Catriona

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guilt of Breck is manifest; and your testimony, in which you admit

you saw him on the hill at the very moment, will certify his

hanging."

"It will be rather ill to hang him till you catch him," I observed.

"And for other matters I very willingly leave you to your own

impressions."

"The Duke has been informed," he went on. "I have just come from

his Grace, and he expressed himself before me with an honest

freedom like the great nobleman he is. He spoke of you by name,

Mr. Balfour, and declared his gratitude beforehand in case you

would be led by those who understand your own interests and those

of the country so much better than yourself. Gratitude is no empty

expression in that mouth: experto-crede. I daresay you know

something of my name and clan, and the damnable example and

lamented end of my late father, to say nothing of my own errata.

Well, I have made my peace with that good Duke; he has intervened

for me with our friend Prestongrange; and here I am with my foot in

the stirrup again and some of the responsibility shared into my

hand of prosecuting King George's enemies and avenging the late

daring and barefaced insult to his Majesty."

"Doubtless a proud position for your father's son," says I.

He wagged his bald eyebrows at me. "You are pleased to make

experiments in the ironical, I think," said he. "But I am here

upon duty, I am here to discharge my errand in good faith, it is in

vain you think to divert me. And let me tell you, for a young

fellow of spirit and ambition like yourself, a good shove in the

beginning will do more than ten years' drudgery. The shove is now

at your command; choose what you will to be advanced in, the Duke

will watch upon you with the affectionate disposition of a father."

"I am thinking that I lack the docility of the son," says I.

"And do you really suppose, sir, that the whole policy of this

country is to be suffered to trip up and tumble down for an ill-

mannered colt of a boy?" he cried. "This has been made a test

case, all who would prosper in the future must put a shoulder to

the wheel. Look at me! Do you suppose it is for my pleasure that

I put myself in the highly invidious position of persecuting a man

that I have drawn the sword alongside of? The choice is not left

me."

"But I think, sir, that you forfeited your choice when you mixed in

with that unnatural rebellion," I remarked. "My case is happily

otherwise; I am a true man, and can look either the Duke or King

George in the face without concern."

"Is it so the wind sits?" says he. "I protest you are fallen in

the worst sort of error. Prestongrange has been hitherto so civil

(he tells me) as not to combat your allegations; but you must not

think they are not looked upon with strong suspicion. You say you

are innocent. My dear sir, the facts declare you guilty."

"I was waiting for you there," said I.

"The evidence of Mungo Campbell; your flight after the completion

of the murder; your long course of secresy--my good young man!"

said Mr. Simon, "here is enough evidence to hang a bullock, let be

a David Balfour! I shall be upon that trial; my voice shall be

raised; I shall then speak much otherwise from what I do to-day,

and far less to your gratification, little as you like it now! Ah,

you look white!" cries he. "I have found the key of your impudent

heart. You look pale, your eyes waver, Mr. David! You see the

grave and the gallows nearer by than you had fancied."

"I own to a natural weakness," said I. "I think no shame for that.

Shame. . ." I was going on.

"Shame waits for you on the gibbet," he broke in.

"Where I shall but be even'd with my lord your father," said I.

"Aha, but not so!" he cried, "and you do not yet see to the bottom

of this business. My father suffered in a great cause, and for

dealing in the affairs of kings. You are to hang for a dirty

murder about boddle-pieces.

Catriona Page 23

Robert Louis Stevenson

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