I GO IN QUEST OF MY INHERITANCE
I made what change I could in my appearance; and blithe was I to
look in the glass and find the beggarman a thing of the past, and
David Balfour come to life again. And yet I was ashamed of the
change too, and, above all, of the borrowed clothes. When I had
done, Mr. Rankeillor caught me on the stair, made me his
compliments, and had me again into the cabinet.
"Sit ye down, Mr. David," said he, "and now that you are
a little more like yourself, let me see if I can find you any
news. You will be wondering, no doubt, about your father and
your uncle? To be sure it is a singular tale; and the
explanation is one that I blush to have to offer you. For," says
he, really with embarrassment, "the matter hinges on a love affair."
"Truly," said I, "I cannot very well join that notion with
"But your uncle, Mr. David, was not always old," replied the
lawyer, "and what may perhaps surprise you more, not always ugly.
He had a fine, gallant air; people stood in their doors to look
after him, as he went by upon a mettle horse. I have seen it with
these eyes, and I ingenuously confess, not altogether without
envy; for I was a plain lad myself and a plain man's son; and in
those days it was a case of Odi te, qui bellus es, Sabelle."
"It sounds like a dream," said I.
"Ay, ay," said the lawyer, "that is how it is with youth
Nor was that all, but he had a spirit of his own that seemed to
promise great things in the future. In 1715, what must he do but
run away to join the rebels? It was your father that pursued
him, found him in a ditch, and brought him back multum gementem;
to the mirth of the whole country. However, majora canamus --
the two lads fell in love, and that with the same lady. Mr.
Ebenezer, who was the admired and the beloved, and the spoiled
one, made, no doubt, mighty certain of the victory; and when he
found he had deceived himself, screamed like a peacock. The
whole country heard of it; now he lay sick at home, with his
silly family standing round the bed in tears; now he rode from
public-house to public-house, and shouted his sorrows into the
lug of Tom, Dick, and Harry. Your father, Mr. David, was a kind
gentleman; but he was weak, dolefully weak; took all this folly
with a long countenance; and one day -- by your leave! --
resigned the lady. She was no such fool, however; it's from her
you must inherit your excellent good sense; and she refused to be
bandied from one to another. Both got upon their knees to her;
and the upshot of the matter for that while was that she showed
both of them the door. That was in August; dear me! the same
year I came from college. The scene must have been highly
I thought myself it was a silly business, but I could not forget
my father had a hand in it. "Surely, sir, it had some note of
tragedy," said I.
"Why, no, sir, not at all," returned the lawyer. "For tragedy
implies some ponderable matter in dispute, some dignus vindice
nodus; and this piece of work was all about the petulance of a
young ass that had been spoiled, and wanted nothing so much as to
be tied up and soundly belted. However, that was not your
father's view; and the end of it was, that from concession to
concession on your father's part, and from one height to another
of squalling, sentimental selfishness upon your uncle's, they
came at last to drive a sort of bargain, from whose ill results
you have recently been smarting. The one man took the lady, the
other the estate. Now, Mr. David, they talk a great deal of
charity and generosity; but in this disputable state of life, I
often think the happiest consequences seem to flow when a
gentleman consults his lawyer, and takes all the law allows him.
Anyhow, this piece of Quixotry on your father's part, as it was
unjust in itself, has brought forth a monstrous family of
injustices. Your father and mother lived and died poor folk; you
were poorly reared; and in the meanwhile, what a time it has been
for the tenants on the estate of Shaws! And I might add (if it
was a matter I cared much about) what a time for Mr. Ebenezer!"
"And yet that is certainly the strangest part of all," said I,
"that a man's nature should thus change."
"True," said Mr. Rankeillor. "And yet I imagine it was natural
enough. He could not think that he had played a handsome part.
Those who knew the story gave him the cold shoulder; those who
knew it not, seeing one brother disappear, and the other succeed
in the estate, raised a cry of murder; so that upon all sides he
found himself evited. Money was all he got by his bargain; well,
he came to think the more of money. He was selfish when he was
young, he is selfish now that he is old; and the latter end of
all these pretty manners and fine feelings you have seen for
"Well, sir," said I, "and in all this, what is my position?"
