Merry Men by Robert Louis Stevenson - HTML preview

PLEASE NOTE: This is an HTML preview only and some elements such as links or page numbers may be incorrect.
Download the book in PDF, ePub, Kindle for a complete version.
MERRY MEN

by

Robert Louis Stevenson

A Penn State Electronic Classics Series Publication Merry Men by Robert Louis Stevenson is a publication of the Pennsylvania State University. This Portable Document file is furnished free and without any charge of any kind. Any person using this document file, for any purpose, and in any way does so at his or her own risk. Neither the Pennsylvania State University nor Jim Manis, Faculty Editor, nor anyone associated with the Pennsylvania State University assumes any responsibility for the material contained within the document or for the file as an electronic transmission, in any way.

Merry Men by Robert Louis Stevenson , the Pennsylvania State University, Electronic Classics Series, Jim Manis, Faculty Editor, Hazleton, PA 18201-1291 is a Portable Document File produced as part of an ongoing student publication project to bring classical works of literature, in English, to free and easy access of those wishing to make use of them.

Cover Design: Jim Manis

Copyright © 2000 The Pennsylvania State University The Pennsylvania State University is an equal opportunity university.

Contents

THE MERRY MEN .......................................................................................4

WILL O’ THE MILL ...................................................................................50

MARKHEIM ................................................................................................74

THRAWN JANET ........................................................................................90

OLALLA .....................................................................................................100

THE TREASURE OF FRANCHARD ......................................................140

Robert Louis Stevenson

M

occasion to come round for it by sea, struck right across ERRY MEN

the promontory with a cheerful heart.

I was far from being a native of these parts, springing, as I did, from an unmixed lowland stock. But an uncle of by

mine, Gordon Darnaway, after a poor, rough youth, and some years at sea, had married a young wife in the islands; Robert Louis Stevenson

Mary Maclean she was called, the last of her family; and when she died in giving birth to a daughter, Aros, the sea-1904 edition

girt farm, had remained in his possession. It brought him in nothing but the means of life, as I was well aware; but he was a man whom ill-fortune had pursued; he feared, cum-bered as he was with the young child, to make a fresh ad-THE MERRY MEN

venture upon life; and remained in Aros, biting his nails at destiny. Years passed over his head in that isolation, and brought neither help nor contentment. Meantime our family was dying out in the lowlands; there is little luck for any CHAPTER I: EILEAN AROS

of that race; and perhaps my father was the luckiest of all, for not only was he one of the last to die, but he left a son IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL MORNING in the late July when I set forth to his name and a little money to support it. I was a student on foot for the last time for Aros. A boat had put me ashore of Edinburgh University, living well enough at my own the night before at Grisapol; I had such breakfast as the charges, but without kith or kin; when some news of me little inn afforded, and, leaving all my baggage till I had an 4

Merry Men

found its way to Uncle Gordon on the Ross of Grisapol; and was mossy* to the top in consequence. I have seen us and he, as he was a man who held blood thicker than wa-sitting in broad sunshine on the Ross, and the rain falling ter, wrote to me the day he heard of my existence, and black like crape upon the mountain. But the wetness of it taught me to count Aros as my home. Thus it was that I made it often appear more beautiful to my eyes; for when came to spend my vacations in that part of the country, so the sun struck upon the hill sides, there were many wet far from all society and comfort, between the codfish and rocks and watercourses that shone like jewels even as far the moorcocks; and thus it was that now, when I had done as Aros, fifteen miles away.

with my classes, I was returning thither with so light a heart The road that I followed was a cattle-track. It twisted so that July day.

as nearly to double the length of my journey; it went over The Ross, as we call it, is a promontory neither wide nor rough boulders so that a man had to leap from one to an-high, but as rough as God made it to this day; the deep sea other, and through soft bottoms where the moss came nearly on either hand of it, full of rugged isles and reefs most to the knee. There was no cultivation anywhere, and not perilous to seamen – all overlooked from the eastward by one house in the ten miles from Grisapol to Aros. Houses some very high cliffs and the great peals of Ben Kyaw. The of course there were – three at least; but they lay so far on Mountain of the Mist, they say the words signify in the the one side or the other that no stranger could have found Gaelic tongue; and it is well named. For that hill-top, which them from the track. A large part of the Ross is covered is more than three thousand feet in height, catches all the with big granite rocks, some of them larger than a two-clouds that come blowing from the seaward; and, indeed, I roomed house, one beside another, with fern and deep used often to think that it must make them for itself; since heather in between them where the vipers breed. Anyway when all heaven was clear to the sea level, there would the wind was, it was always sea air, as salt as on a ship; the ever be a streamer on Ben Kyaw. It brought water, too,

*Boggy.

5

Robert Louis Stevenson

gulls were as free as moorfowl over all the Ross; and when-enough to settle. The house was a good one for that coun-ever the way rose a little, your eye would kindle with the try, two storeys high. It looked westward over a bay, with brightness of the sea. From the very midst of the land, on a a pier hard by for a boat, and from the door you could day of wind and a high spring, I have heard the Roost roar-watch the vapours blowing on Ben Kyaw.

ing, like a battle where it runs by Aros, and the great and On all this part of the coast, and especially near Aros, fearful voices of the breakers that we call the Merry Men.

these great granite rocks that I have spoken of go down Aros itself – Aros Jay, I have heard the natives call it, together in troops into the sea, like cattle on a summer’s and they say it means The House of God – Aros itself was day. There they stand, for all the world like their neighbours not properly a piece of the Ross, nor was it quite an islet. It ashore; only the salt water sobbing between them instead formed the south-west corner of the land, fitted close to it, of the quiet earth, and clots of sea-pink blooming on their and was in one place only separated from the coast by a sides instead of heather; and the great sea conger to wreathe little gut of the sea, not forty feet across the narrowest.

about the base of them instead of the poisonous viper of When the tide was full, this was clear and still, like a pool the land. On calm days you can go wandering between on a land river; only there was a difference in the weeds them in a boat for hours, echoes following you about the and fishes, and the water itself was green instead of brown; labyrinth; but when the sea is up, Heaven help the man that but when the tide went out, in the bottom of the ebb, there hears that cauldron boiling.

was a day or two in every month when you could pass Off the south-west end of Aros these blocks are very dryshod from Aros to the mainland. There was some good many, and much greater in size. Indeed, they must grow pasture, where my uncle fed the sheep he lived on; perhaps monstrously bigger out to sea, for there must be ten sea the feed was better because the ground rose higher on the miles of open water sown with them as thick as a country islet than the main level of the Ross, but this I am not skilled place with houses, some standing thirty feet above the tides, 6

Merry Men

some covered, but all perilous to ships; so that on a clear, got the name from their movements, which are swift and westerly blowing day, I have counted, from the top of Aros, antic, or from the shouting they make about the turn of the the great rollers breaking white and heavy over as many as tide, so that all Aros shakes with it, is more than I can tell.

