Catriona

Page 19

"The same, sir," said James More. "And since I have been fellow-

soldier with your kinsman, you must suffer me to grasp your hand."

He shook hands with me long and tenderly, beaming on me the while

as though he had found a brother.

"Ah!" says he, "these are changed days since your cousin and I

heard the balls whistle in our lugs."

"I think he was a very far-away cousin," said I, drily, "and I

ought to tell you that I never clapped eyes upon the man."

"Well, well," said he, "it makes no change. And you--I do not

think you were out yourself, sir--I have no clear mind of your

face, which is one not probable to be forgotten."

"In the year you refer to, Mr. Macgregor, I was getting skelped in

the parish school," said I.

"So young!" cries he. "Ah, then, you will never be able to think

what this meeting is to me. In the hour of my adversity, and here

in the house of my enemy, to meet in with the blood of an old

brother-in-arms--it heartens me, Mr. Balfour, like the skirting of

the highland pipes! Sir, this is a sad look back that many of us

have to make: some with falling tears. I have lived in my own

country like a king; my sword, my mountains, and the faith of my

friends and kinsmen sufficed for me. Now I lie in a stinking

dungeon; and do you know, Mr. Balfour," he went on, taking my arm

and beginning to lead me about, "do you know, sir, that I lack mere

neCESSaries? The malice of my foes has quite sequestered my

resources. I lie, as you know, sir, on a trumped-up charge, of

which I am as innocent as yourself. They dare not bring me to my

trial, and in the meanwhile I am held naked in my prison. I could

have wished it was your cousin I had met, or his brother Baith

himself. Either would, I know, have been rejoiced to help me;

while a comparative stranger like yourself--"

I would be ashamed to set down all he poured out to me in this

beggarly vein, or the very short and grudging answers that I made

to him. There were times when I was tempted to stop his mouth with

some small change; but whether it was from shame or pride--whether

it was for my own sake or Catriona's--whether it was because I

thought him no fit father for his daughter, or because I resented

that grossness of immediate falsity that clung about the man

himself--the thing was clean beyond me. And I was still being

wheedled and preached to, and still being marched to and fro, three

steps and a turn, in that small chamber, and had already, by some

very short replies, highly incensed, although not finally

discouraged, my beggar, when Prestongrange appeared in the doorway

and bade me eagerly into his big chamber.

"I have a moment's engagements," said he; "and that you may not sit

empty-handed I am going to present you to my three braw daughters,

of whom perhaps you may have heard, for I think they are more

famous than papa. This way."

He led me into another long room above, where a dry old lady sat at

a frame of embroidery, and the three handsomest young women (I

suppose) in Scotland stood together by a window.

"This is my new friend, Mr Balfour," said he, presenting me by the

arm, "David, here is my sister, Miss Grant, who is so good as keep

my house for me, and will be very pleased if she can help you. And

here," says he, turning to the three younger ladies, "here are my

THREE BRAW DAUCHTERS. A fair question to ye, Mr. Davie: which of

the three is the best favoured? And I wager he will never have the

impudence to propound honest Alan Ramsay's answer!"

Hereupon all three, and the old Miss Grant as well, cried out

against this sally, which (as I was acquainted with the verses he

referred to) brought shame into my own check. It seemed to me a

citation unpardonable in a father, and I was amazed that these

ladies could laugh even while they reproved, or made believe to.

Under cover of this mirth, Prestongrange got forth of the chamber,

and I was left, like a fish upon dry land, in that very unsuitable

society.

Catriona Page 20

Robert Louis Stevenson

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