"The estate is yours beyond a doubt," replied the lawyer. "It
matters nothing what your father signed, you are the heir of
entail. But your uncle is a man to fight the indefensible; and
it would be likely your identity that he would call in question.
A lawsuit is always expensive, and a family lawsuit always
scandalous; besides which, if any of your doings with your friend
Mr. Thomson were to come out, we might find that we had burned
our fingers. The kidnapping, to be sure, would be a court card
upon our side, if we could only prove it. But it may be difficult
to prove; and my advice (upon the whole) is to make a very easy
bargain with your uncle, perhaps even leaving him at Shaws where
he has taken root for a quarter of a century, and contenting
yourself in the meanwhile with a fair provision."
I told him I was very willing to be easy, and that to carry
family concerns before the public was a step from which I was
naturally much averse. In the meantime (thinking to myself) I
began to see the outlines of that scheme on which we afterwards
"The great affair," I asked, "is to bring home to him the
"Surely," said Mr. Rankeillor, "and if possible, out of court.
For mark you here, Mr. David: we could no doubt find some men of
the Covenant who would swear to your reclusion; but once they
were in the box, we could no longer check their testimony, and
some word of your friend Mr. Thomson must certainly crop out.
Which (from what you have let fall) I cannot think to be desirable."
"Well, sir," said I, "here is my way of it." And I opened
plot to him.
"But this would seem to involve my meeting the man Thomson?"
says he, when I had done.
"I think so, indeed, sir," said I.
"Dear doctor!" cries he, rubbing his brow. "Dear doctor!
Mr. David, I am afraid your scheme is inadmissible. I say
nothing against your friend, Mr. Thomson: I know nothing against
him; and if I did -- mark this, Mr. David! -- it would be my duty
to lay hands on him. Now I put it to you: is it wise to meet?
He may have matters to his charge. He may not have told you all.
His name may not be even Thomson!" cries the lawyer, twinkling;
"for some of these fellows will pick up names by the roadside as
another would gather haws."
"You must be the judge, sir," said I.
But it was clear my plan had taken hold upon his fancy, for he
kept musing to himself till we were called to dinner and the
company of Mrs. Rankeillor; and that lady had scarce left us
again to ourselves and a bottle of wine, ere he was back harping
on my proposal. When and where was I to meet my friend Mr.
Thomson; was I sure of Mr. T.'s discretion; supposing we could
catch the old fox tripping, would I consent to such and such a
term of an agreement -- these and the like questions he kept
asking at long intervals, while he thoughtfully rolled his wine
upon his tongue. When I had answered all of them, seemingly to
his contentment, he fell into a still deeper muse, even the
claret being now forgotten. Then he got a sheet of paper and a
pencil, and set to work writing and weighing every word; and at
last touched a bell and had his clerk into the chamber.
"Torrance," said he, "I must have this written out fair against
to-night; and when it is done, you will be so kind as put on your
hat and be ready to come along with this gentleman and me, for
you will probably be wanted as a witness."
"What, sir," cried I, as soon as the clerk was gone, "are
"Why, so it would appear," says he, filling his glass. "But
us speak no more of business. The very sight of Torrance brings
in my head a little droll matter of some years ago, when I had
made a tryst with the poor oaf at the cross of Edinburgh. Each
had gone his proper errand; and when it came four o'clock,
Torrance had been taking a glass and did not know his master, and
I, who had forgot my spectacles, was so blind without them, that
I give you my word I did not know my own clerk." And thereupon
he laughed heartily.
I said it was an odd chance, and smiled out of politeness; but
what held me all the afternoon in wonder, he kept returning and
dwelling on this story, and telling it again with fresh details
and laughter; so that I began at last to be quite put out of
countenance and feel ashamed for my friend's folly.
