"The man was aince a poacher!" So said, or rather breathed with his hard wheezing breath, Peter Smellie, shopkeeper and elder, into the ears of Robert Menzies, a brother elder, who was possessed of a more humane disposition. They were conversing in great confidence about the important "case" of Sergeant Adam Mercer. What that case was, the reader will learn by and by. The only reply of Robert Menzies was, "Is't possible!" accompanied by a start and a steady gaze at his well-informed brother. "It's a fac' I tell ye," continued Smellie, "but ye'll keep it to yersel'—keep it to yersel', for it doesna do to injure a brither wi'oot cause; yet it's richt ye should ken what a bad beginning our freen' has had. Pit your thumb on't, however, in the meantime—keep it, as the minister says, in retentis, which I suppose means, till needed."