4 Escape through the heather

4 Escape through the heather

4 Escape through the heather


  We had no time for conversation.‘Come!’ Alan said,and started running along the side of the hill, keeping low to the ground. I followed him like a sheep. We ran and ran, faster than I had ever run before, and my heart was beat ing wildly. Sometimes, to my surprise, Alan straightened his back and showed himself to the soldiers who were chasing us.

  After fifteen minutes, Alan stopped, lay flat in the heather,and turned to me.‘Now,’ he said,‘this is serious. Do what I do,if ye don't want to die’.And just as fast,but much more carefully and secretly, we went back almost the same way that we had come. At last we arrived back in the wood where I had found Alan.

  We fell down in the heather, and lay without moving for a long time.My legs hurt,my head was aching,and I thought I was dead.

  Alan was the first to speak.‘Well,’ he said,‘that was hot work, David.’

  I said nothing. I had seen murder done. I knew that Colin Campbell had been Alan's greatest enemy, and I had found Alan hiding in the wood. Although I didn't think that he had actually shot Campbell,I felt sure that he had planned the killing.I coult not look at him.

  ‘Are ye still tired?’ he asked.

  ‘No,’ I replied, my face turned away from him,‘no, I'm not tired now.Alan,I can't stay with you,I must leave you.I liked you very much, but we're two different people,that's all.’

  ‘Ye must explain what ye mean by that, David,’ said Alan, looking very serious.

  ‘ Alan, why do you ask? You know very well that Colin Campbell is lying dead in the road in his own blood.’

  Alan was silent for a moment,‘Well, Mr Balfour of Shaws,’he said at last,‘I promise ye that I did not plan the murder, or know anything about it.’

  ‘Thank God for that!’ I cried, and offered him my hand.

  He did not appear to see it.I don't know why ye're so worried about a dead Campbell,’ he said. ‘I know that you hate their clan, Alan, but taking a life in cold blood is a terrible thing to do.Do you know who did it?’

  ‘I wouldn't recognize him again,’ said Alan, shaking his head sadly,‘I'm good at forgetting,David.”

  I had to laugh at that.Then I remembered something.‘But when we were running away, you showed yourself to the sol diers, to give the murderer a chance to escape!’

  ‘Any Highlander would do that. The best place for the lad who shot Colin Campbell is the heather,and we must all do what we can to help him keep away from the soldiers.’

  I shook my head at this. These Highlanders were strange,wild people, to be sure. But Alan was ready to die for what he thought was right, and I liked him for that. I offered him my hand again, and this time he took it.

  ‘Now, David,’ he said,‘we must escape too. The Campbells will accuse us both of the murder.’

  ‘But we didn't do it!’ I cried.‘We can prove that in court!’

  ‘Man, I'm surprised at ye,’ said Alan.‘Do ye not know that if a Campbell is killed, the accused has to go to court in Inveraray, in the heart of Campbell country? When the Campbell lawyers have finished with ye,ye'll be dead!’

  This frightened me a little.‘ All right, Alan,’ I said,‘ I'll go with you.’

  ‘But remember,’ said Alan,‘it'll be a hard life. Ye'll have to sleep in the open air, and ye'll often have an empty stomach. Ye can choose-either live in the heather with me,or die at the hands of the Campbells.’

  ‘That's easy to decide,’ I said, and we shook hands on it.

  When we looked between the trees, we could just see the redcoats of the soldiers, still moving away from us across the hills. Alan smiled, and told me that we would go first to the house of his clansman, James Stewart, and then to the Low lands. The Campbells and the English soldiers would not think of looking for us there, and Alan could find a place on a ship sailing to France.

  We walked for several hours, and arrived that night at a large house in a valley.

  There were lights in all the windows,and people were running in and out of the open doors. Alan whistled three times, and we were met at the door by a tall,good-looking man of about fifty, who welcomed us in Gaelic.

  ‘James Stewart, ’ said Alan,‘I'll ask ye to speak in English, because my friend here comes from the Lowlands,and cannot speak Gaelic.’

  James spoke politely to me for a few moments, but soon he turned back to Alan,with a very worried look on his face ‘This is a terrible accident,’ he said.‘It will bring trouble to all of us!’

  ‘Well,man,’ said Alan,‘ye should be grateful that Colin Campbell is dead!’

  ‘Aye,’ replied James,‘but he was killed in Appin, remem ber that, Alan, so it's the Appin Stewarts who'll be accused.And I'm a man with a family!’

  I looked around me. Men with white, frightened faces were hurrying here and there, without any clear idea of what they ought to do first.

  Some were hiding guns and swords, while others were burning papers. When James saw me looking sur prised, he explained,‘The soldiers'll search my house first,ye see, and I don't want them to find anything.’

