ST. Ives

Page 43

It took place about four of the afternoon on a bare hillside from which I could see the ribbon of the great north road, henceforth to be my conductor. I asked what was to pay.

'Naething,' replied Sim.

'What in the name of folly is this?' I exclaimed. 'You have led me, you have fed me, you have filled me full of whisky, and now you will take nothing!'

'Ye see we indentit for that,' replied Sim.

'Indented?' I repeated; 'what does the man mean?'

'Mr. St. Ivy,' said Sim, 'this is a maitter entirely between Candlish and me and the auld wife, Gilchrist. You had naething to say to it; weel, ye can have naething to do with it, then.'

'My good man,' said I, 'I can allow myself to be placed in no such ridiculous position. Mrs. Gilchrist is nothing to me, and I refuse to be her debtor.'

'I dinna exac'ly see what way ye're gaun to help it,' observed my drover.

'By paying you here and now,' said I.

'There's aye twa to a bargain, Mr. St. Ives,' said he.

'You mean that you will not take it?' said I.

'There or thereabout,' said he. 'Forbye, that it would set ye a heap better to keep your siller for them you awe it to. Ye're young, Mr. St. Ivy, and thoughtless; but it's my belief that, wi' care and circumspection, ye may yet do credit to yoursel'. But just you bear this in mind: that him that AWES siller should never GIE siller.'

Well, what was there to say? I accepted his rebuke, and bidding the pair farewell, set off alone upon my southward way.

'Mr. St. Ivy,' was the last word of Sim, 'I was never muckle ta'en up in Englishry; but I think that I really ought to say that ye seem to me to have the makings of quite a decent lad.'

CHAPTER XI--THE GREAT NORTH ROAD

It chanced that as I went down the hill these last words of my friend the drover echoed not unfruitfully in my head. I had never told these men the least particulars as to my race or fortune, as it was a part, and the best part, of their civility to ask no questions: yet they had dubbed me without hesitation English. Some strangeness in the accent they had doubtless thus explained. And it occurred to me, that if I could pass in Scotland for an Englishman, I might be able to reverse the process and pass in England for a Scot. I thought, if I was pushed to it, I could make a struggle to imitate the brogue; after my experience with Candlish and Sim, I had a rich provision of outlandish words at my command; and I felt I could tell the tale of Tweedie's dog so as to deceive a native. At the same time, I was afraid my name of St. Ives was scarcely suitable; till I remembered there was a town so called in the province of Cornwall, thought I might yet be glad to claim it for my place of origin, and decided for a Cornish family and a Scots education. For a trade, as I was equally ignorant of all, and as the most innocent might at any moment be the means of my exposure, it was best to pretend to none. And I dubbed myself a young gentleman of a sufficient fortune and an idle, curious habit of mind, rambling the country at my own charges, in quest of health, information, and merry adventures.

At Newcastle, which was the first town I reached, I completed my preparations for the part, before going to the inn, by the purchase of a knapsack and a pair of leathern gaiters. My plaid I continued to wear from sentiment. It was warm, useful to sleep in if I were again benighted, and I had discovered it to be not unbecoming for a man of gallant carriage. Thus equipped, I supported my character of the light-hearted pedestrian not amiss. Surprise was indeed expressed that I should have selected such a season of the year; but I pleaded some delays of business, and smilingly claimed to be an eccentric. The devil was in it, I would say, if any season of the year was not good enough for me; I was not made of sugar, I was no mollycoddle to be afraid of an ill-aired bed or a sprinkle of snow; and I would knock upon the table with my fist and call for t'other bottle, like the noisy and free-hearted young gentleman I was.

ST. Ives Page 44

Robert Louis Stevenson

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