Catriona

Page 57

At other times my thoughts were very

different, I recalled how strong I had expressed myself both to

Rankeillor and to Stewart; I reflected that my captivity upon the

Bass, in view of a great part of the coasts of Fife and Lothian,

was a thing I should be thought more likely to have invented than

endured; and in the eyes of these two gentlemen, at least, I must

pass for a boaster and a coward. Now I would take this lightly

enough; tell myself that so long as I stood well with Catriona

Drummond, the opinion of the rest of man was but moonshine and

spilled water; and thence pass off into those meditations of a

lover which are so delightful to himself and must always appear so

surprisingly idle to a reader. But anon the fear would take me

otherwise; I would be shaken with a perfect panic of self-esteem,

and these supposed hard judgments appear an injustice impossible to

be supported. With that another train of thought would he

presented, and I had scarce begun to be concerned about men's

judgments of myself, than I was haunted with the remembrance of

James Stewart in his dungeon and the lamentations of his wife.

Then, indeed, passion began to work in me; I could not forgive

myself to sit there idle: it seemed (if I were a man at all) that

I could fly or swim out of my place of safety; and it was in such

humours and to amuse my self-reproaches that I would set the more

particularly to win the good side of Andie Dale.

At last, when we two were alone on the summit of the rock on a

bright morning, I put in some hint about a bribe. He looked at me,

cast back his head, and laughed out loud.

"Ay, you're funny, Mr. Dale," said I, "but perhaps if you'll glance

an eye upon that paper you may change your note."

The stupid Highlanders had taken from me at the time of my seizure

nothing but hard money, and the paper I now showed Andie was an

acknowledgment from the British Linen Company for a considerable

sum.

He read it. "Troth, and ye're nane sae ill aff," said he.

"I thought that would maybe vary your opinions," said I.

"Hout!" said he. "It shows me ye can bribe; but I'm no to be

bribit."

"We'll see about that yet a while," says I. "And first, I'll show

you that I know what I am talking. You have orders to detain me

here till after Thursday, 21st September."

"Ye're no a'thegether wrong either," says Andie. "I'm to let you

gang, bar orders contrair, on Saturday, the 23rd."

I could not but feel there was something extremely insidious in

this arrangement. That I was to re-appear precisely in time to be

too late would cast the more discredit on my tale, if I were minded

to tell one; and this screwed me to fighting point.

"Now then, Andie, you that kens the world, listen to me, and think

while ye listen," said I. "I know there are great folks in the

business, and I make no doubt you have their names to go upon. I

have seen some of them myself since this affair began, and said my

say into their faces too. But what kind of a crime would this be

that I had committed? or what kind of a process is this that I am

fallen under? To be apprehended by some ragged John-Hielandman on

August 30th, carried to a rickle of old stones that is now neither

fort nor gaol (whatever it once was) but just the gamekeeper's

lodge of the Bass Rock, and set free again, September 23rd, as

secretly as I was first arrested--does that sound like law to you?

or does it sound like justice? or does it not sound honestly like a

piece of some low dirty intrigue, of which the very folk that

meddle with it are ashamed?"

"I canna gainsay ye, Shaws. It looks unco underhand," says Andie.

"And werenae the folk guid sound Whigs and true-blue Presbyterians

I would has seen them ayont Jordan and Jeroozlem or I would have

set hand to it."

"The Master of Lovat'll be a braw Whig," says I, "and a grand

Presbyterian."

"I ken naething by him," said he.

Catriona Page 58

Robert Louis Stevenson

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