The soldiers let us be; although once a party of two companies and some dragoons went by in the bottom of the valley, where I could see them through the window as I lay in bed. What was much more astonishing, no magistrate came near me, and there was no question put of whence I came or whither I was going; and in that time of excitement, I was as free of all inquiry as though I had lain in a desert. Yet my presence was known before I left to all the people in Balquhidder and the adjacent parts; many coming about the house on visits and these (after the custom of the country) spreading the news among their neighbours. The bills, too, had now been printed. There was one pinned near the foot of my bed, where I could read my own not very flattering portrait and, in larger characters, the amount of the blood money that had been set upon my life. Duncan Dhu and the rest that knew that I had come there in Alan’s company, could have entertained no doubt of who I was; and many others must have had their guess. For though I had changed my clothes, I could not change my age or person; and Lowland boys of eighteen were not so rife in these parts of the world, and above all about that time, that they could fail to put one thing with another, and connect me with the bill. So it was, at least. Other folk keep a secret among two or three near friends, and somehow it leaks out; but among these clansmen, it is told to a whole countryside, and they will keep it for a century.
There was but one thing happened worth narrating;
and that is the visit I had of Robin Oig, one of the
sons of the notorious Rob Roy. He was sought
upon all sides on a charge of carrying a young woman
from Balfron and marrying her (as was alleged) by
force; yet he stepped about Balquhidder like a gentleman
in his own walled policy. It was he who had shot
James Maclaren at the plough stilts, a quarrel never
satisfied; yet he walked into the house of his blood
enemies as a rider* might into a
public inn.* Commercial traveller.
Duncan had time to pass me word of who it was; and we looked at one another in concern. You should understand, it was then close upon the time of Alan’s coming; the two were little likely to agree; and yet if we sent word or sought to make a signal, it was sure to arouse suspicion in a man under so dark a cloud as the Macgregor.
He came in with a great show of civility, but like a man among inferiors; took off his bonnet to Mrs. Maclaren, but clapped it on his head again to speak to Duncan; and leaving thus set himself (as he would have thought) in a proper light, came to my bedside and bowed.
“I am given to know, sir,” says he, “that your name is Balfour.”
“They call me David Balfour,” said I, “at your service.”
“I would give ye my name in return, sir” he replied, “but it’s one somewhat blown upon of late days; and it’ll perhaps suffice if I tell ye that I am own brother to James More Drummond or Macgregor, of whom ye will scarce have failed to hear.”