de Keroual desires to meet his great-nephew.'
'Well,' said I, looking about me on the battlements by which we sat surrounded, 'this is a case in which Mahomet must certainly come to the mountain.'
'Pardon me,' said Mr. Romaine; 'you know already your uncle is an aged man; but I have not yet told you that he is quite broken up, and his death shortly looked for. No, no, there is no doubt about it--it is the mountain that must come to Mahomet.'
'From an Englishman, the remark is certainly significant,' said I; 'but you are of course, and by trade, a keeper of men's secrets, and I see you keep that of Cousin Alain, which is not the mark of a truculent patriotism, to say the least.'
'I am first of all the lawyer of your family!' says he.
'That being so,' said I, 'I can perhaps stretch a point myself. This rock is very high, and it is very steep; a man might come by a devil of a fall from almost any part of it, and yet I believe I have a pair of wings that might carry me just so far as to the bottom. Once at the bottom I am helpless.'
'And perhaps it is just then that I could step in,' returned the lawyer. 'Suppose by some contingency, at which I make no guess, and on which I offer no opinion--'
But here I interrupted him. 'One word ere you go further. I am under no parole,' said I.
'I understood so much,' he replied, 'although some of you French gentry find their word sit lightly on them.'
'Sir, I am not one of those,' said I.
'To do you plain justice, I do not think you one,' said he. 'Suppose yourself, then, set free and at the bottom of the rock,' he continued, 'although I may not be able to do much, I believe I can do something to help you on your road. In the first place I would carry this, whether in an inside pocket or my shoe.' And he passed me a bundle of bank notes.
'No harm in that,' said I, at once concealing them.
'In the second place,' he resumed, 'it is a great way from here to where your uncle lives--Amersham Place, not far from Dunstable; you have a great part of Britain to get through; and for the first stages, I must leave you to your own luck and ingenuity. I have no acquaintance here in Scotland, or at least' (with a grimace) 'no dishonest ones. But further to the south, about Wakefield, I am told there is a gentleman called Burchell Fenn, who is not so particular as some others, and might be willing to give you a cast forward. In fact, sir, I believe it's the man's trade: a piece of knowledge that burns my mouth. But that is what you get by meddling with rogues; and perhaps the biggest rogue now extant, M. de Saint-Yves, is your cousin, M. Alain.'
'If this be a man of my cousin's,' I observed, 'I am perhaps better to keep clear of him?'
'It was through some paper of your cousin's that we came across his trail,' replied the lawyer. 'But I am inclined to think, so far as anything is safe in such a nasty business, you might apply to the man Fenn. You might even, I think, use the Viscount's name; and the little trick of family resemblance might come in. How, for instance, if you were to call yourself his brother?'
'It might be done,' said I. 'But look here a moment? You propose to me a very difficult game: I have apparently a devil of an opponent in my cousin; and, being a prisoner of war, I can scarcely be said to hold good cards. For what stakes, then, am I playing?'
'They are very large,' said he. 'Your great-uncle is immensely rich--immensely rich. He was wise in time; he smelt the revolution long before; sold all that he could, and had all that was movable transported to England through my firm. There are considerable estates in England; Amersham Place itself is very fine; and he has much money, wisely invested. He lives, indeed, like a prince. And of what use is it to him? He has lost all that was worth living for--his family, his country; he has seen his king and queen murdered; he has seen all these miseries and infamies,' pursued the lawyer, with a rising inflection and a heightening colour; and then broke suddenly off,--'In short, sir, he has seen all the advantages of that government for which his nephew carries arms, and he has the misfortune not to like them.'
'You speak with a bitterness that I suppose I must excuse,' said I; 'yet which of us has the more reason to be bitter? This man, my uncle, M.