Catriona

Page 14

"But if you will permit, I

believe I will even have the bottle in myself."

He touched a bell, and a footman came, as at a signal, bringing

wine and glasses.

"You are sure you will not join me?" asked the Advocate. "Well,

here is to our better acquaintance! In what way can I serve you?"

"I should, perhaps, begin by telling you, my lord, that I am here

at your own pressing invitation," said I.

"You have the advantage of me somewhere," said he, "for I profess I

think I never heard of you before this evening."

"Right, my lord; the name is, indeed, new to you," said I. "And

yet you have been for some time extremely wishful to make my

acquaintance, and have declared the same in public."

"I wish you would afford me a clue," says he. "I am no Daniel."

"It will perhaps serve for such," said I, "that if I was in a

jesting humour--which is far from the case--I believe I might lay a

claim on your lordship for two hundred pounds."

"In what sense?" he inquired.

"In the sense of rewards offered for my person," said I.

He thrust away his glass once and for all, and sat straight up in

the chair where he had been previously lolling. "What am I to

understand?" said he.

"A TALL STRONG LAD OF ABOUT EIGHTEEN," I quoted, "SPEAKS LIKE a

LOWLANDER AND HAS NO BEARD."

"I recognise those words," said he, "which, if you have come here

with any ill-judged intention of amusing yourself, are like to

prove extremely prejudicial to your safety."

"My purpose in this," I replied, "is just entirely as serious as

life and death, and you have understood me perfectly. I am the boy

who was speaking with Glenure when he was shot."

"I can only suppose (seeing you here) that you claim to be

innocent," said he.

"The inference is clear," I said. "I am a very loyal subject to

King George, but if I had anything to reproach myself with, I would

have had more discretion than to walk into your den."

"I am glad of that," said he. "This horrid crime, Mr. Balfour, is

of a dye which cannot permit any clemency. Blood has been

barbarously shed. It has been shed in direct opposition to his

Majesty and our whole frame of laws, by those who are their known

and public oppugnants. I take a very high sense of this. I will

not deny that I consider the crime as directly personal to his

Majesty."

"And unfortunately, my lord," I added, a little drily, "directly

personal to another great personage who may be nameless."

"If you mean anything by those words, I must tell you I consider

them unfit for a good subject; and were they spoke publicly I

should make it my business to take note of them," said he. "You do

not appear to me to recognise the gravity of your situation, or you

would be more careful not to pejorate the same by words which

glance upon the purity of justice. Justice, in this country, and

in my poor hands, is no respecter of persons."

"You give me too great a share in my own speech, my lord," said I.

"I did but repeat the common talk of the country, which I have

heard everywhere, and from men of all opinions as I came along."

"When you are come to more discretion you will understand such talk

in not to be listened to, how much less repeated," says the

Advocate. "But I acquit you of an ill intention. That nobleman,

whom we all honour, and who has indeed been wounded in a near place

by the late barbarity, sits too high to be reached by these

aspersions. The Duke of Argyle--you see that I deal plainly with

you--takes it to heart as I do, and as we are both bound to do by

our judicial functions and the service of his Majesty; and I could

wish that all hands, in this ill age, were equally clean of family

rancour. But from the accident that this is a Campbell who has

fallen martyr to his duty--as who else but the Campbells have ever

put themselves foremost on that path?--I may say it, who am no

Campbell--and that the chief of that great house happens (for all

our advantages) to be the present head of the College of Justice,

small minds and disaffected tongues are set agog in every

changehouse in the country; and I find a young gentleman like Mr.

Catriona Page 15

Robert Louis Stevenson

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