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Chapter 21


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The ship lay at a single anchor, well outside the pier of Leith, so that
all we passengers must come to it by the means of skiffs. This was very
little troublesome, for the reason that the day was a flat calm, very
frosty and cloudy, and with a low shifting fog upon the water. The body
of the vessel was thus quite hid as I drew near, but the tall spars of
her stood high and bright in a sunshine like the flickering of a fire.
She proved to be a very roomy, commodious merchant, but somewhat blunt
in the bows, and loaden extraordinary deep with salt, salted salmon, and
fine white linen stockings for the Dutch. Upon my coming on board, the
captain welcomed me, one Sang (out of Lesmahago, I believe), a very
hearty, friendly tarpauling of a man, but at the moment in rather of a
bustle. There had no other of the passengers yet appeared, so that I was
left to walk about upon the deck, viewing the prospect and wondering a
good deal what these farewells should be which I was promised.

All Edinburgh and the Pentland Hills glinted above me in a kind of
smuisty brightness, now and again overcome with blots of cloud; of Leith
there was no more than the tops of chimneys visible, and on the face of
the water, where the haar[24] lay, nothing at all. Out of this I was
presently aware of a sound of oars pulling, and a little after (as if
out of the smoke of a fire) a boat issued. There sat a grave man in the
stern sheets, well muffled from the cold, and by his side a tall,
pretty, tender figure of a maid that brought my heart to a stand. I had
scarce the time to catch my breath in, and be ready to meet her, as she
stepped upon the deck, smiling, and making my best bow, which was now
vastly finer than some months before when I first made it to her
ladyship. No doubt we were both a good deal changed; she seemed to have
shot up taller, like a young, comely tree. She had now a kind of pretty
backwardness that became her well, as of one that regarded herself more
highly and was fairly woman; and for another thing, the hand of the same
magician had been at work upon the pair of us, and Miss Grant had made
us both _braw_, if she could make but the one _bonny_.

The same cry, in words not very different, came from both of us, that
the other was come in compliment to say farewell, and then we perceived
in a flash we were to ship together.

"O, why will not Baby have been telling me!" she cried; and then
remembered a letter she had been given, on the condition of not opening
it till she was well on board. Within was an enclosure for myself, and
ran thus:

"DEAR DAVIE,--What do you think of my farewell? and what
do you say to your fellow-passenger? Did you kiss, or did you
ask? I was about to have signed here, but that would leave the
purport of my question doubtful; and in my own case _I ken the
answer_. So fill up here with good advice. Do not be too
and for God's sake do not try to be too forward; nothing sets
worse. I am

"Your affectionate friend and governess,


I wrote a word of answer and compliment on a leaf out of my pocketbook,
put it in with another scratch from Catriona, sealed the whole with my
new signet of the Balfour arms, and despatched it by the hand of
Prestongrange's servant that still waited in my boat.

Then we had time to look upon each other more at leisure, which we had
not done for a piece of a minute before (upon a common impulse) we shook
hands again.

"Catriona!" said I; it seemed that was the first and last word of my

"You will be glad to see me again?" says she.

"And I think that is an idle word," said I. "We are too deep friends to
make speech upon such trifles."

"Is she not the girl of all the world?" she cried again. "I was never
knowing such a girl, so honest and so beautiful."

"And yet she cared no more for Alpin than what she did for a
kale-stock," said I.

"Ah, she will say so indeed!" cries Catriona. "Yet it was for the name
and the gentle kind blood that she took me up and was so good to me."

"Well, I will tell you why it was," said I. "There are all sorts of
people's faces in this world. There is Barbara's face, that everyone
must look at and admire, and think her a fine, brave, merry girl. And
then there is your face, which is quite different, I never knew how
different till to-day. You cannot see yourself, and that is why you do
not understand; but it was for the love of your face that she took you
up and was so good to you. And everybody in the world would do the

"Everybody?" says she.

"Every living soul!" said I.

"Ah, then, that will be why the soldiers at the castle took me up!" she

"Barbara has been teaching you to catch me," said I.

"She will have taught me more than that at all events. She will have
taught me a great deal about Mr. David--all the ill of him, and a little
that was not so ill either now and then," she said, smiling. "She will
have told me all there was of Mr. David, only just that he would sail
upon this very same ship. And why is it you go?"

I told her.

"Ah, well," said she, "we will be some days in company and then (I
suppose) good-bye for altogether! I go to meet my father at a place of
the name of Helvoetsluys, and from there to France, to be exiles by the
side of our chieftain."

