Then he gave me from the rack a cutlass (of which there were a few besides the firearms), 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 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 dinnae 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 wouldnae 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.