never seen so many drunken men struck suddenly
sober. The cruiser had gone about, upon our impu-
dent 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 over-
board. 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 mismanage-
ment. 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 yardarm.
46 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
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 un-
derstood 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 bran-
dishing 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
he 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.
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 47
" Knock that out of his hand ! " says Ballantrae, so
sudden and sharp that my arm obeyed him before
my mind had understood.
Teach stood like one stupid, never thinking on his
" Go down to your cabin," cries Ballantrae, " and
come on deck again when you are sober. Do you
think we are going to hang for you, you black-faced,
half-witted, drunken brute and butcher ? Go down ! "
And he stamped his foot at him with such a sudden
smartness that Teach fairly ran for it to the com-
" And now, mates," says Ballantrae, " a word
with you. I don't know if you are gentlemen of for-
tune for the fun of the thing; but I am not. I want
to make money, and get ashore again, and spend it
like a man. And on one thing my mind is made up : I
will not hang if I can help it. Come : give me a hint;
I'm only a beginner! Is there no way to get a little
discipline and common sense about this business ? "
One of the men spoke up : he said by rights they
should have a quartermaster; and no sooner was the
word out of his mouth, than they were all of that
opinion. The thing went by acclamation; Ballan-
trae 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 pro-
posal 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
48 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
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 re-
duce his proportion of the plunder. This carried it;
Teach's share was cut down to a mere derision, being
actually less than mine; and there remained only two
points : whether he would consent, and who was to
announce to him this resolution.
" Do not let that stick you," says Ballantrae, " I
will do that."
And he stepped to the companion and down alorce
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 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 overhauled and doing on the whole a pretty for-
tunate 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 ex-
tremely better with our designs, and Ballantrae kept
his lead to my admiration from that day forth. I
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 49
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 Crowd-
ing 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 ingenu-
ous, 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 my witnesses. But when
we must proceed on one of our abordages, the heart
of Francis Burke was in his boots; the little egg-shell
skiff in which we must set forth, the horrible heaving
of the vast billows, the height of the ship that we must
scale, the thought of how many might be there in
garrison upon their legitimate defence, the scowling
heavens which (in that climate) so often looked darkly
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
go THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
these acts of piracy far the most revolting. I con-
fess 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 license; 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, lash-
ing 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 anx-
ious sincerity. But the rest, having no such grounds
of hope, fell to another pastime, that of computation.
All day long they would be telling up their shares or
glooming over the result. I have said we were pretty
fortunate. But an observation fails to be made : that
in this world, in no business that I have tried, do th
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE " 51
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 pur-
pose 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 for 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
52 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
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 near the 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; 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 wha'
increase had come to his share by the death of the twi
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 53
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
recognized the Sarah. We were very careful, by
destroying every member of those crews we over-
hauled, 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 with-
out 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 sur-
prise 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 an-
swer 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 on a scene of drunken-
ness indescribable. By afternoon we were a mere
shipful of lunatical persons, throwing of things over-
board, howling of different songs at the same time,
54 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
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 to 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. Pres-
ently down came Ballantrae, lighted 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 bound? 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
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 55
before these yells and howls died out into a sort of
miserable moaning, and then to silence; and it seemed
a long while after that before Ballantrae came
down again, this time with Teach upon his heels.
The latter cursed at the sight of us three upon the
" Tut," says Ballantrae, " you might fire a pistol
at their ears. You know what stuff they have been
There was a hatch in the cabin floor, and under
that the richest part of the booty was stored against
the day of division. It fastened with a ring and three
padlocks, the keys (for greater security) being di-
vided: 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 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. Sec-
ondly, as there is some one else who knows a pas-
56 X THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
sage, 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 dare
say, 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 make 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 drunk-
ards. 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 deliver-
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;
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 57
here were the cruiser's boats to cut us out; here we
were 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 treas-
ure; 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
sprung up, and we knew the Sarah was being boarded.
I heard afterward 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. T
1 Note by Mr. Mackellar. This Teach of the Sarah must not
be confused with the celebrated " Blackboard." The dates and
facts by no means tally. It is possible the second Teach may
have at once borrowed the name and imitated the more excessive
part of his manners from the first. Even the Master of Ballan-
trae could make admirers.
58 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
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 dan-
gerous 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
It was already blistering hot when we set forth to
pass the marsh, or rather to strike the path, by com-
pass. 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 sunk in the most terrify-
ing manner, and must go round about; the heat,
besides, was stifling; the air singularly heavy, and
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 59
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. 1 But
as for Grady, he began early to lament his case, tailed
in the rear, refused to carry Button's packet when it
came his turn, clamoured continually for rum (of
which we had too little) and at last even threatened
us from behind with a cocked pistol, unless we should
allow him rest. Ballantrae would have fought it out,
I believe; but I prevailed with him the other way;
and we made a stop and eat 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 deliv-
1 Note by Mr. Mackellar. And is not this the whole explana-
tion ? since this Dutton, exactly like the officers, enjoyed the
stimulus of some responsibility.
60 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
erance. 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,
" Lend a hand," said he, " I am in a bad place."
" I don't know about that," says Ballantrae, stand-
Dutton broke out into the most violent oaths, sink-
ing 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 Ballan-
trae leaned forth and stabbed him between the shoul-
ders. Up went his hands over his head, I know not
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 61
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
" Come," said he, " you must be more resolved.
The need for this fellow ceased when he had shown
you where the path ran ; and you cannot deny I would
have been daft to let slip so fair an opportunity."
I could not deny but he was right in principle;
nor yet could I refrain from shedding tears, of which
I think no man of valour need have been ashamed;
and it was not until I had a share of the rum that I
was able to proceed. I repeat I am far from ashamed
of my generous emotion ; mercy is honourable in the
warrior; and yet I cannot altogether censure Ballan-
trae, 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
62 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
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 unhand-
somely, and any gentleman would have resented his
I told him in what light I saw his conduct: he
walked a little off, I following to upbraid him; and
at last he stopped me with his hand.
"Frank," says he, "you know what we swore;
and yet there is no oath invented would induce me
to swallow such expressions, if I did not regard you
with sincere affection. It is impossible you should
doubt me there : I have given proofs. Dutton I had
to take, because he knew the pass, and Grady because
Dutton would not move without him; but what call
was there to carry you along ? You are a perpetual
danger to me with your cursed Irish tongue. By
rights you should now be in irons in the cruiser. And
you quarrel with me like a baby for some trinkets ! "
I considered this one of the most unhandsome
speeches ever made; and indeed to this day I can
scarce reconcile it to my notion of a gentleman that
was my friend. I retorted upon him with his Scotch
accent, of which he had not so much as some, but
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 63
enough to be very barbarous and disgusting, as I told
him plainly; and the affair would have gone to a
great length, but for an alarming intervention.
We had got some way off upon the sand. The
place where we had slept, with the packets lying
undone and the money scattered openly, was now
between us and the pines; and it was out of these the
stranger must have come. There he was at least, a
great hulking fellow of the country, with a broad-ax
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
This was no scene to put our minds at rest; a
couple of armed men in sea-clothes found quarrelling
over a treasure, not many miles from where a pirate
had been captured here was enough to bring the
whole country about our ears. The quarrel was not
even made up; it was blotted from our minds; and
we got our packets together in the twinkling of an eye
and made off, running with the best will in the world.
But the trouble was, we did not know in what direction,
and must continually return upon our steps. Ballan-
trae had indeed collected what he could from Dutton ;
but it's hard to travel upon hearsay; and the estuary,
which spreads into a vast irregular harbour, turned us
off upon every side with a new stretch of water.
We were near beside ourselves and already quite
spent with running, when coming to the top of a dune,
we saw we were again cut off by another ramification
64 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
of the bay. This was a creek, however, very different
from those that had arrested us before; being set in
rocks, and so precipitously deep that a small vessel
was able to lie alongside, made fast with a hawser;
and her crew had laid a plank to the shore. Here they
had lighted a fire and were sitting at their meal. As
for the vessel herself, she was one of those they build
in the Bermudas.
The love of gold and the great hatred that every-
body has to pirates were motives of the most influen-
tial, and would certainly raise the country in our
pursuit. Besides, it was now plain we were on some
sort of straggling peninsula like the fingers of a hand;
and the wrist, or passage to the mainland, which we
should have taken at the first, was by this time not
improbably secured. These considerations put us
on a bolder counsel. For as long as we dared, looking
every moment to hear sounds of the chase, we lay
among some bushes on the top of the dune; and
having by this means secured a little breath and
recomposed our appearance, we strolled down at last,
with a great affectation of carelessness, to the party
by the fire.
It was a trader and his negroes, belonging to Albany
in the province of New York, and now on the way
home from the Indies with a cargo; his name I cannot
recall. We were amazed to learn he had put in here
from terror of the Sarah ; for we had no thought out
exploits had been so notorious. As soon as the Al-
banian heard she had been taken the day before, he
jumped to his feet, gave us a cup of spirits for our
good news, and sent his negroes to get sail on the
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 65
Bermudan. On our side, we profited by the dram
to become more confidential, and at last offered our-
selves as passengers. He looked askance at our tarry
clothes and pistols, and replied civilly enough that he
had scarce accommodation for himself; nor could
either our prayers or our offers of money, in which we
advanced pretty far, avail to shake him.
" I see you think ill of us," says Ballantrae, " but I
will show you how well we think of you by telling you
the truth. We are Jacobite fugitives, and there is a
price upon our heads."
At this the Albanian was plainly moved a little.
He asked us many questions as to the Scotch war,
which Ballantrae very patiently answered. And then,
with a wink, in a vulgar manner, " I guess you and
your Prince Charlie got more than you cared about,"
" Bedad, and that we did," said I. " And, my dear
man, I wish you would set a new example and give us
just that much."
This I said in the Irish way, about which there is
allowed to be something very engaging. It's a remark-
able thing, and a testimony to the love with which our
nation is regarded, that this address scarce ever fails
in a handsome fellow. I cannot tell how often I have
seen a private soldier escape the horse, or a beggar
wheedle out a good alms, by a touch of the brogue.
And indeed, as soon as the Albanian had laughed at
me I was pretty much at rest. Even then, however,
he made many conditions and (for one thing) took
away our arms, before he suffered us aboard, which
was the signal to cast off; so that in a moment after
66 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
we were gliding down the bay with a good breeze and
blessing the name of God for our deliverance. Almost
in the mouth of the estuary we passed the cruiser, and
a little after, the poor Sarah with her prize crew; and
these were both sights to make us tremble. The
Bermudan seemed a very safe place to be in, and
our bold stroke to have been fortunately played, when
we were thus reminded of the case of our companions.
For all that, we had only exchanged traps, jumped
out of the frying-pan into the fire, run from the yard-
arm to the block, and escaped the open hostility of the
man-of-war to lie at the mercy of the doubtful faith
of our Albanian merchant.
From many circumstances, it chanced we were
safer than we could have dared to hope. The town
of Albany was at that time much concerned in contra-
band trade across the desert with the Indians and the
French. This, as it was highly illegal, relaxed their
loyalty, and as it brought them in relation with the
politest people on the earth, divided even their sym-
pathies. In short, they were like all the smugglers in
the world, spies and agents ready-made for either
party. Our Albanian, besides, was a very honest man
indeed, and very greedy; and to crown our luck, he
conceived a great delight in our society. Before we
had reached the town of New York we had come to a
full agreement; that he should carry us as far as
Albany upon his ship, and thence put us on a way to
pass the boundaries and join the French. For all
this we were to pay at a high rate; but beggars cannot
be choosers, nor outlaws bargainers.
We sailed, then, up the Hudson River which, I
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 67
protest, is a very fine stream, and put up at the King's
Arms in Albany. The town was full of the militia of
the province, breathing slaughter against the French.
Governor Clinton was there himself, a very busy man,
and, by what I could learn, very near distracted by the
factiousness of his Assembly. The Indians on both
sides were on the war-path ; we saw parties of them
bringing in prisoners and (what was much worse)
scalps, both male and female, for which they were
paid at a fixed rate; and I assure you the sight was
not encouraging. Altogether we could scarce have
come at a period more unsuitable for our designs;
our position in the chief inn was dreadfully con-
spicuous; our Albanian fubbed us off with a thousand
delays and seemed upon the point of a retreat from
his engagements; nothing but peril appeared to
environ the poor fugitives; and for some time we
drowned our concern in a very irregular course of
This too proved to be fortunate; and it's one of
the remarks that fall to be made upon our escape,
how providentially our steps were conducted to the
very end. What a humiliation to the dignity of man !
My philosophy, the extraordinary genius of Ballan-
trae, our valour, in which I grant that we were equal
all these might have proved insufficient without the
Divine blessing on our efforts. And how true it is,
as the church tells us, that the truths of religion are
after all quite applicable even to daily affairs ! At
least it was in the course of our revelry that we made
the acquaintance of a spirited youth by the name of
Chew. He was one of the most daring of the Indian
68 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
traders, very well acquainted with the secret paths of
the wilderness, needy, dissoiute, and by a last good
fortune, in some disgrace with his family. Him we
persuaded to come to our relief; he privately provided
what was needful for our flight; and one day we
slipped out of Albany, without a word to our former
friend, and embarked, a little above, in a canoe.
To the toils and perils of this journey, it would
require a pen more elegant than mine to do full
justice. The reader must concsivs for himself the
dreadful wilderness which we had now to thread;
its thickets, swamps, precipitous rocks 5 impetuous
rivers, and amazing water-falls. Among these bar-
barous scenes we must toil all day, now paddling,
now carrying our canoe upon our shoulders; and
at night we slept about a fire, surrounded by the
howling of wolves and other savage animals. It
was our design to mount the head-waters of the
Hudson, to the neighbourhood of Crown Point, where
the French had a strong place in the woods, upon Lake
Champlain. But to have done this directly were too
perilous ; and it was accordingly gone upon by such a
labyrinth of rivers, lakes, and portages as makes my
head giddy to remember. These paths were in ordi-
nary times entirely desert; but the country was now
up, the tribes on the war-path, the woods full of Indian
scouts. Again and again we came upon these parties,
when we least expected them; and one day, in par-
ticular, I shall never forget; how, as dawn was com-
ing in, we were suddenly surrounded by five or six
of these painted devils, uttering a very dreary sort of
cry and brandishing their hatchets. It passed off
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 69
harmlessly indeed, as did the rest of our encounters;
for Chew was well known and highly valued among
the different tribes. Indeed, he was a very gallant,
respectable young man. But even with the advan-
tage of his companionship, you must not think these
meetings were without sensible peril. To prove friend-
ship on our part, it was needful to draw upon our
stock of rum indeed, under whatever disguise,
that is the true business of the Indian trader, to keep
a travelling public-house in the forest; and when
once the braves had got their bottle of scaura (as they
call this beastly liquor) it behoved us to set forth
and paddle for our scalps. Once they were a little
drunk, good-bye to any sense or decency; they had
but the one thought, to get more scaura; they might
easily take it in their heads to give us chase; and had
we been overtaken I had never written these memoirs.
We were come to the most critical portion of our
course, where we might equally expect to fall into
the hands of French or English, when a terrible
calamity befell us. Chew was taken suddenly sick
with symptoms like those of poison, and in the course
of a few hours expired in the bottom of the canoe.
We thus lost at once our guide, our interpreter, our
boatman and our passport, for he was all these in
one; and found ourselves reduced, at a blow, to
the most desperate and irremediable distress. Chew,
who took a great pride in his knowledge, had indeed
often lectured us on the geography; and Ballantrae,
I believe, would listen. But for my part I have al-
ways found such information highly tedious; and
beyond the fact that we were now in the country of
70 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
the Adirondack Indians, and not so distant from ou;
destination, could we but have found the way, I was
entirely ignorant. The wisdom of my course was
soon the more apparent; for with all his pains,
Ballantrae was no further advanced than myself.
He knew we must continue to go up one stream;
then, by way of a portage, down another; and then
up a third. But you are to consider, in a mountain
country, how many streams come rolling in from
every hand. And how is a gentleman, who is a per-
fect stranger in that part of the world, to tell any
one of them from any other ? Nor was this our only
trouble. We were great novices, besides, in han-
dling a canoe; the portages were almost beyond our
strength, so that I have seen us sit down in despair
for half an hour at a time without one word; and
the appearance of a single Indian, since we had
now no means of speaking to them, would have
been in all probability the means of our destruction.
There is altogether some excuse if Ballantrae showed
something of a glooming disposition; his habit of
imputing blame to others, quite as capable as himself,
was less tolerable, and his language it was not always
easy to accept. Indeed, he had contracted on board
the pirate ship a manner of address which was in a
high degree unusual between gentlemen; and now
when you might say he was in a fever, it increased
upon him hugely.
The third day of these wanderings, as we were
carrying the canoe upon a rocky portage, she fell and
was entirely bilged. The portage was between two
lakes, both pretty extensive; the track, such as if
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 71
was, opened at both ends upon the water, and on
both hands was inclosed by the unbroken woods;
and the sides of the lakes were quite impassable
with bog; so that we beheld ourselves not only con-
demned to go without our boat and the greater part
of our provisions, but to plunge at once into impene-
trable thickets and to desert what little guidance we
still had the course of the river. Each stuck his
pistols in his belt, shouldered an ax, made a pack
of his treasure and as much food as he could stagger
under, and deserting the rest of our possessions, even
to our swords, which would have much embarrassed
us among the woods, we set forth on this deplorable
adventure. The labours of Hercules, so finely de-
scribed by Homer, were a trifle to what we now
underwent. Some parts of the forest were perfectly
dense down to the ground, so that we must cut our
way like mites in a cheese. In some the bottom
was full of deep swamp, and the whole wood en-
tirely rotten. I have leaped on a great fallen log
and sunk to the knees in touchwood; I have sought
to stay myself, in falling, against what looked to be
a solid trunk, and the whole thing has whiffed away
at my touch like a sheet of paper. Stumbling, fall-
ing, bogging to the knees, hewing our way, our eyes
almost put out with twigs and branches, our clothes
plucked from our bodies, we laboured all day, and it
is doubtful if we made two miles. What was worse,
as we could rarely get a view of the country and
were perpetually justled from our path by obstacles,
it was impossible even to have a guess in what direction
we were moving.
72 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
A little before sundown, in an open place with a
stream and set about with barbarous mountains,
Ballantrae threw down his pack. " I will go no
further," said he, and bade me light the fire, damning
my blood in terms not proper for a chair-man.
I told him to try to forget he had ever been a pirate,
and to remember he had been a gentleman.
" Are you mad ? " he cried. " Don't cross me
here ! " And then, shaking his fist at the hills, " To
think," cries he, " that I must leave my bones in this
miserable wilderness ! Would God I had died upon
the scaffold like a gentleman ! " This he said ranting
like an actor; and then sat biting his fingers and
staring on the ground, a most unchristian object.
I took a certain horror of the man, for I thought
a soldier and a gentleman should confront his end
with more philosophy. I made him no reply, there-
fore, in words; and presently the evening fell so
chill that I was glad, for my own sake, to kindle a
fire. And yet God knows, in such an open spot,
and the country alive with savages, the act was little
short of lunacy. Ballantrae seemed never to observe
me, but at last, as I was about parching a little corn,
he looked up.
" Have you ever a brother ? " said he.
" By the blessing of Heaven," said I, " not less*
" I have the one," said he, with a strange voice;
and then presently, " He shall pay me for all this,"
he added. And when I asked him what was his
brother's part in our distress, " What ! " he cried,
" he sits in my place, he bears my name, he courts
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 73
my wife; and I am here alone with a damned Irish-
man in this tooth-chattering desert ! Oh, I have been
a common gull ! " he cried.
The explosion was in all ways so foreign to my
friend's nature that I was daunted out of all my
just susceptibility. Sure, an offensive expression,
however vivacious, appears a wonderfully small affair
in circumstances so extreme ! But here there is a
strange thing to be noted. He had only once before
referred to the lady with whom he was contracted.
That was when he came in view of the town of New
York, when he had told me, if all had their rights,
he was now in sight of his own property, for Miss
Graeme enjoyed a large estate in the province. And
this was certainly a natural occasion; but now here
she was named a second time; and what is surely
fit to be observed, in this very month, which was
November, '47, and I believe upon that very day, as
we sat among those barbarous mountains, his brother
and Miss Graeme were married. I am the least super-
stitious of men; but the hand of Providence is here
displayed too openly not to be remarked. 1
The next day, and the next, were passed in simi-
lar labours; Ballantrae often deciding on our course
by the spinning of a coin; and once, when I expos-
tulated on this childishness, he had an odd remark
that I have never forgotten, " I know no better way,"
said he, " to express my scorn of human reason."
I think it was the third day that we found the
1 Note by Mr. Mackellar. A complete blunder : there was at
this date no word of the marriage : see above in my own nan
74 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
body of a Christian, scalped and most abominably
mangled, and lying in a pudder of his blood, the
birds of the desert screaming over him, as thick as
flies. I cannot describe how dreadfully this sight
affected us; but it robbed me of all strength and all
hope for this world. The same day, and only a little
after, we were scrambling over a part of the forest
that had been burned, when Ballantrae, who was a
little ahead, ducked suddenly behind a fallen trunk.
I joined him in this shelter, whence we could look
abroad without being seen ourselves; and in the
bottom of the next vale beheld a large war party of
the savages going by across our line. There might
be the value of a weak battalion present; all naked
to the waist, blacked with grease and suet, and painted
with white lead and vermilion, according to their
beastly habits. They went one behind another like a
string of geese, and at a quickish trot; so that they
took but a little while to rattle by and disappear again
among the woods. Yet I suppose we endured a
greater agony of hesitation and suspense in those
few minutes than goes usually to a man's whole life.
Whether they were French or English Indians,
whether they desired scalps of prisoners, whether
we should declare ourselves upon the chance or lie
quiet and continue the heart-breaking business of
our journey : sure, I think, these were questions to
have puzzled the brains of Aristotle himself. Bal-
lantrae turned to me with a face all wrinkled up and
his teeth showing in his mouth, like that I have read
of people starving; he said no word, but his whole
appearance was a kind of dreadful question.
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 75
" They may be on the English side," I whispered ;
* and think ! the best we could then hope, is to begin
this over again."
" I know, I know," he said. " Yet it must come
to a plunge at last." And he suddenly plucked out
his coin, shook it in his closed hand, looked at it,
and then lay down with his face in the dust.
Addition by Mr. Mackellar. I drop the cheva-
lier's narration at this point because the couple
quarrelled and separated the same day; and the
chevalier's account of the quarrel seems to me (I
must confess) quite incompatible with the nature of
either of the men. Henceforth, they wandered
alone, undergoing extraordinary sufferings; until
first one and then the other was picked up by a party
from Fort St. Frederick. Only two things are to be
noted. And first (as most important for my purpose)
that the master in the course of his miseries buried
his treasure, at a point never since discovered, but
of which he took a drawing in his own blood on the
lining of his hat. And second, that on his coming
thus penniless to the fort, he was welcomed like a
brother by the chevalier, who thence paid his way to
France. The simplicity of Mr. Burke's character
leads him at this point to praise the master exceed-
ingly; to an eye more worldly wise, it would seem it
was the chevalier alone that was to be commended.
I have the more pleasure in pointing to this really very
noble trait of my esteemed correspondent, as I fear I
may have wounded him immediately before. I have
refrained from comments on any of his extraordi-
76 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
nary and (in my eyes) immoral opinions, for I know
him to be jealous of respect. But his version of the
quarrel is really more than I can reproduce; for I
knew the master myself, and a man more insus-
ceptible of fear is not conceivable. I regret this
oversight of the chevalier's^and all the more because
the tenor of his narrative (set aside a few flourishes)
strikes me as highly ingenuous.
PERSECUTIONS ENDURED BY MR. HENRY
YOU can guess on what part of his adventures
the colonel principally dwelt. Indeed, if we
had heard it all, it is to be thought the current
of this business had been wholly altered ; but the pirate
ship was very gently touched upon. Nor did I hear
the colonel to an end even of that which he was will-
ing to disclose; for Mr. Henry, having for some
while been plunged in a brown study, rose at last
from his seat and (reminding the colonel there were
matters that he must attend to) bade me follow him
immediately to the office.
Once there, he sought no longer to dissemble his
concern, walking to and fro in the room with a con-
torted face, and passing his hand repeatedly upon his
"We have some business," he began at last; and
there broke off, declared we must have wine, and
sent for a magnum of the best. This was extremely
foreign to his habitudes ; and what was still more so,
when the wine had come he gulped down one glass
upon another like a man careless of appearances.
But the drink steadied him.
78 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
" You will scarce be surprised, Mackellar," says
he, " when I tell you that my brother (whose safety
we are all rejoiced to learn) stands in some need of
I told him I had misdoubted as much; but the
time was not very fortunate as the stock was low.
" Not mine," said he. " There is the money for
I reminded him it was Mrs. Henry's.
" I will be answerable to my wife," he cried vio-
" And then," said I, " there is the mortgage."
" I know," said he, " it is on that I would consult
I showed him how unfortunate a time it was to
divert this money from its destination; and how by
so doing we must lose the profit of our past econo-
mies, and plunge back the estate into the mire. I
even took the liberty to plead with him; and when
he still opposed me with a shake of the head and a
bitter, dogged smile, my zeal quite carried me beyond
my place. ''' This is midsummer madness," cried I;
" and I for one will be no party to it."
' You speak as though I did it for my pleasure,"
says he. " But I have a child now; and besides I
love order; and to say the honest truth, Mackellar,
I had began to take a pride in the estates." He
gloomed for a moment. " But what would you
have ? " he went on. " Nothing is mine, nothing.
This day's news has knocked the bottom out of my
life. I have only the name and the shaaow of things;
only the shadow; there is no substance in my rights."
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 79
" They will prove substantial enough before a
court," said I.
He looked at me with a burning eye, and seemed
to repress the word upon his lips; and I repented
what I had said, for I saw that while he spoke of the
estate he had still a side-thought to his marriage.
And then, of a sudden, he twitched the letter from
his pocket, where it lay all crumpled, smoothed it
violently on the table, and read these words to me
with a trembling tongue. " * My dear Jacob ' this
is how he begins ! " cries he " ' My dear Jacob, I
once called you so, you may remember; and you
have now done the business, and flung my heels as
high as Criffel.' What do you think of that, Mac-
kellar," says he, " from an only brother ? I declare
to God I liked him very well; I was always stanch
to him; and this is how he writes! But I will not
sit down under the imputation " (walking to and
fro) "I am as good as he, I am a better man than
he, I call on God to prove it! I cannot give him
all the monstrous sum he asks; he knows the estate
to be incompetent; but I will give him what I have,
and it is more than he expects. I have borne all
this too long. See what he writes further on; read
it for yourself: ' I know you are a niggardly dog.'
A niggardly dog! I, niggardly? Is that true, Mac-
kellar ? You think it is ? " I really thought he would
have struck me at that. '* Oh, you all think so !
Well, you shall see, and he shall see, and God shall
see. If I ruin the estate and go barefoot, I shall stuff
this bloodsucker. Let him ask all all, and he shall
have it ! It is all his by rights. Ah ! " he cried, " and
8o THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
I foresaw all this and worse, when he would not let
me go." He poured out another glass of wine and
was about to carry it to his lips, when I made so bold
as lay a finger on his arm. He stopped a moment.
" You are right," said he, and flung glass and all in
the fireplace. " Come, let us count the money."
I durst no longer oppose him; indeed, I was very
much affected by the sight of so much disorder in a
man usually so controlled ; and we sat down together,
counted the money, and made it up in packets for the
greater ease of Colonel Burke, who was to be the
bearer. This done, Mr. Henry returned to the hall,
where he and my old lord sat all night through with
their guest. A little before dawn I was called and set
out with the colonel. He would scarce have liked a
less responsible convoy, for he was a man who valued
himself; nor could we afford him one more dignified,
for Mr. Henry must not appear with the free-traders.
It was a very bitter morning of wind, and as we went
down through the long shrubbery the colonel held
himself muffled in his cloak.
" Sir," said I, " this is a great sum of money that
your friend requires. I must suppose his necessities
to be very great."
" We must suppose so," says he, I thought dryly,
but perhaps it was the cloak about his mouth.
" I am only a servant of the family," said I. " You
may deal openly with me. I think we are likely to
get little good by him ? "
" My dear man," said the colonel, " Ballantrae is
a gentleman of the most eminent natural abilities,
and a man that I admire and that I revere, f the very
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 81
ground he treads on." And then he seemed to me
to pause like one in a difficulty.
" But for all that," said I, " we are likely to get
little good by him ? "
" Sure, and you can have it your own way, my dear
man," says the colonel.
By this time we had come to the side of the creek,
where the boat awaited him. " Well," said he, " I
am sure I am very much your debtor for all your
civility, Mr. Whatever-your-name-is ; and just as a
last word, and since you show so much intelligent
interest, I will mention a small circumstance that may
be of use to the family. For I believe my friend
omitted to mention that he has the largest pension on
the Scots Fund of any refugee in Paris; and it's the
more disgraceful, sir," cries the colonel, warming,
" because there's not one dirty penny for myself."
He cocked his hat at me, as if I had been to blame
for this partiality; then changed again into his usual
swaggering civility, shook me by the hand, and set off
down to the boat, with the money under his arms,
and whistling as he went the pathetic air of " Shule
Aroon." It was the first time I had heard that tune;
I was to hear it again, words and all, as you shall
learn ; but I remember how that little stave of it ran
in my head, after the free-traders had bade him
" Wheesht, in the deil's name," and the grating of the
oars had taken its place, and I stood and watched the
dawn creeping on the sea, and the boat drawing away,
and the lugger lying with her foresail backed await-
The gap made in our money was a sore embarrass-
82 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
ment; and among other consequences, it had this:
that I must ride to Edinburgh, and there raise a new
loan on very questionable terms to keep the old afloat;
and was thus, for close upon three weeks, absent from
the house of Durrisdeer.
What passed in the interval, I had none to tell me;
but I found Mrs. Henry, upon my return, much
changed in her demeanour; the old talks with my lord
for the most part pretermitted ; a certain deprecation
visible toward her husband, to whom I thought she
addressed herself more often; and for one thing, she
was now greatly wrapped up in Miss Katharine.
You would think the change was agreeable to Mr.
Henry ! no such matter ! To the contrary, every cir-
cumstance of alteration was a stab to him; he read
in each the avowal of her truant fancies : that con'
stancy to the master of which she was proud while
she supposed him dead, she had to blush for now she
knew he was alive : and these blushes were the hated
spring of her new conduct. I am to conceal no truth ;
and I will here say plainly, I think this was the period
in which Mr. Henry showed the worst. He contained
himself, indeed, in public; but there was a deep-
seated irritation visible underneath. With me, from
whom he had less concealment, he was often grossly
unjust; and even for this wife he would sometimes
have a sharp retort: perhaps when she had ruffled
him with some unwonted kindness ; perhaps upon no
tangible occasion, the mere habitual tenor of the man's
annoyance bursting spontaneously forth. When he
would thus forget himself (a thing so strangely out of
keeping with the terms of their relation), there went a
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 83
shock through the whole company; and the pair
would look upon each other in a kind of pained
All the time too, while he was injuring himself by
this defect of temper, he was hurting his position by
a silence, of which I scarce know whether to say it was
the child of generosity or pride. The free-traders
came again and again, bringing messengers from the
master, and none departed empty-handed. I never
durst reason with Mr. Henry; he gave what was
asked of him in a kind of noble rage. Perhaps because
he knew he was by nature inclining to the parsimoni-
ous, he took a back-foremost pleasure in the reckless-
ness with which he supplied his brother's exigence.
Perhaps the falsity of the position would have spurred
an humbler man into the same excesses. But the
estate (if I may say so) groaned under it; our daily
expenses where shown lower and lower; the stables
were emptied, all but four roadsters; servants were
discharged, which raised a dreadful murmuring in the
country and heated up the old disfavour upon Mr.
Henry; and at last the yearly visit to Edinburgh must
This was in 1756. You are to suppose that for
seven years this bloodsucker had been drawing the
life's blood from Durrisdeer; and that all this time
my patron had held his peace. It was an effect of
devilish malice in the master, that he addressed
Mr. Henry alone upon the matter of his demands, and
there was never a word to my lord. The family had
looked on wondering at our economies. They had
lamented, I have no doubt, that my patron had be-
84 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
come so great a miser; a fault always despicable, but
in the young abhorrent; and Mr. Henry was not yet
thirty years of age. Still he had managed the business
of Durrisdeer almost from a boy; and they bore with
these changes in a silence as proud and bitter as his
own, until the coping stone of the Edinburgh visit.
At this time, I believe my patron and his wife were
rarely together save at meals. Immediately on the
back of Colonel Burke's announcement, Mrs. Henry
made palpable advances; you might say she had laid
a sort of timid court to her husband, different indeed
from her former manner of unconcern and distance.
I never had the heart to blame Mr. Henry because he
recoiled from these advances; nor yet to censure the
wife, when she was cut to the quick by their rejection.
But the result was an entire estrangement, so that
(as I say) they rarely spoke except at meals. Even the
matter of the Edinburgh visit was first broached at
table; and it chanced that Mrs. Henry was that day
ailing and querulous. She had no sooner understood
her husband's meaning than the red flew in her face.
" At last," she cried, " this is too much ! Heaven
knows what pleasure I have in my life, that I should
be denied my only consolation. These shameful
proclivities must be trod down; we are already a mark
and an eye-sore in the neighbourhood; I will not en-
dure this fresh insanity."
" I cannot afford it," says Mr. Henry.
" Afford ? " she cried. " For shame ! But I have
money of my own."
" That is all mine, madam, by marriage," he
snarled, and instantly left the room.
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 85
My old lord threw up his hands to heaven and he
and his daughter, withdrawing to the chimney, gave
me a broad hint to be gone. I found Mr. Henry in
his usual retreat, the steward's room, perched on the
end of the table and plunging his penknife in it, with
a very ugly countenance.
" Mr. Henry," said I, " you do yourself too much
injustice; and it is time this should cease."
" Oh ! " cries he, "nobody minds here. They
think it only natural. I have shameful proclivities.
I am a niggardly dog," and he drove his knife up
to the hilt. " But I will show that fellow," he cried,
with an oath, " I will show him which is the more
" This is no generosity," said I, " this is only pride."
" Do you think I want morality ? " he asked.
I thought he wanted help, and I should give it him,
willynilly; and no sooner was Mrs. Henry gone to
her room than I presented myself at her door and
She openly showed her wonder. " What do you
want with me, Mr. Mackellar ? " said she.
" The Lord knows, madam," says I, " I have never
troubled you before with any freedoms, but this thing
lies too hard upon my conscience, and it will out.
Is it possible that two people can be so blind as you
and my lord ? and have lived all these years with a
noble gentleman like Mr. Henry, and understand
so little of his nature ? "
" What does this mean ? " she cried.
" Do you not know where his money goes to ? his
and yours and the money for the very wine he
86 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
does not drink at table ? " I went on. ' To Paris
to that man ! Eight thousand pounds has he had
of us in seven years, and my patron fool enough to
keep it secret ! "
" Eight thousand pounds ! " she repeated. " It is
impossible, the estate is not sufficient."
" God knows how we have sweated farthings to
produce it," said I. " But eight thousand and sixty
is the sum, beside odd shillings. And if you can think
my patron miserly after that, this shall be my last
" You need say no more, Mr. Mackellar," said she.
" You have done most properly in what you too
modestly call your interference. I am much to blame;
you must think me indeed a very unobservant wife"
(looking upon me with a strange smile) " but
I shall put this right at once. The master was always
of a very thoughtless nature; but his heart is excellent;
he is the soul of generosity. I shall write to him myself.
You cannot think how you have pained me by this
" Indeed, madam, I had hoped to have pleased
you," said I, for I raged to see her still thinking of
" And pleased," said she, " and pleased me, of
That same day (I will not say but what I watched)
I had the satisfaction to see Mr. Henry come from
his wife's room in a state most unlike himself; for
his face was all bloated with weeping, and yet he
seemed to me to walk upon the air. By this, I was
sure his wife had made him full amends for once.
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 87
** Ah," thought I, to myself, " I have done a brave
stroke this day."
On the morrow, as I was seated at my books,
Mr. Henry came in softly behind me, took me by the
shoulders and shook me in a manner of playfulness.
" I find you are a faithless fellow after all," says he;
which was his only reference to my part, but the tone
he spoke in was more to me than any eloquence of
protestation. Nor was this all I had effected; for
when the next messenger came (as he did not long
afterward) from the master, he got nothing away
with him but a letter. For some while back it had
been I myself who had conducted these affairs;
Mr. Henry not setting pen to paper, and I only in the
dryest and most formal terms. But this letter I did
not even see; it would scarce be pleasant reading, for
Mr. Henry felt he had his wife behind him for once,
and I observed, on the day it was dispatched, he had
a very gratified expression.
Things went better now in the family, though it
could scarce be pretended they went well. There
was now at least no misconception; there was kind-
ness upon all sides; and I believe my patron and his
wife might again have drawn together, if he could
but have pocketed his pride, and she forgot (what
was the ground of all) her brooding on another man.
It is wonderful how a private thought leaks out; it is
wonderful to me now, how we should all have followed
the current of her sentiments; and though she bore
herself quietly, and had a very even disposition, yet we
should have known whenever her fancy ran to Paris.
And would not any one have thought that my dis-
88 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
closure must have rooted up that idol ? I think there
is the devil in women: all these years passed, never
a sight of the man, little enough kindness to remember
(by all accounts) even while she had him, the notion
of his death intervening, his heartless rapacity laid
bare to her : that all should not do, and she must still
keep the best place in her heart for this accursed
fellow, is a thing to make a plain man rage. I had
never much natural sympathy for the passion of love;
but this unreason in my patron's wife disgusted me
outright with the whole matter. I remember checking
a maid, because she sung some bairnly kickshaw
while my mind was thus engaged; and my asperity
brought about my ears the enmity of all the petticoats
about the house; of which I recked very little, but it
amused Mr. Henry, who rallied me much upon our
joint unpopularity. It is strange enough (for my own
mother was certainly one of the salt of the earth and
my aunt Dickson, who paid my fees at the university,
a very notable woman) but I have never had much
toleration for the female sex, possibly not much under-
standing; and being far from a bold man, I have ever
shunned their company. Not only do I see no cause
to regret this diffidence in myself, but have invariably
remarked the most unhappy consequences follow those
who were less wise. So much I thought proper to set
down, lest I show myself unjust to Mrs. Henry. And
besides the remark arose naturally, on a reperusal of
the letter which was the next step in these affairs, and
reached me to my sincere astonishment by a private
hand, some week or so after the departure of the last
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 89
Letter from COLONEL BURKE (afterward Chevalier} to
" TROYES IN CHAMPAGNE,
"July 12* 1J&
" MY DEAR SIR : You will doubtless be surprised
to receive a communication from one so little known
to you; but on the occasion I had the good fortune
to rencontre you at Durrisdeer, I remarked you for
a young man of a solid gravity of character : a quali-
fication which I profess I admire and revere next to-
natural genius or the bold, chivalrous spirit of the
soldier. I was besides interested in the noble family
which you have the honour to serve or (to speak more,
by the book) to be the humble and respected friend
of; and a conversation I had the pleasure to have
with you very early in the morning has remained
much upon my mind.
