Presently papa returned, the same kind, happy-like, pleasant-spoken man.
“Now, girls,” said he, “I must take Mr. Balfour away again; but I hope you have been able to persuade him to return where I shall be always gratified to find him.”
So they each made me a little farthing compliment, and I was led away.
If this visit to the family had been meant to soften my resistance, it was the worst of failures. I was no such ass but what I understood how poor a figure I had made, and that the girls would be yawning their jaws off as soon as my stiff back was turned. I felt I had shown how little I had in me of what was soft and graceful; and I longed for a chance to prove that I had something of the other stuff, the stern and dangerous.
Well, I was to be served to my desire, for the scene to which he was conducting me was of a different character.
* * * * *
UMQUILE THE MASTER OF LOVAT
There was a man waiting us in Prestongrange’s study, whom I distasted at the first look, as we distaste a ferret or an earwig. He was bitter ugly, but seemed very much of a gentleman; had still manners, but capable of sudden leaps and violences; and a small voice, which could ring out shrill and dangerous when he so desired.
The Advocate presented us in a familiar, friendly way.
“Here, Fraser,” said he, “here is Mr. Balfour whom we talked about. Mr. David, this is Mr. Symon Fraser, whom we used to call by another title, but that is an old song. Mr. Fraser has an errand to you.”
With that he stepped aside to his book-shelves, and made believe to consult a quarto volume in the far end.
I was thus left (in a sense) alone with perhaps the last person in the world I had expected. There was no doubt upon the terms of introduction; this could be no other than the forfeited Master of Lovat and chief of the great clan Fraser. I knew he had led his men in the Rebellion; I knew his father’s head—my old lord’s, that grey fox of the mountains—to have fallen on the block for that offence, the lands of the family to have been seized, and their nobility attainted. I could not conceive what he should be doing in Grant’s house; I could not conceive that he had been called to the bar, had eaten all his principles, and was now currying favour with the Government even to the extent of acting Advocate-Depute in the Appin murder.