“And if you knew the nature of Mr. Symon’s quarrel with me,” said I, “you would be yet the more affronted to be mingled up with such affairs.”
He swore he could well believe it; that all the Lovats were made of the same meal and the devil was the miller that ground that; then suddenly shaking me by the hand, he vowed I was a pretty enough fellow after all, that it was a thousand pities I had been neglected, and that if he could find the time, he would give an eye himself to have me educated.
“You can do me a better service than even what you propose,” said I; and when he had asked its nature—“Come with me to the house of one of my enemies, and testify how I have carried myself this day,” I told him. “That will be the true service. For though he has sent me a gallant adversary for the first, the thought in Mr. Symon’s mind is merely murder. There will be a second and then a third; and by what you have seen of my cleverness with the cold steel, you can judge for yourself what is like to be upshot.”
“And I would not like it myself, if I was no more of a man than what you wass!” he cried. “But I will do you right, Palfour. Lead on!”
If I had walked slowly on the way into that accursed park my heels were light enough on the way out. They kept time to a very good old air, that is as ancient as the Bible, and the words of it are: “Surely the bitterness of death is passed.” I mind that I was extremely thirsty, and had a drink at Saint Margaret’s well on the road down, and the sweetness of that water passed belief. We went through the sanctuary, up the Canongate, in by the Netherbow, and straight to Prestongrange’s door, talking as we came and arranging the details of our affair. The footman owned his master was at home, but declared him engaged with other gentlemen on very private business, and his door forbidden.
“My business is but for three minutes, and it cannot wait,” said I. “You may say it is by no means private, and I shall be even glad to have some witnesses.”
As the man departed unwillingly enough upon this errand, we made so bold as to follow him to the antechamber, whence I could hear for a while the murmuring of several voices in the room within. The truth is, they were three at the one table—Prestongrange, Symon Fraser, and Mr. Erskine, Sheriff of Perth; and as they were met in consultation on the very business of the Appin murder, they were a little disturbed at my appearance, but decided to receive me.
“Well, well, Mr. Balfour, and what brings you here again? and who is this you bring with you?” says Prestongrange.
As for Fraser, he looked before him on the table.
“He is here to bear a little testimony in my favour, my lord, which I think it very needful you should hear,” said I, and turned to Duncansby.
“I have only to say this,” said the lieutenant, “that I stood up this day with Palfour in the Hunter’s Pog, which I am now fery sorry for, and he behaved himself as pretty as a shentlemans could ask it. And I have creat respects for Palfour,” he added.