Catriona

Page 46

It

was my first sight of my friend since we were parted, and I looked

upon him with enjoyment. He had still the same big great-coat on

his back; but (what was new) he had now a pair of knitted boot-hose

drawn above the knee. Doubtless these were intended for disguise;

but, as the day promised to be warm, he made a most unseasonable

figure.

"Well, Davie," said he, "is this no a bonny morning? Here is a day

that looks the way that a day ought to. This is a great change of

it from the belly of my haystack; and while you were there

sottering and sleeping I have done a thing that maybe I do very

seldom."

"And what was that?" said I.

"O, just said my prayers," said he.

"And where are my gentry, as ye call them?" I asked.

"Gude kens," says he; "and the short and the long of it is that we

must take our chance of them. Up with your foot-soles, Davie!

Forth, Fortune, once again of it! And a bonny walk we are like to

have."

So we went east by the beach of the sea, towards where the salt-

pans were smoking in by the Esk mouth. No doubt there was a by-

ordinary bonny blink of morning sun on Arthur's Seat and the green

Pentlands; and the pleasantness of the day appeared to set Alan

among nettles.

"I feel like a gomeral," says he, "to be leaving Scotland on a day

like this. It sticks in my head; I would maybe like it better to

stay here and hing."

"Ay, but ye wouldnae, Alan," said I.

"No, but what France is a good place too," he explained; "but it's

some way no the same. It's brawer I believe, but it's no Scotland.

I like it fine when I'm there, man; yet I kind of weary for Scots

divots and the Scots peat-reek."

"If that's all you have to complain of, Alan, it's no such great

affair," said I.

"And it sets me ill to be complaining, whatever," said he, "and me

but new out of yon deil's haystack."

"And so you were unco weary of your haystack?" I asked.

"Weary's nae word for it," said he. "I'm not just precisely a man

that's easily cast down; but I do better with caller air and the

lift above my head. I'm like the auld Black Douglas (wasnae't?)

that likit better to hear the laverock sing than the mouse cheep.

And yon place, ye see, Davie--whilk was a very suitable place to

hide in, as I'm free to own--was pit mirk from dawn to gloaming.

There were days (or nights, for how would I tell one from other?)

that seemed to me as long as a long winter."

"How did you know the hour to bide your tryst?" I asked.

"The goodman brought me my meat and a drop brandy, and a candle-

dowp to eat it by, about eleeven," said he. "So, when I had

swallowed a bit, it would he time to be getting to the wood. There

I lay and wearied for ye sore, Davie," says he, laying his hand on

my shoulder "and guessed when the two hours would be about by--

unless Charlie Stewart would come and tell me on his watch--and

then back to the dooms haystack. Na, it was a driech employ, and

praise the Lord that I have warstled through with it!"

"What did you do with yourself?" I asked.

"Faith," said he, "the best I could! Whiles I played at the

knucklebones. I'm an extraordinar good hand at the knucklebones,

but it's a poor piece of business playing with naebody to admire

ye. And whiles I would make songs."

"What were they about?" says I.

"O, about the deer and the heather," says he, "and about the

ancient old chiefs that are all by with it lang syne, and just

about what songs are about in general. And then whiles I would

make believe I had a set of pipes and I was playing. I played some

grand springs, and I thought I played them awful bonny; I vow

whiles that I could hear the squeal of them! But the great affair

is that it's done with."

With that he carried me again to my adventures, which he heard all

over again with more particularity, and extraordinary approval,

swearing at intervals that I was "a queer character of a callant."

"So ye were frich'ened of Sim Fraser?" he asked once.

Catriona Page 47

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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