Catriona

Page 36

It's clean in the two eyes of the

Act of Parliament of 1700, anent wrongous imprisonment. No sooner

did I get the news than I petitioned the Lord Justice Clerk. I

have his word to-day. There's law for ye! here's justice!"

He put a paper in my hand, that same mealy-mouthed, false-faced

paper that was printed since in the pamphlet "by a bystander," for

behoof (as the title says) of James's "poor widow and five

children."

"See," said Stewart, "he couldn't dare to refuse me access to my

client, so he RECOMMENDS THE COMMANDING OFFICER TO LET ME IN.

Recommends!--the Lord Justice Clerk of Scotland recommends. Is not

the purpose of such language plain? They hope the officer may be

so dull, or so very much the reverse, as to refuse the

recommendation. I would have to make the journey back again

betwixt here and Fort William. Then would follow a fresh delay

till I got fresh authority, and they had disavowed the officer--

military man, notoriously ignorant of the law, and that--I ken the

cant of it. Then the journey a third time; and there we should be

on the immediate heels of the trial before I had received my first

instruction. Am I not right to call this a conspiracy?"

"It will bear that colour," said I.

"And I'll go on to prove it you outright," said he. "They have the

right to hold James in prison, yet they cannot deny me to visit

him. They have no right to hold the witnesses; but am I to get a

sight of them, that should be as free as the Lord Justice Clerk

himself! See--read: FOR THE REST, REFUSES TO GIVE ANY ORDERS TO

KEEPERS OF PRISONS WHO ARE NOT ACCUSED AS HAVING DONE ANYTHING

CONTRARY TO THE DUTIES OF THEIR OFFICE. Anything contrary! Sirs!

And the Act of seventeen hunner? Mr. Balfour, this makes my heart

to burst; the heather is on fire inside my wame."

"And the plain English of that phrase," said I, "is that the

witnesses are still to lie in prison and you are not to see them?"

"And I am not to see them until Inverary, when the court is set!"

cries he, "and then to hear Prestongrange upon THE ANXIOUS

RESPONSIBILITIES OF HIS OFFICE AND THE GREAT FACILITIES AFFORDED

THE DEFENCE! But I'll begowk them there, Mr. David. I have a plan

to waylay the witnesses upon the road, and see if I cannae get I a

little harle of justice out of the MILITARY MAN NOTORIOUSLY

IGNORANT OF THE LAW that shall command the party."

It was actually so--it was actually on the wayside near Tynedrum,

and by the connivance of a soldier officer, that Mr. Stewart first

saw the witnesses upon the case.

"There is nothing that would surprise me in this business," I

remarked.

"I'll surprise you ere I'm done!" cries he. "Do ye see this?"--

producing a print still wet from the press. "This is the libel:

see, there's Prestongrange's name to the list of witnesses, and I

find no word of any Balfour. But here is not the question. Who do

ye think paid for the printing of this paper?"

"I suppose it would likely be King George," said I.

"But it happens it was me!" he cried. "Not but it was printed by

and for themselves, for the Grants and the Erskines, and yon thief

of the black midnight, Simon Fraser. But could _I_ win to get a

copy! No! I was to go blindfold to my defence; I was to hear the

charges for the first time in court alongst the jury."

"Is not this against the law?" I asked

"I cannot say so much," he replied. "It was a favour so natural

and so constantly rendered (till this nonesuch business) that the

law has never looked to it. And now admire the hand of Providence!

A stranger is in Fleming's printing house, spies a proof on the

floor, picks it up, and carries it to me. Of all things, it was

just this libel. Whereupon I had it set again--printed at the

expense of the defence: sumptibus moesti rei; heard ever man the

like of it?--and here it is for anybody, the muckle secret out--all

may see it now.

Catriona Page 37

Robert Louis Stevenson

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book