six-and-forty buried reefs. But it is nearer in shore that the The truth is, that in a south-westerly wind, that part of danger is worst; for the tide, here running like a mill race, our archipelago is no better than a trap. If a ship got through makes a long belt of broken water – a Roost we call it – at the reefs, and weathered the Merry Men, it would be to the tail of the land. I have often been out there in a dead come ashore on the south coast of Aros, in Sandag Bay, calm at the slack of the tide; and a strange place it is, with where so many dismal things befell our family, as I propose the sea swirling and combing up and boiling like the caul-to tell. The thought of all these dangers, in the place I knew drons of a linn, and now and again a little dancing mutter so long, makes me particularly welcome the works now going of sound as though the Roost were talking to itself. But forward to set lights upon the headlands and buoys along when the tide begins to run again, and above all in heavy the channels of our iron-bound, inhospitable islands.

weather, there is no man could take a boat within half a The country people had many a story about Aros, as I mile of it, nor a ship afloat that could either steer or live in used to hear from my uncle’s man, Rorie, an old servant of such a place. You can hear the roaring of it six miles away.

the Macleans, who had transferred his services without af-At the seaward end there comes the strongest of the bubble; terthought on the occasion of the marriage. There was some and it’s here that these big breakers dance together – the tale of an unlucky creature, a sea-kelpie, that dwelt and dance of death, it may be called – that have got the name, did business in some fearful manner of his own among the in these parts, of the Merry Men. I have heard it said that boiling breakers of the Roost. A mermaid had once met a they run fifty feet high; but that must be the green water piper on Sandag beach, and there sang to him a long, bright only, for the spray runs twice as high as that. Whether they midsummer’s night, so that in the morning he was found 7

Robert Louis Stevenson

stricken crazy, and from thenceforward, till the day he died, sunk on the north side, twenty miles from Grisapol. It was said only one form of words; what they were in the origi-told, I thought, with more detail and gravity than its com-nal Gaelic I cannot tell, but they were thus translated: ‘Ah, panion stories, and there was one particularity which went the sweet singing out of the sea.’ Seals that haunted on far to convince me of its truth: the name, that is, of the ship that coast have been known to speak to man in his own was still remembered, and sounded, in my ears, Spanishly.

tongue, presaging great disasters. It was here that a certain The Espirito Santo they called it, a great ship of many decks saint first landed on his voyage out of Ireland to convert the of guns, laden with treasure and grandees of Spain, and Hebrideans. And, indeed, I think he had some claim to be fierce soldadoes, that now lay fathom deep to all eternity, called saint; for, with the boats of that past age, to make so done with her wars and voyages, in Sandag bay, upon the rough a passage, and land on such a ticklish coast, was surely west of Aros. No more salvos of ordnance for that tall not far short of the miraculous. It was to him, or to some of ship, the ‘Holy Spirit,’ no more fair winds or happy ven-his monkish underlings who had a cell there, that the islet tures; only to rot there deep in the sea-tangle and hear the owes its holy and beautiful name, the House of God.

shoutings of the Merry Men as the tide ran high about the Among these old wives’ stories there was one which I island. It was a strange thought to me first and last, and was inclined to hear with more credulity. As I was told, in only grew stranger as I learned the more of Spain, from that tempest which scattered the ships of the Invincible which she had set sail with so proud a company, and King Armada over all the north and west of Scotland, one great Philip, the wealthy king, that sent her on that voyage.

vessel came ashore on Aros, and before the eyes of some And now I must tell you, as I walked from Grisapol that solitary people on a hill-top, went down in a moment with day, the Espirito Santo was very much in my reflections. I all hands, her colours flying even as she sank. There was had been favourably remarked by our then Principal in some likelihood in this tale; for another of that fleet lay Edinburgh College, that famous writer, Dr. Robertson, and 8

Merry Men

by him had been set to work on some papers of an ancient my conscience. But even at that time I must acquit myself date to rearrange and sift of what was worthless; and in of sordid greed; for if I desired riches, it was not for their one of these, to my great wonder, I found a note of this own sake, but for the sake of a person who was dear to my very ship, the Espirito Santo, with her captain’s name, and heart – my uncle’s daughter, Mary Ellen. She had been how she carried a great part of the Spaniard’s treasure, educated well, and had been a time to school upon the and had been lost upon the Ross of Grisapol; but in what mainland; which, poor girl, she would have been happier particular spot, the wild tribes of that place and period without. For Aros was no place for her, with old Rorie the would give no information to the king’s inquiries. Putting servant, and her father, who was one of the unhappiest one thing with another, and taking our island tradition to-men in Scotland, plainly bred up in a country place among gether with this note of old King Jamie’s perquisitions af-Cameronians, long a skipper sailing out of the Clyde about ter wealth, it had come strongly on my mind that the spot the islands, and now, with infinite discontent, managing his for which he sought in vain could be no other than the sheep and a little ‘long shore fishing for the necessary bread.

small bay of Sandag on my uncle’s land; and being a fellow If it was sometimes weariful to me, who was there but a of a mechanical turn, I had ever since been plotting how to month or two, you may fancy what it was to her who dwelt weigh that good ship up again with all her ingots, ounces, in that same desert all the year round, with the sheep and and doubloons, and bring back our house of Darnaway to flying sea-gulls, and the Merry Men singing and dancing in its long-forgotten dignity and wealth.

the Roost!

This was a design of which I soon had reason to repent.

My mind was sharply turned on different reflections; and since I became the witness of a strange judgment of God’s, the thought of dead men’s treasures has been intolerable to 9

Robert Louis Stevenson

CHAPTER II: WHAT THE WRECK HAD

fetch me, and, leaning his hand on my shoulder, stared with BROUGHT TO AROS

an awful look into the waters of the bay.

‘What is wrong?’ I asked, a good deal startled.

IT WAS HALF-FLOOD when I got the length of Aros; and there

‘It will be a great feesh,’ said the old man, returning to his was nothing for it but to stand on the far shore and whistle oars; and nothing more could I get out of him, but strange for Rorie with the boat. I had no need to repeat the signal.

glances and an ominous nodding of the head. In spite of At the first sound, Mary was at the door flying a handker-myself, I was infected with a measure of uneasiness; I turned chief by way of answer, and the old long-legged serving-also, and studied the wake. The water was still and transpar-man was shambling down the gravel to the pier. For all his ent, but, out here in the middle of the bay, exceeding deep.

hurry, it took him a long while to pull across the bay; and I For some time I could see naught; but at last it did seem to observed him several times to pause, go into the stern, and me as if something dark – a great fish, or perhaps only a look over curiously into the wake. As he came nearer, he shadow – followed studiously in the track of the moving seemed to me aged and haggard, and I thought he avoided coble. And then I remembered one of Rorie’s superstitions: my eye. The coble had been repaired, with two new thwarts how in a ferry in Morven, in some great, exterminating feud and several patches of some rare and beautiful foreign among the clans; a fish, the like of it unknown in all our wood, the name of it unknown to me.

waters, followed for some years the passage of the ferry-

‘Why, Rorie,’ said I, as we began the return voyage, ‘this boat, until no man dared to make the crossing.

is fine wood. How came you by that?’

