Catriona

Page 33

"I am fery prave myself, and

pold as a lions. But to stand up there--and you ken naething of

fence!--the way that you did, I declare it was peyond me. And I am

sorry for the plow; though I declare I pelief your own was the

elder brother, and my heid still sings with it. And I declare if I

had kent what way it wass, I would not put a hand to such a piece

of pusiness."

"That is handsomely said," I replied, "and I am sure you will not

stand up a second time to be the actor for my private enemies."

"Indeed, no, Palfour," said he; "and I think I was used extremely

suffeeciently myself to be set up to fecht with an auld wife, or

all the same as a bairn whateffer! And I will tell the Master so,

and fecht him, by Cot, himself!"

"And if you knew the nature of Mr. Simon's quarrel with me," said

I, "you would be yet the more affronted to be mingled up with such

affairs."

He swore he could well believe it; that all the Lovats were made of

the same meal and the devil was the miller that ground that; then

suddenly shaking me by the hand, he vowed I was a pretty enough

fellow after all, that it was a thousand pities I had been

neglected, and that if he could find the time, he would give an eye

himself to have me educated.

"You can do me a better service than even what you propose," said

I; and when he had asked its nature--"Come with me to the house of

one of my enemies, and testify how I have carried myself this day,"

I told him. "That will be the true service. For though he has

sent me a gallant adversary for the first, the thought in Mr.

Simon's mind is merely murder. There will be a second and then a

third; and by what you have seen of my cleverness with the cold

steel, you can judge for yourself what is like to be the upshot."

"And I would not like it myself, if I was no more of a man than

what you wass!" he cried. "But I will do you right, Palfour. Lead

on!"

If I had walked slowly on the way into that accursed park my heels

were light enough on the way out. They kept time to a very good

old air, that is as ancient as the Bible, and the words of it are:

"SURELY THE BITTERNESS OF DEATH IS PASSED." I mind that I was

extremely thirsty, and had a drink at Saint Margaret's well on the

road down, and the sweetness of that water passed belief. We went

through the sanctuary, up the Canongate, in by the Netherbow, and

straight to Prestongrange's door, talking as we came and arranging

the details of our affair. The footman owned his master was at

home, but declared him engaged with other gentlemen on very private

business, and his door forbidden.

"My business is but for three minutes, and it cannot wait," said I.

"You may say it is by no means private, and I shall be even glad to

have some witnesses."

As the man departed unwillingly enough upon this errand, we made so

bold as to follow him to the ante-chamber, whence I could hear for

a while the murmuring of several voices in the room within. The

truth is, they were three at the one table--Prestongrange, Simon

Fraser, and Mr. Erskine, Sheriff of Perth; and as they were met in

consultation on the very business of the Appin murder, they were a

little disturbed at my appearance, but decided to receive me.

"Well, well, Mr. Balfour, and what brings you here again? and who

is this you bring with you?" says Prestongrange.

As for Fraser, he looked before him on the table.

"He is here to bear a little testimony in my favour, my lord, which

I think it very needful you should hear," said I, and turned to

Duncansby.

"I have only to say this," said the lieutenant, "that I stood up

this day with Palfour in the Hunter's Pog, which I am now fery

sorry for, and he behaved himself as pretty as a shentlemans could

ask it. And I have creat respects for Palfour," he added.

"I thank you for your honest expressions," said I.

Whereupon Duncansby made his bow to the company, and left the

chamber, as we had agreed upon before.

Catriona Page 34

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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