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"Alan Breck, they
call me. A king's name is good enough for me, though I bear it plain and
have the name of no farm-midden to clap to the hind-end of it."

And having administered this rebuke, as though it were something of a
chief importance, he turned to examine our defences.

The round-house was built very strong, to support the breaching of the
seas. Of its five apertures, only the skylight and the two doors were
large enough for the passage of a man. The doors, besides, could be
drawn close: they were of stout oak, and ran in grooves, and were fitted
with hooks to keep them either shut or open, as the need arose. The one
that was already shut I secured in this fashion; but when I was
proceeding to slide to the other, Alan stopped me.

"David," said he--"for I canna bring to mind the name of your landed
estate, and so will make so bold as to call you David--that door, being
open, is the best part of my defences."

"It would be yet better shut," says I.

"Not so, David," says he. "Ye see, I have but one face; but so long as
that door is open and my face to it, the best part of my enemies will be
in front of me, where I would aye wish to find them."

Then he gave me from the rack a cutlass (of which there were a few
besides the fire-arms), choosing it with great care, shaking his head
and saying he had never in all his life seen poorer weapons; and next he
set me down to the table with a powder-horn, a bag of bullets and all
the pistols, which he bade me charge.

"And that will be better work, let me tell you," said he, "for a
gentleman of decent birth, than scraping plates and raxing[14] drams to
a wheen tarry sailors."

Thereupon he stood up in the midst with his face to the door, and
drawing his great sword, made trial of the room he had to wield it in.

"I must stick to the point," he said, shaking his head; "and that's a
pity too. It doesn't set my genius, which is all for the upper guard.
And now," said he, "do you keep on charging the pistols, and give heed
to me."

I told him I would listen closely. My chest was tight, my mouth dry, the
light dark to my eyes; the thought of the numbers that were soon to leap
in upon us kept my heart in a flutter; and the sea, which I heard
washing round the brig, and where I thought my dead body would be cast
ere morning, ran in my mind strangely.

"First of all," said he, "how many are against us?"

I reckoned them up; and such was the hurry of my mind, I had to cast the
numbers twice. "Fifteen," said I.

Alan whistled. "Well," said he, "that can't be cured. And now follow me.
It is my part to keep this door, where I look for the main battle. In
that ye have no hand. And mind and dinna fire to this side unless they
get me down; for I would rather have ten foes in front of me than one
friend like you cracking pistols at my back."

I told him, indeed I was no great shot.

"And that's very bravely said," he cried, in a great admiration of my
candour. "There's many a pretty gentleman that wouldna dare to say it."

"But then, sir," said I, "there is the door behind you, which they may
perhaps break in."

"Ay," said he, "and that is a part of your work. No sooner the pistols
charged than ye must climb up into yon bed where ye're handy at the
window; and if they lift hand against the door, ye're to shoot. But
that's not all. Let's make a bit of a soldier of ye, David. What else
have ye to guard?"

"There's the skylight," said I. "But indeed, Mr. Stewart, I would need
to have eyes upon both sides to keep the two of them; for when my face
is at the one my back is to the other."

"And that's very true," said Alan. "But have ye no ears to your head?"

"To be sure!" cried I. "I must hear the bursting of the glass!"

"Ye have some rudiments of sense," said Alan grimly.


FOOTNOTES:

[12] Befool.

[13] Whig, or Whigamore, was the cant name for those who were loyal to
King George.

[14] Reaching.




CHAPTER X

THE SIEGE OF THE ROUND-HOUSE


But now our time of truce was come to an end. Those on deck had waited
for my coming till they grew impatient; and scarce had Alan spoken when
the captain showed face in the open door.

"Stand!" cried Alan, and pointed his sword at him.

The captain stood, indeed; but he neither winced nor drew back a foot.

"A naked sword!" says he. "This is a strange return for hospitality."

"Do ye see me?" said Alan. "I am come of kings; I bear a king's name. My
badge is the oak. Do ye see my sword? It has slashed the heads off mair
Whigamores than you have toes upon your feet. Call up your vermin to
your back, sir, and fall on! The sooner the clash begins the sooner
ye'll taste this steel throughout your vitals."

The captain said nothing to Alan, but he looked over at me with an ugly
look. "David," said he, "I'll mind this"; and the sound of his voice
went through me with a jar.

Next moment he was gone.

"And now," said Alan, "let your hand keep your head, for the grip is
coming."

