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David," said he, "and now that you are looking a
little more like yourself, let me see if I can find you any news. You
will be wondering, no doubt, about your father and your uncle? To be
sure it is a singular tale; and the explanation is one that I blush to
have to offer you. For," says he, really with embarrassment, "the matter
hinges on a love-affair."

"Truly," said I, "I cannot very well join that notion with my uncle."

"But your uncle, Mr. David, was not always old," replied the lawyer,
"and what may perhaps surprise you more, not always ugly. He had a fine,
gallant air; people stood in their doors to look after him, as he went
by upon a mettle horse. I have seen it with these eyes, and, I
ingenuously confess, not altogether without envy; for I was a plain lad
myself, and a plain man's son; and in those days it was a case of _Odi
te, qui bellus es, Sabelle_."

"It sounds like a dream," said I.

"Ay, ay," said the lawyer, "that is how it is with youth and age. Nor
was that all, but he had a spirit of his own that seemed to promise
great things in the future. In 1715, what must he do but run away to
join the rebels? It was your father that pursued him, found him in a
ditch, and brought him back _multum gementem_; to the mirth of the whole
country. However, _majora canamus_--the two lads fell in love, and that
with the same lady. Mr. Ebenezer, who was the admired and the beloved,
and the spoiled one, made, no doubt, mighty certain of the victory; and
when he found he had deceived himself, screamed like a peacock. The
whole country heard of it; now he lay sick at home, with his silly
family standing round the bed in tears; now he rode from public-house to
public-house, and shouted his sorrows into the lug of Tom, Dick, and
Harry. Your father, Mr. David, was a kind gentleman; but he was weak,
dolefully weak; took all this folly with a long countenance; and one
day--by your leave!--resigned the lady. She was no such fool, however;
it's from her you must inherit your excellent good sense; and she
refused to be bandied from one to another. Both got upon their knees to
her; and the upshot of the matter for that while was that she showed
both of them the door. That was in August; dear me! the same year I came
from college. The scene must have been highly farcical."

I thought myself it was a silly business, but I could not forget my
father had a hand in it. "Surely, sir, it had some note of tragedy,"
said I.

"Why, no, sir, not at all," returned the lawyer. "For tragedy implies
some ponderable matter in dispute, some _dignus vindice nodus_; and this
piece of work was all about the petulance of a young ass that had been
spoiled, and wanted nothing so much as to be tied up and soundly belted.
However, that was not your father's view; and the end of it was, that
from concession to concession on your father's part, and from one height
to another of squalling, sentimental selfishness upon your uncle's, they
came at last to drive a sort of bargain, from whose ill results you have
recently been smarting. The one man took the lady, the other the estate.
Now, Mr. David, they talk a great deal of charity and generosity; but
in this disputable state of life I often think the happiest consequences
seem to flow when a gentleman consults his lawyer, and takes all the law
allows him. Anyhow, this piece of Quixotry on your father's part, as it
was unjust in itself, has brought forth a monstrous family of
injustices. Your father and mother lived and died poor folk; you were
poorly reared; and in the meanwhile, what a time it has been for the
tenants on the estate of Shaws! And I might add (if it was a matter I
cared much about), what a time for Mr. Ebenezer!"

"And yet that is certainly the strangest part of all," said I, "that a
man's nature should thus change."

"True," said Mr. Rankeillor. "And yet I imagine it was natural enough.
He could not think that he had played a handsome part. Those who knew
the story gave him the cold shoulder; those who knew it not, seeing one
brother disappear, and the other succeed in the estate, raised a cry of
murder; so that upon all sides he found himself evited. Money was all he
got by his bargain; well, he came to think the more of money. He was
selfish when he was young, he is selfish now that he is old; and the
latter end of all these pretty manners and fine feelings you have seen
for yourself."

"Well, sir," said I, "and in all this, what is my position?"

"The estate is yours beyond a doubt," replied the lawyer. "It matters
nothing what your father signed, you are the heir of entail. But your
uncle is a man to fight the indefensible; and it would be likely your
identity that he would call in question. A lawsuit is always expensive,
and a family lawsuit always scandalous; besides which, if any of your
doings with your friend Mr. Thomson were to come out, we might find that
we had burned our fingers. The kidnapping, to be sure, would be a court
card upon our side, if we could only prove it. But it may be difficult
to prove; and my advice (upon the whole) is to make a very easy bargain
with your uncle, perhaps even leaving him at Shaws, where he has taken
root for a quarter of a century, and contenting yourself in the
meanwhile with a fair provision."

