Catriona

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"My cousin will not be so long."

So I told her the tale of the lieutenant from the first step to the

last of it, making it as mirthful as I could, and, indeed, there

was matter of mirth in that absurdity.

"And I think you will be as little fitted for the rudas men as for

the pretty ladies, after all!" says she, when I had done. "But

what was your father that he could not learn you to draw the sword!

It is most ungentle; I have not heard the match of that in anyone."

"It is most misconvenient at least," said I; "and I think my father

(honest man!) must have been wool-gathering to learn me Latin in

the place of it. But you see I do the best I can, and just stand

up like Lot's wife and let them hammer at me."

"Do you know what makes me smile?" said she. "Well, it is this. I

am made this way, that I should have been a man child. In my own

thoughts it is so I am always; and I go on telling myself about

this thing that is to befall and that. Then it comes to the place

of the fighting, and it comes over me that I am only a girl at all

events, and cannot hold a sword or give one good blow; and then I

have to twist my story round about, so that the fighting is to

stop, and yet me have the best of it, just like you and the

lieutenant; and I am the boy that makes the fine speeches all

through, like Mr. David Balfour."

"You are a bloodthirsty maid," said I.

"Well, I know it is good to sew and spin, and to make samplers,"

she said, "but if you were to do nothing else in the great world, I

think you will say yourself it is a driech business; and it is not

that I want to kill, I think. Did ever you kill anyone?"

"That I have, as it chances. Two, no less, and me still a lad that

should be at the college," said I. "But yet, in the look-back, I

take no shame for it."

"But how did you feel, then--after it?" she asked.

'"Deed, I sat down and grat like a bairn," said I.

"I know that, too," she cried. "I feel where these tears should

come from. And at any rate, I would not wish to kill, only to be

Catherine Douglas that put her arm through the staples of the bolt,

where it was broken. That is my chief hero. Would you not love to

die so--for your king?" she asked.

"Troth," said I, "my affection for my king, God bless the puggy

face of him, is under more control; and I thought I saw death so

near to me this day already, that I am rather taken up with the

notion of living."

"Right," she said, "the right mind of a man! Only you must learn

arms; I would not like to have a friend that cannot strike. But it

will not have been with the sword that you killed these two?"

"Indeed, no," said I, "but with a pair of pistols. And a fortunate

thing it was the men were so near-hand to me, for I am about as

clever with the pistols as I am with the sword."

So then she drew from me the story of our battle in the brig, which

I had omitted in my first account of my affairs.

"Yes," said she, "you are brave. And your friend, I admire and

love him."

"Well, and I think anyone would!" said I. "He has his faults like

other folk; but he is brave and staunch and kind, God bless him!

That will be a strange day when I forget Alan." And the thought of

him, and that it was within my choice to speak with him that night,

had almost overcome me.

"And where will my head be gone that I have not told my news!" she

cried, and spoke of a letter from her father, bearing that she

might visit him to-morrow in the castle whither he was now

transferred, and that his affairs were mending. "You do not like

to hear it," said she. "Will you judge my father and not know

him?"

"I am a thousand miles from judging," I replied. "And I give you

my word I do rejoice to know your heart is lightened. If my face

fell at all, as I suppose it must, you will allow this is rather an

ill day for compositions, and the people in power extremely ill

persons to be compounding with.

Catriona Page 40

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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