Chapter 5 The Roundhouse
The roundhouse wasn't round. It was square. (It was the 'roundhouse' because you could walk round it.) It had a table and two small beds. There was a room under the roundhouse. Here were the best food and drink, and the small guns. There were one or two seamen's swords, but most of the swords were outside.
When I arrived, Mr Shuan sat at the table with a bottle in front of him. Captain Hoseason came in. He stood and looked at Shuan. He said nothing. After a time, Mr Riach came in.
' The boy's dead,' he told the captain.
Mr Shuan said nothing. He put out his hand to the bottle. Mr Riach quickly took the bottle away. Shuan jumped up. He wanted to kill Riach, but the captain stopped him.
' Shuan!' Hoseason shouted.' You murdered the boy!'
Shuan put his head in his hands.' He brought me a dirty cup,' he said.
Hoseason took him to his bed.' Go to sleep,' he said quietly.
The murderer cried a little, then he fell asleep.
I had to bring the food to the captain and the first and second officers. And I had to take them a drink when they wanted one. My bed was on the floor of the roundhouse.
For ten more days the Covenant fought her way north and then west in strong winds. Then the captain turned south and looked for a way round the south of Ireland. The wind got weaker after a time. Then there was heavy rain, and we could not see anything.
It was about ten o'clock at night when the ship hit something. The captain and Mr Riach were in the roundhouse. The two men jumped up.
' We hit a boat!' said Hoseason.
The captain was right. And the other boat broke and went down to the bottom of the sea. Only one man on it did not die. The other men went down with the boat.
We got the man on to our ship. Then Hoseason brought him into the roundhouse. He was a small man, but strong. His face was dark from the sun, and he smiled a lot. When he took off his coat, he put two very fine guns on the table. And he had a long sword.
The captain looked at the man's clothes. They were very fine clothes for the roundhouse of the Covenant.
'A beautiful French coat,' said Hoseason.
'Oh!' said the man. 'You mean-' And he put his hands quickly on his guns.
' Wait!' said the captain.
' Oh,' said the man.' Are you one of us ?'
' Am I fighting the king's soldiers ?' said Hoseason.' No. But you have problems because you are. That isn't right, and I'm sorry about that.'
' Are you really ?' asked the man.' I don't want to get into the hands of the soldiers with red coats. Now, sir, I am trying to get to France. There was a French ship near here, but we didn't see it in the dark and the rain. I have some money. It is my chieftain's, but I can use some of it. Will you take me to France, captain?'
' I can't do that,' said Hoseason.' But perhaps I can put you on land near here. I want to see the money first, of course.'
He sent me away — I had to get food for the man. I was very quick. When I came back, the stranger paid sixty pounds out of a heavy money bag. Hoseason said, ' I'll take you to the Linnhe Loch* for your sixty pounds.' Then he left the roundhouse.
I knew about the people of the Highlands'''. They paid the king or the chieftain for the use of their land. But many of the Highlanders' chieftains lived in France. Good men, I knew, took the money from the clans to the chieftains. And here was one of them.
I put the food in front of him.
'Bring me a bottle,' he said. 'I want a drink for my sixty pounds.'
I went out for the captain's key. I saw him with the two officers. Mr Riach said, 'Can't we move him out of the roundhouse ?'
' He's better there,' answered Hoseason.' He can't use his sword in there.'
I wanted to turn away from these murderers. But I said, ' Captain, the man wants a drink. Can I have the key ?'
They all turned round.
' He can get the guns!' said Riach. And then to me:' Can you find the guns, David ?'
* Loch: a name, in Scotland, for water with land round it.
' Yes, David can bring them to us,' said Hoseason.' He's a good boy. David, that Highlander is dangerous, and no friend of King George.You'll help us —Yes? We'll give you some of the man's money'
They told me their plan. Then they sent me with the keys to the drinks and gun room.
The man looked up from his food when I went into the roundhouse. I put my hand on his arm and said,' Do you want them to kill you ?'
Highlands: the mountains of Scotland. The people there are Highlanders.
He stood up quickly.' What do you mean ?' he asked.
' They're all murderers on this ship,' I said.' They murdered a boy. Now it's you.'
' Will you help me ?' he asked.
'Yes,' I said.' I'm not a murderer.'
' Good,' he said.' What's your name ?'
' David Balfour,' I said.' David Balfour of Shaws.'
' My name is Stewart — a king's name,' he said.' But they call me Alan Breck.'
We looked at the roundhouse. I shut one of the strong doors. Before I shut the other door, he said, 'No, David. When the door is open, most of the men will be in front of me. And I want them to be in front of me when we fight.'Then he asked me about the guns.' How many are there ?'
' Fifteen,' I said.
' Oh!' said Alan. He was quiet for a minute. Then he said,' I'll be at this door. You watch the other door. When the guns are ready, stand on that bed near the window. Be ready for them.'
I was afraid. But I did it.