Catriona

Page 59

This brings me to a story I heard, and a scene I took part in,

which quite changed our terms of living, and had a great effect on

my departure. It chanced one night I fell in a muse beside the

fire and (that little air of Alan's coming back to my memory) began

to whistle. A hand was laid upon my arm, and the voice of Neil

bade me to stop, for it was not "canny musics."

"Not canny?" I asked. "How can that be?"

"Na," said he; "it will be made by a bogle and her wanting ta heid

upon his body." {13}

"Well," said I, "there can be no bogles here, Neil; for it's not

likely they would fash themselves to frighten geese."

"Ay?" says Andie, "is that what ye think of it! But I'll can tell

ye there's been waur nor bogles here."

"What's waur than bogles, Andie?" said I.

"Warlocks," said he. "Or a warlock at the least of it. And that's

a queer tale, too," he added. "And if ye would like, I'll tell it

ye."

To be sure we were all of the one mind, and even the Highlander

that had the least English of the three set himself to listen with

all his might.

THE TALE OF TOD LAPRAIK

MY faither, Tam Dale, peace to his banes, was a wild, sploring lad

in his young days, wi' little wisdom and little grace. He was fond

of a lass and fond of a glass, and fond of a ran-dan; but I could

never hear tell that he was muckle use for honest employment. Frae

ae thing to anither, he listed at last for a sodger and was in the

garrison of this fort, which was the first way that ony of the

Dales cam to set foot upon the Bass. Sorrow upon that service!

The governor brewed his ain ale; it seems it was the warst

conceivable. The rock was proveesioned free the shore with vivers,

the thing was ill-guided, and there were whiles when they but to

fish and shoot solans for their diet. To crown a', thir was the

Days of the Persecution. The perishin' cauld chalmers were all

occupeed wi' sants and martyrs, the saut of the yearth, of which it

wasnae worthy. And though Tam Dale carried a firelock there, a

single sodger, and liked a lass and a glass, as I was sayin,' the

mind of the man was mair just than set with his position. He had

glints of the glory of the kirk; there were whiles when his dander

rase to see the Lord's sants misguided, and shame covered him that

he should be haulding a can'le (or carrying a firelock) in so black

a business. There were nights of it when he was here on sentry,

the place a' wheesht, the frosts o' winter maybe riving in the

wa's, and he would hear ane o' the prisoners strike up a psalm, and

the rest join in, and the blessed sounds rising from the different

chalmers--or dungeons, I would raither say--so that this auld craig

in the sea was like a pairt of Heev'n. Black shame was on his

saul; his sins hove up before him muckle as the Bass, and above a',

that chief sin, that he should have a hand in hagging and hashing

at Christ's Kirk. But the truth is that he resisted the spirit.

Day cam, there were the rousing compainions, and his guid resolves

depairtit.

In thir days, dwalled upon the Bass a man of God, Peden the Prophet

was his name. Ye'll have heard tell of Prophet Peden. There was

never the wale of him sinsyne, and it's a question wi' mony if

there ever was his like afore. He was wild's a peat-hag, fearsome

to look at, fearsome to hear, his face like the day of judgment.

The voice of him was like a solan's and dinnle'd in folks' lugs,

and the words of him like coals of fire.

Now there was a lass on the rock, and I think she had little to do,

for it was nae place far decent weemen; but it seems she was bonny,

and her and Tam Dale were very well agreed. It befell that Peden

was in the gairden his lane at the praying when Tam and the lass

cam by; and what should the lassie do but mock with laughter at the

sant's devotions? He rose and lookit at the twa o' them, and Tam's

knees knoitered thegether at the look of him.

Catriona Page 60

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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