Catriona

Page 43

When

that hour began the sun was already set, but the sky still all

golden and the daylight clear; before the hour was done it had

fallen to be half mirk, the images and distances of things were

mingled, and observation began to be difficult. All that time not

a foot of man had come east from Silvermills, and the few that had

gone west were honest countryfolk and their wives upon the road to

bed. If I were tracked by the most cunning spies in Europe, I

judged it was beyond the course of nature they could have any

jealousy of where I was: and going a little further home into the

wood I lay down to wait for Alan.

The strain of my attention had been great, for I had watched not

the path only, but every bush and field within my vision. That was

now at an end. The moon, which was in her first quarter, glinted a

little in the wood; all round there was a stillness of the country;

and as I lay there on my back, the next three or four hours, I had

a fine occasion to review my conduct.

Two things became plain to me first: that I had no right to go

that day to Dean, and (having gone there) had now no right to be

lying where I was. This (where Alan was to come) was just the one

wood in all broad Scotland that was, by every proper feeling,

closed against me; I admitted that, and yet stayed on, wondering at

myself. I thought of the measure with which I had meted to

Catriona that same night; how I had prated of the two lives I

carried, and had thus forced her to enjeopardy her father's; and

how I was here exposing them again, it seemed in wantonness. A

good conscience is eight parts of courage. No sooner had I lost

conceit of my behaviour, than I seemed to stand disarmed amidst a

throng of terrors. Of a sudden I sat up. How if I went now to

Prestongrange, caught him (as I still easily might) before he

slept, and made a full submission? Who could blame me? Not

Stewart the Writer; I had but to say that I was followed, despaired

of getting clear, and so gave in. Not Catriona: here, too, I had

my answer ready; that I could not bear she should expose her

father. So, in a moment, I could lay all these troubles by, which

were after all and truly none of mine; swim clear of the Appin

Murder; get forth out of hand-stroke of all the Stewarts and

Campbells, all the Whigs and Tories, in the land; and live

henceforth to my own mind, and be able to enjoy and to improve my

fortunes, and devote some hours of my youth to courting Catriona,

which would be surely a more suitable occupation than to hide and

run and be followed like a hunted thief, and begin over again the

dreadful miseries of my escape with Alan.

At first I thought no shame of this capitulation; I was only amazed

I had not thought upon the thing and done it earlier; and began to

inquire into the causes of the change. These I traced to my

lowness of spirits, that back to my late recklessness, and that

again to the common, old, public, disconsidered sin of self-

indulgence. Instantly the text came in my head, "HOW CAN SATAN

CAST OUT SATAN?" What? (I thought) I had, by self-indulgence; and

the following of pleasant paths, and the lure of a young maid, cast

myself wholly out of conceit with my own character, and jeopardised

the lives of James and Alan? And I was to seek the way out by the

same road as I had entered in? No; the hurt that had been caused

by self-indulgence must be cured by self-denial; the flesh I had

pampered must be crucified. I looked about me for that course

which I least liked to follow: this was to leave the wood without

waiting to see Alan, and go forth again alone, in the dark and in

the midst of my perplexed and dangerous fortunes.

I have been the more careful to narrate this passage of my

reflections, because I think it is of some utility, and may serve

as an example to young men. But there is reason (they say) in

planting kale, and even in ethic and religion, room for common

sense.

Catriona Page 44

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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