I COME TO MR. RANKEILLOR
The next day it was agreed that Alan should fend for himself till
sunset; but as soon as it began to grow dark, he should lie in
the fields by the roadside near to Newhalls, and stir for naught
until he heard me whistling. At first I proposed I should give
him for a signal the "Bonnie House of Airlie," which was a
favourite of mine; but he objected that as the piece was very
commonly known, any ploughman might whistle it by accident; and
taught me instead a little fragment of a Highland air, which has
run in my head from that day to this, and will likely run in my
head when I lie dying. Every time it comes to me, it takes me off
to that last day of my uncertainty, with Alan sitting up in the
bottom of the den, whistling and beating the measure with a
finger, and the grey of the dawn coming on his face.
I was in the long street of Queensferry before the sun was up. It
was a fairly built burgh, the houses of good stone, many slated;
the town-hall not so fine, I thought, as that of Peebles, nor yet
the street so noble; but take it altogether, it put me to shame
for my foul tatters.
As the morning went on, and the fires began to be kindled, and
the windows to open, and the people to appear out of the houses,
my concern and despondency grew ever the blacker. I saw now that
I had no grounds to stand upon; and no clear proof of my rights,
nor so much as of my own identity. If it was all a bubble, I was
indeed sorely cheated and left in a sore pass. Even if things
were as I conceived, it would in all likelihood take time to
establish my contentions; and what time had I to spare with less
than three shillings in my pocket, and a condemned, hunted man
upon my hands to ship out of the country? Truly, if my hope
broke with me, it might come to the gallows yet for both of us.
And as I continued to walk up and down, and saw people looking
askance at me upon the street or out of windows, and nudging or
speaking one to another with smiles, I began to take a fresh
apprehension: that it might be no easy matter even to come to
speech of the lawyer, far less to convince him of my story.
For the life of me I could not muster up the courage to address
any of these reputable burghers; I thought shame even to speak
with them in such a pickle of rags and dirt; and if I had asked
for the house of such a man as Mr. Rankeillor, I suppose they
would have burst out laughing in my face. So I went up and down,
and through the street, and down to the harbour-side, like a dog
that has lost its master, with a strange gnawing in my inwards,
and every now and then a movement of despair. It grew to be high
day at last, perhaps nine in the forenoon; and I was worn with
these wanderings, and chanced to have stopped in front of a very
good house on the landward side, a house with beautiful, clear
glass windows, flowering knots upon the sills, the walls
new-harled and a chase-dog sitting yawning on the step like
one that was at home. Well, I was even envying this dumb brute,
when the door fell open and there issued forth a shrewd, ruddy,
kindly, consequential man in a well-powdered wig and spectacles.
I was in such a plight that no one set eyes on me once, but he
looked at me again; and this gentleman, as it proved, was so much
struck with my poor appearance that he came straight up to me and
asked me what I did.
I told him I was come to the Queensferry on business, and taking
heart of grace, asked him to direct me to the house of Mr. Rankeillor.
"Why," said he, "that is his house that I have just come
and for a rather singular chance, I am that very man."
"Then, sir," said I, "I have to beg the favour of an interview."
"I do not know your name," said he, "nor yet your face."
"My name is David Balfour," said I.
"David Balfour?" he repeated, in rather a high tone, like one
surprised. "And where have you come from, Mr. David Balfour?"
asked, looking me pretty drily in the face.
"I have come from a great many strange places, sir," said I; "but
I think it would be as well to tell you where and how in a more
He seemed to muse awhile, holding his lip in his hand, and
looking now at me and now upon the causeway of the street.
"Yes," says he, "that will be the best, no doubt." And
he led me
back with him into his house, cried out to some one whom I could
not see that he would be engaged all morning, and brought me into
a little dusty chamber full of books and documents. Here he sate
down, and bade me be seated; though I thought he looked a little
ruefully from his clean chair to my muddy rags. "And now," says
he, "if you have any business, pray be brief and come swiftly to
the point. Nec gemino bellum Trojanum orditur ab ovo --do you
understand that?" says he, with a keen look.
"I will even do as Horace says, sir," I answered, smiling, "and
carry you in medias res." He nodded as if he was well pleased,
and indeed his scrap of Latin had been set to test me. For all
that, and though I was somewhat encouraged, the blood came in my
face when I added: "I have reason to believe myself some rights
on the estate of Shaws."
