copyright, Kellscraft Studio
(Return to Web Text-ures)
Click Here to return to
Click Here to return to
the previous section
I COME INTO MY KINGDOM
For some time Alan volleyed upon
the door, and his
knocking only roused the echoes of the house and neighbourhood.
At last, however, I could hear the noise of a window
gently thrust up,
and knew that my uncle had come to his observatory.
By what light there was, he would see Alan standing,
like a dark shadow,
on the steps; the three witnesses were hidden quite out of his view; so
there was nothing to alarm an honest man in his own house. For all
studied his visitor awhile in silence, and when he spoke his voice had
"What's this?" says he.
"This is nae kind of time of night for decent folk;
and I hae nae trokings
wi' night-hawks. What brings ye here? I have a blunderbush."
"Is that yoursel', Mr. Balfour?"
Alan, stepping back and looking up into the darkness.
"Have a care of that blunderbuss; they're nasty
"What brings ye here? and whae are ye?" says my uncle, angrily.
"I have no manner of inclination to rowt out my name to the country-side," said Alan; "but what brings me here is another story, being more of your affair than mine; and if ye're sure it's what ye would like, I'll set it to a tune and sing it to you."
"And what is't?" asked my uncle.
"David," says Alan.
"What was that?" cried my uncle, in
mighty changed voice.
"Shall I give ye the rest of the
then?" said Alan.
There was a pause; and then, "I'm thinking I'll better let ye in," says my uncle, doubtfully.
"I dare say that," said Alan; "but
point is, Would I go? Now I will tell you what I am thinking.
I am thinking that it is here upon this doorstep
that we must confer upon
this business; and it shall be here or nowhere at all whatever; for I
you to understand that I am as stiffnecked as yoursel', and a gentleman
This change of note disconcerted Ebenezer; he was a little while digesting it, and then says he, "Weel, weel, what must be must," and shut the window. But it took him a long time to get down-stairs, and a still longer to undo the fastenings, repenting (I dare say) and taken with fresh claps of fear at every second step and every bolt and bar. At last, however, we heard the creak of the hinges, and it seems my uncle slipped gingerly out and (seeing that Alan had stepped back a pace or two) sate him down on the top doorstep with the blunderbuss ready in his hands.
"And, now" says he, "mind I have my blunderbush, and if ye take a step nearer ye're as good as deid."
"And a very civil speech," says
"to be sure."
"Na," says my uncle, "but this is
very chanty kind of a proceeding, and I'm bound to be prepared.
And now that we understand each other, ye'll can
"Why," says Alan, "you that are a
of so much understanding, will doubtless have perceived that I am a
gentleman. My name
has nae business
in my story; but the county of my friends is no very far from the Isle
of which ye will have heard. It
seems there was a ship lost in those parts; and the next day a
gentleman of my
family was seeking wreck-wood for his fire along the sands, when he
came upon a
lad that was half drowned. Well,
brought him to; and he and some other gentleman took and clapped him in
ruined castle, where from that day to this he has been a great expense
friends. My friends are a wee wild-like, and not so particular about
the law as
some that I could name; and finding that the lad owned some decent
folk, and was
your born nephew, Mr. Balfour, they asked me to give ye a bit call and
upon the matter. And I may tell ye at the off-go, unless we can agree
terms, ye are little likely to set eyes upon him.
For my friends," added Alan, simply, "are no very
My uncle cleared his throat. "I'm no very caring," says he. "He wasnae a good lad at the best of it, and I've nae call to interfere."
"Ay, ay," said Alan, "I see what ye would be at: pretending ye don't care, to make the ransom smaller."
"Na," said my uncle, "it's the mere truth. I take nae manner of interest in the lad, and I'll pay nae ransome, and ye can make a kirk and a mill of him for what I care."
"Hoot, sir," says Alan. "Blood's thicker than water, in the deil's name! Ye cannae desert your brother's son for the fair shame of it; and if ye did, and it came to be kennt, ye wouldnae be very popular in your country-side, or I'm the more deceived."
