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Chapter 7

I MAKE A FAULT IN HONOR


I came forth, I vow I know not how, on the _Lang Dykes_.[12] This is a
rural road which runs on the north side over against the city. Thence I
could see the whole black length of it tail down, from where the castle
stands upon its crags above the loch in a long line of spires and gable
ends, and smoking chimneys, and at the sight my heart swelled in my
bosom. My youth, as I have told, was already inured to dangers; but such
danger as I had seen the face of but that morning, in the midst of what
they call the safety of a town, shook me beyond experience. Peril of
slavery, peril of shipwreck, peril of sword and shot, I had stood all of
these without discredit; but the peril there was in the sharp voice and
the fat face of Symon, properly Lord Lovat, daunted me wholly.

I sat by the lake side in a place where the rushes went down into the
water, and there steeped my wrists and laved my temples. If I could have
done so with any remains of self-esteem I would now have fled from my
foolhardy enterprise. But (call it courage or cowardice, and I believe
it was both the one and the other) I decided I was ventured out beyond
the possibility of a retreat. I had outfaced these men, I would continue
to outface them; come what might, I would stand by the word spoken.

The sense of my own constancy somewhat uplifted my spirits, but not
much. At the best of it there was an icy place about my heart, and life
seemed a black business to be at all engaged in. For two souls in
particular my pity flowed. The one was myself, to be so friendless and
lost among dangers. The other was the girl, the daughter of James More.
I had seen but little of her; yet my view was taken and my judgment
made. I thought her a lass of a clean honour, like a man's; I thought
her one to die of a disgrace; and now I believed her father to be at
that moment bargaining his vile life for mine. It made a bond in my
thoughts betwixt the girl and me. I had seen her before only as a
wayside appearance, though one that pleased me strangely; I saw her now
in a sudden nearness of relation, as the daughter of my blood foe, and I
might say, my murderer. I reflected it was hard I should be so plagued
and persecuted all my days for other folk's affairs, and have no manner
of pleasure myself. I got meals and a bed to sleep in when my concerns
would suffer it; beyond that my wealth was of no help to me. If I was to
hang, my days were like to be short; if I was not to hang but to escape
out of this trouble, they might yet seem long to me ere I was done with
them. Of a sudden her face appeared in my memory, the way I had first
seen it, with the parted lips; at that, weakness came in my bosom and
strength into my legs; and I set resolutely forward on the way to Dean.
If I was to hang to-morrow, and it was sure enough I might very likely
sleep that night in a dungeon, I determined I should hear and speak once
more with Catriona.

The exercise of walking and the thought of my destination braced me yet
more, so that I began to pluck up a kind of spirit. In the village of
Dean, where it sits in the bottom of a glen beside the river, I inquired
my way of a miller's man, who sent me up the hill upon the farther side
by a plain path, and so to a decent-like small house in a garden of
lawns and apple-trees. My heart beat high as I stepped inside the garden
hedge, but it fell low indeed when I came face to face with a grim and
fierce old lady, walking there in a white mutch with a man's hat
strapped upon the top of it.

"What do ye come seeking here?" she asked.

I told her I was after Miss Drummond.

"And what may be your business with Miss Drummond?" says she.

I told her I had met her on Saturday last, had been so fortunate as to
render her a trifling service, and was come now on the young lady's
invitation.

"Oh, so you're Saxpence!" she cried, with a very sneering manner. "A
braw gift, a bonny gentleman. And hae ye ony ither name and designation,
or were ye bapteesed Saxpence?" she asked.

I told my name.

"Preserve me!" she cried. "Has Ebenezer gotten a son?"

"No, ma'am," said I. "I am a son of Alexander's. It's I that am the
Laird of Shaws."

"Ye'll find your work cut out for ye to establish that," quoth she.

"I perceive you know my uncle," said I; "and I daresay you may be the
better pleased to hear that business is arranged."

"And what brings ye here after Miss Drummond?" she pursued.

"I'm come after my saxpence, mem," said I. "It's to be thought, being my
uncle's nephew, I would be found a careful lad."

"So ye have a spark of sleeness in ye," observed the old lady, with some
approval. "I thought ye had just been a cuif--you and your saxpence, and
your _lucky day_ and your _sake of Balwhidder_"--from which I was
gratified to learn that Catriona had not forgotten some of our talk.
"But all this is by the purpose," she resumed. "Am I to understand that
ye come here keeping company?"

"This is surely rather an early question," said I. "The maid is young,
so am I, worse fortune. I have but seen her the once. I'll not deny," I
added, making up my mind to try her with some frankness, "I'll not deny
but she has run in my head a good deal since I met in with her. That is
one thing; but it would be quite another, and I think I would look very
like a fool, to commit myself."

