"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
"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
"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.