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By the Toss of a Coin : The Master and his brother Henry must decide which of them goes to fight for Bonnie Prince Charlie.
By the Toss of a Coin

Abridged from ‘The Master of Ballantrae’ by Robert Louis Stevenson.

It is 1745, and James - the Master of Ballantrae - and his younger brother Henry both want to fight for Bonnie Prince Charlie. But one of them must stay at home and make peace with King George II, in case he wins, and James suggests a way of deciding who it shall be.

“WHEN very obstinate folk are met, there are only two ways out: Blows — and I think none of us could care to go so far; or the arbitrament of chance — and here is a guinea piece. Will you stand by the toss of the coin?”

“I will stand and fall by it,” said Mr. Henry. “Heads, I go; shield, I stay.” The coin was spun and it fell shield. “We shall live to repent of this,” says Mr. Henry.

As for Miss Alison, she caught up that piece of gold which had just sent her lover to the wars, and flung it clean through the family shield in the great painted window.

“If you loved me as well as I love you, you would have stayed,” cried she.

“‘I could not love you, dear, so well, loved I not honour more,’” sang the Master.*

“Oh!” she cried, “you have no heart — I hope you may be killed!”

** From the poem ‘To Lucasta, going to the wars’ by Richard Lovelace (1618–1658).

Abridged from ‘The Master of Ballantrae’ by Robert Louis Stevenson.

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