My trouble is to have become dipped in a political complication,
which it is judged you would be blythe to avoid a knowledge of."
"Why, very well, Mr. David," he replied, "I am pleased to see you
are all that Rankeillor represented. And for what you say of
political complications, you do me no more than justice. It is my
study to be beyond suspicion, and indeed outside the field of it.
The question is," says he, "how, if I am to know nothing of the
matter, I can very well assist you?"
"Why sir," said I, "I propose you should write to his lordship,
that I am a young man of reasonable good family and of good means:
both of which I believe to be the case."
"I have Rankeillor's word for it," said Mr. Balfour, "and I count
that a warran-dice against all deadly."
"To which you might add (if you will take my word for so much) that
I am a good churchman, loyal to King George, and so brought up," I
"None of which will do you any harm," said Mr. Balfour.
"Then you might go on to say that I sought his lordship on a matter
of great moment, connected with His Majesty's service and the
administration of justice," I suggested.
"As I am not to hear the matter," says the laird, "I will not take
upon myself to qualify its weight. 'Great moment' therefore falls,
and 'moment' along with it. For the rest I might express myself
much as you propose."
"And then, sir," said I, and rubbed my neck a little with my thumb,
"then I would be very desirous if you could slip in a word that
might perhaps tell for my protection."
"Protection?" says he, "for your protection! Here is a phrase that
somewhat dampens me. If the matter be so dangerous, I own I would
be a little loath to move in it blindfold."
"I believe I could indicate in two words where the thing sticks,"
"Perhaps that would be the best," said he.
"Well, it's the Appin murder," said I.
He held up both his hands. "Sirs! sirs!" cried he.
I thought by the expression of his face and voice that I had lost
"Let me explain. . ." I began.
"I thank you kindly, I will hear no more of it," says he. "I
decline in toto to hear more of it. For your name's sake and
Rankeillor's, and perhaps a little for your own, I will do what I
can to help you; but I will hear no more upon the facts. And it is
my first clear duty to warn you. These are deep waters, Mr. David,
and you are a young man. Be cautious and think twice."
"It is to be supposed I will have thought oftener than that, Mr.
Balfour," said I, "and I will direct your attention again to
Rankeillor's letter, where (I hope and believe) he has registered
his approval of that which I design."
"Well, well," said he; and then again, "Well, well! I will do what
I can for you." There with he took a pen and paper, sat a while in
thought, and began to write with much consideration. "I understand
that Rankeillor approved of what you have in mind?" he asked
"After some discussion, sir, he bade me to go forward in God's
name," said I.
"That is the name to go in," said Mr. Balfour, and resumed his
writing. Presently, he signed, re-read what he had written, and
addressed me again. "Now here, Mr. David," said he, "is a letter
of introduction, which I will seal without closing, and give into
your hands open, as the form requires. But, since I am acting in
the dark, I will just read it to you, so that you may see if it
will secure your end -
"PILRIG, August 26th, 1751.
"My Lord,--This is to bring to your notice my namesake and cousin,
David Balfour Esquire of Shaws, a young gentleman of unblemished
descent and good estate. He has enjoyed, besides, the more
valuable advantages of a godly training, and his political
principles are all that your lordship can desire. I am not in Mr.
Balfour's confidence, but I understand him to have a matter to
declare, touching His Majesty's service and the administration of
justice; purposes for which your Lordship's zeal is known.