R.M. Ballantyne.

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ever so much. He was looking quietly at the face of a great Dutch
clock when the shot entered and knocked the clock inside out, sending
its contents in a shower over the old gentleman, who jumped up and
rushed out of the house like a maniac! He was cured completely from
that hour. At least, so it's said, but I don't vouch for the truth of
the story.

"However, certain it is that the shot was fired, and was followed up
by two or three more; after which the Frenchman ceased firing, and a
boat was seen to quit the side of the craft, bearing a flag of truce.

"The consternation into which the town was thrown is said to have
been tremendous."

"That's false," interrupted the captain, removing his pipe while he
spoke. "The word ain't appropriate. The men of Arbroath doesn't know
nothin' about no such word as 'consternation '. They was _surprised_,
if ye choose, an' powerfully enraged mayhap, but they wasn't
consternated by no means,"

"Well, I don't insist on the point," said the lieutenant, "but
chroniclers write so - - "

"Chroniclers write lies sometimes," interrupted the captain curtly.

"Perhaps they do; but you will admit, I dare say, that the women and
children were thrown into a great state of alarm."

"I'm not so sure of that," interposed Ruby. "In a town where the men
were so bold, the women and children would be apt to feel very much
at their ease. At all events, I am acquainted with some women who are
not easily frightened."

"Really, I think it is not fair to interrupt the story in this way,"
said Minnie, with a laugh.

"Right, lass, right," said the captain. "Come, leftenant, spin away
at yer yarn, and don't ventur' too much commentary thereon, 'cause
it's apt to lead to error, an' ye know, as the poet says -

'Errors in the heart breed errors in the brain,
An' these are apt to twist ye wrong again.'

I'm not 'xactly sure o' the precise words in this case, but that's
the sentiment, and everybody knows that sentiment is everything in
poetry, whether ye understand it or not. Fire away, leftenant, an'
don't be long-winded if ye can help it."

"Well, to return to the point," resumed Lindsay. "The town was
certainly thrown into a tremendous state of _some_ sort, for the
people had no arms of any kind wherewith to defend themselves. There
were no regular soldiers, no militia, and no volunteers. Everybody
ran wildly about in every direction, not knowing what to do. There
was no leader, and, in short, the town was very like a shoal of
small fish in a pool when a boy wades in and makes a dash amongst

"At last a little order was restored by the Provost, who was a
sensible old man, and an old soldier to boot, but too infirm to take
as active a part in such an emergency as he would have done had he
been a dozen years younger. He, with several of the principal men of
the town, went down to the beach to receive the bearers of the flag
of truce.

"The boat was manned by a crew of five or six seamen, armed with
cutlasses, and arquebusses. As soon as its keel grated on the sand a
smart little officer leaped ashore, and presented to the Provost a
letter from Captain Fall, which ran somewhat in this fashion: -

"'AT SEA, _May twenty-third_.

"'GENTLEMEN, - I send these two words to inform you, that I will have
you to bring-to the French colour in less than a quarter of an hour,
or I set the town on fire directly. Such is the order of my master,
the King of France, I am sent by. Send directly the Mair and chiefs
of the town to make some agreement with me, or I'll make my duty.
It is the will of yours, G. FALL.

"'To MONSIEUR MAIB of the town
called Arbrought, or in his absence
to the chief man after him in Scotland.'

"On reading this the Provost bowed respectfully to the officer, and
begged of him to wait a few minutes while he should consult with his
chief men. This was agreed to, and the Provost said to his friends,
as he walked to a neighbouring house -

"'Ye see, freens, this whipper-snapper o' a tade-eater has gotten the
whup hand o' us; but we'll be upsides wi' him. The main thing is to
get delay, so cut away, Tam Cargill, and tak' horse to Montrose for
the sodgers. Spare na the spur, lad, an' gar them to understan' that
the case is urgent."

"While Tam Cargill started away on his mission, the Provost, whose
chief aim was to gain time and cause delay, penned an epistle to the
Frenchman, in which he stated that he had neglected to name the terms
on which he would consent to spare the town, and that he would
consider it extremely obliging if he would, as speedily as possible,
return an answer, stating them, in order that they might be laid
before the chief men of the place.

