ST. Ives

Page 38

'Now, Mr. St. Ives,' said the old lady, 'it's high time for you to be taking the road. But first of all let me give the change of your five-guinea bill. Here are four pounds of it in British Linen notes, and the balance in small silver, less sixpence. Some charge a shilling, I believe, but I have given you the benefit of the doubt. See and guide it with all the sense that you possess.'

'And here, Mr. St. Ives,' said Flora, speaking for the first time, 'is a plaid which you will find quite necessary on so rough a journey. I hope you will take it from the hands of a Scotch friend,' she added, and her voice trembled.

'Genuine holly: I cut it myself,' said Ronald, and gave me as good a cudgel as a man could wish for in a row.

The formality of these gifts, and the waiting figure of the driver, told me loudly that I must be gone. I dropped on one knee and bade farewell to the aunt, kissing her hand. I did the like--but with how different a passion!--to her niece; as for the boy, I took him to my arms and embraced him with a cordiality that seemed to strike him speechless. 'Farewell!' and 'Farewell!' I said. 'I shall never forget my friends. Keep me sometimes in memory. Farewell!' With that I turned my back and began to walk away; and had scarce done so, when I heard the door in the high wall close behind me. Of course this was the aunt's doing; and of course, if I know anything of human character, she would not let me go without some tart expressions. I declare, even if I had heard them, I should not have minded in the least, for I was quite persuaded that, whatever admirers I might be leaving behind me in Swanston Cottage, the aunt was not the least sincere.

CHAPTER X--THE DROVERS

It took me a little effort to come abreast of my new companion; for though he walked with an ugly roll and no great appearance of speed, he could cover the around at a good rate when he wanted to. Each looked at the other: I with natural curiosity, he with a great appearance of distaste. I have heard since that his heart was entirely set against me; he had seen me kneel to the ladies, and diagnosed me for a 'gesterin' eediot.'

'So, ye're for England, are ye?' said he.

I told him yes.

'Weel, there's waur places, I believe,' was his reply; and he relapsed into a silence which was not broken during a quarter of an hour of steady walking.

This interval brought us to the foot of a bare green valley, which wound upwards and backwards among the hills. A little stream came down the midst and made a succession of clear pools; near by the lowest of which I was aware of a drove of shaggy cattle, and a man who seemed the very counterpart of Mr. Sim making a breakfast upon bread and cheese. This second drover (whose name proved to be Candlish) rose on our approach.

'Here's a mannie that's to gang through with us,' said Sim. 'It was the auld wife, Gilchrist, wanted it.'

'Aweel, aweel,' said the other; and presently, remembering his manners, and looking on me with a solemn grin, 'A fine day!' says he.

I agreed with him, and asked him how he did.

'Brawly,' was the reply; and without further civilities, the pair proceeded to get the cattle under way. This, as well as almost all the herding, was the work of a pair of comely and intelligent dogs, directed by Sim or Candlish in little more than monosyllables. Presently we were ascending the side of the mountain by a rude green track, whose presence I had not hitherto observed. A continual sound of munching and the crying of a great quantity of moor birds accompanied our progress, which the deliberate pace and perennial appetite of the cattle rendered wearisomely slow. In the midst my two conductors marched in a contented silence that I could not but admire. The more I looked at them, the more I was impressed by their absurd resemblance to each other. They were dressed in the same coarse homespun, carried similar sticks, were equally begrimed about the nose with snuff, and each wound in an identical plaid of what is called the shepherd's tartan.

ST. Ives Page 39

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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