Page 47

"In troth was I!" cried I.

"So would I have been, Davie," said he. "And that is indeed a

driedful man. But it is only proper to give the deil his due: and

I can tell you he is a most respectable person on the field of


"Is he so brave?" I asked.

"Brave!" said he. "He is as brave as my steel sword."

The story of my duel set him beside himself.

"To think of that!" he cried. "I showed ye the trick in

Corrynakiegh too. And three times--three times disarmed! It's a

disgrace upon my character that learned ye! Here, stand up, out

with your airn; ye shall walk no step beyond this place upon the

road till ye can do yoursel' and me mair credit."

"Alan," said I, "this is midsummer madness. Here is no time for

fencing lessons."

"I cannae well say no to that," he admitted. "But three times,

man! And you standing there like a straw bogle and rinning to

fetch your ain sword like a doggie with a pocket-napkin! David,

this man Duncansby must be something altogether by-ordinar! He

maun be extraordinar skilly. If I had the time, I would gang

straight back and try a turn at him mysel'. The man must be a


"You silly fellow," said I, "you forget it was just me."

"Na," said he, "but three times!"

"When ye ken yourself that I am fair incompetent," I cried.

"Well, I never heard tell the equal of it," said he.

"I promise you the one thing, Alan," said I. "The next time that

we forgather, I'll be better learned. You shall not continue to

bear the disgrace of a friend that cannot strike."

"Ay, the next time!" says he. "And when will that be, I would like

to ken?"

"Well, Alan, I have had some thoughts of that, too," said I; "and

my plan is this. It's my opinion to be called an advocate."

"That's but a weary trade, Davie," says Alan, "and rather a

blagyard one forby. Ye would be better in a king's coat than


"And no doubt that would be the way to have us meet," cried I.

"But as you'll be in King Lewie's coat, and I'll be in King

Geordie's, we'll have a dainty meeting of it."

"There's some sense in that," he admitted

"An advocate, then, it'll have to be," I continued, "and I think it

a more suitable trade for a gentleman that was THREE TIMES

disarmed. But the beauty of the thing is this: that one of the

best colleges for that kind of learning--and the one where my

kinsman, Pilrig, made his studies--is the college of Leyden in

Holland. Now, what say you, Alan? Could not a cadet of Royal

Ecossais get a furlough, slip over the marches, and call in upon a

Leyden student?"

"Well, and I would think he could!" cried he. "Ye see, I stand

well in with my colonel, Count Drummond-Melfort; and, what's mair

to the purpose I have a cousin of mine lieutenant-colonel in a

regiment of the Scots-Dutch. Naething could be mair proper than

what I would get a leave to see Lieutenant-Colonel Stewart of

Halkett's. And Lord Melfort, who is a very scienteefic kind of a

man, and writes books like Caesar, would be doubtless very pleased

to have the advantage of my observes."

"Is Lord Meloort an author, then?" I asked, for much as Alan

thought of soldiers, I thought more of the gentry that write books.

"The very same, Davie," said he. "One would think a colonel would

have something better to attend to. But what can I say that make


"Well, then," said I, "it only remains you should give me an

address to write you at in France; and as soon as I am got to

Leyden I will send you mine."

"The best will be to write me in the care of my chieftain," said

he, "Charles Stewart, of Ardsheil, Esquire, at the town of Melons,

in the Isle of France. It might take long, or it might take short,

but it would aye get to my hands at the last of it."

We had a haddock to our breakfast in Musselburgh, where it amused

me vastly to hear Alan. His great-coat and boot-hose were

extremely remarkable this warm morning, and perhaps some hint of an

explanation had been wise; but Alan went into that matter like a

business, or I should rather say, like a diversion.

Catriona Page 48

Robert Louis Stevenson

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book