‘He will be waiting for the right man,’ said Rorie.

‘It will be hard to cheesel,’ Rorie opined reluctantly; and Mary met me on the beach, and led me up the brae and just then, dropping the oars, he made another of those dives into the house of Aros. Outside and inside there were many into the stern which I had remarked as he came across to changes. The garden was fenced with the same wood that 10

Merry Men

I had noted in the boat; there were chairs in the kitchen high, at the first moment, in my heart.

covered with strange brocade; curtains of brocade hung

‘Mary, girl,’ said I, ‘this is the place I had learned to call from the window; a clock stood silent on the dresser; a my home, and I do not know it.’

lamp of brass was swinging from the roof; the table was

‘It is my home by nature, not by the learning,’ she re-set for dinner with the finest of linen and silver; and all plied; ‘the place I was born and the place I’m like to die in; these new riches were displayed in the plain old kitchen and I neither like these changes, nor the way they came, that I knew so well, with the high-backed settle, and the nor that which came with them. I would have liked better, stools, and the closet bed for Rorie; with the wide chimney under God’s pleasure, they had gone down into the sea, the sun shone into, and the clear-smouldering peats; with and the Merry Men were dancing on them now.’

the pipes on the mantelshelf and the three-cornered spit-Mary was always serious; it was perhaps the only trait toons, filled with sea-shells instead of sand, on the floor; that she shared with her father; but the tone with which she with the bare stone walls and the bare wooden floor, and uttered these words was even graver than of custom.

the three patchwork rugs that were of yore its sole adorn-

‘Ay,’ said I, ‘I feared it came by wreck, and that’s by ment – poor man’s patchwork, the like of it unknown in death; yet when my father died, I took his goods without cities, woven with homespun, and Sunday black, and sea-remorse.’

cloth polished on the bench of rowing. The room, like the

‘Your father died a clean strae death, as the folk say,’

house, had been a sort of wonder in that country-side, it said Mary.

was so neat and habitable; and to see it now, shamed by

‘True,’ I returned; ‘and a wreck is like a judgment. What these incongruous additions, filled me with indignation and was she called?’

a kind of anger. In view of the errand I had come upon to

‘They ca’d her the Christ-Anna,’ said a voice behind me; Aros, the feeling was baseless and unjust; but it burned and, turning round, I saw my uncle standing in the doorway.

11

Robert Louis Stevenson

He was a sour, small, bilious man, with a long face and his look of health; for I feared he had perhaps been ill.

very dark eyes; fifty-six years old, sound and active in body,

‘I’m in the body,’ he replied, ungraciously enough; ‘aye and with an air somewhat between that of a shepherd and in the body and the sins of the body, like yoursel’. Denner,’

that of a man following the sea. He never laughed, that I he said abruptly to Mary, and then ran on to me: ‘They’re heard; read long at the Bible; prayed much, like the grand braws, thir that we hae gotten, are they no? Yon’s a Cameronians he had been brought up among; and indeed, bonny knock*, but it’ll no gang; and the napery’s by ordnar.

in many ways, used to remind me of one of the hill-preach-Bonny, bairnly braws; it’s for the like o’ them folk sells the ers in the killing times before the Revolution. But he never peace of God that passeth understanding; it’s for the like got much comfort, nor even, as I used to think, much guid-o’ them, an’ maybe no even sae muckle worth, folk daunton ance, by his piety. He had his black fits when he was afraid God to His face and burn in muckle hell; and it’s for that of hell; but he had led a rough life, to which he would look reason the Scripture ca’s them, as I read the passage, the back with envy, and was still a rough, cold, gloomy man.

accursed thing. Mary, ye girzie,’ he interrupted himself to As he came in at the door out of the sunlight, with his cry with some asperity, ‘what for hae ye no put out the twa bonnet on his head and a pipe hanging in his button-hole, candlesticks?’

he seemed, like Rorie, to have grown older and paler, the

‘Why should we need them at high noon?’ she asked.

lines were deeplier ploughed upon his face, and the whites But my uncle was not to be turned from his idea. ‘We’ll of his eyes were yellow, like old stained ivory, or the bones bruik** them while we may,’ he said; and so two massive of the dead.

candlesticks of wrought silver were added to the table eq-

‘Ay’ he repeated, dwelling upon the first part of the word, uipage, already so unsuited to that rough sea-side farm.

‘the Christ-Anna. It’s an awfu’ name.’

‘She cam’ ashore Februar’ 10, about ten at nicht,’ he I made him my salutations, and complimented him upon

*Clock

**Enjoy.

12

Merry Men

went on to me. ‘There was nae wind, and a sair run o’ sea; an’ whiles again, when the tide’s makin’ hard an’ ye can and she was in the sook o’ the Roost, as I jaloose. We had hear the Roost blawin’ at the far-end of Aros, there comes seen her a’ day, Rorie and me, beating to the wind. She a back-spang of current straucht into Sandag Bay. Weel, wasnae a handy craft, I’m thinking, that Christ-Anna; for there’s the thing that got the grip on the Christ-Anna. She she would neither steer nor stey wi’ them. A sair day they but to have come in ram-stam an’ stern forrit; for the bows had of it; their hands was never aff the sheets, and it perishin’

of her are aften under, and the back-side of her is clear at cauld – ower cauld to snaw; and aye they would get a bit hie-water o’ neaps. But, man! the dunt that she cam doon nip o’ wind, and awa’ again, to pit the emp’y hope into wi’ when she struck! Lord save us a’! but it’s an unco life them. Eh, man! but they had a sair day for the last o’t! He to be a sailor – a cauld, wanchancy life. Mony’s the gliff I would have had a prood, prood heart that won ashore upon got mysel’ in the great deep; and why the Lord should hae the back o’ that.’

made yon unco water is mair than ever I could win to un-

‘And were all lost?’ I cried. ‘God held them!’

derstand. He made the vales and the pastures, the bonny

‘Wheesht!’ he said sternly. ‘Nane shall pray for the deid green yaird, the halesome, canty land –

on my hearth-stane.’

I disclaimed a Popish sense for my ejaculation; and he And now they shout and sing to Thee, seemed to accept my disclaimer with unusual facility, and For Thou hast made them glad,

ran on once more upon what had evidently become a favourite subject.

as the Psalms say in the metrical version. No that I would

‘We fand her in Sandag Bay, Rorie an’ me, and a’ thae preen my faith to that clink neither; but it’s bonny, and braws in the inside of her. There’s a kittle bit, ye see, about easier to mind. “Who go to sea in ships,” they hae’t again–

Sandag; whiles the sook rins strong for the Merry Men; 13

Robert Louis Stevenson

ing up into my face with a certain pallor, and I could see And in Great waters trading be,

that his eyes shone with a deep-seated fire, and that the Within the deep these men God’s works lines about his mouth were drawn and tremulous.

