The horse was picketed in the
bottom of the ditch to graze, and I was led within, and forth into
the court, and thence into the tumble-down stone hall. Here my
conductors built a brisk fire in the midst of the pavement, for
there was a chill in the night. My hands were loosed, I was set by
the wall in the inner end, and (the Lowlander having produced
provisions) I was given oatmeal bread and a pitcher of French
brandy. This done, I was left once more alone with my three
Highlandmen. They sat close by the fire drinking and talking; the
wind blew in by the breaches, cast about the smoke and flames, and
sang in the tops of the towers; I could hear the sea under the
cliffs, and, my mind being reassured as to my life, and my body and
spirits wearied with the day's employment, I turned upon one side
I had no means of guessing at what hour I was wakened, only the
moon was down and the fire was low. My feet were now loosed, and I
was carried through the ruins and down the cliff-side by a
precipitous path to where I found a fisher's boat in a haven of the
rocks. This I was had on board of, and we began to put forth from
the shore in a fine starlight
CHAPTER XIV--THE BASS
I had no thought where they were taking me; only looked here and
there for the appearance of a ship; and there ran the while in my
head a word of Ransome's--the TWENTY-POUNDERS. If I were to be
exposed a second time to that same former danger of the
plantations, I judged it must turn ill with me; there was no second
Alan; and no second shipwreck and spare yard to be expected now;
and I saw myself hoe tobacco under the whip's lash. The thought
chilled me; the air was sharp upon the water, the stretchers of the
boat drenched with a cold dew: and I shivered in my place beside
the steersman. This was the dark man whom I have called hitherto
the Lowlander; his name was Dale, ordinarily called Black Andie.
Feeling the thrill of my shiver, he very kindly handed me a rough
jacket full of fish-scales, with which I was glad to cover myself.
"I thank you for this kindness," said I, "and will make so free as
to repay it with a warning. You take a high responsibility in this
affair. You are not like these ignorant, barbarous Highlanders,
but know what the law is and the risks of those that break it."
"I am no just exactly what ye would ca' an extremist for the law,"
says he, "at the best of times; but in this business I act with a
"What are you going to do with me?" I asked.
"Nae harm," said he, "nae harm ava'. Ye'll have strong freens, I'm
thinking. Ye'll be richt eneuch yet."
There began to fall a greyness on the face of the sea; little dabs
of pink and red, like coals of slow fire, came in the east; and at
the same time the geese awakened, and began crying about the top of
the Bass. It is just the one crag of rock, as everybody knows, but
great enough to carve a city from. The sea was extremely little,
but there went a hollow plowter round the base of it. With the
growing of the dawn I could see it clearer and clearer; the
straight crags painted with sea-birds' droppings like a morning
frost, the sloping top of it green with grass, the clan of white
geese that cried about the sides, and the black, broken buildings
of the prison sitting close on the sea's edge.
At the sight the truth came in upon me in a clap.
"It's there you're taking me!" I cried.
"Just to the Bass, mannie," said he: "Whaur the auld saints were
afore ye, and I misdoubt if ye have come so fairly by your
"But none dwells there now," I cried; "the place is long a ruin."
"It'll be the mair pleisand a change for the solan geese, then,"
quoth Andie dryly.
The day coming slowly brighter I observed on the bilge, among the
big stones with which fisherfolk ballast their boats, several kegs
and baskets, and a provision of fuel.