BUSINESS

EVENTS seemed to Flemington to be moving fast.

Lord Balnillo dined soon after five, and during the meal the young man
tried to detach his mind from the contents of the letter lying in his
pocket and to listen to his host’s talk, which ran on the portrait to
be begun next morning.

The judge had ordered his robes to be taken out and aired carefully,
and a little room with a north aspect had been prepared for the first
sitting. The details of Archie’s trade had excited the household below
stairs, and the servant who waited appeared to look upon him with the
curious mixture of awe and contempt accorded to charlatans and to
those connected with the arts. Only James seemed to remain outside the
circle of interest, like a wayfarer who pauses to watch the progress
of some wayside bargain with which he has no concern. Yet, though
Archie’s occupations did not move Logie, the young man felt
intuitively that he was anything but a hostile presence.

“With your permission I shall go early to bed to-night,” said
Flemington to his host, as the three sat over their wine by the
dining-room fire and the clock’s hands pointed to eight.

“Fie!” said the judge; “you are a young man to be thinking of such
things at this hour.”

“My bones have not forgotten yesterday—-” began Archie.

“And what would you do if you had to ride the circuit, sir?” exclaimed
Balnillo, looking sideways at him like a sly old crow. “Man, James,
you and I have had other things to consider besides our bones! And
here’s Mr. Flemington, who might be your son and my grandson, havering
about his bed!”

Archie laughed aloud.

“Captain Logie would need to have married young for that!” he cried.
“And I cannot picture your lordship as anybody’s grandfather.”

“Come, Jamie, how old are you?” inquired his brother in a tone that
had a light touch of gratification.

“I lose count nowadays,” said James, sighing. “I must be near upon
eight-and-thirty, I suppose. Life’s a long business, after all.”

“Yours has scarcely been long enough to have begotten me, unless you
had done so at twelve years old,” observed Archie.

“When I had to ride the circuit,” began Balnillo, setting down his
glass and joining his hands across his waistcoat, “I had many a time
to stick fast in worse places than the Den yonder–ay, and to leave my
horse where he was and get forward on my clerk’s nag. I’ve been forced
to sit the bench in another man’s wig because my own had rolled in the
water in my luggage, and was a plaster of dirt–maybe never fit to be
seen again upon a Lord of Session’s head.”

Logie smiled with his crooked mouth. He remembered, though he did not
mention, the vernacular rhyme written on that occasion by some
impudent member of the junior bar:

“Auld David Balnillo gangs wantin’ his wig,
And he’s seekin’ the loan of anither as big.
A modest request, an’ there’s naething agin’ it,
But he’d better hae soucht a new head to put in it!”

“It was only last year,” continued his brother, “that I gave up the
saddle and the bench together.”

“That was more from choice than from necessity–at least, so I have
heard,” said Archie.

“You heard that, Mr. Flemington?”

“My lord, do you think that we obscure country-folk know nothing? or
that reputations don’t fly farther than Edinburgh? The truth is that
we of the younger generation are not made of the same stuff. That is
what my grandmother tells me so often–so often that, from force of
habit, I don’t listen. But I have begun to believe it at last.”

“She is a wise woman,” said Balnillo.

“She has been a mighty attractive one,” observed Archie meditatively;
“at least, so she was thought at St. Germain.”

“At St. Germain?” exclaimed the judge.

“My grandfather died in exile with his master, and my father too,”
replied Flemington quietly.

There was a silence, and then James Logie opened his mouth to speak,
but Archie had risen.

“Let me go, Lord Balnillo,” he said. “The truth is, my work needs a
steady hand, and I mean to have it when I begin your portrait
to-morrow.”

When he had gone James took the empty seat by his brother.

“His grandfather with the King, and he following this womanish trade!”
he exclaimed.

“I should like to have asked him more about his father,” said
Balnillo; “but—-”

“He did not wish to speak; I could see that,” said James. “I like the
fellow, David, in spite of his paint-pots. I would like him much if I
had time to like anything.”

“I have been asking myself: am I a fool to be keeping him here?” said
the other. “Was I right to let a strange man into the house at such a
time? I am relieved, James. He is on the right side.”