And His great wonders see.

Even the entrance of Rorie, and the beginning of our meal, did not detach him from his train of thought beyond Weel, it’s easy sayin’ sae. Maybe Dauvit wasnae very a moment. He condescended, indeed, to ask me some ques-weel acquant wi’ the sea. But, troth, if it wasnae prentit in tions as to my success at college, but I thought it was with the Bible, I wad whiles be temp’it to think it wasnae the half his mind; and even in his extempore grace, which was, Lord, but the muckle, black deil that made the sea. There’s as usual, long and wandering, I could find the trace of his naething good comes oot o’t but the fish; an’ the spentacle preoccupation, praying, as he did, that God would ‘rememo’ God riding on the tempest, to be shure, whilk would be ber in mercy fower puir, feckless, fiddling, sinful creatures what Dauvit was likely ettling at. But, man, they were sair here by their lee-lane beside the great and dowie waters.’

wonders that God showed to the Christ-Anna – wonders, Soon there came an interchange of speeches between do I ca’ them? Judgments, rather: judgments in the mirk him and Rorie.

nicht among the draygons o’ the deep. And their souls – to

‘Was it there?’ asked my uncle.

think o’ that – their souls, man, maybe no prepared! The

‘Ou, ay!’ said Rorie.

sea – a muckle yett to hell!’

I observed that they both spoke in a manner of aside, and I observed, as my uncle spoke, that his voice was un-with some show of embarrassment, and that Mary herself ap-naturally moved and his manner unwontedly demonstra-peared to colour, and looked down on her plate. Partly to show tive. He leaned forward at these last words, for example, my knowledge, and so relieve the party from an awkward strain, and touched me on the knee with his spread fingers, look-partly because I was curious, I pursued the subject.

14

Merry Men

‘You mean the fish?’ I asked.

gray’s a tombstane. An’, troth, he was a fearsome-like taed.

‘Whatten fish?’ cried my uncle. ‘Fish, quo’ he! Fish! Your But he steered naebody. Nae doobt, if ane that was a rep-een are fu’ o’ fatness, man; your heid dozened wi’ carnal robate, ane the Lord hated, had gane by there wi’ his sin leir. Fish! it’s a bogle!’

still upon his stamach, nae doobt the creature would hae He spoke with great vehemence, as though angry; and lowped upo’ the likes o’ him. But there’s deils in the deep perhaps I was not very willing to be put down so shortly, sea would yoke on a communicant! Eh, sirs, if ye had gane for young men are disputatious. At least I remember I re-doon wi’ the puir lads in the Christ-Anna, ye would ken by torted hotly, crying out upon childish superstitions.

now the mercy o’ the seas. If ye had sailed it for as lang as

‘And ye come frae the College!’ sneered Uncle Gordon.

me, ye would hate the thocht of it as I do. If ye had but

‘Gude kens what they learn folk there; it’s no muckle ser-used the een God gave ye, ye would hae learned the wick-vice onyway. Do ye think, man, that there’s naething in a’

edness o’ that fause, saut, cauld, bullering creature, and of yon saut wilderness o’ a world oot wast there, wi’ the sea a’ that’s in it by the Lord’s permission: labsters an’ partans, grasses growin’, an’ the sea beasts fechtin’, an’ the sun an’ sic like, howking in the deid; muckle, gutsy, blawing glintin’ down into it, day by day? Na; the sea’s like the whales; an’ fish – the hale clan o’ them – cauld-wamed, land, but fearsomer. If there’s folk ashore, there’s folk in blind-eed uncanny ferlies. O, sirs,’ he cried, ‘the horror –

the sea – deid they may be, but they’re folk whatever; and the horror o’ the sea!’

as for deils, there’s nane that’s like the sea deils. There’s We were all somewhat staggered by this outburst; and no sae muckle harm in the land deils, when a’s said and the speaker himself, after that last hoarse apostrophe, ap-done. Lang syne, when I was a callant in the south country, peared to sink gloomily into his own thoughts. But Rorie, I mind there was an auld, bald bogle in the Peewie Moss. I who was greedy of superstitious lore, recalled him to the got a glisk o’ him mysel’, sittin’ on his hunkers in a hag, as subject by a question.

15

Robert Louis Stevenson

‘You will not ever have seen a teevil of the sea?’ he asked.

him ae cauld, uncanny look. An’, or the life was oot o’

‘No clearly,’ replied the other. ‘I misdoobt if a mere man Sandy’s body, we kent weel what the thing betokened, and could see ane clearly and conteenue in the body. I hae sailed why the wund gurled in the taps o’ the Cutchull’ns; for wi’ a lad – they ca’d him Sandy Gabart; he saw ane, shure doon it cam’ – a wund do I ca’ it! it was the wund o’ the eneueh, an’ shure eneueh it was the end of him. We were Lord’s anger – an’ a’ that nicht we foucht like men dementit, seeven days oot frae the Clyde – a sair wark we had had –

and the niest that we kenned we were ashore in Loch gaun north wi’ seeds an’ braws an’ things for the Macleod.

Uskevagh, an’ the cocks were crawin’ in Benbecula.’

We had got in ower near under the Cutchull’ns, an’ had

‘It will have been a merman,’ Rorie said.

just gane about by soa, an’ were off on a lang tack, we

‘A merman!’ screamed my uncle with immeasurable scorn.

thocht would maybe hauld as far’s Copnahow. I mind the

‘Auld wives’ clavers! There’s nae sic things as mermen.’

nicht weel; a mune smoored wi’ mist; a fine gaun breeze

‘But what was the creature like?’ I asked.

upon the water, but no steedy; an’ – what nane o’ us likit

‘What like was it? Gude forbid that we suld ken what to hear – anither wund gurlin’ owerheid, amang thae fear-like it was! It had a kind of a heid upon it – man could say some, auld stane craigs o’ the Cutchull’ns. Weel, Sandy nae mair.’

was forrit wi’ the jib sheet; we couldnae see him for the Then Rorie, smarting under the affront, told several tales mains’l, that had just begude to draw, when a’ at ance he of mermen, mermaids, and sea-horses that had come ashore gied a skirl. I luffed for my life, for I thocht we were ower upon the islands and attacked the crews of boats upon the near Soa; but na, it wasnae that, it was puir Sandy Gabart’s sea; and my uncle, in spite of his incredulity, listened with deid skreigh, or near hand, for he was deid in half an hour.

uneasy interest.

A’t he could tell was that a sea deil, or sea bogle, or sea

‘Aweel, aweel,’ he said, ‘it may be sae; I may be wrang; spenster, or sic-like, had clum up by the bowsprit, an’ gi’en but I find nae word o’ mermen in the Scriptures.’

