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Chapter 22

HELVOETSLUYS


The weather in the end considerably worsened; the wind sang in the
shrouds, the sea swelled higher, and the ship began to labour and cry
out among the billows. The song of the leadsman in the chains was now
scarce ceasing, for we thrid all the way among shoals. About nine in the
morning, in a burst of wintry sun between two squalls of hail, I had my
first look of Holland--a line of windmills birling in the breeze. It was
besides my first knowledge of these daft-like contrivances, which gave
me a near sense of foreign travel and a new world and life. We came to
an anchor about half-past eleven, outside the harbour of Helvoetsluys,
in a place where the sea sometimes broke and the ship pitched
outrageously. You may be sure we were all on deck save Mrs. Gebbie, some
of us in cloaks, others mantled in the ship's tarpaulins, all clinging
on by ropes, and jesting the most like old sailor-folk that we could
imitate.

Presently a boat, that was backed like a partan-crab, came gingerly
alongside, and the skipper of it hailed our master in the Dutch. Thence
Captain Sang turned, very troubled like, to Catriona; and the rest of us
crowding about, the nature of the difficulty was made plain to all. The
_Rose_ was bound to the port of Rotterdam, whither the other passengers
were in a great impatience to arrive, in view of a conveyance due to
leave that very evening in the direction of the Upper Germany. This,
with the present half-gale of wind, the captain (if no time were lost)
declared himself still capable to save. Now James More had trysted in
Helvoet with his daughter, and the captain had engaged to call before
the port and place her (according to the custom) in a shore boat. There
was the boat, to be sure, and there was Catriona ready: but both our
master and the patroon of the boat scrupled at the risk, and the first
was in no humour to delay.

"Your father," said he, "would be gey an little pleased if we was to
break a leg to ye, Miss Drummond, let-a-be drowning of you. Take my way
of it," says he, "and come on-by with the rest of us here to Rotterdam.
Ye can get a passage down the Maes in a sailing scoot as far to the
Brill, and thence on again, by a place in a rattel-waggon, back to
Helvoet."

But Catriona would hear of no change. She looked white-like as she
beheld the bursting of the sprays, the green seas that sometimes poured
upon the forecastle, and the perpetual bounding and swooping of the boat
among the billows; but she stood firmly by her father's orders. "My
father, James More, will have arranged it so," was her first word and
her last. I thought it very idle and indeed wanton in the girl to be so
literal and stand opposite to so much kind advice; but the fact is she
had a very good reason, if she would have told us. Sailing scoots and
rattel-waggons are excellent things; only the use of them must first be
paid for, and all she was possessed of in the world was just two
shillings and a penny halfpenny sterling. So it fell out that captain
and passengers, not knowing of her destitution--and she being too proud
to tell them--spoke in vain.

"But you ken nae French and nae Dutch neither," said one.

"It is very true," says she, "but since the year '46 there are so many
of the honest Scots abroad that I will be doing very well, I thank you."

There was a pretty country simplicity in this that made some laugh,
others looked the more sorry, and Mr. Gebbie fall outright in a passion.
I believe he knew it was his duty (his wife having accepted charge of
the girl) to have gone ashore with her and seen her safe; nothing would
have induced him to have done so, since it must have involved the loss
of his conveyance; and I think he made it up to his conscience by the
loudness of his voice. At least he broke out upon Captain Sang, raging
and saying the thing was a disgrace; that it was mere death to try to
leave the ship, and at any event we could not cast down an innocent maid
in a boatful of nasty Holland fishers, and leave her to her fate. I was
thinking something of the same; took the mate upon one side, arranged
with him to send on my chests by track-scoot to an address I had in
Leyden, and stood up and signalled to the fishers.

"I will go ashore with the young lady, Captain Sang," said I. "It is all
one what way I go to Leyden;" and leaped at the same time into the boat,
which I managed not so elegantly but what I fell with two of the fishers
in the bilge.

