Balfour so ill-advised as to make himself their echo." So much he
spoke with a very oratorical delivery, as if in court, and then
declined again upon the manner of a gentleman. "All this apart,"
said he. "It now remains that I should learn what I am to do with
"I had thought it was rather I that should learn the same from your
lordship," said I.
"Ay, true," says the Advocate. "But, you see, you come to me well
recommended. There is a good honest Whig name to this letter,"
says he, picking it up a moment from the table. "And--extra-
judicially, Mr, Balfour--there is always the possibility of some
arrangement, I tell you, and I tell you beforehand that you may be
the more upon your guard, your fate lies with me singly. In such a
matter (be it said with reverence) I am more powerful than the
King's Majesty; and should you please me--and of course satisfy my
conscience--in what remains to be held of our interview, I tell you
it may remain between ourselves."
"Meaning how?" I asked.
"Why, I mean it thus, Mr. Balfour," said he, "that if you give
satisfaction, no soul need know so much as that you visited my
house; and you may observe that I do not even call my clerk."
I saw what way he was driving. "I suppose it is needless anyone
should be informed upon my visit," said I, "though the precise
nature of my gains by that I cannot see. I am not at all ashamed
of coming here."
"And have no cause to be," says he, encouragingly. "Nor yet (if
you are careful) to fear the consequences."
"My lord," said I, "speaking under your correction, I am not very
easy to be frightened."
"And I am sure I do not seek to frighten you," says he. "But to
the interrogation; and let me warn you to volunteer nothing beyond
the questions I shall ask you. It may consist very immediately
with your safety. I have a great discretion, it is true, but there
are bounds to it."
"I shall try to follow your lordship's advice," said I.
He spread a sheet of paper on the table and wrote a heading. "It
appears you were present, by the way, in the wood of Lettermore at
the moment of the fatal shot," he began. "Was this by accident?"
"By accident," said I.
"How came you in speech with Colin Campbell?" he asked.
"I was inquiring my way of him to Aucharn," I replied.
I observed he did not write this answer down.
"H'm, true," said he, "I had forgotten that. And do you know, Mr.
Balfour, I would dwell, if I were you, as little as might be on
your relations with these Stewarts. It might be found to
complicate our business. I am not yet inclined to regard these
matters as essential."
"I had thought, my lord, that all points of fact were equally
material in such a case," said I.
"You forget we are now trying these Stewarts," he replied, with
great significance. "If we should ever come to be trying you, it
will be very different; and I shall press these very questions that
I am now willing to glide upon. But to resume: I have it here in
Mr. Mungo Campbell's precognition that you ran immediately up the
brae. How came that?"
"Not immediately, my lord, and the cause was my seeing of the
"You saw him, then?"
"As plain as I see your lordship, though not so near hand."
"You know him?"
"I should know him again."
"In your pursuit you were not so fortunate, then, as to overtake
"I was not."
"Was he alone?"
"He was alone."
"There was no one else in that neighbourhood?"
"Alan Breck Stewart was not far off, in a piece of a wood."
The Advocate laid his pen down. "I think we are playing at cross
purposes," said he, "which you will find to prove a very ill
amusement for yourself."
"I content myself with following your lordship's advice, and
answering what I am asked," said I.
"Be so wise as to bethink yourself in time," said he, "I use you
with the most anxious tenderness, which you scarce seem to
appreciate, and which (unless you be more careful) may prove to be
"I do appreciate your tenderness, but conceive it to be mistaken,"
I replied, with something of a falter, for I saw we were come to
grips at last.