" Being the other day in Paris, on a visit from this
famous city where I am in garrison, I took occasion
to inquire your name (which I profess I had forgot)
at my friend, the master of B ; and a fair oppor-
tunity occurring, I write to inform you of what's
" The master of B (when we had last some
talk of him together) was in receipt, as I think I then
told you, of a highly advantageous pension on the
Scots Fund. He next received a company, and was
soon after advanced to a regiment of his own. My
dear sir, I do not offer to explain this circumstance;
any more than why I myself, who have rid at the right
hand of princes, should be fubbed oflF with a pair oir
90 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
colours and sent to rot in a hole at the bottom of the
province. Accustomed as I am to courts, I cannot
but feel it is no atmosphere for a plain soldier; and
I could never hope to advance by similar means, even
could I stoop to the endeavour. But our friend has a
particular aptitude to succeed by the means of ladies;
and if all be true that I have heard, he enjoyed a
remarkable protection. It is like this turned against
him; for when I had the honour to shake him by the
hand, he was but newly released from the Bastille
where he had been cast on a sealed letter; and though
now released, has both lost his regiment and his
pension. My dear sir, the loyalty of a plain Irishman
will ultimately succeed in the place of craft ; as I am
sure a gentleman of your probity will agree.
" Now, sir, the master is a man whose genius I
admire beyond expression, and besides he is my friend;
but I thought a little word of this revolution in his
fortunes would not come amiss, for in my opinion the
man's desperate. He spoke when I saw him of a trip
to India (whither I am myself in some hope of accom-
panying my illustrious countryman, Mr. Lally); but
for this he would require (as I understood) more money
than was readily at his command. You may have
heard a military proverb, that it is a good thing to
make a bridge of gold to a flying enemy ? I trust you
will take my meaning; and I subscribe myself, with
proper respects to my Lord Durrisdeer, to his son, and
to the beauteous Mrs. Durie,
" My dear sir,
" Your obedient humble servant,
" FRANCIS BURKE."
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 91
This missive I carried at once to Mr. Henry; and
I think there was but the one thought between the two
of us : that it had come a week too late. I made haste
to send an answer to Colonel Burke, in which I begged
him, if he should see the master, to assure him his
next messenger would be attended to. But with all
my haste I was not in time to avert what was impend-
ing; the arrow had been drawn, it must now fly. I
could almost doubt the power of Providence (and
certainly His will) to stay the issue of events; and it
is a strange thought, how many of us had been storing
up the elements of this catastrophe, for how long a
time, and with how blind an ignorance of what
From the coming of the colonel's letter I had a
spy-glass in my room, began to drop questions to
the tenant folk, and as there was no great secrecy
observed and the free-trade (in our part) went by
force as much as stealth, I had soon got together a
knowledge of the signals in use, and knew pretty
well to an hour when any messenger might be ex-
pected. I say I questioned the tenants; for with
the traders themselves, desperate blades that went
habitually armed, I could never bring myself to
meddle willingly. Indeed, by what proved in the
sequel an unhappy chance, I was an object of scorn
to some of these braggadocios; who had not only
gratified me with a nickname, but catching me one
night upon a by-path and being all (as they would
have said) somewhat merry had caused me to dance
for their diversion. The method employed was that
92 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
of cruelly chipping at my toes with naked cutlasser
shouting at the same time "Square-Toes;" and
though they did me no bodily mischief, I was none
the less deplorably affected and was indeed for sev-
eral days confined to my bed : a scandal on the state
of Scotland on which no comment is required.
It happened on the afternoon of November 7th,
in this same unfortunate year, that I espied during
my walk the smoke of a beacon fire upon the Muckle-
ross. It was drawing near time for my return; but
the uneasiness upon my spirits was that day so great
that I must burst through the thickets to the edge of
what they call the Craig Head. The sun was already
down, but there was still a broad light in the west,
which showed me some of the smugglers treading
out their signal fire upon the Ross, and in the bay
the lugger lying with her sails brailed up. She was
plainly but new come to anchor, and yet the skiff
was already lowered and pulling for the landing-place
at the end of the long shubbery. And this I knew
could signify but one thing : the coming of a messen-
ger for Durrisdeer.
I laid aside the remainder of my terrors, clambered
down the brae a place I had never ventured
through before, and was hid among the shore-side
thickets in time to see the boat touch. Captain Crail
himself was steering, a thing not usual; by his side
there sat a passenger; and the men gave way with
difficulty, being hampered with near upon half a dozen
portmanteaus, great and small. But the business
of landing was briskly carried through ; and presently
the baggage was all tumbled on shore, the boat on
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 93
its return voyage to the lugger, and the passenger
standing alone upon the point of rock, a tall, slender
figure of a gentlemen, habited in black, with a sword
by his side and a walking-cane upon his wrist. As he
so stood, he waved the cane to Captain Crail by way of
salutation, with something both of grace and mockery
that wrote the gesture deeply on my mind.
No sooner was the boat away with my sworn enemies
than I took a sort of half courage, came forth to the
margin of the thicket, and there halted again, my
mind being greatly pulled about between natural
diffidence and a dark foreboding of the truth. Indeed,
I might have stood there swithering all night, had not
the stranger turned, spied me through the mists,
which were beginning to fall, and waved and
cried on me to draw near. I did so with a heart like
" Here, my good man," said he, in the English
accent, " here are some things for Durrisdeer."
I was now near enough to see him, a very handsome
figure and countenance, swarthy, lean, long, with a
quick, alert, black look, as of one who was a fighter
and accustomed to command; upon one cheek he
had a mole, not unbecoming; a large diamond sparkled
on his hand; his clothes, although of the one hue,
were of a French and foppish design; his ruffles,
which he wore longer than common, of exquisite lace;
and I wondered the more to see him in such a guise,
when he was but newly landed from a dirty smuggling
lugger. At the same time he had a better look at rne,
toised me a second time sharply, and then smiled.
" I wager, my friend," says he, " that I know both
94 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
your name and your nickname. I divined these very
clothes upon your hand of writing, Mr. Mackellar."
At these words I fell to shaking.
" Oh," says he, " you need not be afraid of me. I
bear no malice for your tedious letters; and it is my
purpose to employ you a good deal. You may call
me Mr. Bally: it is the name I have assumed; or
rather (since I am addressing so great a precision)
it is so I have curtailed my own. Come now, pick
up that and that " indicating two of the port-
manteaus. " That will be as much as you are fit to
bear, and the rest can very well wait. Come, lose
no more time, if you please."
His tone was so cutting that I managed to do as he
bade by a sort of instinct, my mind being all the time
quite lost. No sooner had I picked up the portman-
teaus than he turned his back and marched all through
the long shrubbery; where it began already to be
dusk, for the wood is thick and ever green. I followed
behind, loaded almost to the dust, though I profess I
was not conscious of the burden; being swallowed
up in the monstrosity of this return and my mind
flying like a weaver's shuttle.
On a sudden I set the portmanteaus to the ground
and halted. He turned and looked back at me.
" Well ? " said he.
'* You are the master of Ballantrae ? "
' You will do me the justice to observe," says he,
" that I have made no secret with the astute Mac-
" And in the name of God," cries I, " what brings
you here ? Go back, while it is yet time."
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 95
" I thank you," said he. " Your master has chosen
this way, and not I ; but since he has made the choice,
he (and you also) must abide by the result. And
now pick up these things of mine, which you have
set down in a very boggy place, and attend to that
which I have made your business."
But I had no thought now of obedience; I came
straight up to him. " If nothing will move you to
go back," said I ; " though sure, under all the cir-
cumstances, any Christian or even any gentleman
would scruple to go forward "
" These are gratifying expressions," he threw
" If nothing will move you to go back," I con-
tinued, " there are still some decencies to be ob-
served. Wait here with your baggage, and I will
go forward and prepare your family. Your father
is an old man ; and " I stumbled " there are
decencies to be observed."
" Truly," said he, " this Mackellar improves upon
acquaintance. But look you here, my man, and
understand it once for all you waste your breath
upon me, and I go my own way with inevitable
"Ah! "says I. "Is that so? We shall see then !"
And I turned and took to my heels for Durrisdeer.
He clutched at me and cried out angrily, and then
I believed I heard him laugh, and then I am certain
he pursued me for a step or two, and (I suppose)
desisted. One thing at least is sure, that I came but
a few minutes later to the door of the great house,
nearly strangled for the lack of breath, but quite
96 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
alone. Straight up the stair I ran, and burst into
the hall, and stopped before the family without the
power of speech; but I must have carried my story
in my looks, for they rose out of their places and
stared on me like changelings.
" He has come," I panted at last.
" He ? " said Mr. Henry.
" Himself," said I.
" My son ? " cried my lord. " Imprudent, im-
prudent boy ! Oh, could he not stay where he was
safe ? "
Never a word said Mrs. Henry; nor did I look at
her, I scarcely knew why.
" Well," said Mr. Henry, with a very deep breath,
" and where is he ? "
" I left him in the long shrubbery," said I.
" Take me to him," said he.
So we went out together, he and I, without another
word from any one; and in the midst of the gravelled
plot encountered the master strolling up, whistling
as he came and beating the air with his cane. There
was still light enough overhead to recognise though
not to read a countenance.
" Ah, Jacob ! " says the master. " So here is Esau
" James," says Mr. Henry, " for God's sake, call
me by my name. I will not pretend that I am glad
to see you; but I would fain make you as welcome
as I can in the house of our fathers."
" Or in my house ? or yours ? " says the master.
" Which was you about to say ? But this is an old
sore, and we need not rub it. If you would not
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 97
share with me in Paris, I hope you will yet scarce
deny your elder brother a corner of the fire at
Durrisdeer ? "
" That is very idle speech," replied Mr. Henry.
" And you understand the power of your position
" Why, I believe I do," said the other, with a little
laugh. And this, though they had never touched
hands, was (as we may say) the end of the brothers'
meeting; for at this the master turned to me and bade
me fetch his baggage.
I, on my side, turned to Mr. Henry for a confir-
mation; perhaps with some defiance.
" As long as the master is here, Mr. Mackellar,
you will very much oblige me by regarding his wishes
as you would my own," says Mr. Henry. " We are
constantly troubling you; will you be so good as
send one of the servants ? " with an accent on the
If this speech were anything at all, it was surely
a well-deserved reproof upon the stranger; and yet,
so devilish was his impudence, he twisted it the other
" And shall we be common enough to say ' Sneck
up ? ' ' inquires he softly, looking upon me side-
Had a kingdom depended on the act, I could not
have trusted myself in words ; even to call a servant
was beyond me; I had rather serve the man myself
than speak; and I turned away in silence and went
into the long shubbery, with a heart full of anger and
despair. It was dark under the trees, and I walked
98 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
before me and forgot what business I was come upon
till I near broke my shin on the portmanteaus. Then
it was that I remarked a strange particular; for
whereas I had before carried both and scarce ob-
served it, it was now as much as I could do to manage
one. And this, as it forced me to make two journeys,
kept me the the longer from the hall.
When I got there the business of welcome was
over long ago; the company was already at supper;
and by an oversight that cut me to the quick, my
place had been forgotten. I had seen one side of
the master's return; now I was to see the other. It
was he who first remarked my coming in and standing
back (as I did) in some annoyance. He jumped
from his seat.
" And if I have not got the good Mackellar's
place ! " cries he. "* John, lay another for Mr. Bally;
I protest he will disturb no one, and your table is
big enough for all."
I could scarce credit my ears, nor yet my senses,
when he took me by the shoulders and thrust me
laughing into my own place; such an affectionate
playfulness was in his voice. And while John laid
the fresh place for him (a thing on which he still
insisted) he went and leaned on his father's chair
and looked down upon him, and the old man turned
about and looked upward on his son, with such a
pleasant mutual tenderness that I could have carried
my hand to my head in mere amazement.
Yet all was of a piece. Never a harsh word fell
from him, never a sneer showed upon his lip. He
had laid aside even his cutting English accent, and
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 99
spoke with the kindly Scots tongue that sets a value
on affectionate words; and though his manners had
a graceful elegance mighty foreign to our ways in
Durrisdeer, it was still a homely courtliness, that did
not shame but flattered us. All that he did through-
out the meal, indeed, drinking wine with me with a
notable respect, turning about for a pleasant word
with John, fondling his father's hand, breaking into
little merry tales of his adventures, calling up the
past with happy reference all he did was so be-
coming, and himself so handsome, that I could scarce
wonder if my lord and Mrs. Henry sat about the board
with radiant faces, or if John waited behind with
As soon as supper was over, Mrs. Henry rose to
" This was never your way, Alison,*' said he.
" It is my way now," she replied ; which was
notoriously false, " and I will give you a good-night,
James, and a welcome from the dead," said she,
and her voice drooped and trembled.
Poor Mr. Henry, who had made rather a heavy
figure through the meal, was more concerned than
ever; pleased to see his wife withdraw, and yet half
displeased, as he thought upon the cause of it; and
the next moment altogether dashed by the fervour of
On my part, I thought I was now one too many;
and was stealing after Mrs. Henry, when the master
" Now, Mr. Mackellar," says he, " I take this near
on an unfriendliness. I cannot have you go; this is
ioo THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
to make a stranger of the prodigal son and let me
remind you where in his own father's house !
Come, sit ye down, and drink another glass with Mr.
" Ay, ay, Mr. Mackellar," says my lord, " we
must not make a stranger either of him or you. I
have been telling my son," he added, his voice bright-
ening as usual on the word, " how much we valued all
your friendly service."
So I sat there silent till my usual hour; and might
have been almost deceived in the man's nature, but
for one passage in which his perfidy appeared too
plain. Here was the passage; of which, after what
he knows of the brothers' meeting, the reader shall
consider for himself. Mr. Henry sitting somewhat
dully, in spite of his best endeavours to carry things
before my lord, up jumps the master, passes about the
board, and claps his brother on the shoulder.
" Come, come, Hairry lad," says he, with a broad
accent such as they must have used together when
they were boys, " you must not be downcast because
your brother has come home. All's yours, that's sure
enough, and little I grudge it you. Neither must you
grudge me my place beside my father's fire."
" And that is too true, Henry," says my old lord,
with a little frown, a thing rare with him. " You have
been the elder brother of the parable in the good
sense; you must be careful of the other."
" I am easily put in the wrong," said Mr. Henry.
" Who puts you in the wrong ? " cried my lord, I
thought very tartly for so mild a man. ' You have
earned my gratitude and your brother's many thou-
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 101
sand times; you may count on its endurance, and
let that suffice."
" Ay, Harry, that you may," said the master; and
I thought Mr. Henry looked at him with a kind of
wildness in his eye.
On all the miserable business that now followed,
I have four questions that I asked myself often at
the time and ask myself still. Was the man moved
by a particular sentiment against Mr. Henry ? or
by what he thought to be his interest ? or by a mere
delight in cruelty such as cats display and theologians
tell us of the devil ? or by what he would have called
love ? My common opinion halts among the three
first; but perhaps there lay at the spring of his be-
haviour an element of all. As thus: Animosity to
Mr. Henry would explain his hateful usage of him
when they were alone ; the interests he came to serve
would explain his very different attitude before my
lord; that and some spice of a design of gallantry,
his care to stand well with Mrs. Henry; and the
pleasure of malice for itself, the pains he was con-
tinually at to mingle and oppose these lines of conduct.
Partly because I was a very open friend to my
patron, partly because in my letters to Paris I had
often given myself some freedom of remonstrance,
I was included in his diabolical amusement. When
I was alone with him, he pursued me with sneers;
before the family, he used me with the extreme of
friendly condescension This was not only painful
in itself, not only did it put me continually in the
wrong; but there was in it an element of insult in-
102 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
describable. That he should thus leave me out In
his dissimulation, as though even my testimony were
too despicable to be considered, galled me to the blood.
But what it was to me is not worth notice. I make
but memorandum of it here; and chiefly for this
reason, that it had one good result, and gave me
the quicker sense of Mr. Henry's martyrdom.
It was on him the burden fell. How was he to
respond to the public advances of one who never lost
a chance of gibing him in private ? How was he to
smile back on the deceiver and the insulter ? He
was condemned to seem ungracious. He was con-
demned to silence. Had he been less proud, had
he spoken, who would have credited the truth ?
The acted calumny had done its work; my lord
and Mrs. Henry were the daily witnesses of what
went on; they could have sworn in court that the
master was a model of long-suffering good-nature
and Mr. Henry a pattern of jealousy and thankless-
ness. And ugly enough as these must have appeared
in any one, they seemed tenfold uglier in Mr. Henry;
for who could forget that the master lay in peril of
his life, i:nd that he had already lost his mistress,
his title and his fortune ?
" Henry, will you ride with me ? " asks the master
And Mr. Henry, who had been goaded by the
man all morning, raps out : " I will not."
" I sometimes wish you would be kinder, Henry,*',
says the other wistfully.
I give this for a specimen; but such scenes befell
continually. Small wonder if Mr. Henry was blamed}
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 103
small wonder if I fretted myself into something near
upon a bilious fever; nay, and at the mere recollection
feel a bitterness in my blood.
Sure, never in this world was a more diabolical
contrivance; so perfidious, so simple, so impossible
to combat. And yet I think again, and I think always,
Mrs. Henry might have read between the lines; she
might have had more knowledge of her husband's
nature; after all these years of marriage, she might
have commanded or captured his confidence. And
my old lord too, that very watchful gentleman, where
was all his observation ? But for one thing, the
deceit was practised by a master hand, and might have
gulled an angel. For another (in the case of Mrs.
Henry), I have observed there are no persons so far
away as those who are both married and estranged,
so that they seem out of ear-shot or to have no common
tongue. For a third (in the case of both of these
spectators), they were blinded by old, ingrained
predilection. And for a fourth, the risk the master
was supposed to stand in (supposed, I say you will
soon hear why) made it seem the more ungenerous
to criticise; and keeping them in a perpetual tender
solicitude about his life, blinded them the more
effectually to his faults.
It was during this time that I perceived most
clearly the effect of manner, and was led to lament
most deeply the plainness of my own. Mr. Henry
had the essence of a gentleman ; when he was moved,
when there was any call of circumstance, he could
play his part with dignity and spirit; but in the day's
commerce (it is idle to deny it) he fell short of the
104 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
ornamental. The master (on the other hand) had
never a movement but it commended him. So it be-
fell that when the one appeared gracious and the other
ungracious, every trick of their bodies seemed to call
out confirmation. Nor that alone; but the more
deeply Mr. Henry floundered in his brother's toils,
the more clownish he grew; and the more the master
enjoyed his spiteful entertainment, the more engag-
ingly, the more smilingly, he went ! So that the plot,
by its own scope and progress, furthered and con-
It was one of the man's arts to use the peril in
which, as I say, he was supposed to stand. He spoke
of it to those who loved him with a gentle pleasantry,
which made it the more touching. To Mr. Henry,
he used it as a cruel weapon of offence. I remember
his laying his finger on the clean lozenge of the painted
window, one day when we three were alone together
in the hall. " Here went your lucky guinea, Jacob,"
said he. And when Mr. Henry only looked upon him
darkly, " Oh," he added, " you need not look such
impotent malice, my good fly. You can be rid of your
spider when you please. How long, oh, Lord ? When
are you to be wrought to the point of a denunciation,
scrupulous brother ? It is one of my interests in this
dreary hole. I ever loved experiment." Still Mr.
Henry only stared upon him with a glooming brow
and a changed colour; and at last the master broke
out in a laugh and clapped him on the shoulder,
calling him a sulky dog. At this my patron leaped
back with a gesture I thought very dangerous; and
I must suppose the master thought so too; for he
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 105
looked the least in the world discountenanced, and I do
not remember him again to have laid hands on Mr.
But though he had his peril always on his lips in
the one way or the other, I thought his conduct
strangely incautious, and began to fancy the govern-
ment (who had set a price upon his head) was gone
sound asleep. I will not deny I was tempted with
the wish to denounce him; but two thoughts with-
held me: one that if he were thus to end his life
upon an honourable scaffold, the man would be canon-
ised for good in the minds of his father and my patron's
wife ; the other, that if I was any way mingled in the
matter, Mr. Henry himself would scarce escape some
glancings of suspicion. And in the meanwhile our
enemy went in and out more than I could have thought
possible, the fact that he was home again was buzzed
about all the country-side; and yet he was never
stirred. Of all these so many and so different persons
who were acquainted with his presence, none had the
least greed (as I used to say, in my annoyance) or the
least loyalty; and the man rode here and there
fully more welcome, considering the lees of old un-
popularity, than Mr. Henry and considering the
free-traders far safer than myself.
Not but what he had a trouble of his own; and this,
as it brought about the gravest consequences, I must
now relate. The reader will scarce have forgotten
Jessie Broun ; her way of life was much among the
smuggling party; Captain Crail himself was of her
intimates; and she had early word of Mr. Bally : s
presence at the house. In my opinion she had long
io6 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
ceased to care two straws for the master's person;
but it was become her habit to connect herself con-
tinually with the master's name; that was the ground
of all her play-acting; and so, now when he was back,
she thought she owed it to herself to grow a haunter
of the neighbourhood of Durrisdeer. The master
could scarce go abroad but she was there in wait for
him; a scandalous figure of a woman, not often sober;
hailing him wildly as " her bonny laddie," quoting
peddler's poetry, and as I receive the story, even
seeking to weep upon his neck. I own I rubbed my
hands over this persecution ; but the master, who laid
so much upon others, was himself the least patient of
men. There were strange scenes enacted in the poli-
cies. Some say he took his cane to her, and Jessie
fell back upon her former weapon, stones. It is certain
at least that he made ? motion to Captain Crail to have
the woman trepannea, and that the captain refused
the proposition with uncommon vehemence. And
the end of the matter was victory for Jessie. Money
was got together; an interview took place in which
my proud gentleman must consent to be kissed and
wept upon ; and the woman was set up in a public of
her own, somewhere on Solway side (but I forget
where) and by the only news I ever had of it, ex-
This is to look forward. After Jessie had been
but a little while upon his heels, the master comes
to me one day in the steward's office, and with more
civility than usual, " Mackellar," says he, " there is
a damned crazy wench comes about here. I cannot
well move in the matter myself, which brings me to
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 107
you. Be so good as to see to it; the men must have a
strict injunction to drive the wench away."
" Sir," said I, trembling a little, " you can do your
own dirty errands for yourself."
He said not a word to that, and left the room.
Presently came Mr. Henry. " Here is news ! " cried
he. " It seems all is not enough, and you must add to
my wretchedness. It seems you have insulted Mr.
" Under your kind favour, Mr. Henry," said I, " it
was he that insulted me, and as I think grossly. But
I may have been careless of your position when I
spoke; and if you think so when you know all, my
dear patron, you have but to say the word. For you
I would obey in any point whatever, even to sin,
God pardon me ! " And thereupon I told him what
Mr. Henry smiled to himself; a grimmer smile I
never witnessed. ' You did exactly well," said he.
" He shall drink his Jessie Broun to the dregs." And
then, spying the master outside, he opened the win-
dow, and crying to him by the name of Mr. Bally,
asked him to step up and have a word.
' James," said he, when our persecutor had come
in and closed the door behind him, looking at me
with a smile as if he thought I was to be humbled,
" you brought me a complaint against Mr. Mac-
kellar into which I have inquired. I need not tell you
I would always take his word against yours; for we
are alone, and I am going to use something of your
own freedom. Mr. Mackellar is a gentleman I value;
and you must contrive, so long as you are under this
io8 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
roof, to bring yourself into no more collisions with
one whom I will support at any possible cost to me or
mine. As for the errand upon which you came to
him, you must deliver yourself from the consequences
of your own cruelty, and none of my servants shall
be at all employed in such a case."
" My father's servants, I believe," says the master.
" Go to him with this tale," said Mr. Henry.
The master grew very white. He pointed at me
with his finger. " I want that man discharged," he
" He shall not be," said Mr. Henry.
" You shall pay pretty dear for this," says the
" I have paid so dear already for a wicked brother,"
said Mr. Henry, " that I am bankrupt even of fears.
You have no place left where you can strike me."
" I will show you about that," says the master, and
went softly away.
" What will he do next, Mackellar ? " cries Mr.
" Let me go away," said I. " My dear patron, let
me go away; I am but the beginning of fresh sorrows."
" Would you leave me quite alone ? " said he.
We were not long in suspense as to the nature of
the new assault. Up to that hour the master had
played a very close game with Mrs. Henry; avoiding
pointedly to be alone with her, which I took at the
time for an effect of decency, but now think to be a
most insidious art; meeting her, you may say, at
meal-time only; and behaving, when he did so, like
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 109
an affectionate brother. Up to that hour, you may
say he had scarce directly interfered between Mr.
Henry and his wife; except in so far as he had ma-
noeuvered the one quite forth from the good graces of
the other. Now all that was to be changed; but
whether really in revenge, or because he was wearying
of Durrisdeer and looked about for some diversion,
who but the devil shall decide?
From that hour at least began the siege of Mrs.
Henry; a thing so deftly carried on that I scarce know
if she was aware of it herself, and that her husband
must look on in silence. The first parallel was opened
(as was made to appear) by accident. The talk fell,
as it did often, on the exiles in France; so it glided
to the matter of their songs.
" There is one," says the master, " if you are curious
in these matters, that has always seemed to me very
moving. The poetry is harsh; and yet, perhaps
because of my situation, it has always found the way
to my heart. It is supposed to be sung, I should tell
you, by an exile's sweetheart; and represents, per-
haps, not so much the truth of what she is thinking,
as the truth of what he hopes of her, poor soul ! in
these far lands." And here the master sighed. " I
protest it is a pathetic sight when a score of rough
Irish, all common sentinels, get to this song; and you
may see by their falling tears, how it strikes home
to them. It goes thus, father," says he, very adroitly
taking my lord for his listener, " and if I cannot get
to the end of it, you must think it is a common case
with us exiles." And thereupon he struck up the
same air as I had heard the colonel whistle; but now
no THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
to words, rustic indeed, yet most pathetically setting
forth a poor girl's aspirations for an exiled lover: of
which one verse indeed (or something like it) stil)
sticks by me:
" O, I will die my petticoat red,
With my dear boy I'll beg my bread,
Though all my friends should wish me dead,
For Willie among the rushes, 1 "
He sung it well even as a song; but he did better
yet as a performer. I have heard famous actors, when
there was not a dry eye in the Edinburgh theatre;
a great wonder to behold; but no more wonderful
than how the master played upon the little ballad and
on those who heard him like an instrument, and
seemed now upon the point of failing, and now to
conquer his distress, so that words and music seemed
to pour out of his own heart and his own past, and to
be aimed direct at Mrs. Henry. And his art went
further yet; for all was so delicately touched, it seemed
impossible to suspect him of the last design ; and so
far from making a parade of emotion, you would have
sworn he was striving to be calm. When it came to
an end we all sat silent for a time; he had chosen the
dusk of the afternoon, so that none could see his
neighbour's face; but it seemed as if we held our
breathing, only my old lord cleared his throat. The
first to move was the singer, who got to his feet sud-
denly and softly, and went and walked softly to and
fro in the low end of the hall, Mr. Henry's customary
place. We were to suppose that he there struggled
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE in
down the last of his emotion; for he presently re-
turned and launched into a disquisition on the nature of
the Irish (always so much miscalled, and whom he
defended) in his natural voice; so that, before the
lights were brought we were in the usual course of
talk. But even then, methought Mrs. Henry's face
was a shade pale; and for another thing, she with-
drew almost at once.
The next sign was a friendship this insidious devil
stuck up with innocent Miss Katharine; so that they
were always together, hand in hand, or she climbing
on his knee, like a pair of children. Like all his dia-
bolical acts, this cut in several ways. It was the last
stroke to Mr. Henry, to see his own babe debauched
against him; it made him harsh with the poor innocent,
which brought him still a peg lower in his wife's
esteem; and (to conclude) it was a bond of union
between the lady and the master. Under this influence
their old reserve melted by daily stages. Presently
there came walks in the long shrubbery, talks in the
belvedere, and I know not what tender familiarity.
I am sure Mrs. Henry was like many a good woman;
she had a whole conscience, but perhaps by the means
of a little winking. For even to so dull an observer
as myself, it was plain her kindness was of a more
moving nature than the sisterly. The tones of her
voice appeared more numerous; she had a light and
softness in her eye; she was more gentle with all of
us, even with Mr. Henry, even with myself; me-
thought she breathed of some quiet, melancholy
To look on at this, what a torment it was for Mr.
112 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
Henry ! And yet it brought our ultimate deliverance,
as I am soon to tell.
The purport of the master's stay was no more noble
(gild it as they might) than to wring money out. He
had some design of a fortune in the French Indies,
as the chevalier wrote me; and it was the sum re-
quired for this that he came seeking. For the rest of
the family it spelled ruin ; but my lord, in his incred-
ible partiality, pushed ever for the granting. The
family was now so narrowed down (indeed there were
no more of them than just the father and the two sons),
that it was possible to break the entail, and alienate
a piece of land. And to this, at first by hints, and
then by open pressure, Mr. Henry was brought to
consent. He never would have done so, I am very
well assured, but for the weight of the distress under
which he laboured. But for his passionate eagerness
to see his brother gone, he would not thus have broken
with his own sentiment and the traditions of his house.
And even so, he sold them his consent at a dear rate,
speaking for once openly and holding the business
up in its own shameful colours.
" You will observe," he said, " this is an injustice
to my son, if ever I have one."
" But that you are not likely to have," said my
" God knows ! " said Mr. Henry. " And consider-
ing the cruel falseness of the position in which I stand
to my brother, and that you, my lord, are my fathei
and have the right to command me, I set my han^
to this paper. But one thing I will say first : I hav
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 113
been ungenerously pushed, and when next, my lord,
you are tempted to compare your sons, I call on you
to remember what I have done and what he has done.
Acts are the fair test."
My lord was the most uneasy man I ever saw; even
in his old face the blood came up. " I think this is
not a very wisely chosen moment, Henry, for com-
plaints," said he. " This takes away from the merit
of your generosity."
" Do not deceive yourself, my lord," said Mr.
Henry. " This injustice is not done from generosity
to him, but in obedience to yourself."
" Before strangers " begins my lord, still more
" There is no one but Mackellar here," said Mr.
Henry; " he is my friend. And, my lord, as you
make him no stranger to your frequent blame, it were
hard if I must keep him one to a thing so rare as my
Almost I believe my lord would have rescinded
his decision; but the master was on the watch.
" Ah, Henry, Henry," says he, " you are the best
of us still. Rugged and true ! Ah, man, I wish I
was as good."
And at that instance of his favourite's generosity,
my lord desisted from his hesitation, and the deed
As soon as it could be brought about, the land of
Ochterhall was sold for much below its value, and
the money paid over to our leech and sent by some
private carriage into France. Or so he said; though
I have suspected since it did not go so far. And now
114 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
here was all the man's business brought to a successful
head, and his pockets once more bulging with our
gold; and yet the point for which we had consented
to this sacrifice was still denied us, and the visitor
still lingered on at Durrisdeer. Whether in malice,
or because the time was not yet come for his adventure
to the Indies, or because he had hopes of his design
on Mrs. Henry, or from the orders of the government,
who shall say ? but linger he did and that for weeks.
You will observe I say : from the orders of govern-
ment; for about this time the man's disreputable
secret trickled out.
The first hint I had was from a tenant, who com-
mented on the master's stay and yet more on his
security; for this tenant was a Jacobitish sympa-
thiser, and had lost a son at Culloden, which gave
him the more critical eye. ' There is one thing,"
said he, " that I cannot but think strange; and that
is how he got to Cockermouth."
" To Cockermouth ? " said I, with a sudden mem-
ory of my first wonder on beholding the man disem-
bark so point-de-vice after so long a voyage.
" Why, yes," says the tenant, " it was there he was
picked up by Captain Crail. You thought he had
come from France by sea ? And so we all did."
I turned this news a little in my head, and then
carried it to Mr. Henry. " Here is an odd circum-
stance," said I, and told him.
" What matters how he came, Mackellar, as long
as he is here," groans Mr. Henry.
" No, sir," said I, " but think again ! Does not
this smack a little of some government connivance ?
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 115
You know how much we have wondered already at
the man's security."
" Stop," said Mr. Henry. " Let me think of this."
And as he thought there came that grim smile
upon his face that was a little like the master's. " Give
me paper," said he. And he sat without another
word and wrote to a gentleman of his acquaintance
I will name no unnecessary names, but he was one
in a high place. This letter I dispatched by the only
hand I could depend upon in such a case, Mac-
conochie's; and the old man rode hard, for he was
back with the reply before even my eagerness had
ventured to expect him. Again, as he read it, Mr.
Henry had the same grim smile.
" This is the best you have done for me yet, Mac-
kellar," says he. " With this in my hand, I will
give him a shog. Watch for us at dinner."
At dinner accordingly, Mr. Henry proposed some
very public appearance for the master; and my lord,
as he had hoped, objected to the danger of the
" Oh," says Mr. Henry, very easily, " you need no
longer keep this up with me. I am as much in the
secret as yourself."
" In the secret ? " says my lord. " What do you
mean, Henry ? I give you my word I am in no secret
from which you are excluded."
The master had changed countenance, and I saw
he was struck in a joint of his harness.
" How ? " says Mr. Henry, turning to him with a
huge appearance of surprise. " I see you serve
your masters very faithfully; but I had thought
u6 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
you would have been humane enough to set your
father's mind at rest."
" What are you talking of? I refuse to have my
business publicly discussed. I order this to cease,"
cries the master very foolishly and passionately, and
indeed more like a child than a man.
" So much discretion was not looked for at your
hands, I can assure you," continued Mr. Henry.
" For see what my correspondent writes " unfold-
ing the paper " ' It is, of course, in the interests
both of the government and the gentleman whom
we may perhaps best continue to call Mr. Bally, to
keep this understanding secret; but it was never
meant his own family should continue to endure the
suspense you paint so feelingly; and I am pleased
mine should be the hand to set these fears at rest.
Mr. Bally is as safe in Great Britain as yourself.' '
" Is this possible ? " cries my lord, looking at his
son, with a great deal of wonder and still more of
suspicion in his face.
" My dear father," says the master, already much
recovered, " I am overjoyed that this may be disclosed.
My own instructions direct from London bore a very
contrary sense, and I was charged to keep the indul-
gence secret from every one, yourself not excepted,
and indeed yourself expressly named as I can
show in black and white, unless I have destroyed the
letter. They must have changed their mind very
swiftly, for the whole matter is still quite fresh; or
rather Henry's correspondent must have misconceived
that part, as he seems to have misconceived the rest
T tell you the truth, sir," he continued, getting
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 117
visibly more easy, " I had supposed this unexplained
favour to a rebel was the effect of some application
from yourself; and the injunction to secrecy among
my family the result of a desire on your part to conceal
your kindness. Hence I was the more careful to obey
orders. It remains now to guess by what other channel
indulgence can have flowed on so notorious an offender
as myself; for I do not think your son need defend
himself from what seems hinted at in Henry's letter.
I have never yet heard of a Durrisdeer who was a
turncoat or a spy," says he proudly.
And so it seemed he had swum out of this danger
unharmed; but this was to reckon without a blunder
he had made, and without the pertinacity of Mr.
Henry, who was now to show he had something of
his brother's spirit.
" You say the matter is still fresh," says Mr. Henry.
" It is recent," says the master, with a fair show
of stoutness and yet not without a quaver.
" Is it so recent as that ? " asks Mr. Henry, like a
man a little puzzled, and spreading his letter forth
In all the letter there was no word as to the date;
but how was the master to know that ?
" It seemed to come late enough for me," says he,
with a laugh. And at the sound of that laugh, which
rang false like a cracked bell, my lord looked at him
again across the table, and I saw his old lips draw
" No," said Mr. Henry, still glancing on his letter,
" but I remember your expression. You said it was
u8 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
And here we had a proof of our victory, and the
strongest instance yet of my lord's incredible indul-
gence; for what must he do but interfere to save his
favourite from exposure !
" I think, Henry," says he, with a kind of pitiful
eagerness," I think we need dispute no more. We
are all rejoiced at last to find your brother safe; we
are all at one on that; and as grateful subjects we
can do no less than drink to the king's health and
Thus was the master extricated; but at least he
had been put to his defence, he had come lamely out,
and the attraction of his personal danger was now
publicly plucked away from him. My lord, in hi?
heart of hearts, now knew his favourite to be a govern-
ment spy; and Mrs. Henry (however she explained
the tale) was notably cold in her behaviour to the dis-
credited hero of romance. Thus in the best fabric
of duplicity there is some weak point, if you can strike
it, which will loosen all; and if, by this fortunate
stroke, we had not shaken the idol, who can say ho\
it might have gone with us at the catastrophe ?
And yet at the time we seemed to have accom-
plished nothing. Before a day or two he had wiped
off the ill results of his discomfiture, and to all appear-
ance stood as high as ever. As for my Lord Durris-
deer, he was sunk in parental partiality; it was not so
much love, which should be an active quality, as an
apathy and torpor of his other powers ; and forgive-
ness (so to misapply a noble word) flowed from him
in sheer weakness, like the tears of senility. Mrs.
Henry's was a different case; and Heaven alone
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 119
knows what he found to say to her or how he per
suaded her from her contempt. It is one of the worst
things of sentiment that the voice grows to be more
important than the words, and the speaker than that
which is spoken. But some excuse the master must
have found, or perhaps he had even struck upon some
art to wrest this exposure to his own advantage; for
after a time of coldness, it seemed as if things went
worse than ever between him and Mrs. Henry. They
were then constantly together. I would not be
thought to cast one shadow of blame beyond what is
due to a half-willful blindness, on that unfortunate
lady; but I do think, in these last days, she was play-
ing very near the fire; and whether I be wrong or not
in that, one thing is sure and quite sufficient: Mr.
