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should add that the young gentleman's intention is known to and

approved by some of his friends, who will watch with hopeful

anxiety the event of his success or failure.

"Whereupon," continued Mr. Balfour, "I have subscribed myself with

the usual compliments. You observe I have said 'some of your

friends'; I hope you can justify my plural?"

"Perfectly, sir; my purpose is known and approved by more than

one," said I. "And your letter, which I take a pleasure to thank

you for, is all I could have hoped."

"It was all I could squeeze out," said he; "and from what I know of

the matter you design to meddle in, I can only pray God that it may

prove sufficient."


My kinsman kept me to a meal, "for the honour of the roof," he

said; and I believe I made the better speed on my return. I had no

thought but to be done with the next stage, and have myself fully

committed; to a person circumstanced as I was, the appearance of

closing a door on hesitation and temptation was itself extremely

tempting; and I was the more disappointed, when I came to

Prestongrange's house, to be informed he was abroad. I believe it

was true at the moment, and for some hours after; and then I have

no doubt the Advocate came home again, and enjoyed himself in a

neighbouring chamber among friends, while perhaps the very fact of

my arrival was forgotten. I would have gone away a dozen times,

only for this strong drawing to have done with my declaration out

of hand and be able to lay me down to sleep with a free conscience.

At first I read, for the little cabinet where I was left contained

a variety of books. But I fear I read with little profit; and the

weather falling cloudy, the dusk coming up earlier than usual, and

my cabinet being lighted with but a loophole of a window, I was at

last obliged to desist from this diversion (such as it was), and

pass the rest of my time of waiting in a very burthensome vacuity.

The sound of people talking in a near chamber, the pleasant note of

a harpsichord, and once the voice of a lady singing, bore me a kind

of company.

I do not know the hour, but the darkness was long come, when the

door of the cabinet opened, and I was aware, by the light behind

him, of a tall figure of a man upon the threshold. I rose at once.

"Is anybody there?" he asked. "Who in that?"

"I am bearer of a letter from the laird of Pilrig to the Lord

Advocate," said I.

"Have you been here long?" he asked.

"I would not like to hazard an estimate of how many hours," said I.

"It is the first I hear of it," he replied, with a chuckle. "The

lads must have forgotten you. But you are in the bit at last, for

I am Prestongrange."

So saying, he passed before me into the next room, whither (upon

his sign) I followed him, and where he lit a candle and took his

place before a business-table. It was a long room, of a good

proportion, wholly lined with books. That small spark of light in

a corner struck out the man's handsome person and strong face. He

was flushed, his eye watered and sparkled, and before he sat down I

observed him to sway back and forth. No doubt, he had been supping

liberally; but his mind and tongue were under full control.

"Well, sir, sit ye down," said he, "and let us see Pilrig's


He glanced it through in the beginning carelessly, looking up and

bowing when he came to my name; but at the last words I thought I

observed his attention to redouble, and I made sure he read them

twice. All this while you are to suppose my heart was beating, for

I had now crossed my Rubicon and was come fairly on the field of


"I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. Balfour," he said,

when he had done. "Let me offer you a glass of claret."

"Under your favour, my lord, I think it would scarce be fair on

me," said I. "I have come here, as the letter will have mentioned,

on a business of some gravity to myself; and, as I am little used

with wine, I might be the sooner affected."

"You shall be the judge," said he.

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

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