“Maybe, maybe,” said the gentleman. “Your illustrations, Elspeth, would do credit to His Majesty’s advocate. Your plea is that this young man, whose name I do not know and do not seek to hear, should be freed or justice will miscarry? God knows the law has enough to do without clogging its wheels with innocence.”
The girl nodded. Her wicked, laughing eyes roamed about the apartment with little regard for my flushed face.
“Then the Crown assoilzies the panel and deserts the diet,” said the little gentleman. “Speak, sir, and thank His Majesty for his clemency and this lady for her intercession.”
I had no words, for if I had been sore at my imprisonment, I was black angry at this manner of release. I did not reflect that Miss Elspeth Blair must have risen early and ridden far to be in the Canongate at this hour. ’Twas justice only that moved her, I thought, and no gratitude or kindness. To her I was something so lowly that she need not take the pains to be civil, but must speak of me in my presence as if it were a question of a stray hound. My first impulse was to refuse to stir, but happily my good sense returned in time and preserved me from playing the fool.
“I thank you, sir,” I said gruffly—“and the lady. Do I understand that I am free to go?”
“Through the door, down the left stairway, and you will be in the street,” said the gentleman.
I made some sort of bow and moved to the door.
“Farewell, Mr. Whiggamore,” the girl cried, “Keep a cheerful countenance, or they’ll think you a Sweet-Singer. Your breeches will mend, man.”
And with her laughter most unpleasantly in my ears I made my way into the Canongate, and so to my lodgings at Mrs. Macvittie’s.
* * * * *
Three weeks later I heard that Muckle John was destined for the Plantations in a ship of Mr. Barclay of Urie’s, which traded to New Jersey. I had a fancy to see him before he went, and after much trouble I was suffered to visit him. His gaoler told me he had been mighty wild during his examination before the Council, and had had frequent bouts of madness since, but for the moment he was peaceable. I found him in a little cell by himself, outside the common room of the gaol. He was sitting in an attitude of great dejection, and when I entered could scarcely recall me to his memory. I remember thinking that, what with his high cheek-bones, and lank black hair, and brooding eyes, and great muscular frame, Scotland could scarcely have furnished a wilder figure for the admiration of the Carolinas, or wherever he went to. I did not envy his future master.
But with me he was very friendly and quiet. His ailment was home-sickness; for though he had been a great voyager, it seemed he was loath to quit our bleak countryside for ever. “I used aye to think o’ the first sight o’ Inchkeith and the Lomond hills, and the smell o’ herrings at the pier o’ Leith. What says the Word? ’Weep not for the dead, neither bemoan him; but weep sore for him that goeth away, for he shall return no more, nor see his native country.’”