Catriona

Page 25

I sat by the lake side in a place where the rushes went down into

the water, and there steeped my wrists and laved my temples. If I

could have done so with any remains of self-esteem, I would now

have fled from my foolhardy enterprise. But (call it courage or

cowardice, and I believe it was both the one and the other) I

decided I was ventured out beyond the possibility of a retreat. I

had out-faced these men, I would continue to out-face them; come

what might, I would stand by the word spoken.

The sense of my own constancy somewhat uplifted my spirits, but not

much. At the best of it there was an icy place about my heart, and

life seemed a black business to be at all engaged in. For two

souls in particular my pity flowed. The one was myself, to be so

friendless and lost among dangers. The other was the girl, the

daughter of James More. I had seen but little of her; yet my view

was taken and my judgment made. I thought her a lass of a clean

honour, like a man's; I thought her one to die of a disgrace; and

now I believed her father to be at that moment bargaining his vile

life for mine. It made a bond in my thoughts betwixt the girl and

me. I had seen her before only as a wayside appearance, though one

that pleased me strangely; I saw her now in a sudden nearness of

relation, as the daughter of my blood foe, and I might say, my

murderer. I reflected it was hard I should be so plagued and

persecuted all my days for other folks' affairs, and have no manner

of pleasure myself. I got meals and a bed to sleep in when my

concerns would suffer it; beyond that my wealth was of no help to

me. If I was to hang, my days were like to be short; if I was not

to hang but to escape out of this trouble, they might yet seem long

to me ere I was done with them. Of a sudden her face appeared in

my memory, the way I had first seen it, with the parted lips; at

that, weakness came in my bosom and strength into my legs; and I

set resolutely forward on the way to Dean. If I was to hang to-

morrow, and it was sure enough I might very likely sleep that night

in a dungeon, I determined I should hear and speak once more with

Catriona.

The exercise of walking and the thought of my destination braced me

yet more, so that I began to pluck up a kind of spirit. In the

village of Dean, where it sits in the bottom of a glen beside the

river, I inquired my way of a miller's man, who sent me up the hill

upon the farther side by a plain path, and so to a decent-like

small house in a garden of lawns and apple-trees. My heart beat

high as I stepped inside the garden hedge, but it fell low indeed

when I came face to face with a grim and fierce old lady, walking

there in a white mutch with a man's hat strapped upon the top of

it.

"What do ye come seeking here?" she asked.

I told her I was after Miss Drummond.

"And what may be your business with Miss Drummond?" says she.

I told her I had met her on Saturday last, had been so fortunate as

to render her a trifling service, and was come now on the young

lady's invitation.

"O, so you're Saxpence!" she cried, with a very sneering manner.

"A braw gift, a bonny gentleman. And hae ye ony ither name and

designation, or were ye bapteesed Saxpence?" she asked.

I told my name.

"Preserve me!" she cried. "Has Ebenezer gotten a son?"

"No, ma'am," said I. "I am a son of Alexander's. It's I that am

the Laird of Shaws."

"Ye'll find your work cut out for ye to establish that," quoth she.

"I perceive you know my uncle," said I; "and I daresay you may be

the better pleased to hear that business is arranged."

"And what brings ye here after Miss Drummond?" she pursued.

"I'm come after my saxpence, mem," said I. "It's to be thought,

being my uncle's nephew, I would be found a careful lad."

"So ye have a spark of sleeness in ye?" observed the old lady, with

some approval.

Catriona Page 26

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