“He keeps his ears open, brother.”

“He seems to know all about _me_,” observed Balnillo. “He’s a fine
lad, Jamie–a lad of fine taste; and his free tongue hasn’t interfered
with his good sense. And I am relieved, as I said.”

Logie smiled again. The affection he had for his brother was of that
solid quality which accepts a character in the lump, and loves it for
its best parts. David’s little vanities and vacillations, his
meticulous love of small things, were plain enough to the soldier, and
he knew well that the bench and the bar alike had found plenty to make
merry over in Balnillo. He had all the loyal feeling which the Scot of
his time bore to the head of his family, and, as his sentiments
towards him sprang from the heart rather than from the brain, it is
possible that he undervalued the sudden fits of shrewdness which would
attack his brother as headache or ague might attack another man. The
fact that David’s colleagues had never made this mistake was
responsible for a career the success of which surprised many who knew
the judge by hearsay alone. Drink, detail and indecision have probably
ruined more characters than any three other influences in the world;
but the two latter had not quite succeeded with Lord Balnillo, and the
former had passed him over.

“I wonder—-” said James–“I wonder is it a good chance that has sent
him here? Could we make anything of him, David?”

“Whisht, James!” said the other, turning his face away quickly. “You
go too fast. And, mind you, if a man has only one notion in his head,
there are times when his skull is scarce thick enough to stand between
his thoughts and the world.”

“That is true. But I doubt Flemington’s mind is too much taken up with
his pictures to think what is in other men’s heads.”

“Maybe,” replied Balnillo; “but we’ll know that better a few days
hence. I am not sorry he has gone to bed.”

“I will give him an hour to get between his blankets,” said Logie,
drawing out his watch. “That should make him safe.”

Meanwhile Flemington had reached his room and was pulling his great
package of spare canvases from under his sombre four-poster. He undid
the straps which secured them and drew from between two of them a long
dark riding-coat, thrusting back the bundle into its place. He changed
his clothes and threw those he had taken off on a chair. Then he took
the little locked box he had saved so carefully from the catastrophe
of the previous night, and, standing on the bed, he laid it on the top
of the tester, which was near enough to the ceiling to prevent any
object placed upon it from being seen. He gathered a couple of
cushions from a couch, and, beating them up, arranged them between the
bedclothes, patting them into a human-looking shape. Though he meant
to lock his door and to keep the key in his pocket during the absence
he contemplated, and though he had desired the servants not to disturb
him until an hour before breakfast, he had the good habit of preparing
for the worst.

He slipped out with the coat over his arm, turned the key and walked
softly but boldly down into the hall. He paused outside the
dining-room, listening to the hum of the brothers’ voices, then
disappeared down the back-stairs. If he found the door into the
stable-yard secured he meant to call someone from the kitchen regions
to open it and to announce that he was going out to look at his
disabled horse. He would say that he intended to return through the
front door, by which Captain Logie had promised to admit him.

Everything was quiet. The only sign of life was the shrill voice of a
maid singing in the scullery as she washed the dishes, and the house
was not shut up for the night. Through the yard he went and out
unmolested, under the great arch which supported the stable clock, and
then ran swiftly round to the front. He passed under the still lighted
windows and plunged into a mass of trees and undergrowth which headed
the eastern approach.

Once among the friendly shadows, he put on the coat, buttoning it
closely about his neck, and took a small grey wig from one of its deep
pockets. When he had adjusted this under his hat he emerged, crossed
the avenue, dropped over the sunk wall dividing it from the fields,
and made down them till he reached the Montrose road. Through the
still darkness the sound of the Balnillo stable clock floated after
him, striking nine.

There was not enough light to show him anything but his nearest
surroundings. The wall which bounded the great Balnillo grass-parks
was at his left hand, and by it he guided his steps, keeping a
perpetual look out to avoid stumbling over the inequalities and loose
stones, for there were no side-paths to the roads in those days. He
knew that the town was only three miles off, and that the dark stretch
which extended on his right was the Basin of Montrose. A cold snap
played in the air, reminding him that autumn, which in Scotland keeps
its mellowness late, was some way forward, and this sting in the
breath of night was indicated by a trembling of the stars in the dark
vault overhead.

