Page 50

Not only that, but he expended some

breath (of which he had not very much left) to curse his own

misfortune and my stupidity which was said to be its cause.

"Them that cannae tell the truth," he observed to myself as we went

on again, "should be aye mindful to leave an honest, handy lee

behind them. If folk dinnae ken what ye're doing, Davie, they're

terrible taken up with it; but if they think they ken, they care

nae mair for it than what I do for pease porridge."

As we had first made inland, so our road came in the end to lie

very near due north; the old Kirk of Aberlady for a landmark on the

left; on the right, the top of the Berwick Law; and it was thus we

struck the shore again, not far from Dirleton. From north Berwick

west to Gillane Ness there runs a string of four small islets,

Craiglieth, the Lamb, Fidra, and Eyebrough, notable by their

diversity of size and shape. Fidra is the most particular, being a

strange grey islet of two humps, made the more conspicuous by a

piece of ruin; and I mind that (as we drew closer to it) by some

door or window of these ruins the sea peeped through like a man's

eye. Under the lee of Fidra there is a good anchorage in westerly

winds, and there, from a far way off, we could see the Thistle


The shore in face of these islets is altogether waste. Here is no

dwelling of man, and scarce any passage, or at most of vagabond

children running at their play. Gillane is a small place on the

far side of the Ness, the folk of Dirleton go to their business in

the inland fields, and those of North Berwick straight to the sea-

fishing from their haven; so that few parts of the coast are

lonelier. But I mind, as we crawled upon our bellies into that

multiplicity of heights and hollows, keeping a bright eye upon all

sides, and our hearts hammering at our ribs, there was such a

shining of the sun and the sea, such a stir of the wind in the bent

grass, and such a bustle of down-popping rabbits and up-flying

gulls, that the desert seemed to me, like a place alive. No doubt

it was in all ways well chosen for a secret embarcation, if the

secret had been kept; and even now that it was out, and the place

watched, we were able to creep unperceived to the front of the

sandhills, where they look down immediately on the beach and sea.

But here Alan came to a full stop.

"Davie," said he, "this is a kittle passage! As long as we lie

here we're safe; but I'm nane sae muckle nearer to my ship or the

coast of France. And as soon as we stand up and signal the brig,

it's another matter. For where will your gentry be, think ye?"

"Maybe they're no come yet," said I. "And even if they are,

there's one clear matter in our favour. They'll be all arranged to

take us, that's true. But they'll have arranged for our coming

from the east and here we are upon their west."

"Ay," says Alan, "I wish we were in some force, and this was a

battle, we would have bonnily out-manoeuvred them! But it isnae,

Davit; and the way it is, is a wee thing less inspiring to Alan

Breck. I swither, Davie."

"Time flies, Alan," said I.

"I ken that," said Alan. "I ken naething else, as the French folk

say. But this is a dreidful case of heids or tails. O! if I could

but ken where your gentry were!"

"Alan," said I, "this is no like you. It's got to be now or


"This is no me, quo' he,"

sang Alan, with a queer face betwixt shame and drollery.

"Neither you nor me, quo' he, neither you nor me.

Wow, na, Johnnie man! neither you nor me."

And then of a sudden he stood straight up where he was, and with a

handkerchief flying in his right hand, marched down upon the beach.

I stood up myself, but lingered behind him, scanning the sand-hills

to the east. His appearance was at first unremarked: Scougal not

expecting him so early, and MY GENTRY watching on the other side.

Catriona Page 51

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