16

Merry Men

‘And you will find nae word of Aros Roost, maybe,’ ob-ern bay – Aros Bay, as it is called – where the house stands jected Rorie, and his argument appeared to carry weight.

and on which my uncle was now gazing, the only sign of When dinner was over, my uncle carried me forth with disturbance is towards the end of the ebb, and even then it is him to a bank behind the house. It was a very hot and quiet too slight to be remarkable. When there is any swell, noth-afternoon; scarce a ripple anywhere upon the sea, nor any ing can be seen at all; but when it is calm, as it often is, there voice but the familiar voice of sheep and gulls; and per-appear certain strange, undecipherable marks – sea-runes, haps in consequence of this repose in nature, my kinsman as we may name them – on the glassy surface of the bay. The showed himself more rational and tranquil than before. He like is common in a thousand places on the coast; and many spoke evenly and almost cheerfully of my career, with ev-a boy must have amused himself as I did, seeking to read in ery now and then a reference to the lost ship or the trea-them some reference to himself or those he loved. It was to sures it had brought to Aros. For my part, I listened to him these marks that my uncle now directed my attention, strug-in a sort of trance, gazing with all my heart on that remem-gling, as he did so, with an evident reluctance.

bered scene, and drinking gladly the sea-air and the smoke

‘Do ye see yon scart upo’ the water?’ he inquired; ‘yon of peats that had been lit by Mary.

ane wast the gray stane? Ay? Weel, it’ll no be like a letter, Perhaps an hour had passed when my uncle, who had all wull it?’

the while been covertly gazing on the surface of the little

‘Certainly it is,’ I replied. ‘I have often remarked it. It is bay, rose to his feet and bade me follow his example. Now I like a C.’

should say that the great run of tide at the south-west end of He heaved a sigh as if heavily disappointed with my answer, Aros exercises a perturbing influence round all the coast. In and then added below his breath: ‘Ay, for the Christ-Anna.’

Sandag Bay, to the south, a strong current runs at certain

‘I used to suppose, sir, it was for myself,’ said I; ‘for my periods of the flood and ebb respectively; but in this north-name is Charles.’

17

Robert Louis Stevenson

‘And so ye saw’t afore?’, he ran on, not heeding my re-walking is easy; and it was along this that I silently fol-mark. ‘Weel, weel, but that’s unco strange. Maybe, it’s been lowed my silent kinsman. I was perhaps a little disappointed there waitin’, as a man wad say, through a’ the weary ages.

at having lost so good an opportunity to declare my love; Man, but that’s awfu’.’ And then, breaking off: ‘Ye’ll no but I was at the same time far more deeply exercised at the see anither, will ye?’ he asked.

change that had befallen my uncle. He was never an ordi-

‘Yes,’ said I. ‘I see another very plainly, near the Ross nary, never, in the strict sense, an amiable, man; but there side, where the road comes down – an M.’

was nothing in even the worst that I had known of him

‘An M,’ he repeated very low; and then, again after an-before, to prepare me for so strange a transformation. It other pause: ‘An’ what wad ye make o’ that?’ he inquired.

was impossible to close the eyes against one fact; that he

‘I had always thought it to mean Mary, sir,’ I answered, had, as the saying goes, something on his mind; and as I growing somewhat red, convinced as I was in my own mind mentally ran over the different words which might be rep-that I was on the threshold of a decisive explanation.

resented by the letter M – misery, mercy, marriage, money, But we were each following his own train of thought to and the like – I was arrested with a sort of start by the the exclusion of the other’s. My uncle once more paid no word murder. I was still considering the ugly sound and attention to my words; only hung his head and held his fatal meaning of the word, when the direction of our walk peace; and I might have been led to fancy that he had not brought us to a point from which a view was to be had to heard me, if his next speech had not contained a kind of either side, back towards Aros Bay and homestead, and echo from my own.

forward on the ocean, dotted to the north with isles, and

‘I would say naething o’ thae clavers to Mary,’ he oblying to the southward blue and open to the sky. There my served, and began to walk forward.

guide came to a halt, and stood staring for awhile on that There is a belt of turf along the side of Aros Bay, where expanse. Then he turned to me and laid a hand on my arm.

18

Merry Men

‘Ye think there’s naething there?’ he said, pointing with happy or hearty in my life without you: you are the apple his pipe; and then cried out aloud, with a kind of exulta-of my eye.’ Still she looked away, and said never a word; tion: ‘I’ll tell ye, man! The deid are down there – thick like but I thought I saw that her hands shook. ‘Mary,’ I cried in rattons!’

fear, ‘do ye no like me?’

He turned at once, and, without another word, we re-

‘O, Charlie man,’ she said, ‘is this a time to speak of it?

traced our steps to the house of Aros.

Let me be, a while; let me be the way I am; it’ll not be you I was eager to be alone with Mary; yet it was not till after that loses by the waiting!’

supper, and then but for a short while, that I could have a I made out by her voice that she was nearly weeping, and word with her. I lost no time beating about the bush, but this put me out of any thought but to compose her. ‘Mary spoke out plainly what was on my mind.

Ellen,’ I said, ‘say no more; I did not come to trouble you:

‘Mary,’ I said, ‘I have not come to Aros without a hope.

your way shall be mine, and your time too; and you have told If that should prove well founded, we may all leave and go me all I wanted. Only just this one thing more: what ails you?’

somewhere else, secure of daily bread and comfort; se-She owned it was her father, but would enter into no cure, perhaps, of something far beyond that, which it would particulars, only shook her head, and said he was not well seem extravagant in me to promise. But there’s a hope that and not like himself, and it was a great pity. She knew lies nearer to my heart than money.’ And at that I paused.

nothing of the wreck. ‘I havenae been near it,’ said she.

‘You can guess fine what that is, Mary,’ I said. She looked

‘What for would I go near it, Charlie lad? The poor souls away from me in silence, and that was small encourage-are gone to their account long syne; and I would just have ment, but I was not to be put off. ‘All my days I have wished they had ta’en their gear with them – poor souls!’

thought the world of you,’ I continued; ‘the time goes on This was scarcely any great encouragement for me to and I think always the more of you; I could not think to be tell her of the Espirito Santo; yet I did so, and at the very 19

Robert Louis Stevenson

first word she cried out in surprise. ‘There was a man at CHAPTER III: LAND AND SEA

Grisapol,’ she said, ‘in the month of May – a little, yellow, IN SANDAG BAY

black-avised body, they tell me, with gold rings upon his fingers, and a beard; and he was speiring high and low for I WAS EARLY AFOOT next morning; and as soon as I had a bite that same ship.’

