But he need not be afraid that a lad of your steadiness will be influenced by such a reed shaken by the winds as I am. You will go on doubting with Dirleton, and resolving those doubts with Stewart, ['Sir John Nisbett of Dirleton's DOUBTS AND QUESTIONS UPON THE LAW, ESPECIALLLY OF SCOTLAND;' and 'Sir James Stewart's DIRLETON'S DOUBTS AND QUESTIONS ON THE LAW OF SCOTLAND RESOLVED AND ANSWERED,' are works of authority in Scottish jurisprudence. As is generally the case, the doubts are held more in respect than the solution.] until the cramp speech [Till of late years, every advocate who catered at the Scottish bar made a Latin address to the Court, faculty, and audience, in set terms, and said a few words upon a text of the civil law, to show his Latinity and jurisprudence. He also wore his hat for a minute, in order to vindicate his right of being covered before the Court, which is said to have originated from the celebrated lawyer, Sir Thomas Hope, having two sons on the bench while he himself remained at the bar. Of late this ceremony has been dispensed with, as occupying the time of the Court unnecessarily. The entrant lawyer merely takes the oaths to government, and swears to maintain the rules and privileges of his order.] has been spoken more SOLITO from the corner of the bench, and with covered head--until you have sworn to defend the liberties and privileges of the College of Justice--until the black gown is hung on your shoulders, and you are free as any of the Faculty to sue or defend. Then will I step forth, Alan, and in a character which even your father will allow may be more useful to you than had I shared this splendid termination of your legal studies. In a word, if I cannot be a counsel, I am determined to be a CLIENT, a sort of person without whom a lawsuit would be as dull as a supposed case. Yes, I am determined to give you your first fee. One can easily, I am assured, get into a lawsuit--it is only the getting out which is sometimes found troublesome;--and, with your kind father for an agent, and you for my counsel learned in the law, and the worshipful Master Samuel Griffiths to back me, a few sessions shall not tire my patience. In short, I will make my way into court, even if it should cost me the committing a DELICT, or at least a QUASI DELICT.--You see all is not lost of what Erskine wrote, and Wallace taught.
Thus far I have fooled it off well enough; and yet, Alan, all is not at ease within me. I am affected with a sense of loneliness, the more depressing, that it seems to me to be a solitude peculiarly my own. In a country where all the world have a circle of consanguinity, extending to sixth cousins at least, I am a solitary individual, having only one kind heart to throb in unison with my own. If I were condemned to labour for my bread, methinks I should less regard this peculiar species of deprivation, The necessary communication of master and servant would be at least a tie which would attach me to the rest of my kind--as it is, my very independence seems to enhance the peculiarity of my situation. I am in the world as a stranger in the crowded coffeehouse, where he enters, calls for what refreshment he wants, pays his bill, and is forgotten so soon as the waiter's mouth has pronounced his 'Thank ye, sir.'
I know your good father would term this SINNING MY MERCIES, [A peculiar Scottish phrase expressive of ingratitude for the favours of Providence.] and ask how I should feel if, instead of being able to throw down my reckoning, I were obliged to deprecate the resentment of the landlord for consuming that which I could not pay for. I cannot tell how it is; but, though this very reasonable reflection comes across me, and though I do confess that four hundred a year in possession, eight hundred in near prospect, and the L--d knows how many hundreds more in the distance, are very pretty and comfortable things, yet I would freely give one half of them to call your father father, though he should scold me for my idleness every hour of the day, and to call you brother, though a brother whose merits would throw my own so completely into the shade.
The faint, yet not improbable, belief has often come across me, that your father knows something more about my birth and condition than he is willing to communicate; it is so unlikely that I should be left in Edinburgh at six years old, without any other recommendation than the regular payment of my board to old M--, [Probably Mathieson, the predecessor of Dr. Adams, to whose memory the author and his contemporaries owe a deep debt of gratitude.] of the High School. Before that time, as I have often told you, I have but a recollection of unbounded indulgence on my mother's part, and the most tyrannical exertion of caprice on my own. I remember still how bitterly she sighed, how vainly she strove to soothe me, while, in the full energy of despotism, I roared like ten bull-calves, for something which it was impossible to procure for me. She is dead, that kind, that ill- rewarded mother! I remember the long faces--the darkened rooms --the black hangings--the mysterious impression made upon my mind by the hearse and mourning coaches, and the difficulty which I had to reconcile all this to the disappearance of my mother. I do not think I had before this event formed, any idea, of death, or that I had even heard of that final consummation of all that lives. The first acquaintance which I formed with it deprived me of my only relation.
A clergyman of venerable appearance, our only visitor, was my guide and companion in a journey of considerable length; and in the charge of another elderly man, substituted in his place, I know not how or why, I completed my journey to Scotland--and this is all I recollect.
I repeat the little history now, as I have a hundred times before, merely because I would wring some sense out of it. Turn, then, thy sharp, wire-drawing, lawyer-like ingenuity to the same task--make up my history as though thou wert shaping the blundering allegations of some blue-bonneted, hard-headed client, into a condescendence of facts and circumstances, and thou shalt be, not my Apollo--QUID TIBI CUM LYRA?--but my Lord Stair, [Celebrated as a Scottish lawyer.] Meanwhile, I have written myself out of my melancholy and blue devils, merely by prosing about them; so I will now converse half an hour with Roan Robin in his stall--the rascal knows me already, and snickers whenever I cross the threshold of the stable.
The black which you bestrode yesterday morning promises to be an admirable roadster, and ambled as easily with Sam and the portmanteau, as with you and your load of law-learning. Sam promises to be steady, and has hitherto been so. No long trial, you will say. He lays the blame of former inaccuracies on evil company--the people who were at the livery-stable were too seductive, I suppose--he denies he ever did the horse injustice-- would rather have wanted his own dinner, he says. In this I believe him, as Roan Robin's ribs and coat show no marks of contradiction. However, as he will meet with no saints in the inns we frequent, and as oats are sometimes as speedily converted into ale as John Barleycorn himself, I shall keep a look-out after Master Sam. Stupid fellow! had he not abused my good nature, I might have chatted to him to keep my tongue in exercise; whereas now I must keep him at a distance.
Do you remember what Mr. Fairford said to me on this subject--it did not become my father's son to speak in that manner to Sam's father's son? I asked you what your father could possibly know of mine; and you answered, 'As much, you supposed, as he knew of Sam's--it was a proverbial expression.' This did not quite satisfy me; though I am sure I cannot tell why it should not. But I am returning to a fruitless and exhausted subject. Do not be afraid that I shall come back on this well-trodden yet pathless field of conjecture. I know nothing so useless, so utterly feeble and contemptible, as the groaning forth one's lamentations into the ears of our friends.