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It's the heart."

I set him on a chair and looked at him. It is true I felt some pity for
a man that looked so sick, but I was full besides of righteous anger;
and I numbered over before him the points on which I wanted explanation:
why he lied to me at every word; why he feared that I should leave him;
why he disliked it to be hinted that he and my father were twins--"Is
that because it is true?" I asked; why he had given me money to which I
was convinced I had no claim; and, last of all, why he had tried to kill
me. He heard me all through in silence; and then, in a broken voice,
begged me to let him go to bed.

"I'll tell ye the morn," he said; "as sure as death I will."

And so weak was he that I could do nothing but consent. I locked him
into his room, however, and pocketed the key; and then returning to the
kitchen, made up such a blaze as had not shone there for many a long
year, and, wrapping myself in my plaid, lay down upon the chests and
fell asleep.



Much rain fell in the night; and the next morning there blew a bitter
wintry wind out of the north-west, driving scattered clouds. For all
that, and before the sun began to peep or the last of the stars had
vanished, I made my way to the side of the burn, and had a plunge in a
deep whirling pool. All aglow from my bath, I sat down once more beside
the fire, which I replenished, and began gravely to consider my

There was now no doubt about my uncle's enmity; there was no doubt I
carried my life in my hand, and he would leave no stone unturned that he
might compass my destruction. But I was young and spirited, and, like
most lads that have been country-bred, I had a great opinion of my
shrewdness. I had come to his door no better than a beggar and little
more than a child; he had met me with treachery and violence; it would
be a fine consummation to take the upper hand, and drive him like a herd
of sheep.

I sat there nursing my knee and smiling at the fire; and I saw myself in
fancy smell out his secrets one after another, and grow to be that man's
king and ruler. The warlock of Essendean, they say, had made a mirror in
which men could read the future; it must have been of other stuff than
burning coal; for in all the shapes and pictures that I sat and gazed
at, there was never a ship, never a seaman with a hairy cap, never a big
bludgeon for my silly head, or the least sign of all those tribulations
that were ripe to fall on me.

Presently, all swollen with conceit, I went upstairs and gave my
prisoner his liberty. He gave me good-morning civilly; and I gave the
same to him, smiling down upon him from the heights of my sufficiency.
Soon we were set to breakfast, as it might have been the day before.

"Well, sir," said I, with a jeering tone, "have you nothing more to say
to me?" And then, as he made no articulate reply, "It will be time, I
think, to understand each other," I continued. "You took me for a
country Johnny Raw, with no more mother-wit or courage than a
porridge-stick. I took you for a good man, or no worse than others at
the least. It seems we were both wrong. What cause you have to fear me,
to cheat me, and to attempt my life----"

He murmured something about a jest, and that he liked a bit of fun; and
then, seeing me smile, changed his tone, and assured me he would make
all clear as soon as we had breakfasted. I saw by his face that he had
no lie ready for me, though he was hard at work preparing one; and I
think I was about to tell him so when we were interrupted by a knocking
at the door.

Bidding my uncle sit where he was, I went to open it, and found on the
doorstep a half-grown boy in sea-clothes. He had no sooner seen me than
he began to dance some steps of the sea-hornpipe (which I had never
before heard of, far less seen), snapping his fingers in the air and
footing it right cleverly. For all that, he was blue with the cold; and
there was something in his face, a look between tears and laughter, that
was highly pathetic and consisted ill with this gaiety of manner.

"What cheer, mate?" says he, with a cracked voice.

I asked him soberly to name his pleasure.

"O, pleasure!" says he; and then began to sing:

"For it's my delight, of a shiny night,
In the season of the year."

"Well," said I, "if you have no business at all, I will even be so
unmannerly as to shut you out."

"Stay, brother!" he cried. "Have you no fun about you? or do you want
to get me thrashed? I've brought a letter from old Heasy-oasy to Mr.
Belflower." He showed me a letter as he spoke. "And I say, mate," he
added; "I'm mortal hungry."

"Well," said I, "come into the house, and you shall have a bite if I go
empty for it."

With that I brought him in and set him down to my own place, where he
fell to greedily on the remains of breakfast, winking to me
between-whiles, and making many faces, which I think the poor soul
considered manly. Meanwhile, my uncle had read the letter and sat
thinking; then, suddenly, he got to his feet with a great air of
liveliness, and pulled me apart into the farthest corner of the room.

"Read that," said he, and put the letter in my hand.

Here it is, lying before me as I write:

"The Hawes Inn, at the Queen's Ferry.

