THE DEATH OF THE RED FOX
The next day Mr. Henderland found for me a man who had a boat of
his own and was to cross the Linnhe Loch that afternoon into
Appin, fishing. Him he prevailed on to take me, for he was one
of his flock; and in this way I saved a long day's travel and the
price of the two public ferries I must otherwise have passed.
It was near noon before we set out; a dark day with clouds, and
the sun shining upon little patches. The sea was here very deep
and still, and had scarce a wave upon it; so that I must put the
water to my lips before I could believe it to be truly salt. The
mountains on either side were high, rough and barren, very black
and gloomy in the shadow of the clouds, but all silver-laced with
little watercourses where the sun shone upon them. It seemed a
hard country, this of Appin, for people to care as much about as
There was but one thing to mention. A little after we had
started, the sun shone upon a little moving clump of scarlet
close in along the water-side to the north. It was much of the
same red as soldiers' coats; every now and then, too, there came
little sparks and lightnings, as though the sun had struck upon
I asked my boatman what it should be, and he answered he supposed
it was some of the red soldiers coming from Fort William into
Appin, against the poor tenantry of the country. Well, it was a
sad sight to me; and whether it was because of my thoughts of
Alan, or from something prophetic in my bosom, although this was
but the second time I had seen King George's troops, I had no
good will to them.
At last we came so near the point of land at the entering in of
Loch Leven that I begged to be set on shore. My boatman (who was
an honest fellow and mindful of his promise to the catechist)
would fain have carried me on to Balachulish; but as this was to
take me farther from my secret destination, I insisted, and was
set on shore at last under the wood of Lettermore (or Lettervore,
for I have heard it both ways) in Alan's country of Appin.
This was a wood of birches, growing on a steep, craggy side of a
mountain that overhung the loch. It had many openings and ferny
howes; and a road or bridle track ran north and south through the
midst of it, by the edge of which, where was a spring, I sat down
to eat some oat-bread of Mr. Henderland's and think upon my
Here I was not only troubled by a cloud of stinging midges, but
far more by the doubts of my mind. What I ought to do, why I was
going to join myself with an outlaw and a would-be murderer like
Alan, whether I should not be acting more like a man of sense to
tramp back to the south country direct, by my own guidance and at
my own charges, and what Mr. Campbell or even Mr. Henderland
would think of me if they should ever learn my folly and
presumption: these were the doubts that now began to come in on
me stronger than ever.
As I was so sitting and thinking, a sound of men and horses came
to me through the wood; and presently after, at a turning of the
road, I saw four travellers come into view. The way was in this
part so rough and narrow that they came single and led their
horses by the reins. The first was a great, red-headed
gentleman, of an imperious and flushed face, who carried his hat
in his hand and fanned himself, for he was in a breathing heat.
The second, by his decent black garb and white wig, I correctly
took to be a lawyer. The third was a servant, and wore some part
of his clothes in tartan, which showed that his master was of a
Highland family, and either an outlaw or else in singular good
odour with the Government, since the wearing of tartan was
against the Act. If I had been better versed in these things, I
would have known the tartan to be of the Argyle (or Campbell)
colours. This servant had a good-sized portmanteau strapped on
his horse, and a net of lemons (to brew punch with) hanging at
the saddle-bow; as was often enough the custom with luxurious
travellers in that part of the country.
As for the fourth, who brought up the tail, I had seen his like
before, and knew him at once to be a sheriff's officer.
I had no sooner seen these people coming than I made up my mind
(for no reason that I can tell) to go through with my adventure;
and when the first came alongside of me, I rose up from the
bracken and asked him the way to Aucharn.
He stopped and looked at me, as I thought, a little oddly; and
then, turning to the lawyer, "Mungo," said he, "there's many
man would think this more of a warning than two pyats. Here am I
on my road to Duror on the job ye ken; and here is a young lad
starts up out of the bracken, and speers if I am on the way to
"Glenure," said the other, "this is an ill subject for jesting."
These two had now drawn close up and were gazing at me, while the
two followers had halted about a stone-cast in the rear.
"And what seek ye in Aucharn?" said Colin Roy Campbell of
Glenure, him they called the Red Fox; for he it was that I had
"The man that lives there," said I.
"James of the Glens," says Glenure, musingly; and then to the
lawyer: "Is he gathering his people, think ye?"
"Anyway," says the lawyer, "we shall do better to bide where
are, and let the soldiers rally us."
"If you are concerned for me," said I, "I am neither of his
people nor yours, but an honest subject of King George, owing no
man and fearing no man."
