You can see for yourself, too, that I have certain pieces of business depending, which were scarcely fit to lay before a lawyer chosen at random. No more remains, but to ask if you will undertake my service?"
"I have no great mind to it; but coming as you do with Alan's button, the choice is scarcely left me," said he. "What are your instructions?" he added, and took up his pen.
"The first point is to smuggle Alan forth of this country," said I, "but I need not be repeating that."
"I am little likely to forget it," said Stewart.
"The next thing is the bit money I am owing to Cluny," I went on. "It would be ill for me to find a conveyance, but that should be no stick to you. It was two pounds five shillings and three-halfpence farthing sterling."
He noted it.
"Then," said I, "there's a Mr. Henderland, a licensed preacher and missionary in Ardgour, that I would like well to get some snuff into the hands of; and as I daresay you keep touch with your friends in Appin (so near by), it's a job you could doubtless overtake with the other."
"How much snuff are we to say?" he asked.
"I was thinking of two pounds," said I.
"Two," said he.
"Then there's the lass Alison Hastie, in Limekilns," said I. "Her that helped Alan and me across the Forth. I was thinking if I could get her a good Sunday gown, such as she could wear with decency in her degree, it would be an ease to my conscience: for the mere truth is, we owe her our two lives."
"I am glad to see you are thrifty, Mr. Balfour," says he, making his notes.
"I would think shame to be otherwise the first day of my fortune," said I. "And now, if you will compute the outlay and your own proper charges, I would be glad to know if I could get some spending-money back. It's not that I grudge the whole of it to get Alan safe; it's not that I lack more; but having drawn so much the one day, I think it would have a very ill appearance if I was back again seeking, the next. Only be sure you have enough," I added, "for I am very undesirous to meet with you again."
"Well, and I'm pleased to see you're cautious too," said the Writer. "But I think ye take a risk to lay so considerable a sum at my discretion."
He said this with a plain sneer.
"I'll have to run the hazard," I replied. "O, and there's another service I would ask, and that's to direct me to a lodging, for I have no roof to my head. But it must be a lodging I may seem to have hit upon by accident, for it would never do if the Lord Advocate were to get any jealousy of our acquaintance."
"Ye may set your weary spirit at rest," said he. "I will never name your name, sir; and it's my belief the Advocate is still so much to be sympathised with that he doesnae ken of your existence."
I saw I had got to the wrong side of the man.
"There's a braw day coming for him, then," said I, "for he'll have to learn of it on the deaf side of his head no later than to-morrow, when I call on him."
"When ye call on him!" repeated Mr. Stewart. "Am I daft, or are you? What takes ye near the Advocate?"
"O, just to give myself up," said I.
"Mr. Balfour," he cried, "are ye making a mock of me?"
"No, sir," said I, "though I think you have allowed yourself some such freedom with myself. But I give you to understand once and for all that I am in no jesting spirit."
"Nor yet me," says Stewart. "And I give you to understand (if that's to be the word) that I like the looks of your behaviour less and less. You come here to me with all sorts of propositions, which will put me in a train of very doubtful acts and bring me among very undesirable persons this many a day to come. And then you tell me you're going straight out of my office to make your peace with the Advocate! Alan's button here or Alan's button there, the four quarters of Alan wouldnae bribe me further in."
"I would take it with a little more temper," said I, "and perhaps we can avoid what you object to. I can see no way for it but to give myself up, but perhaps you can see another; and if you could, I could never deny but what I would be rather relieved. For I think my traffic with his lordship is little likely to agree with my health. There's just the one thing clear, that I have to give my evidence; for I hope it'll save Alan's character (what's left of it), and James's neck, which is the more immediate."
He was silent for a breathing-space, and then, "My man," said he, "you'll never be allowed to give such evidence."
"We'll have to see about that," said I; "I'm stiff-necked when I like."
"Ye muckle ass!" cried Stewart, "it's James they want; James has got to hang--Alan too, if they could catch him--but James whatever! Go near the Advocate with any such business, and you'll see! he'll find a way to muzzle ye."
"I think better of the Advocate than that," said I.
"The Advocate be damned!" cries he. "It's the Campbells, man! You'll have the whole clanjamfry of them on your back; and so will the Advocate too, poor body! It's extraordinar ye cannot see where ye stand! If there's no fair way to stop your gab, there's a foul one gaping. They can put ye in the dock, do ye no see that?" he cried, and stabbed me with one finger in the leg.
"Ay," said I, "I was told that same no further back than this morning by another lawyer."
"And who was he?" asked Stewart. "He spoke sense at least."
I told I must be excused from naming him, for he was a decent stout old Whig, and had little mind to be mixed up in such affairs.
"I think all the world seems to be mixed up in it!" cries Stewart. "But what said you?"
I told him what had passed between Rankeillor and myself before the house of Shaws.
"Well, and so ye will hang!" said he. "Ye'll hang beside James Stewart. There's your fortune told."
"I hope better of it yet than that," said I; "but I could never deny there was a risk."
"Risk!" says he, and then sat silent again. "I ought to thank you for your staunchness to my friends, to whom you show a very good spirit," he says, "if you have the strength to stand by it. But I warn you that you're wading deep. I wouldn't put myself in your place (me that's a Stewart born!) for all the Stewarts that ever there were since Noah. Risk? ay, I take over-many, but to be tried in court before a Campbell jury and a Campbell judge, and that in a Campbell country and upon a Campbell quarrel--think what you like of me, Balfour, it's beyond me."
"It's a different way of thinking, I suppose," said I; "I was brought up to this one by my father before me."
"Glory to his bones! he has left a decent son to his name," says he. "Yet I would not have you judge me over-sorely. My case is dooms hard. See, sir! ye tell me ye're a Whig: I wonder what I am. No Whig to be sure; I couldnae be just that. But--laigh in your ear, man--I'm maybe no very keen on the other side."
"Is that a fact?" cried I. "It's what I would think of a man of your intelligence."
"Hut! none of your whillywhas!" cries he. "There's intelligence upon both sides. But for my private part I have no particular desire to harm King George; and as for King James, God bless him! he does very well for me across the water. I'm a lawyer, ye see: fond of my books and my bottle, a good plea, a well-drawn deed, a crack in the Parliament House with other lawyer bodies, and perhaps a turn at the golf on a Saturday at e'en. Where do ye come in with your Hieland plaids and claymores?"
"Well," said I, "it's a fact ye have little of the wild Highlandman."
"Little?" quoth he. "Nothing, man! And yet I'm Hieland born, and when the clan pipes, who but me has to dance? The clan and the name, that goes by all. It's just what you said yourself; my father learned it to me, and a bonny trade I have of it. Treason and traitors, and the smuggling of them out and in; and the French recruiting, weary fall it! and the smuggling through of the recruits; and their pleas--a sorrow of their pleas! Here haye I been moving one for young Ardshiel, my cousin; claimed the estate under the marriage contract--a forfeited estate! I told them it was nonsense: muckle they cared! And there was I cocking behind a yadvocate that liked the business as little as myself, for it was fair ruin to the pair of us--a black mark, disaffected, branded on our hurdies, like folk's names upon their kye! And what can I do? I'm a Stewart, ye see, and must fend for my clan and family.