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Chapter 1

THE LORD ADVOCATE

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CHAPTER I

A BEGGAR ON HORSEBACK


The 25th day of August, 1751, about two in the afternoon, I, David
Balfour, came forth of the British Linen Company, a porter attending me
with a bag of money, and some of the chief of these merchants bowing me
from their doors. Two days before, and even so late as yestermorning, I
was like a beggarman by the wayside, clad in rags, brought down to my
last shillings, my companion a condemned traitor, a price set on my own
head for a crime with the news of which the country rang. To-day I was
served heir to my position in life, a landed laird, a bank porter by me
carrying my gold, recommendations in my pocket, and (in the words of the
saying) the ball directly at my foot.

There were two circumstances that served me as ballast to so much sail.
The first was the very difficult and deadly business I had still to
handle; the second, the place that I was in. The tall, black city, and
the numbers and movement and noise of so many folk, made a new world for
me, after the moorland braes, the sea-sands, and the still country-sides
that I had frequented up to then. The throng of the citizens in
particular abashed me. Rankeillor's son was short and small in the
girth; his clothes scarce held on me; and it was plain I was ill
qualified to strut in the front of a bank-porter. It was plain, if I did
so, I should but set folk laughing, and (what was worse in my case) set
them asking questions. So that I behooved to come by some clothes of my
own, and in the meanwhile to walk by the porter's side, and put my hand
on his arm as though we were a pair of friends.

At a merchant's in the Luckenbooths, I had myself fitted out: none too
fine, for I had no idea to appear like a beggar on horseback; but comely
and responsible, so that servants should respect me. Thence to an
armourer's, where I got a plain sword, to suit with my degree in life. I
felt safer with the weapon, though (for one so ignorant of defence) it
might be called an added danger. The porter, who was naturally a man of
some experience, judged my accoutrement to be well chosen.

"Naething kenspeckle,"[1] said he, "plain, dacent claes. As for the
rapier, nae doubt it sits wi' your degree; but an I had been you, I
would hae waired my siller better-gates than that." And proposed I
should buy winter-hosen from a wife in the Cowgate-back, that was a
cousin of his own, and made them "extraordinar endurable."

But I had other matters on my hand more pressing. Here I was in this
old, black city, which was for all the world like a rabbit-warren, not
only by the number of its indwellers, but the complication of its
passages and holes. It was indeed a place where no stranger had a chance
to find a friend, let be another stranger. Suppose him even to hit on
the right close, people dwelt so thronged in these tall houses, he might
very well seek a day before he chanced on the right door. The ordinary
course was to hire a lad they called a _caddie_, who was like a guide or
pilot, led you where you had occasion, and (your errands being done)
brought you again where you were lodging. But these caddies, being
always employed in the same sort of services, and having it for
obligation to be well informed of every house and person in the city,
had grown to form a brotherhood of spies; and I knew from tales of Mr.
Campbell's how they communicated one with another, what a rage of
curiosity they conceived as to their employer's business, and how they
were like eyes and fingers to the police. It would be a piece of little
wisdom, the way I was now placed, to tack such a ferret to my tails. I
had three visits to make, all immediately needful: to my kinsman Mr.
Balfour of Pilrig, to Stewart the Writer that was Appin's agent, and to
William Grant Esquire of Prestongrange, Lord Advocate of Scotland. Mr.
Balfour's was a non-committal visit; and besides (Pilrig being in the
country) I made bold to find way to it myself, with the help of my two
legs and a Scots tongue. But the rest were in a different case. Not only
was the visit to Appin's agent, in the midst of the cry about the Appin
murder, dangerous in itself, but it was highly inconsistent with the
other. I was like to have a bad enough time of it with my Lord Advocate
Grant, the best of ways; but to go to him hot-foot from Appin's agent,
was little likely to mend my own affairs, and might prove the mere ruin
of friend Alan's. The whole thing, besides, gave me a look of running
with the hare and hunting with the hounds that was little to my fancy. I
determined, therefore, to be done at once with Mr. Stewart and the whole
Jacobitical side of my business, and to profit for that purpose by the
guidance of the porter at my side. But it chanced I had scarce given him
the address, when there came a sprinkle of rain--nothing to hurt, only
for my new clothes--and we took shelter under a pend at the head of a
close or alley.

Being strange to what I saw, I stepped a little farther in. The narrow
paved way descended swiftly. Prodigious tall houses sprang upon each
side and bulged out, one story beyond another, as they rose. At the top
only a ribbon of sky showed in. By what I could spy in the windows, and
by the respectable persons that passed out and in, I saw the houses to
be very well occupied; and the whole appearance of the place interested
me like a tale.

I was still gazing, when there came a sudden brisk tramp of feet in time
and clash of steel behind me. Turning quickly, I was aware of a party of
armed soldiers, and, in their midst, a tall man in a great-coat. He
walked with a stoop that was like a piece of courtesy, genteel and
insinuating: he waved his hands plausibly as he went, and his face was
sly and handsome. I thought his eye took me in, but could not meet it.
This procession went by to a door in the close, which a serving-man in a
fine livery set open; and two of the soldier-lads carried the prisoner
within, the rest lingering with their firelocks by the door.