He hastened on, for time was precious. The paper which he had taken
from Skirling Wattie’s hands had bid him prepare to follow Logie into
the town when dark set in, but it had been able to tell him neither at
what hour the soldier would start nor whether he would walk or ride.

His chance in meeting the beggar so soon had put him in possession of
James’s usual movements immediately, but it had given him little time
to think out many details, and the gaps in his plans had been filled
in by guesswork. He did not think James would ride, for there had been
no sound of preparation in the stable. His intention was to reach the
town first, to conceal himself by its entrance, and when James should
pass, to follow him to his destination. He had a rough map of Montrose
in his possession, and with its help he had been able to locate the
house for which he suspected him to be bound–a house known by the
party he served to be one of the meeting-places of the adherents of
Charles Edward Stuart.

Archie’s buoyancy of spirit was sufficient to keep at arm’s length a
regret he could not quite banish; for he had the happy carelessness
that carries a man easily on any errand which has possibilities of
development, more from the cheerful love of chance than from
responsible feeling. His light-hearted courage and tenacity were
buried so deep under a luxuriance of effrontery, grace, and
mother-wit, and the glamour of a manner difficult to resist, that
hardly anyone but Madam Flemington, who had brought him up, suspected
the toughness of their quality. He had the refinement of a woman, yet
he had extorted the wonder of an east-coast Scotsman by his
comprehensive profanity; the expression, at times, of a timid girl,
yet he would plunge into a flood of difficulties, whose further shore
he did not trouble to contemplate; but these contrasts in him spoke of
no repression, no conscious effort. He merely rode every quality in
his character with a loose rein, and while he attempted to puzzle
nobody, he had the acuteness to know that his audience would puzzle
itself by its own conception of him. The regret which he ignored was
the regret that he was obliged to shadow a man who pleased him as much
as did James Logie. He realized how much more satisfaction he would
have got out of his present business had its object been Lord
Balnillo. He liked James’s voice, his bearing, his crooked mouth, and
something intangible about him which he neither understood nor tried
to understand. The iron hand of Madam Flemington had brought him up so
consistently to his occupation that he accepted it as a part of life.
His painting he used as a means, not as an end, and the changes and
chances of his main employment were congenial to a temperament at once
boyish and capable.

The Pleiades rode high above Taurus, and Orion’s hands were coming up
over the eastern horizon as he reached the narrow street which was the
beginning of Montrose. The place was dark and ill-lit, like every
country town of those days; and here, by the North Port, as it was
called, the irregularities of the low houses, with their outside
stairs, offered a choice of odd corners in which he might wait unseen.

He chose the narrowest part of the street, that he might see across it
the more readily, and drew back into the cavity, roofed in by the
‘stairhead’ of a projecting flight of steps which ran sideways up a
wall. Few people would leave the town at that hour, and those who were
still abroad were likely to keep within its limits. A wretched lamp,
stuck in a niche of an opposite building, made his position all the
more desirable, for the flicker which it cast would be sufficient to
throw up the figure of Logie should he pass beneath it. He watched a
stealthy cat cross its shine with an air of suppressed melodrama that
would have befitted a man-eating tiger, and the genial bellowing of a
couple of drunken men came down the High Street as he settled his
shoulders against the masonry at his back and resigned himself to a
probable hour of tedium.

Not a mile distant, James Logie was coming along the Montrose road. He
had trodden it many times in the darkness during the past weeks, and
his mind was roving far from his steps, far even from the errand on
which he was bent. He was thinking of Archie, whom he believed to be
snug in bed at Balnillo.