  We went inside, and met James's wife and children, who were crying in a corner. I felt very sorry for them, but we did not have much time to talk. Alan explained what we needed for our escape, and soon James's men brought us two swords,two pistols, some food, a cooking pot and a bottle of whisky.We needed money too, because Alan had given his gold to an other man to take to France. But James had only a little to give us.

  ‘Ye must find a safe place somewhere near,’ he said, ‘and send me a message. I'll find some more money for ye, and send it to ye.

  But, Alan,’ and here he stopped for a moment,biting his finger worriedly,‘I'll have to accuse ye of killing that Campbell. I'll have to!If I don't, they'll accuse me! I have to think of myself and my family!Do ye see that?’

  ‘Aye,’ said Alan slowly.‘I see that.’

  ‘And I'll have to accuse your friend from the Lowlands too.Ye see that, Alan— say that ye see that!’

  Alan's face went red.‘It's hard on me, James! I brought him here, and now my friends accuse him of murder!’

  ‘But just think,Alan,man!’cried James.‘The Campbells will be sure to accuse him. And I have children!’

  ‘Well,sir,’ said Alan, turning to me,‘what do ye say? If ye do not agree,I won't let James do it.’

  ‘I cannot understand why we don't accuse the man who did kill Campbell,’ I replied sharply,‘but accuse me, Mr Stewart,if you like,accuse Alan,accuse King George!I am Alan's friend, and if I can help his friends in any way, I don't mind the danger.’

  So that night we started our long journey to the Lowlands.Sometimes we walked, and sometimes we ran. But although we travelled as fast as we could,daylight began to appear before we had found a good hiding-place. We were in the rocky valley of Glencoe, with high mountains on both sides,and a river running fast through the middle. Alan was clearly worried.‘The soldiers will find us easily here,’ he said. He looked around,and saw a great rock,about seven metres high. With difficulty we both climbed to the top of it. Then I saw why he had chosen it. The top of the rock was shaped like a plate, and there was room for two or three men to lie there,hidden from people in the valley.

  At last Alan smiled.‘Aye,’ he said.‘Now we have a chance. Ye can sleep for a while. I'll watch for soldiers.’

  But when I woke up, several hours later, the valley was full of redcoats, and Alan was looking worried again, ‘If they go up the sides of the mountains,they'll see us,’he said.‘We'll just have to stay here and hope they don't, When it's dark,we'll try to get past them.’

  That was a terrible day. We lay on the rock, baking in the sun, with no water,only whisky, to drink. We could hear the English voices of the soldiers all around us, but luckily they did not look up at our rock. In the afternoon, when the soldiers seemed sleepy after their lunch, we decided to try to escape, and we climbed very quietly down from the rock. The soldiers did not notice us as we moved carefully from rock to rock, and soon we were safely in the next valley. That evening we washed ourselves in the river, and ate cold porridge, which is a good meal for a hungry man.

  We continued walking eastwards all night, over the great dark mountains. Alan was very pleased that we had left the soldiers behind, and whistled happily as he walked.

  Before daylight we reached a cave that Alan had used before, and here we stayed hidden for five days. Alan went down one night to the nearest village, to the housc of one of his clansmen. He sent this man to James Stewart, to tell him where we were hiding, and after three days the clansman re turned, with a purse of money for us and a message from Mrs Stewart. We discovered that James was already in prison, ac cused of murder, although people were saying that Alan Breck had actually fired the shot. And there was a price of one hun dred pounds on my head, as well as on Alan's.

  I began to think that I would be safer alone. Alan was very recognizable in his fine French clothes. It was going to be dan gerous to stay with Alan, and expensive, too. Mrs Stewart had only managed to send five pounds, and Alan had to travel as far as France. But I still had two pounds, and only needed to reach Queensferry, so I would have to give some of my money to Alan. Staying with Alan meant both danger and ex pense.

  But my honest friend did not think in this way at all. He felt sure that he was helping me. So what could I do, except keep quiet, and hope that everything would be all right?

  We started travelling again, across the mountains, and by daylight came to wild, open moors, covered with purple heather.Because anyone on the hills around us could easily see us when we stood up, we had to walk or run on our hands and feet, like animals It was another hot summer day, and my back achcd badly after a few hours. I wanted a rest and a drink of water, but when we stopped, we saw the redcoats of soldiers on one of the hills, and we had to go on.

  We walked or ran all day and all night. People who talk of tiredness do not know what the word really means, I did not know who I was or where I was going, and I did not care. I thought that every step would be my last, and I hoped that death would come soon.Alan drove me onwards, and I felt that I hated him, but I was too afraid of him to stop and rest.