There can nothing pass in the streets of a city without some following
of idle folk and children. It was so now; but the more part melted away
incontinent until but three were left. One was a girl; she was dressed
like a lady, and had a screen of the Drummond colours on her head; but
her comrades or (I should say) followers were ragged gillies, such as I
had seen the matches of by the dozen in my Highland journey. They all
spoke together earnestly in Gaelic, the sound of which was pleasant in
my ears for the sake of Alan; and though the rain was by again, and my
porter plucked at me to be going, I even drew nearer where they were, to
listen. The lady scolded sharply, the others making apologies and
cringeing before her, so that I made sure she was come of a chief's
house. All the while the three of them sought in their pockets, and by
what I could make out, they had the matter of half a farthing among the
party; which made me smile a little to see all Highland folk alike for
fine obeisances and empty sporrans.

It chanced the girl turned suddenly about, so that I saw her face for
the first time. There is no greater wonder than the way the face of a
young woman fits in a man's mind, and stays there, and he could never
tell you why; it just seems it was the thing he wanted. She had
wonderful bright eyes like stars, and I daresay the eyes had a part in
it; but what I remember the most clearly was the way her lips were a
trifle open as she turned. And whatever was the cause, I stood there
staring like a fool. On her side, as she had not known there was anyone
so near, she looked at me a little longer, and perhaps with more
surprise, than was entirely civil.

It went through my country head she might be wondering at my new
clothes; with that, I blushed to my hair, and at the sight of my
colouring it's to be supposed she drew her own conclusions, for she
moved her gillies farther down the close, and they fell again to this
dispute where I could hear no more of it.

I had often admired a lassie before then, if scarce so sudden and
strong; and it was rather my disposition to withdraw than to come
forward, for I was much in fear of mockery from the womenkind. You would
have thought I had now all the more reason to pursue my common practice,
since I had met this young lady in the city street, seemingly following
a prisoner, and accompanied with two very ragged, indecent-like
Highlandmen. But there was here a different ingredient; it was plain the
girl thought I had been prying in her secrets; and with my new clothes
and sword, and at the top of my new fortunes, this was more than I could
swallow. The beggar on horseback could not bear to be thrust down so
low, or at the least of it, not by this young lady.

I followed, accordingly, and took off my new hat to her, the best that I
was able.

"Madam," said I, "I think it only fair to myself to let you understand I
have no Gaelic. It is true I was listening, for I have friends of my own
across the Highland line, and the sound of that tongue comes friendly;
but for your private affairs, if you had spoken Greek, I might have had
more guess at them."

She made me a little, distant curtsey. "There is no harm done," said
she, with a pretty accent, most like the English (but more agreeable).
"A cat may look at a king."

"I do not mean to offend," said I. "I have no skill of city manners; I
never before this day set foot inside the doors of Edinburgh. Take me
for a country lad--it's what I am; and I would rather I told you than
you found it out."

"Indeed, it will be a very unusual thing for strangers to be speaking to
each other on the causeway," she replied. "But if you are landward[2]
bred it will be different. I am as landward as yourself; I am Highland
as you see, and think myself the farther from my home."

"It is not yet a week since I passed the line," said I. "Less than a
week ago I was on the Braes of Balwhidder."

"Balwhither?" she cries; "come ye from Balwhither? The name of it makes
all there is of me rejoice. You will not have been long there, and not
known some of our friends or family?"

"I lived with a very honest, kind man called Duncan Dhu Maclaren," I
replied.

"Well I know Duncan, and you give him the true name!" she said; "and if
he is an honest man, his wife is honest indeed."

"Ay," said I, "they are fine people, and the place is a bonny place."

"Where in the great world is such another?" she cries; "I am loving the
smell of that place and the roots that grew there."

I was infinitely taken with the spirit of the maid. "I could be wishing
I had brought you a spray of that heather," says I. "And though I did
ill to speak with you at the first, now it seems we have common
acquaintance, I make it my petition you will not forget me. David
Balfour is the name I am known by. This is my lucky day when I have just
come into a landed estate and am not very long out of a deadly peril. I
wish you would keep my name in mind for the sake of Balquidder," said I,
"and I will yours for the sake of my lucky day."

"My name is not spoken," she replied, with a great deal of haughtiness.
"More than a hundred years it has not gone upon men's tongues, save for
a blink. I am nameless like the Folk of Peace.[3] Catriona Drummond is
the one I use."

Now indeed I knew where I was standing. In all broad Scotland there was
but the one name proscribed, and that was the name of the Macgregors.
Yet so far from fleeing this undesirable acquaintancy, I plunged the
deeper in.

"I have been sitting with one who was in the same case with yourself,"
said I, "and I think he will be one of your friends. They called him
Robin Oig."

"Did ye so?" cries she. "Ye met Rob?"

"I passed the night with him," said I.

"He is a fowl of the night," said she.

"There was a set of pipes there," I went on, "so you may judge if the
time passed."

"You should be no enemy, at all events," said she. "That was his brother
there a moment since, with the red soldiers round him. It is him that I
call father."

"Is it so?" cried I. "Are you a daughter of James More's?"

"All the daughter that he has," says she: "the daughter of a prisoner;
that I should forget it so, even for one hour, to talk with strangers!"

Here one of the gillies addressed her in what he had of English, to know
what "she" (meaning by that himself) was to do about "ta sneeshin." I
took some note of him for a short, bandy-legged, red-haired, big-headed
man, that I was to know more of to my cost.

"There can be none the day, Neil," she replied. "How will you get
'sneeshin,' wanting siller? It will teach you another time to be more
careful; and I think James More will not be very well pleased with Neil
of the Tom."

"Miss Drummond," I said, "I told you I was in my lucky day. 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."

* * * * *

Robert Louis Stevenson

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