Henry thought so. The poor gentleman sat for days
in my room, so great a picture of distress that I could
never venture to address him; yet it is to be thought
he found some comfort even in my presence and the
knowledge of my sympathy. There were times, too,
when we talked, and a strange manner of talk it was;
there was never a person named, nor an individual
circumstance referred to; yet we had the same matter
in our mind, and we were each aware of it. It is a
strange art that can thus be practised : to talk for
hours of a thing, and never name nor yet so much as
hint at it. And I remember I wondered if it was by
some such natural skill that the master made love to
Mrs. Henry all day long (as he manifestly did), yet
never startled her into reserve.
To show how far affairs had gone with Mr. Henry,
I will give some words of his, uttered (as I have
120 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
cause not to forget) upon the 26th of February >
1757. It was unseasonable weather, a cast back
into winter: windless, bitter cold, the world all
white with rime, the sky low and grey; the sea
black and silent like a quarry hole. Mr. Henry sat
close by the fire and debated (as was now common
with him) whether " a man " should " do things,"
whether " interference was wise," and the like gen-
eral propositions, which each of us particularly
applied. I was by the window looking out, when
there passed below me the master, Mrs. Henry and
Miss Katharine, that now constant trio. The child
was running to and fro delighted with the frost;
the master spoke close in the lady's ear with what
seemed (even from so far) a devilish grace of insin-
uation; and she on her part looked on the ground
like a person lost in listening. I broke out of my
" If I were you, Mr. Henry," said I, " I would deal
openly with my lord."
" Mackellar, Mackellar," said he, " you do not see
the weakness of my ground. I can carry no such
base thoughts to any one : to my father least of all ;
that would be to fall into the bottom of his scorn.
The weakness of my ground," he continued, " lies
in myself, that I am not one who engages love. I
have their gratitude, they all tell me that: I have a
rich estate of it ! But I am not present in their minds;
they are moved neither to think with me nor to think
for me. There is my loss ! " He got to his feet and
trod down the fire. " But some method must be
found, Mackellar," said he, looking at me suddenly
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 121
over his shoulder; " some way must be found. I am
a man of a great deal of patience far too much
far too much. I begin to despise myself. And yet sure
never was a man involved in such a toil ! " He fell
back to his brooding.
" Cheer up," said I. " It will burst of itself."
" I am far past anger now," says he, which had
so little coherency with my own observation that I
let both fall.
ACCOUNT OF ALL THAT PASSED ON THE
NIGHT OF FEBRUARY 27, 1757
ON the evening of the interview referred to, the
master went abroad; he was abroad a great
deal of the next day also, that fatal 27th; but
where he went or what he did, we never concerned
ourselves to ask until next day. If we had done so,
and by any chance found out, it might have changed
all. But as all we did was done in ignorance, and
should be so judged, I shall so narrate these passages
as they appeared to us in the moment of their birth,
and reserve all that I since discovered for the time
of its discovery. For I have now come to one of
the dark parts of my narrative, and must engage
the reader's indulgence for my patron.
All the 27th, that rigorous weather endured: a
stifling cold; the folk passing about like smoking
chimneys; the wide hearth in the hall piled high
with fuel ; some of the spring birds that had already
blundered north into our neighbourhood besieging
the windows of the house or trotting on the frozen
turf like things distracted. About noon there came
a blink of sunshine, showing a very pretty wintery,
frosty landscape of white hills and woods, with
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 123
Crail's lugger waiting for a wind under the Craig
Head, and the smoke mounting straight into the
air from every farm and cottage. With the coming
of night the haze closed in overhead; it fell dark
and still and starless and exceeding cold: a night
the most unseasonable, fit for strange events.
Mrs. Henry withdrew, as was now her custom,
very early. We had set ourselves of late to pass the
evening with a game of cards; another mark that
our visitor was wearying mightily of the life at Dur-
risdeer; and we had not been long at this when my
old lord slipped from his place beside the fire, and
was off without a word to seek the warmth of bed.
The three thus left together had neither love nor
courtesy to share; not one of us would have sat up
one instant to oblige another; yet from the influence
of custom and as the cards had just been dealt, we
continued the form of playing out the round. I
should say we were late sitters; and though my lord
had departed earlier than was his custom, twelve
was already gone some time upon the clock, and the
servants long ago in bed. Another thing I should say,
that although I never saw the master any way affected
with liquor, he had been drinking freely and was
perhaps (although he showed it not) a trifle heated.
Any way, he now practised one of his transitions;
and so soon as the door closed behind my lord, and
without the smallest change of voice, shifted from
ordinary civil talk into a stream of insult.
" My dear Henry, it is yours to play," he had been
saying, and now continued : " It is a very strange
thing how, even in so small a matter as a game of
124 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
cards, you display your rusticity. You play, Jacob,
like a bonnet laird, or a sailor in a tavern. The same
dullness, the same petty greed, cette lenteur d'bebete
qui me fait rager; it is strange I should have such a
brother. Even Squaretoes has a certain vivacity
when his stake is imperilled; but the dreariness of a
game with you, I positively lack language to depict."
Mr. Henry continued to look at his cards, as though
very maturely considering some play; but his mind
" Dear God, will this never be done ? " cries the
master. " Quel lourdeaul But why do I trouble
you with French expressions, which are lost on such
an ignoramus ? A lourdeau, my dear brother, is as
we might say a bumpkin, a clown, a clodpole: a
fellow without grace, lightness, quickness; any gift
of pleasing, any natural brilliancy: such a one as
you shall see, when you desire, by looking in the
mirror. I tell you these things for your good, I assure
you; and besides, Squaretoes" (looking at me and
stifling a yawn), " it is one of my diversions in this very
dreary spot, to toast you and your master at the fire
like chestnuts. I have great pleasure in your case,
for I observe the nickname (rustic as it is), has al-
ways the power to make you writhe. But some-
times I have more trouble with this dear fellow here,
who seems to have gone to sleep upon his cards. Do
you not see the applicability of the epithet I have
just explained, dear Henry ? Let me show you. For
instance, with all those solid qualities which I de-
light to recognise in you, I never knew a woman who
did not prefer me nor, I think," he continued, with
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 125
*be most silken deliberation, " I think who did
not continue to prefer me."
Mr. Henry laid down his cards. He rose to his
feet very softly, and seemed all the while like a person
in deep thought. " You coward ! " he said gently,
as if to himself. And then, with neither hurry nor
any particular violence, he struck the master in the
The master sprung to his feet like one transfigured.
I had never seen the man so beautiful. " A blow ! "
he cried. " I would not take a blow from God
" Lower your voice," said Mr. Henry. " Do you
wish my father to interfere for you again ? "
" Gentlemen, gentlemen," I cried, and sought to
come between them.
The master caught me by the shoulder, held me
at arm's length, and still addressing his brother:
" Do you know what this means ? " said he.
" It was the most deliberate act of my life," says
" I must have blood, I must have blood for this,"
says the master.
" Please God it shall be yours," said Mr. Henry;
and he went to the wall and took down a pair of
swords that hung there with others, naked. These
he presented to the master by the points. " Mac-
kellar shall see us play fair," said Mr. Henry. " I
think it very needful."
" You need insult me no more," said the master,
taking one of the swords at random. " I have hated
you all my life."
126 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
" My father is but newly gone to bed," said Mr.
Henry. " We must go somewhere forth of the house."
" There is an excellent place in the long shrub-
bery," said the master.
" Gentlemen," said I, " shame upon you both !
Sons of the same mother, would you turn against
the life she gave you ? "
" Even so, Mackellar," said Mr. Henry, with the
same perfect quietude of manner he had shown
" It is what I will prevent," said I.
And now here is a blot upon my life. At these
words of mine the master turned his blade against
my bosom; I saw the light run along the steel; and
I threw up my arms and fell to my knees before him
on the floor. " No, no," I cried, like a baby.
" We shall have no more trouble with him," said
the master. " It is a good thing to have a coward
in the house."
" We must have light," said Mr. Henry, as though
there had been no interruption.
" This trembler can bring a pair of candles," said
To my shame be it said, I was so blinded with the
flashing of that bare sword that I volunteered to
bring a lantern.
" We do not need a 1-1-lantern," said the master,
mocking me. " There is no breath of air. Come,
get to your feet, take a pair of lights, and go before.
I am close behind with this " making the blade
glitter as he spoke.
I took up the candlesticks and went before them,
steps that I would give my hand to recall; but a
coward is a slave at the best; and even as I went,
my teeth smote each other in my mouth. It was
as he had said, there was no breath stirring; a wind-
less stricture of frost had bound the air; and as we
went forth in the shine of the candles the blackness
was like a roof over our heads. Never a word was
said, there was never a sound but the creaking of
our steps along the frozen path. The cold of the
night fell about me like a bucket of water; I shook
as I went with more than terror; but my compan-
ions, bareheaded like myself, and fresh from the
warm hall, appeared not even conscious of the change.
" Here is the place," said the master. " Set down
I did as he bade me, and presently the flames
went up as steady as in a chamber in the midst of
the frosted trees, and I beheld these two brothers
take their places.
" The light is something in my eyes," said the
" I will give you every advantage," replied Mr.
Henry, shifting his ground, " for I think you are
about to die." He spoke rather sadly than other-
wise, yet there was a ring in his voice.
" Henry Durie," said the master, " two words
before I begin. You are a fencer, you can hold a
foil; you little know what a change it makes to hold
a sword ! And by that I know you are to fall. But
see how strong is my situation ! If you fall, I shift
out of this country to where my money is before me.
If I fall, where are you ? My father, your wife who
iz8 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
is in love with me as you very well know your
child even who prefers me to yourself: how will
these avenge me ! Had you thought of that, dear
Henry?" He looked at his brother with a smile;
then made a fencing-room salute.
Never a word said Mr. Henry, but saluted too,
and the swords rang together.
I am no judge of the play, but my head besides was
gone with cold and fear and horror; but it seems that
Mr. Henry took and kept the upper hand from the
engagement, crowding in upon his foe with a con-
tained and glowing fury. Nearer and nearer he crept
upon the man till, of a sudden, the master leaped back
with a little sobbing oath; and I believe the move-
ment brought the light once more against his eyes.
To it they went again, on the fresh ground; but now
methought closer, Mr. Henry pressing more out-
rageously, the master beyond doubt with shaken
confidence. For it is beyond doubt he now recognised
himself for lost, and had some taste of the cold agony
of fear; or he had never attempted the foul stroke.
I cannot say I followed it, my untrained eye was never
quick enough to seize details, but it appears he caught
his brother's blade with his left hand, a practice not
permitted. Certainly Mr. Henry only saved himself
by leaping on one side; as certainly the master,
lunging in the air, stumbled on his knee, and before
he could move the sword was through his body.
I cried out with a stifled scream, and ran in; but
the body was already fallen to the ground, where it
writhed a moment like a trodden worm, and then
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 129
" Look at his left hand," said Mr. Henry.
" It is all bloody," said I.
" On the inside ? " said he.
" It is cut on the inside," said I.
" I thought so," said he, and turned his back.
I opened the man's clothes; the heart was quite
still, it gave not a flutter.
" God forgive us, Mr. Henry ! " said I. " He is
" Dead ? " he repeated, a little stupidly; and then
with a rising tone, " Dead ? dead ? " says he, and
suddenly cast his bloody sword upon the ground.
" What must we do ? " said I. " Be yourself, sir.
It is too late now: you must be yourself."
He turned and stared at me. " Oh, Mackellar ! "
says he, and put his face in his hands.
I plucked him by the coat. " For God's sake, for
all our sakes, be more courageous ! " said I. " What
must we do ? "
He showed me his face with the same stupid stare.
" Do ? " says he. And with that his eye fell on the
body, and " oh ! " he cries out, with his hand to his
brow, as if he had never remembered; and turning
from me, made off toward the house of Durrisdeer
at a strange, stumbling run.
I stood a moment, mused; then it seemed to me
my duty lay most plain on the side of the living; and
I ran after him, leaving the candles on the frosty
ground and the body lying in their light under the
trees. But run as I pleased, he had the start of me,
and was got into the house, and up to the hall, where
I found him standing before the fire with his face once
130 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
more in his hands, and as he so stood, he visibly
" Mr. Henry, Mr. Henry," I said, " this will be
the ruin of us all."
" What is this that I have done ? " cries he, and
then, looking upon me with a countenance that I
shall never forget, " Who is to tell the old man ? "
The word knocked at my heart; but it was no time
for weakness. I went and poured him out a glass
of brandy. " Drink that," said I, " drink it down."
I forced him to swallow it like a child; and, being
still perished with the cold of the night, I followed
" It has to be told, Mackellar," said he. " It must
be tojd." And he fell suddenly in a seat my old
lord's seat by the chimney-side and was shaken
with dry sobs.
Dismay came upon my soul; it was plain there
was no help in Mr. Henry. " Well," said I, " sit
there, and leave all to me." And taking a candle in
my hand, I set forth out of the room in the dark house.
There was no movement; I must suppose that all
had gone unobserved; and I was now to consider
how to smuggle through the rest with the like secrecy.
It was no hour for scruples; and I opened my lady's
door without so much as a knock, and passed boldly in.
" There is some calamity happened," she cried,
sitting up in bed.
" Madam," said I, " I will go forth again into the
passage; and do you get as quickly as you can into
your clothes. There is much to be done."
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 131
She troubled me with no questions, nor did she
keep me waiting. Ere I had time to prepare a word
of that which I must say to her, she was on the
threshold signing me to enter.
" Madam," said I, " if you cannot be very brave,
I must go elsewhere ; for if no one helps me to-night,
there is an end of the house of Durrisdeer."
" I am very courageous," said she; and she looked
at me with a sort of smile, very painful to see, but very
" It has come to a duel," said I.
"A duel?" she repeated. "A duel! Henry
" And the master," said I. " Things have been
borne so long, things of which you know nothing,
which you would not believe if I should tell. But
to-night it went too far, and when he insulted
" Stop," said she. " He ? Who ? "
" Oh, madam ! " cried I, my bitterness breaking
forth, " do you ask me such a question ? Indeed,
then, I may go elsewhere for help; there is none
" I do not know in what I have offended you," said
she. " Forgive me; put me out of this suspense."
But I dared not tell her yet; I felt not sure of her;
and at the doubt and under the sense of impotence it
brought with it, I turned on the poor woman with
something near to anger.
" Madam," said I, " we are speaking of two men;
one of them insulted you, and you ask me which.
I will help you to the answer. With one of these men
132 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
you have spent all your hours; has the other re-
proached you? To one you have been always kind;
to the other, as God sees me and judges between us
two, I think not always; has his love ever failed you ?
To-night one of these two men told the other, in my
hearing the hearing of a hired stranger that
you were in love with him. Before I say one word,
you shall answer your own question : Which was it ?
Nay, madam, you shall answer me another : If it has
come to this dreadful end, whose fault is it ? "
She stared at me like one dazzled. " Good God ! "
she said once, in a kind of bursting exclamation;
and then a second time, in a whisper to herself,
" Great God ! In the name of mercy, Mackellar,
what is wrong ? " she cried. " I am made up; I can
" You are not fit to hear," said I. " Whatever it
was, you shall say first it was your fault."
" Oh ! " she cried, with a gesture of wringing her
hands, " this man will drive me mad ! Can you not
put me out of your thoughts ? "
" I think not once of you," I cried. " I think of
none but my dear unhappy master."
" Ah ! " she cried, with her hand to her heart, " is
Henry dead ? "
" Lower your voice," said I. " The other."
I saw her sway like something stricken by the wind,
and I know not whether in cowardice or misery,
turned aside and looked upon the floor. " These are
dreadful tidings," said I at length, when her silence
began to put me in some fear; " and you and I behove
to be the more bold if the house is to be saved." Still
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 133
she answered nothing. " There is Miss Katharine
besides," I added : " unless we bring this matter
through her inheritance is like to be of shame."
I do not know if it was the thought of her child or
the naked word shame that gave her deliverance;
at least I had no sooner spoken than a sound passed
her lips, the like of it I never heard; it was as though
she had lain buried under a hill and sought to move
that burden. And the next moment she had found
a sort of voice.
" It was a fight," she whispered. " It was not "
and she paused upon the word.
" It was a fair fight on my dear master's part,"
said I. " As for the other, he was slain in the very
act of a foul stroke."
" Not now ! " she cried.
" Madam," said I, " hatred of that man glows in
my bosom like a burning fire; ay, even now he is
dead. God knows, I would have stopped the fighting
had I dared. It is my shame I did not. But when
I saw him fall, if I could have spared one thought
from pitying of my master, it had been to exult in
I do not know if she marked ; but her next words
" My lord ? "
" That shall be my part," said I.
" You will not speak to him as you have to me ? "
" Madam," said I, " have you not some one else
to think of? Leave my lord to me."
" Some one else ? " she repeated.
134 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
' Your husband," said I. She looked at me with
a countenance illegible. " Are you going to turn your
back on him?" I asked.
Still she looked at me; then her hand went to her
heart again. " No," said she.
" God bless you for that word ! " I said. " Go to
him now where he sits in the hall; speak to him
it matters not what you say; give him your hand;
say, ' I know all; ' if God gives you grace enough,
say ' Forgive me.' '
" God strengthen you, and make you merciful,"
said she. " I will go to my husband."
" Let me light you there," said I, taking up the
" I will find my way in the dark," she said,
with a shudder, and I think the shudder was at
So we separated, she downstairs to where a little
light glimmered in the hall door, I along the passage
to my lord's room. It seems hard to say why, but
I could not burst in on the old man as I could on the
young woman; with whatever reluctance, I must
knock. But his old slumbers were light, or perhaps
he slept not; and at the first summons I was bidden
He too sat up in bed; very aged and bloodless he
looked; and whereas he had a certain largeness of
appearance when dressed for daylight, he now seemed
frail and little, and his face (the wig being laid aside)
not bigger than a child's. This daunted me; nor
less, the haggard surmise of misfortune in his eye.
Yet his voice was even peaceful as he inquired my
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 135
errand. I sat my candle down upon a chair, leaned
on the bed-foot, and looked at him.
" Lord Durrisdeer," said I, " it is very well known
to you that I am a partisan in your family."
" I hope we are none of us partisans," said he.
" That you love my son sincerely, I have always been
glad to recognise."
" Oh, my lord, we are past the hour of these civil-
ities," I replied. " If we are to save anything out
of the fire, we must look the fact in its bare coun-
tenance. A partisan I am; partisans we have all
been; it is as a partisan that I am here in the middle
of the night to plead before you. Hear me; before
I go, I will tell you why."
" I would always hear you, Mr. Mackellar," said
he, " and that at any hour, whether of the day or
night, for I would be always sure you had a reason.
You spoke once before to very proper purpose; I
have not forgotten that."
" I am here to plead the cause of my master,"
I said. " I need not tell you how he acts. You know
how he is placed. You know with what generosity
he has always met your other met your wishes."
I corrected myself, stumbling at that name of son.
" You know you must know what he has
suffered what he has suffered about his wife."
" Mr. Mackellar ! " cried my lord, rising in bed
like a bearded lion.
" You said you would hear me," I continued.
" What you do not know, what you should know,
one of the things I am here to speak of is the per-
secution he must bear in private. Your back is not
136 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
turned before one whom I dare not name to you falls
upon him with the most unfeeling taunts; twits him
pardon me, my lord ! twits him with your
partiality, calls him Jacob, calls him clown, pursues
him with ungenerous raillery, not to be borne by man.
And let but one of you appear, instantly he changes;
and my master must smile and courtesy to the man
who has been feeding him with insults; I know
for I have shared in some of it, and I tell you the life
is insupportable. All these months it has endured;
it began with the man's landing; it was by the name of
Jacob that my master was greeted the first night."
My lord made a movement as if to throw aside
the clothes and rise. " If there be any truth in
this " said he.
" Do I look like a man lying ? " I interrupted,
checking him with my hand.
'* You should have told me at first," he said.
" Ah, my lord, indeed I should, and you may well
hate the face of this unfaithful servant ! " I cried.
" I will take order," said he, " at once." And
again made the movement to rise.
Again I checked him. " I have not done," said I.
" Would God I had ! All this my dear, unfortunate
patron has endured without help or countenance.
Your own best word, my lord, was only gratitude.
Oh, but he was your son, too! He had no other
father. He was hated in the country, God knows
how unjustly. He had a loveless marriage. He
stood on all hands without affection or support, dear,
generous, ill-fated, noble heart."
' Your tears do you much honour and me much
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 137
shame," says my lord, with a palsied trembling.
" But you do me some injustice. Henry has been
ever dear to me, very dear. James (I do not deny
it, Mr. Mackellar), James is perhaps dearer; you
have not seen my James in quite a favourable light;
he has suffered under his misfortunes; and we can
only remember how great and how unmerited these
were. And even now his is the more affectionate
nature. But I will not speak of him. All that you
say of Henry is most true; I do not wonder, I know
him to be very magnanimous; you will say I trade
upon the knowledge ? It is possible ; there are dan-
gerous virtues; virtues that tempt the encroacher.
Mr. Mackellar, I will make it up to him; I will take
order with all this. I have been weak; and what is
worse, I have been dull."
" I must not hear you blame yourself, my lord,
with that which I have yet to tell upon my conscience,"
I replied. " You have not been weak ; you have been
abused by a devilish dissembler. You saw yourself
how he had deceived you in the matter of his danger ;
he has deceived you throughout in every step of his
career. I wish to pluck him from your heart; I wish
to force your eyes upon your other son ; ah, you have
a son there ! "
" No, no," said he, " two sons I have two
I made some gesture of despair that struck him;
he looked at me with a changed face. " There is
much worse behind ? " he asked, his voice dying as
it rose upon the question.
" Much worse," I answered. " This night he said
138 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
these words to Mr. Henry : ' I have never known a
woman who did not prefer me to you, and I think who
did not continue to prefer me.' '
" I will hear nothing against my daughter ! " he
cried; and from his readiness to stop me in this
direction, I conclude his eyes were not so dull as I
had fancied, and he had looked on not without anxiety
upon the siege of Mrs. Henry.
" I think not of blaming her," cried I. " It is not
that. These words were said in my hearing to Mr.
Henry; and if you find them not yet plain enough,
these others but a little after : ' Your wife who is in
love with me.' "
" They have quarrelled ? " he said.
" I must fly to them," he said, beginning once
again to leave his bed.
" No, no ! " I cried, holding forth my hands.
" You do not know," said he. " These are dan-
" Will nothing make you understand, my lord ? "
His eyes besought me for the truth.
I flung myself on my knees by the bedside. " Oh,
my lord," cried I, " think on him you have left, think
of this poor sinner whom you begot, whom your wife
bore to you, whom we have none of us strengthened
as we could; think of him, not of yourself; he is the
other sufferer think of him ! That is the door for
sorrow, Christ's door, God's door; oh, it stands
open ! Think of him, even as he thought of you.
Who is to tell the old man? these were his words.
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 139
It was for that I came ; that is why I am here pleading
at your feet."
" Let me get up," he cried, thrusting me aside, and
was on his feet before myself. His voice shook like
a sail in the wind, yet he spoke with a good loudness ;
his face was like the snow, but his eyes were steady
and dry. " Here is too much speech ! " said he.
" Where was it ? "
" In the shrubbery," said I.
" And Mr. Henry ? " he asked. And when I had
told him he knotted his old face in thought.
" And Mr. James ? " says he.
" I have left him lying," said I, " beside the can-
" Candles ? " he cried. And with that he ran to
the window, opened it, and looked abroad. " It
might be spied from the road."
" Where none goes by at such an hour," I objected.
" It makes no matter," he said. " One might.
Hark ! " cries he. " What is that ? "
It was the sound of men very guardedly rowing
in the bay; and I told him so.
" The free-traders," said my lord. " Run at once,
Mackellar; put these candles out. I will dress in
the meanwhile; and when you return we can debate
on what is wisest."
I groped my way downstairs, and out at the door.
From quite a far way off a sheen was visible, making
points of brightness in the shrubbery; in so black
a night it might have been remarked for miles; and
I blamed myself bitterly for my incaution: How
much more sharply when I reached the place ! One
140 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
of the candlesticks was overthrown, and that taper
quenched. The other burned steadily by itself, and
made a broad space of light upon the frosted ground.
All within that circle seemed, by the force of contrast
and the overhanging blackness, brighter than by day.
And there was the bloodstain in the midst; and a little
further off Mr. Henry's sword, the pommel of which
was of silver; but of the body not a trace. My heart
thumped upon my ribs, the hair stirred upon my
scalp, as I stood there staring; so strange was the
sight, so dire the fears it wakened. I looked right and
left; the ground was so hard it told no story. I stood
and listened till my ears ached, but the night was
hollow about me like an empty church; not even a
ripple stirred upon the shore; it seemed you might
have heard a pin drop in the county.
I put the candle out, and the blackness fell about
me groping dark; it was like a crowd surrounding
me; and I went back to the house of Durrisdeer,
with my chin upon my shoulder, startling, as I went,
with craven suppositions. In the door a figure moved
to meet me, and I had near screamed with terror ere
I recognized Mrs. Henry.
" Have you told him ? " says she.
" It was he who sent me," said I. " It is gone.
But why are you here ? "
" It is gone ! " she repeated. " What is gone ? "
" The body," said I. " Why are you not with your
husband ? "
" Gone ? " said she. " You cannot have looked.
" There is no light now," said I. " I dare not."
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 141
" I can see in the dark. I have been standing here
so long so long," said she. " Come ; give me
We returned to the shrubbery hand in hand, and to
the fatal place.
" Take care of the blood," said I.
" Blood ? " she cried, and started violently back.
" I suppose it will be," said I. " I am like a blind
" No," said she, " nothing ! Have you not
dreamed ? "
" Ah, would to God we had ! " cried I.
She spied the sword, picked it up, and, seeing the
blood, let it fall again with her hands thrown wide.
" Ah ! " she cried. And then, with an instant courage,
handled it the second time and thrust it to the hilt
into the frozen ground. " I will take it back and clean
it properly," says she, and again looked about her on
all sides. " It cannot be that he was dead ? " she
" There was no flutter of his heart," said I, and
then remembering : " Why are you not with your
husband ? "
" It is no use," said she, " he will not speak to
" Not speak to you ? " I repeated. " Oh, you have
not tried ! "
" You have a right to doubt me," she replied, with
a gentle dignity.
At this, for the first time, I was seized with sorrow
for her. " God knows, madam," I cried, " God
knows I am not so hard as I appear; on this dreadful
142 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
night, who can veneer his words ? But I am a friend
to all who are not Henry Durie's enemies ! "
" It is hard, then, you should hesitate about his
wife," said she.
I saw all at once, like the rending of a veil, how
nobly she had borne this unnatural calamity, and how
generously my reproaches.
" We must go back and tell this to my lord," said I.
" Him I cannot face," she cried.
" You will find him the least moved of all of us,"
" And yet I cannot face him," said she.
" Well," said I, " you can return to Mr. Henry; I
will see my lord."
As we walked back, I bearing the candlesticks,
she the sword a strange burden for that woman
she had another thought. " Should we tell Henry ? "
" Let my lord decide," said I.
My lord was nearly dressed when I came to his
chamber. He heard me with a frown. " The free-
traders," said he. " But whether dead or alive ? "
" I thought him " said I, and paused, ashamed
of the word.
" I know; but you may very well have been in
error. Why should they remove him if not living ? "
he asked. " Oh, here is a great door of hope. It
must be given out that he departed as he came
without any note of preparation. We must save all
I saw he had fallen, like the rest of us, to think
mainly of the house. Now that all the living members
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 143
of the family were plunged in irremediable sorrow,
it was strange how we turned to that conjoint ab-
straction of the family itself, and sought to bolster up
the airy nothing of its reputation : not the Duries
only, but the hired steward himself.
" Are we to tell Mr. Henry ? " I asked him.
" I will see," said he. " I am going first to visit
him, then I go forth with you to view the shrubbery
We went downstairs into the hall. Mr. Henry sat
by the table with his head upon his hand, like a man
of stone. His wife stood a little back from him, her
hand at her mouth; it was plain she could not move
him. My old lord walked very steadily to where his
son was sitting; he had a steady countenance, too,
but methought a little cold; when he was come quite
up he held out both his hands and said : " My
With a broken, strangled cry, Mr. Henry leaped
up and fell on his father's neck, crying and weeping,
the most pitiful sight that ever a man witnessed. " Oh,
father," he cried, " you know I loved him; you know
I loved him in the beginning; I could have died for
him you know that ! I would have given my life
for him and you. Oh, say you know that ! Oh, say
you can forgive me ! Oh, father, father, what have I
done, what have I done ? and we used to be bairns
together ! " and wept and sobbed, and fondled the
old man, and clutched him about the neck, with the
passion of a child in terror.
And then he caught sight of his wife, you would
have thought for the first time, where she stood weep-
144 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
ing to hear him; and in a moment had fallen at her
knees. " And oh, my lass," he cried, " you must
forgive me, too ! Not your husband I have only
been the ruin of your life. But you knew me when I
was a lad; there was no harm in Henry Durie then;
he meant aye to be a friend to you. It's him it's
the old bairn that played with you oh, can ye never,
never forgive him ? "
Throughout all this my lord was like a cold, kind
spectator with his wits about him. At the first cry,
which was indeed enough to call the house about us,
he had said to me over his shoulder, " Close the door."
And now he nodded to himself. " We may leave him
to his wife now," says he. " Bring a light, Mr. Mac-
Upon my going forth again with my lord, I was
aware of a strange phenomenon; for though it was
quite dark, and the night not yet old methought I
smelled the morning. At the same time there went a
tossing through the branches of the evergreens, so that
they sounded like a quiet sea; and the air puffed at
times against our faces, and the flame of the candle
shook. We made the more speed, I believe, being sur-
rounded by this bustle; visited the scene of the duel,
where my lord looked upon the blood with stoicism;
and passing further on toward the landing-place, came
at last upon some evidences of the truth. For first of
all, where there was a pool across the path, the ice had
been trodden in, plainly by more than one man's
weight; next, and but a little further, a young tree
was broken; and down by the landing-place, where
the traders' boats were usually beached, another
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 145
stain of blood marked where the body must have been
infallibly set down to rest the bearers.
This stain we set ourselves to wash away with the
sea-water, carrying it in my lord's hat; and as we were
thus engaged there came up a sudden, moaning gust
and left us instantly benighted.
" It will come to snow," says my lord; " and the
best thing that we could hope. Let us go back now;
we can do nothing in the dark."
As we went houseward, the wind being again sub-
sided, we were aware of a strong pattering noise about
us in the night; and when we issued from the shelter
of the trees, we found it raining smartly.
Throughout the whole of this, my lord's clearness
of mind, no less than his activity of body, had not
ceased to minister to my amazement. He set the
crown upon it in the council we held on our return.
The free-traders had certainly secured the master,
though whether dead or alive we were still left to our
conjectures; the rain would, long before day, wipe
out all marks of the transaction; by this we must
profit: the master had unexpectedly come after the
fall of night, it must now be given out he had as sud-
denly departed before the break of day; and to make
all this plausible, it now only remained for me to
mount into the man's chamber, and pack and conceal
his baggage. True, we still lay at the discretion of
the traders; but that was the incurable weakness of
I heard him, as I said, with wonder, and hastened
to obey. Mr. and Mrs. Henry were gone from the
hall; my lord, for warmth's sake, hurried to his bed;
146 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
there was still no sign of stir among the servants, and
as I went up the tower stair, and entered the dead
man's room, a horror of solitude weighed upon my
mind. To my extreme surprise, it was all in the dis-
order of departure. Of his three portmanteaus, two
were ready locked, the third lay open and near full.
At once there flashed upon me some suspicion of the
truth. The man had been going after all; he had but
waited upon Crail, as Crail waited upon the wind;
early in the night the seamen had perceived the
weather changing; the boat had come to give notice
of the change and call the passenger aboard, and the
boat's crew had stumbled on him laying in his blood.
Nay, and there was more behind. This prearranged
departure shed some light upon his inconceivable
insult of the night before; it was a parting shot;
hatred being no longer checked by policy. And for
another thing, the nature of that insult, and the con-
duct of Mrs. Henry, pointed to one conclusion : which
I have never verified, and can now never verify until
the great assize, the conclusion that he had at last
forgotten himself, had gone too far in his advances,
and had been rebuffed. It can never be verified, as I
say; but as I thought of it that morning among his
baggage, the thought was sweet to me like honey.
Into the open portmanteau I dipped a little ere I
closed it. The most beautiful lace and linen, many
suits of those fine plain clothes in which he loved to
appear; a book or two, and those of the best, Caesar's
" Commentaries," a volume of Mr. Hobbes, the
" Henriade " of M. de Voltaire, a book upon the
Indies, one on the mathematics, far beyond where I
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 147
have studied : these were what I observed with very
mingled feelings. But in the open portmanteau, no
papers of any description. This set me musing. It
was possible the man was dead ; but, since the traders
had carried him away, not likely. It was possible
he might still die of his wound ; but it was also pos-
sible he might not. And in this latter case I was de-
termined to have the means of some defence*
One after another I carried his portmanteaus to a
loft in the top of the house which we kept locked;
went to my own room for my keys, and returning
to the loft, had the gratification to find two that
fitted pretty well. In one of the portmanteaus there
was a shagreen letter-case, which I cut open with
my knife; and thenceforth (so far as any credit
went) the man was at my mercy. Here was a vast
deal of gallant correspondence, chiefly of his Paris
days; and what was more to the purpose, here were
the copies of his own reports to the English secre-
tary, and the originals of the secretary's answers : a
most damning series: such as to publish would be
to wreck the master's honour and to set a price upon
his life. I chuckled to myself as I ran through the
documents; I rubbed my hands, I sung aloud in my
glee. Day found me at the pleasing task, nor did I
then remit my diligence, except in so far as I went
to the window looked out for a moment, to see the
frost quite gone, the world turned black again, and
the rain and the wind driving in the bay and to
assure myself that the lugger was gone from its
anchorage, and the master (whether dead or alive)
now tumbling on the Irish Sea.
148 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
It is proper I should add in this place the very
little I have subsequently angled out upon the doings
of that night. It took me a long while to gather
it; for we dared not openly ask, and the free-traders
regarded me with enmity, if not with scorn. It was
near six months before we even knew for certain
that the man survived; and it was years before I
learned from one of Crail's men, turned publican on
his ill-gotten gain, some particulars which smack to
me of truth. It seems the traders found the master
struggled on one elbow, and now staring round him,
and now gazing at the candle or at his hand, which
was all bloodied, like a man stupid. Upon their
coming he would seem to have found his mind, bade
them carry him aboard and hold their tongues; and
on the captain asking how he had come in such a
pickle, replied with a burst of passionate swearing,
and incontinently fainted. They held some debate,
but they were momently looking for a wind, they
were highly paid to smuggle him to France, and did
not care to delay. Besides which, he was well enough
liked by these abominable wretches: they supposed
him under capital sentence, knew not in what mis-
chief he might have got his wound, and judged it a
piece of good nature to remove him out of the way
of danger. So he was taken aboard, recovered on the
passage over, and was set ashore a convalescent at
the Havre de Grace. What is truly notable : he said
not a word to any one of the duel, and not a trader
knows to this day in what quarrel, or by the hand of
what adversary, he fell. With any other man I should
have set this down to natural decency; with him,
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 149
to pride. He could not bear to avow, perhaps even
to himself, that he had been vanquished by one
whom he had so much insulted and whom he so
SUMMARY OF EVENTS DURING THE
MASTER'S SECOND ABSENCE
OF the heavy sickness which declared itself next
morning, I can think with equanimity as of
the last unmingled trouble that befell my
master; and even that was perhaps a mercy in dis-
guise; for what pains of the body could equal the
miseries of his mind ? Mrs. Henry and I had the
watching by the bed. My old lord called from time
to time to take the news, but would not usually pass
the door. Once, I remember, when hope was nigh
gone, he stepped to the bedside, looked awhile in his
son's face, and turned away with a singular gesture
of the head and hand thrown up, that remains upon
my mind as something tragic ; such grief and such a
scorn of sublunary things were there expressed. But
the most of the time, Mrs. Henry and I had the room
to ourselves, taking turns by night and bearing each
other company by day, for it was dreary watching.
Mr. Henry, his shaven head bound in a napkin,
tossed to and fro without remission, beating the bed
with his hands. His tongue never lay; his voice ran
continuously like a river, so that my heart was weary
with the sound of it. It was notable, and to me in-
expressibly mortifying, that he spoke all the while
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 151
on matters of no import : comings and goings, horses
which he was ever calling to have saddled, thinking
perhaps (the poor soul !) that he might ride away
from his discomfort matters of the garden, the
salmon nets, and (what I particularly raged to hear)
continually of his affairs, ciphering figures and holding
disputation with the tenantry. Never a word of his
father or his wife, nor of the master, save only for a
day or two, when his mind dwelt entirely in the past
and he supposed himself a boy again and upon some
innocent child's play with his brother. What made
this the more affecting: it appeared the master had
then run some peril of his life, for there was a cry
"Oh, Jamie will be drowned oh, save Jamie!"
which he came over and over with a great deal of
This, I say, was affecting, both to Mrs. Henry and
myself; but the balance of my master's wanderings
did him little justice. It seemed he had set out to
justify his brother's calumnies; as though he was
bent to prove himself a man of a dry nature, im-
mersed in money-getting. Had I been there alone, I
would not have troubled my thumb; but all the
while, as I listened, I was estimating the effect on
the man's wife, and telling myself that he fell lower
every day. I was the one person on the surface of
the globe that comprehended him, and I was bound
there should be yet another. Whether he was to
die there and his virtues perish; or whether he should
save his days and come back to that inheritance of
sorrows, his right memory, I was bound he should
be heartily lamented in the one case and unaiieci>
152 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
edly welcomed in the other, by the person he loved
the most, his wife.
Finding no occasion of free speech, I bethought
me at last of a kind of documentary disclosure; and
for some nights, when I was off duty and should
have been asleep, I gave my time to the preparation
t>f that which I may call my budget.
But this I found to be the easiest portion of my
task, and that which remained, namely, the presen-
tation to my lady, almost more than I had fortitude
to overtake. Several days I went about with my
papers under my arm, spying for some juncture of
talk to serve as introduction. I will not deny but
that some offered; only when they did my tongue
clove to the roof of my mouth; and I think I might
have been carrying about my packet till this day,
had not a fortunate accident delivered me from all
my hesitations. This was at night, when I was once
more leaving the room, the thing not yet done, and
myself in despair at my own cowardice.
