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Your personal part in it, the

treacherous one of holding the poor wretch in talk, your

accomplices a pack of ragged Highland gillies. And it can be

shown, my great Mr. Balfour--it can be shown, and it WILL be shown,

trust ME that has a finger in the pie--it can be shown, and shall

be shown, that you were paid to do it. I think I can see the looks

go round the court when I adduce my evidence, and it shall appear

that you, a young man of education, let yourself be corrupted to

this shocking act for a suit of cast clothes, a bottle of Highland

spirits, and three-and-fivepence-halfpenny in copper money."

There was a touch of the truth in these words that knocked me like

a blow: clothes, a bottle of usquebaugh, and three-and-fivepence-

halfpenny in change made up, indeed, the most of what Alan and I

had carried from Auchurn; and I saw that some of James's people had

been blabbing in their dungeons.

"You see I know more than you fancied," he resumed in triumph.

"And as for giving it this turn, great Mr. David, you must not

suppose the Government of Great Britain and Ireland will ever be

stuck for want of evidence. We have men here in prison who will

swear out their lives as we direct them; as I direct, if you prefer

the phrase. So now you are to guess your part of glory if you

choose to die. On the one hand, life, wine, women, and a duke to

be your handgun: on the other, a rope to your craig, and a gibbet

to clatter your bones on, and the lousiest, lowest story to hand

down to your namesakes in the future that was ever told about a

hired assassin. And see here!" he cried, with a formidable shrill

voice, "see this paper that I pull out of my pocket. Look at the

name there: it is the name of the great David, I believe, the ink

scarce dry yet. Can you guess its nature? It is the warrant for

your arrest, which I have but to touch this bell beside me to have

executed on the spot. Once in the Tolbooth upon this paper, may

God help you, for the die is cast!"

I must never deny that I was greatly horrified by so much baseness,

and much unmanned by the immediacy and ugliness of my danger. Mr.

Simon had already gloried in the changes of my hue; I make no doubt

I was now no ruddier than my shirt; my speech besides trembled.

"There is a gentleman in this room," cried I. "I appeal to him. I

put my life and credit in his hands."

Prestongrange shut his book with a snap. "I told you so, Simon,"

said he; "you have played your hand for all it was worth, and you

have lost. Mr. David," he went on, "I wish you to believe it was

by no choice of mine you were subjected to this proof. I wish you

could understand how glad I am you should come forth from it with

so much credit. You may not quite see how, but it is a little of a

service to myself. For had our friend here been more successful

than I was last night, it might have appeared that he was a better

judge of men than I; it might have appeared we were altogether in

the wrong situations, Mr. Simon and myself. And I know our friend

Simon to be ambitious," says he, striking lightly on Fraser's

shoulder. "As for this stage play, it is over; my sentiments are

very much engaged in your behalf; and whatever issue we can find to

this unfortunate affair, I shall make it my business to see it is

adopted with tenderness to you."

These were very good words, and I could see besides that there was

little love, and perhaps a spice of genuine ill-will, between these

two who were opposed to me. For all that, it was unmistakable this

interview had been designed, perhaps rehearsed, with the consent of

both; it was plain my adversaries were in earnest to try me by all

methods; and now (persuasion, flattery, and menaces having been

tried in vain) I could not but wonder what would be their next

expedient. My eyes besides were still troubled, and my knees loose

under me, with the distress of the late ordeal; and I could do no

more than stammer the same form of words: "I put my life and

credit in your hands."

"Well, well," said he, "we must try to save them.

Catriona Page 24

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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