"When the Provost, who was a grave, dignified old man, with a strong
dash of humour in him, handed this note to the French officer, he did
so with a humble obeisance that appeared to afford much gratification
to the little man. As the latter jumped into the boat and ordered the
men to push off, the Provost turned slowly to his brother magistrates
with a wink and a quiet smile that convulsed them with suppressed
laughter, and did more to encourage any of the wavering or timid
inhabitants than if he had harangued them heroically for an hour.

"Some time after the boat returned with a reply, which ran thus: -

"'AT SEA, _eight o'clock in the Afternoon_,

"'GENTLEMEN, - I received just now your answer, by which you say I ask
no terms. I thought it was useless, since I asked you to come aboard
for agreement. But here are my terms: - I will have £30,000 sterling
at least, and six of the chiefs men of the town for otage. Be speedy,
or I shot your town away directly, and I set fire to it. I am,
gentlemen, your servant, G. FALL.

"'I sent some of my crew to you, but if some harm happens to them,
you'll be sure we'll hang up the mainyard all the prisoners we have

"'To Monsieurs the chiefs men
of Arbrought in Scotland.'

"I'm not quite certain," continued the lieutenant, "what were the
exact words of the Provost's reply to this letter, but they conveyed
a distinct and contemptuous refusal to accede to any terms, and, I
believe, invited Fall to come ashore, where, if he did not get
precisely what he had asked, he would be certain to receive a great
deal more than he wanted.

"The enraged and disappointed Frenchman at once began a, heavy fire
upon the town, and continued it for a long time, but fortunately it
did little or no harm, as the town lay in a somewhat low position,
and Fall's guns being too much elevated, the shot passed over it.

"Next day another letter was sent to the Provost by some fishermen,
who were captured while fishing off the Bell Rock. This letter was as
tremendous as the two former. I can give it to you, word for word,
from memory.

"'AT SEA, _May 24th_.

"'GENTLEMEN, - See whether you will come to some terms with me, or I
come in presently with my cutter into the arbour, and I will cast
down the town all over. Make haste, because I have no time to spare.
I give you a quarter of an hour to your decision, and after I'll make
my duty. I think it would he better for you, gentlemen, to come some
of you aboard presently, to settle the affairs of your town. You'll
sure no to be hurt. I give you my parole of honour. I am your,
'G. FALL.'

"When the Provost received this he looked round and said, 'Now,
gentlemen all, we'll hae to fight. Send me Ogilvy.'

"'Here I am, Provost,' cried a stout, active young fellow; something
like what the captain must have been when he was young, I should

"Ahem!" coughed the captain.

"Well," continued Lindsay, "the Provost said, 'Now, Ogilvy, you're a
smart cheel, an' ken aboot war and strategy and the like: I charge ye
to organize the men o' the toon without delay, and tak' what steps ye
think adveesable. Meanwhile, I'll away and ripe oot a' the airms and
guns I can find. Haste ye, lad, an' mak' as muckle noise aboot it as
ye can.'

'"Trust me,' said Ogilvy, who appeared to have been one of those men
who regard a fight as a piece of good fun.

"Turning to the multitude, who had heard the commission given, and
were ready for anything, he shouted, 'Now, boys, ye heard the
Provost. I need not ask if you are all ready to fight - - '

"A deafening cheer interrupted the speaker, who, when it ceased,
proceeded -

"'Well, then, I've but one piece of advice to give ye: _Obey orders
at once_. When I tell ye to halt, stop dead like lampposts; when I
say, "Charge!" go at them like wild cats, and drive the Frenchmen
into the sea!' 'Hurrah!' yelled the crowd, for they were wild with
excitement and rage, and only wanted a leader to organize them and
make them formidable. When the cheer ceased, Ogilvy cried, 'Now,
then, every man who knows how to beat a kettledrum and blow a trumpet
come here.'

"About twenty men answered to the summons, and to these Ogilvy said
aloud, in order that all might hear, 'Go, get you all the trumpets,
drums, horns, bugles, and trombones in the town; beat the drums till
they split, and blow the bugles till they burst, and don't give in
till ye can't go on. The rest of you,' he added, turning to the
crowd, 'go, get arms, guns, swords, pistols, scythes, pitchforks,
pokers - anything, everything - and meet me at the head of
Market-gate - away!'

"No king of necromancers ever dispersed his legions more rapidly than
did Ogilvy on that occasion. They gave one final cheer, and scattered
like chaff before the wind, leaving their commander alone, with a
select few, whom he kept by him as a sort of staff to consult with
and despatch with orders.