" What do you carry about with you, Mr. Mackel-
lar ? " she asked. " These last days, I see you always
coming in and out with the same armful."
I returned upon my steps without a word, laid the
papers before her on the table, and left her to her
reading. Of what that was, I am now to give you
some idea ; and the best will be to reproduce a letter
of my own which came first in the budget and of
which (according to an excellent habitude) I have
preserved the scroll. It will show too the moderation
of my part in these affairs, a thing which some have
called recklessly in question.
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 153
" HONOURED MADAM : I trust I would not step out
of my place without occasion; but I see how much
evil has flowed in the past to all of your noble house
from that unhappy and secretive fault of reticency,
and the papers on which I venture to call your
attention are family papers and all highly worthy
" I append a schedule with some necessary obser-
" And am,
" Honoured madam,
" Your ladyship's obliged, obedient servant,
" EPHRAIM MACKELLAR.
" Schedule of Papers.
" A. Scroll of ten letters from Ephraim Mackellar
to the Honourable James Durie, Esq., by courtesy
Master of Ballantrae during the latter's residence in
Paris : under dates " (follow the dates) '* Nota :
to be read in connection with B. and C.
" B. Seven original letters from the said Mas-
ter of Ballantrae to the said E. Mackellar, under
dates " (follow the dates).
" C. Three original letters from the said Master
of Ballantrae to the Honourable Henry Durie, Esq.,
under dates " (follow the dates} " Nota : given
me by Mr. Henry to answer: copies of my answers
A 4, A 5, and A 9 of these productions. The purport
of Mr. Henry's communications, of which I can find
154 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
no scroll, may be gathered from those of his unnatural
" D. A correspondence, original and scroll, ex-
tending over a period of three years till January of
the current year, between the said Master of Ballan-
trae and , Under Secretary of State ; twenty-
seven in all. Nota: found among the master's
Weary as I was with watching and distress of mind,
it was impossible for me to sleep. All night long I
walked in my chamber, revolving what should be the
issue and sometimes repenting the temerity of my
inmixture in affairs so private; and with the first
peep of the morning, I was at the sick-room door.
Mrs. Henry had thrown open the shutters and even
the window, for the temperature was mild. She
looked steadfastly before her, where was nothing to
see, or only the blue of the morning creeping among
woods. Upon the stir of my entrance she did not
so much as turn about her face: a circumstance
from which I augured very ill.
" Madam," I began; and then again, " Madam; "
but could make no more of it. Nor yet did Mrs.
Henry come to my assistance with a word. In this
pass I began gathering up the papers where they
lay scattered on the table; and the first thing that
struck me, their bulk appeared to have diminished.
Once I ran them through, and twice; but the corre-
spondence with the secretary of state, on which I
had reckoned so much against the future, was no-
where to be found. I looked in the chimney; amid
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 155
the smouldering embers black ashes of paper flut-
tered in the draught; and at that my timidity
" Good God, madam," cried I, in a voice not fit-
ting for a sick-room, " good God, madam, what have
you done with my papers ? "
" I have burned them/' said Mrs. Henry, turning
about. " It is enough, it is too much, that you and I
have seen them."
" This is a fine night's work that you have done ! "
cried I. " And all to save the reputation of a man
that eat bread by the shedding of his comrades'
blood, as I do by the shedding ink."
11 To save the reputation of that family in which
you are a servant, Mr. Mackellar," she returned,
" and for which you have already done so much."
" It is a family I will not serve much longer," 7
cried, " for I am driven desperate. You have stricken
the sword out of my hands ; you have left us all de-
fenceless. I had always these letters I could shake
over his head ; and now what is to do ? We are
so falsely situate, we dare not show the man the door;
the country would fly on fire against us; and I had
this one hold upon him and now it is gone now
he may come back to-morrow, and we must all sit
down with him to dinner, go for a stroll with him
on the terrace, or take a hand at cards, of all things,
to divert his leisure! No, madam; God forgive
you, if he can find it in his heart; for I cannot find
it in mine."
" I wonder to find you so simple, Mr. Mackellar,"
said Mrs. Henry. " What does this man value
156 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
reputation ? But he knows how high we prize it ;
he knows we would rather die than make these letters
public; and do you suppose he would not trade upon
the knowledge ? What you call your sword, Mr. Mac-
kellar, and which had been one indeed against a man
of any remnant of propriety, would have been but
a sword of paper against him. He would smile in
your face at such a threat. He stands upon his
degradation, he makes that his strength; it is in vain
to struggle with such characters." She cried out this
last a little desperately, and then with more quiet:
" No, Mr. Mackellar, I have thought upon this matter
all night, and there is no way out of it. Papers or
no papers, the door of this house stands open for him;
he is the rightful heir, forsooth ! If we sought to
exclude him, all would redound against poor Henry,
and I should see him stoned again upon the streets.
Ah ! if Henry dies, it is a different matter ! They
have broke the entail for their own good purposes;
the estate goes to my daughter; and I shall see who
sets a foot upon it. But if Henry lives, my poor
Mr. Mackellar, and that man returns, we must suffer;
only this time it will be together."
On the whole, I was well pleased with Mrs. Henry's
attitude of mind; nor could I even deny there was
some cogency in that which she advanced about the
" Let us say no more about it," said I. " I can
only be sorry I trusted a lady with the originals,
which was an unbusiness-like proceeding at the best.
As for what I said of leaving the service of the family,
it was spoken with the tongue only; and you may set
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 157
your mind at rest. I belong to Durrisdeer, Mrs.
Henry, as if I had been born there."
I must do her the justice to say she seemed perfectly
relieved; so that we began this morning, as we were
to continue for so many years, on a proper ground
of mutual indulgence and respect.
The same day, which was certainly predicate to joy,
we observed the first signal of recovery in Mr. Henry;
and about three of the following afternoon he found
his mind again, recognising me by name with the
strongest evidences of affection. Mrs. Henry was
also in the room, at the bed-foot ; but it did not appear
that he observed her. And indeed (the fever being
gone) he was so weak that he made but the one effort
and sunk again into a lethargy. The course of his
restoration was now slow but equal; every day his
appetite improved; every week we were able to re-
mark an increase both of strength and flesh; and
before the end of the month he was out of bed and
had even begun to be carried in his chair upon the
It was perhaps at this time that Mrs. Henry and
I were the most uneasy in mind. Apprehension for
his days was at an end; and a worse fear succeeded.
Every day we drew consciously nearer to a day of
reckoning; and the days passed on, and still there
was nothing. Mr. Henry bettered in strength, he
held long talks with us on a great diversity of subjects,
his father came and sat with him and went again;
and still there was no reference to the late tragedy or
to the former troubles which had brought it on. Did
he remember, and conceal his dreadful knowledge ?
158 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
or was the whole blotted from his mind ? this was the
problem that kept us watching and trembling all day
when we were in his company, and held us awake at
night when we were in our lonely beds. We knew not
even which alternative to hope for, both appearing so
unnatural and pointing so directly to an unsound
brain. Once this fear offered, I observed his conduct
with sedulous particularity. Something of the child
he exhibited : a cheerfulness quite foreign to his
previous character, an interest readily aroused, and
then very tenacious, in small matters which he had
heretofore despised. When he was stricken down, I
was his only confidant, and I may say his only friend,
and he was on terms of division with his wife; upon
his recovery all was changed, the past forgotten, the
wife first and even single in his thoughts. He turned
to her with all his emotions like a child to its mother,
and seemed secure of sympathy; called her in all
his needs with something of that querulous familiarity
that marks a certainty of indulgence; and I must say,
in justice to the woman, he was never disappointed.
To her, indeed, this changed behaviour was inexpress-
ibly affecting; and I think she felt it secretly as a
reproach; so that I have seen her, in early days,
escape out of the room that she might indulge herself
in weeping. But to me the change appeared not
natural ; and viewing it along with all the rest, I began
to wonder, with many head-shakings, whether his
reason were perfectly erect.
As this doubt stretched over many years, endured
indeed until my master's death, and clouded all our
subsequent relations, I may well consider of it more
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 159
at large. When he was able to resume some charge
of his affairs I had many opportunities to try him
with precision. There was no lack of understanding,
nor yet of authority; but the old continuous interest
had quite departed; he grew readily fatigued and fell
to yawning; and he carried into money relations,
where it is certainly out of place, a facility that bor-
dered upon slackness. True, since we had no longer
the exactions of the master to contend against there
was the less occasion to raise strictness into principle
or do battle for a farthing. True again, there was
nothing excessive in these relaxations, or I would
have been no party to them. But the whole thing
marked a change, very slight yet very perceptible;
and though no man could say my master had gone
at all out of his mind, no man could deny that he had
drifted from his character. It was the same to the
end, with his manner and appearance. Some of the
heat of the fever lingered in his veins : his movements
a little hurried, his speech notably more voluble, yet
neither truly amiss. His whole mind stood open to
happy impressions, welcoming these and making
much of them; but the smallest suggestion of trouble
or sorrow he received with visible impatience and
dismissed again with immediate relief. It was to
this temper that he owed the felicity of his later days ;
and yet here it was, if anywhere, that you could call
the man insane. A great part of this life consists in
contemplating what we cannot cure; but Mr. Henry,
if he could not dismiss solicitude by an effort of the
mind, must instantly and at whatever cost annihilate
the cause of it; so that he played alternately the
160 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
ostrich and the bull. It is to this strenuous cowardice
of pain that I have to set down all the unfortunate
and excessive steps of his subsequent career. Cer-
tainly this was the reason of his beating McManus,
the groom, a thing so much out of all his former
practice and which awakened so much comment at
the time. It is to this again that I must lay the total
loss of near upon two hundred pounds, more than the
half of which I could have saved if his impatience
would have suffered me. But he preferred loss or
any desperate extreme to a continuance of mental
All this has led me far from our immediate trouble
whether he remembered or had forgotten his late
dreadful act, and if he remembered, in what light he
viewed it. The truth burst upon us suddenly, and
was indeed one of the chief surprises of my life. He
had been several times abroad, and was now begin-
ning to walk a little with an arm, when it chanced I
should be left alone with him upon the terrace. He
turned to me with a singular furtive smile, such as
schoolboys use when in fault, and says he, in a private
whisper and without the least preface:
" Where have you buried him ? "
I could not make one sound in answer.
" Where have you buried him ? " he repeated.
" I want to see his grave."
I conceived I had best take the bull by the horns.
" Mr. Henry," said I, " I have news to give that will
rejoice you exceedingly. In all human likelihood
your hands are clear of blood. I reason from certain
indices, and by these it should appear your brother
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE i6r
was not dead, but was carried in a swound on board
the lugger. By now he may be perfectly recovered."
What there was in his countenance I could not read.
" James ? " he asked.
" Your brother James," I answered. " I would
not raise a hope that may be found deceptive, but in
my heart I think it very probable he is alive."
" Ah ! " says Mr. Henry, and suddenly rising from
his seat with more alacrity than he had yet discovered,
set one finger on my breast and cried at me in a kind
of screaming whisper, " Mackellar " these were
his words " nothing can kill that man. He is not
mortal. He is bound upon my back to all eternity
to all God's eternity ! " says he, and sitting down
again, fell upon a stubborn silence.
A day or two after, with the same secret smile, and
first looking about as if to be sure we were alone,
" Mackellar," said he, " when you have any intel-
ligence be sure and let me know. We must keep an:
eye upon him or he will take us when we least expect."
" He will not show face here again," said I.
" Oh, yes, he will," said Mr. Henry, " Wherever I
am there will he be." And again he looked all about
" You must not dwell upon this thought, Mr.
Henry," said I.
" No," said he, " that is very good advice. We
will never think of it except when you have news.
And we do not know yet," he added; " he may be
The manner of his saying this convinced me thor-
oughly of what I had scarce ventured to suspect
1 62 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
that so far from suffering any penitence for the attempt
he did but lament his failure. This was a discovery I
kept to myself, fearing it might do him a prejudice
with his wife. But I might have saved myself the
trouble; she had divined it for herself, and found
the sentiment quite natural. Indeed, I could not but
say that there were three of us all of the same mind,
nor could any news have reached Durrisdeer more
generally welcome than tidings of the master's
This brings me to speak of the exception my old
lord. As soon as my anxiety for my old master began
to be relaxed I was aware of a change in the old
gentleman, his father, that seemed to threaten mortal
His face was pale and swollen; as he sat in the
chimney-side with his Latin he would drop off sleeping
and the book roll in the ashes; some days he would
drag his foot, others stumble in speaking. The
amenity of his behaviour appeared more extreme;
full of excuses for the least trouble, very thoughtful
for all; to myself of a most flattering civility. One
day that he had sent for his lawyer and remained a
long while private he met me as he was crossing the
hall with painful footsteps and took me kindly by
the hand. " Mr Mackellar," said he, " I have had
many occasions to set a proper value on your services,
and to-day when I recast my will I have taken the
freedom to name you for one of my executors. I
believe you bear love enough to our house to render
me this service." At that very time he passed the
greater portion of his days in slumber, from which
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 163
it was often difficult to rouse him; seemed to have
lost all count of years, and had several times (particu-
larly on waking) called for his wife and for an old
servant whose very gravestone was now green with
moss. If I had been put to my oath, I must have
declared he was incapable of testing, and yet there
was never a will drawn more sensible in every trait,
or showing a more excellent judgment both of persons
His dissolution, though it took not very long, pro-
ceeded by infinitesimal gradations. His faculties
decayed together steadily; the power of his limbs was
almost gone, he was extremely deaf, his speech had
sunk into mere mumblings; and yet to the end he
managed to discover something of his former courtesy
and kindness, pressing the hand of any that helped
him, presenting me with one of his Latin books in
which he had laboriously traced my name, and in a
thousand ways reminding us of the greatness of that
loss, which it might almost be said we had already
suffered. To the end, the power of articulation
returned to him in flashes; it seemed he had only
forgotten the art of speech as a child forgets his lesson,
and at times he would call some part of it to mind.
On the last night of his life, he suddenly broke silence
with these words from Virgil : " Gnatique pratisque,
alma, precor, miserere" perfectly uttered and with a
fitting accent. At the sudden clear sound of it, we
started from our several occupations; but it was in
vain we turned to him; he sat there silent and to all
appearances fatuous. A little later, he was had to bed
with more difficulty than ever before; and some time
164 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
in the night, without any mortal violence, his spirit
At a far later period I chanced to speak of these
particulars with a doctor of medicine, a man of so
high a reputation that I scruple to adduce his name.
By his view of it, father and son both suffered from
the same affection; the father from the strain of his
unnatural sorrows, the son perhaps in the excitation
of the fever, each had ruptured a vessel on the brain ;
and there was probably (my doctor added) some
predisposition in the family to accidents of that
description. The father sunk, the son recovered all
the externals of a healthy man ; but it is like there was
some destruction in those delicate tissues where the
soul resides and does her earthly business; her
heavenly, I would fain hope, cannot be thus obstructed
by material accidents. And yet upon a more mature
opinion, it matters not one jot; for He who shall
pass judgment on the records of our life is the same
that formed us in frailty.
The death of my old lord was the occasion of a
fresh surprise to us who watched the behaviour of his
successor. To any considering mind the two sons
had between them slain their father; and he who
took the sword might be even said to have slain him
with his hand. But no such thought appeared to
trouble my new lord. He was becomingly grave;
I could scarce say sorrowful, or only with a pleasant
sorrow; talking of the dead with a regretful cheer-
fulness, relating old examples of his character, smiling
at them with a good conscience; and when the day
of the funeral came round doing the honours with
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 165
exact propriety. I could perceive, besides, that he
found a solid gratification in his accession to the title ;
the which he was punctilious in exacting.
And now there came upon the scene a new character,
and one that played his part too in the story; I mean
the present lord, Alexander, whose birth (iyth July,
1757) filled the cup of my poor master's happiness.
There was nothing then left him to wish for; nor yet
leisure to wish for it. Indeed, there never was a
parent so fond and doting as he showed himself.
He was continually uneasy in his son's absence.
Was the child abroad ? the father would be watching
the clouds in case it rained. Was it night ? he would
rise out of his bed to observe its slumbers. His con-
versation grew even wearyful to strangers, since he
talked of little but his son. In matters relating to the
estate all was designed with a particular eye to Alex-
ander; and it would be: " Let us put it in hand at
once, that the wood may be grown against Alexander's
majority; " or " this will fall in again handsomely
for Alexander's marriage." Every day this absorption
of the man's nature became more observable, with
many touching and some very blameworthy particu-
lars. Soon the child could walk abroad with him, at
first on the terrace hand in hand, and afterward at
large about the policies; and this grew to be my lord's
chief occupation. The sound of their two voices
(audible a great way off, for they spoke loud) became
familiar in the neighbourhood; and for my part I
found it more agreeable than the sound of birds. It
was pretty to see the pair returning, full of briers, and
1 66 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
the father as flushed and sometimes as bemuddied as
the child; for they were equal sharers in all sorts of
boyish entertainment, digging in the beach, damming
of streams, and what not; and I have seen them gaze
through a fence at cattle with the same childish
The mention of these rambles brings me to a strange
scene of which I was a witness. There was one walk
I never followed myself without emotion, so often
had I gone there upon miserable errands, so much
had there befallen against the house of Durrisdeer.
But the path lay handy from all points beyond the
Muckle Ross; and I was driven, although much
against my will, to take my use of it perhaps once in
the two months. It befell when Mr. Alexander was
of the age of seven or eight, I had some business on the
far side in the morning, and entered the shrubbery
on my homeward way, about nine of a bright fore-
noon. It was that time of year when the woods are
all in their spring colours, the thorns all in flower, and
the birds in the high season of their singing. In
contrast to this merriment, the shrubbery was only
the more sad and I the more oppressed by its asso-
ciations. In this situation of spirit, it struck me
disagreeably to hear voices a little way in front, and
to recognize the tones of my lord and Mr. Alexander.
I pushed ahead, and came presently into their view.
They stood together in the open space where the duel
was, my lord with his hand on his son's shoulder and
speaking with some gravity. At least, as he raised
his head upon my coming, I thought I could perceive
his countenance to lighten.
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 167
" Ah," says he, " here comes the good Mackellar.
I have just been telling Sandie the story of this place,
and how there was a man whom the devil tried to
kill, and how near he came to kill the devil instead."
I had thought it strange enough he should bring
the child into that scene; that he should actually
be discoursing of his act, passed measure. But the
worst was yet to come; for he added, turning to his
son: 'You can ask Mackellar; he was here and
" Is it true, Mr. Mackellar ? " asked the child.
" And did you really see the devil ? "
"I have not heard the tale," I replied; "and I
am in a press of business." So far I said a little sourly,
fencing with the embarrassment of the position ; and
suddenly the bitterness of the past and the terror of
that scene by candle-light rushed in upon my mind;
I bethought me that, for a difference of a second's
quickness in parade, the child before me might have
never seen the day; and the emotion that always
fluttered round my heart in that dark shrubbery
burst forth in words. " But so much is true," I cried,
" that I have met the devil in these woods and seen
him foiled here; blessed be God that we escaped
with life blessed be God that one stone yet stands
upon another in the walls of Durrisdeer! and oh,
Mr. Alexander, if ever you come by this spot, though
it was a hundred years hence and you came with the
gayest and the highest in the land, I would step aside
and remember a bit prayer."
My lord bowed his head gravely. " Ah," says
he, " Mackellar is always in the right. Come, Alex-
.168 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
ander, take your bonnet off." And with that he un-
covered and held out his hand. " Oh, Lord," said
he, " I thank thee, and my son thanks thee, for thy
manifold great mercies. Let us have peace for a
little; defend us from the evil man. Smite him,
oh, Lord, upon the lying mouth!" The last broke
out of him like a cry; and at that, whether remem-
bered anger choked his utterance, or whether he
perceived this was a singular sort of prayer, at least
he came suddenly to a full stop; and after a moment
set back his hat upon his head.
" I think you have forgot a word, my lord," said
I. " Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them
that trespass against us. For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.
" Ah, that is easy saying," said my lord. " That
is very easy saying, Mackellar. But for me to for-
give ? I think I would cut a very .silly figure, if I
had the affectation to pretend it."
" The bairn, my lord," said I, with some severity,
for I thought his expressions little fitted for the ears
" Why, very true," said he. " This is dull work
for a bairn. Let's go nesting."
I forget if it was the same day, but it was soon
after, my lord, finding me alone, opened himself a
little more on the same head.
" Mackellar," he said, " I am now a very happy
" I think so indeed, my lord," said I, " and the
sight of it gives me a light heart."
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 169
" There is an obligation in happiness, do you not
think so ? " says he musingly.
" I think so indeed," says I, " and one in sorrow
too. If we are not here to try to do the best, in my
humble opinion, the sooner we are away the better
for all parties."
" Ay, but if you were in my shoes, would you
forgive him ? " asks my lord.
The suddenness of the attack a little gravelled me.
" It is a duty laid upon us strictly," said I.
" Hut ! " said he. " These are expressions ! Do
you forgive the man yourself ? "
"Well no!" said I. "God forgive me, I do
" Shake hands upon that ! " cries my lord, with a
kind of joviality.
" It is an ill sentiment to shake hands upon," said
I, " for Christian people. I think I will give you mine
on some more evangelical occasion."
This I said, smiling a little; but as for my lord,
he went from the room laughing aloud.
For my lord's slavery to the child, I can find no
expression adequate. He lost himself in that con-
tinual thought; business, friends, and wife being all
alike forgotten or only remembered with a painful
effort, like that of one struggling with a posset. It
was most notable in the matter of his wife. Since
I had known Durrisdeer she had been the burden
of his thought and the loadstone of his eyes; and
now, she was quite cast out. I have seen him come
to the door of a room, look round, and pass my lady
1 70 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
over as though she were a dog before the fire; it
would be Alexander he was seeking, and my lady
knew it well. I have heard him speak to her so
ruggedly that I nearly found it in my heart to inter-
vene; the cause would still be the same, that she had
in some way thwarted Alexander. Without doubt
this was in the nature of a judgment on my lady.
Without doubt she had the tables turned upon her
as only Providence can do it; she who had been
cold so many years to every mark of tenderness, it
was her part now to be neglected; the more praise
to her that she played it well.
An odd situation resulted : that we had once more
two parties in the house, and that now I was of my
lady's. Not that ever I lost the love I bore my master.
But. for one thing, he had the less use for my society.
For another, I could not but compare the case of Mr.
Alexander with that of Miss Katharine; for whom
my lord had never found the least attention. And for
a third, I was wounded by the change he discovered
to his wife, which struck me in the nature of an in-
fidelity. I could not but admire besides the constancy
and kindness she displayed. Perhaps her sentiment
to my lord, as it had been founded from the first in
pity, was that rather of a mother than a wife; per-
haps it pleased her (if I may so say) to behold her
two children so happy in each other; the more as
one had suffered so unjustly in the past. But for
all that, and though I could never trace in her one
spark of jealousy, she must fall back for society on
poor, neglected Miss Katharine; and I, on my part,
came to pass my spare hours more and more with
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 171
the mother and daughter. It would be easy to make
too much of this division, for it was a pleasant family
as families go; still the thing existed; whither my
lord knew it or not, I am in doubt. I do not think
he did, he was bound up so entirely in his son; but
the rest of us knew it and (in a manner) suffered
from the knowledge.
What troubled us most, however, was the great
and growing danger to the child. My lord was his
father over again ; it was to be feared the son would
prove a second master. Time has proved these fears
to have been quite exaggerate. Certainly there is
no more worthy gentleman to-day in Scotland than
the seventh Lord Durrisdeer. Of my own exodus
from his employment, it does not become me to
speak, above all in a memorandum written only to
justify his father. 1 . . . But our fear at the time was
lest he should turn out, in the person of his son, a
second edition of his brother. My lady had tried
to interject some wholesome discipline; she had
been glad to give that up, and now looked on with
secret dismay; sometimes she even spoke of it by
hints; and sometimes when there was brought to
her knowledge some monstrous instance of my lord's
indulgence she would betray herself in a gesture or
perhaps an exclamation. As for myself, I was haunted
by the thought both day and night; not so much
'[EDITOR'S NOTE. Five pages of Mr. Mackellar's MS. are
here omitted. I have gathered from their perusal an impression
that Mr. Mackellar, in his old age, was rather an exacting serv-
ant. Against the seventh Lord Durrisdeer (with whom, at any
rate, we have no concern) nothing material is alleged. R. L. S.]
172 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
for the child's sake as for the father's. The man
had gone to sleep, he was dreaming a dream, and any
rough wakening must infallibly prove mortal. That
he should survive its death was inconceivable; and
the fear of its dishonour made me cover my face.
It was the continual preoccupation that screwed
me up at last to a remonstrance; a matter worthy
to be narrated in detail. My lord and I sat one day
at the same table upon some tedious business of de-
tail; I have said that he had lost his former interest
in such occupations; he was plainly itching to be
gone, and he looked fretful, weary, and, methought,
older than I had ever previously observed. I suppose
it was the haggard face that put me suddenly upon
" My lord," said I, with my head down, and feign-
ing to continue my occupation " or rather let me
call you again by the name of Mr. Henry, for I
fear your anger and want you to think upon old
" My good Mackellar! " said he; and that in tones
so kindly that I had near forsook my purpose. But
I called to mind that I was speaking for his good,
and stuck to my colours.
" Has it never come in upon your mind what you
are doing ? " I asked.
" What I am doing ? " he repeated. " I was never
good at guessing riddles."
" What you are doing with your son," said I.
" Well," said he, with some defiance in his tone,
" and what am I doing with my son ? "
" Your father was a very good man," says I, stray-
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 173
ing from the direct path. " But do you think he was
a wise father ? "
There was a pause before he spoke, and then : " I
say nothing against him," he replied. " I had the
most cause perhaps; but I say nothing."
" Why, there it is," said I. " You had the cause
at least. And yet your father was a good man; I
never knew a better, save on the one point, nor yet a
wiser. Where he stumbled, it is highly possible
another man should fall. He had the two sons "
My lord rapped suddenly and violently on the
" What is this ? " cried he. " Speak out ! "
" I will, then," said I, my voice almost strangled
with the thumping of my heart. " If you continue
to indulge Mr. Alexander, you are following in your
father's footsteps : Beware, my lord, lest (when he
grows up) your son should follow in the master's."
I had never meant to put the thing so crudely;
but in the extreme of fear, there comes a brutal kind
of courage, the most brutal indeed of all; and I burned
my ships with that plain word. I never had the an-
swer. When I lifted my head, my lord had risen
to his feet, and the next moment he fell heavily on
the floor. The fit of seizure endured not very long;
he came to himself vacantly, put his hand to his head
which I was then supporting, and says he, in a broken
voice : " I have been ill," and a little after : " Help
me ! " I got him to his feet, and he stood pretty
well, though he kept hold of the table. " I have
been ill, Mackellar," he said again. " Something
broke, Mackellar or was going to break, and then
174 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
all swam away. I think I was very angry. Never you
mind, Mackellar, never you mind, my man. I would-
nae hurt a hair upon your head. Too much has
come and gone. It's a certain thing between us two.
But I think, Mackellar, I will go to Mrs. Henry
I think I will go to Mrs. Henry," said he, and got
pretty steadily from the room, leaving me overcome
Presently the door flew open, and my lady swept
in with flashing eyes. " What is all this ? " she cried.
" What have you done to my husband ? Will
nothing teach you your position in this house ? Will
you never cease from making and meddling ? "
" My lady," said I, " since I have been in this
house, I have had plenty of hard words. For awhile
they were my daily diet, and I swallowed them all.
As for to-day, you may call me what you please;
you will never find the name hard enough for such
a blunder. And yet I meant it for the best."
I told her all with ingenuity, even as it is written
here; and when she had heard me out, she pondered,
and I could see her animosity fall. " Yes," she said,
" you meant well indeed. I have had the same thought
myself, or the same temptation rather, which makes
me pardon you. But, dear God, can you not under-
stand that he can bear no more ? He can bear no
more ! " she cried. " The cord is stretched to snap-
ping. What matters the future, if he have one or
two good days ? "
" Amen," said I. " I will meddle no more. I am
pleased enough that you should recognise the kindness
of my meaning."
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 175
" Yes," said my lady, " but when it came to the
point, I have to suppose your courage failed you;
for what you said was said cruelly." She paused,
looking at me; then suddenly smiled a little, and
said a singular thing : " Do you know what you are,
Mr. Mackellar ? You are an old maid."
No more incident of any note occurred in the
family until the return of that ill-starred man, the
master. But I have to place here a second extract
from the memoirs of Chevalier Burke, interesting
in itself and highly necessary for my purpose. It
is our only sight of the master on his Indian travels;
and the first word in these pages of Secundra Dass.
One fact, it is to observe, appears here very clearly,
which if we had known some twenty years ago, how
many calamities and sorrows had been spared !
that Secundra Dass spoke English.
ADVENTURE OF CHEVALIER BURKE IN
(Extracted from his Memoirs.)
. . . HERE was I, therefore, on the streets of that
city, the name of which I cannot call to mind, while
even then I was so ill acquainted with its situation that
I knew not whether to go south or north. The alert
being sudden, I had run forth without shoes or stock-
ings; my hat had been struck from my head in the
mellay; my kit was in the hands of the English; I
had no companion but the cipaye, no weapon but my
sword, and the devil a coin in my pocket. In short I
was for all the world like one of those calendars with
whom Mr. Galland has made us acquainted in his
elegant tales. These gentlemen, you will remember,
were for ever falling in with extraordinary incidents;
and I was myself upon the brink of one so astonishing
that I protest I cannot explain it to this day.
The cipaye was a very honest man, he had served
many years with the French colours, and would have
let himself be cut to pieces for any of the brave country-
men of Mr. Lally. It is the same fellow (his name
has quite escaped me) of whom I have narrated
already a surprising instance of generosity of mind:
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 177
when he found Mr. de Fessac and myself upon the
ramparts, entirely overcome with liquor, and covered
us with straw while the commandant was passing by.
I consulted him therefore with perfect freedom. It
was a fine question what to do; but we decided at
last to escalade a garden wall, where we could cer-
tainly sleep in the shadow of the trees, and might
perhaps find an occasion to get hold of a pair of
slippers and a turban. In that part of the city we had
only the difficulty of the choice, for it was a quarter
consisting entirely of walled gardens, and the lanes
which divided them were at that hour of the night
deserted. I gave the cipaye a back, and we had soon
dropped into a large enclosure full of trees. The
place was soaking with the dew which, in that country,
is exceedingly unwholesome, above all to whites; yet
my fatigue was so extreme that I was already half
asleep, when the cipaye recalled me to my senses.
In the far end of the inclosure a bright light had
suddenly shone out, and continued to burn steadily
among the leaves. It was a circumstance highly
unusual in such a place and hour; and in our situation
it behoved us to proceed with some timidity. The
cipaye was sent to reconnoitre, and pretty soon re-
turned with the intelligence that we had fallen ex-
tremely amiss, for the house belonged to a white man,
who was in all likelihood English.
" Faith," says I, " if there's a white man to be seen,
I will have a look at him ; for the Lord be praised !
there are more sorts than the one ! "
The cipaye led me forward accordingly to a place
from which I had a clear view upon the house. It
1 78 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
was surrounded with a wide veranda; a lamp, very
well trimmed, stood upon the floor of it, and on either
side of the lamp there sat a man, cross-legged after
the Oriental manner. Both, besides, were bundled
up in muslin like two natives; and yet one of them
was not only a white man, but a man very well known
to me and the reader : being indeed that very master
of Ballantrae of whose gallantry and genius I have
had to speak so often. Word had reached me that
he was come to the Indies; though we had never met
at least, and I heard little of his occupations. But
sure, I had no sooner recognised him, and found
myself in the arms of so old a comrade, than I supposed
my tribulations were quite done. I stepped plainly
forth into the light of the moon, which shone exceed-
ing strong, and nailing Ballantrae by name, made him
in a few words master of my grievous situation. He
turned, started the least thing in the world, looked
me fair in the face while I was speaking, and when I
had done, addressed himself to his companion in the
barbarous native dialect. The second person, who
was of an extraordinary delicate appearance, with
legs like walking-canes and fingers like the stalk of
a tobacco pipe x now rose to his feet.
' The sahib," says he, " understands no English
language. I understand it myself, and I see you make
some small mistake oh, which may happen very
often ! But the sahib would be glad to know how you
come in a garden."
" Ballantrae ! " I cried. " Have you the damned
impudence to deny me to my face ? "
1 Note by Mr. Mackellar. Plainly Secunda Dass. E. McK.
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE i/9
Ballantrae never moved a muscle, staring at me
like an image in a pagoda.
" The sahib understands no English language,"
says the native, as glib as before. " He be glad to
know how you come in a garden."
" Oh, the divil fetch him ! " says I. " He would
be glad to know how I come in a garden, would he ?
Well now, my dear man, just have the civility to tell
the sahib, with my kind love, that we are two soldiers
here whom he never met and never heard of, but the
cipaye is a broth of a- boy, and I am a broth of a boy
myself; and if we don't get a full meal of meat, and
a turban, and slippers, and the value of a gold mohur
in small change as a matter of convenience, my friend,
I could lay my finger on a garden where there is going
to be trouble."
They carried their comedy so far as to converse
awhile in Hindoostanee; and then says the Hindoo,
with the same smile, but sighing as if he were tired
of the repetition : " The sahib would be glad to know
how you come in a garden."
" Is that the way of it ? " says I, and laying my
hand on my sword-hilt, I bade the cipaye draw.
Ballantrae's Hindoo, still smiling, pulled out a
pistol from his bosom, and though Ballantrae himself
never moved a muscle, I knew him well enough to
be sure he was prepared.
" The sahib thinks you better go away," says the
Well, to be plain, it was what I was thinking my-
self; for the report of a pistol would have been, under
Providence, the means of hanging the pair of us.
i8o THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
" Tell the sahib, I consider him no gentleman,"
says I, and turned away with a gesture of contempt.
I was not gone three steps when the voice of the
Hindoo called me back. " The sahib would be glad
to know if you are a damn low Irishman," says he;
and at the words Ballantrae smiled and bowed very
" What is that ? " says I.
" The sahib say you ask your friend Mackellar,"
says the Hindoo. ;< The sahib he cry quits."
" Tell the sahib I will give him a cure for the Scots
fiddle when next we meet," cried I.
The pair were still smiling as I left.
There is little doubt some flaws may be picked in
my own behaviour; and when a man, however gallant,
appeals to posterity with an account of his exploits,
he must almost certainly expect to share the fate of
Caesar and Alexander, and to meet with some de-
tractors. But there is one thing that can never be laid
at the door of Francis Burke: he never turned his
back on a friend. . . .
(Here follows a passage which the Chevalier Burke
has been at the pains to delete before sending me his
manuscript. Doubtless it was some very natural
complaint of what he supposed to be an indiscretion
on my part; though, indeed, I can call none to mind.
Perhaps Mr. Henry was less guarded; or it is just
possible the master found the means to examine my
correspondence, and himself read the letter from
Troyes: in revenge for which this cruel jest was
perpetrated on Mr. Burke in his extreme necessity.
The master, for all his wickedness, was not without
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 181
some natural affection; I believe he was sincerely
attached to Mr. Burke in the beginning; but the
thought of treachery dried up the springs of his very
shallow friendship, and his detestable nature appeared
naked. E. McK.)
THE ENEMY IN THE HOUSE
IT IS a strange thing that I should be at a stick
for a date the date, besides, of an incident that
changed the very nature of my life, and sent us all
into foreign lands. But the truth is I was stricken
out of all my habitudes, and find my journals very
ill redd-up, 1 the day not indicated sometimes for a
week or two together, and the whole fashion of the
thing like that of a man near desperate. It was late
in March at least, or early in April, 1764. I had slept
heavily and wakened with a premonition of some
evil to befall. So strong was this upon my spirit that
I hurried downstairs in my shirt and breeches, and
my hand (I remember) shook upon the rail. It was
a cold, sunny morning with a thick white frost; the
blackbirds sung exceeding sweet and loud about the
house of Durrisdeer, and there was a noise of the sea
in all the chambers. As I came by the doors of the
hall another sound arrested me, of voices talking.
I drew nearer and stood like a man dreaming. Here
was certainly a human yoice, and that my own master's
house, and yet I knew it not; certainly human speech,
and that in my native land ; and yet listen as I pleased,
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 183
I could not catch one syllable. An old tale started
up in my mind of a fairy wife (or perhaps only a
wandering stranger), that came to the place of my
fathers some generations back, and stayed the matter
of a week, talking often in a tongue that signified
nothing to the hearers; and went again as she had
come, under cloud of night, leaving not so much as a
name behind her. A little fear I had, but more curi-
osity; and I opened the hall door and entered.
The supper things still lay upon the table; the
shutters were still closed, although day peeped in the
divisions; and the great room was lighted only with
a single taper and some lurching reverberation of
the fire. Close in the chimney sat two men. The
one that was wrapped in a cloak and wore boots, I
knew at once : it was the bird of ill omen back again.
Of the other, who was set close to the red embers,
and made up into a bundle like a mummy, I could
but see that he was an alien, of a darker hue than any
man of Europe, very frailly built, with a singular tall
forehead and a secret eye. Several bundles and a
small valise were on the floor; and to judge by the
smallness of this luggage, and by the condition of the
master's boots, grossly patched by some unscrupulous
country cobbler, evil had not prospered.
He rose upon my entrance; our eyes crossed; and
I know not why it should have been, but my courage
rose like a lark on a May morning.
"Ha!" said I, "is this you ? " and I was
pleased with the unconcern of my own voice.
" It is even myself, worthy Mackellar," says the
1 84 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
" This time you have brought the black dog visibly
upon your back," I continued.
" Referring to Secundra Dass ? " asked the master.
" Let me present you. He is a native gentleman of
" Hum ! " said I. " I am no great lover either of
you or your friends, Mr. Bally. But I will let a little
daylight in and have a look at you." And so saying,
I undid the shutters of the eastern window.
By the light of the morning I could perceive the
man was changed. Later, when we were all together,
I was more struck to see how lightly time had dealt
with him, but the first glance was otherwise.
'* You are getting an old man," said I.
A shade came upon his face. " If you could see
yourself," said he, " you would perhaps not dwell
upon the topic."
" Hut ! " I returned ; " old age is nothing to me.
