Catriona

Page 26

"I thought ye had just been a cuif--you and your

saxpence, and your LUCKY DAY and your SAKE OF BALWHIDDER"--from

which I was gratified to learn that Catriona had not forgotten some

of our talk. "But all this is by the purpose," she resumed. "Am I

to understand that ye come here keeping company?"

"This is surely rather an early question," said I. "The maid is

young, so am I, worse fortune. I have but seen her the once. I'll

not deny," I added, making up my mind to try her with some

frankness, "I'll not deny but she has run in my head a good deal

since I met in with her. That is one thing; but it would be quite

another, and I think I would look very like a fool, to commit

myself."

"You can speak out of your mouth, I see," said the old lady.

"Praise God, and so can I! I was fool enough to take charge of

this rogue's daughter: a fine charge I have gotten; but it's mine,

and I'll carry it the way I want to. Do ye mean to tell me, Mr.

Balfour of Shaws, that you would marry James More's daughter, and

him hanged! Well, then, where there's no possible marriage there

shall be no manner of carryings on, and take that for said. Lasses

are bruckle things," she added, with a nod; "and though ye would

never think it by my wrunkled chafts, I was a lassie mysel', and a

bonny one."

"Lady Allardyce," said I, "for that I suppose to be your name, you

seem to do the two sides of the talking, which is a very poor

manner to come to an agreement. You give me rather a home thrust

when you ask if I would marry, at the gallow's foot, a young lady

whom I have seen but once. I have told you already I would never

be so untenty as to commit myself. And yet I'll go some way with

you. If I continue to like the lass as well as I have reason to

expect, it will be something more than her father, or the gallows

either, that keeps the two of us apart. As for my family, I found

it by the wayside like a lost bawbee! I owe less than nothing to

my uncle and if ever I marry, it will be to please one person:

that's myself."

"I have heard this kind of talk before ye were born," said Mrs.

Ogilvy, "which is perhaps the reason that I think of it so little.

There's much to be considered. This James More is a kinsman of

mine, to my shame be it spoken. But the better the family, the

mair men hanged or headed, that's always been poor Scotland's

story. And if it was just the hanging! For my part I think I

would be best pleased with James upon the gallows, which would be

at least an end to him. Catrine's a good lass enough, and a good-

hearted, and lets herself be deaved all day with a runt of an auld

wife like me. But, ye see, there's the weak bit. She's daft about

that long, false, fleeching beggar of a father of hers, and red-mad

about the Gregara, and proscribed names, and King James, and a

wheen blethers. And you might think ye could guide her, ye would

find yourself sore mista'en. Ye say ye've seen her but the once. .

."

"Spoke with her but the once, I should have said," I interrupted.

"I saw her again this morning from a window at Prestongrange's."

This I daresay I put in because it sounded well; but I was properly

paid for my ostentation on the return.

"What's this of it?" cries the old lady, with a sudden pucker of

her face. "I think it was at the Advocate's door-cheek that ye met

her first."

I told her that was so.

"H'm," she said; and then suddenly, upon rather a scolding tone, "I

have your bare word for it," she cries, "as to who and what you

are. By your way of it, you're Balfour of the Shaws; but for what

I ken you may be Balfour of the Deevil's oxter. It's possible ye

may come here for what ye say, and it's equally possible ye may

come here for deil care what! I'm good enough Whig to sit quiet,

and to have keepit all my men-folk's heads upon their shoulders.

But I'm not just a good enough Whig to be made a fool of neither.

Catriona Page 27

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