He got a paper book out of a drawer and set it before him open.
"Well?" said he.
But I had shot my bolt and sat speechless.
"Come, come, Mr. Balfour," said he, "you must continue. Where
were you born?"
"In Essendean, sir," said I, "the year 1733, the 12th of
He seemed to follow this statement in his paper book; but what
that meant I knew not. "Your father and mother?" said he.
"My father was Alexander Balfour, schoolmaster of that place,"
said I, "and my mother Grace Pitarrow; I think her people were
"Have you any papers proving your identity?" asked Mr. Rankeillor.
"No, sir," said I, "but they are in the hands of Mr. Campbell,
the minister, and could be readily produced. Mr. Campbell, too,
would give me his word; and for that matter, I do not think my
uncle would deny me."
"Meaning Mr. Ebenezer Balfour?" says he.
"The same," said I.
"Whom you have seen?" he asked.
"By whom I was received into his own house," I answered.
"Did you ever meet a man of the name of Hoseason?" asked Mr.
"I did so, sir, for my sins," said I; "for it was by his
and the procurement of my uncle, that I was kidnapped within
sight of this town, carried to sea, suffered shipwreck and a
hundred other hardships, and stand before you to-day in this poor
"You say you were shipwrecked," said Rankeillor; "where was
"Off the south end of the Isle of Mull," said I. "The name
isle on which I was cast up is the Island Earraid."
"Ah!" says he, smiling, "you are deeper than me in the geography.
But so far, I may tell you, this agrees pretty exactly with other
informations that I hold. But you say you were kidnapped; in what
"In the plain meaning of the word, sir," said I. "I was on
to your house, when I was trepanned on board the brig, cruelly
struck down, thrown below, and knew no more of anything till we
were far at sea. I was destined for the plantations; a fate that,
in God's providence, I have escaped."
"The brig was lost on June the 27th," says he, looking in his
book," and we are now at August the 24th. Here is a considerable
hiatus, Mr. Balfour, of near upon two months. It has already
caused a vast amount of trouble to your friends; and I own I
shall not be very well contented until it is set right."
"Indeed, sir," said I, "these months are very easily filled
but yet before I told my story, I would be glad to know that I
was talking to a friend."
"This is to argue in a circle," said the lawyer. "I cannot
convinced till I have heard you. I cannot be your friend till I
am properly informed. If you were more trustful, it would better
befit your time of life. And you know, Mr. Balfour, we have a
proverb in the country that evil-doers are aye evil-dreaders."
"You are not to forget, sir," said I, "that I have already
suffered by my trustfulness; and was shipped off to be a slave by
the very man that (if I rightly understand) is your employer?"
All this while I had been gaining ground with Mr. Rankeillor, and
in proportion as I gained ground, gaining confidence. But at
this sally, which I made with something of a smile myself, he
fairly laughed aloud.
"No, no," said he, "it is not so bad as that. Fui, non sum.
was indeed your uncle's man of business; but while you (imberbis
juvenis custode remoto) were gallivanting in the west, a good
deal of water has run under the bridges; and if your ears did not
sing, it was not for lack of being talked about. On the very day
of your sea disaster, Mr. Campbell stalked into my office,
demanding you from all the winds. I had never heard of your
existence; but I had known your father; and from matters in my
competence (to be touched upon hereafter) I was disposed to fear
the worst. Mr. Ebenezer admitted having seen you; declared (what
seemed improbable) that he had given you considerable sums; and
that you had started for the continent of Europe, intending to
fulfil your education, which was probable and praiseworthy.
Interrogated how you had come to send no word to Mr. Campbell, he
deponed that you had expressed a great desire to break with your
past life. Further interrogated where you now were, protested
ignorance, but believed you were in Leyden. That is a close sum
of his replies. I am not exactly sure that any one believed
him," continued Mr. Rankeillor with a smile; "and in particular
he so much disrelished me expressions of mine that (in a word) he
showed me to the door. We were then at a full stand; for
whatever shrewd suspicions we might entertain, we had no shadow
of probation. In the very article, comes Captain Hoseason with
the story of your drowning; whereupon all fell through; with no
consequences but concern to Mr. Campbell, injury to my pocket,
and another blot upon your uncle's character, which could very
ill afford it. And now, Mr. Balfour," said he, "you understand
the whole process of these matters, and can judge for yourself to
what extent I may be trusted."
