Catriona

Page 29

How am I to go

through with my dreadful fate? If there's to be none to believe in

me I cannot do it. The man must just die, for I cannot do it."

She had still looked straight in front of her, head in air; but at

my words or the tone of my voice she came to a stop. "What is this

you say?" she asked. "What are you talking of?"

"It is my testimony which may save an innocent life," said I, "and

they will not suffer me to bear it. What would you do yourself?

You know what this is, whose father lies in danger. Would you

desert the poor soul? They have tried all ways with me. They have

sought to bribe me; they offered me hills and valleys. And to-day

that sleuth-hound told me how I stood, and to what a length he

would go to butcher and disgrace me. I am to be brought in a party

to the murder; I am to have held Glenure in talk for money and old

clothes; I am to be killed and shamed. If this is the way I am to

fall, and me scarce a man--if this is the story to be told of me in

all Scotland--if you are to believe it too, and my name is to be

nothing but a by-word--Catriona, how can I go through with it? The

thing's not possible; it's more than a man has in his heart."

I poured my words out in a whirl, one upon the other; and when I

stopped I found her gazing on me with a startled face.

"Glenure! It is the Appin murder," she said softly, but with a

very deep surprise.

I had turned back to bear her company, and we were now come near

the head of the brae above Dean village. At this word I stepped in

front of her like one suddenly distracted.

"For God's sake!" I cried, "for God's sake, what is this that I

have done?" and carried my fists to my temples. "What made me do

it? Sure, I am bewitched to say these things!"

"In the name of heaven, what ails you now!" she cried.

"I gave my honour," I groaned, "I gave my honour and now I have

broke it. O, Catriona!"

"I am asking you what it is," she said; "was it these things you

should not have spoken? And do you think I have no honour, then?

or that I am one that would betray a friend? I hold up my right

hand to you and swear."

"O, I knew you would be true!" said I. "It's me--it's here. I

that stood but this morning and out-faced them, that risked rather

to die disgraced upon the gallows than do wrong--and a few hours

after I throw my honour away by the roadside in common talk!

'There is one thing clear upon our interview,' says he, 'that I can

rely on your pledged word.' Where is my word now? Who could

believe me now? You could not believe me. I am clean fallen down;

I had best die!" All this I said with a weeping voice, but I had

no tears in my body.

"My heart is sore for you," said she, "but be sure you are too

nice. I would not believe you, do you say? I would trust you with

anything. And these men? I would not be thinking of them! Men

who go about to entrap and to destroy you! Fy! this is no time to

crouch. Look up! Do you not think I will be admiring you like a

great hero of the good--and you a boy not much older than myself?

And because you said a word too much in a friend's ear, that would

die ere she betrayed you--to make such a matter! It is one thing

that we must both forget."

"Catriona," said I, looking at her, hang-dog, "is this true of it?

Would ye trust me yet?"

"Will you not believe the tears upon my face?" she cried. "It is

the world I am thinking of you, Mr. David Balfour. Let them hang

you; I will never forget, I will grow old and still remember you.

I think it is great to die so: I will envy you that gallows."

"And maybe all this while I am but a child frighted with bogles,"

said I. "Maybe they but make a mock of me."

"It is what I must know," she said. "I must hear the whole. The

harm is done at all events, and I must hear the whole."

I had sat down on the wayside, where she took a place beside me,

and I told her all that matter much as I have written it, my

thoughts about her father's dealings being alone omitted.

Catriona Page 30

Robert Louis Stevenson

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