I hope, sir, that I am as little anxious to be Quixotic, as I am determined to be just.'
'Very fairly spoken,' said Mr. Robbie. 'It is not much in my line, as doubtless your friend, Mr. Romaine, will have told you. I rarely mix myself up with anything on the criminal side, or approaching it. However, for a young gentleman like you, I may stretch a point, and I dare say I may be able to accomplish more than perhaps another. I will go at once to the Procurator Fiscal's office and inquire.'
'Wait a moment, Mr. Robbie,' said I. 'You forget the chapter of expenses. I had thought, for a beginning, of placing a thousand pounds in your hands.'
'My dear sir, you will kindly wait until I render you my bill,' said Mr. Robbie severely.'
'It seemed to me,' I protested, 'that coming to you almost as a stranger, and placing in your hands a piece of business so contrary to your habits, some substantial guarantee of my good faith--'
'Not the way that we do business in Scotland, sir,' he interrupted, with an air of closing the dispute.
'And yet, Mr. Robbie,' I continued, 'I must ask you to allow me to proceed. I do not merely refer to the expenses of the case. I have my eye besides on Todd and Candlish. They are thoroughly deserving fellows; they have been subjected through me to a considerable term of imprisonment; and I suggest, sir, that you should not spare money for their indemnification. This will explain,' I added smiling, 'my offer of the thousand pounds. It was in the nature of a measure by which you should judge the scale on which I can afford to have this business carried through.'
'I take you perfectly, Mr. Ducie,' said he. 'But the sooner I am off, the better this affair is like to be guided. My clerk will show you into the waiting-room and give you the day's Caledonian Mercury and the last Register to amuse yourself with in the interval.'
I believe Mr. Robbie was at least three hours gone. I saw him descend from a cab at the door, and almost immediately after I was shown again into his study, where the solemnity of his manner led me to augur the worst. For some time he had the inhumanity to read me a lecture as to the incredible silliness, 'not to say immorality,' of my behaviour. 'I have the satisfaction in telling you my opinion, because it appears that you are going to get off scot free,' he continued, where, indeed, I thought he might have begun.
'The man, Faa, has been discharged cured; and the two men, Todd and Candlish, would have been leeberated lone ago if it had not been for their extraordinary loyalty to yourself, Mr. Ducie--or Mr. St. Ivey, as I believe I should now call you. Never a word would either of the two old fools volunteer that in any manner pointed at the existence of such a person; and when they were confronted with Faa's version of the affair, they gave accounts so entirely discrepant with their own former declarations, as well as with each other, that the Fiscal was quite nonplussed, and imaigined there was something behind it. You may believe I soon laughed him out of that! And I had the satisfaction of seeing your two friends set free, and very glad to be on the causeway again.'
'Oh, sir,' I cried, 'you should have brought them here.'
'No instructions, Mr. Ducie!' said he. 'How did I know you wished to renew an acquaintance which you had just terminated so fortunately? And, indeed, to be frank with you, I should have set my face against it, if you had! Let them go! They are paid and contented, and have the highest possible opinion of Mr. St. Ivey! When I gave them fifty pounds apiece--which was rather more than enough, Mr. Ducie, whatever you may think--the man Todd, who has the only tongue of the party, struck his staff on the ground. "Weel," says he, "I aye said he was a gentleman!" "Man, Todd," said I, "that was just what Mr St. Ivey said of yourself!"'
'So it was a case of "Compliments fly when gentlefolk meet."'
'No, no, Mr. Ducie, man Todd and man Candlish are gone out of your life, and a good riddance! They are fine fellows in their way, but no proper associates for the like of yourself; and do you finally agree to be done with all eccentricity--take up with no more drovers, or tinkers, but enjoy the naitural pleesures for which your age, your wealth, your intelligence, and (if I may be allowed to say it) your appearance so completely fit you.