From the boat the business appeared yet more precarious than from the
ship, she stood so high over us, swung down so swift, and menaced us so
perpetually with her plunging and passaging upon the anchor cable. I
began to think I had made a fool's bargain, that it was merely
impossible Catriona should be got on board to me, and that I stood to be
set ashore at Helvoet all by myself and with no hope of any reward but
the pleasure of embracing James More, if I should want to. But this was
to reckon without the lass's courage. She had seen me leap with very
little appearance (however much reality) of hesitation; to be sure, she
was not to be beat by her discarded friend. Up she stood on the bulwarks
and held by a stay, the wind blowing in her petticoats, which made the
enterprise more dangerous and gave us rather more of a view of her
stockings than would be thought genteel in cities. There was no minute
lost, and scarce time given for any to interfere if they had wished the
same. I stood up on the other side and spread my arms; the ship swung
down on us, the patroon humoured his boat nearer in than was perhaps
wholly safe, and Catriona leaped into the air. I was so happy as to
catch her, and the fishers readily supporting us, escaped a fall. She
held to me a moment very tight, breathing quick and deep; thence (she
still clinging to me with both hands) we were passed aft to our places
by the steersman; and Captain Sang and all the crew and passengers
cheering and crying farewell, the boat was put about for shore.

As soon as Catriona came a little to herself she unhanded me suddenly
but said no word. No more did I; and indeed the whistling of the wind
and the breaching of the sprays made it no time for speech; and our crew
not only toiled excessively but made extremely little way, so that the
_Rose_ had got her anchor and was off again before we had approached the
harbour mouth.

We were no sooner in smooth water than the patroon, according to their
beastly Hollands custom, stopped his boat and required of us our fares.
Two guilders was the man's demand, between three and four shillings
English money, for each passenger. But at this Catriona began to cry out
with a vast deal of agitation. She had asked of Captain Sang, she said,
and the fare was but an English shilling. "Do you think I will have come
on board and not ask first?" cries she. The patroon scolded back upon
her in a lingo where the oaths were English and the rest right Hollands;
till at last (seeing her near tears) I privately slipped in the rogue's
hand six shillings, whereupon he was obliging enough to receive from her
the other shilling without more complaint. No doubt I was a good deal
nettled and ashamed. I like to see folk thrifty but not with so much
passion; and I daresay it would be rather coldly that I asked her, as
the boat moved on again for shore, where it was that she was trysted
with her father.

"He is to be inquired of at the house of one Sprott, an honest Scotch
merchant," says she; and then with the same breath, "I am wishing to
thank you very much--you are a brave friend to me."

"It will be time enough when I get you to your father," said I, little
thinking that I spoke so true. "I can tell him a fine tale of a loyal
daughter."

"O, I do not think I will be a loyal girl, at all events," she cried,
with a great deal of painfulness in the expression. "I do not think my
heart is true."

"Yet there are very few that would have made that leap, and all to obey
a father's orders," I observed.

"I cannot have you to be thinking of me so," she cried again. "When you
had done that same, how would I stop behind? And at all events that was
not all the reasons." Whereupon, with a burning face, she told me the
plain truth upon her poverty.

"Good guide us!" cried I, "what kind of daft-like proceeding is this, to
let yourself be launched on the continent of Europe with an empty
purse--I count it hardly decent--scant decent!" I cried.

"You forget James More, my father, is a poor gentleman," said she. "He
is a hunted exile."

"But I think not all your friends are hunted exiles," I exclaimed. "And
was this fair to them that care for you? Was it fair to me? was it fair
to Miss Grant that counselled you to go, and would be driven fair
horn-mad if she could hear of it? Was it even fair to these Gregory folk
that you were living with, and used you lovingly? It's a blessing you
have fallen in my hands! Suppose your father hindered by an accident,
what would become of you here, and you your lee-alone in a strange
place? The thought of the thing frightens me," I said.

"I will have lied to all of them," she replied. "I will have told them
all that I had plenty. I told _her_ too. I could not be lowering James
More to them."

I found out later on that she must have lowered him in the very dust,
for the lie was originally the father's not the daughter's, and she thus
obliged to persevere in it for the man's reputation. But at the time I
was ignorant of this, and the mere thought of her destitution and the
perils in which she must have fallen, had ruffled me almost beyond
reason.

"Well, well, well," said I, "you will have to learn more sense."

I left her mails for the moment in an inn upon the shore, where I got a
direction for Sprott's house in my new French, and we walked there--it
was some little way--beholding the place with wonder as we went. Indeed,
there was much for Scots folk to admire; canals and trees being
intermingled with the houses; the houses, each within itself, of a brave
red brick, the colour of a rose, with steps and benches of blue marble
at the cheek of every door, and the whole town so clean you might have
dined upon the causeway. Sprott was within, upon his ledgers, in a low
parlour, very neat and clean, and set out with china and pictures and a
globe of the earth in a brass frame. He was a big-chafted, ruddy, lusty
man, with a crooked hard look to him; and he made us not that much
civility as offer us a seat.

