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"I hae nae trokings wi' Lovats."

"No, it'll be Prestongrange that you'll be dealing with," said I.

"Ah, but I'll no tell ye that," said Andie.

"Little need when I ken," was my retort.

"There's just the ae thing ye can be fairly sure of, Shaws," says

Andie. "And that is that (try as ye please) I'm no dealing wi'

yoursel'; nor yet I amnae goin' to," he added.

"Well, Andie, I see I'll have to be speak out plain with you," I

replied. And told him so much as I thought needful of the facts.

He heard me out with some serious interest, and when I had done,

seemed to consider a little with himself.

"Shaws," said he at last, "I'll deal with the naked hand. It's a

queer tale, and no very creditable, the way you tell it; and I'm

far frae minting that is other than the way that ye believe it. As

for yoursel', ye seem to me rather a dacent-like young man. But

me, that's aulder and mair judeecious, see perhaps a wee bit

further forrit in the job than what ye can dae. And here the

maitter clear and plain to ye. There'll be nae skaith to yoursel'

if I keep ye here; far free that, I think ye'll be a hantle better

by it. There'll be nae skaith to the kintry--just ae mair

Hielantman hangit--Gude kens, a guid riddance! On the ither hand,

it would be considerable skaith to me if I would let you free.

Sae, speakin' as a guid Whig, an honest freen' to you, and an

anxious freen' to my ainsel', the plain fact is that I think ye'll

just have to bide here wi' Andie an' the solans."

"Andie," said I, laying my hand upon his knee, "this Hielantman's


"Ay, it's a peety about that," said he. "But ye see, in this

warld, the way God made it, we cannae just get a'thing that we



I have yet said little of the Highlanders. They were all three of

the followers of James More, which bound the accusation very tight

about their master's neck. All understood a word or two of

English, but Neil was the only one who judged he had enough of it

for general converse, in which (when once he got embarked) his

company was often tempted to the contrary opinion. They were

tractable, simple creatures; showed much more courtesy than might

have been expected from their raggedness and their uncouth

appearance, and fell spontaneously to be like three servants for

Andie and myself.

Dwelling in that isolated place, in the old falling ruins of a

prison, and among endless strange sounds of the sea and the sea-

birds, I thought I perceived in them early the effects of

superstitious fear. When there was nothing doing they would either

lie and sleep, for which their appetite appeared insatiable, or

Neil would entertain the others with stories which seemed always of

a terrifying strain. If neither of these delights were within

reach--if perhaps two were sleeping and the third could find no

means to follow their example--I would see him sit and listen and

look about him in a progression of uneasiness, starting, his face

blenching, his hands clutched, a man strung like a bow. The nature

of these fears I had never an occasion to find out, but the sight

of them was catching, and the nature of the place that we were in

favourable to alarms. I can find no word for it in the English,

but Andie had an expression for it in the Scots from which he never


"Ay," he would say, "ITS AN UNCO PLACE, THE BASS."

It is so I always think of it. It was an unco place by night, unco

by day; and these were unco sounds, of the calling of the solans,

and the plash of the sea and the rock echoes, that hung continually

in our ears. It was chiefly so in moderate weather. When the

waves were anyway great they roared about the rock like thunder and

the drums of armies, dreadful but merry to hear; and it was in the

calm days that a man could daunt himself with listening--not a

Highlandman only, as I several times experimented on myself, so

many still, hollow noises haunted and reverberated in the porches

of the rock.

Catriona Page 59

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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