“Is not this against the law?” I asked.
“I cannot say so much,” he replied. “It was a favour so natural and so constantly rendered (till this nonesuch business) that the law has never looked to it. And now admire the hand of Providence! A stranger is in Fleming’s printing house, spies a proof on the floor, picks it up, and carries it to me. Of all things, it was just this libel. Whereupon I had it set again—printed at the expense of the defence: sumptibus moesti rei; heard ever man the like of it?—and here it is for anybody, the muckle secret out—all may see it now. But how do you think I would enjoy this, that has the life of my kinsman on my conscience?”
“Troth, I think you would enjoy it ill,” said I.
“And now you see how it is,” he concluded, “and why, when you tell me your evidence is to be let in, I laugh aloud in your face.”
It was now my turn. I laid before him in brief Mr. Symon’s threats and offers, and the whole incident of the bravo, with the subsequent scene at Prestongrange’s. Of my first talk, according to promise, I said nothing, nor indeed was it necessary. All the time I was talking Stewart nodded his head like a mechanical figure; and no sooner had my voice ceased, than he opened his mouth and gave me his opinion in two words, dwelling strong on both of them.
“Disappear yourself,” said he.
“I do not take you,” said I.
“Then I’ll carry you there,” said he. “By my view of it you’re to disappear whatever. O, that’s outside debate. The Advocate, who is not without some spunks of a remainder decency, has wrung your life-safe out of Symon and the Duke. He has refused to put you on your trial, and refused to have you killed; and there is the clue to their ill words together, for Symon and the Duke can keep faith with neither friend nor enemy. Ye’re not to be tried then, and ye’re not to be murdered; but I’m in bitter error if ye’re not to be kidnapped and carried away like the Lady Grange. Bet me what you please—there was their expedient!”
“You make me think,” said I, and told him of the whistle and the red-headed retainer, Neil.
“Wherever James More is there’s one big rogue, never be deceived on that,” said he. “His father was none so ill a man, though a kenning on the wrong side of the law, and no friend to my family, that I should waste my breath to be defending him! But as for James he’s a brock and a blagyard. I like the appearing of this red-headed Neil as little as yourself. It looks uncanny: fiegh! it smells bad. It was old Lovat that managed the Lady Grange affair, if young Lovat is to handle yours, it’ll be all in the family. What’s James More in prison for? The same offence: abduction. His men have had practice in the business. He’ll be to lend them to be Symon’s instruments; and the next thing we’ll be hearing, James will have made his peace, or else he’ll have escaped; and you’ll be in Benbecula or Applecross.”