"Is James More Macgregor now in Helvoet, sir?" says I.

"I ken nobody by such a name," says he, impatient-like.

"Since you are so particular," says I, "I will amend my question, and
ask you where we are to find in Helvoet one James Drummond, _alias_
Macgregor, _alias_ James More, late tenant in Iveronachile?"

"Sir," says he, "he may be in Hell for what I ken, and for my part I
wish he was."

"The young lady is that gentleman's daughter, sir," said I, "before
whom, I think you will agree with me, it is not very becoming to discuss
his character."

"I have nothing to make either with him, or her, or you!" cries he in
his gross voice.

"Under your favour, Mr. Sprott," said I, "this young lady is come from
Scotland seeking him, and by whatever mistake, was given the name of
your house for a direction. An error it seems to have been, but I think
this places both you and me--who am but her fellow-traveller by
accident--under a strong obligation to help our countrywoman."

"Will you ding me daft?" he cries. "I tell ye I ken naething and care
less either for him or his breed. I tell ye the man owes me money."

"That may very well be, sir," said I, who was now rather more angry than
himself. "At least I owe you nothing; the young lady is under my
protection; and I am neither at all used with these manners, nor in the
least content with them."

As I said this, and without particularly thinking what I did, I drew a
step or two nearer to his table; thus striking, by mere good fortune, on
the only argument that could at all affect the man. The blood left his
lusty countenance.

"For the Lord's sake dinna be hasty, sir!" he cried. "I am truly wishfu'
no to be offensive. But ye ken, sir, I'm like a wheen guid-natured,
honest, canty auld fallows--my bark is waur nor my bite. To hear me, ye
micht whiles fancy I was a wee thing dour; but na, na! its a kind auld
fellow at heart, Sandie Sprott! And ye could never imagine the fyke and
fash this man has been to me."

"Very good, sir," said I. "Then I will make that much freedom with your
kindness, as trouble you for your last news of Mr. Drummond."

"You're welcome, sir!" said he. "As for the young leddy (my respec's to
her!) he'll just have clean forgotten her. I ken the man, ye see; I have
lost siller by him ere now. He thinks of naebody but just himsel'; clan,
king, or dauchter, if he can get his wameful, he would give them a' the
go-by! ay, or his correspondent either. For there is a sense in whilk I
may be nearly almost said to be his correspondent. The fact is, we are
employed thegether in a business affair, and I think it's like to turn
out a dear affair for Sandie Sprott. The man's as guid's my pairtner,
and I give ye my mere word I ken naething by where he is. He micht be
coming here to Helvoet; he micht come here the morn, he michtnae come
for a twalmonth; I would wonder at naething--or just at the ae thing,
and that's if he was to pay me my siller. Ye see what way I stand with
it; and it's clear I'm no very likely to meddle up with the young leddy,
as ye ca' her. She cannae stop here, that's ae thing certain sure. Dod,
sir, I'm a lone man! If I was to tak her in, its highly possible the
hellicat would try and gar me marry her when he turned up."

"Enough of this talk," said I. "I will take the young lady among better
friends. Give me pen, ink, and paper, and I will leave here for James
More the address of my correspondent in Leyden. He can inquire from me
where he is to seek his daughter."

This word I wrote and sealed; which while I was doing, Sprott of his own
motion made a welcome offer, to charge himself with Miss Drummond's
mails, and even send a porter for them to the inn. I advanced him to
that effect a dollar or two to be a cover, and he gave me an
acknowledgment in writing of the sum.

Whereupon (I giving my arm to Catriona) we left the house of this
unpalatable rascal. She had said no word throughout, leaving me to judge
and speak in her place; I, upon my side, had been careful not to
embarrass her by a glance; and even now although my heart still glowed
inside of me with shame and anger, I made it my affair to seem quite
easy.

"Now," said I, "let us get back to yon same inn where they can speak the
French, have a piece of dinner, and inquire for conveyances to
Rotterdam. I will never be easy till I have you safe again in the hands
of Mrs. Gebbie."

"I suppose it will have to be," said Catriona, "though whoever will be
pleased, I do not think it will be her. And I will remind you this once
again that I have but one shilling, and three baubees."

"And just this once again," said I, "I will remind you it was a blessing
that I came alongst with you."

"What else would I be thinking all this time!" says she, and I thought
weighed a little on my arm. "It is you that are the good friend to me."

Robert Louis Stevenson

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