I think I have been always old, and I am now, I thank
God, better known and more respected. It is not
every one that can say that, Mr. Bally! The lines
in your brow are calamities; your life begins to close
in upon you like a prison ; death will soon be rapping
at the door, and I see not from what source you are to
draw your consolations."
Here the master addressed himself to Secundra
Dass in Hindoostanee, from which I gathered (I freely
confess, with a high degree of pleasure) that my
remarks annoyed him. Ali this while, you may be
sure, my mind had been busy upon other matters
even while I rallied my enemy, and chiefly as to how
I should communicate secretly and quickly with my
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 185
lord. To this, in the breathing-space now given me,
I turned all the forces of my mind, when, suddenly
shifting my eyes, I was aware of the man himself
standing in the doorway, and to all appearance quite
composed. He had no sooner met my looks than he
stepped across the threshold. The master heard him
coming, and advanced upon the other side; about
four feet apart these brothers came to a full pause
and stood exchanging steady looks, and then my lord
smiled, bowed a little forward and turned briskly
" Mackellar," says he, " we must see to breakfast
for these travellers."
It was plain the master was a trifle disconcerted,
but he assumed the more impudence of speech, and
manner. " I am as hungry as a hawk," says he.
" Let it be something good, Henry."
My lord turned to him with the same hard smile.
" Lord Durrisdeer," says he.
" Oh, never in the family ! " returned the master.
" Every one in this house renders me my proper
title," says my lord. " If it please you to make an
exception I will leave you to consider what appearance
it will bear to strangers, and whether it may not be
translated as an effect of impotent jealousy."
I could have clapped my hands together with
delight: the more so as my lord left no time for any
answer, but bidding me with a sign to follow him,
went straight out of the hall.
" Come quick," says he; " we have to sweep vermin
from the house." And he sped through the passages
with so swift a step that I could scarce keep up with
1 86 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
him straight to the door of John Paul, the which he
opened without summons and walked in. John was
to all appearance sound asleep, but my lord made
no pretence of waking him.
" John Paul," said he, speaking as quietly as ever
I heard him, " you served my father long or I would
pack you from the house like a dog. If in half an
hour's time I find you gone you shall continue to
receive your wages in Edinburgh. If you linger here
or in St. Bride's the old man, old servant and
altogether I shall find some very astonishing way
to make you smart for your disloyalty. Up and
begone. The door you let them in by will serve for
your departure. I do not choose my son shall see
your face again."
" I am rejoiced to find you bear the thing so
quietly," said I when we were forth again by
" Quietly ! " cries he, and put my hand suddenly
against his heart, which struck upon his bosom like
At this revelation I was filled with wonder and
fear. There was no constitution could bear so violent
a strain his least of all that was unhinged already
and I decided in my mind that we must bring this
monstrous situation to an end.
" It would be well, I think, if I took word to my
lady," said I. Indeed, he should have gone himself,
but I counted (not in vain) on his indifference.
"Ay," says he, " do. I will hurry breakfast; we
must all appear at the table, even Alexander; it must
appear we are untroubled."
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 187
I ran to my lady's room, and with no preparatory
cruelty disclosed my news.
" My mind was long ago made up," said she. " We
must make our packets secretly to-day and leave
secretly to-night. Thank Heaven, we have another
house ! The first ship that sails shall bear us to
" And what of him ? " I asked.
" We leave him Durrisdeer," she cried. " Let him
work his pleasure upon that."
" Not so, by your leave," said I. " There shall be
a dog at his heels that can hold fast. Bed he shall
have, and board, and a horse to ride upon, if he
behave himself; but the keys (if you think well of
it, my lady) shall be left in the hands of one Mac-
kellar. There will be good care taken; trust him
" Mr. Mackellar," she cried, " I thank you for that
thought ! AH shall be left in your hands. If we must
go into a savage country, I bequeath it to you to take
our vengeance. Send Macconochie to St. Bride's,
to arrange privately for horses and to call the lawyer.
My lord must leave procuration."
At that moment my lord came to the door, and we
opened our plan to him.
" I will never hear of it," he cried; " he would
think I feared him. I will stay in my own house,
please God, until I die. There lives not the man can
beard me out of it. Once and for all, here I am and
here I stay, in spite of all the devils in hell." I can
give no idea of the vehemency of his words and
utterance ; but we both stood aghast, and I in particu-
1 88 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
lar, who had been a witness of his former self-
My lady looked at me with an appeal that went
to my heart and recalled me to my wits. I made her
a private sign to go, and, when my lord and I were
alone, went up to him where he was racing to and fro
in one end of the room like a half lunatic, and set
my hand firmly on his shoulder.
" My lord," says I, " I am going to be the plain-
dealer once more; if for the last time, so much the
better, for I am grown weary of the part."
" Nothing will change me," he answered. " God
forbid I should refuse to hear you; but nothing will
change me." This he said firmly, with no signal of
the former violence, which already raised my hopes.
" Very well," said I. " I can afford to waste my
breath." I pointed to a chair, and he sat down and
looked at me. " I can remember a time when my
lady very much neglected you," said I.
" I never spoke of it while it lasted," returned my
lord, with a high flush of colour; " and it is all
" Do you know how much ? " I said. " Do you
know how much it is all changed ? The tables are
turned, my lord ! It is my lady that now courts you for
a word, a look, ay, and courts you in vain. Do you
know with whom she passes her days while you are
out gallivanting in the policies ? My lord, she is glad
to pass them with a certain dry old grieve 1 of the
name of Ephraim Mackellar; and I think you may
be able to remember what that means, for I am the
1 Land steward.
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 189
more in a mistake or you were once driven to the same
" Mackellar ! " cries my lord, getting to his feet.
"Oh, my God, Mackellar!"
" It is neither the name of Mackellar nor the name
of God that can change the truth," said I; " and I am
telling you the fact. Now, for you, that suffered so
much, to deal out the same suffering to another, is
that the part of any Christian ? But you are so
swallowed up in your new friend that the old are all
forgotten. They are all clean vanished from your
memory. And yet they stood by you at the darkest;
my lady not the least. And does my lady ever cross
your mind ? Does it ever cross your mind what she
went through that night ? or what manner of a wife
she has been to you thence-forward ? or in what
kind of a position she finds herself to-day ? Never,
It is your pride to stay and face him out, and she
must stay along with him. Oh, my lord's pride
that's the great affair! And yet she is the woman,
and you are a great, hulking man ! She is the woman
that you swore to protect; and, more betoken, the
own mother of that son of yours ! "
" You are speaking very bitterly, Mackellar,"
said he; " but, the Lord knows, I fear you are speak-
ing very true. I have not proved worthy of my hap-
piness. Bring my lady back."
My lady was waiting near at hand to learn the
issue. When I brought her in, my lord took a hand
of each of us and laid them both upon his bosom.
" I have had two friends in my life," said he. " All
the comfort ever I had, it came from one or other.
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
When you two are in a mind, I think I would be an
ungrateful dog " He shut his mouth very hard,
and looked on us with swimming eyes. " Do what ye
like with me," says he, " only don't think He
stopped again. " Do what ye please with me. God
knows I love and honour you." And dropping our
two hands, he turned his back and went and gazed out
of the window. But my lady ran after, calling his
name, and threw herself upon his neck in a passion of
I went out and shut the door behind me, and stood
and thanked God from the bottom of my heart.
At the breakfast board, according to my lord's
design, we were all met. The master had by that
time plucked off his patched boots and made a toilet
suitable to the hour; Secundra Dass was no longer
bundled up in wrappers, but wore a decent plain
black suit, which misbecame him strangely; and the
pair were at the great window looking forth, when
the family entered. They turned; and the black
man (as they had already named him in the house)
bowed almost to his knees, but the master was for
running forward like one of the family. My lady
stopped him, courtesying low from the far end of the
hall, and keeping her children at her back. My lord
was a little in front: so there were the three cousins
of Durrisdeer face to face. The hand of time was
very legible on all. I seemed to read in their changed
faces a memento mori ; and what affected me still
more, it was the wicked man that bore his years the
handsomest. My lady was quite transfigured into the
matron, a becoming woman for the head of a great
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 191
tableful of children and dependents. My lord was
grown slack in his limbs ; he stooped ; he walked with
a running motion, as though he had learned again
from Mr. Alexander; his face was drawn; it seemed
a trifle longer than of old; and it wore at times a
smile very singularly mingled, and which (in my eyes)
appeared both bitter and pathetic. But the master
still bore himself erect, although perhaps with effort;
his brow barred about the centre with imperious lines,
his mouth set as for command. He had all the gravity
and something of the splendour of Satan in the " Par-
adise Lost." I could not help but see the man with ad-
miration, and was only surprised that I saw him with
so little fear.
But indeed (as long as we were at the table) it
seemed as if his authority were quite vanished and
his teeth all drawn. We had known him a magician
that controlled the elements; and here he was,
transformed into an ordinary gentleman, chatting like
his neighbours at the breakfast board. For now the
father was dead, and my lord and lady reconciled,
in what ear was he to pour his calumnies ? It came
upon me in a kind of vision how hugely I had over-
rated the man's subtlety. He had his malice still, he
was false as ever; and, the occasion being gone
that made his strength, he sat there impotent; he
was still the viper, but now spent his venom on a file.
Two more thoughts occurred to me while yet we sat
at breakfast : the first, that he was abashed I had
almost said distressed to find his wickedness quite
unavailing; the second, that perhaps my lord was in
the right, and we did amiss to fly from our dismasted
192 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
enemy. But my poor master's leaping heart came
in my mind, and I remembered it was tor his life we
played the coward.
When the meal was over, the master followed me
to my room, and, taking a chair (which I had never
offered him), asked me what was to be done with him.
" Why, Mr. Bally," said I, " the house will still be
open to you for a time."
" For a time ? " says he. " I do not know if I
quite take your meaning."
" It is plain enough," said I. " We keep you for
our reputation; as soon as you shall have publicly
disgraced yourself by some of your misconduct, we
shall pack you forth again."
' You are become an impudent rogue," said the
master, bending his brows at me dangerously.
" I learned in a good school," I returned. " And
you must have perceived yourself that with my old
lord's death your power is quite departed. I do not
fear you now, Mr. Bally; I think even God forgive
me that I take a certain pleasure in your company."
He broke out in a burst of laughter, which I clearly
saw to be assumed.
'' I have come with empty pockets," says he, after
I do not think there will be any money going,"
I replied. " I would advise you not to build on that."
" I shall have something to say on the point," he
" Indeed ? " said I. " I have not a guess what it
will be, then."
" Oh, you affect confidence," said the master. " I
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 193
have still one strong position that you people fear a
scandal, and I enjoy it."
" Pardon me, Mr. Bally," says I. " We do not in
the least fear a scandal against you."
He laughed again. " You have been studying rep-
artee," he said. " But speech is very easy, and some-
times very deceptive. I warn you fairly: you will
find me vitriol in the house. You would do wiser to
pay money down and see my back." And with that
he waved his hand to me and left the room.
A little after my lord came with the lawyer, Mr.
Carlyle ; a bottle of old wine was brought, and we all
had a glass before we fell to business. The necessary
deeds were then prepared and executed, and the
Scotch estates made over in trust to Mr. Carlyle and
" There is one point, Mr. Carlyle," said my lord,
when these affairs had been adjusted, " on which I
wish that you would do us justice. This sudden de-
parture coinciding with my brother's return will be
certainly commented on. I wish you would dis-
courage any conjunction of the two."
" I will make a point of it, my lord," said Mr.
Carlyle. ' The mas Mr. Bally does not then ac-
company you ? "
" It is a point I must approach," said my lord.
" Mr. Bally remains at Durrisdeer under the care of
Mr. Mackellar; and I do not mean that he shall even
know our destination."
" Common report, however " began the lawyer.
" Ah, but, Mr. Carlyle, this is to be a secret quite
among ourselves," interrupted my lord " None but
194 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
you and Mackellar are to be made acquainted with
" And Mr. Bally stays here ? Quite so," said Mr.
Carlyle. " The powers you leave " then he broke
off again. " Mr. Mackellar, we have a rather heavy
weight upon us."
" No doubt, sir," said I.
" No doubt," said he. " Mr. Bally will have no
voice ? "
" He will have no voice," said my lord, " and I
hope no influence. Mr. Bally is not a good adviser."
" I see," said the lawyer. " By the way, has Mr.
Bally means ? "
" I understand him to have nothing," replied my lord.
" I give him table, fire, and candle in this house.'
" And in the matter of an allowance ? If I am to
share the responsibility, you will see how highly de-
sirable it is that I should understand your views,"
said the lawyer. " On the question of an allowance ? "
" There will be no allowance," said my lord. " I
wish Mr. Bally to live very private. We have not al-
ways been gratified with his behaviour."
" And in the matter of money," I added, " he has
shown himself an infamous bad husband. Glance
your eye upon that docket, Mr. Carlyle, where I have
brought together the different sums the man has
drawn from the estate in the last fifteen or twenty
years. The total is pretty."
Mr. Carlyle made the motion of whistling. " I had
no guess of this," said he. " Excuse me once more,
my lord, if I appear to push you; but it is really
desirable I should penetrate your intentions: Mr.
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 195
Mackellar might die, when I should find myself alone
upon this trust. Would it not be rather your lord-
ship's preference that Mr. Bally should ahem
should leave the country ? "
My lord looked at Mr. Carlyle. " Why do you
ask that ? " said he.
" I gather, my lord, that Mr. Bally is not a com-
fort to his family," says the lawyer with a smile.
My lord's face became suddenly knotted. " I
wish he was in hell," cried he, and filled himself a
glass of wine, but with a hand so tottering that he
spilled the half into his bosom. This was the second
time that, in the midst of the most regular and wise
behaviour, his animosity had spurted out. It startled
Mr. Carlyle, who observed my lord thenceforth with
covert curiosity, and to me it restored the certainty
that we were acting for the best in view of my lord's
health and reason.
Except for this explosion, the interview was very
successfully conducted. No doubt Mr. Carlyle would
talk; as lawyers do, little by little. We could thus
feel we had laid the foundations of a better feeling in
the country; and the man's own misconduct would
certainly complete what we had begun. Indeed, be-
fore his departure, the lawyer showed us there had
already gone abroad some glimmerings of the truth.
" I should perhaps explain to you, my lord," said
he, pausing, with his hat in his hand, " that I have
not been altogether surprised with your lordship's
dispositions in the case of Mr. Bally. Something of
this nature oozed out when he was last in Durrisdeer.
There was some talk of a woman at St. Bride's to
196 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
whom you had behaved extremely handsome, and Mr.
Bally with no small degree of cruelty. There was the
entail again, which was much controverted. In short,
there was no want of talk, back and forward; and
some of our wiseacres took up a strong opinion. I
remained in suspense, as became one of my cloth;
but Mr. Mackellar's docket here has finally opened
my eyes. I do not think, Mr. Mackellar, that you and
I will give him that much rope."
The rest of that important day passed prosper-
ously through. It was our policy to keep the enemy
in view, and I took my turn to be his watchman
with the rest. I think his spirits rose as he per-
ceived us to be so attentive: and I know that mine
insensibly declined. What chiefly daunted me was
the man's singular dexterity to worm himself into
our troubles. You may have felt (after a horse
accident) the hand of a bone-setter artfully divide
and interrogate the muscles, and settle strongly on
the injured place ? It was so with the master's
tongue that was so cunning to question, and his
eyes that were so quick to observe. I seemed to
have said nothing, and yet to have let all out. Be-
fore I knew where I was, the man was condoling
with me on my lord's neglect of my lady and my-
self, and his hurtful indulgence to his son. On this
last point I perceived him (with panic fear) to return
repeatedly. The boy had displayed a certain shrink-
ing from his uncle; it was strong in my mind his
father had been fool enough to indoctrinate the
same, which was no wise beginning; and when I
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 197
looked upon the man before me, still so handsome,
so apt a speaker, with so great a variety of fortunes
to relate, I saw he was the very personage to capti-
vate a boyish fancy. John Paul had left only that
morning; it was not to be supposed he had been
altogether dumb upon his favourite subject: so that
here would be Mr. Alexander in the part of Dido,
with a curiosity inflamed to hear; and there would
be the master like a diabolical ^Eneas, full of matter
the most pleasing in the world to any youthful ear,
such as battles, sea disasters, flights, the forest of
the west, and (since his later voyage) the ancient
cities of the Indies. How cunningly these baits
might be employed, and what an empire might be
so founded, little by little, in the mind of any boy,
stood obviously clear to me. There was no inhibi-
tion, so long as the man was in the house, that would
be strong enough to hold these two apart; for if it
be hard to charm serpents, it is no very difficult
thing to cast a glamour on a little chip of manhood
not very long in breeches. I recalled an ancient
sailor-man who dwelt in a lone house beyond the
Figgate Whins (I believe he called it after Porto-
bello), and how the boys would troop out of Leith
on a Saturday, and sit and listen to his swearing
tales, as thick as crows about a carrion: a thing I
often remarked as I went by, a young student, on
my own more meditative holiday diversion. Many
of these boys went, no doubt, in the face of an express
command; many feared, and even hated the old brute
of whom they made their hero; and I have seen them
flee from him when he was tipsy, and stone him when
198 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
he was drunk. And yet there they came each Satur-
day! How much more easily would a boy like Mr.
Alexander fall under the influence of a high-looking,
high-spoken gentleman adventurer who should con-
ceive the fancy to entrap him; and the influence
gained, how easy to employ it for the child's per-
I doubt if our enemy had named Mr. Alexander
three times, before I perceived which way his mind
was aiming all this train of thought and memory
passed in one pulsation through my own and you
may say I started back as though an open hole had
gaped across a pathway. Mr. Alexander: there
was the weak point, there was the Eve in our perish-
able paradise; and the serpent was already hissing
on the trail.
I promise you I went the more heartily about the
preparations; my last scruple gone, the danger of
delay written before me in huge characters. From
that moment forth, I seem not to have sat down or
breathed. Now I would be at my post with the
master and his Indian; now in the garret buckling
a valise; now sending forth Macconochie by the
side postern and the wood-path to bear it to the
try sting-place ; and again, snatching some words of
counsel with my lady. This was the verso of our
life in Durrisdeer that day; but on the recto all ap-
peared quite settled, as of a family at home in its
paternal seat; and what perturbation may have been
observable the master would set down to the blow
of his unlooked-for coming and the fear he was
accustomed to inspire.
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 199
Supper went creditably off, cold salutations passed,
and the company trooped to their respective cham-
bers. I attended the master to the last. We had
put him next door to his Indian, in the north wing;
because that was the most distant and could be
severed from the body of the house with doors. I
saw he was a kind friend or a good master (which-
ever it was) to his Secundra Dass : seeing to his
comfort; mending the fire with his own hand, for
the Indian complained of cold; inquiring as to the
rice on which the stranger made his diet; talking
with him pleasantly in the Hindoostanee, while I
stood by, my candle in my hand, and affected to be
overcome with slumber. At length the master ob-
served my signals of distress. " I perceive," says
he, " that you have all your ancient habits : early to
bed and early to rise. Yawn yourself away ! "
Once in my own room, I made the customary
motions of undressing, so that I might time myself;
and when the cycle was complete, set my tinder-box
ready and blew out my taper. The matter of an
hour afterward I made a light again, put on my
shoes of list that I had worn by my lord's sick-bed,
and set forth into the house to call the voyagers.
All were dressed and waiting my lord, my lady,
Miss Katharine, Mr. Alexander, my lady's woman
Christie; and I observed the effect of secrecy even
upon quite innocent persons, that one after another
shewed in the chink of the door a face as white as
paper. We slipped out of the side postern into a
night of darkness, scarce broken by a star or two;
so that at first we groped and stumbled and fell
200 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
among the bushes. A few hundred yards up the
wood-path Macconochie was waiting us with a great
lantern; so the rest of the way we went easy enough,
but still in a kind of guilty silence. A little beyond
the abbey the path debouched on the main road;
and some quarter of a mile further, at the place
called Eagles, where the moors begin, we saw the
lights of the two carriages stand shining by the way-
side. Scarce a word or two was uttered at our parting,
and these regarded business; a silent grasping of
hands, a turning of faces aside, and the thing was
over; the horses broke into a trot, the lamp-light
sped like will-o'-the-wisp upon the broken moor-
land, it dipped beyond Stony Brae; and there were
Macconochie and I alone with our lantern on the
road. There was one thing more to wait for; and
that was the reappearance of the coach upon Cart-
more. It seems they must have pulled up upon the
summit, looked back for a last time, and seen our
lantern not yet moved away from the place of separa-
tion. For a lamp was taken from a carriage, and
waved three times up and down by way of a fare-
well. And then they were gone indeed, having looked
their last on the kind roof of Durrisdeer, their faces
toward a barbarous country. I never knew before
the greatness of that vault of night in which we two
poor serving-men, the one old and the one elderly,
stood for the first time deserted; I had never felt
before my own dependency upon the countenance
of others. The sense of isolation burned in my
bowels like a fire. It seemed that we who remained
at home were the true exiles; and that Durrisdeer,
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 201
and Solwayside, and all that made my country native,
its air good to me, and its language welcome, had
gone forth and was for over the sea with my old
The remainder of that night I paced to and fro
on the smooth highway, reflecting on the future
and the past. My thoughts, which at first dwelled
tenderly on those who were just gone, took a more
manly temper as I considered what remained for
me to do. Day came upon the inland mountain-
tops, and the fowls began to cry and the smoke of
homesteads to arise in the brown bosom of the moors,
before I turned my face homeward and went down
the path to where the roof of Durrisdeer shone in the
morning by the sea.
At the customary hour I had the master called,
and awaited his coming in the hall with a quiet
mind. He looked about him at the empty room
and the three covers set.
" We are a small party," said he. " How comes
that ? "
" This is the party to which we must grow accus-
tomed," I replied.
He looked at me with sudden sharpness. " What
is all this ? " said he.
' You and I and your friend Mr. Dass are now
all the company," I replied. " My lord, my lady,
and the children are gone upon a voyage."
" Upon my word ! " said he. " Can this be pos-
sible ? I have indeed fluttered your Volscians in
Corioli ! But this is no reason why our breakfast
202 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
should go cold. Sit down, Mr. Mackellar, if you
please " taking, as he spoke, the head of the table,
which I had designed to occupy myself "and as
we eat, you can give me the details of this evasion."
I could see he was more affected than his language
carried, and I determined to equal him in coolness.
" I was about to ask you to take the head of the table,"
said I ; " for though I am now thrust into the position
of your host, I could never forget that you were, after
all, a member of the family."
For awhile he played the part of entertainer,
giving directions to Macconochie, who received them
with an evil grace, and attending specially upon Se-
cundra. " And where has my good family with-
drawn to ? " he asked carelessly.
" Ah, Mr. Bally, that is another point ! " said I.
" I have no orders to communicate their destination."
" To me," he corrected.
" To any one," said I.
" It is the less pointed," said the master; " c'est
de bon ton: my brother improves as he continues.
And I, dear Mr. Mackellar ? "
" You will have bed and board, Mr. Bally," said
I. " I am permitted to give you the run of the cellar,
which is pretty reasonably stocked. You have only
to keep well with me, which is no very difficult matter,
and you shall want neither for wine nor a saddle-
He made an excuse to send Macconochie from the
" And for money ? " he inquired. " Have I to
keep well with my good friend Mackellar for my
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 203
pocket-money also ? This is a pleasing return to the
principles of boyhood."
" There was no allowance made," said I ; " but I
will take it on myself to see you are supplied in
" In moderation ? " he repeated. " And you will
take it on yourself? " He drew himself up and looked
about the hall at the dark row of portraits. " In the
name of my ancestors, I thank you," says he; and
then, with a return to irony : " But there must cer-
tainly be an allowance for Secundra Dass ? " he said.
" It is not possible they have omitted that."
" I will make a note of it and ask instructions when
I write," said I.
And he, with a sudden change of manner, and
leaning forward with an elbow on the table : " Do
you think this entirely wise ? "
" I execute my orders, Mr. Bally," said I.
'* Profoundly modest," said the master; " perhaps
not equally ingenuous. You told me yesterday my
power was fallen with my father's death. How comes
it, then, that a peer of the realm flees under cloud of
night out of a house in which his fathers have stood
several sieges ? that he conceals his address, which
must be a matter of concern to his gracious majesty
and to the whole republic ? and that he should leave
me in possession, and under the paternal charge of
his invaluable Mackellar ? This smacks to me of a
very considerable and genuine apprehension."
I sought to interrupt him with some not very truth-
ful denegation; but he waved me down and pursued
204 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
" I say it smacks of it," he said, " but I will gc
beyond that, for I think the apprehension grounded.
I came to this house with some reluctancy. In view
of the manner of my last departure, nothing but
necessity could have induced me to return. Money,
however, is that which I must have. You will not
give with a good grace; well, I have the power to
force it from you. Inside of a week, without leaving
Durrisdeer, I will find out where these fools are fled
to. I will follow; and when I have run my quarry
down I will drive a wedge into that family that shall
once more burst it into shivers. I shall see then
whether my Lord Durrisdeer " (said with indescrib-
able scorn and rage) " will choose to buy my absence ;
and you will all see whether, by that time, I decide
for profit or revenge."
I was amazed to hear the man so open. The truth
is, he was consumed with anger at my lord's successful
flight, felt himself to figure as a dupe, and was in no
humour to weigh language.
" Do you consider this entirely wise ? " said I,
copying his words.
" These twenty years I have lived by my poor
wisdom," he answered, with a smile that seemed
almost foolish in its vanity.
" And come out a beggar in the end," said I, " if
beggar be a strong enough word for it."
" I would have you to observe, Mr. Mackellar,"
cried he, with a sudden, imperious heat in which I
could not but admire him, " that I am scrupulously
civil; copy me in that, and we shall be the better
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 205
Throughout this dialogue I had been incommoded
by the observation of Secundra Dass. Not one of
us, since the first word, had made a feint of eating;
our eyes were in each other's faces you might say,
in each other's bosoms; and those of the Indian
troubled me with a certain changing brightness, as
of comprehension. But I brushed the fancy aside;
telling myself once more he understood no English;
only, from the gravity of both voices and the occa-
sional scorn and anger in the master's, smelled out
there was something of import in the wind.
For the matter of three weeks we continued to
live together in the house of Durrisdeer, the begin-
ning of that most singular chapter of my life what
I must call my intimacy with the master. At first
he was somewhat changeable in his behaviour; now
civil, now returning to his old manner of flouting
me to my face; and in both I met him halfway.
Thanks be to Providence, I had now no measure to
keep with the man ; and I was never afraid of black
brows, only of naked swords. So that I found a
certain entertainment in these bouts of incivility,
and was not always ill-inspired in my rejoinders. At
last (it was at supper) I had a droll expression that
entirely vanquished him. He laughed again and
again; and "Who would have guessed," he cried,
" that this old wife had any wit under his petticoats ? "
" It is no wit, Mr. Bally," said I ; " a dry Scot's
humour, and something of the driest." And indeed
I never had the least pretension to be thought a wit.
From that hour he was never rude with me, but
206 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
all passed between us in a manner of pleasantry.
One of our chief times of daffing 1 was when he
required a horse, another bottle, or some money; he
would approach me then after the manner of a school-
boy, and I would carry it on by way of being his
father; on both sides, with an infinity of mirth. I
could not but perceive that he thought more of me,
which tickled that poor part of mankind, the vanity.
He dropped besides (I must suppose unconsciously)
into a manner that was not only familiar, but even
friendly; and this, on the part of one who had so long
detested me, I found the more insidious. He went
little abroad; sometimes even refusing invitations.
" No," he would say, " what do I care for these thick-
headed bonnet-lairds ? I will stay at home, Mackellar;
and we shall share a bottle quietly and have one of our
good talks." And indeed meal-time at Durrisdeer
must have been a delight to any one, by reason of the
brilliancy of the discourse. He would often express
wonder at his former indifference to my society.
" But, you see," he would add, " we were upon
opposite sides. And so we are to-day; but let us
never speak of that. I would think much less of you
if you were not staunch to your employer." You are
to consider, he seemed to me quite impotent for any
evil; and how it is a most engaging form of flattery
when (after many years) tardy justice is done to a
man's character and parts. But I have no thought
to excuse myself. I was to blame; I let him cajole
me; and, in short, I think the watch-dog was going
sound asleep, when he was suddenly aroused.
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 207
I should say the Indian was continually travelling
to and fro in the house. He never spoke, save in his
own dialect and with the master; walked without
sound; and was always turning up where you would
least expect him fallen into a deep abstraction, from
which he would start (upon your coming) to mock
you with one of his grovelling obeisances. He seemed
so quiet, so frail, and so wrapped in his own fancies,
that I came to pass him over without much regard,
or even to pity him for a harmless exile from his
country. And yet without doubt the creature was
still eavesdropping; and without doubt it was through
his stealth and my security that our secret reached
It was one very wild night, after supper, and when
we had been making more than usually merry, that
the blow fell on me.
" This is all very fine," says the master, " but we
should do better to be buckling our valise."
" Why so ? " I cried. " Are you leaving ? "
" We are all leaving to-morrow in the morning,"
said he. " For the port of Glasgow first; thence for
the province of New York."
I suppose I must have groaned aloud.
'* Yes," he continued, " I boasted; I said a week,
and it has taken me near twenty days. But never
mind; I shall make it up; I will go the faster."
" Have you the money for this voyage ? " I asked.
" Dear and ingenuous personage, I have," said he.
" Blame me, if you choose, for my duplicity; but
while I have been wringing shillings from my daddy,
I had a stock of my own put by against a rainy day.
208 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
You will pay for your own passage, if you choose
to accompany us on our flank march; I have enough
for Secundra and myself, but not more; enough to be
dangerous, not enough to be generous. There is,
however, an outside seat upon the chaise which I will
let you have upon a moderate commutation; so that
the whole menagerie can go together, the house-dog,
the monkey, and the tiger."
" I go with you," said I.
" I count upon it," said the master. *' You have
seen me foiled, I mean you shall see me victorious.
To gain that, I will risk wetting you like a sop in this
*' And at least," I added, " you know very well
you could not throw me off."
" Not easily," said he. '' You put your finger on
the point with your usual excellent good sense. I
never fight with the inevitable."
" I suppose it is useless to appeal to you," said I.
" Believe me, perfectly," said he.
" And yet if you would give me time, I could
write I began.
" And what would be my Lord Durrisdeer's
answer ? " asks he.
" Ay," said I, " that is the rub."
" And at any rate, how much more expeditious
that I should go myself! " says he. " But all this is
quite a waste of breath. At seven to-morrow the
chaise will be at the door. For I start from the door,
Mackellar; I do not skulk through woods and take
my chaise upon the wayside shall we say, at
Eagles ? "
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 209
My mind was now thoroughly made up. " Can
you spare me quarter of an hour at St. Bride's ? "
said I. " I have a little necessary business with
" An hour, if you prefer," said he. " I do not
seek to deny that the money for your seat is an object
to me; and you could always get the first to Glasgow
" Well," said I, " I never thought to leave old
" It will brisken you up," says he.
" This will be an ill journey for some one," I said.
" I think, sir, for you. Something speaks in my
bosom; and so much it says plain, That this is an
" If you take to prophecy," says he, " listen to
There came up a violent squall off the open Solway,
and the rain was dashed on the great windows.
" Do ye ken what that bodes, warlock ? " said he,
in a broad accent : " that there'll be a man Mackellar
unco sick at sea."
When I got to my chamber I sat there under a
painful excitation, hearkening to the turmoil of the
gale which struck full upon that gable of the house.
What with the pressure on my spirits, the eldritch
cries of the wind among the turret tops, and the
perpetual trepidation of the masoned house, sleep
fled my eyelids utterly. I sat by my taper, looking
on the black panes of the window where the storm
appeared continually on the point of bursting in its
entrance; and upon that empty field I beheld a per-
210 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
spective of consequences that made the hair to rise
upon my scalp. The child corrupted, the home
broken up, my master dead or worse than dead, my
mistress plunged in desolation all these I saw
before me painted brightly on the darkness; and
the outcry of the wind appeared to mock at my in-
MR. MACKELLAR'S JOURNEY WITH THE
THE chaise came to the door in a strong drench-
ing mist. We took our leave in silence : the
house of Durrisdeer standing with dropping
gutters and windows closed, like a place dedicate to
melancholy. I observed the master kept his head out,
looking back on the splashed walls and glimmering
roofs, till they were suddenly swallowed in the mist;
and I must suppose some natural sadness fell upon the
man at this departure; or was it some prevision of
the end ? At least, upon our mounting the long brae
from Durrisdeer, as we walked side by side in the
wet, he began first to whistle and then to sing the
saddest of our country tunes, which sets folk weeping
in a tavern, " Wandering Willie." The set of words
he used with it I have not heard elsewhere, and could
never come by any copy; but some of them which
were the most appropriate to our departure linger
in my memory. One verse began :
Home was home then, my dear, full of kindly faces ;
Home was home then, my dear, happy for the child.
And ended somewhat thus:
212 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
Now, when day dawns on the brow of the moorland,
Lone stands the house and the chimney-stone is cold.
Lone let it stand, now the folks are all departed,
The kind hearts, the true hearts, that loved the place
I could never be a judge of the merit of these verses;
they were so hallowed by the melancholy of the air,
and were sung (or rather " soothed ") to me by a
master singer at a time so fitting. He looked in my
face when he had done, and saw that my eyes watered.
" Ah, Mackellar," said he, " do you think I have
never a regret ? "
" I do not think you could be so bad a man," said
I, " if you had not all the machinery to be a good
" No, not all," says he : " not all. You are there
in error. The malady of not wanting, my evangelist."
But methought he sighed as he mounted again into
All day long we journeyed in the same miserable
weather: the mist besetting us closely, the heavens
incessantly weeping on my head. The road lay over
moorish hills, where was no sound but the ciying
of the moor-fowl in the wet heather and the pouring
of the swollen burns. Sometimes I would doze off
in slumber, when I would find myself plunged at
once in some foul and ominous nightmare, from the
which I would awaken strangling. Sometimes, if
the way was steep and the wheels turning slowly, I
would overhear the voices from within, talking in
that tropical tongue which was to me as inarticulate
as the piping of the fowls. Sometimes, at a longer
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 213
ascent, the master would set foot to ground and walk
by my side, mostly without speech. And all the time,
sleeping or waking, I beheld the same black perspec-
tive of approaching ruin ; and the same pictures rose
in my view, only they were now painted upon hill-
side mist. One, I remember, stood before me with
the colours of a true illusion. It showed me my lord
seated at a table in a small room; his head, which was
at first buried in his hands, he slowly raised, and turned
upon me a countenance from which hope had fled.
I saw it first on the black window panes, my last
night in Durrisdeer; it haunted and returned upon
me half the voyage through ; and yet it was no effect
of lunacy, for I have come to a ripe old age with no
decay of my intelligence; nor yet (as I was then
tempted to suppose) a heaven-sent warning of the
future, for all manner of calamities befell, not that
calamity and I saw many pitiful sights, but never
It was decided we should travel on all night; and
it was singular, once the dusk had fallen, my spirits
somewhat rose. The bright lamps, shining forth
into the mist and on the smoking horses and the
hodding post-boy, gave me perhaps an outlook
intrinsically more cheerful than what day had shown ;
or perhaps my mind had become wearied of its
melancholy. At least, I spent some waking hours,
not without satisfaction in my thoughts, although
wet and weary in my body; and fell at last into a
natural slumber without dreams. Yet I must have
been at work even in the deepest of my sleep; and
at work with at Isast a measure of intelligence. For
214 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
I started broad awake, in the very act of crying out
Home was home then, my dear, happy for the child,
stricken to find in it an appropriateness, which I had
not yesterday observed, to the master's detestable
purpose in the present journey.
We were then close upon the city of Glasgow,
where we were soon breakfasting together at an inn,
and where (as the devil would have it) we found a
ship in the very article of sailing. We took places in
the cabin; and, two days after, carried our effects
on board. Her name was the Nonesuch, a very
ancient ship and very happily named. By all accounts
this should be her last voyage; people shook their
heads upon the quays, and I had several warnings
offered me by strangers in the street, to the effect
that she was rotten as a cheese, too deeply loaden, and
must infallibly founder if we met a gale. From this
it fell out we were the only passengers ; the captain,
McMurtrie, was a silent, absorbed man with the Glas-
gow or Gaelic accent; the mates ignorant, rough
seafarers, come in through the hawsehole; and the
master and I were cast upon each other's company.
The Nonesuch carried a fair wind out of the Clyde,
and for near upon a week we enjoyed bright weather
and a sense of progress. I found myself (to my
wonder) a born seaman, in so far at least as I was
never sick; yet I was far from tasting the usual
serenity of my health. Whether it was the motion
of the ship on the billows, the confinement, the salted
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 215
food, or all of these together, I suffered from a
blackness of spirit and a painful strain upon my
temper. The nature of my errand on that ship
perhaps contributed; I think it did no more: the
malady (whatever it was) sprung from my environ-
ment; and if the ship were not to blame, then it
was the master. Hatred and fear are ill bedfellows;
but (to my shame be it spoken) I have tasted those
in other places, lain down and got up with them,
and eaten and drunk with them, and yet never be-
fore, nor after, have I been so poisoned through
and through, in soul and body, as I was on board
the Nonesuch. I freely confess my enemy set me
a fair example of forbearance; in our worst days
displayed the most patient geniality, holding me in
conversation as long as I would suffer, and when I
had rebuffed his civility, stretching himself on deck
to read. The book he had on board with him was
Mr. Richardson's famous " Clarissa ; " and among
other small attentions he would read me passages
aloud; nor could any elocutionist have given with
greater potency the pathetic portions of that work.
I would retort upon him with passages out of the
Bible, which was all my library and very fresh to
me, my religious duties (I grieve to say it) being
always and even to this day extremely neglected.
