A path led in the foot of it, the water bickered
and sang in the midst; the sunbeams overhead struck out of the west
among long shadows and (as the valley turned) made like a new scene
and a new world of it at every corner. With Catriona behind and
Alan before me, I was like one lifted up. The place besides, and
the hour, and the talking of the water, infinitely pleased me; and
I lingered in my steps and looked before and behind me as I went.
This was the cause, under Providence, that I spied a little in my
rear a red head among some bushes.
Anger sprang in my heart, and I turned straight about and walked at
a stiff pace to where I came from. The path lay close by the
bushes where I had remarked the head. The cover came to the
wayside, and as I passed I was all strung up to meet and to resist
an onfall. No such thing befell, I went by unmeddled with; and at
that fear increased upon me. It was still day indeed, but the
place exceeding solitary. If my haunters had let slip that fair
occasion I could but judge they aimed at something more than David
Balfour. The lives of Alan and James weighed upon my spirit with
the weight of two grown bullocks.
Catriona was yet in the garden walking by herself.
"Catriona," said I, "you see me back again."
"With a changed face," said she.
"I carry two men's lives besides my own," said I. "It would be a
sin and shame not to walk carefully. I was doubtful whether I did
right to come here. I would like it ill, if it was by that means
we were brought to harm."
"I could tell you one that would be liking it less, and will like
little enough to hear you talking at this very same time," she
cried. "What have I done, at all events?"
"O, you I you are not alone," I replied. "But since I went off I
have been dogged again, and I can give you the name of him that
follows me. It is Neil, son of Duncan, your man or your father's."
"To be sure you are mistaken there," she said, with a white face.
"Neil is in Edinburgh on errands from my father."
"It is what I fear," said I, "the last of it. But for his being in
Edinburgh I think I can show you another of that. For sure you
have some signal, a signal of need, such as would bring him to your
help, if he was anywhere within the reach of ears and legs?"
"Why, how will you know that?" says she.
"By means of a magical talisman God gave to me when I was born, and
the name they call it by is Common-sense," said I. "Oblige me so
far as make your signal, and I will show you the red head of Neil."
No doubt but I spoke bitter and sharp. My heart was bitter. I
blamed myself and the girl and hated both of us: her for the vile
crew that she was come of, myself for my wanton folly to have stuck
my head in such a byke of wasps.
Catriona set her fingers to her lips and whistled once, with an
exceeding clear, strong, mounting note, as full as a ploughman's.
A while we stood silent; and I was about to ask her to repeat the
same, when I heard the sound of some one bursting through the
bushes below on the braeside. I pointed in that direction with a
smile, and presently Neil leaped into the garden. His eyes burned,
and he had a black knife (as they call it on the Highland side)
naked in his hand; but, seeing me beside his mistress, stood like a
"He has come to your call," said I; "judge how near he was to
Edinburgh, or what was the nature of your father's errands. Ask
himself. If I am to lose my life, or the lives of those that hang
by me, through the means of your clan, let me go where I have to go
with my eyes open."
She addressed him tremulously in the Gaelic. Remembering Alan's
anxious civility in that particular, I could have laughed out loud
for bitterness; here, sure, in the midst of these suspicions, was
the hour she should have stuck by English.
Twice or thrice they spoke together, and I could make out that Neil
(for all his obsequiousness) was an angry man.