* * * * *
The next day, August 29th, I kept my appointment at the Advocate’s in a coat that I had made to my own measure, and was but newly ready.
“Aha,” says Prestongrange, “you are very fine to-day; my misses are to have a fine cavalier. Come, I take that kind of you. I take that kind of you, Mr. David. O, we shall do very well yet, and I believe your troubles are nearly at an end.”
“You have news for me?” cried I.
“Beyond anticipation,” he replied. “Your testimony is after all to be received; and you may go, if you will, in my company to the trial, which is to be held at Inverary, Thursday, 21st proximo.”
I was too much amazed to find words.
“In the meanwhile,” he continued, “though I will not ask you to renew your pledge, I must caution you strictly to be reticent. To-morrow your precognition must be taken; and outside of that, do you know, I think least said will be soonest mended.”
“I shall try to go discreetly,” said I. “I believe it is yourself that I must thank for this crowning mercy, and I do thank you gratefully. After yesterday, my lord, this is like the doors of Heaven. I cannot find it in my heart to get the thing believed.”
“Ah, but you must try and manage, you must try and manage to believe it,” says he, soothing-like, “and I am very glad to hear your acknowledgment of obligation, for I think you may be able to repay me very shortly”—he coughed—“or even now. The matter is much changed. Your testimony, which I shall not trouble you for to-day, will doubtless alter the complexion of the case for all concerned, and this makes it less delicate for me to enter with you on a side issue.”
“My lord,” I interrupted, “excuse me for interrupting you, but how has this been brought about? The obstacles you told me of on Saturday appeared even to me to be quite insurmountable; how has it been contrived?”
“My dear Mr. David,” said he, “it would never do for me to divulge (even to you, as you say) the councils of the Government; and you must content yourself, if you please, with the gross fact.”
He smiled upon me like a father as he spoke, playing the while with a new pen; methought it was impossible there could be any shadow of deception in the man: yet when he drew to him a sheet of paper, dipped his pen among the ink, and began again to address me, I was somehow not so certain, and fell instinctively into an attitude of guard.
“There is a point I wish to touch upon,” he began. “I purposely left it before upon one side, which need be now no longer necessary. This is not, of course, a part of your examination, which is to follow by another hand; this is a private interest of my own. You say you encountered Breck upon the hill?”
“I did, my lord,” said I.