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Chapter 17


The last word of the blessing was scarce out of the minister's mouth
before Stewart had me by the arm. We were the first to be forth of the
church, and he made such extraordinary expedition that we were safe
within the four walls of a house before the street had begun to be
thronged with the home-going congregation.

"Am I yet in time?" I asked.

"Ay and no," said he. "The case is over; the jury is enclosed, and will
be so kind as let us ken their view of it to-morrow in the morning, the
same as I could have told it my own self three days ago before the play
began. The thing has been public from the start. The panel kent it, '_Ye
may do what ye will for me_,' whispers he two days ago. '_I ken my fate
by what the Duke of Argyle has just said to Mr. Macintosh_.' O, it's
been a scandal!

The great Argyle he gaed before,
He gart the cannons and guns to roar,

and the very macer cried 'Cruachan!' But now that I have got you again
I'll never despair. The oak shall go over the myrtle yet; we'll ding the
Campbells yet in their own town. Praise God that I should see the day!"

He was leaping with excitement, emptied out his mails upon the floor
that I might have a change of clothes, and incommoded me with his
assistance as I changed. What remained to be done, or how I was to do
it, was what he never told me nor, I believe, so much as thought of.
"We'll ding the Camphells yet!" that was still his overcome. And it was
forced home upon my mind how this, that had the externals of a sober
process of law, was in its essence a clan battle between savage clans. I
thought my friend the Writer none of the least savage. Who, that had
only seen him at a counsel's back before the Lord Ordinary or following
a golf ball and laying down his clubs on Bruntsfield links, could have
recognised for the same person this voluble and violent clansman?

James Stewart's counsel were four in number--Sheriffs Brown of Colstoun
and Miller, Mr. Robert Macintosh and Mr. Stewart younger of Stewart
Hall. These were covenanted to dine with the Writer after sermon, and I
was very obligingly included of the party. No sooner the cloth lifted,
and the first bowl very artfully compounded by Sheriff Miller, than we
fell to the subject in hand. I made a short narration of my seizure and
captivity, and was then examined and re-examined upon the circumstances
of the murder. It will be remembered this was the first time I had had
my say out, or the matter at all handled, among lawyers; and the
consequence was very dispiriting to the others and (I must own)
disappointing to myself.

"To sum up," said Colstoun, "you prove that Alan was on the spot; you
have heard him proffer menaces against Glenure; and though you assure us
he was not the man who fired, you leave a strong impression that he was
in league with him, and consenting, perhaps immediately assisting, in
the act. You show him besides, at the risk of his own liberty, actively
furthering the criminal's escape. And the rest of your testimony (so far
as the least material) depends on the bare word of Alan or of James, the
two accused. In short, you do not at all break, but only lengthen by one
personage, the chain that binds our client to the murderer; and I need
scarcely say that the introduction of a third accomplice rather
aggravates that appearance of a conspiracy which has been our stumbling
block from the beginning."

"I am of the same opinion," said Sheriff Miller. "I think we may all be
very much obliged to Prestongrange for taking a most uncomfortable
witness out of our way. And chiefly, I think, Mr. Balfour himself might
be obliged. For you talk of a third accomplice, but Mr. Balfour (in my
view) has very much the appearance of a fourth."

"Allow me, sirs!" interposed Stewart the Writer. "There is another view.
Here we have a witness--never fash whether material or not--a witness in
this cause, kidnapped by that old, lawless, bandit crew of the Glengyle
Macgregors, and sequestered for near upon a month in a bourock of old
cold ruins on the Bass. Move that and see what dirt you fling on the
proceedings! Sirs, this is a tale to make the world ring with! It would
be strange, with such a grip as this, if we couldnae squeeze out a
pardon for my client."

