“You deal with me very frankly, and I thank you for it,” said I. “I will try on my side to be no less honest. I believe your policy to be sound. I believe these deep duties may lie upon your lordship; I believe you may have laid them on your conscience when you took the oaths of the high office which you hold. But for me, who am just a plain man—or scarce a man yet—the plain duties must suffice. I can think but of two things, of a poor soul in the immediate and unjust danger of a shameful death, and of the cries and tears of his wife that still tingle in my head. I cannot see beyond, my lord. It’s the way that I am made. If the country has to fall, it has to fall. And I pray God, if this be wilful blindness, that he may enlighten me before too late.”
He had heard me motionless, and stood so a while longer.
“This is an unexpected obstacle,” says he, aloud, but to himself.
“And how is your lordship to dispose of me?” I asked.
“If I wished,” said he, “you know that you might sleep in gaol?”
“My lord,” says I, “I have slept in worse places.”
“Well, my boy,” said he, “there is one thing appears very plainly from our interview, that I may rely on your pledged word. Give me your honour that you will be wholly secret, not only on what has passed to-night, but in the matter of the Appin case, and I let you go free.”
“I will give it till to-morrow or any other near day that you may please to set,” said I. “I would not be thought too wily; but if I gave the promise without qualification, your lordship would have attained his end.”
“I had no thought to entrap you,” said he.
“I am sure of that,” said I.
“Let me see,” he continued. “To-morrow is the Sabbath. Come to me on Monday by eight in the morning, and give me your promise until then.”
“Freely given, my lord,” said I. “And with regard to what has fallen from yourself, I will give it for as long as it shall please God to spare your days.”
“You will observe,” he said next, “that I have made no employment of menaces.”
“It was like your lordship’s nobility,” said I. “Yet I am not altogether so dull but what I can perceive the nature of those you have not uttered.”
“Well,” said he, “good-night to you. May you sleep well, for I think it is more than I am like to do.”
With that he sighed, took up a candle, and gave me his conveyance as far as the street door.
* * * * *
IN THE ADVOCATE’S HOUSE