"What have I to do with this?" says Prestongrange.
"I will tell your lordship in two words," said I. "I have brought
this gentleman, a King's officer, to do me so much justice. Now I
think my character in covered, and until a certain date, which your
lordship can very well supply, it will be quite in vain to despatch
against me any more officers. I will not consent to fight my way
through the garrison of the castle."
The veins swelled on Prestongrange's brow, and he regarded me with
"I think the devil uncoupled this dog of a lad between my legs!" he
cried; and then, turning fiercely on his neighbour, "This is some
of your work, Simon," he said. "I spy your hand in the business,
and, let me tell you, I resent it. It is disloyal, when we are
agreed upon one expedient, to follow another in the dark. You are
disloyal to me. What! you let me send this lad to the place with
my very daughters! And because I let drop a word to you..... Fy,
sir, keep your dishonours to yourself!"
Simon was deadly pale. "I will be a kick-ball between you and the
Duke no longer," he exclaimed. "Either come to an agreement, or
come to a differ, and have it out among yourselves. But I will no
longer fetch and carry, and get your contrary instructions, and be
blamed by both. For if I were to tell you what I think of all your
Hanover business it would make your head sing."
But Sheriff Erskine had preserved his temper, and now intervened
smoothly. "And in the meantime," says he, "I think we should tell
Mr. Balfour that his character for valour is quite established. He
may sleep in peace. Until the date he was so good as to refer to
it shall be put to the proof no more."
His coolness brought the others to their prudence; and they made
haste, with a somewhat distracted civility, to pack me from the
CHAPTER IX--THE HEATHER ON FIRE
When I left Prestongrange that afternoon I was for the first time
angry. The Advocate had made a mock of me. He had pretended my
testimony was to be received and myself respected; and in that very
hour, not only was Simon practising against my life by the hands of
the Highland soldier, but (as appeared from his own language)
Prestongrange himself had some design in operation. I counted my
enemies; Prestongrange with all the King's authority behind him;
and the Duke with the power of the West Highlands; and the Lovat
interest by their side to help them with so great a force in the
north, and the whole clan of old Jacobite spies and traffickers.
And when I remembered James More, and the red head of Neil the son
of Duncan, I thought there was perhaps a fourth in the confederacy,
and what remained of Rob Roy's old desperate sept of caterans would
be banded against me with the others. One thing was requisite--
some strong friend or wise adviser. The country must be full of
such, both able and eager to support me, or Lovat and the Duke and
Prestongrange had not been nosing for expedients; and it made me
rage to think that I might brush against my champions in the street
and be no wiser.
And just then (like an answer) a gentleman brushed against me going
by, gave me a meaning look, and turned into a close. I knew him
with the tail of my eye--it was Stewart the Writer; and, blessing
my good fortune, turned in to follow him. As soon as I had entered
the close I saw him standing in the mouth of a stair, where he made
me a signal and immediately vanished. Seven storeys up, there he
was again in a house door, the which he looked behind us after we
had entered. The house was quite dismantled, with not a stick of
furniture; indeed, it was one of which Stewart had the letting in
"We'll have to sit upon the floor," said he; "but we're safe here
for the time being, and I've been wearying to see ye, Mr. Balfour."
"How's it with Alan?" I asked.
"Brawly," said he.