"You can speak out of your mouth, I see," said the old lady. "Praise
God, and so can I! I was fool enough to take charge of this rogue's
daughter: a fine charge I have gotten; but it's mine, and I'll carry it
the way I want to. Do ye mean to tell me, Mr. Balfour of Shaws, that you
would marry James More's daughter, and him hanged? Well, then, where
there's no possible marriage there shall be no manner of carryings on,
and take that for said. Lasses are bruckle things," she added, with a
nod; "and though ye would never think it by my wrunkled chafts, I was a
lassie mysel', and a bonny one."

"Lady Allardyce," said I, "for that I suppose to be your name, you seem
to do the two sides of the talking, which is a very poor manner to come
to an agreement. You give me rather a home thrust when you ask if I
would marry, at the gallows' foot, a young lady whom I have seen but the
once. I have told you already I would never be so untenty as to commit
myself. And yet I'll go some way with you. If I continue to like the
lass as well as I have reason to expect, it will be something more than
her father, or the gallows either, that keeps the two of us apart. As
for my family, I found it by the wayside like a lost bawbee! I owe less
than nothing to my uncle; and if ever I marry, it will be to please one
person: that's myself."

"I have heard this kind of talk before ye were born," said Mrs. Ogilvy,
"which is perhaps the reason that I think of it so little. There's much
to be considered. This James More is a kinsman of mine, to my shame be
it spoken. But the better the family, the mair men hanged or heided,
that's always been poor Scotland's story. And if it was just the
hanging! For my part, I think I would be best pleased with James upon
the gallows, which would be at least an end to him. Catrine's a good
lass enough, and a good-hearted, and lets herself be deaved all day with
a runt of an auld wife like me. But, ye see, there's the weak bit. She's
daft about that long, false, fleeching beggar of a father of hers, and
red-mad about the Gregara, and proscribed names, and King James, and a
wheen blethers. And you might think ye could guide her, ye would find
yourself sore mista'en. Ye say ye've seen her but the once..."

"Spoke with her but the once, I should have said," I interrupted. "I saw
her again this morning from a window at Prestongrange's."

This I daresay I put in because it sounded well; but I was properly paid
for my ostentation on the return.

"What's this of it?" cries the old lady, with a sudden pucker of her
face. "I think it was at the Advocate's door-cheek that ye met her
first."

I told her that was so.

"H'm," she said; and then suddenly, upon rather a scolding tone, "I have
your bare word for it," she cries, "as to who and what you are. By your
way of it, you're Balfour of the Shaws; but for what I ken you may be
Balfour of the Deevil's oxter. It's possible ye may come here for what
ye say, and it's equally possible ye may come here for deil care what!
I'm good enough whig to sit quiet, and to have keepit all my men-folk's
heads upon their shoulders. But I'm not just a good enough whig to be
made a fool of neither. And I tell you fairly, there's too much
Advocate's door and Advocate's window here for a man that comes taigling
after a Macgregor's daughter. Ye can tell that to the Advocate that sent
ye, with my fond love. And I kiss my loof to ye, Mr. Balfour," says she,
suiting the action to the word, "and a braw journey to ye back to where
ye cam frae."

"If you think me a spy," I broke out, and speech stuck in my throat. I
stood and looked murder at the old lady for a space, then bowed and
turned away.

"Here! Hoots! The callant's in a creel!" she cried. "Think ye a spy?
what else would I think ye--me that kens naething by ye? But I see that
I was wrong; and as I cannot fight, I'll have to apologise. A bonny
figure I would be with a broadsword. Ay! ay!" she went on, "you're none
such a bad lad in your way; I think ye'll have some redeeming vices.
But, oh, Davit Balfour, ye're damned countryfeed. Ye'll have to win over
that, lad; ye'll have to soople your back-bone, and think a wee pickle
less of your dainty self; and ye'll have to try to find out that
women-folk are nae grenadiers. But that can never be. To your last day
you'll ken no more of women-folk than what I do of sow-gelding."

I had never been used with such expressions from a lady's tongue, the
only two ladies I had known, Mrs. Campbell and my mother, being most
devout and most particular women; and I suppose my amazement must have
been depicted in my countenance, for Mrs. Ogilvy burst forth suddenly in
a fit of laughter.