He tasted the merits of the work like the connoisseur
he was ; and would sometimes take it from my hand,
turn the leaves over like a man that knew his way,
and give me, with his fine declamation, a Roland for
my Oliver. But it was singular how little he ap-
plied his reading to himself; it passed high above his
216 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
head like summer thunder: Lovelace and Clarissa,
the tales of David's generosity, the psalms of his
penitence, the solemn questions of the book of Job,
the touching poetry of Isaiah they were to him a
source of entertainment only, like the scraping of a
fiddle in a change-house. This outer sensibility and
inner toughness set me against him; it seemed of a
piece with that impudent grossness which I knew to
underlie the veneer of his fine manners; and some-
times my gorge rose against him as though he were
deformed and sometimes I would draw away as
though from something partly spectral. I had
moments when I thought of him as of a man of
pasteboard as though if one should strike smartly
through the buckram of his countenance, there would
be found a mere vacuity within. This horror (not
merely fanciful, I think) vastly increased my detesta-
tion of his neighbourhood ; I began to feel something
shiver within me on his drawing near; I had at times
a longing to cry out ; there were days when I thought
I could have struck him. This frame of mind was
doubtless helped by shame, because I had dropped
during our last days at Durrisdeer into a certain
toleration of the man ; and if any one had then told
me I should drop into it again, I must have laughed
in his face. It is possible he remained unconscious
of this extreme fever of my resentment; yet I think
he was too quick ; and rather that he had fallen, in a
long life of idleness, into a positive need of company,
which obliged him to confront and tolerate my un-
concealed aversion. Certain at least, that he loved
the note of his own tongue, as indeed he entirely
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 217
loved all the parts and properties of himself: a sort
of imbecility which almost necessarily attends on
wickedness. I have seen him driven, when I proved
recalcitrant, to long discourses with the skipper: and
this, although the man plainly testified his weariness,
fiddling miserably with both hand and foot, and
replying only with a grunt.
After the first week out we fell in with foul winds
and heavy weather. The sea was high. The None-
such, being an old-fashioned ship and badly loaden,
relied beyond belief; so that the skipper trembled for
his masts and I for my life. We made no progress
on our course. An unbearable ill-humour settled on
the ship : men, mates and master, girding at one
another all day long. A saucy word on the one hand,
and a blow on the other, made a daily incident. There
were times when the whole crew refused their duty;
and we of the after-guard were twice got under arms
(being the first time that ever I bore weapons) in the
fear of mutiny.
In the midst of our evil season sprung up a hurri-
cane of wind; so that all supposed she must go
down. I was shut in the cabin from noon of one day
till sundown of the next; the master was some
where lashed on deck. Secundra had eaten of some
drug and lay insensible; so you may say I passed
these hours in an unbroken solitude. At first I was
terrified beyond motion and almost beyond thought,
my mind appearing to be frozen. Presently there
stole in on me a ray of comfort. If the Nonesuch
foundered, she would carry down with her into the
deeps of that unsounded sea the creature whom we
2i 8 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
all so feared and hated; there would be no more master
of Ballantrae, the fish would sport among his ribs;
his schemes all brought to nothing, his harmless
enemies at peace. At first, I have said, it was but
a ray of comfort; but it had soon grown to be broad
sunshine. The thought of the man's death, of his
deletion from this world which he imbittered for so
many, took possession of my mind. I hugged it,
I found it sweet in my belly. I conceived the ship's
last plunge, the sea bursting upon all sides into the
cabin, the brief mortal conflict there, all by myself,
in that closed place; I numbered the horrors, I had
almost said with satisfaction; I felt I could bear all
and more, if the Nonesuch carried down with her,
overtook by the same ruin, the enemy of my poor
master's house. Toward noon of the second day the
screaming of the wind abated; the ship lay not so
perilously over; and it began to be clear to me that
we were past the height of the tempest. As I hope
for mercy, I was singly disappointed. In the selfish-
ness of that vile, absorbing passion of hatred, I for-
got the case of our innocent shipmates and thought
but of myself and my enemy. For myself, I was
already old, I had never been young, I was not formed
for the world's pleasures, I had few affections; it
mattered not the toss of a silver tester whether I
was drowned there and then in the Atlantic, or dribbled
out a few more years, to die, perhaps no less terribly,
in a deserted sick-bed. Down I went upon my knees
holding on by the locker, or else I had been in-
stantly dashed across the tossing cabin and, lifting
up my voice in the midst of that clamour of the abating
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 219
hurricane, impiously prayed for my own death. " Oh,
God," I cried, " I would be liker a man if I rose and
struck this creature down; but thou madest me a
coward from my mother's womb. Oh, Lord, thou
madest me so, thou knowest my weakness, thou
knowest that any face of death will set me shaking
in my shoes. But lo! here is thy servant ready,
his mortal weakness laid aside. Let me give my life
for this creature's ; take the two of them, Lord !
take the two, and have mercy on the innocent ! "
In some such words as these, only yet more irrever-
ent and with more sacred adjurations, I continued
to pour forth my spirit; God heard me not, I must
suppose in mercy; and I was still absorbed in my
agony of supplication, when some one, removing the
tarpaulin cover, let the light of the sunset pour into
the cabin. I stumbled to my feet ashamed, and was
seized with surprise to find myself totter and ache
like one that had been stretched upon the rack.
Secundra Dass, who had slept off the effects of his
drug, stood in a corner not far off, gazing at me
with wild eyes; and from the open skylight the
captain thanked me for my supplications.
" It's you that saved the ship, Mr. Mackellar,"
says he. " There is no craft of seamanship that
could have kept her floating: well may we say:
' Except the Lord the city keep, the watchmen watch
in vain ! '
I was abashed by the captain's error; abashed,
also, by the surprise and fear with which the Indian
regarded me at first, and the obsequious civilities
with which he soon began to cumber me. I know
220 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
now that he must have overheard and comprehended
the peculiar nature of my prayers. It is certain, of
course, that he at once disclosed the matter to his
patron; and looking back with greater knowledge,
I can now understand, what so much puzzled me at
the moment, those singular and (so to speak) ap-
proving smiles with which the master honoured me.
Similarly, I can understand a word that I remem-
ber to have fallen from him in conversation that
same night; when, holding up his hand and smiling,
" Ah, Mackellar," said he, " not every man is so
great a coward as he thinks he is nor yet so good
a Christian." He did not guess how true he spoke !
For the fact is, the thoughts which had come to me
in the violence of the storm retained their hold upon
my spirit; and the words that rose to my lips un-
bidden in the instancy of prayer continued to sound
in my ears: With what shameful consequences, it
is fitting I should honestly relate; for I could not
support a part of such disloyalty as to describe the
sins of others and conceal my own.
The wind fell, but the sea hove ever the higher.
All night the Nonesuch rolled outrageously; the
next day dawned, and the next, and brought no
change. To cross the cabin was scarce possible;
old, experienced seamen were cast down upon the
deck, and one cruelly mauled in the concussion;
every board and block in the old ship cried out aloud;
and the great bell by the anchor-bitts continually
and dolefully rang. One of these days the master
and I sate alone together at the break of the poop.
I should say the Nonesuch carried a high, raised
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 221
poop. About the top of it ran considerable bulwarks,
which made the ship unweatherly; and these, as they
approached the front on each side, ran down in a fine,
old-fashioned, carven scroll to join the bulwarks of
the waist. From this disposition, which seems de-
signed rather for ornament than use, it followed there
was a discontinuance of protection : and that, besides,
at the very margin of the elevated part where (in
certain movements of the ship) it might be the most
needful. It was here we were sitting : our feet hang-
ing down, the master betwixt me and the side, and I
holding on with both hands to the grating of the
cabin skylight; for it struck me it was a dangerous
position, the more so as I had continually before
my eyes a measure of our evolutions in the person
of the master, which stood out in the break of the
bulwarks against the sun. Now his head would be
in the zenith and his shadow fall quite beyond the
Nonesuch on the further side; and now he would
swing down till he was underneath my feet, and the
line of the sea leaped high above him like the ceiling
of a room. I looked on upon this with a growing
fascination, as birds are said to look on snakes. My
mind besides was troubled with an astonishing di-
versity of noises ; for now that we had all sails spread
in the vain hope to bring her to the sea, the ship
sounded like a factory with their reverberations. We
spoke first of the mutiny with which we had been
threatened; this led us on to the topic of assassina-
tion; and that offered a temptation to the master
more strong than he was able to resist. He must tell
me a tale, and show me at the same time how clever
222 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
he was and how wicked. It was a thing he did always
with affectation and display; generally with a good
effect. But this tale, told in a high key in the midst
of so great a tumult, and by a narrator who was one
moment looking down at me from the skies and the
next peering up from under the soles of my feet
this particular tale, I say, took hold upon me in a
degree quite singular.
" My friend the count," it was thus that he began
his story, " had for an enemy a certain German baron,
a stranger in Rome. It matters not what was the
ground of the count's enmity; but as he had a firm
design to be revenged, and that with safety to him-
self, he kept it secret even from the baron. Indeed
that is the first principle of vengeance; and hatred
betrayed is hatred impotent. The count was a man
of a curious, searching mind ; he had something of the
artist; if anything fall for him to do, it must always be
done with an exact perfection, not only as to the re-
sult but in the very means and instruments, or he
thought the thing miscarried. It chanced he was one
day riding in the outer suburbs, when he came to a
disused by-road branching off into the moor which
lies about Rome. On the one hand was an ancient
Roman tomb; on the other a deserted house in a
garden of evergreen trees. This road brought him
presently into a field of ruins, in the midst of which, in
the side of the hill, he saw an open door and (not far
off) a single stunted pine no greater than a currant
bush. The place was desert and very secret : a voice
spoke in the count's bosom that there was something
here to his advantage. He tied his horse to the pine
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 223
tree, took his flint and steel in his hand to make a
light, and entered into the hill. The doorway opened
on a passage of old Roman masonry, which shortly
after branched in two. The count took the turning
to the right, and followed it, groping forward in the
dark, till he was brought up by a kind of fence about
elbow-high, which extended quite across the passage.
Sounding forward with his foot, he found an edge of
polished stone, and then vacancy. All his curiosity
was now awakened, and, getting some rotten sticks
that lay about the floor, he made a fire. In front of
him was a profound well : doubtless some neighbouring
peasant had once used it for his water, and it was he
that had set up the fence. A long while the count
stood leaning on the rail and looking down into the
pit. It was of Roman foundation, and, like all that
nation set their hands to, built as for eternity: the
sides were still straight and the joints smooth; to a
man who should fall in, no escape was possible.
' Now,' the count was thinking, ' a strong impulsion
brought me to this place: what for? what have I
gained ? why should I be sent to gaze into this well ? '
when the rail of the fence gave suddenly under his
weight, and he came within an ace of falling head-
long in. Leaping back to save himself, he trod out the
last flicker of his fire, which gave him thenceforward
no more light, only an incommoding smoke. ' Was
I sent here to my death ? ' says he, and shook from
head to foot. And then a thought flashed in his
mind. He crept forth on hands and knees to the
brink of the pit and felt above him in the air. The
rail had been fast to a pair of uprights; it had only
224 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
broken from the one, and still depended from the
other. The count set it back again as he had found
it, so that the place meant death to the first comer,
and groped out of the catacomb like a sick man.
The next day, riding in the Corso with the baron,
he purposely betrayed a strong preoccupation. The
other (as he had designed) inquired into the cause;
and he (after some fencing) admitted that his spirits
had been dashed by an unusual dream. This was
calculated to draw on the baron a superstitious
man who affected the scorn of superstition. Some
rallying followed; and then the count (as if sud-
denly carried away) called on his friend to beware,
for it was of him that he had dreamed. You know
enough of human nature, my excellent Mackellar,
to be certain of one thing: I mean, that the baron
did not rest till he had heard the dream. The count
(sure that he would never desist) kept him in play
till his curiosity was highly inflamed, and then suf-
fered himself with seeming reluctance to be over-
borne. ' I warn you,' says he, ' evil will come of it;
something tells me so. But since there is to be no
peace either for you or me except on this condition,
the blame be on your own head ! This was the dream.
I beheld you riding, I know not where, yet I think it
must have been near Rome, for on your one hand
was an ancient tomb and on the other a garden of
evergreen trees. Methought I cried and cried upon
you to come back in a very agony of terror ; whether
you heard me, I know not, but you went doggedly on.
The road brought you to a desert place among ruins :
where was a door in a hillside, and hard by the door
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 225
a misbegotten pine. Here you dismounted (I still
crying on you to beware), tied your horse to the pine
tree, and entered resolutely in by the door. Within
it was dark; but in my dream I could still see you,
and still besought you to hold back. You felt your
way along the right-hand wall, took a branching pas-
sage to the right, and came to a little chamber, where
was a well with a railing. At this (I know not why)
my alarm for you increased a thousand-fold, so that I
seemed to scream myself hoarse with warnings, crying
it was still time and bidding you begone at once from
that vestibule. Such was the word I used in my
dream, and it seemed then to have a clear signifi-
cancy; but to-day and awake, I profess I know not
what it means. To all my outcry you rendered not the
least attention, leaning the while upon the rail and
looking down intently in the water. And then there
was made to you a communication, I do not think I
even gathered what it was, but the fear of it plucked
me clean out of my slumber, and I awoke shaking
and sobbing. And now/ continues the count, ' I thank
you from my heart for your insistency. This dream
lay 'on me like a load; and now I have told it in plain
words and in the broad daylight, it seems no great
matter.' ' I do not know/ says the baron. ' It is in
some points strange. A communication, did you say ?
Oh, it is an odd dream. It will make a story to amuse
our friends/ ' I am not so sure/ says the count.
' I am sensible of some reluctancy. Let us rather
forget it.' * By all means/ says the baron. And (in
fact) the dream was not again referred to. Some
days after the count proposed a ride in the fields,
226 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
which the baron (since they were daily growing faster
friends) very readily accepted. On the way back to
Rome the count led them insensibly by a particular
route. Presently he reined in his horse, clapped his
hand before his eyes, and cried out aloud. Then he
showed his face again (which was now quite white,
for he was a consummate actor) and stared upon the
baron. ' What ails you ? ' cries the baron. ' What is
wrong with you ? ' ' Nothing,' cries the count. ' It is
nothing. A seizure, I know not what. Let us hurry
back to Rome.' But in the meanwhile the baron had
looked about him ; and there, on the left-hand side of
the way as they went back to Rome, he saw a dusty
by-road with a tomb upon the one hand and a garden
of evergreen trees upon the other. ' Yes,' says he,
with a changed voice. ' Let us by all means hurry
back to Rome. I fear you are not well in health.'
' Oh, for God's sake ! ' cries the count, shuddering.
' Back to Rome and let me get to bed.' They made
their return with scarce a word; and the count, who
should by rights have gone into society, took to his
bed and gave out he had a touch of country fever.
The next day the baron's horse was found tied to the
pine, but himself was never heard of from that hour.
And now, was that a murder ? " says the master,
breaking sharply off.
" Are you sure he was a count ? " I asked.
" I am not certain of the title," said he, " but he
was a gentleman of family, and the Lord deliver you,
Mackellar, from an enemy so subtle ! "
These last words he spoke down at me smiling
from high above; the next he was under my feet.
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 227
I continued to follow his evolutions with a childish
fixity; they made me giddy and vacant, and I spoke
as in a dream.
" He hated the baron with a great hatred ? " I asked.
" His belly moved when the man came near him,"
said the master.
" I have felt that same," said I.
" Verily ! " cries the master. " Here is news in-
deed ! I wonder do I flatter myself? or am I the
cause of these ventral perturbations ? "
He was quite capable of choosing out a graceful
posture, even with no one to behold him but myself,
and all the more if there were any element of peril.
He sat now with one knee flung across the other, his
arms on his bosom, fitting the swing of the ship with
an exquisite balance, such as a featherweight might
overthrow. All at once I had the vision of my lord at
the table with his head upon his hands; only now,
when he showed me his countenance, it was heavy
with reproach. The words of my own prayer /
were hker a man if I struck this creature down shot
at the same time into my memory. I called my
energies together, and (the ship then heeling down-
ward toward my enemy) thrust at him swiftly with
my foot. It was written I should have the guilt of
this attempt without the profit. Whether from my
own uncertainty or his incredible quickness, he es-
caped the thrust, leaping to his feet and catching hold
at the same moment of a stay.
I do not know how long a time passed by: I lying
where I was upon the deck, overcome with terror and
remorse and shame; he standing with the stay in his
228 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
hand, backed against the bulwarks, and regarding me
with an expression singularly mingled. At last he
" Mackellar," said he, " I make no reproaches, but
I offer you a bargain. On your side, I do not suppose
you desire to have this exploit made public; on mine,
I own to you freely, I do not care to draw my breath
in a perpetual terror of assassination by the man I sit
at meat with. Promise me but no," says he,
breaking off, " you are not yet in the quiet possession of
your mind; you might think I had extorted the prom-
ise from your weakness; and I would leave no door
open for casuistry to come in that dishonesty of the
conscientious. Take time to meditate."
With that he made off up the sliding deck like a
squirrel and plunged into the cabin. About half an
hour later he returned : I still lying as he had left me.
" Now," says he, " will you give me your troth as
a Christian and a faithful servant of my brother's
that I shall have no more to fear from your attempts ? "
" I give it you," said I.
" I shall require your hand upon it," says he.
" You have the right to make conditions," I re-
plied, and we shook hands.
He sat down at once in the same place and the old
" Hold on ! " cried I, covering my eyes. " I cannot
bear to see you in that posture. The least irregularity
of the sea might plunge you overboard."
' You are highly inconsistent," he replied, smiling,
but doing as I asked. " For all that, Mackellar, I
would have you to know you have risen forty feet in
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 229
my esteem. You think I cannot set a price upon
fidelity ? But why do you suppose I carry that Secun-
dra Dass about the world with me ? Because he would
die or do murder for me to-morrow; and I love him
for it. Well, you may think it odd, but I like you the
better for this afternoon's performance. I thought
you were magnetised with the Ten Commandments;
but no God damn my soul ! " he cries, " the old
wife has blood in his body after all ! Which does not
change the fact," he continued, smiling again, " that
you have done well to give your promise ; for I doubt
if you would ever shine in your new trade."
" I suppose," said I, " I should ask your pardon
and God's for my attempt. At any rate I have passed
my word, which I will keep faithfully. But when I
think of those you persecute "I paused.
" Life is a singular thing," said he, " and mankind
a very singular people. You suppose yourself to
love my brother. I assure you it is merely custom.
Interrogate your memory; and when first you came
to Durrisdeer, you will find you considered him a
dull, ordinary youth. He is as dull and ordinary now,
though not so young. Had you instead fallen in with
me, you would to-day be as strong upon my side."
" I would never say you were ordinary, Mr. Bally,"
I returned ; " but here you prove yourself dull. You
have just shown your reliance on my word. In other
terms, that is my conscience the same which starts
instinctively back from 'you, like the eye from a strong
" Ah ! " says he, " but I mean otherwise. I mean,
had I met you in my youth. You are to consider I
230 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
was not always as I am to-day; nor (had I met in
with a friend of your description) should I have ever
" Hut, Mr. Bally," says I, " you would have made
a mock of me ; you would never have spent ten civil
words on such a squaretoes."
But he was now fairly started on his new course
of justification, with which he wearied me through-
out the remainder of the passage. No doubt in the
past he had taken pleasure to paint himself unneces-
sarily black, and made a vaunt of his wickedness,
bearing it for a coat of arms. Nor was he so illogical
as to abate one item of his old confessions. " But
now that I know you are a human being," he would
say, " I can take the trouble to explain myself. For
I assure you I am human too, and have my virtues
like my neighbours." I say he wearied me, for I had
only the one word to say in answer : twenty times I
must have said it : " Give up your present purpose
and return with me to Durrisdeer; then I will be-
Thereupon he would shake his head at me. " Ah,
Mackellar, you might live a thousand years and never
understand my nature," he would say. " This battle
is now committed, the hour of reflection quite past,
the hour for mercy not yet come. It began between
us when we span a coin in the hall of Durrisdeer now
twenty years ago; we have had our ups and downs,
but never either of us dreamed of giving in, and as
for me, when my glove is cast life and honour go
" A fig for your honour ! " I would say. " And by
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 231
your leave, these warlike similitudes are something
too high-sounding for the matter in hand. You want
some dirty money, there is the bottom of your con-
tention, and as for your means, what are they ? to
stir up sorrow in a family that never harmed you,
to debauch (if you can) your own born nephew and
to wring the heart of your born brother ! A foot-
pad that kills an old granny in a woollen mutch with
a dirty bludgeon, and that for a shilling-piece and a
paper of snuff there is all the warrior that you
When I would attack him thus (or somewhat thus)
he would smile and sigh like a man misunderstood.
Once, I remember, he defended himself more at large
and had some curious sophistries, worth repeating
for a light upon his character.
' You are very like a civilian to think war con-
sists in drums and banners," said he. " War (as the
ancients said very wisely) is ultima ratio. When we
take our advantage unrelentingly, then we make war.
Ah, Mackellar, you are a devil of a soldier in the
steward's room at Durrisdeer, or the tenants do you
sad injustice ! "
" I think little of what war is or is not," I replied.
'* But you weary me with claiming my respect. Your
brother is a good man, and you are a bad one
neither more nor less."
" Had I been Alexander " he began.
" It is so we all dupe ourselves," I cried. " Had I
been St. Paul, it would have been all one; I would
have made the same hash of that career that you
now see me making of my own."
232 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
" I tell you," he cried, bearing down my interrup-
tion, " had I been the least petty chieftain in the
highlands, had I been the least king of naked negroes
in the African desert, my people would have adored
me. A bad man, am I ? Ah, but I was born for a
good tyrant! Ask Secundra Dass; he will tell you
I treat him like a son. Cast in your lot with me
to-morrow, become my slave, my chattel, a thing I
can command as I command the powers of my own
limbs and spirit you will see no more that dark
side that I turn upon the world in anger. I must
have all or none. But where all is given, I give it
back with usury. I have a kingly nature: there is
my loss ! "
" It has been hitherto rather the loss of others,"
I remarked; " which seems a little on the hither side
" Tilly vally ! " cried he. " Even now, I tell you
I would spare that family in which you take so great
an interest : yes, even now to-morrow I would
leave them to their petty welfare, and disappear in
that forest of cutthroats and thimbleriggers that we
call the world. I would do it to-morrow ! " says
he. "Only only "
" Only what ? " I asked.
" Only they must beg it on their bended knees. I
think in public too," he added, smiling. " Indeed,
Mackellar, I doubt if there be a hall big enough to
serve my purpose for that act of reparation."
" Vanity, vanity 1 " I moralised. " To think that
this great force for evil should be swayed by the same
sentiment that sets a lassie mincing to her glass ! "
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 233
*' Oh, tkere are double words for everything; the
word that swells, the word that belittles; you cannot
fight me with a word ! " said he. '* You said the
other day that I relied on your conscience: were I
in your humour of detraction, I might say I build upon
your vanity. It is your pretension to be un homme
de parole; 'tis mine not to accept defeat. Call it
vanity, call it virtue, call it greatness of soul what
signifies the expression ? But recognise in each of
us a common strain; that we both live for an idea."
It will be gathered from so much familiar talk,
and so much patience on both sides, that we now lived
together upon excellent terms. Such was again the
fact, and this time more seriously than before. Apart
from disputations such as that which I have tried
to reproduce, not only consideration reigned, but I
am tempted to say even kindness. When I fell sick
(as I did shortly after our great storm) he sat by my
berth to entertain me with his conversation, and
treated me with excellent remedies, which I accepted
with security. Himself commented on the circum-
stance. " You see," says he, " you begin to know
me better. A very little while ago, upon this lonely
ship, where no one but myself has any smattering
of science, you would have made sure I had designs
upon your life. And observe, it is since I found you
had designs upon my own that I have shown you
most respect. You will tell me if this speaks of a
small mind." I found little to reply. In so far as
regarded myself, I believed him to mean well; I am
perhaps the more a dupe of his dissimulation, but I
believed (and I still believe) that he regarded me with
234 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
genuine kindness. Singular and sad fact ! so soon as
this change began, my animosity abated, and these
haunting visions of my master passed utterly away.
So that, perhaps, there was truth in the man's last
vaunting word to me, uttered on the second day of
July, when our long voyage was at last brought
almost to an end, and we lay becalmed at the sea end
of the vast harbour of New York in a gasping heat
which was presently exchanged for a surprising water-
fall of rain. I stood on the poop regarding the green
shores near at hand, and now and then the light
smoke of the little town, our destination. And as
I was even then devising how to steal a march on my
familiar enemy, I was conscious of a shade of embar-
rassment when he approached me with his hand
" I am now to bid you farewell," said he, " and
that for ever. For now you go among my enemies,
where all your former prejudices will revive. I never
yet failed to charm a person when I wanted; even
you, my good friend to call you so for once even
you have now a very different portrait of me in your
memory, and one that you will never quite forget.
The voyage has not lasted long enough, or I should
have wrote the impression deeper. But now all is at
an end, and we are again at war. Judge by this little
interlude how dangerous I am ; and tell those fools "
pointing with his finger to the town " to think
twice and thrice before they set me at defiance."
PASSAGES AT NEW YORK
I HAVE mentioned I was resolved to steal a march
upon the master; and this, with the complicity
of Captain McMurtrie, was mighty easily ef-
fected; a boat being partly loaded or the one side
of our ship and the master placed on board of it, the
while a skiff put off from the other carrying me alone.
I had no more trouble in finding a direction to my
lord's house, whither I went at top speed, and which
I found to be on the outskirts of the place, a very
suitable mansion, in a fine garden, with an extraor-
dinary large barn, byre, and stable all in one. It
was here my lord was walking when I arrived ; indeed
it had become his chief place of frequentation, and
his mind was now filled with farming. I burst in
upon him breathless, and gave him my news; which
was indeed no news at all, several ships having out-
sailed the Nonesuch in the interval.
" We have been expecting you long," said my
lord; " and indeed, of late days, ceased to expect
you any more. I am glad to take your hand again,
Mackeilar. I thought you had been at the bottom
of the sea."
236 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
"Ah, my lord, would God I had!" cried I.
" Things would have been better for yourself."
" Not in the least," says he grimly. " I could not
ask better. There is a long score to pay, and now
at last I can begin to pay it."
I cried out against his security.
" Oh," says he, " this is not Durrisdeer, and I have
taken my precautions. His reputation awaits him,
I have prepared a welcome for my brother. Indeed,
fortune has served me; for I found here a merchant
of Albany who knew him after the '45 and had mighty
convenient suspicions of a murder; some one of the
name of Chew it was, another Albanian. No one
here will be surprised if I deny him my door; he will
not be suffered to address my children, nor even to
salute my wife; as for myself, I make so much ex-
ception for a brother that he may speak to me. I
should lose my pleasure else," says my lord, rubbing
Presently he bethought himself, and set men off
running with billets, to summon the magnates of
the province. I cannot recall what pretext he em-
ployed; at least it was successful; and when our
ancient enemy appeared upon the scene he found
my lord pacing in front of his house under some trees
of shade, with the governor upon one hand and various
notables upon the other. My lady, who was seated
in the veranda, rose with a very pinched expression
and carried her children into the house.
The master, well dressed and with an elegant
walking-sword, bowed to the company in a hand-
some manner and nodded to my lord with familiarity.
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 237
My lord did not accept the salutation, but looked
upon his brother with bended brows.
" Well, sir," says he, at last, " what ill wind brings
you hither of all places, where (to our common dis-
grace) your reputation has preceded you ? "
" Your lordship is pleased to be civil," cries the
master with a fine start.
" I am pleased to be very plain," returned my
lord; " because it is needful you should clearly under-
stand your situation. At home, where you were so
little known, it was still possible to keep appearances;
that would be quite vain in this province; and I have
to tell you that I am quite resolved to wash my hands
of you. You have already ruined me almost to the
door, as you ruined my father before me; whose
heart you also broke. Your crimes escape the law;
but my friend the governor has promised protection
to my family. Have a care, sir ! " cries my lord,
shaking his cane at him : " if you are observed to
utter two words to any of my innocent household, the
law shall be stretched to make you smart for it."
" Ah ! " says the master, very slowly. " And so
this is the advantage of a foreign land ! These gen-
tlemen are unacquainted with our story, I perceive.
They do not know that I am the Lord Durrisdeer;
they do not know you are my younger brother, sitting
in my place under a sworn family compact; they do
not know (or they would not be seen with you in
familiar correspondence) that every acre is mine before
God Almighty and every doit of the money you
withhold from me, you do it as a thief, a perjurer,
and a disloyal brother ! "
238 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
" General Clinton," I cried, " do not listen to his
lies. I am the steward of the estate, and there is not
one word of truth in it. The man is a forfeited rebel
turned into a hired spy; there is his story in two
It was thus that (in the heat of the moment) I let
slip his infamy.
" Fellow," said the governor, turning his face
sternly on the master, " I know more of you than you
think for. We have some broken ends of your adven-
tures in the provinces, which you will do very well
not to drive me to investigate. There is the dis-
appearance of Mr. Jacob Chew with all his merchan-
dise; there is the matter of where you came ashore
from with so much money and jewels, when you were
picked up by a Bermudan out of Albany. Believe
me, if I let these matters lie it is in commiseration for
your family and out of respect for my valued friend,
There was a murmur of applause from the provin-
" I should have remembered how a title would
shine out in such a hole as this," says the master,
white as a sheet; " no matter how unjustly come by.
It remains for me then to die at my lord's door, where
my dead body will form a very cheerful ornament."
" Away with your affectations ! " cried my lord.
" You know very well I have no such meaning; only
to protect myself from calumny and my home from
your intrusion. I offer you a choice. Either I shall
pay your passage home on the first ship, when you
may perhaps be able to resume your occupations
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 239
under government, although God knows I would
rather see you on the highway ! Or, if that likes you
not, stay here and welcome ! I have inquired the
least sum on which body and soul can be decently
kept together in New York ; so much you shall have,
paid weekly; and if you cannot labour with your
hands to better it, high time you should betake
yourself to learn ! The condition is, that you speak
with no member of my family except myself," he
I do not think I have ever seen any man so pale
as was the master; but he was erect and his mouth
" I have been met here with some very unmerited
insults," said he, " from which I have certainly no
idea to take refuge by flight. Give me your pittance ;
I take it without shame, for it is mine already like
the shirt upon your back; and I choose to stay until
these gentlemen shall understand me better. Already
they must spy the cloven hoof; since with all your
pretended eagerness for the family honour, you take
a pleasure to degrade it in my person."
" This is all very fine," says my lord ; " but to us
who know you of old, you must be sure it signifies
nothing. You take that alternative out of which
you think that you can make the most. Take it, if
you can, in silence; it will serve you better in the
long run, you may believe me, than this ostentation
" Oh, gratitude, my lord ! " cries the master, with
a mounting intonation and his forefinger very con-
spicuously lifted up. " Be at rest; it will not fail
240 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
you. It now remains that I should salute these
gentlemen whom we have wearied with our family
And he bowed to each in succession, settled his
walking-sword, and took himself off, leaving every
one amazed at his behaviour, and me not less so at
We were now to enter on a changed phase of this
family division. The master was by no manner of
means so helpless as my lord supposed, having at his
hand and entirely devoted to his service an excellent
artist in all sorts of goldsmith work. With my lord's
allowance, which was not so scanty as he had de-
scribed it, the pair could support life; and all the
earnings of Secundra Dass might be laid upon one
side for any future purpose. That this was done, I
have no doubt. It was in all likelihood the master's
design to gather a sufficiency, and then proceed in
quest of that treasure which he had buried long
before among the mountains; to which, if he had
confined himself, he would have been more happily
inspired. But unfortunately for himself and all of
us, he took counsel of his anger. The public disgrace
of his arrival (which I sometimes wonder he could
manage to survive) rankled in his bones; he was in
that humour when a man (in the words of the old
adage) will cut off his nose to spite his face ; and he
must make himself a public spectacle, in the hopes
that some of the disgrace might spatter on my lord.
He chose, in a poor quarter of the town, a lonely
small house of boards, overhung with some acacias.
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 241
It was furnished in front with a sort of hutch opening,
like that of a dog's kennel, but about as high as a
table from the ground, in which the poor man that
built it had formerly displayed some wares; and it
was this which took the master's fancy and possibly
suggested his proceedings. It appears, on board the
pirate ship, he had acquired some quickness with the
needle; enough at least to play the part of tailor in
the public eye; which was all that was required by
the nature of his vengeance. A placard was hung
above the hutch, bearing these words in something
of the following disposition :
FORMERLY MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
CLOTHES NEATLY CLOUTED.
DECAYED GENTLEMAN OF INDIA
FINE GOLDSMITH WORK.
Underneath this, when he had a job, my gentleman
sat withinside tailor-wise and busily stitching. I
say, when he had a job; but such customers as came
were rather for Secundra, and the master's sewing
would be more in the manner of Penelope's. He
could never have designed to gain even butter to his
bread by such a means of livelihood; enough for
him that there was the name of Durie dragged in
242 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
the dirt on the placard, and the sometime heir of
that proud family set up cross-legged in public for
a reproach upon his brother's meanness. And in
so far his device succeeded, that there was murmur-
ing in the town and a party formed highly inimical
to my lord. My lord's favour with the governor laid
him more open on the other side; my lady (who was
never so well received in the colony) met with painful
innuendoes; in a party of women, where it would be
the topic most natural to introduce, she was almost
debarred from the naming of needlework; and I
have seen her return with a flushed countenance and
vow that she would go abroad no more.
In the meanwhile, my lord dwelt in his decent
mansion, immersed in farming; a popular man with
his intimates, and careless or unconscious of the rest.
He laid on flesh; had a bright, busy face; even the
heat seemed to prosper with him; and my lady (in
despite of her own annoyances) daily blessed Heaven
her father should have left her such a paradise. She
had looked on from a window upon the master's
humiliation; and from that hour appeared to feel
at ease. I was not so sure myself; as time went on
there seemed to me a something not quite wholesome
in my lord's condition ; happy he was, beyond a doubt,
but the grounds of this felicity were secret; even in
the bosom of his family he brooded with manifest
delight upon some private thought ; and I conceived at
last the suspicion (quite unworthy of us both) that
he kept a mistress somewhere in the town. Yet he
went little abroad, and his day was very fully occupied;
indeed there was but a single period, and that pretty
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 243
early in the morning while Mr. Alexander was at his
lesson-book, of which I was not certain of the dis-
position. It should be borne in mind, in the defence
of that which I now did, that I was always in some fear
my lord was not quite justly in his reason; and with
our enemy sitting so still in the same town with us,
I did well to be upon my guard. Accordingly I made
a pretext, had the hour changed at which I taught
Mr. Alexander the foundation of ciphering and the
mathematic, and set myself instead to dog my master's
Every morning, fair or foul, he took his gold-
headed cane, set his hat on the back of his head a
recent habitude, which I thought to indicate a burn-
ing brow and betook himself to make a certain
circuit. At the first his way was among pleasant
trees and beside a graveyard, where he would sit
awhile, if the day were fine, in meditation. Presently
the path turned down to the water-side and came
back along the harbour front and past the master's
booth. As he approached this second part of his
circuit my Lord Durrisdeer began to pace more
leisurely, like a man delighted with the air and scene;
and before the booth, halfway between that and the
water's edge, would pause a little, leaning on his
staff. It was the hour when the master sate within
upon his board and plied his needle. So these two
brothers would gaze upon each other with hard faces ;
and then my lord move on again, smiling to himself.
It was but twice that I must stoop to that ungrateful
necessity of playing spy. I was then certain of my
lord's purpose in his rambles and of the secret source
244 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
of his delight. Here was his mistress ; it was hatred
and not love that gave him healthful colours. Some
moralists might have been relieved by the discovery,
I confess that I was dismayed. I found this situation
of two brethren not only odious in itself, but big with
possibilities of further evil ; and I made it my practice,
in so far as many occupations would allow, to go by
a shorter path and be secretly present at their meeting.
Coming down one day a little late, after I had been
near a week prevented, I was struck with surprise
to find a new development. I should say there was a
bench against the master's house, where customers
might sit to parley with the shopman; and here I
found my lord seated, nursing his cane and looking
pleasantly forth upon the day. Not three feet from
him sat the master stitching. Neither spoke; nor
(in this new situation) did my lord so much as cast
a glance upon his enemy. He tasted his neighbourhood,
I must suppose, less indirectly in the bare proximity
of person ; and, without doubt, drank deep of hateful
He had no sooner come away than I openly joined
" My lord, my lord," said I, " this is no manner of
" I grow fat upon it," he replied; and not merely
the words, which were strange enough, but the whole
character of his expression shocked me.
" I warn you, my lord, against this indulgency of
evil feeling," said I. " I know not to which it is more
perilous, the soul or the reason : but you go the way
to murder both."
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 245
" You cannot understand," said he. " You had
never such mountains of bitterness upon your heart."
" And if it were no more," I added, " you will
surely goad the man to some extremity."
" To the contrary : I am breaking his spirit," says
Every morning for hard upon a week my lord took
his same place upon the bench. It was a pleasant
place, under the green acacias, with a sight upon the
bay and shipping, and a sound (from some way off)
of mariners singing at their employ. Here the two
sate without speech or any external movement beyond
that of the needle or the master biting off a thread,
for he still clung to his pretence of industry ; and here
I made a point to join them, wondering at myself
and my companions. If any of my lord's friends
went by, he would hail them cheerfully, and cry out
he was there to give some good advice to his brother,
who was now (to his delight) grown quite industrious.
And even this the master accepted with a steady
countenance; what was in his mind, God knows, or
perhaps Satan only.
All of a sudden, on a still day of what they call the
Indian summer, when the woods were changed into
gold and pink and scarlet, the master laid down his
needle and burst into a fit of merriment. I think he
must have been preparing it a long while in silence,
for the note in itself was pretty naturally pitched;
but breaking suddenly from so extreme a silence and
in circumstances so averse from mirth, it sounded
ominously to my ear.
246 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
" Henry," said he, " I have for once made a false
step, and for once you have had the wit to profit by
it. The farce of the cobbler ends to-day; and I
confess to you (with my compliments) that you have
had the best of it. Blood will out; and you have
certainly a choice idea of how to make yourself un-
Never a word said my lord; it was just as though
the master had not broken silence.
" Come," resumed the master, " do not be sulky,
it will spoil your attitude. You can now afford
(believe me) to be a little gracious; for I have not
merely a defeat to accept. I had meant to continue
this performance till I had gathered enough money
for a certain purpose; I confess ingenuously I have
not the courage. You naturally desire my absence
from this town; I have come round by another way
to the same idea. And I have a proposition to make;
or if your lordship prefers a favour to ask."
" Ask it," says my lord.
'* You may have heard that I had once in this
country a considerable treasure," returned the master :
" it matters not whether or no such is the fact ; and
I was obliged to bury it in a spot of which I have
sufficient indications. To the recovery of this, has
my ambition now come down; and as it is my own
you will not grudge it me."
" Go and get it," says my lord. " I make no
" Yes," said the master, " but to do so I must find
men and carriage. The way is long and rough, and
the country infested with wild Indians. Advance
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 247
me only so much as shall be needful : either as a lump
sum, in lieu of my allowance, or if you prefer
it as a loan, which I shall repay on my return. And
then, if you so decide, you may have seen the last
My lord stared him steadily in the eyes; there was
a hard smile upon his face, but he uttered nothing.
