ST. Ives

Page 89

'Think a little for once of me!' said Romaine. 'I must not have seen you before to-night. To-night we are to have had our only interview, and you are to have given me the power; and to-night I am to have lost sight of you again--I know not whither, you were upon business, it was none of my affairs to question you! And this, you are to remark, in the interests of your own safety much more than mine.'

'I am not even to write to you?' I said, a little bewildered.

'I believe I am cutting the last strand that connects you with common sense,' he replied. 'But that is the plain English of it. You are not even to write; and if you did, I would not answer.'

'A letter, however--' I began.

'Listen to me,' interrupted Romaine. 'So soon as your cousin reads the paragraph, what will he do? Put the police upon looking into my correspondence! So soon as you write to me, in short, you write to Bow Street; and if you will take my advice, you will date that letter from France.'

'The devil!' said I, for I began suddenly to see that this might put me out of the way of my business.

'What is it now?' says he.

'There will be more to be done, then, before we can part,' I answered.

'I give you the whole night,' said he. 'So long as you are off ere daybreak, I am content.'

'In short, Mr. Romaine,' said I, 'I have had so much benefit of your advice and services that I am loth to sever the connection, and would even ask a substitute. I would be obliged for a letter of introduction to one of your own cloth in Edinburgh--an old man for choice, very experienced, very respectable, and very secret. Could you favour me with such a letter?'

'Why, no,' said he. 'Certainly not. I will do no such thing, indeed.'

'It would be a great favour, sir,' I pleaded.

'It would be an unpardonable blunder,' he replied. 'What? Give you a letter of introduction? and when the police come, I suppose, I must forget the circumstance? No, indeed. Talk of it no more.'

'You seem to be always in the right,' said I. 'The letter would be out of the question, I quite see that. But the lawyer's name might very well have dropped from you in the way of conversation; having heard him mentioned, I might profit by the circumstance to introduce myself; and in this way my business would be the better done, and you not in the least compromised.'

'What is this business?' said Romaine.

'I have not said that I had any,' I replied. 'It might arise. This is only a possibility that I must keep in view.'

'Well,' said he, with a gesture of the hands, 'I mention Mr. Robbie; and let that be an end of it!--Or wait!' he added, 'I have it. Here is something that will serve you for an introduction, and cannot compromise me.' And he wrote his name and the Edinburgh lawyer's address on a piece of card and tossed it to me.


What with packing, signing papers, and partaking of an excellent cold supper in the lawyer's room, it was past two in the morning before we were ready for the road. Romaine himself let us out of a window in a part of the house known to Rowley: it appears it served as a kind of postern to the servants' hall, by which (when they were in the mind for a clandestine evening) they would come regularly in and out; and I remember very well the vinegar aspect of the lawyer on the receipt of this piece of information--how he pursed his lips, jutted his eyebrows, and kept repeating, 'This must be seen to, indeed! this shall be barred to-morrow in the morning!' In this preoccupation, I believe he took leave of me without observing it; our things were handed out; we heard the window shut behind us; and became instantly lost in a horrid intricacy of blackness and the shadow of woods.

A little wet snow kept sleepily falling, pausing, and falling again; it seemed perpetually beginning to snow and perpetually leaving off; and the darkness was intense. Time and again we walked into trees; time and again found ourselves adrift among garden borders or stuck like a ram in the thicket.

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

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