  When daylight returned, we were stupid with tiredness,and had become careless. Suddenly, three or four wild-looking men jumped out of the heather, and took us prisoner.I was not afraid, only happy to stop running for a moment. But Alan spoke to them in Gaelic.

  ‘These are Cluny Macpherson's men,’ he said quietly to me.‘Ye remember him, the head of the Macpherson clan?They fought well against the English in the Forty-Five.After that, he didn't go to France, like the other clan chiefs.No,he's been hiding here ever since, and the soldiers have never managed to find him. His clansmen bring him what he needs.’

  We were taken to a cave, well hidden by trees and rocks,and Cluny Macpherson himself came forward to welcome us,like a king in his palace. He seemed to live well in his cave,and he offered us an excellent meal, prepared by his cook. But I was too tired to eat, so I lay down at once and slept. In fact,although I did not know it, I was seriously ill, and could not get up for two days.

  I woke up once,in a kind of fog, to find Cluny and Alan playing cards, and a second time, to hear Alan asking to borrow my money. I was too sick and sleepy to refuse, and gave him my purse.

  But when I woke up again, on the third day,I felt much better, although not very strong. I noticed that Alan was looking very ashamed, and I realized at once what had hap pened.

  ‘David,’ he said miserably,‘I've lost all our money at cards, yours as well as mine.’

  ‘No,no,ye haven't lost it!cried Cluny.‘Of course I'll give your money back. It was just a game. I wouldn't keep your money. Here!’ And he pulled gold coins out of his pocket.

  I did not know if it was right to accept the money or not,but we needed it, so I thanked Cluny and put the coins in my purse. But I was very angry with Alan, and as we left Cluny's cave and continued our journey, I refused to speak to him.

  At first Alan tried hard to talk to me. He said that he was sorry, and that he loved me like a brother. He was worried about my health, and offered me a hand when we crossed a river or climbed a hill.But after two or three days,when he realized that I was still angry with him, he too became angry,and laughed at me when I fell, or seemed tired.

  We travelled by night, through endless rain and strong winds, and slept in the wet heather by day. I was feeling more and more miserable.My illness had returned, and I was beginning to think that this terrible journey would only end in my death.‘Alan will be sorry when I die!’ I thought. How childish I was!

  Alan continued to laugh at me and call me names, and by the sixth night I had had enough.I stopped and spoke angrily to him .‘Mr Stewart,’ I said, ‘why do you laugh at me?I should laugh at you! You may have a king's name, but you're a loser! You spend your life running away! You're not brave enough to fight the Campbells and the English, and win!’

  Alan looked sharply at me.‘David!’ he said.‘There are things that ye should never say—things that can never be for gotten!’

  ‘If you don't like what I say, I'm ready to fight,’ I answered stupidly. I knew that I was not strong enough to hold a sword.

  ‘David!’ he cried.‘Are ye crazy? I cannot fight ye! It would be murder!’ He pulled out his sword, and looked at me.‘No, I can't, I can't,’ he said. And he dropped his sword on the ground.

  When I saw how much he loved me, I was no longer angry,only sick, and sorry.I remembered all his kindness to me,and how he had always helped me through difficult times.Now I had lost that friend for ever! My illness seemed to get worse and worse, and I could only just stand. I wanted to say that I was sorry, but I knew it was too late for that. Suddenly I realized that a cry for help was the only way of bringing Alan back to me.

  ‘Alan!’ I said, my voice shaking.‘If you cannot help me,I must just die here!’I did not need to pretend.

  He looked up quickly, surprised.‘Can ye walk?’

  ‘Not without help.Alan,if I die,will you forget what I said?In my heart,I've always been your friend,you know that.’

  ‘ Quiet!’ cried Alan.‘ Don't talk of dying! David, man, ye know… ’He could not go on, but put his arm around me.‘Davie, I'm a bad friend to ye.

  I didn't remember that ye're just a bairn, I couldn't see that ye were dying on your feet…’He was almost crying.‘Hold on to me, Davie, and ye'll be grand.’

  He helped me down into the valley to the nearest house,which luckily belonged to a clan who were friendly to the Stewarts. There I lay for several days, unable to move. Alan refused to leave me, and took the greatest care of me. Little by little I got better, with his help, and before a month had passed, we went on our way again.

  This time we did not argue. We did not see any more soldiers, and our journey was easier now. We walked through the warm summer nights, ate our porridge, drank our whisky, and slept in the dry heather in the daytime.Now that we were in the Lowlands, we were almost safe, and we both felt happy and hopeful.When we crossed the Forth River by boat from Limekilns, we were only five kilometres from Queensferry, where Mr Rankeillor lived.


4 在石南丛中逃生