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Balfour so ill-advised as to make himself their echo." So much he

spoke with a very oratorical delivery, as if in court, and then

declined again upon the manner of a gentleman. "All this apart,"

said he. "It now remains that I should learn what I am to do with


"I had thought it was rather I that should learn the same from your

lordship," said I.

"Ay, true," says the Advocate. "But, you see, you come to me well

recommended. There is a good honest Whig name to this letter,"

says he, picking it up a moment from the table. "And--extra-

judicially, Mr, Balfour--there is always the possibility of some

arrangement, I tell you, and I tell you beforehand that you may be

the more upon your guard, your fate lies with me singly. In such a

matter (be it said with reverence) I am more powerful than the

King's Majesty; and should you please me--and of course satisfy my

conscience--in what remains to be held of our interview, I tell you

it may remain between ourselves."

"Meaning how?" I asked.

"Why, I mean it thus, Mr. Balfour," said he, "that if you give

satisfaction, no soul need know so much as that you visited my

house; and you may observe that I do not even call my clerk."

I saw what way he was driving. "I suppose it is needless anyone

should be informed upon my visit," said I, "though the precise

nature of my gains by that I cannot see. I am not at all ashamed

of coming here."

"And have no cause to be," says he, encouragingly. "Nor yet (if

you are careful) to fear the consequences."

"My lord," said I, "speaking under your correction, I am not very

easy to be frightened."

"And I am sure I do not seek to frighten you," says he. "But to

the interrogation; and let me warn you to volunteer nothing beyond

the questions I shall ask you. It may consist very immediately

with your safety. I have a great discretion, it is true, but there

are bounds to it."

"I shall try to follow your lordship's advice," said I.

He spread a sheet of paper on the table and wrote a heading. "It

appears you were present, by the way, in the wood of Lettermore at

the moment of the fatal shot," he began. "Was this by accident?"

"By accident," said I.

"How came you in speech with Colin Campbell?" he asked.

"I was inquiring my way of him to Aucharn," I replied.

I observed he did not write this answer down.

"H'm, true," said he, "I had forgotten that. And do you know, Mr.

Balfour, I would dwell, if I were you, as little as might be on

your relations with these Stewarts. It might be found to

complicate our business. I am not yet inclined to regard these

matters as essential."

"I had thought, my lord, that all points of fact were equally

material in such a case," said I.

"You forget we are now trying these Stewarts," he replied, with

great significance. "If we should ever come to be trying you, it

will be very different; and I shall press these very questions that

I am now willing to glide upon. But to resume: I have it here in

Mr. Mungo Campbell's precognition that you ran immediately up the

brae. How came that?"

"Not immediately, my lord, and the cause was my seeing of the


"You saw him, then?"

"As plain as I see your lordship, though not so near hand."

"You know him?"

"I should know him again."

"In your pursuit you were not so fortunate, then, as to overtake


"I was not."

"Was he alone?"

"He was alone."

"There was no one else in that neighbourhood?"

"Alan Breck Stewart was not far off, in a piece of a wood."

The Advocate laid his pen down. "I think we are playing at cross

purposes," said he, "which you will find to prove a very ill

amusement for yourself."

"I content myself with following your lordship's advice, and

answering what I am asked," said I.

"Be so wise as to bethink yourself in time," said he, "I use you

with the most anxious tenderness, which you scarce seem to

appreciate, and which (unless you be more careful) may prove to be

in vain."

"I do appreciate your tenderness, but conceive it to be mistaken,"

I replied, with something of a falter, for I saw we were come to

grips at last.

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

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