He had gone out last night and landed this fantastic piece of young
humanity from the Den, as a man may land a salmon, and he had
contemplated him ever since with a kind of fascination. Flemington was
so much unlike any young man he had known that the difference half
shocked him, and though he had told his brother that he liked the
fellow, he had done so in spite of one side of himself. It was hard to
believe that but a dozen years divided them, for he had imagined
Archie much younger, and the appeal of his boyishness was a strong one
to Logie, who had had so little time for boyishness himself. His life
since he was fifteen had been merged in his profession, and the
restoration of the Stuarts had been for many years the thing nearest
to his heart. There had been one exception to this, and that had long
gone out of his life, taking his youth with it. He was scarcely a sad
man, but he had the habit of sadness, which is as hard a one to combat
as any other, and the burst of youth and buoyancy that had come in
suddenly with Archie had blown on James like a spring wind. Archie’s
father and grandfather had died in exile, too, with Charles Edward’s
parents. And his eyes reminded him of other eyes.

The events that had taken place since the landing of the Prince in
July had made themselves felt all up the east coast, and the country
was Jacobite almost to a man. Charles Edward had raised his standard
at Glenfinnan, had marched on Edinburgh in the early part of
September, and had established himself in Holyrood on the surrender of
the town. After his victory over Cope at Preston Pans, he had
collected his forces on Portobello sands–thirteen regiments composed
of the Highland clans, five regiments of Lowlanders, two troops of
horse commanded by Lords Elcho and Balmerino, with two others under
Lord Kilmarnock and Lord Pitsligo. The command of the latter consisted
of Angus men armed with such weapons as they owned or could gather.

The insurgent army had entered England in two portions: one of these
led by Lord George Murray, and one by the Prince himself, who marched
at the head of his men, sharing the fatigues of the road with them,
and fascinating the imagination of the Scots by his hopeful
good-humour and his keen desire to identify himself with his soldiers.
The two bodies had concentrated on Carlisle, investing the city, and
after a few days of defiance, the mayor displayed the white flag on
the ramparts and surrendered the town keys. After this, the Prince and
his father had been proclaimed at the market cross, in presence of the
municipality.

But in spite of this success the signs of the times were not
consistently cheering to the Jacobite party. There had been many
desertions during the march across the border, and no sooner had the
Prince’s troops left Edinburgh than the city had gone back to the Whig
dominion. At Perth and Dundee the wind seemed to be changing too, and
only the country places stuck steadily to the Prince and went on
recruiting for the Stuarts.

Although he was aching to go south with the invaders, now that the
English were advancing in force, Logie was kept in the neighbourhood
of Montrose by the business he had undertaken. His own instincts and
inclinations were ever those of a fighter, and he groaned in spirit
over the fate which had made it his duty to remain in Angus, concerned
with recruiting and the raising of money and arms. He had not yet
openly joined the Stuarts, in spite of his ardent devotion to their
cause, because it had been represented to him that he was, for the
moment, a more valuable asset to his party whilst he worked secretly
than he could be in the field. The question that perplexed the coast
of Angus was the landing of those French supplies so sorely needed by
the half-fed, half-clothed, half-paid troops, in the face of the
English cruisers that haunted the coast; and it was these matters that
kept Logie busy.

James knew the harbour of Montrose as men know the places which are
the scenes of the forbidden exploits of their youth. This younger son,
who was so far removed in years from the rest of his family as to be
almost like an only child, was running wild in the town among the
fisher-folk, and taking surreptitious trips across the bar when the
staid David was pursuing his respectable career at a very different
kind of bar in Edinburgh. He was the man that Montrose needed in this
emergency, and to-night he was on his way to the town; for he would
come there a couple of times in the week, as secretly as he could, to
meet one David Ferrier, a country gentleman who had joined the
regiment of six hundred men raised by Lord Ogilvie, and had been made
deputy-governor of Brechin for the Prince.

Ferrier also was a man well calculated to serve the cause. He owned a
small property and a farm not far from the village of Edzell, situated
at the foot of a glen running up into the Grampians, and his perfect
knowledge of the country and its inhabitants of all degrees gave him
an insight into every turn of feeling that swept through it in those
troubled days. The business of his farm had brought him continually
into both Brechin and Montrose, and the shepherds, travelling
incessantly with their flocks from hill to strath, formed one of his
many chains of intelligence. He had joined Lord Ogilvie a couple of
months earlier, and, though he was now stationed at Brechin with a
hundred men of his corps, he would absent himself for a night at a
time, staying quietly at Montrose in the house of a former dependent
of his own, that he might keep an eye upon the movements of an English
ship.

