“I will go bail she did not,” he returned, quite openly. “I will go bail she thought she was flying straight into King George’s face.”
Remembrance of Catriona, and the thought of her lying in captivity, moved me strangely. I could see that even Prestongrange admired, and could not withhold his lips from smiling when he considered her behaviour. As for Miss Grant, for all her ill habit of mockery, her admiration shone out plain. A kind of a heat came on me.
“I am not your lordship’s daughter...” I began.
“That I know of!” he put in smiling.
“I speak like a fool,” said I, “or rather I began wrong. It would doubtless be unwise in Mistress Grant to go to her in prison; but for me, I think I would look like a half-hearted friend if I did not fly there instantly.”
“So-ho, Mr. David,” says he, “I thought that you and I were in a bargain?”
“My lord,” I said, “when I made that bargain I was a good deal affected by your goodness, but I’ll never can deny that I was moved besides by my own interest. There was self-seeking in my heart, and I think shame of it now. It may be for your lordship’s safety to say this fashious Davie Balfour is your friend and housemate. Say it then; I’ll never contradict you. But as for your patronage, I give it all back. I ask but the one thing—let me go, and give me a pass to see her in her prison.”
He looked at me with a hard eye. “You put the cart before the horse, I think,” says he. “That which I had given was a portion of my liking, which your thankless nature does not seem to have remarked. But for my patronage, it is not given, nor (to be exact) is it yet offered.” He paused a bit. “And I warn you, you do not know yourself,” he added. “Youth is a hasty season; you will think better of all this before a year.”
“Well, and I would like to be that kind of youth!” I cried. “I have seen too much of the other party, in these young advocates that fawn upon your lordship and are even at the pains to fawn on me. And I have seen it in the old ones also. They are all for by-ends, the whole clan of them! It’s this that makes me seem to misdoubt your lordship’s liking. Why would I think that you would like me? But ye told me yourself ye had an interest!”
I stopped at this, confounded that I had run so far; he was observing me with a unfathomable face.
“My lord, I ask your pardon,” I resumed. “I have nothing in my chafts but a rough country tongue. I think it would be only decent-like if I would go to see my friend in her captivity; but I’m owing you my life, I’ll never forget that; and-if it’s for your lordship’s good, here I’ll stay. That’s barely gratitude.”
“This might have been reached in fewer words,” says Prestongrange, grimly. “It is easy, and it is at times gracious, to say a plain Scots ’ay’.”
“Ah, but, my lord, I think ye take me not yet entirely!” cried I. “For your sake, for my life-safe, and the kindness that ye say ye bear to me—for these, I’ll consent; but not for any good that might be coming to myself. If I stand aside when this young maid is in her trial, it’s a thing I will be noways advantaged by; I will lose by it, I will never gain. I would rather make a shipwreck wholly than to build on that foundation.”