I told him I was very willing to be easy, and that to carry family
concerns before the public was a step from which I was naturally much
averse. In the meantime (thinking to myself) I began to see the outlines
of that scheme on which we afterwards acted.

"The great affair," I asked, "is to bring home to him the kidnapping?"

"Surely," said Mr. Rankeillor, "and, if possible, out of court. For mark
you here, Mr. David: we could no doubt find some men of the _Covenant_
who would swear to your reclusion; but once they were in the box, we
could no longer check their testimony, and some word of your friend Mr.
Thomson must certainly crop out--which (from what you have let fall) I
cannot think to be desirable."

"Well, sir," said I, "here is my way of it." And I opened my plot to
him.

"But this would seem to involve my meeting the man Thomson?" says he,
when I had done.

"I think so, indeed, sir," said I.

"Dear doctor!" cries he, rubbing his brow. "Dear doctor! No, Mr. David,
I am afraid your scheme is inadmissible. I say nothing against your
friend Mr. Thomson: I know nothing against him; and if I did--mark this,
Mr. David!--it would be my duty to lay hands on him. Now I put it to
you: is it wise to meet? He may have matters to his charge. He may not
have told you all. His name may not be even Thomson!" cries the lawyer,
twinkling; "for some of these fellows will pick up names by the roadside
as another would gather haws."

"You must be the judge, sir," said I.

But it was clear my plan had taken hold upon his fancy, for he kept
musing to himself till we were called to dinner and the company of Mrs.
Rankeillor; and that lady had scarce left us again to ourselves and a
bottle of wine, ere he was back harping on my proposal. When and where
was I to meet my friend Mr. Thomson; was I sure of Mr. T.'s discretion;
supposing we could catch the old fox tripping, would I consent to such
and such a term of an agreement--these and the like questions he kept
asking at long intervals, while he thoughtfully rolled his wine upon his
tongue. When I had answered all of them, seemingly to his contentment,
he fell into a still deeper muse, even the claret being now forgotten.
Then he got a sheet of paper and a pencil, and set to work writing and
weighing every word; and at last touched a bell and had his clerk into
the chamber.

"Torrance," said he, "I must have this written out fair against
to-night; and when it is done, you will be so kind as put on your hat
and be ready to come along with this gentleman and me, for you will
probably be wanted as a witness."

"What, sir," cried I, as soon as the clerk was gone, "are you to venture
it?"

"Why, so it would appear," says he, filling his glass. "But let us speak
no more of business. The very sight of Torrance brings in my head a
little droll matter of some years ago, when I had made a tryst with the
poor oaf at the cross of Edinburgh. Each had gone his proper errand; and
when it came four o'clock, Torrance had been taking a glass and did not
know his master, and I, who had forgot my spectacles, was so blind
without them, that I give you my word I did not know my own clerk." And
thereupon he laughed heartily.

I said it was an odd chance, and smiled out of politeness; but, what
held me all the afternoon in wonder, he kept returning and dwelling on
this story, and telling it again with fresh details and laughter; so
that I began at last to be quite out of countenance and feel ashamed for
my friend's folly.

Towards the time I had appointed with Alan, we set out from the house,
Mr. Rankeillor and I arm in arm, and Torrance following behind with the
deed in his pocket and a covered basket in his hand. All through the
town, the lawyer was bowing right and left, and continually being
button-holed by gentlemen on matters of burgh or private business; and I
could see he was one greatly looked up to in the county. At last we were
clear of the houses, and began to go along the side of the haven and
towards the "Hawes Inn" and the ferry pier, the scene of my misfortune.
I could not look upon the place without emotion, recalling how many that
had been there with me that day were now no more: Ransome taken, I could
hope, from the evil to come; Shuan passed where I dared not follow him;
and the poor souls that had gone down with the brig in her last plunge.
All these, and the brig herself, I had outlived; and come through these
hardships and fearful perils without scathe. My only thought should have
been of gratitude; and yet I could not behold the place without sorrow
for others and a chill of recollected fear.

I was so thinking when, upon a sudden, Mr. Rankeillor cried out, clapped
his hand to his pockets, and began to laugh.

"Why," he cries, "if this be not a farcical adventure! After all that I
said, I have forgot my glasses!"

At that, of course, I understood the purpose of his anecdote, and knew
that if he had left his spectacles at home, it had been done on purpose,
so that he might have the benefit of Alan's help without the awkwardness
of recognising him.



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