The Government sloop-of-war _Venture_ had come into the harbour,
carrying sixteen guns and about eighty men, and had anchored south of
the town, in the strait made by the passage of the River Esk into the
sea. Montrose, apparently, was to suffer for the work she had done as
a port for Stuart supplies, for the _Venture_, lying at a convenient
distance just under the fishing village of Ferryden, had fired heavily
on the town, though no Jacobite troops were there. The commander had
unrigged the shipping and burned two trading barques whose owners were
townsmen, and he had landed a force at the fort, which had captured
the town guns and had carried them on board a vessel lying at the
quay.

Ferrier looked with complete trust to James Logie and his brother
Balnillo. The old man, during his judicial career, had made some
parade of keeping himself aloof from politics; and as his retirement
had taken place previous to the landing of the Prince, he had sunk the
public servant in the country gentleman before the world of
politicians began to divide the sheep from the goats. For some time
few troubled their heads about the peaceable and cautious old Lord of
Session, whose inconspicuous talents were vegetating among the trees
and grass-parks that the late Lady Balnillo had husbanded so carefully
for him. As to his very much younger brother, who had been incessantly
absent from his native land, his existence was practically forgotten.
But because the Government’s Secret Intelligence Department on the
east coast had remembered it at last with some suspicion, Flemington
had been sent to Montrose with directions to send his reports to its
agent in Perth. And Flemington had bettered his orders in landing
himself at Balnillo.

As Archie heard a steady tread approaching, he shrank farther back
under the stair. He could only distinguish a middle-sized male figure
which might belong to anyone, and he followed it with straining eyes
to within a few feet of the lamp. Here it paused, and, skirting the
light patch, stepped out into the middle of the way.

He scarcely breathed. He was not sure yet, though the man had come
nearer by half the street; but the height matched his expectation, and
the avoidance of the solitary light proved the desire for secrecy in
the person before him. As the man moved on he slipped from his shelter
and followed him, keeping just enough distance between them to allow
him to see the way he went.

The two figures passed up the High Street, one behind the other,
Flemington shrinking close to the walls and drawing a little nearer.
Before they had gone a hundred yards, his unconscious guide turned
suddenly into one of those narrow covered-in alleys, or closes, as
they are called, which started at right angles from the main street.

Archie dived in after him as unconcernedly as he would have dived into
the mouth of hell, had his interests taken him that way. These closes,
characteristic of Scottish towns to this day, were so long, and
burrowed under so many sightless-looking windows and doors, to emerge
in unexpected places, that he admired James’s knowledge of the short
cuts of Montrose, though it seemed to him no more than natural. The
place for which he conceived him to be making was a house in the New
Wynd nicknamed the ‘Happy Land,’ and kept by a well-known widow for
purposes which made its insignificance an advantage. It was used, as
he had heard, by the Jacobite community, because the frequent visitors
who entered after dusk passed in without more comment from the
townspeople than could be expressed in a lifted eyebrow or a sly
nudge. It was a disconcerting moment, even to him, when the man in
front of him stopped, and what he had taken for the distant glimmer of
an open space revealed itself as a patch of whitewash with a door in
it. The close was a cul-de-sac.

Flemington stood motionless as the other knocked at the door. Flight
was undesirable, for James might give chase, and capture would mean
the end of a piece of work of which he was justly proud. He guessed
himself to be the fleeter-footed of the two, but he knew nothing of
the town’s byways, and other night-birds besides Logie might join in.
But his bold wit did not desert him, for he gave a loud drunken shout,
as like those he had heard at the North Port as he could make it, and
lurched across the close. Its other inmate turned towards him, and as
he did so Archie shouted again, and, stumbling against him, subsided
upon the paved floor.

The door beyond them opened a little, showing a portion of a scared
face and a hand which held a light.

“Guid sakes! what’ll be wrang?” inquired a tremulous female voice.

The man was standing over Archie, pushing him with his foot. His
answer may have reassured the questioner, but it had a different
effect upon the heap on the ground.

“Hoot, woman! don’t be a fool! It’s me–Ferrier!”

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