I could say no more than just "O!" the name of James More always drying
up my very voice.

She was quick to perceive it, and to guess some portion of my thought.

"There is one thing I must be saying first of all, Mr. David," said she.
"I think two of my kinsfolk have not behaved to you altogether very
well. And the one of them two is James More, my father, and the other is
the Laird of Prestongrange. Prestongrange will have spoken by himself,
or his daughter in the place of him. But for James More, my father, I
have this much to say: he lay shackled in a prison; he is a plain honest
soldier and a plain Highland gentleman; what they would be after, he
never would be guessing; but if he had understood it was to be some
prejudice to a young gentleman like yourself, he would have died first.
And for the sake of all your friendships, I will be asking you to pardon
my father and family for that same mistake."

"Catriona," said I, "what that mistake was I do not care to know. I know
but the one thing, that you went to Prestongrange and begged my life
upon your knees. O, I ken well it was for your father that you went, but
when you were there you pleaded for me also. It is a thing I cannot
speak of. There are two things I cannot think of in to myself; and the
one is your good words when you called yourself my little friend, and
the other that you pleaded for my life. Let us never speak more, we two,
of pardon or offence."

We stood after that silent, Catriona looking on the deck and I on her;
and before there was more speech, a little wind having sprung up, in the
nor'-west, they began to shake out the sails and heave in upon the

There were six passengers besides our two selves, which made of it a
full cabin. Three were solid merchants out of Leith, Kirkaldy, and
Dundee, all engaged in the same adventure into High Germany; one was a
Hollander returning; the rest worthy merchants' wives, to the charge of
one of whom Catriona was recommended. Mrs. Grebbie (for that was her
name) was by great good fortune heavily incommoded by the sea, and lay
day and night on the broad of her back. We were besides the only
creatures at all young on board the _Rose_, except a white-faced boy
that did my old duty to attend upon the table; and it came about that
Catriona and I were left almost entirely to ourselves. We had the next
seats together at the table, where I waited on her with extraordinary
pleasure. On deck, I made her a soft place with my cloak; and the
weather being singularly fine for that season, with bright frosty days
and nights, a steady, gentle wind, and scarce a sheet started all the
way through the North Sea, we sat there (only now and again walking to
and fro for warmth) from the first blink of the sun till eight or nine
at night under the clear stars. The merchants or Captain Sang would
sometimes glance and smile upon us, or pass a merry word or two and give
us the go-by again; but the most part of the time they were deep in
herring and chintzes and linen, or in computations of the slowness of
the passage, and left us to our own concerns, which were very little
important to any but ourselves.

At the first, we had a great deal to say, and thought ourselves pretty
witty; and I was at a little pains to be the _beau_, and she (I believe)
to play the young lady of experience. But soon we grew plainer with each
other; I laid aside my high, clipped English (what little there was of
it) and forgot to make my Edinburgh bows and scrapes; she upon her side,
fell into a sort of kind familiarity; and we dwelt together like those
of the same household, only (upon my side) with a more deep emotion.
About the same time, the bottom seemed to fall out of our conversation,
and neither one of us the less pleased. Whiles she would tell me old
wives' tales, of which she had a wonderful variety, many of them from my
friend red-headed Niel. She told them very pretty, and they were pretty
enough childish tales; but the pleasure to myself was in the sound of
her voice, and the thought that she was telling and I listening. Whiles,
again, we would sit entirely silent, not communicating even with a look,
and tasting pleasure enough in the sweetness of that neighbourhood. I
speak here only for myself. Of what was in the maid's mind, I am not
very sure that ever I asked myself; and what was in my own, I was afraid
to consider. I need make no secret of it now, either to myself or to the
reader: I was fallen totally in love. She came between me and the sun.
She had grown suddenly taller, as I say, but with a wholesome growth;
she seemed all health, and lightness, and brave spirits; and I thought
she walked like a young deer, and stood like a birch upon the mountains.
It was enough for me to sit near by her on the deck; and I declare I
scarce spent two thoughts upon the future, and was so well content with
what I then enjoyed that I was never at the pains to imagine any further
step; unless perhaps that I would be sometimes tempted to take her hand
in mine and hold it there. But I was too like a miser of what joys I had
and would venture nothing on a hazard.

