Catriona

Page 02

As for

the rapier, nae doubt it sits wi' your degree; but an I had been

you, I would has waired my siller better-gates than that." And he

proposed I should buy winter-hosen from a wife in the Cowgate-back,

that was a cousin of his own, and made them "extraordinar

endurable."

But I had other matters on my hand more pressing. Here I was in

this old, black city, which was for all the world like a rabbit-

warren, not only by the number of its indwellers, but the

complication of its passages and holes. It was, indeed, a place

where no stranger had a chance to find a friend, let be another

stranger. Suppose him even to hit on the right close, people dwelt

so thronged in these tall houses, he might very well seek a day

before he chanced on the right door. The ordinary course was to

hire a lad they called a caddie, who was like a guide or pilot, led

you where you had occasion, and (your errands being done) brought

you again where you were lodging. But these caddies, being always

employed in the same sort of services, and having it for obligation

to be well informed of every house and person in the city, had

grown to form a brotherhood of spies; and I knew from tales of Mr.

Campbell's how they communicated one with another, what a rage of

curiosity they conceived as to their employer's business, and how

they were like eyes and fingers to the police. It would be a piece

of little wisdom, the way I was now placed, to take such a ferret

to my tails. I had three visits to make, all immediately needful:

to my kinsman Mr. Balfour of Pilrig, to Stewart the Writer that was

Appin's agent, and to William Grant Esquire of Prestongrange, Lord

Advocate of Scotland. Mr. Balfour's was a non-committal visit; and

besides (Pilrig being in the country) I made bold to find the way

to it myself, with the help of my two legs and a Scots tongue. But

the rest were in a different case. Not only was the visit to

Appin's agent, in the midst of the cry about the Appin murder,

dangerous in itself, but it was highly inconsistent with the other.

I was like to have a bad enough time of it with my Lord Advocate

Grant, the best of ways; but to go to him hot-foot from Appin's

agent, was little likely to mend my own affairs, and might prove

the mere ruin of friend Alan's. The whole thing, besides, gave me

a look of running with the hare and hunting with the hounds that

was little to my fancy. I determined, therefore, to be done at

once with Mr. Stewart and the whole Jacobitical side of my

business, and to profit for that purpose by the guidance of the

porter at my side. But it chanced I had scarce given him the

address, when there came a sprinkle of rain--nothing to hurt, only

for my new clothes--and we took shelter under a pend at the head of

a close or alley.

Being strange to what I saw, I stepped a little farther in. The

narrow paved way descended swiftly. Prodigious tall houses sprang

upon each side and bulged out, one storey beyond another, as they

rose. At the top only a ribbon of sky showed in. By what I could

spy in the windows, and by the respectable persons that passed out

and in, I saw the houses to be very well occupied; and the whole

appearance of the place interested me like a tale.

I was still gazing, when there came a sudden brisk tramp of feet in

time and clash of steel behind me. Turning quickly, I was aware of

a party of armed soldiers, and, in their midst, a tall man in a

great coat. He walked with a stoop that was like a piece of

courtesy, genteel and insinuating: he waved his hands plausibly as

he went, and his face was sly and handsome. I thought his eye took

me in, but could not meet it. This procession went by to a door in

the close, which a serving-man in a fine livery set open; and two

of the soldier-lads carried the prisoner within, the rest lingering

with their firelocks by the door.

There can nothing pass in the streets of a city without some

following of idle folk and children.

Catriona Page 03

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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