"And suppose we took up Mr. Balfour's cause to-morrow?" said Stewart
Hall. "I am much deceived or we should find so many impediments thrown
in our path, as that James should have been hanged before we had found a
court to hear us. This is a great scandal, but I suppose we have none of
us forgot a greater still, I mean the matter of the Lady Grange. The
woman was still in durance; my friend Mr. Hope of Rankeillor did what
was humanly possible; and how did he speed? He never got a warrant!
Well, it'll be the same now; the same weapons will be used. This is a
scene, gentlemen, of clan animosity. The hatred of the name which I have
the honor to bear, rages in high quarters. There is nothing here to be
viewed but naked Campbell spite and scurvy Campbell intrigue."

You may be sure this was to touch a welcome topic, and I sat for some
time in the midst of my learned counsel, almost deaved with their talk
but extremely little the wiser for its purport. The Writer was led into
some hot expressions; Colstoun must take him up and set him right; the
rest joined in on different sides, but all pretty noisy; the Duke of
Argyle was beaten like a blanket; King George came in for a few digs in
the by-going and a great deal of rather elaborate defence: and there was
only one person that seemed to be forgotten, and that was James of the

Through all this Mr. Miller sat quiet. He was a slip of an oldish
gentleman, ruddy and twinkling; he spoke in a smooth rich voice, with an
infinite effect of pawkiness, dealing out each word the way an actor
does, to give the most expression possible; and even now, when he was
silent, and sat there with his wig laid aside, his glass in both hands,
his mouth funnily pursed, and his chin out, he seemed the mere picture
of a merry slyness. It was plain he had a word to say, and waited for
the fit occasion.

It came presently. Colstoun had wound up one of his speeches with some
expression of their duty to their client. His brother sheriff was
pleased, I suppose, with the transition. He took the table in his
confidence with a gesture and a look.

"That suggests to me a consideration which seems overlooked," said he.
"The interest of our client goes certainly before all, but the world
does not come to an end with James Stewart." Whereat he cocked his eye.
"I might condescend, _exempli gratia_, upon a Mr. George Brown, a Mr.
Thomas Miller, and a Mr. David Balfour. Mr. David Balfour has a very
good ground of complaint, and I think, gentlemen--if his story was
properly red out--I think there would be a number of wigs on the green."

The whole table turned to him with a common movement.

"Properly handled and carefully red out, his is a story that could
scarcely fail to have some consequence," he continued. "The whole
administration of justice, from its highest officer downward, would be
totally discredited; and it looks to me as if they would need to be
replaced." He seemed to shine with cunning as he said it. "And I need
not point out to ye that this of Mr. Balfour's would be a remarkable
bonny cause to appear in," he added.

Well, there they all were started on another hare; Mr. Balfour's cause,
and what kind of speeches could be there delivered, and what officials
could be thus turned out, and who would succeed to their positions. I
shall give but the two specimens. It was proposed to approach Symon
Fraser, whose testimony, if it could be obtained, could prove certainly
fatal to Argyle and Prestongrange. Miller highly approved of the
attempt. "We have here before us a dreeping roast," said he, "here is
cut-and-come-again for all." And methought all licked their lips. The
other was already near the end. Stewart the Writer was out of the body
with, delight, smelling vengeance on his chief enemy, the Duke.

"Gentlemen," cried he, charging his glass, "here is to Sheriff Miller.
His legal abilities are known to all. His culinary, this bowl in front
of us is here to speak for. But when it comes to the poleetical!"--cries
he, and drains the glass.

"Ay, but it will hardly prove politics in your meaning, my friend," said
the gratified Miller. "A revolution, if you like, and I think I can
promise you that historical writers shall date from Mr. Balfour's cause.
But properly guided, Mr. Stewart, tenderly guided, it shall prove a
peaceful revolution."

"And if the damned Campbells get their ears rubbed, what care I?" cries
Stewart, smiting down his fist.

It will be thought I was not very well pleased with all this, though I
could scarce forbear smiling at a kind of innocency in these old
intriguers. But it was not my view to have undergone so many sorrows for
the advancement of Sheriff Miller or to make a revolution in the
Parliament House: and I interposed accordingly with as much simplicity
of manner as I could assume.