What we spoke was usually of ourselves or of each other, so that if
anyone had been at so much pains as overhear us, he must have supposed
us the most egotistical persons in the world. It befell one day when we
were at this practice, that we came on a discourse of friends and
friendship, and I think now that we were sailing near the wind. We said
what a fine thing friendship was, and how little we had guessed of it,
and how it made life a new thing, and a thousand covered things of the
same kind that will have been said, since the foundation of the world,
by young folk in the same predicament. Then we remarked upon the
strangeness of that circumstance, that friends came together in the
beginning as if they were there for the first time, and yet each had
been alive a good while, losing time with other people.

"It is not much that I have done," said she, "and I could be telling you
the five-fifths of it in two-three words. It is only a girl I am, and
what can befall a girl, at all events? But I went with the clan in the
year '45. The men marched with swords and firelocks, and some of them in
brigades in the same set of tartan; they were not backward at the
marching, I can tell you. And there were gentlemen from the Low Country,
with their tenants mounted and trumpets to sound, and there was a grand
skirling of war-pipes. I rode on a little Highland horse on the right
hand of my father, James More, and of Glengyle himself. And here is one
fine thing that I remember, that Glengyle kissed me in the face, because
(says he) 'my kinswoman, you are the only lady of the clan that has come
out,' and me a little maid of maybe twelve years old! I saw Prince
Charlie too, and the blue eyes of him; he was pretty indeed! I had his
hand to kiss in the front of the army. O, well, these were the good
days, but it is all like a dream that I have seen and then awakened. It
went what way you very well know; and these were the worst days of all,
when the red-coat soldiers were out, and my father and my uncles lay in
the hill, and I was to be carrying them their meat in the middle night,
or at the short side of day when the cocks crow. Yes, I have walked in
the night, many's the time, and my heart great in me for terror of the
darkness. It is a strange thing I will never have been meddled with a
bogle; but they say a maid goes safe. Next there was my uncle's
marriage, and that was a dreadful affair beyond all. Jean Kay was that
woman's name; and she had me in the room with her that night at
Inversnaid, the night we took her from her friends in the old, ancient
manner. She would and she wouldn't; she was for marrying Rob the one
minute, and the next she would be for none of him. I will never have
seen such a feckless creature of a woman; surely all there was of her
would tell her ay or no. Well, she was a widow, and I can never be
thinking a widow a good woman."

"Catriona!" says I, "how do you make out that?"

"I do not know," said she; "I am only telling you the seeming in my
heart. And then to marry a new man! Fy! But that was her; and she was
married again upon my Uncle Robin, and went with him awhile to kirk and
market; and then wearied, or else her friends got claught of her and
talked her round, or maybe she turned ashamed; at the least of it, she
ran away, and went back to her own folk, and said we had held her in the
lake, and I will never tell you all what. I have never thought much of
any females since that day. And so in the end my father, James More,
came to be cast in prison, and you know the rest of it as well as me."

"And through all you had no friends?" said I.

"No," said she; "I have been pretty chief with two-three lasses on the
braes, but not to call it friends."

"Well, mine is a plain tale," said I. "I never had a friend to my name
till I met in with you."

"And that brave Mr. Stewart?" she asked.

"O, yes, I was forgetting him," I said. "But he is a man, and that is
very different."

"I would think so," said she. "O, yes, it is quite different."

"And then there was one other," said I. "I once thought I had a friend,
but it proved a disappointment."

She asked me who she was?

"It was a he, then," said I. "We were the two best lads at my father's
school, and we thought we loved each other dearly. Well, the time came
when he went to Glasgow to a merchant's house, that was his second
cousin once removed; and wrote me two-three times by the carrier; and
then he found new friends, and I might write till I was tired, he took
no notice. Eh, Catriona, it took me a long while to forgive the world.
There is not anything more bitter than to lose a fancied friend."

Then she began to question me close upon his looks and character, for we
were each a great deal concerned in all that touched the other; till at
last, in a very evil hour, I minded of his letters and went and fetched
the bundle from the cabin.

"Here are his letters," said I, "and all the letters that ever I got.
That will be the last I'll can tell of myself; you know the lave[26] as
well as I do."

"Will you let me read them, then?" says she.

I told her, _if she would be at the pains_; and she bade me go away and
she would read them from the one end to the other. Now, in this bundle
that I gave her, there were packed together not only all the letters of
my false friend, but one or two of Mr. Campbell's when he was in town at
the Assembly, and to make a complete roll of all that ever was written
to me, Catriona's little word, and the two I had received from Miss
Grant, one when I was on the Bass and one on board that ship. But of
these last I had no particular mind at the moment.