Towards the time I had appointed with Alan, we set out from the
house, Mr. Rankeillor and I arm in arm, and Torrance following
behind with the deed in his pocket and a covered basket in his
hand. All through the town, the lawyer was bowing right and
left, and continually being button-holed by gentlemen on matters
of burgh or private business; and I could see he was one greatly
looked up to in the county. At last we were clear of the houses,
and began to go along the side of the haven and towards the Hawes
Inn and the Ferry pier, the scene of my misfortune. I could not
look upon the place without emotion, recalling how many that had
been there with me that day were now no more: Ransome taken, I
could hope, from the evil to come; Shuan passed where I dared not
follow him; and the poor souls that had gone down with the brig
in her last plunge. All these, and the brig herself, I had
outlived; and come through these hardships and fearful perils
without scath. My only thought should have been of gratitude;
and yet I could not behold the place without sorrow for others
and a chill of recollected fear.
I was so thinking when, upon a sudden, Mr. Rankeillor cried out,
clapped his hand to his pockets, and began to laugh.
"Why," he cries, "if this be not a farcical adventure! After
that I said, I have forgot my glasses!"
At that, of course, I understood the purpose of his anecdote, and
knew that if he had left his spectacles at home, it had been done
on purpose, so that he might have the benefit of Alan's help
without the awkwardness of recognising him. And indeed it was
well thought upon; for now (suppose things to go the very worst)
how could Rankeillor swear to my friend's identity, or how be
made to bear damaging evidence against myself? For all that, he
had been a long while of finding out his want, and had spoken to
and recognised a good few persons as we came through the town;
and I had little doubt myself that he saw reasonably well.
As soon as we were past the Hawes (where I recognised the
landlord smoking his pipe in the door, and was amazed to see him
look no older) Mr. Rankeillor changed the order of march, walking
behind with Torrance and sending me forward in the manner of a
scout. I went up the hill, whistling from time to time my Gaelic
air; and at length I had the pleasure to hear it answered and to
see Alan rise from behind a bush. He was somewhat dashed in
spirits, having passed a long day alone skulking in the county,
and made but a poor meal in an alehouse near Dundas. But at the
mere sight of my clothes, he began to brighten up; and as soon as
I had told him in what a forward state our matters were and the
part I looked to him to play in what remained, he sprang into a
"And that is a very good notion of yours," says he; "and
to say that you could lay your hands upon no better man to put it
through than Alan Breck. It is not a thing (mark ye) that any
one could do, but takes a gentleman of penetration. But it
sticks in my head your lawyer-man will be somewhat wearying to
see me," says Alan.
Accordingly I cried and waved on Mr. Rankeillor, who came up
alone and was presented to my friend, Mr. Thomson.
"Mr. Thomson, I am pleased to meet you," said he. "But I
forgotten my glasses; and our friend, Mr. David here" (clapping
me on the shoulder), "will tell you that I am little better than blind,
and that you must not be surprised if I pass you by to-morrow."
This he said, thinking that Alan would be pleased; but the
Highlandman's vanity was ready to startle at a less matter than that.
"Why, sir," says he, stiffly, "I would say it mattered the
as we are met here for a particular end, to see justice done to
Mr. Balfour; and by what I can see, not very likely to have much
else in common. But I accept your apology, which was a very
proper one to make."
"And that is more than I could look for, Mr. Thomson," said
Rankeillor, heartily. "And now as you and I are the chief actors
in this enterprise, I think we should come into a nice agreement;
to which end, I propose that you should lend me your arm, for
(what with the dusk and the want of my glasses) I am not very
clear as to the path; and as for you, Mr. David, you will find
Torrance a pleasant kind of body to speak with. Only let me
remind you, it's quite needless he should hear more of your
adventures or those of -- ahem -- Mr. Thomson."
Accordingly these two went on ahead in very close talk, and
Torrance and I brought up the rear.
Night was quite come when we came in view of the house of Shaws.
Ten had been gone some time; it was dark and mild, with a
pleasant, rustling wind in the south-west that covered the sound
of our approach; and as we drew near we saw no glimmer of light
in any portion of the building. It seemed my uncle was Already
in bed, which was indeed the best thing for our arrangements. We
made our last whispered consultations some fifty yards away; and
then the lawyer and Torrance and I crept quietly up and crouched
down beside the corner of the house; and as soon as we were in
our places, Alan strode to the door without concealment and began
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