" Henry," said the master, with a formidable
quietness, and drawing at the same time somewhat
back " Henry, I had the honour to address you."
" Let us be stepping homeward," says my lord to
me, who was plucking at his sleeve; and with that
he rose, stretched himself, settled his hat, and still
without a syllable of response, began to walk steadily
along the shore.
I hesitated awhile between the two brothers, so
serious a climax did we seem to have reached. But
the master had resumed his occupation, his eyes
lowered, his hand seemingly as deft as ever; and I
decided to pursue my lord.
" Are you mad ? " I cried, so soon as I had over-
took him. " Would you cast away so fair an oppor-
tunity ? "
" Is it possible you should still believe in him ? "
inquired my lord, almost with a sneer.
" I wish him forth of this town," I cried. " I wish
him anywhere and anyhow but as he is."
" I have said my say," returned my lord, " and
you have said yours. There let it rest."
But I was bent on dislodging the master. That
sight of him patiently returning to his needlework
was more than my imagination could digest. There
248 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
was never a man made, and the master the least of
any, that could accept so long a series of insults.
The air smelled blood to me. And I vowed there
should be no neglect of mine if, through any chink
of possibility, crime could be yet turned aside. That
same day, therefore, I came to my lord in his business
room, where he sat upon some trivial occupation.
" My lord," said I, " I have found a suitable invest-
ment for my small economies. But these are un-
happily in Scotland; it will take some time to lift
them, and the affair presses. Could your lordship
see his way to advance me the amount against my
note ? "
He read me awhile with keen eyes " I have never
inquired into the state of your affairs, Mackellar,"
says he. " Beyond the amount of your caution, you
may not be worth a farthing, for what I know."
" I have been a long while in your service, and
never told a lie, nor yet asked a favour for myself,"
said I, " until to-day."
" A favour for the master," he returned quietly.
" Do you take me for a fool, Mackellar ? Understand
it once and for all ; I treat this beast in my own way ;
fear nor favour shall not move me ; and before I am
hoodwinked, it will require a trickster less trans-
parent than yourself. I ask service, loyal service;
not that you should make and mar behind my back,
and steal my own money to defeat me."
" My lord," said I, " these are very unpardonable
" Think once more, Mackellar," he replied ; " and
you will see they fit the fact. It is your own subter-
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 249
fuge that is unpardonable. Deny (if you can) that
you designed this money to evade my orders with,
and I will ask your pardon freely. If you cannot,
you must have the resolution to hear your conduct
go by its own name."
" If you think I had any design but to save you "
" Oh, my old friend," said he, " you know very
well what I think ! Here is my hand to you with all
my heart; but of money, not one rap."
Defeated upon this side, I went straight to my
room, wrote a letter, ran with it to the harbour, for I
knew a ship was on the point of sailing; and came to
the master's door a little before dusk. Entering
without the form of any knock, I found him sitting
with his Indian at a simple meal of maize porridge
with some milk. The house within was clean and
poor; only a few books upon a shelf distinguished
it, and (in one corner) Secundra's little bench.
" Mr. Bally," said I, " I have near five hundred
pounds laid by in Scotland, the economies of a hard
life. A letter goes by yon ship to have it lifted ; have
so much patience till the return ship comes in, and
it is all yours, upon the same condition you offered
to my lord this morning."
He rose from the table, came forward, took me
by the shoulders, and looked me in the face, smiling.
" And yet you are very fond of money ! " said he.
" And yet you love money beyond all things else,
except my brother ! "
" I fear old age and poverty," said I, " which is
250 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
" I will never quarrel for a name. Call it so! "
he replied. " Ah, Mackellar, Mackellar, if this were
done from any love to me, how gladly would I close
upon your offer ! "
" And yet," I eagerly answered, " I say it to my
shame, but I cannot see you in this poor place with-
out compunction. It is not my single thought, nor
my first; and yet it's there! I would gladly see you
delivered. I do not offer it in love, and far from that;
but as God judges me and I wonder at it too !
quite without enmity."
" Ah," says he, still holding my shoulders and
now gently shaking me, " you think of me more
than you suppose. ' And I wonder at it too,' " he
added, repeating my expression and I suppose some-
thing of my voice. " You are an honest man, and
for that cause I spare you."
" Spare me ? " I cried.
" Spare you," he repeated, letting me go and turn-
ing away. And then fronting me once more : " You
little know what I would do with it, Mackellar!
Did you think I had swallowed my defeat indeed ?
Listen : my life has been a series of unmerited cast-
backs. That fool, Prince Charlie, mismanaged a
most promising affair: there fell my first fortune.
In Paris I had my foot once more high upon the
ladder: that time it was an accident, a letter came
to the wrong hand, and I was bare again. A third
time I found my opportunity; I built up a place for
myself in India with an infinite patience; and then
Clive came, my rajah was swallowed up, and I escaped
out of the convulsion, like another ^Eneas, with
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 251
Secundra Dass upon my back. Three times I have
had my hand upon the highest station ; and I am not
yet three-and-forty. I know the world as few men
know it when they come to die, court and camp, the
east and the west; I know where to go. I see a
thousand openings. I am now at the height of my
resources, sound of health, of inordinate ambition.
Well, all this I resign; I care not if I die and the
world never hear of me; I care only for one thing,
and that I will have. Mind yourself: lest, when the
roof falls, you too should be crushed under the ruins."
As I came out of his house, all hope of intervention
quite destroyed, I was aware of a stir on the harbor
side, and, raising my eyes, there was a great ship
newly come to anchor. It seems strange I could have
looked upon her with so much indifference, for she
brought death to the brothers of Durrisdeer. After
all the desperate episodes of this contention, the
insults, the opposing interests, the fraternal duel in
the shrubbery, it was reserved for some poor devil
in Grub Street, scribbling for his dinner and not
caring what he scribbled, to cast a spell across four
thousand miles of the salt sea, and send forth both
these brothers into savage and wintery deserts, there
to die. But such a thought was distant from my mind ;
and while all the provincials were fluttered about me
by the unusual animation of their port, I passed
throughout their midst on my return homeward,
quite absorbed in the recollection of my visit and the
The same night there was brought to us from the
ship a little packet of pamphlets. The next day
252 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
my lord was under engagement to go with the gov-
ernor upon some party of pleasure; the time was
nearly due, and I left him for a moment alone in his
room and skimming through the pamphlets. When
I returned his head had fallen upon the table, his
arms lying abroad among the crumpled papers.
" My lord, my lord ! " I cried as I ran forward, for
I supposed he was in some fit.
He sprung up like a figure upon wires, his coun-
tenance deformed with fury, so that in a strange
place I should scarce have known him. His hand
at the same time flew above his head as though to
strike me down. " Leave me alone ! " he screeched ;
and I fled, as fast as my shaking legs would bear
me, for my lady. She too lost no time; but when
we returned he had the door locked within, and
only cried to us from the other side to leave him be.
We looked in each other's faces, very white: each
supposing the blow had come at last.
" I will write to the governor to excuse him,"
says she. " We must keep our strong friends." But
when she took up the pen it flew out of her fingers.
" I cannot write," said she. " Can you ? "
" I will make a shift, my lady," said I.
She looked over me as I wrote. " That will do,"
she said, when I had done. " Thank God, Mackellar.
I have you to lean upon ! But what can it be now ?
what, what can it be ? "
In my own mind, I believed there was no expla-
nation possible and none required: it was my fear
that the man's madness had now simply burst forth
its way, like the long-smothered flames of a volcano;
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 253
but to this (in mere mercy to my lady) I durst not
" It is more to the purpose to consider our own
behaviour," said I. "Must we leave him there
" I do not dare disturb him," she replied. " Nature
may know best; it may be nature that cries to be
alone; and we grope in the dark. Oh, yes, I would
leave him as he is."
" I will then dispatch this letter, my lady, and
return here, if you please, to sit with you," said I.
" Pray do," cries my lady.
All afternoon we sat together, mostly in silence,
watching my lord's door. My own mind was busy
with the scene that had just passed, and its singular
resemblance to my vision. I must say a word upon
this, for the story has gone abroad with great exag-
geration, and I have even seen it printed and my own
name referred to for particulars. So much was the
same: here was my lord in a room, with his head
upon the table, and when he raised his face it wore
such an expression as distressed me to the soul. But
the room was different, my lord's attitude at the
table not at all the same, and his face, when he dis-
closed it, expressed a painful degree of fury instead
of that haunting despair which had always (except
once, already referred to) characterised it in the
vision. There is the whole truth at last before the
public; and if the differences be great, the coincidence
was yet enough to fill me with uneasiness. All after-
noon, as I say, I sat and pondered upon this quite to
myself; for my lady had trouble of her own, and it
254 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
was my last thought to vex her with fancies. About
the midst of our time of waiting she conceived an
ingenious scheme, had Mr. Alexander fetched and
bade him knock at his father's door. My lord sent
the boy about his business, but without the least
violence whether of manner or expression ; so that I
began to entertain a hope the fit was over.
At last, as the night fell and I was lighting a lamp
that stood there trimmed, the door opened and my
lord stood within upon the threshold. The light was
not so strong that we could read his countenance;
when he spoke methought his voice a little altered
but yet perfectly steady.
" Mackellar," said he, " carry this note to its
destination with your own hand. It is highly private.
Find the person alone when you deliver it."
" Henry," says my lady, " you are not ill ? "
" No, no," says he querulously, " I am occupied.
Not at all; I am only occupied. It is a singular
thing a man must be supposed to be ill when he has
any business ! Send me supper to this room, and a
basket of wine : I expect the visit of a friend. Other-
wise I am not to be disturbed."
And with that he once more shut himself in.
The note was addressed to Captain Harris, at
a tavern on the port-side. I knew Harris (by repu-
tation) for a dangerous adventurer, highly suspected
of piracy in the past, and now following the rude
business of an Indian trader. What my lord should
have to say to him, or he to my lord, it passed my
imagination to conceive: or yet how my lord had
heard of him, unless by a disgraceful trial from
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 255
which the man was recently escaped. Altogether I
went upon the errand with reluctance, and from the
little I saw of the captain, returned from it with
sorrow. I found him in a foul-smelling chamber,
sitting by a guttering candle and an empty bottle;
he had the remains of a military carriage, or rather
perhaps it was an affectation, for his manners were
" Tell my lord, with my service, that I will wait
upon his lordship in the inside of half an hour," says
he, when he had read the note; and then had the
servility, pointing to his empty bottle, to propose
that I should buy him liquor.
Although I returned with my best speed, the captain
followed close upon my heels, and he stayed late into
the night. The cock was crowing a second time when
I saw (from my chamber window) my lord lighting
him to the gate, both men very much affected with
their potations and sometimes leaning one upon the
other to confabulate. Yet the next morning my lord
was abroad again early with a hundred pounds of
money in his pocket. I never supposed that he re-
turned with it; and yet I was quite sure it did not
find its way to the master, for I lingered all morning
within view of the booth.
That was the last time my Lord Durrisdeer passed
his own inclosure till we left New York; he walked
in his barn or sat and talked with his family, all much
as usual; but the town saw nothing of him, and his
daily visits to the master seemed forgotten. Nor yet
did Harris reappear; or not until the end.
I was now much oppressed with a sense of the
256 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
mysteries in which we had begun to move. It was
plain, if only from his change of habitude, my lord
had something on his mind of a grave nature; but
what it was, whence it sprung, or why he should
now keep the house and garden, I could make no
guess at. It was clear, even to probation, the pam-
phlets had some share in this revolution; I read all I
could find, and they were all extremely insignificant
and of the usual kind of party scurrility; even to a
high politician, I could spy out no particular matter
of offence, and my lord was a man rather indifferent
on public questions. The truth is, the pamphlet
which was the spring of this affair, lay all the time on
my lord's bosom. There it was that I found it at
last, after he was dead, in the midst of the north
wilderness; in such a place, in such dismal circum-
stances, I was to read for the first time these idle,
lying words of a whig pamphleteer declaiming against
indulgency to Jacobites: "Another notorious rebel,
the M r of B e, is to have his title restored,"
the passage ran. " This business has been long in
hand, since he rendered some very disgraceful services
in Scotland and France. His brother, L d
D r, is known to be no better than himself in
inclination ; and the supposed heir, who is now to be
set aside, was bred up in the most detestable prin-
ciples. In the old phrase, it is six of the one and half
a dozen of the other, but the favour of such a reposition
is too extreme to be passed over." A man in his
right wits could not have cared two straws for a tale
so manifestly false; that government should ever
entertain the notion, was inconceivable to any reason-
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 257
ing creature, unless possibly the fool that penned it;
and my lord, though never brilliant, was ever remark-
able for sense. That he should credit such a rodomon-
tade, and carry the pamphlet on his bosom and the
words in his heart, is the clear proof of the man's
lunacy. Doubtless the mere mention of Mr. Alex-
ander, and the threat directly held out against the
child's succession, precipitated that which had so
long impended. Or else my master had been truly
mad for a long time, and we were too dull or too much
used to him, and did not perceive the extent of his
About a week after the day of the pamphlets I was
late upon the harbour-side, and took a turn toward
the master's, as I often did. The door opened, a
flood of light came forth upon the road, and I beheld
a man taking his departure with friendly salutations.
I cannot say how singularly I was shaken to recognise
the adventurer Harris. I could not but conclude it
was the hand of my lord that had brought him there;
and prolonged my walk in very serious and appre-
hensive thought. It was late when I came home, and
there was my lord making up his portmanteau for
" Why do you come so late ? " he cried. " We
leave to-morrow for Albany, you and I together;
and it is high time you were about your preparations."
" For Albany, my lord ? " I cried. " And for what
earthly purpose ? "
" Change of scene," said he.
And my lady, who appeared to have been weeping,
gave me the signal to obey without more parley. She
258 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
told me a little later (when we found occasion to
exchange some words) that he had suddenly an-
nounced his intention after a visit from Captain Harris,
and her best endeavours, whether to dissuade him
from the journey or to elicit some explanation of its
purpose, had alike proved unavailing.
THE JOURNEY IN THE WILDERNESS
WE made a prosperous voyage up that fine river
of the Hudson, the weather grateful, the
hills singularly beautified with the colours
of the autumn. At Albany we had our residence at
an inn, where I was not so blind and my lord not so
cunning but what I could see he had some design to
hold me prisoner. The work he found for me to do
was not so pressing that we should transact it apart
from necessary papers in the chamber of an inn ; nor
was it of such importance that I should be set upon as
many as four or five scrolls of the same document.
I submitted in appearance; but I took private
measures on my own side, and had the news of the
town communicated to me daily by the politeness
of our host. In this way I received at last a piece
of intelligence for which, I may say, I had been wait-
ing. Captain Harris (I was told) with " Mr. Mountain
the trader" had gone by up the river in a boat. I
would have feared the landlord's eye, so strong the
sense of some complicity upon my master's part
oppressed me. But I made out to say I had some
knowledge of the captain, although none of Mr.
Mountain, and to inquire who else was of the party.
260 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
My informant knew not; Mr. Mountain had come
ashore upon some needful purchases ; had gone round
the town buying, drinking and prating; and it seemed
the party went upon some likely venture, for he had
spoken much of great things he would do when he
returned. No more was known, for none of the rest
had come ashore, and it seemed they were pressed
for time to reach a certain spot before the snow
And sure enough the next day there fell a sprinkle
even in Albany, but it passed as it came, and was but
a reminder of what lay before us. I thought of it
lightly then, knowing so little as I did of that inclement
province; the retrospect is different; and I wonder
at times if some of the horror of these events which
I must now rehearse flowed not from the foul skies
and savage winds to which we were exposed, and the
agony of cold that we must suffer.
The boat having passed by, I thought at first we
should have left the town. But no such matter
My lord continued his stay in Albany where he had
no ostensible affairs, and kept me by him, far from
my due employment, and making a pretence of occupa-
tion. It is upon this passage I expect, and perhaps
deserve censure. I was not so dull but what I had
my own thoughts. I could not see the master intrust
himself into the hands of Harris, and not suspect
some underhand contrivance. Harris bore a vil-
lainous reputation, and he had been tampered with
in private by my lord ; Mountain, the trader, proved,
upon inquiry, to be another of the same kidney; the
errand they were all gone upon being the recovery
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 261
of ill-gotten treasures, offered in itself a very strong
incentive to foul play; and the character of the country
where they journeyed promised impunity to deeds of
blood. Well, it is true I had all these thoughts and
fears, and guesses of the master's fate. But you are
to consider I was the same man that sought to dash
him from the bulwarks of a ship in the mid-sea ; the
same that, a little before, very impiously but sincerely
offered God a bargain, seeking to hire God to be my
bravo. It is true again that I had a good deal melted
toward our enemy. But this I always thought of as
a weakness of the flesh and even culpable; my mind
remaining steady and quite bent against him. True
yet again that it was one thing to assume on my own
shoulders the guilt and danger of a criminal attempt,
and another to stand by and see my lord imperil and
besmirch himself. But this was the very ground of
my inaction. For (should I any way stir in the busi-
ness) I might fail indeed to save the master, but I
could not miss to make a by-word of my lord.
Thus it was that I did nothing; and upon the
same reasons, I am still strong to justify my course.
We lived meanwhile in Albany; but though alone
together in a strange place, had little traffic beyond
formal salutations. My lord had carried with him
several introductions to chief people of the town and
neighbourhood; others he had before encountered
in New York; with this consequence, that he went
much abroad, and I am sorry to say was altogether
too convivial in his habits. I was often in bed, but
never asleep, when he returned; and there was
scarce a night when he did not betray the influence
262 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
of liquor. By day he would still lay upon me endless
tasks, which he showed considerable ingenuity to
fish up and to renew, in the manner of Penelope's
web. I never refused, as I say, for I was hired to
do his bidding; but I took no pains to keep my pen-
etration under a bushel, and would sometimes smile
in his face.
" I think I must be the devil, and you Michael
Scott," I said to him one day. " I have bridged
Tweed and split the Eildons; and now you set me
to the rope of sand."
He looked at me with shining eyes and looked
away again, his jaw chewing; but without words.
" Well, well, my lord," said I, " your will is my
pleasure. I will do this thing for the fourth time;
but I would beg of you to invent another task against
to-morrow, for by my troth, I am weary of this one."
;< You do not know what you are saying," returned
my lord, putting on his hat and turning his back to
me. " It is a strange thing you should take a pleasure
to annoy me. A friend but that is a different affair.
It is a strange thing. I am a man that has had ill-
fortune all my life through. I am still surrounded by
contrivances. I am always treading in plots," he
burstfout. "' The whole world is banded against me."
" I would not talk wicked nonsense if I were you,"
said I ; " but I will tell you what I would do I would
put my head in cold water, for you had more last night
than you could carry."
" Do ye think that ? " said he, with a manner of
interest highly awakened. " Would that be good for
me ? It's a thing I never tried."
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 263
" I mind the days when you had no call to try,
and I wish, my lord, that they were back again,"
said I. " But the plain truth is, if you continue to
exceed, you will do yourself a mischief."
" I don't appear to carry drink the way I used to,"
said my lord. " I get overtaken, Mackellar. But
I will be more upon my guard."
" That is what I would ask of you," I replied.
" You are to bear in mind that you are Mr. Alex-
ander's father; give the bairn a chance to carry his
name with some responsibility."
" Ay, ay," said he. " Ye're a very sensible man,
Mackellar, and have been long in my employ. But
I think if you have nothing more to say to me, I will
be stepping. If you have nothing more to say ? " he
added, with that burning, childish eagerness that was
now so common with the man.
" No, my lord, I have nothing more," said I,
[< Then I think I will be stepping," says my lord,
and stood and looked at me fidgeting with his hat,
which he had taken off again. " I suppose you will
have no errands ? No. I am to meet Sir William
Johnson, but I will be more upon my guard." He
was silent for a time, and then, smiling: " Do you
call to mind a place, Mackellar it's a little below
Engles where the burn runs very deep under a
wood of rowans ? I mind being there when I was a
lad dear, it comes over me like an old song ! I
was after the fishing, and I made a bonny cast. Eh,
but I was happy. I wonder, Mackellar, why I am
never happy now ? "
264 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
" My lord," said I, " if you would drink with more
moderation you would have the better chance. It
is an old by-word that the bottle is a false consoler."
" No doubt," said he, " no doubt. Well, I think
I will be going."
" Good-morning, my lord," said I.
" Good-morning, good-morning," said he, and so
got himself at last from the apartment.
I give that for a fair specimen of my lord in the
morning; and I must have described my patron very
ill if the reader does not perceive a notable falling
off. To behold the man thus fallen; to know him
accepted among his companions for a poor, muddled
toper, welcome (if he were welcome at all) for the
bare consideration of his title; and to recall the virtues
he had once displayed against such odds of fortune;
was not this a thing at once to rage and to be hum-
In his cups, he was more excessive. I will give
but the one scene, close upon the end, which is
strongly marked upon my memory to this day, and
at the time affected me almost with horror.
I was in bed, lying there awake, when I heard him
stumbling on the stair and singing. My lord had no
gift of music, his brother had all the graces of the
family, so that when I say singing, you are to under-
stand a manner of high, carolling utterance, which
was truly neither speech nor song. Something not
unlike is to be heard upon the lips of children, ere
they learn shame ; from those of a man grown elderly
it had a strange effect. He opened the door with
noisy precaution; peered in, shading his candle;
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 265
conceived me to slumber; entered, set his light upon
the table, and took off his hat. I saw him very plain ;
a high, feverish exultation appeared to boil in his
veins, and he stood and smiled and smirked upon the
candle. Presently he lifted up his arm, snapped his
fingers, and fell to undress. As he did so, having once
more forgot my presence, he took back to his singing;
and now I could hear the words, which were those
from the old song of the " Twa Corbies " endlessly
" And over his banes when they are bare
The wind sail blaw for evermair ! "
I have said there was no music in the man. His
strains had no logical succession except in so far as
they inclined a little to the minor mode; but they
exercised a rude potency upon the feelings, and fol-
lowed the words, and signified the feelings of the
singer with barbaric fitness. He took it first in the
time and manner of a rant ; presently this ill-favoured
gleefulness abated, he began to dwell upon the notes
more feelingly, and sunk at last into a degree of
maudlin pathos that was to me scarce bearable. By
equal steps, the original briskness of his acts declined;
and when he was stripped to his breeches he sat
on the bedside and fell to whimpering. I know
nothing less respectable than the tears of drunkenness,
and turned my back impatiently on this poor sight.
But he had started himself (I am to suppose) on
that slippery descent of self-pity; on the which, to
a man unstrung by old sorrows and recent potations,
there is no arrest except exhaustion. His tears con-
266 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
tinued to flow, and the man to sit there, three parts
naked, in the cold air of the chamber. I twitted
myself alternately with inhumanity and sentimental
weakness, now half rising in my bed to interfere,
now reading myself lessons of indifference and court-
ing slumber, until, upon a sudden, the quantum
mutatus ab illo shot into my mind; and recalling to
remembrance his old wisdom, constancy, and patience,
I was overborne with a pity almost approaching the
passionate, not for my master alone but for the sons
At this I leaped from my place, went over to his
side and laid a hand on his bare shoulder, which was
cold as stone. He uncovered his face and showed it
me all swollen and begrutten * like a child's; and at
the sight my impatience partially revived.
" Think shame to yourself," said I. " This is
bairnly conduct. I might have been snivelling my-
self, if I had cared to swill my belly with wine. But
I went to my bed sober like a man. Come; get into
yours, and have done with this pitiable exhibition."
" Oh, Mackellar," said he, " my heart is wae ! "
" Wae ? " cried I. " For a good cause, I think.
What words were these you sung as you came in ?
Show pity to others, we then can talk of pity to your-
self. You can be the one thing or the other, but I
will be no party to halfway houses. If you're a
striker, strike, and if you're a bleater, bleat ! "
" Cry ! " cries he, with a burst, " that's it strike !
that's talking! Man, I've stood it all too long. But
when they laid a hand upon the child, when the child's
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 267
threatened " his momentary vigour whimpering off
" my child, my Alexander ! " and he was at
his tears again.
I took him by the shoulders and shook him. " Alex-
ander ! " said I. " Do you even think of him ? Not
you ! Look yourself in the face like a brave man, and
you'll find you're but a self-deceiver. The wife, the
friend, the child, they're all equally forgot, and you
sunk in a mere log of selfishness."
" Mackellar," said he, with a wonderful return to
his old manner and appearance, " you may say what
you will of me, but one thing I never was I was
" I will open your eyes in your despite," said I.
" How long have we been here ? and how often have
you written to your family ? I think this is the first
time you were ever separate; have you written at all ?
Do they know if you are dead or living ? "
I had caught him here too openly; it braced his
better nature ; there was no more weeping, he thanked
me very penitently, got to bed and was soon fast
asleep; and the first thing he did the next morning
was to sit down and begin a letter to my lady; a very
tender letter it was too, though it was never finished.
Indeed all communication with New York was trans-
acted by myself; and it will be judged I had a thank-
less task of it. What to tell my lady and in what words,
and how far to be false and how far cruel, was a
thing that kept me often from my slumber.
All this while, no doubt, my lord waited with grow-
ing impatiency for news of his accomplices. Harris,
it is to be thought, had promised a high degree of
268 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
expedition; the time was already overpast when word
was to be looked for; and suspense was a very evil
counsellor to a man of an impaired intelligence. My
lord's mind throughout this interval dwelled almost
wholly in the wilderness, following that party with
whose deeds he had so much concern. He continually
conjured up their camps and progresses, the fashion
of the country, the perpetration in a thousand different
manners of the same horrid fact, and that consequent
spectacle of the master's bones lying scattered in the
wind. These private, guilty considerations I would
continually observe to peep forth in the man's talk,
like rabbits from a hill. And it is the less wonder
if the scene of his meditations began to draw him
It is well known what pretext he took. Sir William
Johnson had a diplomatic errand in these parts; and
my lord and I (from curiosity, as was given out) went
in his company. Sir William was well attended and
liberally supplied. Hunters brought us venison, fish
was taken for us daily in the streams, and brandy
ran like water. We proceeded by day and encamped
by night in the military style; sentinels were set and
changed; every man had his named duty; and Sir
William was the spring of all. There was much in
this that might at times have entertained me; but
for our misfortune, the weather was extremely harsh,
the days were in the beginning open, but the nights
frosty from the first. A painful keen wind blew most
of the time, so that we sat in the boat with blue fingers,
and at night, as we scorched our faces at the fire, the
clothes upon our back appeared to be of paper. A
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 269
dreadful soHtude surrounded our steps; the land was
quite dispeopled, there was no smoke of fires, and
save for a single boat of merchants on the second day,
we met no travellers. The season was indeed late,
but this desertion of the waterways impressed Sir
William himself; and I have heard him more than
once express a sense of intimidation. " I have corne
too late I fear; they must have dug up the hatchet,"
he said; and the future proved how justly he had
I could never depict the blackness of my soul upon
this journey. I have none of those minds that are
in love with the unusual: to see the winter coming
and to He in the field so far from any house, oppressed
me like a nightmare; it seemed, indeed, a kind of
awful braving of God's power; and this thought,
which I dare say only writes me down coward, was
greatly exaggerated by my private knowledge of the
errand we were come upon. I was besides encumbered
by my duties to Sir William, whom it fell upon me
to entertain ; for my lord was quite sunk into a state
bordering on pervigilium, watching the woods with a
rapt eye, sleeping scarce at all, and speaking some-
times not twenty words in a whole day. That which
he said was still coherent; but it turned almost in-
variably upon the party for whom he kept his crazy
lookout. He would tell Sir William often, and always
as if it were a new communication, that he had " a
brother somewhere in the woods," and beg that the
sentinels should be directed " to inquire for him."
" I am anxious for news of my brother," he would
say. And sometimes, when we were under way. he
270 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
would fancy he spied a canoe far off upon the water
or a camp on the shore, and exhibit pair Ail agitation.
It was impossible but Sir William should be struck
with these singularities; and at last he led me aside,
and hinted his uneasiness. I touched my head and
shook it; quite rejoiced to prepare a little testimony
against possible disclosures.
" But in that case," cries Sir William, " is it wise
to let him go at large ? "
'' Those that know him best," said I, " are per-
suaded that he should be humoured."
" Well, well," replied Sir William, " it is none of
my affairs. But if I had understood, you would
never have been here."
Our advance into this savage country had thus
uneventfully proceeded for about a week when we
encamped for a night at a place where the river ran
among considerable mountains clothed in wood. The
fires were lighted on a level space at the water's edge;
and we supped and lay down to sleep in the customary
fashion. It chanced the night fell murderously cold;
the stringency of the frost seized and bit me through
my coverings, so that pain kept me wakeful; and I
was afoot again before the peep of day, crouching
by the fires or trotting to and fro at the stream's edge,
to combat the aching of my limbs. At last dawn
began to break upon hoar woods and mountains, the
sleepers rolled in their robes, and the boisterous river
dashing among spears of ice. I stood looking about
me, swaddled in my stiff coat of a bull's fur, and the
breath smoking from my scorched nostrils, when,
upon a sudden, a singular, eager cry rang from the
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 271
borders of the wood. The sentries answered it, the
sleepers sprung to their feet; one pointed, the rest
followed his direction with their eyes, and there, upon
the edge of the forest and betwixt two trees, we beheld
the figure of a man reaching forth his hands like one
in ecstasy. The next moment he ran forward, fell
on his knees at the side of the camp, and burst in
This was John Mountain, the trader, escaped from
the most horrid perils; and his first word, when he
got speech, was to ask if we had seen Secundra
" Seen what ? " cries Sir William.
" No," said I, " we have seen nothing of him.
" Nothing ? " says Mountain. " Then I was right
after all." With that he struck his palm upon his
brow. " But what takes him back ? " he cried.
" What takes the man back among dead bodies ?
There is some damned mystery here."
This was a word which highly aroused our curi-
osity, but I shall be more perspicacious if I narrate
these incidents in their true order. Here follows a
narrative which I have compiled out of three sources,
not very consistent in all points:
First y a written statement by Mountain, in which
everything criminal is cleverly smuggled out of view.
Second, two conversations with Secundra Dass;
Third, many conversations with Mountain him-
self, in which he was pleased to be entirely plain;
for the truth is he regarded me as an accomplice.
272 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
NARRATIVE OF THE TRADER, MOUNTAIN
The crew that went up the river under the joint
command of Captain Harris and the master num-
bered in all nine persons, of whom (if I except Secun-
dra Dass) there was not one that had not merited the
gallows. From Harris downward the voyagers were
notorious in that colony for desperate, bloody-minded
miscreants; some were reputed pirates, the most
hawkers of rum; all ranters and drinkers; all fit
associates, embarking together without remorse, upon
this treacherous and murderous design. I could not
hear there was much discipline or any set captain
in the gang; but Harris and four others, Mountain
himself, two Scotchmen Pinkerton and Hastie
and a man of the name of Hicks, a drunken shoe-
maker, put their heads together and agreed upon the
course. In a material sense, they were well enough
provided; and the master in particular brought with
him a tent where he might enjoy some privacy and
Even this small indulgence told against him in
the minds of his companions. But indeed he was in
a position so entirely false (and even ridiculous) that
all his habit of command and arts of pleasing were
here thrown away. In the eyes of all, except Secundra
Dass, he figured as a common gull and designated
victim; going unconsciously to death; yet he could
not but suppose himself the contriver and the leader
of the expedition; he could scarce help but so conduct
himself; and at the least hint of authority or con-
descension, his deceivers would be laughing in their
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 273
sleeves. I was so used to see and to conceive him in
a high, authoritative attitude that when I had con-
ceived his position on this journey I was pained and
could have blushed. How soon he may have enter-
tained a first surmise we cannot know; but it was
long, and the party had advanced into the wilderness
beyond the reach of any help ere he was fully awa-
kened to the truth.
It fell thus. Harris and some others had drawn
apart into the woods for consultation, when they were
startled by a rustling in the brush. They were all
accustomed to the arts of Indian warfare, and Moun-
tain had not only lived and hunted, but fought and
earned some reputation with the savages. He could
move in the woods without noise, and follow a trail
like a hound ; and upon the emergence of this alert,
he was deputed by the rest to plunge into the thicket
for intelligence. He was soon convinced there was
a man in his close neighbourhood, moving with precau-
tion but without art among the leaves and branches;
and coming shortly to a place of advantage, he was
able to observe Secundra Dass crawling briskly off
with many backward glances. At this he knew not
whether to laugh or cry; and his accomplices, when
he had returned and reported, were in much the same
dubiety. There was now no danger of an Indian
onslaught; but on the other hand, since Secundra
Dass was at the pains to spy upon them, it was highly
probable he knew English, and if he knew English
it was certain the whole of their design was in the
master's knowledge. There was one singularity in
the position. If Secundra Dass knew and concealed
274 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
his knowledge of English, Harris was a proficient in
several of the tongues of India, and as his career in
that part of the world had been a great deal worse
than profligate, he had not thought proper to remark
upon the circumstance. Each side had thus a spy-
hole on the counsels of the other. The plotters, so
soon as this advantage was explained, returned to
camp; Harris, hearing the Hindoostanee was once
more closeted with his master, crept to the side of the
tent; and the rest, sitting about the fire with their
tobacco, awaited his report with impatience. When
he came at last his face was very black. He had
overheard enough to confirm the worst of his sus-
picions. Secundra Dass was a good English scholar;
he had been some days creeping and listening, the
master was now fully informed of the conspiracy,
and the pair proposed on the morrow to fall out of
line at a carrying place and plunge at a venture in the
woods: preferring the full risk of famine, savage
beasts, and savage men to their position in the midst
What, then, was to be done ? Some were for killing
the master on the spot; but Harris assured them that
would be a crime without profit, since the secret of
the treasure must die along with him that buried it.
Others were for desisting at once from the whole
enterprise and making for New York; but the appe-
tising name of treasure, and the thought of the long
way they had already travelled, dissuaded the majority.
I imagine they were dull fellows for the most part.
Harris, indeed, had some acquirements, Mountain
was no fool, Hastie was an educated man; but even
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 275
these had manifestly failed in life, and the rest were
the dregs of colonial rascality. The conclusion they
reached, at least, was more the offspring of greed and
hope than reason. It was to temporise, to be wary and
watch the master, to be silent and supply no further
aliment to his suspicions, and to depend entirely (as
well as I make out) on the chance that their victim
was as greedy, hopeful, and irrational as them-
selves, and might, after all, betray his life and
Twice, in the course of the next day, Secundra
and the master must have appeared to themselves
to have escaped; and twice they were circumvented.
The master, save that the second time he grew a little
pale, displayed no sign of disappointment, apologised
for the stupidity with which he had fallen aside,
thanked his recapturers as for a service, and rejoined
the caravan with all his usual gallantry and cheerful-
ness of mien and bearing. But it is certain he had
smelled a rat; for from thenceforth he and Secundra
spoke only in each other's ear, and Harris listened
and shivered by the tent in vain. The same night it was
announced they were to leave the boats and proceed
by foot : a circumstance which (as it put an end to the
confusion of the portages) greatly lessened the chances
And now there began between the two sides a
silent contest, for life on the one hand, for riches on
the other. They were now near that quarter of the
desert in which the master himself must begin to play
the part of guide; and using this for a pretext of
prosecution, Harris and his men sat with him every
276 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
night about the fire, and laboured to entrap him into
some admission. If he let slip his secret, he knew
well it was the warrant for his death; on the other
hand, he durst not refuse their questions, and must
appear to help them to the best of his capacity, or
he practically published his mistrust. And yet Moun-
tain assures me the man's brow was never ruffled.
He sat in the midst of these jackals, his life depending
by a thread, like some easy, witty householder at
home by his own fire; an answer he had for every-
thing as often as not, a jesting answer; avoided
threats, evaded insults; talked, laughed, and listened
with an open countenance; and, in short, conducted
himself in such a manner as must have disarmed
suspicion, and went near to stagger knowledge. In-
deed Mountain confessed to me they would soon have
disbelieved the captain's story, and supposed their
designated victim still quite innocent of their designs,
but for the fact that he continued (however ingen-
iously) to give the slip to questions, and the yet stronger
confirmation of his repeated efforts to escape. The
last of these, which brought things to a head, I am
now to relate. And first I should say that by this time
the temper of Harris' companions was utterly worn
out; civility was scarce pretended; and for one very
significant circumstance, the master and Secundra
had been (on some pretext) deprived of weapons.
On their side, however, the threatened pair kept up
the parade of friendship handsomely; Secundra was
all bows, the master all smiles; and on the last night
of the truce he had even gone so far as to sing for the
diversion of the company. It was observed that he
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 277
nad also eaten with unusual heartiness, and drank
deep : doubtless from design.
At least, about three in the morning, he came out
of the tent into the open air, audibly mourning and
complaining, with all the manner of a sufferer from
surfeit. For some while Secundra publicly attended
on his patron, who at last became more easy, and fell
asleep on the frosty ground behind the tent: the
Indian returning within. Some time after the sentry
was changed; had the master pointed out to him,
where he lay in what is called a robe of buffalo; and
thenceforth kept an eye upon him (he declared) with-
out remission. With die first of the dawn, a draught of
wind came suddenly and blew open one side the cor-
ner of the robe ; and with the same puff, the master's
hat whirled in the air and fell some yards away.
The sentry, thinking it remarkable the sleeper
should not awaken, thereupon drew near: and the
next moment, with a great shout, informed the camp
their prisoner was escaped. He had left behind his
Indian, who (in the first vivacity of the surprise) came
near to pay the forfeit of his life, and was, in fact,
inhumanly mishandled; but Secundra, in the midst
of threats and cruelties, stuck to it with extraordinary
loyalty that he was quite ignorant of his master's
plans, which might indeed be true, and of the manner
of his escape, which was demonstrably false. Nothing
was therefore left to the conspirators but to rely
entirely on the skill of Mountain. The night had been
frosty, the ground quite hard; and the sun was no
sooner up than a strong thaw set in. It was Moun-
tain's boast that few men could have followed that
278 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
trail, and still fewer (even of the native Indians) found
it. The master had thus a long start before his pur-
suers had the scent, and he must have travelled with
surprising energy for a pedestrian so unused, since
it was near noon before Mountain had a view of him.