"I have to thank you, gentlemen, for your advice," said I. "And now I
would like, by your leave, to set you two or three questions. There is
one thing that has fallen rather on one side, for instance: Will this
cause do any good to our friend James of the Glens?"

They seemed all a hair set back, and gave various answers, but
concurring practically in one point, that James had now no hope but in
the King's mercy.

"To proceed, then," said I, "will it do any good to Scotland? We have a
saying that it is an ill bird that fouls his own nest. I remember
hearing we had a riot in Edinburgh when I was an infant child, which
gave occasion to the late Queen to call this country barbarous; and I
always understood that we had rather lost than gained by that. Then came
the year 'Forty-five, which made Scotland to be talked of everywhere;
but I never heard it said we had anyway gained by the 'Forty-five. And
now we come to this cause of Mr. Balfour's, as you call it. Sheriff
Miller tells us historical writers are to date from it, and I would not
wonder. It is only my fear they would date from it as a period of
calamity and public reproach."

The nimble-witted Miller had already smelt where I was travelling to,
and made haste to get on the same road. "Forcibly put, Mr. Balfour,"
says he. "A weighty observe, sir."

"We have next to ask ourselves if it will be good for King George," I
pursued. "Sheriff Miller appears pretty easy upon this; but I doubt you
will scarce be able to pull down the house from under him, without his
Majesty coming by a knock or two, one of which might easily prove

I gave them a chance to answer, but none volunteered.

"Of those for whom the case was to be profitable," I went on, "Sheriff
Miller gave us the names of several, among the which he was good enough
to mention mine. I hope he will pardon me if I think otherwise. I
believe I hung not the least back in this affair while there was life to
be saved; but I own I thought myself extremely hazarded, and I own I
think it would be a pity for a young man, with some idea of coming to
the bar, to ingrain upon himself the character of a turbulent, factious
fellow before he was yet twenty. As for James, it seems--at this date of
the proceedings, with the sentence as good as pronounced--he has no hope
but in the King's mercy. May not his Majesty, then, be more pointedly
addressed, the characters of these high officers sheltered from the
public, and myself kept out of a position which I think spells ruin for

They all sat and gazed into their glasses, and I could see they found my
attitude on the affair unpalatable. But Miller was ready at all events.

"If I may be allowed to put our young friend's notion in more formal
shape," says he, "I understand him to propose that we should embody the
fact of his sequestration, and perhaps some heads of the testimony he
was prepared to offer, in a memorial to the Crown. This plan has
elements of success. It is as likely as any other (and perhaps likelier)
to help our client. Perhaps his Majesty would have the goodness to feel
a certain gratitude to all concerned in such a memorial, which might be
construed into an expression of a very delicate loyalty; and I think, in
the drafting of the same, this view might be brought forward."

They all nodded to each other, not without sighs, for the former
alternative was doubtless more after their inclination.

"Paper then, Mr. Stewart, if you please," pursued Miller; "and I think
it might very fittingly be signed by the five of us here present, as
procurators for the 'condemned man.'"

"It can do none of us any harm at least," says Colstoun, heaving another
sigh, for he had seen himself Lord Advocate the last ten minutes.

Thereupon they set themselves, not very enthusiastically, to draft the
memorial--a process in the course of which they soon caught fire; and I
had no more ado but to sit looking on and answer an occasional question.
The paper was very well expressed; beginning with a recitation of the
facts about myself, the reward offered for my apprehension, my
surrender, the pressure brought to bear upon me; my sequestration; and
my arrival at Inverary in time to be too late; going on to explain the
reasons of loyalty and public interest for which it was agreed to waive
any right of action; and winding up with a forcible appeal to the King's
mercy on behalf of James.

Methought I was a good deal sacrificed, and rather represented in the
light of a firebrand of a fellow whom my cloud of lawyers had restrained
with difficulty from extremes. But I let it pass, and made but the one
suggestion, that I should be described as ready to deliver my own
evidence and adduce that of others before any commission of inquiry--and
the one demand, that I should be immediately furnished with a copy.