to eat, set forth upon a tour of exploration. Something in It was towards the end of April that I had been given my heart distinctly told me that I should find the ship of the these papers to sort out by Dr. Robertson: and it came Armada; and although I did not give way entirely to such suddenly back upon my mind that they were thus prepared hopeful thoughts, I was still very light in spirits and walked for a Spanish historian, or a man calling himself such, who upon air. Aros is a very rough islet, its surface strewn with had come with high recommendations to the Principal, on great rocks and shaggy with fernland heather; and my way a mission of inquiry as to the dispersion of the great Ar-lay almost north and south across the highest knoll; and mada. Putting one thing with another, I fancied that the though the whole distance was inside of two miles it took visitor ‘with the gold rings upon his fingers’ might be the more time and exertion than four upon a level road. Upon same with Dr. Robertson’s historian from Madrid. If that the summit, I paused. Although not very high – not three were so, he would be more likely after treasure for himself hundred feet, as I think – it yet outtops all the neighbouring than information for a learned society. I made up my mind, lowlands of the Ross, and commands a great view of sea I should lose no time over my undertaking; and if the ship and islands. The sun, which had been up some time, was lay sunk in Sandag Bay, as perhaps both he and I supposed, already hot upon my neck; the air was listless and thundery, it should not be for the advantage of this ringed adven-although purely clear; away over the north-west, where turer, but for Mary and myself, and for the good, old, hon-the isles lie thickliest congregated, some half-a-dozen small est, kindly family of the Darnaways.

and ragged clouds hung together in a covey; and the head 20

Merry Men

of Ben Kyaw wore, not merely a few streamers, but a solid reverse direction; and it is the action of this last, as I sup-hood of vapour. There was a threat in the weather. The pose, that has scoured that part so deep. Nothing is to be sea, it is true, was smooth like glass: even the Roost was seen out of Sandag Bay, but one small segment of the ho-but a seam on that wide mirror, and the Merry Men no rizon and, in heavy weather, the breakers flying high over more than caps of foam; but to my eye and ear, so long a deep sea reef.

familiar with these places, the sea also seemed to lie uneas-From half-way down the hill, I had perceived the wreck ily; a sound of it, like a long sigh, mounted to me where I of February last, a brig of considerable tonnage, lying, with stood; and, quiet as it was, the Roost itself appeared to be her back broken, high and dry on the east corner of the revolving mischief. For I ought to say that all we dwellers in sands; and I was making directly towards it, and already these parts attributed, if not prescience, at least a quality of almost on the margin of the turf, when my eyes were sud-warning, to that strange and dangerous creature of the tides.

denly arrested by a spot, cleared of fern and heather, and I hurried on, then, with the greater speed, and had soon marked by one of those long, low, and almost human-look-descended the slope of Aros to the part that we call Sandag ing mounds that we see so commonly in graveyards. I Bay. It is a pretty large piece of water compared with the stopped like a man shot. Nothing had been said to me of size of the isle; well sheltered from all but the prevailing any dead man or interment on the island; Rorie, Mary, and wind; sandy and shoal and bounded by low sand-hills to my uncle had all equally held their peace; of her at least, I the west, but to the eastward lying several fathoms deep was certain that she must be ignorant; and yet here, before along a ledge of rocks. It is upon that side that, at a certain my eyes, was proof indubitable of the fact. Here was a time each flood, the current mentioned by my uncle sets so grave; and I had to ask myself, with a chill, what manner of strong into the bay; a little later, when the Roost begins to man lay there in his last sleep, awaiting the signal of the work higher, an undertow runs still more strongly in the Lord in that solitary, sea-beat resting-place? My mind sup-21

Robert Louis Stevenson

plied no answer but what I feared to entertain. Shipwrecked, below the stern, the fracture gaped widely open, and you at least, he must have been; perhaps, like the old Armada could see right through her poor hull upon the farther side.

mariners, from some far and rich land over-sea; or perhaps Her name was much defaced, and I could not make out one of my own race, perishing within eyesight of the smoke clearly whether she was called Christiania, after the Nor-of home. I stood awhile uncovered by his side, and I could wegian city, or Christiana CHRISTIANA, after the good have desired that it had lain in our religion to put up some woman, Christian’s wife, in that old book the ‘Pilgrim’s prayer for that unhappy stranger, or, in the old classic way, Progress.’ By her build she was a foreign ship, but I was outwardly to honour his misfortune. I knew, although his not certain of her nationality. She had been painted green, bones lay there, a part of Aros, till the trumpet sounded, but the colour was faded and weathered, and the paint peel-his imperishable soul was forth and far away, among the ing off in strips. The wreck of the mainmast lay alongside, raptures of the everlasting Sabbath or the pangs of hell; half buried in sand. She was a forlorn sight, indeed, and I and yet my mind misgave me even with a fear, that perhaps could not look without emotion at the bits of rope that still he was near me where I stood, guarding his sepulchre, and hung about her, so often handled of yore by shouting sea-lingering on the scene of his unhappy fate.

men; or the little scuttle where they had passed up and Certainly it was with a spirit somewhat over-shadowed down to their affairs; or that poor noseless angel of a fig-that I turned away from the grave to the hardly less melan-ure-head that had dipped into so many running billows.

choly spectacle of the wreck. Her stem was above the first I do not know whether it came most from the ship or arc of the flood; she was broken in two a little abaft the from the grave, but I fell into some melancholy scruples, foremast – though indeed she had none, both masts having as I stood there, leaning with one hand against the battered broken short in her disaster; and as the pitch of the beach timbers. The homelessness of men and even of inanimate was very sharp and sudden, and the bows lay many feet vessels, cast away upon strange shores, came strongly in 22

Merry Men

upon my mind. To make a profit of such pitiful misadven-and green and steady in the deeps; the bay seemed rather tures seemed an unmanly and a sordid act; and I began to like a great transparent crystal, as one sees them in a think of my then quest as of something sacrilegious in its lapidary’s shop; there was naught to show that it was wa-nature. But when I remembered Mary, I took heart again.

ter but an internal trembling, a hovering within of sun-glints My uncle would never consent to an imprudent marriage, and netted shadows, and now and then a faint lap and a nor would she, as I was persuaded, wed without his full dying bubble round the edge. The shadows of the rocks lay approval. It behoved me, then, to be up and doing for my out for some distance at their feet, so that my own shadow, wife; and I thought with a laugh how long it was since that moving, pausing, and stooping on the top of that, reached great sea-castle, the Espirito Santo, had left her bones in sometimes half across the bay. It was above all in this belt Sandag Bay, and how weak it would be to consider rights of shadows that I hunted for the Espirito Santo; since it so long extinguished and misfortunes so long forgotten in was there the undertow ran strongest, whether in or out.

the process of time.