"Sir,--I lie here with my hawser up and down, and send my cabin-boy to
informe. If you have any further commands for over-seas, to-day will
be the last occasion, as the wind will serve us well out of the firth.
I will not seek to deny that I have had crosses with your doer,[4] Mr.
Rankeillor; of which, if not speedily redd up, you may looke to see
some losses follow. I have drawn a bill upon you, as per margin, and
am, sir, your most obedt., humble servant,


"You see, Davie," resumed my uncle, as soon as he saw that I had done,
"I have a venture with this man Hoseason, the captain of a trading brig,
the _Covenant_, of Dysart. Now, if you and me was to walk over with yon
lad, I could see the captain at the Hawes, or maybe on board the
_Covenant_ if there was papers to be signed; and, so far from a loss of
time, we can jog on to the lawyer, Mr. Rankeillor's. After a' that's
come and gone, ye would be sweer[5] to believe me upon my naked word;
but ye'll believe Rankeillor. He's factor to half the gentry in these
parts; an auld man forbye: highly respeckit; and he kenned your father."

I stood awhile and thought. I was going to some place of shipping,
which was doubtless populous, and where my uncle durst attempt no
violence, and, indeed, even the society of the cabin-boy so far
protected me. Once there, I believed I could force on the visit to the
lawyer, even if my uncle were now insincere in proposing it; and,
perhaps, in the bottom of my heart, I wished a nearer view of the sea
and ships. You are to remember I had lived all my life in the inland
hills, and just two days before had my first sight of the firth lying
like a blue floor, and the sailed ships moving on the face of it, no
bigger than toys. One thing with another, I made up my mind.

"Very well," says I, "let us go to the Ferry."

My uncle got into his hat and coat, and buckled an old rusty cutlass on;
and then we trod the fire out, locked the door, and set forth upon our

The wind, being in that cold quarter, the north-west, blew nearly in our
faces as we went. It was the month of June; the grass was all white with
daisies and the trees with blossom; but, to judge by our blue nails and
aching wrists, the time might have been winter and the whiteness a
December frost.

Uncle Ebenezer trudged in the ditch, jogging from side to side like an
old ploughman coming home from work. He never said a word the whole way;
and I was thrown for talk on the cabin-boy. He told me his name was
Ransome, and that he had followed the sea since he was nine, but could
not say how old he was, as he had lost his reckoning. He showed me
tattoo marks, baring his breast in the teeth of the wind and in spite of
my remonstrances, for I thought it was enough to kill him; he swore
horribly whenever he remembered, but more like a silly schoolboy than a
man; and boasted of many wild and bad things that he had done; stealthy
thefts, false accusations, ay, and even murder; but all with such a
dearth of likelihood in the details, and such a weak and crazy swagger
in the delivery, as disposed me rather to pity than to believe him.

I asked him of the brig (which he declared was the finest ship that
sailed) and of Captain Hoseason, in whose praises he was equally loud.
Heasy-oasy (for so he still named the skipper) was a man, by his
account, that minded for nothing either in heaven or earth; one that, as
people said, would "crack on all sail into the day of judgment"; rough,
fierce, unscrupulous, and brutal; and all this my poor cabin-boy had
taught himself to admire as something seamanlike and manly. He would
only admit one flaw in his idol. "He ain't no seaman," he admitted.
"That's Mr. Shuan that navigates the brig; he's the finest seaman in the
trade, only for drink; and I tell you I believe it! Why, look 'ere"; and
turning down his stocking he showed me a great raw red wound that made
my blood run cold. "He done that--Mr. Shuan done it," he said, with an
air of pride.

"What!" I cried, "do you take such savage usage at his hands? Why, you
are no slave, to be so handled!"

"No," said the poor moon-calf, changing his tune at once, "and so he'll
find. See 'ere"; and he showed me a great case-knife, which he told me
was stolen. "O," says he, "let me see him try; I dare him to; I'll do
for him! O, he ain't the first!" And he confirmed it with a poor, silly,
ugly oath.

I have never felt such pity for any one in this wide world as I felt for
that half-witted creature; and it began to come over me that the brig
_Covenant_ (for all her pious name) was little better than a hell upon
the seas.

"Have you no friends?" said I.

He said he had a father in some English seaport, I forget which. "He was
a fine man, too," he said; "but he's dead."

"In heaven's name," cried I, "can you find no reputable life on shore?"

"O no," says he, winking and looking very sly; "they would put me to a

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