"Keep me!" she cried, struggling with her mirth, "you have the finest
timber face--and you to marry the daughter of a Hieland cateran! Davie,
my dear, I think we'll have to make a match of it--if it was just to see
the weans. And now," she went on, "there's no manner of service in your
daidling here, for the young woman is from home, and it's my fear that
the old woman is no suitable companion for your father's son. Forbye
that I have nobody but myself to look after my reputation, and have been
long enough alone with a sedooctive youth. And come back another day for
your saxpence!" she cried after me as I left.

My skirmish with this disconcerting lady gave my thoughts a boldness
they had otherwise wanted. For two days the image of Catriona had mixed
in all my meditations; she made their background, so that I scarce
enjoyed my own company without a glint of her in a corner of my mind.
But now she came immediately near; I seemed to touch her, whom I had
never touched but the once; I let myself flow out to her in a happy
weakness, and looking all about, and before and behind, saw the world
like an undesirable desert, where men go as soldiers on a march,
following their duty with what constancy they have, and Catriona alone
there to offer me some pleasure of my days; I wondered at myself that I
could dwell on such considerations in that time of my peril and
disgrace; and when I remembered my youth I was ashamed. I had my studies
to complete; I had to be called into some useful business; I had yet to
take my part of service in a place where all must serve; I had yet to
learn, and know, and prove myself a man; and I had so much sense as
blush that I should be already tempted with these further-on and holier
delights and duties. My education spoke home to me sharply; I was never
brought up on sugar biscuits, but on the hard food of the truth. I knew
that he was quite unfit to be a husband who was not prepared to be a
father also; and for a boy like me to play the father was a mere
derision.

When I was in the midst of these thoughts and about half-way back to
town I saw a figure coming to meet me, and the trouble of my heart was
heightened. It seemed I had everything in the world to say to her, but
nothing to say first; and remembering how tongue-tied I had been that
morning at the Advocate's, I made sure that I would find myself struck
dumb. But when she came up my fears fled away; not even the
consciousness of what I had been privately thinking disconcerted me the
least; and I found I could talk with her as easily and rationally as I
might with Alan.

"O!" she cried, "you have been seeking your sixpence: did you get it?"

I told her no; but now I had met with her my walk was not in vain.
"Though I have seen you to-day already," said I, and told her where and
when.

"I did not see you," she said. "My eyes are big, but there are better
than mine at seeing far. Only I heard singing in the house."

"That was Miss Grant," said I, "the eldest and the bonniest."

"They say they are all beautiful," said she.

"They think the same of you, Miss Drummond," I replied, "and were all
crowding to the window to observe you."

"It is a pity about my being so blind," said she, "or I might have seen
them too. And you were in the house? You must have been having the fine
time with the fine music and the pretty ladies."

"There is just where you are wrong," said I; "for I was as uncouth as a
sea-fish upon the brae of a mountain. The truth is that I am better
fitted to go about with rudas men than pretty ladies."

"Well, I would think so too, at all events!" said she, at which we both
of us laughed.

"It is a strange thing, now," said I. "I am not the least afraid with
you, yet I could have run from the Miss Grants. And I was afraid of your
cousin too."

"O, I think any man will be afraid of her," she cried. "My father is
afraid of her himself."

The name of her father brought me to a stop. I looked at her as she
walked by my side; I recalled the man, and the little I knew and the
much I guessed of him; and comparing the one with the other, felt like a
traitor to be silent.

"Speaking of which," said I, "I met your father no later than this
morning."

"Did you?" she cried, with a voice of joy that seemed to mock at me.
"You saw James More? You will have spoken with him, then?"

"I did even that," said I.

Then I think things went the worst way for me that was humanly possible.
She gave me a look of mere gratitude. "Ah, thank you for that!" says
she.

"You thank me for very little," said I, and then stopped. But it seemed
when I was holding back so much, something at least had to come out. "I
spoke rather ill to him," said I; "I did not like him very much; I spoke
him rather ill, and he was angry."

"I think you had little to do then, and less to tell it to his
daughter!" she cried out. "But those that do not love and cherish him I
will not know."

"I will take the freedom of a word yet," said I, beginning to tremble.
"Perhaps neither your father nor I are in the best of good spirits at
Prestongrange's. I daresay we both have anxious business there, for it's
a dangerous house. I was sorry for him too, and spoke to him the first,
if I could but have spoken the wiser. And for one thing, in my opinion,
you will soon find that his affairs are mending."

"It will not be through your friendship, I am thinking," said she; "and
he is much made up to you for your sorrow."

"Miss Drummond," cried I, "I am alone in this world...."

"And I am not wondering at that," said she.