Cool as the whole water seemed this broiling day, it looked, I had my theory of where to seek for her remains. The in that part, yet cooler, and had a mysterious invitation for set of the current and the soundings both pointed to the the eyes. Peer as I pleased, however, I could see nothing east side of the bay under the ledge of rocks. If she had but a few fishes or a bush of sea-tangle, and here and there been lost in Sandag Bay, and if, after these centuries, any a lump of rock that had fallen from above and now lay portion of her held together, it was there that I should find separate on the sandy floor. Twice did I pass from one end it. The water deepens, as I have said, with great rapidity, to the other of the rocks, and in the whole distance I could and even close along-side the rocks several fathoms may see nothing of the wreck, nor any place but one where it be found. As I walked upon the edge I could see far and was possible for it to be. This was a large terrace in five wide over the sandy bottom of the bay; the sun shone clear fathoms of water, raised off the surface of the sand to a 23

Robert Louis Stevenson

considerable height, and looking from above like a mere chored I secured myself by grasping a whole armful of these outgrowth of the rocks on which I walked. It was one mass thick and slimy stalks, and, planting my feet against the of great sea-tangles like a grove, which prevented me judg-edge, I looked around me. On all sides the clear sand ing of its nature, but in shape and size it bore some likeness stretched forth unbroken; it came to the foot of the rocks, to a vessel’s hull. At least it was my best chance. If the scoured into the likeness of an alley in a garden by the Espirito Santo lay not there under the tangles, it lay no-action of the tides; and before me, for as far as I could see, where at all in Sandag Bay; and I prepared to put the ques-nothing was visible but the same many-folded sand upon tion to the proof, once and for all, and either go back to the sun-bright bottom of the bay. Yet the terrace to which Aros a rich man or cured for ever of my dreams of wealth.

I was then holding was as thick with strong sea-growths as I stripped to the skin, and stood on the extreme margin a tuft of heather, and the cliff from which it bulged hung with my hands clasped, irresolute. The bay at that time draped below the water-line with brown lianas. In this com-was utterly quiet; there was no sound but from a school of plexity of forms, all swaying together in the current, things porpoises somewhere out of sight behind the point; yet a were hard to be distinguished; and I was still uncertain certain fear withheld me on the threshold of my venture.

whether my feet were pressed upon the natural rock or upon Sad sea-feelings, scraps of my uncle’s superstitions, the timbers of the Armada treasure-ship, when the whole thoughts of the dead, of the grave, of the old broken ships, tuft of tangle came away in my hand, and in an instant I was drifted through my mind. But the strong sun upon my shoul-on the surface, and the shores of the bay and the bright wa-ders warmed me to the heart, and I stooped forward and ter swam before my eyes in a glory of crimson.

plunged into the sea.

I clambered back upon the rocks, and threw the plant of It was all that I could do to catch a trail of the sea-tangle tangle at my feet. Something at the same moment rang that grew so thickly on the terrace; but once so far an-sharply, like a falling coin. I stooped, and there, sure enough, 24

Merry Men

crusted with the red rust, there lay an iron shoe-buckle.

hearing the same news from day to day, thinking the same The sight of this poor human relic thrilled me to the heart, thoughts, praying, perhaps, in the same temple with my-but not with hope nor fear, only with a desolate melan-self? However it was, I was assailed with dreary thoughts; choly. I held it in my hand, and the thought of its owner my uncle’s words, ‘the dead are down there,’ echoed in appeared before me like the presence of an actual man. His my ears; and though I determined to dive once more, it weather-beaten face, his sailor’s hands, his sea-voice hoarse was with a strong repugnance that I stepped forward to with singing at the capstan, the very foot that had once the margin of the rocks.

worn that buckle and trod so much along the swerving A great change passed at that moment over the appear-decks – the whole human fact of him, as a creature like ance of the bay. It was no more that clear, visible interior, myself, with hair and blood and seeing eyes, haunted me in like a house roofed with glass, where the green, submarine that sunny, solitary place, not like a spectre, but like some sunshine slept so stilly. A breeze, I suppose, had flawed friend whom I had basely injured. Was the great treasure the surface, and a sort of trouble and blackness filled its ship indeed below there, with her guns and chain and trea-bosom, where flashes of light and clouds of shadow tossed sure, as she had sailed from Spain; her decks a garden for confusedly together. Even the terrace below obscurely the seaweed, her cabin a breeding place for fish, soundless rocked and quivered. It seemed a graver thing to venture but for the dredging water, motionless but for the waving on this place of ambushes; and when I leaped into the sea of the tangle upon her battlements – that old, populous, the second time it was with a quaking in my soul.

sea-riding castle, now a reef in Sandag Bay? Or, as I thought I secured myself as at first, and groped among the wav-it likelier, was this a waif from the disaster of the foreign ing tangle. All that met my touch was cold and soft and brig – was this shoe-buckle bought but the other day and gluey. The thicket was alive with crabs and lobsters, trun-worn by a man of my own period in the world’s history, dling to and fro lopsidedly, and I had to harden my heart 25

Robert Louis Stevenson

against the horror of their carrion neighbourhood. On all A child might have read their dismal story, and yet it was sides I could feel the grain and the clefts of hard, living not until I touched that actual piece of mankind that the stone; no planks, no iron, not a sign of any wreck; the full horror of the charnel ocean burst upon my spirit. I laid Espirito Santo was not there. I remember I had almost a the bone beside the buckle, picked up my clothes, and ran sense of relief in my disappointment, and I was about ready as I was along the rocks towards the human shore. I could to leave go, when something happened that sent me to the not be far enough from the spot; no fortune was vast enough surface with my heart in my mouth. I had already stayed to tempt me back again. The bones of the drowned dead somewhat late over my explorations; the current was fresh-should henceforth roll undisturbed by me, whether on tangle ening with the change of the tide, and Sandag Bay was no or minted gold. But as soon as I trod the good earth again, longer a safe place for a single swimmer. Well, just at the and had covered my nakedness against the sun, I knelt down last moment there came a sudden flush of current, dredg-over against the ruins of the brig, and out of the fulness of ing through the tangles like a wave. I lost one hold, was my heart prayed long and passionately for all poor souls flung sprawling on my side, and, instinctively grasping for upon the sea. A generous prayer is never presented in vain; a fresh support, my fingers closed on something hard and the petition may be refused, but the petitioner is always, I cold. I think I knew at that moment what it was. At least I believe, rewarded by some gracious visitation. The horror, instantly left hold of the tangle, leaped for the surface, and at least, was lifted from my mind; I could look with calm clambered out next moment on the friendly rocks with the of spirit on that great bright creature, God’s ocean; and as bone of a man’s leg in my grasp.

I set off homeward up the rough sides of Aros, nothing Mankind is a material creature, slow to think and dull to remained of my concern beyond a deep determination to perceive connections. The grave, the wreck of the brig, meddle no more with the spoils of wrecked vessels or the and the rusty shoe-buckle were surely plain advertisements.

treasures of the dead.

