The 25th of the same month, a ship was advertised to sail from Leith; and I was suddenly recommended to make up my mails for Leyden. To Prestongrange I could, of course, say nothing; for I had already been a long while sorning on his house and table. But with his daughter I was more open, bewailing my fate that I should be sent out of the country, and assuring her, unless she should bring me to farewell with Catriona, I would refuse at the last hour.
“Have I not given you my advice?” she asked.
“I know you have,” said I, “and I know how much I am beholden to you already, and that I am bidden to obey your orders. But you must confess you are something too merry a lass at times to lippen to entirely.”
“I will tell you, then,” said she. “Be you on board at nine o’clock forenoon; the ship does not sail before one; keep your boat alongside; and if you are not pleased with my farewells when I shall send them, you can come ashore again and seek Katrine for yourself.”
Since I could make no more of her, I was fain to be content with this.
The day came round at last when she and I were to separate. We had been extremely intimate and familiar; I was much in her debt; and what way we were to part was a thing that put me from my sleep, like the vails I was to give to the domestic servants. I knew she considered me too backward, and rather desired to rise in her opinion on that head. Besides which, after so much affection shown and (I believe) felt upon both sides, it would have looked cold-like to be anyways stiff. Accordingly, I got my courage up and my words ready, and the last chance we were like to be alone, asked pretty boldly to be allowed to salute her in farewell.
“You forget yourself strangely, Mr. Balfour,” said she. “I cannot call to mind that I had given you any right to presume on our acquaintancy.”
I stood before her like a stopped clock, and knew not what to think, far less to say, when of a sudden she cast her arms about my neck and kissed me with the best will in the world.
“You inimitable bairn!” she cried. “Did you think that I would let us part like strangers? Because I can never keep my gravity at you five minutes on end, you must not dream I do not love you very well; I am all love and laughter, every time I cast an eye on you! And now I will give you an advice to conclude your education, which you will have need of before its very long. Never ask women-folk. They’re bound to answer ‘No’; God never made the lass that could resist the temptation. It’s supposed by divines to be the curse of Eve; because she did not say it when the devil offered her the apple, her daughters can say nothing else.”
“Since I am so soon to lose my bonny professor,” I began.
“This is gallant, indeed,” says she curtseying.
“—I would put the one question,” I went on; “May I ask a lass to marry me?”