Catriona

Page 44

It was already close on Alan's hour, and the moon was down.

If I left (as I could not very decently whistle to my spies to

follow me) they might miss me in the dark and tack themselves to

Alan by mistake. If I stayed, I could at the least of it set my

friend upon his guard which might prove his mere salvation. I had

adventured other peoples' safety in a course of self-indulgence; to

have endangered them again, and now on a mere design of penance,

would have been scarce rational. Accordingly, I had scarce risen

from my place ere I sat down again, but already in a different

frame of spirits, and equally marvelling at my past weakness and

rejoicing in my present composure.

Presently after came a crackling in the thicket. Putting my mouth

near down to the ground, I whistled a note or two, of Alan's air;

an answer came in the like guarded tone, and soon we had knocked

together in the dark.

"Is this you at last, Davie?" he whispered.

"Just myself," said I.

"God, man, but I've been wearying to see ye!" says he. "I've had

the longest kind of a time. A' day, I've had my dwelling into the

inside of a stack of hay, where I couldnae see the nebs of my ten

fingers; and then two hours of it waiting here for you, and you

never coming! Dod, and ye're none too soon the way it is, with me

to sail the morn! The morn? what am I saying?--the day, I mean."

"Ay, Alan, man, the day, sure enough," said I. "It's past twelve

now, surely, and ye sail the day. This'll be a long road you have

before you."

"We'll have a long crack of it first," said he.

"Well, indeed, and I have a good deal it will be telling you to

hear," said I.

And I told him what behooved, making rather a jumble of it, but

clear enough when done. He heard me out with very few questions,

laughing here and there like a man delighted: and the sound of his

laughing (above all there, in the dark, where neither one of us

could see the other) was extraordinary friendly to my heart.

"Ay, Davie, ye're a queer character," says he, when I had done: "a

queer bitch after a', and I have no mind of meeting with the like

of ye. As for your story, Prestongrange is a Whig like yoursel',

so I'll say the less of him; and, dod! I believe he was the best

friend ye had, if ye could only trust him. But Simon Fraser and

James More are my ain kind of cattle, and I'll give them the name

that they deserve. The muckle black deil was father to the

Frasers, a'body kens that; and as for the Gregara, I never could

abye the reek of them since I could stotter on two feet. I

bloodied the nose of one, I mind, when I was still so wambly on my

legs that I cowped upon the top of him. A proud man was my father

that day, God rest him! and I think he had the cause. I'll never

can deny but what Robin was something of a piper," he added; "but

as for James More, the deil guide him for me!"

"One thing we have to consider," said I. "Was Charles Stewart

right or wrong? Is it only me they're after, or the pair of us?"

"And what's your ain opinion, you that's a man of so much

experience?" said he.

"It passes me," said I.

"And me too," says Alan. "Do ye think this lass would keep her

word to ye?" he asked.

"I do that," said I.

"Well, there's nae telling," said he. "And anyway, that's over and

done: he'll be joined to the rest of them lang syne."

"How many would ye think there would be of them?" I asked.

"That depends," said Alan. "If it was only you, they would likely

send two-three lively, brisk young birkies, and if they thought

that I was to appear in the employ, I daresay ten or twelve," said

he.

It was no use, I gave a little crack of laughter.

"And I think your own two eyes will have seen me drive that number,

or the double of it, nearer hand!" cries he.

"It matters the less," said I, "because I am well rid of them for

this time."

"Nae doubt that's your opinion," said he; "but I wouldnae be the

least surprised if they were hunkering this wood.

Catriona Page 45

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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