“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 ungrateful.”
And now it was I that turned away.
* * * * *
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.