I thought by the expression of his face and voice that I had lost my helper.
“Let me explain ...” I began.
“I thank you kindly, I will hear no more of it,” says he. “I decline in toto to hear more of it. For your name’s sake and Rankeillor’s, and perhaps a little for your own, I will do what I can to help you; but I will hear no more upon the facts. And it is my first clear duty to warn you. These are deep waters, Mr. David, and you are a young man. Be cautious and think twice.”
“It is to be supposed I will have thought oftener than that, Mr. Balfour,” said I, “and I will direct your attention again to Rankeillor’s letter, where (I hope and believe) he has registered his approval of that which I design.”
“Well, well,” said he; and then again, “Well, well! I will do what I can for you.” Therewith he took a pen and paper, sat awhile in thought, and began to write with much consideration. “I understand that Rankeillor approves of what you have in mind?” he asked presently.
“After some discussion, sir, he bade me to go forward in God’s name,” said I.
“That is the name to go in,” said Mr. Balfour, and resumed his writing. Presently, he signed, re-read what he had written, and addressed me again. “Now here, Mr. David,” said he, “is a letter of introduction, which I will seal without closing, and give into your hands open, as the form requires. But since I am acting in the dark, I will just read it to you, so that you may see if it will secure your end—
“PILRIG, August 26th, 1751.
“MY LORD,—This is to bring to your notice my namesake and cousin, David Balfour Esquire of Shaws, a young gentleman of unblemished descent and good estate. He has enjoyed besides the more valuable advantages of a godly training, and his political principles are all that your lordship can desire. I am not in Mr. Balfour’s confidence, but I understand him to have a matter to declare, touching His Majesty’s service and the administration of justice: purposes for which your lordship’s zeal is known. I should add that the young gentleman’s intention is known to and approved by some of his friends, who will watch with hopeful anxiety the event of his success or failure.’
“Whereupon,” continued Mr. Balfour, “I have subscribed myself with the usual compliments. You observe I have said ‘some of your friends;’ I hope you can justify my plural?”
“Perfectly, sir; my purpose is known and approved by more than one,” said I. “And your letter, which I take a pleasure to thank you for, is all I could have hoped.”
“It was all I could squeeze out,” said he; “and from what I know of the matter you design to meddle in, I can only pray God that it may prove sufficient.”
* * * * *
LORD ADVOCATE PRESTONGRANGE