He was a minute serious, then smiled. “You mind me of the man with the long nose,” said he: “was you to look at the moon by a telescope, you would see David Balfour there! But you shall have your way of it. I will ask at you one service, and then set you free. My clerks are overdriven; be so good as copy me these few pages,” says he, visibly swithering among some huge rolls of manuscripts, “and when that is done, I shall bid you God speed! I would never charge myself with Mr. David’s conscience; and if you could cast some part of it (as you went by) in a moss hag, you would find yourself to ride much easier without it.”
“Perhaps not just entirely in the same direction though, my lord!” says I.
“And you shall have the last word, too!” cries he gaily.
Indeed he had some cause for gaiety, having now found the means to gain his purpose. To lessen the weight of the memorial, or to have a readier answer at his hand, he desired I should appear publicly in the character of his intimate. But if I were to appear with the same publicity as a visitor to Catriona in her prison the world would scarce stint to draw conclusions, and the true nature of James More’s escape must become evident to all. This was the little problem I had set him of a sudden, and to which he had so briskly found an answer. I was to be tethered in Glasgow by that job of copying, which in mere outward decency I could not well refuse; and during these hours of my employment Catriona was privately got rid of. I think shame to write of this man that loaded me with so many goodnesses. He was kind to me as any father, yet I ever thought him as false as a cracked bell.
* * * * *
I AM MUCH IN THE HANDS OF THE LADIES
The copying was a weary business, the more so as I perceived very early there was no sort of urgency in the matters treated, and began very early to consider my employment a pretext. I had no sooner finished, than I got to horse, used what remained of daylight to the best purpose, and being at last fairly benighted, slept in a house by Almond-Water side. I was in the saddle again before the day, and the Edinburgh booths were just opening when I clattered in by the West Bow and drew up a smoking horse at my lord Advocate’s door. I had a written word for Doig, my lord’s private hand that was thought to be in all his secrets, a worthy, little plain man, all fat and snuff and self-sufficiency. Him I found already at his desk and already bedabbled with maccabaw, in the same anteroom where I rencountered with James More. He read the note scrupulously through like a chapter in his Bible.
“H’m,” says he, “ye come a wee thing ahint-hand, Mr. Balfour. The bird’s flaen, we hae letten her out.”
“Miss Drummond is set free?” I cried.
“Achy!” said he. “What would we keep her for, ye ken? To hae made a steer about the bairn would hae pleased naebody.”