"Why, very well said," replies the Factor. "But if I may
bold as ask, what does this honest man so far from his country?
and why does he come seeking the brother of Ardshiel? I have
power here, I must tell you. I am King's Factor upon several of
these estates, and have twelve files of soldiers at my back."
"I have heard a waif word in the country," said I, a little
nettled, "that you were a hard man to drive."
He still kept looking at me, as if in doubt.
"Well," said he, at last, "your tongue is bold; but I am
unfriend to plainness. If ye had asked me the way to the door of
James Stewart on any other day but this, I would have set ye
right and bidden ye God speed. But to-day -- eh, Mungo?" And he
turned again to look at the lawyer.
But just as he turned there came the shot of a firelock from
higher up the hill; and with the very sound of it Glenure fell
upon the road.
"O, I am dead!" he cried, several times over.
The lawyer had caught him up and held him in his arms, the
servant standing over and clasping his hands. And now the
wounded man looked from one to another with scared eyes, and
there was a change in his voice, that went to the heart.
"Take care of yourselves," says he. "I am dead."
He tried to open his clothes as if to look for the wound, but his
fingers slipped on the buttons. With that he gave a great sigh,
his head rolled on his shoulder, and he passed away.
The lawyer said never a word, but his face was as sharp as a pen
and as white as the dead man's; the servant broke out into a
great noise of crying and weeping, like a child; and I, on my
side, stood staring at them in a kind of horror. The sheriff's
officer had run back at the first sound of the shot, to hasten
the coming of the soldiers.
At last the lawyer laid down the dead man in his blood upon the
road, and got to his own feet with a kind of stagger.
I believe it was his movement that brought me to my senses; for
he had no sooner done so than I began to scramble up the hill,
crying out, "The murderer! the murderer!"
So little a time had elapsed, that when I got to the top of the
first steepness, and could see some part of the open mountain,
the murderer was still moving away at no great distance. He was
a big man, in a black coat, with metal buttons, and carried a
"Here!" I cried. "I see him!"
At that the murderer gave a little, quick look over his shoulder,
and began to run. The next moment he was lost in a fringe of
birches; then he came out again on the upper side, where I could
see him climbing like a jackanapes, for that part was again very
steep; and then he dipped behind a shoulder, and I saw him no
All this time I had been running on my side, and had got a good
way up, when a voice cried upon me to stand.
I was at the edge of the upper wood, and so now, when I halted
and looked back, I saw all the open part of the hill below me.
The lawyer and the sheriff's officer were standing just above the
road, crying and waving on me to come back; and on their left,
the red-coats, musket in hand, were beginning to struggle singly
out of the lower wood.
"Why should I come back?" I cried. "Come you on!"
"Ten pounds if ye take that lad!" cried the lawyer. "He's
accomplice. He was posted here to hold us in talk."
At that word (which I could hear quite plainly, though it was to
the soldiers and not to me that he was crying it) my heart came
in my mouth with quite a new kind of terror. Indeed, it is one
thing to stand the danger of your life, and quite another to run
the peril of both life and character. The thing, besides, had
come so suddenly, like thunder out of a clear sky, that I was all
amazed and helpless.
The soldiers began to spread, some of them to run, and others to
put up their pieces and cover me; and still I stood.
"Jock in here among the trees," said a voice close by.
Indeed, I scarce knew what I was doing, but I obeyed; and as I
did so, I heard the firelocks bang and the balls whistle in the
Just inside the shelter of the trees I found Alan Breck standing,
with a fishing-rod. He gave me no salutation; indeed it was no
time for civilities; only "Come!" says he, and set off running
along the side of the mountain towards Balaehulish; and I, like a
sheep, to follow him.
Now we ran among the birches; now stooping behind low humps upon
the mountain-side; now crawling on all fours among the heather.
The pace was deadly: my heart seemed bursting against my ribs;
and I had neither time to think nor breath to speak with. Only I
remember seeing with wonder, that Alan every now and then would
straighten himself to his full height and look back; and every
time he did so, there came a great far-away cheering and crying
of the soldiers.
Quarter of an hour later, Alan stopped, clapped down flat in the
heather, and turned to me.
"Now," said he, "it's earnest. Do as I do, for your life."
And at the same speed, but now with infinitely more precaution,
we traced back again across the mountain-side by the same way
that we had come, only perhaps higher; till at last Alan threw
himself down in the upper wood of Lettermore, where I had found
him at the first, and lay, with his face in the bracken, panting
like a dog.
My own sides so ached, my head so swam, my tongue so hung out of
my mouth with heat and dryness, that I lay beside him like one
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