Catriona

Page 11

"Who are these two, mother?" I asked, and pointed to the corpses.

"A blessing on your precious face!" she cried. "Twa joes {7}

o'mine: just two o' my old joes, my hinny dear."

"What did they suffer for?" I asked.

"Ou, just for the guid cause," said she. "Aften I spaed to them

the way that it would end. Twa shillin' Scots: no pickle mair;

and there are twa bonny callants hingin' for 't! They took it frae

a wean {8} belanged to Brouchton."

"Ay!" said I to myself, and not to the daft limmer, "and did they

come to such a figure for so poor a business? This is to lose all

indeed."

"Gie's your loof, {9} hinny," says she, "and let me spae your weird

to ye."

"No, mother," said I, "I see far enough the way I am. It's an unco

thing to see too far in front."

"I read it in your bree," she said. "There's a bonnie lassie that

has bricht een, and there's a wee man in a braw coat, and a big man

in a pouthered wig, and there's the shadow of the wuddy, {10} joe,

that lies braid across your path. Gie's your loof, hinny, and let

Auld Merren spae it to ye bonny."

The two chance shots that seemed to point at Alan and the daughter

of James More struck me hard; and I fled from the eldritch

creature, casting her a baubee, which she continued to sit and play

with under the moving shadows of the hanged.

My way down the causeway of Leith Walk would have been more

pleasant to me but for this encounter. The old rampart ran among

fields, the like of them I had never seen for artfulness of

agriculture; I was pleased, besides, to be so far in the still

countryside; but the shackles of the gibbet clattered in my head;

and the mope and mows of the old witch, and the thought of the dead

men, hag-rode my spirits. To hang on a gallows, that seemed a hard

case; and whether a man came to hang there for two shillings Scots,

or (as Mr. Stewart had it) from the sense of duty, once he was

tarred and shackled and hung up, the difference seemed small.

There might David Balfour hang, and other lads pass on their

errands and think light of him; and old daft limmers sit at a leg-

foot and spae their fortunes; and the clean genty maids go by, and

look to the other aide, and hold a nose. I saw them plain, and

they had grey eyes, and their screens upon their heads were of the

Drummed colours.

I was thus in the poorest of spirits, though still pretty resolved,

when I came in view of Pilrig, a pleasant gabled house set by the

walkside among some brave young woods. The laird's horse was

standing saddled at the door as I came up, but himself was in the

study, where he received me in the midst of learned works and

musical instruments, for he was not only a deep philosopher but

much of a musician. He greeted me at first pretty well, and when

he had read Rankeillor's letter, placed himself obligingly at my

disposal.

"And what is it, cousin David!" said he--"since it appears that we

are cousins--what is this that I can do for you! A word to

Prestongrange! Doubtless that is easily given. But what should be

the word?"

"Mr. Balfour," said I, "if I were to tell you my whole story the

way it fell out, it's my opinion (and it was Rankeillor's before

me) that you would be very little made up with it."

"I am sorry to hear this of you, kinsman," says he.

"I must not take that at your hands, Mr. Balfour," said I; "I have

nothing to my charge to make me sorry, or you for me, but just the

common infirmities of mankind. 'The guilt of Adam's first sin, the

want of original righteousness, and the corruption of my whole

nature,' so much I must answer for, and I hope I have been taught

where to look for help," I said; for I judged from the look of the

man he would think the better of me if I knew my questions. {11}

"But in the way of worldly honour I have no great stumble to

reproach myself with; and my difficulties have befallen me very

much against my will and (by all that I can see) without my fault.

Catriona Page 12

Robert Louis Stevenson

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book