"I'm no just very popular the way it is," returned Ebenezer; "and I dinnae see how it would come to be kennt. No by me, onyway; nor yet by you or your friends. So that's idle talk, my buckie," says he.
"Then it'll have to be David that
it," said Alan.
"How that?" says my uncle, sharply."
"Ou, just this, way" says Alan. "My friends would doubtless keep your nephew as long as there was any likelihood of siller to be made of it, but if there was nane, I am clearly of opinion they would let him gang where he pleased, and be damned to him!"
"Ay, but I'm no very caring about that either," said my uncle. "I wouldnae be muckle made up with that."
"I was thinking that," said Alan.
"And what for why?" asked Ebenezer.
"Why, Mr. Balfour," replied Alan,
all that I could hear, there were two ways of it: either ye liked David
would pay to get him back; or else ye had very good reasons for not
and would pay for us to keep him.
seems it's not the first; well then, it's the second; and blythe am I
to ken it,
for it should be a pretty penny in my pocket and the pockets of my
"I dinnae follow ye there," said my uncle.
"No?" said Alan. "Well, see here: you dinnae want the lad back; well, what do ye want done with him, and how much will ye pay?"
My uncle made no answer, but
shifted uneasily on his
"Come, sir," cried Alan. "I would have you to ken that I am a gentleman; I bear a king's name; I am nae rider to kick my shanks at your hall door. Either give me an answer in civility, and that out of hand; or by the top of Glencoe, I will ram three feet of iron through your vitals."
"Eh, man," cried my uncle, scrambling to his feet, "give me a meenit! What's like wrong with ye? I'm just a plain man and nae dancing master; and I'm tryin to be as ceevil as it's morally possible. As for that wild talk, it's fair disrepitable. Vitals, says you! And where would I be with my blunderbush?" he snarled.
"Powder and your auld hands are but as the snail to the swallow against the bright steel in the hands of Alan," said the other. "Before your jottering finger could find the trigger, the hilt would dirl on your breast-bane."
"Eh, man, whae's denying it?" said
uncle. "Pit it as
hae't your ain way; I'll do naething to cross ye. Just tell me what
be wanting, and ye'll see that we'll can agree fine."
"Troth, sir," said Alan, "I ask for
nothing but plain dealing. In two words: do ye want the lad killed or
"O, sirs!" cried Ebenezer. "O, sirs, me! that's no kind of language!"
"Killed or kept!" repeated Alan.
"O, keepit, keepit!" wailed my uncle. "We'll have nae bloodshed, if you please."
"Well," says Alan, "as ye please; that'll be the dearer."
"The dearer?" cries Ebenezer. "Would ye fyle your hands wi' crime?"
"Hoot!" said Alan, "they're baith
crime, whatever! And
easier, and quicker, and surer. Keeping
the lad'll be a fashious
job, a fashious,
"I'll have him keepit, though,"
uncle. "I never had
to do with onything morally wrong; and I'm no gaun to begin to pleasure
"Ye're unco scrupulous," sneered Alan.
"I'm a man o' principle," said
simply; "and if I have to pay for it, I'll have to pay for it.
And besides," says he, "ye forget the lad's my
"Well, well," said Alan, "and now
about the price. It's
no very easy
for me to set a name upon it; I would first have to ken some small
would have to ken, for instance, what ye gave Hoseason at the first
"Hoseason!" cries my uncle, struck aback. "What for?"
"For kidnapping David," says Alan.
"It's a lee, it's a black lee!"
uncle. "He was
kidnapped. He leed
in his throat
that tauld ye that. Kidnapped?
"That's no fault of mine nor yet of yours," said Alan; "nor yet of Hoseason's, if he's a man that can be trusted."
"What do ye mean?" cried Ebenezer.
"Did Hoseason tell ye?"
