ST. Ives

Page 35

Perhaps at this hour they kneel as I do; they take the hand of her who might conceal and assist them; they press it to their lips as I do--'

'Here, here!' cried the old lady, breaking from my solicitations. 'Behave yourself before folk! Saw ever anyone the match of that? And on earth, my dears, what are we to do with him?'

'Pack him off, my dear lady,' said I: 'pack off the impudent fellow double-quick! And if it may be, and if your good heart allows it, help him a little on the way he has to go.'

'What's this pie?' she cried stridently. 'Where is this pie from, Flora?'

No answer was vouchsafed by my unfortunate and (I may say) extinct accomplices.

'Is that my port?' she pursued. 'Hough! Will somebody give me a glass of my port wine?'

I made haste to serve her.

She looked at me over the rim with an extraordinary expression. 'I hope ye liked it?' said she.

'It is even a magnificent wine,' said I.

'Aweel, it was my father laid it down,' said she. 'There were few knew more about port wine than my father, God rest him!' She settled herself in a chair with an alarming air of resolution. 'And so there is some particular direction that you wish to go in?' said she.

'O,' said I, following her example, 'I am by no means such a vagrant as you suppose. I have good friends, if I could get to them, for which all I want is to be once clear of Scotland; and I have money for the road.' And I produced my bundle.

'English bank-notes?' she said. 'That's not very handy for Scotland. It's been some fool of an Englishman that's given you these, I'm thinking. How much is it?'

'I declare to heaven I never thought to count!' I exclaimed. 'But that is soon remedied.'

And I counted out ten notes of ten pound each, all in the name of Abraham Newlands, and five bills of country bankers for as many guineas.

'One hundred and twenty six pound five,' cried the old lady. 'And you carry such a sum about you, and have not so much as counted it! If you are not a thief, you must allow you are very thief-like.'

'And yet, madam, the money is legitimately mine,' said I.

She took one of the bills and held it up. 'Is there any probability, now, that this could be traced?' she asked.

'None, I should suppose; and if it were, it would be no matter,' said I. 'With your usual penetration, you guessed right. An Englishman brought it me. It reached me, through the hands of his English solicitor, from my great-uncle, the Comte de Keroual de Saint-Yves, I believe the richest emigre in London.'

'I can do no more than take your word for it,' said she.

'And I trust, madam, not less,' said I.

'Well,' said she, 'at this rate the matter may be feasible. I will cash one of these five-guinea bills, less the exchange, and give you silver and Scots notes to bear you as far as the border. Beyond that, Mosha the Viscount, you will have to depend upon yourself.'

I could not but express a civil hesitation as to whether the amount would suffice, in my case, for so long a journey.

'Ay,' said she, 'but you havenae heard me out. For if you are not too fine a gentleman to travel with a pair of drovers, I believe I have found the very thing, and the Lord forgive me for a treasonable old wife! There are a couple stopping up by with the shepherd-man at the farm; to-morrow they will take the road for England, probably by skriegh of day--and in my opinion you had best be travelling with the stots,' said she.

'For Heaven's sake do not suppose me to be so effeminate a character!' I cried. 'An old soldier of Napoleon is certainly beyond suspicion. But, dear lady, to what end? and how is the society of these excellent gentlemen supposed to help me?'

'My dear sir,' said she, 'you do not at all understand your own predicament, and must just leave your matters in the hands of those who do. I dare say you have never even heard tell of the drove- roads or the drovers; and I am certainly not going to sit up all night to explain it to you. Suffice it, that it is me who is arranging this affair--the more shame to me!--and that is the way ye have to go.

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

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