Indeed he was more pedantic than I can represent him, and placed
more scraps of Latin in his speech; but it was all uttered with a
fine geniality of eye and manner which went far to conquer my
distrust. Moreover, I could see he now treated me as if I was
myself beyond a doubt; so that first point of my identity seemed
"Sir," said I, "if I tell you my story, I must commit a friend's
life to your discretion. Pass me your word it shall be sacred;
and for what touches myself, I will ask no better guarantee than
just your face."
He passed me his word very seriously. "But," said he, "these
rather alarming prolocutions; and if there are in your story any
little jostles to the law, I would beg you to bear in mind that I
am a lawyer, and pass lightly."
Thereupon I told him my story from the first, he listening with
his spectacles thrust up and his eyes closed, so that I sometimes
feared he was asleep. But no such matter! he heard every word
(as I found afterward) with such quickness of hearing and
precision of memory as often surprised me. Even strange
outlandish Gaelic names, heard for that time only, he remembered
and would remind me of, years after. Yet when I called Alan
Breck in full, we had an odd scene. The name of Alan had of
course rung through Scotland, with the news of the Appin murder
and the offer of the reward; and it had no sooner escaped me than
the lawyer moved in his seat and opened his eyes.
"I would name no unnecessary names, Mr. Balfour," said he; "above
all of Highlanders, many of whom are obnoxious to the law."
"Well, it might have been better not," said I, "but since
let it slip, I may as well continue."
"Not at all," said Mr. Rankeillor. "I am somewhat dull of
hearing, as you may have remarked; and I am far from sure I
caught the name exactly. We will call your friend, if you
please, Mr. Thomson -- that there may be no reflections. And in
future, I would take some such way with any Highlander that you
may have to mention -- dead or alive."
By this, I saw he must have heard the name all too clearly, and
had already guessed I might be coming to the murder. If he chose
to play this part of ignorance, it was no matter of mine; so I
smiled, said it was no very Highland-sounding name, and
consented. Through all the rest of my story Alan was Mr.
Thomson; which amused me the more, as it was a piece of policy
after his own heart. James Stewart, in like manner, was
mentioned under the style of Mr. Thomson's kinsman; Colin
Campbell passed as a Mr. Glen; and to Cluny, when I came to that
part of my tale, I gave the name of "Mr. Jameson, a Highland
chief." It was truly the most open farce, and I wondered that
the lawyer should care to keep it up; but, after all, it was
quite in the taste of that age, when there were two parties in
the state, and quiet persons, with no very high opinions of their
own, sought out every cranny to avoid offence to either.
"Well, well," said the lawyer, when I had quite done, "this
great epic, a great Odyssey of yours. You must tell it, sir, in
a sound Latinity when your scholarship is riper; or in English if
you please, though for my part I prefer the stronger tongue. You
have rolled much; quae regio in terris -- what parish in Scotland
(to make a homely translation) has not been filled with your
wanderings? You have shown, besides, a singular aptitude for
getting into false positions; and, yes, upon the whole, for
behaving well in them. This Mr. Thomson seems to me a gentleman
of some choice qualities, though perhaps a trifle bloody-minded.
It would please me none the worse, if (with all his merits) he
were soused in the North Sea, for the man, Mr. David, is a sore
embarrassment. But you are doubtless quite right to adhere to
him; indubitably, he adhered to you. It comes -- we may say --
he was your true companion; nor less paribus curis vestigia
figit, for I dare say you would both take an orra thought upon
the gallows. Well, well, these days are fortunately, by; and I
think (speaking humanly) that you are near the end of your troubles."
As he thus moralised on my adventures, he looked upon me with so
much humour and benignity that I could scarce contain my
satisfaction. I had been so long wandering with lawless people,
and making my bed upon the hills and under the bare sky, that to
sit once more in a clean, covered house, and to talk amicably
with a gentleman in broadcloth, seemed mighty elevations. Even
as I thought so, my eye fell on my unseemly tatters, and I was
once more plunged in confusion. But the lawyer saw and
understood me. He rose, called over the stair to lay another
plate, for Mr. Balfour would stay to dinner, and led me into a
bedroom in the upper part of the house. Here he set before me
water and soap, and a comb; and laid out some clothes that
belonged to his son; and here, with another apposite tag, he left
me to my toilet.
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