26

Merry Men

I was already some way up the hill before I paused to alighted on the bay, mapped out below my feet, and robbed breathe and look behind me. The sight that met my eyes a moment later of the sun. The knoll which I had just sur-was doubly strange.

mounted overflanked a little amphitheatre of lower hill-For, first, the storm that I had foreseen was now advanc-ocks sloping towards the sea, and beyond that the yellow ing with almost tropical rapidity. The whole surface of the arc of beach and the whole extent of Sandag Bay. It was a sea had been dulled from its conspicuous brightness to an scene on which I had often looked down, but where I had ugly hue of corrugated lead; already in the distance the never before beheld a human figure. I had but just turned white waves, the ‘skipper’s daughters,’ had begun to flee my back upon it and left it empty, and my wonder may be before a breeze that was still insensible on Aros; and al-fancied when I saw a boat and several men in that deserted ready along the curve of Sandag Bay there was a splashing spot. The boat was lying by the rocks. A pair of fellows, run of sea that I could hear from where I stood. The change bareheaded, with their sleeves rolled up, and one with a upon the sky was even more remarkable. There had begun boathook, kept her with difficulty to her moorings for the to arise out of the south-west a huge and solid continent of current was growing brisker every moment. A little way scowling cloud; here and there, through rents in its contex-off upon the ledge two men in black clothes, whom I judged ture, the sun still poured a sheaf of spreading rays; and here to be superior in rank, laid their heads together over some and there, from all its edges, vast inky streamers lay forth task which at first I did not understand, but a second after along the yet unclouded sky. The menace was express and I had made it out – they were taking bearings with the imminent. Even as I gazed, the sun was blotted out. At any compass; and just then I saw one of them unroll a sheet of moment the tempest might fall upon Aros in its might.

paper and lay his finger down, as though identifying fea-The suddenness of this change of weather so fixed my tures in a map. Meanwhile a third was walking to and fro, eyes on heaven that it was some seconds before they polling among the rocks and peering over the edge into the 27

Robert Louis Stevenson

water. While I was still watching them with the stupefac-Yet as I ran, leaping from rock to rock, and turned the tion of surprise, my mind hardly yet able to work on what matter loosely in my mind, this theory grew ever the longer my eyes reported, this third person suddenly stooped and the less welcome to my reason. The compass, the map, the summoned his companions with a cry so loud that it reached interest awakened by the buckle, and the conduct of that my ears upon the hill. The others ran to him, even drop-one among the strangers who had looked so often below ping the compass in their hurry, and I could see the bone him in the water, all seemed to point to a different explana-and the shoe-buckle going from hand to hand, causing the tion of their presence on that outlying, obscure islet of the most unusual gesticulations of surprise and interest. Just western sea. The Madrid historian, the search instituted by then I could hear the seamen crying from the boat, and Dr. Robertson, the bearded stranger with the rings, my own saw them point westward to that cloud continent which fruitless search that very morning in the deep water of was ever the more rapidly unfurling its blackness over Sandag Bay, ran together, piece by piece, in my memory, heaven. The others seemed to consult; but the danger was and I made sure that these strangers must be Spaniards in too pressing to be braved, and they bundled into the boat quest of ancient treasure and the lost ship of the Armada.

carrying my relies with them, and set forth out of the bay But the people living in outlying islands, such as Aros, are with all speed of oars.

answerable for their own security; there is none near by to I made no more ado about the matter, but turned and ran protect or even to help them; and the presence in such a for the house. Whoever these men were, it was fit my uncle spot of a crew of foreign adventurers – poor, greedy, and should be instantly informed. It was not then altogether most likely lawless – filled me with apprehensions for my too late in the day for a descent of the Jacobites; and may uncle’s money, and even for the safety of his daughter. I be Prince Charlie, whom I knew my uncle to detest, was was still wondering how we were to get rid of them when one of the three superiors whom I had seen upon the rock.

I came, all breathless, to the top of Aros. The whole world 28

Merry Men

was shadowed over; only in the extreme east, on a hill of CHAPTER IV: THE GALE

the mainland, one last gleam of sunshine lingered like a jewel; rain had begun to fall, not heavily, but in great drops; I FOUND MY UNCLE at the gable end, watching the signs of the sea was rising with each moment, and already a band the weather, with a pipe in his fingers.

of white encircled Aros and the nearer coasts of Grisapol.

‘Uncle,’ said I, ‘there were men ashore at Sandag Bay –’

The boat was still pulling seaward, but I now became aware I had no time to go further; indeed, I not only forgot my of what had been hidden from me lower down – a large, words, but even my weariness, so strange was the effect on heavily sparred, handsome schooner, lying to at the south Uncle Gordon. He dropped his pipe and fell back against end of Aros. Since I had not seen her in the morning when the end of the house with his jaw fallen, his eyes staring, and I had looked around so closely at the signs of the weather, his long face as white as paper. We must have looked at one and upon these lone waters where a sail was rarely visible, another silently for a quarter of a minute, before he made it was clear she must have lain last night behind the unin-answer in this extraordinary fashion: ‘Had he a hair kep on?’

habited Eilean Gour, and this proved conclusively that she I knew as well as if I had been there that the man who was manned by strangers to our coast, for that anchorage, now lay buried at Sandag had worn a hairy cap, and that he though good enough to look at, is little better than a trap had come ashore alive. For the first and only time I lost for ships. With such ignorant sailors upon so wild a coast, toleration for the man who was my benefactor and the fathe coming gale was not unlikely to bring death upon its ther of the woman I hoped to call my wife.

wings.

‘These were living men,’ said I, ‘perhaps Jacobites, perhaps the French, perhaps pirates, perhaps adventurers come here to seek the Spanish treasure ship; but, whatever they may be, dangerous at least to your daughter and my cousin.

29

Robert Louis Stevenson

As for your own guilty terrors, man, the dead sleeps well the last gleam of sun had vanished; a wind had sprung up, where you have laid him. I stood this morning by his grave; not yet high, but gusty and unsteady to the point; the rain, he will not wake before the trump of doom.’

on the other hand, had ceased. Short as was the interval, My kinsman looked upon me, blinking, while I spoke; the sea already ran vastly higher than when I had stood then he fixed his eyes for a little on the ground, and pulled there last; already it had begun to break over some of the his fingers foolishly; but it was plain that he was past the outward reefs, and already it moaned aloud in the sea-caves power of speech.

of Aros. I looked, at first, in vain for the schooner.

‘Come,’ said I. ‘You must think for others. You must

‘There she is,’ I said at last. But her new position, and come up the hill with me, and see this ship.’

the course she was now lying, puzzled me. ‘They cannot He obeyed without a word or a look, following slowly mean to beat to sea,’ I cried.

after my impatient strides. The spring seemed to have gone

‘That’s what they mean,’ said my uncle, with something out of his body, and he scrambled heavily up and down the like joy; and just then the schooner went about and stood rocks, instead of leaping, as he was wont, from one to upon another tack, which put the question beyond the reach another. Nor could I, for all my cries, induce him to make of doubt. These strangers, seeing a gale on hand, had better haste. Only once he replied to me complainingly, thought first of sea-room. With the wind that threatened, and like one in bodily pain: ‘Ay, ay, man, I’m coming.’