If you're sure that
you're not followed, Mr. Balfour--but make sure of that--lie in a
good place and watch your road for a clear hour before ye risk it.
It would be a dreadful business if both you and him was to
CHAPTER X--THE RED-HEADED MAN
It was about half-past three when I came forth on the Lang Dykes.
Dean was where I wanted to go. Since Catriona dwelled there, and
her kinsfolk the Glengyle Macgregors appeared almost certainly to
be employed against me, it was just one of the few places I should
have kept away from; and being a very young man, and beginning to
be very much in love, I turned my face in that direction without
pause. As a slave to my conscience and common sense, however, I
took a measure of precaution. Coming over the crown of a bit of a
rise in the road, I clapped down suddenly among the barley and lay
waiting. After a while, a man went by that looked to be a
Highlandman, but I had never seen him till that hour. Presently
after came Neil of the red head. The next to go past was a
miller's cart, and after that nothing but manifest country people.
Here was enough to have turned the most foolhardy from his purpose,
but my inclination ran too strong the other way. I argued it out
that if Neil was on that road, it was the right road to find him
in, leading direct to his chief's daughter; as for the other
Highlandman, if I was to be startled off by every Highlandman I
saw, I would scarce reach anywhere. And having quite satisfied
myself with this disingenuous debate, I made the better speed of
it, and came a little after four to Mrs. Drumond-Ogilvy's.
Both ladies were within the house; and upon my perceiving them
together by the open door, I plucked off my hat and said, "Here was
a lad come seeking saxpence," which I thought might please the
Catriona ran out to greet me heartily, and, to my surprise, the old
lady seemed scarce less forward than herself. I learned long
afterwards that she had despatched a horseman by daylight to
Rankeillor at the Queensferry, whom she knew to be the doer for
Shaws, and had then in her pocket a letter from that good friend of
mine, presenting, in the most favourable view, my character and
prospects. But had I read it I could scarce have seen more clear
in her designs. Maybe I was COUNTRYFEED; at least, I was not so
much so as she thought; and it was even to my homespun wits, that
she was bent to hammer up a match between her cousin and a
beardless boy that was something of a laird in Lothian.
"Saxpence had better take his broth with us, Catrine," says she.
"Run and tell the lasses."
And for the little while we were alone was at a good deal of pains
to flatter me; always cleverly, always with the appearance of a
banter, still calling me Saxpence, but with such a turn that should
rather uplift me in my own opinion. When Catriona returned, the
design became if possible more obvious; and she showed off the
girl's advantages like a horse-couper with a horse. My face flamed
that she should think me so obtuse. Now I would fancy the girl was
being innocently made a show of, and then I could have beaten the
old carline wife with a cudgel; and now, that perhaps these two had
set their heads together to entrap me, and at that I sat and
gloomed betwixt them like the very image of ill-will. At last the
matchmaker had a better device, which was to leave the pair of us
alone. When my suspicions are anyway roused it is sometimes a
little the wrong side of easy to allay them. But though I knew
what breed she was of, and that was a breed of thieves, I could
never look in Catriona's face and disbelieve her.
"I must not ask?" says she, eagerly, the same moment we were left
"Ah, but to-day I can talk with a free conscience," I replied. "I
am lightened of my pledge, and indeed (after what has come and gone
since morning) I would not have renewed it were it asked."
"Tell me," she said.