"The noise that instantly ensued in the town was something
pandemoniacal. Only three drums were found, but tin kettles and pans
were not wanting, and these, superintended by Hugh Barr, the town
drummer, did great execution. Three key-bugles, an old French horn,
and a tin trumpet of a mail-coach guard, were sounded at intervals in
every quarter of the town, while the men were marshalled, and made to
march hither and thither in detached bodies, as if all were busily
engaged in making preparations for a formidable defence.

"In one somewhat elevated position a number of men were set to work
with spades, picks, and shovels, to throw up an earthwork. When it
had assumed sufficiently large dimensions to attract the attention of
the French, a body of men, with blue jackets, and caps with bits of
red flannel hanging down the sides, were marched up behind it at the
double, and posted there.

"Meanwhile Ogilvy had prepared a dummy field piece, by dismounting a
cart from its wheels and fixing on the axle a great old wooden pump,
not unlike a big gun in shape; another cart was attached to this to
represent a limber; four horses were harnessed to the affair; two men
mounted these, and, amid a tremendous flourish of trumpets and
beating of drums, the artillery went crashing along the streets and
up the eminence crowned by the earthwork, where they wheeled the gun
into position.

"The artillerymen sprang at the old pump like true Britons, and began
to sponge it out as if they had been bred to gunnery from childhood,
while the limber was detached and galloped to the rear. In this
operation the cart was smashed to pieces, and the two hindmost horses
were thrown; but this mattered little, as they had got round a
corner, and the French did not see it.

"Fall and his brave men seem to have been upset altogether by these
warlike demonstrations, for the moment the big gun made its
appearance the sails were shaken loose, and the French privateer
sheered off, capturing as he left the bay, however, several small
vessels, which he carried off as prizes to France. And so,"
concluded the lieutenant, "Captain Fall sailed away, and never was
heard of more."

"Well told; well told, leftenant," cried the captain, whose eyes
sparkled at the concluding account of the defensive operations, "and
true every word of it."

"That's good testimony to my truthfulness, then," said Lindsay,
laughing, "for you were there yourself!"

"There yourself, uncle?" repeated Minnie, with a glance of surprise
that quickly changed into a look of intelligence, as she exclaimed,
with a merry laugh, "Ah! I see. It was you, uncle, who did it all;
who commanded on that occasion - - "

"My child," said the captain, resuming his pipe with an expression of
mild reproof on his countenance, "don't go for to pry too deep into
things o' the past. I _may_ have been a fire-eater once - I _may_ have
been a gay young feller as could - - ; but no matter. Avast musin'! As
Lord Bacon says -

'The light of other days is faded,
An' all their glory 'a past;
My boots no longer look as they did,
But, like my coat, are goin' fast.'

But I say, leftenant, how long do you mean to keep pullin' about
here, without an enemy, or, as far as I can see, an object in view?
Don't you think we might land, and let Minnie see some of the caves?"

"With all my heart, captain, and here is a convenient bay to run the
boat ashore."

As he spoke the boat shot past one of those bold promontories of red
sandstone which project along that coast in wild picturesque forms,
terminating in some instances in detached headlands, elsewhere in
natural arches. The cliffs were so close to the boat that they could
have been touched by the oars, while the rocks, rising to a
considerable height, almost overhung them. Just beyond this a
beautiful bay opened up to view, with a narrow strip of yellow
shingle round the base of the cliffs, which here lost for a short
distance their rugged character, though not their height, and were
covered with herbage. A zigzag path led to the top, and the whole
neighbourhood was full of ocean-worn coves and gullies, some of them
dry, and many filled with water, while others were filled at high
tide, and left empty when the tides fell.

"O how beautiful! and what a place for smugglers!" was Minnie's
enthusiastic exclamation on first catching sight of the bay.

"The smugglers and you would appear to be of one mind," said Ruby,
"for they are particularly fond of this place."

"So fond of it," said the lieutenant, "that I mean to wait for them
here in anticipation of a moonlight visit this night, if my fair
passenger will consent to wander in such wild places at such late
hours, guarded from the night air by my boat-cloak, and assured of
the protection of my stout boatmen in case of any danger, although
there is little prospect of our meeting with any greater danger than
a breeze or a shower of rain."

