Catriona

Page 28

But when she came up my fears fled

away; not even the consciousness of what I had been privately

thinking disconcerted me the least; and I found I could talk with

her as easily and rationally as I might with Alan.

"O!" she cried, "you have been seeking your sixpence; did you get

it?"

I told her no; but now I had met with her my walk was not in vain.

"Though I have seen you to-day already," said I, and told her where

and when.

"I did not see you," she said. "My eyes are big, but there are

better than mine at seeing far. Only I heard singing in the

house."

"That was Miss Grant," said I, "the eldest and the bonniest."

"They say they are all beautiful," said she.

"They think the same of you, Miss Drummond," I replied, "and were

all crowding to the window to observe you."

"It is a pity about my being so blind," said she, "or I might have

seen them too. And you were in the house? You must have been

having the fine time with the fine music and the pretty ladies."

"There is just where you are wrong," said I; "for I was as uncouth

as a sea-fish upon the brae of a mountain. The truth is that I am

better fitted to go about with rudas men than pretty ladies."

"Well, I would think so too, at all events!" said she, at which we

both of us laughed.

"It is a strange thing, now," said I. "I am not the least afraid

with you, yet I could have run from the Miss Grants. And I was

afraid of your cousin too."

"O, I think any man will be afraid of her," she cried. "My father

is afraid of her himself."

The name of her father brought me to a stop. I looked at her as

she walked by my side; I recalled the man, and the little I knew

and the much I guessed of him; and comparing the one with the

other, felt like a traitor to be silent.

"Speaking of which," said I, "I met your father no later than this

morning."

"Did you?" she cried, with a voice of joy that seemed to mock at

me. "You saw James More? You will have spoken with him then?"

"I did even that," said I.

Then I think things went the worst way for me that was humanly

possible. She gave me a look of mere gratitude. "Ah, thank you

for that!" says she.

"You thank me for very little," said I, and then stopped. But it

seemed when I was holding back so much, something at least had to

come out. "I spoke rather ill to him," said I; "I did no like him

very much; I spoke him rather ill, and he was angry."

"I think you had little to do then, and less to tell it to his

daughter!" she cried out. "But those that do not love and cherish

him I will not know."

"I will take the freedom of a word yet," said I, beginning to

tremble. "Perhaps neither your father nor I are in the best of

spirits at Prestongrange's. I daresay we both have anxious

business there, for it's a dangerous house. I was sorry for him

too, and spoke to him the first, if I could but have spoken the

wiser. And for one thing, in my opinion, you will soon find that

his affairs are mending."

"It will not be through your friendship, I am thinking," said she;

"and he is much made up to you for your sorrow."

"Miss Drummond," cried I, "I am alone in this world."

"And I am not wondering at that," said she.

"O, let me speak!" said I. "I will speak but the once, and then

leave you, if you will, for ever. I came this day in the hopes of

a kind word that I am sore in want of. I know that what I said

must hurt you, and I knew it then. It would have been easy to have

spoken smooth, easy to lie to you; can you not think how I was

tempted to the same? Cannot you see the truth of my heart shine

out?"

"I think here is a great deal of work, Mr. Balfour," said she. "I

think we will have met but the once, and will can part like gentle

folk."

"O, let me have one to believe in me!" I pleaded, "I cannae bear it

else. The whole world is clanned against me.

Catriona Page 29

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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