Colstoun hummed and hawed. "This is a very confidential document," said

"And my position towards Prestongrange is highly peculiar," I replied.
"No question but I must have touched his heart at our first interview,
so that he has since stood my friend consistently. But for him,
gentlemen, I must now be lying dead or awaiting my sentence alongside
poor James. For which reason I choose to communicate to him the fact of
this memorial as soon as it is copied. You are to consider also that
this step will make for my protection. I have enemies here accustomed to
drive hard; his Grace is in his own country, Lovat by his side; and if
there should hang any ambiguity over our proceedings, I think I might
very well awake in gaol."

Not finding any very ready answer to these considerations, my company of
advisers were at the last persuaded to consent, and made only this
condition that I was to lay the paper before Prestongrange with the
express compliments of all concerned.

The Advocate was at the castle dining with his Grace. By the hand of one
of Colstoun's servants I sent him a billet asking for an interview, and
received a summons to meet him at once in a private house of the town.
Here I found him alone in a chamber; from his face there was nothing to
be gleaned; yet I was not so unobservant but what I spied some halberts
in the hall, and not so stupid but what I could gather he was prepared
to arrest me there and then, should it appear advisable.

"So, Mr. David, this is you?" said he.

"Where I fear I am not overly welcome, my lord," said I. "And I would
like before I go further to express my sense of your lordship's
continued good offices, even should they now cease."

"I have heard of your gratitude before," he replied drily, "and I think
this can scarce be the matter you called me from my wine to listen to. I
would remember also, if I were you, that you still stand on a very boggy

"Not now, my lord, I think," said I; "and if your lordship will but
glance an eye along this, you will perhaps think as I do."

He read it sedulously through, frowning heavily; then turned back to one
part and another which he seemed to weigh and compare the effect of. His
face a little lightened.

"This is not so bad but what it might be worse," said he; "though I am
still likely to pay dear for my acquaintance with Mr. David Balfour."

"Rather for your indulgence to that unlucky young man, my lord," said I.

He still skimmed the paper, and all the while his spirits seemed to

"And to whom am I indebted for this?" he asked presently. "Other
counsels must have been discussed, I think. Who was it proposed this
private method? Was it Miller?"

"My lord, it was myself," said I. "These gentlemen have shown me no such
consideration, as that I should deny myself any credit I can fairly
claim, or spare them any responsibility they should properly bear. And
the mere truth is, that they were all in favour of a process which
should have remarkable consequences in the Parliament House, and prove
for them (in one of their own expressions) a dripping roast. Before I
intervened, I think they were on the point of sharing out the different
law appointments. Our friend Mr. Symon was to be taken in upon some

Prestongrange smiled. "These are our friends!" said he. "And what were
your reasons for dissenting, Mr. David?"

I told them without concealment, expressing, however, with more force
and volume those which regarded Prestongrange himself.

"You do me no more than justice," said he. "I have fought as hard in
your interest as you have fought against mine. And how came you here
to-day?" he asked. "As the case drew out, I began to grow uneasy that I
had clipped the period so fine, and I was even expecting you to-morrow.
But to-day--I never dreamed of it."

I was not, of course, going to betray Andie.

"I suspect there is some very weary cattle by the road," said I.

"If I had known you were such a mosstrooper you should have tasted
longer of the Bass," says he.

"Speaking of which, my lord, I return your letter." And I gave him the
enclosure in the counterfeit hand.

"There was the cover also with the seal," said he.

"I have it not," said I. "It bore naught but the address, and could not
compromise a cat. The second enclosure I have, and with your permission,
I desire to keep it."

I thought he winced a little, but he said nothing to the point.
"To-morrow," he resumed, "our business here is to be finished, and I
proceed by Glasgow. I would be very glad to have you of my party, Mr.

"My lord...." I began.