I was in that state of subjection to the thought of my friend that it
mattered not what I did, nor scarce whether I was in her presence or out
of it; I had caught her like some kind of a noble fever that lived
continually in my bosom, by night and by day, and whether I was waking
or asleep. So it befell that after I was come into the fore-part of the
ship where the broad bows splashed into the billows, I was in no such
hurry to return as you might fancy; rather prolonged my absence like a
variety in pleasure. I do not think I am by nature much of an Epicurean;
and there had come till then so small a share of pleasure in my way that
I might be excused perhaps to dwell on it unduly.

When I returned to her again, I had a faint, painful impression as of a
buckle slipped, so coldly she returned the packet.

"You have read them?" said I; and I thought my voice sounded not wholly
natural, for I was turning in my mind for what could ail her.

"Did you mean me to read all?" she asked.

I told her "Yes," with a drooping voice.

"The last of them as well?" said she.

I knew where we were now; yet I would not lie to her either. "I gave
them all without after-thought," I said, "as I supposed that you would
read them. I see no harm in any."

"I will be differently made," said she. "I thank God I am differently
made. It was not a fit letter to be shown me. It was not fit to be

"I think you are speaking of your own friend, Barbara Grant?" said I.

"There will not be anything as bitter as to lose a fancied friend," said
she, quoting my own expression.

"I think it is sometimes the friendship that was fancied!" I cried.
"What kind of justice do you call this, to blame me for some words that
a tomfool of a madcap lass has written down upon a piece of paper? You
know yourself with what respect I have behaved--and would do always."

"Yet you would show me that same letter!" says she. "I want no such
friends. I can be doing very well, Mr. Balfour, without her--or you."

"This is your fine gratitude!" says I.

"I am very much obliged to you," said she. "I will be asking you to take
away your--letters." She seemed to choke upon the word, so that it
sounded like an oath.

"You shall never ask twice," said I; picked up that bundle, walked a
little way forward and cast them as far as possible into the sea. For a
very little more, I could have cast myself after them.

The rest of the day I walked up and down raging. There were few names so
ill but what I gave her them in my own mind before the sun went down.
All that I had ever heard of Highland pride seemed quite outdone; that a
girl (scarce grown) should resent so trifling an allusion, and that from
her next friend, that she had near wearied me with praising of! I had
bitter, sharp, hard thoughts of her, like an angry boy's. If I had
kissed her indeed (I thought), perhaps she would have taken it pretty
well; and only because it had been written down, and with a spice of
jocularity, up she must fuff in this ridiculous passion. It seemed to me
there was a want of penetration in the female sex, to make angels weep
over the case of the poor men.

We were side by side again at supper, and what a change was there! She
was like curdled milk to me; her face was like a wooden doll's; I could
have indifferently smitten her or grovelled at her feet, but she gave me
not the least occasion to do either. No sooner the meal done than she
betook herself to attend on Mrs. Gebbie, which I think she had a little
neglected heretofore. But she was to make up for lost time, and in what
remained of the passage was extraordinary assiduous with the old lady,
and on deck began to make a great deal more than I thought wise of
Captain Sang. Not but what the captain seemed a worthy, fatherly man;
but I hated to behold her in the least familiarity with anyone except

Altogether, she was so quick to avoid me, and so constant to keep
herself surrounded with others, that I must watch a long while before I
could find my opportunity; and after it was found, I made not much of
it, as you are now to hear.

"I have no guess how I have offended," said I; "it should scarce be
beyond pardon, then. O, try if you can pardon me."

"I have no pardon to give," said she; and the words seemed to come out
of her throat like marbles. "I will be very much obliged for all your
friendships." And she made me an eight part of a curtsey.

But I had schooled myself beforehand to say more, and I was going to say
it too.

"There is one thing," said I. "If I have shocked your particularity by
the showing of that letter, it cannot touch Miss Grant. She wrote not to
you, but to a poor, common, ordinary lad, who might have had more sense
than show it. If you are to blame me--"

"I will advise you to say no more about that girl, at all events!" said
Catriona. "It is her I will never look the road of, not if she lay
dying." She turned away from me, and suddenly back. "Will you swear you
will have no more to deal with her?" she cried.

"Indeed, and I will never be so unjust then," said I; "nor yet so

And now it was I that turned away.

Robert Louis Stevenson

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