"O, let me speak!" said I. "I will speak but the once, and then leave
you, if you will, for ever. I came this day in the hopes of a kind word
that I am sore in want of. I know that what I said must hurt you, and I
knew it then. It would have been easy to have spoken smooth, easy to lie
to you; can you not think how I was tempted to the same? Cannot you see
the truth of my heart shine out?"

"I think here is a great deal of work, Mr. Balfour," said she. "I think
we will have met but the once, and will can part like gentle-folk."

"O, let me have one to believe in me!" I pleaded, "I cannae bear it
else. The whole world is clanned against me. How am I to go through with
my dreadful fate? If there's to be none to believe in me I cannot do it.
The man must just die, for I cannot do it."

She had still looked straight in front of her, head in air; but at my
words or the tone of my voice she came to a stop. "What is this you
say?" she asked. "What are you talking of?"

"It is my testimony which may save an innocent life," said I, "and they
will not suffer me to bear it. What would you do yourself? You know what
this is, whose father lies in danger. Would you desert the poor soul?
They have tried all ways with me. They have sought to bribe me; they
offered me hills and valleys. And to-day that sleuth-hound told me how I
stood, and to what a length he would go to butcher and disgrace me. I am
to be brought in a party to the murder; I am to have held Glenure in
talk for money and old clothes; I am to be killed and shamed. If this is
the way I am to fall, and me scarce a man--if this is the story to be
told of me in all Scotland--if you are to believe it too, and my name is
to be nothing but a by-word--Catriona, how can I go through with it? The
thing's not possible; it's more than a man has in his heart."

I poured my words out in a whirl, one upon the other; and when I stopped
I found her gazing on me with a startled face.

"Glenure! It is the Appin murder," she said softly, but with a very deep
surprise.

I had turned back to bear her company, and we were now come near the
head of the brae above Dean village. At this word I stepped in front of
her like one suddenly distracted.

"For God's sake!" I cried, "for God's sake, what is this that I have
done?" and carried my fists to my temples. "What made me do it? Sure, I
am bewitched to say these things!"

"In the name of heaven, what ails you now?" she cried.

"I gave my honour," I groaned, "I gave my honour and now I have broke
it. O, Catriona!"

"I am asking you what it is," she said; "was it these things you should
not have spoken? And do you think _I_ have no honour, then? or that I am
one that would betray a friend? I hold up my right hand to you and
swear."

"O, I knew you would be true!" said I. "It's me--it's here. I that stood
but this morning and out-faced them, that risked rather to die disgraced
upon the gallows than do wrong--and a few hours after I throw my honour
away by the roadside in common talk! 'There is one thing clear upon our
interview,' says he, 'that I can rely on your pledged word.' Where is my
word now? Who could believe me now? _You_ could not believe me. I am
clean fallen down; I had best die!" All this I said with a weeping
voice, but I had no tears in my body.

"My heart is sore for you," said she, "but be sure you are too nice. I
would not believe you, do you say? I would trust you with anything. And
these men? I would not be thinking of them! Men who go about to entrap
and to destroy you! Fy! this is no time to crouch. Look up! Do you not
think I will be admiring you like a great hero of the good--and you a
boy not much older than myself? And because you said a word too much in
a friend's ear, that would die ere she betrayed you--to make such a
matter! It is one thing that we must both forget."

"Catriona," said I, looking at her, hang-dog, "is this true of it? Would
ye trust me yet?"

"Will you not believe the tears upon my face?" she cried. "It is the
world I am thinking of you, Mr. David Balfour. Let them hang you; I will
never forget, I will grow old and still remember you. I think it is
great to die so; I will envy you that gallows."

"And maybe all this while I am but a child frighted with bogles," said
I. "Maybe they but make a mock of me."

"It is what I must know," she said. "I must hear the whole. The harm is
done at all events, and I must hear the whole."

I had sat down on the wayside, where she took a place beside me, and I
told her all that matter much as I have written it, my thoughts about
her father's dealing being alone omitted.

"Well," she said, when I had finished, "you are a hero, surely, and I
never would have thought that same! And I think you are in peril, too.
O, Symon Fraser! to think upon that man! For his life and the dirty
money, to be dealing in such traffic!" And just then she called out
aloud with a queer word that was common with her, and belongs, I
believe, to her own language. "My torture!" says she, "look at the sun!"

Indeed, it was already dipping towards the mountains.

She bid me come again soon, gave me her hand, and left me in a turmoil
of glad spirits. I delayed to go home to my lodging, for I had a terror
of immediate arrest; but got some supper at a change house, and the
better part of that night walked by myself in the barley-fields, and had
such a sense of Catriona's presence that I seemed to bear her in my
arms.

Robert Louis Stevenson

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