"I do not deny it will be of service to me," he interrupted. "I desire
even that, when we shall come to Edinburgh you should alight at my
house. You have very warm friends in the Miss Grants, who will be
overjoyed to have you to themselves. If you think I have been of use to
you, you can thus easily repay me, and so far from losing, may reap some
advantage by the way. It is not every strange young man who is presented
in society by the King's Advocate."

Often enough already (in our brief relations) this gentleman had caused
my head to spin; no doubt but what for a moment he did so again now.
Here was the old fiction still maintained of my particular favour with
his daughters, one of whom had been so good as laugh at me, while the
other two had scarce deigned to remark the fact of my existence. And now
I was to ride with my lord to Glascow; I was to dwell with him in
Edinburgh; I was to be brought into society under his protection! That
he should have so much good-nature as to forgive me was surprising
enough; that he could wish to take me up and serve me seemed impossible;
and I began to seek for some ulterior meaning. One was plain. If I
became his guest, repentance was excluded; I could never think better of
my present design and bring any action. And besides, would not my
presence in his house draw out the whole pungency of the memorial? For
that complaint could not be very seriously regarded, if the person
chiefly injured was the guest of the official most incriminated. As I
thought upon this, I could not quite refrain from smiling.

"This is in the nature of a countercheck to the memorial?" said I.

"You are cunning, Mr. David," said he, "and you do not wholly guess
wrong; the fact will be of use to me in my defence. Perhaps, however,
you underrate my friendly sentiments, which are perfectly genuine. I
have a respect for you, Mr. David, mingled with awe," says he, smiling.

"I am more than willing, I am earnestly desirous to meet your wishes,"
said I. "It is my design to be called to the bar, where your lordship's
countenance would be invaluable; and I am besides sincerely grateful to
yourself and family for different marks of interest and of indulgence.
The difficulty is here. There is one point in which we pull two ways.
You are trying to hang James Stewart, I am trying to save him. In so far
as my riding with you would better your lordship's defence, I am at your
lordship's orders; but in so far as it would help to hang James Stewart,
you see me at a stick."

I thought he swore to himself. "You should certainly be called; the bar
is the true scene for your talents," says he, bitterly, and then fell a
while silent. "I will tell you," he presently resumed, "there is no
question of James Stewart, for or against. James is a dead man; his life
is given and taken--bought (if you like it better) and sold; no memorial
can help--no defalcation of a faithful Mr. David hurt him. Blow high,
blow low, there will be no pardon for James Stewart: and take that for
said! The question is now of myself: am I to stand or fall? and I do not
deny to you that I am in some danger. But will Mr. David Balfour
consider why? It is not because I have pushed the case unduly against
James; for that, I am sure of condonation. And it is not because I have
sequestered Mr. David on a rock, though it will pass under that colour;
but because I did not take the ready and plain path, to which I was
pressed repeatedly, and send Mr. David to his grave or to the gallows.
Hence the scandal--hence this damned memorial," striking the paper on
his leg. "My tenderness for you has brought me in this difficulty. I
wish to know if your tenderness to your own conscience is too great to
let you help me out of it?"

No doubt but there was much of the truth in what he said; if James was
past helping, whom was it more natural that I should turn to help than
just the man before me, who had helped myself so often, and was even now
setting me a pattern of patience? I was besides not only weary, but
beginning to be ashamed of my perpetual attitude of suspicion and

"If you will name the time and place, I will be punctually ready to
attend your lordship," said I.

He shook hands with me. "And I think my misses have some news for you,"
says he, dismissing me.

I came away, vastly pleased to have my peace made, yet a little
concerned in conscience; nor could I help wondering, as I went back,
whether, perhaps, I had not been a scruple too good-natured. But there
was the fact, that this was a man that might have been my father, an
able man, a great dignitary, and one that, in the hour of my need, had
reached a hand to my assistance. I was in the better humour to enjoy the
remainder of that evening, which I passed with the advocates, in
excellent company no doubt, but perhaps with rather more than a
sufficiency of punch: for though I went early to bed I have no clear
mind of how I got there.

Robert Louis Stevenson

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