Minnie said that she would like nothing better; that she did not mind
the night air; and, as to danger from men, she felt that she should
be well cared for in present circumstances.

As she uttered the last words she naturally glanced at Ruby, for
Minnie was of a dependent and trusting nature; but as Ruby happened
to be regarding her intently, though quite accidentally, at the
moment, she dropped her eyes and blushed.

It is wonderful the power of a little glance at times. The glance
referred to made Ruby perfectly happy. It conveyed to him the
assurance that Minnie regarded the protection of the entire boat's
crew, including the lieutenant, as quite unnecessary, and that she
deemed his single arm all that she required or wanted.

The sun was just dipping behind the tall cliffs, and his parting rays
were kissing the top of Minnie's head as if they positively could not
help it, and had recklessly made up their mind to do it, come what

Ruby looked at the golden light kissing the golden hair, and he
felt - -

Oh! you know, reader; if you have ever been in similar circumstances,
you _understand_ what he felt; if you have not, no words from me, or
from any other man, can ever convey to you the most distant idea of
_what_ Ruby felt on that occasion!

On reaching the shore they all went up to the green banks at the foot
of the cliffs, and turned round to watch the men as they pulled the
boat to a convenient point for re-embarking at a moment's notice.

"You see," said the lieutenant, pursuing a conversation which he had
been holding with the captain, "I have been told that Big Swankie,
and his mate Davy Spink (who, it seems, is not over-friendly with him
just now), mean to visit one of the luggers which is expected to come
in to-night, before the moon rises, and bring off some kegs of
Auchmithie water, which, no doubt, they will try to hide in
Dickmont's Den. I shall lie snugly here on the watch, and hope to nab
them before they reach that celebrated old smuggler's abode."

"Well, I'll stay about here," said the captain, "and show Minnie the
caves. I would like to have taken her to see the Gaylet Pot, which is
one o' the queerest hereabouts; but I'm too old for such rough work

"But I am not too old for it," interposed Ruby, "so if Minnie would
like to go - - "

"But I won't desert _you_, uncle," said Minnie hastily.

"Nay, lass, call it not desertion. I can smoke my pipe here, an'
contemplate. I'm fond of contemplation -

'By the starry light of the summer night,
On the banks of the blue Moselle,'

though, for the matter o' that, moonlight'll do, if there's no stars.
I think it's good for the mind, Minnie, and keeps all taut.
Contemplation is just like takin' an extra pull on the lee braces. So
you may go with Ruby, lass."

Thus advised, and being further urged by Ruby himself, and being
moreover exceedingly anxious to see this cave, Minnie consented; so
the two set off together, and, climbing to the summit of the cliffs,
followed the narrow footpath that runs close to their giddy edge all
along the coast.

In less than half an hour they reached the Giel or Gaylet Pot.



The Giel or Gaylet Pot, down into which Ruby, with great care and
circumspection, led Minnie, is one of the most curious of Nature's
freaks among the cliffs of Arbroath.

In some places there is a small scrap of pebbly beach at the base of
those perpendicular cliffs; in most places there is none - the cliffs
presenting to the sea almost a dead wall, where neither ship nor boat
could find refuge from the storm.

The country, inland, however, does not partake of the rugged nature
of the cliffs. It slopes gradually towards them - so gradually that it
may be termed flat, and if a stranger were to walk towards the sea
over the fields in a dark night, the first intimation he would
receive of his dangerous position would be when his foot descended
into the terrible abyss that would receive his shattered frame a
hundred feet below.

In one of the fields there is a hole about a hundred yards across,
and as deep as the cliffs in that part are high. It is about fifty or
eighty yards from the edge of the cliffs, and resembles an old
quarry; but it is cut so sharply out of the flat field that it shows
no sign of its existence until the traveller is close upon it. The
rocky sides, too, are so steep, that at first sight it seems as if no
man could descend into it. But the most peculiar point about this
hole is, that at the foot of it there is the opening of a cavern,
through which the sea rolls into the hole, and breaks in wavelets on
a miniature shore. The sea has forced its way inland and underground
until it has burst into the bottom of this hole, which is not inaptly
compared to a pot with water boiling at the bottom of it. When a
spectator looks into the cave, standing at the bottom of the "Pot",
he sees the seaward opening at the other end - a bright spot of light
in the dark interior.

