Here I am, and a bank-porter at my tail. And remember I have had the hospitality of your own country of Balwhidder."
"It was not one of my people gave it," said she.
"Ah, well," said I, "but I am owing your uncle at least for some springs upon the pipes. Besides which, I have offered myself to be your friend, and you have been so forgetful that you did not refuse me in the proper time."
"If it had been a great sum, it might have done you honour," said she. "But I will tell you what this is. James More lies shackled in prison; but this time past, they will be bringing him down here daily to the Advocate's..."
"The Advocate's?" I cried. "Is that...?"
"It is the house of the Lord Advocate, Grant of Prestongrange," said she. "There they bring my father one time and another, for what purpose I have no thought in my mind; but it seems there is some hope dawned for him. All this same time they will not let me be seeing him, nor yet him write; and we wait upon the King's street to catch him; and now we give him his snuff as he goes by, and now something else. And here is this son of trouble, Neil, son of Duncan, has lost my fourpenny-piece that was to buy that snuff, and James More must go wanting, and will think his daughter has forgotten him."
I took sixpence from my pocket, gave it to Neil, and bade him go about his errand. Then to her, "That sixpence came with me by Balwhidder," said I.
"Ah!" she said, "you are a friend to the Gregara!"
"I would not like to deceive you either," said I. "I know very little of the Gregara and less of James More and his doings; but since the while I have been standing in this close, I seem to know something of yourself; and if you will just say 'a friend to Miss Catriona' I will see you are the less cheated."
"The one cannot be without the other," said she.
"I will even try," said I.
"And what will you be thinking of myself?" she cried, "to be holding my hand to the first stranger!"
"I am thinking nothing but that you are a good daughter," said I.
"I must not be without repaying it," she said; "where is it you stop?"
"To tell the truth, I am stopping nowhere yet," said I, "being not full three hours in the city; but if you will give me your direction, I will be so bold as come seeking my sixpence for myself."
"Will I can trust you for that?" she asked.
"You have little fear," said I.
"James More could not bear it else," said she. "I stop beyond the village of Dean, on the north side of the water, with Mrs. Drummond-Ogilvy of Allardyce, who is my near friend and will be glad to thank you."
"You are to see me then, so soon as what I have to do permits," said I; and the remembrance of Alan rolling in again upon my mind, I made haste to say farewell.
I could not but think, even as I did so, that we had made extraordinary free upon short acquaintance, and that a really wise young lady would have shown herself more backward. I think it was the bank-porter that put me from this ungallant train of thought.
"I thoucht ye had been a lad of some kind o' sense," he began, shooting out his lips. "Ye're no likely to gang far this gate. A fule and his siller's shune parted. Eh, but ye're a green callant!" he cried, "an' a veecious, tae! Cleikin' up wi' baubee-joes!"
"If you dare to speak of the young lady ..." I began.
"Leddy!" he cried. "Haud us and safe us, whatten leddy? Ca' thon a leddy? The toun's fu' o' them. Leddies! Man, it's weel seen ye're no very acquant in Embro'!"
A clap of anger took me.
"Here," said I, "lead me where I told you, and keep your foul mouth shut!"
He did not wholly obey me, for though he no more addressed me directly, he sang at me as he went in a very impudent manner of innuendo, and with an exceedingly ill voice and ear--
"As Mally Lee cam doun the street, her capuchin did flee. She cuist a look ahint her to see her negligee, And we're a' gaun east and wast, we're a' gaun ajee, We're a' gaun east and wast courtin' Mally Lee."
* * * * *
THE HIGHLAND WRITER
Mr. Charles Stewart the Writer dwelt at the top of the longest stair that ever mason set a hand to; fifteen flights of it, no less; and when I had come to his door, and a clerk had opened it, and told me his master was within, I had scarce breath enough to send my porter packing.
"Awa' east and wast wi' ye!" said I, took the money bag out of his hands, and followed the clerk in.
The outer room was an office with the clerk's chair at a table spread with law papers. In the inner chamber, which opened from it, a little brisk man sat poring on a deed, from which he scarce raised his eyes upon my entrance; indeed, he still kept his finger in the place, as though prepared to show me out and fall again to his studies. This pleased me little enough; and what pleased me less, I thought the clerk was in a good posture to overhear what should pass between us.
I asked if he was Mr. Charles Stewart the Writer.
"The same," says he; "and if the question is equally fair, who may you be yourself?"
"You never heard tell of my name nor of me either," said I, "but I bring you a token from a friend that you know well. That you know well," I repeated, lowering my voice, "but maybe are not just so keen to hear from at this present being. And the bits of business that I have to propone to you are rather in the nature of being confidential. In short, I would like to think we were quite private."
He rose without more words, casting down his paper like a man ill-pleased, sent forth his clerk of an errand, and shut to the house-door behind him.
"Now, sir," said he, returning, "speak out your mind and fear nothing; though before you begin," he cries out, "I tell you mine misgives me! I tell you beforehand, ye're either a Stewart or a Stewart sent ye. A good name it is, and one it would ill-become my father's son to lightly. But I begin to grue at the sound of it."
"My name is called Balfour," said I, "David Balfour of Shaws. As for him that sent me, I will let his token speak." And I showed the silver button.
"Put it in your pocket, sir!" cries he, "Ye need name no names. The deevil's buckie, I ken the button of him! And de'il hae't! Where is he now?"
I told him I knew not where Alan was, but he had some sure place (or thought he had) about the north side, where he was to lie until a ship was found for him; and how and where he had appointed to be spoken with.
"It's been always my opinion that I would hang in a tow for this family of mine," he cried, "and, dod! I believe the day's come now! Get a ship for him, quot' he! And who's to pay for it? The man's daft!"
"That is my part of the affair, Mr. Stewart," said I. "Here is a bag of good money, and if more be wanted, more is to be had where it came from."
"I needn't ask your politics," said he.
"Ye need not," said I, smiling, "for I'm as big a Whig as grows."
"Stop a bit, stop a bit," says Mr. Stewart. "What's all this? A Whig? Then why are you here with Alan's button? and what kind of a black-foot traffic is this that I find ye out in, Mr. Whig? Here is a forfeited rebel and an accused murderer, with two hundred pounds on his life, and ye ask me to meddle in his business, and then tell me ye're a Whig! I have no mind of any such Whigs before, though I've kent plenty of them."
"He's a forfeited rebel, the more's the pity," said I, "for the man's my friend." I can only wish he had been better guided. And an accused murderer, that he is too, for his misfortune; but wrongfully accused."
"I hear you say so," said Stewart.
"More than you are to hear me say so, before long," said I. "Alan Breck is innocent, and so is James."
"Oh!" says he, "the two cases hang together. If Alan is out, James can never be in."
Hereupon I told him briefly of my acquaintance with Alan, of the accident that brought me present at the Appin murder, and the various passages of our escape among the heather, and my recovery of my estate. "So, sir, you have now the whole train of these events," I went on, "and can see for yourself how I come to be so much mingled up with the affairs of your family and friends, which (for all of our sakes) I wish had been plainer and less bloody.