At this conjuncture the trader was alone, all his com-
panions following, at his own request, several hundred
yards in the rear; he knew the master was unarmed;
his heart was besides heated with the exercise and lust
of hunting; and seeing the quarry so close, so defence-
less, and seemingly so fatigued, he vaingloriously
determined to effect the capture with his single hand.
A step or two further brought him to one margin of a
little clearing; on the other, with his arms folded and
his back to a huge stone, the master sat. It is possible
Mountain may have made a rustle, it is certain, at
least, the master raised his head and gazed directly
at that quarter of the thicket where his hunter lay.
" I could not be sure he saw m," Mountain said;
" he just looked my way like a man with his mind made
up, and all the courage ran out of me like rum out of
a bottle." And presently, when the master looked
away again, and appeared to resume those meditations
in which he had sat immersed before the trader's
coming, Mountain slunk stealthily back and returned
to seek the help of his companions.
And now began the chapter of surprises, for the
scout had scarce informed the others of his discovery,
and they were yet preparing their weapons for a rush
upon the fugitive, when the man himself appeared in
their midst, walking openly and quietly, with his hands
behind his back.
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 279
" Ah men ! " says he, on his beholding them.
" Here is a fortunate encounter. Let us get back to
Mountain had not mentioned his own weakness
or the master's disconcerting gaze upon the thicket,
so that (with all the rest) his return appeared spon-
taneous. For all that, a hubbub arose; oaths flew,
fists were shaken, and guns pointed.
" Let us get back to camp," said the master. " I
have an explanation to make, but it must be laid
before you all. And in the meanwhile I would put
up these weapons, one of which might very easily
go off and blow away your hopes of treasure. I would
not kill," says he, smiling, " the goose with the golden
The charm of his superiority once more triumphed ;
and the party, in no particular order, set off on their
return. By the way he found occasion to get a word
or two apart with Mountain.
" You are a clever fellow and a bold," says he,
" but I am not so sure that you are doing yourself
justice. I would have you to consider whether you
would not do better, ay, and safer, to serve me instead
of serving so commonplace a rascal as Mr. Harris.
Consider of it," he concluded, dealing the man a gentle
tap upon the shoulder, " and don't be in haste. Dead
or alive, you will find me an ill man to quarrel with."
When they were come back to the camp, where
Harris and Pinkerton stood guard over Secundra,
these two ran upon the master like viragoes, and were
amazed out of measure when they were bidden by
their comrades to " stand back and hear what the
280 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
gentleman had to say." The master had not flinched
before their onslaught; nor, at this proof of the
ground he had gained, did he betray the least suffi-
" Do not let us be in haste," says he. " Meat first
and public speaking after."
With that they made a hasty meal; and as soon
as it was done, the master, leaning on one elbow,
began his speech. He spoke long, addressing him-
self to each except Harris, finding for each (with the
same exception) some particular flattery. He called
them " bold, honest blades," declared he had never
seen a more jovial company, work better done, or
pains more merrily supported. " Well, then," says
he, " some one asks me ' Why the devil I ran away ? '
But that is scarce worth answer, for I think you all
know pretty well. But you know only pretty well:
that is a point I shall arrive at presently, and be you
ready to remark it when it comes. There is a traitor
here : a double traitor : I will give you his name before
I am done; and let that suffice for now. But here
comes some other gentleman and asks me ' Why in
the devil I came back ? ' Well before I answer that
question, I have one to put to you. It was this cur
here, this Harris, that speaks Hindoostanee ? " cries
he, rising on one knee and pointing fair at the man's
face, with a gesture indescribably menacing; and
when he had been answered in the affirmative, " Ah ! "
says he, " then are all my suspicions verified, and I
did rightly to come back. Now, men, hear the truth
for the first time." Thereupon he launched forth in
a long story, told with extraordinary skill how he had
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 281
all along suspected Harris, how he had found the
confirmation of his fears, and how Harris must have
misrepresented what passed between Secundra and
himself. At this point he made a bold stroke with
excellent effect. " I suppose," says he, " you think
you are going shares with Harris, I suppose you think
you will see to that yourselves; you would naturally
not think so flat a rogue could cozen you. But have
a care ! These half idiots have a sort of cunning, as
the skunk has its stench; and it may be news to you
that Harris has taken care of himself already. Yes,
for him the treasure is all money in the bargain. You
must find it or go starve. But he has been paid before-
hand; my brother paid him to destroy me; look at
him, if you doubt look at him, grinning and gulp-
ing, a detected thief! " Thence, having made this
happy impression, he explained how he had escaped,
and thought better of it, and at last concluded to come
back, lay the truth before the company, and take his
chance with them once more : persuaded, as he was,
they would instantly depose Harris and elect some
other leader. " There is the whole truth," said he :
" and with one exception, I put myself entirely in
your hands. What is the exception ? There he sits,"
he cried, pointing once more to Harris; " a man that
has to die ! Weapons and conditions are all one to
me; put me face to face with him, and if you give me
nothing but a stick, in five minutes I will show you a
sop of broken carrion fit for dogs to roll in."
It was dark night when he made an end; they had
listened in almost perfect silence; but the firelight
scarce permitted any one to judge, from the look of
282 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
his neighbours, with what result of persuasion or
conviction. Indeed, the master had set himself in the
brightest place, and kept his face there, to be the
centre of men's eyes : doubtless on a profound calcu-
lation. Silence followed for awhile, and presently the
whole party became involved in disputation: the
master lying on his back with his hands knit under
his head and one knee flung across the other, like a
person unconcerned in the result. And here, I dare
say, his bravado carried him too far and prejudiced
his case. At least, after a cast or two backward and
forward, opinion settled finally against him. It's
possible he hoped to repeat the business of the pirate
ship, and be himself, perhaps, on hard enough con-
ditions, elected leader; and things went so far that
way that Mountain actually threw out the proposition.
But the rock he split upon was Hastie. This fellow
was not well liked, being sour and slow, with an ugly
glowering disposition, but he had studied some time
for the Church at Edinburgh College, before ill con-
duct had destroyed his prospects, and he now remem-
bered and applied what he had learned. Indeed,
he had not proceeded very far, when the master rolled
carelessly upon one side, which was done (in Moun-
tain's opinion) to conceal the beginnings of despair
upon his countenance. Hastie dismissed the most of
what they had heard as nothing to the matter : what
they wanted was the treasure. All that was said of
Harris might be true, and they would have to see to
that in time. But what had that to do with the
treasure? They had heard a vast of words; but the
truth was just this, that Mr. Durie was damnably
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 283
frightened and had several times run off. Here he
was whether caught or come back was all one to
Hastie : the point was to make an end of the business.
As for the talk of deposing and electing captains, he
hoped they were all free men and could attend their
own affairs. That was dust flung in their eyes, and so
was the proposal to fight Harris. " He shall fight no
one in this camp, I can tell him that," said Hastie.
" We had trouble enough to get his arms away from
him, and we should look pretty fools to give them
back again. But if it's excitement the gentleman is
after, I can supply him with more than perhaps he
cares about. For I have no intention to spend the
remainder of my life in these mountains; already I
have been too long; and I propose that he shall
immediately tell us where that treasure is, or else
immediately be shot. And there," says he, producing
his weapon, " there is the pistol that I mean to use."
" Come, I call you a man," cries the master, sitting
up and looking at the speaker with an aim of admira-
" I didn't ask you to call me anything," returned
Hastie; " which is it to be ? "
" That's an idle question," said the master.
" Needs must when the devil drives. The truth is
we are within easy walk of the place, and I will show
it you to-morrow."
With that, as if all were quite settled, and settled
exactly to his mind, he walked off to his tent, whither
Secundra had preceded him.
I cannot think of these last turns and wriggles of my
old enemy except with admiration; scarce even pity
284 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
is mingled with the sentiment, so strongly the man
supported, so boldly resisted his misfortunes. Even
at that hour, when he perceived himself quite lost,
when he saw he had but effected an exchange of
enemies, and overthrown Harris to set Hastie up,
no sign of weakness appeared in his behaviour, and he
withdrew to his tent, already determined (I must
suppose) upon affronting the incredible hazard of his
last expedient with the same easy, assured, genteel
expression and demeanour as he might have left a
theatre withal to join a supper of the wits. But
doubtless within, if we could see there, his soul
Early in the night, word went about the camp
that he was sick; and the first thing the next morning
he called Hastie to his side, and inquired most anx-
iously if he had any skill in medicine. As a matter of
fact, this was a vanity of that fallen divinity student's
to which he had cunningly addressed himself. Hastie
examined him; and being flattered, ignorant, and
highly suspicious, knew not in the least whether the
man was sick or malingering. In this state, he went
forth again to his companions; and (as the thing
which would give himself most consequence either
way) announced that the patient was in a fair way to
" For all that," he added, with an oath, " and if he
bursts by the wayside, he must bring us this morning
to the treasure."
But there were several in the camp (Mountain
among the number) whom this brutality revolted.
They would have seen the master pistoled, or pistoled
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 285
him themselves, without the smallest sentiment of
pity; but they seem to have been touched by his
gallant fight and unequivocal defeat the night before;
perhaps, too, they were even already beginning to
oppose themselves to their new leader : at least, they
now declared that (if the man was sick) he should
have a day's rest in spite of Hastie's teeth.
The next morning he was manifestly worse, and
Hastie himself began to display something of humane
concern, so easily does even the pretence of doctoring
awaken sympathy. The third, the master called
Mountain and Hastie to the tent, announced himself
to be dying, gave them full particulars as to the
position of the cache, and begged them to set out
incontinently on the quest, so that they might see
if he deceived them, and (if they were at first unsuc-
cessful), he should be able to correct their error.
But here arose a difficulty on which he doubtless
counted. None of these men would trust another,
none would consent to stay behind. On the other
hand, although the master seemed extremely low,
spoke scarce above a whisper, and lay much of the
time insensible, it was still possible it was a fraud-
ulent sickness; and if all went treasure-hunting it
might prove they had gone upon a wild-goose chase,
and return to find their prisoner flown. They con-
cluded, therefore, to hang idling round the camp,
alleging sympathy to their reason; and certainly, so
mingled are our dispositions, several were sincerely
(if not very deeply) affected by the natural peril of
the man whom they callously designed to murder.
In the afternoon Hastie was called to the bedside
286 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
to pray: the which (incredible as it must appear) he
did with unction; about eight at night the wailing
of Secundra announced that all was over, and before
ten the Indian, with a link stuck in the ground, was
toiling at the grave. Sunrise of next day beheld the
master's burial, all hands attending with great decency
of demeanour; and the body was laid in the earth
wrapped in a fur robe, with only the face uncovered ;
which last was of a waxy whiteness, and had the
nostrils plugged according to some Oriental habit of
Secundra 's. No sooner was the grave filled than the
lamentations of the Indian once more struck concern
to every heart; and it appears this gang of murderers,
so far from resenting his outcries, although both
distressful and (in such a country) perilous to their
own safety, roughly but kindly endeavoured to con-
But if human nature is even in the worst of men
occasionally kind, it is still, and before all things,
greedy; and they soon turned from the mourner to
their own concerns. The cache of the treasure being
hard by, although yet unidentified, it was concluded
not to break camp; and the day passed, on the part
of the voyagers, in unavailing exploration of the woods,
Secundra the while lying on his master's grave. That
night they placed no sentinel, but lay all together
about the fire, in the customary woodman fashion,
the heads outward, like the spokes of a wheel. Morn-
ing found them in the same disposition ; only Pinker-
ton, who lay on Mountain's right, between him and
Hastie, had (in the hours of darkness) been secretly
butchered, and there lay, still wrapped as to his body
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 287
in his mantle, but offering above that ungodly and
horrific spectacle of the scalped head. The gang
were that morning as pale as a company of phantoms,
for the pertinacity of Indian war (or, to speak more
correctly, Indian murder), was well known to all.
But they laid the chief blame on their unsentinelled
posture; and fired with the neighbourhood of the
treasure, determined to continue where they were.
Pinkerton was buried hard by the master; the sur-
vivors again passed the day in exploration, and re-
turned in a mingled humour of anxiety and hope, being
partly certain they were now close on the discovery
of what they sought, and on the other hand (with the
return of darkness) were infected with the fear of
Indians. Mountain was the first sentry; he declares
he neither slept nor yet sat down, but kept his watch
with a perpetual and straining vigilance, and it was
even with unconcern that (when he saw by the stars
his time was up) he drew near the fire to waken his
successor. This man (it was Hicks the shoemaker.)
slept on the lee-side of the circle, somewhat further
off in consequence than those to windward, and in a
place darkened by the blowing smoke. Mountain
stooped and took him by the shoulder; his hand was
at once smeared by some adhesive wetness; and (the
wind at the moment veering) the firelight shone upon
the sleeper and showed him, like Pinkerton, dead and
It was clear they had fallen in the hands of one
of those matchless Indian bravos, that will sometimes
follow a party for days, and in spite of indefatigable
travel and unsleeping watch, continue to keep up with
288 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
their advance and steal a scalp at every resting place.
Upon this discovery the treasure seekers, already
reduced to a poor half dozen, fell into mere dismay,
seized a few necessaries, and deserting the remainder
of their goods, fled outright into the forest. Their
fire, they left still burning, and their dead comrade
unburied. All day they ceased not to flee, eating
by the way, from hand to mouth; and since they
feared to sleep, continued to advance at random even
in the hours of darkness. But the limit of man's
endurance is soon reached; when they rested at last,
it was to sleep profoundly; and when they woke, it
was to find that the enemy was still upon their heels,
and death and mutilation had once more lessened and
deformed their company.
By this they had become light-headed, they had
quite missed their path in the wilderness, their stores
were already running low. With the further horrors,
it is superfluous that I should swell this narrative,
already too prolonged. Suffice it to say, that when
at length a night passed by innocuous, and they
might breathe again in the hope that the murderer
had at last desisted from pursuit, Mountain and Se-
cundra were alone. The trader is firmly persuaded
their unseen enemy was some warrior of his own ac-
quaintance, and that he himself was spared by favour.
The mercy extended to Secundra he explains on the
ground that the East Indian was thought to be insane;
partly from the fact that, through all the horrors of
the flight and while others were casting away their
very food and weapons, Secundra continued to stagger
forward with a mattock on his shoulder; and partly
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 289
because in the last days and with a great degree of
heat and fluency, he perpetually spoke with himself
in his own language. But he was sane enough when
it came to English.
" You think he will be gone quite away ? " he asked,
upon their blessed awakening in safety.
" I pray God so, I believe so, I dare to believe so,"
Mountain had replied almost with incoherence as he
described the scene to me.
And indeed he was so much distempered that until
he met us the next morning he could scarce be certain
whether he had dreamed, or whether it was a fact,
that Secundra had thereupon turned directly about
and returned without a word upon their footprints,
setting his face for these wintery and hungry solitudes,
along a path whose every stage was milestoned with
a mutilated corpse.
THE JOURNEY IN THE WILDERNESS
MOUNTAIN'S story, as it was laid before Sir
William Johnson and my lord, was shorn,
of course, of all the earlier particulars, and
the expediton described to have proceeded unevent-
fully, until the master sickened. But the latter part
was very forcibly related, the speaker visibly thrilling
to his recollections; and our then situation, on the
fringe of the same desert, and the private interests of
each, gave him an audience prepared to share in his
emotions. For Mountain's intelligence not only
changed the world for my Lord Durrisdeer, but ma-
terially affected the designs of Sir William Johnson.
These I find I must lay more at length before the
reader. Word had reached Albany of dubious im-
port; it had been rumoured fome hostility was to be
put in act; and the Indian diplomatist had, there-
upon, sped into the wilderness, even at the approach
of winter, to nip that mischief in the bud. Here,
on the borders, he learned that he was come too late;
and a difficult choice was thus presented to a man
(upon the whole) not any more bold than prudent
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 291
His standing with the painted braves may be com-
pared to that of my Lord President Culloden among
the chiefs of our own Highlanders at the 'forty-five;
that is as much as to say, he was, to these men, reason's
only speaking trumpet, and counsels of peace and
moderation, if they were to prevail at all, must prevail
singly through his influence. If, then, he should re-
turn, the province must lie open to all the abominable
tragedies of Indian war the houses blaze, the way-
farer be cut off, and the men of the woods collect their
usual disgusting spoil of human scalps. On the other
side, to go further forth, to risk so small a party deeper
in the desert to carry words of peace among warlike
savages already rejoicing to return to war : here was
an extremity from which it was easy to perceive his
" I have come too late," he said more than once,
and would fall into a deep consideration, his head
bowed in his hands, his foot patting the ground.
At length he raised his face and looked upon us,
that is to say, upon my lord, Mountain, and myself,
sitting close round a small fire, which had been made
for privacy in one corner of the camp.
" My lord, to be quite frank with you, I find my-
self in two minds," said he. " I think it very need-
ful I should go on, but not at all proper I should any
longer enjoy the pleasure of your company. We are
here still upon the water-side; and I think the risk
to southward no great matter. Will not yourself and
Mr. Mackellar take a single boat's crew and return to
Albany ? "
My lord, I should say, had listened to Mountain's
292 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
narrative, regarding him throughout with a painful
intensity of gaze; and since the tale concluded, had
sat as in a dream. There was something very daunt-
ing in his look; something to my eyes not rightly
human; the face, lean, and dark, and aged, the mouth
painful, the teeth disclosed in a perpetual rictus; the
eyeball swimming clear of the lids upon a field of
bloodshot white. I could not behold him myself with-
out a jarring irritation, such as (I believe) is too fre-
quently the uppermost feeling on the sickness of those
dear to us. Others, I could not but remark, were
scarce able to support his neighbourhood Sir
William eviting to be near him, Mountain dodg-
ing his eye, and, when he met it, blanching and
halting in his story. At this appeal, however, my
lord appeared to recover his command upon him-
" To Albany ? " said he, with a good voice.
" Not short of it, at least," replied Sir William.
" There is no safety nearer at hand."
" I would be very sweir T to return," says my lord.
" I am not afraid of Indians," he added, with a
" I wish that I could say so much," returned Sir
William, smiling; " although, if any man durst say
it, it should be myself. But you are to keep in view
my responsibility, and that as the voyage has now be-
come highly dangerous, and your business if you
ever had any," says he, " brought quite to a conclu-
sion by the distressing family intelligence you have
received, I should be hardly justified if I even suffered
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 293
you to proceed, and run the risk of some obloquy if
anything regrettable should follow."
My lord turned to Mountain. " What did he pre-
tend he died of ? " he asked.
" I don't think I understand your honour," said the
trader, pausing like a man very much affected, in the
dressing of some cruel frost-bites.
For a moment my lord seemed at a full stop; and
then, with some irritation, " I ask you what he died of.
Surely that's a plain question," said he.
" Oh, I don't know," said Mountain. " Hastie
even never knew. He seemed to sicken natural, and
just pass away."
' There it is, you see ! " concluded my lord, turning
to Sir William.
" Your lordship is too deep for me," replied Sir
" Why," says my lord, " this is a matter of succes-
sion; my son's title may be called in doubt; and the
man being supposed to be dead of nobody can tell
what, a great deal of suspicion would be naturally
" But, God damn me, the man's buried ! " cried Sir
" I will never believe that," returned my lord,
painfully trembling. " I'll never believe it ! " he cried
again, and jumped to his feet. " Did he look dead ? "
he asked of Mountain.
" Look dead ? " repeated the trader. " He looked
white. Why, what would he be at ? I tell you, I put
the sods upon him."
My lord caught Sir William by the coat with a
294 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
hooked hand. ' This man has the name of my
brother," says he, " but it's well understood that he
was never canny."
" Canny ? " says Sir William. " What is that ? "
" He's not of this world," whispered my lord,
" neither him nor the black deil that serves him. I
have struck my sword throughout his vitals," he
cried, " I have felt the hilt dirl ' on his breast-bone,
and the hot blood spurt in my very face, time and
again, time and again ! " he repeated, with a gesture
indescribable. " But he was never dead for that,"
said he, and I sighed aloud. " Why should I think he
was dead now ? No, not till I see him rotting," says
Sir William looked across at me, with a long face.
Mountain forgot his wounds, staring and gaping.
" My lord," said I, " I wish you would collect your
spirits." But my throat was so dry, and my own wits
so scattered, I could add no more.
" No," says my lord, " it's not to be supposed that
he would understand me. Mackellar does, for he
kens all, and has seen him buried before now. This
is a very good servant to me, Sir William, this man
Mackellar; he buried him with his own hands
he and my father by the light of two siller candle-
sticks. The other man is a familiar spirit; he brought
him from Coromandel. I would have told ye this
long syne, Sir William, only it was in the family."
These last remarks he made with a kind of melancholy
composure, and his time of aberration seemed to pass
away. " You can ask yourself what it all means," he
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 295
proceeded. " My brother falls sick, and dies, and is
buried, as so they say; and all seems very plain.
But why did the familiar go back ? I think ye must
see for yourself it's a point that wants some clear-
" I will be at your service, my lord, in half a minute,"
said Sir William, rising. " Mr. Mackellar, two words
with you," and he led me without the camp, the frost
crunching in our steps, the trees standing at our elbow
hoar with frost, even as on that night in the long shrub-
bery. " Of course, this is midsummer madness ? "
said Sir William, so soon as we were gotten out of
" Why, certainly," said I. " The man is mad. I
think that manifest."
" Shall I seize and bind him ? " asked Sir William.
" I will upon your authority. If these are all ravings
that should certainly be done."
I looked down upon the ground, back at the camp
with its bright fires and the folk watching us, and about
me on the woods and mountains; there was just the
one way that I could not look, and that was in Sir
" Sir William," said I, at last, " I think my lord
not sane, and have long thought him so. But there
are degrees in madness; and whether he should be
brought under restraint Sir William, I am no fit
judge," I concluded.
" I will be the judge," said he. " I ask for facts.
Was there, in all that jargon, any word of truth or
sanity ? Do you hesitate ? " he asked. " Am I to
understand you have buried this gentleman before ? "
296 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
" Not buried," said I ; and then, taking up
courage at last, " Sir William," said I, " unless I were
to tell you a long story, which much concerns a noble
family (and myself not in the least), it would be im-
possible to make this matter clear to you. Say the
word, and I will do it, right or wrong. And, at any
rate, I will say so much, that my lord is not so crazy
as he seems. This is a strange matter, into the tail of
which you are unhappily drifted."
" I desire none of your secrets," replied Sir William;
" but I will be plain, at the risk of incivility, and con-
fess that I take little pleasure in my present com-
" I would be the last to blame you," said I, " for
" I have not asked either for your censure or your
praise, sir," returned Sir William. " I desire simply
to be quit of you; and to that effect, I put a boat and
complement of men at your disposal."
" This is fairly offered," said I, after reflection.
" But you must suffer me to say a word upon the
other side. We have a natural curiosity to learn the
truth of this affair; I have some of it myself; my
lord (it is very plain) has but too much. The matter
of the Indian's return is enigmatical."
" I think so myself," Sir William interrupted, " and
I propose (since I go in that direction) to probe it to
the bottom. Whether or not the man has gone like
a dog to die upon his master's grave, his life, at least,
is in great danger, and I propose, if I can, to save it.
There is nothing against his character ? "
" Nothing, Sir William," I replied.
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 297
" And the other ? " he said. " I have heard my
lord, of course; but, from the circumstances of his
servant's loyalty, I must suppose he had some noble
" You must not ask me that ! " I cried. " Hell
may have noble flames. I have known him a score of
years, and always hated, and always admired, and
always slavishly feared him."
" I appear to intrude again upon your secrets,"
said Sir William, " believe me, inadvertently. Enough
that I will see the grave, and (if possible) rescue the
Indian. Upon these terms can you persuade your
master to return to Albany ? "
" Sir William," said I, " I will tell you how it is.
You do not see my lord to advantage; it will seem
even strange to you that I should love him ; but I do,
and I am not alone. If he goes back to Albany it must
be by force, and it will be the death-warrant of his
reason, and perhaps his life. That is my sincere be-
lief; but I am in your hands, and ready to obey, if
you will assume so much responsibility as to com-
" I will have no shred of responsibility; it is my
single endeavour to avoid the same," cried Sir William.
" You insist upon following this journey up; and be
it so ! I wash my hands of the whole matter."
With which word he turned upon his heel and gave
the order to break camp ; and my lord, who had been
hovering near by, came instantly to my side.
" Which is it to be ? " said he.
" You are to have your way," I answered. "' You
shall see the grave."
298 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
The situation of the master's grave was, between
guides, easily described; it lay, indeed, beside a
chief landmark of the wilderness, a certain range of
peaks, conspicuous by their design and altitude, and
the source of many brawling tributaries to that in-
land sea, Lake Champlain. It was therefore possible
to strike for it direct, instead of following back the
blood-stained trail of the fugitives, and to cover, in
some sixteen hours of march, a distance which their
perturbed wanderings had extended over more than
sixty. Our boats we left under a guard upon the river;
it was, indeed, probable we should return to find them
frozen fast; and the small equipment with which we
set forth upon the expedition included not only an
infinity of furs to protect us from the cold, but an
arsenal of snow-shoes to render travel possible, when
the inevitable snow should fall. Considerable alarm
was manifested at our departure; the march was con-
ducted with soldierly precaution, the camp at night
sedulously chosen and patrolled; and it was a consid-
eration of this sort that arrested us, the second day,
within not many hundred yards of our destination
the night being already imminent, the spot in which
we stood well qualified to be a strong camp for a party
of our numbers; and Sir William, therefore, on a
sudden thought, arresting our advance.
Before us was the high range of mountains toward
which we had been all day deviously drawing near.
From the first light of the dawn, their silver peaks
had been the goal of our advance across a tumbled
lowland forest, thrid with rough streams, and strewn
with monstrous bowlders; the peaks (as I say) silver,
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 299
for already at the higher altitudes the snow fell
nightly; but the woods and the low ground only
breathed upon with frost. All day heaven had been
charged with ugly vapours, in the which the sun swam
and glimmered like a shilling piece; all day the wind
blew on our left cheek, barbarous cold, but very pure
to breathe. With the end of the afternoon, however,
the wind fell ; the clouds, being no longer re-enforced,
were scattered or drunk up; the sun set behind us
with some wintery splendour, and the white brow of the
mountains shared its dying glow.
It was dark ere we had supper; we eat in silence,
and the meal was scarce dispatched before my lord
slunk from the fireside to the margin of the camp,
whither I made haste to follow him. The camp was
on high ground, overlooking a frozen lake, perhaps
a mile in its longest measurement; all about us the
forest lay in heights and hollows ; above rose the white
mountains; and higher yet, the moon rode in a fair
sky. There was no breath of air; nowhere a twig
creaked; and the sounds of our own camp were
hushed and swallowed up in the surrounding stillness.
Now that the sun and the wind were both gone down,
it appeared almost warm, like a night of July; a
singular illusion of the sense, when earth, air, and
water were strained to bursting with the extremity of
My lord (or what I still continued to call by his
loved name) stood with his elbow in one hand, and
his chin sunk in the other, gazing before him on the
surface of the wood. My eyes followed his, and rested
almost pleasantly upon the frosted contexture of the
300 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
pines, rising in moonlit hillocks, or sinking in the
shadow of small glens. Hard by, I told myself, was
the grave of our enemy, now gone where the wicked
cease from troubling, the earth heaped for ever on his
once so active limbs. I could not but think of him as
somehow fortunate, to be thus done with man's
anxiety and weariness, the daily expense of spirit, and
that daily river of circumstance to be swum through,
at any hazard, under the penalty of shame or death.
I could not but think how good was the end of that
long travel ; and with that my mind swung at a tan-
gent to my lord. For was not my lord dead also ? a
maimed soldier, looking vainly for discharge, lingering
derided in the line of battle ? A kind man, I remem-
bered him; wise, with a decent pride, a son perhaps
too dutiful, a husband only too loving, one that could
suffer and be silent, one whose hand I loved to press.
Of a sudden, pity caught in my wind-pipe with a sob;
I could have wept aloud to remember and behold him;
and standing thus by his elbow, under the broad moon,
I prayed fervently either that he should be released
or I strengthened to persist in my affection.
" Oh, God," said I, " this was the best man to me
and to himself, and now I shrink from him. He did
no wrong, or not till he was broke with sorrows;
these are but his honourable wounds that we begin to
shrink from. Oh, cover them up, oh, take him away,
before we hate him ! "
I was still so engaged in my own bosom, when a
sound broke suddenly upon the night. It was neither
very loud nor very near; yet, bursting as it did from
so profound and so prolonged a silence, it startled the
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 301
camp like an alarm of trumpets. Ere I had taken
breath Sir William was beside me, the main part of
the voyagers clustered at his back, intently giving
ear. Methought, as I glanced at them across my
shoulder, there was a whiteness, other than moon-
light, on their cheeks ; and the rays of the moon re-
flected with a sparkle on the eyes of some, and the
shadows lying black under the brows of others (ac-
cording as they raised or bowed the head to listen)
gave to the group a strange air of animation and anxiety.
My lord was to the front, crouching a little forth, his
hand raised as for silence; a man turned to stone.
And still the sounds continued, breathlessly renewed,
with a precipitate rhythm.
Suddenly Mountain spoke in a loud, broken whisper,
as of a man relieved. " I have it now," he said; and,
as we all turned to hear him, " the Indian must have
known the cache," he added. " That is he he is
digging out the treasure."
" Why, to be sure ! " exclaimed Sir William. " We
were geese not to have supposed so much."
" The only thing is," Mountain resumed, " the
sound is very close to our old camp. And again, I do
not see how he is there before us, unless the man had
wings ! "
" Greed and fear are wings," remarked Sir Will-
iam. " But this rogue has given us an alert, and I
have a notion to return the compliment. What say
you, gentlemen, shall we have a moonlight hunt ? "
It was so agreed; dispositions were made to sur-
round Secundra at his task : some of Sir William's
Indians hastened in advance; and a strong guard
302 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
being left at our headquarters, we set forth along the
uneven bottom of the forest ; frost crackling, ice some-
times loudly splitting underfoot; and overhead the
blackness of pine woods, and the broken brightness
of the moon. Our way led down into a hollow of the
land; and as we descended the sounds diminished
and had almost died away. Upon the other slope it
was more open, only dotted with a few pines, and
several vast and scattered rocks that made inky
shadows in the moonlight. Here the sounds began to
reach us more distinctly; we could now perceive the
ring of iron, and more exactly estimate the furious
degree of haste with which the digger plied his in-
strument. As we neared the top of the ascent a bird
or two winged aloft and hovered darkly in the moon-
light; and the next moment we were gazing through
a fringe of trees upon a singular picture.
A narrow plateau, overlooked by the white moun-
tains, and encompassed nearer hand by woods, lay
bare to the strong radiance of the moon. Rough
goods, such as make the wealth of foresters, were
sprinkled here and there upon the ground in mean-
ingless disarray. About the midst a tent stood, sil-
vered with frost; the door open, gaping on the black
interior. At the one end of this small stage lay what
seemed the tattered remnants of a man. Without
doubt we had arrived upon the scene of Harris' en-
campment; there were the goods scattered in the
panic of flight ; it was in yon tent the master breathed
his last; and the frozen carrion that lay before us
was the body of the drunken shoemaker. It was
always moving to come upon the theatre of any tragic
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 303
incident; to come upon it after so many days, and
to find it (in the seclusion of a desert) still unchanged,
must have impressed the mind of the most careless.
And yet it was not that which struck us into pillars
of stone; but the sight (which yet we had been half
expecting) of Secundra, ankle deep in the grave of
his late master. He had cast the main part of his
raiment by, yet his frail arms and shoulders glistened
in the moonlight with a copious sweat; his face was
contracted with anxiety and expectation; his blows
resounded on the grave, as thick sobs; and behind
him, strangely deformed and ink-black upon the
frosty ground, the creature's shadow repeated and
parodied his swift gesticulations. Some night-birds
arose from the boughs upon our coming, and then
settled back; but Secundra, absorbed in his toil,
heard or heeded not at all.
I heard Mountain whisper to Sir William : " Good
God, it's the grave ! He's digging him up ! " It was
what we had all guessed, and yet to hear it put in
language thrilled me. Sir William violently started.
" You damned sacrilegious hound ! " he cried.
" What's this ? "
Secundra leaped in the air, a little breathless cry
escaped him, the tool flew from his grasp, and he
stood one instant staring at the speaker. The next,
swift as an arrow, he sped for the woods upon the
further side; and the next again, throwing up his
hands with a violent gesture of resolution, he had
begun already to retrace his steps.
" Well, then you come, you help " he was saying.
But by now my lord had stepped beside Sir William;
304 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
the moon shone fair upon his face, and the words were
still upon Secundra's lips when he beheld and recog-
nised his master's enemy. " Him ! " he screamed,
clasping his hands and shrinking on himself.
" Come, come," said Sir William, " there is none
here to do you harm, if you be innocent; and if you
be guilty, your escape is quite cut off. Speak, what
do you here among the graves of the dead and the
remains of the unburied ? "
" You no murderer ? " inquired Secundra. " You
true man ? You see me safe ? "
" I will see you safe, if you be innocent," returned
Sir William. " I have said the thing, and I see not
wherefore you should doubt it."
" There all murderers," cried Secundra, " that is
why! He kill murderer," pointing to Mountain;
" there two hire-murderers " pointing to my lord
and myself "all gallows-murderers! Ah, I see
you all swing in a rope. Now I go save the sahib;
he see you swing in a rope. The sahib," he continued,
pointing to the grave, " he not dead. He bury, he
My lord uttered a little noise, moved nearer to the
grave, and stood and stared in it.
" Buried and not dead ? " exclaimed Sir William.
" What kind of rant is this ? "
" See, sahib ! " said Secundra. " The sahib and I
alone with murderers ; try all way to escape, no way
good. Then try this way : good way in warm climate,
good way in India ; here in this damn cold place, who
can tell ? I tell you pretty good hurry : you help,
you light a fire, help rub."
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 305
"What is the creature talking of?" cried Sir
William. " My head goes round."
" I tell you I bury him alive," said Secundra. " I
teach him swallow his tongue. Now dig him up
pretty good hurry, and he not much worse. You
light a fire."
Sir William turned to .the nearest of his men.
" Light a fire," said he. " My lot seems to be ca*st
with the insane."
'* You good man," returned Secundra. " Now I
go dig the sahib up."
He returned as he spoke to the grave, and resumed
his former toil. My lord stood rooted, and I at my
lord's side: fearing I knew not what.
The frost was not yet very deep, and presently the
Indian threw aside his tool and began to scoop the
dirt by handfuls.
Then he disengaged a corner of a buffalo robe;
and then I saw hair catch among his fingers; yet a
moment more, and the moon shone on something
white. Awhile Secundra crouched upon his knees,
scraping with delicate fingers, breathing with puffed
lips; and when he moved aside I beheld the face of
the master wholly disengaged. It was deadly white,
the eyes closed, the ears and nostrils plugged, the
cheeks fallen, the nose sharp as if in death; but for
all he had lain so many days under the sod, corruption
had not approached him and (what strangely affected
all of us) his lips and chin were mantled with a
" My God ! " cried Mountain, " he was as smooth
as a baby when we laid him there ! "
306 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
!f They say hair grows upon the dead," observed
Sir William, but his voice was thick and weak.
Secundra paid no heed to our remarks, digging
swift as a terrier, in the loose earth; every moment
the form of the master, swathed in his buffalo robe,
grew more distinct in the bottom of that shallow
trough; the moon shining strong, and the shadows
of the standers-by, as they drew forward and back,
falling and flitting over his emergent countenance.
The sight held us with a horror not before experienced.
I dared not look my lord in the face, but for as long
as it lasted I never observed him to draw breath;
and a little in the background one of the men (I know
not whom) burst into a kind of sobbing.
" Now," said Secundra, " you help me lift him
Of the flight of time I have no idea ; it may have
been three hours, and it may have been five, that the
Indian laboured to reanimate his master's body. One
thing only I know, that it was still night, and the
moon was not yet set, although it had sunk low, and
now barred the plateau with long shadows, when
Secundra uttered a small cry of satisfaction; and,
leaning swiftly forth, I thought I could myself perceive
achange upon that icy countenance of the unburied.
The next moment I beheld his eyelids flutter; the
next they rose entirely, and the week-old corpse looked
me for a moment in the face.
So much display of life I can myself swear to. I
have heard from others that he visibly strove to speak,
that his teeth showed in his beard, and that his brow
was contorted as with an agony of pain and effort.
THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE 307
And this may have been ; I know not, I was otherwise
engaged. For, at that first disclosure of the dead man's
eyes, my Lord Durrisdeer fell to the ground, and when
I raised him up he was a corpse.
Day came, and still Secundra could not be persuaded
to desist from his unavailing efforts. Sir William,
leaving a small party under my command, proceeded
on his embassy with the first light ; and still the
Indian rubbed the limbs and breathed in the mouth
of the dead body. You would think such labours
might have vitalised a stone ; but, except for that one
moment (which was my lord's death), the black spirit
of the master held aloof from its discarded clay; and
by about the hour of noon even the faithful servant
was at length convinced. He took it with unshaken
" Too cold," said he, " good way in India, no good
here." And, asking for some food, which he raven-
ously devoured as soon as it was set before him, he
drew near to the fire and took his place at my elbow.
In the same spot, as soon as he had eaten, he stretched
himself out, and fell into a childlike slumber, from
which I must arouse him, some hours afterward, to
take his part as one of the mourners at the double
funeral. It was the same throughout; he seemed to
have outlived at once and with the same effort, his
grief for his master and his terror of myself and
One of the men left with me was skilled in stone-
cutting; and before Sir William returned to pick us
up I had chiseled on a bowlder this inscription, with
308 THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE
a copy of which I may fitly bring my narrative to a
HEIR TO A SCOTTISH TITLE,
A MASTER OF THE ARTS AND GRACES,
ADMIRED IN EUROPE, ASIA, AMERICA,
IN WAR AND PEACE,
IN THE TENTS OF SAVAGE HUNTERS AND THE
CITADELS OF KINGS, AFTER SO MUCH
ACQUIRED, ACCOMPLISHED, AND
ENDURED, LIES HERE FOR-
AFTER A LIFE OF UNMERITED DISTRESS,
DIED ALMOST IN THE SAME HOUR,
AND SLEEPS IN THE SAME GRAVE
WITH HIS FRATERNAL ENEMY.
THE PIETY OF HIS WIFE AND ONE OLD SERV-
ANT RAISED THIS STONE
PLEASE DO NOT REMOVE
CARDS OR SLIPS FROM THIS POCKET
UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO LIBRARY
PR Stevenson, Robert Louis
54B4 The master of Ballantrae