Alan drew a dirk, which he held in his left hand in case they should run
in under his sword. I, on my part, clambered up into the berth with an
armful of pistols and something of a heavy heart, and set open the
window where I was to watch. It was a small part of the deck that I
could overlook, but enough for our purpose. The sea had gone down, and
the wind was steady and kept the sails quiet; so that there was a great
stillness in the ship, in which I made sure I heard the sound of
muttering voices. A little after, and there came a clash of steel upon
the deck, by which I knew they were dealing out the cutlasses and one
had been let fall; and after that, silence again.

I do not know if I was what you call afraid; but my heart beat like a
bird's, both quick and little; and there was a dimness came before my
eyes which I continually rubbed away, and which continually returned. As
for hope, I had none; but only a darkness of despair and a sort of anger
against all the world that made me long to sell my life as dear as I was
able. I tried to pray, I remember, but that same hurry of my mind, like
a man running, would not suffer me to think upon the words; and my chief
wish was to have the thing begin and be done with it.

It came all of a sudden when it did, with a rush of feet and a roar, and
then a shout from Alan, and a sound of blows and some one crying out as
if hurt. I looked back over my shoulder, and saw Mr. Shuan in the
doorway, crossing blades with Alan.

"That's him that killed the boy!" I cried.

"Look to your window!" said Alan; and as I turned back to my place, I
saw him pass his sword through the mate's body.

It was none too soon for me to look to my own part; for my head was
scarce back at the window, before five men, carrying a spare yard for a
battering-ram, ran past me and took post to drive the door in. I had
never fired with a pistol in my life, and not often with a gun; far less
against a fellow-creature. But it was now or never; and just as they
swang the yard, I cried out, "Take that!" and shot into their midst.

I must have hit one of them, for he sang out and gave back a step, and
the rest stopped as if a little disconcerted. Before they had time to
recover I sent another ball over their heads; and at my third shot
(which went as wide as the second) the whole party threw down the yard
and ran for it.

Then I looked round again into the deck-house. The whole place was full
of the smoke of my own firing, just as my ears seemed to be burst with
the noise of the shots. But there was Alan, standing as before; only now
his sword was running blood to the hilt, and himself so swelled with
triumph and fallen into so fine an attitude, that he looked to be
invincible. Right before him on the floor was Mr. Shuan, on his hands
and knees; the blood was pouring from his mouth, and he was sinking
slowly lower, with a terrible, white face; and just as I looked, some of
those from behind caught hold of him by the heels and dragged him bodily
out of the round-house. I believe he died as they were doing it.

"There's one of your Whigs for ye!" cried Alan; and then turning to me,
he asked if I had done much execution.

I told him I had winged one, and thought it was the captain.

"And I've settled two," says he. "No, there's not enough blood let;
they'll be back again. To your watch, David. This was but a dram before
meat."

I settled back to my place, re-charging the three pistols I had fired,
and keeping watch with both eye and ear.

Our enemies were disputing not far off upon the deck, and that so loudly
that I could hear a word or two above the washing of the seas.

"It was Shuan bauchled[15] it," I heard one say.

And another answered him with a "Wheesht, man! He's paid the piper."

After that the voices fell again into the same muttering as before. Only
now, one person spoke most of the time, as though laying down a plan,
and first one and then another answered him briefly, like men taking
orders. By this, I made sure they were coming on again, and told Alan.

"It's what we have to pray for," said he. "Unless we can give them a
good distaste of us, and done with it, there'll be nae sleep for either
you or me. But this time, mind, they'll be in earnest."

By this, my pistols were ready, and there was nothing to do but listen
and wait. While the brush lasted, I had not the time to think if I was
frighted; but now, when all was still again, my mind ran upon nothing
else. The thought of the sharp swords and the cold steel was strong in
me; and presently, when I began to hear stealthy steps and a brushing of
men's clothes against the round-house wall, and knew they were taking
their places in the dark, I could have found it in my mind to cry out
aloud.

All this was upon Alan's side; and I had begun to think my share of the
fight was at an end, when I heard some one drop softly on the roof above
me.

Then there came a single call on the sea-pipe, and that was the signal.
A knot of them made one rush of it, cutlass in hand, against the door;
and at the same moment the glass of the skylight was dashed in a
thousand pieces, and a man leaped through and landed on the floor.
Before he got his feet, I had clapped a pistol to his back, and might
have shot him too; only at the touch of him (and him alive) my whole
flesh misgave me, and I could no more pull the trigger than I could have
flown.

He had dropped his cutlass as he jumped, and when he felt the pistol,
whipped straight round and laid hold of me, roaring out an oath; and at
that either my courage came again, or I grew so much afraid as came to
the same thing; for I gave a shriek and shot him in the midst of the
body.



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