Catriona

Page 24

And in the

meanwhile let us return to gentler methods. You must not bear any

grudge upon my friend, Mr. Simon, who did but speak by his brief.

And even if you did conceive some malice against myself, who stood

by and seemed rather to hold a candle, I must not let that extend

to innocent members of my family. These are greatly engaged to see

more of you, and I cannot consent to have my young womenfolk

disappointed. To-morrow they will be going to Hope Park, where I

think it very proper you should make your bow. Call for me first,

when I may possibly have something for your private hearing; then

you shall be turned abroad again under the conduct of my misses;

and until that time repeat to me your promise of secrecy."

I had done better to have instantly refused, but in truth I was

beside the power of reasoning; did as I was bid; took my leave I

know not how; and when I was forth again in the close, and the door

had shut behind me, was glad to lean on a house wall and wipe my

face. That horrid apparition (as I may call it) of Mr. Simon rang

in my memory, as a sudden noise rings after it is over in the ear.

Tales of the man's father, of his falseness, of his manifold

perpetual treacheries, rose before me from all that I had heard and

read, and joined on with what I had just experienced of himself.

Each time it occurred to me, the ingenious foulness of that calumny

he had proposed to nail upon my character startled me afresh. The

case of the man upon the gibbet by Leith Walk appeared scarce

distinguishable from that I was now to consider as my own. To rob

a child of so little more than nothing was certainly a paltry

enterprise for two grown men; but my own tale, as it was to be

represented in a court by Simon Fraser, appeared a fair second in

every possible point of view of sordidness and cowardice.

The voices of two of Prestongrange's liveried men upon his doorstep

recalled me to myself.

"Ha'e," said the one, "this billet as fast as ye can link to the

captain."

"Is that for the cateran back again?" asked the other.

"It would seem sae," returned the first. "Him and Simon are

seeking him."

"I think Prestongrange is gane gyte," says the second. "He'll have

James More in bed with him next."

"Weel, it's neither your affair nor mine's," said the first.

And they parted, the one upon his errand, and the other back into

the house.

This looked as ill as possible. I was scarce gone and they were

sending already for James More, to whom I thought Mr. Simon must

have pointed when he spoke of men in prison and ready to redeem

their lives by all extremities. My scalp curdled among my hair,

and the next moment the blood leaped in me to remember Catriona.

Poor lass! her father stood to be hanged for pretty indefensible

misconduct. What was yet more unpalatable, it now seemed he was

prepared to save his four quarters by the worst of shame and the

most foul of cowardly murders--murder by the false oath; and to

complete our misfortunes, it seemed myself was picked out to be the

victim.

I began to walk swiftly and at random, conscious only of a desire

for movement, air, and the open country.

CHAPTER VII--I MAKE A FAULT IN HONOUR

I came forth, I vow I know not how, on the Lang Dykes {12}. This

is a rural road which runs on the north side over against the city.

Thence I could see the whole black length of it tail down, from

where the castle stands upon its crags above the loch in a long

line of spires and gable ends, and smoking chimneys, and at the

sight my heart swelled in my bosom. My youth, as I have told, was

already inured to dangers; but such danger as I had seen the face

of but that morning, in the midst of what they call the safety of a

town, shook me beyond experience. Peril of slavery, peril of

shipwreck, peril of sword and shot, I had stood all of these

without discredit; but the peril there was in the sharp voice and

the fat face of Simon, property Lord Lovat, daunted me wholly.

Catriona Page 25

Robert Louis Stevenson

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