"You won't get nervous, Minnie?" said Ruby, pausing when about
halfway down the steep declivity, where the track, or rather the
place of descent, became still more steep and difficult; "a slip here
would be dangerous."

"I have no fear, Ruby, as long as you keep by me."

In a few minutes they reached the bottom, and, looking up, the sky
appeared above them like a blue circular ceiling, with the edges of
the Gaylet Pot sharply defined against it.

Proceeding over a mass of fallen rock, they reached the pebbly strand
at the cave's inner mouth.

"I can see the interior now, as my eyes become accustomed to the dim
light," said Minnie, gazing up wistfully into the vaulted roof, where
the edges of projecting rocks seemed to peer out of darkness. "Surely
this must be a place for smugglers to come to!"

"They don't often come here. The place is not so suitable as many of
the other caves are."

From the low, subdued tones in which they both spoke, it was evident
that the place inspired them with feelings of awe.

"Come, Minnie," said Ruby, at length, in a more cheerful tone, "let
us go into this cave and explore it."

"But the water may be deep," objected Minnie; "besides, I do not like
to wade, even though it be shallow."

"Nay, sweet one; do you think I would ask you to wet your pretty
feet? There is very little wading required. See, I have only to raise
you in my arms and take two steps into the water, and a third step to
the left round that projecting rock, where I can set you down on
another beach inside the cave. Your eyes will soon get used to the
subdued light, and then you will see things much more clearly than
you would think it possible viewed from this point."

Minnie did not require much pressing. She had perfect confidence in
her lover, and was naturally fearless in disposition, so she was soon
placed on the subterranean beach of the Gaylet Cave, and for some
time wandered about in the dimly-lighted place, leaning on Ruby's

Gradually their eyes became accustomed to the place, and then its
mysterious beauty and wildness began to have full effect on their
minds, inducing them to remain for a long time silent, as they sat
side by side on a piece of fallen rock.

They sat looking in the direction of the seaward entrance to the
cavern, where the light glowed brightly on the rocks, gradually
losing its brilliancy as it penetrated the cave, until it became
quite dim in the centre. No part of the main cave was quite dark,
but the offshoot, in which the lovers sat, was almost dark. To
anyone viewing it from the outer cave it would have appeared
completely so.

"Is that a sea-gull at the outlet?" enquired Minnie, after a long

Ruby looked intently for a moment in the direction indicated.

"Minnie," he said quickly, and in a tone of surprise, "that is a
large gull, if it be one at all, and uses oars instead of wings. Who
can it be? Smugglers never come here that I am aware of, and Lindsay
is not a likely man to waste his time in pulling about when he has
other work to do."

"Perhaps it may be some fishermen from Auchmithie," suggested Minnie,
"who are fond of exploring, like you and me."

"Mayhap it is, but we shall soon see, for here they come. We must
keep out of sight, my girl."

Ruby rose and led Minnie into the recesses of the cavern, where they
were speedily shrouded in profound darkness, and could not be seen by
anyone, although they themselves could observe all that occurred in
the space in front of them.

The boat, which had entered the cavern by its seaward mouth, was a
small one, manned by two fishermen, who were silent as they rowed
under the arched roof; but it was evident that their silence did not
proceed from caution, for they made no effort to prevent or check the
noise of the oars.

In a few seconds the keel grated on the peebles, and one of the men
leaped out.

"Noo, Davy," he said, in a voice that sounded deep and hollow under
that vaulted roof, "oot wi' the kegs. Haste ye, man."

"Tis Big Swankie," whispered Ruby.

"There's nae hurry," objected the other fisherman, who, we need
scarcely inform the reader, was our friend, Davy Spink.

"Nae hurry!" repeated his comrade angrily. "That's aye yer cry. Half
'o oor ventures hae failed because ye object to hurry."

"Hoot, man! that's enough o't," said Spink, in the nettled tone of a
man who has been a good deal worried. Indeed, the tones of both
showed that these few sentences were but the continuation of a
quarrel which had begun elsewhere.

"It's plain to me that we must pairt, freen'," said Swankie in a
dogged manner, as he lifted a keg out of the boat and placed it on
the ground.

"Ay," exclaimed Spink, with something of a sneer, "an" d'ye think
I'll pairt without a diveesion o' the siller tea-pats and things that

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Online LibraryR.M. BallantyneThe Lighthouse → online text (page 11 of 21)