"Why, ye donnered auld runt, how else would I ken?" cried Alan. "Hoseason and me are partners; we gang shares; so ye can see for yoursel' what good ye can do leeing. And I must plainly say ye drove a fool's bargain when ye let a man like the sailor-man so far forward in your private matters. But that's past praying for; and ye must lie on your bed the way ye made it. And the point in hand is just this: what did ye pay him?"
"Has he tauld ye himsel'?" asked my uncle.
"That's my concern," said Alan.
"Weel," said my uncle, "I dinnae
what he said, he leed, and the solemn God's truth is this, that I gave
twenty pound. But I'll be perfec'ly honest with ye: forby that, he was
the selling of the lad in Caroliny, whilk would be as muckle mair, but
my pocket, ye see."
"Thank you, Mr. Thomson. That will do excellently well," said the lawyer, stepping forward; and then mighty civilly, "Good-evening, Mr. Balfour," said he.
And, "Good-evening, Uncle
And, "It's a braw nicht, Mr.
Never a word said my uncle, neither black nor white; but just sat where he was on the top door-step and stared upon us like a man turned to stone. Alan filched away his blunderbuss; and the lawyer, taking him by the arm, plucked him up from the doorstep, led him into the kitchen, whither we all followed, and set him down in a chair beside the hearth, where the fire was out and only a rush-light burning.
There we all looked upon him for a while, exulting greatly in our success, but yet with a sort of pity for the man's shame.
"Come, come, Mr. Ebenezer," said
lawyer, "you must not be down-hearted, for I promise you we shall make
terms. In the
meanwhile give us the
cellar key, and Torrance shall draw us a bottle of your father's wine
of the event." Then,
to me and taking me by the hand, "Mr. David," says he, "I wish
you all joy in your good fortune, which I believe to be deserved."
And then to Alan, with a spice of drollery, "Mr.
Thomson, I pay you
my compliment; it was most artfully conducted; but in one point you
outran my comprehension. Do
I understand your name to be James? or Charles? or is it
"And why should it be any of the three, sir?" quoth Alan, drawing himself up, like one who smelt an offence.
"Only, sir, that you mentioned a king's name," replied Rankeillor; "and as there has never yet been a King Thomson, or his fame at least has never come my way, I judged you must refer to that you had in baptism."
This was just the stab that Alan would feel keenest, and I am free to confess he took it very ill. Not a word would he answer, but stepped off to the far end of the kitchen, and sat down and sulked; and it was not till I stepped after him, and gave him my hand, and thanked him by title as the chief spring of my success, that he began to smile a bit, and was at last prevailed upon to join our party.
By that time we had the fire
lighted, and a bottle of
wine uncorked; a good supper came out of the basket, to which Torrance
and I and
Alan set ourselves down; while the lawyer and my uncle passed into the
chamber to consult. They
there closeted about an hour; at the end of which period they had come
to a good
understanding, and my uncle and I set our hands to the agreement in a
manner. By the
terms of this, my
uncle bound himself to satisfy Rankeillor as to his intromissions, and
to pay me
two clear thirds of the yearly income of Shaws.
the beggar in the ballad had come home; and
when I lay down that night on the kitchen chests, I was a man of means
and had a
name in the country. Alan
Torrance and Rankeillor slept and snored on their hard beds; but for me
lain out under heaven and upon dirt and stones, so many days and
often with an empty belly, and in fear of death, this good change in my
unmanned me more than any of the former evil ones; and I lay till dawn,
at the fire on the roof and planning the future. ______________________________ 34 Dealings.
So the beggar in the ballad had come home; and when I lay down that night on the kitchen chests, I was a man of means and had a name in the country. Alan and Torrance and Rankeillor slept and snored on their hard beds; but for me who had lain out under heaven and upon dirt and stones, so many days and nights, and often with an empty belly, and in fear of death, this good change in my case unmanned me more than any of the former evil ones; and I lay till dawn, looking at the fire on the roof and planning the future.
35 Troublesome.Click here to continue to the next chapter of Kidnapped