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(2019-03-09 11:36:30)





That's what I said'replied my uncle quickly.‘Go outside for a momentand I'll get the money for ye.’


I was smiling as I went outsure that he would give me nothing at allIt was a dark nightand I could hear wind in the hills.‘There may be thunder later,’I thoughtnot knowing how important the weather would be to me that night




But when my uncle called me in againhe counted thirty eight English pounds in gold into my handsIt clearly hurt him to do itand he kept back the last two poundsbut I did not mind thatSurprised and pleasedI thanked him warmly



Now,’he saidlooking cleverly at me,‘ye can give me somethingDavieI'm getting old nowand I need help.’


Of coursesir,’I answered.‘What can I do?’



Wellgo outside and climb the stairs at the other end of the housewhere the building isn't finished yetGo up to the room at the topand bring down the chest that ye'll find thereIt's got valuable papers in it.’



Can I have a lightsir?’I asked


No,’he said sharply.‘No lights in my house!’ ‘Very wellsirAre the stairs good?’


They're grand,’ said he



The stairs are grandOut I went into the nightAs I was feeling my way along the outside wallthere was a sudden flash of lightningthen darkness againI found the stairs and started climbingI was about fifteen metres above the groundwhen there was another flash of lightningThat was lucky for mebecause it showed me that the steps were uneven and that I could easily fall to my death.‘These are the grand stairs!’I thought.‘Perhaps my uncle wants me to die!’Now I was very carefuland I felt each step with my hands before I put my foot on itA few steps later my hand felt cold stoneand then nothing moreThe stairs ended theretwenty metres above the groundI felt cold with fearwhen I thought of the danger that I had been inSending a stranger up those stairs in the dark was sending him straight to his death



AngrilyI turned and felt my way downThere was a crash of thunderand suddenly the rain came downAt the bottom of the stairs I looked towards the kitchenand could seein the next flash of lightninga figure standing still in the doorwaylistening When the thunder sounded againlouder than beforehe ran back insideand I followed as softly as I couldI found him sitting in the kitchendrinking whisky straight from the bottleand shaking with fearQuietly I came up behind himandputting my hands sud denly on his shoulderscried,‘Ah!’



My uncle gave a kind of broken cryand fell to the floor like a dead manHis face was a strange blue colourand I began to think that he really was dead



At last his eyes openedand he looked up and saw me.‘Oh manare ye alive or a ghost?’he cried Get me my medicineDavieit's for my heart.’I found the medicine bottle and gave him someHe soon began to look a little better. ‘Why did you lie to me?’I asked angrily



Why did you give me money And why did you try to kill me Answer me!’


I'll tell ye tomorrowDavieI promiseHelp me to bed nowwill ye?’He still looked very illso I could not refuseBut this time I locked his bedroom doorand went to sleep in front of the kitchen fire




When I woke up in the morningI felt very pleased with myself.‘He thinks he's cleverer than mebut he isn't!’I thoughtWhen I let my uncle out of his roomI asked him again for an explanation After a whilehe said,‘DavieI have some business with a ship's captain at QueensferryNowwe could walk over thereand when I've done my businesswe could visit the lawyerMr RankeillorHe'll answer all your questionsHe's an honest manand he knew your fatherWhat do ye say to that?’



I thought for a momentI had never seen the seabut had always wanted to!‘It's a grand idea,’I said


It was a morning's walk to QueensferryWhich was west of Edinburghbut we did not say a word to each other on the waySuddenlyat the top of a hillwe could see the Firth of Forth below usblue and calmwith white sails on it



Ye see that public house?’asked my uncle.‘Captain Hoseason's thereto do business with meThere's the ship's boat on the beachwaiting to take him to the shipAnd there's the ship itselfA grand ship!’



I had to agree with himThe sailors were getting the ship ready for sailingand I thought what an exciting adventure that would beto sail away to a foreign country



We walked down the hill to the public house and met the captain thereHe was a talldarkserious-looking manwho shook hands politely with meStupidlyI left these two men to their businessand ran down to the beachto talk to the sailors and look at the boatsIt was all new and very interest ing to me



As I was coming backI met the owner of the public house


Good morning,’he said.‘Did ye come with Ebenezer?’


I did,’I replied.‘He isn't well likedI understand.’


That's true,’he answered.‘Nobody speaks well of himIt all started with that story about Mr Alexanderhis brother.’


What story?’I asked


Ohjust that Ebenezer had killed himDid ye never hear that?’


And why would he kill my f—,I meanAlexander?’


To get the houseof coursethe house of Shaws.’


AyemanWas mywas Alexander older than Ebenezer?’


Indeed he wasNo other reason for killing him!’



This was a great surprise to meI had thought that my fa ther was the younger brotherand I now understood why my uncle had lied to meand wanted to kill meThe house of Shaws had belonged to my fathernot my uncleand now I had inherited itThe poor country boy who had walked from Essendean was the owner of a fine house and farmlandMy head was full of the wonderful things that I could do in my lifeas I lookedunseeingat the sea



Just then my uncle and the captain came out of the public houseThe captain smiled in a friendly way as he spoke to me.‘Sir,’he said,‘Mr Balfour has told me a lot about yeI'm only sorry I haven't time to get to know ye betterBut I'd like ye to come on to my ship for half an hourbefore we sailand have a drink with me.’



Nowmore than anything in the worldI wanted to see the inside of a shipbut I remembered that I had to be careful.‘My uncle and I have to see the lawyersir,’I replied,‘so I'm afraid we may not have enough time.’



Ayeaye,’he answered,‘I knowbut ye seethe ship's boat can put ye both down near Rankeillor's houseafter ye've seen the shipso ye won't lose any time.’ Suddenly he said quietly in my ear,‘Watch out for the old manhe wants to hurt yeCome and talk about it.’Putting his arm in minehe said loudly,‘What can I bring ye back from my travels A friend of Mr Balfour's is a friend of mine!’



By this time we were on the beach and he was helping my uncle and me into the boatI thought that I had found a good friend and helperand I was very excited as we came closer to the great shipfull of busynoisy sailorsThe captain and I were the first to climb up the ship's sideand at the top the captain immediately put his arm through mine and began to talk about the ship




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